Friday, 30 August 2013

random recipes #31 - round-up

... I knew this month would be an enjoyable one for me... it was great to get a bit more insight into your lovely minds and your amazing cookbook collections... and so interesting to discover which books you'd grab and run and why... like me, many of you went with books that wern't your favourite but had some kind of practical aspect or books that covered all corners of cooking... and then some of you simply panicked and just grabbed the first book they saw... anyway I think you all enjoyed the process too, so without further ado here's August's collection of random recipes...

first out of the gate we have Shaheen from A2K Allotment to Kitchen with a divine Eggs en Cocotte with Spinach and Cream randomly selected from Cranks Fast Food by Nadine Abensur

read the rest of your amazing entry's after the jump...

Monday, 26 August 2013

summer pudding - a tea time treat

... I had a lazy day yesterday thumbing through my cookbooks looking for a recipe for this month's tea time treats challenge hosted so wonderfully by the lovely Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Kate from What Kate Baked... the theme for this month is jelly's, ice creams and chilled desserts and I was at a bit of a loss to be honest because quite frankly i've not really been in the mood for much cooking lately and I feel like the constant challenge to push myself is becoming a bit of a chore... when I get into this kind of baking funk I turn to my old friends the cookbooks and whilst there was a plethora of clever recipes for all kinds of appropriate dishes it was the simple and glorious tradition of the Summer Pudding that got me in the end... as it happens the recipe is adapted from one I found in my grab and run Delia Smith book... Delia's Complete Cookery Course.  I don't remember when I first had a summer pudding but I do remember how fascinated I was by the fact that it uses bread as it's building structure, much like it's more autumnal cousin the bread and butter pudding and I simply adore the fact that all the incredible red berry juices soak into the bread so beautifully.

summer pudding 
I have a bit of a thing about chilled fruit puddings you see... whilst many of you out there will eat your traditional british puddings warm with custard I really like my fruit pies, crumbles and puddings served cold from the fridge with a dollop of pouring cream... I have no idea where I got this particular peculiarity from but I just can't help myself... i've even been known to place cake into the fridge and serve this really cold too, there's something that the coldness does to the taste and consistency that I prefer... maybe it enhances the tartness of the fruit or it could be simply that because it's cold I can eat it quicker... whatever the reason the Summer Pudding is my ideal dessert.

this recipe is for a 15cm pudding basin
a few slices of thick cut white bread
400g mixed summer berries - the Lincolnshire Co-Op do a frozen summer berry box
2 or 3 tablespoons golden caster sugar - depending on taste
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

use a little butter to grease your pudding basin then take the slices of bread and patchwork them into the basin... I usually cut a circle for the base and then triangles for the sides, fitting in pieces where there are patches... make sure you leave enough for a lid

in a pan add the fruit, orange blossom water, sugar and vinegar and gently heat... you want it to heat through for a few minutes so the sugar dissolves but so that the fruit doesn't lose it's texture

pour the fruit into the pudding, place the lid on top and then place a small plate on top of the pudding - small enough so that it touches the pudding, then place something heavy on top and pop it in the fridge for at least 24 hours

once you're ready to serve turn the pudding upside down and tap it on top... sometimes the pudding drops out easily but on occasion the butter used to line the dish solidifies and you may have to wait a while for it to melt and release the pudding

serve with lashings of cream

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 23 August 2013

strawberry swirl meringues

... whilst living in the 21st century means we have access to an incredible array of produce from all over the globe it also means we put pressure on producers to deliver food that simply wouldn't naturally be available and more than it's effect on the environment I think this has effected our attitude towards food in a negative way... and it's slowly crept upon us over the past decade or so... i'm not going to lecture you here on autumnal peruvian asparagus but the point i'd like to make is that our acceptance of this year-round abundance is an acceptance in what I think is a decline in quality and therefor taste...

