Monday, 30 July 2012

Lorraine Pascale book review

This is the book that made me appreciate the art of baking and made realise that baking is quite simple.  This has been my favourite cook book purchase of 2011 alongside  Nigella's Kitchen and Gino's Buonissimo.  I remember purchasing it in around April 2011, I did not watch her programme series as I was too busy with my uni work, but I was impressed by her apparent easy baking recipes. Prior to purchasing this book I did not realise that baking was a science; you can't just bung in everything and hope for the best, as I do when making a one pot dish. Anyway, back to the book, I started baking some of her easier traybakes or biscuits recipes - all turned out to be delicious.
Double chocolate cookies
These were very lush, gooey and an easy bake,

Chocolate flapjack
Again a very easy bake, with milk chocolate melted on top.
Shortbread, I shouldn't have picked at the crusts.

Almond cookies, I wasn't that keen on this bake, but am sure it will go down well for almond lovers.

I also made my first non-chcolate cake, after discovering LP's three tier carrot cake. I made this cake for my uni amigos, but only cut it once (a whole cake into two) as I thought it may have been tricky cutting a cake three times. Also, I was unsure what to decorate the cake with and as a novice baker I plonked smarties on the top. If I were to make this cake again I would decorate with walnuts.

I made LP's Italian Genoise mojito cake recently for my dad's birthday and was unsure how a cake with no raising agent could rise? I must admit, I did not follow the recipe the first time (I bunged all the ingredients together in a free standing mixer) which resulted in the cake not rising. I made the cake again the following day and ensured I followed the recipe to the latter. As the mixture volumed up, I knew I was on the right track. Unfortunately I do not have a food processor so I could not ground the pecan nuts (I used Brazil), but I think it still looked good, it certainly tasted amazing !

I have made some savoury bakes from LP's book too. For my uni recall xmas lunch I made lazy sausage rolls. This has to be the easiest recipe ever! Buy some sausages, make some pastry and assemble.

A prefect book for a new baker. 


Sunday, 29 July 2012

Nigella's Anglo-Italain trifle

I hope you are all enjoying the wonderful weather over the last few days. As it's summer I think it's quite fitting to make something from Nigella's Forever Summer cookbook. Now, I can't remember the last time I ate a trifle let alone made a trifle, but after watching Nigella make this on her Forever Summer tv show I was tempted to give it a try.

This trifle uses both English and Italian influences ammerti and limoncello -Italian and sponge fingers as the English influence. As I love Italian food and Italian ingredients, I thought I would give this trifle a shot. The only problem I could foresee was a) converting all the american cup ingredients into grams (I have an American version of the book, I blame the Works bookstore and my love of discounted cookbooks), and b) converting rum into limoncello or a lemon infused rum (refused to buy limoncello just to use 275 ml and will probably not use it again.......) .

For my first time making a trifle I don't think I did too bad.

Instead of reprinting the recipe I will share the three main ingredients I changed. Firstly, I used fresh cranberries (150g) instead of (675g) blackberries. Fresh cranberries do not have a sweet taste like cranberry sauce; fresh cranberries can be sour, so I cut the cranberries in half, added sugar and extra jam (in the heating the fruit over the pan stage). I suggest using other seasonal fruit available if you can not find fresh blackberries. Also I used my own homemade blueberry jam (recipe from Nigella's Kitchen book p.285) and I used 200 ml white rum mixed with half a lemon and three tablespoons of granulated sugar instead of 250 ml limoncello. The original recipe can be found here: Anglo Italian trifle


Saturday, 28 July 2012

Greek Chicken

I purchased Nigella's How to Eat Cookbook in April, as this has been hailed as the best of Nigella's books so far, but have only cooked twice from this book. I can proudly say I am the owner of Nigella's "How to Eat", Nigella's "How to be a Domestic Goddess", Nigella's "Feasts", Nigella's Forever Summer" and Nigella's "Kitchen". I plan on purchasing"Nigellissima" in September when it is released and will be trying lots of lovely recipes that i'm sure the book will contain.
Anyway, back to "How to Eat"  I remember recalling a recipe in her Kitchen book called "Greek Chicken" which Nigella stated was a variation of the recipe in her How to Eat cookbook.  I thought I would try this out, and must say I was pleased with the results of this low fat dinner.

I first started seasoning the Greek yoghurt with mixed herbs, chilli powder and salt (2 tbsp). I initially added one tbsp of salt but found the yoghurt had a sour aftertaste but the second tbsp of salt made the yoghurt taste better.

I then added the chopped cucumber and spring onions to the mixture and stirred. 

I seasoned the chicken using mixed herbs, black pepper and garlic powder, and then slit the breasts to make the chicken quicker to cook (I was hungry!)

