Saturday, 30 March 2013

random recipes #26 round-up

.... funny how sometimes the month drags on like an old wet man with a limp, always grim and never quite getting where you want it to be... and others it swoops past so fast you can't actually remember what day it's supposed to be tomorrow but you know that at some point, if you don't lay down you may simply fall asleep standing up... welcome to my March... I honestly don't know what happened but one moment it was there and the next it had come and gone... and other than being the coldest month in a long long time I can't recall anything particularly special about it...

... but it does look like we've all been busy with our random recipes...

so let's start with a nice little 'power of the internet' story shall we and a recipe for Sweet Potato, Sour Cherry and Pecan Brownies that Camilla from Little Macaroon made using a Dan Lepard random recipe plucked from her recipe folder... Camilla was unsure if the recipe called for 500g of raw or cooked sweet potato flesh and so asked for help... I swiftly tweeted dear Mr Lepard who responded within the hour with the answer, which you'll just have to read over at Little Macaroon... how fab is that..?

catch the rest of your incredible 30 entries after the jump

Thursday, 28 March 2013

roast rack of lamb with a honey, rosemary, garlic and granola crust

... the perils of writing for a magazine that ask for copy a month or two in advance means that whilst you can plan all you like to be seasonal you do sometimes get it wrong... this British weather has been ridiculously cold and most definitely un-springlike but I like the sentiment of the post and it's nice and apt for the forthcoming Easter weekend so i'll just leave it how I wrote and we can but dream of sunshine and warmth...

...Spring has most definitely sprung and with that dreadful bitter weather finally behind us, the daffodils shining in all their glory and a bumper weekend of Easter festivities ahead it’s time to roast a glorious rack of lamb and celebrate everything that’s new and fresh about Lincolnshire Life.

i recently discovered a wonderful on-line home-delivery company called Farmison who specialise in predominantly British, restaurant quality meats, vegetables and cheeses from artisan producers, many of whom are located in our fine county of Lincolnshire.  They sent me this incredible rack of lamb and it is a reminder, after the recent dreadful mass-produced horse-meat scandal, of the quality of the meat we do actually produce here in the UK.

roast rack of lamb with a honey, rosemary, garlic and granola crust 
I’ve created a delightfully crunchy honey, rosemary and garlic crust that includes some gorgeous Lizi's granola for a surprise added bite.  The sweetness from the honey and granola compliment the juicy lamb so beautifully and the caramelised vegetables, including some divine baby new potatoes, roasted directly in the tin with the meat, means less mess and more taste… always a good thing in my opinion.

1 large rack of lamb (usually 8 cutlets)
1 carrot – chopped into batons
1 fennel bulb – roughly chooped
1 onion – roughly chopped
1 500g bag of baby new potatoes – roughly halved

for the herb crust:
3 cloves of garlic – crushed with salt
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary – with leaves stripped from stalks and finely chopped
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
2 teaspoons runny Lincolnshire honey
1 tablespoon ground almonds
1 tablespoon granola or muesli
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

if still in the fridge take the lamb out and let it come to room temperature whilst you make the crust

crush the garlic into a paste with the back of a large knife and some salt, then add this to a bowl with the rest of the crust ingredients and mix well together

lay the prepared veg into a roasting tin, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with a little olive oil and lay the rack of lamb, fat-side up, on top.

take the crust ingredients and pat them over the fat ensuring it is all covered, then cover the whole dish with foil and pop in the oven on 170C for 30 mins, then take the foil off and increase the heat to 190C for a further 20 minutes or until the crust is golden.  I like my lamb very pink but do keep it in for longer with the foil back on if you’re not so keen.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 25 March 2013

a coffee review, a coffee cake and the viking

... as a food blogger of some repute (eh?) I get sent some lovely things from some lovely PR people, busy representing their brands... regular readers will know that rather than a straight up review I like to include whatever i'm sent as an ingredient in something i'm going to cook... i find this the fairest way to review a product and it also makes this more interesting for the reader I feel, as review after review on blogs can be so dull if it's just done under the 'look what I got, isn't it pretty' context... however, sometimes the stars align in such a way that this simply isn't possible which happened to me this week when three coffee brands sent me their products...

... now, i'm a coffee drinker and fresh ground coffee is not cheap, especially if you're keen to purchase fairtrade products, so it's actually a delight to receive coffee... but The Viking is a coffee lover... a real aficionado... in fact for someone who dislikes the ritual of food so much, what he doesn't know about coffee is, well, very little... so for us this is the ultimate prize for all the hard-work i've put into blogging over the years... something that The Viking can actually enjoy that I get sent for free... you have no idea how much this has put a smile on his face this past week...

