Sunday, 25 August 2013

Chicken Fajitas.

I love fajitas, who doesn't? I find fajitas one of the quickest, easiest, tastiest and relatively healthy mid-week staple meal. There are so many different versions of making fajitas, but one thing we can agree on is the wraps, peppers and some form of Mexican seasoning is a must. I recently made a Nigella version of chicken fajitas which turned out to be delicious.
Here is how my chicken fajitas turned out:

Chicken fajitas.

Chicken fajitas.
Recipe for chicken fajitas, taken from Nigella's Kitchen.

Serves 4
2 skinless chicken breast fillets
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano or regular oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 x 15ml tablespoon garlic oil
2 x 15ml tablespoons lime juice
2 x 15 ml groundnut oil or regular olive oil
2 onion, peeled, halved and cut into this half-moons
1 red pepper, core and seeds removed cut into strips.
1 orange pepper, core and seeds removed, cut into strips
1 yellow pepper, core and seeds removed, cut into strips
8 soft flour tortillas

Optional accompaniments:
100g cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, grated
125ml sour cream
1 x 196 can corn niblets, drained
1 large avocado, finely diced and dressed with 1/2 teaspoon salt flaked and 2 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 - 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
hot chili sauce.

Over a shallow bowl, cut the chicken with a pair of scissors into thin (1-2cm) strips length ways, then halve the long strip across to give 2 shorter strips (to echo the pepper strips later).
Once the chicken has been snipped into the dish, add the oregano, cumin, salt, sugar, 1 tablespoon garlic oil and the lime juice. Mix everything about and leave to marinate while you get on with the onions and peppers. And preheat the oven to 125C/gas mark 1/2 is you wish to warm your tortillas.
Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the half-moon onion slices over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Spread the tortillas out on a baking sheet and put in the oven to warm.
Add the pepper strips to the onion pan and cook for a further 10 minutes. When both onions and peppers are tender, remove to a bowl.
Warm the remaining 2 teaspoons garlic oil in the pan and tip in the chicken with its marinade. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Check the chicken is piping hot and cooked through, add the onions and peppers from the bowl, stir together then decant to a serving dish.
Take the warmed tortillas out of the oven and put on the table alongside the chicken tangled in onions and peppers. Wrap what you fancy in the tortillas to eat straightaway.


Friday, 23 August 2013

Hamper gifts - Christmas Treasures hamper, a review.

I was recently contacted by Hampergifts  and was asked whether I would like to review one of their Christmas hampers. Of course I replied yes! Luxury hampers are often enjoyed around Christmas; they are perfect to share with family, friends and when visitors arrive over the festive period. Christmas hampers are renowned for containing luxurious and traditional foods and is perfect for anyone who loves good quality traditional Christmas fayre.
Hampergifts contain a wide selection of Christmas hampers retailing from the cheap and cheerful "Christmas Cracker" (£21.50) to the extravagant "The Majestic" (£249.95). I reviewed the Christmas Treasures hamper retailing at £47.50, which I think is good value for money and contains a wide variety of goodies which I thoroughly enjoyed tasting and evaluating.

Christmas Treasures hamper.

Inside the Christmas Treasure hamper:
  • Gonzalez Byass Altozano Verdejo-Sauvignon de Castilla, Spain, 2008/9, 75cl AWARD WINNER COMMENDED at the International Wine Challenge 2009 
  • The Wooden Spoon Wholegrain Mustard & Spitfire Ale 42g
  • Chocolaterie Diane Belgian Milk Chocolate Truffles 50g
  • Cottage Delight Bramley Apple Sauce 200g AWARD WINNER GOLD MEDAL at the Great Taste Awards
  • Cottage Delight Pheasant Pâté with Pork & Chicken Liver 125g 
  • Edinburgh Preserves Rosemary Savoury Biscuits 150g 
  • Traditional Brandy Christmas Pudding 120g
  • The Wooden Spoon Citrus Grapefruit & Lime Marmalade 42g
  • Cappuccino & Chocolate Belgian Pieces 50g
  • Belgian Milk Chocolate Caramel Praline Pieces 50g
All these lovely goodies are presented in lidded wicker basket, which is sturdy and roomy inside, so if this is sent for you and your family to enjoy or received as a gift you can be assured that all items will be in good tact. 
Christmas Hamper. 

