Monday, 24 December 2012

Chocolate Salami

Once I saw the picture of this I just had to give it a go. I'm taking it along to a family gathering this evening. I thought it would be perfect to cut into slices and hand around. I missed out the nuts and added stem ginger instead to make it more child friendly. You need time and patience to make it, the stringing had me confused, but then it doesn't take much. The recipe comes from 'Nigellisima', which I'm hopefully getting for Christmas. The following link is for the recipe.

Happy Christmas to everyone who has followed my Blog since I started in January. If I have managed to inspire just a few people in the cooking department that will make me very happy xx 

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Mulled Wine

There is nothing wrong with buying ready made mulled wine, but if you have two minutes to just add the following ingredients to a bottle of red wine, I think this recipe just pips the bought stuff to the post.

1 bottle of red wine
60g of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange sliced
a grating of nutmeg

Just heat the wine and all the other ingredients gently, until the sugar has dissolved and it is warmed through. Be careful not to boil the alcohol off, of course.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas Rocky Road

How could you fail to be disappointed receiving these as a gift. Dusted with icing sugar and wrapped in cellophane, half a dozen of these rich chocolate squares make a very thoughtful present for friends or family. I haven't made them this year yet, the photo above was taken a couple of years ago. I have obviously been taking pictures of food for sometime now. I usually do try to make some homemade edible gifts, but it's all time dependent. I'll try and get the children involved when school breaks up tomorrow. This recipe comes from 'Nigellas Christmas'.

250 gram(s) dark chocolate
150 gram(s) milk chocolate
175 gram(s) butter (soft)
4 tablespoon(s) golden syrup
200 gram(s) amaretti biscuits
150 gram(s) brazil nuts (shelled)
150 gram(s) glace cherries (red)
125 gram(s) mini marshmallows
1 tablespoon(s) icing sugar
1 sprinkling of edible glitter

Chop both sorts of chocolate small, or use chocolate buttons made for melting, and then put into a heavy-based pan to melt with the butter and syrup over a gentle heat.
Put the biscuits into a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin to get big- and little-sized crumbs; you want some pieces to crunch and some sandy rubble.
Put the Brazil nuts into another freezer bag and also bash them so you get different-sized nut rubble.
Take the pan off the heat, and add the crushed biscuits and nuts, whole glacé cherries and mini-marshmallows. Turn carefully to coat everything with syrupy chocolate.
Tip into a foil tray or a greased baking tray, smoothing the top as best you can, although it will look bumpy.
Refrigerate until firm enough to cut, which will take about 1½ –2 hours. Then take the set block of rocky road out of the foil tray ready to cut.
Push the icing sugar through a small sieve to dust the top of the Rocky Road. Then, if you like, add a sprinkling of edible glitter for some festive sparkle.
With the long side in front of you, cut into it 6 slices down and 4 across, so that you have 24 almost-squares.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Cheesy Hearts

These bite sized cheesy hearts take minutes to make in the food processor. Ideal if you have unexpected guests calling in over Christmas for a few drinks. They are nice cold, but better warm from the oven. The recipe comes from the 'Christmas Cooking' Book by Usborne childrens books.

makes about 25 hearts
150g self raising flour
half a tsp of salt
75g butter or margarine
75g of cheese, finely grated (I used a bit more and used cheddar and parmesan)
1 egg and a tbsp of milk, beaten together
a heart or star shaped cutter
a greased baking tray

Heat the oven to 200C.
Sift the flour and salt through a sieve. Add the butter or margarine and rub in with your fingers to make fine crumbs. (I did this in the food processor). Leave a tablespoon of the grated cheese on a saucer. Add the rest of the cheese to the bowl and stir it in. Put a tablespoon of the beaten egg and milk mixture into a cup. Mix the rest into the flour to make a dough. (Again I just added the cheese, milk and egg to the food processor and it makes a dough). 
Sprinkle flour onto a clean work surface and roll out the dough, until it is slightly thinner than your little finger. Use the cutter to cut out your shapes. Cut them close together then make the scraps into a ball and re roll. Brush the shapes with the egg mixture and sprinkle them with the rest of the cheese. 
Put the hearts onto the greased baking sheet. Bake them in the oven for eight to ten minutes, until they are golden. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Icing on the Cake

