(Not So) Tasty Morsels

Monday, 29 December 2008

I'm generally quite adventurous with food and will try most things but I do have my limits.

I certainly wouldn't try pig brains with eggs as seen on Slashfood. As if the idea itself wasn't horrible enough (I guess I am pretty squeamish) the description of the smell as being a "vominously fishy cat food smell" would just make me vomit.

Thankfully, coming up on the blog are lots of recipes for some very yummy things to take your mind off things like this.


Oh dear...

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

I apologise for being so absent. I've been sick. Really sick. The kind where you barely want to get out of bed let alone look at food. My taste buds are sick too... It's no fun.

I've got tons to blog about but it's going to all come after christmas. I've got iced christmas cakes, cookies galore, tea loaves, fudge and coconut ice. I've got christmas dinner with new things to try. I promise I'll be around after Thursday but I just don't have the time to get posting properly before then.

This is me wishing you a very merry christmas and a happy and safe holiday season whatever you are doing and however you are celebrating. I'll see you on the other side.


Party Food: Cherry bakewells

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Mini Cherry BakewellCherry bakewells are my favourite and my gran always used to buy boxes of them for me and my family to enjoy with (or without) a cup of tea. I must admit, this mini version of our much loved cherry bakewells have become a bit of a trademark for me since I thought them up a couple of years ago. They appeared at both my parent's 30th wedding anniversary and my brother's wedding.

The trick to these is a mini muffin pan with a wooden utensil that pushes a ball of pastry into the shape of the pan. It takes the hassle out of rolling and cutting tiny cases for your treats. I don't have one of my own so I steal my mum's when she's not looking. She doesn't mind! I think they're pretty high up on my kitchen wish list as they make turning out a tray of bite size appetisers a breeze.
Tray of mini cherry bakewells
So, use your favourite shortcrust pastry and fill each cup with a perfectly pressed tart case. Fill these with a small spoon of berry jam and top with a simple frangipane. These then bake in a moderate oven for around 10-12 minutes and, when cooled, should be covered with glacé icing (icing sugar with a tiny bit of water to form a smooth paste) and topped with half a glacé cherry. These are simple, delicious and sure to impress.


Turkey: 5 ways to cook the bird

Thursday, 4 December 2008

So Christmas is fast approaching (3 weeks to go) and I'm sure many of you will be working on how to go about sorting the dinner. Turkey is the traditional meat of the season here in the UK (along with goose and sometimes beef) but it does have a tendency to dry out in the oven if you're not careful. There are several ways to try to get around this including roasting the bird breast-down to enable the juices to drain toward the breast meat and to roast the breast and the legs separately (but where's the fun of carving in that?).

How much thought have you put in to cooking your turkey in a totally different way? Life Hackery's article about 5 alternative ways of cooking turkey may well be just what you're looking for.

This year, we're spending christmas in the company of my brother and his girlfriend so we've decided on a Turducken (labelled 3 bird roast - Turducken isn't a pretty name is it?) for three of us with a vegetarian option for my brother's girlfriend. I know we're excited as Al's been going on about turducken for a good few years now and is happy we've finally got one. I am however being a bad foodie and have opted to get ours (well our guests have picked it up and stashed it in their freezer) from Aldi. It's a bit cheaty but I'm not sure I mind having someone else do all the work.

I'm also quite interested in the peking turkey idea. Sounds delicious! I'm not convinced that Tofurky really counts as an alternative way to cook turkey though!


Covering Christmas Cake with Marzipan

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

As we have finally reached December and the weather is getting colder, I felt like I should be getting on with my christmas preparations. My christmas cake has been waiting patiently in the wings to be dealt with but to be honest, I have been putting it off.

As you may know, this is the first time I've ever made Christmas cake. I decided that it was about time I learned how to do it but it's still a bit of a challenge. The preparation and actual making of the recipe was fine with no problems... I also fed my cake for a few weeks with Sailor Jerry rum and drooled over (not literally) the smell coming from it.

So, it's time to begin the decoration. Traditionally Christmas cake is covered with marzipan and then iced and this year, I'm mostly sticking with tradition. As this cake is being cut into four piece to be given as gifts individually, I have a bit of a chance to play around with the designs. one of my brothers doesn't like icing and requested a fruit topped cake.

Anyway, marzipanning (not a real weird I'm sure) the cake was the first step and it was time to just do it. Here is a step by step guide of how I did mine. This is by no means a definitive guide but it is how I did it and it seems to have worked!

1. If you are icing a whole cake (because I'm sure you're not silly enough to want to make separate ones) then make sure the surfaces are flat. If you're silly like me then you need to cut your cake into equal pieces... I got Al to do ours and then I ate the crumbs...you have to taste these things!