... take the humble strawberry... this juicy, plump, bright red little berry, in my opinion should come to you firm, sweet but with a slightly tart edge to it that really brings out its flavour and if you're lucky enough to have access to a pick-your-own farm or a supermarket that stocks them locally and seasonally in June and July then you'll know exactly what i'm talking about... but now we've reached the end of August the shelves are still being stocked with inferior, dark red, funky berries that simply shouldn't be... and whilst we should all stop purchasing them to prove to the 'market' that we don't want these inferior products i'm not sure my influence is that strong... so there's only one thing to do with these little beasts and that's cook with them...

strawberry swirl meringues
so I was making traditional vanilla egg custard ice cream last weekend which meant I had egg whites and we all know that this means it's meringue time... I wanted to experiment with adding the strawberry puree into the egg white mix to see what would happen and i'm very pleased with the results.  The meringue is crispy and golden on the outside because I used golden caster sugar but on the inside they are a soft and stunning shade of rosy pink with dark red flecks, every mouthful a little surprise of colour... I added a little puree to the cream and a dash of rosewater too just for something special...

for the strawberry puree
1 punnet of strawberries (roughly 15 strawberries) - hulled and chopped
2 tablespoons caster sugar

for the meringue
3 large free-range egg whites
175g golden caster sugar
a pinch of salt

for the cream
150ml fresh whipping cream
1 teaspoon rosewater

pre-heat the oven to 140C and line a large baking tray with parchment

start with the puree by blending the strawberries with the sugar using one of those hand-held thingies - set aside

in a large, clean bowl beat the egg whites until medium hard peaks are formed, then add the sugar a tablespoon at a time beating in between each addition, until you have firm, glossy peaks - gently fold in 3 tablespoons of the strawberry puree but don't mix it completely

feel free to pipe the meringue into fancy swirls but if you're impatient and shaky like me then go for a 'rustic' look... simply dollop generous sized mounds of the stuff onto the baking tray and pop into the oven for 35 minutes at which point you switch off the oven and leave the meringues and oven to cool

when you're ready to serve simply whip the cream to a thick consistency, fold in another two tablespoons of puree and a little rose water and use this to sandwich to pieces of meringue together... I got 7 sandwiches out of this recipe

drizzle with the remaining puree and serve

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

roasted beetroot and potato soup in homemade bread bowls

... it's a funny time of year... you kind of want it to stay summer forever but for me the lure of October has begun it's spooky, crunchy-leafed crawl up into my mind... I was out walking along by the river late on saturday and with the nights beginning to draw in I had such a 'by the fireside' sensation which normally would make me worried for the end of the summer but it actually thrilled me a little... I swear I could smell autumn... i'm almost more excited about the on-coming Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night than Christmas... I can finally get out of these shorts and out on some proper clothes...  Obviously all this thought of the change in the seasons effected the part of my brain that makes me crave certain foods so I rushed home to roast vegetables and fill the house the with the aroma of lovely things...

roasted beetroot and potato soup in homemade bread bowls
whenever we're in San Francisco we always visit the Fisherman's Wharf and even though it's a little tacky with its plethora of tourists shops, end of the pier attractions and over-priced boating excursions it still has an undeniable lure, particularly for the foodie with row after row of 'traditional' seaside fayre including the infamous clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl... the only issue with this of course is that The Viking cannot sit down with me to enjoy this fishy bowl of goodness and I just know that the idea of soup in a bowl you can eat is way up there on his 'best things in the world to eat' list...

for the soup
1 large bunch of raw beetroots (about 5) - cut into quarters
10 small potatoes - cut in half
1 medium onion - quartered
a selection of fresh herbs
olive oil and seasoning
2 pints good veg stock

for the bread bowls
400g strong white flour
1 teaspoon dried active yeast
1 teaspoon salt
300ml luke warm water
2 tablespoons of olive oil

start with the bread by combining all the ingredients in a large bowl and then kneading for about 10 mins until soft, place the dough back into the bowl, cover with cling film and leave it to rise for at least an hour or until doubled in size

one the dough is risen, knock it back on an oiled surface and divide the dough into 4 and shape into rounds, lay out on a baking sheet and cover again with cling film and set aside for 30 mins whilst you pre-heat the oven to 200C