Christmas Hamper.

A highlight of the Christmas Hamper for me is the award winning Gonzalez Byass Altozana Verdejo-Sauvignon de Castilla, Spain 2008/2009, 75 cl. The wine is light, crisp and refreshing, the wine is nice on its own or can be enjoyed with some of the other delights included in this hamper.
Award winning wine.

Lets look at one of my favourite ingredient of all time, the chocolate. There are two varieties of loose chocolate contained in this hamper, cappuccino chocolates and a caramel chocolates. I found the cappuccino chocolate to contain a very strong flavour, which is perfect for a coffee lover like myself, but not so good for those who only like a hint of coffee or for children. The caramel flavoured  chocolate would be much more of a crowd pleasure, the chocolate is smooth, the caramel is sweet and delicious.  
Cappuchino and caramel chocolate Belgian pieces.
The Hamper also contains four luxurious Belgian truffles chocolates, a mixture of white, dark and milk which would be the perfect sweet treat for family, friends or guests over the festive period. I enjoyed these chocolates with the wine.
Belgian chocolate.
One of the impressing foods contained in the Hamper is the pheasant pate. Although pheasant may not be to every ones taste as it can be quite dry, the pheasant pate contains chicken and pork which helped keep the pheasant full of flavour and moist. I recommend serving the pheasant pate with the black peppered crackers that is also contained in the hamper.

Pheasant Pate.
Rosemary biscuits.

The Christmas Treasures Hampers contains a lovely selection of condiments, most which you would not find in your local supermarket. The mustard and spitfire ale, is a perfect accompaniment to our favourite meats around Christmas such as baked ham. I dolloped a good dosage on a recent sausage and mash dish and thought the mustard brought a nice mellow taste to this dish, I am used to English mustard so found the mustard to be quite mild. I liked the mustard grains, I have never seen this before in other jars of mustard.

Mustard on sausages.
The hamper also contains a lovely citrus based marmalade, grapefruit and lime and a bramley apple sauce which I decided to save for Christmas and will probably in-cooperate in a Christmas dish which I'll share nearer the time.  

Grapefruit and lime marmalade. 

Apple sauce.

I definitley think this hamper is good value for money and is the perfect Christmas foodie treat. Although I have never purchased a hamper prior to this before I definitely will be back on to check out to the other hampers that they sell, I have my eye on the picnic hampers :-) .

I received a copy of Hamper Gifts for review. I was not required to write a positive a review and all thoughts and opinions are my own.


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Lemon Drizzle Traybake.

I'm really enjoying baking citrus bakes this year, and they have been a lovely refreshing change to my usual chocolate cakes. I first discovered how easy it is to bake a lemon drizzle cake from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess baking book, but that recipe was a loaf cake. This lovely offering from Jo Wheatley's A Passion for Baking is a traybake, which I always think is great for cake sales and for little kiddies, as the square pieces are easy to handle. The method for this cake uses the all in one method, all the ingredients are added to the bowl which helps on the washing up! The cake was very moist, the flavour of the lemon came through and the lemon syrup made the cake very sticky.
Here is how my lemon drizzle cake turned out:

Lemon drizzle cake.

Lemon drizzle cake

I first started by creaming the butter and sugar.
Butter and sugar creamed together.

I then added the flour and eggs in batches.
Eggs n flour added.

I also added milk when adding the flour.
Flour added.

I then added the lemon zest to the mix.
Lemon zest added.

Lemon drizzle pre bake.

I started on the drizzle, I placed the sugar in a pan and squeezed the lemon juice into the pan.

Lemon juice added to sugar.

Lemon and sugar for syrup.

