Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Macaroons, attempt no 4

There is a science and an art to making macaroons which I have not mastered yet.  I tried a different recipe this time, read all the troubleshooting info that went with it. They looked really promising when they came out of the oven. Then I tried to take them off the baking paper and they were stuck solid. They were obviously underdone, so I thought I would just put them back in for another 5 minutes. Which I did, but they still stuck, which left half the base on the paper. The thing is they look and taste delicious, I filled them with chocolate icing (same recipe for icing on chocolate fudge cake). I was intending to keep these for the weekend, but as they are undercooked I don't want to chance leaving them too long. I'm sure we will manage to eat them up. I will not be beaten by these things, and will try again until I get them perfect.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Lemon Chicken

I found myself lacking inspiration whilst doing my online tesco shop last week. I clicked onto the recipe ideas on the tesco grocery app and looked at the section on meal planning. I liked the look of this recipe, I clicked on shop for ingredients and it added them all to my shopping list. Couldn't be easier and very tasty too.

Serves 4
15ml (1tbsp) oil
500g (1lb) boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets, cut into thin strips
10ml (2tsp) freshly grated ginger
1 bunch spring onion, thinly sliced lengthways
150ml (¼pt) chicken stock
juice 1 lemon (about 45ml (3tbsp))
15ml (1tbsp) caster sugar
15ml (1tbsp) light soy sauce
30ml (2tbsp) Chinese rice wine or sherry
15ml (1tbsp) cornflour, blended with 30ml ( 2tbsp) cold water

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and when hot, add the chicken and ginger and stir fry for 3-4 minutes until the chicken is browned. Remove from the pan. Add all the sauce ingredients to the pan, except for the cornflour. Bring to the boil, then stir in the cornflour mixture. Taste at this point to see if the sauce needs anything extra adding. I added a little more sugar as it was a bit tart.
Simmer for 1 minute until thickened. Return the chicken to the pan with the spring onions and stir fry until coated in the sauce. Serve immediately with steamed rice.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Chocolate Fudge cake

This is my trusty chocolate cake recipe, given to me years ago by a good friend. I have made so many of these over the years as I made them for my local garden centre cafe for a couple of years. They have a 99% success rate and never fail to please adults and children. I made this yesterday for my nephews 10th birthday, he adores chocolate cake. I let rachel do the icing, which I thought looked pretty good for a beginner. The cake will stay fresh for a few days if it manages to last that long. It also works well as a dessert heated up with cream or ice cream.

Serves 10-12
110g light brown soft sugar
110 g Dark chocolate, 70% cocoa
300ml of milk
150ml sunflower oil
350g Plain flour
2 tbspn cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp  bicarbonate of powder
a pinch of salt
4 eggs
225g Caster sugar
1tsp Vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate, milk and soft brown sugar in a bowl in the microwave until smooth and combined. Stir in the sunflower oil, it looks quite separated at this point. Put the flour, cocoa, bicarb and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add the wet ingredients to it and beat the mixture until well blended, I use my freestanding mixer for this, but this could be done with a electric whisk or by hand. Add the beaten eggs a bit at a time and the caster sugar. You will end up with quite a smooth and runny batter. Pour the batter in to a round 9" wide and quite deep cake tin, lined with greaseproof paper and bake at 160C for one hour. A skewer should come out clean after this time, put back in if it still seems a bit soft. Leave the cake to cool for 10 mins in the tin then remove to a baking tray.

110g butter, mixed with 4 tbspns water melted in the microwave mixed with 285g of icing sugar and 28g cocoa. Mix this together until blended, smooth and not too runny. Add more icing Sugar if it's too runny. Slice the cooled cake in half then spread the icing in the midde of the cake then on top. Decorate as desired.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Chipotle glazed chicken with baked kidney beans

Whilst mooching around the specialist ingredients section of Marks and Spencers I came across a bottle of Maple Chipotle Grill sauce reduced. I have never used a chipotle sauce before but thought it sounded interesting and knew it would come in handy sometime. Last night I really didn't feel like cooking but had some chicken to use. I sussed from the flavors in the sauce that beans and chicken would work well with it, so I sliced half an onion, and mixed it with a tin of kidney beans in a roasting dish and placed the chicken on top. Then I  poured over some of the sauce, enough to cover the chicken not smother it. I cooked it for about 25 mins until the chicken was tender. The biggest effort was peeling and chopping some sweet potatoes to go with it. I just roasted these in olive oil until nicely cooked, just starting to blacken at the edges. The chicken had a spicy, smoky, and sweet bbq flavor to it. I have checked whether the supermarkets do anything similar and Waitrose and Sainsburys seem to have a chipotle sauce. It makes a good store cupboard ingredient. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Paprika lamb with roasted peppers and tomatoes