2. Then you need to take your marzipan and roll it out on a clean flat surface dusted with icing sugar to prevent sticking. Now, I haven't got any measurments for you because I just guessed. I ended up using about 1 and a quarter packets of marzipan for my 4 squares (I utilised trimming and was left with a bit left over for eating after all the work was complete). I didn't really want the marzipan to be too thick as the cakes are quite small so it was rolled fairly thin.

3. Next, you need to cut a piece a little bigger than the top of your cake. Then, using some warmed, smooth apricot jam you need to paint the top of the cake and place the marzipan on top and trim the edges with a sharp knife (preferably sharper than the useless one I used).

4. Then, with more marzipan you need to cut a strip to go around the cake (I did mine with two strips and joined them so that I didn't have to deal with breakages). Again, using the jam, you need to "glue" the marzipan on and make sure there are no gaps then trim the edges.

5. Finally you need to smooth the marzipan over the cake and make sure the join between the top and sides as well as the joins with the side pieces are firmly joined.

There you have it. It really wasn't as difficult as I had expected it to be and once I got the hang of it, by the fourth cake it was a pretty quick process. Now, as for the request for a fruited top for my brother's cake...

I simply left the lip of the marzipan from the sides of the cake a little higher than for the plain cakes and made a decorative pattern with dried fruit (here I used figs, dates, cherries, papaya and pineapple) and glued them down with leftover jam.

You need to leave the cakes out for the marzipan to dry for a few days before icing them.


Money saving tips for baking

Thursday, 27 November 2008

I found this (via Cookie Madness). Dan Lepard of The Guardian has compiled a list of money saving tips and suggestions for all us bakers. The tips come from prolific bakers around the world and offer advice on all things baked from bread and biscuits to extending the life of your baked goods.


Cake Decorating

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

I like to make people happy (stop laughing, I do!) and I also like to show off my talents a little (what do you mean..? I have talents!). I guess I'm pretty lucky that I have learned skills over the years. When I first started uni, I was living with people who could barely make their own toast and there I was cooking proper meals, from scratch, every day. I learned to cook when I was young and have always enjoyed it. I also love to learn (hence the 3 years at uni) and am always keen to try new things.

This is how I got into cake decorating. Actually, I think it runs in the blood somewhat. My mum (and sometimes dad) used to bake cakes for our birthdays when we were kids and one of my brothers has also given it a go. I felt like I needed to jump on the family bandwagon!

It all started with my old housemate's birthday. I was pretty skint so I decided to fall back on the baking skills and make a cheap-ish but well meaning present. She was more than happy for me to bake her a cake so I got asking her about characters she liked and she settled on Mori Chack's Gloomy Bear. After a little research and some pink food colouring, I ended up with this;

Gloomy Bear Cake
I didn't think it was too bad really. So I was brave and offered a cake to another friend for her birthday. This time it was a Pucca cake (yes, pretty much the same deal as the other one but with different colours - we have to start somewhere!).

Pucca Face CakeMy next offering was actually for my own birthday (sad but true). I had a few people coming over to mine so I decided a cake was in order (it was my 21st birthday afterall). As you may remember from this post I am all about pirates. I decided a simple but piratey cake was in order...

Pirate Skull and Bones CakeSince then I made a cocktail glass cake which I actually thought was rubbish. I was really upset as I was being paid a few quid to make it and I just wasn't happy with it (and had no time to change it). It was thankfully for a friend who actually really appreciated it and still talks about it to this day. I however can't look at it without picking out all the mistakes (and there are many) and can't bring myself to post a picture (I don't even know if I have any).

I also did a really good Punisher cake for Al and never got a picture of that either. I'm so slack. So yes, I'm making cakes when I have the time but generally they're not heavily decorated. I am however, about to embark on the decoration of my christmas cakes soon so you will most definitely get photos of those!


Tasty Morsels

Friday, 21 November 2008

I've been away for nearly a week as I've just had my graduation ceremony! It was really good fun but I now need to get back on track with my blogging.

As I've not done much cooking recently I've decided to link you to Glenna's blog A Fridge Full of Food and her delicious looking Peach Cobbler. I particularly like the fact that it's made with stand-by ingredients so that you can get a delicious dessert with minimal effort (which is perfect for week night sweet fixes).

If only I had access to Amish Country Store for some of those brandied peaches!


Low fat baking: Apple and cinnamon scones

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Okay, so I've been looking for ways to get a sweet fix without loading up on butter and sugar. It sounds impossible I know, but it's important to try these things. I've also got my parents coming to stay next week and they're looking for healthy treats too.

So I found a recipe for Wholemeal Apple and Cinnamon Scones and, as they were quite simple, I decided to make a batch last night. I substituted the powdered soy milk with powdered skimmed milk but kept everything else the same.

