Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Random Recipes #7 - Round Up

... well, the good news is that my oven got plugged in last night, so I now have a working oven... woo hoo!... although I sat and stared at it for 2 hours last night, not knowing quite what to do with it... I feel like I need a day, by myself, in the kitchen, getting to know my new friend... i'm having an affair with my oven...

it's also been a lovely month for getting back to basics with Random Recipes and I must thank you all for your lovely and VERY random entries, along with your kind words of kitchen encouragement... they have been greatly received...

let's start with Phil from As Strong As Soup and this really simply but delicious looking coconut sorbet he randomly chose from Simply Good Food by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman... lovely start

and still on a tropical theme, next up is the ever delightful Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog who bravely made these scrummy Tropical Brownies which she forced poor CT to choose from The New Taste of Chocolate by Maricel E Presillia

and on to Victoria from 21st Century Urban Housewife who, apart from critisising my baked risotto (I know!  how dare she...!) has been very faithful to the challenge and made this lovely Black Bean Soup from the Canadian Basics Cookbook

the lovely Michael from Me, My Food and I has made this glorious French Apple Tart from Barefoot Contessa - Back to Basics... fabulous coincidence with the name eh?

the guilty conscience of the Brownieville Girl forced her to make two things this month, one true random recipe in a Marmalade Pudding Cake and another fake random recipe in Indian Roast Potatoes... both from Nigella's Kitchen.

Lou and Steve from Please Do Not Feed The Animals took two very different routes to their Random Recipes, with Steve going first with these Easy Cheesy Bread Rolls from Annabel Karmel's dreadfully sexist titled, Mummy and Me Cookbook

and then Lou with this AMAZING looking Seared Beef Tataki with Wasabi Mashed Potato from the Yo Sushi Cookbook

next up is Debbie from Cooking Up A Storm in a Teacup who randomly selected this luscious creamy Spagettini with Peppercorns, Anchovies and Lemon from Tessa Kiro's Falling Cloudberries

now here's a fabulous pictoral post from the completely barmy... but a little less drunk, Kate from Kate's Cakes and Bakes, it's a Ginger and Lime Cake randomly selected from Bake and Decorate by Fiona Cairns

next us is Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen and this hilarious post... she made Acorn Eggs from the Scottish Women's Rural Institutes Cookery Book (Eighth Edition)... it is an acorn egg!

Lucy from The KitchenMaid hit the Random Recipe jackpot with this gloriously 70's Burmese Curry taken from the most excellently titled Great Ways with Steak and Chops by the Australian Women's Weekly

lovely Sarah from Maison Cupcake has made these very pretty little random chocolate whoopie pies which she chose from Claire Ptak's Whoopie Pie Book

Michelle from Chocolate Teapot has made these rather special Grand Marnier Chocolate Colettes randomly selected from The Cookie and Biscuit Bible

Michelle from Food Football and a Baby got these strangely titled but delightful Wasps Nests which she got her daughter to choose from Dr Oetkar's German Baking Today - The Original

back to Random Recipes this month is Gary from Exploits of a Food Nut with this excellent Squash, Chicken and Couscous One Pot which he randomly selected from his growing pile of Good Food Magazines (and has also given me a theme for another Random Recipe)

the lovely Mel from Sharky Oven Gloves came up with these yummy, eggless Fig and Almond Muffins which she randomly selected from Baking - 100 Everyday Recipes

next is the lovely Susan from The Spice Garden with this tantalising Libyan Spicy Pumpkin Dip taken from Jewish Cooking by Marlena Spieler

let us not forget my own entry... a very glammed-up version of cheese on toast...

and finally, to round of the month, Aveen from Baking Obsessively picked these delightfully bizarre Beetroot Puddings from the genius that is Marguerite Patten' The Victory Cookbook... how very British!

so there we go... a great back to basics month... but I do need to announce a winner of the fabulous 'The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking' by Marcella Hazan... I said it would go to the most random of recipes but I feel the fairest way to do this is with my RNG (numbers in a hat) and the winner is... Lucy from The KitchenMaid!... well done Lucy, send me an email with your address... (he says as he has to take out a new mortgage to send the book half way across the world...)

