Saturday, 30 March 2013

Primrose Bakery Chocolate and Banana cupcakes

I needed an excuse to use my new and very apt cake stand that my mum's friend kindly bought for me. The usual overripe bananas in the fruit bowl and a desire for cupcakes, led to these mammoth sized cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery cookbook. 

Makes 12
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp good quality vanilla extract
250g plain flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
4 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
175g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken or chopped into small pieces

For the chocolate icing;
4 tbsp cold water
28g cocoa powder
125g butter melted
284g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a 12-hole muffin tray with the appropriate size cupcakes cases.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and smooth, which should take 3-5 min using an electric mixer.
Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat again briefly (add the eggs one at time making sure they have incorporated well in between). Add the flour and baking powder and beat again until well combined. Stir in the mashed bananas and chocolate pieces using a wooden spoon (careful not to over-stir).
Carefully spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling them to about 2/3 full. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. To check they are cooked, insert a skewer in the centre of one of the cakes - it chould come out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave the cakes in their tins for about 10 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool.
Once they are completely cool, ice the cupcakes with chocolate buttercream. If you wish, pop some chopped walnuts on each one. Alternatively, you could simply serve them with no icing at all for a breakfast treat, warmed in a the oven for a few minutes beforehand. 
For the chocolate icing;
Melt the butter with the water in the microwave. Mix with the icing sugar and cocoa until smooth and glossy. Spread on top of the cakes when it has set a little. 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Rigatoni Al Forno

How do you choose which sausages to buy? I have recently been ordering 'Debbie and Andrew's, Harrogate', sausages from tesco. They have attractive packaging with a photo of two pairs of wellies. They claim to be 97% pork shoulder, the cut you would serve for your Sunday Lunch. In my head I am envisaging a country kitchen churning out these sausages as part of a family business. For some reason the last time we had them, Steve had a look on google street view and found out where they are made. A huge factory on a grotty industrial estate, a far cry from what I had imagined, and nowhere near Harrogate. In reality if they are supplying tesco and probably other supermarkets they are not going to be a small business. They are tasty sausages, probably as good as they get buying from a supermarket, but all this business recently about what really goes into our food does get you thinking. Friends of ours reared a pig last summer for the pork, they were surprised at how much it cost to produce sausages from the meat. I guess we don't pay a lot for supermarket sausages and that probably reflects what the manufacturers put into them. 
After all of that I did enjoy this meal tonight. I flicked through some old Olive Magazines for some inspiration, it was lovely to see James tucking in with great enthusiasm. Rachel wanted to eat it even though she'd been quite unwell today. I have saved a portion for her tomorrow. 

Serves 4
Rigatoni 300g
1 ball of Mozzarella, diced
2 tbsp of grated parmesan
Pasta Sauce;
6 Pork and herb sausages, skinned
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp of fennel seeds, crushed
chopped rosemary leaves to make 2 tsp
2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes

To make the sauce heat 1 tbsp of oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up as it browns, so you have quite small pieces. Add the garlic, fennel and rosemary and cook for a couple of minutes. 
Add the tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes until thickened. Cook the pasta but keep an eye on it, and stop cooking when it is a couple of minutes away from being done -you will be cooking it more in the oven, so you want it to still have a bit of a bite. Mix the pasta with the sauce and tip into the baking dish. Scatter over the mozzarella and parmesan and bake for 20 to 30 mintues until bubbling and golden. Serve with salad if you like.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Daube of Beef

How lovely to have a Monday that feels like an extension of the weekend, with a long boozy lunchtime. My sister came for lunch with a friend and had hyped up my cooking skills, so the pressure was truly on. No matter how confident I am cooking for my own family I always worry when it comes to cooking for other people. This was a great meal which I cooked the evening before then put back in the oven today to reheat and served with a pile of simple mashed potato.  The flavours mingle over night, the beef was tender and the sauce rich and incredibly tasty. I used casserole steak instead of shin of beef as I wanted to make sure that the meat would be very tender. Perhaps a good choice for a meal over the easter weekend for friends. 