My sister asked me the other day if I was sick of doing my blog yet, the truth is I love doing it. It inspires me to try many new recipes and it makes my day when someone says how useful they find it.  Although this new meal I made last night cooked for a long time the preparation was effortless and the result was a beautifully tender piece of lamb with really lovely flavours. I didn't make all of the side dishes that appeared in Olive magazine, red onion salsa, guacamole and homemade tortillas. I would maybe have done this for a weekend meal, it just seemed a bit much effort for a midweek meal. I bought tortilla wraps. I had a much smaller piece of lamb last night and just reduced the ingredients and the cooking times just slightly. Though I don't think you could overcook this. 

Serves 6
2kg leg of lamb
2 lemons zested and juiced
olive oil
½ tbsp cumin seeds
½ tbsp smoked paprika
150ml white wine
500g baby plum tomatoes
2 romano peppers (I used romiro peppers, I think normal peppers would be fine too).
4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole

Heat the oven to 220C. Put the lamb into a deep sided casserole dish and squeeze the lemon juice over it. Rub the oil over the skin and sprinkle with the zest, cumin seeds and paprika and season well. Put in the oven for 25-30 mins to brown a little.
Reduce the heat of the oven to 160C. Pour the wine over the lamb, cover with a lid and cook for a further 2½ hours.
After this time, put the tomatoes, whole peppers and garlic cloves in and around the lamb and return to the oven for a further hour (by which time the lamb will be soft and melting and will pull apart with a fork).
Take the lamb carefully out of the casserole and put on a large board to rest in a warm place. Strain the liquid into a pan saving the tomatoes, peppers and garlic and simmer the pan juices reducing the liquid by half to make a tasty thickened gravy.
Pull the meat into chunks from the bone using a fork. Slice the peppers and serve the lamb with the tomatoes, peppers and garlic cloves and gravy poured over, wrapped up in tortillas.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Lemon Pesto crusted salmon

Tonight I wanted something quick, this was perfect. It was in the oven after minutes of preparation, and the kids loved it. Another recipe from BBC Good food, I think I should be on commission.

Serves 2
2 skinless salmon fillets
a handful of white breadcrumbs (I used a packet if Panko breadcrumbs), mixed with a little lemon zest and 2 tbsp of pesto
lemon wedges, to serve
200g broccoli, steamed for 4 minutes and dressed with a little olive oil and lemon juice to serve


Heat the oven to 220C. Press the breadcrumb mix all over the top of the salmon fillets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the crust is turning golden and the salmon is just cooked. Serve with the tenderstem broccoli and lemon wedges.

I sprinkled some freshly grated Parmesan on top before baking for a little extra flavour.

Japanese crispy chicken with chilli dipping sauce

I apologise for the quality of the photo, it was taken on James Ipod Touch as I haven't got my camera at the moment. Another Asian themed meal last night from John Torode, in an old edition of Olive Magazine.  Sometimes when I cook I don't enjoy the meal as much as the other people eating it, I'm quite critical of my own cooking. But this one was one of the nicest meals I have made in a long time. I have never had so many compliments from James during a meal, one of them being "it tastes so nice it's like having a Chinese Takeaway". Although it was way better than a chinese takeaway, I appreciated his sentiments. Rachel said it was like McDonalds chicken nuggets, which I strongly disagreed with.  I made the recipe for six of us last night, so the frying in batches did take a while, but I just kept the fried ones warm in the oven until it was all ready. I used bought sweet chilli dipping sauce instead of making it so I will leave out the recipe for the chilli sauce.

