Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Roast Chicken with Peaches and Lavendar

I finally got round to purchasing Diana Henry's A Bird in Hand. This was published in 2015 to great critical acclaim. A cookery book dedicated to the nations favourite meat chicken shows the diversity of recipes that chicken can offer. I've made a few of the recipes but this one I chose to share is perfect during the Summer months. The roast chicken was incredibly succulent and the peach gave such moreish and sweet flavour dimension to it.

3 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt flakes and pepper
1.8kg chicken skin-on, jointed into 8 good sized skin on bone-in chicken thighs.
200ml medium white wine
3tbsp white balsamic vinegar
4tbsp lavender honey
5 small, slightly under ripe peaches
8 sprigs of fresh lavender

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5
Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan, season the chicken joints and brown them on each side so they get a good colour. You can do this in batches.
Put the chicken joints or thighs into a very large , broad shallow ovenproof dish (both the chicken and peaches need to be able to lie snugly together in a single layer)
Pour the oil out of the pan but don't clean it. Return it to the heat and deglaze the pan with the wine , scraping to dislodge all the bits of flavour there. Boil this until it has reduced to about 100ml then add 1 1/2 tbsp each of the balsamic vinegar and honey. Stir to dissolve the honey , then pour over the chicken.
Halve and pit the peaches and cut each half in two. Dot these in around the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Brush each piece of peach with a little olive oil , then whisk the remaining honey and balsamic together with a fork. Drizzle this over the chicken and peaches and scatter with the lavender (leave some sprigs of lavender whole , use just the flowers from others)

Roast in the hot oven for 40 minutes. The chicken should be cooked through and glazed with the honey and the peaches should be slightly caramelized in patches. If you stick the tip of a sharp knife into the underside of a thigh , the juice that runs out should be clear. Serve in the dish in which the chicken has cooked (you can transfer it all to a warmed platter , but be careful as the peaches will be soft and could easily fall apart).
Serve with roast potatoes and green beans.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Caramelised Red Onion, Cream and Stilton Quiche

I love quiche, the famous French tart is a regular favourite at home. I love making quiche and trying the different variations that this robust tart can offer. This quiche is a rather grown up quiche, the caramelised red onion offers a sweet flavour, the cream a creamy texture (as expected) and the Stilton offers a further depth to this. This is perfect quiche to make over a lazy Sunday or over the Bank Holiday. Any leftovers also make a fabulous lunch. 

Serves 4-6
Takes 15 minutes to make (plus cooling), 1 hour 5 minutes to cook.

50g unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
4 large red onions, thinly sliced
couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 deep 25 cm blind-baked shortcrust pastry tart case
4 eggs
300ml single cream
200g Stilton, crumbled
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful of rocket leaves

Melt the butter with the oil in a large, deep saucepan. Stir through the onions and thyme sprigs, then cook, uncovered, over a very low heat for at least 30 minutes or until they are really soft, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the thyme stalks.
Pour in the balsamic vinegar, increase the heat a little and continue to cook, stirring constantly for a few minutes until you are left with a dark rich mass of caramelised onions. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool - the onions will be very hot indeed so let them cool down until they are cool enough to touch.
Once the onions are cool, preheat the oven to 200C/180Cfan/Gas mark 6.
Spoon the onion mixture into the pastry tart case and spread evenly. In a bowl, beat together the eggs and cream and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Slowly pour into the pastry tart case, allowing it to settle and find its own level gradually around the filling, then sprinkle over the Stilton.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the filling is just set and the cheese is melted. Carefully remove the quiche from the tin and transfer it to a serving plate or wooden board. Serve hot or warm, scattered with a generous handful of rocket. This is a very rich quiche, so a simple salad dressed with a sharp dressing with work nicely as an accompaniment.


