Thursday, 31 March 2011

Random Recipes 2 Round Up - Number 18

I have a massive grin on my face because I feel so chuffed at all the entries i've had for this months challenge....

... and so as March rolls into April we have another jumble-sale selection of Random Recipes from across the globe... I know we always say it, but isn't it amazing, this world of the blog..? I have posts here from Australia, New Zealand, America, The UK, The UAE, Ireland, England and Scotland... thank you all once again for taking part, I'm thinking you're all enjoying the challenge?

...stay tuned for a very special Belleau Kitchen 1 year anniversary edition of Random Recipes at the start of April...

I suppose the best place to start for this round up is with Manu and her daughter Beatrice who is responsible for the number 18 and all your choices... she got to make a Chicken Sandwich of all things!

Our next entry is from Susan at The Spice Garden who got At Taste of New Hampshire, from which she made these excellent Chicken Crescent Squares

Phil from As Strong As Soup ended up with another French cookbook Pierre Koffmann’s ‘La Tante Claire’, from which he randomly chose Gâteau aux Noisettes

Chele from Chocolate Teapot got Donna Hay's Simple Essentials - Chicken (not Chocolate, which she really wanted but stuck like glue to the challenge parameters) and cooked Ricotta and herb Baked Chicken

Angela over at This is what I eat had a total string of disasters... mainly because she had already set her shopping list for the week and tried to fit the challenge into this... still the outcome looks mighty fine... it was from Go Red for Women and was supposed to be Chicken in Tarragon Sauce but ended up as Perch in Rosemary Sauce

The lovely Lucy (and her patient partner BW... think i'm starting a trend here...) from The KitchenMaid chose Plenty by Ottolenghi and Shaksuka

oh no... it wasn't me who started the trend it was Lou from Please Do Not Feed The Animals who cooked along with her hubby Steve... they chose each others dishes from the same book The New Penguin Cookery Book by Jill Norman and made an Onion Tart (Lou) and a Pesto Bread (Steve)

Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog got very angry with me for changing the game, although I think her anger really stemmed from the fact that she had randomly chosen the dreaded macaroon from Unwrapped!

Spontaneous Euphoria (who organises her cookbooks by course...) got 101 Chocolate Treats by The BBC Good Food and then chose these delightful chocolate brownies

Astral at The Art of Being Perfect made these fabulous American Sticky Buns from A Piece of Cake by Leila Lindholm

Mary at Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes got landed with the Williams-Sonoma Kids Cooking Scrumptious Recipes for cooks ages 9-13, which made her and me laugh hysterically... but I guess that's the fun of the challenge... she cooked a very yummy looking Sunflower Rice!

lovely Melanie, who's new to the challenge, from the brilliantly titled Sharky Oven Gloves got La Cuisine des paressueses (Cooking for lazy people) with a dish of Roasted Tomatoe and Red Onion Salad

Michelle from Food, Football and a Baby, who I think lives on the moon, had to choose twice before she hit a recipe she could actually buy the ingredients for... she got Okra with Tomatoes from The Joy of Vegetarian Cooking by Jasleen Dhamija

Aveen from Baking Obsessively made these fabulous Ginger and Chocolate Brownies from Martha Stewarts Cookies

Michael from Me My Food and I had a brilliant story about cooking with the head chef at Maze... you must read it.  The story was triggered by him selecting Gourmet Food for a Fiver by Jason Atherton, from which he made this stunning Spice Chocolate Cake with Macerated Raspberries

the luckiest blogger in the world From Beyond My Kitchen Window got Martha Stewarts Cupcakes and these stunning Red Velvet Cupcakes... my absolute favourite!

the lovely Anne from Annes Kitchen chose Sweet Treats: 30 Minutes or Less and then picked Mocha Coconut Clusters as her Random Recipe

wowzers... what a round-up... I am most humbled...

i'd like to dedicate this blog post to Eleanor BrownieVille Girl and her family who need our love, all our thoughts are with you xxx

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

in search of the perfect scone - part one

as many of my regular and dear readers will know, every year, our local village of Aby has a summer show... it's a chance for all us local would-be cooks, gardeners, artists and artisans to show-off our talents... it's pretty much seen as a fun 'get-together' and to be honest it's quite small-fry compared to some of the village and town shows that these days seem to be more like international events...

