Sunday, 7 February 2016
... oh my what a week. My good intentions went south very quickly at 5pm on Monday with a glass of pink Chandon at the desk and then it was pretty much downhill from then on in... I had the new Fashion Show exhibition at Madame Tussauds to style, two pitches for new business and an event contract which was hinging on being thrown in the bin to sort and this was all before dinner with the family on Wednesday night. Oh and did I mention 2 nights out with clients that ended at 3am in the morning. I've probably drunk my way through half a cask of vodka, a couple of barrels of Sauvignon Blanc and some very dodgy Moscow Mules at a 'new London club' that was, quite frankly like sitting in a hotel lobby surrounded by prostitutes... I could go on but I might get offensive and I need a lie-down...
oven roasted spatchcock chicken stew
because of the above, Saturday was a day of rest. Quite literally I spent it mostly in bed flicking through the TV between snoozing and a very very long bath and at some stage, after nodding off in front of some dreadful home-improvement show where the buyers were quite clearly as annoyed with the over-enthusiastic presenter as I was, there must have been one of those sappy 'made for TV' movies come on the screen... I have no idea what it was about but there was a lot of crying and driving in upstate New York and some driving whilst crying in the snow... anyway, at some point there was a montage of one of the characters learning to cook and he pulled out of the oven a glorious pot of spatchcock chicken stew. I was immediately smitten with the thought of golden chicken bathing in wonderful juices that I knew I had to make this for Sunday lunch. With no recipe and just a fragment of memory to go on I'm making this up as I go but how hard can it be... bung whatever veg you have in the fridge and a chicken in a pot and roast the bugger... it was very good and served perfectly with creamy mash... I was a very happy boy and proves that falling asleep in front of the television can be a blessed thing...
1 medium free-range chicken
2 carrots - chopped
1 onion - roughly chopped
2 inches of celery - chopped
3 cloves of garlic - un-peeled
half a butternut squash
2 glasses of white wine
a little plain flour
1 teaspoon good quality vegetable stock powder
rosemary and lemon thyme
salt and pepper
pre-heat the oven to 160C
i'm using my procook 28cm shallow round casserole dish with a lid which just about coped with the chicken after a lot of squishing
spatchcock your chicken - don't be scared, it takes seconds...
spread out all the chopped veg and herbs at the bottom of the dish then lay the chicken, breast up on top
season well, pour over a glass of wine and drizzle with a little olive oil then place the lid on and roast for 1 hour at 160C then take the dish out of the oven, carefully turn over the chicken and add a little more wine and some water - the chicken should be resting in a few centimetres of liquid at all times - place the lid back on and into the oven for another 30 mins
place a teaspoon if plain flour and a teaspoon of stock powder into a cup or bowl
repeat the above with the chicken but this time, as you turn the chicken back to breast up, spoon a few tablespoons of liquid into the cup with the flour and stock, stir it into a loose paste and then pour it into the liquid under the chicken
place the lid back on and into the oven for another 30 mins... after which, take the lid off, turn the oven up to 180C and let the chicken become golden on top - roughly 30 mins
take the chicken out of the oven, put the lid back on and let it rest whilst you prepare whichever veg you're making
serve the chicken in the pot at the table and let your guests spoon out the vegetables and glorious liquid
eat and of course, enjoy!