Friday, 27 April 2018

Cajun Pork Burgers

I thoroughly enjoy a good burger, especially one which is meaty and full of flavour. I normally make 
beef burgers but I fancied something different and as I have 5 cookbooks dedicated to burgers I decide to make a burger that was slightly different. Pork mince is full of flavour and relatively low in fact so I thought I would make the Cajun pork burgers. The Cajun spice adds a warmth flavour and the mashed sweet potato adds an (obviously) sweet flavour. 

Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus chilling
Cook Time : 35-45 minutes

225g sweet potatoes , cut into chunks
450g pork mince
1 eating apple, peeled, cored and grated
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
450g onions
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 tbsp sunflower oil
8-12 lean back bacon rashers
salt and pepper

Cook the sweet potato in a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water for 15-20 minutes, or until soft when pierced with a fork. Drain well, then mash and reserve.
Place the pork in a bowl, add the mashed potato, apple and Cajun seasoning. Grate one of the onions and add to the pork mixture with the coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Mix together, then shape into four to six equal-sized patties. Cover and leave to chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Slice the remaining onions. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan. Add the onions and cook over a low heat for 10-12 minutes, stirring until soft. Remove the frying pan from the heat and reserve. Wrap each patty in two bacon rashers. 
Preheat the barbecue. Cook the patties over the to coals, bruising with the remaining oil, for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until thoroughly cooked. Alternatively, cook in a griddle pan or under a hot grill. Serve immediately with the fried onions.


Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Steak and Guinness Pie

I absolutely love pies, nothing is more comforting than a steaming homemade pie on these cold dark nights. I love the versatility in pie fillings from a light and fresh filling to something hearty like the recipe I will be sharing. Steak and Guinness Pie, has a lovely Irish twist on a traditional Steak Pie - the addition of Guinness adds an intense warmth flavour. The steak is slow cooked in the oven for a few hours which makes the meat tender and full of flavour. Although this pie isn't a 30 minute wonder, as the oven does the hard work for you, once the meat browns, you can sit back and relax. A perfect dish to make over the weekend. 

Recipe from Leiths How to Cook

1 packet puff pastry (extra flour to dust)
1 egg

For the filling

1 onion
3 tbsp olive oil
handful mixed herbs, such as parsley, thyme, rosemary and oregano
1kg beef chuck steak
450ml Guinness
200g tinned chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 tsp butter, softened and mixed with 2 tsp flour, if needed
freshly ground black pepper

  1. For the filling, halve and peel the onion and cut each half into 4 wedges. Place in a medium flameproof casserole or ovenproof pan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, cover, ideally with a cartouche, and sweat over a low heat until soft and translucent but not taking on any colour.
  2. Meanwhile, finely chop enough herb leaves to give you 1–2 tablespoons and set aside. Trim off any excess fat and sinew from the beef and cut it into 2–3 cm cubes.
  3. Heat the oven to 150°C.
  4. Once the onion is soft, remove it from the pan and set aside. Brown the meat in batches in the pan, using as much of the remaining oil as necessary and deglazing with a little water after each batch.
  5. Return the onion to the pan and add the Guinness, tomatoes, chopped mixed herbs, bay leaf and some salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Return all the meat to the pan and add a little water if the meat is not covered.
  6. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook gently for 2–2½ hours, or until the beef is tender. To check, remove a piece of beef; you should be able to cut through it with the side of a fork or spoon.
  7. Remove from the oven and drain the cooking liquid into a small pan. Discard the bay leaf, then taste and reduce the sauce, if necessary, to a consistency that lightly clings to the meat and a good concentration of flavour. If the sauce needs thickening, use a little beurre manié (the butter and flour mixture).
  8. Add the beef back to the sauce and transfer to a lipped pie dish, ensuring the filling fills the dish generously. Use a pie funnel if necessary. Leave to cool completely.
  9. Roll out the chilled pastry on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle about 3 mm thick and 3 cm bigger all round than the pie dish. Cut off strips that together will line the lip of the pie dish. Lightly beat the egg with a very small pinch of salt, using a fork, then pass through a sieve into a bowl.
  10. Press the pastry strips onto the dish lip and brush with a little beaten egg. Carefully lift the pastry rectangle on top and press gently over the lip, to join the edges. Trim off the excess pastry and cut up the sides. Place 2 fingers lightly on the edge of the pastry and draw the back of a cutlery knife between your fingers and upwards, to create a scalloped effect. Make a hole in the centre of the lid to allow steam to escape. Cut out leaves or decorations from the pastry trimmings, if desired, and stick to the pie lid with beaten egg. Glaze the pastry with the beaten egg. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm the pastry. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200°C.
  11. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg again. Bake the pie in the top of the oven for 25–30 minutes, or until the pastry is well risen and golden and the filling is piping hot when tested with a skewer.


