Monday, 30 January 2012

Random Recipes #12 - Round Up

what a month it's been eh...? scandal, death and destruction and you've still all managed to come through for me... and even though I say so myself, I just love this challenge... I never know what i'm going to get sent and reading every one is so interesting... some of you are so guilty for not following the rules to the letter (for which only your god will punish you...) and others of you seem to take it all in your stride... I love you all...

...first out of the starter gate this month was the very eager Jo from Comfort Bites with this rather tasty looking Coffe-Iced Cardamom Cake taken from the interesting The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit


next is Debbie from the brilliantly witty Cooking up a Storm in a Teacup with this delicious looking Salmon and Rocket Pasta taken from the BBC Good Food 101Fish and Seafood Dishes


next is lovely Ruth from Makey-Cakey with a Pasta with Raw Tomatoes taken from the encyclopedic Veg Every Day by HFW 


here's Jean from Baking in Franglais with her very sumptuous Tarte aux Poires Frangipane... one of my favourite cakey things... randomly taken from The French Country Table by Laura Washburn


the wonderfully witty woman who has a way with words over at Little Macaroon made this Spiced Pumpkin Muffin taken from a set of mini Chef Wan cook books... it wasn't what she wanted to make but stuck to the rules none the less!


our first virgin for Random Recipes this year is laura from Laura Loves Cakes who made this weight inducing just if you stare at it Summer Fruit Cream Slice taken from the McDougalls Better Bakers Guide


and another RRV... this time from Charlotte over at Charlotte's Kitchen Diary with these really lovely looking Sweetcorn Fritters taken from Entertaining at Home by Rachel Allen


next up is the mega-talented Karen Burns Booth from Lavender and Loveage with this darlink of a Mushroom Stroganoff taken from the Quorn Kitchen Cookery Book of all places!


onwards ahoy to Phil from As Strong As Soup with these rather spiffing Pecan Puffs taken from Sophie Grigsons', Sophie's Table... and bah humbug to you!


please make room for the very wonderful GG from Glamorous Glutton, another RRV with this very brave for a first attempt, Hot Smoked Salmon, Beetroot Relish and Dill Cream taken from Jamie at Home


next is Victoria from 21st Century Urban Housewife who was lucky enough to have had to choose from Dan Lepard's excellent Short and Sweet and ended up with these marvellous Bourbon and Pecan Brownies


next up is dearest Manu from Cooking Manu with this very simple but rather cheeky Easy Cheesy Cauliflower Cheese Soup taken from Soup for All Occasions by The New Covent Garden Soup Company


next is Alice from Italian Inspiration who's having a Sicilian fantasy as she cooks this rather nice braised chicken taken from Georgio Locatelli's Made in Sicily


and here's Selina from Yummy Choo Eats with a rather wonderful Moroccan Spiced Lamb Shank taken from my favourite Nigel Slater's Real Cooking.


next is another Random Recipes Virgin (why do I feel like Dracula... counting them off... 'one... one random recipe virgin... ah ha ha!'...) its Natalie from Hungry Hinny with some Curried Naan Breads taken from Paul Hollywood's 100 Great Breads... please welcome Natalie into the playing field nicely now...


and another RRV... ah ha ha!!... (stop it!) this time its Harriet from Food Love Food with a Szegediner Goulash taken from a natty little book called Austrian Specialities, again, please make room in the play ground for Harriet...


next is Corina from Searching for Spice with these very scrumptious Leek Fritters chosen randomly from  the excellent Plenty by Ottolenghi


next is the adorable Helen from Fuss Free Flavours with a really wonderful Sticky Orange Marmalade Cake taken from the BBC Great British Bake-Off How to Bake


lovely kate from What Kate Baked made this delicious Marbled Chocolate Crumble Cake from Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard... and she started a new job the very next day!


next we have that brilliant Baking Addict with these fabulous Checkerboard Cookies... aren't they fabulous..?  taken from the Williams Sonoma Essentials of Baking


next we have Random Recipes stalwart Gary from Exploits of a Food Nut with this rather wonderful Chicken Tikka Chicken Thighs... inspired by my love of the thigh and taken from River Cottage Meat and Fish


another curry next from Nikki or Chef Chipmunk from Food Glorious Food with a Spicy Lamb Potatoes and Peas taken from Madhur Jeffries 100 Weeknight Curries


next we have the rarely seen but glad she's here now, Louise from Please Do Not Feed The Animals with a superlative Chicken Yakitori, taken from Everyday Harumi which I adore and will be stealing this weekend.


