Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Malta - sugarless cake

I was able to kill two birds with one stone with this cake. Malta was chosen by club members to be my country for my Oly***c themed York Clandestine Cake club meeting, and I also had it allocated in Ewan's draw.

I scoured the Internet for recipes and was taken with this one - http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipe/13523/Sugarless_cake_with_apricots_dates_and_almonds/search/true using no sugar or dairy! Just flour, ground almonds, chopped dried fruit, zest and apple juice.

I swapped lemon zest for orange zest, having 2 gorgeous smelling organic oranges delivered as part of my Yorkshire Farm shop delivery. The first attempt I used the zest of the full orange- it really over powered everything else, so in this attempt I used just half.

I opted to attempt to recreate the Maltese flag in my second attempt, but couldn't resist adding some malteasers...

Research tells me Maltese food is very much "peasant" food, possibly the reason for not adding any sugar and dairy to this cake. It really works though, I'd definitely make it again.

Suriname - Fish Masala

I'm disgracefully behind with my Olympic Food Challenge - sorry Ewan!

On Saturday I used this recipe http://www.islandflave.com/recipes/79-suriname-recipes/445-fish-masala to make Fish Masala - and three of us tried this one! I still had a normal fish, potatoes, sweetcorn and sauce to do though - but Phil helped me get it all done.

This recipe was really easy to follow, and the curry sauce tasted great- although was very, very sweet! I've never used tomato sauce in curry before!!

I didn't have any lemon salt but added a squeeze of lemon juice for some acidity.

As we'd only had rice the night before I served this with my take on Bombay potatoes... I didn't get them crispy enough though!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Cuba - Arroz con leche

After Thursday's disaster I couldn't ruin another dish... For Cuba I picked a dessert, particularly because I think it'll be easier to get the whole family to try a dessert rather than to have to make two meals each night (which I'm doing tonight...).  Everyone likes rice pudding so I thought I'd be onto a winner with this one.

I found an excellent cuban food website and picked up the Arroz con Leche recipe from there.

I followed the recipe, but used one of the notes at the bottom, we had 3/4 tin of evaporated milk in the fridge that needed using up, so I used that and increased the volume of water cooking the rice to dilute it a bit.  I also reduced the amount of sugar used.  I might have also misread the bit where it said garnish with ground cinnamon, and I cooked it into mine... Oops!

(Not the best picture, sorry, but it was 8pm and I had 3 boys demanding pudding to feed!)

I'd really like to do a Cuban themed dinner party in the future, particularly to do this roasted leg of pork!

Croatia - Strukli

In day 2 of the Olympic Food Challenge I was representing Croatia.  After extensive googling I found an interesting recipe for a famous Croatian appetiser.  Unfortunately that recipe didn't include a picture on what the finished dish should look like....

I followed the recipe, making the dough, leaving it to proof, then making the filling.  I rolled out the dough, then added the filling and rolled up.  As there were only two of us eating I didn't make the full quantity of dough, or filling, but I was left with a lot of filling... It seemed like an excellent idea to add that to the dish when the strukli went in to be baked with the cream....  And there was my error.  If I'd googled images of Strukli I would have known it's supposed to go crispy... not be a soggy mess like mine was!

Phil still ate his, even though it was like eating a soggy dumpling, minus the stew.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Olympic Food Challenge - Virgin Islands

Tonight I am representing the Virgin Islands with the first of my dishes for the Olympic Food challenge.

The Virgin Islands have sent 7 athletes to London to compete in the games, there's even a Virgin Islands Olympic website!  Being pregnant I haven't been able to match my meals to drinks from my allocated countries, but if I could then I would have had to have had a rum tonight.

After a bit of google searching I found this recipe for Mango chicken which hails from the United States Virgin Islands, the Western Islands, the Eastern Islands form the British Virgin Islands.

I absolutely loved this recipe, it wasn't too fiddly for making on an evening after a tiring day at work, and was really tasty - although very, very sweet.  I was lazy and used shop bought mango chutney, if I wasn't pregnant I might have been tempted to make my own, but there's only so much standing I can do on these poor swollen feet.

I bashed the chicken up to flatten it a bit, then seasoned and added mango chutney, and folded in half.  If I'd remembered to order some cocktail sticks then the next bits might have been a wee bit less messy...  I dipped the chicken in flour, then the evaporated milk, then the egg, then lastly the breadcrumbs (yes they are those awful shop ones, I keep an emergency store of them for when I can't be bothered to make breadcrumbs), then I added the chicken to the pan to sear and colour up, while I repeated the process on the other chicken breast.  When both of them had started to colour up I popped them into a pre-heated oven for 25 mins.  I threw together a salad to go with our chicken, I think I should have had rice to be authentic, but I'm having plenty of rice over the next few weeks...