For the marzipan;
apricot jam
500g natural marzipan
icing sugar

Using a pastry brush cover the entire cake with apricot jam

Sprinkle your surface and rolling pin with icing sugar. Roll the marzipan into a ball with your hands and then take a rolling pin and start rolling out a circle which will be big enough to cover the cake. Cover the cake with the marzipan, there will be folds so just flatten them down as much as you can, then trim off the excess along the bottom. It really doesn't have to be perfect as the cake will be covered in icing. Eat the excess marzipan bits.

For the icing;
This year I went for the snow scene look, using a packet of ready made Silver Spoon Royal icing sugar, to which you just add water and beat until thick (follow the instructions on the packet). I would say keep beating until stiff peaks form, as when it came to icing the cake it seemed to be too runny and there was a lot of fussing about on my part. The alternative is to buy ready made fondant icing and this time glaze the marzipan in apricot jam. Roll the icing into a ball then basically do what you did with the marzipan. This time you want it a little bit neater so carefully smooth down on the sides of the cake and trim off the excess icing. The thing is you want the cake to look homemade, so any imperfections are fine. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Hot smoked salmon and spinach kedgeree

Kedgeree was a dish I used to make for the children quite frequently when they were little. I used to use mackerel and was quite amazed when they used to tuck in with great enthusiasm. This recipe comes yet again from Olive magazine this month, from a section on healthy makeover breakfasts. I cooked it for dinner the other night and was reminded what a great dish it is. The original recipe calls for smoked trout but due to the lack of this in tesco I used salmon fillets with black pepper. The use of ready cooked rice and cooked fish makes for quite a speedy supper.

Serves 2
2 eggs
1 onion halved and thinly sliced
1 green chilli, finely chopped
2 tsp mild curry powder
½ tsp tumeric
250g pouch cooked basmati rice
100g young spinach
100g hot smoked trout or salmon, flaked

Put the eggs into a pan of boiling water and boil for 7 minutes. Rinse to cool. then leave in cold water.
Cook the onion and chilli with 1 tsp oil in a non stick pan until softened and golden. Stir in the spices and cook for a minute. Stir in the rice until hot, then stir through the spinach until wilted. Add the trout/salmon and mix in without breaking the flakes up.  Pile onto the plates and top with the shelled and halved egs.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

A Very Aldi Christmas

How cute is this gingerbread house, available at Aldi at the moment for £3.99. We have bought kits to make them in the past, but these ones were ready made, packaged in cellophane and tied with ribbon. They would make lovely presents. The thing is I never let the kids touch them until after Christmas by which time the gingerbread is inedible. 

Sorry, I noted the wrong price for the gingerbread house. They were £5.99, but are now down to £4.99

Like most people I find cooking Christmas dinner very stressful, and by the time I sit down to eat, I could be eating anything. I have had the pleasure of being entertained the last couple of Christmas's, but when we have had Christmas at home I have usually cooked turkey. I remember quite a few years ago now ordering a Kelly Bronze turkey and nearly passing out at the butchers counter when I saw the price. I overcooked it, was disappointed in the flavour and just wondered if it was worth all the effort. It is difficult to judge how long to cook the turkey for, there are so many varying recipes. I have usually followed Delias instructions, but found that the meat is rather dry. Saying all that it's a tradition and most people will be cooking turkey anyway. This year I am making it easy on myself. I want to enjoy the day, I don't want to be in the kitchen for the majority of it, so I am cooking two Aldi, Four Bird Roasts (for 10 people). They comprise of turkey, chicken, goose and duck with a pork and onion stuffing. They are bought frozen and cooked from frozen in 2½ hours. I have tried them twice to make sure they are special enough for a Christmas meal and the whole family has really enthused about them. I'll do all the trimmings, pigs in blankets, stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, roast vegetables and of course sprouts, but the main part of the meal will be so much easier. I found that there were enough juices from the roast after cooking to make gravy, or the gravy could be made in advance to make things even easier. It doesn't quite carve like the photo on the box, but it is extremely moist and full of flavour. I cook so much all year round and although I want Christmas dinner to be special, I don't want it all to be all about the meal and miss out on the day with my family. So if you feel the same about turkeys and want a stress free option maybe give this dish a try this year. 
Oh and incase you are wondering I'm not on commission from Aldi.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Chicken stuffed with stilton