I always love it when Lyndsey from Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops takes part in Random Recipes as she's always so dreadfully truthful and her recipe of Orange and Sumac Scented Quiona, taken from Full of Flavour by Maria Elia really proves how dedicated she is!


next up is self-confessed chocolate bitch (maybe not self-confessed but I know she wont mind...) Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog with this 'to die for' Coconut Cream Pie chosen from the book of the moment, Tea with Bea.


here's a wonderfully ruby red entry from Janice over at Farmersgirl Kitchen with this Beetroot and Black Cumin Soup taken from the new Moro cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark


next is C from Cake, Crumbs and Cooking with this simply marvellous Peaches and Cream Upside Down Cake taken from The Boy Who Bakes by Edd Kimber


lovely to see the return of the gorgeous Lucy from The KitchenMaid with these yummy Wonder Day Biscuits taken from Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet


next is the enchanting Eleanor from BrownieVille Girl with the cake of the moment, the Alchemists Chocolate Cake taken from the surely soon to be a millionaire, Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet


here's Sarah from What I Baked this Weekend with a stunning hot apple flan, randomly chosen from 80 Recipes Brasseries Bocuse, very elegant don't you think?


and finally, check out these stunning Pomegranate Daiquiri Mini Cupcakes over at Nicola's brilliant blog 41 Feasts, she randomly chose this recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days


a sudden last minute entry from Mel at Sharky Oven Gloves with these divine Goats Cheese and Rosemary mini-croissants... 


so, that's it for January... and a great kick-off for the new year... however most importantly, Random Recipes is one year old next month and what a birthday treat I have in store for you all... eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

pizza trek



... or, to boldly go where no pizza as gone before... which is not entirely true but I needed to link this post to the most incredible Christmas gift ever... my Star Trek USS Enterprise Pizza Cutter... oh yes, she is a thing of beauty... look at her glistening chrome nacelles, her beautifully formed observation deck and the pure genius that is her pizza cutter saucer section... if ever the twinning of food implement and science fiction were more elegantly or obviously matched... here the proud bastard of that sordid joining holds its head above the crowd and screams... 'behold me... for I am a thing of beauty, pathos and grace...'


... in the nearly two years that i've been blogging i've only made traditional pizza twice, which leads me to believe that this very generous gift from The Viking is more about form over function... of course he is aware of my love of the Star Trek universe and he'd have to be blind or dead not to know I like food, so for him this gift must have been like the opening of the clouds on a rainy day when the fingers of sunshine stream down from the heavens and choirs of angels sing... 'ahhhhhhhh'


the one important rule for pizza is a bloody hot oven... thank you new kitchen (mum)... and if you can get one, a large pizza stone, which I do not have but a baking tray with holes is a good second... it allows the air to flow through and the heat turns the pizza dough crisp, so you don't end up with a soggy bottom... or an upturned ceramic flan dish seems to have worked well... although I did have a bit of bother transferring it from the board which is why it looks a little crumpled..!


... other than that, there are no rules... if, like me you have plenty of time on your hands and it's a Sunday and you can get up and get a tomato sauce on which you can leave bubbling away for the day, then please do so... but to be honest you can go with any kind of topping you desire... whatever takes your fancy, or is in the fridge...


Spinach, Mushroom and Olive Pizza


for the base
1/2 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
300g strong white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
150 ml water



for the tomato sauce
3 tins of good quality chopped tomatoes
2 medium onions - finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic - finely chopped

1 sweet chilli - finely chopped
a glug of white wine
balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper and sugar
rosemary and bay leaf



- start with the tomato sauce if you can, it tastes good after 8 hours, any less and there's no point making it.

- gently saute the onions, garlic and chilli in a little olive oil for about 10 minutes until tender and starting to brown gently

- add the rest of the ingredients, turn the heat to very low and let it simmer for 8 hours.