The end result was a wee bit burnt, but I like a nice crunchy outside to my chicken...

I'll definitely be making these again!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Twinings Earl Grey Tea

I was sent a lovely teapot and some Twinings green tea in  the post last week, but I don't have much of a taste for green tea, so at the supermarket today I picked up some of their Earl Grey tea to use with my new teapot.

As a child I remember my Grandma drinking Earl Grey, always from a china cup, with saucer and always without milk with a slice of lemon.  The smell of Earl Grey always makes me think of her.

I forgot the slice of lemon this evening, and don't own a cup with a saucer - but I think my Daschund Emma Bridgewater cup is a good enough alternative.

You can buy tea online where there's also a selection of tea gifts (my favourite is the Royal Wedding spotted teapot.

Earl Grey is a real treat for me, it's something I'll probably buy once a year and then use sparingly, I think if I drank it all the time it might not feel so special.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Slow Cooker Beef Bourgingon

I make no secret of the fact I love our slow cooker, especially for Sundays.  Beef Bourgingon is one of my favourite things to make in the slow cooker, such an easy meal.  I know I should use some lovely little shallots but half a red onion was all I had in the fridge!

Diced casserole beef
Finely chopped half red onion
1/2 pint beef stock
1 small bottle red wine
Squeeze of tomato puree
Plain flour (for coating)

Setting my slow cooker to high to warm up I then coated the beef in the plain flour then seared the meat in a casserole pan, browning it off nicely, then removed the meat from the pan setting it aside in a bowl.  I then fried off the onions with some garlic, adding the bottle of red wine to de-glaze the pan and lift off some of the meat juices that had got congealed at the bottom.

I added a few of the mushrooms and then all the stock, the herbs and the squeeze of tomato puree and brought the liquid to the boil, then reduced the heat, after letting it start to bubble I threw the meat and collected juices back in the pan and let that simmer away until the sauce had started to thicken.

I then poured that into my slow cooker, turning it down to low and cooked for 6 hours.  I then added the remaining mushrooms for the last hour while I cooked up some cauliflower cheese and mashed potato to go with our meal.

The result - a little plate of heaven, tender, melt in your mouth meat and a sauce packed with flavour.  Just missing a wee bit of greenery I think, some lightly cooked green beans would have set this off perfectly.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Guest Post - Jubilee Spitfire Proms, sponsored by Casillero del Diablo

I was offered tickets for the Jubilee Spitfire Proms event but asked my good friend Fiona if she'd like to go on my behalf and do a little guest post for me.   Fiona lives in Harrogate and has recently taken the brave steps of setting up her own business - Re-New Therapies.  If you need pampering she's your gal.  

Over to Fi....

Jubilee Spitfire Proms, Ripley Castle, Sponsored by Casillero del Diablo
I was delighted when I was offered tickets to the Jubillee Spitfire Proms as I thought I could take my mum and have a nice night out. Classical music with a Jubillee/Proms theme and a firework display…oh yes and some splendid wine from Casillero del Diablo…perfect.

There were some worries as previous concerts had been rained off but fortunately all was fine on the night…the sun was shining and the turn out was good…unfortunately my pictures here don’t show how busy it was! Some photos later on give a better idea of the numbers!

Then the warm up music started as the spitfire plane arrived and did a 10 minute aerobatics performance to ‘On my lips every kiss is like wine’ and ‘Light Cavalry – Overture’ …I probably missed something else whist watching the performance!!!Then the warm up music started as the spitfire plane arrived and did a 10 minute aerobatics performance to ‘On my lips every kiss is like wine’ and ‘Light Cavalry – Overture’ …I probably missed something else whist watching the performance!!!

We headed first of all to the Casillero de Diablo tent for our bottle of wine, Casillero is the most famous Chillian wine company so I was looking forward to trying it out. We decided to go for a red wine…now I’m usually a Merlot girl and not so keen on a Shiraz…I like a thick, velvet texture…these are the choices we had:

Fruity and slightly spicy, this was the recommended wine and my favourite, it’s not my normal choice of wine as I like thick, full bodied wine, this was lighter but I definitely enjoyed it. It went extremely well with our picnic of tortilla chips, pork pie, ham and pickle sandwiches and Maple and Pecan fudge.

Cabernet Sauvignon
I wasn’t sure at first sip so went back for more…this was mum’s favourite and I liked it but not as much as the Carmenere or the Caberet Sauvignon Syrah.

Shiraz – We didn’t taste this one.

