Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Curry pork steak with fruit couscous.

I love dishes that are spicy, exotic, hearty and filling. I recently brought Good Housekeeping 30 Minute cookbook for a barganious £2.99 and this recipe was one of the first recipes that appealed to me, because it appeared to be a quick mid-week meal which used some of my favourite ingredients. I often use curry powder when making curry dishes such as a chicken jalfrezi but never used it to season or flavour larger pieces of meat. I feel I missed out for several years by not using curry powder to season pork or chicken thighs as it provided a spicy, yet flavoursome element to this meal. Not being content with just using curry powder to flavour I added spring onions and red and green chillies (I do like hot dishes). The recipe stated to grill the pork, but if you don't want to be standing over a cooker, use the oven a la moi.  I served this dish with couscous but forgot to add the sultanas when making the couscous (although I had a hand full prior to making the dish!), but it was a nice accompaniment, and for me a nice change of carbohydrate.

Here is how my curry pork steak with couscous turned out:
Pork steak with couscous.

Pork steak with couscous.

Pork steak pre-bake.

Pork steak cooked. 

Recipe for curry pork steak with fruity couscous.

Preparation Time - 10 minutes
Cooking time - 15 minutes
4 X 150g pork shoulder steaks
2 tbsp medium-hot curry paste
150g couscous
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
250ml boiling chicken stock
75g sultanas
salt and ground black pepper
green salad to serve

Nutritional Information Per Serving 592 calories, 31g fat (of which 8g saturates), 46g carbohydrate, 1.4g salt

1) Preheat the grill to high. Put the pork steaks on a board, cover with clingfilm and flatten slightly with a rolling pin. Transfer to a bowl add the curry paste and plenty of seasoning and stir to coat. Arrange the steaks on a non-stick baking tray, then grill for 12-13 minutes (or in preheated oven for 20 minutes), turning once, until golden and cooked through.
2) Meanwhile, put the couscous and chickpeas in a large bowl and pour over the boiling stock.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Breakfast for Dinner, review and Giveaway

Breakfast for Dinner, is a fabulous book written by husband and wife duo Lindsay and Taylor who share their culinary adventures on Take a look at their website as it features some wonderful recipes and the site is easy to navigate. The concept of Breakfast for Dinner is updating and sharing  classic breakfast recipes which can be eaten for our evening meals.
Lindsay and Taylor state that breakfast for dinner is nothing new and many of us enjoy a late-night snack of cereal or pancakes (I've been guilty to the former). As much as I love hearty evening meals, sometimes after a busy day I have been known to settle with a bowl of Crunchy Nut or Fruit and Fibre or beans and cheese on toast, so when Quirk Books offered me the opportunity to review this book, I did not hesitate.
Breakfast for Dinner is beautifully illustrated and there are photos for every recipe. My favourite chapter (alongside Sides and Desserts) have also recipes and tips how to make accompaniments to the recipe for example, perfectly poached eggs and pitta bread.  As Breakfast for Dinner is written by American authors  expect hearty portions, classic combinations and lots of maple syrup. The majority of the recipes look fairly easy to make (most will be on the table within an hour) and  also variations of a given recipe.
Breakfast for Dinner.

The book is split into the following chapters:

  • Introduction: Self-explanatory but gives the authors perspective on the concept of the book.
  • Getting Started: all the essential breakfast ingredients such as bacon, flour, eggs and milk which can be used to rustle up breakfast classics.
  • Main dishes: This is my favourite chapter within this book and some of the standout recipes are Shrimp and Grits (A taste of the Deep South anyone?), Chicken and Biscuit Waffles (More taste of the Deep South!) and Sunny-Side Up Burgers (A taste of Australia :-)). 
  • Sides and Starters: This chapter features side dishes, but I think they also could serve (in greater portions) a main dish. Stand out dishes include maple glazed pork burgers, Moroccan chicken cinnamon balls (another unique dish) and Bloody Mary tomato soup. 
  • Drinks and Desserts: This is where it goes down! This chapter does not scrimp on flavour, fat or portions! Bookmarked recipes are Mocha Ice Cream Pie with Biscotti Crust (mmm), Granola Cookies and Banana Foster Crepe Cake.