I can not stress how easy this meal is. It used to be an old favourite of mine, but I haven't done it for absolutely ages.  If you are not a stilton fan, you could always use boursin or something similar in it's place. I'm not sure where this recipe originated from, but I remember it was my staple dinner party meal about 20 years ago.

Serves 4
4 chicken breasts
4 slices of prosciutto
a chunk of stilton cheese (how much depends on how strong you want the sauce)
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 190ºC. In a small dish crumble the stilton with a fork then mix with the creme fraiche. Cut a pocket in the larger side of the chicken breast and stuff the mixture into the pocket. Wrap in a piece of prosciutto and place in a roasting dish. Drizzle with  some olive oil and season and place in the oven for approx 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the cheese is bubbling and golden. Serve the chicken with the sauce poured over it with vegetables of your choice.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Christmas morning muffins

Well you don't have to wait until Christmas morning to have them. I must be getting excited about Christmas as I am waking up early and can't get back to sleep. I got up at 6.30 this morning so I made these muffins for the kids breakfast. I tried not to get cross when James pulled them to bits to remove the sultanas. He hates dried fruit in things, even though he will eat them normally. They are easy and quick enough to make on Christmas morning if you so desired and they really do taste good fresh from the oven. The recipe comes from Nigellas 'How to be a domestic goddess'.

Makes 12
For the muffins:
200g plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
75g demerara sugar
good grating fresh nutmeg
1 clementine or small orange
approximately 50ml milk
60g unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
150g dried cranberries (I used sultanas)
12-bun muffin tin with papers

for the topping:
2 teaspoons demerara sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb and sugar, and grate over a generous amount of fresh nutmeg. Squeeze the orange or clementine juice into a measuring jug, then pour in milk on top till it comes up to the 150ml mark. Add the melted butter and the egg, and beat to combine. Pour the jug of liquid ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir till the ingredients are more or less combined, remembering that a lumpy batter makes light muffins. Last of all, lightly fold in the cranberries and fill the muffin cases or cups. The amount of cranberries specified here makes for heavily fruited muffins; if you want them sparser, use half the amount.

Mix together the demerara sugar and ground cinnamon and sprinkle over the tops of the muffins. Stick them in the oven and bake for 20 minutes,bu which time they should be 
golden-brown and ready to be eaten – as they are, or broken open and spread with butter and marmalade.

Spiced carrot and lentil soup

My sister reminded me of this lovely soup recently when she cooked it for me for lunch. It's low fat, healthy and very filling, so with the accompaniment of some warm naan bread last night it made a very ample meal. The recipe is from the Good Food website. I love the fact that you don't even have to chop an onion for this soup.

