Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Be part of the audience for Ready Steady Cook

Be part of the audience for Ready Steady Cook

This is worth a look if you are in London on any of the dates...

Recording both at lunchtime and late afternoon on Friday 19, Saturday 20, Sunday 21 and Tuesday 30 September and Wednesday 1, Thursday 2 and Friday 3 October at BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, London.

I can't make it as I am in Ibiza, but I am sure it will be fun! I have been to see TV shows filmed before, and it is really interesting and funny. You get to see all the amusing bits that don't make it to the show too.

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Thursday, 21 August 2008

Mint Sauce and Lamb - Magimix 4200

As you can see, I still have lots of mint in the garden, so we decided to have lamb chops with mint sauce for dinner tonight. I apologise in advance for the poor picture quality on this post, I had to use my phone and its got no flash on it and its "only" 3 megapixels - I remember the days (well a couple of years ago) when that was loads! Anyway, on with the mint sauce...

Ingredients

  • Lots of fresh mint
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
Pick and wash lots of fresh mint leaves, removing any hard stalks. I picked enough to fill the small bowl in my Magimix 4200 then sprinkled the sugar in, poured on the boiling water and vinegar. The boiling water just helps to bring out the flavour of the mint, and you get a really nice smell when you start chopping this.

Pulse a couple of times in the mixer, and then blend until the mint is finely chopped (you can also do the chopping the old fashioned way - with a knife - but this is a lot quicker if you do have a blender or food processor).


You might need to add a little more liquid, depending on exactly how much mint you picked, but I wanted mine to be about this consistency here...


And what goes well with mint sauce? Lamb, obviously! So here it is, grilled lamb chops with mint sauce, new potatoes, coleslaw and freshly picked tomatoes.

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Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A Great British summer barbecue and Burgers like your grandmother makes


This weekend just gone we had some friends over, nominally for a barbecue. I say that as we had invited them for a barbecue, with optimism in the weather that is a very British characteristic. This is the same optimism which sees some men wearing shorts from April through to October, irrespective of how hot it is, "because it's summer".

We got up on Saturday morning, the sun was shining, the sky was blue. The sun dance we did the night before seemed to have paid off. So, off to the supermarket, to buy up all the meat and charcoal around. All going well so far.

I probably don't really need to tell you what happens in the rest of the story, as I am sure you can guess that it did indeed start to pour with rain. Right after I had marinaded all the meat, made some burgers, and plenty of salads, the heavens opened. The food was looking good... classy retro potato salad and coleslaw. Chicken. Sausages. Beef burgers. So, out i went with my umbrella to the garden, and lit the fire. And then held the umbrella over the grill to keep it dry. I managed to get the cooking done, and all the guests stayed inside nice and dry.

So what about these grandmothers burgers? Well these are made using a tip gleaned from Drew over at How to Cook Like Your Grandmother. I read his stuff quite regularly and there are often some good tips there. Like this burger trick. There was a bit of confusion with US and UK Smarties there, the ones they call Smarties in the states are more like Refreshers that we have here. Anyway the point is that if you make concave burgers the end up a flatter shape when cooked, instead of how they normally end up which is eat in the middle and thinner round the edges. So thanks Drew, your trick does work.

The picture above shows the barbecue in the rain, with the umbrella poking into the top of the photo. What is cooking on the barbecue now is those special concave burgers. The picture was taken on my phone so its not too easy to make out, but it did work well at getting the burgers to stay nice and flat once cooked!

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Monday, 11 August 2008

Stilton, Leek and Bacon Pasta

This is what I knocked up for dinner this evening, a nice hearty, cheesy and rich pasta meal. We had leeks, bacon and stilton in the fridge left over from some other recipes from the weekend, and so this is what I decided to cook. Not too bad for a make-it-up as you go along kind of a meal! It was initially going to be a pasta bake, but in the end we were too hungry and decided to eat it straight away. If you do make it into a pasta bake, then just bake in a medium hot oven, maybe with some more cheese on the top, until it is nice and browned on the top.

Ingredients

  • 5 rashers bacon
  • 3 leeks (large)
  • Nob butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1.5 glasses milk
  • 500 g pasta
  • 150 g stilton
First of all, cook boil some salted water and cook the pasta according to the pack instructions. Now you can get on with making the sauce. Start by cutting the rind fat off the bacon - as shown below. You need to do this as with all the cheese it ends up being quite a rich meal.

Chop the bacon into little pieces (or use lardons if you have them). Melt the butter in a medium hot pan and then fry the bacon in the butter.


Whilst the bacon is frying, remove the outer leaves and ends from the leeks, then slice them and wash them.