- for the pizza base, combine the ingredients, knead to bring together and then leave for 30 minutes for it to rise

- once risen, roll it out nice and thin, or stretch it in the air if you dare, and place it on the pizza stone / oven tray

- pre-heat the oven to at least 220C

- spoon the sauce on top and any toppings you're going with... i have gently steamed my spinach first and sauted the mushrooms too as I don't want the pizza to be in the oven for too long...

- bake for 15-20 mins or until crispy

if you wish to buy your own USS Enterprise Pizza Cutter it can be purchased on the brilliant Firebox website

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Smoked Trout Fish Cakes



Belleau Smokery Fish Cakes

With my visit to the wonderful Belleau Smokery fresh in my mind I wanted to cook something using some of their incredible hot smoked trout and Ginny Harrop has been kind enough to give me her recipe for fish cakes for me to share with you.  I've adapted them slightly from her original and you can add any ingredients of your own but these are delightfully fresh and light and a great way to kick off any New Year diets without compromising on taste.

450g Lincolnshire potatoes - peeled and diced
500g Belleau Hot smoked trout fillets - flaked
1 lemon, zested and juiced
a handful of parsley, dill or tarragon leaves, chopped - I’ve used dill as I think it works so beautifully with fish
75g melted butter
75g crème fraiche
2 medium eggs - beaten
50g breadcrumbs
- cook the potatoes in boiling water for 10 – 15 minutes or until tender. Drain well, steaming off any moisture so they are completely dry. While still hot, mash well and then set aside to cool. (try and do the potato mashing stage in the morning and refrigerate as they make a better cake once cooled)
- break the trout into flakes, check for any stray bones.
- in a large bowl, mix the potato, lemon zest, lemon juice, crème fraiche and herbs into the flaked fish, together with the melted butter. Season well. Shape into 4 large or 8 small, neat patties then shape by rolling into a ball then pressing down with a flat board so they are flat on both sides.
- dip the flat sides into the beaten egg, then the breadcrumb, just so the breadcrumbs are on the flat sides.
- to cook, heat a shallow layer of oil in a wide frying pan. Fry the fishcakes for 4-5 minutes until golden brown, then flip over and fry the other side for 2-3 minutes. If the sides look uncooked, roll them gently through the hot oil to brown. (or you can cook them in the oven, lightly oil a baking tray and ensure both sides of the fishcake are coated with a fine oil layer then bake in the hot oven (190 degrees) for about 20 mins, maybe turning once half way and then check golden brown on both sides and hot throughout.


I've served these with a sweet chilli sauce.
If you live in the UK you can purchase any of their wonderful fish products on-line
Eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Belleau Smokery and Trout Farm


... i'm very proud to say that I have been commissioned to write a series of articles on Lincolnshire Food Heroes for Lincolnshire Life Magazine.  The first of which comes out in the February edition, which should be on the shelves this weekend.  Here is a sneak peek for those of you not in Lincolnshire...


Belleau Smokery 
words by Dominic Franks
photography by Dave Moss

Food lovers and particularly food writers will often wax lyrically about 'local'. In fact over the past few years it has become a little over-used and whilst the sentiment is there, for many of us it is nigh on impossible to shop exclusively locally.  It is often impractical, let alone expensive. I am guilty of using the word myself, however one of the many glorious things about living in the heart of the Lincolnshire countryside is exactly that, being at the very pulse and life source of the produce that eventually makes its way to your table.

Belleau Bridge Trout Farm was established in 1975 supplying live fish for restocking reservoirs, waterways and rivers for anglers.  The Smokery itself was formed in 2008 to run alongside the live fish business and is a dream come true for Simon Harrop, 3rd generation fish farmer who runs the business with his wife Ginny and the farm could not be more local for me as it is quite literally on my doorstep.

I met with Ginny on a cold, rainy December afternoon, not the most evocative kind of weather for viewing a trout farm but I quickly learn from her that the farm never stops working, apart from a few days over Christmas, as the trout need constant attention; from receiving the eggs which are purchased in the USA via the internet to the hatching, to the final gutting and gilling. 

Ginny had originally studied catering and business studies at Leeds and had a successful career in property PR but in answer to the recession she and husband Simon started the smokery business.  Her dedication to creating the perfect smoked trout saw her spend a week as an apprentice at a smokery in Somerset before finding Malcolm Middleton an expert smoker and designer of a new style of smoke machine who gave them their first smoker.  They took a table at a food fair in Market Raisen and sold out in the first hour!


