Monday, 28 February 2011

Random Recipes Round Up

... there really seems to be a billion cookbooks out there!

... when I first started to blog... just under a year ago... it was like turning up unannounced at a fabulous party where everyone knew someone... there were some people who knew everyone... but most people had their own little cliques and groups... and quite frankly I was scared...

... I mean I knew I wanted to share my cooking with people... I just wasn't expecting the fabulous party!... but unlike most parties... where you wonder around alone, making small talk with strangers... this was the most welcoming bunch of food maniacs I had ever had the pleasure to share my passion with... and their generosity was immense... and global... this was the greatest party ever!

... so i trod carefully (well, not that carefully) and I didn't want to impose my world domination tactics too early, so it was with a little trepidation that I launched this, my first challenge... you know I think the idea is genius, but I'm touched that more of you entered than I thought would... even though many of you were scared at first, least of all me!

... so without further ado... let me introduce to you the inaugural random recipe challenge round-up

Lucy from The KitchenMaid - Italian Cinnamon Biscuits

Gary from Exploits of a Food Nut - Chicken and Papaya Curry 

A double whammy from Louise at Please Don't Feed the Animals - Rough Chicken Liver Pate (from 'I Love Food' by Clare MacPherson-Grant Russell ) and Tortillitas de Camarones (from Moro by Sam and Sam Clark) 

Michael at Me, My Food and I - Whole wheat spaghetti with Lemon, Basil and Salmon from Giada's Kitchen, New Italian Favorites by Giada de Laurentiis

from The Art of being Perfect we have Cranberry Jam from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros (come ON... I mean Jam for goodness sake... that's dedication to the challenge...)

from Manu at Cooking Manu we have Pancakes with Chocolate Cinnamon Cream... these were actually made by her daughter Beatrice... who apparently loved the challenge so much she wants to take part every month... what a great way to get kids cooking eh?

from Phil at As Strong As Soup we have Pork Apicius from The Cuisine of Alain Senderens

Susan from The Spice Garden with Apple and Cottage Cheese pancakes from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home

Michelle, from Food, Football and a Baby with an Egg Masala from The Cook by Isidore Coelho

Choclette over at chocolatelogblog miraculously chose Butterscotch Swirl Brownies from Linda Collisters Divine

Chele from Chocolate Teapot made Basil, Mascarpone and Ricotta Tart 

the BrownievilleGirl herself made white yeast bread from Bake by Rachel Allen something she hated... ... and then found another recipe on another site and gave this better recipe a second go... god bless her!

Sidiqa from Spontaneous Euphoria made pea and potato pakora from 500 Appetizers by Susannah Blake... please pop over and check out the stunning food photography!

and finally, the lovely 'wish she was my granny' Rhyleysgranny made these scrummy peanut butter and chocolate cookies from The Essence of Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg

... so thank you all for taking part... some of you may have bent the rules slightly... which is fair enough... we all have our ways of coping... but I think everyone had fun...?

... look out for next months challenge which will have a slight twist to it... how can you resist?

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Celery Soup

... this weekend was supposed to be the weekend that I finally got off my fat lazy arse and back into the swimming pool... but it gets so cold around 4pm and the thought of lowering myself into the local pool... which is essentially 'old person soup'... and then doing 45 Min's just sends shudders up my flabby spine.

... speaking of soup... I was being nagged by The Viking about making more things with celery... celery he rightly tells me, has all kinds of health benefits... the leaves contain high levels of Vitamin A whilst the stalks contain B1, B2, B6 and C with rich supplies of potassium, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and essential amino acids... we're talking cancer fighting stuff in here people!... also very good as an anti-inflammatory for things like arthritic joints and back pain... all very good...

... but it is quite a dull vegetable and as most of you will know the flavour can be on the silent side...

... then, may I refer you to our dear friend Heston who, in last weeks Weekend Times magazine, told us all to make more soup with our vegetables... it is essentially a bowl of goodness from the ground to the body...

