Sunday, 30 March 2014

Lozza's lamb biryani and Spice Kitchen spices.

I recently joined Twitter, feel free to pop over and say hello. One of the advantages of Twitter is that I can connect with a whole new audience, introduces me to new food companies, cake businesses, wine sellers and other food bloggers who share my love of food. Spice Kitchen Uk recently reached out to bloggers via Twitter and kindly offered to send out a pack of authentic high quality Indian spices. I'll be honest I usually buy my Indian spices from my local supermarket or my local market when I get chance to visit but this is not often. I love curries and Indian dishes so when Spice Kitchen sent me a sample of 10 Indian Spices which retails at £7.99 I decided to in-cooperate this in a lamb biryani dish. The 10 Indian Spices includes:

  • Cardomon
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Kashmiri Chilli powder
  • Cumin seeds
  • Ground coriander
  • Garam marsala
  • Mustard seeds
  • Turmeric powder
  • Curry leaves
Spice Kitchen spices.
I liked the intensity of the spices when each packet was opened, I used the turmeric, garam masala and chili in my lamb biryani, which I may add was one of the best Indian dishes I have made in a very long time. I always wondered why my Indian dishes did not taste like the dishes I order in Indian restaurants, perhaps it's all down to the spices.
Here is how (Lozza's) lamb biryani turned out:
Lamb biryani
Time from start to finish 25 minutes
Serves 4
Equipment: Medium pan with tight-fitting, serve
Vegetable oil
2tsp garam marsala
2tsp ground turmeric
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp hot chili powder
1 bunch of spring onions
500g lamb steaks
350g basmati rice
400 tin of coconut milk
100ml water
small handful of fresh coriander
50g raisins
knob of butter (optional)

Put a drizzle of oil in a medium pan on a low heat. Add the garam marsala, turmeric, cumin and chili powder and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While this cooks, trim and finely slice the spring onions (both the green and the white bits) and then chop the lamb up into bite-sized cubes. Turn the pan heat up to high, add a little more oil and add the spring onions and lamb. Brown the heat all over for 2-3 minutes, stirring often so nothing catches on the bottom.
Meanwhile, put the rice in a pan with the coconut milk and 100ml of water.
Cover with a tight-fitting lid, bring to the boil and then turn it down to a very gentle simmer and leave to cook away for as long as the rice says on the packet, do not stir the rice.
Once the rice is cooked, stir in the coriander and raisins. Let them heat through for a moment or two.
Taste the rice, adding any salt and pepper if it needs it and even a knob of butter to make it extra creamy.


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Grown up pasta bake.

One of my favourite evening meals when I was a child was tuna pasta bake. The combination of pasta, bacon, sweetcorn and tuna in a creamy sauce, topped with cheese and baked in the oven until all the cheese was melted was a comforting and hearty dinner, which always went well with me. I haven't had tuna pasta bake for a few years, I suppose I have been busy trying new recipes, ingredients and flavours which is great, but sometimes it's good to have a nostalgic trip down memory lane. I always remembered when I ate tuna pasta bake the taste of tuna was mild as though you couldn't taste it, I now think it was because with the other competing flavours it got a bit lost, but is a fab way of introducing fish to children.
My grown up version of this classic, mussels replaces tuna, mushrooms are added alongside sweetcorn and garden peas but the bacon remains the same. I cheated and used a Colmans white sauce packet instead of doing the proper cook thing and making my own bechamel sauce, and to be honest that how it was always made for me. I topped the pasta bake with extra mature cheddar cheese which further enhanced and added another dimension to the pasta bake. I had this on the table under 40 minutes so is perfect for a mid-week meal. I really liked the mussels in the pasta dish, they were the "meaty" part of the dish, mild in flavour and complimented the remaining ingredients and I would definitely make this grown-up version again.
Here is how my grown up pasta bake turned out:

Grown up pasta bake.

Grown up pasta bake.