Bake on 200C for 10 mins then turn down the oven to 170C for 25-30 mins, they will be ready when they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom - set aside on a wire rack to cool completely

to make the soup simply bung the veg and herbs into a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and seasoning and roast on 170C for about 30 mins until the veg are tender and beginning to turn golden

tip the roasted veg into a large pan, cover with stock and gently simmer for about 10 mins until the beetroot are tender, turn off the heat and let the soup cool a little before blending into a smooth soup.  You may wish to sieve it at this stage but it's not essential.

when you're ready to serve place the rolls back into a hot oven for about 5 mins to totally firm up the crusts then cut a lid off the top of the bowls, scoop out the bread and fill the bowls with soup

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

wild strawberry jam bundt

... as is inevitably the way my lovely, barely 2 year-old oven decided to pack it in just a few weeks after its warranty ran out... well, it didn't quite pack it in but the element in the right hand side turbo-oven gave up the ghost as I was baking bread which was of course a total pain in the arse but being fortunate enough to have purchased a larger oven I simply switched the loaves into the regular oven... they didn't quite survive but that's another story for another day...

... what I have learnt is that I was favouring the turbo-oven to the point of neglect of the regular oven... if there were such a thing as an oven cruelty hot-line my left-hand-side oven would have been on speed dial... is any of this interesting in any way... I doubt it... but i'll continue... so now that the turbo-oven is fixed i've decided to use both ovens on an alternate basis depending on the amount of food that needs to be cooked.  Now there is a reason as to why i'm informing you very patient readers about all this guff and that is in order to fix my out of warranty oven I had to enlist the help of my very friendly neighbourhood Nigel... you don't have one?  You should get one... oh and ours is not for transfer...

... i'm a very resourcefully person and can turn my hands to most things but when it comes to electrics I bow to the professionals... it's lucky I do as it's doubtful you'd be reading this today with the amount of 'incidents' with electricity i've had... this cake is baked in the new turbo-oven and is a thank you to dear Nigel...

wild strawberry jam bundt 
honestly these wild strawberries are the berries that keep on giving, the more you pick the more they come and they have the most wonderful flavour, like a cross between regular strawberries and bubble-gum... I made two batches of jam last week, well i'm slowly trying to fill my wonderful quickjars jars but I think I went a bit to fast on this particular batch of wild strawberry jam as it simply wouldn't set and I lost patience with it... I still jarred it, knowing I would find something to do with it and it's worked wonders in this cake and in the icing too...

for the cake
4 free-range eggs
300g butter
200g golden caster sugar
200g self-raising flour combined with 100g ground almonds
100g or 3 tablespoons jam

for the icing
500g icing sugar
the juice of one lemon

pre-heat the oven to 170C and spray your bundt tin with an easy release spray

in a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until nice and light and fluffy then add one egg, beating with a wooden spoon until incorporated, followed by a bit of the four/almond mix, continue this way until the eggs and flour/almonds have been used then add the jam and beat in until you have a pale pink batter (if your jam is really thick and solid simply heat it up slightly before using)

pour the batter into you tin and bake for 40 mins or until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean - set aside to cool completely

to make the icing, halve the sugar into two bowls and into one mix the juice of one lemon until you have a thick but pouring icing and into the other mix in the jam - again, heat the jam first if it's too thick to pour, then drizzle onto the cold cake for effect

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 16 August 2013

parsnip and pine-nut soya veggie burger with homemade bun

... our London office is situated on the corner of St Martin's Lane and Long Acre in the heart of the West End where Soho meets Covent Garden... my window looks out onto a world where everything is happening ... if it's going on in the world it's probably going on outside my window.  Sometimes this is an incredible thing and at others, as you can imagine, it gets a little tiresome... one of the views from my window is that of the queue outside Five Guys, London's latest addition to the tumour that is the trend for burger... many have their opinion of how and when this love of burgers started, none better put than by the brilliant Food Urchin and although I do love a good burger myself but I have to say there is something rather vile about what I see on a day to day basis from my window...