... so in a moment of madness I have decided to do a full 'review and compare' with the three coffee brands and ask The Viking to be the Simon Cowel to my Sharon Osborne...

the three coffees i've been sent to review are a selection of Puro Fairtrade coffees made by a Belgian company called Miko who have been roasting coffee for 212 years... a selection of Douwe Egberts  coffees along with a fab hassle-free Oxo Groundskeeper French Press... and a pack of Aromo Espresso ground coffee made by a British based company who are keen on making good coffee for ordinary people...

douwe egberts and the oxo groundskeeper french press
the first to arrive at Belleau Cottage, probably the best known coffee brand and most likely the one that many of us have tried before although i'd never heard of their Fired Up blend which packs a 6 when it comes to strength and boy did it pack a punch in both the aroma and taste department... The Viking drinks coffee so thick you could stand a spoon up in it but even this took his breath away... a little too intense for me, whilst their regular Cafe Milano was a fair tasting Italian style blend that we'd both be happy to drink on a regular basis... but what was most wonderful about this delivery was the Oxo French Press with revolutionary Groundskeeper ladle that sits in the bottom of the carafe so that once used you simply lift the coffee grinds away and throw out onto your flowerbeds... you cannot imagine the rigmarole we go through every morning chucking our coffee grinds, so this really is a huge bonus and has now replaced our regular cafetiere for our morning coffee...

puro fairtrade coffee
many coffee companies wax lyrically about their environmentally friendly work ethics and this seems particularly prevalent in this politically friendly hot-house environment... but the good people at puro fairtrade coffees seem to have the leading edge on this with their very reason for existing as a company to help protect the people and land from where the coffee comes... they even have a rainforest reserve named after them... I was sent 3 blends; the fuerte which as the name suggests was a deeper richer roast and quite intensely drinkable, the organic, my favourite of the three as it had some delightful citrus overtones and the noble, which i'm afraid we really didn't like at all... it was bitter and un-palatable... never thrown coffee away before but did with this one, which is a shame. They did send me some fairtrade drinking chocolate which i'm sure will make up for it and I very much look forward to trying, so watch this space...

aromo coffee
i'd never heard of aromo coffee before I was sent some to try and they offered to send me their ese coffee pods for which I think they are best known but I don't have a machine to take them so plumped for the ground coffee instead... what arrived was a pack of intensely rich espresso coffee that both The Viking and I have been enjoying for three mornings now... it may be the simplicity of the flavours but it really worked for us with The Viking commenting this morning that 'it really grows on you this one, doesn't it?'... i must say i'm not a huge fan of their brand style... lots of women lurching at the camera with cheesy grins but I guess it's a successful marketing tool for them and it clearly works... most importantly the coffee was great and that, surely is what matters most...

italian blend coffee and walnut cake
so you can imagine that I was keen to make something from all this coffee, something that would help bring out that incredibly intense coffee flavour and I trawled my cookbooks and internet sites for an innovative recipe but every time I kept coming back to this... the humble coffee cake... there are french-press loads of recipes out there but a firm favourite has to be this one by Nigel Slater who includes the walnut pieces in the cake batter not just as an afterthought on top of the icing... it's quite a delightful cake which I photographed and then gave directly to my neighbour Tracey for her birthday, so she can tell you how good it tastes... as you can see by the amount of icing i've used in pictures the cake seriously sank in the middle, something that hasn't happened to me in ages so I am clueless as to why it happened this time, although I'm sure it won't effect the taste in any way...

for the cake batter
175g butter
175g golden caster sugar
65g walnut halves
3 large free-range eggs
175g self-raising flour combined with
1 tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons freshly brewed coffee - cold - I used the Italian Blend by Douwe Egberts

for the icing
200g butter
400g icing sugar
2 tablespoons freshly brewed coffee - cold - I used the Italian Blend by Douwe Egberts

in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  I use a wooden spoon and some elbow grease but feel free to use an electric whisk or one of the fancy machines that takes up too much space on the counter top... one the butter is nice and light and fluffy beat in one egg at a time followed by a little flour.

once all the flour and eggs have been beaten in add the coffee and two thirds of the walnuts which you crumble in.  Mix it well in then pour into your two sandwich tins dividing it equally between the two.

bake on 180C for 20 mins or until golden and a skewer or knife comes out clean. place on a wire rack to cool

meanwhile make the icing by carefully beating the butter with the icing sugar... adding the coffee half way through will help reduce the clouds of icing sugar lining your kitchen

spread one third onto the bottom layer of the cake then place the second layer on top and spread the rest of the butter icing all over the top and sides... decorate with walnut halves.

I am of course entering this cake into two bloggers challenges that i've neglected recently... the first is the most obvious - Dish of the Month hosted by Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen and Susan from Heaven on a Plate who encourage us to cook with Nigel Slater recipes... and the second, less obvious but still legitimate is the AlphaBakes challenges hosted by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline from Caroline Makes who's alphabet letter this month is the tricky i....

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 22 March 2013

lemon and horseradish tuna burgers in home-made buns

... I realise that the words 'horse' and 'burger' may not be best served together in the same sentence on a food blog but these two culinary bed-partners are officially heavenly served side by side... and as you can see i'm talking about horseradish, that often neglected condiment, not an actual horse, which would be very wrong... not that I have an issue with eating horse, I just mean that I don't think horse works particularly well with tuna... plus I know you lot love a pun and thought i'd get it out the way before the heckling starts... sit down at the back!