Serves 6
2 large celery sticks, sliced thickly on a diagonal
2 bay leaves
1.2kg lean braising steak, such as chuck or shin of beef
4 tbsp olive oil
200g smoked bacon lardons
2 onions, halved and diced
4 fat garlic cloves crushed
750ml red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
4 carrots, sliced thickly on a diagonal
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 large strips pared orange zest
4 tbsp plain flour
flat leaf parsley to serve
2 ground cloves (I didn't use these)

Heat the oven to 150ºC. Toss the beef in seasoned flour. Cut the steak into large chunky pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Brown the beef in batches until well coloured all over. Transfer to a large casserole dish. Add the bacon to the pan and fry until golden brown. Set aside with the beef. Add the remaining oil and add the carrot and celery until just starting to golden. Add the garlic and cook for a minute then add to the beef. Add a splash of wine to the frying pan to deglaze, stirring to scrape up any residue in the pan. Tip into the casserole. Add the rest of the wine and bring to a simmer. Stir in the tomato puree, cloves, bay and orange. Transfer to the oven for 2½ hours until the meat is completely tender. Leave the lid of for a while at the end if the sauce looks too thin. Scatter with parsley to finish
 with pasta or mashed potato.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Broccoli with anchovies, capers and chillies

Although this is described as a side dish in Olive Magazine this month, it made a really lovely lunch today. I used tenderstem broccoli, and in the absence of ciabatta, I used crusts from the white loaf that I had already. I used more anchovies than the recipe stated and 1 chilli instead of 2. I also fried the bread with everything else instead of dirtying two pans. That way the bread picked up all the lovely flavours of the capers, anchovies and chilllies. Simple, different and delicious. 


1 broccoli head, cut into florets
olive oil
2 anchovies, chopped
1 tbsp cpaers, rinsed and drained
2 red chillies, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 slices ciabatta,crusts cut off and chopped into rough chunky breadcrumbs

Steam the broccoli florets for 3-4 minutes until just tender. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan and add the anchovies, capers, chilli and half the garlic. Cook on a gentle heat for 2-3 minutes.
Heat another 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan then add the chunky breadcrumbs and rest of garlic and cook until crisp, crunchy and golden, then drain on kitchen paper.
Toss the broccoli with the flavoured oil, tip into a dish then scatter breadcrumbs over.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Hairy Dieters Crispy chicken

The braces are still in, things are settling down and normal meals are resumed in our household. Having overdosed on the Hairy Dieters book last month, I picked it up again and chose this recipe to do for tea last week as I had most of the ingredients in. I love sweet potato wedges, peeled, seasoned and coated in olive oil, then roasted until soft and just starting to blacken at the edges. They provided a perfect accompaniment to the chicken. 

Serves 4
150g White Bread (about 4 slices)
4 tsp Dried Oregano or Mixed Herbs
2 tsp Sea Salt
25g Parmesan Cheese
4 tbsp Low Fat Yogurt
1-2 tbsp Plain Flour
4 Boneless Chicken Breasts, (about 160g each)
Ground Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Place the bread on a large baking tray lined with parchment and toast until pale golden brown. Leave to cool, then remove crusts and tear bread into large pieces. (I didn't read that bit, which explains why mine were not as crispy)
Put the bread in a food processor and blitz into crumbs. Tip these into a large bowl with the herbs, salt, pepper and Parmesan. Place the flour on one plate and the yoghurt in a bowl. Take the chicken breast and coat lightly with flour then with the yoghurt until evenly covered. Then place the chicken on a plate of the crumb mix and press until you get a thickish crust all over. Repeat with all the chicken breasts.

Place the chicken breasts on a lined tray and bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until golden, crisp and cooked through. Leave to stand for 4-5 minutes before serving with some fresh green salad.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Nigella's no churn coffee ice cream

I made a trio of desserts last week which I forgot to photograph. My favourite chocolate brownies, meringues and this coffee ice cream. I had some of the ice cream left over for a treat on Mothers Day. It was so easy and incredibly quick to make. I found the espresso instant coffee a little bit synthetic. Next time I might add a real shot of espresso coffee for a truer coffee flavour. 

300ml double cream
175g condensed milk
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
2 tbsp espresso liqueur (or coffee liqueur - I used Tia Maria)

Whisk all the ingredients together until soft peaks form, and you have a gorgeous, caffè-latte-coloured airy mixture, and then fill an airtight container and freeze for six hours or overnight.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Oven Roasted Cod with Roasted Vegetables

My main course for the birthday meal was inspired by 'Miss Friday's Feast' blog. The only thing I did differently was blitz some sundried tomatoes and basil, which I spread onto the Parma ham before rolling it around the cod. I used gorgeous fillets of cod loin, which was meaty and chunky and stayed together beautifully during cooking. I enjoyed the garlic ciabatta as an alternative to potatoes, and the balsamic glaze added a little chefy touch. 

