Monday, 31 October 2011

Cheerio and Peanut Butter Bars

Please note this was actually the entry for 30th Oct 2011 but for some reason, silly blogger didn't publish it!

I am so not cut out for motherhood.  When I get five seconds to myself, I indulge in my fantasy life which revolves around living in a Lakeland 'Summer Special' catalogue.  There, my daughter flits around a sun-dappled garden, her flowing hair beribboned and she's dressed immaculately.  We lunch in the garden feasting on freshly baked breads, homemade chutneys and gorgeous fruit confections.  The kind of life I imagine my neighbours live - I've never seen them or their children less than perfectly turned out.  They never nip to the car without their slippers or a full face of makeup.  Their houses are cleaner than most NHS wards (although that's not hard these days).

In reality, it's Sunday morning, she's wearing pyjamas covered in minestrone soup, her nose is constantly snotty.  The house looks like it's been looted by seventeen toddlers rather than one and the ironing basket is overflowing.  I'm the harassed, thirty-something full time working mother who alternately feels guilt at having to pay someone else to look after her child while she slaves to keep a roof over the family's head and then feels guilty at the weekend when she is filled with fear at the thought of spending 12 uninterrupted hours in the company of a three-foot-high Tasmanian devil.

I try, I really do.  My husband who looks after Miss A two days a week makes it look so easy.  I on the other hand - the one who is supposedly equipped to nurture and be the font of all knowledge on all things to do with childhood - fail at every turn.  There are tears, tantrums and hair pulling - that's just me.

I long to be the kind of mum whose child doesn't want to go exactly where they shouldn't be.  Who doesn't want to draw on the dogs and eats whatever is put in front of them (hence the wearing of the minestrone).

Of course, today was even worse.  The husband is out all day photographing a catwalk show at a Wedding Fayre.  There's an extra hour in the day.  So what to do? Baking.  It's something we both enjoy and I love the concentration she exudes when carefully transferring things from small boxes to the mixing bowl before stirring carefully and then plunging both hands in and stuffing her face with whatever's in the bowl.

Today was no exception.  The Cheerios were carefully counted - almost one by one.  The chocolate drops were added pinch by pinch.  The cherries unceremoniously dumped in in one go.  A quick stir then a tantrum whilst mummy took over to mix in the warm peanut butter flavoured caramel.  After cooling, we patted it into the baking tray and before I knew where she was, she'd turned the oven on, grabbed the oven gloves and stood, hands out waiting for the tray saying 'Mummy.  Cook.  Hot.'  So we put the oven onto the 'light-only' setting, she wore the gloves and put the tray in the oven.  Twenty minutes later, she returned and said 'Mummy.  Hot.  Cook.' before passing me the oven gloves to take it out for her.

My heart melted.  And these are the moments when it all seems worth it.  Those moments when you know she's learnt something just from you.  I love her to pieces, no matter how hard I find parenthood.

I don't, however, love the cheerio cakes.  You can feel your teeth rotting just looking at them.  But if you want the recipe, you can find it here.

Ham and Sweetcorn Mini Pizzas

I try, really I do.  But I just have not got the hang of the super-career-woman-yummy-mummy thing.  I look at all the lovely ladies in the Twitterati who juggle seventeen kids and running their own business whilst still finding time to keep an immaculate house and find time to have a life too.  But that's never going to be me.

I'm the mummy who gets stuck at work and then hurtles along the motorway, praying that there won't be any jams because I'm late for teatime.  And my darling daughter then repays my efforts at trying to pretend I'm supermum by saying no to her tea before I've even fastened her into her high chair.

Abigail made pizza.  She fed it to the dogs.
Although I was late tonight, I still tried to make an effort.  The child will not eat anything other than pasta.  And cheese.  And peas.  And absolutely any kind of fruit you care to throw at her.  I'm tired of the GP banging on about how she needs a balanced diet.  If only he would come round and witness her bury her head in her hands if I've had the temerity to put a few carrots in amongst the pasta and peas.  Or, heaven forbid, that I've given her pasta and cheese with tomato sauce.

She was an amazing eater until she learned to say no.  Her early cosmopolitan tastes included hummus, patatas bravas, mousakka and spanish omelette with feta to name but a few.  But these days she's having none of it.

I tried a different tack today.  We made pizza.  She made the dough.  She topped them with ham (which she will eat if it's in her sandwiches I make for nursery, but not at home), sweetcorn and mozarella - she chose the things from a bowl (and ate all the pineapple before it got anywhere near the pizza).  She waved it into the oven.  She watched it like a hawk while it cooked.  She chanted 'Mama tea' while it cooled.  Her backside had barely touched the high chair when she adamantly said 'No Mama' and buried her head in her hands for the next five minutes.