Lemon and sugar boiling.
Recipe for Lemon Drizzle Cake.
300g unsalted butter, softened
340 g caster sugar
5 large eggs, beaten
340g self-raising flour
50 ml full fat milk
finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
150g granulated sugar.
You will also need a 25x 20 cm tin, greased and lined with baking parchment.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
Cream the butter and caster sugar together until pale, light and fluffy: this is easiest in a free-standing mixer or by using an electric hand whisk. Gradually add the beaten eggs, mixing well between each addition. Sift in the flour and milk to combined. Add the milk and grated lemon zest and mix again until smooth.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and spread level using a palette knife.
Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 1 hour or until well risen, golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cake out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven. Mix the lemon juice with granulated sugar and slowly over the top. Leave the cake to cool in the tine before serving.


Thursday, 15 August 2013

Carmamelised onion burger.

I haven't made a burger in almost a month and am, quite frankly suffering from withdrawal symptoms. So many recipes from The Burger cook book intrigues me and I am convinced that I will probably be recreating almost all of the recipes as they all so delicious. I wanted to make a more simple burger, as the last few burgers have been more exotic (Hawawian burgers, Morrocan burgers) and just wanted a simple beef patty. This burger recipe used caramelised onions as a topping to the burger, which provided a sweet, yet delicious taste to the burger.
Here is how my caramelised burger turned out:
Caramelised onion burger.

Recipe taken from The Burger cook book, I decided on using a simple bread roll instead of foccacia.

Makes 4
450g fresh beef mince
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp chopped rosemary
vegetable oil for frying
55g-85g Manchego cheese, grated or thinly sliced
125ml mayonnaise
4 x 15 cm/ 6-inch square pieces of foccacia
caramelised onions - include in recipe
cos lettuce leaves
tomato slices


1) Place the beef in a medium-sized bowl with the salt, pepper and rosemary and gently mix to combine, then divide into four equal sized portions and shape each portion into a patty.
2) Place a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat the base of the pan. Add the patties and cook for about 4 minutes, without moving, until the burgers are brown and release easily from the pan. Turn and cook for 2 minutes, then place some cheese on top of each burger and cook for a further 2 minutes, or until cooked to your liking.
3) Spread the mayonnaise on the foccacia. Place the burgers on the bottom pieces of the foccacia, top with caramelised onions, lettuce leaves and tomato slices, add the lids and serve immediately.

For the caramelised onions.

Serves 4 -6
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion, sliced
1/2 tsp chopped rosemary
salt and pepper

1) Heat enough oil to coat the base of a large frying pan over a medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook on one side for 3 minutes until brown. Add the herbs, if using, stir and continue cooking, stirring occasionally for about 12 minutes until nicely browned.
2) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the vinegar and cook for a further 8-10 minutes until very soft.
3) Serve immediately or leave to cook and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.


Monday, 12 August 2013

Coconut with a hint of chocolate flapjacks.

It's been a while since I made a biscuit, bar or a no bake and have kind of missed making something simple and easy. I was given a selection of books from Susie @ Fold in the Flour at the beginning of the year as part of a giveaway post and one of the books given was Green and Black Ultimate Chocolate recipes. This is a baking book where the recipes contained are famous chefs or tv personalities favourite chocolate recipes. The recipe for chocolate drizzled flapjacks is donated by Donna Air, tv presenter, girlfriend of James Middleton, sister of HRH Duchess of Cambridge (for those who have not heard of her!).  I've tweaked the recipe and decided not drizzle the flapjack with chocolate and replace the dried berries with my ever so favourite ingredient, coconut. The taste of the flapjack was really moist, sweet and yet crunchy. I probably would add more chocolate to the mixture as I couldn't really taste the chocolate.
Here is how my coconut chocolate flapjacks turned out:
Coconut flapjacks.

Coconut flapjacks.

I first started by melting the butter and brown sugar together.
Butter and sugar. 

Butter and sugar melted.

I then added the oats to the mixture and stirred until in-cooperated.
Oats added

Oats mixed.

I then added the coconut and the chopped chocolate chunks.
Coconut added.

Chopped chocolate.

Mixture pre bake.

Once the mixture was combined I placed in a cake tin (you can use a square tin if you prefer) and baked for 20-25 minutes.
Flapjack pre bake.