Add the leeks to the pan along with the bacon. You will need a rather large pan. Now that is a lot of leeks! Don't worry, they will reduce once cooked. Mix well so that all the bacon and butter is evenly mixed in with the leeks. Saute/steam the leeks for about 5 minutes - I say steam because it is difficult to fry the ones at the top with so many in the pan.


Now the leeks have reduced in size quite a lot, reduce the heat to low and sprinkle the flour on the top. Mix it really well and cook on the heat for another minute. You are forming a roux here mixed in with the leeks, which is the base for a white sauce.


Add about a glass and a half of milk to the pan.


How big is a glass I hear you saying? Well, I am quite short on measuring implements in my kitchen so this is how big MY glass is! No you need to know the size of my hand.. well, not telling! But the glass is just a regular tumbler size, probably about half a pint, maybe a bit less.


Keep the sauce over a low heat, and stir frequently until it just begins to thicken and bubble.

Remove from the heat and mix the sauce in with the pasta. Now, crumble the Stilton into the pan whilst stirring. The heat pf the pasta and sauce should be enough to melt the cheese and form a nice sauce.

Serve immediately with some salad.

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Sunday, 10 August 2008

Pear, Stilton and Walnut Salad

This is a salad of my own devising, based on a few similar recipes I have seen around - and one in particular in a random salad recipe book, although they said to put in pasta which I don't think would work very well. In any case, this was very tasty - the crunchy nuts, strong tasting stilton, and the salad leaves combined very well together. I added in the watercress for a bit of a spicy peppery flavour as well. If possible, try and use the salad leaves that come with finely grated beetroot included - the colour is amazing and livens up the salad immensely.

Ingredients

  • 2 pears
  • Lemon juice
  • 100 g bag mixed crunchy salad leaves - the one with beetroot in it
  • 50 g bag watercress
  • 150 g stilton
  • 50 g walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 1 carrot
Core the pears and cut into chunks. Now coat them in lemon juice to prevent them from browning. The acidity of the lemon juice acts as a preservative to stop the pears oxidising.

Cut the stilton into little cubes, although depending on how crumbly your cheese is you may find it easier to just kind of crumble it into the salad.

Peel and grate the carrot. In a large salad bowl, combine with the pears, walnuts, salad leaves, basil and stilton cheese.

Mix the olive oil and vinegar together to make the dressing, along with some salt and pepper. Now pour over the salad and mix into all the leaves. Serve immediately.

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Herby Potato Salad


This is another easy to make salad, which goes well with barbecues and summer meals. The amounts for the ingredients are a bit rough here, and the amount of mayonnaise depends on how saucy you want it, how big you cut the potatoes, that kind of thing. What I am trying to say is, I didn't write anything down as I made this, but its so easy to make intuitively, just whack the ingredients into a bowl and you will know when it looks right.

Ingredients

  • ~750g new potatoes
  • 1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Bunch chives - enough to make about a tablespoon when finely chopped
  • Bunch mint - enough to make about a tablespoon of finely chopped mint
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder - like Colemans
Cut the potatoes into equally sized chunks so that they will cook at the same time, then cook according to your normal method - in a pan of boiling salted water until soft, but still with a bit of 'bite' left in them - you want the potatoes to hold together when mixing them up with the mayo.

As soon as the potatoes are cooked, drain off the hot water and immerse them in cold water to prevent any further cooking, and to cool them down to salad temperature. If you have no environmental conscience, you can leave a cold tap running into the pan, but if you are concerned about wasting water then make sure you don't do this!

Once the potatoes are cool, drain them and make sure they are nice and dry. Add the mayonnaise, chopped herbs, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix it all up together, and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

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Homemade Coleslaw


Coleslaw is really easy to make, and its far cheaper to make at home than to buy the ready made stuff, which normally is too sharp and vinegary for my tastes anyway, as well as being really over priced. Cabbage and carrots are so cheap! It is a bit of an old fashioned salad, but great for barbecues for that retro feeling.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 white cabbage
  • 4 carrots
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons double cream
Peel the carrots and grate as finely as you can. You can do this by hand, or using your food processor if you have one.

Finely slice the cabbage - get it as thinly cut as you can! Aim for a similar size to the grated carrots. An easy way to do this is using the grater attachment in a food processor.

Finely slice or grate the onion - you get the picture, same as for the carrots and cabbage, you want it as fine as possible.

Mix everything together in a bowl with the cream, vinegar, sugar and seasoning.

That's it! All done. Its really quick if you use a machine to do the grating, but even doing it by hand it doesn't take too long.

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Saturday, 9 August 2008

Grilled courgette, garlic and lemon salad

I am struggling to find ways to use up all my courgettes, which are growing at a rate of knots in the garden at the moment. I picked a few this morning, and decided to have a go at a grilled courgette salad.