Well the dogs enjoyed them anyway.  And I'm sure it's a great recipe for those of you with kids.  It's from the M&S Just 4 Kids book which is a great little book full of recipes that both kids and adults can eat - provided their not fussy like what my family is!

Will post the recipe later as the book's downstairs and the husband is currently crashing round the kitchen, filling the dishwasher.  I intend to steer well clear!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Pumpkin and Ginger Cupcakes

In the spirit of economy, I decided that rather than just trashing the innards of this year's pumpkin, I would actually make something out of them.  That makes me sound rather wasteful, doesn't it?  But this is only our second year of pumpkin-age, so it's hardly a crime to have disposed of one lot is it?

In my defence, last year, when the husband insisted we got all Hallowe'eny - I think his paternal instinct finally kicked in around this time - so I duly purchased a pumpkin, scooped out the innards, carved a scary face (not modelled on him, despite the rumours) and set about Googling for a pumpkin pie recipe.  Whilst surfing, I was distracted by the then six-month-old pumpkin and by the time I returned to the kitchen, the actual  pumpkin had been disposed of because 'it's making the kitchen smell, and quite frankly it looks like something one of the dogs hewed up'

Pumpkin and Ginger Cupcakes with Ginger Frosting

With the husband being immediately suspicious of anything that looks remotely new - food, clothes, having had half an inch cut off my hair (hard to tell when your hair is curly, but he always notices) - I figured the best way to try and get him to eat pumpkin was to disguise it under a layer of frosting.  So cupcakes it was.  I found the recipe (then lost it, then found it again) on the Baking Mad website.  And found LOADS of other things I want to bake too - but alas no time at the moment.

Although the mixture did indeed look even more like something that had come out of one or other of the dogs, it had a beautiful, spicy autumnal aroma and evoked thoughts of being gathered round a bonfire, sparkler in gloved hand and waiting for a hot drink and something yummy to eat.

With it being so thick and there being so much of the mixture, I carefully ensured to only fill the cups 2/3rds full but wasn't convinced they'd be particularly light or rise well as the pumpkin seemed to so heavy compared to the rest of the mix.  But I was pleasently surprised to find beautifully soft and moist cakes with a gorgeous, warming ginger flavour.  My grandmother would've adored these cakes.

Last year's pumpkin <3
As I'm not a fan of cream cheese frosting, I chose to make regular butter cream, flavoured with the syrup from the stem ginger.  Top idea.  Although next time, I'd probably finely dice some ginger to add to the frosting too.

So onto the taste test.  Abigail was so excited while I was icing the cakes, she clung to my legs and bounced up and down like a hyperactive frog so they're not very aesthetically pleasing.  She then carried her cupcake to her high chair, got strapped in and rather dubiously prodded the strange smelling frosting.  Twenty minutes later, frosting licked completely off the cake, the sponge finally disappeared in two bites to a chorus of 'all gone, more Mummy, more'.  Result.

Next the husband.  Eyes lit up like a Jack O'Lantern, one disappeared really quickly and a second was reached for until I said 'Did you like it?'  'Grunt. (with an affirmative tone)' 'It was pumpkin and ginger' 'Oh, I thought the chocolate tasted weird.'  '*Sigh*'

Ah well, he ate one.  He didn't directly complain.  Will be interested to see how long it takes the others to disappear.  But another highly recommended recipe!

You can find it here.

If you want to make my version of the frosting, mix 250g icing sugar and 80g of unsalted butter together using a free standing mixer or a hand mixer until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add two tablespoons of syrup from a jar of stem ginger and mix on high speed for five minutes until you have a light and  fluffy frosting.  If you prefer your frosting thicker, add a little more icing sugar or if it's too thick, add a splash of milk.

I'm entering this into the September 2012 Alphabakes.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Mushroom, Bacon and Pesto Pasta

The trouble with lovely home-made things is that you taste them once, and never want shop-bought again.  This is why I steadfastly refuse to buy cake from the supermarket (aside from malt loaf - which is for the child).  And now, I'm either never eating pesto again or will always be making my own.

Today's tea required the use of two recipes - one for the home made pesto to use up the basil that's been fragrancing my fridge for the past week, the other to make use of said pesto.

Just blitzing the pesto ingredients in the food processor was enough to have me drooling everywhere.  But mixed with crispy pancetta, mushrooms and pasta, the pesto took the second recipe to a whole other level.

You could actually taste the pine nuts, garlic and olive oil in the pesto, despite the saltiness of the pancetta and the milky creme fraiche.  That said, recently I was horrified to discover that most shop-bought jar-stored pesto is mostly made of cashew nuts rather than pine nuts.  I'm guessing this is for values-sake rather than taste or shelf-life.