Grown up pasta bake.
Ingredients- serves 2, easily doubled

200g farfalle pasta
1 tin of 325g sweetcorn
500g mushrooms
3 handfulls of frozen peas, or use half a tin of garden peas
4 rashers of cooked smoked bacon (I used cooked bacon pieces)
Cooked mussels (available from Asda)
1 packet of Colemans Tuna Pasta Bake Sauce.
2 cloves of garlic
2tbsp vegetable oil to saute the mushrooms
50g extra mature cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper
Italian herb seasoning

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6. Cook the farfalle pasta in boiling water for between 10-12 minutes. Whilst the pasta is cooking, heat 2tbsp vegetable oil and saute the mushrooms for around 7 minutes, then add the cloves of garlic, garden peas, sweetcorn and seasoning.  Make the tuna pasta bake sauce, according the packet instructions. Once the pasta is cooked, use a fairly large oven proof dish, add the pasta, mushrooms, garden peas, sweetcorn, alongside the cooked mussels and bacon pieces. Pour the tuna pasta bake sauce mix and carefully, using a wooden soon ensure all the mixture is coated with the sauce mix. Top with the grated cheddar cheese and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden in colour. Serve with a side salad.



Sunday, 23 March 2014

Campfire Cuisine, Review and Giveaway

I've never been camping or slept outdoors but was intrigued to find out typical foods eaten outdoors when I received a copy of Campfire Cuisine Gourmet Recipes for the Great Outdoors by Robin Donovan to flick through for people who love the outdoors and cooking on campfires. Many thanks to Quirk books for my review copy. This is a nice compact book containing no less than 100 recipes for delicious, healthy, satisfying meals to make at your campsite or any outdoor settings. There are also tips on meal planning and sample meat and vegetarian menus for three days, and shopping including stocking your pantry and choosing the right equipment to cook these dishes.  I was pleasantly surprised with the variety of recipes that can be made outdoors especially as my perceptions are limited to beans on toast and toasted marshmallows. Such recipes do not feature in this book, instead chapters and stand out recipes include:

  • Salad Dressings, Sauces, Marinades and More: coconut curry sauce, easy tomato sauce and olive relish are added to my to do list.
  • Breakfast: recipes to try include real homemade pancakes, Bananas Foster French Toast and pan-fried bread with pears, blue cheese and maple syrup.
  • Sandwiches, Salads and Such: curried chicken salad sandwiches, Middle Eastern Salad and Lemony Cous Cous salad.
  • Snacks and Appetisers: dishes to try include smoked salmon crostini and Parmesan baked apples.
  • My favourite chapter Entrees: dishes added to my must make list include Spicy Creole Shrimp, Indian-style curry yogurt chicken, maple-mustard pork chops, Jambalaya and Hoisin-glazed beef kebabs.
  • Cooked vegetables, grains and other sides, stand out recipes include: grilled cauliflower with coconut curry sauce, white beans with Chanterelle and foil baked yams with spicy chili butter.
  • Desserts: sweet treats include magic layer pie. rum baked pears and Mexican hot chocolate. 
I decided to make the pan-fried bread with pears, blue cheese and maple syrup as I wanted to try an alternative to my usual weekend fare of pancakes, fried fish or full English. I liked how the sweet pears complimented the slightly salty, yet gooey blue cheese and the crispiness of the bread. This is certainly a dish to make again.
Here is how my pan-fried bread with blue cheese and maple syrup turned out:
Pan-fried bread with pears with blue cheese 

Pan-fried pears
Bread frying

Blue cheese added

Pan-fried bread with pears, blue cheese and maple syrup.

1/2 tbsp butter or more if needed
2 slices whole wheat or white bread
2 ounces Gorgonzola, Cambozola or other soft blue cheese
1/2 medium ripe pear, cored and thinly sliced
2 tbsp maple syrup.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over a stove top. Place the bread in a single layer in the frying pan, and cook until the underside is browned, about 3 minutes more. Remove from the frying pan, top with the pear slices,  and drizzle with maple syrup. Serve immediately. Serves 1.

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Saturday, 22 March 2014

Flash in the Pan Pork

Another quick mid-week meal. Flash in the pan pork is exactly what the title says, quick, easy and is whipped up in no time. I am always on the luck out for quick and easy meals after a long day at work and find chicken and pork tends to be firm favourites when I want a meaty, yet quick dinner. I really liked the creamyness of the yogurt alongside the mustard, the perfect and easy sauce to make. I served my flash in the pan pork with sweetcorn and kale, but feel free to follow the recipe to the latter.
Here is how my flash in the pan pork turned out:
Flash in the pan pork

Flash in the pan pork.

Preparation time 5 minutes
Cooking time 15 minutes
Nutritional information, per serving 346 calories, 12g fat (of which 4g saturates), 32g carbohydrate, 0.6 salt.

