Sunday, 30 March 2008

Spicy Tuna Fish Cakes


This is a pretty cheap recipe to make, just using up some things that we had in the cupboards. I have been working a lot this weekend on the computer, so have not had time to go out and get any shopping, but managed to rustle up this nice fish cake meal out of not very much! They are actually less complicated than I thought they would be to make. The addition of the cheese means that they are not as healthy as they could have been, but this sticks everything together rather well. You could use egg instead.

Ingredients
  • 500 g potatoes - peeled, boiled and mashed.
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 chilli
  • 1 nob butter
  • 1 handful fresh coriander leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Thai 7 Spices
  • 50 g cheddar cheese - grated
  • 1 tin tuna fish in water (I prefer this to the ones in oil)
  • Flour for dusting
  • Cooking spray
Melt the butter in a pan, then gently fry the onion, garlic and chilli for about 5 minutes. Add this in to the mashed potato along with the Thai spices, chopped coriander leaves and cheese. Mash this all together.

Now drain the tuna and add this in with the potatoes. Gently mix it in so that its thoroughly mixed, but still with some nice chunks of tuna in there.

Make this into 4 balls and squash them into flat round fish cakes. Dust with flour. Place on a baking tray coated with cooking spray, and then cook in the oven at 200C for about 30 minutes, turning a couple of times during the cooking. They should be just golden when done, and crispy.

Serve with some fresh vegetables and some sweet chilli sauce for dipping into.

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Saturday, 29 March 2008

Channel 4 Taste Festivals



This dropped into my email inbox today, I think because in the past we went to an Italian food festival in London so we are on the mailing list. It sounds very exciting ....

Imagine tasting paprika lime squid with garlic aioli, stir fried beef fillet in black pepper or classic lobster creamed soup flavoured with brandy prepared by world renowned chefs including Tom Aiken, Joel Robuchon and Rowley Leigh.
Taste of London is an irresistible occasion that all foodies adore. This years thrilling line up of restaurants includes L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon, Le Café Anglais, China Tang, Tom’s Place and many other chefs and restaurateurs you’'ve been longing to meet.
You can choose how you would like to enjoy Taste of London with a range of tickets from standard entry tickets to the luxury Fortnum and Mason Connoisseur's ticket which includes:

Exclusive entry into the Laurent-Perrier Champagne Masterclass where you can enjoy champagne pairings with unique dishes prepared by the team behind Le Caprice restaurant.
Entry into the Connoisseur's Lounge for the opportunity to sample fine wines under the guidance of leading wine experts, and to sample a variety of fresh foods specially prepared by Fortnum & Mason.
•£20 worth of Crowns*
Fortnum and Mason gift bag.

Don’t miss your chance for a fantastic Summer's day out.

To find out more or to book tickets visit channel4.com/taste
or call the hotline on 0871 230 5581

It just so happens that my birthday falls on this weekend, so if I am very lucky I may get tickets as a gift from my other half! I can't wait.

I am particularly excited by the Taste of China that is going to be featured there, since going to China for a 3 week trip in 2006 I have fallen in love with proper oriental and Chinese food (not the stuff you get in greasy takeaways in England).

Also on my list of things to some really amazing restaurants. I will be wanting to sample some of the Zilli Fish, Tamarind, Tom's Place, and the Boxwood Cafe to name a few! Actually if I am honest, I will probably end up trying as much as I can possibly try, it all sounds amazing. And I am a greedy pig!

Regents Park is a great location for it, last year we went to an Innocent Smoothies festival there and it is a lovely park.

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Friday, 28 March 2008

Spicy Meatballs in Tomato Sauce


Mama Mia! That's a spicy meatball! As they say in the old Alka Seltzer advert! It's hard to cook meatballs without saying that, or without saying 'Bada-bing, bada-boom' in a Noo York Italian accent. Or maybe that is just me. Have a look at the video clip and then do some mock American Italian accents and tell me you don't fancy meat balls!

Anyway, today's dinner was spicy meatballs with a spicy tomato sauce, peas and pasta. I am quite pleased with the pictures taken during the preparation, but the pics of the finished product are a bit disappointing - I was starving by this point, we had been to the gym this evening.

This makes about 15 meatballs, enough for 2 large portions, 4 smaller ones. It depends how hungry you are.

Ingredients
  • 500 g minced beef
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 birds eye chillies
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • Handful peas
  • Pasta to serve with
For the tomato sauce, chop half the onion, 1 clove garlic and 1 chilli. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small pan, then fry the onions, chilli and garlic until the onions are translucent. Add the tin of tomatoes and bay leaf and cook on a low heat for about 10 or 15 minutes, with a lid on.

For the meatballs, very finely chop the rest of the onion, garlic and chilli and add to the minced beef in a bowl. Add in the dried basil and season well with salt and pepper. Now you need to get your hands dirty, this is the fun part! Mix all this together with your hands until its pretty evenly mixed.

Now divide the beef up, you will probably get about 12-15 meatballs from this amount of meat. Roll up into balls using your hands, as shown below and modelled using my own hands. This is quite good fun - probably good fun for kids as well if you have any to help out, careful of the chillies though, make sure to wash hands afterwards.