Of course, home-made is far more expensive, but I shall definitely be making sure the husband doesn't over-water my basil plant next summer!

Recipes can be found courtesy of BBC Food here and BBC Good Food here.

Really must bother to get a decent camera organised as the pesto looks far more pleasingly green in real life - although the presentation of my pasta dish would look just as bad whatever the camera.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Huevos Rancheros

There are several advantages to working from home.  One - you can go to work in your pyjamas.  Two - you don't have to suffer from the terrible canteen food at lunchtime.

Heaven on a plate
You'd think I'd've learnt now to take my own lunch but by the time I've cooked three different dinners and made two other packed lunches, I usually can't be bothered to do my own so live on overpriced jacket potatoes and tuna courtesy of Sodexo.

Fridays is always fish-finger sandwiches all round but I cherish Thursdays as I spend my half hour lunchtime making myself something special.  The child is napping, the husband is napping (childcare is stressful, donchya know!) so I sneak down to the kitchen for something lovely.

And because it was so flipping miserable outside today, I decided to whip up some Huevos Rancheros courtesy of Thomasina Miers.  It's something I've wanted to try for simply ages and it was well worth the wait.  In fact it was soooo good, I intend to have it again for my tea tonight to use up the rest of the gorgeous tomato sauce.  The lovely Bridestock Bride blogged about planning to make this recently so if you've not already made it Laura, I would highly recommend this recipe :o)

Recipe - serves 4

    • 1 large onion, finely chopped
    • 1–2 red chillies, finely chopped
    • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
    • 2 tins plums tomatoes
    • Sea salt and black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon piloncillo or demerara sugar
    • A generous few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
    • A small handful of chopped tarragon
    • 4 corn tortillas, chapattis or other flat breads
    • 4 eggs
    • 60g Lancashire cheese (I used feta)

  1. First, get the tomato sauce cooking. Heat 2 tablespoons of the lard in a wide saucepan and add the onion and chilli.
  2. Let them sweat over a low heat for 10 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, cook for a few minutes more, and then add the tomatoes. Season the sauce well with salt, pepper, sugar and Worcestershire sauce, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon to make a roughly textured sauce. Leave the tomatoes to gently cook over a low heat for half an hour, adding a little water if they get too dry.
  3. When you are ready to eat, melt 1 to 2 tablespoons of the lard in a frying pan and gently turn the flat breads in the fat. Put them in a low oven, wrapped in foil, to keep warm, along with four plates. Add the tarragon to the sauce and stir.
  4. Melt the rest of the lard in the frying pan and turn the heat right up until the fat is sizzling. Fry the eggs, two at a time, spooning the lard over the top of them so that they turn a golden colour at the edges and absorb some of the flavour. Season the eggs well with salt and pepper.
  5. Put a flat bread on each plate and top with the tomato sauce. Put a fried egg on top and scatter with the grated Lancashire cheese.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Three Cheese Pasta

One month down.  Thirty one new recipes tried (including today's).  Only another 335 to go.  By the end of this year, I will either be the size of a house or a gibbering wreck.  Or both.  In fact, I'm rocking one of those two right now.

Having had a stressful day at work followed by a stressy toddler who only had eyes for Dadda this evening, I just could not be bothered to make the soup I'd planned to do.  So after finally getting Miss A into bed, and having cooked the husband his Wednesday-night-without-fail tea of chicken and rice, I turned to my 100 pasta sauces book - another tome I bought when I first left home and have never used.

Carbs, carbs, carbs!
There are so many simple recipes in there, I will probably have tried 99 of them by the end of this year.  Tonight's effort was three cheese pasta.

Cheese and I have a love-hate relationship.  I love it, my body hates it. Well that's not strictly true, but I might as well just slap bits of stilton to my hips and backside.  The year I lost five stones (when I finally went from being a full time fatty to a slimmer yo-yo dieter) I didn't eat cheese for ten whole months.

And the amount of cheese in my fridge these days has a direct correlation to my mood and level of healthy activity.  At the moment, the cheese shelf is groaning under the weight of stilton (tried stilton and cauliflower soup this week but it was bloody horrible and I didn't want to waste a blog on it), double gloucester, grano padano, feta, mozzarella, marscapone, BabyBel....I'm sure there's more too.  But at least I had everything I needed for the recipe.

Simple, cheesy, comforting and with the summery-peppery aroma of basil, it worked a treat on my mood.  And a palate-cleansing chaser of fresh pineapple afterwards has washed away the general feeling of cheesy-carbs guilt.