700g new potatoes, scrubbed, halved if large
175g runner beans
a little sunflower or olive oil
4 pork escalopes (I used chopped)
150ml hot chicken stock
2tbsp wholegrain mustard
a squeeze of lemon juice
150g yoghurt

1) Cook the new potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Add the beans/vegetables and cook for a further 5 minutes until tender.
2) Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, and cook the pork for 3 minutes on each side until browned. Remove from the pan and keep warm. Add the stock and mustard to the pan, and increase the heat to reduce the liquid by half.
3) Just before serving, reduce the heat and add the yogurt and lemon juice. Put the pork back in the pan to coat with the sauce and warm through. Serve with the potatoes and beans.



Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Cake International

Have you ever heard of Cake International? Well, I think most people who love baking would have heard of the annual Cake International shows, a show that specialises in all things cake and decorating techniques. Cake International is held in Manchester, Birmingham and London and I was lucky enough to attend the Manchester show on a press pass. I have been to BBC Good Food Show before so am familiar with the format of food related shows (lots of stall, demonstrations, celebrity chef) but have never been to a specialist cake show before. I suppose as my primarily love is food it had never crossed my mind to go to a cake show but as the nation is swept by this baking phenomena, it is handy to venture out and see and taste some amazing cakes.
Marry Berry tiramisu cake. 

Marry Berry tiramisu cake. 

The best way of learning how to branch out from my favourite cakes and also decorative styles, is to learn from the expert bakers. Cake International hosted a jam-packed day on Saturday, no less than 4 demonstration theatres, two which were free and two which you had to pay for. I watched legendary baker and national treasure Marry Berry give a demo on tiramisu cake and granola bars, alongside Mich Turner's carrot cake for mother's day and Paul da Costa Reeves, Tai chi Bara Brith.
Mich Turner

Paul Da Costa Reeves and goodies.
There were so many fabulous, intricate cakes at the show, some are a masterpiece. There were are also many stalls to purchase goodies from such as The Brownie Bar and Sugar and Crumbs, for those all important brownie treats and flavoured icing sugar.
Here are some of my favourite pictures from Cake International.


Cake glitter
Meringues and mini cakes


Carrot Cakes

Disclaimer: I attended Cake International Manchester on a press pass, I was not required to write a positive review.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Eat Well and Stay Slim

Eat Well and Stay Slim is the latest book by legendary French chef, Michel Guerard and published by Franceslincoln, many thanks for my review copy. I'll be honest, I've never heard of Michel Guerard before receiving this book but he is a three star Michilen chef and is no stranger to publishing healthy cookbooks and his previous book, Cuisine Minceur has sold a whopping 1 million copies, which says it all.

Eat Well and Stay Slim is a cookbook which introduces the reader to low calorie, and in my opinion restaurant style dishes which should enable us to enjoy high quality ingredients which is good for us and helps us to lose weight. Eat Well and Stay Slim also introduces the reader to the methods, techniques and an essential toolkit (stocks, flavoured oil, vinagrettes, condiments) which helps preparing low calorie dishes easier. Eat Well and Stay Slim also shares the four stages of the minceur dietary regime that is used at his spa hotel, Les Pres d' Eugenie. This book is split into two chapters, the basic essential of Cuisine Minceur which covers a variety of sauces, gratins ad vinagrettes  and The Essential Cuisine Minceur recipes. The second chapter is my favourite as it contains the all important recipes and covers:

  • Soups, dishes to try include springtime green asparagus soup, artichoke soup and chilled melon and basil soup. 
  • Cold starters, stand out recipes include, carpaccio of salmon with olives and tapioca, spicy salmon with coffee sauce and tartare of tomatoes with basil.
  • Warm starters, dishes include skinny tomato tarts, mushrooms in vermouth with a potato puree and mushroom tarts with asparagus tips.
  • Salads, stand out recipes include spatch-cooked quail with mushroom mousse and prawn salad with crunchy crab-filled biscuits.
  • Fish dishes, recommended dishes include tuna steaks with ribbon vegetables, poached sea bass and salmon burger 
  • Meat dishes, dishes to try include Italian-style beef burgers with basil, chicken breasts stuffed with lemony herbs and eastern-inspired duck burgers. 
  • Side and vegetable dishes, recommended dishes vegetable curry with basmati rice,  
  • Desserts, low calorie treats include vanilla floating island, french toast with vanilla- scented with apple and chestnut- chocolate timbale.
All the recipes in this book include an indication of the level of difficulty which ranges from 1-3 stars, the calories in each dish and clear method instruction. The calories in each dish are very low I haven't seen a dish of more than 400 calories, which is fantastic if you want to lose weight. Flicking through the recipes which stuck out more than anything is that, for me these are the dishes that I would see in a high-end restaurant and for the majority of recipes which is fab as you can see how the dishes should look. My only criticism is there is a lack of carbohydrates in this book, I love carbs!