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Spicy Potato Quiche

I've been on a mission to cook and bake from my almost 200 cookery books this year. The recipe for the Spicy Potato Quiche is from one of the first baking books I brought, Readers Digest Baking Bible. I often visited WH Smith back in 2011 at Birmingham New Street when I was studying for my Masters degree. Flicking through the array of baking recipes I was amazed by the eclectic range of recipes, many were distinctively American, others were incredibly retro and many more, such as this recipe, were very inspiring.  I have probably blogged about quiche and it's variant more so than other savoury bake. The French inspired bake has so many variants, from the simple egg and bacon filling to the more adventurous sort such as this spicy potato and leek variant. I wasn't sure whether the weight of the potato make the quiche heavy as I much prefer a light and airy quiche.

For the pastry

170g plain flour
2 fresh red chillis, seeds removed, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 egg
80ml sunflower oil
1 tablespoon lukewarm water

For the filling
350g waxy new potatoes
250g leeks, cut into 1 cm slices
65g gruyere cheese
2 tablespoon chopped chives
55g rocket, roughly chopped
2 eggs
150ml milk

Serves 4
Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus 30 minutes resting
Cooking 40-45 minutes

Use a baking tray and a 20cm round, flutter loose-based quiche tin. Sift flour and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Add the chilli and thyme, then make a well in the centre. Whisk the egg, oil and water and add to the dry ingredients; mix quickly with a fork to make a dough.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface; knead briefly just until smooth. Place in a dry bowl, cover with a damp cloth towel and leave to rest about 30 minutes before rolling out.
For the filling, cook potatoes in boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until almost tender. Steam leeks over the potatoes for 6-7 minutes, until tender. Drain thoroughly and leave until cool enough to handle.
Preheat oven to 200C (gas mark 6) and put the baking tray in to heat. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out pastry thinly to line the flan tin. Scatter half the cheese in the case.
Thickly slice the potatoes and toss with the leeks, remaining cheese and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange half the potato and leek mixture in the pastry case. Scatter rocket on top then add the rest of the potato and leek mixture.
Lightly beat eggs in a jug. Heat milk to just below boiling pint then add to the three eggs; whisk gently to combine.
Place tin on the hot baking tray. Pour the warm egg custard into the case. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 180C gas mark 4. Bake a further 30-35 minutes or until the filling is lightly set. Leave quiche in the tin for 5 minutes. Serve warm.


Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Meatballs in a sweet, sour & spicy tomato sauce.

I fancied a change from the usual meatballs with pasta which is one of my go to mid-week meals. The thing is with my relationship with mince, I usually make the same fare with mince: meatballs, in-authentic spag bol  and chilli con carne. This is despite having a cookbook dedicated to mince. This is meatballs, but not as you know it. Seasoned with intense Middle Eastern spice and a lovely combination of beef and mince meatballs. I was a bit hesitant and apprehensive what the sour flavours would be like, but I was pleasantly surprised. If you think of sweet and sour of a well-known takeaway dish, but more sour and with a little more heat. I decided on serving this with bulgar wheat, hummus and za'tar roasted vegetables.