  • 400g tube-shaped pasta (rigatoni, penne, spirali etc)
  • 20g butter
  • 75g parmesan
  • 125g marscapone
  • 50g blue cheese (docelette or gorgonzola work best but stilton was fine)
  • torn basil and toasted nuts to garnish (I used pine nuts, the recipe suggested flaked almonds)

  1. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.  Drain.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Add the cheeses and stir until melted.
  3. Toss the pasta in the cheese sauce, season to taste and serve sprinkled with the nuts and basil.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Chocolate Mint Squares

When I tasted the butter cream for these, I honestly thought 'Mrs, what on earth were you thinking?'

The recipe calls for two tablespoons of custard powder to be added to the buttercream - I'm guessing as a stabiliser.  I was convinced it wouldn't work as I've previously experimented with putting uncooked custard  powder into buttercream frosting for my Trifle and Rhubarb & Custard cupcakes but it just gives a nasty cornflour after-feel (not taste) to the mixture.

From full to empty in thirty seconds
Previously, I've only tested the custard on small bowlfuls of buttercream but as Mrs has a fantastic reputation, I just sheepily followed the recipe to the letter, trusting her judgement.

And do you know, it actually works once it's sandwiched between the chocolate base and top.  Maybe it's because you're so busy noticing the lovely chocolatey-ness of the rest of the cake that you don't pay too much attention to the buttercream.  Or maybe the gravelly texture of the base helps to scrape the cornflour-fur off of your tongue?  Who knows.  And those musings make these little squares sound less than savoury.

But the tin was cleared faster than I could shout 'I have homemade cakes here' so they must be good!

One word of warning - don't add the egg to the hot chocolate mixture when you have a toddler and two dogs underfoot.  Chocolate scrambled egg interesting tasting experience.  Thankfully, once it was added to the biscuits and nuts, you couldn't tell that it was a lumpy mess just a few minutes earlier.

The recipe does say that it's no cook which isn't strictly true - it's not baked, but I'd say that avoiding chocolate scrambled eggs does involve some vague degree of cooking.  But I'll let you off this once Mrs as it's yet another lovely recipe.

Recipe can be found here.  Enjoy.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Chicken Tikka with Raita

Having been bought up by a one-time chef, it was drilled into me at an early age that convenience food was the work of the devil.  At twenty-one, I left home with my Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook tucked under my arm.  Two weeks later with a long commute to and from London every day and an oven that had two temperatures - off and inferno, I abandoned the book and embraced cooking sauces with the rebellious air of a teenager with a fake driving licence.  My mother was horrified.

Over the months, the creation of spag bol went from 'bung some mince in a pan to fry, pour in the sauce and serve' to 'let's just add a bit of garlic and some herbs and a dash of worcestershire sauce' until I was spending more effort getting the flavour right than if I'd cooked from scratch and left out the over-sweet, chemically cooking sauce.  Yes, mother - you were right!

The blurry bit on the photo is the steam from the rice!
But Mary continued to gather dust until recently when she was freed from a dusty pile of cookbooks in an attempt to entice the husband to eat something different.

Sunday night in our house is curry night, although last night we had a dirty tea of frankfurters and beans on toast.   I have to confess, I usually use Loyd Grossman's Bhuna Sauce because back in the pre-baby days, we used to run together on a Sunday evening so tea had to be quick.  Plus the husband does bland, rather than spicy and you can't get much blander than a Loyd Grossman curry sauce.

The plan was to make Dame Mary's chicken tikka last night but that fell by the wayside for a number of reasons so unusually for a Monday (my REALLY long day at work) I came home and slaved over dinner.  Well saying I slaved is a bit cheaty, but the chicken had to be marinaded for two hours beforehand so it wasn't a quick tea by any means.

I knew I was onto a winner when the kitchen was suddenly filled with a proper curry house smell.  I just hope it doesn't linger too long - especially as I've got a vendor in at work tomorrow and three huge cloves of garlic were in use in the recipe.  It was quite satisfying to make the sauce - the smell of the cumin reminded me of the first time my mum made curry and we had to go to a specialist shop to buy the tiniest amount of cumin as it just wasn't stocked in supermarkets in those days.

And it went down well with the husband.  A little too hot for his liking - my bad as I couldn't remember if I'd put the pinch of cayenne in so I did another one just in case. But I'm guessing I had done given his watering eyes.  Nevertheless, Loyd has finally been banished from our house in favour of Mary, Queen of Curries.  Or chicken tikka in this case.

Recipe - Serves 4

  • 450g chicken breasts, cubed
  • 2 tbsp natural yogurt
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  1. Mix the yogurt, tomato puree, tamarind paste, onion, garlic and spices in a large bowl to create the marinade. 
  2. Toss the chicken in the marinade.  Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least two hours, but no more than eight.
  3. Thread the chicken onto bamboo skewers and cook on a griddle over a high heat for 8-10 mins.
  4. Serve with basmati rice and lemon wedges.
For the raita

  • 1 small cucumber, halved with seeds scooped out
  • 225g natural yogurt
  • three spring onions, finely sliced.

