Saturday, 30 April 2011

Amsterdam - post 2

On our second day in Amsterdam we headed out on the Metro and then hopped on a bus and ended up in the Dutch countryside.

Our destination - Clara Maria Cheese Farm and Clog Workshop. It wasn't in my guidebook, but had been featured in my friend's book, we decided it would be a good trip after being at Anne Frank's house in the morning.

When we arrived we got chatting to the guy who was doing the Clog making, we'd seen a gorgeous calf so had gone to pet it, he then took us into the barn to see lambs, cows and goats.  The lambs were gorgeous and loved being petted.

When we came out the clog demonstration was in full swing - but in German, we'd arrived as a full bus of German tourists had got there.  We watched it anyway, and then moved inside to see the different clogs and go into the cheese workshop.

The talk on the cheese making was given in English and German, so we could understand what was going on. The cows are milked on a night, and then again on a morning.  The milk is used to make Gouda cheese, and then different flavourings added to it.

We were given some tasters, we both liked the Italian Herb cheese, all the ones we tasted were lovely, they even opened the Ginger one for me to taste - it was lovely, but my friend wasn't keen.

We bought some of the Italian Herb cheese, for 8 euros and devoured most of it after we came in from our night out... Apologies for the terrible picture, shots had been had...

It was a really different trip to do, I'd definitely recommend it if you want to get out of Amsterdam.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Amsterdam - post 1

I spent Monday to Wednesday in Amsterdam, we drank a hell of a lot more than we ate.  What we ate was of dubious choice and quality (pizza slices, chips...).

The nicest thing we ate the whole trip was a sandwich on the first day.

It was bacon, goats cheese, pine nuts and honey - was delicious!  The bacon was crispy, the goats cheese gooey and the honey gave it a lovely sweetness.  We never found the cafe we got these sandwiches from again, we'd been on our hired bikes when we saw it.  I managed to fall off my bike trying to get off in front of everyone sat outside the cafe...

I would have liked to have eaten at an authentic Dutch restaurant while I was in Amsterdam, but it wasn't a foodie trip, although I did get to go to a cheese farm - which I'll devote a whole post to.

Have you been to Amsterdam or tried any Dutch food?

Friday, 22 April 2011

BBQ Season commences

With all this lovely weather my twitter feed has been BBQ Bonkers, lots of people firing up the barbie and cooking the hell out of various meat products.

I love BBQ food, we had family BBQ parties when I was little and they were always such happy times.  I was brought up on not very adventurous BBQ food, burgers, sausages, chicken etc.

We had a BBQ on Wednesday night and things haven't changed all that much... Sausages, burger, salad... But we mixed it up a little bit by cooking prawns in garlic butter, wrapped in foil, and then a piece of haddock with some herbs, also wrapped in foil.

There was some homemade potato salad too - but I had a few drinkies on Tuesday and came in and ate half the bowl of it, so I didn't have any more on Wednesday....

Yes - that is a processed cheese slice on my burger.  Yes, I know, they are vile and hardly allowed to be called cheese, let alone should they grace the top of a decent burger.

But, dare I confess, I like cheese slices.

I like them on burgers.  I like them as cheese on toast.  I like them in sandwiches...  Don't judge me too harshly, everyone has a guilty food like, or two, let's not forget I also love hotdogs....

So, I'll be firing up a BBQ tomorrow evening.  I have the girls coming over for BBQ, beers and boy talk.

I plan to do:

Homemade burgers
Chicken and vegetable kebabs
King Prawns
Garlic Bread
Homemade Potato Salad
Rice with peas and sweetcorn
Sparkling wine jelly pots

Am I missing anything startlingly obvious that would be a good addition to my BBQ?

Monday, 18 April 2011

My simpleton suppers - Spicy Spaghetti

This is such an easy meal to make after a long and tedious Monday.  I've used this recipe for Spicy Spaghetti and Garlic Mushrooms before, but I needed to use up some creme fraiche and spinach as well as the celery, chilli and onion.

Tinned tomatoes
100 ml boiled water
1 onion
2 sticks celery
1 red chilli
pack of mushrooms
3 small cloves garlic
Spinach leaves
Crème Fraiche

Chop the garlic and mushrooms and fry until browned. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

While the mushrooms and garlic are cooking chop the onion, chilli and celery, then when the mushrooms are done add them to the pan with more oil if necessary.  Let these cook off then add the tinned tomatoes, I added some extra water too to make more of a sauce.

