Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Viva Espana

my brother and his giant catch...

So tomorrow we're off to the sunny Island of Majorca for just over a week... I'm fortunate enough to have a wonderful Aunt who had the foresight to purchase a place in the quiet, northern part of the island over 30 years ago... before the British ruined the place with their egg and chips attitude.

Even where we are in Puerto Pollensa there's very little left of the original island, especially the local cuisine which has all but vanished.  There are, however, a few new 'modern Majorcan' restaurants starting to show their faces but these are few and far between, in the older towns and villages, tucked away, to be discovered... hopefully, as tastes change again and even the most common of pallets start to mature they will start to flourish.

I have fond memories of my brother catching local fish off the end of a rickety old pier in the harbour and then taking them up to mum on the beach who was the only one brave enough to be able to stun them with a swift whack on the head, so we could then un-hook them and take them back to the apartment for mum (again) to gut and grill on the barbecue.

... and each year that we're lucky enough to go back we always take time out to visit the wonderful 'Helado's' man, who must be in his 80's now, to sample his incredible ice cream.  It is truly wonderful ice cream... I think the best i've ever eaten and his selection of flavours is daunting.. from the simple chocolate, vanilla and berries, to hazelnut, pistachio, lemon, mandarin, through to fun things like Ferrero Roche or Toblerone!... he used to ride along the sea front on a 1950's scooter which had a mini freezer strapped on the front... and with the cry of 'helados' all the children would come running to sample what he had that day.

so, yes, dear friends, it will be a little quiet from me for a week or so but I promise to take lots of photographs and will report back on all the delicious discoveries we make!


most excitingly (judging by these photographs) we should have a bumper crop of courgettes as well as strawberries and gooseberries waiting for us on our return!

Oh and whilst i'm away... don't forget to vote for me in the Dorset Cereals Little Blog Awards... oddly enough I'm number one on the leader board for June but there's another blog snapping at my heals and i'm feeling quite competitive about this one!  Here's the link: Dorset Cereals

x

Chocolate and Marmalade Muffins


just a quick one before I get on a plane to the sunny island of Majorca!...

Made these last night because The V was nagging for something sweet ... do you like the way I always blame him for my sweet tooth?

They took literally seconds to make and were thrown together from what I had in the cupboard (which wasn't much as it happens this time... I think I need to do a larder re-stock when I get back.)

I like playing this game though... What you do is find your recipe for muffins (mine was from Nigella Bites and it's for banana and butterscotch) and replace what you don't have for what you do have... so you open the fridge really quickly grab two items that you think will work.  In my case it was some cocoa powder and a half eaten jar of marmalade!

Ingredients


250g Plain Flour
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
125 ml vegetable oil
half a jar of marmalade
2 large spoons of cocoa powder
the juice and grated zest of one orange

beat the eggs into the oil then add it to the flour, sugar, bicarn and baking powder and mix in a large bowl.  Don't worry about perfection here, there's something about muffins that seem to thrive on lumps and mess.
Then add the cocoa powder, marmalade and orange juice and zest and mix it all up.
Add to muffin cases and bake on 200c for about 20mins.

So easy, so perfect for that midnight snack attack!

eat and of course, enjoy

Monday, 21 June 2010

the perfect roast potato


in which Belleau Kitchen challenges Cocina de Lina to a roast-off! Others may join in at their peril!

So, first let me start by saying that, as far as I am concerned, goose fat is out of the window... I live with The Big V (V stands for both Vegetarian and Viking... depending on my mood) and i'm simply not prepared to make double batches of roasties and anyway my method has never failed to come up with that ideal crispy and golden on the outside and white a fluffy on the inside... yet.

Clearly we cannot taste each others roasties so this challenge is more about discovering other peoples methods for making the perfect roast potatoes... and remember; your idea of perfect may be very different from mine... there are no rules here.


To begin, let's chose a potato... Heston would chose The Maris Piper, Delia would go for Desiree, my mum always goes for something with a red skin.

Today I've found some red-skinned Lincolnshire potatoes.  Rather generic sounding I agree but un-washed and in the paper bag they look like they'll do the trick!

Next, I line my shallow roasting tin with foil and drizzle a thin layer of vegetable oil into it and place it on the top shelf of my hot oven...

(a note on vegetable oil... please try and use a specified oil...rapeseed, sunflower etc... there is a massive worldwide problem with palm oil which is used in almost everything from margarine to soap and you need to make sure of the ingredients in your products... huge swathes of rain-forests are cut down every year for palm oil plantations and they are bad... if it doesn't specify the name of the oil, then don't buy it... palm oil is usually listed as just 'vegetable oil')

Now, fill a large pan with water, chuck in a pinch of salt and bring it to the boil.

Peel and cut the potatoes.  I like large roasties, so, depending on size of the original i usually cut mine into 3rds.