I thought this burger was suitably summery, which believe me folks, is much needed here in the UK... for a very short moment back in February we thought Spring was finally on it's way... daffodils were blooming, the snow drops were out in abundance... there were even some crocuses beginning to bud on a few south-facing slopes but then suddenly yesterday the wind came, followed by the snow and here we are back in the grips of a bitter winter weekend... lets hope it doesn't last till Easter...

lemon and horseradish tuna burgers
this is a bit of a 'back of the fridge' collection of ingredients inspired by a recipe for coriander and chilli tuna burgers but made with the stuff wot I got... and that included a little honey, soy sauce, horseradish and flat-leaf parsley... an odd combo indeed but they turned out to be real beauties and took seconds to cobble together.  Of course i'm using the tuna sent to me by the lovely Fish is the Dish people as one of my two fish meals per week in order to help me increase my Omega 3 levels so my brain continues to work and my hair looks fabulous... all good if you ask me.

makes 4 burgers which can be frozen as long as the fish was fresh and hadn't been previously frozen.

for the burger
2 fresh tuna steaks (roughly 600g) - diced
the juice and grated zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 very small onion - chopped
1 teaspoon horseradish sauce

for the buns
400g strong white bread flour
300g water
1 teaspoon fast action yeast
1 teaspoon salt
olive oil

pre-heat the oven to 200C fan

put the four, yeast and salt in a bowl, pour in the warm water and stir everything together into a sticky, shaggy mess, cover the bowl with a cloth and leave it for 10 minutes

after 10 minutes, lightly oil your work surface, turn the bowl over and empty the dough onto the surface and very gently knead the dough 8 times (that's 8 classic 'stretch then heel of hand then quarter turn... repeat...) then cover and leave for 10 minutes... repeat this gentle 'knead and leave' technique 3 times

after the last gentle knead return the dough to the bowl, cover with a cloth and leave it to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

once doubled in size, knock back then cut into 6 equal pieces and shape into round balls, lay them out on a baking sheet and let them rest again for a further 45 minutes after which you bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and ready for your burgers

to make the burgers simply bung the whole lot in a food processor and whizz, then form into balls which you then flatten into burger shapes... pop into the fridge for an hour so they firm up.

grill or fry gently until golden on both sides and then serve with a glorious salad or in a nice home made bun...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

gluten free chocolate fudge cake

... history lesson...

... a few thousand years ago a bunch of jews, lead by some bloke called moses, escaped the evil clutches of the pharaoh by hot-footing it out of town, making a deal with god to smite pestilence and plague onto the egyptians in return for their ever-lasting devotion... they left egypt behind in such a rush that the poor slaves didn't have time to let the bread rise in their ovens and had to make do with flat bread... two thousand or so years later we now celebrate this flatness of bread by eating the traditional flat cracker called matzo during the celebration on passover... the other traditions that go along with the festival are so similar to all the other Spring festivals it's barely worth mentioning other than the fact that we take this time to clean our houses of any products containing yeast or gluten to remind ourselves of the plight of the jews... this is an ideal time to bake gluten-free yummy stuff so you should see quite a few coeliac-friendly recipes floating about over the internet in the next few weeks...

gluten free chocolate fudge cake
... my gorgeous niece Emma has coeliac disease and for the last few years my mum has baked her this divinely moist and unctuous gluten-free chocolate fudge cake... the recipe is one of those old, written down recipes that could have come from anywhere and is labelled on mum's hand-written recipe card as a French Chocolate Fudge Cake but it is now famous in our family as either Emma's Cake or Passover Cake... regardless of the vagueness of names whenever she says 'i'm making Emma's Cake' we all know she means this incredible slab of fabulous chocolate cake... and as it's so famous in our household it more than qualifies for this months excellently 'fame' themed we should cocoa bloggers challenge, founded by Choclette from the Chocolate Log Blog and Chele from Chocolate Teapot but hosted this month by Lucy from The KitchenMaid...

6oz plain chocolate - many brands are gluten free but try Kinnerton which is lovely and available in all good supermarkets
4oz caster sugar
4oz butter
2oz potato flour
1 level teaspoon of baking powder
4 eggs - separated
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

for the icing
3oz icing sugar
1oz cocoa powder - cadbury bourneville cocoa powder is gluten free

pre-heat the oven to 170C fan and grease and line a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin

place the chocolate, butter and sugar into a pan and gently melt until combined... this can be done in a microwave on setting 2 for 9 minutes or so but watch it so it doesn't burn, once melted pour into a large mixing bowl

in another large bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff

stir the egg yolks, vanilla essence, baking powder and potato flour into the chocolate mixture and once thoroughly combined fold in the egg whites until fully encorporated

pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 30-35mins.  leave it to cool completely on a wire rack before icing.  It will crack on the top, this is perfectly natural.

to make the chocolate icing simply combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and then gradually pour on a little water, stirring until you have the desired consistency... a few little chocolate stars always make an added extra to the cake

eat and of course enjoy!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

greek yoghurt caesar

... in an attempt to get back on track with the old weight-loss thingy I thought i'd play around with my favourite salad, the classic caesar... the stalwart of every trendy gastro-pub from here to soho, it always amazes me how such a simple salad can be prepared with so many different variations and techniques when the basic ingredients are so simple.  Invented in 1924 by restauranteur Caesar Cardini this salad became something of an act of theatre as it was made 'table-side' by tossing the Cos lettuce leaves in a mixture of garlic infused olive oil, egg, lemon juice and worcester sauce and then topped with garlicky croutons and grated parmesan... the often debated addition of anchovies is a far more recent inclusion, one that I love as I think the intense saltiness works beautifully with the bitter leaves... I have a deep rooted memory of my American aunt Beth making the salad at my mums house back in the late 70's or early 80's... she started by crushing garlic and anchovies in the bowl first and then adding the rest of the classic ingredients... I think both my mum and I stared, slack-jawed at the marvel of fresh caesar dressing!