  1. Grate the cucumber onto kitchen roll or a piece of muslin.  Squeeze to remove the excess juices.
  2. Mix the cucumber, yogurt and most of the onions, saving some for the garnish.  Season with salt and black pepper.
  3. Serve garnished with the reserved spring onions.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Lemon Curd

I've loved lemons for as long as I can remember.  In fact, one of my earliest memories is being out for a fish and chip dinner with my family, somewhere in deepest Wales and bugging everyone to let me have the lemon wedges from their plates to suck on.  In fact, some people may attribute my countenance to that very moment.  And that's probably why my teeth are as bad as they are from all that citric acid.

Anyway, give me a choice of three cake flavours on any given day and I would pick - in no particular order - lemon, chocolate and coffee.  Three cake flavours I both love and excel at.  My cupcake of the moment is lemon-scented sponge with a lemon curd centre, topped with lemon royal icing.  Not as trendy as the big, fancy butter cream swirls that most people expect to see topping cupcakes, but once you've had one you'll understand why.

I come from a family where the motto is 'the sharper the better' when it comes to anything lemon-based.  I adore tarte au citron (on the list of things to make this year if I ever get people coming for dinner - which will be never) but can't stand it when the lemon is beaten into submission by far too much sugar.  What's the point.

So when it came to making my own  lemon curd to go inside the cupcakes - I have yet to find a beautifully sharp shop bought variety - I spent some time looking for a really good recipe and settled on one by Mr Nigel Slater.

There were many similar recipes with almost identical methods, but Slater's used half as much sugar as all the rest.  Okay, so the yield was only just over one 1lb jar, making it quite an expensive jar of lemon curd but it's so lemony, it makes your cheeks tingle.  It's also a gorgeous, bright yellow colour which has been sadly disguised by my attempt to use Flickr on my phone as Instagram don't do Android.
Flickr for Android just isn't as good as Instagram

To get the best from the lemons, I stuck them into the oven on 100c for ten mins while I was sterilising my jam jars and then used a lemon reamer - far more satisfying to a stressed out mother than the citrus press that came with my Kenwood mixer.

Can't wait to try it in the cupcakes which I still need to make later today.  I have to confess to already having tried it mixed into a little bowl of whipped double cream that was hanging around the fridge.  What an amazing pudding that would make for unexpected guests with some of the lovely soft lemon curd amaretti biscuits I made a while ago.


"Most lemon curd recipes instruct you to stir the mixture with a wooden spoon. I find that stirring lightly with a whisk introduces just a little more lightness into the curd, making it slightly less solid and more wobbly." - Nigel Slater
Makes 2 small jam jars (or one 1lb jar with a little left over)
  • zest and juice of 4 unwaxed lemons
  • 200g sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 3 eggs and 1 egg yolk

Put the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the butter, cut into cubes, into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the basin doesn't touch the water. Stir with a whisk from time to time until the butter has melted.
Mix the eggs and egg yolk lightly with a fork, then stir into the lemon mixture. Let the curd cook, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes, until it is thick and custard-like. It should feel heavy on the whisk.
Remove from the heat and stir occasionally as it cools. Pour into spotlessly clean jars and seal. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Bread of the Week: Chocolate Brioche Loaf

I will never be major league with my baking - I just don't have the time.  It's just something I enjoy which I can just about fit in around being a full-time working mummy because you can bake when they nap or bake with them when they're driving you a little nuts.  You can't take a toddler running - well you can buy one of those uber-expensive buggies, but please don't even start on that one.

When things are tough, I do get motivated by baking and the pleasure that comes with the results in the immediate aftermath of a flour-filled kitchen.  I say immediate because when I clock myself in the mirror several hours later, I always end up guilt-ridden that I would rather stuff my face than make the effort to get up at 4am before work and go running.

The motivation is underscored by having had pretty much zero sleep with a very poorly bubba (who is now making z's for all she's worth), I forwent the chance of an hour or two snoozing of my own in favour of starting off a chocolate brioche roll recipe which I found on fabfoodblog and looks like it will take the best part of the day to make.  It had better be worth it!

So I'm blogging this one in two parts - early morning waffle while I neck lots of coffee followed by the picture a bit later!

Only someone who really enjoys baking or cooking will understand forgoing sleep to cook.  The husband just didn't get it when I stumbled into the bedroom bleary-eyed a little while ago to retrieve some clothes for the day.  I guess I should've figured that out last night when watching Celebrity Masterchef, he was astounded that to temper chocolate correctly, you have to be really precise with the temperatures - up to 45C then down to 28C to get the perfect gloss and crack.  "But it's just food on a plate.  It tastes the same whoever cooks it and however it's cooked" he said.  I just sighed inwardly at  those meals we had at Claridges and the Ritz when we lived in London being quite patently wasted on him.  No chance of him ever stumping up to take me to Giddleigh Park.