The finished product, I ate my Greek chicken with jacket potato and salad with the yoghurt mixture topping the jacket potato. 
A variation of this recipe is available on Nigella's website Greek chicken.
I am entering this picture to a blog hop which is guest hosted this month by but is run by the fabulous Maison Cupcakes There are usually lots of lovely variations of Nigella's recipes on these blog hops, so have a look at the lovely pictures.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Tapas and La Tasca

For the last three years, La Tasca has been by far my favourite restaurant. Whilst Italian food may reign supreme on my favourite style of cuisine, the idea of several shared dishes have made me become La Tasca's number one fan! I have been on a mission to convert any sceptics of La Tasca and Spanish food, luckily for me, I have always managed to find a new convert. Anyway, I've acknowledged that there is a significant difference in eating at La Tasca's and attempting to recreate authentic tapas dishes at home- I will get there one day. The only thing that would top  eating Spanish food at La Tasca is eating Spanish food in Spain, I would love to say that I have spent hours walking the cobbled streets of Barcelona trying a variety of cheeses, chorizo and olives, followed by some authentic meat dishes (Rabbit is often used in Espana as a main meat). Unfortunately for me the only place I have been in mainland Spain is the not so authentic Benidorm, a place where you are more likely to eat fish and chips than an empanada. I have been to some Spanish islands (Mallorca and Tenerife), but never really ventured outside ordering lasagne. If I pass my course I could always recreate Rick Stein's Spanish tour ............

Me about to go out to La Tasca

I tend to get quite dolled up when I eat out (unless it's an all you can eat Chinese restaurant), plus it was my chance last to meet up with the girlies before I moved to Leicester to start my placement. Also, you just never know, there may be a Spanish prince dining in Birmingham who is also looking forward to eating Spanish meatballs, Spanish potatoes and various other Spanish dishes.

I managed to convert 7 of my amigos to La Tasca's and dined on their "6 dishes for £10.95". All in all there were 42 dishes. Some of the many dishes that are in this table are: empanadas, spanish tortilla, calamari, deep fried white fish, chicken in creamy sauce, chicken wings, paella de Valencia, seafood paella, salad with pears and balsamic vinegar and chorizo in red wine....... I love this picture - look at all that food !

Even in the winter months there is something so comforting about a warm paella dish, or eating lots of fresh bread to mop up all the various sauces from the various dishes. Another good thing about eating lots of Spanish food is having to drink a traditional Sangria or some other form of exotic drink.

Even in the coldest wintery nights, any Mediterranean restaurant is in my diary I will go. I won't let something as dramatic as snow come between me and Spanish/Italian/Portuguese food.
Unfortunately for me there is a  difference in attempting to recreate some of my favourite tapas dishes at home. Firstly, I feel as though I need the little brown tapas bowls to serve each dish in, it just doesn't feel the same pilling all the various dishes onto one plate as though I'm at an all you can eat Chinese. And some of my favourite dishes are quite hard to source, last time I went into Asda in Wolverhampton, in the fish section there was no squid - a key ingredient for the ohh so lovely calamari. It's not as though I haven't tried, I know Aldi sell the frozen mixed seafood bag for £2.85, bargain! I thought it was all I needed to recreate a calamari dish, I even picked out all the prawns and mussels in the bag, but my calamari dish was a disaster. However, not all my Spanish creations have been a disaster, I have had a fare few successes,  I must say the stuffed peppers, pan fired prawns and chroizo in red wine was lush. I have a Mediterranean cook book and a tapas cookbook which I often drool over but rarely cook out of, unless I'm too poor for La Tasca's and want Spain to come to me.
Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers with sauteed prawns
I highly recommend all Spanish/Tapas food lovers to purchase the following two books. Everyday Tapas and Every day Mediterranian. I recall these books costing £2 each, and for all the lovely recipes, are an absolute bargain.


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Quick brown sugar and spring onion chicken teriyaki

As mentioned earlier I have changed my blog name so am having to repost my previous blogs. Here is what I blogged in December, and has had the most views of all my posts.......

I brought Lorraine Pascale's home cooking made easy in December but until today have not cooked from her "mains" section besides her "paprika baked fish with chorizo and thyme", which was lovely. I have made some of her breads such as her "sea salt & olive oil pain d'epi" (p.40), which I was not to keen on as it looked my version looked nothing like the picture. I also made her Twenty - first century ham, cheese and chive bread, which my housemates loved. Anyway, a main dish from her new book was on my "to cook" list and I thought her chicken teriyaki would be nice to try, as i've never tried/made teriyaki before.
Here's a picture of how it turned out
It was lush and well appreciated by my family. I thought I would share how to make this recipe.

 50g soft light brown sugar
80 ml mirin (I didn't use this, as never heard of it)
65g soy sauce
3-4 skinless chicken breasts
1*2 cm piece of fresh ginger
1 garlic clove
1 small bunch of spring onions
handfull of sesame seeds

Put the sugar, mirin and soy sauce in one bowl. Put some oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Season the chicken well with some salt and pepper and once the oil is hot enough, add the chicken to the pan and fry for two minutes. Add the ginger and cook for a further minute.