From these humble beginnings they have quickly become one of the largest trout farms in the Britain, supplying not only living trout to restock rivers for fishing across the UK but also fresh and smoked products to local restaurants, hotels and caterers.

For those of you unaware of this hidden part of the County, Belleau, a small hamlet of 12 houses, is situated on the South-Eastern edge of the Wolds, off the A16 between the market towns of Alford and Louth with the Trout Farm nestling in 5 acres of bucolic countryside. 


The life of the trout at the farm begins in The Hatchery at Belleau, it is rather unique as it has a gravity fed water system starting with the natural mineral spring pond filtering the water directly into the troughs of tiny pink trout eggs. These eggs are all manually cared for by Simon who picks them over by hand to make sure any empty or dead shells are discarded to avoid contamination to the others. 

Once the eggs are hatched they are moved progressively into larger tanks and raceways that are all spring fed. 

In fact in the summer of 2007 Simon decided to open some of the original stone raceways first built by his grandfather when they moved from Yorkshire and bought the farm back in the 1970’s.  I have often walked past these raceways myself, always wondering what they were used for and remember seeing Simon that summer, busy clearing and preparing them for use.  Sadly, it was only a few weeks after they had finally opened these old raceways that we had the dreadful floods that decimated the area, ruining many businesses, with rivers bursting their banks and flooding the land.  The Harrops lost thousands of small fish and I even remember a few very large trout gasping for life as they lay trapped in newly formed ponds in the middle of the meadow opposite my house.


After 3 months in the tanks the trout are then transferred into earth dug ponds and graded by size to ensure they have the space to grow and are hand fed the correct balance of food which is supplemented by the abundance of fresh watercress and the natural flora of the river and spring system.

Once the fish are up to size (it takes approximately 14-15 months for a trout to grow to over one and half pounds in weight) they are again graded by hand and transported in oxygen filled tanks for live delivery to the fishing lake or river. For the smokery the same fish are used in various sizes and are taken to the processing room on the farm where they are prepared for smoking or packed in ice for sending out to the markets, shops and wholesalers.


The Belleau Smokery make a small but well chosen selection of produce that can be purchased direct from the farm or via their excellent website and includes such delicacies as Hot and Cold Smoked Trout, Fish Cakes and what I consider their piece de resistance, the Smoked Trout Pate.  The dedication and passion with which the Harrops run their farm is reflected in the quality of this incredible, natural food and should be celebrated as a local produce worthy of a place at your dinner table.

Order direct on-line: belleausmokery.co.uk

I will post a lovely recipe for Smoked Trout Fishcakes in a couple of days

Sunday, 22 January 2012

totally fucking crap





I think, without trying to sound too melodramatic,  I can honestly say this has been one of the worst weeks of my life...

... and it's taken me a while to get back into the kitchen and be bothered to cook... I have that feeling in my throat, like when you've cried too much and you can't breathe any more... except I haven't cried... there's been too much anger and  I've had to much to do to think about crying...

... now I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me, that's not why I'm posting this, I simply wanted to explain why I've been so quiet this week...



... and you may think it odd that I've chosen to bake a triple layer chocolatey celebration cake after such a tough week but you see the thing is I deserve this. I have triumphed over despicable evil and even though I've come through this a little broken I can see the light at the end if the tunnel and it is rather wonderful...

... what do you mean you can't see the wonderful triple layered chocolate cake with lusciously thick American Frosting... ? is that because to round off my fucking crap week, I dropped the bloody thing on the floor...?

I managed to save some of the stuff but it was so smooshed up I just smooshed the whole lot up and squidged it into these little tea-cups... it tasted divine, very thick and sweet but quite light and fluffy too... one cup was probably just too much but what the heck eh?



... and yes, I realise I've been entirely vague in detailing this weekus horribilis but I expect you, dear reader, to accept the fact that it was bad and move on with me without any pity...

... i'd like to thank Katie from Matcha Chocolates for providing the incredible dark chocolate for this smoosh... I doubt it would have tasted quite so good without it...


eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

pork belly and chorizo stew



... this is pure heaven in a bowl... heady... hot... tender and deeply full of flavours well needed during these wintery days...