... so for both The Viking and Mr Blumenthal I give you my celery and garlic soup...

... to ensure all those celery flavours are packed in I've included some leek and some garlic, both these vegetables seem to boost the flavour of the celery rather than smother it... which is what we want isn't it?

... there's no cream in this soup, this is all just natural loveliness...

Celery Soup

1 large bunch of celery with the leaves if possible - finely chopped)
1 onion - finely chopped
1 medium leek - finely chopped
5 whole cloves of garlic
olive oil and a knob of butter
2 pints good veg stock
a handful of thyme

- so you need to get one of those big bunches of celery and don't bother pulling each stalk off, just finely slice into the whole bunch from one end to the other, including the leaves.

- saute the onions celery and leek in the olive oil and butter until tender, throw the thyme in partway through

- throw in the whole peeled garlic cloves then place the lid on the pan and sweat the veg on a really low heat for a further 5-8 Min's so that you sweat all that intense flavour out

- pour on the stock and simmer gently for 20 Min's

- liquidize and serve

FYI... I did get to the swimming pool but when I got home The Viking had made scones...

they're made with my traditional Delia recipe but instead of cutting them into rounds he simply slashed them into quarters... back to the pool for me...

...oh and don't forget you have just over 24 hours to enter the random recipes challenge!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Pollo alla Cacciatora... a 'Forever Nigella' challenge

... i thought i'd hit the ground running this weekend and kill a couple of birds whilst I'm at it... all metaphorically obviously... well, the birds were killed by someone in Morrisons supermarket... just not me... but you get my drift?

... I had bought my weekly chicken thighs last week but didn't get around to using them and they needed using before they actually stand up and barge out of my fridge... and as I was searching for a recipe I remembered that March's Forever Nigella challenge from Maison Cupcake is 'Ciao Italia'... so out came the Nigella library... and this is what I found to suit my ingredients...

...'cacciatora' translates as 'hunter' or in this recipe 'in the hunters way'... which I guess really means; fast, easy... using ingredients one has hunted and earth vegetables one has found... (I refer you here to my previous paragraph about it being not me but Morrisons doing the hunting/killing...)

... now i've taken my usual liberties with this dish and kind of deconstructed the way HRH Nigella has prepared it... i've transferred it to one oven dish as I think it's so much easier to cope with and you get a browner, crispier chicken... and this is the recipe shown below... you can find the original in Nigella Express...

Pollo alla Cacciatora

6 chicken thighs (with bone and skin)
75g Pancetta cubes
1 onion - medium chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
glass of white wine
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 x 400g cannellini beans

- place the onion, whole garlic cloves pancetta and rosemary into your oven proof dish and then lay the chicken thighs on top

- drizzle with olive oil and season, add the glass of wine and place in a very hot oven for 15 minutes

- after 15mins, turn the chicken thighs over and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes

- after this time pour over and stir in the tinned tomatoes and drained cannellini beans and sprinkle with the celery salt and sugar

- place back in the oven for a further 20 minutes until golden and unctuous

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

... a random recipe

... when i set this challenge back at the beginning of the month I think i got slightly carried away with the actual setting of the challenge and for some reason I completely put the thought to the back of my mind that i, myself would actually have to complete an entry... and suddenly last week, as some of your fabulous entries began to come in, I started to panic...

... I have a lot of cookbooks... many of them I have merely opened for the food-porn pictures alone... what if I pick something I would just never make in a million years?!?!... what if I got pickle... or brawn... or those bloody trendy macaroons for goodness sake... but as i took my books from the shelf and asked The Viking to come in and mediate, I started to realise what fun this was going to be... and what a true test of both cook and cookbook this really was...

... and I got a total surprise... Arancini from Giorgio Locatelli's brilliant Made In Italy... it's one of those vast volumes of a book which contains lovely stories about Italy peppered with delicious recipes... I think I 'acquired' this book from when we produced the Observer Food Monthly Awards back in 2008 and I think it's sat on my shelf for years without even a merest glance from me...