They came out quite well. They're not as light as scones made with just white flour (and butter). They were delicious straight out of the oven and I had a few for breakfast this morning with a tiny scraping of butter. They're also quite small so you can have more than one in a sitting and not feel like a complete pig!

I think next time I'd add a bit more fruit and cut the cinnamon down a tiny bit (I'm always a bit lax when measuring spices) but overall I think they're a real success. I'm still on the look out for more recipes though!


News: Mis-shapen fruit and veg

Thursday, 13 November 2008

That's right, Europe's laws regarding the sale of weird shaped fruit and vegetables looks set to be repealed. The numerous laws banning non-perfect fruit and vegetables from reaching supermarket shelves have been in force for 20 years but with food prices rising a rethink has suggested that maybe this is a bit much.

I must say it's pretty ridiculous and terribly wasteful to just throw funky shaped food away. However, this may not be as positive as you might think. Of the 36 types of fruit and veg governed by these laws; only 26 will be relaxed, these don't include apples, citrus, kiwis, lettuces, pears, tomatoes, grapes, peppers, strawberries and peaches/nectarines. It may be that these 10 will be relaxed later as long as they are clearly labelled as "intended for processing."

Also, the weird shapes wont be around until July next year so there'll be no multi-pronged parsnips or knobbly potatoes on your plate for christmas.

So really, does it matter what your fruit and veg looks like? I think that as long as it tastes good, why should it?


News: Healthy food from a greasy spoon?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Everyone loves a greasy fry up or a burger from time to time. I'm also pretty sure that most people have been to a roadside burger van. Now, it might just be me but when I see a roadside food van I'm pretty sure that what they will sell is bacon rolls, burgers and fried egg buns all washed down with builder's tea. This is just what you need to refuel, especially if you are an over worked lorry driver or have been on the road for hours.

According to Guildford Council, this is just not acceptable anymore as they threaten to shut down Skip's Greasy Spoon because healthy food is not sold. There's no sign of a lettuce leaf or yogurt with a muesli topping so it's not good enough.

I'm sorry, this is a bit ridiculous. There's no call for healthy food from a greasy spoon! As mentioned in the article, why should they spend money on food that they will not sell? It's completely crazy.


Tasty Morsels

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Following on from yesterday's post about pomegranates I was greeted this evening by a delicious looking salad from Smitten Kitchen.

The combination of sweet pomegranate, salty prosciutto and the aniseed spiciness of fennel sound like a wonderful combination. Yum!


In Season: Pomegranates

Monday, 10 November 2008

My favourite thing at this time of year is the pomegranate. Last year I probably ate my weight in the gorgeous little beasts and was sad when I saw them disappearing from the shelves of the produce section of local supermarkets. Pomegranates are in season between September and January here and their jewel like seeds make a beautiful addition to many festive treats both sweet and savoury.

I had my first one of this season yesterday and I'm about to go and grab another. Granted, they're not the easiest fruit to eat but once you find what works best for you it gets easier. I cut mine across the middle and then tear the skin and pop the seeds out. It can be messy but it's rather satisfying and the look of a bowl full of the deep red arils is just amazing. I then tend to just get a spoon and scoff them all but they have been known to make it into some recipes from time to time.

Other ways to get the seeds away from the flesh include cutting the fruit in half and hitting the back with a wooden spoon as you catch the seeds in a bowl, there is also the classic way to shut your kids up - give them a pomegranate and a pin!

Pomegranates are touted as a superfood and are a good source of antioxidants and potassium.

So, if you can resist eating them straight from the bowl then here are some recipes to showcase this most beautiful fruit:

  • Easy tabbouleh - cook some bulghar wheat (or cous cous if you prefer) in chicken or vegetable stock, and add handfuls of chopped fresh mint and parsley. Add lemon juice and segments of citrus fruit such as orange or satsuma and some chopped red pepper. Season to taste. This easy salad is great for lunchboxes.


Alternative Meats

Friday, 7 November 2008

Do you ever get bored with beef? Are you sick of chicken and fed up with pork? Fear not. The people at Alternative Meats are sure to have something more interesting for you carnivorous types (and they even have vegetarian products too).

Alternative Meats are based in Shropshire, UK and carry a wide range of meats including; sprinkbok, kangaroo, ostrich and even zebra! Their vegetarian selection includes; vegetarian haggis and a range of flavoured sausages.

They also have a recipe book to help you in the cooking of your chosen beast.


British Sausage Week

We're coming to the end of British Sausage Week and if I'd known I would have had some sausage recipes for you. As it is I don't even have any in the house!

You can't beat a good quality sausage. They're so simple and tasty that often all you need for a good meal is some creamy mashed potato and onion gravy, especially on these cold, dark nights. I'm also more than happy to scoff sausage sandwiches with soft white bread and a bit of ketchup (or brown sauce depending on your tastes) or make a toad-in-the-hole.