For the meatballs 
250g minced lamb
250g minced beef
1 large onion, peeled and grated
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated or finely chopped
30g breadcrumbs
1 tsp smoky paprika
1/2 tsp chili flakes or cayenne pepper
1 tsp harissa paste
1/2 tsp salt
a pinch of white pepper
a pinch of ground cinnamon

For the sauce
2tbsp olive oil
the rest of the head of garlic, peeled and chopped (about 30g)
5 tbsp tomato puree (about 80g)
1 tsp harrisa paste
1 tsp smoky paprika
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp demerara sugar
2 strips of lemon (use a peeler)
100ml lemon juice
750ml water
2 large pears, cut in thick wedges, seeds removed but skin on.

Heat your oven to 200C/180C/Gas Mark 6
Mix all the meatballs ingredients together in a large bowl and form into twelve balls of roughly 50g each. Place on a lightly oiled baking tray in the centre of the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
While the meatballs are cooking, put the olive oil, chopped garlic and salt in a large saucepan on a medium-high heat and fry for about 2 minutes, stirring all the while, until a strong garlicky smell emerges and the garlic begins to stick to the pan (it should not colour). Add the tomato puree, harissa, spices, bay leaves, sugar and lemon skin and mix well. Keep stirring and cooking until everything begins to stick to the bottom of the pan again (about 4-5 minutes), then stir in the lemon juice and bring to the boil.
By now your meatballs should be just about ready to jump into the sauce. Tip them in along with all the juices that have come out of them - there's tons of flavours there. Bring the sauce to the boil again, then reduce the heat to a minimum, cover and leave to cook slowly for an hour. If you using pears, add them now. Cook for 15 minutes on a low heat without the lid in order to reduce the liquid slightly - when it's ready, the sauce should resemble a thick soup.
Serve with white rice


Thursday, 5 January 2017

Spinach and Coconut Dal

I only discovered the diversity of lentils Spring last year. Having only tried lentils once before, in a soup dish, around 15 years ago which I dismissed as bland and dull, I promptly vowed never to try this again. This was until I began to make a number of recipes from Summers Under the Tamarind Tree which I quite enjoyed. I then made Meera Sodha's Daily Dal which was heavenly: soupy, thick and comforting, I was hooked. I've been making my own version of daily dal in now my regular use of lentils, but as with everything in life, fancied a change. That change came way of  the critically acclaimed, Simon Hopkinson Second Helpings of Roast Chicken, which I picked up for the barginous £1 from Poundland. The spinach and coconut dal instantly appealed to me, an aromatic change to my usual dal. The dal is thick and works perfectly with naan bread to mop up it all up.

Serves 4
250g onions peeled and finely chopped 
75g butter
1 1/2 tsp cumin seed, roasted
1 tsp whole black mustard seeds, roasted
4 cloves
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tsp ground turmeric 
1/2 tsp chilli powder
200g split red lentils
400ml water
400ml coconut milk
3-4 thick slices of fresh ginger, unpeeled
450g fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
250g fresh eat spinach, trimmed and roughly chopped 
plenty of freshly ground black pepper 
juice of 1 large lime 
1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
2 tbsp freshly chopped mint
1 tsp salt

Serve with naan or pitta bread

Fry the onions in 50g of the butter until pale golden. Add the whole spices and half the garlic and continue to cook gently for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the turmeric and chilli powder until well blended and cook for a couple of minutes Tip in the lentils and add the water, coconut milk, ginger, tomatoes and spinach. Bring up to a summer, add the pepper and cook very gently, stirring occasionally, for about 30-40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and have all but dissolved into the liquid.
Remove the pan from the heat. Melt the remaining butter. When it starts to froth, throw in the rest of the garlic and stir vigorously until it states to take on a little colour, and the butter starts to smell nutty. Immediately tip in the lentils and stir in (there will be spluttering so watch out). Add the lime juice, the coriander, mint and salt to taste. Cover with a lid  and leave to mellow for 10 minutes before serving, remembering to remove the slices of ginger before you do so. Eat with hot and fresh flat bread, such as naan or failing that, pitta bread. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Farofa Coated Chicken

