Monday, 29 September 2008

Sausage and mash for british food fortnight

The 20th September saw the start of British food fortnight, now in it's seventh year British food fortnight is a celebration of great British produce and cooking. There are events taking place across Britain including several food festivals and tastings by local producers. The aim to educate people about British food which has suffered from a bad reputation for far too long.Jacques Chirac the French president famously said, referring to British food "One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad," I'm sure if Mr Chirac had sampled a delicious summer pudding or a freshly baked steak and ale pie he wouldn't have made such rude comments! There are some fantastic foods available to us in Britain, from wild Scottish salmon to Cornish clotted cream.
Clotted cream and scones

To mark British food fortnight Antonia from FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD! has set a challenge to create a dish that is thoroughly British, wherever possible it should use locally sourced British produce. For my entry I have cooked sausage and mash with apple cider gravy, it doesn't get much more British than that!
Sausage and mash with apple cider gravy

Sausage and mash is often referred to in Britain as bangers and mash, I don't know why this is, I can't say I've ever heard a sausage bang which is probably for the best. I would rather eat my sausages than have them explode in my face!
Bangers and mash is typical "pub grub"and can be found on pub menus up and down the country along with other British classics such as steak and kidney pie or the famous fish and chips.
I made mine with apple and cider gravy as apple is such a good partner to pork, other than that I kept to tradition serving it with buttery mash and peas. Comfort food of the highest order!

This is my entry to the British food fortnight blogging event, to enter a dish of your own click here.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Tarte Aux Pommes or French Apple tart

I've got to hand it to the French, no one can make pastries quite like they can. A visit to a French patisserie is as much a treat for the eyes as it is for the stomach, the hard part is knowing what to choose! Who can resist an éclair with freshly whipped cream? I know I can't! While their fruit tarts are such beautiful works of art it seems a shame to eat them!
For the most part I'm happy to leave patisserie to the professionals, the level of skill required to produce such elegant pastries is way beyond me. That said I did attempt a classic French apple tart, which although simple still makes an impressive dessert, great if you want to show off!I was pleasantly surprised at just how easy this was to make, although as I had a lot of very small apples to peel it was a little time consuming. The end result was excellent the perfect combination of crisp buttery pastry and soft sweet apples, made even better with a generous pouring of cream but then, what isn't?.

You can find a great recipe for this tart here.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Hooray I've won an award!

A big thankyou to Sylvie of A Pot Of Tea And A Biscuit for passing on the Brilliante Weblog award to me, I'm flattered!
1. When you receive a diamond, make a post about it on your blog.
2. Name the blogger from whom you received it.
3. Award the diamonds to seven other bloggers.
4. Link them.
5. Tell them they received an award.

So without further ado I would like to pass the award on to,

Hopie of Hopie's kitchen
Kittie of Kittens In The Kitchen
Marielle of La Petit Chef!
Foodycat of Foodycat
Ben of What's Cooking?
Kadeeae of Consuming The Harvest

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Beef and Guinness casserole

When I set out yesterday morning there was a distinct chill in the air, although I hate to admit it I have to accept that winter is coming.
Now I'm not a big fan of winter, there's something about the freezing cold the sun setting at 4:00 and the terrible weather that just doesn't appeal to me. The only consolation is that when conditions outside are so bad it is the perfect time to cook food this good.
Casseroles and stews are amongst my foods of choice during the winter, perfect for warming up again after I've been out in the freezing cold! They also provide a great way to use all the winter roots that are abundant at this time of year.Last night I cooked Beef and Guinness casserole, although it was a simple affair containing few ingredients it packed in plenty of flavour, thanks largely to the Guinness. This beer (stout to be accurate) has an intense flavour that is a perfect match for beef. After long slow cooking the flavour mellows quite significantly to leave a beautifully rich meaty gravy which is why I served mine with good crusty bread to mop up every last bit.