There was also a premium red…

Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah

What the guy said…(ok so I googled it after as he spoke quite fast) Casillero del Diablo Reserva Privada is an assemblage elaborated mainly from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes selected from Pirque vineyards, place of origin of Casillero del Diablo in the Maipo Valley, and a contribution of Syrah grapes.

This was selling for £12.00, we tasted this one after tasting the Cabernet Saivignon, I preferred this one but didn’t notice a big difference, it was just a little smoother and had a richer taste, mum preferred the first one. Both of us preferred the Carmenere.

We also filled in the competition form to win a 3lt bottle of Brut Reserva…the winner was announced halfway through…it wasn't us.

Once armed with our wine we went to find a good spot, we found a lovely are and set our chairs…purchased from Argos that afternoon…up and organised our food and wine so they were easy to access. The atmosphere was great, a lovely couple were perched on a little hill like the King and Queen of Ripley Castle, surrounded by union jack flags…I was a little jealous as they had a perfect spot!!!

The first guy to make an announcement had obviously not done his research…he came on stage and announced the Casillero del Diablio competition and started going on about how he was going to attempt to speak Italian…several people commented that they thought the wine was Chilean not Italian…a little embarrassing to say the least. Especially as at halftime he had to come back on stage and apologise for saying it was an Italian brand!!!

Next came the announcement that the fireworks would not be arriving…apparently they were in a broken down lorry on the M1 and the AA couldn’t fix it. The audience were not very receptive to this news…poor guy tried to make a joke about using umbrella’s to shelter from the sun…must have been trying to lighten the mood but it went down like a lead balloon!!! I was really looking forward to the fireworks so this wasn’t the best news but at least the whole thing wasn’t rained off!!!

Sorry I couldn’t get any clearer photos!!!

Here are some other songs that followed…
  • Tchaikovsky – Sleeping Beauty – Waltz
  • Verdi – La Donna E Mobile – Rigoletto
  • Sergei Prokofiev - Dance of the Knights (Otherwise known as the Apprentice Theme tune)
  • Pietro Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana – Intermezzo
  • Verdi – ‘The Drinking Song’ from La Traviata

These other well known ones also followed…’I could have danced all night’ ‘The Great Escape theme tune’, ‘Star wars Theme Tune’ ’Rule Britania’ ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

The only major disappointment from the evening was that the fireworks had been cancelled, it was a great atmosphere with adults and children alike joining in the celebrations, singing and dancing.

Lovely night at Ripley Castle…amazing grounds and perfect setting, fantastic wine thanks to Casillero del Diablo (will definitely purchase again) and great music.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Baked Bean Corned Beef Hash

I've found that being pregnant I'll often hear someone talking about some food, then desperately want to have it myself - sometimes that lasts until I get to eat the food, an all consuming desire that has to be sated, but sometimes the craving just goes away.  I had the later with Corned Beef a couple of weeks ago.  If there'd been a tin near me at that time I would have eaten the lot, but after a few hours I'd forgotten all about corned beef - except the very harassed Phil had gone and bought me some specially.

I decided to make some good old comfort food Corned Beef Hash in place of the soup I had planned for yesterday.  When I was midway through cooking it I realised we didn't have one pea or kernel of sweetcorn in the house....so I improvised....with baked beans.

I was pretty happy with the result, lovely chunks of potato, the richness of the meat, the texture of the beans - it isn't the prettiest of dishes though!!

What do you have in your corned beef hash?  For me peas and sweetcorn are a must - and I actually prefer it with tinned potatoes used in it!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Hello Fresh Vegetarian 3 meal box

When I was contacted by Hello Fresh with the offer of a 3 meal box I happily accepted the invitation and chose a vegetarian box, being a bit fussy about meat and not really enjoying it that much while pregnant, then promptly forgot all about it.   I merrily planned all my meals for this week only to get a phone call on Tuesday from a friendly delivery man checking my address and the realisation I was getting the box this week dawning.  Luckily everything I planned can be used into next week, so nothing has been wasted.

We arrived home and I ripped the box open like a child at Christmas.

And there it was, a box full of healthy goodies and three recipe cards for how to make the meals.  Things I wouldn't normally think to make.

On Tuesday we opted for the Gnocchi and Sweet Potato Gratin with Tenderstem Broccoli.

I followed the recipe card with ease, deciding to leave out the hazelnuts, not being a big nut fan.  I hadn't had Gnocchi in ages so was looking forward to trying it with Phil, who'd never had it.

The result - on the table within 25 minutes and delicious.  We'll definitely be trying this recipe again.