Boil the potatoes until just before soft (really depends on size)... you don't want them to collapse.  My grandma used to time this so that they were just about to fall apart and then lower each one gently into the roasting pan!

Next,  I drain the water from the potatoes but leave them in the pan and add a glugg or two of extra virgin olive oil, plenty of salt and pepper and a handful of fresh rosemary, then I place the lid back on the pan and violently shake the potatoes to fluff up the flesh.

Then, they go into the hot oil in the roasting pan and into a very hot oven until golden and crispy.

Pretty nice roasties... very happy with these today.


So now over to you guys... I guess... make your own, with your own recipe / method and then post a link here...!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

toad in the hole


At last, back in Belleau Kitchen, where I belong... i'm very tired, need sleep and comfort food.

It was an excellent weekend of fun and frolics and cake porn (check out the picture of Tanya's incredible birthday cake and you'll know what I mean!!!) but i'm glad to be home.

We rarely drive back from London on a Sunday, in day light, so we were salivating as we passed pub after pub offering Traditional Sunday Roasts... The V happened to mention in passing that he'd love a Yorkshire Pudding and although my brain is too tired to think, let alone cook, I thought the best I could offer would be a toad-in-the-hole... a most traditional of British dishes, combining a roasted meat and a Yorkshire Pudding, without the rigmarole of a full-on TSR.

It also gives me a chance to launch my 'Perfect Roast Potato' challenge... (see next post...)

Pretty simple affair this... first, find a good quality sausage... nice and plump.  I've got a really good pork and leek number... and I've roasted mine first in the oven (no pricking with a fork...) with some olive oil to help it on its way.  For The Big V, i've gone for some good quality veggie sausages (Quorn this time) and added a knob of butter and some olive oil to the dish.  Both the meat and veggie version need more fat than usual to help the pudding cook.

the veggie version

For the batter (this was for 2 dishes, so you can change it to suit...)


6oz plain flour
2 eggs
6fl oz milk
4fl oz water
salt and pepper

Place the flour in a bowl and break the eggs into it pouring the milk and water mixture on slowly as you whisk it all in to a smooth double cream like consistency.  This batter does not need to rest, so make it just before you're ready to use it.


So I roast them until the sausages are almost ready, then pour over the pudding batter and bake for a further 25 mins, or until the batter has risen and the puddings are golden.

So simple, so delicious and so perfectly 'Sunday after a weekend of madness', perfect.

Tanya's 14 inch birthday cake!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 18 June 2010

let me eat cupcake


part of the pleasure and privilege of having a place down in London is that i get to walk out my front door onto a swanky high-street filled with deli's, cafes and posh little patisseries... usually filled to the brim with those dreadful 'yummy mummy's' we all love to hate... but it gives me the excuse to indulge in a cupcake or two when I can't be bothered to bake myself...

... and it is an indulgence.  This beauty cost me £3.25.. yes, you read correctly... but boy was it worth every penny... it was a berry cupcake, with a cream cheese and mixed berry icing.  The body of the cupcake itself had more in common with a muffin than a sponge fairy cake with its chewy nuggets of berries but the icing was a joy to eat.  It was purchased, by way of a re-mortgage, from Gail's Artisan Bakery on Salusbury Road in Queens Park, who are doing a roaring trade in fine breads, cakes and the like...  i don't go in very often but when I do I tend to spend a good 15 minutes eyeing up the offerings, taking my time to make that one important purchase... I mean I could easily buy one of everything but the guilt and the subsequent weight gain / money loss ratio usually stops me...

... such worries over a little taste of perfection!

'I am a whore...' Stephen Fry... June 17th 2010 Friends For Life Gala Dinner


My head seriously hurts... I really don't remember drinking that much champagne but I think nerves got the better of me... well, I was chatting happily to the likes of Dame Judy and Stephen Fry so it must have been working... not that I'm a wallflower you understand but it's not every day that you get invited to a star-studded gala dinner as a guest of Michelle Collins...

... have I name-dropped enough yet?

So I guess I need to apologise for the dreadful quality of the photographs... (won't even post the dessert image as it's so bad!)  I felt far too self-conscious to take the large camera along... and the dining marquee was lined with one of those fabulous star-cloths, which happened to be the only light in the room, so it was very dark... I had enough bother explaining to the Head of Drama at ITV that I was writing a food blog and needed to photograph everything, without having to pull out the Canon...

The evening started with a champagne reception in The Artillery Gardens at the HAC.  It was a glorious sunny evening and all the glamorously dressed guests soaked in the last of the evenings rays before going into the marquee for dinner.  The invitation called for 'Lounge Suits' which was so much nicer than stuffy Black Tie and everyone was more relaxed for it.  I was literally surrounded by a who's who of young and not so young British talent... everywhere you laid your gaze, your eyes would fall onto someone else from this program or someone else from that pop group... I was giggling inside for most of the evening just at the pure hilarity of my situation... oh and the champagne again.  I was even asked to have my photograph taken a few times with Michelle for the press photographers, which felt totally bizarre but rather wonderful... darling!