I made the Sunny-Side-Up burgers which is described as "the ultimate breakfast in a bun" and that "put an egg on it" may be a new saying after trying these burgers. I skipped making the crispy potatoes to top the burgers but the burger was super easy to make with clear instructions and turned out to be delicious. I've never added apricot jam to a burger bun, but there was something moreish with the sweet (apricot) with the meat, and egg. I served my burger as it is, no additional fries or a side salad, it was hearty and tasty enough as it is, a masterpiece in it's own right!

Here is how my Sunny-Side-Up Burgers turned out:
Sunny-Side-Up Burgers.

Sunny-Side-Up Burgers.
Recipe for Sunny-Side-Up Burgers

For the burgers
1 ground sirloin
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 burger buns

For the topping
4 medium eggs
1/4 cup apricot jam
4 slices of pecorino cheese (optional)
4 leaves green leaf lettuce.

To prepare the burgers, use your hands or a spoon to combine the beef with the Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Divide into quarters; shape into four 1/2-inch-thick patties. Heat oil in a large skillet and cook the patties for 4 minutes per side.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat lightly with oil or cooking spray. Add eggs, spacing them in skillet so they don't run together. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then carefully flip and cook for 30 minutes seconds more. The yolk will be slightly runny; if you prefer a firmer egg, cook for an additional minute.
Spread a thin layer of jam inside buns. Arrange burger patties on bottom buns and top with cheese (if desired), crispy potatoes, fried egg and lettuce. Top buns and serve.

The lovely people at Quirk books are offering one lucky reader a copy of Breakfast for Dinner, follow the instructions on the rafflecopter.

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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Steak, Farofa and Rice with Black beans

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil 2007 holds some fabulous memories for me. I was fortunate to spend two months volunteering in Rio Das Pedras favela in 2007 and meeting some kind, hard working people and trying some of the diverse exotic culinarily delights. Rio, was the first place I discovered churros which were sold on many street corners for around 50p, Acai drink made from a berry from the Amazon and a lovely side accompaniment farofa. Farofa, is widely eaten in many families of African heritage in Brazil (that's 60 million of them) and also known as gari in Nigeria and West Africa. It's quite difficult to describe what farofa tastes like, beside a savoury and slightly seasoned crumble topping. Farofa is an essential accompaniment with fejoada, the national dish of Brazil but I have paired it with other Latin American flavours: lightly seasoned steak with a sweet chili lime sauce, rice and black beans and plantain chips. Now all you need is to make a caipirinha drink and you will be the girl (boy) from Ipanema.
Here is how my steak, farofa rice and black beans turned out:
Steak, farofa with rice and black beans

Ingredients for steak dish.

Seasoned steak

Farofa cooking

Sauce for steak.
Recipe for steak, Farofa and Rice Black Beans.

Serves 2
2 Sirloin steak
Juice of 1 lime
2 chillies, finely sliced
1 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 tbsp dark muscavodo sugar
All purpose seasoning
Black pepper
2tbsp olive
Optional plantain chips

For the rice and black beans

For the Moros y Cristanos (rice and black beans), serves 4-6 recipe from Eat Cuban cookbook.  2 tablespoon of olive oil

25g bacon lardons,
1 small onion, chopped
250g long grain rice,
125g tinned black beans
1 tablespoon finely chopped
salt and black pepper

For the farfofa
15g bacon lardons
1 cup of manioc (cassava) flour
1 clove of garlic.

Season the steak with the all purpose seasoning, chili, black pepper and garlic clove, set aside.
Pour in 1 litre of water and 1 tbsp of the olive oil, salt to taste and bring to the boil over a high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes (as the black beans are already cooked). Whilst the black beans are boiling cook 250g long grain rice with around 500 ml water.  Once the black beans are cooked fry the bacon lardons over a moderate heat for 5 minutes, add the onion then add this to the black beans. You can either add the rice to the black bean mixture or place the black beans on top of the rice once on the plate.