... firstly the smell is acrid... it's like a continuous burning flesh smell, sweet and aromatic and perfect for the 15 minutes you may spend within the joint but on a daily basis it burns the lining of your nostrils and makes me think evil things about five guys i've never met and a giant barbecue... secondly there's the brown paper bags dripping in grease - it can only take 5 second to walk from the counter to the exit but every single person that departs holding a bag of grease must surely think twice about what they're about to eat... thirdly the burgers themselves - now this isn't a review of the product because I haven't yet had the pleasure but from what i've seen I doubt i'm missing much... They say the eyes are the windows to the stomach, well you can poke mine out with cocktail sticks for the layered mess of bun, meat and cheese i've been fortunate enough to clap my eyes upon... and finally let us discuss the queues... tourists (for it is only tourists i've ever seen) begin their line-up at roughly 11:15 and continue this way until about 14:45... I mean, really?  REALLY?

parsnip and pine-nut soya veggie burgers
all that said I really do love a burger, it reminds me of being a child... that juicy, dripping-down-the-chin, barbecue burnt, hand-held treat... and of course with all the burger smell in my brain I simply had to make something we could tuck into.  I knew I wanted to go veggie because I think burgers are all about sharing and The Viking loves anything sandwiched... I also had a heap load of parsnips in the fridge and felt they'd make a great addition to the soya mix to pep it up and take it away from it's 'fake meat' blandness... the added cheese, left in chunks, gives me that dripping down the chin moment all burger eating should have...

makes 4 large burgers (and 6 rolls)
for the bread rolls
400g strong white bread flour
300ml luke warm water
1 teaspoon fast action yeast
1 teaspoon salt
olive oil for kneading

for the burgers
one 87g sachet of soya mix - rehydrated with water
2 parsnips - finely grated
8 medium button mushrooms - finely chopped
5 spring onions - finely chopped
2 tablespoons pine-nuts
150g hard cheese - pulled into chunks
fresh herbs - I used thyme and rosemary
1 egg - beaten

rehydrate the soya mix in a large bowl and set aside

in a pan gently saute the mushrooms and spring onions along with the herbs and plenty of butter and pepper until nice and soft - add this to the large bowl

grate the the parsnips into the bowl then add the rest of the ingredients and mix it all together with your hands

once thoroughly mixed, form into four patties, wrap in cling-film and place in the fridge for at least an hour

make the bread rolls using the low-knead method, then divide into six rounds once you reach the final rising stage - bake them till golden and risen

to cook the burgers, fry them in a little oil on both sides for about 5 mins until golden then pop them onto a baking tray and into an oven on about 180C for another 10 minutes

split the buns and serve with your choice of salad, dressings and whatever takes your fancy

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

mixed fruit and jam pie

... thanks to the incredible sunshine we've been having here in the UK the harvest has begun in full force and many of the fields that were once golden with wheat are now barren and dusty with cracked earth and the five o'clock shadowy stubs of the recently shaven... it's such a wonderful thing to be part of the process of production, it's like a documentary about the cycle of farm to fork right outside my window and other than the forlorn looking sheep who seem to know something is up, there really very little to disturb this bucolic idyll... but I love the juxtaposition between the countryside and the city.  I consider myself very fortunate to be able to have the best of both these worlds in my life although sometimes I do feel a little like i'm on some kind of emotional elastic umbilical cord between the two... 

mixed fruit and jam pie with fresh mint sweet shortcrust pastry
it seems to be pie time again, which is not a bad thing if you're a pastry lover like me and the big V who will essentially eat anything sandwiched between two pieces of buttery pastry... pies are a beautiful way to use up a glut of fruit or if like me you're running around with loads of fruit in a bowl that's in danger of going off a pie is a great way of using it up... my wild strawberry bush also seems to be very generous this year - the more I pick them more it grows and a handful of wild strawberries goes a long way in a pie... I also made some very sloppy jam last week, it barely set and rather than giving up hope I jarred it anyway and have kept it in the fridge knowing it would be perfect for just such a pie-making occasion... it's actually giving most of the sweetness in this pie as I like a bit of tartness in my fruit filling but feel free to add more should you wish...