Michelle and I met last year whilst working on a project for Daz washing powders (long story... I'll save it for another time) but essentially we spent an intense week touring the UK together and bonded very quickly and have become firm friends.  She is always a blast to go out with as she knows simply everyone but she is a very loyal friend and always takes time to introduce you to people... and of course I get to go out to these wonderful events...

We were then asked to take our seats for dinner.  There must have been around 500 guests at the dinner and it always amazes me at these kind of events,  how the chefs manage to keep the consistency up to such a high standard, to create such mini masterpieces on the plates.


Our starter was... beetroot cured salmon with cucumber jelly and horseradish cream... the salmon was translucent in its thinness and practically dissolved on entering the mouth but it was the cucumber jelly which was the star of the plate... packed with an intense flavour of cucumber, such a clever little trick.


Main course was...  roast sirloin of beef with watercress and new potato salad, french beans and roasted garlic and watercress puree... the beef was perfectly cooked if a little bland but the burnt punch you got from the roasted garlic more than compensated for it.

We then had a break for speeches... a very moving one from a young guy with HIV who recounted his tragic but inspirational struggle to survive on the streets of London and how the Terrence Higgins Trust had saved him... and a hilarious speech from Stephen Fry, the President of the Friends for Life organisation, who proclaimed that he was 'a whore' and would do anything for our money!

Dessert was my favourite part of the meal... chilled lime souffle, lemon posset and citron sherbet.  It's a real shame the photo didn't come out because it was a true creation on a plate, with the lime souffle towering above its chocolate dish and a spoon filled with sherbet, so that your first mouthful was a blast back to childhood... delicious!

my glamorous dinner guest Michelle

Entertainment was provided by a live set by Andy Bell from Erasure... excellent fun but rather harrowing having to explain who he was to the 24 year-old Hollyoaks star sitting next to me...

so a genius night had by all (thank-you Michelle) and if that wasn't enough i have another party tomorrow night... I'm off to the wonderful Jacks restaurant opposite our flat in Queens Park to bury my hangover in a  Full English!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Duck a la drain...


if I had no heart this should be a duck recipe...

The Viking and I were walking the dog this morning up in The Wolds.  We often pass footpaths in the car that show us tantalising glints of some amazing walk that we never go on... always saying how great it would be to try somewhere different.

Today, something must have been calling us because we got out of the car at a particularly delightful spot and started walking towards some lakes we could see off in the distance.  We could hear the ducks before we saw them and when we saw them there were hundreds of them!  Clearly this was a breeding lake for the shooting season.  Now don't get me wrong, I love me some duck; roasted, pan-fried... but I'm not a huge fan of blood sports so it's a bit sad that these glorious creatures will end up flying for their lives... but hey, I guess they get to live a happy free-range life... so it was with some shock and surprise that we came across 5 ducks trapped in a drain along the path that we were walking!

Our path cut between 2 lakes, one lake higher than the other and there must have been a wide pipe that came from the top lake, via the drain and fed into the bottom lake. The poor ducks had clearly been sucked down into the pipe and become trapped.  One little soul had tried to get out through the gaps in the drain cover and had got its head stuck, clearly very stressed.

We immediately took action.  First job was to try and push the ducks head back down into the drain without breaking its neck...The Big V was no good at this point as his total fear of touching anything living came into play... I had to grip its beak in my hand and turn its neck and force it down.  Next we took Holly's lead and wrapped it around the drain cover so we could pull it up and away.  The drain cover seemed stuck fast and was very heavy but we managed to pull it off.  At this point the bemused ducks started to go rather crazy but I reached in and one-by-one, pulled them free... off they waddled to safety.

After so much excitement we needed something warming and hearty and most of all totally vegetarian for lunch... so what to do with a bag of left-over rocket?... soup of course... I truly believe that all old, yellowing or turning veg should still fulfill their destiny and become soup.


and what better than a delicious bowl of pea and rocket soup to finish off the bread from the weekend?.. so fast and easy to make...

Finely chop an onion and in a deep pan, let it sweat in some butter and olive oil.
Then add a finely chopped leek, but you could add whatever you have in the fridge... could be some celery or a carrot would be nice in here too.
Then, after about 6 mins of sweating gently with the lid on, add some stock and the rest of the ingredients, which in my case was a supermarket bag of rocket and about 3 cups of peas.
Let is simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes, then whizz up and serve.