... the only issue i've ever had with this dressing is that it includes anchovies and parmesan cheese which, unless you've been living under a crouton for the past 60 years, are not vegetarian and so whist I can enjoy this gloriously creamy salad, The Viking cannot. So this is my attempt to redress the balance in favour of the vegetarian and by deconstructing the basic dressing i've been able to re-build it to recreate the incredible taste and flavour without the nasty little bits of the once living... and of course on stumbling through the design I hit the idea of creating a marinade dressing... to be eaten simply as is or that can be used to marinate chicken or a chicken substitute as i've done here...

greek yoghurt caesar marinade dressing with grilled chicken and peas
i've used boneless and skinless chicken thighs to serve with this salad as they are quite literally dirt cheap and so much tastier than plain old breasts... i've also used some quorn chicken style fillets as you know The Viking loves his meat substitutes and they do work brilliantly in this salad... i'm treating them in exactly the same way as the chicken except I sauted them until golden on both sides, instead of grilling them like I did with the chicken... i've got to say they tasted exceptionally good and very tender... i've also been using a vegetarian hard cheese which is as close to parmesan as you can get and i've had some very good results with it... the left-over salad dressing lasted for about 4 days in the fridge...

for the marinade dressing
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon english mustard powder
the zest and juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons home-made free-range egg mayonnaise
5 tablespoons greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons finely grated vegetarian parmesan cheese (or vegetarian substitute which both Morrisons and Sainsbury's are now selling)

6 boneless and skinless chicken thighs
2 cos lettuce
a handful of frozen peas
1 extra lemon and some more parmesan for the final dressing

start by crushing the garlic with a pinch of salt... I do this the old-fashioned way with the edge of a large flat knife but you can use a garlic press if pressed for time... then throw this into a bowl along with the olive oil, lemon juice and zest and mustard powder and beat together with a fork

add the mayo and the yogurt and mix together well, then add the parmesan and mix together one last time.

now take the chicken thighs and lay them onto a length of cling-film.  Place a second length of cling-film on top and bash them with a rolling pin to flatten them out... this will both tenderise the thighs and also help reduce the cooking time to ensure an even grill... place the thighs in a bowl and add 4 tablespoons of the caesar dressing marinade using your hands to massage it into the chicken so it's entirely coated.  Cover the chicken and place it in the fridge for at least an hour.... at this stage you can do the same with the frozen vegetarian quorn pieces, or it would also work really well with thick slices of courgette...

next you want to arrange your cos lettuce for the salad... I favour the whole leaf salad, fanned out in a bowl but admittedly this is tricky to eat so go ahead and chop it up if you like... this will create the mattress for your salad...

you can either pan-fry or grill your chicken, I chose to grill it until golden and bubbly... let it cool slightly before slicing and arranging on the salad, followed by the peas, which you've boiled for a second or two and then some liberal dribbling of the remainder of the dressing.

a shaving of the parmesan and a squeeze of lemon and you're ready to serve.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

fish pie on the rocks

... back in the day, my family were never very happy simply lying on a beach, sure we went down there with every intention of a soak in the sun but we always ended up at the epicentre of activity... if there was a giant sand-castle to be built, someone to cover in sand or more importantly a diy rock-pool to be dug, we were the family to instigate it... on many trips to the Cornish coast back in the 70's and 80's we would even go so far as to bring a plastic tarp with us that would become the lining for the rock-pool so that we and all the other kids on the beach could go catching crabs and little fish and actually have somewhere for the little critters to go other than a plastic bucket... dad would usually do the major part of the digging and lining then me and my brother would go off, bamboo poles and bright green nets on our shoulders and catch the fish... even mum joined in, her speciality being starfish... by the end of the day the tide would usually claim the pool back into the sea and we would wrap up the tarp and head for home... rock-pooling was my favourite thing in the world to do by the beach... i'm not sure but i imagine you'd probably get lynched for doing this today...

... i'm having so much fun with all these wonderful fishy recipes, there are just so many memories coming back to me and i'm loving the experience of cooking with such fine fresh produce, it's a privilege to have been asked by the good people at Fish is the Dish to encourage us all out there to eat more fish... developing recipes, discovering new cook books and flicking back through old scribbled notes... fish is just so versatile and easy to cook... and I know some of you aren't big fans... Mark, i'm thinking of you here... but sometimes those old school memories of stinky fish pie need to be pushed to one side and new ones created...

fish pie on the rocks
sometimes the thought of making mash potato just sends the shivers down my spine... I know it's really easy but it does have it's hazards and can be a little dull... I fancied something a little different atop my fish pie this week and as I lay in bed dreaming about toppings I began to visualise this roasted rocky potato landscape and I just knew I had to make it... and boy was I right... it added the perfect crunch to what can be a very 'soft' dish... fish on the rocks perfection!