And on the subject of chocolate - I'll stop waffling very soon, I promise - if you're into that kind of intricate work, you should get a copy of the Squires Kitchen Guide to Working with Chocolate, written by the amazing Mark Tilling.  Although I have yet to have a go at the intricate chocolate work (still waiting for Santa to buy me a chocolate thermometer!), this book shows some beautifully simple techniques for decorating cakes.  Okay so I'm a little biased as Mark is a very old friend of mine - playing Donkey to my Mary when we were in Infant school.  But it's another much-thumbed (and personally signed!) book on my cookbook shelf that needs to be shown a little more love this year.

Okay, the brioche starter is calling me - back later!

The cut loaf - severely lacking in chocolate!

So how was it.  Well the jury is still out as to whether or not the labour of love that went into this was actually worth it.  The first two slices showed a disappointing amount of chocolate.  This may well be because I didn't want it to leak out of the ends and so tried to keep the chocolate about an inch from all the edges when I got to the rolling part.

The brioche itself is lovely, light, buttery and rich - despite looking from the outside just like my usual plain white loaf that takes about five minutes to throw together and an hour to prove and bake.

The finished loaf with a slightly cracked 'roof'
It would definitely make a good base for something else such as a bread and butter pudding or French toast - but as a standalone bread?  I would probably double the amount of chocolate next time - hard to figure out how much 8tbsp of chocolate is when it comes in chunks so I used a tub of Waitrose chocolate chunks which looked enough pre-rolling but maybe not in practice.

The other difference was that I didn't make two 1lb loaves as I only have one 1lb loaf tin and so made it in my 2lb tin.  Anyhoo, one worth some experimentation with.

The recipe is from fabfoodblog but I've copied it over here with the UK weight conversions.  More on my irritation with American measurements another day.

Ingredients: (for two 500-g brioche breads)


  • 70g bread flour
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 125ml milk, lukewarm


  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 450g bread flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 8 tbsp dark chocolate, roughly cut
  • 8 tbsp pistachios, roughly cut
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder


Make the sponge. In a large mixing bowl, Stir together the flour and yeast, add the milk and stir until the flour is well hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for about 45 minutes.

Make the dough. Add the eggs to the sponge and whisk until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt, then add this to the sponge mixture and stir until well hydrated. Leave to rest for 5 minutes.

Gradually work in the butter in the dough, about one quarter at a time, until well assimilated. Then, knead the dough for about 10 minutes, adding flour if necessary.

Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled container, cover with plastic wrap or a wet towel and leave to ferment for 90 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.

Punch the dough then flatten it into a rectangle, whose short side is of the length of the baking tin you'll be using. Place this rectangle in front of you, short side up. Sprinkle the dough with the chocolate, cocoa and pistachio nuts, then fold over the top 3cm of the dough. Press the crease, then continue folding until you reach the bottom. Pinch the final crease well, roll the dough gently to make it even, then place it in the baking tin, seam side down. Make sure the ends of the dough touch the sides of the tin to help the bread rise. Cover and leave to proof for 60 minutes.

Pre-heat the over to 180°C.

Bake for about 35 minutes. Immediately remove the loaves from the pan and leave to cool for 1 hour or longer before serving.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Torta - Mexican Club Sandwich

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I have to confess I am just a little bit in love with Thomasina Miers' Mexican Food Made Simple.  There are so many simple and tasty recipes, I just have to try them all.  In fact I'm now guilty of behaving like the husband and saying 'I don't want that for tea' (or lunch in this case) just so that I can have something really lovely instead.

Today's lunch was Torta - the Mexican club sandwich and a fab way to use up some more of those lovely Unearthed Mini Cooking Chorizos.  I'm in love with them too.  Apparently Torta is 'not for the faint-hearted'.  I consider myself made of hardy stuff.  And it's far nicer than the traditional club sandwich - I'm sure it's all to do with the gorgeous salt-spicy taste of the chorizo and the buttery avocado which compliments it so beautifully.

The only point of note is to make sure you have really big rolls otherwise everything just falls out!