... and the punishment for ignoring this book is Arancini... fried and stuffed risotto balls... so not only do I have to make the Arancini but I have to make a risotto and a ragu before I can make the dish I'm supposed to make... blimey!

Arancini stuffed with mozzarella and ragu

you're supposed to make this dish with left over risotto and ragu... but i don't ever remember there ever being any left over anything in this house...

Vegetarian Ragu

1 onion - finely chopped
1 carrot - finely chopped
1 celery - finely chopped
2 garlic cloves - crushed
1 pkt Quorn mince or similar (or use mushrooms)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 glass red wine
1 cup of veg stock
2 bay leaves

- saute the onions, then celery, then carrots and garlic until soft.

- add the mince, tomatoes, wine, stock bay leaves and peas and simmer gently for a good hour with the lid on, then a further 20 minutes without the lid until it has reduced down into an unctuous gloop.

Saffron Risotto

2.5 litres good veg stock
50g butter
1 onion - finely chopped
400g good risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
1 glass white wine
a teaspoon of saffron threads

- saute the onions in butter until soft

- add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes, then add the glass of wine and stir again

- prepare the stock to include the saffron

- ladle in the stock slowly, stirring in between each ladle-full until the moisture is absorbed, continue until the stock has all been used.

- allow the risotto to cool completely before using


1 portion of risotto
1/2 a portion of ragu
a ball of buffalo mozzarella - torn onto small portions
a handful of basil leaves
3 eggs (beaten)
vegetable oil for deep frying

- take a small ball of risotto in the palm of your hands and make an indent with your thumb

- spoon a little ragu into the indent, add some mozzarella and basil and then close up your hand so that the risotto encloses the filling into a ball

- make sure there are no gaps in the ball, then dip first into the egg, then the flour, then the egg again and finally the breadcrumbs

- deep fry the balls (170) in the veg oil, don't do too many at a time as they need room to fry and go golden all over... should take 4-5 Min's... I don't have a deep fryer so did it in a pan, which worked fine.

... you can also freeze the balls before frying and then fry for 10-15 Min's...

the arancini before coating

... I'm so glad i made these... they are something I've often admired but never made... it's doubtful I'd make them again in a hurry but in fact, if ever I make risotto if I just make a little extra these balls would make a great party food... you could stuff them with so many things such as pesto, or sausage or just plain old cheese...

so... don't forget for those who haven't entered yet, you still have until the end of the next weekend... you'll find the rules here... happy random recipe choosing!

eat and of course enjoy!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

chocolate banana and walnut muffins - forever nigella challenge

the delightful Sarah over at Maison Cupcake has set her second Forever Nigella bloggers challenge under the title of 'seduced by chocolate'... now you know me, I hate chocolate and I'm not in any way competitive, so for me this challenge really doesn't interest me at all... but I thought I ought to participate... you know... just for the camaraderie... this has nothing to do with the chocolate I tell you...!

... had to be something fast and cheap though... I'm thoroughly exhausted from the last week of madness and whatever I do needs to be quick and easy all weekend... plus I'm wanting to save a few pennies for the kitchen extension that we're planning this year and i've got to start somewhere... (I know... I'm not convinced making muffins will help either but I did have all the ingredients in the house already... what you gonna do eh?)

chocolate banana and walnut muffins

the recipe is taken from Nigella's new 'Kitchen' and according to the rules I've adapted the recipe slightly by adding a little chopped walnuts here too just to jazz it up a bit... I have also used my lovely heart-shaped muffin cases... this has nothing to do with Valentines but more to do with being lazy and not being able to find my regular shaped muffin cases...

3 very ripe bananas
125ml vegetable oil
2 eggs
100g soft light brown sugar
225g plain flour
3 x 15ml tablespoons cocoa powder
a handful of chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon bicarb

- mash the bananas, add the oil followed by the eggs and sugar

- mix the flour, cocoa powder and bicarb and add this to the banana mixture, add the chopped nuts and gently bring it all together

- spoon evenly into the muffin cases... should make 12 medium or 6 large.

