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Meredith & Isobel were hanging out with us this afternoon and it got to that time on Sunday that we needed to star thinking about dinner – always early on a Sunday due to shorter trading hours. As Mer was needing to do exactly the same as me – shop & cook – it made sense to do it together. A quick trip to the supermarket later we were in possession of a chicken and a medley of veg. It was a win win situation – half the grocery bill and great company while preparing together.

Mer had also picked up a Graffiti Cauliflower on the way over this morning – this was completely new to me as never seen or heard of it before. What a beautiful sight it is – vibrant purple. Much much more interesting than the usual boring white cauliflower! We decided to make this into a cauliflower cheese which I haven’t had in years.  Once the cauliflower had been simmered for 8 minutes the water was bright blue.

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Apart from the Cauliflower Cheese there was no recipe to follow – just some Lemon stuffed into the chicken with some garlic and rosemary, chopped up butternut squash, carrots & parsnips and a drizzling of oilve oil….oh and a sprinkle of S & P.

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Once everything was cooked we split everything in half and Mer & Isobel headed home to Stu with dinner in tow. Worked really well as was the perfect  amount of chicken & veg – no leftovers in this house!

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I Love Sunday

What is there not to love about Sunday, especially when nothing is planned and you have the whole day stretched out before you. It’s even better when Izzy sleeps a little longer than her usual 6am  – last week it was 8.30 – awesome!

James & Izzy headed out for a swim and Mummy got a lie in – bliss! A lovely peaceful morning. I started off flicking through my new Jamie Magazine which only arrived yesterday. I really enjoyed Jamie’s America and this edition of the mag follows on from that. There is a really interesting article that goes behind the scenes of the Wild West episode – I didn’t realise quite what goes into making a series like this!

So I made it to page 38 (of 138) and then found the Banana & Coconut Breakfast Muffins – straight down to the kitchen to get these in the oven ready for James and Izzy’s return!  Super easy and really really good – perfect Sunday morning muffins!!! Another triumph for Jamie!!

Banana & Coconut Breakfast Muffins (courtesy of Jamie Oliver – Jamie Magazine, Issue 6)

Ingredients:-

100g melted butter

250g self raising flour

1 level tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

100g honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large ripe bananas, chopped

2 large eggs

150g plain yoghurt

4 heaped Tbsp desiccated coconut

Vegetable oil for greasing

Preheat the oven to 190C. Bung the ingredients into a food processor with a pinch of salt and pulse for the minimum amount of time it takes to get a paste. Don’t over mix it or the muffins won’t be light.

If using paper cases, put those into your muffin tin, if not grease the tin with a little oil and spoon in the mixture. If you want, you can top them with a slice of banana, a raspberry or a sprinkle of desiccated coconut.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lovely and golden. Check that the muffins come away from the side of the tin when touched, Let them cool for 10 minutes before scoffing.

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These are definitely going to be a more regular feature in our household. Izzy also took a couple over to our lovely neighbour, Sam.

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The rest of the day was about left overs and using up what was in the house already. Izzy enjoyed the last of the Celeriac Soup and finished the lot without too much coaxing and then headed off for an afternoon nap (2 days in a row and no grumbles going down – yay!). There was a little bit of bribery of watching Annie and Daddy making popcorn when she woke up – it worked.

Looking in the vege bin we had a build up of odds and ends again and that calls for another batch of Pasta e fagoli. This time made with celeriac, pumpkin (surprise, surprise!), a baby turnip, a few new potatoes, mushrooms, celery, corn and asparagus. Yum yum!!

We still had an abundance of apples left from last week (despite my best intentions of making apple butter) and so James whipped up an apple crumble (no – we do not make desserts every day, or even every week!) and juiced the remaining apples. The crumble was delicious – great way to finish the weekend!

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Aunty Amy came to visit us on Saturday and to give Izzy her first lesson in modern Japanese culture. After Amy’s recent jaunt to Tokyo she bought back a stuffed toy for Izzy called Tortoro and the English version of the DVD movie – My neighbour Tortoro. It was so sweet watching the 2 of them sit on the sofa and watch the movie together – which is so typically Japanese – it even managed to hold her full attention for at least 30 mins! Thanks Aunty Amy!!