(serves 4)
  • 2 pounds (900g) Stewing beef, diced.
  • 6 onions roughly chopped.
  • 4-5 carrots roughly chopped.
  • 2-3 sticks of celery roughly chopped.
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed and chopped.
  • Herbs, I used thyme sage and bay.
  • 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard.
  • 1 can of Guinness (you could use another beer, choose something with plenty of flavour)
  • 1 Beef stock cube.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Preheat oven on a low heat, around gas mark 2.
  • Heat some oil in a large oven-proof pan on the hob and brown the meat on all sides.
  • Add all the vegetables to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Add everything else to the pan and season well with salt and pepper.
  • Make sure everything is well mixed, put a lid on the pan and put in the oven for at least 2 hours, preferably longer.
  • Serve with good bread.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Fruit-packed Rock Cakes / Rock buns

I haven't made rock cakes since primary school. I think everyone made these at some point in their school cookery lessons, probably because they are so quick and easy to make.

Rock cakes are very similar to scones, they have a crisp crust and light crumbly texture and are an excellent recipe to have in your repertoire. Great for teaching children to cook or for when you want to make cakes and don't have the time (or can't be bothered) for anything elaborate.
I like loads of fruit in mine so I put some extra in, I also sprinkled sugar crystals over the top before baking for some extra crunch.

  • 225 g (8 oz) Self Raising Flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 100 g (4 oz) margarine
  • 75 g (3 oz) mixed dried fruit
  • 25 g (1 oz) mixed peel
  • 50 g (2 oz) caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • milk to mix
  • Heat oven to 200ºC, 400ºF, Gas Mark 6. Grease two baking trays.
  • Mix the flour and salt, rub in the margarine.
  • Stir in the dried fruit, mixed peel and sugar.
  • Mix to a stiff dough with egg and milk.
  • Place in rough heaps on the baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Speedy Spaghetti Carbonara

When I've been out all day and come home tired and hungry I turn to Carbonara to satisfy the hunger pangs. Why? because it's incredibly quick and absolutely delicious, I've yet to find a single person who doesn't enjoy a good Carbonara. This simple meal of bacon, eggs, Parmesan and pasta is universally popular and the great thing is I almost always have all the ingredients at home, so there's no need to go shopping.English and American versions often add cream, Italians don't and as it's their invention I do it there way, although I can't deny the creamy version does taste good too. I've also added some courgette to mine 1. because it was lurking in the fridge and needed using and 2. because I don't like having no vegetables at all in a meal.
I learnt the trick to making a decent carbonara sauce from watching Jamie Oliver. It is important to take the pasta off the heat before adding the eggs, this prevents them from scrambling and gives you a silky smooth sauce. The other important thing to remember is to add freshly ground black pepper, lots and lots of it, this dish needs it!

Courgette carbonara recipe
Serves 4
  • 400g spaghetti or other pasta
  • 250g bacon chopped
  • 2 courgettes chopped
  • 4 eggs lightly beaten
  • Large handful of parmesan grated
  • Finely chopped parsley (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Put your pasta on to boil.
  • While the pasta is cooking fry your bacon and courgettes in a large pan.
  • Once your pasta is cooked remove from the heat and toss in the beaten eggs, work quickly and make sure all the pasta is coated.
  • Add the remaining ingredients reserving a little parmesan and mix well.
  • Serve with a sprinkling of the reserved parmesan.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

la petite chef!

A few weeks ago I put myself up for adoption. In the blogging world that is. There is a project over at Dine and Dish called adopt-a-blogger, the idea is newbie bloggers like me get guidance from a 'veteran' blogger who can offer advice and help.
I am fortunate enough to have Marielle of Le Petite Chef adopt me and my blog for three months. I had never seen her blog before but it's great, I'm sure I will learn a lot.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Classic French Coq au vin

Last night I cooked the classic French dish, Coq au vin. When I was making this I was reminded of the Blackadder episode where Baldrick offers Blackadder Rat au vin, when asked what exactly that entails Baldrick replies it's rat that's been run over by a van!!
Luckily I didn't have to resort to anything scraped off the road! For my Coq au vin I used chicken legs although to be truly authentic I should have used a cockerel rather than chicken. Traditionally it was the old, and therefore tough birds that were used, hence the need for long slow cooking.Coq au vin is delicious and simple to make, unfortunately it seems to have gone out of fashion, I say it's time for a comeback! Very few ingredients are required for this, it can vary a bit but it always contains onions/shallots, bacon, mushrooms, chicken, red wine and a bouquet garni. These are cooked together for a good few hours until the chicken is meltingly tender and the wine has reduced to an intense and delicious sauce.
I was really pleased with how this came out, it was packed with flavour and really tasty. I served mine with French bread but it would be great with mashed potatoes too.