Tuesday, 2 February 2016
... we've decided to give the cottage a little bit of an internal and external facelift. Believe it or not, despite our creative bent, The Viking and I are quite the procrastinators, particularly when it comes to our own home. It has been known to take years to pick a paint colour. It begins with the recognition that the job needs doing... The Viking will mutter words such as 'we really should get the upstairs hall painted' or 'i'd like to get sash windows for the front of the cottage' and these mutterings can be years in advance of the final installation of job... years of choosing paint colours followed by months where nothing happens... followed by meeting decorators and suppliers... followed by months of nothing happening. I find it both exhausting and quite exciting. I tend to ignore him when the muttering begins but those last few weeks where we rush into a decisions where I come alive. We've started work on the bathroom. Something we should have done the day we moved in 11 years ago but we've finally chosen tiles and a new bath and have managed to lock down a man who can - believe me, in Lincolnshire, when they say they can it means they can, perhaps, next year... the kitchen is next... it needs a bit of a touch-up since being done so gloriously a few years ago and of course we're having a new log-burning fire installed, all within a matter of weeks. It means the cottage is an absolute mess... dust sheets everywhere... dust everywhere, including my skin but I love living in the progress and since we had our kitchen ripped out three years ago i've got used to the idea and would much rather be on site during the process... there is no bigger critic than oneself and The Viking loves to tell me that I didn't measure twice cut once... which of course, drives me insane....
black currant jam layered sponge cake
I was in a cake baking mood this weekend which is handy because I know that February is going to be one of those blog-lite months and I wanted to pop something up here that was pretty to look at and sit as a bit of a place holder whilst i'm busy going crazy at work... the cake tasted spectacular but I went a bit too far with the blackcurrant icing and it curdled a little. I tried to revive it with some extra icing sugar but it was getting more sweet and not smooth so I gave up and went with it anyway... so, not so pretty but very tasty. I love a jam-in-the-batter cake. It always comes out so moist and fruity and a great way to add sugar without actually adding sugar, if you know what I mean...
for the cake
3 large free-range eggs
220g self raising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
the grated zest of one orange
2 tablespoons blackcurrant jam
for the butter cream
500g icing sugar
the grated zest of an orange
1 tablespoon blackcurrant jam
pre-heat the oven to 170C and grease and line 2 x 18cm loose-bottom cake tins - I also lined the sides as this cake tends to burn easily
in a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter until soft and light and creamy (roughly 5 minutes) and then beat in 2 of the eggs, followed by half the flour, then beat in the last egg and the rest of the flour along with the vanilla paste - then, using a metal spoon, fold in the blackcurrant jam
divide the batter between the two cake tins and smooth over the tops
bake on the same shelf for 30 - 40 minutes, then remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a wore rack until cool
for the buttercream icing simply beat the butter in a large bowl until very pale and soft, then gently fold in half the icing sugar, then beat together until creamy, then fold in the remaining icing sugar along with the orange zest and beat again until creamy
use the icing to sandwich the cakes together and cover the outside, then add a tablespoon of blackcurrant jam to the remaining icing and a little milk to slacken and beat until a creamy consistency and swirl onto the top of the cake
eat and of course, enjoy!
Monday, 1 February 2016
... welcome to February and it's an 'anything goes' month for Simply Eggcellent which means you can cook with free-range eggs to your hearts content and I will accept any recipes... sweet... savoury... breakfast... lunch... dinner or anything in between and if you love eggs as much as me then it could be every meal of the day. If you need inspiration February has both pancake day and valentines day so there are plenty of excuses to make and bake... Come on people lets celebrate the egg!
it's really easy to take part; all you have to do is create a 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 and maybe we can even teach a thing or two to those egg phobic fools out there!
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!
Sunday, 31 January 2016
... oh January. You fickle mistress of post new years eve alcohol-free back to the gym struggle... torn between Christmas, the highest of all celebrations and the sappy love-fest that is Valentines Day. For me the second half of January was better than the first. I've been 'steadily healthy' if that's a thing, with bouts of alcohol thrown in. Yes, there has been cake but let's face it, there always will be and it seems for many of you that is also the truth... we can all be good, there's just no need to show off about it...