Bring the pan to the boil and then cook for 5 minutes.  Add the spinach to wilt in the sauce, and add the mushrooms back to the pan.  Put the spaghetti in a pan of boiling water to cook.  After 3 minutes add the crème fraiche to the sauce and mix in.

Drain the spaghetti when cooked and add it to the sauce, mix it through ensuring it's fully coated with the sauce and vegetables.

Serve with a generous helping of parmeasan and a side salad.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Clandestine Cake Club

I went to Clandestine Cake Club event 4 last night, the theme this one being Victorian.

As you'll know from my post last week, I went for a Victorian Pound Cake, but after making a Half Pound, and then the full Pound cake, I decided to opt for doing just a Half Pound version.  I wouldn't have been able to carry the full Pound to work, and I certainly didn't have a container big enough for it!

On Wednesday evening I made not one, but two, Half Pound Cakes.  The first one I didn't get the tin fixed on properly and the mixture seeped out in the oven.  I was not a happy little bunny.  Much swearing ensued and another one was whipped up and whacked in the oven.

It took an age to cook, and in the end I was worried it was over.  But it looked OK...

I was quite nervous going to cake club last night, it's taken off in such a big way, but I was OK when I got there, despite not feeling sociable in the slightest.

It was a fantastic event, with a marvellous array of wonderful cakes.  The Sandcastle cake above was probably the most aesthetically wowing, what a fantastic effort.  All the cakes were delicious, and had such an amount of effort put into them.  Everyone should be very proud.

Another successful event for Lynn, Cake Club is certainly the place to be!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Sweet Potato & Chilli Soup

This is a firm favourite of ours, and just about the only all veggie dish I can serve up without any complaints.

I think the original recipe was from BBC Good Food, but I've done it so many times I just go with the flow and make it my own way.


Sweet potatoes, I used four medium ones for this batch
1 red chilli
1 clove of garlic
1 large onion
Salt and Pepper
Ground Cumin
1 Litre veg stock

Chop the onion, garlic and chilli then add to a pan to fry off.  I used fry light to do this in, and if it starts to stick at all I add a teeny weeny bit of water to keep it from burning.  Add the ground cumin to the pan and then peel and chop your sweet potato.

Add the sweet potato to the pan and make up your veg stock.  Pour it over, season and bring to the boil.

Turn the heat down, simmer for 15 mins (ish) checking if your sweet potato is cooked.




Tuesday, 12 April 2011

My simpleton suppers - Tortellini in tomato & Philadelphia cheese sauce

I often struggle for time during the week, especially when I want to go to the gym, or out cycling, but know I have me and 2 others to feed, so I can't be keeping them waiting.

This evening I dashed to the gym after work for an hour and then dashed home.

I opted for one of the simplest of my simpleton suppers.

Tortellini in a tomato and Philadelphia cheese sauce, with chicken.

It's as simple as it sounds.  I cooked the chicken thighs in the oven for 25 mins, with some rosemary and thyme. When I was down to 8 mins left on the clock I added a tin of chopped tomatoes - with some boiled water poured half way up the empty can, swilled round then the remaining tomato juice from it adding to the pan, then a carton of passata, more rosemary, some salt and pepper to a big saucepan, then when that was heated through I added a sixth of a tub of Philadelphia Light, stirred it round and slowly brought up to the boil.  I added the tortellini to it and let the pasta warm through.

I served the chicken and the pasta in big pasta bowls, garnished with some fresh chives.

It was quick, it was simple, it was easy.

Yeah it didn't challenge me, but after a day of work and an hour in the gym, can we all honestly say we want to fanny about with our meals for hours?

La Rocas, Wakefield

I also write a little blog about Wakefield, a city just outside of Leeds, that I have taken on as my personal mission to educate the masses on.

I have a new food related post up that you might be interested in, a review of La Rocas, a tapas place.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Cake on the brain

I have cake on my mind this week.  Not a sorry state of affairs, yes, but bad for my waist, oh yes.

At present my full Victorian Pound Cake is in the oven, all 450g of butter, sugar, flour and a whopping 8 eggs.  It's big.  Very big.  I have no idea how it will come out.  I have everything crossed for it being as good as it's smaller half pound version.  It smells good...

My cake is being practised in preparation for Thursday's Clandestine Cake Club, which I'm feeling slightly apprehensive about going to, not being a master baker (can't fail to smile at those words...) and the club has got much bigger since I went in December.  I'll be making my cake again, either the full or half Pound, on Wednesday evening, and troughing a lot of cake at the event on Thursday.