I love the online food community and one of my most recent finds was Sous Chef website specialising in hard to find ingredients. I've brought a couple things on there, but what caught my eye with my most recent purchase was the seasoned cassava flour (farofa pronta in Portugese). You see I've had a long love affair with farofa when I visited Brazil almost 10 years ago. I love the flavoursome sand like ingredient which was served often with the national dish, fejoada, but also with chicken and fish. When I returned to the UK, I searched high and low for farofa, I even went as far to purchase the West African ingredient made with cassava tubers, Garri but as there is not a Brazillian community where I live, I wasn't successful. But as I love cassava and with many hard to find items available online, I knew it wouldn't be a long time before this was available online.
Instead of serving farofa as a side accompaniment, I decided to use this to create a coating for some chicken pieces which were crying out to be used.  This makes a delightful change if you want to change up the mid-week chicken meal.


4 Chicken legs quarters, skin off and still jointed
1 spring onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns or black peppercorns
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 egg yolk
75g seasoned farofa

Start by marinading the chicken. Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl, season with spring onions, garlic cloves, parsley, pink peppercorns, salt, garam masala, cumin and turmeric. Mix well using your hands and leave to marinade for around 4 hours. Crack an egg yolk into a bowl and whisk. On a side plate add the seasoned farofa. When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to gas mark 6, set up the convey belt .....  Dip each piece of chicken in the egg yolk, then coat with the farofa and place in a large oven dish (you may need two). Repeat until all the chicken pieces are coated. Place the oven dish on the top shelf of the oven and cook for 1 hour. 



Thursday, 28 April 2016

Summers Under The Tamarind Tree, Review & Giveaway

Summers Under The Tamarind Tree is the debut cookery book by food writer, Sumayya Usmani. I think this cookery book is a first of it's kind as it documents recipes from Pakistan. Many of us are familiar with Indian cooking and the fiery curries that are associated with that country, but what about Pakistan, what dishes are associated with this country? For some reason, unbeknown to me, Pakistani cooking is somewhat of an unknown entity. Luckily, for you and I, Sumayya has shared her family recipes, a combination of Arab, Persian and Indian influences. I think the publishers, Frances Lincoln have done a wonderful job here, there's stunning on-location photography with some mouth-watering photos of the finished dish. Having flicked through several of the pages to and fro and book marked several, I think that this cookery book will be considered to be a "classic" in years to come. Not only for introducing the reader to Pakistani cuisine, but also for the breath of the recipes that are covered and beautiful food writing. This is my favourite sort of cookbook, one which is personal, a narrative and contains do-able recipes.

This cookery book gets a big thumbs up for a whole chapter on breakfast - one of my favourite ways to start the day.So far, I've only tried two recipes, the khagina (spicy scrambled eggs with tomatoes and coriander) and Lahori Fish (in chickpea batter and ajwain seeds) but I plan on making much more. The recipe I choose to share is the Lahori Fish, coated in gram flour, this gives a traditional haddock more of an unusual, interesting and delightful take, one which I loved.
Lahori Fish

Spicy Eggs with Tomato and Coriander.

Lahori Fish, In Chickpea Batter and Ajwan Seeds
Preparation - 20 minutes, Cooking 10-15 minutes, Serves 4-6
4-6 haddock fillets
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
100g generous gram flour
2 tbsp rice flour
1 tsp dry-roasted chin seeds
1/2 tsp ajwain (carom seeds)
100ml rice water (made by boiling 1 cup wear, straining and reserving the water.

Rub the fish with the lemon juice, turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix the gram flour, rice flour, cumin, ajwain, red chill flakes and remaining salt together in a bowl. Pour the rice water into another bowl. Dip the fish into the dry gram flour mix then in the rice water and repeat again. Continue until pall the pieces of fish are covered. Heat the oil in a shallow frying pan over a medium heat and fry the fish for 4-5 minutes each sir until cooked through with a crisp coating.

