Friday, 30 September 2011

Cheese Scones

Just a quick blog tonight as I'm feeling a little under the weather (story of my life these days).  Anyhow, catching a few minutes of Masterchef this afternoon, I started lusting after cheese scones - they'd been served with roasted pepper and tomato soup in this case, bring on the cold weather - so I thought I'd knock up a quick batch for Miss Abigail's tea so I could have a sneaky one.

I make amazing plain scones - don't get me started on the subject of sultana ones - but I haven't made cheese scones since school.  A quick search of BBC Good Food and I found a fab recipe that is simplicity in itself.

Only downside that a tantrumming toddler meant that I left them in a few minutes longer than I should have and if I was really living the Great British Bake Off dream, I'd've fallen foul of the Silver Fox for over baking.  Nevertheless, the slight crunch to the outside only served to enhance the lovely fluffy middles IMHO.

This is a recipe that could be used time and again and improved on by other flavourings - chorizo and thyme; bacon; onion; chives; rosemary - the list is endless.  Perfect accompaniment to soup and a recipe learned just in time for the snow that's apparently been predicted for next week.

Picture of the scones to follow as the phone is flat - again!  Recipe can be found here.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Onion Bhajis (or not!)

Day four and disaster number one.  At this rate I am due to have 91.25 disasters over the course of this challenging.  Now there's a heartening thought.  Not!

I'm not having a good week.  Make that I'm not having a good month.  Roll on October.  But without whining on too much, last week I stupidly managed to order two huge bags of onions from Ocado.  Or maybe Miss A did it when she was playing with Talking Ben on my phone?  Whatever.  I'm now inundated with onions.

My first plan to make lots of lovely French onion soup with cheese croutes has been slightly scuppered by the appearance of the Indian summer.  It's just too hot for soup and cold soup is just so wrong.

Next option - make onion bahjees.  Something I've never attempted before so a great idea for the recipe challenge.

Now this is where I should have just stopped.  At the thinking stage.  But no, I Googled for recipes and found several on  Did I heed the warning bells at this point?  No.

What is it that people say about Chinese restaurants (or Indian or French or any other national restauarant)? If there are no Chinese (or Indian or French or yadda yadda) eating in the restaurant then don't go in no matter how good it looks.

This transpires to a lot of recipes.  If they're not written by someone who is from said country or who has at least visited said country, then steer well clear.

I ended up with 'curried onion half moons in a pile'  Not even curried onion rings.  Never trust a recipe that says it's good and simple.

Lesson learnt.   No tea for me tonight. Tomorrow, I shall mostly be baking onion bread.

If you want to try and prove the recipe works though, you can find it here

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Guac 'n roll

Hubby and I are a bit like Jack and Mrs Spratt.  He doesn't much care for food.  I do.  He eats to live, I live to eat.

I guess that's why my cooking prowess hasn't evolved nearly as much as if I was married to a foodie.  Although in his defence, my waistline is far smaller than it would be if he loved food half as much as I do.

It's really disheartening when you spend a whole day slaving over something special only for the person eating your lovingly crafted meal to say "It's okay, but I much prefer the one you buy from the supermarket"  I just hope that should I find myself before a judge one day that the jury will be comprised of foodies who will understand why I felt the need to smother him with a tray full of soft, scotch burger rolls because they weren't as nice as Tesco value ones.  Thankfully, most other people are extremely complimentary (to my face!) about my cooking.

So tonight's menu was burgers and chips.  Of course, I buy the best burgers I can.  Previous attempts to make them have received a lukewarm reception and I will hold my hand up and say in this instance that they were lacking something.  One of my quests this year is to find the ultimate home-made burger recipe that tastes better than ones from the supermarket.  I couldn't be bothered to spend the day slavishly attempting a different soft roll recipe, especially as I OD'd on the carbs yesterday and this morning with the monkey bread.

Instead, I treated myself to a bowl of gloriously green guacamole.  Yet another thing that the husband wouldn't eat along with burgers that have the slightest hint of pink in the middle.  I swear I could serve him lumps of charcoal and he wouldn't mind eating them so long as they weren't pink inside.