for the fresh mint sweet shortcrust pastry
280g plain flour
140g butter or margarine
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
3 or 4 leaves of fresh mint - shredded and chopped
cold water to mix

for the pie filling
1 apple - diced
1 nectarine - diced
roughy 10 raspberries
roughly 12 wild strawberries
1 tablespoon plain flour
3 tablespoons raspberry jam
a little sugar to taste

start with the pastry and take a large bowl into which you place the flour and butter and combine with your fingertips until you have rough breadcrumbs... throw in the rest of the ingredients and stir together then pour in a little cold water and using your favourite hand combine until you have a soft dough

wrap in cling-film and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes

for the pie filling, place the fruit and flour in a pan and stir together, then gently heat until it all begins to bubble - you may need to stir occasionally to prevent it sticking.  Once it begins to soften add the jam and any additional sugar and again let it bubble for a few minutes or so.  I don't like my fruit too soft at this stage - take the pan off the heat and set aside

pre-heat the oven to 170C

roll out your pastry and line a pie dish, you should have enough pastry left over to create a lattice top of a plain lid.

pour the pie filling into the dish, create the pie top of your choice, brush the pastry with a little egg milk wash and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

aubergine, courgette and tomato bake thick-base pizza - a random recipe

... as we all know by now The Viking has some strange ideas about food... too numerous to list here but it begins with the fact the he's always felt that food is fuel and so not worthy of the 'fuss we all make'... and ends with the fact that he's so 'left-field' as a human being he absolutely hates trends of any kind and will go out of his way to avoid them... he's also very proudly working-class and this is most definitely what influences his food choices and which, all wrapped up, leads me neatly into this post... you see he despises thin-crust pizza, particularly the trendy wood-oven type... I know for a fact that he would prefer to tuck into the thick dough of a pizza hut pizza rather than stand in a queue for anything we may think more worthy of his hard-earned dollar...

aubergine, courgette and tomato bake thick pizza
obviously anyone with even half the knowledge that I have of Delia's Complete Cookery Course will know that i've diverted from the recipe ever so slightly... well i'd say less diverted from the actual recipe rather than it's what i've done with the final product that's changed... so yes, a bending of the random recipes rules but only to get it from plate to mouth... my excuse, if you need one, is that Delia recommends the dish as an accompaniment to lamb, which is all very well but a little dull to serve by itself for a vegetarian meal... using it this way has given it a life of its own and a nice twist to the classic pizza topping... and is also one of the reasons why this book is my 'grab and run' book as the classics are so good you can play with them to your hearts content, knowing they'll be failsafe... i'm using wholemeal flour for the pizza base because that's what I had in the cupboard but feel free to substitute for white flour

for the aubergine bake
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small knob of butter
1 medium onion - finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic - crushed with salt
fresh herbs of your choice
1/2 teaspoon all spice
1 aubergine - cut into chunks
1 courgette - cut into chunks
2 x tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

for the pizza dough
500g strong white bread flour
325ml luke warm water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons caster sugar

extra cheese of your choice for the topping - i've used mozzarella, Lincolnshire Poacher (of course) and a new goats cheese that has been made locally by a friend of a friend, it's called Yarborough Blue and it's gorgeous!

start with the aubergine bake by gently sauteing the onions and garlic in a little olive oil and butter, add an abundance of fresh herbs and the all spice and let the whole thing gently turn golden for about 15 minutes, then add the aubergine and courgettes, stir it around, turn up the heat and let the pieces brown a little as they begin to soften

after about 10 minutes add the tomato, balsamic and sugar, stir and reduce the heat to the very lowest and let it slowly bubble away for at least an hour if not longer - place a lid on and let it cool

make the dough by adding the oil, yeast, salt and sugar to the water and leaving for 5 mins whilst you sieve the flour into a large bowl

add the water and bring the flour together with your hands then knead for about 10 mins until the dough is soft and silky... place a damp tea towel over the bowl and set aside whilst the dough doubles in size

if your ready to build your pizza, knock back the dough, split in two and spread out the dough into a large pan or oven-proof dish... I've used a classic sponge rolly-polly pan but any flat dish with shallow sides will work... cover in cling-flim and set aside whilst you pre-heat your oven to 200C