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Onion Toast - A Random Recipe

... time marches on and I really thought I would be proudly showing off my new kitchen to you all this weekend but alas it's not to be so... good news is that the main body of the kitchen is finished and painted which means the carpenter has finally been able to get started to put it all back together... my fabulous oven has been delivered and it's all very very exciting... it's these last few days that are simply too much to bare... I feel like a child on Christmas morning!

... and I held out and held out to make my random recipe because I so wanted to make it in the new oven...

... my cookbooks are scattered all over the house and I didn't really know how to pick a random book so I pulled the number 27 out of a hat and then walked around the house counting books... and number 27 is the excellent Great British Grub by Brian Turner... a collection of the nation's favourite dishes... its a celebration of British food from traditional Bacon and Egg Pie to the more unusual Beef Cecil's and I love it, so i'm very happy to have picked it... and my Random Recipe is Onion Toast, a little sophisticated twist on the traditional Welsh Rarebit.

Onion Toast
I really love this little recipe as it could easily be made for a quick light supper if you made your onions in advance and keep them in a fridge... or you could use an onion marmalade to really speed things up...

8oz medium onion -finely sliced
1tsp olive oil
3oz butter
2 slices of any yummy crusty bread
6 slices mature cheese, I used cheddar but the recipe recommends Lancashire or Wensleydale
1 tbsp mustard (of your choice... I used whole grain)

- gently heat the oil and butter in a pan and saute the onions until golden brown - this should take a slow 20 minutes

- toast the bread and spread some mustard onto one side of the cheese slices.

- place the cooked onions onto the toast, layer the cheese on top and bake in a hot oven until nice and melty

so simple, so so tasty, if a little 'burn the roof of my mouth off 'cos I ate it too quickly!'

oh and one last little thing... you are now officially reading a published food writer... if you get a chance to visit Lincolnshire this September, don't forget to pick up a copy of Lincolnshire Life Magazine...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 22 August 2011

fennel and rose chocolate brownies - we should cocoa

i'm thoroughly fed up with not having a kitchen and whilst its lovely that my dear friends and neighbours have offered me to use theirs it's just not the same... it's all happening this week though so we should be in soon enough... i'm just a bit fed up of not being able to do my thing...

these brownies are taken from a brilliant new cookbook by James Ramsden titled Small Adventures in Cooking... well actually it's been released for a while and has been sitting on my bedside table for the past couple of months, much thumbed through but still waiting to be cooked from .... but as you know.... sigh...

... it's a really great book, one of those cookbooks that makes as good a reading as it does recipes... lots of lovely little tips and some nice insights into James' food and cooking know-how... plus of course the recipes are rather special and modern without being too intricate or poncey, which is always nice... including these brilliant brownies.  The original recipe called for vanilla essence which i've swapped for rose essence... it's an unusual choice for which you can thank Choclette, not me or James, but with the aniseed flavour coming from the fennel seeds, the rose adds an "Arabian Nights" underscore...

... they are also the very first brownies i've ever made...

... now (sorry, this post is a triple whammy i'm afraid) not content with the we should cocoa challenge or simply reviewing James' fabulous book this post also goes out to Vanessa Kimbell and her inspired idea Random Bakes of Kindness... the idea is to bake double of what you're baking and give the extra away to a randomly chosen person who you feel really deserves it... join the revolution on Vanessa's blog.

... my brownies are going to Tracey, my wonderful neighbour, for no other reason than she's simply a marvellous person, gave me a door key so I could use her kitchen at the drop of a hat... these brownies were baked there today... and I know she'll love them!... these brownies are for you Tracey!

Fennel and Rose Chocolate Brownies

400g unsalted butter, cubed
400g dark chocolate, smashed to pieces
6 eggs
500g caster sugar
1 tbsp rose extract
250g plain flour
2 tsp fennel seeds - roughly crushed

pre-heat the oven to 180C and line a 30cm x 20cm x 5cm baking tray with greased proof paper

- melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl, either over a pan of boiling water or gently in the microwave, set aside to cool

- beat the eggs and sugar together with the rose extract until light and pale

- whisk the egg mix into the chocolate mix, fold in the flour and crushed fennel seeds and scrape into the baking tray

- bake for 25 - 30 minutes

eat and of course enjoy!

p.s.... don't forget your random recipes you have until the end of the month... i'm going to leave mine till this weekend as i've been PROMISED that my oven will be in!... (probably end up picking a salad knowing my luck!)