1. Eggs in a Basket from Made With Pink
2. Shin Ramyun from Gingey Bites
3. Indian Masala Egg Omelette from Travels for Taste
4. Tuna Nicoise Salad from the Gluten Free Alchemist
5. Brussel Sprout and Egg Breakfast Boats from The Law Students Cook Book
6. Sugar Free Tea Loaf from Onions and Paper
7. low carb, diabetic chocolate cake from Family Friends Food
8. Banana Bread from Lavender and Lovage
9. Gluten Free Spiced Sweet Potato Cake from Snack to the Future
10. Chocolate Avocado Brownies from The Baking Explorer
11. Spicy Scrambled Eggs from De Tout Coeur Limousin
12. Shirred Egg with Potato Puree from The Spice Garden
13. Lemon Yoghurt Cake from Nasifriet
14. Lemon Cardamom Marzipan Cakes from Tin and Thyme
15. Root Veg Terrine from A2K
16. Smoked Salmon and Avocado Breakfast Muffins from Belleau Kitchen
and that's your lot for this month... thanks for the fabulous healthy recipes, I think we all feel pounds lighter. Look out for the Feb #SimplyEggcellent coming in well, February!
Friday, 29 January 2016
... I feel like this blog has become somewhat of a weather report but us brits are obsessed by the weather so I apologise for nothing... and so whilst the east coast of the US has been battered by arctic weather and enough snow to fill a child's dreams for 20 years, once that storm left the US it headed over here. On it's journey over the atlantic it warmed up and snow turned to rain and wind... lots of wind. We're back at the cottage for the weekend and whilst it's quite warm outside for the time of year there is a very strong wind battering the countryside. It's quite odd. Sun is shining but the trees are swaying quite alarmingly and if that garden gate squeaks any more my brain may explode. I know it's only the end of January but I really need a holiday. It doesn't help that i've been researching Greek food for this pita recipe... all those pictures of azure blue waters, al fresco tables laden with wonderful summer dishes and image after image of bronzed bodies by infinity pools is enough to drive you to dampen the fire, close the shutters, pack your suitcases and actually book that holiday. I adore the cold. I love a snowy landscape and a christmas tree but I need some warmth in my bones and the hot sun on my face...
i've never made pita before so when the kind people from luxury travel company destinology contacted me and asked me to create an authentic recipe that originates from one of their most popular holiday destinations, Greece, my thoughts turned immediately to bread. I adore local breads and love the way that almost all countries, cities, town and very often even villages have their own local special breads. If i'm on holiday or visiting a place I will always try and seek out the local loaf... and inevitably the local cheese to eat with said loaf... I feel it connects you with the people, the history, the local farmers and how they harvested the crops. As a kid growing up in suburban London I remember mum bringing home pita bread for the first time and how we all marvelled at the way, when toasted they puffed out allowing a knife to slide in and create the perfect pocket for whatever glorious fillings we chose to stuff it with... I don't even think we knew what a falafel was back then so they'd get stuffed with salad and whatever meats we had to hand. Of course, since then our pallets and knowledge of 'foreign' food has matured somewhat but I think you'll find the humble pita is still the most user-friendly of breads...
... to help inspire me to bake I was sent some classic Greek herbs plus a glorious jar of the divine Navarino Icons roasted red pepper and tomato dip and of course this made me instantly think of warm toasted slices of pita...
240ml hot water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
320g plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 tablespoon olive oil
in a large bowl mix the water and yeast together and let sit for about five minutes until the yeast is dissolved.
add the flour, salt, mint, oregano and olive oil and then bring together with a rubber spatula and then get your hands in and begin to knead into a ball. Once you've got all the flour off the inside of the bowl and the dough has begun to smooth out slightly, flour your work surface and place the dough onto it. Oil the inside of the bowl and set aside.
knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. You shouldn't need to use too much flour whilst kneading but if the dough is sticking then use flour sparingly.
place the dough in the oiled bowl, cover with cling film and let it rise until it's doubled in size, about 1 hour.
at this point, you can refrigerate the pita dough until it is needed. You can also bake one or two pitas at a time, saving the rest of the dough in the fridge. The dough will keep refrigerated for about a week.
turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and gently flatten each piece into a thick disk. Using an oiled rolling pin, roll one of the pieces into. It will pull back due to the elastic nature of the dough but if you lift and turn the dough frequently as you roll it should begin the stay in shape... I actually pulled it out quite a bit before throwing into the pan... repeat with the other pieces of dough.
warm a frying pan over medium-high heat - you won't need to add any oil because you've used oil to roll out the pita but ensure the pan is very warm although not smoking hot. Throw in a rolled-out pita and bake for 30 seconds, until you see bubbles starting to form. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side, until large toasted spots appear on the underside. Flip again and cook another minute to toast the other side. Set aside until all your pita's are cooked. They were of course delicious eaten straight away but I preferred them toasted in a toaster, split or sliced and slathered with butter.
Tuesday, 26 January 2016
... when we first moved to Belleau about 12 years ago I remember being told by a local that the area used to be famous for its watercress beds and in fact there is still wild watercress growing in the chalk stream in the field opposite the cottage... then, last week when I posted a picture of my watercress delivery from the lovely people at Love Watercress, Sarah, the lady who we bought the cottage from sent me some more info about it. It turns out that watercress was grown at Belleau between 1911 and 1970 by three generations of the same family. The watercress was taken by donkey cart to the Aby station for dispatch to markets in the north of England. The pure spring water, which ran through the watercress beds, provided a perfect growing medium, but sadly, severe river flooding in 1968 and 1969, coupled with the closure of the Grimsby to Peterborough railway line caused its demise... I love this little bit of history about my insignificant little village and what a shame that such a successful business was ruined by the foolish choices of 'men in power' making decisions about the national infrastructure...
so when I received the watercress to the cottage it was a little like sending coals to Newcastle but never one to turn down some glorious fresh green stuff I greedily accepted... I adore watercress. Its peppery, earthy taste compliments many rich dishes such as beef and oily fish but its versatility as one of those vegetables that works as both a salad herb that can be eaten raw and a green vegetable that can be cooked into soups and stews that I love so much. There is nothing more wonderful than a simple fresh watercress sandwich on dark rye bread with perhaps a slither of mild blue cheese but it's this classic soup that I haven't had in a long time that I had to turn to this time...
watercress, turnip and blue cheese soup
I adore this soup. It comes from my grandma Sylvia and it's THE soup that reminds me of Sunday lunches at her house when we were kids. The whole London-based family would get together and run riot at grandma and grandpa's house... knees were scraped... fights broke out (and not just between the kids) there were tears of joy and pain... endless games of cricket and rounders in the summer and never-ending games of Monopoly on the colder and rainy days... plays were written and performed on the double bed in the spare room... and of course most importantly great food was eaten. It was always a three course Sunday roast, staring with soup and then tea and cake was always served at 4pm. There were many soups but this was my absolute favourite...
1 medium onion - finely chopped
3 large turnips - fist sized (man fists) - peeled and diced
3 salad bags of watercress - roughly 300g
1 litre good quality vegetable stock
100g mild and creamy blue cheese such as Saint Agur or Cambozola
a little butter and olive oil
salt and pepper
heat a little butter and olive oil in a large pan and throw in the onions. let them sweat for roughly 5 mins until they begin to soften and turn translucent, then add the turnips, stir and let them sizzle a little in the heat before placing the lid on and letting them gently sweat until soft - roughly eight mins with a few stirs in between to stop them sticking.
take the lid off and lay the watercress on top without stirring and place the lid back on. Let the watercress wilt till very soft - roughly 5 mins, then season well with salt and pepper, add the stock and let the whole thing gently bubble away for 15 minutes
turn off the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes before whizzing with a stick blender until smooth, then add the blue cheese and whizz again until it has all melted into the soup... serve immediately
eat and of course, enjoy!