... even so, there is plenty of friendly rivalry and I wont deny there's been many a time when i've wanted to take a heavy pan to the little old lady from the Women's Institute... with her basket of rule books and tape measure... particularly when it comes to scones... but that's another story...

this year, in preparation, I have decided to try out the many different scone recipes that seem to be out there... there are the classics, HRH Delia has a great one... there are the modern, Nigela has a good method... there are the down-right outlandish... and then there are those special hand-me-down recipes that pass from mother to daughter, friend to friend, with tweaks and changes over the years... i'll try and get as many in as possible before I choose a favourite for the show in August... so if you have a favourite then please let me know, i'll give it a whirl over the next coming months...

in keeping with the village show rule book the recipe has to be for a fruit scone, so no savoury recipes... we can do that again in the Autumn...

today, because i've just had a delivery of fabulous 0% Greek Yoghurt Split Pots from the lovely Total Greek Yoghurt people i'm starting with these light and fluffy strawberry yoghurt scones from Chele at Chocolate Teapot... (well hers were mascarpone which i've done a straight swap for yoghurt... but there you go...) ... so as not to be wasteful i've also included the strawberry compote from one side of the split pot, you could use 2 teaspoons of strawberry jam.

served here with jam and a dollop or two of yoghurt

Total Greek Yoghurt Scones
340g self raising flour - with some extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
80g butter, cold and cubed
2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
150g Total Greek Yoghurt
2 teaspoons of strawberry compote or jam
80ml milk - you may use less or more
1 egg, lightly beaten for glazing

- put the flour, baking powder, salt, butter and sugar into a bowl and crumble into breadcrumbs (you can do this very easily in an electric mixer

- add the yoghurt and compote crumble again, go on, get your hands in!

- now make a well in the centre and add the milk bit by bit, bringing the mixture together, first with a knife, then your hands until a soft dough is formed.

- now working quickly, turn it out onto a floured surface an pat it down to roughly 3cm deep, don't roll it, and then cut it into rounds... i've used a non fluted cutter but you do as you wish!

- brush the tops only with beaten egg

- bake on 210 for 12-14 mins or until golden

my thoughts...
I've got to say this was an excellent recipe and the addition of the yoghurt has made them light and fluffy... plus, the inclusion of the strawberry compote in the mix has given them a heady scent and has made them taste like they already have strawberry jam on them, which is genius if you ask me!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

angry sourdough ciabatta sort off... oh...

i'm having the worst bread baking day i've ever had...

... i've been searching for that perfect sourdough loaf, you know, the one's you see that are full of air-holes and have that incredibly crispy crust and i've not quite made it yet...

... I was all ready to follow the best recipe ever by Luc Martin, for which i've been so excited about all week, but I lost patience and used the wrong kind of flour and it's been a wasted 24 hours and i'm pissed off... and I have two bread bricks I could kill a Luchador with... i will try again next weekend with the correct flour!

... so in an attempt to make matters worse I thought i'd try this easy ciabatta recipe... and whilst its ingredients don't call for a sourdough starter, it does say you should make a sponge the night before, which is essentially what a sourdough is...

... i'm also using this post as my entry for the Fresh From the Oven Challenge, which came from Helen at Fuss Free Flavours, who has asked us all this month to bake anything as long as we use flour from a local miller or supplier, so i've used some fabulous flour from our local windmill, the Alford Five-Sailed Windmill, which is beautiful stuff as well as a beautiful place and well worth a visit!

sourdough ciabatta
350g very strong white bread flour (I used a light brown organic flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
200ml hand-hot water

For the sponge (if you're not using a sourdough starter)
115g very strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
150ml hand-hot water

- make the sponge the night before by combining all the sponge ingredients in a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel

- the following day mix together the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl.