For the cod;
Serves 4
150g sun-dried tomatoes
30g fresh basil
75ml olive oil, plus extra for oiling
8 slices Parma ham
4 cod fillets
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the sun-dried tomatoes and basil into a blender or food processor and blend to a paste. Gradually drizzle in the olive oil to slacken the paste.
Cut out four squares of greaseproof paper, approximately 25cm/10in x 25cm/10in in size, and lay two slices of ham on each piece of paper to overlap.
Spread the sun-dried tomato paste over the Parma ham slices and lay a cod fillet on top of each pair. Roll up the paper around each fillet to make a cigar-shaped parcel and carefully remove the paper from each piece of wrapped cod.
Place the parcels onto a lightly oiled baking tray. Roast for 15-20 minutes until cooked all the way through. Serve at once.

For the rest of the recipe see, Miss Friday's Feast.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Salad of Cantaloupe melon, Parma ham and buffalo mozarella

This was my starter for the birthday meal, a refreshing salad from Nigel Slaters kitchen diaries. Not that you need refreshing in this weather, maybe a light salad is a better term. 
I have usually  bought mozzarella made with cows milk, but I bought buffalo milk mozzarella for this recipe. I think I prefer the cheaper version. The texture of the buffalo one is quite different, much milkier and softer. The cows milk version tends to be more rubbery. This would be a wonderful salad for a hot summers day when melons are at their ripest and sweetest.

Serves 2 as a light main dish
lemon juice - 1-2 tbsp
olive oil - 4 tbsp
Cantaloupe melon - one, medium sized
Parma ham - 6 slices
buffalo mozzarella - 6 baby or 1 large ball
flat leaf parsley - a few bushy sprigs
rocket - 50-75g

Mix the lemon juice and olive oil then season it lightly with salt and pepper. Cut the melon into thick slices, remove and discard the seeds, retaining as much of the juice as possible. Cut the flesh into chunks - they should be a bit bigger than bite size if the salad isn't to look muddled - and drop them into a bowl. Tear or cut the ham into wide strips. Break the mozzarella in half, or, if you are using a large ball, cut it into thick slices. Add to the melon. Chop the parsley, toss gently with half the oil and lemon dressing.
Wash and shake dry the rocket leaves then dress them with the remaining half of the oil and lemon. Divide them between two large plates. Tuck the melon salad among the rocket leaves and serve immediately.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Macaroons, Attempt No.6

I had a lovely day on Friday preparing a meal for my Mum in Law, Ruth's 70th Birthday. I thought I would have another go at making macaroons as a gift as I know that Ruth loves them. To my delight they were perfect, no sticking, not much cracking, crisp on the outside and slightly chewy in the middle. I used the same recipe as I used last time, and will hopefully continue to experiment with different flavours next time. Find the recipe at How to Cook That.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

No Waste Food Challenge, Strawberry Pavlova

I am entering my Pavlova into a 'No Waste Food Challenge' this month hosted by Elizabeth at Elizabeths Kitchen. Elizabeth is hosting the challenge for Kate at Turquoise Lemons. We have been given an ingredient, which this month is eggs, and are asked to share recipes using this ingredient in a bid to prevent food waste. When I need egg yolks for a recipe I never discard the whites, as meringues and pavlovas can be whipped up in minutes once you get the hang of them. 

This is a repost of a blog from July 2012.

If I have a signature dish, this is it. I can't think of another dessert that looks quite as elegant. Piled high with cream and strawberries it never fails to look impressive. I do find them easy to do, and yesterday I made a couple to take to a friends birthday party. The trick is to make them early and leave them to cool completely in the oven. This will avoid cracking to a certain extent. The thing is it doesn't matter if it does crack a little, the topping and fruit can easily disguise this.