The lovely people over at Frances Lincoln are giving one lucky reader a copy of Summers Under The Tamarind Tree. To be in with a chance of winning a copy, follow the below instructions:
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Thursday, 21 April 2016

Preserved Lemon, Za'atar and Honey Chicken

One of the great things about living in a multi-cultural diverse city is that you can find readily available ingredients from all cultures within a few miles radius. I love Middle-Eastern food, I'm aware that it one of the current food trends, but I sampled Middle Eastern almost 14 years ago, as a teenager  (one of my closest friends is half Jordanian). The spices commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking are full of flavour, but there is no heat. I love heat, but I do not want to necessarily want to eat spicy food every day (maybe every other day), but I always want flavour, lots of it. 
I had a number of what I consider to Middle Eastern spices and condiments and wanted to perk up a Sunday roast chicken, with a combination of Preserved Lemon, Za'atar and Honey Roast Chicken. The honey was a last minute and yet wonderful addition to an impromptu rub; it helped to add a golden glaze and to crisp up the chicken. The roast chicken, took the normal to the extraordinary, the preserved lemon and it's juices helped to keep the chicken moist with a slight hint of citrus, the za'atar added an additional depth and the honey further flavour. You must give this a shot. 

1 large organic chicken
1/2 preserved lemon
2 tablespoon preserved lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayene pepper
2 tablespoon za'atar
2 tablespoon runny honey

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5. Insert the preserved lemon in the chicken cavity. In a mug, add the preserved lemon juices, salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, za'atar and honey and give this a good whisk until everything is mixed well. Using your hands, smoother the chicken all over with the marinade. Place the chicken in a large oven tray and cover with foil. Cook for 30 minutes, then remove the foil from the oven tray. Cook for additional 40 minutes, or until when a skewer enters the chicken thigh, the juices run clear. 



Saturday, 2 April 2016

Bar and Block Restaurant Review

There's a fabulous new restaurant in Birmingham, a contemporary and modern take on the iconic Beefeater: Bar and Block, which is wonderful steak house. Located on Waterloo Street, Bar and Block opened last month and during my visit, the day before good Friday, this restaurant was jam backed and buzzing with people. As me and my friend walked in almost all the tables were full of hungry customers, so I was glad that my table was reserved. This restaurant is relatively large and there is a large bar area and some interesting wall features. I also liked that you could see the kitchen area, it's always refreshing to see the chefs preparing dishes, none of this microwaved foods. 

No onto the food,  we feasted on a three course meal including cocktails. It wouldn't be a girly meal without cocktails, I ordered the Cosmopolitan (£6.99) and my friend ordered Chambord Royale (£6.99).

We ordered starters of Garlic King Prawns (£7.50) which was served with crusty ciabatta and Cheese and Herb Topped Mushrooms (£5.50), whilst we waited for our starters our lovely waiter brought popcorn coated in beef dripping. I mean popcorn coated in beef dripping, I was intrigued and after having a few handfuls, this flavour needs to be stocked in supermarkets as it's incredibly moreish. My prawns were so succulent, refreshing and light, the ciabatta was perfect for mopping up the prawn and lemon juice. My friend, praised the cheese and her mushrooms, stating that it was gooey.

Now onto the mains, there's a selection of main courses such as Slow Cooked Pork Belly, Beef Short Rib and Beer Battered Fish and Chips, but if you are going to a steakhouse, you really should be ordering steak. There's a good selection of steaks from rump, ribeye, sirloin and spiral cut. My friend and I both ordered the 8oz Rib Eye Steak (£15.50), I ordered the traditional bernaise sauce and my friend ordered the  creamy mushroom. My steak was medium and my friend's was well done, I love the succulent flavours of my medium steak, it was perfectly chargrilled on the outside and moist on the inside. Delightful.