If you fancy doing something a little more interesting with your sausages here are some recipes for inspiration:


The Slow Cooker: Turkey Thigh Joint

Thursday, 6 November 2008

We bought a slow cooker a few months ago now. It was going cheap at £12 and it's a good size to feed the two of us (and have leftovers) so we decided to go for it. Al's mum has one and we convinced ourselves it'd be a good idea. So far, we've been right. It's very economical and very easy to just prepare the food, switch it on and walk away.

We've made a few different things so far including chilli, stews and casseroles but I've been looking for something a bit different, a bit more interesting. Having scoured the internet and various forums for recipes I decided that it'd be a good idea to cook a joint of meat in the slow cooker. I read lots of advice from slow cooking experts and decided to give it a go.

We bought a boneless turkey thigh joint of about 900g. I seared it in a pan this morning with some dried herbs, cumin and paprika until all sides had a nice golden colour.
I roughly chopped up a couple of small onions and chucked them into the bottom of the pot, I added a crushed up stock cube, the meat, a clove of crushed garlic and about 1/2 cm of water in the bottom and switched the cooker on high.
I turned it down to low after about 3 hours and left it that way until we were ready to eat.

The meat was so tender it just fell apart as we carved it (as you can see in the picture). A few gravy granules were added to the juice to thinken it up a little and served it with the meat and some roast potatoes. It was good. We're using the leftover meat with some fresh pasta tomorrow.

The only problem I had is that turkey and chicken seem to go a little stringy in the cooker. It wasn't so bad with a large joint (smaller chicken pieces in a casserole just aren't good). We've got a lamb shoulder joint to try next and I'm expecting it to be delicious.


News: What's hiding in your food?

I'm sure we've all found an odd hair in our dinner once or twice. It's not nice but if it's home cooked food you're generally going to be fine. There are countless stories of people finding all kinds of nasty things in their meals including chicken heads and dead mice.

A man named Geoff Moule from Dorset, UK, found a pearl worth around £90 in his normal starter of half a dozen oysters. Some people have all the luck!


Traditional Christmas Cake

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Christmas cake is a bit of a tradition in our house (and many other households across the UK). My mum used to make one every year but unfortunately it often didn't all get eaten. I asked my brother whether he even liked it (with an idea to put them in our christmas hampers this year) and he said he did. He also said something along the lines of "by the time we had them at home, we were all caked and chocolated out that nobody could face it any more." I realised that this was very much true as the christmas cake often didn't come out until christmas day or boxing day. Thankfully, it keeps very well.

For the first time in my 22 years, I decided that I needed to conquer my fear of making a christmas cake. I decided that if I made one big cake I could cut it into 4 and ice each quarter and give them for christmas. That way, nobody had a huge cake to deal with and I got to be a bit creative. Everybody wins.

So, I searched the internet for a good recipe. I read forums, I searched recipe sites. I wanted something that had been used by people and had been successful, that way I was already at a head start. I ended up with this recipe from Delia. I know, I know, it's a terrible thing but, what can I say? The lady knows how to make a christmas cake. I used her scaled up version for my 8" pan and it turned out beautifully.

I made a few alterations (they were very minor as I wasn't confident enough to make big changes). I added 100 grams of nuts (as that was the packet size) and I used a tub of cherries and left them mostly whole. I also used Sailor Jerry rum as my booze of choice as I think the vanilla and lime flavours will go really well with the fruity cake. It smells divine.

So I baked it about 3 weeks ago and am feeding it every Friday with more Sailor Jerry (about 1 or 2 tbsp) to keep it moist. I'm storing it wrapped in greaseproof paper and then wrapped again with foil and it should be fine like that until I'm ready to ice it. I'm so excited about this as I've never even attempted anything like this before.

Fingers crossed.


Adventures with Bread Machines: Banana and Peanut Butter Bread

Okay, this is the last back-logged bread machine post for now and unfortunately I don't have any pictures. This is the Banana and Peanut Butter Bread from the same book (One Hundred Bread Machine Recipes - Vicki Smallwood) as the last two and the only other one I have tried so far.

I wasn't sure whether to make it in the first place. I had a couple of ripe bananas hanging around and some peanut butter that needed using up and I thought I should find a simple recipe to combine them both. This is a good recipe but I was apprehensive as I was making it. It was a very simple "put-it-all-in-the-pan" type recipe but the smell as it was cooking was somewhat disturbing (a mixture of tea bags and banana skins). I was later informed by a good friend that peanut butter and bananas both smell kind of funky when they're being cooked (but taste pretty good when they're done). I was reassured and let decided to actually taste the finished product.