Heat a frying pan with 2 tbsp olive oil and cook the steak on 5 minutes each side if you like the steak medium. Heat 1tsp oil in a pan and squeeze a juice of lime, 2tbsp brown sugar, 1 chili and heat on a medium heat for around 3 minutes. In another frying pan heat a tbsp oil and add the bacon lardons for 3-4 minutes. Add the manioc flour and garlic continuously stirring for around 3-4 minutes until well mixed and cooked through (any longer and the manioc flour will burn). Once the steak is cooked, arrange on a plate with the rice, black beans and plantain chips.

I am sharing this recipe with Laura from and Nazima from who hosts a monthly One Ingredient Food challenge, this month's theme is lime, which this wonderful recipe includes.


Thursday, 20 February 2014

Party time chocolate fridge cake

I love a good chocolate no-bake. For me, a chocolate based recipe which does not require the use of an oven, but yet is indulgent, rich and decadent will always become a blue-print recipe to go to when time is short, but there is a need to get "chocolate wasted". I fell in love with making sweet and salty crunch bars and have made several variations of this and also was impressed with a healthier fruity chocolate fridge cake and enjoyed thoroughly my white chocolate topped refrigerator cake and have different variations of all three no bakes. You see you can never go wrong with a chocolate fridge cake and I have book marked this recipe from Lorraine Pascale's Home Cooking Made Easy for over 2 years, so Valentines Day was the perfect time to try a different version on an old classic. I slightly tweaked the method and ingredients used for this, adding dried cranberries for an extra sweetness and used the micro-wave to melt the chocolate and butter instead of a traditional pan. I felt my adaptations did no harm to this no-bake and perhaps enhanced the flavours and texture as within two hours of being in the fridge, I had a extremely moreish, rich, and addictive bake which was hard to stop eating once I started. I perhaps next time would use more maltesers, I certainly was slightly bewildered how the maltesers turned white once combined with the chocolate, but I suppose it added a nice look to the no-bake. This sweet treat was super easy and yet super delicious, and if you fancy a quick chocolate treat you should make this.

Here is how my party time chocolate fridge cake turned out:

Party time chocolate fridge cake

Chocolate fridge cake

Melted chocolate

Digestive biscuits added

Pre setting
Recipe for Party Time Chocolate Fridge Cake.

125g butter
400g milk or plain chocolate or chopped (I used 300g)
2 dollops of golden syrup
250g digestive biscuits (I used 200g)
135g packet of maltesers (I used 1 packet of maltesers)
handful of dried cranberries

Equipment 20cm square brownie tin or heart shaped tin

Line the tin with baking parchment. Put the butter in a large pan and melt over a low heat. Add the chocolate and golden syrup and allow to melt for a couple of minutes, stirring. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the digestive biscuits and maltesers until evenly mixed.
Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and flatten the top down as smoothly as possible with the back of a spoon. Cover and place in the fridge for a couple or until it hardens. When ready to serve, remove from the tin and cut up into 16 even-sized square and enjoy.

There are many blogging challenges this month which I am entering this chocolate bake dish.
 Bookmarked Recipes hosted by the lovely Jacqueline from  monthly challenge encourages bloggers to cook or bake from a recipe that they have bookmarked from a magazine, blog, cook book or the internet. I have bookmarked this recipe for two years so I meet the desired criteria.

Anneil Faiers from hosts a monthly challenge Four Seasons Food, this months theme is food from the heart. My heart shaped chocolate fridge cake is certainly a food that made my heart very happy.
Naynar from hosts a monthly challenge entitled This months theme is "Lets cook sweet treats for Valentines Day"

Karen from and Janie from host Tea Time Treats this months theme is chocolate as it is the month of love.

Finally, Rachel from and Laura from hosts Calendar Cakes and this months theme is Oh' L Amour, this months theme is Valentines theme so anything heart shaped and a dish made for your loved ones count.


Sunday, 16 February 2014

Codsall Spice, review.