I just happened to tweet that my cake was in the oven, and the wonderful Chrissie reminded me about her event - she's hosting a cake sale in order to raise money for the MS Society on Sunday 22nd May, in Bingley.

I will be baking, and going, lord only knows what I will make and if I will find the place, but it's the effort that counts!  If you would like to help Chrissie with her money raising quest then get your bake on, and I'll see you there!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Low(er) Fat Cheese Scones

I posted this one on my old blog way back in January 2011, as it was a popular recipe I thought I'd share it with you.


As part of Lynn's Scone Challenge I made a lower fat version of the Cheese Scones she made.


225g self raising flour
tsp baking powder
50g low fat marg
125g low fat cheese (grated)
tsp mustard
7 tbsp low fat plain yoghurt


I threw the dry ingredients in a bowl then rubbed inn the marg to a breadcrumb like consistency.  Then stirred in the mustard and the cheese, and added the yoghurt last and mixed that in.

For me this was then a quite moist dough, so I floured my rolling pin heavily and the surface quite heavily so I could roll out.

We didn't have any cutters that I could find so I used a glass in place of them.  I popped my cut out circles of dough onto a baking tray, I wasn't sure of the nonstickness of the tray so I put mine on greaseproof paper. Because the low fat cheese I used was white cheese I added really small dollops of full fat Red Leicester cheese to give the tops some colour.

I popped them in the oven and left to cook for 15 mins.

We tried one about 4 seconds after they came out and found the middle to be a bit squidgy, but once they'd been left to cool properly they were spot on.  You could really taste the mustard in them, it really goes well with the cheese.

Excellent recipe Lynn, thank you!

Please check out the Scone Challenge post and have a go at doing some of your own!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Tampopo, Leeds

This is another post from the archives of my old blog, but I wanted to share it again because it's quite recent, visit was on 21st March 2011.


I went to Tampopo last night for the first time, I'd asked for opinions on Twitter beforehand and had a mixed bag of responses, so was looking forward to seeing for myself.

It looked quite simillar to Wagamama's, sitting at benches, very minimal, but I liked the fact we could see the kitchen at work.

To start I ordered Goi Cuon, a Vietnamese dish which I can only describe as being like a tastier spring roll.  It's rice paper filled with veggies with a soy and ginger dip.

They were delicious, I really enjoyed them - I think they had a lot more flavour than the chinese spring rolls have, and I liked the rice paper made them squishy.

Sarah had Gyoza, Japanese dumplings - she really enjoyed them too, and I kind of wish I'd gone for them when I saw them, but I do have them all the time at Wagas.

For main I had Kway Teow, a Malaysian dish of chilli and garlic in a thick soy sauce with noodles, with Prawns.

Visually it looked good - but it lacked flavour.  I found the noodles hard to eat with the chop sticks - although I'm useless with them - can anyone teach me chopstick skills??  I also only got about 4 prawns, so I was really disappointed by that.

Sarah opted for Yaki Udon with chicken, which was chunky noodles in soy sauce and rice wine with red peppers and spring onions.  It looked nice, but I'm not sure I'd have liked the noodles.

For pudding we both opted for the spiced ginger creme brulee,  It was set, and the crunchy topping was good, but it tasted gritty inside, and left a nasty coating on the roof of my moth - thinking it may have split?  It wasn't at all nice.

I am by no means any kind of expert in Asian foods, in fact it's probably food I've tried the least, I enjoy Waga's when we go there, so I was expecting more from Tampopo than it delivered, but that could have been due to what I ordered.

I would have the starter again in a shot, so I'd probably eat at Tampopo again.

The bill came to just shy of £40 for the food and a beer for me and lime and soda for Sarah.  Not exactly a cheap midweek meal but it didn't break the bank either.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

One from the archives - Italian Beef Stew

I posted this recipe on my old blog in Feb 2011, after a request on Twitter for it, I've popped it on here for you to enjoy.


I've had this recipe bookmarked to do for ages, and as it doesn't take long to cook I opted to do it on Monday.


1 onion
1 clove garlic
300g beef, cut into strips
1 yellow pepper, thinly slices
sprig of rosemary, chopped up
tin of tomatoes
handful of olives


Cook the onion and garlic in olive oil and then add the beef, the pepper and the rosemary, cook for a few minutes and then add the tinned tomatoes.  Simmer for 15 mins and stir through the olives.  I served this with  mash.