for the pie
1 hake fillet
1 salmon fillet
1 haddock fillet
half a pint milk
500g cooked prawns
a handful of peas
1 kg bag of baby new potatoes - cut into teeny tiny cubes
olive oil
fresh flat-leaf parsley

for the white sauce
2 tablespoons flour
2oz butter
1 teaspoon english mustard powder
the milk from the fish made up to 1 pint with stock
a dash of white wine
a decent wedge of strong cheddar - finely grated

pre-heat the oven to 180C

place the cubed potatoes onto a baking sheet, slather in olive oil, rosemary and salt and pepper and roast for about 20mins or until just beginning to colour

meanwhile, in a large pan, gently heat the fish, except for the prawns, in the milk. Once the milk begins to bubble take it off the heat and let the fish cool in the milk.  Once cool, remove the fish and flake it into large chunks directly into your pie dish. Stir in the prawns and the frozen peas.  Use the milk to make up the stock for the white sauce.

next make the white sauce by melting a large nob of butter in a sauce pan.  once melted, take it off the heat and add two tablespoons of flour and stir with a wooden spoon until it is smooth.  Place the pan back on a gentle heat and add a splash of the milk and stock mix, stirring all the time as it thickens... continue to add the stock and stir on and off the heat until the sauce thickens... there should be no lumps if you stir off the heat.  Once all the stock is gone add the mustard powder and a splash white wine and stir in, then let the sauce bubble away on a very gentle heat for five minutes or so that the flour cooks off... then add the grated cheese and stir in.

pour the white sauce over the fish and peas and then cover generously with the roasted potatoes

bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are glorious and golden

there are a few other lovely bloggers who are also cooking lots of divine fish dishes over the next six weeks, so please do go and visit Solange over at Pebble Soup, Karen over at Lavender and Lovage and Janice over at Farmersgirl Kitchen for some more yummy Fish is the Dish recipes...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

mango chutney chicken pilaf

... as part of the incredible Farmison meat and cheese delivery I received last week I was sent a stunning herb-fed free-range chicken... she's a real beauty, nice and plump and perfect for a big family roast.  Now, as you know, it's just little old me who eats meat at Belleau Cottage so sometimes I need to be creative with the meat I buy and eat... unless I have plans for meat-eating friends to visit I like to portion my food so that it lasts and is less wasteful... this is particularly easy with a chicken that can be spread over a few meals and for this particular chicken I had plans to spread it as wide as possible which began with an interesting and very sweet roast...

... the very good people at Geeta's sent me a mesmerising pot of award winning Mango Chutney to encourage me to enter their Chutney Challenge... it's pretty simple really, I have to get creative with the chutney and share my recipe with all my lovely blogger last weekend I made a very simple marinade by combining half the jar of mango chutney with a few tablespoons of Greek yoghurt and let the chicken marinade for an hour or so before roasting... the resulting chicken was golden and glorious and much lighter in flavour than the Mango Chutney Chicken Thighs I baked a month or so ago... however, it was swiftly divided into portions, most of which headed for the freezer whilst a good quarter made it into this rather wonderful and very aromatic mango chutney chicken pilaf...

mango chutney chicken pilaf with orange zest
when you want something that is less cloying and thick than a risotto but still need a meal that is simple to cook but filling to eat a pilaf is a good answer... you can add any veg you like and infuse it with any number of spices but when your chicken is as good and flavoursome as this, keeping it simple with just a dash of curry powder and some orange zest at the end, is an excellent idea... oh and it's all in one pot too so there's no big mess either...

for the marinade
4 tablespoons greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons Geeta's Mango Chutney
1 chicken or 4 chicken portions

for the pilaf (serves 2 people)
4oz basmati rice or brown rice
1 medium onion - very finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon medium curry powder
1 carrot - very finely chopped
1 stick of celery - very finely chopped
1 portion of roasted chicken - shredded or cubed
a handful of peas or any other frozen veg
1 pint vegetable stock
the juice and zest of half an orange
olive oil and seasoning

firstly you need your roast chicken... i've combined the yoghurt and Geeta's mango chutney into a marinade and rubbed it all over the chicken and then roasted it slowly until golden and succulent.  Shred the left-overs for the pilaf.

heat some butter and olive oil in a heavy pan, saute the onions, carrots and celery until soft, then add the curry powder and saute for another five minutes or so.

throw in the chicken followed by the rice and stir, then add the stock and cover.  Simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until the pot is dry and rice is fluffy... add the peas, orange juice and grated zest at the end and stir.

serve with a little extra dollop of mango chutney and some Greek yoghurt

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

moules marinieres - a tea time treat

... for a while back in our childhood my father had a terrible fear of flying... he says it came on gradually but by the early 80's it was so bad that he stopped flying altogether which meant that we did a heck of a lot of driving to mainland Europe (or simply 'the continent' as it was known back then) for our summer family holidays... not such a bad thing you may cry and no, in our very own middle-class way it was rather lovely, although try telling that to two teenage kids stuffed into the bench seat of a mercedes sports and driven all the way to southern Italy...