This soup will also taste superb cold, with some fresh mint torn into it!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Cream Tea - Lincolnshire Stylie


Sometimes I feel like I'm living in some kind of twisted Enid Blyton book... it's not all cream teas, cucumber sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer y'know but some weekends, when the sun is out and we're sitting on the upper terrace playing scrabble as the barn owl flies past with a small furry creature in it's talons... as Holly runs down to the babbling river and chases after ducklings and we find little frogs hiding under stones in the lupin beds... then, yes, it's all a little Swallows and Amazons!

...next paragraph to be read in a plummy English accent:

Today was no exception when all of a sudden Tracey came up with the most spiffing idea... why don't we make scones when we get back from the gardening centre?... we'll pop into the local green grocers and pick up some freshly made raspberry jam and some double cream for whipping!... ooh rather, said the boys with glee in their eyes...

Somehow the next scene is me in kitchen, baking scones and them in garden waiting for scones... but hey ho... I'm the one with the food blog...

I've decided rather deliberately to steer away from the plain fruit scone today and go for something more exotic... um... the wholemeal scone.  As most avid readers will know I follow a Delia recipe for my plain scones and it has never failed me yet, so I've tweaked that a bit and added an egg for richness and here we are...



and a little tip here... if you wish for well risen scones, I have found you need to double any recipe you see written down (except this one... I've done that for you) and don't roll out the dough, just pat it down to just over half the depth of your pastry cutter.  Scones don't rise you know.  They swell, so you need to make them the depth you want them...

oh and be quick and light with your hands.. don't knead this, you're not making bread!

Ingredients

6oz wholemeal flour
6oz self-raising flour
2oz butter or margarine
2 tsp baking powder
3 oz brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
2oz mixed fruit (i used raisins)
2 eggs - beaten
4 tablespoons milk (or more if it's a bit dry)

Put the flours into a bowl with the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar and rub in the fat.  Add the mixed fruit and then the beaten eggs and milk and bring together with a pallet knife.
Form into a dough with your hands and quickly turn out onto a floured surface to cut.  Brush the top with milk and bake for 15 Min's at 200c or until golden.

eat and of course, enjoy!


Sunday, 13 June 2010

Baked Rhubarb and Almond Pudding


I've been doing an awful lot of savoury stuff recently and now I fancy something rich and sweet.... I've adapted the very popular Delia Smith recipe for Baked Apple and Almond Pudding to make the most of the last of the rhubarb... I thought it had all gone but Tracey trimmed and tidied her plant and cut off the very last of the stems.  Some too woody to use but what I managed to put into this pudding still tastes sweet and sharp and full of summer.


Our Lady Delia of Smith says that the baked apple version can be eaten hot or cold and will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days (and I assume the same for my rhubarb adaptation...) but what with The V and Nigel working up a sweat digging in their gardens it hasn't actually lasted to the end of this post...

Ingredients


1lb of rhubarb (i used about 6 stalks cut into chunks)
2oz soft brown sugar
4oz butter at room temp
4oz caster sugar
2 large eggs beaten
40 oz ground almonds

On a very low heat place the cut rhubarb and brown sugar into a large saucepan and let it all melt together, but watch it... don't let it burn.
Meanwhile, cream the butter and caster sugar till light and fluffy, then add the beaten eggs a bit at a time, stirring until it's all incorporated.  Then gently fold in the ground almonds.

By this point your rhubarb should be ready... In Delia's recipe she says to put the baked apples into the pie dish first but i'm doing it the other way round... poor the almond mix into the dish and lay the rhubarb on top.  Bake it for 1 hour at 180c.  This way, as it cooks the rhubarb will caramelise and the almond mixture will rise up and gently surround the fruit, wrapping it in a soft blanket of sweetness.

eat and of course, enjoy!

baked field mushrooms with garden pesto


I realise that whilst I bang on about The Big V and the lack of imagination that restaurant chefs have when it comes to vegetarian cooking, I'm not exactly pushing the boundaries with options either...

... The Viking likes his meat and two veg... just with no meat... which is why he'll happily chow down on a meat substitute veggie burger rather than a plate of 'tomato goo' or the goats cheese something he's often offered.  He doesn't want to be treated differently.  If we're all having pie, he wants pie... how hard can it be?

So today's offer is in honour of him (and the fact that the local market had some stonking great big field mushrooms in and I just couldn't resist.)  It makes a substantial lunch with a big salad or, if you're like The Big V and from anywhere north of  Watford, place one between two chunky pieces of bread and eat anytime you fancy!

I've made a pesto out of all the herbs in the garden and some that I had turning yellow on the kitchen window-sill.  It's got basil, coriander, thyme and rosemary plus garlic, pine nuts and olive oil all whizzed up with the hand-held.  I've held off with the Parmesan, firstly because it's not actually vegetarian and secondly because I want the mushrooms to bake in the oven and infuse with the pesto flavours first and then I will crumble a strong salty cheddar onto his and grate some Parmesan onto mine and grill them at the end.