- bake on 200 for 15-20 mins

and don't forget that my random recipe challenge is still on till the end of the month...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 18 February 2011

my first sourdough of 2011

can you believe that i've kept Lucretia locked up and unused until now...?

... i've been feeding her regularly of course... and when i've not been around, Tracey, my good friend and neighbour has popped in to feed her... but I have not baked a sourdough since Christmas...

... and here she is, perfect, proud and as perky as always... a great way to start a weekend!

I used my regular recipe but replaced one of the cups of white flour with a cup of wholewheat flour...

... can't wait for breakfast...

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

'we should cocoa' chocolate and PG Tips cake

... that's tea to you and me...

... for this months 'we should cocoa' challenge the mystery ingredient was tea! Quite an unusual one, I think you'll agree but a great challenge... and the more I thought about it the more it seemed to make sense... both tea and dark chocolate have that earthy, heady quality that hits you at the top of your mouth and lingers... I initially wanted to use a light floral tea such as Earl Grey or Jasmine but I felt this was almost too sophisticated for what I wanted to achieve...

... and then a thought struck me about using a third ingredient that would compliment both the tannin in the tea and the bitterness of the chocolate... hello my old friend beetroot... and beetroot needs a strong, kick-in-the-teeth kind of cake-fellow... Beetroot, meet PG Tips.

... for my non-British friends PG Tips is a bog-standard English Breakfast Tea. Not fancy. Not grand. Just good tea with a strong clean, taste. It delivers a reliable cuppa every time. It's a tea of the people... the builders tea.

The recipe I've gone with is a recent favourite and easy to make but I've made a bundt shape this time because this was the only cake tin my good friend Jenny had in her cupboard. It was her fathers cake tin and over 60 years old but has turned out as probably one of he best-formed cakes I've ever made...

... and if a cake could be both light and fluffy and moist and dense at the same time, then this is it...

the builders tea cake

1/2 cup of boiling water
2 tea bags
250g plain chocolate broken up
3 large free range eggs
200g light muscovado sugar
100ml sunflower oil
1tsp vanilla extract
100g self raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarb
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
250g raw beetroot (finely grated)

- put the kettle on, place the tea bags in a cup and add half a cup of boiling water... let this sit whilst you make the cake,

- melt the chocolate (i did it in a microwave but a double boiler is the traditional way)

- whisk together the egg, sugar and oil until smooth and creamy, stir in the vanilla extract then fold in the flour, bicarb, baking powder and ground almonds

- grate the raw beetroot, squeeze out the liquid and fold it into the cake mix along with the cooled melted chocolate

- add the tea and re-mix the cake mixture... it should be loose but firm, not sloppy.

- pour the mixture into you cake tin (I used a 20cm round bundt tin) and bake on 170 for 50 mins - 1hr.

- cool COMPLETELY on a wire rack

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

eating for england

... over the last 5 days I have quite literally eaten my body weight in good food... damn good food... not that I'm complaining mind, it's just that I'm currently lying here rubbing my belly like a fat cat on Christmas day... now would be one of those times I could happily find myself washed up on some deserted beach or stranded in the Sahara a thousand mikes from the nearest village and I'd be just fine... for a week at least

... so where did this culinary binge begin...?

hanger steak with baked bone marrow at Hix

... on Wednesday I was catching up with 2 very dear friends at The Hix Oyster and Chop house in Farringdon... it was one of those wonderful nights where I ordered from the menu with impunity, oysters followed by hanger steak served with baked bone marrow and rounded off nicely sharing 3 puddings... as you know, I'm no reviewer of food but I can say that I totally understand why this place is so highly regarded... it was the best steak EVER... the most wonderful service... and simply the nicest atmosphere... I could not fault it.

bakewell tart at Hix

... Thursday night, as you have read from my previous post, was our Glenmorangie launch event at The Savoy where i probably ate about 20% of the canapes myself (someone has to have the job of quality control...)