I love Indian food, many of us food lovers do and we regularly eat Indian dishes on a weekly basis. Indian cuisine and in particular Chicken Tikka Masala is a dish that has been brought over to the UK following the immigration of Asian people in the 1950's- 1960's to the UK and is now the nations most loved dish. Although I enjoy making my favourite curries at home and also experimenting with making my own roti and naan bread, I also love eating out at Indian restaurants. If you want to experience a real authentic Indian and Bangladeshi food and you are in the West Midlands a trip to Codsall Spice will set your taste buds on fire.

Located in the pretty South Staffordshire village of Codsall, this restaurant serves up classic Indian dishes such as Chicken Rogan Josh, Prawn Biryani and Chicken and Mushroom Balti, with also their own signature dishes  such as Bengal Nagal Chicken which is described for chilli lovers, tikka cooked in a hot and spicy Naga paste sauce.

As Codsall Spice is  my local Indian restaurant (and my favourite) I am slightly biased with my opinions, and as I regularly visit here, it is a testimony how delicious the food is here .  Appearance wise there are two floors and the restaurant is very light and tastefully decorated with pictures from India. I've been here quite a few times, but thought I'd share dishes from my last two visits. The waiters are friendly and attentive and in my many visits, the food once ordered comes out very quickly, which is always a positive.

An Indian meal for me begins with popadoms, (£0.50) per poppadom, here they are light and crisp and accompanied by a selection of pickles (£0.50).

For my main (on this occasion), I chose Chicken Jalfrezi (£6.50) with roti (£1.95). The chicken was moist, succulent, fully flavoured and there was plenty of sauce so that I could mop up it up with the naan bread.
Chicken jalfrezi

Chicken jalfrezi and roti

My most recent visit, I again enjoyed the crisp and light poppadom with the accompanying pickles


For my main dish, I chose the tandoori chicken (£6.95) which I was blown away with, the chicken was on the bone which I always feel give more flavour,  moist, seasoned well, with a hint of chili and was very filling. I chose the tandoori chicken and I thought it would be one of the healthier dishes, but will now order this dish again as the taste was amazing.
Tandoori chicken

I decided to order a side dish of aloo gobbi (potatoes and cauliflower £2.95) to go with my Tandoori Chicken, as I wanted a change from the heavy naans. The aloo gobbi was cooked well, and the Indian spices really came through, and the cauliflower, didn't even taste like cauliflower, I think the flavour of the curry absorbed the flavour of the cauliflower!

Aloo Gobbi

Codsall Spice

Positives - fabulous hearty Indian food, bright restaurant, good service, very good value for money
Negatives - Village location which may make it difficult to access.
Overall - A lovely restaurant for traditional Indian dishes.

Disclaimer : I reviewed this restaurant because I'm addicted to eating out.


Friday, 14 February 2014

Wholemeal focaccia bread

One of my new years resolution this year was to make more bread. I succeeded in the month of January with this wholemeal foccacia bread and hope to bake a quick and easy loaf from one of Lorraine Pascale's book. I find making bread therapeutic but, for me, can only be made and baked on a lazy weekend. Foccocia bread is one of the first breads that I learnt to make back in 2012 and I wanted to recreate this Italian delight.  The accompanying picture to this recipe from Jo Wheatlety's Home Baking looked so delicious, tempting and moist, I promptly set about on making this. Whilst getting all the ingredients out, I realised I hardly had any white bread flour, but had a bag full of wholemeal flour. I was left with two choices, either go to the shop and buy white flour (and possibly lose momentum) or attempt to make this bread with 50g white flour and brown flour: I went with the latter option. This bread is easy to make, especially as I used a bread hook with a free standing mixture. I wish i used fresh rosemary to really enhance the flavour of the bread.
Wholemeal focaccia bread.

Underneath my bread

This bread was super simple to make.

