Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Top 5 Fridge Essentials

... last year I had an enjoyable time sharing my top 10 store cupboard ingredients.  It was actually a cathartic experience and one I know made many of you think about your 'can't-live-without' items... this year the good people at Beko, who make a wide range of superior fridges, freezers and fridge-freezers have asked me to name the top 5 things in the fridge that I simply must have... besides milk and butter, we all have those essential items in the fridge we can’t live without, the kind of things we grab when all else fails and you realise that with these items you could rule the world... or at least knock up a delicious meal without having to leave the house.  They're also the first items I would purchase and stock a new fridge with or a fridge in a new or holiday home.  They make me feel confident that at least one thing in life is covered and should the hoards descend or the zombie apocalypse finally happen, things will be OK...

... so, without further ado here are the top 5 things in my fridge I can't live without...

Fresh Coffee
I never used to be a big fan but The Viking is a coffee fiend and I guess it just rubbed off on me.  I think if we were stranded on a desert island this would be the number one luxury item we couldn't live without.  It's a total addiction and whilst I don't consider myself to be a fresh coffee snob I have most definitely not drunk instant coffee for close to 10 years... Like all fresh products it needs to be kept in the fridge.  I'm not really a brand queen when it comes to coffee and who needs to be when you can purchase the Sainsbury's Taste the Difference, Fairtrade Columbian and the Co-opertive Fair-trade Ethiopian which are both very good indeed.

TOTAL Greek Yoghurt
There is only one Greek Yoghurt and that is TOTAL made by Fage.  They do a few different varieties and i'm not fussy.  This moth i'm all about the 0% which is perfection.  I use it in so many things from scones to sauces to soups to smoothies to just eating it directly from the tub.  It feels like a treat because it's so thick and luscious and it peps up so many dishes yet I can also serve it alongside a slice of chocolate cake and it feels so sophisticated.  I guess I could live without it but i'd be a very grumpy boy.

Benefit Cosmetics Total Moisturiser
bit of a tough call between this and cheese but cheese is such a large category and I can't really rub cheese on my face for younger-looking skin.  Ever since my good friend and ex-model Jenny told me that she keeps much of her beauty regime in the fridge i've been doing the same with my moisturiser. I don't know entirely how true it is but I believe it lasts longer and there's nothing better than applying a cool cream to your face in the morning... this Total Moisturiser by Benefit is truly brilliant and yes, I do work for them but I still choose to buy the stuff myself because I know results when I see them.  Many people are un-aware they even do a skincare range but this stuff has one numerous awards.   It's super-thick and in fact I don't use it every day so keeping it in the fridge extends its shelf life for sure.

Chicken Thighs
of course no Belleau Kitchen Top 5 would be complete without the chicken thighs... I haven't always been cooking with them but since I discovered how inexpensive and tasty they were about a decade and a half ago i've never looked back.  Chicken thighs are simply heavenly.  They have an incredible balance of meat to fat ratio that's not really found anywhere else on the bird and therefore take a long slow roast really well.  They impart their gorgeous juices into any veg that you cook them with and you can serve up a pretty impressive, filling and tasty one-pot meal with very few ingredients in the house.  All the major supermarkets sell them in packs and they really are so cheap you can afford to buy the best quality free-range chicken, so no excuses... make sure they're skin-on and bone-in for extra flavour... and of course I have over 25 chicken thigh recipes on my blog!

Free-range Eggs - large
... I love eggs. One of my favourite simple pleasures is a fried egg on toast, the white a little crispy at the edges and the yolk firm yet just runny enough to ooze its golden gloriousness all over the buttered toast and probably my chin.  Like all food eaten in moderation eggs are good for you. Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods money can buy - they are a natural source of many nutrients including high quality protein, vitamins and minerals, plus a medium egg contains less than 70 calories which is a win win if you ask me. Eggs are naturally rich in vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium and iodine. They also contain vitamin A and a number of other B vitamins including folate, biotin, pantothenic acid and choline, and essential minerals and trace elements, including phosphorus.    I'm loving the gorgeous Happy Egg Co eggs at the moment as they believe in the welfare of those chickens and of course a nice cosy farm-life means tasty eggs...

fyi i've not included cheese in this list as quite frankly that would take up the entire list and deserves it's own list... it's own post... oh heck, it deserves a dedicated blog... you get the point...

and there you have it... I wonder what your top 5 fridge essentials are?

... oh and fyi to any PR people out there who are developing ideas to work with food bloggers.  The above post is not usually the kind of thing that would appear on Belleau Kitchen but I chose to take part in the campaign purely because the email I received from the PR agency was one of the most genuine and honest emails i'd ever received.  The sender didn't patronise me by telling me they were fans of my blog, they introduced themselves and got straight to the point.  A point that made sense and had genuine synergy with the blog of someone who likes food.  They also offered me a voucher for a decent high-street department store with a pretty nice monetary value that felt like they'd actually planned their budgets properly and been honest to their clients... 

