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Archive for January, 2010

I use the term “pie” in the way you would with a “shepherds pie” or a “cottage pie”, but the real description of this would be: chicken, bacon & mushroom pie with a cheesy carrot & swede mash topping!

This was a throw together meal I made the other day and it was delicious!  Very flavoursome and I would do it again in a minute!  The only thing I might do differently next time, would be to add a couple of potatoes to my mash, to give it a bit more consistency.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

5 carrots, cubed

half a swede, cubed

3 potatoes, cubed (for next time!)

20g butter

50g cheese (I used mature cheddar)

2 chicken breasts, diced

184g bacon (I used smoked), diced

200g closed cup mushrooms, chopped

1 medium onion,  diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

350ml chicken stock

1-2 bay leaves (I used 2, but will try 1 next time)

splash of worcester sauce

Directions:

Boil your carrots, swede and potatoes in a large pot.

Fry the chicken and bacon, until browned.

Add the mushrooms, onions & garlic to the pan.

Add your stock, bay leaves, salt & pepper and a splash of worcestershire sauce.

Let it simmer for 30 mins.  Preheat oven to 190 degrees.

Mash your carrots, swede & potatoes together, adding butter and your cheese.

Remove the bay leaves, then pour your chicken mixture into a ovenproof dish, then top with your mash.  Score a fork across the top of the mash to neaten and flatten out.

Bake in the oven for 30 mins, or until golden.

And thats it!  Delicious, flavoursome comfort food!  I had some for lunch the next day at work and it was just as good, if not better!

Here is a photo of the chicken mixture:

 One for my collection!

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Haggis was alien to me until last year (the 250th anniversary of Rabbie Burns), when I tried it for the first time at a céilidh in Edinburgh (how utterly Scottish of me).  I was pleasantly surprised and have eaten it many times since then!

Last night, though, we opted for the Vegetarian Haggis, as my twin sister wont eat the real stuff.  I love tatties and I love neeps, but if you mash them together, add some cream, butter, and a sprinkling of fresh chopped chives… mmmm there you have some deliciously creamy Clapshot!  I wont even tell you what my sister though “Clapshot” was; I will show you a picture of it instead!

 

I made a “whisky jus” to go with it, by adding 30ml whisky to a hot pan, where I tipped it towards the flame and set fire to it, thus burning off the alcohol (my first flambé!!), added 150ml single cream (once the flames went out), salt and pepper, then reduced for a minute or two!  In retrospect, I should have added ALOT more cream (maybe 4-500ml for serving 3), as there wasn’t much to spread around. 

Hope you all had a fabulous Burn’s Night!

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Sadly, I haven’t been cooking much the last few days; what with the gym, work and more work!  But I would like to post about the lovely meal I had at the Argyle House on Friday night.  We were supposed to go to a restaurant in Ayr (about a 50 mins drive), however, the mist fell down quite bad that evening and we decided to stay closer to home for our feast. 

My starter was Black Pudding Fritters with Savoy Cabbage and an Arran Mustard Essence.  I was quite surprised to see two black puddings on my plate, as they are quite filling!  I couldn’t finish it, but the taste was phenomenal.  You could tell the black pudding was of a very good quality, by it’s soft, velvety texture (which went wonderfully with the crisp batter).  I’d never tried savoy cabbage before (the aftermath of my childhood veggie phobia!) and I was pleasantly surprised with it; it was nice and light… a perfect accompaniment to the weighty black pudding.  I was interested to see how the mustard sauce would fare against the black pudding, as they are both really strong in flavour.  They paired together wonderfully and I really want to learn how to make my own “mustard essence”, as I feel it would be a great addition to so many different dishes.  If I were to make this dish myself, I would perhaps use more batter and reduce the amount of black pudding to one slice.   

