Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Florentine by Emiko Davies Review and Giveaway

A few months back a lovely publishing catalogue arrived at my home from the guys over at Hardie Grant publishing house. You know I love cookbooks don't you, they regularly feature on my blog. There were a number of fantastic cookbooks in the Spring/Summer line up and a couple which I knew I had to review. I think the on location photos lured me in, alongside Emiko's journey and love affair of Florence. Italian cuisine is probably one of the most published cuisines in the world and when you think a certain angle of Italian cuisine can not be covered it is. What I love about Florentine, The True Cuisine of Florence is that it's not pasta heavy, in fact Emiko shares a number of recipes which perhaps we would not ordinarily eat on a regular basis such as tripe, livers and rabbit. I suspect Emiko, has a sweet tooth, or that in fact the Florentines have a sweet tooth, as there are many mouthwatering sweet recipes. This cookery book also explores the history of Florentine cuisine from the Renaissance era to the present day.

I've tried three recipes so far, all meat free (what's happening to me). My only thing about this boo is there are a lot of baking recipes which need proving and resting, something which I wouldn't ordinarily have time.

What is impressive is that Emiko has taken stunning photographs of what, it would appear daily life in Florence. One which makes me want to jump on the nearest plane to Florence.
Here is what I've made so far:
Tuna and Butter Bean Salad (eggs added)

Fennel Fritata 

Florentine Style Peas.

The cook book is split into the following chapters:
  • La Pasticceria - The pastry shop - recipes to try include Apricot Jam Crostata, Doughnut Holes and Rice Fritters. 
  • Il Forno - The Bakery - Recipes to try (when you have time on your hands) is Grape Focaccia, Florentine Cake and Bar-Style Pizza. 
  • Il Mercato - The Market - Stand out recipes include Florentine Style Peas, Fennel Frittata and Tuna Bean and Onion Salad. 
  • La Trattoria - The Trattoria - recipes to try include Onion Soup, Florentine-Style Crepes and Pappardelle with Duck Sauce - how fab does this sound. 
  • Il Maccellaio - The Butcher - stand out recipes to include Chicken Cooked Under a Brick, Florentine Fried Chicken and Grilled Pork Ribs.
  • In Grio - Out and About - Truffle Sandwiches, Warm Brie and Spinach Roll and Crostini with Butter and Anchovies. 
Here is the recipe for Tuna, Bean and Onion Salad, as you can say I added a couple of eggs for good measure.

1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
250ml boiling water
250g tinned tuna in brine, drained
350g drained cannelini beans (can be tinned)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
10-12 basic leaves, torn.

To take the edge off the raw onion, put the slices in a mixing bowl and pour boiling water over the top. Let the slices sit for about 5-10 minutes so they are still crunchy and sweet, drain. Combine the onion with the remaining ingredients in a bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper, toss together and serve. 

The lovely people at Hardie Grant are offering one lucky reader a copy of Florentine.
To be in with a chance of winning a copy of this book, follow the below instructions.

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Friday, 25 March 2016

Octopus, Avocado, Butter Bean Salad with a chili garlic dressing.

I purchase a whole octopus, reduced from Morrisons a couple of weeks ago. I prefer octopus's cousin squid and have only ate octopus twice (in Tenerife) prior to this rather impulsive purchase. In fact, I think I brought the octopus because I felt sorry for it, as my local Morrisons shop had several packets of pitiful looking octopus that were reduced to £1.20 (bargain or what) that needed to be purchased or it would be thrown away. Not one for wasting or passing up a bargain, I purchased a packet of octopus and stored away my new found bargain in the freezer. I was toying on what to cook, when I remembered that the fantastic A Lot On Her Plate cookery book by Rosie Birkett featured several octopus recipes. I decide on this recipe. The octopus does require some preparation work, but the results are great, tender, chewy and flavoursome, this made a great mid-week lunch (although I suspect would make a light evening meal. As you will see from the photographs, I was lacking on the butter beans, but it was great without it, but I have included the authentic recipe without my amendments for ease.
Here is how my Octopus, Avocado Salad with a chill garlic dressing. 

1 Octopus
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 red birds eye chillies, halved
5 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
3 slices of lemon
few sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stemmed
1 bay leaf
3 black peppercorns

handful of cherry tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of white pepper
400g butter beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 ripe avocado, peeled, stoned and cubed.