Flapjack baked.

Makes 12 bars
150g unsalted butter, cubed plus extra for greasing
75g light brown musovado sugar
3 tablespoons clear honey
250g rolled porridge oats
170 coconut (or dried berries)
100g milk chocolate cut into chunks

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Lightly grease a 30x20x4cm non-stick baking tin.
Heat the butter, sugar and honey gently in a pan, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
Remove from the heat and stir in the oats, dried fruit and half the chocolate chunks. Put the mixtures into the prepared tin, spread evenly and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin.
Melt the remaining chocolate in a microwave or heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water. Drizzle the chocolate over the flapjacks in the tin and leave to cool so the chocolate hardens. Use a knife to score into 12 bars.

You can store these flapjacks in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Spicy lamb stir fry

My last blog post was the delicious chicken chow mein and I'm on a real here as this recipe is yet another Chinese inspired dish, spicy lamb stir fry. I've never tasted a lamb stir fry and have not come across it in my local all you can eat Chinese restaurants. I was intrigued to find out how strips of lamb would taste in a stir fry, with stir fry veg, noodles and hoi sin sauce. I am all for discovering low calorie or low fat dishes and the recipe for this meal comes from my first Weight Watchers purchase. I marinaded the lamb in Chines 5 spice seasoning, ginger, soy sauce and chili and left overnight. The taste of the lamb was a nice change from my usual chicken chow mein, although I'll probably stick to chicken as I can not separate having lamb from a lamb dinner. It just did not seem right to have lamb in a stir fry!
Here is how my lamb stir fry turned out:
Lamb stir fry.

Lamb stir fry.

Takes 15 minutes
380 calories per serving

Serves 2
150g lean lamb leg steaks cut into thin strips
1 x 300g fresh stir fry vegetables
1 red or green chili
3 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 x 150g straight to wok egg noodles.

1) Heat a wok or large non stick frying pan until hot. Add the lamb and dry fry until browned all over.
2) Add the vegetables, chili and 3 tablespoons of water. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables are just tender.
3) Add the soy sauce and noodles and heat through. Serve immediately in warm bowls.


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Chicken chow mein.

Cooking Chinese food is not in my comfort zone and not one of my specialities, however, I love going to an all you can eat Chinese buffet! I really fancied a chicken chow mein one evening, and I would usually have a takeaway instead of attempting to make a takeaway favourite at home. This time was different as I have enjoyed dusting off some of my less used cook books, I turned to Ching- He Huang's cookbook for a recipe for this dish. I was quite surprised that I had this on the table in 20 minutes, probably quicker than having a takeaway delivered to me. The chow mein was delicious, tasty and importantly, healthy.

Here is how my chicken chow mein turned out:
Chicken chow mein.

Chicken chow mein.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook in: 10 minutes
Serves 2

150g (5oz) egg noodles
2 dashes of sesame oil
300g (11 oz) skinless chicken breasts, sliced into strips
dash of dark soy sauce
1 tsp of Chinese five-spice powder
1 tsp chili sauce
1 tbsp cornflour
1-2 tbsp of groundnut oil
1 red pepper, de-seeded and finely sliced
150g (5 oz) bean sprouts
1 large onion, sliced length ways
2 tbsp of light soy sauce
ground black pepper.

1) Cook the noodles in a saucepan of boiling water foe 2-3 minutes. Drain, then drizzle with a dash of sesame oil and toss together to prevent the noodles from sticking to each other.
2) Place the chicken strips in a bowl and season with the dark soy sauce, five-spice powder and chili sauce. Mix well, then lightly dust the chicken strips with the cornflour.
3) Heat a wok or frying pan over a high heat and add the groundnut oil, then add the chicken pieces and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and golden.
4) Tip the red pepper and stir fry for 1 minute, then add the beansprouts and spring onion and stir fry for 30 seconds. Stir in the cooked noodles and season with the light soy sauce, the remaining dash of toasted sesame oil and some freshly ground black pepper. Divide the noodles between plates and serve immediately.
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