Ingredients

  • 4 courgettes (zucchini)
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic

Slice the courgettes lengthways, as thinly as you can... I used a carrot peeler to do the slices, although if you have a mandolin this would probably work better.

Brush the slices with olive oil, and then grill under a hot grill for about 3-4 minutes each side, until they start to brown and blister.

Leave to cool on the wire rack of the grill. Do not stack them up on a plate, because courgettes are quite watery they will just become soggy.

Once cooled, scatter with finely chopped garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and squeeze some lemon juice over the top - a tablespoon should be enough, and if you want to drizzle a bit more olive oil on the top.

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Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Festival food... A breakfast smoothie


Whilst at the Big Chill festival this weekend, some of the food we had was amazing. No rubbish burgers and hot dogs, it was all top quality food. You could get anything you wanted, well virtually.

One of my favourites was the pies from Pie Minister. A huge pie, with a choice of fillings including the ever popular Heidi Pie filled with goats cheese and sweet potato, the PM Pie stuffed with the classic steak and kidney, and my favourite is the Minty which is a lamb and mint pie. For some reason the Heidi Pie is hugely popular with the girls, although I think that girls love anything with goats cheese in. Not only do you get pie, but also a massive pile of mash, mushy peas, gravy, crispy shallots, cheese and gravy. Plenty of fuel for a weekend of partying.

In the picture above is a breakfast smoothie, which is berries, banana, yogurt, muslei and honey. This was a great start to the day!

Other food on the site included Mexican, Goan curry with Cornish fish, noodle bars, all kinds of vegan and vegetarian delights, wraps (I had a delicious one with Italian organic meat balls), pancakes, waffles... The list goes on! Festivals are Definitely a great foodie experience!

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Monday, 4 August 2008

Courgette and Home Made Pesto Pasta (done in the Magimix 4200)

We have just got back from a weekend of festivaling at the Big Chill, we had an amazing time, with not enough sleep, plenty of booze, sun, music, comedy and partying. The highlight of the weekend for me was definitely seeing the Mighty Boosh, and also coming 5th out of 20 in the music quiz. I think we will definitely be going back next year. And the weather was good as well, despite the forecast being awful it was sunny almost the entire weekend, bar a few small showers, I hardly had to wear my wellies at all!

Anyway, today we got home and with no food in the house and feeling pretty tired, we couldn't decide what to have for dinner. Then I went out into the garden, and found plenty of basil, some courgettes (zuchini for those across the pond) and the first set of ripe tomatoes. Here is the results of my hunting and gathering...

So, I thought the best thing to make with this harvest is some pasta and pesto. So that is what I did! It was my first go at making pesto homemade, although I did make a salsa verde before (which is basically just pesto without the parmesan and pine nuts).

First of all, take a good handful of pine nuts and gently toast them in a hot, dry, non-stick frying pan. No oil needed here. The toasting brings out the flavour of the pine nuts, but you can also use them untoasted too.


They should be lightly browned, something like this...

Now, into the food processor (yes its that wretched Magimix again) with the basil (as much as can fit in the bowl comfortably), about 50 g of parmesan, the pine nuts, a sprinkle of salt and two cloves of garlic (peeled, obviously). Splash in a good amount of extra virgin olive oil.


This is the olive oil I have been using lately, which my fiancees parents bought back from France for me, it is brilliant, nice strong flavour so perfect for the pesto. It comes from Moulin de Saint Come.


So, all the ingredients in the machine (I used the small bowl this time) - only one thing for it, blend! It looks a little dry to start with, so I added some more olive oil.



This looks more like pesto now.



Whilst some pasta was boiling away, I sauted some courgettes.



Once the courgettes had browned a little, I added in the tomatoes just to cook through a little bit.

The pasta was then cooked, so everything got mixed up together - the pesto, vegetables and pasta. That's it, done!
Now I am off to have a bath and get an early night ready for work tomorrow.

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Chocolate Cake - made with my Magimix 4200

This is another recipe which I made using my Magimix 4200 - my current favourite kitchen toy! It is a very rich and chocolatey cake.

Ingredients

  • 150 g chocolate
  • 125 g butter
  • 150 g sugar
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 4 eggs
I first of all beat the eggs and sugar together in the blender, until they formed a smooth consistency.
This took about a minute or so. Then I added in the flour, and blended until smooth again.

The final ingredient is the chocolate and butter. This was melted in a bain marie, and then poured into the rest of the mixture via the feeding tube with the machine still running.

Bake in the oven at 200C for around 20 minutes, until firm. The cake is pretty gooey so I don't think you will ever get a clean fork out of this one!

As you can see, there is a really sticky chocolatey middle with a nice crispy top.


The best bit, apart from enjoying the cake itself, is that it only took about 10 minutes preparation time!

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