To be honest, I wasn't too impressed with the bread as it was. I had some while it was still warm and although it was nice, it didn't have a strong banana flavour. The crunchy peanut butter gives it a bit of texture which is really good but the over all flavour was a little disappointing.

This bread really comes into its own when toasted. Oh my gosh it's seriously good. I spread a little butter and honey on my toast for breakfast and it's absolutely delicious. Another good thing about toasting it is that it doesn't matter too much if the bread is a little stale (good for me as I'm the only one eating it).

I don't think I'd make this recipe again but I would like to try another banana bread. It's very important to use very ripe bananas as it gives much more flavour to the final product. Crunchy peanut butter is a delicious addition and makes the whole thing a bit more interesting.

So on with the recipe

2 bananas
4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
1 cup warmed milk
2 tbsp melted and cooled butter
2 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups white bread flour
1 tsp active dry yeast

Mash the bananas with the peanut butter and mix together thoroughly.
Add the other ingredients to the baking pan in the order shown only put the banana mixture in after the salt but before the flour.
Set the machine to "Basic" and let the bread bake.
When the cycle has finished, transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool.


Adventures with Bread Machines: Pizza Dough

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

It's time to present my pizza dough experiences. I'd never had much experience of pizza dough. If I was making "home made" pizza then maybe it'd be those plain bases you find in the chiller of the supermarket, I think once I used a box mix with my brother but that's about it.

I honestly wouldn't buy any kind of pizza base now. This recipe is so simple there's no excuse not to make it. I generally have the ingredients to hand anyway so it's not even that I have to plan ahead. Bread machines are so handy to have around.

Again, this recipe is from One Hundred Bread Machine Recipes by Vicki Smallwood (ISBN: 1856057135).

1 cup tepid water
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cups white bread flour
1 tsp yeast

Method (brace yourself):
Place the ingredients into the bread machine pan in the order listed and set the machine to "dough."
When the cycle has finished, separate the dough into 2 or 4 (depending on how big you want your pizzas - we did 2 medium rectangular ones) and roll to the desired shape and size.
Put the toppings of your choice on top and then cook in the top of the oven for 8-10 minutes.

That's really all there is to it. You can put whatever kind of topping you want on it to make it exactly how you like it. I think I used cooked chicken along with a ton of other things.

The only the problem I really have with this book is that it doesn't tend to give any guide as to how much the recipe actually makes. This made 2 good sized rectangular pizzas which would have been enough for 4 people (I say "would have been" because I think Al and I ate the lot - in my defence I did have 2 goes at it throughout the evening though).


Health News: Use-by dates

How are you at adhering to use-by dates? I've got to admit that I can sometimes be found eating something that's a couple of days out of date because I hate wasting food. I may have to rethink my attitudes after reading this article.

According to Guardian.co.uk;

"New figures collected by the Food Standards Agency show the number of cases of listeriosis has doubled since 2001 and risen by 20 per cent in the last year alone. The majority of cases are now in the over-sixties and almost all cases are thought to be food-borne.

'Listeriosis is fairly rare, but when it does occur the death rate is quite high,' said a spokeswoman for the FSA. 'It does not appear to be a problem in the manufacture of products, so it looks as if it comes from what people may be doing at home.'"

They go on to mention that the problem seems to lie with how the food is treated after it has been taken home. Refrigerators are not always kept at the correct temperature and food is often kept longer than it should be. The main food culprits seem to be chilled, ready-to-eat items such as "pre-packed sandwiches, salads, cooked sliced meats, smoked salmon, soft cheeses and pâtés."

To be on the safe side, the FSA are advising that food should be stored below 5°C and to follow the instructions for storage on the chilled food package. Once food is opened, it should be eaten within two days.


Eating out: Discounts and vouchers

With constant reminders of the credit crunch and poor state of the economy it's understandable that people are cutting back on eating out and spending less money on luxuries.

The people (and readers) at Money Saving Expert have put together a selection of Cheap Restaurant Deals, most of which are "click and print" vouchers. They are checked for legitimacy with the providers so you should have no problem using them.

So treat yourself and protect your pennies at the same time.


Adventures with Bread Machines: Focaccia

I got my bread machine a few months ago now. My brother picked one up for me for free from his local Freecycle group. I'd been wanting one for a while but didn't really have any money to spend so a free one was pretty much ideal! The only drawback is that it didn't come with any instructions so there's been a bit of guess work involved.

As I love to experiment, I haven't really had too many issues with working out good, basic recipes for loaves of white or wholemeal bread for everyday use. I've had a few loaves that have sunk/not risen/been a bit weird but I think I've pretty much nailed the basics.

However, general loaves of sandwich bread were just not enough for me. I also got a couple of books with the bread maker with lots of recipes to try.