After such a gorgeous steak, we refreshed with more cocktails, mine being a Mitango (£3.25) , a virgin mojito - I never even missed the rum and my friend ordered a cosmopolitan (£6.99).

When it comes for desserts, I am all for chocolate so what better way to get chocolate wasted as I like to affectionately call it and order the impressive Chocolate Toffee Fondue for Two (£9.95). This chocolate delight comes with cinnamon coated banana fritters, warm bread & butter bites, chocolate brownie bites and fresh fruit, served with a warm chocolate toffee sauce for dipping. Well, I was in heaven, my friend and I loved dunking the fruits and brownies into the rich chocolate sauce.

Did I tell you that I was impressed with the decor and the vibe of this restaurant. I loved the bar area and the interior.

Disclaimer: I dined as guests of Bar and Block.


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.


Sunday, 20 December 2015

Roast Pork Belly with Shrimp and Apple

It's almost Christmas, Yay.  What do you eat during the run up to Christmas? Do you start going all festive  on the 1st December, during the Christmas week, or are you only festive on the actual day? Are you one of those that have dinner parties during December or perhaps a special Christmas Eve meal. There are so many incredible seasonal festive recipes during the run up to Christmas. I think this time of the year, is not only indulgent, the fact that we say the majority of us tend to over indulge on the day, but meats and ingredients which are can be deemed as a special treat are frequently eaten.
I wanted to share a recipe that I recently tried, after the lovely people at Stoves Kitchen asked me to recreate one of their festive recipes. I could have opted for a lighter soup, but being the winter season and the season for indulgence and winter flavours, I decided on cooking Glynn Purnell's Roast Pork Belly with Shrimp and Apple. I love pork belly so this was an immediate choice. Pork belly is an economical family favourite, readily available from butchers and supermarkets. I've never had pork belly with shrimp, it never crossed my mind to combine pork with shrimp, an ultimate twist on the surf and turf. The oven does the majority of the work in this dish, which is perfect if you don't want to be hovering over the stove. Also the delicate flavours that  come through to the melt in your mouth pork belly and the light crunch of the prawns is a wonderful combination. I served this wonderful dish with crispy roast potatoes and green beans.

Take a look on their site, there are such a wonderful and diverse range of recipes from our well loved and trusted chefs and have a #StovesChristmas.

  • 1/2 boneless pork belly
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp baby capers
  • 100ml apple juice
  • 1 large English Bramley apple, diced
  • 500g shrimps , peeled and blanched (I used prawns) 
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped sage
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Splash of cream
  • Knob of butter
Pre-heat oven to 190°C.
Place the pork on a roasting rack, stab all over with a roasting fork. Put salt and black pepper over the pork.
Cook for 2 hours, leave to rest.
Add the shallot to the juices in the tray over heat, and when soft add the capers and apple juice and reduce. 
Add apple, shrimps, chopped herbs, splash of cream and knob of butter.
Carve the pork then serve the shrimp stew all over the pork. Eat with a dollop of mash or crispy summer cabbage.
Disclaimer: Stoves Kitchen asked me to participate in this challenge.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Sweet Potato, Bacon & Red Pepper Tart

I love tarts, quiches and pies. The versatile thing about tarts, quiches and pies that it can be adapted to  the seasons outside. I adore this sweet potato, bacon and red pepper combination, a hearty and comforting Autumn supper which will be on the table under one hour.


Saturday, 10 October 2015

Moroccan Lamb Burgers

A non-Jamaican/Caribbean recipe. Yes, it does happen. I don't just feast on all spice, plantain encrusted and pineapple dishes. When I fancy exotic food, but without the heat, I turn to Middle Eastern food and as one of my closest friends who is half Jordanian states "Middle Eastern food is full of flavour but without the heat". I own a handful of Middle Eastern cookbooks, not many and I rarely cook from them, but every now and again I fancy a harissa, tahini and aubergines. Of course, Middle Eastern food is much more than these ingredients and I have added my own Eastern promise in my Moroccan inspired lamb burgers, seasoned with harisa and tahini. A delicious quick and easy and scrumptious evening meal.