Serves 4
2 tsp cumin seeds
pinch chilli flakes
2 tbsp olive oil
600g carrots , washed and coarsely grated (no need to peel)
140g split red lentils
1l hot vegetable stock (from a cube is fine)
125ml milk
plain yoghurt and naan bread, to serve

Heat a large saucepan and dry-fry the cumin seeds and chilli flakes for 1 min, or until they start to jump around the pan and release their aromas. Scoop out about half of the seeds with a spoon and set aside. Add the oil, carrot, lentils, stock and milk to the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 mins until the lentils have swollen and softened.
Whizz the soup with a stick blender or in a food processor until smooth (or leave it chunky if you prefer). Season to taste and finish with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of the reserved toasted spices. Serve with warmed naan breads.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Mozzarella, tomato and prosciutto ham tart

I made this tart on Friday night for the rest of the family as I was dining out, I was quite disappointed to be missing out on it, as it looked and smelt delicious. I served the tart with some sweet potato wedges. I found the recipe on the Tesco real food website and just added the ham as I thought it was a bit short on tomatoes.

Serves 4 - 6

6 tomatoes
150g mozzarella cheese
6 garlic cloves ( I didn't use that many)
2 tablespoons medium-grain semolina (not quite sure why this was necessary)
200g block store-bought butter puff pastry
2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked
sea salt
1 bunch of tarragon, leaves picked (I used dried)
olive oil


Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut the tomatoes into slices. Do the same with the mozzarella. Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Roll out the pastry and scatter the semolina over.
Arrange the tomato slices on the pastry so that they overlap, then add the garlic, rosemary leaves and mozzarella. Season, scatter over the tarragon and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Chicken Gumbo

A flavoursome and easy to prepare midweek meal. Unfortunately I had to eat it so quickly to get somewhere on time, I really didn't have the chance to enjoy it. I found the recipe on the tesco grocery website in their meal planning section, which is very handy when you run out of ideas. 

I had a fair amount of the sauce left over and added some vegetable stock to it and pureed it to make a really good soup with a great spicy flavour. 

Serves 4
1tbsp olive oil
500g (16oz) skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1 green pepper, deseeded and diced (I used red pepper as I prefer them)
1 bay leaf
2tbsp plain flour
1tbsp Cajun seasoning
400g chopped tomatoes
250ml (8fl oz) chicken stock
175g (6oz) okra (or 1 additional green pepper, cut into chunks)
2tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
crusty bread, to serve

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes to brown all over – you may need to do this in 2 batches. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
Add the onion, garlic, celery, green pepper (plus extra pepper if you’re not using okra), and bay leaf to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, then stir in the flour and Cajun seasoning and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the tomatoes, stock, okra (if using) and sage, bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for another 5 minutes, then season to taste and serve with crusty bread.

A wintery sunrise this morning

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Smoked Salmon and potato gratin

A bit of a fancy meal for a  Monday night I know, but I had family coming for dinner. I had a bit of a rush on when I discovered that this meal took an 1½ hours to cook as I knew that it was going to take a little while to prepare. The use of a mandoline to slice the potatoes made it a much quicker process than thinly slicing them by hand. There are quite a few stages to making the dish, but none of them are difficult. I love potato dauphinoise and the fact that you could just add smoked salmon to it (another Aldi purchase to recommend) and make a complete meal appealed to me. The recipe is from January Olive Magazine. I think I need to cut down now before Christmas, lots of homemade soup perhaps. 

Serves 4
1kg of floury potatoes, sliced very thinly
200ml of double cream
200ml whole milk (I used semi-skimmed)
1 clove of garlic halved
140g of smoked salmon cut into bite sized pieces
300g spinach
50g Grand Padano (parmesan would be fine)

Heat the oven to 160ºC. Gently heat the cream and milk with the halved garlic clove. Season really well, then turn off the heat and leave for 10 minutes. Take out the garlic and discard. Stir in the salmon.
Put the spinach in a colander and pour over a kettleful of water to wilt. Cool then tip into a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much water as possible (or else it will dilute the gratin). Season and add a grating of nutmeg.
Butter an ovenproof dish. Layer the potatoes and spinach, spooning over salmon and cream as you go. Finish with a layer of potatoes and squash down so the cream just comes to the surface. scatter with the cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 1½ hours , removing the foil after 45 minutes.