Now heat the remainder of the olive oil in a large frying pan. Not much olive oil is needed, just to give a flavour to it, because a lot of oil comes out of the beef. On medium to high heat, fry the meat balls to brown the outside, then pour over the sauce and reduce the heat.

Simmer on a low heat for about 15 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked right through, just split one open and try it to make sure.

Whilst the meatballs are simmering, cook your pasta according to the pack instructions. About two minutes before the end of cooking, add the peas into the water. Return to the boil, and then drain.

Serve in bowls with the meatballs and tomato sauce over the top of the pasta, with parmesan grated on top.

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Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Spicy and Sour Cabbage Soup

We are on a detox in our house after a weekend of stuffing faces with oversized chocolate eggs and All-You-Can-Eat Chinese meals. So the meal for today is spicy and sour cabbage soup. It is loosely based on the flavours of some Thai or Chinese style soups, for example Tom Yam but really its just a home made combination of flavours from Asia. The resulting soup was very spicy and warming, perfect for cold days, and for detoxing and diets too (it is pretty low in calories).

I am not sure exactly how much stock was added, it was enough to cover the cabbage in the pan but not so much that it makes for a really sloppy soup. Adjust it depending on your own tastes.

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion - sliced finely
  • 2 birds eye chillies - chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic - chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 savoy cabbage - shredded finely
  • 1 yellow pepper - sliced finely
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • Chicken stock - enough to cover the vegetables
  • 25 g Tamarind
  • 1 tablespoon Nam pla fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Soya sauce
Heat a large pan with the olive oil, and then fry the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, chillies and sugar and stir fry for a further 2 minutes before adding the balsamic vinegar.

Bring up to a gentle boil, stirring around to coat the onions, then add the thinly sliced cabbage and pepper. Again, stir around some more to mix evenly.

Add in the chicken stock, tin of tomatoes, and the tamarind (either from paste or made up from a block of dried fruit dissolved in water), fish sauce and Soya sauce.

Bring to the boil and then simmer covered for about half an hour until the cabbage is tender. Season with salt/ pepper/ sugar/ vinegar as required.

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Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Chicken Stock

Yesterday I cooked a roast chicken (in a bag). I hate seeing any food go to waste, so I obviously took the carcass and, after stripping all the meat off for sandwiches and salads, made it into some stock. Normally, I make up a lot, divide it up into portions and freeze it so that it can be defrosted and used in recipes as needed.

This home-made stock is far superior to any stock cubes or even shop-bought stocks, as it can be tailored to your individual tastes. I don't like the saltiness of ready bought stocks, preferring to decide how much salt to put into the meal towards the end of cooking rather than relying on stock for salt.

This is roughly what I used to make the stock, although really any flavours can be added into the mix. If using the stock in Chinese foods, for example, I may consider putting some more Asian flavours into it. The rule is no rules, just add in what you fancy really! Mix it up and experiment.

  • Chicken carcass - meat removed, I use the giblets (if available) and skin as well
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic - peel on, crushed under a knife
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon (this was inside the chicken when cooking)
  • Small handful whole peppercorns
  • 1 bouquet garni
All this was put into a pan, covered with water, and then covered and cooked on a low simmer for about 4 hours.

I have read some reports about people concentrating the stock down by evaporating off the water and then freezing in an ice cube tray, giving little concentrated blocks of flavour. I have not yet tried this, preferring to just freeze the bulk liquid and use it straight in sauces and soups, but I think I will give it a go next time.

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Monday, 24 March 2008

UK Food Bloggers Association

I have just been accepted as a member of the UK Food Bloggers Association (UKFBA)! I have not yet contributed anything to the site, but it is certainly very exciting and I am looking forward to being a part of it.

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Roast Chicken in a Bag

I have seen them selling ready prepared chickens in Tesco with flavours like garlic and herb, in a bag ready to roast in the oven. I have always been a bit suspicious of cooking in a plastic bag in the oven, thinking that this would result in a plastic-tasting chicken.

Anyway, a few weeks ago my girlfriend came home from work with a roll of roasting plastic in a tube which you cut off the required length, knot one end, and put the meat in, tie the other end and roast like that. I finally got round to giving it a go today whilst my mum was staying. I always think its not worth cooking a big roast dinner for just the two of us at home.

I did a search on the net but could not find that much about roasting bags, but this site called the Cottage Smallholder had some information on cooking chicken in a roasting bag.

This was quite an experiment for me! I followed roughly what they had done at the Cottage Smallholder and first sprayed cooking oil into the bag, then a dusting of flour, salt and pepper. I then squeezed lemon juice over the chicken, a bit of lemon zest, salt, pepper and thyme went next. I put about half the lemon inside the chicken, then roughly chopped up the other half and put that in the bag. Finally, I put the chicken itself into the bag, and tied it up with a knot.

Into the oven at 220C, for 1 hour 10 minutes (this chicken was 1.4 kg). This is the chicken about half an hour into cooking -


It was not completely air tight, as I could smell the chicken and lemon, however you can see the bag swelling with all the steam and lovely chicken, lemon and thyme flavours and aromas. I suppose its a kind of steamed roasted chicken.