once the oven is hot pop the dough in for about 6 minutes, this lets the dough rise a little and cook slightly so you have a more bready consistency... after 6 minutes take it out of the oven, slather on the aubergine bake, cover in cheese - I used mozzarella and a creamy goats cheese - and bake for about 15 mins until golden and bubbly

a couple of months ago the fine people at pelia sent me some samples of their cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and with one thing and another I totally neglected the poor little bottles sitting on my shelf... and what a mistake that was, having tasted the glorious stuff it was akin to leaving liquid gold to the dust-bunnies and cobwebs... it's a beautiful product that you can tell the moment you open the bottle as the sweet and slightly grassy aroma hits your nose... ideal for salads as it has a very clean taste and perfection for pizza dough... you can find out more here.

this month's theme for random recipes is 'grab and run' and the rules can be seen here...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 9 August 2013

pear and dark chocolate flapjacks

WARNING... i'm going to be talking about the inside of my bum for the next paragraph so if you're squeamish then scan down to the recipe...

... so after the eight day hospital vacation, dramatic weight-loss, second scare - which involved me drinking something nasty and sitting on the toilet for 2 days thus missing the first annual #smuttsgetogether, and second CT scan my doctor called me in once again for another humiliating day of anal probage... I won't go into too much detail ( believe me, i could, I have the photo's...) but let's just say that one enema and a colonoscopy later and I finally have the all-clear.. woo-hoo! My doctor, who is thankfully not hot but nonetheless very talented, is hoping that i should be one of the rare cases who had an unfortunate isolated incident but, ensuring I keep to a healthy lifestyle, shouldn't see it recur again.  He did admit to me that there was no conclusive proof that a high-fibre diet would be of any help but that he recommended it none-the-less and i'm happy to include more fibre into my diet... talking of healthy eating...

pear and dark chocolate flapjacks
we were all off the the revesby country show last weekend and picnics were the order of the day... I wanted to bake something fast to make and fun to eat and something nice and sweet to give us all energy for the afternoon... these little treats we perfect for the gang to snack on... the addition of the pear is very subtle but it adds a little fruitiness to the mix.  They are of course very sweet and buttery but then a little sugar love once in a while is not the end of the world...

makes 12 large flapjacks

6oz butter
8oz soft brown light sugar
6 tablespoons golden syrup
2 pears - grated (or same weight of other fruit)
12oz rolled oats
50g dark chocolate

- pre-heat the oven to 180C and lightly oil a traybake tin - I used a classic Swiss Roll tin.

- melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan and then once melted take it off the heat and add the oats, and grated apple and stir well

- pour into the baking tin and bake for 20-25 mins until golden

- cool on a wire rack but cut them into squares whilst they're still a little warm then drizzle with melted dark chocolate.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

summer sausage stew with cider and radishes

... as some keen observers will have noticed The Viking and I have taken the plunge and finally rented a flat in London... our business seems to have turned a corner to the point where the odd trip to the big city simple won't fulfil the demands of our clients and so an opportunity to rent a pad in town came up which we took... it's fun and so much less stressful to finally have a proper place of our own again and even though the rent is embarrassingly huge I can barely look at my bank statements each month, it's totally worth it to finally not have to sleep on friends floors or even in a bed in my dear mother's house...

... our new flat is great, very stylish actually - naturally... it's a basement flat - I think they call them 'garden flat's round here and the back room that leads onto the garden has a flat roof with 3 opaque roof-lights set in it and whilst the room is gloriously bright, during this heatwave it's been like living in an oven - no word of a lie, you could fry an egg on the floor... not that i've tried.  The thing is, recently it's not been too conducive to doing a lot of major cooking in so i'm quite glad it's cooled down a little this past weekend which hopefully means a little more 'London cooking' from me...

summer sausage stew with cider and radishes
you know sometimes on a cold winters eve you just want to come home from work, throw some stuff lurking in the back of your fridge into a large roasting tin with some wine and loads of herbs and roast the bugger out of it till you're left with a gorgeous caramelised mess that tastes like heaven and warms you inside and out... well I want that now... obviously more of the ease and less of the warmth but I still want that one pot wonder... well I think i've cracked something that isn't too wintery for these hot summer days... I had a glut of radishes left over from my mums birthday weekend picnic... it seems everyone and their mother brought them to the house to put into salads etc but we simply could get through them all... i've never cooked with them before but they baked up quite well, I was impressed.