... what this meant for me however was a lot of holidays in beautiful France and the discovery of moules et frites or mussels and chips as we referred to them in our perfectly neglected un-spoken french... and I can tell you as a young boy, thinking he has eaten pretty much everything there was to be eaten, this was a revelation... ahhh the classic, clean sea-salt taste of the moules, bathed in their creamy herb-infused sauce... learning to be patient with the eating process and carefully using the shell of one, tweezer-like, to pluck the fleshy meat from the other and then finally to slurp up any left-over liquor with the perfectly crisp, golden french fries... and the aroma of those little restaurants as we sat on the side of a cobbled street or at the edge of a fishing port... I am quite literally dribbling over my keyboard at the memories...

the good folk at Fish is the Dish are keen to get us eating more fish... we all know that it's healthy for us, or in the words of my grandma Syliva 'if it swims, it slims'... but it's particularly the Omega 3 in fish that is of such benefit to our heart... studies by clever people in white coats have shown that by simply eating two portions of fish per week we can dramatically reduce the risk of cardiovascular incidents whilst the fatty oil that is Omega 3, higher is some fish such as makeral and salmon, can also help give us healthier skin and hair and even help with muscle repair... so we'll all be swishing our locks and smiling more with just a little more fish in our lives... I'll be adding a lot more fish to my reportoire over the next six weeks with some yummy recipes but it's also good to know that even the humble tinned fish such as tuna or salmon is also packed with goodness, so really there's no excuse not to be healthier...

moules marinieres
this is an absolute French classic and there's simply no point messing with it... so i've gone straight the the source itself with this wonderfully simple and very fast recipe from the master himself Raymond Blanc... and because it's French i'm also entering it into this month's excellent tea time treats blogger challenge hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Kate from What Kate Baked

8oz mussels
4fl oz dry white wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small onion - very finely chopped
4 fresh bay leaves
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

wash the mussels under cold running water and remove any beards or barnacles... discard any mussels that float or don't shut when tapped on the side of the sink

boil the wine is a small saucepan for a few seconds to remove the bitter alcohol taste and set aside

melt the butter with a little olive oil in a large lidded pan then add the onion, bay leaves and thyme, stir for 10 seconds then add the wine and bring to a boil

add the mussels, cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the mussels open, remembering to discard any mussels that don't open

add the whipping cream and parsley and stir well

if, like me, you're lazy and can't be bothered to make the frites simply get giant chunks of french bread to sop up all that glorious liquor...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 8 March 2013

the lemon cake

... so here it is folks... the lemon cake to beat all other lemon cakes courtesy of my mum... if you bake only one cake this weekend to celebrate mothers day, let this be that cake... it's very simple with no fancy icing or decoration but so gloriously satisfying and perfectly light and crumbly, just how a good cake should be...

.... memories are such a powerful thing aren't they... and the wonderful thing about food memories in particular is that they can be shared so easily by the recreation of a recipe.  I have soups, for instance, that are pure memories of my grandma Sylvia and Sunday lunches with the cousins... even the simple act of writing those words has brought back those fun-filled days where a game of hide and seek, a play presented by us kids and one of the cousin's storming off in a huff was always complimented by a belly full of divine food.  This lemon cake has memories for me too as it seems to have always been there in my life, gently regarding our comings and goings like a mute relative absorbing the hectic lives of tea parties, bar mitzvah's, friday nights, sunday lunches, visits to aunts... and rewarding us with it's subtle elegance and delicate lemony zing...

... most of all this cake reminds me of my mum.

the lemon cake
mum seems to remember that it was probably an Evelyn Rose recipe which has been doing the rounds since the 1960's... mum would have probably first started baking it back in the 70's, hence it's long-term memory in my life and because it was always such a classic cake it was always made.  Mum would usually double the recipe and make two cakes, one to be eaten and one to be frozen as it freezes so well... I have a very clear memory of long drives up to Leeds to visit my mums sister with a block of foil wrapped cake in the foot-well of the car... happy times.

for the sponge
6oz sugar
4oz butter or margarine (mum always uses margarine so if you want her classic taste then I would too..)
2 eggs
6oz self raising flour
4 tablespoons milk
grated rind of 2 lemons

for the topping
1 1/2oz sugar
the juice of one lemon

pre-heat the oven to 180C, grease and line a large loaf tin

in a large bowl cream the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy then add the eggs and a little flour and beat in.  Then add the remaining flour and milk and beat in followed by the lemon rind.

whilst it's in the oven mix the topping by warming the sugar and lemon juice in a pan

bake for 45 mins or until golden and risen, then the moment it comes out of the oven pour the warm lemon juice over the top and sprinkle with a little sugar - the sugar becomes the most wonderfully intense lemon sherbet topping which is simply fabulous! Leave it to cool completely in loaf tins.

eat and of course, enjoy and happy mother's day... I love you mum x

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

stuffed mushrooms with leeks, blue cheese and walnuts - a random recipe

...after an absolutely exhausting week of illness and endless meetings I arrived back at the cottage late last Friday night to a rather large and very generous box of meat and cheese that the good people at Farmison had delivered and kindly left with a neighbour... I know i've touched on this before but i consider myself very lucky to live in such a bucolic part of the country... in all honesty the deliveryman could have left the box right outside the front door and it wouldn't have been touched but, and i don't know if it's because they're incredibly nosey or simply good citizens but the neighbours knew about the delivery before I did... and took it into their welcoming and trusting bosom for me to pick up later...