Make a healthier version by using half fat creme fraiche in the place of double cream.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Sweet mince pies

My first mince pies of the year. I made pastry following the same recipe as the Tarte au citron pastry (see previous entry). It's just so easy in the food processor. I used the top of a glass to cut out the pastry and put a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat in each pie, in a greased bun tin. Cooked in the oven for approx 15 minutes at 200ºC, the pastry was light and short, and melted in the mouth. Once removed from the oven I left them in the baking tray for a few minutes, they then transferred easily, without breaking to a wire cooling tray. Once cold I dusted them with icing sugar. I made about 20 from the pastry recipe. 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Tarte au Citron

My first ever attempt at Tarte au Citron proved to be relativley successful. I don't make pastry very often and I am sure this is the first time I have made a pastry case, baking blind and all that. The process of making the tart is quite long as you will see from the length of the recipe. So if you are in a hurry it's not the dessert to make. My pastry edges were a bit of a disaster, if I made it again I would trim off the excess pastry before it goes in the oven, unlike the method stated in the recipe below. Also my tin wasn't deep enough so I could only put in half the lemon mixture. The tart filling was a bit grainy, but it had the right contrast of tangy lemon and sweetness and none of the artifical after taste you get from bought lemon tarts. I found the recipe online from Good Food Website from Mary Berry.

For the pastry;
175g plain flour
100g cold butter, cut into small cubes
25g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp cold water

For the filling;
5 eggs
125ml double cream
225g caster sugar
4 lemons, juice and zest
icing sugar, for dusting

To make the pastry, place the flour, butter and icing sugar into a food processor. Pulse briefly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then add the egg yolk and water.
Pulse again until the mixture sticks together in clumps then tip onto a work surface and gather it into a ball with your hands. Knead the pastry just two or three times to make it smooth. If your butter was a bit too soft, the pastry might be too. If so, wrap it in parchment paper and chill for 15 minutes.
Grease a 23cm/9in loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin.
Lay a piece of parchment paper on the work surface. Remove the base from the tart tin and lay it on the paper. Using a pencil, draw a circle onto the paper 4cm/1½in bigger than the tin base.
Dust the base of the tin with flour. Place the pastry ball in the centre of the tin base and flatten it out slightly. Roll out the pastry, still on the base, until it meets the circle mark. As you are rolling out, turn the pastry by turning the paper. Gently fold the pastry surrounding the tin base in towards the centre.
Carefully lift the tin base off the work surface, drop it into the tin, then ease the pastry into the corners and up the sides of the tin, pressing the overhang lightly over the rim. If the pastry has cracked at all, simply press it together to seal. Press the pastry into the flutes of the tin then lightly prick the base with a fork, but not quite all the way through. Place the pastry-lined tin on a baking tray, cover loosely with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C.
Remove the cling film from the pastry case and line with foil so it supports the sides, then fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 12-15 minutes, until the pastry is set, then lift out the foil and beans. Carefully trim the excess pastry from the sides using a sharp knife, holding the knife at a sharp angle and slicing away from you. Remove the trimmings from the sheet. Return the empty pastry case to the oven for another 10-12 minutes or until it is pale golden and completely dry. Set aside to cool while you make the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 170C.
For the filling, break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together with a wire whisk. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and whisk again until they are all well combined. Pour the filling mixture into a jug, then into the cooled baked pastry case. To prevent it spilling as it goes in the oven, pour in most of the filling so it almost fills the tart, carefully sit the baking sheet and tart on the oven shelf, then top up with the rest of the filling to completely fill it. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until just set but with a slight wobble in the centre.
Leave to cool slightly then, when the pastry seems firm enough, remove the tart from the tin. The easiest way to do this is to place the base of the tin on an upturned can or jam jar and let the outer ring fall to the work surface. Transfer the tart to a serving plate and serve warm or cold, dusted with sifted icing sugar.