Having never made it at home, I thought that now was my chance so I perused the lovely Thomasina Miers' Mexican Cooking Made Easy (no I'm not getting paid for endorsements!) and found a recipe that was simplicity in itself.

Top marks.  Would probably eat it every day with a bowl of toasted tortilla triangles.  Never again will I cheat and buy a packet of guacamole spice mix and certainly never buy pre-made stuff - which I find is more akin to a face pack than food.

Conveniently the recipe was also published by the Times which saves me typing it all in. 

Again, no picture because a) it was just a bowl of green mush and b) that bloody phone battery died at about 3pm again.  Grrr!!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Bread of the Week - Monkey Bread

There is no way on this earth that I could follow a carb-free diet.  I probably should, but quite frankly, I'd rather gnaw my right arm off provided it was sandwiched between two slices of lightly toasted ciabatta with a little aioli.

So 'Bread of the Week' will become a regular feature of this challenge as I work my way through my 'Breads of the World' recipe book.  Any excuse.

Today took me on a slightly unanticipated to glorious Tetbury, home of the future King and his Duchy Originals brand.  We went on the pretext of looking for props for our Vintage Pinups by LCC Photography venture, but there was an unspoken pact that we were really going for lunch at Blue Zucchini to sit and people-watch in the sun.

Monkey Bread
Having just Googled it, I note that Trip Advisor only gives it 2.5/5 but I must say in Blue Zucchini's defence that every time we've been there, both the food and the service has been great.  Okay it's a little on the pricey side - but that's what you get for dining in Charles and Camilla's back garden.

On the down side, the huge-mongous chicken club with fries that I consumed meant that my plans to do something from the lovely Thomasina Miers' Mexican Cooking Made Easy were scuppered so I decided to have a go at making Monkey Bread.

Half eaten club sandwich
I first came across this in one of the Alex Cross series of novels by James Patterson.  The characters make a big deal out of cooking it for a special ocassion - usually shortly before some gruesome homicide occurs or someone tries to kidnap one of the Cross family.  Actually, if I'd thought of that when I was making it, I'd've probably done something else instead to ward off any impending bad luck.  Oh well, too late now.

Thinking it was something mythical, soft and gooey - an assumption backed up  by the copious amounts of butter and sugar that were included I was a little disappointed with the end result.  According to Wikipedia, Monkey Bread is hardly known outside of the United States (unless you own a copy of Breads of the World) but I have a feeling that's because it's just a giant Chelsea Bun in disguise.

Rather than unpeeling layers of bread covered with fruit, cinnamon and sugar, this is a super-size tear and share version that according to the book serves 4.  It's American.

Not the best ever bread recipe I've tried but the bread inside was beautifully soft - probably because the protective layer of butter and sugar stopped it drying out.  Definitely one to make rarely, eat whilst still warm (is there any other way to eat home-made bread) and one that needs to be shared.

Monkey Bread Recipe

  • 450g strong white bread flour
  • 7g sachet yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 150ml lukewarm water
  • 150ml lukewarm milk
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • 125g walnuts (I used macadamias as I don't like walnuts)
  • 50g butter - melted
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp rum or brandy
  • 75g sultanas

Equipment - spring release, 9" ring cake pan

  1. Put the flour, yeast, salt and caster sugar into a large bowl and mix.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk, water and egg.
  2. Mix to combine then knead on a floured bread board for 10 minutes.  Alternatively, cheat like I did and use a mixer with a dough hook and knead on high for 5 minutes.
  3. Leave to rise in a warm place in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with lightly oiled cling film for about an hour - or until doubled in size.
  4. Combine the sugar, nuts and cinnamon in a bowl.
  5. Warm the brandy and sultanas in a saucepan until the liquid has been absorbed.  Leave to cool.
  6. When the dough has risen divide into 32 pieces and roll into balls.  Dip the first sixteen balls into the melted butter and then roll in the sugar mixture.  Place in the pan, with space between - the gaps will fill on the second rise.
  7. Scatter the fruit over the top and then repeat the dipping process for the second sixteen balls.
  8. Leave to rise for 45 minutes or until it reaches the top of the tin.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 190C (170C - fan) or 350F.
  9. Bake for 30-45 minutes until golden.
  10. Serve whilst warm.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Starting simply - Chicken and Chorizo Pasta

Despite having an entire day to come up with something amazing for day one, I found myself staring into the fridge at 7.30pm wondering how I could've wasted so much time doing housework and not researching exciting new recipes.