... Farmison is a food delivery service specialising in restaurant quality meats, vegetables and cheeses, focussing on seasonal, predominantly British produce and is the brainchild of two old friends who have a similar love of fantastic food with real flavour and most importantly I feel, a clear admiration for great British artisan producers and farmers... it's partly because of these chaps that we're still able to make award winning produce in this country and have it delivered to our far-flung doors and for that I doff my hat towards Mr Pallagi and Mr Simmonds...

as well as a ridiculously generous selection of beautiful meats, of which I shall cook and of course post about another time,  part of my incredible Farmison delivery also included a very fine choice of cheeses... now if you know anything about me, you should know that should the world end tomorrow, as long as I lay down with bread and cheese before I go, i'll die a happy man... so to be given a selection of the finest British cheeses is an exceptional thing... the collection included some Flower Marie a delightfully creamy soft ewe's milk cheese, some Monks Folly, a soft and slightly sharper cows milk cheese and a mellow, creamy and beautifully light Harrogate Blue which i'm using for this stuffed mushroom dish as it compliments the buttery leeks so beautifully...

stuffed mushrooms with leeks, blue cheese and walnuts
this is of course my entry to my random recipes challenge which, this month encourages us to use those clippings, recipes cuttings and old hand-written notes that we all have tucked into dark corners of recipe books and folders... get them out, give them a shuffle and randomly pick one to join in... you can read all about my mums collection and my selection process here... needless to say it was a triumphant pick and made an absolutely delicious meal...

4 large field mushrooms or portobello mushrooms
1 large leek trimmed, quartered and chopped
half a fennel bulb - finely chopped
half a teaspoon fennel seeds
a handful of walnut halves
a large chunk of blue cheese (you can as generous as you like here)
olive oil
fresh rosemary

pre-heat the oven to 170C

if needed, de-stalk the mushrooms but save the stalks for later, then lay the mushrooms onto an oven proof roasting dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with a few rosemary leaves and gently bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until they begin to soften at which point you should remove them and let them cool

meanwhile gently saute the leeks and fennel bulb in a large pan with plenty of butter and olive oil, they should be turning soft before they're ready, add the fennel seeds and any of the mushroom stalks you removed, chopped finely

once the leeks are soft but not coloured, tip them into a bowl and crumble the cheese and walnuts on top, mix together and then portion the mixture on top of the four mushrooms, firming down with you hands

bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is nice and bubbly

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 4 March 2013

lizi's granola and lincolnshire honey bread

... or the delicious meeting of two counties in one country loaf... Lizi's granola is an incredible organic toasted muesli that Lizi herself developed whilst making breakfasts for guests staying at her Oxfordshire B&B... it was so popular she decided to bag it and sell it and a few years of magic entrepreneurial spirit later her company Lizi's granola was born and it's gone from strength to strength, now with 5 different flavours including Treacle and Pecan and the delightful sounding Pink Apple and Cinnamon. As always it was my mother who stumbled across the granola first... she loves the stuff and has been talking about Lizi's for ages but it always takes me a while to come round to these things... so when the good people from Lizi's sent me a packet to review not only did I ask them to send a packet to my mum (well, come on, there has to be some perks to the job...) but I also got to taste the stuff that mum loves so much...

... we're not huge cereal eaters here in Belleau Cottage so it has to be something exceptional that persuades us off the scrambled egg on toast so I think the fact that The Viking and I have been munching on the stuff all weekend is probably a good sign of it's success... as well as tasting delicious it also has an incredibly rich aroma which I guess comes from the toasting of the oats along with a dark caramel quality that must come from the black treacle... although saying that it's also not too sweet and has that apple juice hit that has it's own natural sweetness... in essence I really like it and knew instantly that it would not only make great eating straight from the bowl but would also be a brilliant ingredient for things like crumble topping and of course bread...

lizi's granola and lincolnshire honey bread
i've been playing around a little with my low-knead bread making, adding half milk, half water and changing the point during the process where I add any added ingredients... I also constantly play with the temperature of the oven, ramping it up to begin with for 10 minutes and then turning it down for the remaining time... it's hit and miss, as it always seems to be with bread but this time it came out beautifully and has been eaten both as a sweet tea bread but also toasted and buttered with cheese, which was very satisfying...

400g strong white bread flour
150ml skimmed milk
150ml hand warm water
1 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
vegetable oil such as sunflower
2 teaspoons lincolnshire honey plus a little extra to brush on top
2 tablespoons granola plus a little extra for the topping

place the flour, water, yeast and salt in a bowl and using a rubber spatula bring it together until you have a shaggy, sticky ball and all the flour is used, cover with a tea-towel and leave for 10 minutes in a warm place

after 10 minutes drizzle a little oil onto your work surface, spread it around with your hand and with the same oily hand pull the dough out of the bowl and slap it onto the work surface.  Pour a little oil into the bowl and wipe your hand around the bowl to ensure the inside is covered with oil.

knead the bread for a count of eight turns, pushing down with the heal of your hand, then folding and turning a quarter turn. Place back in the bowl and cover for a further 10 minutes.  Repeat this once more.

after the second 10 minutes, repeat the process again but this time add the honey and the granola to the dough before you knead, then place the dough back into the bowl and let it rise, covered with a tea-towel for at least an hour or until double in size

prepare a baking sheet with baking parchment, then once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and with oiled hands shape it into a ball and place it onto the baking sheet, then let it rise, un-covered for another 30 minutes.  At this point put your oven on to 200C to pre-heat.