Flour, yeast and salt

Add water and knead

Leave to rise

Roll out and bake.
Recipe for Focaccia
50 g white bread flour,
250g wholemeal flour, plus extra for kneading
7g easy-blend/fast action yeast
10g sea salt
olive oil for kneading
rosemary sprigs (I used dried rosemary)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

In the bowl of a free-standing mixture, or a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast and 6g of salt. Slowly add the water, a third at a time. The dough will be very wet, almost the consistency of thick wallpaper paste, so don't be alarmed.
Turn it out onto a well-oiled work surface. Oil your hands and knead the dough for about 5 minutes. If you are using a machine fitted with a dough hook, reduce the time to 3 minutes.
Put the dough back into the cleaned, lightly oiled bowl, cover the cling film and leave to prove for 1 hour until it has doubled in size.
Tip out onto the work surface and knead for 30 seconds to knock back the dough.
Using your hands press the dough into a swiss roll tin to a thickness of about 1cm. Use your fingers to make small indentations in the dough. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove for a further.
Preheat the oven to 220c/425F/Gas Mark 7
Bake for 30 minutes in the centre of the oven, then remove and sprinkle over the remaining salt; press in the rosemary sprigs and drizzle with the rosemary oil. Return to the oven for a final 5 minutes.
Cool the bread in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack.


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Salmon and red onion tart

Fancy making a quick and easy mid-week evening meal which not only flavoursome and tasty, but also good value for money? Well of course you do! I recently made this tart after a busy day at work and had this on the table within an hour. I love home-made pastry, but for a quick mid-week meal, ready rolled pastry is the only way to go. I also love luxurious smoked salmon especially for a weekend breakfast with a bagel but in a tart smoked salmon pieces will do fine. The sliced red onion adds a pretty and caramelised feature to the tart, and the low fat creme fraiche as opposed to cream keeps the calories down.
The taste of this tart was sublime, the smoked salmon really came through and was quite rich and I found each slice moreish. Serve with a simple side salad and some crusty bread, perfect to start Spring.
Salmon and red onion tart.
Recipe for Salmon and Red onion tart.
1 ready-rolled short-crust pastry
2 red onion
a packet of smoked salmon trimmings
50 g cheese
300g of low fat or weight watchers creme fraiche
3 eggs
black pepper
1tsp mixed herbs

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 . Place the ready-rolled pastry in a tin and blind bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice 2 red onions, grate the cheese and put aside. Place the eggs and creme fraiche in a bowl, alongside the black pepper, mixed herbs and whisk together.
Once the pastry is baked, place the smoked salmon pieces in the pastry case, alongside the red onions and pour over the egg and creme fraiche mixture.
Bake for 30-35 minutes and enjoy.

I am entering this recipe for a couple of blogging challenges. Ren from Simple and in Season hosts a monthly blogging challenge where seasonal foods are used. Ren states that salmon is included and as this is smoked salmon I can sneakily enter this dish to this challenge.

I am also sharing this dish to No Waste Food Challenge a monthly challenging by Elizabeth Kitchen Diary and this month guest hosted this month by London Unattached, the idea behind this challenge is to ensure that dishes are made without wasting food. This dish does not waste any food, and is actually quite economical.



Sunday, 9 February 2014

Almond Bar by Sharon Salloum, review

Syria has recently been in the news over the last few months unfortunately for all the wrong reasons, but there is something positive about Syria, not only the resilience of the people, but the cuisine of the country. In all honestly, I have never attempted to make Middle Eastern cuisine prior to receiving this book, although I have eaten various Middle Eastern dishes. Almond Bar published by Jacqui Small Publishing  and written by Australian chef of Syrian heritage, Sharron Salloum, shares 100 Middle Eastern recipes which all can be recreated at home, and entices the reader to sample some of the culinary delights that she was brought up on. I would never dream of making Middle Eastern food at home for the fear of it being too complicated, but after having a good read of this book, I realise that was a misconception.