Having an extra person in the house is also a good reason to cook a yummy meal and with time to spare on a Saturday we decided to go all the way and make 3 courses. I suggested just 2 but as Amy pointed out – ‘there is always room for pudding’!

The first course was pretty simple – Bruschetta. No recipe to follow as is pretty simple. I sliced up some ciabatta and placed it on the griddle until it was brown and then turned over. In the meantime I chopped tomatoes and basil and mixed this with some red wine vinegar and a sprinkle of S & P. Once bread is nice and crisp then take off, rub both sides with a clove of garlic and drizzle with some good olive oil. I used some that I had flavoured a couple of weeks ago by just adding fresh basil and then leaving for a couple of weeks before decanting into a clean glass bottle. After the olive oil add the tomato & basil mix  and serve. Scrummy!!

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The King was back in the kitchen for the main course – Pumpkin Risotto. Sorry if you are bored of Pumpkin but there will be more to come….the pumpkin season is such a small window that we have to make the most of it! As always it was fab – James has truly mastered this dish.

Pumpkin Risotto (courtesy of Gennaro Contaldo – Italian Year)

Ingredients:-

150ml olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed, but left whole

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 sprig of rosemary

350g arborio rice

1 glass of white wine

1kg pumpkin (clean weight), cut into very small cubes

about 1.5 litres hot vegetable stock

50g butter

100g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Place the stock in a saucepan on a low heat and simmer gently.

In another saucepan, heat the olive oil and sweat the onion, garlic, celery and rosemary until the vegetables soften. Remove the garlic and discard.

Add the rice, stirring well and making sure each grain of rice is coated in the oil. Add the wine and allow it to evaporate, stirring all the time.

Add the pumpkin cubes, together with a ladleful of stock & stir. As the liquid evaporates, stir in another ladleful of stock. Continue to do this for 20 minutes. remove from the heat, stir in the butter and Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Classy dinner in front of the telly! Oh well it's Saturday and X Factor is on!!

Classy dinner in front of the telly! Oh well it's Saturday and X Factor is on!!

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So for pudding we originally heading towards Banoffee Pie given that there were a couple of bananas in the bowl that only had about a day left in them. That was a great idea until I actually read the recipe and the base needs to go into the fridge overnight! Then there is the tin of condensed milk in the saucepan (in order to make the toffee) which my friend Tarns had a bad accident with so all signs were pointing away from the Banoffee Pie.

This week I received from my dear friends at Amazon (we better be friends with the amount I have spent with them over the years ;-)) the new Rachel Allen book – ‘Home Cooking’. For me Rachel Allen is running a very close 2nd to Jamie Oliver and ‘Home Cooking’ is my kind of book. Full of vibrant, fresh and delicious recipes that are aimed at, funnily enough, the home cook. A worthy addition to any cookbook collection!! So I flicked through my newest acquisition and came across a recipe for Rhubarb & Ginger Bread & Butter Pudding. Never made a B & B pudding before and I have 460g chopped rhubarb in the freezer (from our first PYO of the season) and the recipe calls for 450g….must be a sign! I didn’t have great expectations as I don’t really recall ever having B & B pudding although I am sure I must have at some stage but I do recall that my Dad is not a fan. However I think even Marty would like this one especially as it is made with rhubarb which is one of his favourites.  Amy was right…..there is always room for pudding!!

Rhubarb & Ginger Bread and Butter pudding (courtesy of Rachel Allen – Home Cooking)

Ingredients:-

450g rhubarb, cut into 1 cm slices

2 tsp finely grated root ginger

150g caster sugar

50g butter, softened

12 slices of white bread, crusts removed

350ml single or regular cream

350ml milk

2 tsp finely grated root ginger

4 eggs

pinch of salt

2 Tbsp granulated sugar

Icing sugar, for dusting

25cm square ovenproof dish or similar-sized dish

Scatter the rhubarb in a baking dish and sprinkle with the grated ginger and half the caster sugar. Toss together and then leave to sit for about 30 mins to soften a little.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter the bread and arrange four slices, buttered side down, in the ovenproof dish. Scatter over half of the prepared rhubarb and top  with four more slices of bread, again buttered side down. Repeat with the remaining rhubarb mixture and bread.