Of course, this was tempered by the knowledge that I was cooking for someone whose idea of adventurous eating is to have mayonnaise in his sandwiches rather than butter (he wouldn't do this himself I hasten to add!).

But given that the husband doesn't vary his diet much, the chances of me being able to try a new recipe out on him were quite high.  As a point of note, I frequently cook two or three different meals each dinner time because some days, I just have to eat something interesting!

A quick search on the BBC Good Food website with the contents of my fridge saw us eating chicken and chorizo pasta - probably a staple meal in most households, but in this house, it was positively cosmopolitan.

It even got a half-thumbs up although the husband rightly requested the omission of chillies next time, which I actually agreed with.  They added heat but no flavour.  Perhaps because I substituted dried for fresh.  And omitted the creme fraiche as rather unusually I don't actually have any.  Oh and I didn't have cherry tomatoes (I hate those little suckers) so used a tin of plum tomatoes instead.

And a complete technology fail (never buy a Samsung Galaxy SII), mean no documentary evidence of dinner.  Hey-ho.  A better day beckons tomorrow!

Anyhow, in a nutshell, this is how the recipe went:

Chicken and Chorizo Pasta - Serves 4

  • 300g pasta shapes
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 red chilli
  • 16 cherry tomatoes (or a tin of plum tomatoes)
  • 300ml creme fraiche (optional)
  • 100g cooking chorizo
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 190g jar red pesto

  1. Heat olive oil in a pan. Dice chicken and chorizo and add to pan - fry gently for 3-4 minutes until chicken is browned and chorizo oil is released
  2. Whilst chicken is cooking, roughly chop onion and pepper and finely chop garlic and chilli. Add to pan and cook until onion and peppers have softened and chicken is cooked thoroughly
  3. Add tomatoes to pan, gently cook for 5 min until tomatoes begin to burst. Cook pasta as per pack instructions
  4. Whilst pasta is cooking add creme fraiche (if using), lemon juice and pesto to chicken and warm thorugh. Season to taste
  5. Add cooked drained pasta to chicken and creme fraiche mix and stir until coated - serve with a rocket and parmesan salad

Hello, Good Morning and Welcome

So here I am at day one of the challenge and I don't have a clue what on earth my new recipe of the day is going to be.  But it's only 7am so I've got another 17 hours to figure something out.  Meanwhile, lets get the introductions out of the way.

Hello!  Nice to meet you!

I'm Rebecca.  Slummy Mummy.  Wife.  Business Analyst.  Studio Manager for a Photographer.  Ex-runner who needs to get her backside into gear before the dreaded VLM acceptance hits the mat next month.  So if I didn't already have enough on my plate, I figured it was about time I started a blog and kept it updated EVERY day.  For a year.  Except I kind of forgot that next year is a leap year so I have a whole extra day's worth of recipe-trying and blogging to do.

I figured that today was a good day to start as I'm on holiday from work this week (some holiday when you've been up since 5.30am doing washing) but it should give me enough time to at least hit the target every day between now and next Monday.  So I'll only be 359 days short.

Why the 366 Recipe Challenge?  Well I love cook books in the way that other women love shoes.  I'm greedy.  I love good food.  But I'm married to someone who would happily eat baked chicken and packet rice seven days a week (he does have his good points!) and my darling daughter (Miss A) is a very fussy eighteen month old.  So I figured that it was about time I made use of the hundreds of cookery books that I pore over lovingly day after day but rarely use and try to cook one new recipe every day for a whole year.

Plus it gives me an excuse to buy a new cookery book or two!

So follow me and my triumphs and disasters in the kitchen, alongside other food-related musings and see how I do.

Right.  No time for breakfast new-ness as I have to get Miss A and ready for nursery.  Hoping the husband will take me out for lunch so a new dinner recipe.  Off to peruse for inspiration!
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