One Hundred Bread Machine Recipes by Vicki Smallwood (ISBN: 1856057135) is the book that I got the following recipes from. It's a good reference for a range of different recipes from the following chapter headings;

1) Breads and savouries
2) Sweet loaves and cakes
3) Rolls, buns and snacks

There is also a good introduction to the book which includes information about ingredients, equipment, techniques and tips for success. There is also a trouble shooting guide which helps to identify the problem when your bread comes out a bit wrong!

So from this book I have taken the focaccia, pizza dough and banana and peanut butter bread (the last two will be covered later). Trust me, there a loads more that I want to make when I get the chance!

The focaccia was the first recipe that I used as we were having friends over for dinner and I wanted to impress them (without expending too much effort).

1 cup of tepid water
1 tsp yeast (active dry yeast )
4 tbsp olive oil
3 cups of white bread flour
1 tsp salt

Pour the water into a large mixing bowl, add the yeast, oil and 1 cup of the flour. Mix together well and cover the bowl with clingfilm then leave it in a warm place for 2-3 hours. (I think I put mine on top of our modem!)

Pur the yeast mixture into the pan of the bread maker and then add the remaining flour and salt. Set the programme to "Dough"

When the machine has finished, transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead briefly. Place it into a shallow baking tray and flatten/stretch it out so that it covers the base. Cover it again with oiled clingfilm and leave it to prove in a warm place until it has double in size. (Mine went onto the back of the hob where the oven had heated up with the lasagne that was cooking - very convenient!)

Preheat the oven to 220°C, brush your finger tips with some extra olive oil and randomly dimple the surface of the dough. Add your toppings of choice (I think we did dried herbs and crushed garlic and some cheese) and bake for 25 minutes. When baked, transfer to a wire rack to cool.

You can buy this book from Amazon


Tasty Morsels

Monday, 3 November 2008

So Hallowe'en has come and gone but as a metaller I'm always looking for inspiration on what to do next year (though I usually forget by the time it comes around). I found this link to a Cannibal Themed Hallowe'en Supper (via Baking Bites).

So much effort has been put in to this supper and I'm sure it was very well received. I especially love the bleeding heart, it's so realistic and effective. I'd love to go to a dinner party like that (as long as I didn't have to clean up!) Very good work.


Review: Nigella Lawson - Nigella Express

I got Nigella Express (ISBN - 0701181842) for christmas last year and have found that it's my general go-to book for quick, easy recipes.

Nigella Express is all about fast food for people who love eating but may not have time to prepare a big meal every day. This book coincided with Nigella's latest BBC television series and is a chunky 390 pages long with lots of beautiful glossy photos to go along with the recipes. Each chapter and recipe is accompanied by Nigella's trademark banter in which she puts across her view as both a cook and an eater.

There are 13 chapters:
(1) Everyday Easy - speedy suppers, day in, day out
(2) Workday Winners - weekday entertaining made easy
(3) Retro Rapido - time-warp favourites given the express twist
(4) Get Up and Go - breakfast at breakneck speed
(5) Quick Quick Slow - prepare ahead to save time later
(6) Against the Clock - no time? No problem
(7) Instant Calmer - super fast soul food
(8) Razzle Dazzle - give a party pronto
(9) Speedy Gonzales - Mexican-inspired moments
(10) On the Run - food for eating on the hoof, packed lunches and picnics
(11) Hey Presto - instant Italian
(12) Holiday Snaps - Christmas quickies
(13) Storecupboard SOS - how to cope when there's no time to go shopping

While these chapters are somewhat helpful it can be a bit difficult to navigate or remember where your favourite recipes are (that's where the helpful attached ribbon bookmark comes in handy). There's a very good variety of recipes from dinner for friends, breakfast on the go and twists on retro classics. There really is something for everyone.

My personal favourite recipes in Quick Chilli (with chorizo, cardamom and cumin to add a new dimension), Quesadillas (these are a fantastic speedy lunch dish), honeycomb, potato and mushroom gratin and I even made the instant pancake mix as a "gift in a jar." My all time favourite salad dressing is also from this book and is a wasabi-lime combination that is just delicious.

Nigella Express is well worth a read for a wide range of recipes and treats. There are still recipes that I can't wait to try (caramel croissant pudding and doughnut french toast - can you tell winter's kicking in?). A very good stand-by to have for quick meals with easy to find ingredients.


Cupcakes, fairy cakes, buns...I don't care what you call them, they are delicious!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

It's not often that you can say that you need to make cupcakes. It's much more common that you'd want or even fancy making cupcakes but very rarely need. I found myself needing to try out a method of cake making this week as I'm planning on giving away a dry cake mix as part of a present at christmas and wanted to make sure it would work.