Serves 4
Preparation time 20 minutes
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes or fresh tomato salsa 
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • 300g cooking chorizo
  • 4 ciabatta buns
  • 1 tbsp lard or olive oil (optional)
  • 8 large tbsp refried beans 
  • 1 avocado, mashed with the juice of half a lime
  • half a red onion, sliced very thinly
  • 1-2 baby gem lettuces
  • 4 very generous tbsp chipotle mayonnaise or ordinary mayonnaise

  1. Slice the tomatoes and dress them in salt and pepper, the chilli and a drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Slice the chorizo up into bite-size pieces that can easily be grilled, unless you are cooking them outside on the barbecue, in which case grill the sausages first and then slice them so you don't lose precious pieces in the fire. Heat a griddle or frying pan until smoking, add the chorizo and cook for a few minutes a side until it is looking good and crispy.
  3. Remove to a plate and cut the buns in half. Brush both sides of the buns with the chorizo fat and a little extra lard or oil if you think they need it. Toast on the grill pan on both sides. Smear one half of the buns with refried beans and top with the avocado, red onion, tomato, chorizo and lettuce.
  4. Smear the other half in the mayonnaise and press down firmly. Eat at once, preferably doused with healthy amounts of salsa.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Basil gnocchi with tomato sauce

Because I've got such a hectic couple of weeks coming up, I've made a list of all the things I intend to cook between now and when Ocado replenish my fridge next week to make sure I have all the ingredients I need.  On the menu this week we will hopefully have (not in any particular order) cauliflower and stilton soup, @BridestockBride's loaded potato soup, chocolate mint bars, lemon curd (practice for the christmas hampers) and...erm...well I got stuck at around five, but I'm sure I can pull something out of the bag with the random fridge contents.

Giant gnocchi!
The trouble is when you're only cooking for one - I've seriously given up trying to feed the other two anything different, unless it incorporates chocolate - you end up having to buy huge packets of things and eating the same thing for days on end.  Not much help if you're trying to try a new recipe every day. Take the red potatoes for example.  Because I've still not found time to get to the fabulous Allington Farm Shop, where you can buy as many or as few potatoes as you need, I'm now saddled with a huge 2.5kg of Red Rooster potatoes.  Given that a bag of four baking potatoes can last three months in this house, I will probably end up roasting the rest of the bag for Christmas.

So, in the spirit of economy, I decided to make gnocchi tonight.  It's something that I often buy for the child from the chiller cabinet as it's a really quick and easy tea for her when I get in from work.  I've never tried making my own.  The last time I remember having home made was when I was in fourth year juniors and my mum did a cooking lesson at school for my class.  I didn't like them back then - not sure why - but I figured if a ten-year-old can make them then they can't be that hard.

I found today's recipe on the BBC Food website.  And they are simplicity in themselves.  Stir some flour and seasoning into mash, roll into sausages, cut into bits, stick in boiling water and serve with tomato sauce.  Nearly as quick as opening a packet.  Plus the child got some of the mash (pre-seasoning) for her tea - two birds, one stone.

If I made these again, I would make them less 'rustic' ie smaller as I didn't realise how much they'd swell on cooking.  And I probably wouldn't bother with this particular tomato sauce recipe - as tasty as it was, I'm not sure it was worth an hour's worth of cooking, especially as it was only made with tinned tomatoes, not fresh. There are plenty of other fab tomato sauce recipes that can be made in a quarter of the time.

The recipe can be found here.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Chocolate Mint Truffles

Bah humbug!  Christmas.  I'm so over it already and it's only October!  I used to love Christmas as my birthday is just a few days before so when I was a kid, it was just one long round of presents and fun.  But of course, as you get older, your family dwindles, old faces leave and unless there are new additions to the family, Christmas can lose its sparkle to the point of becoming a tedious chore of filling the coffers of big corporations.

Now we have Miss Abigail, Christmas is starting to have a little sheen to it again and I'm *trying to make an effort* to make it a bit more meaningful - ie not surfing doing all my shopping on Amazon on my birthday because I can't be doing with the crowds at Cribbs Causeway.

As part of the grand plan, the 'rents and my lovely Grandad have been invited to Christmas dinner (although they're staying for three days - oh the new recipes I'll get through!) and I'm again going to make edible gifts for friends and family rather than spending a fortune in Thorntons.

The first contribution to the effort has been Gordon Ramsay's mint and chocolate truffles.  I had some mint left over from the mojito cupcakes and some cream I'd bought for a tarte au citron that never saw the light of day last weekend so it seemed the perfect recipe to try.

Rustic looking truffles
Sceptic that I am, I wasn't convinced that the mint flavour would cut through the very strong chocolate because although the kitchen smelt lovely and minty, the cream tasted of...well....cream even after steeping the mint in it for the recommended six minutes.  I also nearly didn't put the honey in as I am not a fan - preferring maple syrup wherever I can get away with it - but as I said a few days ago, The Sweary One is a multi-Michelin starred chef and I'm just a slummy mummy/business analyst/wannabee cakery owner (although I still think he needs advice on how to put spice in his banana oat muffins!).