I thought I would challenge myself and make a dish with a 3 star difficulty, tuna steaks with ribbon vegetables. I'm glad I did, as it wasn't as difficult as I thought and I will be revisiting some other fish dishes, especially a few weeks before I go on my holidays. I liked the simplicity of the tuna steaks and the vegetables really complimented the flavour.

Here is how my tuna steaks with ribbon vegetables turned out:
Tuna steaks.

Par-boiled vegetables.
Seasoned tuna steak.

Vegetables cooking.

Tuna steak and vegetables cooking.

Recipe for Tuna Steaks with Ribbon Vegetables and a Herb Vinaigrette
Serves 4, Cooking and Preparation: 45 minutes, 360 calories per person
4 tuna steaks, each about 100g
2 tbsp olive oil
2 or 3 long carrots, peeled
2 or 3 courgettes
1 aubergine
1 new onion, peeled and cut into 12 petal shapes
4 medium button mushrooms, wiped and cut into slices
salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette
6tbsp light vinagrette
2tbsp white wine vinegar
4tbsp rich chicken stock
1tbsp coarsely chopped parsley
1tsp finely chopped tarragon

To garnish
4 sprigs of thyme

1) Put the tuna steaks in a dish and coat them with 1 tbsp of the olive oil, set them aside at room temperature
2) Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, cut the carrots length ways into 12 thin ribbon-like slices, no more than 2 mm. Cut the courgettes into similar ribbons and the aubergines into 8 slightly thicker slices.
3) In separate batches, blanch these vegetables - for about 1 minute in boiling, lightly salted water, then refresh them in cold water and drain them flat on kitchen paper.
4) Have ready frying pan or a grill pan.
5) When you are almost ready to serve the dish, either the grill or saute the vegetables. To grill them, brush the grill or griddle pan with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
6) Cook the onions and aubergines for 3 minutes on each side, and the carrots, courgettes and mushrooms for 1 minute each side.
7) Mix together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture without allowing it to boil, then keep the vinaigrette warm.
8) Season the tuna steaks and cook them rapidly for about 3 minutes on each side, either using the hot griddle pan. The steaks should remain pink on the inside.
To serve
Divide the vinaigrette between 4 warm serving plates. Add the tuna steaks and the vegetables.


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Spicy bean burgers

One of my quests for 2013 is to eat more Vegetarian meals. I set my self the challenge to eat one veggie  meal a week. This challenge seemed simple enough, especially after over indulging over the Xmas period. I wanted a new challenge, to eat healthier and also to cook with some vegetables that I have never cooked with, such as Jerusalem artichokes, kale and fennel and thought using vegetables as the main part of my meal, may be a good way to lose weight. I started off with great enthusiasm, dusting off my cookbooks looking for delicious looking veggie and healthy recipes. However, by the end of January I realised I could not sustain this: I'm addicted to meat, I love the texture, flavour and the versatility of the good ol chops. One of the good thing about my short-lived quests is that I tried this lovely recipe from Lorraine Pascale's Fast Fresh and Easy Food cookbook. What I liked about this veggie recipe, is that it didn't require a food processor as many veggie/bean burgers do and a simple potato masher is sufficient enough to do the job. Lorraine states that the recipe takes around 30 minutes to make the burgers, alongside couscous and coriander and lime creme sauce (which I omitted), it took me 30 minutes to make the burgers! I served these burgers with couscous as recommended in the recipe, next time I'll be making sweet potato fries as I craved potatoes with this.
Here is how my guilt free veggie burgers turned out:
Spicy ban burgers

I started by pulsing the beans together until it was a pliable mixture.
Pulses mashed.

Then added the breadcrumbs and egg
Eggs and sun dried tomatoes added.

Finally adding the feta cheese.
Feta cheese added

Cook the burgers.
Burgers cooking.

Recipe for Spicy bean burgers
400g tin of kidney beans
400g tin of butter beans
1 bunch of spring onions
1-2 chillies
1 garlic clove
50g sun dried tomatoes
50g dried breadcrumbs
2 medium eggs
100g feta cheese
sunflower oil
Packet of cous cous, made according the instructions on the packet.