After my triumph of tasting salmon for the first time last week, I continued my boldness, by opting for a Main Course of Seared Sea-Bass Fillets on a Smoked Haddock Fishcake with Harissa Mayonaisse.  I can now say I am a fan of Sea-Bass!  It was delicious!  I didn’t eat the skin (purely psychological – I can’t even eat skin on chicken), but I found it to be thoroughly enjoyable and I will eat it again soon.  The haddock fishcake was beautiful.  I thought there would have been chunks of haddock throughout the cake, but I couldn’t see/taste any.  The smoky haddock flavour was definitely present though.  The Harrissa sauce set it off wonderfully, with it’s creamy texture and spicy aftertaste.  The peppery rocket gave the whole dish a lovely lighter balance.  If I were to make this myself, I would have more sea-bass and less fishcake on my plate.

My last course of the evening was Crushed Fudge and Baileys Crème Brulée.  I usually go for a chocolate dessert when I’m in a restaurant, but this one sounded tremendous.  It didn’t disappoint.  Cue theatrical “mmmmmm”‘s whilst devouring the lot!  The shortbread wasn’t necessary though; the Crème brulée was deceptively filling.  They are so easy to make, yet look so impressive!  I may invest in a blow torch…

Overall, a fabulous meal!  It’s inspired me to attempt my own versions of each of these dishes, so look out for them in my upcoming posts!

P.S – Sorry about the blurry images… it’s apparent that the wine was also very good… 😉

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Cheese Scones

Tonight I went back to the gym, for the first time since early December!  Yes, thats right; I was yet another victim who succumbed to The Festive Season.  I knew I had to get just that first gym sesh over with, in order to get back into it.  I’m so glad I did tonight, but I can already tell I’ll be limping with muscle ache tomorrow!

The main reason I am glad is not for vanity, or for fitness… it’s so I can attempt to justify my complete and utter gluttonous ways.  I was sensible this evening, by feasting on a post-workout meal of turkey, a waffle and a generous helping of broccoli and cauliflower.  But I dream of these beauties… they WILL be mine (after a couple more visits to the gym)!

There was an email floating around my office with a recipe for cheese scones, as some folk were going to do a “bake-off”.  I was on holiday during judgement day, but I made a few changes and later made a batch, for my own consumption mmmmm….

Ingredients:

230g self raising flour

1 tsp mustard powder

1 tsp salt

50g butter (at room temperature)

85g grated cheese (I used mature cheddar)

1 egg (beaten)

115ml milk

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.

Sift the flour into the bowl and sprinkle in the mustard powder and salt. 

Rub in the butter with your fingers, until the mixture looks a tad crumbly. 

Sprinkle in your cheese, then pour in your beaten egg and about 2/3 tbsp milk. 

Form a dough, pouring the rest of the milk gradually as you do.  It should be a soft texture; if it’s still sticky keep forming the dough.

Roll out your dough to about 1 inch thickness.  Stamp out rounds with a pastry cutter (or I suppose you could cut around a cup if you need to).  When it gets to the last bit of dough, I usually just form a hand-made round.

Put them on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 mins. 

Let them cool on a baking tray, lest they burn the roof of your mouth off!

Next time I will try using herbs, or oats, to give it a bit more oomph, although they are sublime as they are.  I like to eat them once they’ve cooled right down, although most people like them straight from the oven (well… once they get past that “burn the roof of your mouth off” temperature).

Enjoy!

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This Weekend…

… I’ll be a busy bee!  Tonight I am taking part in Round 2 of my Come Dine With Me competition.  It’s a Thai menu, I can’t wait!  Then tomorrow morning, I’ll be heading through to Stanley, Co Durham, until Monday!  Hopefully I will gather some material for future blog posts!  In the meantime, here are some pictures from when I was last in Stanley; it’s a beautiful place!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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If I could live on only one dish for the rest of my life, it would be my mum’s scotch broth.  I’ve never tasted another soup like it.  I just had some on my lunch break at work, I had some for my dinner (with crusty buttered bread mmm) last night and I will most likely have some tonight too… if there is any left, that is! 

Mum has never given me the recipe before, despite my constant pleading.  So I have this blog to thank for her change of heart; I asked if I could write about it and she agreed to my shock and amazement!  Here she is, hard at work in the kitchen, in her wee adorable apron:

And here is the elusive recipe for the most flavoursome soup I have ever experienced:

250g Broth Mix – mum uses this one

4 large carrots, grated

1 large leek, sliced

1/4 turnip, diced

A cut of Lamb Shoulder – Mum used this one

4 lamb stock cubes

(Alternatively, you can use Beef Hough and 4 beef stock cubes; both cuts of meat will give delicious results.  Try both!)