On Thursday we had the Wild Rice Salad with Citrus and Chilli dressing.  Phil cooked this one and we decided we wanted some potatoes with it so he made the Pommes de terre a l'ail from the French cookery book I received in the Retro Cookbook swap I participated in.

Phil found following the recipe easy, although he had the added difficulty of making another dish alongside it. I really enjoyed this meal, especially the avocado.  It was probably a touch too garlicky though.  The potatoes were gorgeous, I'd definitely have those again.  There was plenty of leftover rice so I was able to take that to work on Friday.

On Friday it was my turn to cook, we had the Citrus Salad with Asparagus and Goats Cheese, and Phil had a pork chop to go with his.

I really liked the dressing for this salad, but chose to leave out the onion, Phil hates onion so inflicting raw onion on him is far too harsh.  I only had a tiny bit of the goats cheese, it being one of the cheeses I'm meant to avoid while pregnant, so Phil's plate was a lot more cheese filled than mine.  I also sliced my potatoes before cooking rather than do it after.

Yet another quick and delicious meal.  I wouldn't normally put orange in my salad but enjoyed having it with the orange segments in.

I like the concept of Hello Fresh, taking the hassle out of meal planning and food shopping but still giving the enjoyment of cooking something healthy and nutritious.  But it's not something that we'll be signing up to.

Whilst there is the option of a box coming every other week it's priced just out of my food budget and the meals aren't ones the whole family will eat (healthy meals and teenage boys don't always mix well).

If there was the option of a one off box then I'd definitely consider that, especially on a week when I know we'll be busy and a delivery like this one would be a godsend.  I also think Hello Fresh are missing a trick by only having these for 2, 4 or 6 people - what about single people?  The fact that the ingredients come in the quantities needed would really appeal for single people, having been there myself and found it frustrating to not be able to buy small enough amounts for just one I think this scheme might have been one I would have considered.

All in all I think it's a great idea, and I can imagine it really working for busy London type professionals.  I wish Hello Fresh success with their business, and would like to say a big thank you for being able to try a box.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Sweet Bitesize Bakes Swap

In celebration of Sarah's cookbook Bake me I'm yours: Sweet Bitesize Bakes, coming out a swap was organised.  I needed to make and send mine at the weekend, but after baking a cake and then attending a wedding I was feeling pretty tired.  So I decided to make some little biscuits.

I did jazz the second batch up a bit with some sprinkles, and rolled them a little thinner, then boxed up ten with some pink tissue paper and a disposable tupperware box and off I toddled to the post office on Monday.

You can imagine my mortification when my parcel arrived and I opened it to find these beauties...

About a million times more professional than mine, and with a million percent more effort put in than mine....

I really hope Sadia wins the competition, she certainly deserves to with these wonderful mini cakes!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Meal Planning Monday

Monday - Ikea tea, meatballs and chips :)
Tuesday - Tortellini in basil, cheese & tomato sauce
Wednesday - Red Hot World Buffet in Leeds
Thursday - Pommes de terre a l'ail with pork and spinach (from my cookbook swap book)
Friday -  jacket potatoes
Saturday - Thai meal in Leeds
Sunday - Pea and Ham soup, home made bread

It's a pretty bad week for cooking this week, with us eating out 3 times!  It's unusual for us to eat out so much, but it's a busy week of special days and catching up with special friends.

As always you can find the rest of the meal plans on Mrs M's blog.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Rainbow Tray Bake

On Friday night I threw wild abandon to the wind and was set loose on food colouring.  With almost disastrous consequences.  See those black blobs - that was meant to be purple, and that strange shade of red - that was meant to be orange...  I got carried away with the gel colouring, despite Phil trying to confiscate the bottles from my grasp.

The finished article wasn't the most professionally decorated (I don't think I'll ever have the patience to decorate well) but it was decorated from the heart.

200g flour
200g caster sugar
200g stork margarine
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Gel food colouring

300g icing sugar
150g marg
Lots of Sprinkles

Oven on to 180, grease a disposable tray.
I made this cake as you would a normal sponge, creaming the butter and sugar together, sifting in the flour with each egg, adding the vanilla extract.  I then split the mixture between six bowls and added the colours.  Next time I make anything with colouring I'll let Phil pour it in, I cannot be trusted with colouring.  We then dolloped a spoonful of each mix into the tray and popped into the oven for 40 mins.  A better cooker might cook this quicker, but ours seems to take twice as long as all other cookers.

When the cake was cooked I left it to cool and then we started the buttercream icing.  Phil cut out the stencil to use for the letters and heart while I mixed the buttercream and spread it on the cake, and then held it over the cake while I gingerly sprinkled the sprinkles over.
The finished result... rustic I'd call it.