1 packet 12 sausages - I used Lincolnshire of course...
2 large salad onions - roughy chopped
6 cloves garlic - un-peeled
1 packet of small radishes - roughly 20 
2 braeburn apples - roughly quartered
1 large glass of cider
fresh herbs of your choice - I used rosemary and lemon thyme

bung the whole lot into a large roasting tin and roast for 1 hour on 160C turning the heat up to 180C for the last 10 minutes to brown the sausages

serve with a big salad and a smile!

this stew is inspired by a sausage and cider Nigel Slater recipe I'd found in an old magazine cutting... I cut out the name of the magazine but I have a feeling it's from the guardian... and as such i'm entering this stew into the brilliant Dish of the Month bloggers challenge hosted so spectacularly each month by Sue from A little bit of Heaven on a Plate and Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

wild strawberry, rose and purple gooseberry jam

... an empty bottle, an empty jar... sitting there on the shelf... is there anything more alluring to a foodie than the call of the un-contained container...?

... other than a very brief foray into an amazing jar of banana jam i've never actually made a proper breakfast jam before... i've never made marmalade... i've never pickled anything and i've most certainly never bottled anything like my own sloe gin or elderflower cordial... it's hard to believe isn't it, but it's true... well, all that's about to change as i've been very fortunate to have been sent the most generous box of goodies from the fine people at quickjars... the box is quite literally stuffed with bottles of all sizes - including a champagne bottle - jam jars and mustard jars... all their bottles and jars are handpicked and environmentally sourced which makes you feel good about filling them with your own beautifully crafted produce...  it's probably one of the most exciting gifts a foodie can get and I can't wait to start filling them all... there are some amazingly delicious recipes on the brilliant quickjars website that i'm already planning to make but I do hope you'll all help inspire me with ideas of what to fill them with over the next weeks and months too...

wild strawberry, rose and purple gooseberry jam
The Viking grabbed a couple of wild strawberry plants at the garden centre back in May and popped them into our planted wheelbarrow... they've slowly blossomed into a glorious bush of the deepest ruby nuggets and it seems the more you pick the more come back... it's still only a handful but combined with the small handful of purple gooseberries I get from our single gooseberry bush he thought they'd make a very cute pot of jam... and he was right... as i've never made proper jam before I don't think my method is particularly proper either so it's doubtful if you should follow it but i've got myself a little pot of glorious fruity fabulousness so i'm quite happy... well done Viking...

so it's a little hard to give you measurements as it was all a little bit of guess-work but here goes:
10 wild strawberries
10 purple gooseberries
5 raspberries
the rind of a quarter of an orange - thinly sliced
4 or 5 tablespoons caster sugar (you want the same weight of sugar as fruit)
1 teaspoon rosewater

place it all in a small pan, stir it together and let it sit for a minute or two as the fruit absorbs the sugar, then gently bring to the boil

let it boil at a rapid boil for 2 or 3 minutes... it should start to thicken and the boiling should become less rapid

take it off the heat and pour a teaspoon of the jam onto a cold plate or an object from in the fridge, let it sit for a moment or two and then push it gently with your finger.  If it wrinkles, even a little, then it's done, if not then place it back onto the heat for a little while longer

pour into a sterilised jar and seal with wax paper and a lid

this months brilliant AlphaBakes challenge settles on the letter G and perhaps for the first time I can say with confidence that this jam with its gooseberries can be included... AlphaBakes is hosted by Caroline from Caroline Makes and Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker

the enthusiastic foodies over at quickjars have very kindly offered my readers a 10% discount voucher... all you have to do is send the lovely Adam a quick email via the quickjars site and he'll send you the voucher...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 2 August 2013

baked salmon and chorizo

... men... we're not very good in this heat are we..? particularly Londoners and city dwellers... it's the whole shorts / shoes / smart thing that we just can't get a handle on... do we wear shorts and risk the knobbly knee stares from our office compadres... and what shoes do we wear with them... the flip-flop - which happens to be my personal nemesis, is totally unacceptable for the hairy-toed male in an office situation... I love a suede brogue, a colourful sock and a nice pair of legs but then what do you wear on top... will a suit jacket go with shorts?  A shirt and tie maybe... it's just so confusing and very un-fair when you lucky ladies can quite literally throw on the skimpiest of light dresses and look fabulous and cool...