Place the cream, milk and grated ginger in a saucepan an bring just to the boil. While this is coming to the boil, whisk the eggs, salt and remaining caster sugar in a bowl. Continuing to whisk, pour the hot liquid into the egg mixture until well mixed. Slowly pour this custard over the bread and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the granulated sugar over the top (oops forgot to do this!).

Place the dish into a deep-sided baking tray and pour in enough boiling water to come half way up the sides (known as a bain-marie). Carefully place in the oven to bake for 45-50 minutes, or until it feels just set in the centre. Remove from the oven and serve warm with a light dusting of icing sugar (forgot this too!) and some softly whipped cream.

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Straight out of the oven

This post would not be complete without mentioning the X Factor – for the first time I am hooked! My faves are Stacey (how can you not love her – so funny and beautiful voice) and Jamie (go the Fro!!), but those twins…gggrrrr……they are the most annoying act I have ever seen and they need to go….NOW!! Don’t vote John& Edward!!!

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I was lucky enough this week to be invited to a corporate event that is right up my street – ‘Cooking & Quaffing’. It was a great fun delicious evening and I certainly learnt  a few new tricks. We were split into teams and each team was responsible for one of the courses for approx 40 people.  The menu was as follows:-

Starter – Arancini

Main – Chicken Forestiere

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Dessert – Mandarin Trifle

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I was assigned to the ‘Mains’ team and learnt how to prepare a ballotine from a chicken supreme and also how to chop shallots & garlic like a pro. I will definitely prepare chicken this way again as the result was so tender. We were lucky enough to have a team of talented chefs instructing us. Our chef was from Avignon and had a michelin star – I was super impressed but then have completely forgotten his name. I must have been too busy swooning over his accent (sorry James!) but there is something about the French accent!!

The evening was run out of Beyond Boyle which is an organisation that organises corporate hospitality, team building exercises and also has a foundation which teams with London charities to provide vocational training for the homeless. Definitely a worthy cause.

Running the actual evening itself was Harry – a charming and affable elderly gentlemen (78 by his own admission and consumer of many thousands of bottles of wine, once again by his own admission!). Harry’s team of chefs were a multicultural team bringing experience and knowledge from Russia, France, Italy & Brazil. After preparing the food, and leaving the chefs to actually cook it, we sat down to a session of ‘Quaffing’ – Harry was an excellent teacher and obviously very enthusiastic. I particularly enjoyed the Moscato dessert wine – was perfect with the Mandarin Trifle (which was far more delicious than it sounds!).

So I will leave you withe recipe for the main of Chicken Forestiere, however it does not include the instruction on preparing the chicken (and I dare not try and write it down…)  Our chef also mentioned it was to be steamed for 7 minutes before going into the pan.

Chicken Forestiere (courtesy of Chateau Harry)

Ingredients:-

4 x chicken supreme, skin on

1 x onion, finely chopped

1 x shallot, finely chopped

2 x garlic cloves, finely chopped

250g mixed mushrooms, diced

Oil for frying

250ml double cream

100g butter

Parsley & Thyme, finely chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

White wine for cooking

Preheat oven to 180C.

Brown off the chicken in a pan. Remove & set aside.

Saute the onions, shallots and garlic. Remove & set aside.

Now saute the mushrooms. Wait until all the moisture has been re-absorbed and then add the chopped herbs, salt & pepper and a good splash of white wine. Return the onion mixture to the pan and cook for 3-5 mins on medium heat. Add the cream and simmer gently, stirring to prevent burning.

Place the chicken in a roasting tin and cook in the middle of the oven for 20 mins. When cooked remove and rest for 5 mins. Finish the sauce by adding the butter and stirring.

Adjust the seasoning and plate up the chicken, dress with the mushroom sauce. Serve with fresh vegetables.

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Soup season

In our household Celeriac has been an under used vegetable. I don’t recall ever having it as a child so I’m not sure when I first even heard of it but I am pretty sure it was only in the last couple of years.  It’s an unusual taste, kind of nutty – I wouldn’t compare it to any other particular vegetable, but it is quite delicious!