Place broth mixture in a bowl, steep in boiled water and cover.  Leave overnight.

The next day, place meat in the soup pot and fill with water, to about 3/4 full.

Add the stock cubes and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 45 minutes.

Put the broth mix into a sieve and run under cold water until the water runs clear at the bottom.

Add to the pan, along with the rest of your veg and season.

Cook at a medium heat for at least 1 hour and a half, or until peas are soft.

I hope you enjoy the soup as much as I do.  It freezes well, I’ve taken frozen tubs to work and microwaved before (about 8-10 mins).  Usually the whole pot is devoured before it can be frozen though!

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Today was a loooong day at work.  Infact, my eyes are half closing with sleepiness; which I’ll succumb to once I’ve shared my comforting midweek meal with you. 

Everyone has their food vices; for some it’s chocolate, for others, it’s cheese… the possibilities are endless.  For me, it’s potatoes.  I LOVE potatoes and get stupidly excited about trying out different methods (I was unnaturally overjoyed with my dauphinoise on Saturday night).  However, when it’s been a dull day and I want something quick, easy and soothing, nothing beats plain, buttery mash.  Mmmmmm.

In keeping with my comforting theme, I wanted something rich and creamy to accompany it.  Something quick, easy and uncomplicated; containing ingredients that I had to hand.  I opted for chicken breast with a cheese, onion and mushroom sauce to marry my mash.  This would also be sublime with sauteed leeks or spring onion.

This fed me and my mum 🙂

I rubbed a little olive oil and seasoned my chicken breasts, popping them into a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 25 minutes (check that it’s cooked through, by making sure the juices run clear when inserting a knife into the fleshiest part – or you could be clever and use a meat thermometer!)

2 chicken breasts

1 medium onion

button mushrooms

80g mild cheddar cheese

1/2 tsp mustard powder

3 tbsp butter

4 tbsp flour

300ml milk

In a separate pan, cook the onion and mushrooms for about 10 minutes.

Melt butter in a pan, then stir in flour, mustard powder, then milk.  Keep stirring , let it come to the boil, then simmer until it has a thick consistency.  Add cheese and stir until it all melts together into a wonderful gooey sauciness.  Pour in the mushrooms and onions and spread over your chicken breast.

Serve with some buttery, fluffy mash.  I also had a side of marrowfat peas.

 

It’s almost worth having a crap day for.  Enjoy!

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There is a popular UK programme called Come Dine With Me, where 4 or 5 people each host their idea of a perfect dinner party.  They are scored by the other competitors at the end of each evening and the winner bags £1000.  Looking at the variety of contestants, you can immediately separate the ones who are genuinely passionate about food, from the attention seeking reality show wannabes, who can’t even boil an egg.  If I were to enter the show, I would definitely file under the enthusiastic amateur category.  My twin sister and I love to watch the Sunday afternoon re-runs of the show (usually sprawled on the couch with a hangover), and she works with a couple of gents who also share a love of food.  So we decided to have our own Come Dine With Me competition.  

Saturday night was the first night.  My night.  The four of us had been casually flirting with the idea of a CDWM competition for months; so it was quite a shock when it was all set in stone and the first night was looming upon us, at a rate of knots!  My own menu had been changing several times a day(!), so when I printed them off, to roll into adorable little scrolls (tied with shiny ribbon), it felt so final and committal!  I’m happy to report that, if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t change a single thing!The key, in my opinion, of a successful dinner party (yes… listen to me preaching after ONE dinner party ha), is to prepare as MUCH as you can beforehand!  I felt quite guilty that I was away from my guests at intervals throughout the night.  However, it was mostly a case of reheating what I’d made earlier and putting finishing touches on things!This is how my menu read:  

Appetizer  

Mini Welsh Rarebit Toasts   

Champagne On Arrival  

Cocktail – Strawberry Daiquiri  

******  

Starter  

Root Vegetable Soup  

Served with home-made crusty rolls  

******  

Main Course  

Slow Cooked Beef Bourguignon  

Served With Dauphinoise Potatoes  

Sautéed Green Beans Infused With Garlic   

******  

Dessert  

Chocolate Cheesecake With Ginger Snap Base  

Decadent “Crunchie Bar” Ice Cream  

The first thing I tackled was the beef bourguignon – TWO days before the event!  I wanted to marinade my meat in the red wine overnight.  The next day, I put it in my slow cooker for 8 hours, then I wanted to develop the flavours over the next day (I always hear that it’s better the day after it’s cooked, which was definitely true in this case!).  