- make a well in the centre and add the sponge, olive oil and a little of the water, beat to a smooth paste, gradually adding the remainder of the water.  You should end up with a thick batter.  Cover with a damp tea towel and let it prove for a couple of hours or until it triples in size.

- once it's risen, very carefully ease it out onto a dusted oven tray, coax it into your desired shape, sprinkle with a very generous amount of flour and let it prove again, un-covered for 45 mins.

- bake for 15-20 mins on 220.

... now I realise that this looks NOTHING like a ciabatta and in fact, it tastes NOTHING like a ciabatta and that's the fault of the flour... don't use brown flour for a ciabatta... however it had the most wonderful cake-like crumb and tasted so sweet and delicious... so not such a terrible day after-all!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Lemon and Marmalade Cake

as the final part of my recent stay Jenny and George's I decided to bake a cake...

... sitting in their solarium with the Spring sunshine beating down on our tired faces I was inspired by the large bowl of organic lemons that sat on the dining table and I thought that a light lemon sponge would most definitely be the order of the day...

... the last cake I baked in Jenny's kitchen turned out to be a winner so I had high hopes for this one... and I wasn't disappointed... also, the great thing about Jenny and George is that they both love cake and whilst Jenny is a most excellent cook, she is not a baker ( I won't embarrass her here by telling you about her, now infamous Key Lime Pie... let's just say we've all since referred to it as her fairy liquid doorstop pie... and leave it at that!)... but this means that baking a cake in her kitchen can be a little hit and miss on what's available in regards to ingredients, although I have made her stock up since the last cake...

... I found some home-made marmalade in her pantry so I included that in the cake too... lemons and oranges... classic!

Lemon and Marmalade Cake with a lemon yoghurt drizzle

9oz self raising flour
3oz ground almonds
8oz margarine
8oz sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons hot water
2 dessert spoons (4oz) marmalade
the juice and zest of one lemon

- this is actually such an easy cake to make as you quite simply bung all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and electric whisk together until light and fluffy... believe me I have tried to make it the more traditional way by creaming the butter and sugar etc but the outcome is exactly the same!

- pour into a loaf tin and bake on 170 for 45 minutes ... take a look after 40 minutes as it can go from golden to burnt very quickly

Lemon Yoghurt Drizzle

the juice and zest of one lemon
enough icing sugar to make a thick sherbet paste
3 tablespoons of plain yoghurt

- simply combine until you've reached the desired consistency... you can add more or use less of either sugar or yoghurt depending on taste

you can see that my cake sunk a little but I think it's because I took it from the oven to a cooler room very quickly... tasted amazing though!

now don't forget you have until the end of the coming weekend to submit your random recipe entries... come on now, you picked the books... time to be brave and pick a recipe and get cooking!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Belleau Kitchen becomes Belleau Garden... year 2

I've just planted a whole bunch of salad vegetables in the garden...

...I planted a lot last year but I didn't really have a huge amount of continued success and I think I need to take it all a little more seriously this time. Which is why i've started early and will continue to crop and re-sow regularly throughout the year...

...i've started with some fab looking purple carrots, beetroot, radish and mixed salad leaves... i'm not going to bother with tomatoes because last years lot, which I lovingly took care of yealded 1 small tomato from 6 plants and i can't go through that kind of pain and suffering again.

I will, if The Viking allows me, plant some bigger, heartier veg later on in April and May as the season warms up a bit... I'm not sure if I should secretly plant them in amongst the flowers or beg him to give me a patch of land... i'll let you know how it works out.

... any planting tips, or recommended veg would be most welcome.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


... it's always about food with Jenny and George... whenever I stay we seem to be on some kind of fabulous, endless breakfast/lunch/dinner rotation... it's as though we eat solely for the purpose to enjoy and prepare for the next meal...!

... and at the end of each day we all slip comfortably into a food induced coma happy in the knowledge that more good food awaits tomorrow...

... Jenny is an excellent inventive cook... she rarely uses a cookbook and always uses the freshest, healthiest ingredients, so whilst there may always be a lot of food, you know it's always good stuff...