After and hour and ten minutes I took the bag off, keeping the juices for gravy which was quite thick already what with the flour on the bag. I returned the chicken to the oven to brown the top off a bit. About 10 or 15 minutes in a high oven was sufficient.

The juices I poured into a pan, added a stock cube, a glass of white wine, a couple of bay leaves and some whole garlic cloves, squashed under a knife to release the flavours. The cooking water from the veg was added, and then left to boil for about 15 minutes.

Now to carve the chicken - and at this stage its looking (and tasting) very moist!

Finally served the whole lot up with some mashed potato, fresh vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and the gravy (presentation is not the best here, I admit that, but its a roast dinner and that's what they always look like in my house).

The chicken was very moist and tasty! I think I will be using these bags again. I don't think the lemon flavour came through in the meat itself, although maybe it did help with keeping the chicken moist.

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More Gardening - Tomato, Basil and Chilli

This weekend I have been busy doing some more gardening. I posted earlier about the hottest chillies known to man, the Dorset Naga. Well, I was very lucky to be given some of these by a colleague at work who bought some from www.reallycoolseeds.com.

This is the selection that I have ended up with as a present from him:

Dorset Naga: described as having a really hot fruity flavour, and rated as around 900,000 SHU they are the hottest chillies ever discovered. I am not sure what to cook with these just yet, apparently you just wave them near your food to get the flavour into it.

Orange Habanero: Another blisteringly hot chilli, which are salmon orange when ripe. They have a fruity flavour.

Hungarian Hot Wax: Easy to grow according to the pack which is good. They are supposed to be good fried, stuffed or in salads and stews.

Super Chile: I have grown these before, and they are very spicy. There were hundreds of tiny hot chillies all over the plant, good in curries.

Joe's Long Cayenne: The picture on the front shows unsurprisingly a long thin chilli. Should be red when ripe, and perfect for things like Thai red curry.

Early Jalapeno: A fat, short looking chilli. Everyone should be familiar with these from Mexican food, and they come with Subway sandwiches too!

As well as the chillies, I also planted out some basil seeds and some Gardeners Delight tomatoes. I have put them all in seed trays in the airing cupboard, hopefully within a week some of them should have started to germinate.


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Sunday, 23 March 2008

Bacon, Pea and Potato Omelette

Using some left over new potatoes from my Easter meal I made this tasty Spanish style tortilla/ omelette. The bacon used in here makes a nice smoky flavour, and the peas brighten it up nicely.

Ingredients
  • ~8 new potatoes - boiled and cooled, and sliced thinly
  • 1/2 onion - chopped
  • 2 rashers smoky bacon - chopped into little bits
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 nob butter
  • 4 eggs - beaten
  • 1 handful frozen peas
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cheese for grating on top
Heat a large heavy based frying pan and melt the butter with the olive oil. Fry the onion and bacon until the onion is soft and the bacon cooked.

Add the peas in and stir around until warmed through. Place the sliced potatoes carefully in the pan and gently turn over so that they are mixed evenly with the peas, bacon and onions.

Now beat the eggs with a bit of salt and pepper. Make sure the pan is nice and hot, and pour the beaten eggs over the whole lot. Reduce the heat.

Allow to cook through, using a spatula to gently ease the omelette away from the pan edges. Sprinkle cheese on the top. Finish off under the grill.

This is nice with a bit of sweet chilli sauce or ketchup.

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Friday, 21 March 2008

Jamaican Tilapia with Lemon and Parsely Sauce


As it is Good Friday, it's traditional to have fish for dinner. So I scoured the fish counter of the local Tesco. The shop itself was devoid of pretty much anything as people panic buy for the long weekend - you never know when you are going to run out of large chocolate eggs when the shops are closed for a whole day.

I fancied having some haddock but there was only one of these left, so I thought I would be a bit adventurous and go for a fish I had not encountered before - Jamaican Tilapia.

It turned out to be a very good choice. At about £1.90 per fillet it was also quite a bargain, and it was a really meaty flavourful fish - a lot nicer than bland old cod or haddock.

I cooked a simple parsley and lemon cream sauce to go with the fish and served it with potatoes and some veg.

Ingredients
  • 4 Jamaican Tilapia fillets
  • 40 g butter
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 20 g plain flour
  • 400 mL milk
  • 30 g fresh curly leaf parsley, chopped finely
  • 15 mL single cream
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a pan, and add the garlic. Cook on a low heat for a couple of minutes.

Keep the heat very low. Add in the flour, sifted, and mix well.

Gradually add the milk, a bit at a time, stirring continuously. Using warmed milk works best, not boiled. Bring the sauce up to a gentle simmer, stirring or whisking all the time, until it thickens.

Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, parsley and cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Grill the fish under a medium high heat for abut 5 minutes each side. Serve with the parsley sauce poured over.

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Thursday, 20 March 2008

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Sauce

This is a pretty healthy recipe, and can be used as a sauce for pasta or for meats. I was looking for a pasta sauce with chunky bits of roasted peppers just like I had eaten in an Italian restaurant a few weeks back, but could not find one anywhere so I sort of made this up as I went along.