Tip in the sugar, mirin and soy sauce mixture and simmer for 3-5 minutes to thicken slightly (the sauce would still be quite thin), then add the spring onions and cook for two minutes. Take the pan of the heat, throw in the toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately with some quick-cook rice.

I adapted the recipe to suit my love of sauce and the ingredients I had in the house. Firstly, I seasoned the chicken thighs with all purpose seasoning, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, sweet chilli sauce and soy sauce, I left this to marinade for an hour. I then placed the chicken in the oven for an hour, turning once at the 30 minute stage, as this is healthier than frying the chicken. For the marinade I doubled the quantity of soft brown sugar and soy sauce to create more of a sauce, with the additional ingredients of sweet chilli, soy sauce and rice vinegar to give the dish some oomph. I think it worked well



5 ways with chicken

I am having to repost my posts from the last few months, as I decided to change my blog name, and automatically presumed all the blogs will be relinked to my new address but how wrong was I.
This post was originally posted in November.
Although this time of year is associated with turkey, let's not forget the turkey's cousin, my favourite meat, chicken. There are several reasons to cook the humble chicken: this meat is used throughout the world, makes a fantastic meal, is cheap and cheerful and is crowd winner. Growing up my favourite chicken meals were either jerk chicken, curry chicken or roast chicken. As an adult i've ventured into new territory and have tried a variety of chicken dishes mainly from Mediterranean countries (Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal), which I must say have been very delicious. There is Greek chicken, chicken cooked in Greek spices and topped with feta cheese and avocado. Jerk chicken, one of my favourite dishes, is a dish seasoned with all Jamaican all spice seasoning and traditionally cooked on a barbecue, but still tastes wonderful cooked in the oven.

There is also Spanish chicken, i've cooked many variations of this one pot rice dish, all have been quick, easy and so tasty. The version I have chose to upload is Spanish chicken using red potatoes and chorizo; this version takes the same amount of time as the more traditional recipe. I think it's always good to have a little change on a classic dish.
I rarely cook eastern inspired dishes as I think they are quite difficult to get right. Perhaps I should not compare my Chinese cooking with the Chinese cooking at Wing Wah but my attempts have always seem to be lacking. If you fancy a healthy (ish) dish, try Thai chicken skewers. The seasoning is readily available from Asda, so there are no excuses.

Also if you fancy something different, why not make a chicken carbonara (without the pasta) and use the filling inside a calzone. Calzones are quite easy to make, if you are used to making pizza dough and bases.
Some of the books I have adapted my recipe from.


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Chocolate fudge cake

I am having to repost my posts from the last few months, as I decided to change my blog name, and automatically presumed all the blogs will be relinked to my new address but how wrong was I. Anyway, this is my first ever blog in November, and although I have not made this cake since, I have made several variations. 
I have uploaded a picture of my chocolate fudge cake, which I must admit has triple chocolatiness as I used milk, dark and white chocolate. This cake is fairly easy to make, is ideal for beginners or more experienced bakers who fancy something simple. I had to really stop myself having more than three slices (to some that may seem a lot, I assure you, for me it's not) as the French say "everything in moderation, even moderation". The recipe is based upon the Great British Bake Off cookbook.
Makes 1 large cake
For the sponge
100 g walnuts (or other nuts you have available)
100g self raising flour
1 very small pinch of baking powder
50 grams of dark chocolate
25 grams of milk chocolate
40 g white chocolate
2 tablespoons of coco powder
200g dark brown sugar
100 ml hot black coffee
2 large free range eggs (beaten)
175g unsalted butter (softened)
125ml soured cream
For the icing
50g dark chocolate
25g milk chocolate
25g unsalted butter
3 tablespoons icing sugar
2 tablespoons of black coffee

Preheat the oven to 160c/ gas mark . Arrange the nuts in a tray bake or cake tin.
Put the chocolate, alongside the coco and sugar in a bowl (or free standing mixer) and whisk until sandy. Add the hot coffee and whisk until the chocolate is melted. Add the eggs (one at a time) and the butter. Add the sour cream and fold the flour into the mixture.
Spoon the chocolate mixture over the top of the nuts in the cake tin, and then place the white chocolate chunks strategically throughout the cake mixture and bake for around 45 minutes. Test to see whether the cake is cooked and then leave to cool completley
For the icing, melt the chocolate in a bowl above a pan of hot water, add the butter, icing sugar and coffee. Leave to cool slightly, at which point the mixture should thicken and then apply generously over the cake.

Adapted from the fantastic Great British Bake Off book.