I picked up a celeriac at the farm shop and so was in search for something simple to do with it. I came up with a simple celeriac soup. It was unusual but really tasty. I won’t post a picture as to be honest it doesn’t look that appetizing – like something Oliver Twist was served up a Victorian London workhouse!! But looks can be deceiving and topped off with some ground black pepper it tastes great!! Even Izzy polished off a bowl! Try it – you might be surprised too 🙂

Cream of Celeriac Soup (courtesy of New Covent Garden Soup Company – Book of Soups)

Ingredients:-

25g butter

400g celeriac, peeled and roughly chopped

125g potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

570ml vegetable stock (although I used chicken stock – I think it’s a better flavour)

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

275ml milk

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter and cook the celeriac, potatoes and garlic gently for 5 minutes without colouring. Add the stock and lemon juice.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender. Cool a little, then puree in a liquidiser with the milk. Taste for seasoning.

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Seems every time I pick up a magazine or cookbook lately I come across a recipe for a puff pastry tart. I have only worked with pastry a handful of times – and only once or twice have I attempted it from scratch. To be honest I don’t really think home made pastry is worth the effort when the pre made version works so well, but there is the satisfaction of knowing you made it all yourself!

Looking in the fridge I had an abundance of beetroot after the weekend’s farm visit and so had roasted some in prepartion for the week’s meals. Hmmmm….what else can I add?……..wilted spinach….. oh, there’s a lone pack of feta……….pine nuts, perhaps?…. and as a base?….how about half fat creme fraiche…… Now throw it all together and let’s see what we come up with…………..

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After some doubtful moments I was very surprised at the end result and it tasted pretty good too, served along side some fresh asparagus.

What I like about this is that you could throw on whatever you fancy. I can’t comment on whether Izzy enjoyed it as it was a late dinner and so she never had an opportunity to taste it. Unfortunately it was a baked beans night for Izzy 😦

So, the super easy instructions are to heat the oven to about 180C. Roll out the pastry (or use ready rolled!) and place on a baking tray. Make a border by scoring the edges of the pastry 2cm in from the edge, all the way round (be careful not to cut right through). Cook in the oven for about 10-15 mins. Take out and spread the creme fraiche and then load on your ingredients.  Brush some egg around the raised border – this helps it brown. Bake for another 10-15 mins.

How easy is that?!

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Weekends are a great opportunity to break away from the run of the mill week day breakfast. I have made Bill Granger’s Bircher Muesli  a few times and I think it is delicious!

On Saturday we took another trip out to Hewitts Farm for some end of season pick your own. Our stash included 2 big bags of apples (there were about 10 varieties available), lots of beetroot, a cabbage, sweetcorn & a couple of small heads of brocolli. Plus we raided the farm shop for 3 more Crown Prince Pumpkins, small squashes, a celeriac, potatoes, carrots & turnips. Think we are set for the week!!

Our very own Cabbage Patch Kid!

Our very own Cabbage Patch Kid!

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When we got home James put the juicer to work and about 25 apples later we had 1.5 litres of apple juice. Enough for the Bircher Muesli and more for the fridge. With our last batch I took some juice and blended with some mango and then poured them into ice block moulds – Izzy loves them. We can even get away with bribing her with them!

So back to Bill’s Bircher- you must try it – so yummy!

Bircher Muesli with Pear & Blueberries (courtesy of Bill Granger – Bill’s Food)

Ingredients:-

200g rolled oats or mixed rolled oats, barley & rye

375ml pear juice (I used apple)

2 pears, skin left on and grated (I used 1 pear & 1 apple)

125g plain yoghurt

4 Tbsp toasted chopped almonds (would no doubt add more delciousness but I didn’t have any to hand)

80g blueberries (I used a mix of raspberries, blueberries & blackberries)

Put the rolled oats, barley & rye in a bowl with the pear juice and leave to soak for 1 hour, or overnight, in the fridge. Add the grated pear and yoghurt and mix well. Spoon the muesli into serving bowls and top each each with toasted almonds & blueberries. Serves 4.

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