My secret ingredient I always seem to use in tomato based sauces is tomato ketchup. It sounds a bit strange, but I have it on good authority that many top chefs use it. It adds a certain richness to the sauce, and also the sweetness just takes away the bitterness of the tomatoes without any sugar.

Of course, the basic tomato part of this sauce can be modified in all sorts of ways if you want to leave out the roasted peppers. I sometimes add in some bacon or pancetta, tinned tuna, prawns, chillies, curry powder, mushrooms, and various other vegetables.

Ingredients
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1 large yellow pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tin tomatoes (400 g)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme / dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
  • Salt and pepper
Preheat the grill to medium. Now, deseed the peppers and chop into quarters. Squash down on the grill pan to flatten them out a bit. Cook under the grill for about 5 minutes each side, turning over frequently. When done, the peppers should be slightly blackened and the skin just blistering a little as shown below. Set these to one side.


Chop the onions and garlic finely. Heat the olive oil in a pan, and fry the onions and garlic until soft (I keep the lid on to keep them moist by sweating a bit). Now add in the tinned tomatoes, tomato ketchup and herbs. Stir around, then replace the lid and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.

Remove the lid and increase the heat to thicken up the sauce a bit, you can do this for as long as you have time for - the longer it is the richer the sauce. Don't boil it too hard though as you will lose some of the flavours this way I think.

Roughly chop up the roasted peppers, stir into the sauce to heat through. Season with salt and pepper, and ketchup, as needed. Serve over some freshly cooked pasta.

This should be enough for 3 or 4 portions of pasta and is great with some parmesan cheese on the top.

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Black Forest Smoothie

This smoothie is based on the classic gateau from the 80's. Traditionally flavoured with lots of cream, chocolate and forest fruits - black cherries, blackberries, and blackcurrants are the main ingredients. It originates from the Black Forest in Germany, hence the name schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (black forest cherry cake). Usually, Kirsch liqueur is added into the cake as well for extra cherry flavour.

Unfortunately this gateau seems to have got itself a pretty poor reputation, I think this is attributable to the flooding of supermarket freezers with poor quality black forest gateaux. Sara Lee has a lot to answer for.

Anyway, my smoothie is loosely inspired by this cake! No pictures for this one as I drank it straight away! Whoops.

Here it is...

Ingredients
  • Black cherries ~10
  • Blackberries (handful)
  • Blackcurrants (handful)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ~100 g yoghurt
  • ~100 mL milk
If you are feeling very fancy, I recommend adding in some kirsch as a special treat! Other additions could be whey protein powder, or guarana for a kick!

Put all the ingredients into a blender, and whizz for about 2 minutes or until totally smooth.

Serve and enjoy this classic smoothie at once.

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Sunday, 16 March 2008

Goan Style Chicken Curry

This is a delicious soup-y style of curry. I have called this a Goan style curry as it is not from a traditional recipe, more an amalgamation of flavours in a recipe passed to me from a friend. Its my friend from work, who has grown the most awful beard lately, so I should call it 'Beardy's Goan Chicken Curry'. The original recipe was for a fish curry, but as the missus is not really a fish eater I then changed the recipe to work with chicken.

There are absolutely loads of flavours in here from the various spices and herbs, so its a deliciously aromatic curry. Take in the scents as you are cooking it!

Also, I found that the next day the left overs were less spicy than on first taste, something to do with the chilli casaicin dissolving up in the fat and oils from the curry over time maybe (capsaicin is fat soluble but not water soluble - hence why a milky drink can take away excess chilli from your mouth, but water does not help). Enough science, here is the recipe...

Ingredients
  • Nob of butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 1 onion - finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic - finely chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and grated/ finely chopped
  • 2 birdseye chillies - finely chopped, and deseeded
  • 2 teaspoons Thai 7 spice mix
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 4 good size chicken breasts - cut into ~ 1 inch cubes
  • 1 red pepper -chopped
  • 3 carrots - peeled and chopped
  • Baby corn - handful
  • Mange tout - handful
  • 1 pint chicken stock
  • 1 broccoli head
  • Cherry tomatoes - about 10 or so
  • Parsley - 2 teaspoons
  • Coriander - 2 teaspoons
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 glass white wine
  • Tamarind - use either paste (~1/4 jar) or dried fruit block - around 25 g, steeped in water and sieved into the curry
  • Thai fish sauce Nam Pla - couple of teaspoons to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
  • 400 mL coconut milk (1 tin)
Use a large pan. Melt the butter with the vegetable oil, then sweat the onion with the lid on for a couple of minutes. Next add in the chilli, ginger, garlic and spices. Stir around so that its mixed well. Fry for another minute or two.

Next add in the chicken pieces, stirring to coat in all the delicious spices. Cook until the chicken is browned on the outside.

Add in the vegetables (use whatever veg you fancy here really) - that is carrots, mange tout, peppers and baby corn. Stir fry for another minute or so.

Add the chicken stock now. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for up to 10 minutes, taking in those lovely aromas.

The next thing to chuck into the mix is the parsley, coriander, lemon juice, and tamarind. Have a quick glass of wine here, one for you and one for the pot.

