Tuesday, 23 June 2009

A box to try from Able and Cole

Able and Cole contacted me last week to see if I'd like to try one of their mixed fruit and vegetable boxes. I've had a mixed experience of organic boxes in the past, some good some not so good, so I was keen to try Able and Cole to see what they were like. Sure enough at 8:00 on Friday morning their was a knock on the door and I was greeted with a large cardboard box brimming with super fresh produce.My box contained apples, bananas, broad beans, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, Jersey royal potatoes, melon and spring onions. Clearly not all of it was locally grown -we don't grow many bananas in the UK- but it was, on the whole seasonal, mostly British and never air-freighted which is much better than most supermarkets can manage. It also contained a newsletter and recipe card which I thought was a nice touch.I was really impressed with my box, the quality was excellent, everything arrived looking really fresh and vibrant. The box I tried was the mixed fruit and veg box which cost £15.95 which I think it's pretty good value considering the box is organic and delivered right to your door. One thing to bear in mind if you ever do decide to get a box delivered is that you have no choice as to what goes in it. Personally I quite like the challenge of using unfamiliar vegetables and conjuring up new recipes but if you're the kind of person who likes to plan their meals a month in advance then maybe it's not for you.Cooking with vegetables of this high quality is a joy, I could tell they were good when I cooked with them and I could certainly taste it when I ate them.
The first meal I cooked using vegetables from my box was this broad bean and bacon risotto, simple but delicious.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Home-made beef burgers

There's nothing quite like a good beef burger, fat, juicy and full of flavour. With barbecue season in full swing I thought I would try to convince you just how good burgers can be if you make your own, not only do they taste fantastic but they're a breeze to make too.

All you need to make the most basic of burgers is good quality minced beef, salt and pepper. I like to make mine a little more interesting by adding other flavours to the mix, you could add chilli, herbs, cheese, fried onions etc whatever you like really. For my burgers I used chopped sun-dried tomatoes and basil for an Italian feel then finished them off with some melting mozzarella, trust me, they were good!Once you've chosen your flavours it's just a case of mixing everything well together and using your hands to form them into burgers. I find it helps to leave in the fridge for an hour or so after you've made them as it helps them to firm up and keep their shape, of course if your really desperate you could cook them immediately!

So here are my top tips for making fantastic burgers:
  • Use good quality mince/ground beef, you need some fat but not too much so don't buy the really cheap stuff.
  • Add plenty of salt and pepper, they really need it.
  • Don't add anything to chunky or too wet to the mixture this will cause the beef to break up during cooking and you'll be eating it from a bowl not a bun!
  • Get the pan, grill or barbecue searingly hot before you put the burgers on, this will create a caramelised crust on the outside.
  • Let the burgers rest in the fridge for an hour or so after you've made them so they can firm up.
I hope you'll try making your own, once you do you'll never go back!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Creamy seafood tagliatelle with asparagus

I have managed to achieve something that I never thought was possible. I've crammed so much into my freezer that there really is no more room. At all. It's completely my fault, whenever I see something that's reduced or on promotion I buy it and freeze it for later. The problem is I normally forget all about it then buy more stuff and freeze that too!

The freezer is stuffed with vegetables, meat, homemade stock, Ice cream, bread and a whole draw full of mysterious tubs, bags and packets that are unlabelled and I have no idea what they are!

My challenge this week is to run down the freezer to free up some space. Yesterday I made this creamy seafood tagliatelle using some frozen seafood mix (mussels, crayfish and prawns), I also used some fantastic fresh British asparagus which is optional but I really recommend it.
Considering the cream sauce this is a surprisingly light meal that's perfect for summer, great served with a glass of chilled white wine.

Recipe:(serves four)
  • 350-400g tagliatelle or your favourite pasta
  • A bunch of fresh asparagus cooked and chopped into halves (optional)
  • 2 Small onions or shallots finely chopped
  • 2 Cloves of garlic crushed and chopped
  • A large glass of dry white wine
  • 150ml Sour cream
  • 500g mixed cooked seafood (mussels, prawns clams etc)
  • A good handful of chopped parsley
  • First bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and begin to cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
  • While the pasta is cooking fry the onions and garlic with a good pinch of salt in some olive oil in a large frying pan until just softened.
  • Once the onions have softened tip in the white wine, turn up the heat and reduce the wine by half.
  • When the wine has reduced down add the cream and mix well, taste the sauce to check the seasoning and correct it if necessary.
  • Just before the pasta has cooked add the seafood, asparagus and parsley to the sauce, mix it well and leave for a minute to heat through.
  • Toss the pasta in the sauce and serve.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Victoria cream sponge

The company that I work for is celebrating it's anniversary this year, to mark the occasion a buffet was laid on and there was a huge cake to share. Just in case we hadn't had enough cake already they also sent us home with a 'cake making kit', in it were all the ingredients (except the eggs) for making a Victoria sponge, flour, butter, sugar and jam.

It's hard to improve on a classic like a Victoria sponge but by adding whipped cream I found a way. Of course cream is entirely optional but it is highly recommended, your cake won't keep as long but in my house at least, that's not a problem...I use the traditional method for making sponge cakes, first I weigh all of the eggs in their shells, I then use an equal weight of butter, sugar and self raising flour. For example if I use three eggs that weigh 50g each then I'll use 150g of butter, sugar and flour.

Maths lesson over it's time for the recipe...
Victoria sponge recipe
  • 3 Large eggs
  • Butter
  • Sugar (I used golden caster sugar)
  • Self raising flour
  • Vanilla extract (homemade if you have it)
  • Jam and whipped cream for the filling
  • Preheat your oven to gas 4/180c/350f and grease two 7 inch sponge tins.
  • First weigh all three eggs together in their shells, make a note of how much they weigh.
  • Whatever the eggs weigh add the same weight in butter and sugar to a large mixing bowl and beat well together until light and fluffy, this will take a few minutes.
  • Next beat in the eggs followed by an equal weight again of self raising flour, add a few drops of vanilla and mix well together.
  • Divide the mixture equally between the two sponge tins and bake for around 25 minutes. Check they're cooked by inserting a skewer into the cake, if it comes out clean they're done.
  • Cool the cakes on a rack, once they have cooled fill with jam and whipped cream and enjoy!