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

wild garlic cheddar pesto baked mushrooms

... oh I do love a lazy long weekend.  It's like a special treat isn't it?  That extra day to play with means that you don't have to feel guilty doing nothing on one of the days and you still have a full weekend to do the regular weekend stuff... and of course for me it means an extra day in the kitchen without the stress.  I've been lavishing my weekends recently as work has been particularly stressful.  As you all know I do love my non-blogging work life but like anything you're passionate about it can become deeply stressful so the down times really count and of course usually the weekends aren't long enough.  As it happens i've woken up this bank-holiday weekend and The Viking, god bless him, is under the weather so we've had the fire on and been wrapped in blankets.  I shouldn't say this so gleefully really but he's such a dynamo that sometimes it's nice to have him slow down a little. It means I can catch my breath too and don't feel quite so guilt that every meal needs to be photographed first before it's ready for him to eat... oh the trials and tribulations of a food blogger eh?

wild garlic cheddar pesto baked mushrooms
baked mushrooms or 'mushroom pizzas' as I like to call them are a great low-carb alternative to regular pizza.  You get all the wonderful melty cheesiness of a pizza but you're using the large field mushroom as a base.  It's such a simple idea and you can get as creative as you like, layering alkyds of toppings from the classic tomato sauce all the way through to this fabulous wild garlic pesto.  There's so much wild garlic about this year.  A few years ago we found a hidden little valley not 3 miles from the cottage, filled from wall to wall with the glorious ransom plant... the aroma alone gave the place away and with one small lane running through it all we had to do was pull over, open the door, lean out and start harvesting... i picked enough for these mushrooms and have also cleaned and wrapped some leaves in clingfilm for freezing... I think i have an idea about pea and wild garlic soup but I haven't quite formulated the recipe yet...

for the wild garlic cheddar pesto
a large handful (roughly 200g) of fresh wild garlic leaves - washed well
100g very strong cheddar - roughly grated
150g pine nuts
olive oil

for the baked mushrooms
8 large field mushrooms
1 ripe tomato - finely sliced
fresh oregano
a drizzle of balsamic vinegar

pre-heat the oven to 160C

lay the mushrooms in an oven-proof dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with a little oregano and season well with salt and pepper, then place in a gentle oven for 10 mins until the mushrooms begin to soften and collapse a little

meanwhile, place the wild garlic leaves, cheddar and pine nuts into a blender or nutribullet type whizzer and blitz to a pulp... as you whizz it up, pour in plenty of olive oil... there are no real measurements here, you want a nice chunky paste

remove the mushrooms from the oven and set aside whilst you slice your tomatoes, then lay these onto the mushrooms - you may have to jigsaw pieces a little, drizzle each with a little balsamic then add one or two pieces of torn mozzarella followed by a good slathering of wild garlic pesto

place the dish back in the oven and bake again for 20 minutes or until the topping begins to turn golden brown

eat and of course enjoy!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

rustic ciabatta

... I realise the irony of posting a bread recipe at the start of a low-carb eating plan but this is going to be my last bread post for the month of May as i'm on a very strict, month-long, low-carb #AlternativeEatingPlan.  This is essentially a diet but I loath the D word.  There's just something about that word that leads directly to failure, too much pressure.  So my #AlternativeEatingPlan is all about reducing the carbs and the sugar.  I'm sort of going for a healthier version of the Atkin's Diet, which I did many years ago with exceptional results, but i'm allowing myself low-sugar fruits such as berries and nuts yet and still cutting out the brown and white carbs and high-sugar fruits such as oranges and apples... plus i'm only doing it for a month... As i'm sure many of my food blogger friends will testify to, the period from Christmas through to Easter can be a litany of chocolate, cake, stews and roasts and whilst I adore all this food it can be a bit of a slippery slope and unless you take control of it you can find yourself deep in the summer with a wobbly belly and tanned arms where you're too embarrassed to take your shirt off... so this is my attempt to regulate myself... I promise it won't be too boring for you all.  There will still be treats, i'll just make them for other people to eat...

rustic ciabatta
this didn't quite come out exactly like a proper ciabatta with the big airy holes but it tasted fabulous and the 'slapping' kneading process is great fun and makes you feel quite authentic... you need a very large bowl to do this and plenty of arm-strength so don't give up!