Ingredients Serves 6
3cm piece of root ginger
100ml of sake or dry sherry (I used dry sherry)
50ml soy sauce
4 finely chopped spring onions
4 skin on chicken breasts, cut into 2 cm chunks (mine were skinless)
ground nut oil or sunflower oil
200g plain flour
1 red chilli shredded

Peel and grate and ginger and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Mix the sake or sherry, soy sauce and most of the spring onion with the juice and add the chicken, turn over and leave to marinade for 1-2 hours. I left it a bit late to do this and the flavour was fine, though if you can leave it that long,do.
Fill a wok or a saucepan one third full of oil and heat over a medium heat. Drain the chicken from the marinade, toss in the flour, shake off the excess flour then fry the pieces in batches. Cook for about 3 mins on each side until crisp and golden. Drain briefly on a kitchen towel to get rid of any excess oil. Serve sprinkled with the remaining onion and chilli on a warm plate with sweet chilli sauce for dipping.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Spicy Thai Fishcakes with Dipping Sauce

Last night, I made a lovely beef casserole from Nigella Lawsons, 'Kitchen'. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph it. I won't post the recipe this time without a photograph because it's definitely one I'll do again. This fishcake recipe is a meal I did a couple of weeks ago but was too tried to do my blog the evening I made it. I did think at the time it was a waste to whiz up all those fresh prawns but once I had tasted the fishcakes, I thought they were well worth it. The recipe is from Olive Magazine. We all thought the dipping sauce was a bit spicy and I think that the sweet chilli dipping sauce that you can buy would be as nice to use and save a little time too.

Serves 2
200g raw peeled prawns
2 - 3 tsp Thai red curry paste
a small bunch of coriander, stalks separated 
2 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
1 tsp golden caster sugar (I am sure normal caster sugar will be fine)
1 finely chopped red chilli

Put the prawns, curry paste and coriander stalks in a food processor. Whizz to a paste then form into 6 flat cakes.
Heat a frying pan with the oil and then fry the cakes for 2 - 3 minutes each side until golden and cooked through. Mix the vinegar, sugar and chilli. Serve the cakes with the coriander leaves and the sauce for dipping.

I served mine with some noodles.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Coconut chicken with lemon rice

As far as homemade curries go this was easy to do and doesn't have a huge list of ingredients. I thought it was delicious, quite spicy, I had to make Rachel and her friend an alternative tea. Maybe because I used a red chilli rather than a green. It looked like a bit like a korma curry but it wasn't as sweet. I could imagine adding banana to it to counteract the spiciness or adding a bit of desiccated coconut to the sauce. 

Serves 4
3 cm piece root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 green chilli, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
8 chicken thigh fillets, cut into quarters
400ml tin coconut milk
1 small bunch coriander , chopped

Lemon rice:
1 lemon, zested and juiced
olive oil
3 cardamom pods , bashed
300g basmati rice

Put the ginger, garlic, green chilli, onion and 1/2 tsp salt in a small food processor and whizz to a purée (use a drop of water if you need to bring it together). Heat a tbsp of oil in a large wide pan and fry the purée for 3 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander and turmeric and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes until it starts to colour a little. Stir in the coconut milk and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the coriander. 

To make the rice, peel long strips of rind (no pith) from the lemon. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and add the lemon rind and cardamom pods. Cook for 2 minutes then add the rice and stir well. Add 450ml water and bring to a boil. Put on a lid and simmer for 10-12 minutes until all water has absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave for 5 minutes. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon before serving.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Pasta with caramelised red onions and blue cheese

This is perfect for a tasty midweek supper, blue cheese fans will love the creaminess and saltiness of the melted cheese with the sweetness of the caramelised red onions. A great vegetarian meal, although I think that crispy bacon might have been a good addition.

Serves 2
Olive oil
Pasta penne
2 red onions chopped into small wedges (I used one red onion for four of us)
1 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
75g of soft blue cheese, such as gorgonzola or dolcelatte (I used St Agur)
1 tbsp lightly toasted pine nuts

Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the red onions until tender. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar and cook further until they start to caramelise and become sticky.  Cook the pasta in salted boiling water and when cooked ,drain and add to the onions. Add the crumbled blue cheese and top with the toasted pine nuts.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Simple red chicken curry

A great Friday night Thai curry, not too spicy, quick to make, and not too many ingredients. It's another recipe from Olive Magazine this month. Being lighter in calories as it's using low fat coconut milk, lots of vege and lean chicken, it's also good for the waistline.

Serves 4
a 400g tin of half fat coconut milk 
2-3 tbsp of Thai red curry paste
100g green beans (I used mange tout)
100g baby sweetcorn, halved lengthways
2 skinless chicken breasts, sliced
150 g cherry tomatoes

Heat 2 tbsp of coconut milk in a wok or pan. Add the paste and cook for 3-4 mins. Add the rest of the coconut milk and simmer for a minute. Add the beans and the sweetcorn and simmer for 2 minutes, then add the chicken breast and tomatoes and cook until the chicken is tender and the tomatoes just burst. Serve with steamed rice.