The cakes were just a simple sponge recipe (4oz each of sugar, SR flour and butter with 2 eggs and a bit of vanilla extract). I have always made my sponges by creaming the butter and sugar together, adding the vanilla and then the eggs one at a time and then folding in the flour gently. While it doesn't really take a long time, I felt that if I was giving away the mix (really only sugar and flour) then I wanted it to be really simple to make. This is where the all-in-one method comes into play. Basically you chuck all the ingredients in together and, using an electric whisk, blend everything together until smooth. It takes about 5 minutes from start to finish (which can only be a good thing). I was a little worried that the mix would be too thick but it soon smoothed out.

I put quite a lot of mixture into the cake cases because we don't tend to eat a lot of cake between us and I figured the fewer we had, the easier it would be to finish them in good time. It would be very easy to double the mixture if that's what you wanted or just to make smaller cakes. They cooked in the over for about 20 minutes as 175C (my oven is notoriously fussy so it's easier to tell that they are cooked by eye - they should be a pale gold colour and springy to the touch, a cocktail stick inserted into the centre should come out clean).

I also decided to decorate these cakes. We found a package of Mini mini marshmallows (teeny tiny mallows made by Dr. Oetker - don't seem to be able to find a link anywhere) on offer in the supermarket and bought one for us and one for the aforementioned christmas gift so I used those with a simple water icing. I made butterfly buns with buttercream and a 1/4 of a glace cherry each and used the last of the buttercream with some sugar sprinkles.

I was very impressed at how well this method worked out. I thought that it might be a little heavy but the cakes are moist and fluffy with a faint vanilla flavour. The icing was very simple and the marshmallows are soft and quite cute.



Now, I know a lot of people who are squeamish about sushi. The whole idea that it revolves around raw fish is a bit of a misnomer. I'm not going to deny the fact that sushi and raw fish are frequently found together but the word "sushi" actually refers to the vinegared rice rather than the filling/topping that goes with it. That being the case, there are plenty of non-fish related fillings out there to be enjoyed. My personal favourite on the home-made sushi front is ham and mustard. The slight saltiness of the ham and the kick of the mustard (I use English) compliments the seasoned rice perfectly. Of course, there are endless possibilities, I've used carrots and cucumber for vegetarian options, tuna-mayo-wasabi and a quick trawl of the internet will give you yet more filling ideas.

Sushi is also really easy to make. You need the right rice which is becoming more widely available in supermarkets (I know Sainsburys, Tesco and Morrisons all sell it). I cook mine following the guidelines on Cooking Cute and it seems to work perfectly every time. I don't have a rice cooker so I just use a saucepan with a lid. Next I use pre-made sushi vinegar (I got mine from Sainsburys) on the hot rice and cut it in using a large spoon (while simultaneously fanning it with a spatula - if I haven't got a helper) until it is shiny and well coated. I don't tend to measure, I just do it by eye and it seems fine.

Rolling sushi is the fun part (obviously, this is only the case with maki rolls). I think it'd be easier to explain with photos and a tutorial so next time I make some, I'll try and remember to take step-by-step photos. Basically, you spread and press the cooled rice onto a nori sheet (leaving a gap at either end). Next, you line up the filling lengthways on the rice and then roll. I don't use a mat to roll, I tend to either just manage without or use a tea towel to keep it dry and clean.

I serve my sushi rolls with wasabi and sweet chilli sauce and sometimes include soy sauce or another dipping sauce (usually bought from China Town in Newcastle). It's very good for you (maybe not so much with the sweet chilli or mayo) and very moreish. I'd happily stick a few in a lunch box as something a bit more interesting than sandwiches.


Getting back on track

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Apologies for the months of an update free blog. I've been busy but am finally in a position to start up again. In the next few days, I'll be adding posts on various food based activities I have been indulging in. There are tons of photos on my phone ready to be uploaded too so bear with me and I'll reward you with yummy stuff soon.


Chocolate Fridge Cake

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Okay, I know, it's another sweet dish but at the moment, with all the stress of university, it's all that's keeping me sane.

This one was pretty simple to be honest. Anyone who hasn't had a chocolate fridge cake is relaly missing out. This no-bake treat is one of the easiest things to make and packs a really yummy chocolate hit and has lots of goodies inside to keep it interesting.

I'll get straight on with the recipe...

250g Digestive biscuits
200g Dark chocolate
100g Butter
100g Golden Syrup

A handful each of;
Marshmallows, chopped
Glacé cherries, chopped

We also had a secret ingredient of a little bit of finely chopped up lime flesh. You can basically add anything you like to the base of biscuits, chocolate, butter and syrup. Experiment with whatever you have and whatever you like!


Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin with cling film and set aside (make sure the cling film hangs over the edges a little).