500g strong white bread flour
450ml luke warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
olive oil

preheat the oven to 200C

in a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar and yeast

pour in the water then add the salt and combine - I use a silicone spatula for this - and once combined get stuck in with your hands

you want to beat the dough for 5 minutes - pulling and stretching the dough up high and then slapping it back down into the bowl - the dough will not be like any other dough you're used to, it's more like a thick pancake batter and is a bitch to get off your hands but you only have to slap it around for five minutes... and it's this stretching and slapping process that adds the air bubbles...

pour about a tablespoon of olive oil over the dough, cover with cling film and let it rise for about an hour or until doubled in size

once it's risen, pour the dough out onto a well floured work surface and without kneading, fold it over 'envelope' style into a classic ciabatta slipper shape

swiftly transfer to an oven tray, dust with flour and bake for 30 minutes or until risen and golden

let it cool on a wire rack if you can but I challenge you not to eat it warm!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Simply Eggcellent #3 - savoury

... it is May.  This is quite rude.  I was just getting used to April.  I guess now we're here we may as well embrace it. I love May.  Here in the UK it's more like Summer than the official summer months and it's been like that for quite a few years now... lovely sunshine and warm weather in May followed by rain and more rain in June, July and August and then perhaps if we're lucky September is nice again... so let's celebrate May.  I've had enough of sweet treats and cakes so let's dose lovely savoury things with eggs this month... quiches... baked egg pots... baked avocado... or even the humble omelette...

how to take part in the simply eggcellent bloggers link-up

it's really easy to take part; all you have to do is create a beautiful savoury recipe using free-range eggs, post it up on your blog and then link back to this post... please include my simply eggcellent badge in the post to help spread the word and use the linky tool below so that I know you've taken part.

I will collate all the posts at the end of every month and produce a special round-up of entries...

feel free to tweet and instagram me your pictures using the #simplyeggcellent hashtag and I will retweet and like all those I see... you can find me on social media @belleaukitchen

i'm happy to take previously posted recipes but you'll need to go back to the post and adapt it to link back to this post and include the simply eggcellent logo

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Simply Eggcellent Chocolate round-up

... excuse me but where has April gone?  I think because Easter was so early in the month and there was so much chocolate consumption in that first weekend we all had a little bit of chocolate fatigue by the end of the month... you've all still eggcelled yourselves with these stunning chocolate eggy treats... so thank you.  Here's the round-up...

1. Coconut Easter Eggs from The Lass in the Apron
2. Lindt Chocolate Cake from Deon at FoodJam
3. Speckled Egg White Chocolate Cake from me at Belleau Kitchen
4. Mini Egg Brownies from Caroline at Caroline Makes

5. Rum Easter Nests by Craig at The Usual Saucepans

6. Rocky Road Cake by Charlene at Food Glorious Food
7. Nest Cupcakes from dear Karen at Lavender and Lovage
8. Mini Egg Caramel Pavlova by Made With Pink
9. Triple Layer Chocolate Mud Cake by Made with Pink

10. Chocolate Cheesecake by Suelle from Mainly Baking

11. Creme Egg Cupcakes by Kate the Gluten Free Alchemist
12. Pear Tart by Susan at The Spice Garden
13. Pear and Chocolate Brownie Cake by Jean at Baking in Franglais
14. Slow Cooker Overload Cookie Cake by the Baking Queen

15. Chocolate Brioche Buns by Lucy The KitchenMaid

16. Chocolate Religieuses by Jen at Jen's Food
17. Chocolate and Pecan Brownies by Kat The Baking Explorer
18. Mini Chocolate Surprise Cakes by the gorgeous Choclette at Tin and Thyme
19. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Brownies by Kate the Gluten Free Alchemist

and that's all for the chocolate round-up... once again, thank you for your beautiful entries and do join me for the next Simply Eggcellent link-up in May

eat and of course enjoy!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Pimm's strawberry and mint summer pudding

... last week at the office was utterly horrendous, just one of those weeks where every day was just so long and painful and on Tuesday I was thinking how great it was that it was Friday the next day only to wake up on Wednesday with that awful Sunday feeling of dread, like I hadn't done my homework...  I absolutely love my job and I do honestly think i'm very lucky to be working in an industry that for the most is pretty great but sometimes, like all jobs, it's just not so good.  It's not even as though I could pinpoint one singular thing that made it bad, it was simply a series of progressive badness that didn't want to go away.  There was a moment on Wednesday when I actually thought I was in that Michael Douglas film Falling Down but there was no director yelling cut at the end of a very bade take... luckily alcohol helps...

Pimm's strawberry and mint summer pudding
of course it's not quite summer yet but it's been a stunning weekend of warmth up here at Belleau Cottage and there are some glorious British strawberries in the shops right now so there's really no excuse... plus of course i'm helping the good folk at Pimm's celebrate the launch of their latest Limited Edition Pimm's Strawberry with a Hint of Mint.  They asked me to develop a recipe that encompasses the British Summer and I couldn't think anything more wonderful than a summer pudding... for me, the great British strawberry is the iconic emblem of the Summer. Biting into a sweet juicy strawberry is the promise of lazy days in the sun and warm evenings watching dragonflies skim over ponds, the thwack of cricket ball against bat and picnics in the park.