... one of the things Jenny excels in is her salads... this is where she gets very creative and she pulls no punches with her use of strong onions, garlic, lemon, chili, coriander.... the list goes on and anything goes in...

... Jenny and I also love being in the kitchen with each other... we cook in tandem and bounce ideas and suggestions off each other... pushing each other to try different ways to do things... today was no exception   and I think it is reflected in our non-conformist lunch.

baked field mushrooms with a garlic and parsley crunch topping, served with cauliflower and broccoli cheese and a beetroot slaw salad

Baked Field Mushrooms (Jenny)
3 large flat mushrooms
breadcrumbs - lightly toasted
a large bunch of Greek parsley (flat leaf parsley)
4 cloves garlic - finely chopped
2oz butter
a handful of grated Parmesan

- combine the ingredients in a bowl, season and then spread them onto the mushrooms

- bake for 30 Min's or until tender and melting

Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese (me)
1 medium cauliflower - pulled into florets
1 medium broccoli - pulled into florets
1 oz butter
3 tablespoons plain flour
half pint of veg stock
half pint of milk
a large handful of strong cheddar
a large handful of Parmesan
a small jar of capers
2 generous teaspoons of Dijon mustard

- par boil the cauliflower and broccoli until just tender (5 minutes?)

- melt the butter in a pan and once melted take off the heat and add the flour tablespoon at a time until you have a thick paste

- back onto a gentle heat and slowly add the stock and milk, stirring all the time until you have a thick silky sauce... gently simmer this for 4 minutes

- add the cheeses, mustard and capers, stir until melted and then pour over the vegetables

- sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a little extra Parmesan and bake on 200 for 20 minutes or until golden

Beetroot, Carrot and Red Cabbage Slaw (Jenny)
1 large beetroot - finely shredded
2 large carrots - finely shredded
half a red cabbage - finely shredded
a cup of classic french lemon vinaigrette
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
freshly torn flat leaf parsley

- combine the lot in a bowl and serve!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

i'm down with the kids - a birthday meal for Jenny

roasted potatoes with lemon wedges

... another tough week in the big city... i really shouldn't complain but I think I'm getting old... well, I am getting old, being officially 40 now I suppose I can well and truly say I'm getting old... although we're all getting old anyway aren't we so I suppose the trick is to make sure I stop hanging around with people who are quite literally young enough to be my kids...?

... when did that happen...?

... seriously... some of the the kids in our office are in their early twenties yet when I look at them and spend time chatting to them I don't feel any older than any of them... I mean we all love the same music... we use ipods and ipads... we covet the same clothes none of us can afford... we go out for drinks after work... yet they are quite literally young enough to be my children... it is wrong!

... a few weeks ago I also made the most terrible gaff with Jack our ultra-cool office runner... he was listening to some dreadful, very loud 'urban' style music and as I walked past I asked him what he was listening to...

'its dub-step' he informed me...

... 'oh i love them' i said...

... it turns out dub-step is a genre of music... not a pop group...

... I took the shame

So its with great pleasure that I spend the end of the week with my dearest best friend Jenny, who whilst she looks not a day over 30, she is in fact older than me... (go I hope she doesn't read this post... I'm not sure even she will forgive me for that!)

I kind of invited myself over to her house for dinner... it was her birthday this week, so I thought I'd come over and cook for her, get drunk and spend the night in their spare room... we always have great fun cooking together and eating together... we do a lot of eating together...

fast, cheap and cheerful is always the way too, so it was out with the chicken thighs and a special roast potato and lemon dish which is sure to set sparks off in your mouth!

roasted chicken thighs

Roast Chicken Thighs with Fennel served with Roasted Lemon Potatoes

this potato dish uses a lot of lemons... you can reduce this if you like but I love the way they set the dish alight with sunshine... and the potatoes seem to soak up all the amazing lemony flavour... it is really heavenly!