Saturday, 23 January 2016
... if you're a cook and have a passion for cooking and a love for food you will no doubt have a small place in your heart for Le Creuset. Their glorious, enamelled cast iron cookware is synonymous with exceptional quality and traditional cooking. When I see a Le Creuset pot in someone's home it not only makes me feel that they have an understanding of how good cooking and quality ingredients can be enhanced by something as simple as a pot but I feel it also shows a nod to a design aesthetic that transcends style and class. many people I know keep their Le Creuset on the hob, almost as a mark of respect but most definitely as a design choice in their kitchen.... this may sound as though I'm being an utter snob as the prices for the cookware do not come cheap but I have deep rooted memories of casseroles and stews coming out of the oven at my mum and grandma's homes in the infamous orange enamelled pots. They were the best casseroles and i'm sure both my mum and grandma would admit that not just a little bit of their greatness came down to the Le Creuset.
I have never owned a genuine Le Creuset casserole pot until today. I have similar enamelled cast-iron pots but not the real thing but I know this beauty will be with me for a very long time. I feel humbled and privalidged to own one and I have the lovely people at Houseology to thank...
Houseology was set up by CEO Kate who is an interior designer by trade. She identified that many people felt uncertainty when making design decisions in the home and wanted to encourage people to feel more confident about putting their own stamp on their homes. With this in mind, Houseology began! Kate used Houseology as a platform to open up her design studio to everyone, making sourcing beautiful furniture, lighting and accessories simple and inspiring. Now, Houseology stocks a wide range of products which are still carefully curated by their in-house team along with interior design tools, 'how-to' guides and much more to give customers a bespoke experience that will fill them with inspiration and real excitement about their design journey.
To celebrate their lovely site Houseology have given me a beautiful Le Creuset 4.7lt oval cast iron casserole pot to giveaway on my blog to one very lucky Belleau Kitchen reader... all you have to do is leave a comment below and complete the rafflecopter gadget thingy...
veggie sausage, butternut squash and kale cajun stew
i've decided to go meat-free during the week... I believe the official title is a 'weekday vegetarian.' My friend, nutritionist and social media guru extraordinaire, Michelle has been a weekday vegetarian for sometimes and has inspired me to do the same, much to The Viking's delight. It's clearly healthier for me, healthier for the planet and those little animals and makes choosing to eat meat so much more of a treat. To be honest, if I see one more vile image of a dripping beef burger on instagram I will scream so for me it all makes sense... this stew has all the good stuff in in... the sweet sweet butternut squash has caramelised beautifully in the mild cajun spices and the veggie Cauldron sausages are fit enough to stand their own in the long slow cooking... divine.
olive oil and butter
2 teaspoons authentic cajun spice mix
1 butternut squash - peeled longways (keep the long peelings) and chopped
6 vegetarian sausages - cut into large chunks
6 new potatoes - quartered
half and onion - finely chopped
half a fennel bulb - chopped
a handful of green beans - cut into thirds
100g frozen peas
150g chopped kale
1 litre good veg stock
a splash of white wine
pre-heat the oven to 120C
place your large casserole dish on the hob and drop in a large nob of butter and a glug of olive oil and when it's hot throw in the butternut squash and cajun spices and let it bubble away until the squash begins to caramelise - roughly 8 minutes - then remove from the pan and set aside
next throw in the sausages and potatoes and let them brown for roughly 5 mins until they have a good colour all over, then throw in the onion and fennel, turn the heat down and place the lid on and let them sweat for a further 5-8 minutes
then throw in the rest of the veg along with the butternut squash, stir, turn up the heat again and pour in a generous splash of white wine and let that reduce for a minute or two
turn the heat down and pour in the stock. Stir, place the lid on and then place the whole pot in the oven for at least an hour if not two and let it cook slowly until gloriously tender
take the lid off for the last 15 minutes to brown the top of the stew
to make the cajun spiced butternut squash crisps, simply lay the peelings on a roasting tin, sprinkle on some cajun spices and a little olive oil and rub then all over - bake for 10 minutes until crispy
i'm linking this dish up to the brilliant slow cooked challenge hosted by Farmersgirl Kitchen and Baking Queen 74
eat and of course, enjoy!
a Rafflecopter giveaway