Add the broccoli and cherry tomatoes, and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Taste the sauce at this point - if needed, add a bit of tomato ketchup for sweetness, or Nam pla for saltiness. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Last of all, add in the coconut milk, and just bring back to simmering point so it is hot through.

Serve in bowls with rice or naan breads on the side, and garnish with sprigs of coriander. Enjoy a nice glass of white wine (well the bottle was open anyway).

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Minty Pea and Spinach Soup


A great, fresh tasting soup. The idea with this is not to over cook the peas at all, just bring them to the boil and cook through very quickly, then take it off the heat and serve to get the best flavours from the peas and spinach, without turning it to colourless and flavourless mush!

I find it best to use frozen peas as they are actually fresher than the 'fresh' ones because they are harvested and frozen almost immediately, thus locking in all the vitamins and flavours.

The frozen spinach used here has lumps of spinach - about 2 lumps to a handful. You can use fresh spinach if you have some from the garden as well.

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small potato
  • 200 g frozen peas
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • 2 lumps frozen spinach
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint / handful fresh garden mint (this is best!)
  • Salt and pepper
Heat the oil, then fry the onion and garlic to soften for a couple of minutes. Peel and chop up the potato quite small and add this in to sweat with the onions and garlic, with a lid on, for another few minutes.

Add in the peas, vegetable stock and spinach. Now bring to the boil, simmer for a maximum of 2 minutes, and remove from the heat.

Pour the soup into a blender and add the mint. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve in warm bowls with some crusty brown bread and butter. If you are feeling fancy, swirl a bit of cream into the soup as well.


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Saturday, 15 March 2008

Fruity Bread Pudding


This is a recipe for traditional fruity bread pudding, not to be confused with bread and butter pudding which is a different thing altogether (sort of a custardy sandwich dessert).

This bread pudding can be made from left over crusts of bread. I keep the crusts in a bag in the freezer, and when there are enough I make one of these bread puddings.

Any bread can be used, or bread based products. A nice idea is to use hot cross buns as they have already got some cinnamon and fruit in them. If you don't want to just use crusts, any slightly stale loaf of bread can be used in this way.

The recipe comes from my dad, who used to make it in his restaurant. I have memories of eating this on tea breaks when working there as a teenager. A well earned treat, and a good way to use up leftover bread.


Ingredients
  • 450 g bread (leftovers, crusts, stale-ish bread etc etc)
  • 200 g raisins
  • 100 g demerara sugar plus extra for the top
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 pint milk
  • 75 g butter
  • 1 egg (beaten)
Heat the oven to 180C.

Tear up the bread into small pieces into a bowl (or use a food processor, not too finely though, just making it into sort of large chunky bread crumbs).

Mix in the raisins, sugar, and mixed spice. Next stir in the milk and beaten egg.

Melt the butter, either in a microwave or a pan. Mix this into the rest of the ingredients.

Leave this to stand for about 30 minutes, to allow the bread to soak up the milk. Now mix it all up again with a wooden spoon. The mixture should be like a sloppyish cake mixture, but not overly wet. At this stage you can add some more milk to get the right consistency. The bread will have broken up and be more or less homogeneous.

Spoon the mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle the top generously with sugar and a light dusting of mixed spice, and cook in the oven for about 40 minutes. Check after 30 minutes, but it may need as long as an hour. The top should be golden and the sugar made a nice crispy top.

Leave to cool slightly then serve warm with cream, custard or ice cream.

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Blueberry and Banana Yoghurt Smoothie



This is a nice breakfast milkshake smoothie with the addition of blueberries and goji berries for that super food buzz!

Ingredients


Put all the ingredients into your blender, cover with milk - just enough to cover it, then blend for about 1 minute until it looks really smooth.

Drink straight away.

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Monday, 10 March 2008

Spicy Thai Burger

This burger is a bit of a variation on the traditional beef burger. I was just experimenting with what I could add into the beef to make it more tasty. I think pretty much anything can be added, depending on what you like. Curry powder could be a good one, or maybe tomato and basil for an Italian style.

For this Thai style burger, I just took the burger recipe I used before and added a chilli, garlic, 4 cherry tomatoes, and some fresh coriander. Chopped up everything really finely and added it into the burger mix.

I had a bit of Emmental cheese in the fridge so used that to melt on the top, then served in a bun with some crispy salad.

Yum!

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Sunday, 9 March 2008

My Herb Garden

I was in Homebase shopping for furniture at the weekend (not one of my favourite pass times I have to say), and saw they had a special offer on herbs. I got 2 large ones (sage and rosemary) for £5 and 4 small ones for £5 - these were thyme, oregano, chives, and mint. I got straight home

So I now have my own little herb garden set up with plenty of flavour to add to my meals. I am not going to make the mistake of picking too many of the herbs early on and killing them off, which is what I have done in previous years. For now, I am just going to let them settle in and grow for a month or two before I start using them.

Anyway, I have taken a few pictures of my herb garden just to show off!

Here is some thyme - this one had a bit of a lemony scent to it when the leaves are pressed.