Drain and rinse the kidney and butter beans and tip them into a large bowl. Using the end of a rolling pin or a potato masher, give the beans a rough mash to break then up a little.
Trim and finely slice the spring onions, deseeded and finely slice the chillies and peel and finely chop the garlic. Finely chop the sun dried tomatoes. Add all of these to beans, along with the breadcrumbs, and crack the eggs in. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper and give everything a good mix to incorporate the eggs. Then crumble the feta.
Put a big glub of sunflower oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Then, divide the mix in four and shape each piece into a burger patty. Add the burgers to the hot pan and leave to cook for 5 minutes.
Once the underside of the burgers are lovely and crisp and golden, flip them over carefully (as they are softer than regular meat burgers). Drizzle some oil into the pan if dry and leave the burgers to cook on the other side for 5 minutes. Make the couscous as instructed by the packet. Check the burgers are crisp and golden on the other side and remove them from the pan onto the cous cous.


Thursday, 6 March 2014

Lemon layer cake topped with honeycomb

The consistent rain in the UK that has battered many towns and cities has come to a welcoming end and has been replaced by bright Spring days. I quite like the change of seasons, when you wake up and it is lighter and not as cold as the previous month. For some reason I associate citrus bakes with Spring/Summer, I suppose this is because citrus fruits are refreshing and for me, I prefer to make refreshing bakes in this season compared to a fruit cake. I made this lemon layer cake using an all in one method when I fancied making a quick lemon bake. I topped with honeycomb as it's a topping that I had at hand.
Here is how my lemon layer cake turned out:
Lemon layer cake.
Recipe for lemon layer cake
220g self-raising flour
220g margarine
220g caster sugar
grated zest of two lemons, plus the juice
splash of milk
3 eggs

For the buttercream
125g margarine
425g icing sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 170C (gas mark 4). Grease and baseline two 20cm cake tins. Cream the margarine and sugar using a hand-held mixer until pale and smooth. Add the dry ingredients in batches alternating an egg at a time and finally the grated zest and lemon juice and splash of milk. Beat well after each addition. Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and bake for about 25-30 minutes until raised and golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave in the tins for about 10 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool.
For the buttercream, I beat 125g butter and then added 425g icing sugar in batches alongside the lemon juice until everything is smooth.


Monday, 3 March 2014

The Bear Grill

I love a good ol burger. In fact I have a whole folder dedicated to the various burgers that I have cooked or ordered out on my Facebook page and am always pencilling numerous burger recipes to try. When some of my friends suggested that we should have a get together at in Stafford, I did not hesitate and looked forward to viewing the various burger choices. Located in the prime location of Stafford high street and at a former pub, the Bear Grill offers a pretty exterior, a light warm and welcoming interior and an extensive selection of gourmet burgers that will satisfy the carnivore. The Bear Grill also uses fresh Staffordshire beef so you are also supporting the local farming economy.

There are a wide range of starters and sharing platters that will tantalise your appetite and set you up nicely for the main event. Examples of the starters and sharing platters were Potato Skins (£4.95) and Loaded Nachos (£6.95) which I felt was reasonably priced.  To the main event there is a wide range of beef burgers  all served in a bun with salad leaves and chunky chips such as cranberry and brie (£7.95), Mexican (£8.25) and, if up for the challenge try the Big Bear (£10.95) which is whopping 2 x 6oz burgers topped with mature cheddar cheese, bacon and onion rings.  As I visited this fabulous restaurant in January, whilst trying to embark on another healthy regime, I ordered the cod burger (£8.25) grilled cod topped with tartar sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice and certainly felt virtuous.
My cod burger was moist, succulent, lightly seasoned, cooked well and was of a large size. My friends thoroughly enjoyed the combination of cranberry and brie (especially to remind us of the winter season). I also added a side salad (£2.75) as I always like to have something a little extra with my meal.

There were other options for those that do not eat meat or want to eat a burger, hot dogs, foods from the grill and salads are all good alternatives but I would advise to stick to the burger purely for the gourmet taste and to sample the best that this restaurant has to offer. The staff were polite and friendly and the service was quick, we were not kept waiting long before these gourmet burgers arrived.

The Bear Grill.

Cod burger.

Cod burger close up.

Side Salad.
Cranberry and Brie with sweet potato fries. 

Me at the Bear Grill.
Positives: Friendly staff, located in the heart of Stafford, quick service, hearty portions, delicious food.
Negatives: None identified!
Overall: I will definitely be visiting here again!
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