Lay the mushrooms into a baking dish or tray and spread a spoonful of the pesto on each mushroom, season well and drizzle with some more olive oil and cover in foil.  Bake in a high oven for 20 minutes or so, basting as often as you please, until the mushrooms are tender and browned.

Then top with your favourite cheese and grill till golden... I have to say that for a fast, plucked out of nowhere idea these were so intensely tasty and Oh.. totally delicious!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

or we'd just call it 'loaf'


As I type this the smell of warm bread wafts gently and tantalisingly through the cottage...

...well, that's what i want to type but it's not true.  It's 9am on Saturday and whilst that's not particularly early, I'm knackered because at 6am this morning I got up to knead the dough for my cottage loaf, put it in the airing cupboard, went back to bed, then got up at 8am to knead again and am now waiting for that final rise to take place before I can shape it and bake it!



At this rate the bread won't be ready till lunchtime.... For goodness sake... what time would I have to get up to have fresh baked bread for breakfast?

...so now i'm going back down to switch the oven on and finally bake the bread...

45 minutes later and wow, she's a beauty!

I'm following a classic cottage loaf recipe taken from one of those thin 'how to...' recipe books that my neighbour Tracey lent me.  Remember this is practice for the loaf i'll bake for the Village Show in August so it has to be a classic recipe... nothing fancy or clever... not too large or too small... just a traditional Cottage Loaf.. or as we say here in Belleau Cottage... a... loaf.

It asks you to make a 'starter' with the yeast and some extra flour and this really makes the whole thing rise to titanic proportions.

The Recipe

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients


10oz / 275g wholemeal flour
10oz / 275g plain flour
4oz / 115g strong white flour
4 tsp salt
2oz / 50g butter at room temp
16fl oz / 475ml lukewarm milk

FOT THE STARTER

1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
8fl oz / 250ml lukewarm water
4oz / 115g plain flour
1/4 tsp sugar

1. For the starter, stir together the yeast, water, flour and sugar. Cover and leave in a warm place for 2-3hrs or overnight in a cool place. (I left mine overnight)

2. Place the flours, salt and butter in a bowl and rub together (you can do this bit in a food processor.) Stir together the milk and the starter, then slowly poor it into the mixed flour bowl and start to bring it together... I folded this with a spatula and as it started to come together I moved in with my hands... this bit is very tacky and messy but it's supposed to be... keep the bag of flour open and close by so you can throw some in when it gets too much!  Transfer it all to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic... took me 15 minutes and plenty of flour.

3. Place in an ungreased bowl, cover and leave to rise for 11/2 hours.

4. Transfer to a floured surface and knead briefly, return to the bowl and leave to prove for a further 11/2 hours

5. Divide the dough in half and then cut off one third of each half.  Roll all your sections into balls.  You should have 2 large balls and 2 small balls.  On a baking sheet covered in greaseproof paper place the small balls on top of the large balls to form 2 cottage loaves. Press the centre with the handle of a wooden spoon to secure and slash the top.  Cover with a plastic bag and let them rise again for about 15mins



6. Preheat the oven to 200c and bake the dough, sprinkled with a little wholemeal flour for 40-45 mins or until browned.

Now the house smells amazing! I think I may be in with a chance...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 11 June 2010

sauteed chicken liver salad


in my little corner of heaven there is a small, alfresco bistro table where I can smoke away to my hearts content without anyone complaining and every so often (more often than not) the waiter will bring me a plate of sauteed chicken livers on a bed of fresh salad leaves...

it could be my Jewish upbringing... my mother regularly made a plate of chopped-liver on a Friday night and my brother and I would polish it off with gusto.

the soft velvet, melt-in-the-mouth texture that slips so delicately down the throat.. they have an oyster quality about them that makes them feel so luxurious and almost decadent, yet they're currently £1 per box at the supermarket!

I've simply flash fried them in butter and olive oil for about 3 or 4 mins on each side so they pick up some burnt flesh on the outside yet remain pink and melting inside.  Plenty of salt and pepper and of course i've served them with the salad i've just plucked from the garden.

pure heaven!

see how my garden grows....

the salad box in the garden

the sun has made a rare June appearance and I thought it an opportune moment to capture the sudden growth in the garden.

I also bought a salad spinner today (oh how times have changed...) which I'm very proud of....

freshly spun with natty new spinner

little courgettes

beetroot... another couple of weeks I think... but I can eat the leaves now!


these are going to be beauties!

The Aby Village Show 2010 - Saturday 21st August


No, you haven't opened some kind of time-travelling blog web page thingy...

...This, is deadly serious.

So serious in fact that I'm starting to write this months in advance of the actual show itself in August,  in order to give myself plenty of time on the actual day of the event to create the heavenly items I need to make to win at The Aby Village Show.