The next one is some purple sage. We had this in the garden at our old rented house, and it grows really well - the blue flowers look nice, as well as being handy for flavouring pork dishes.


Again, we had rosemary at our old place, it was a lot bigger than this one, but given time this should fill out nicely. I think rosemary is evergreen so should be able to get this one all year round.

A nice bunch of oregano.

Here is some mint - I planted this one in ground in a pot, as mint can be a bit rampant and so will spread all over the garden if left to its own devices.

This last little chap is some chives!



I might post up some more pictures in a few months to show how much they have grown - or not grown as the case may be!

Any recipes involving these herbs would be much appreciated!

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Light Yoghurt and Lemon Drizzle Cake


My girlfriend made this cake today. Instead of using butter, the fat in the cake is yoghurt which makes for a very moist cake. The recipe she took it from said to use artificial sweetener, which I think tastes awful, it always has a really bitter funny after taste. For a 'diet' cake, this is still quite healthy even with real sugar. It originally came from the Weight Watchers recipe book but as she has changed the recipe, it is not quite as low - calorie!

Ingredients
  • Low fat cooking spray
  • 150 g low fat plain yoghurt
  • 175 g self raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 7 teaspoons sunflower oil
  • 2 egg whites
For the drizzle topping
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
Heat the oven to 160C. Line an 18 cm cake tin with baking paper and grease with the low fat cooking spray.

Mix all the cake ingredients, apart from the egg white, together until smooth.

Beat the egg whites until fluffy and gently fold into the cake.

Pour into the cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. Check towards the end by poking a fork in it - if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Also, if the top is firm and lightly browned then its ready.

Cool the cake on a wire rack. Meanwhile, make the drizzle topping by heating the lemon juice, zest and sugar in a pan until dissolved.

Poke holes over the top of the cake using a fork or skewer. Put onto a serving plate and drizzle over the topping. This will soak into the cake and make it really moist and sweet.

This cake is very tasty warm with a dollop of low-fat yoghurt on the top.

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Carrot and Coriander Soup

I sort of made this recipe up myself. Knowing that carrot and coriander go well together, but not having an exact recipe I just made it up as I went along. The result was not bad at all if I do say so myself. I added in a splash of orange juice with this soup, just to take a little bit of the sweetness of the carrots away. I always use the stalks of the coriander as well as the leaves, as there is a lot of flavour in these too.

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 large carrots
  • 1 small potato
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp dried coriander
  • 500 mL vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp hot curry powder
  • 1 handful fresh coriander - stalks and leaves included.
  • 1 dash orange juice

Chop the onion and garlic and fry in the oil until soft. Next add the peeled and chopped potato and carrots, mixing well. Add the dried spices - coriander, cumin and curry powder, stir around the pan, and finally add the vegetable stock as well.

Bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Leave with the lid on to simmer until the potatoes and carrots are soft (not too soft - probably this will only take about 15 - 20 minutes).

Now, take off the heat, put the soup into your blender and add the chopped fresh coriander, and a splash of orange juice. Blend until smooth, season with salt and pepper to your taste and serve garnished with a sprig of fresh coriander.

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The chilli so hot you need gloves - from Times Online


I was forwarded a link to this article the other day by a friend at work. In the summer I normally grow some chilli's out on the patio, although with last years distinct lack of summer, I did not have much luck and they all rotted on the bush before getting ripe. I found this article very interesting indeed. These chilli farmers in Dorset have grown some record breakingly hot chilli's, called the Dorset Naga.

I found it quite hard to believe how hot these are, especially considering where they are grown, I mean I normally associate chilli's with coming from hot, exotic countries like India, Thailand, South America, and then Dorset!

Anyway, the scale to measure the heat of a chilli is called the Scoville scale. To give you an idea of just how hot these are lets put it into context -

FROM HOT TO NOT

Scoville Heat Units

Pure capsaicin: 15m to 16m

US Police-grade pepper spray: 5m

Dorset Naga: 923,000

Red Savina habanero: 577,000

Scotch bonnet: 100,000-325,000

Jamaican hot pepper: 100,000-200,000

Cayenne pepper: 30,000-50,000

Jalapeno pepper: 2,500-8,000

Tabasco sauce: 2,500

Pimento: 100 to 500

Bell pepper: 0



So although I love a spicy meal, I think these ones are too spicy even for me! I just imagine getting chopping them, then rubbing my nose or eyes afterwards. Ouch.

Going to the toilet after chopping these does not even bear thinking about! Makes my eyes water.

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Saturday, 8 March 2008

Spicy Coconut and Ginger Cod

This is a very tasty spicy cod recipe. The flavour of the coconut and spices really suits this fish. I would recommend that you use ethically fished cod of course.

Tamarind can be either fresh or dried. If using fresh just chop and add to the recipe with the garlic and chilli's. If using dried tamarind, add about 25 g to some 50 mL of boiling water. Leave to soak for about 15 minutes or so, breaking up the tamarind with a teaspoon. Sieve the liquid into the sauce.

This recipe takes about half an hour and should make enough for 4 people with some rice/ naan bread and vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 200 mL coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped ginger
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh tamarind or 25 g dried tamarind
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh coriander
  • 1 large handful fine green beans
  • 4 large skinless cod fillets
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Fry the onion for 5 minutes or until soft.