Friday, 7 September 2012


This is my 3rd attempt at macaroons and they are the only ones that I have been happy to photograph and post the recipe for. The others have tasted good but haven't looked right. They are not easy to make, and I have found that they stick to the baking sheet, so tend to crack when I try to remove them. I think I slightly under cooked these ones last night as they were still a bit soft in the middle. They taste absolutely delicious though. I just filled them with some freshly whipped double cream and some raspberry jam.  They were chewy in the middle, crispy on the outside and just heavenly. I'm going to have another go and try to get the tops smooth and hope to have them rise a little bit more.  I used a recipe from Lorraine Pascales 'Baking made easy'.

Makes about 12
125g icing sugar
125g ground almonds
40g egg whites

2 tbsp water
110g caster sugar

50g egg whites
food colouring (optional)

150ml double cream, whipped

Preheat the oven to 170C, and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Put the icing sugar, ground almonds and the 40g egg whites together in a large bowl and mix to a paste.

Put the water and caster sugar in a small pan and heat gently to melt the sugar, then turn up the heat and boil until the mixture starts to go syrupy and thickens - if you have a thermometer, it should read 115C/239F at this stage. I just had to guess.

Whisk the remaining 50g egg whites in a small bowl until medium-stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl, then pour in the sugar syrup, whisking until the mixture becomes stiff and shiny. For coloured macaroons, add a few drops of food colouring. Tip this meringue mixture into the almond paste mixture and stir gently until the becomes stiff and shiny again.

Spoon into the piping bag. Pipe a little mixture under each corner of the baking paper to stop it sliding around. With the bag held vertically, pipe 4cm flat circles onto the lined tray, about 2cm apart, twisting the bag after each one, (mine were too close so some stuck together, leave plenty of room as they spread whilst cooking) The mixture should be quite loose to give a smooth finish. The piping will leave a small ‘tip’ on each circle so, when they’re all piped, give the tray 2–3 slams on a flat surface to flatten them. 

Leave to stand for 30 minutes to form a skin then bake in the oven for 12–15 minutes with the door slightly ajar until firm. Remove from the oven, lift the paper off the baking tray and leave the macaroons to cool on the paper.

When cool, sandwich the macaroons together with whipped cream. They can be kept for a couple of days, if they hang around that long!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Risi e bisi , risotto with peas

Steve and I visited Saltburn by the Sea today, a kind of celebratory day out following the kids return to school (can I say that?) For those who aren't local it's a Victorian Seaside town, very much with the feel of days gone by. There's the original pier with a Funicular running down to it, some really nice cafes, shops and lots of fish and chips. The beach is vast, clean and obviously a place for the surfers who were enjoying some good waves today.  We resisted the delicious smell of the fish as chips and ate our picnic in the sunshine on the pier. Sometime earlier this year someone placed a line of knitted figures along the pier to commemorate the Olympics. They are still there and had I had my camera I would have photographed everyone of them, they are a work of art. I am not sure how long they will be there and whether they will last the winter, but the following link has some great photographs. Hopefully we might go back on Sunday with the children as there is a promise of a lovely sunny weekend.


Tea tonight was a variation on a classic Venetian dish, Risi e bisi, from "At Elizabeth Davids table'. I substituted the ham for chorizo as I had some left over from another meal. It added a good flavour and a nice colour to the meal.

Serves 4
A small onion chopped small
45g butter
60g ham
375g frozen peas (the recipe states using fresh, I used frozen and a much smaller amount than this)
3 pints of chicken stock
2 teacups of risotto rice
Parmesan cheese.

Fry the onion in 15g of the butter. Add the chopped ham then the peas to the pan. When they are coated in the butter pour in a large cup of the hot stock, and when it's bubbling add the rice. Now pour over more stock, about 1 pint and cook gently before stirring, before it is all absorbed add more. This is not quite the same as an ordinary risotto as it should have a little more liquid when served. When the rice is cooked add the rest of the butter and grated parmesan. Serve with some parmesan grated on top.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Tuna Melt Jackets

The simple and delicious jacket potato turned into something a bit fancier. I can't remember the last time I had a jacket potato and I could have just eaten them tonight smothered in butter and nothing else. However I tried this recipe from Olive magazine this month and they went down a treat. I baked mine for an hour in the oven instead of microwaving them as I think there is a huge difference in flavour if they are oven baked. So if you have the time stick them in the oven, with the skins rubbed with olive oil and salt, for 1 hour at 200C, or follow the recipe below.