Now, if you know anything about village life... (or have ever watched a single episode of The Vicar of Dibley) you'll know just how important a date in the calendar The Village Show is and therefore you can imagine just how devastated I was last year when I was pipped to the first prize post in the 'fruit scone' section of the competition by mother and daughter duo Elaine and Davina (evil coven from the village) because of my giant scones being too large and perfectly risen to fit into the mouth of the little old dear who judged the competition.

no seriously... I came third...!  The note left behind by the judge, placed next to my plate of scones read: 'delicious, perfect texture but scone should be smaller.' .... indeed.

I've got to say, although in my heart of hearts I'm totally bitter about not winning, we did have an absolute scream on the day of the show and Elaine graciously gave me her winning scone recipe and even painted the most delightful scone picture, which I truly treasure.... although some have said she's simply rubbing it in... I could never be so cynical.

...last year was a first for me... a dabble into the world of the village show and with just one entry and an almighty ego how could I have possibly thought I'd win...? well CHOKE ON THIS old lady... this year I'm entering every cooking related section of the show possible... and I plan multiple wins!

I will perfect the best recipes for each section even if it kills me putting on weight to do it.

The biggest news is that, this year, the local committee of like-minded clever-clogs, have decided to take the fruit scone section out of the village show, so I cannot, even in vain, attempt to win back my pride.. I mean prize... i mean pride... oh heck!

So, on the list we have:

1lb of jam any variety (growing strawberries as we speak)
1lb of lemon curd (if I can make rhubarb curd, I can curd anything!)
1lb chutney any variety (may have to look this one up...)
1 chocolate sandwich cake - 3 eggs, butter cream filling, no topping (sounds dull but i think I can handle it)
4 decorated individual sponge buns (fairy cakes a speciality so I should have this one covered and i can get creative with the topping)
1 small fruit cake (um... not sure about this but i'll give it a go)
1 round of shortbread (got this covered...)
1 cottage loaf, white or brown (not 100% sure what a cottage loaf is but I think this will be fun)
1 fruit pie, min of 7" round (need to chose the fruit.. i'm thinking cherry or apple and blackberry)
6 biscuits (I could get creative here, so should be fun)

So, I think I'm OK on some, others I may scour my cook books or the net to find the best recipe... or if any of you out there have a great recipe for any of the above, please let me know and i'll trial it for the big day.

This week I will have a go at the cottage loaf and perhaps the fruit pie... so watch this space!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Kodak Launch - delicious bowl food

Little Char Grilled Tuna Steak with French Bean, Avocado & Wild Rocket Salad, Safron Aioli to Serve



I'm not that keen on reviewing other peoples food... there are plenty of paid journalists out there and a few million un-paid review bloggers doing a fine job, so i'll stick to cooking and being self indulgent in my own way.

I also have a strange cog inside my brain that seems to like everything I eat anyway (unless it's really really bad, or an obvious mistake has been made) and i'm more critical of my surroundings or the staff than the food... so what's the point?

However, as an event producer I do get to experience a lot of catering... the fun bit of course is all the food tastings... so I do get to review catered food for my clients and therefore I have the opportunity to wield my power is some way... and i've had my fair share of catered food... good and bad... bizarre food... try-too-hard food... small food... even smaller food and then even smaller, smaller food that only beauty journalists can eat because otherwise it wouldn't fit in their bird-like mouths without ruining their spray-painted lipstick...

Simple Roast Chicken Salad, Soft Herb Mayonnaise to Serve


Tonight's selection was created by the on-site chefs at The Imagination Gallery.  They are a lucky lot, those that work down on Store Street.  They have an incredible, on-site, subsidised caterer.  Lunch, which for them could, on any day, consist of poached salmon, beef wellington, fresh seared tuna... is on average £4 per meal!

Warm Haloumi, Cucumber & Tiny Intense Plum Tomato Salad, Kalamata & Aged Greek Wine Drizzle

So, due to the nature of the event, which was a lot of guests standing around talking about printer ink technology... I know, we get all the glamorous jobs!... we advised our client to chose a simple bowl-food menu so guests could tuck in to well-proportioned food whilst still standing with a drink in one hand.  It all sounds so complicated but these things are run like a military coup and you wouldn't believe the conversations we've had about how people will stand and eat, or where they put their fork, or the best size for a mini-burger... jeez!