Bake the bread on 200C for 10 minutes then turn the oven down to 170C for a further 20 - 35 minutes or until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when you tap its bottom.

place on a wire rack and immediately brush it with honey and sprinkle with a handful of granola

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

honey and cinnamon oat biscuits

... a quick and easy biscuit recipe from Belleau Kitchen today... something sweet, a little chewy and a little crunchy to make your day a better place...

... a few months back when I was demo-cooking at the Lincolnshire Food and Gift Fair one of the food stall holders came up to me with two jars of their honey and asked me if i'd like to cook with it.  As you know I am a huge honey fan and use it in both sweet and savoury dishes and I love having it in the larder, in fact I feel bereft without a jar somewhere in the house, so it's always a big YES to the offer of two jars... the maker is Croft Apiaries who are based in Lincolnshire and make honey from bees who live in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, with their Yorkshire bees making honey using heather from the glorious Yorkshire Moors and it's quite incredible how different the two honey's are... the Lincolnshire Honey which is made from a selection of flora is clear and sweet and delicious and has a mild natural taste... everything you'd expect from a good quality honey.  The Yorkshire Moors honey is much more robust with a more distinctive perfume and heavier flavour... i'm constantly undecided as to which is my favourite... they are both clear, runny honey's and make excellent additions to breads, roasts, cakes and of course biscuits... i'm a real champion of local honey.  Not only is it great for your local economy but the survival of bees in general is so important and the fragile infrastructure of your local flora and fauna depends greatly on the well being of bees... purchasing jars of commercial grade, mixed honey made in a country thousands of miles away makes very little sense.  Think small and local... and cheap!

honey and cinnamon oat biscuits
what I love about these cookies is that they take minutes to prepare and not much longer to bake and once you've come down from the intense high of the aroma of these biscuits whilst they bake, they are eaten pretty darn quickly too... they're the kind of biscuit you can bake when you get that 'oooh I wish I had some home-made biscuits' feeling that I seem to get on a Sunday evening but never have anything just baked... well, now you have.

makes 24 biscuits
150g self raising flour (or plain flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder)
150g porridge oats
100g caster sugar
100g butter
50g salted caramel (or just another 50g butter if you can't get any)
3 tablespoons runny honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon milk

preheat the oven to 180C and prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper

in a pan melt the honey, butter, caramel if using and milk then take off the heat

place the dry ingredients in a bowl and pour the melted ingredients on top and stir in well then set aside for about 5 minutes for it to cool and set slightly

once it's cooled it should be firm enough to roll into smallish balls which you flatten slightly on the baking tray, they spread and rise just a little

bake for about 12 minutes or until golden, cool on a wire rack before consuming

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 1 March 2013

random recipes #26 - cuttings, memories and clippings

... I know to some it may seem that recently i've been revisiting previous themes for random recipes but you see this challenge was never particularly about the theme, it's more about the idea as a whole... the concept of encouraging us to use our recipe books more whilst also being more adventurous with our cooking... to shake up the 'everyday' chef and bring out a few little ideas we may have never tried before... and yes sometimes it will be a complete fail but other times you may just find a new classic to add to your repertoire...

... this month i'm going back to a firm favourite... those cuttings and clipping and old hand-written recipes we all have tucked away in folders or between the leaves of other books... i'm down in London and visiting mum again this week and well, you just have to see her clippings collection... it has a life of it's own...

...mums collection lives in the cupboard above her oven and is organised into 7 A5 sized bundles and is made up of hand-written notes, newspaper clipping, magazine clippings, old recipe books that have fallen apart and little sheets taken from one of the rolla-deck thingy's... each bundle is roughly labelled as meat, chicken, fish, lamb, soup, vegetables and desserts... and each bundle is wrapped in a larger A4 sized recipe and tied with an elastic hair band... very organised... just like my mum... and seeing that I was in her home I asked her to do the honours of selecting the recipe.  With mum turned around so she couldn't see, I pulled all seven bundles out of the cupboard and laid them on the kitchen table.  I then asked mum to close her eyes and turn back around and reach out for a bundle... she landed on the one marked 'vegetables'... I then asked her to close her eyes again and reach into the bundle and pull out a recipe... and with a swiftness suited to a woman half her age this is exactly what she did...

... it's a recipe for Stuffed Mushrooms with leeks, Blue Cheese and Walnuts and it comes from a magazine clipping with no notes or clues as to the actual magazine other than it being under the heading of Comfort Cooking... it looks delicious and I can't wait to make it...

and so of course, now it's your turn, so here are the rules:

1 - locate your clippings, old hand-written recipes, tear sheets etc and place them all on a table or floor... 
2 - close your eyes, put out your hand and randomly land it on a clipping
3 - make that exact recipe - do not cheat, you're only cheating yourself!
4 - you may adapt the recipe for health/dietary/product availability purposes only
5 - post the recipe on your blog linking back to me and my blog
6 - include the random recipes badge in the post
7 - email me a link to your post to dominic(at)belleaukitchen(dot)co(dot)uk
8 - challenge deadline is March 29th 
9 - if you tweet your posts please mention @belleaukitchen, and use the hashtag #randomrecipes and I will retweet all those I see
10 - your post can be submitted to other blogging challenges, just make sure this complies with the rules of the other challenge.

go on, get away with you now...



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