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Kitchen Update

now that it's been nearly three weeks without a kitchen I thought i'd update you all on progress... or lack of... lordy, why is it that, with best intensions, these things seem to drag on and on..? and there's always something that gets in the way... a little bit of rising damp here... a hidden chimney stack there... a burst water-pipe... a jumble of ancient wiring in the ceiling... a wrongly ordered door... and no hidden box of gold buried in the floor...!

... just to keep you in the loop, the idea was to remove the back wall of the house, where the kitchen is, and extend a new room out into the garden, creating a large kitchen/diner.  We live in an old brick cottage with a slate roof and whilst there are no restrictions on the building itself, the village we live in is part of an 'area of outstanding natural beauty' and therefore all building work needs to be sympathetic to the style of buildings we're surrounded by and cannot infringe on the countryside in a negative way... not that we had plans to build a glass and steel monolith or anything... but just so you know...

well, let's start with the before shot... the wall to the left has gone!... all the units have been taken out and are in the process of being sanded and repainted...

... and here is the same shot... you can see the wall has been removed... and the sink unit with its undercoat of white paint...

here's the new extension from the outside... the new bi-fold doors have gone in and they are spectacular!... the slate roof matches the old slate roof on the old part of the house...

looking out into the garden with the doors closed... you can see the section of the old house wall that has been removed...

... and here's the new doors wide open... can't wait for those sunny days and warm nights sitting at the kitchen table with the doors wide open and Holly running in and out..!

... and finally, looking in from outside... the door in the centre of the back wall leads into the living room... i'm behind that door now as I type!

the kitchen goes back in next week and we should be able to start using it before the end of the month!... woo hoo!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Lincolnshire Life Magazine - part 2 - Venison Lasagne

this will be the second of my articles for Lincolnshire Life Magazine to run alongside a piece about the Lincolnshire Wild Venison Group... oh and I cooked this in my neighbours kitchen, so thank-you Tracey...

Go for the Roe

Like many of you i'm sure, my foray into cooking with game of any sort has been patchy... often dreamt of but never actually achieved.  I will mull over it as a choice in a restaurant, particularly during gaming season, which will soon be upon us, although even when i'm in such establishments that offer tantalising treats such as Game Pie or Breast of Pheasant, I never seem to bite the bullet... please excuse this dreadful pun... I don't know what it is, I simply never went for it, instead turning to familiar, safer favourites.  I suppose it simply comes down to a familiarity with what I know how to cook, when in fact, as I have learnt recently when I met Simon Williams from the Lincolnshire Wild Venison Group  there is very little to worry about, the meat is actually available all year as there is no 'season' for venison and if you treat the product with respect you will end up with a very satisfying, easy-to-make and surprisingly inexpensive dish.

Venison Lasagne

I've gone for something classic and 'everyday' here, as I'm keen that this is the kind of dish we could all cook at home... i've also gone for a cheaper cut of venison, the shoulder, which has a little more fat on it... if you're still unsure (which you really shouldn't be) or can't get hold of any, you can substitute the venison for beef.

for the bolognese sauce
a glug of olive oil
a nob of butter
1 medium onion - finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic - finely crushed
2 sticks celery - finely chopped
2 medium carrots - finely chopped
pancetta or bacon cut into cubes
12oz / 350g minced venison shoulder
8fl oz full-fat milk
a glass of dry white wine
500g tin of plum tomatoes - chopped, with the juice
a sprig of rosemary
salt and pepper
4fl oz of vegetable stock

for the white sauce
1 1/4 pints milk
3oz butter
2 1/2oz plain flour

for the lasagne
strips of fresh lasagne pasta
freshly grated parmesan
mozzarella cheese (fresh, not pre-grated)

First make the bolognese sauce, which needs a long cooking time but it really does make for the most tender and succulent sauce, plus you don't have to cook it all in one session, you could do the first stage in the morning and the final cooking later the same day.  It can also be cooked ahead of time and kept in the fridge for 3 days or frozen.

- in a large, heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and oil, add the onions and gently saute until they become translucent .  Add the garlic, celery and carrots, stir well and cook for a further 2 minutes.

- add the pancetta or bacon cubes and saute gently for a further two minutes.

- add the venison, a large pinch of salt, some pepper and cook until it has lost its raw red colour

- add the milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely.

- add the wine, let it simmer until evaporated then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all the ingredients well.