Melt the chocolate, butter and syrup in a double boiler (a glass bowl over a saucepan with a little simmering water in it will do fine) stiring gently.
Crush the biscuits up. I use a rolling pin and a big bowl or sandwich bag. I wouldn't however, use a food processor as you need to maintain a little bit of crunch.

Add all your yummy additions to the biscuits and pour the chocolate mixture over.

Stir gently, but thoroughly to ensure everything is coated with the chocolate.

Pour the mixture into the tin and pack down firmly, wrap the over hanging clingfilm over the top and leave in the fridge to set. Give it a couple of hours at least.

Turn the cake out onto a plate and slice.

That's really all there is to it but it's delicious.


Mmmm honeycomb...

Friday, 1 February 2008

Well, it's not really honeycomb but it is known as such (it is also known as Cinder Toffee and Hokey Pokey... think I'll stick with the honeycomb).

I've always loved honeycomb. Al will vouch for me choosing Cadbury's Crunchie bars when given the choice. I love how the bubbles melt on your tongue and the slightly burnt sugar hints. The way the texture of the honeycomb and the texture of the chocolate are so different from each other is almost impossible to resist.

This recipe was taken from Nigella Express which I got for christmas and was a lot easier than expected. Alas, it is not chocolate coated but you can cover yours in chocolate if you wish (and if it lasts that long).

100g Caster Sugar
4 tbsp Golden Syrup
1 ½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Put the sugar and syrup into a saucepan and mix together, you mustn't stir while the pan is on the heat.

Place the pan on the heat and let the mixture first melt, then turn to goo, then turn to a bubbling mass the colour of maple syrup (approximately 3mins).

Remove from the heat and whisk in the bicarbonate of soda and turn immediately onto a piece of reusable baking parchment or greased foil and leave to cool.
Once set, bash up into chunks and enjoy. Store in an air-tight container.

It's so simple and takes no time at all! I think mine was cooked ever-so-slightly too long and tastes a little burnt, it's not unpleasant but it's something to note for next time. Delicious and really good for gift-giving.
**The pictures are a bit rubbish because they are taken on my phone**


Beef and Chorizo burgers...

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Well, there would be pictures but we kind of ate them before I remembered. Woops. They were really nice though.

Pretty simple recipe which I made up on the spot and it came out really well.

400g of good quality minced beef
3" long piece of spanish chorizo (in small cubes)
1 tbsp of cumin seeds
Good pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp of tomato pureé

Just mix all the ingredients together (it's easier to do this with your hands) making sure that all the ingredients are evenly spread. Then shape into 4 burgers making sure they are firmly packed so they hold their shape.

Place on a baking tray and cook them in a preheated oven (200°C) for about 20-25 minutes. You may wish to grill them and there'll be a lot of oil (mainly from the chorizo) so grilling would help reduce the fat.

That's all there is to it.

We served ours in english muffins with salad and roast new potatoes. They were really good.


Pirates and breakfast...

Thursday, 17 January 2008

An interesting mix I'm sure you'll agree.

As any one of my friends will tell you, I am a pirate. Honest. I also love food (obviously) and as everyone says, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When I discovered that I could combine piracy with breakfast well, I was the happiest Cap'n on the seven seas!

For christmas, my brother bought me a Pirate Toast Stamper. Now, for anyone that hasn't had an encounter with such a wonderful beast (and can't work it out from the picture) then I shall explain...

First, you find yourself a piece of bread (white works best) and, if you're a student you check it for mould and over-rigidity. Once you are happy that it is edible you take the toast stamper and press it firmly into one side of the bread. You then remove it (there is even a warning telling you not to put the plastic stamper in the toaster *smacks forehead*) and place the bread in the toaster and set it to a darkish setting ("Pirates like it chaaaaarred") and toast it. When it pops up, you get an awesome Calico Jack image emblazoned on your toast. What could be better?

Okay, so it's not some amazing piece of technology but it's a bit of fun. You have to remember not to spread the butter and jam/honey/chocolate spread/whatever you have on toast, over the image because that kind of defeats the point.

My second pirate based breakfast find was Weetabix Disney Pirates. I wandered into one of the many pound shops around here and they were staring at me from across the way. I simply had to buy them.

Weetabix and Disney have teamed up to bring this magical cereal to our shelves and cupboards. They're basically like Cheerios (or what I remember Cheerios being like - I've not had them in about 10 years as I don't eat Nestlé products - but that's another story), but in the shapes of little skulls and little crossbones (you may have to use your imagination a little, but you'll see it).

They're quite tasty and don't taste too sugary (despite being sugar coated). I like the fact that they're wholegrain too...it makes me feel less like I'm eating crap. I generally have mine with some satsuma on top to add a bit of interest to it all and they make a nice addition to my generally boring cereal collection.
So, picture me in the mornings trying to decide which piratey breakfast will set me up for the day!



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