... I still have 3 large portions of the pork belly I received from my dear friend Zena back in November and I want to make sure that I do something special and different with each of them... I made a traditional thyme and salt rub, slow roast, with one portion on New Years Day but today i wanted something really, deeply luxurious... simply to satisfy me in a purely culinary way you understand...

my New Years Day slow roasted pork belly

.. I also have two pigs trotters and the lovely Shu Han from Mummy I Can Cook has advised me of what to do with them... although I'm not quite ready for that yet...


pork belly and chorizo stew
I was inspired by a recipe I found on the ever reliable BBC Good Food website which i've adapted a little to suit my tastes and what I had in the cupboard... apart from the chorizo, this stew was basically made from stuff I had in the house... which isn't half bad for a meal in mid January!

a pork belly portion - cut into large chunks, with the skin removed (perfect excuse to make crackling!)
1 large onion - chopped
2 garlic cloves - finely crushed
1 red chilli - finely chopped
2 medium chorizo sausages - cut into cubes
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
150ml red wine
400g tin of chickpeas

- heat little oil in an oven proof casserole and brown the pork belly in batches, then set-aside.

- gently saute the onions, garlic and chilli until the onion is soft, then add the chorizo and paprika and and saute for a further 5 minutes

- add the pork belly back into the pot and pour over the tomatoes, wine and enough water to just cover the pork, give it a good stir and place it in the oven, on 160C fan for at least 2 hours.

- after 1 and a half hours add the chickpeas and let it cook for the last 30 mins with the lid off

the house will smell divine as you eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

mini raspberry and rhubarb crumble tarts



... I awoke this morning to a wonderful frost... the fields lay glistening in the glorious dawn sunshine, their usual emerald green sprinkled in a spiders-web crochet of diamonds... and that etherial pale blue light you only get on a frosty morning was piercing the bedroom... it filled me with hope whilst the air froze my little toes as they peeped out from the end of the bead-spread... 

... I love a winter morning and it's days like this, when you notice for the first time the daffodil shoots pushing out through the frozen earth, that make me glad to be healthy and alive... despite the rather tumultuous few weeks... when you have pastry in your life how bad can it be?



mini raspberry and rhubarb crumble tarts

I've decided to make these because they feel very Spring-like especially as you can now purchase wonderful British forced rhubarb in some shops and I like to start January with a fresh clean taste of the goodness of what's to come.  I like the fact that they are small tarts rather than one large one.  They remind me a little of those classic jam tarts I used to make when I was a child and I think a little bit of nostalgia when cooking is always a good thing. I'm also using this almond based pastry for extra richness.

For the pastry:
200g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
75g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter
100g full fat cream cheese 
75g ground almonds
1 egg yolk
a little milk to bind

- sift the flour baking powder and sugar into a bowl, add the butter and rub until it resembles breadcrumbs
- add the cream cheese, ground almonds and egg yolk, take a knife and mix until it comes together into a dough, you may need to add a little milk here, as I did.
- chill the dough for at least 30 mins before rolling out.

For the filling:
3 medium sticks of rhubarb – finely chopped
1 packet if raspberries
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 dash of orange liquor
a few tablespoons of home-made plum, vanilla and star anise jam.

- gently heat the rhubarb with the sugar and orange liquor and a small splash of water. You
want them to keep their shape and have a gently bite to them.  If this can be made in advance
and stored in jars it will taste more intense but it's not essential

for the crumble topping:
4oz flour
2oz butter
2oz demarera sugar
lots of cinnamon

- mix together into crumbs before using.


To construct the tarts:
roll out the pastry
use a fluted cutter for that old school look, use one larger than the holes in the pie tray and
cut out as many as you need.
paint the inside of each tart with jam (this will seal the pastry)
- fill each tart with a mixture of raspberries and rhubarb, don't make it too neat, you want it
to look like they're pushing to get out of the tarts!
- spoon a generous portion of crumble mixture on top
bake at 180C for roughly 20mins or until the pastry and topping is golden.


I am of course, entering these little beauties into this months Tea Time Treats hosted by the superlative Karen from Lavender and Lovage and the stupendous Kate from What Kate Baked.  The theme this month is Sweet Pastry and Breads...


eat and of course, enjoy!

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