Serves 2
2 baking potatoes halved
1 x 225g tin tuna of in spring water 
a small bunch of chives, chopped 
4 chopped spring onions
2 tbsp mayonnaise
50g cheddar cheese, grated

Heat the oven to 200C. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork then microwave for  8 - 10 mins or until tender. 
Mix the tuna, onions, chives, mayo and half the cheese. Halve the potatoes then scoop some out into the tuna bowl, leaving a 1cm shell (I kept some of the potato back as there seemed rather a lot) Roughly mix the potato and tuna together, season well, then pile back into the shells. Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese and put in the oven until bubbling and golden. serve with a green salad.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Strawberry and mascarpone tart

My sister in law made this lovely tart for us when we stayed for a couple of days in the holidays. It inspired me to make it again from Nigel Slater's 'Kitchen Diaries'. It's a good dinner party dessert as it can be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve. 

Serves 8
For the crumb case:
75g butter
250g almond, orange or sweet oat biscuits ( I used almond)

For the filling;
1 large free-range egg, separated
1 tbsp caster sugar
250g mascarpone cheese
2 drops vanilla essence
250g fresh strawberries, hulled, thinly sliced

For the crumb case, melt the butter in a small saucepan.
Place the biscuits in a food processor and process to fine crumbs (alternatively, place in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin, taking care not to split the bag).
Mix the crumbs thoroughly with the melted butter and spoon into a 25cm/10in diameter loose-bottomed flan tin. Press the crumbs firmly over the base and up the sides of the tin to cover completely. Transfer to the fridge to chill until firm.
For the filling, place the egg yolk into a bowl with the caster sugar and whisk together.
Add the mascarpone and beat until thoroughly combined. Stir in the vanilla essence.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg white with a clean whisk until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl. Gently fold the egg white into the mascarpone mixture.

Remove the biscuit case from the fridge. Spoon the mascarpone mixture into the biscuit case and gently smooth the top with a spatula. Arrange the sliced strawberries on top of the mascarpone.

Transfer to the fridge and chill. Remove the tart from the fridge 20 minutes before serving.

Spanish-Style Chicken Bake

I liked the look of this recipe as it was pretty much a complete meal that could be bunged in the oven with just a small amount of preparation before guests arrive. Just a little bit of turning and adding more ingredients at the last stage, and the result was a very flavoursome and easy dinner party meal.

Serves 4
a little olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 medium red onion, cut into 8 wedges
500g new potatoes, halved
8 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled
8 medium tomatoes, quartered
75g chorizo
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
half tsp of sweet paprika
half tsp dried oregano
1 red pepper, cut into strips
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oven to 200C. Put the onions, potatoes, and garlic in a large roasting tin and season with salt and pepper. Toss lightly in some olive oil and roast for 20 mins. Cut the chorizo into small chunks. Slash the chicken thighs 2 or 3 times each with a knife. Season with black pepper. Mix the paprika and oregano together and set aside. Take the roasting tin out of the oven, scatter the chorizo over the veg, turn everything a couple of times. Put the chicken on top of the veg and sprinkle with the paprika and oregano. Season with salt. Return to the oven for 20 mins. Then tuck the pepper and tomatoes loosely around the chicken and the vege. Turn oven up to 220C. Put the tin back in the oven for 20 mins, until the peppers are soft and the chicken is golden and crisp. (Squeeze garlic out of the skins as you eat). I roasted some sweet potatoes to serve along side. 

Note: I doubled the recipe so just left things in for 30 minutes at a time, due to the large quantities.

Griddled Figs with blue cheese

I rarely do starters now if I am having friends for dinner. I find three courses a bit much. Usually I just do a plate of bits to pick at, like olives and hummus and maybe a bit of feta. Last night I just put this plate of figs on the table for people to help themselves to. I quartered them, fried them in a bit of olive oil in a griddle, then sliced some creamy blue cheese on top. I used St Agur. Serve on a bed of rocket with some balsamic glaze drizzled over. A starter in minutes, looks lovely too.