... as it happens I have rather fabulous legs and know a thing or two about footwear so you'll never see me with this kind of quandary, plus it's really all about confidence and I have buckets of that too... it's the poor sweltering suit-wearing chaps I feel sorry for... or do I?

baked salmon and chorizo
as far as food is concerned a little heat in the heat is always good for the soul and this tasty little gem serves to pep up what can sometimes be a rather dull flavoured fish.  The chorizo adds the right amount of spice to bring the salmon alive but the fennel and celery leaves, plus what's clearly turning out to be my favourite summer herb - lemon thyme, helps keep the freshness of the fish in the dish... a very light and quick steam in the oven also locks in these summery flavours so well... you don't need any extra oil as the chorizo is packed with it's own lovely fats, so it's win-win...  i'm entering this dish into the Cooking with Herbs bloggers challenge, hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage.  The challenge encourages us to use more herbs in our everyday cooking which is a lovely thing...

2 pieces of fresh salmon
10 slices of chorizo sausage
1/2 fennel bulb - finely sliced
2 sprigs lemon thyme
a handful of celery leaves

pre-heat your oven to 160C

tear off a sheet of foil and lay it onto a baking sheet, now tear off a larger sheet of parchment paper and scrunch it up, then flatten it out and lay it onto the foil

place 4 or 5 pieces of the chorizo onto the middle of the paper, then place on the fennel and lemon thyme followed by the pieces of salmon, then another 4 or 5 slices of chorizo and finally some torn celery leaves

wrap it up tightly, first in the paper, then the foil and bake for 7 - 10 mins depending on how well done you like your salmon... serve immediately

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

random recipes #31 - grab and run

... now that we've finally got a permanent place of our own again in London I've been thinking about which cookery books I should take down with me and which I should leave up at the cottage... it's really hard as part of me feels I should take the inspirational books with me but another part of me thinks I should take just the practical books... I just know that there'll be a crucial moment where i'll be wishing I had something somewhere I don't... we were leaving in a hurry for London yesterday morning and The Viking shouted to me that I should just grab a book and run for the car as we were going to be late... it was like one of those 'life flashing before the eyes' moments as the titles of all my dear cookbooks flickered across my mind... what should I take... which of my book-babies would I leave behind... and of course this inspired me for the theme of this months random recipes...

... if you had 10 seconds to grab one book, which one would it be...

... you probably won't be surprised to learn that I chose Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course... it's not my favourite book by far, this challenge is not necessarily about favourites but it's my 'go-to' book for whenever i'm stuck for how to do something or for a recipe for something that's so obvious I really should know how to cook... so that's what I grabbed and randomly opening it on page 229 is a recipe for Baked Aubergines with Tomatoes... as it happens I have a fridge drawer full of aubergines... one of those random impulse purchases... so i'm good to go... how about you?

so here's how you take part:

1. get a friend to count to 10 and in that time you have to run into your kitchen and grab the first book you feel is worthy of keeping
2. take that book off the shelf and open it at a random page
3. cook the recipe on this page or if it's something you've cooked before then turn to the very next page and cook that dish... and don't cheat... do it with a friend in the room who will make you stick to it...
it's a challenge after all and you're only cheating yourself... this is specifically designed to take you out of your comfort zone...!
4. you may change the recipe for dietary or monetary or seasonal availability reasons only
5. post it up on your blog, with a link to this page and then email me with a link at dominic(@) so I know you've joined in, you can also attach the badge to show people you're taking part.
6. tweet your entry including the hashtag #randomrecipes and I will retweet all I see
7. challenge deadline is Aug 29th.

... go on then, what are you waiting for... start counting to 30...



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