(I don't think I'd get any points for presentation for this dish)

I got the beef in Leeds Market, the butcher I went to was so lovely and friendly, I explained what I wanted and he went through which beef he had and picked out the one he thought would work for how I was cooking it, then checked with me again that I definitely wanted strips not chunks.  I also got my onion, pepper and potatoes from a fruit and veg stall in the market.

I went to Millies to get the olives, I knew they'd have some lovely ones.  I wasn't disappointed, they were delicious. I'm surprised any made it into the stew, I had plenty while I was cooking!!

Victorian (half) Pound Cake

My entry for next week's Victorian themed Clandestine Cake Club  will be a Victorian Pound Cake.  I'm using this recipe as my base.

On Sunday I decided to tie in practising my cake with needing to make a cake for Mother's day, but I was a bit daunted by the quantity of ingredients - 450g of butter is huge.  So I made it in half measures - a Half Pound Cake.

250g unsalted butter
250g self raising flour
250g caster sugar
5 eggs
pinch salt
zest of 1 lemon
cap of brandy

I pre-heated the oven to 180, and greased my cake tin.  Then I opted to cheat a little, in the absence of a Kitchen Aid Mixer, so I melted my butter a bit, then worked at it with a wooden spoon until it resembled cream.  I then added the sugar, creamed together, then sieved in the flour.

I added each egg one at a time, combining it with the rest of the mixture.  I didn't have much brandy left, so I opted for just a cap of brandy, pinch of salt and lastly added the lemon zest.  Adding the lemon instantly lifted the scent of the cake - and I was worried it would be too lemony...

I poured the mixture in the tin, and then left to bake in the oven for 45 minutes.  I tested the cake with a skewer and it came out clean, although it was singing still slightly.

(I think the term "singing" is a Yorkshire thing, not many people understand what I mean when I say it, basically it's listening to the bubbling and crackling of the cake, if it's singing loudly then it isn't cooked.)

Our cooker is fan assisted, so one without a fan would possibly take 50-55 minutes to cook.

I was pretty impressed by the look and texture of the cake.  It was soft and springy to touch, but when you cut into it you could see the top had formed a slightly thin crust.

The moistness of the cake was almost perfect - I personally prefer them just a wee bit more moist, but I'm told it was just right - I guess it's down to taste really.  The lemon just accentuated the flavour of the cake, it didn't dominate.

I was really happy with my cake, and will be going for a full, artery busting, heart stopping Pound Cake on Sunday - I hope I have a tin big enough to accommodate!

I have to admit to having a tiny mishap - I used a springform baking tin, but didn't grease the bottom enough, so where it came off the sides lovely, it ended up stuck to the bottom, and I had to slice it out!  Oops.  I know for next time though....

Monday, 4 April 2011

Simple Lasagne

Lasagne is one of my favourite things to cook and eat.  I've seen so many variations on it, with the tomato base being cooked for hours, with wine and the cream added, to chicken or tuna ones.

My version of lasagne uses beef mince and vegetables, and this is simply the way I like it.  It also uses crème fraiche rather than the usual white sauce, which gives it a slightly different texture and taste.


1 large onion

1 carrot
1 red, 1 yellow & 1 green pepper
2 sticks of celery
600g Beef mince
Tinned Tomatoes
1 oxo cube

1 clove garlic

tomato purée
crème fraiche
parmigiana cheese
Lasagne sheets
grated cheese to sprinkle top


Put the mince on to brown, I use fry light for this.  In the meantime chop all your vegetables.

When the meat is browned transfer it to a dish, put the pan back on the hob and add the onion, celery and garlic.

Cook that off for 5 minutes then add the rest of the vegetables.  Cook them for a further 5 minutes then add the meat back to the pan.

Pour in the tinned tomatoes, then fill the can with boiled water and pour that in.  Add the beef stock cube, the tomato purée, season with salt and pepper, and add the rosemary.

If all your meat and vegetables are covered then simmer on the lowest heat until the liquid has reduced down and then add the lid - if the water level isn't that high then bring to the boil, add a lid and reduce the heat.

Simmer for at least an hour and half.

Pour half the mixture in the base of the lasagne dish.  Cover with a layer of pasta.  Repeat this until all the sauce is gone, add a final layer of pasta.

Mix together the creme fraiche and cheese and season with black pepper, pour this mixture over the top of the layer of pasta, then sprinkle with grated cheese if you wish - I like mine to burn and turn brown and crispy so I add the cheese before it goes in - if you prefer yours less burnt then add the cheese to the top half way through cooking.

Cook in a pre-heated oven at 180 for 45 minutes.