8 chicken thighs
1 carrot - chopped
10 cloves of garlic - skin on
1 bulb of fennel - large slices
1 onion - large quarters
fresh rosemary, bay and thyme
a glass of white wine

a bag of potatoes (about 8-10) cut into wedges, skin on
5 lemons - cut into wedges

- really simple... bung all the chicken stuff into a roasting dish, (we used a large casserole pan with lid) pour over the wine, season and roast for 1 and a half hours on 180

- take the lid off and roast for a further 15 minutes until the skin gets some colour

- for the potatoes, par boil them first for about 6 minutes, then simply lay them all in a roasting tin with the lemons, drizzle with olive oil, season and roast till golden (about 1 hour on 200)

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

lime meringue pie - we should cocoa challenge

don't you just love a challenge...? something to stretch the culinary horizons...?

... each time Chele or Choclette set the monthly 'we should cocoa' challenge I usually tend to get very excited about what i'm going to bake... I start by scouring my recipe books, but also, as I'm sure many of you do too, I input the key words into google... just to see what comes up...

... this month, lime was the extra ingredient.  At first I did a basic google search and it seemed that my options were a flourless chocolate and lime cake or the ubiquitous chocolate and lime cheesecake... quite literally this was THE recipe that every site had... and to be honest i'm not crazy for chocolate cheesecake... Plus MissCakeBaker from what I baked this weekend baked this incredible flourless cake... and i'm not going to attempt competing with that amazing thing...

... but then, delving deeper into the recesses of the wonderful web, I stumbled across a recipe for lime curd... a very simple twist on the more regular lemon curd and that's when my brain started doing double flips... which is why 2 limes, 2 egg whites, cocoa powder in the pastry crust to keep it in-line with the challenge... and about a gallon of green food colouring later the Lime Meringue Pie was born... 

Lime Meringue Pie with a chocolate pastry crust

I used an 8inch fluted bottomless flan tin

6oz plain white flour
3oz margarine or butter
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
cold water to bind

Lime Curd
2 large limes (for the juice and the zest)
10fl oz cold water
2 large egg yolks
3 level tablespoons of cornflour
2oz caster sugar
1 1/2 oz caster sugar
a heck of a lot of green food colouring

2 large egg whites
4oz caster sugar

- make the pastry first by combining all the ingredients until you have a smooth dough, then pop it in the fridge whilst you make the rest of the pie

- place the cornflour and sugar into a bowl and add as much of the cold water to make a paste, then place the rest of the water into a pan on the hob to heat.

- add the lime zest to the boiling water and simmer for a couple of minutes then pour onto the cornflour paste and mix till smooth

- pour the whole lot back into the pan and back onto a gentle heat for 1 minute, stirring all the time as it thickens.

- take the pan off the heat and add the egg yolks, lime juice and finally the butter, stirring all the time. (I used a small whisk) the consistency should be like thick batter.  set aside to cool slightly.  At this stage I added the green food colouring.  You don't have to add it but boy does it look good! 

- now take the pastry out of the fridge, roll it out and line the pre-buttered flan tin and blind bake this for 20 minutes on 190.

- once the pastry case is baked turn the oven down to 150 and make your meringue by whisking the whites furiously until stiff peaks form, then add the sugar a quarter at a time, whisking till encorporated. 

- pour the lime curd into the pastry case, spoon the meringue onto the top and get fancy with a pallet knife

- bake on 150 for 45 mins until the meringue is hard and beige on the outside and soft on the inside

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

aromatic pork belly hot pot - Random Recipe 2

... this is definitely the kind of dish I would order in a restaurant... you know I love pork belly and this kind of slow-cooked hot-pot is exactly what i'd go for as a treat... and its most definitely NOT the kind of dish I would ever cook at home, which is exactly why I love this challenge!

... this month dear Beatrice chose for me The River Cottage Meat Book by HFW... it's a giant tome of a book, mostly full of graphic photography showing you how to joint a camels heart... so I opened it with some trepidation worried i'd end up skinning a guinea pig or something.

I actually opened the page describing, in graphic detail, all the different pieces of offal, so I had to pick again and got this amazing, aromatic dish... so exciting... I had most of the ingredients anyway, so it was off to the butcher I went for my pork belly.