First you need to tenderise the octopus. You can do this very easily by freezing it a couple of days before you cook it, and then defrosting it. Or you can buy it frozen and then defrost. You may also need to remove the eyes. Do this by cutting around and under them with a very sharp knife and popping them and the attached cartilage out. When you cut out there eyes you can then press the hard break (the creatures mouth) out of the centre cavity where the legs join together. Clean any gunk from the cavities with kitchen paper, and rinse the octopus under cold water in the sink for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, ask your fishmonger to clean and prep the octopus for you.

Place 6 tablespoons of the olive oil with the octopus, chillies, garlic, lemon slices, parsley, bay leaf and peppercorns in a large pot or casserole, give it a shake, and cover tightly with a lid. Slowly bring it up to the boil and simmer gently for 30 minutes. At this point check for tenderness, prodding a skewer or cocktail stick into the fattest part of the octopus. If the octopus falls off the skewer easily with little resistance rather than sticking to it, it's done. If it clings to the skewer, cook it for a further 10-15 minutes, or until there's no resistance.
While the octopus is cooking, toss the tomatoes in 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt, the rosemary and vinegar and set aside.
Once it's cooked until tender, transfer the octopus from the casserole to a plate. Allow it to cool and then, if you like, peel of the dark skin and cut into chunks. To make the chili garlic dressing, place the softened garlic and cooked chillies that were cooked with the octopus in a mini-chopper with about 5 tablespoons of the purple cooking liquor from the pot and blitz until you have a creamy, emulsified sauce. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice and white pepper, and blitz again.
To assemble the salad, mix the beans with the onion, parsley, avocado and marinated tomatoes , and arrange on the plate. Top the octopus, and drizzle with the dressing.


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Callaloo Baked Eggs and Bammy Soldiers

My family love callaloo, a wild form of spinach grown throughout the Caribbean but is of African origin. More than likely, callaloo was transported from Africa to the Caribbean during the transatlantic slave trade and it's grown and flourished in the Caribbean ever since. If you are thinking what does callaloo taste of, it has a distinct taste and is more savoury than spinach, but if you are cooking it in this dish it will be similar to spinach. So, if you can't get your hand on a tin of callaloo, fresh spinach would work. If I was going down prepare a more traditional dish, such as callaloo and salt fish, callaloo would be preferred because once you start to mix it with more complex flavours, it takes a whole new taste and flavour.
Unfortunately, this isn't the season for fresh callaloo in the UK, this is available in the Summer months and if you are lucky enough to live near an African or Caribbean food stall you will be able to pick up a large leafy bunch. In the meantime, the tinned variety will do, which is now, thankfully available in many larger supermarkets in multi-cultural towns and cities.
Anyway, back to this dish. I love egg and soldiers, my fondest memories of breakfast was runny eggs in an egg cup with buttered hot toast cut into soldiers and then dunked into the egg. I'm sure many of you also have that nostalgic memory of this breakfast dish. I, being a lover of Jamaican ingredients have made a grown up, Jamaican version of eggs and soldiers. The eggs are cracked on top of seasoned callaloo and served with bammy soldiers. Did I tell you that I love bammy? Bammy is cassava rounds that are produced in Jamaica and shipped here in the UK, it's near impossible to make your own, so shop brought must do. If you have ever tried yams, you may like this. If not, the only thing I can think of which has similar resemblance to bammy, if you've never tried it is potato bread. This meal can be on your kitchen table in under 20 minutes and if you chose to, as I did, serve it for breakfast, but it also makes a lovely quick mid-week meal. It's also vegetarian so perfect for a meatless meal or perhaps for Meat Free Monday.
Here is how my Callaloo Baked Eggs and Bammy Soldiers turned out:
Callaloo Baked Eggs and Bammy Soldiers with fried plantains. 

Calalloo Baked Eggs

Bammy Soaking

Bammy frying.