brawn served at unearthed

... and on to Friday night and the unearthed supperclub... this was a new one for me as part of the meal involves a little chat from a nutritionist after each course... it wasn't preachy in any way but was fascinating as we learnt about the goodness in what we were eating and drinking, we also discussed matters on sustainability, the decline in fish stocks as well as the pros and cons of being vegetarian...

seabass served at unearthed

... I drank raw milk for the first time and also enjoyed my first taste of brawn. As always with these kind of evenings I met an eclectic selection of people and was totally blown away by our hosts culinary skills and generosity.

have you ever met a better dressed salmon?

... which brings me finally on to Saturday and the brilliantly nerd-filled Mixed Grill Food Lectures hosted by Fire and Knives. The day consisted of a series of 10-minute lectures from a bizarre mix of food nuts... from the sublime Betty Herbert talking about food and sex to the ridiculous Rusella drag pancake lipsinking... we even heard from our very own food blogger Kavey ranting about those daft Pris Fix menus that are not actually fixed prices... Stephan Gates was there, with his slide-show of horrific photos of bad food (yak penis anyone?) and we were also privileged to be in the presence of the 'Sinatra' of food and drink, Mathew Fort... oh and I learnt that I am a meta-nerd... all us food bloggers are in fact!

cooking scallops on the hot salt blocks

cheeses provided by the deli station

meringue swans

ms marmite lover herself... with her divine blancmange

... all this wrapped around a 4 course meal created by the queen of supperclubs MsMarmiteLover who, amongst other things served us, seared scallops on hot blocks of salt, hand made the most spectacular meringue swans and poured her heart into a stunning rhubarb blancmange... finished off with a mouth watering plate of Italian cheeses from the lovely guys at The Deli Station thoroughly impressed and completely stuffed!

... back to rubbing my belly...

Friday, 11 February 2011

Glenmorangie Finealta Launch at The Savoy

... as you know, dear reader, in my other life as an event producer, we are sometimes fortunate enough to produce launches for some wonderful clients...

.... and oh the crazy yet glamorous world in which we work... one moment we're in hard-hats and jump-suits, perched high on the side of a building ready to unfurl a banner for the Olympics... the next we're suited and booted at the newly refurbished Savoy Hotel... surrounded by swathes of fabric and plush upholstery to launch the new Private Edition range for Glenmorangie... this new creation is called Finealta and is the brainchild of the incredible 'nose' of Glenmorangie, Dr. Bill Lumsden... it's an honour to be in this mans presence... a whisky creator extraordinaire...

.... Dr. Bill was inspired to create Finealta after discovering an old cocktail recipe from the infamous American Bar at The Savoy that dated back to the 1900s... the Belle Epoque... and it was the Art Nouveau period that inspired our production for the event.

... The Savoy was at it's very finest, newly refurbished, elegant best... and we worked closely with the head chef James Pare to create an 8 course canape menu, served course by course to the guests... each canape found it's inspiration not only from the tasting notes for Finealta but also from the Savoy archivists descriptions of the way food was served in The Savoy in the 1900s.

green asparagus flan with melba toast and powdered goats cheese

glazed pork belly with poached apple and smoked paprika

glenmorange finealta cured scottish smoked salmon with caviar creme fraiche

charantias melon with parma ham lentils and truffle clouds

baked brie de meaux with creamed spinach and pink ginger

seared diver scallop with compote vierge served on a mini popadum (genius!!)

cherry and dark chocolate 'melba'

'savoy' pistachio Opera

We were also fortunate enough to work alongside head barman of the American Bar, Erik Lorincz, who created the Smoke and Mirrors cocktail specifically for our event, the serving of the cocktail, which is 'smoked' into the glass, was a spectacular way to round off the evening!

erik loricnz, head barman at the American Bar

you can read more about the event and less about the food here on The Persuaders blog... 

.... these  photographs were taken by the very talented and very sexy Mr Tom Oldham



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