Moroccan Lamb Burgers
Serves 4 
500g lamb mince
2 garlic cloves, skin remove and chopped
2 tsp of Moroccan Harissa paste
1tbsp tahini
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper
breadcrumbs (made with 2 slices of toasted white bread, finely grated).
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp oil for frying

To Serve 
4 large Brioche Buns
Baba Ganoush 
Salad leaves 

You will need mixing bowl, wooden spoon and griddle pan. 

In a mixing bowl add the lamb mince, garlic cloves, harrisa paste, tahini, salt, black pepper, mixed herbs, egg yolk, breadcrumbs and stir using the wooden spoon until everything is mixed together. Heat the oil in the griddle pan and using your hand form 4 patties - try not to over handle the patties mixture as the burgers can become too tough. Add the patties to the griddle pan and cook for around 5 minutes on each side. Split the burger buns and using a fish slicer place the burgers in the bun and enjoy. Serve with Baba Ganoush.


Thursday, 24 September 2015

Nosh and Quaff

If you are a foodie in Birmingham or the surrounding areas, you would have known that Nosh and Quaff opened in July. Nosh and Quaff is the brainchild of Aktar Islam and Jabber Khan who owns Lasan and Fiesta del Asado. Located on the trendy Colmore Row, right next to Victoria Square, this is perfect for the city workers, those fancy a bite to eat after work alongside those that want an informal yet sophisticated restaurant. I attended the launch party and was greeted by ladies on stilts which was was a warm friendly welcome and set the scene for the informal eating requirements here #letsgetmessy. Inside the restaurant, I found this to be dimly lit, I would have preferred a more brighter and lighter restaurant but there were also numerous positives which I found as soon as I waked in. I liked the combination of the different seating areas, it reminded me of an American diner, there was a combination of tables and bar stools. The ground floor had a more party vibe to it, perhaps due to the launch party and there was music pumping out, I wanted to hear myself talk so asked to be seated upstairs. This was not an issue, the staff were incredibly friendly and attentive throughout the meal and I loved their trendy denim uniform. I much preferred being seated upstairs, there was a live band, stunning views of Birmingham and an ideal place to host a group meal. 

The most important reason why we were there, the food. For the mains I felt it was necessary that I ordered the lobster after all this is one of the stars of the menu. Described as grilled fresh large whole, split with a garlic and lemon butter sauce, I was salivating reading the menu. When my lobster arrived, the lobster meat inside was tender and juicy and the accompanying sauce was light and fresh. Unfortunately my lobster was not piping hot and was just warm. I’m not sure the reason for this but it was a bit of a disappointment. The lobster was reasonably priced at £20 and the fries which accompanied it was well seasoned and crispy. The pork ribs which my nan ordered described as four-bone rib of naturally reared Hampshire pig in a peppery, mustard rub served with homemade slaw. I sampled the pork ribs, which I found to be delicious, peppery and meaty.

The side dishes were the Nosh and Quaff salad (£5) and Corn on the Cob. All which tasted good and I felt was reasonably priced. No restaurant with the hash tag #letsgetmessy would be complete without a decadent range of deserts, although there were 3 options they were perfect for rounding up the meal. The Rocky Road (£5) described as “ rich chocolate brownie, nut brittle, marshmallow ice-cream and loads of chocolate sauce. The other options are cheesecake and sharing sundae. As a chocoholic I can say that the chocolate dessert was sublime: indulgent, crunchy, moreish and sublime.

Overall: If my main courses were piping hot then there would be no hesitation on returning; I loved the menu concept and vibe of the restaurant.
Positives: helpful staff, great location and a great place for informal restaurant.

Not so good: My lobster was not piping hot.

Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of Nosh and Quaff. 
Nosh and Quaff Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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