The menu tonight was light and tasty and, I have to say, completely delicious.  We had 4 savoury bowls and one sweet and they were:

Warm Haloumi, Cucumber & Tiny Intense Plum Tomato Salad, Kalamata & Aged Greek Wine Drizzle


Simple Roast Chicken Salad, Soft Herb Mayonnaise to Serve


Little Char Grilled Tuna Steak with French Bean, Avocado & Wild Rocket Salad, Safron Aioli to Serve


"Gastro" Burger & Chips, Stunning Rustic Scotch Beef Burger, Sea Salted Chunky Chips with Melting Monterey Jack Relish

Frutti Tutti Cheese Cake


"Gastro" Burger & Chips, Stunning Rustic Scotch Beef Burger, Sea Salted Chunky Chips with Melting Monterey Jack & Relish


The Haloumi salad was that perfect blend of salty with the sweet tartness of the Kalamata, the tuna was perfectly seared and with it's safron aioli as a golden, creamy relish it was my favourite bowl.  The chicken salad was slightly bland but I suppose it's lightness was enjoyed by some but the chunky chips served with the burger were superb and the frutti tutti cheescake was intensely sweet... a nice way to finish off the evening.


More fun back in the kitchen tomorrow! Yay!


Frutti Tutti Cheese Cake

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Ruby and Emerald Risotto


Well... this didn't work out exactly as planned but .... I have been inspire by a fellow-blogger, Jonathan, from http://aroundbritainwithapaunch.blogspot.com/

His scarlet risotto has been ridiculously popular with his followers and I think it just looks so shocking on the plate that all I needed was an excuse to make it... thank you Adam and Karen and Jenny for letting me invite you around for dinner to experience this with us!

Now, for some reason my beetroots didn't bleed into the rice quite as vividly as Jonathan's did... I think i could have done with some beetroot powder... but they still went a stunning dark orange colour, which looked pretty spectacular on the plate and my dear guests all commented on how nice it tasted, so I can't really grumble... The Viking even suggested I remake this and get the colour how I want it but you know what?.. that's life and I can't fake what happened.

I do, however, apologise for the picture quality... didn't have my camera on me and the best photo is out of focus... double bad... what you gonna do eh?

RANT WARNING!!: So we're down in London again this week for the second load of bus-like events and being totally mad we've decided to have friends around the night before to bitch and moan about the state of the industry and how those PR lovelies can't seem to stop miss-behaving!... shouldn't complain too much I suppose, we're lucky to be working at all... NO! what am I saying?  We're brilliant and they should be so lucky to have our creativity on their teams to make their brands look so good! RANT OVER!!!

So, in honour of Jonathan and our new Kodak clients, who's theme tomorrow is COLOUR, here's this colourful, delicious and inspiring combination of jewel-like risottos.

I made them in tandem, which was slightly schizophrenic but quite do-able as long as you prepare double of everything and have it all ready to go Blue Peter stylie...

Ruby Risotto
1 fresh beetroot
onion - finely chopped
risotto rice
3 sun-dried tomatoes
salt and pepper

Dice the beetroot and add it to a pan full of water.
Boil for 20 mins until tender, then drain but keep the water as you'll use this for the stock.

In a heavy bottomed pan sweat an onion in butter and olive oil, then add the chopped beetroot and the rice and let it all sizzle in the fat turn an evil shade of red.  Then add the stock as per normal, little by little until you have your risotto.  Add slices of sun-dried tomato and a knob of butter at the end for a glossy finish!

Emerald Risotto
3 bundles of asparagus
1 onion - finely chopped
risotto rice
glass of white wine
Parmesan

Pretty much the same as above but add a glass of white wine after you've added the rice, then the stock. Chop up and blanche your asparagus first then add it a minute before the end of cooking, with a fist full of grated cheese.

Now, either plate it gloriously onto halves of one large dish or individually if you're feeling clever and watch it twinkle!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 7 June 2010

chips for lunch


had chips for lunch... they were good but I felt guilty... so whilst I promised myself i'd eat healthily this evening I still wanted something tasty...

...hello British asparagus... drenched in butter... served with mozzarella and oven roasted toms... like I said, healthy.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Angela's Marmalade Chicken


As you can probably tell from my posts I do like chicken, particularly the succulent tasty parts of the bird such as the thighs and legs, which I think roast really well as they have the right balance of fat to meat ratio.  Our local Morrison's supermarket specialises in sourcing local free-range, vegetarian fed, chickens, so what's not to love?


However it can be hard to find interesting things to do with chicken and sometimes, on a Sunday, when I want a roast but don't want the whole shebang I want to find something that little bit different.



This is my mum's recipe and she's very proud of it.  Mum has always experimented with food and been happy to try different things and whilst this may seem a bit odd for her more traditionalist friends it is always a huge success.  It's lovely served on a bed of mash or rice or even with a jewelled couscous.... I'm being extra lazy today and having it with a bit of salad plucked fresh from the garden.

You need to find a good quality bitter marmalade with 'bits' as the caramelised orange mixed with the roasted juicy onion just taste so vivid and melt-in-the-mouth!

I've added a lemon into my dish...as I had one that was looking sorry for itself but you can leave this out and just stick to the recipe... mum's recipe which i've shown here is for 6-8 people, you can reduce it exactly by half for less people.