I used this recipe with no changes apart from cooking it in the slow cooker – Beef Bourguignon Recipe  

I made my bread dough the night before, to let it chill in the fridge overnight.  It’s the first time I’ve done that (I usually just leave it a couple of hours) and I could definitely taste the difference; it was less stodgy and more flavoursome.  I used this recipe and shaped the dough into little roll shapes instead of one large loaf.  

  

After the champagne (when my friend Jayne sneakily popped by with her blender!), I made Strawberry Daiquiri cocktails (this served 4 and was repeated more than once, I’ll tell you!):  

 

rum 30ml

  

30ml lime juice  
20ml Grenadine  
6 ice cubes  

6 strawberries, sliced 

  

 
 

 

  

   
  
After my Welsh rarebit toasts (sorry, didn’t get a picture, will post the recipe if requested), I reheated the soup that I’d made earlier that day; served with my home-made rolls.  I got the soup recipe from this website.  Their recipes are amazing; I definitely want to try the carrot and cashew soup very soon!  

  

I made my dauphinoise potatoes (earlier that day), by thinly slicing 8-10 medium sized King Edward potatoes. I put them all in a bowl and added a generous pinch of salt, 3 cloves of crushed garlic and 600ml of double cream.  I mixed it all together by hand, then poured into a roasting dish.  I pressed down on the potatoes, right to the bottom of the dish, making sure they were all able to bind together easily.  I covered the top with foil and cooked for an hour and a half in the oven at 180 degrees.  When my guests were here, I preheated the oven to 200 degrees and took the foil off the dish.  I added knobs of butter sporadically over the dish and baked until the top went nice and brown (about 15-20 mins).  It’s taken me a bit of practice to get my dauphinoise potatoes right, but I will do it this way EVERY time from now on.  Every plate was cleared! While they were baking in the oven, I sautéed some green beans that I had marinated in 1 clove crushed garlic and a drizzle of olive oil.  This was also the point where I cooked my shallots and button mushrooms, to add to my beef bourguignon.  

Last, but not least, was my chocolate cheesecake.  I made this the night before, so it could chill in the fridge and set properly.  I drizzled some melted Cadbury’s Dairy Milk over it generously, and cut my strawberry into a little heart shape by hulling the strawberry then making little V shapes at each end!  

I based mines on a Nigella Lawson chocolate cheesecake recipe, however I substituted the digestives for ginger snap biscuits, and used Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate (instead of dark chocolate), to compliment the Cadbury Crunchie Bar Ice Cream.  

  

When I had served everyone the cake, I was subtly(!) reminded that there was supposed to be ice cream with it!! Hence the lack of photograph, but I did get to serve it in the end!  I got the recipe for my decadent Cadbury’s Crunchie Bar Ice Cream from here.  

My first dinner party was a resounding success in my eyes (I have nothing to compare it with yet anyway!) and I look forward to hosting many, many more (and posting about it on here of course!).  Just looking at the photos is making me hungry again!  

 

 

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Continuing my attempt to eat healthily, I opted for a stir fry last night.  It was my first attempt at making my own marinade (I usually go for a packet/jar sauce, as a stir fry has always been a quick “mid week” meal for me), and I will never go back to pre-made sauce again!

This served 2 greedy girls plus enough for one lunch tub the next day!