Aromatic Pork Belly Hot Pot

Hugh describes this dish as a fine example of the great versatility of pork belly and the slow-cooking technique, this time using aromatic oriental flavourings... and the house most definitely smells good...

1.5kg pork belly with the rind on
1.5L pork or chicken stock
12 spring onions
100ml light soy sauce
75ml Chinese rice wine
25ml rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
3 star anise
10cm piece of fresh ginger - peeled and chopped into chunks
a pinch of dried chilli flakes

- chop the pork belly into chunks and chuck them into a pan of boiling water, let them simmer for 5 mins or so whilst you skim off the scum

- drain the pork belly, clean the pan and then return the belly to the pan and cover in the stock, 5 of the spring onions which you've chopped in half, then the rest of the ingredients.

- bring to a boil then turn down the heat, cover and simmer gently for 2 and a half hours.

- you may have to turn the pork occasionally but you'll know when it's tender.

- remove the pork from the stock with a slotted spoon and set aside (at this stage I actually put it under the grill for a minute or two to crisp up, which it did gloriously and very quickly.)

- skim the stock if it needs it then turn the liquid up to a vigorous boil to reduce.  It should be lightly syrupy and intense in flavour but not reduced too much as you don't want the soy sauce to become too salty.

- slice the remaining spring onion, add it to the pan along with the pork to heat through.

- serve with noodles

remember you have until the end of the month to take part... come on now, be brave... pick book number 18 and get cooking!

eat and of course enjoy!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Matcha Chocolat China Tea Selection

... as you know dear reader, I am not a reviewer, I like to cook, talk and write about food and anyway there are plenty of restaurant and product reviewers out there with their low-quality photography and pithy opinions... I am a lover of food however and I know what I like (and don't like) send me a product and i'll give you a review... i'll cook with you, bake with you or just plain old eat you... and i'll be honest, without being bitchy... and that's the way I do it.

so... last month I won the 'we should cocoa' challenge with my Builders Tea Cake... (must have not read the challenge properly because I had no idea they were going to pick a winner... so that was an extra surprise) and the lovely Katie from Matcha sent me a box of their China Tea Chocolate Selection as a prize... my previous paragraph states, I don't normally review stuff but these chocolates are so exceptional that I couldn't just let them go un-praised...

The bright pink box contains 16 chocolates all with a tea flavour.  Matcha pride themselves on using artisan quality white, milk and dark chocolate infused with rare teas...

Phoenix Honey Orchid - Dark chocolate  square of dark chocolate ganache infused with Phoenix Honey orchid tea, an Oolong tea with flavours of honey and lychee

This was a very satisfying dark chocolate, with that intense crumbly earthiness that really rich dark chocolate has but it was cut through with a subtle tea and lychee flavour to sweeten it.  It was also beautifully decorated.

Mint & Green Tea - Milk chocolate square of milk chocolate ganache infused with Mint and Green tea.

This was The Viking's favourite but then he favours a mint tea.  The great thing about this was that it wasn't too sweet and although the combination of mint and chocolate is a classic, the inclusion of the floral green tea notes took it above and beyond an ordinary chocolate.

Lapsang Caramel - Dark chocolate heart filled with a caramel flavoured with Lapsang tea.

So, I love a caramel chocolate and this was a very good one, nice and subtle Lapsang taste but with that smokiness that is quite distinctive to tea.

Jasmine Silver Needles - A white chocolate shell filled with white chocolate ganache infused with Jamsine Silver Needle tea.

There is a reason this chocolate has won a 2 gold star great taste award and if Katie fancies sending me a box of these on a weekly basis I really wouldn't say no, or ever grow tired... I simply adore white chocolate and I love Jasmine tea so this combination was always going to be a winner but it was the pure and natural Jasmine taste that really impressed me... it didn't taste fake at all (you know how sweet things can often have that nasty fake taste) and I loved it, a lot.

China Rose & Raspberry Caramel - Milk chocolate heart filled with a caramel flavoured with an infusion of dried pink rosebuds and the season's best China black teas, blended together with raspberry puree.