Friday, 20 July 2012

Nigella's No fuss fruit tart

I love Nigella. I know most enthusiastic cooks swear by her books, and I am one of those cooks. Like so many of Nigella's desserts that I have made, I never intended on making this, it just kind of happened. I was actually going to make a sticky toffee put from my BBC Healthy Eats cookbook, but due to the lovely hot weather I thought a summery pudding would be in order. I book marked some of the pavlova recipes in Nigella's Forever Summer cook book, but as I never made pavlova before, I didn't realise the length of time it would require to make.
I remember watching her make this recipe on her Kitchen episodes, and it looked so easy. In fact it is easy to make. I just made the biscuit base, then chilled for a couple of hours, made the topping then chilled, then assembled the fruit on top. I think if I were to make this again I would leave to set a little longer as it did not quite set when I cut the tart. 
Here is how my summer no fuss fruit tart turned out:
I have provided the link to this recipe. I think my next bake/cook from Nigella's Kitchen will be the grasshopper pie or key lime pie, both look delicious.
I'm submitting my picture of this tart to the Forever Nigella organised by Maison Cupcakes, but this month is hosted by cookingcakesandchildren I have submitted some previous entries to the Forever Nigella events, and I am always impressed by the standards of the entries. Have a look at the lovely pictures submitted by other bloggers.


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Caribbean pork chops and hot sweet potato wedges with jerk butter.

Apologies for my lack of posting but I have had a hectic last few weeks on my course, and although I have cooked a lot over the last month, I have not had the opportunity to blog. I have had the opportunity to purchase some new cookbooks with my most recent purchases including Weight Watchers Hot and Spicy, Cook step, by step and Levi Roots Caribbean Food Made Easy. I have also been given Delia Smiths How to Cheat at Cooking and a book titled Cake and Slices  as gifts from my friends which were a lovely surprise.
I have chosen to blog from my Levi Roots book, and have been craving to not only eat, but to make Caribbean food. In my opinion, my nan is the best Caribbean cook, however Levi roots recipes come a close second. I decided on making "Jamaican pork chops"(p86). This recipe was delicious, tasty and flavoursome and very easy to make. If you are a begginer on making Caribbean food this is an easy recipe to start with, Caribbean flavours that will be a crowd pleaser.
Here is how my dish turned out:
I also made the sweet potato wedges which was AMAZING and the jerk butter was even better, I think jerk butter is the perfect accompoinenet to all spicy food. I also added a summery salad of sweetcorn, cucumbers and grated carrots which balanced the spicyness of the pork chops, and the sweet potato. As you can see the pork chops is somewhat covered with the sauce that the chops is cooked with, but that is simply my preference as a sauce.
I also made some ginger, pecan and rum brownies. I must admit when I was in Jamaica I did not eat chocolate brownies, but I think Levi is clever using the Caribbean ingredients to make traditional desserts. I accomponied my brownies with rum and raisin ice cream.

Back to the pork chops.
Serves 4
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Salt and pepper
1 onion
1 red pepper - cut into cubes
1 yellow pepper - cut into cubes
2 sticks of celery - cut into chunks
2cm root ginger finely chopped (I used ground ginger)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tbsp brown sugar
3 tsp dry mustard
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tbsp od West Indian hot sauce
3 tbsp tomato puree
400g can tomatoes
150ml water or chicken stock
boiled rice to serve.

1) Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3
2) Wash the meat and pat it dry with kitchen paper. Heat the oil in a frying pan, season the chops and brown them on both sides. Put them in an oven proof dish in which they can lie in a single layer.
3) In the fat left in the pan, cook the onion, peppers and celery until they are quite soft and onion is pale gold. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute, then stir in the sugar, mustard, lime and hot sauce. Cook for another minute before adding the tomato puree and tomatoes. Season, add te water or stock and stir again.
4) Pour the sauce over the chops and cook in the preheat oven for 1 1/2 hours or until the pork is tender and cooked through, and the sauce has reduced. Cover with foil if needed towards the end of cooking if overbrowning. Serve with rice.

Recipe for sweet potato wedges with jerk butter.
1.4 kg sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced about the size of an orange segment.
5 tbsp sunflower oil
3 tbsp soft light brown sugar
Juice of 2 limes

For the jerk butter
50g butter, slightly softened.
1/2 tbsp ground all spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cayene pepper
1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp ground cinamon
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp brown sugar.

1) Preheat the oven to 200 C/400F/gas mark 6. Mix the sweet potato slices with olive oil, brown sugar and lim juice and season with pepper, turning them over in the flavourings of your hands. Lay them on a roasting tin in which the slices can lay over a single layer. Put into the oven and roast until tender- about 20 minutes turning them halfway through
2) Meanwhile, make the butter by mashing everything together. Either chill to let cold pats over the wedges, or use it already melted as a dip.

A must have book for those that like exotic spicy foods.

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