Ingredients:

2 cooked chicken breasts

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 medium onion, diced

4 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tbsp all spice

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp chilli powder

2 tbsp honey

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp balsalmic vinegar

2 spring onions, chopped into 3 sections lengthwise

100g mange tout

150g button mushrooms

A further 40 -60ml soy sauce (to taste)

Stir fry veg – I used Tesco Vegetable & Beansprout Stir Fry 380g

Noodles – I used 150g of Amoy Straight To Wok Medium Noodles

I mixed the chicken with the onion, soy sauce, garlic, honey, ginger, chilli powder, all spice, pepper, balsalmic vinegar and olive oil in a tub and left to marinade in the fridge for an hour.  I’m sure it would be better left overnight:

 

I heated olive oil in a wok then added the button mushrooms (if the chicken was uncooked I would have made this first).  After about 5 minutes of stirring, I added spring onions, mange tout and chicken marinade and stirred for a few minutes.  Then I added the stir fry veg and about 40ml soy sauce.  Once the veg had wilted down, I added my noodles.  I added a few more dashes of soy sauce to coat, then served up on a plate.

I thought this was quite spicy (I have a rather mild palate, many wouldn’t find this hot at all).  If your tastebuds are as sensitive as mines, I dont think the dish would miss the chilli powder.  On this occasion, I felt it was a perfect excuse to serve up with a cocktail to soothe my poor throat… I made Woo Woos:

1 shot vodka

1 shot peach schnapps

Fill with cranberry juice

Serve with lime and plenty of ice (and a colourful straw of course!)

Delicious!

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I dont know about you, but December (like most people) was a very indulgent month for me!  Alot of us resolve to eat healthily in January; to be honest… I am finding it rather difficult to adjust from mindless gluttony, to nutritious gastronomy.  I am not a fan of diets.  I love good, hearty food and if I weren’t going through a major slump at the gym right now, I would be able to enjoy my good, hearty food guilt free.  As it stands, my laziness has cost me a few culinary sacrifices… only until I feel sufficiently traumatised into getting my bum back on that rowing machine, of course!

The only way that I’m able to make sure I eat more healthily, is to plan ahead.  It was my first day back in the office today (from the festive holidays), so I wanted to have something comforting for lunch, to combat the chaos around me.  For me, the ultimate comfort food is a nice, warming soup.

(Thats right… I am at the office before sunrise… how shocking is that?!)
I have never tried making my own pea soup before, but I saw a lovely idea by Good Food, for “Pea and Pesto Soup with Fish Finger Croutons”.

To say I have adapted this recipe would be a bit of an understatement, as mines is so utterly different!  I adapted/transformed mines to be more healthy; but still felt it important to honour my influence for the soup.  So here is what I done:

Ingredients:

3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
2 medium onions (diced)
5-6 good sized potatoes (diced)
1 litre of stock
2 bay leaves
700g Frozen Peas
500ml semi skimmed milk

Fry the onions and garlic in a little olive oil.  When the onions become translucent (around 10 mins on a medium heat), chuck in the potatoes, add the stock, then the bay leaves.  Give it all a good stir.  Cover and simmer, until the potatoes are cooked through (around 20 mins works for me personally).  Next, pour in the frozen peas, bring back to the boil, then simmer for 4-5 minutes.  Add the milk and warm through, as well as more water if you feel it is too thick (I added about another 200ml of water at this point, but it’s all about preference).

Blend until the soup reaches a smooth consistency and a luscious green colour!

A few points about this soup.  I took one of my tubs into work today with me, which I really enjoyed with a slice of wholemeal bread and olive spread (hee hee that rhymed).  In an attempt to keep the soup healthy, I didn’t season it nearly as much as I normally would’ve done.  Lesson learned for me; my advice is for you to season it really well.

Also… I’m not enough of a foodie (quite yet) to be snobbish about the use of stock cubes.  I’d love to be able to leisurely make and freeze my own stock, however, until that day arrives, stock cubes will do for me!  For this occasion, I used 2 vegetable stock cubes and 1 ham.  Next time I make it, I am definately going to use a lovely joint of gammon or something.  Mmmm.

Here is my little tubs, all set for the freezer.  The big one at the top is going to be used as a pasta sauce, with breaded fish chunks and pesto… funnily enough!  

(The ultimate freezer friendly soup!  Perfect if you have a microwave in your work kitchen)

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