Add the ginger, chilli and garlic. Fry for another minute, then add the tomatoes, coconut milk and tamarind.

Add the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and then leave to simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in about half the coriander leaves.

Add the fine beans to the sauce and stir. Gently place the pieces of cod in the frying pan and spoon over the sauce to cover the fish. Cover the frying pan, either with a piece of foil or a lid, and simmer gently for 6 minutes.

Serve with rice or a naan bread.

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Friday, 7 March 2008

Beef in Designer Beer

This is a great recipe. My friend Richard adapted it from Delia Smiths. It is very easy to make, and quite tasty too. In terms of the beef to use, it should be braising steak, preferably marbled with quite a lot of fat in it. Don't go for anything like 'Finest' or 'Taste the Difference' ranges, and most certainly not 'Lean' meat. The fat is needed to really make the stew nice and moist. If at all possible, go to a local butcher and ask for some nice braising steak.

Beer wise go for something rich and malty: Hobgoblin, Old Peculiar and Guinness Foreign Extra are all good bets. Delia recommended serving this with some cheesy croutons on top, but in my opinion that just makes it too rich. So I would serve with some plain boiled or mashed potatoes, and some nice green veg like spring greens or cabbage.

This should serve 4 to 6 people with the veg and potatoes.


Ingredients

Set the oven to gas Mark 1(140°C).

Take the flameproof casserole, place it over direct heat, then heat the oil until sizzling hot and fry the meat, 3 or 4 pieces at a time, until they turn a dark mahogany colour on all sides. Don't put too much in the pan or they will create steam and never become brown, so if necessary do in batches.

As you brown the meat remove it to a plate then, when all the meat is ready, add the onions to the pan, still keeping the heat high. Add the spoon of sugar, to caramelise the onions. Toss them around until they become dark caramel brown colour at the edges – about 5 minutes.

After that add the crushed garlic, let that cook for about 30 seconds or so, then turn the heat down, return the meat to the casserole and sprinkle in the flour. Using a wooden spoon, stir until all the flour has been absorbed into the juices. This will not look like an exciting stew just yet, so don't worry there is plenty of cooking time to sort it out.

Now gradually stir in the beer and, when it's all in, let the whole thing gently come up to simmering point, and while that's happening add salt, freshly milled black pepper and the thyme and bay leaves. Then, just as it begins to bubble, put the lid on, transfer it to the centre shelf of the oven and leave it there for 2½ to 3 hours.

Don't be tempted to taste it now or halfway through the cooking as it does take 2½ hours for the beer to mellow and become a luscious sauce.

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Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Sweet Potato and Lime Soup with Basil Cream

My friend at work, M, is a long suffering vegetarian. I say that because he is a meat eater, but lives with his lady who is a vegetarian, so he has to live off a diet of mainly lentils, beans and sweet potatoes. As a result, he was the perfect person to turn to for some sweet potato recipe tips. This is a very easy soup to make, and is very quick, it took about half an hour at the most to prepare.

The basil cream swirled into the soup at the end adds a very professional chef style touch, making the soup look pretty smart.

The resulting soup should be enough to serve 2 people. It should turn out very rich, thick and a delicious orange colour.

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 500 mL chicken stock
  • 1 lime (juice only)
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 150 mL fresh double cream
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Now, add the potato, onion and garlic and fry for about 10 minutes, or until golden and soft.

Add the lime juice and chicken stock to the pan, reduce to a low heat. Simmer gently for another 10 minutes, or unti the potato is cooked all the way through.

Liquidise the soup using a hand-blender or a blender.

To make the basil cream, just put the basil and cream in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve the soup in warmed bowls, with the basil cream drizzled over in swirls.

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Sunday, 2 March 2008

Tasty Beef Burger and Blue Cheese


I had a bit too much wine and beer last night, which made me feel a tad ill today. The best solution for this is plenty of greasy junk food in my opinion. So to cure my hangover I cooked some tasty burgers with blue cheese and a side order of potato wedges. It has worked as well, I feel a lot better with some greasy stodge inside me!


Ingredients

  • 450 g minced beef - the best quality you can afford.
  • 1 small onion
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg (beaten)

To serve

  • Blue cheese
  • 4 Soft, floury bread rolls
  • Salad
  • Mayonnaise
  • Burger relish / tomato chutney
Chop the onion up very finely, or use a grater or food processor if possible. Add to a bowl along with the beef and season to your taste. Mix well - I find it works best using your hands.

When its all mixed up nicely, divide into 4 equal balls and shape into burger shapes. You can use a scone cutter or something similar to get a good shape, but as they are home-made burgers I prefer them to have a more rough and ready look about them.

Grill the burgers for about 15 minutes or so under a medium heat, turning occasionally. They are done when the juices run clear and there is no pink in the middle. You can gently split open the burger in the middle to see if its done and then the juices will stick it back together again if you are careful.

Put slices of blue cheese on the burgers and return to the grill to melt the cheese.

Serve in the floury baps with salad, mayonnaise and relish.