Serve 6-8

3 large egg whites
175g caster sugar
275 ml double or whipping cream
350g of fruit of your choice
A little icing sugar

Heat the oven to 150C.
Place the egg whites in a large clean bowl and have the sugar measured and ready. Now whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and you can turn the bowl upside down without them sliding out (it's very important, though, not to over-whisk the egg whites because, if you do, they will start to collapse).
When they're ready, start to whisk in the sugar, approximately approx 25 g at a time, whisking after each addition until all the sugar is in. Now take a metal tablespoon and spoon the meringue mixture on to the prepared baking sheet, forming a circle about 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter. 
Then spoon round blobs next to each other so that they join up to form a circle all around the edge. Now, using the tip of a skewer, make little swirls in the meringue all round the edge, lifting the skewer up sharply each time to leave tiny peaks. Now place the baking sheet in the oven, then immediately turn down the heat to 140°C and leave it to cook for 1 hour. Then turn the heat right off but leave the Pavlova inside the oven until it's completely cold. An idea would be to make a Pavlova in the evening and leave it in the turned-off oven overnight to dry out. To serve the Pavlova, lift it from the baking sheet, peel off the paper and place it on a serving dish. Then just before serving, spread the whipped cream on top, arrange the fruit on top of the cream and dust with a little sifted icing sugar. Serve cut into wedges.

Turkey stir fry with ginger and teriyaki

Rachel now has fixed braces. My life is going to be hell for the next 2 years if the last two days are anything to go by. Of course it is all my fault. They look fine, but her mouth is aching all the time and she can't eat properly. She loves her food so this feels like the end of the world for her. Day 2, she wanted them out. I politely asked her just to give it a few more weeks, however tempted I felt to ring the Orthodontist last night and have them removed. I'm making soft food for her at the moment. As my kids don't really like stir fries I used this oppurtunity to make this turkey stir fry last night with an assortment of vege from the fridge and some turkey steaks. I don't really think I need to write a recipe for stir fry but the addition of some chopped fresh ginger and a couple of big dollops of teriyaki sauce (tesco ingredients) definitely made the dish. I added a handful of plain unsalted cashews nuts just at the end of the cooking time. 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Cajun Salmon with Crushed New Potatoes

This is a simple salmon meal if ever there was one. A few weeks ago I made Cajun Chicken from the Hairy Dieters Cook Book, which involved making up a cajun spice mix. I didn't want much fuss last night so I brushed some oil on some salmon fillets and sprinkled some of the left over spice mix on the salmon. I cooked the fillets according to the instructions on the packet (about 15 minutes). I mixed together some olive oil, lemon juice and dijon mustard and added this to some lightly crushed new potatoes. Served with some tenderstem brocoli, which is my favourite vegetable at the moment it made a simple and quick evening meal. 

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Slow cooked Massaman curry

I made this new Thai curry dish for a dinner party last night. And what was wonderful about it apart from the taste was the fact that it went in the slow cooker at 12 o'clock and was cooking away merrily without intervention until 8 o'clock. Then all that was needed was some rice to accompany it. I used casserole beef which melted in the mouth with wonderful flavours of lime, ginger and coriander. I found the recipe on the BBC Food website.

Serves 4

500g new potatoes halved
800g boned lamb shoulder or beef shin, cut into matchbox-size pieces
3 tbsp massaman curry paste
small bunch fresh coriander, stalks finely chopped
2 inch piece fresh root ginger, finely grated
400ml can coconut milk
1 tsp light muscovado sugar
1 lime, zest and juice
1 tbsp fish sauce, plus extra to taste
6 freeze-dried kaffir lime leaves (optional)
handful roasted unsalted peanuts
, roughly chopped, to serve (I used cashew nuts)

Place the potatoes in the slow cooker. Heat a large non-stick frying pan and brown the meat in batches until golden brown, then transferring to the slow cooker. There’s no need to add any oil to the pan as the meat is fatty enough.
Add the massaman paste, coriander stalks and ginger to the frying pan, then fry for a few minutes until fragrant.
Tip in the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Season with the sugar, lime zest and fish sauce, add the lime leaves if using, then pour the sauce over the meat and potatoes. Cover with the lid and cook on low for 8 hours until very tender.
Spoon off any excess fat from the top of the curry, add the juice from half the zested lime and add more fish sauce if needed. The curry should have a balance of sour, salty, hot and sweet without one flavour dominating. Scatter with the coriander leaves and peanuts, then serve with steamed fragrant rice and the remaining lime in wedges, for squeezing.