Ingredients


8 chicken thighs & 8 legs
Jar Bitter Orange Marmelade (I use the Taste the Difference one from Sainsbury's)
2 tablespoons dijon or wholegrain mustard
4 red onions quartered
2 oranges quarted
Juice of 2 oranges
1 head of garlic - sep cloves but can leave skin on
2 tablespoons olive oil
Mix the marmelade & mustard salt & pepper & orange juice & coat the chicken all over.
Place chicken in roasting tray & add the onion & orange quaters & garlic cloves.
Drizzle with the olive oil just before cooking.




Roast for 60 mins at 200.  I cover with foil for the first 15 mins, then give it a good 30 mins, then turn the chicken, then keep roasting for another 15-20 mins to get it all sticky and unctuous. 


eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

honey and lemon chicken skewers


Don't be scared of the barbie!

My barbecue is hotting up and these little gems are a delightfully different and easy way to do chicken.

The marinade is olive oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, English mustard and a dash of ketchup. Dice the chicken and then cut the mushrooms and onions into a similar size and let them marinade for at least an hour.  Before their marinade time is up, cut a lemon into chunks and add this to the marinading chicken.  I tend not to add lemon to chicken marinades till the end of the process as the acid in the lemon can cook the chicken and leave it slightly tough.

Then skewer the pieces onto a wooden stick and place on the barbecue, turning frequently. A nice tip here is to soak your wooden skewers in a tub of water for 10mins before you BBQ them and then they wont burn so quickly!

veggie sausage skewers with onion and mushrooms


For The Big V i'm doing the same with some lovely veggie sausages from Cauldron, which I find are the best for the barbecue as they have a good texture and hold their shape.  I've cut them up into large chunks for the skewer.


I'm serving these with a green bean and roasted tomato salad and some asparagus tips I've barbecued as well and lovely Tracey has made her fabulous potato salad with parsley and fresh mint grown from her garden as a fine accompaniment.



eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 4 June 2010

...without breaking eggs


Lordy what a week!  Down to London for a bit of event production... why is it that they seem to be just like buses... you wait for ages for one to come and then loads come at the same time...?

Nothing, then an event this week... one next week... all completely crazy, plate spinning events.

This week we launched 3 fabulous new sound systems from a company called orbitsound at The May Fair Hotel, in the penthouse suite no less... what a dive!  Generally generic, dreadful, marble clad tacky nightmare...why are people so sucked in by this shit?  and why are there so many tacky people in London... it's not cool and it's not clever!... and yes... it does look like your plastic surgery went wrong! (can you tell i'm tired?)

Lovely new clients though, so we can't really grumble and the canapes on the night of the event were rather nice... the chef barbecued huge tiger prawns on the terrace and they were served fresh to the guests... really special!

Not so fun this morning when we had to go back into the hotel to strike the event... what a mess... and what a waste... clearly too much champagne drunk by too few people... and from the half-eaten burgers and cold french fries strewn around the room, clearly somebody thought room service would sober them up at 2:30am!

Oh and poor Holly got stung by a wasp on her eye and the whole left side of her face swelled up... poor little monkey...

Of course, this all means we only just made it back to the kitchen. So it was a swift garden omelette was in order... served with freshly grown herbs and the first tender leaves of the salad i've been growing.

Normally I wouldn't bother posting something as work-a-day as an omelette but you know, whilst they're pretty easy to make, they are in-fact quite hard to get right... or just perfect as I like to think i've got them.  I even have a friend Claire who makes a special diversion up to the cottage just for my 'omlins' as she calls them...

It's all about the heat, the pan and the trick of not over-whisking the eggs, so the omelette stays light and fluffy and doesn't become too dense or dry.

I also have a very natty little, heavy based, omelette-for-one pan... essential.

Ingredients per 'omlin'

breaking eggs
2 large eggs
a dash of milk
2 spring onions - finely sliced
1 medium mushroom - finely sliced
grated cheese of your choice
fresh basil and coriander - torn

So, in some melted butter (always butter for an omelette) saute the spring onions and the mushrooms.
then break the eggs into a dish, add a splash of milk and beat it lightly with a fork but don't over beat it at this stage.
get the pan to an even hot heat and poor the egg into the pan, then very quickly push the mixture away from the sides creating folds in the omelette, letting the liquid run down into the gaps you create.  keep doing this all the way around.
add the torn herbs, salt and pepper and grate some strong cheese in here.
it's now up to you how you like your omelette, I like to turn mine over to cook it slightly further on the runny side, but only for a second...

so fresh and super fast!

and that's it... my tip is to keep making them... like a pancake, the first one sometimes goes wrong, but then you've prepared the pan for the next one, which should be a success!

eat and of course, enjoy!

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