While I didn't use a recipe but this recipe by James martin is almost identical.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Mini peach crumbles

I love a good fruit crumble, they were one of the first things I learned to cook, usually with fruit I had picked myself which more often than not meant damsons. I loved making them so much I was making at least 1 a week, I got so good at it I could have a crumble in the oven in less than 10 minutes!I might not make them quite that often any more, but at this time of year when it is getting cooler and darker my thoughts still turn to crumble. It is the perfect pudding for autumn, comfort food at it's best.
They are really easy to make and almost impossible to mess up, plus you can be creative with the filling. I once made a banana and strawberry crumble which was certainly an interesting combination!
I like to play around with the topping too, it's great with nuts for extra crunch and flavour, or oats for a different texture. I sometimes add spices as well, cinnamon is an obvious but delicious choice paired with apples.
This time I kept it simple, using peaches for the filling and a basic recipe of half the weight of butter to flour with sugar added to taste. How sharp the fruit is will affect how much sugar you need. For four people I would normally use 8oz flour, 4oz butter and 20z sugar.
  • Rub the butter into the flour until I have a breadcrumb texture then stir in the sugar
  • Place fruit in a baking dish with a little sugar
  • Pour over the topping and bake at about gas 4/180C/350F until golden
Instead of making one big crumble like I normally would, I made individual crumbles in these ramekins which I've had for ages and never used. I like how it turned out, they look good and everyone got their own individual pudding.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

What lies beneath?

This cake may look normal, if not spectacular. Things however are not as they seem, beneath the thick layer of cream cheese icing hides a secret. You see when I took the cake out of the oven it looked great, so I set it aside and left it to cool. I returned a few minutes later to check on my cake and aargh! there was a huge crater in the middle, my cake had collapsed! I don't know how it happened but the middle was still raw even though I checked it earlier.
After a bit of a panic I sliced it in half, cut out the raw cake, pieced it back together and slathered it in icing!
In the end it looked OK and still tasted good and I am very, very thankful for icing!

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Local specialities

My home county of Leicestershire produces a range of speciality foods unique to the area, here's a selection of what's on offer...

Melton Mowbray pork pies are probably the best known food Leicestershire produces, rich and filling pork pies are always served cold, they are a popular as a snack or eaten for lunch and are well known all over Britain.
Made from uncured pork encased in a hot water pastry crust. This kind of pastry requires the dough to remain hot while it is being worked and is quite a skill to make well.
What separates a Melton Mowbray pork pie from regular pork pie is that a Melton pie must be hand raised, this means the pastry is formed by hand and not by a machine. They must also be baked without the support of a metal ring or hoop, this gives the finished pie a characteristic bowed shape where the pastry has sunk a little.
Picture taken fom Here
Pork pies are traditionally served at Christmas, although they are eaten all year round often as part of a buffet or with a ploughman's lunch.
The Melton Mowbray pork pie has just gained protected status from the EU, this means it is now illegal to label a pie as Melton Mowbray unless it is made within the area of Melton, it must also be baked unsupported without a hoop or tin.
The pork pie is hugely popular throughout England, there is even a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie association, members are passionate about their pies and seek to protect the pie from imitations.

Stilton cheese is a blue veined cheese similar to Danish blue or Roquefort, there is also a less well known White Stilton. Both varieties have been granted the same protected status as the Melton Mowbray pork pie, this means Stilton can only be called Stilton if:-
  • It is made within Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire.
  • It is made in a cylindrical shape
  • Is allowed to form it's own crust
  • Is un-pressed
Stilton is the kind of food you either love or hate, it provokes reactions of utter disgust a la my sister! or utter delight. The cheese is rich and creamy with quite a strong flavour, often served with crackers and Port particularly at Christmas time. It also makes excellent soup when partnered with broccoli and is a good match with fuit such as pears.
I love Stilton and always buy some for Christmas, the best I have tried comes from Quenby Hall. The milk for the cheese comes from an ancient breed of cattle which have huge horns, the cows scare me but the cheese is excellent!