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Potato Wedges

Ingredients

  • 2 large baking potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons groundnut oil

Heat the oven to 200C.

Chop the potatoes into wedges about 2 cm thick. Put in a roasting tin with the oil and mix around to ensure all the wedges are coated in oil.

Cook in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve straight away sprinkled with salt and pepper, and your favourite sauce - I like mayonnaise best personally.

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Chocolate Birthday Cake

This cake is dangerously rich and very tasty! This is what I baked for my girlfriends birthday last year. She loved it! The plain chocolate used in the recipe makes the chocolate flavour very intense as well.

As it is so rich, 1 small slice is quite filling, however as its so tasty it is difficult to stop at one slice. Yum. Also, try and use the best quality chocolate you can for the best flavour.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz butter
  • 6 oz plain chocolate (best possible quality!)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 8 oz plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 pint milk
  • 1.25 lbs caster sugar

Heat the oven to 200C/ 400F/ Gas Mark 5. Butter and line three 9" cake tins with greaseproof paper.

Melt the chocolate over a bowl of boiling water (Bain marie method) or in a microwave. If you do it in the microwave, keep a close eye on it and don't let it burn, and mix every so often.

In a warm mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth. This works best with nice soft butter, left at room temperature prior to use.

Beat the eggs into the butter/sugar one at a time. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla essence, and beat again.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder. Fold this into the chocolate mixture.

Pour into the 3 cake tins, and bake for about 45 minutes. If your oven does not have an even temperature top and bottom, then make sure you rotate the cakes around the shelves of the oven. The cakes will be set and browned when done. A skewer poked in the cake will NOT show if its cooked, as the cake is quite gooey.

Icing Ingredients

  • 20 oz chocolate (dark)
  • Pinch salt
  • 0.75 pint soured cream, at room temperature

Melt the chocolate as before. Stir in the cream and salt. (Make sure the cream is at room temperature, else the chocolate will go funny if the cream is too cold).

Cool the icing until its spreadable, and then spread between the layers, on the top and around the outside.

Add some candles and enjoy!

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Broccoli Chicken

This is quite an involved recipe, with several steps, so make sure you have plenty of room to put all the various bits that are needed. It is very tasty at the end, and comes from another recipe by Ken Hom. It is apparently based on a Vietnamese style dish.

To make a nice Chinese meal, we served this with some ginger and garlic carrots and some garlic spinach. I think we may have been stinking of garlic the following day, but I am sure it helps keep colds away.

Next time, I think I will use less salt as the dish was just a little bit too salty for my tastes. This dish takes about an hour to prepare and cook, and should be enough for 4 people with rice and vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 450 g broccoli
  • 450 g skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • Cornflour
  • 400 mL groundnut oil
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 1 teaspon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

For the marinade:
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes. Mix with the marinade ingredients, cover and leave for at least half an hour.

Cut the broccoli into little florets, you can also slice up the stems and use these as well. Blanch in either hot water (2-3 minutes) or using the microwave for about 1 minute.

Heat a wok over a high heat, and add the 400 mL of oil. Whilst this is heating up, drain off any liquid from the chicken and then dust the chicken pieces lightly with cornflour.

When the oil is very hot, so that it is lightly smoking, carefully add the chicken pieces one at a time, ensuring that they are not sticking together. Use a spoon to drop them into the hot oil so as not to splash yourself. Depending on the size of your wok, you will probably need to do at least 2 batches. Fry the chicken for about 6-8 minutes, until it is golden brown and slightly crispy. When done, lift out of the oil with a slotted spoon and put on some kitchen paper to drain off some of the oil.

Drain the oil from the wok (you can save the oil and use again - but make sure its cool before you put it back in the bottle).

Heat up your wok and add 1 spoon of oil. Add the garlic and onion and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the blanched broccoli and stir-fry for another minute. Now add the rice wine, and cook for another 4 minutes, keeping it moving all the time.

Add all the remaining ingredients (except the chicken) and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Finally, add the fried chicken, stir fry for 2 minutes more and serve immediately.


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Saturday, 1 March 2008

Stir - Fried Spinach

I love spinach, in all kinds of ways, but normally end up with it in a curry or a cheese sauce of some kind.

This is a very quick, slightly Eastern style, way to cook spinach.

Ingredients

  • 450 g fresh spinach
  • 3 tablespoons garlic
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons groundnut oil
Heat up your wok or pan, then add the oil. Make sure it is very hot and gently smoking. Next add the garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds, until slightly golden.

Add the spinach, and stir fry for a further 1 minute or so. Season with the salt and sugar and serve immediately.

Spinach has a high water content, so you may need to drain off some of the water before serving.

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Banana, Mango and Strawberry Smoothie

Today I bring you a rather exotic tasting smoothie. A tip of mine is to chop up the fruit and put it in your freezer for about half an hour before blending. This way you don't need to use any ice cubes, which can make it a little bit watery.

Ingredients

  • 1 mango
  • 1 banana
  • 10 strawberries
  • 500 mL apple juice

Chuck all the ingredients into a smoothie maker, having chopped them up into small chunks, and blend for about a minute.

Enjoy!

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