Pimm’s have captured the essence of summer in a bottle with their new Limited Edition and I think my twist on the classic British chilled Summer Pudding is the perfect accompaniment. So pour yourself a glass, sit back and chill out whilst you enjoy a glorious bowl of pudding with lashings of thick cream…

this recipe is for a 1 litre pudding basin
a few slices of thick cut white bread
200g fresh strawberries
200g mixed summer berries such as blackberries and raspberries
75ml Pimm’s Strawberry with a Hint of Mint
2 or 3 tablespoons golden caster sugar - depending on taste
2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
fresh mint leaves

use a little butter to grease your pudding basin then take the slices of bread and patchwork them into the basin. I usually cut a circle for the base and then triangles for the sides, fitting in pieces where there are patches. Don’t worry about being too neat, I like the patchwork look… but make sure you leave enough bread for a lid... i've slipped a few fresh mint leaves under each slice too

in a pan add the fruit, Pimm’s, sugar and vinegar and gently heat. You want it to heat through for a few minutes so the sugar dissolves but so that the fruit doesn't lose its texture

pour the fruit into the pudding, leaving a little juice and fruit back and place the lid bread on top. Spoon a little more of the liquid onto the top ensuring in runds down the side and all the bread is covered, and then place a small plate on top of the pudding - small enough so that it touches the pudding, then place something heavy, like a couple of tins on top and pop it in the fridge for at least 24 hours

once you're ready to serve, place your serving plate on top of the pudding and holding the basin against the plate, flip the pudding upside down and tap it on top. Sometimes the pudding drops out easily but on occasion the butter used to line the dish solidifies and you may have to wait a while for it to melt and release the pudding

drizzle the pudding with the remaining juices and serve with lashings of cream

eat and of course enjoy

Friday, 24 April 2015

tenderstem broccoli vermicelloni with chorizo

... i've been in a relationship for so long now that I don't think i'd know what to do if I had to go on a date.  The thought sends shivers down my spine and I realise how lucky I am when I talk to my single friends and hear the horrors that they have to endure.  Whilst I embrace modern technology I'm so thankful that I never had to deal with the current avalanche of the on-line dating world.  It looks utterly scary and completely alien and I cannot think of anything worse.  So much pressure is placed on compatibility... will I get on with this new person, what will we talk about, will we have anything in common... one of the things that you learn from being in a long-term relationship is that it's not always about compatibility.  Sure, it's nice to know you both like mashed potato but whilst you're busy looking for someone who likes star trek and not laying on a beach on holiday what is actually important is if the person you're with is a decent human being... are they nice to you and those around you.  A good person is a person i'd want to spend my life with... a good person is the person I have chosen to spend my life with...

... it also helps if they're impressed with what I put down in front of them to eat...

tenderstem broccoli vermicelloni with chorizo 
sometimes a simple pasta dish is the best way to taste something as fresh and natural as these stunning tenderstems... the good people at tenderstem sent me a wonderful hamper stuffed with goodies that they say make for the perfect Date Night food... food that compliments the wonderful fresh broccoli that is so tender you can eat it all the way down to the stem.  It’s a great ingredient for so many main dishes and accompaniments, from the most sophisticated to the simplest...as well as being quick and easy to cook, so I guess it does make it the perfect date night ingredient...   of course I chose to keep it as simple as possible with just a few ingredients and created this vibrant pasta dish.  I really don't eat much pasta at home so for me this is actually a special treat and I love the fact that you each ingredient has it's own clear personality but also works so well together in one.

this recipe is enough for two people

1 packet of tenderstem broccoli - roughly chopped
1 chorizo sausage - chopped
1 medium onion - finely chopped
lots of parmesan cheese - grated
pasta of your choice - I used 250g of fabulous black dog vermicelloni 
a little finely sliced red chilli
olive oil

get your pasta on in the usual way with a giant pot of boiling water and a little salt... I have a large pan that has room for pasta and a steamer on top which I used to par-steam the broccoli

heat a large pan with a little olive oil then throw in the the chorizo and onion and let it all gently sweat and soften, the chorizo will release plenty of red fat which is wonderful

place the broccoli above the boiling pasta in a steamer and let it steam for 3 minutes, then remove and set aside

once the pasta is ready drain it but set aside a cup of the pasta water

throw the pasta into the pan with the onions and chirozo and add a large handful of grated parmesan, half the cup of pasta water and quickly mix it all together, stir in the tenderstem and add a little more pasta water if you feel it needs lubrication before serving

eat and of course, enjoy!



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