- when the tomatoes begin to bubble turn the heat down to it's very lowest setting and cook, uncovered for 3 hours, stirring from time to time and topping up occasionally with vegetable stock to keep it from completely drying out.

Next, make the white sauce;

- warm the milk through gently in a saucepan

- in a another large pan melt the butter gently on a very low heat and once melted add all the flour, stirring it in with a wooden spoon.  Cook, whilst constantly stirring for 2 minutes.

- take the pan off the heat and add the milk in small measured batches, letting the flour mixture soak up the milk whilst you stir.  Do this gently and stir continuously and you'll not have to worry about lumps.

- place the pan back on a low heat and stir without interruption until the sauce thickens.  You're looking for a thick cream consistency.  Don't worry if lumps form, you can simply whisk them away.

Now, let's build our lasagne;

you'll need a large oven-proof dish as deep or shallow as you like, depending on how many layers you're after.  Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

- smear the bottom of the dish with butter and then place a layer of the pasta sheets on the bottom.

- ladle over a thin layer of each of the sauces, sprinkle with paremsan and then add another layer of pasta

- continue to layer this way until you have used all your sauce, the top layer should be the bolognese with a generous sprinkling of paremsan and some torn mozzarella

- bake in the oven until golden and bubbly, this should take no more than 10 minutes

and should you still be un-sure about cooking with game, can I recommend the excellent who are dedicated to promoting the delights of wild British game meat.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 5 August 2011

oven-baked chicken risotto

I was flicking through my iphone photo library this morning, as you do, and I came across three photo's of the oven-baked chicken risotto I made for mum's birthday weekend recently... and now thinking back on it, this dish must have been the very last thing cooked in the old Belleau Kitchen, which is appropriate really given my love of chicken thighs and that this is probably my most popular, fail-safe, group-gathering, dinner-party dish...

it's just so simple to do yet really packs it home on the intense chicken flavour front and with all that amazing risotto rice sucking up the chickeny juices, every fork-full is a silent tribute to how amazing it tastes... and whilst your guests compliment you on the golden roasted and succulent dish you can sit back and chuckle to yourself at how stupidly easy this was to make...!

Oven-Baked Chicken Risotto
the recipe below happily fed 7 greedy middle-class jews with one portion left-over for the next day...which, if you know 7 greedy middle-class jews, you'll know is no mean feat... I used 2 oven-dishes and split the ingredients between the 2.

16 chicken portions - roughly 1 thigh and 2 drumsticks per person
2 large onions - roughly chopped
5 large carrots - roughly chopped
1 punnet of closed cup mushrooms (works out to roughly 3 per person) - roughly chopped
a large hand-ful of frozen peas
2 glasses of white wine or a splash of sherry
500g risotto rice - arborio rice is good
4 pints vegetable stock

- place the chopped veg into an oven roasting dish and lay the chicken pieces on top.  Don't over-crowd the pan, it's better to use two dishes. season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with mixed herbs of your choice and a generous glug or two of olive oil.

- roast in a hot oven (190C) for 40 minutes but turn the chicken halfway through at which point add the wine or a splash of sherry

- after 40 minutes check that the veg has started to roast and the chicken is browning, it may need another 5 to 10 minutes or so and should be full of lovely chickeny juice.

- add the rice, shimmying the chicken aside to make sure all the grains are coated in juice, then add enough of the stock to cover the rice but not all the chicken.  You want to retain some stock for later.

- place the dish back into the oven and roast again for another 30 - 40 minutes or until the rice is tender and the chicken is golden... keep your eye on it as you don't want it to dry out, so keep it topped up during the last 15 minutes or so.

- take it out of the oven and throw in the frozen peas and give it a final stir before serving.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Lincolnshire Life Magazine - part 1

I have some very exciting news on my much documented (by me here... mostly) continuing journey toward world domination.  Today I met with Caroline Bingham, Chief Executive of Lincolnshire Life Magazine... in fact she came to my home and amongst the rubble and dust of my kitchen extension, I managed to charm her into commissioning me to write for the magazine.

It's really thrilling for me to see this all coming together and I hope I can prove to her and her loyal readers that I can do a good job... my plan of attack is to be the 'home-spun', family cook, using local ingredients and championing local food heroes, creating recipes that the everyday home-cook can easliy make and enjoy... much like I do here on the blog.