There are several pictures of Sharron, alongside her family and friends dining on the recipes shared in this book. What really comes across in Almond Bar is that Syrian, or Middle Eastern dishes are all about sharing and is a fundamental part of family life.  A positive of this book is that there are several beautiful pictures for the majority of recipes which gives you a guide on how the recipes should look. A further positive of Almond Bar is that all the recipes come with an introduction which gives a background to the recipe, many are linked to her home life and the writing style is friendly and inviting.
Almond Bar

The book is split into a whopping 10 chapters:

  • Introduction - There is a very comprehensive introduction where Sharron shares with the reader her love of Syrian cooking, the tips that she learnt from her mother, and where she has developed her own take on Syrian classics. There is also a lovely picture of her very photogenic family.
  • The Syrian Pantry - This section includes 3 pages on some essential ingredients that are part of Middle Eastern cuisine and also their flavour and how to cook these ingredients, such as Basturma (air-dried beef), moghrabieh (Israeli cous cous) and Sujuk (American-Syrian sausages). 
  • Middle Eastern food suppliers - A really insightful couple of pages on where to buy those all important Middle Easters spices and ingredients if you are living with the UK or the US.
  • Spice blends - Features four essential Middle Eastern spice blends, I made the Syrian mixed spice to make the homemade shawarma (recipe later on in the post). 
  • Sauced and Dips - Who knew Middle Eastern cuisine contained so many sauces and dips. There is a range of delicious sauces and dips and I've bookmarked the creamy date and avocado dip to make, the accompanying picture to this looks inviting and the dip appealing. 
  • Finger Food - This chapter features many nibbles and canape style recipes. I'm more of a meal girl, so if I was having a family gathering, the scallops & basturma drizzled with pomegranate butter is the number 1 on my list of finger foods. 
  • Shared Plates - This chapter is all about sharing dishes (ideal for those lazy weekends) including the wonderful sounding middle eastern sausages with chicory and fennel, and pomegranate quail.
  • Salads and Side - I'm much more of a side dish girl, so recipes that appealed to me were the coriander potatoes.
  • Mains - The main event as I would say. I enjoyed making the spiced beef strips (a.k.a shawarma) and other stand out dishes include sour cherry kebab balls and freekeh with chicken and roasted nuts. 
  • Desserts - I love anything with chocolate so the chocolate pistachio ice-cream and the turmeric cake. 
I made the shawarma also known as spiced beef strips and served this with Mediterranean vegetables and Middle Eastern bread, I deviated slightly from the ingredients stated in this recipe and used the Syrian mix that is part of the Spice Blends. My family liked the flavour of the beef but I was not entirely sure with the mixed spice as I always associate mixed spice with West Indian fruit cake, what won me over is the pairing of the beef with the Middle Eastern bread, the slightly sweet taste of the beef with the soft seeded bread . I also further deviated by cooking the beef in the oven (I'm super lazy letting the oven do all the hard work), but after all this is the home cooked version and not the street version, so I think I can get away with it. The recipe that I will share later on in the post is directly from the book and not my adaptation, I want you to try the shawarma as it is supposed to be tasted, not a healthier oven-baked version. I omitted the Shanklish cheese as this was not in my local Middle Eastern shop, but there is a recipe on how to make this cheese at home in the book.
Here is how my homemade Shawarma turned out:

Beef strips

Syrian Spice

Yellow peppers added.

Shawarma cooked in oven.

The lovely people at Jacqui Small Publishing are offering readers of Food, Glorious Food a discount to the and instead of the recommended retail price of £25, are offering this book at £20. To order Almond Bar at the discounted price of £20.00 including post and package, telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code of APG71.

Here is the recipe for Shawarma and Shanklish a.k.a spiced beef strips with aged yogurt cheese.
Serves 6
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt flakes
1 teaspoon ground pimento
1kg beef rump or round steak, trimmed of fat and cut into thin strips
125ml white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 brown onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 red pepper, cut in half and thinly sliced
180ml olive oil
3 pieces of Middle Eastern bread
1 x 200g ball of mild shanklish
2 tomatoes, diced
small handful of mint.

Using a mortar and pestle, crush the cumin seeds, cloves, peppercorns, cardamom pods, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and pimento or seven-spice mix to a fine blend. Run the spice mix through a fine sieve and discard any large pieces or husks cannot be crushed.
Place the beef in a large bowl, add the spice blend, vinegar, garlic, onion, red pepper and 125m olive oil and mix together until the beef is evenly coated. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight to enhance the flavour  and allow the vinegar to soften the meat.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Drain the beef strips, then add to the pan and cook until nicely browned. if you cover the pan for a few minuted, the steam will speed up the cooking process without toughening or overcooking the beef.
Arrange the Middle Eastern bread on a large serving platter and place the cooked beef in a mound in the middle. Crumble the shanklish cheese over the beef, followed by the diced tomato. Sprinkle the mint leaves over the top and serve immediately.
If you like serve with potato salad or cabbage salad with almonds.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of Almond Bar to review, I was not required to write a positive review.