To be honest, this was the only let-down of the whole box... too sweet for me and too many flavours... could have just had the rose and tea... it didn't need the raspberry as well which took it into the more sweet and sickly realm... the caramel was sweet enough and didn't need the extra sweetness.

... and there you have it... my first chocolate review... to be honest I'm just chuffed to have won and I love the 'we should cocoa' challenge anyway... so it's a little extra reward to win such delightful chocs!

... don't forget you still have plenty of time to enter this months chocolate and lime 'we should cocoa' challenge and of course, how could you forget the Belleau Kitchen Random Recipe 'Number 18' challenge...

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

chicken thighs with leeks

... I have stolen the inspiration for this recipe from some cook or other who writes for The Times... I make no apologies for this as i feel they stole it from me first...

... I think we can all safely agree that it was I who started this chicken thigh craze way back some time last year and being the wave creator that I am, i am more than happy for others to ride that wave... but I think it's taking liberties when they come into your very thoughts and then, when you least expect it, steal and have the audacity to go ahead and print the very recipe you've been saving up to cook and write about yourself...

...I'll leave it there shall I...?

... there's something a little classic about the combination of chicken and leeks... it's as though god (or whomever you choose to believe in... Delia... Nigella... etc...) created the chicken and then thought to herself... 'i know... let's make a leek... it'll be a beautiful complimentary vegetable...' (for some reason my god has a cockney accent and sounds a little like Eliza Doolittle... i think I'm a little tired... it was International Women's Day yesterday and we had a little event on in London with Annie Lennox and Paloma Faith and I'm exhausted...)

... anyway, it seems to work marvelously and this couldn't really be any more simple now could it?

chicken thighs with leeks

6 chicken thighs
3 medium leeks - chopped into 3 inch batons
5 cloves of garlic (skin on)
a glass of white wine
olive oil

- the leeks should be cut quite large... they hold their shape and suck up all the lovely chicken and wine juice

- bung it all in an oven-proof dish, season sprinkle with the oil and roast until golden, probably 1 hour and 30 Min's

- turn half way through and then back again in the last 10 Min's

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Cauliflower Cheese Soup and Sourdough Loaf

... a few years back, when I managed to lose quite a bit of weight doing the dreadful but undoubtedly successful Atkins diet, I became adept and creative with my use of vegetables that were on the very very short list available to me...

... cauliflower was one of the veg that I was allowed to eat with impunity... can you imagine how lucky I was...? (that last sentence was full to the brim with sarcasm... should you have any doubt...)

... I mean, I like cauliflower, don't get me wrong, it's just not the most exciting vegetable in the world... but it is grown in the UK, compared to the broccoli which is not so locally grown...

... so this soup, which is really supposed to be Leek and Potato, changed to Leek and Cauliflower and then became Cauliflower Cheese Soup... which I think is a nice little twist on a classic side-dish... and makes a really, really tasty and carb-free (should that be your thing) soup...

... clearly the sourdough doesn't quite cut the carb-free mustard but i'm only human!... Lucretia again at her very best... cant wait to tear into this hunk of bread...

Cauliflower and Cheese Soup

1 cauliflower - chopped (keep the leaves that are closest to the flower and use them in the soup too)
2 medium leeks - finely chopped
1 stick of celery - finely chopped
1 medium onion - finely chopped
2 pints of good quality vegetable stock
2 handfuls of strong cheddar - grated

- saute the onions in a pan with plenty of butter and olive oil, until soft

- add the leeks and celery and saute for 5 mins, then add the cauliflower, season, then place the lid on and let it sweat for 10 mins, turning frequently to avoid it sticking.

- add the stock and simmer gently for 20 mins

- liquidize, then add the cheese and stir until it has melted completely.

- serve

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 4 March 2011

oven-roasted fabulousness

Jo over at ComfortBites asked me to guest blog this month... such a lovely honour... and how could I resist... talking about me... and food... tough call eh?

... there's something so evocative of a Mediterranean summer about the smell of oven roasting tomatoes... the house is full of this heady scent, mixed with a splash of olive oil and plenty of balsamic vinegar... and some sprigs of rosemary thrown in for extra Spanish attitude...