I am starting with a couple of sample articles that I will submit for the September issue, (apple's are ripe and its the start of the Game season here in Lincolnshire) the first of which you will find below... of course I would love your feedback... so let me know!

Belleau Kitchen (this will run alongside the first article only)

I write a food blog from my kitchen here in the beautiful Lincolnshire Wolds and when i'm not covered in flour and gravy I work as an event manager at Gunby Hall in Spilsby whose gardens provide me with a year-round bounty of herbs, vegetables and fruit.  I'm very proud to be living in Lincolnshire, surrounded by some of the UK's best food produce and producers and its from this that I take my cooking inspiration.  I consider myself to be a cook, not a chef and my recipes are all about having a go in the kitchen.  If you can read and hold a frying pan, (not necessarily at the same time) then you can cook and enjoy my food!

Gunby Apple Cake (this will run alongside a feature they are writing on the new tenants at Gunby)

One of the many wonderful things about working at Gunby Hall is being able to walk into the fruit and vegetable gardens and pluck whatever's ready from the ground and cook with it.  Sometimes I will spend a lazy hour meandering through the rows of succulent waiting for the plants to inspire me... should I go for a turnip and watercress soup... or a golden beetroot cake... or courgette fritters... or gooseberry ice-cream... but other times, when we've suddenly had a boost on visitors and Jane in the tea-room is screaming for more cake, I will run into the garden, grab the first thing I see and get busy baking!

We have 20 varieties of apple tree here at Gunby and some of the apples are ready, particularly the Beauty of Bath, which you have literally 4 seconds once its plucked from the tree before it turns bad or, better for cooking, the Revere, which i've used here. This apple cake is simply divine... its one of those cakes which is part cake, part pudding and eating it slightly warm is eating it at its best, also the recipe is so versitle as the batter mix can be used with any other fruit, simply replace like for like. I've made this with all kinds of berries, pears and even rhubarb, which should be lightly poached first.


1lb apples - peeled and diced
6oz Sugar (i used light brown sugar)
6oz softened butter or margarine at room temp
2 eggs - beaten
2 tablespoons milk
9oz self raising flour
a handful of saltanas
1 teaspoon cinnamon

- in a large mixing blow, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, sprinkle in the cinnamon

- add one egg and whisk it into the batter, then add half the flour and whisk again, repeat with the other egg and the remainder of the flour

- add the milk to slacken the batter slightly.

- fold in the saltanas and the apple chunks (it may seem like a lot of apples but believe me it works!)

- pour in to a greased and lined caked tin... I used a 9inch square but any shape will work.

- line the top of the cake with finely sliced apple segments and brush with melted Lincolnshire honey.

- bake for 45 minutes at 170C

here's the cake made with fresh red currants which I folded in at the same stage as the apples, it was a spectacular success!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Random Recipes #7 - Back to Basics - and a book give-away

as July slips languorously into August like a weary hill-climber slips into a warm bath, so Random Recipes slips into its seventh month..!

and it looks as though I will be without my kitchen for at least another two weeks although we're coping quite well, with many friends and neighbours offering up their kitchens for our use, plus I always have the Gunby kitchen to fall back on... but I still can't bloody wait!

so this month, because I'm going back to basics with my new kitchen, plus I had many comments from new and old followers alike saying that you had no time last month and you'd love to take part this month,  so I thought we'd all go back to the beginning of the challenge and go with the original classic challenge...

... line up ALL your cookbooks

... give them a shuffle

... close your eyes and pick one book randomly

... close your eyes again and open the book at a random page

... cook that exact dish

... DO NOT CHEAT (you're only cheating yourself etc.. blah blah blah)

obviously you can do any of the above in any which way you choose... I know a lot of you have too many cookbooks to take down from the shelf but come-on, surely they're all due for a good dusting and re-shuffle anyway...?

and this month i'm giving away a fabulous prize to the MOST random of recipes... the lovely people at Pan Macmillan have given me a new copy of the recently re-published classic The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, this is the ultimate bible on Italian cooking and is globally praised by many food writers and chefs... the new cover art is beautiful, well worthy of a place on any of your shelves... oh and this giveaway is open internationally, so no excuses!

usual rules apply, email me at with a link to your recipe, include a link back to my blog in your post as well as the Random Recipes logo.... and yes, you have to take part to be in with a chance of winning the book.

eat and of course, enjoy!



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