Saturday, 1 February 2014

My perfect Valentines Day meal

I am no stranger to sharing my perfect Valentines Day meal. I previously posted on my Valentines meal 2012 which featured one of my favourite dishes of all time, date steak. The lovely people at Superbreak  have a wide range of offers on romantic city breaks, including romantic trips to Paris, Bruges and beyond. Superbreaks are also holding a food blogger competition where entrants submit their ideal Valentines Day menu and the winning prize is a trip to Paris, you can take more of a look on their site for how to submit an entry. Paris, The City of Lights and The City of Love is widely regarded as the most romantic city in the world, and as such some of the classic French dishes, such as duck a lorange reflects this.
My ideal romantic meal would be Carribean and Latin American inspired, because this cuisine is the food that I love and eat on a regular basis, and I would want to share this on the most romantic day of the year, as Valentines day is all about sharing and showing love, right?  I know many would serve "classic" starters, mains and desserts such as asparagus, oysters, steak and chocolate, which is fine but I like to do things a bit different.

For me,  my perfect Valentines day meal would take place early evening on an island in the Caribbean, perhaps on the beach where I could hear the the sea reaching the shore, and where I could hear a live band singing some of my favourite songs. Whilst I would not certainly not want to be cooking up a storm, and indeed would prefer lazying around, enjoying company until the meal is served, I would want the dishes that are featured to be served. I have eaten (or variations) of  saltfish fritters, sticky lime pork and rum and lime cupcakes in Brazil, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cuba, and these dishes feature on my menu.

For my starter, one or two Jamaican saltfish fritters, widely eaten in the Carribbean, would be served with a sweet chilli dipping sauce. These small, roundish fritters are the perfect starter as they set your tastebuds with the delights of what culinary delights are yet to come. The seasoned saltfish in a crispy batter and lightly spiced batter, dipped in sweet chilli sauce is too succulent not to feature as my starter.

Saltfish fritters

Saltfish fritters with sweet chilli sauce.

  For the main course, I would serve my Cuban sticky lime and chilli pork with a small portion of rice, black beans and perhaps some plantain chips.  This dish sounds pretty loaded, but in fact it is a hearty serving of some fabulous flavour pairings, (and Valentines day is a day where we should indulge). The chilli and lime are all native to the Caribbean, alongside the dark muscavodo sugar which makes the pork "sticky" and ensures the pork is moist, flavoursome, refreshing.  The rice and black beans is a traditional Latin American dish, and as rice is one of the staple dishes in this region, it would be wrong not to include it. The plaintain chips add a sweeter, yet crunchy element to my main, but if you feel this is to hearty, you could always omit this.
Sticky lime chilli pork & rice & black beans

For the crem de le crem of my Valentines day menu is my chocolate and rum syrup cupcakes topped with lime buttercream. These cupcakes are very grown up and the rum provides a very rich boozy taste to my cupcakes, and the lime buttercream and chocolate sprinkles is the perfect topping as it creates a refreshing topping.
Chocolate and lime cupcakes
Now on to drinks, I know wine and in particular red wine is served on Valentines day, but as my ideal valentines meal will take place on a beach, on an island in the Caribbean next to the sea, it would only be right for me to chose a cocktail or sparkling wine. How about a choice (from top left) of either sparkling wine, Planters punch, Coco Loca or a Pina Colada.

There's two final things that I would like to share which would make my perfect Valentines day meal complete, which are the view (which I have talked about on several occasions) and the music which I would like to be played in the background, which is Guantanamera, arguable the most famous and romantic song to come out of Cuba and The Girl from Ipanema, another famous song hailing from Brazil.
Caribbean sea.

Caribbean sea.


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