... the whole house seems to have slowed down as the smell permeates throughout... the dog is chilling on the cool kitchen tiles... The Viking is reading by the bright light of the beams of golden sunshine as they stream through the open windows... and this is the last days of February... and one of the rare days of sunshine we've had recently...

... it's as though my subconscious has grabbed hold of this extraordinary day and, not wanting it to end, trapped the sunshine in my oven...

... oh and the surplus of tomatoes on the vine have helped.

... this dish is the ultimate in comfort food for me because it reminds me of all those warm places... plus it's something that, once cooked, can be stored in the fridge for a week or more and used on salads, or in stuffing mixes, or just popped into the mouth for a burst of flavour... the resulting jus is also an amazing blessing in itself... a kind of condensed, intense tomato vinaigrette... divine

oven roasted tomatoes

2 bunches of vine ripened toms (still on the vine)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (I actually used the cold-pressed rapeseed oil)
4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
a handful of rosemary
a pinch of fresh sea salt and pepper

- simply place the tomatoes into an oven-proof dish, sprinkle all the other ingredients on top and roast in a hot oven (190) for 1hr, then turn own the oven to 100 for a further 2 hours

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Carrot and Orange Muffins

... a sweet mid-week treat this time... not that we need an excuse but these muffins are only small coronary away from being healthy... look at the ingredients... wholemeal flour... carrots... orange... vegetable oil... and they taste like sunshine... which is always a bonus during these overcast days...

... and like most muffins they take minutes to make and barely half an hour to bake... what's not to love?

... now... a word about that international coven known as the Women's Institute... you are probably aware of my love/hate relationship with the WI judges of the Aby Village Show... well for my birthday this year my dear friend Tina bought me two WI cookbooks... the thought being that if I follow the recipes to the letter I can't fail to win... and the recipes are pretty basic and easy to follow... but you know me... I cant resist having a bit of a fiddle with a recipe... in this one for instance, who uses sunflower margarine, melts it and then lets it cool...? surely this is sunflower oil...?

oh and i've added some honey... but who am I to change such hallowed traditions...? anyway, mine tasted amazing... you can be the judge...

Belleau Kitchen Sunrise Muffins

4oz wholemeal flour
4oz plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarb
4oz light brown sugar
5oz finely grated carrots
3 fl oz sunflower oil
6 fl oz milk
1 egg - beaten
grated zet of one orange
1 large teaspoon of orange blossom honey (any honey will do...)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

- combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl

- make a well in the centre and add the wet ingredients including the grated carrots

- fold in roughly, making sure all the ingredients are well combined but don't over do it... a messy bater makes a good muffin

- divide and spoon into 10 muffin cases and bake in the oven at 180 for 25-30 minutes.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Random Recipe Two... Beatrice makes a choice... firstly I want to thank you all once again for taking part in my first Random Recipe challenge... I think we had fun didn't we...?

... and now to challenge number two... and I've been thinking about how I change it up a bit each month to keep it fresh... and I think i've got a rather genius idea...

... last month the lovely Manu from CookingManu asked her daughter Beatrice to pick her book... Beatrice enjoyed it so much that I thought I would ask her to pick all our books for us this month... now, clearly poor Beatrice can't possibly come visit us all, so I asked her to pick a number between 1 and 20... she chose number 18...

... the idea now is that you go directly to your book shelf... GO ON... DO IT NOW... and count from left to right (or from top to bottom) to the eighteenth book... and it's that book you should randomly choose a recipe from...

... DO IT NOW!

... ingenious eh..? plus if it doesn't work out we can all blame Beatrice!

... now of course I understand that some of you have to be selective with your cookbooks so that they fit in with your blogging theme and this is fine, but try and be as honest as you can... that is the point after all...

... I can tell you now that, for me Beatrice chose Meat by HFW!!! ...I mean, this is a book for meat lovers only folks... so I guess not one for the Big V... and I will be randomly choosing and making a recipe from it later in the month.

... hope you can all join in... further details for submitting entries can be found here



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