Red Leicester cheese is well known throughout the world, it originated in Leicestershire as a way to use up milk left over from Stilton making. The cheese is similar to Cheddar but with a milder flavour and crumbly texture, it owes it's red colour to the plant extract annatto.
It is a very versatile cheese, used in everything from sandwiches to quiches or on pasta and potatoes.Surprisingly until 2005 there was no one making Red Leicester in Leicestershire! Now there is one farm producing it in the traditional way. I don't really like Red Leicester although I probably should as that's where I live! I find the supermarket varieties bland and boring. Sparkenhoe Red Leicester however is delicious, it shows that when made properly it is an excellent cheese.

I would to hear about different foods from around the world. Is there something only available or only made where you live? leave a comment!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Roast banana ice cream

I was walking around the market last week searching for one of my absolute favourite fruits, the greengage. Every year when autumn comes around I await their arrival, Scouring the shops and market looking for the first fruit of the season. They make what is possibly the very best of jams as well as excellent pies, tarts and crumbles. I like to eat them straight out of the paper bag.
Alas I had no luck this time, I couldn't find any. not one! So I bought a mountain of almost gone off bananas instead, as you do!
It was only once I was home that it dawned on me what a job it would be to use them all before they turned into banana sludge. So I got baking and two banana cakes later I had only used half of them!
Reaching banana overload I searched everywhere for a recipe that would use the last of my bananas and came across a recipe over at Butter, Sugar, Flour for roast banana ice cream. The original recipe is by David Lebovitz whose recipes are always great. The fact that I had all the ingredients to hand settled it.

To make Roast Banana Ice Cream you will need:
  • 3 bananas (the riper the better, as in the picture is good)
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups (375ml) Single/light cream
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar (not pictured)
  • 1.5 teaspoons lemon juice
  • half teaspoon vanilla extract
  • quarter teaspoon salt
  1. First heat your oven to 200C/400f/Gas 6
  2. Chop the bananas and place in a baking dish mixed with the brown sugar
  3. Roast the bananas for 40 minutes turning halfway.
  4. Blend the still hot bananas with the syrup from the tray along with the caster sugar, lemon juice, salt, cream and vanilla. When blended chill thoroughly in the fridge.
  5. Churn in an ice cream machine until frozen (it will probably need a couple of hours in the freezer to firm up)
Roasting the bananas gave this ice cream an incredible intense banana-caramel flavour and a wonderful toffee colour. I served mine with toffee sauce but it would pair very well with chocolate desserts or with fruit.If you don't have an ice cream machine you can still make this recipe, instead of churning it you can freeze the mixture for about two hours then beat well with a fork and return to the freezer, repeat about once an hour until frozen.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Discovery Tequila and Lime Salsa: A review

Recently I was sent a jar of Discovery's new Tequila and Lime Salsa to try, the blurb on the back of the jar describes it as "Fiery Mexican salsa made with tomatoes, onions, jalapeño pepper, tequila and lime juice. No nasties just lots of zingy chunks" It certainly sounded good and a quick check of the ingredients revealed there were definitely no "nasties" and yes it did contain real tequila. So far so good.So what did I do with it? I'm sure this would be great as a dip or an accompaniment to almost any Mexican food, as usual though I had to do something a bit different!
I made my own "Mexican style" burgers by adding cumin, garlic and coriander to the burger mixture, I served them in burger buns with lettuce, tomatoes and Discovery's new salsa.The burgers were a great success with the family and everyone loved the salsa. They thought it "had just the right level of heat" was "fresh tasting" and looked good. Personally I was very impressed with this, I don't usually buy ready made food but I would buy this. I thought it tasted like it had just been made, it had a fresh, clean flavour which was a perfect partner to the burger.
The only downside to this product is that none of us could really taste the lime or the tequila which is a shame as it sounded like a nice twist on the usual salsa. I also wouldn't describe it as fiery, there is a very mild heat which was perfect for me, if you like hot food though you might find this a bit on the mild side.
As far as I am aware this is only available in the UK but if you like Mexican food and can get hold of this I would recommend it highly. Overall 4/5