Callaloo and tomato cooking.
Recipe for Callaloo Baked Eggs 
1 tbsp vegetable oil.
1 small red onion, skinned removed and finely diced.
2 chopped tomatoes, finely diced.
1 tin of callaloo (280g, drained weight 164g) 
1 tsp harissa powder
1 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper
4 eggs

For the Bammy Soldiers
1 bammy round
50 ml semi-skimmed milk 
2 tbsp oil

You will need a frying pan and a wok. 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6. Pour the oil in the frying pan, add the onions, tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add the callaloo, harissa powder, salt, pinch of black pepper, give everything a quick stir and cook for a further 5 minutes. Create 4 spaces and crack the eggs. Transfer the frying pan in the oven and cook for 10 minutes, until the egg whites are set. Whilst the eggs are in the oven, soak the bammy with semi-skimmed milk for 3 minutes (this helps tenderise the bammy). Pour the oil in the wok, slice the bammy into "soldiers" and cook on a medium heat for around 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown - remove with a slotted fish slicer and set aside Remove the frying pan from the oven and serve with bammy soldiers. 



Thursday, 10 March 2016

Hotel Chocolat Luxury White Chocolate Easter Egg Review and Giveaway

Easter is around the corner, a matter of two weeks away. Easter isn't just for children, why should they have all the fun? There are some great Easter Eggs marketed toward us grownups, which I am more than happy to taste and try. As Easter is the time for sharing and indulging, you can have a luxurious Easter treat for yourself. After all, by the time Easter rolls around we would be 3 months into the year and what way to celebrate or as I say, get chocolate wasted by indulging in a range of the Hotel Chocolat Easter products. I received the gorgeous White and Light Extra Thick Easter Eggs as I adore white chocolate. There's something creamy and silky about white chocolate, but this chocolate is far superior, the shells are incredibly thick and also includes 12 luxurious chocolates filled with a variety of exotic flavours. The White and Light Extra Thick Easter Egg is a little pricey at £27, but this is Easter and You deserve a treat. I have managed to save half of my Easter Egg for the actual day, but the white chocolates are by far the best I have tasted, so this has been quite difficult to do.

The lovely people at Hotel Chocolat are giving one lucky reader the White and Light Extra Thick Easter Egg. To be in with a chance of winning this fabulous prize, follow the instructions below.
  • Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter.
  • Leave a comment on my blog (This is an Essential Requirement)
  • For additional entries, join my blog (left hand side via Good Friend Connector), subscribe to my Youtube channel, follow me on Instragram, Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter .
  • All entries will be checked and verified. 
  • Rafflecopter will pick a winner at random. 
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  • The competition is open to UK residents aged 18 and over. 
  • Hotel Chocolat will post the chocolates to the winner.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Many thanks to Hotel Chocolat for sending me the product for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Favourite French Lentils

I've never really been into lentils. I can on only recall two occasions, once when my friend's mum made it in a Middle Eastern dish and another at a curry house. I wasn't keen on either dish so I made a conscious effort not to eat lentils ever again. I flicked through one of my favourite cookbooks Bacon: Recipes For Curing, Smoking and Eating by Theresa Gilliam and discovered this recipe. I was enticed by all the ingredients which I love bar the lentils. So what's my verdict? The other flavours, the bacon, carrots and shallots compliment the lentils and help brings out an otherwise bland flavour. I served this as a side dish, however, due to the substantial portion and bold flavours,  this could be served as a main course. 

Recipe for Favourite French Lentils
Serves 4 
175g white pearl onions
6 rashers of bacon, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
170g French green lentils
1 litre water
5 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
French crusty bread

To peel the pearl onions, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and arrange an ice bath alongside. Blanch the onions in the water for 1 minute. Scoop the onions out of the water and plunge them into the waiting ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain the onions and use your fingers to pop the onions from their loosened skins.

Cook the bacon in a large frying pan over a medium heat until almost crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the peeled onions and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the carrots, garlic, sat and pepper and cook until the vegetables are soft and the onions are slightly caramelised, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lentils, water, thyme, sprigs and bay leaf. Bring the lentils to the boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 20-30 minutes.

Add the butter and mustard just before serving. Stir until the butter is melted and the ingredients are evenly combined.

Serve warm with bread or toasted baguette slices.


Tuesday, 8 March 2016

#AllWomenEverywhere - Why There Is a Long Way to Go for Black Women.

I wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post as part of their #allwomeneverywhere campaign which looks at issue face by women. I wrote from my experiences as a Black British women and the article is timely as it's International Women's Day.

Image courtesy of Google

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