Sticking faithfully to the recipe was quite clearly the right thing to do because once the chocolate has been cleared from the palate, the mint gives a lovely little after-kick.  So much nicer than recipes that use peppermint flavouring.  In fact, I would consider using mint-steeped cream to flavour frosting for any future bakings of the mojito cupcakes from yesterday - I feel some experimenting coming on shortly.

The only issue I encountered was that the mixture took a long time to set and I ended up freezing it for ten minutes to get it to a workable consistency.  And why is it that I spend my life with cold hands and wearing gloves when it's virtually summer outside, yet whenever I make pastry or truffles, my  palms are sweatier than a politician submitting an expense claim?  Someone should invent chillable gloves for chefs that keep your hands at a suitable temperature...

I always roll my truffles in Green and Blacks Hot Chocolate Mix which lends a lovely, sweet, slightly crunchy texture to the outside - I find cocoa dusted truffles a little too bitter for my liking.  In some ways, I guess it's the modern take on using vermicelli.  Although vermicelli is so retro, it's probably the fashionable choice for truffle coating, but I'm not that 'down with the kids' of the chocolate world.

They are now hidden in the freezer, ready to be defrosted and packaged nearer the big day.  Not sure how many people will actually get any as they may...erm...disappear over the coming weeks...

Anyhoo, the recipe is over on the Tesco Real Food website and has come from Christmas with Gordon which hasn't yet been published as I write.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Hummingbird Bakery Mojito Cupcakes

It's National Baking Week this week so on Sunday I decided to make some Mojito Cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery's (@hummingbbakery's) Cake Days book.  I've had mixed success with recipes from their original book - the vanilla cupcakes and raspberry chocolate brownie bar are to die for; other recipes such as the cheese and spinach muffins just didn't work for me.

Nevertheless, I intend to have a go at more recipes from Cake Days as so far, everything I've made from it has been more than passable.  I picked these in particular because mojitos are my cocktail of choice.  Not that I drink many as according to my mother, one sniff of a barmaid's apron and I'm anybodys...

Mojito cupcakes - replete with mint leaves
So why am I posting on Tuesday about something I baked Sunday?  Surely that's cheating??  Well I baked the cakes on Sunday, popped to the shops, came home, started stocking the fridge and my little assistant took it upon herself to tip a newly opened box of icing sugar all over my kitchen floor.  At the time, I was less than amused.

No icing sugar, no frosting.  I finished them off tonight (decorating them, not eating them!) hence why I'm using this as a sneaky Tuesday recipe.

These are mini cupcakes and now they're frosted, I totally understand why.  They are VERY sweet and I can feel my teeth rotting just looking at them.  The sponge on its own is beautifully fragrant with a hint of lime and mint and a crunchy sugar-rum topping.  But the frosting just doesn't work for me.  It is too sweet and I feel it should be sharper.  Even adding lime juice didn't seem to cut through the sweetness.  I'd welcome suggestions on how to make really sharp lemon or lime frosting as it's something I've never found a successful recipe for.  Answers on a tweet to @lilmssquirrel.

Makes 12 medium sized cupcakes or 20-30 mini cakes

For the sponge:

100ml White rum 
170g Caster sugar
40g Unsalted butter, softened
120g Plain flour
1/4 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Grated lime zest
1 tsp Grated lemon zest
1 tbsp Finely chopped mint
1 large egg
120ml Milk 
1/2 tsp Vanilla essence 

Preheat oven to 170deg C and line a muffin tin with cases 

In a saucepan bring the white rum and 30g of the sugar to the boil, reduce by half and set aside. 
Beat together the butter, flour, salt, baking powder, lime and lemon zest, mint and remaining sugar. Mix until you have a crumb like consistency. 
Mix together the egg milk and vanilla in a jug and gradually pour this into the dry mix mixing until you have a smooth batter. 

Spoon cake batter into the cases up to 2/3 full. Place in the oven and bake for 12-15 min's for mini cupcakes or 15 to 20 for bigger or until the cakes are a light golden brown and springy to the touch. 

While the cakes are still warm spoon the rum reduction over them (1/2 tsp for mini cakes 1tsp for bigger approx) Then leave to cool completely! 

While the cakes are cooling, make and drink a mojito! ... erm I mean make the frosting! 

For the frosting

80g Unsalted butter
250g Icing sugar
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp lime zest
4 tsp milk
4 tsp White rum

1tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp chopped mint or lime zest 

Using and electric whisk, beat together the butter, icing sugar, lemon and lime zest until combined in a sandy consistency. Stir together the milk and rum and pour this into the butter mixture while still beating, whisk until light and fluffy. 
Divide the frosting between the cakes. To finish, mix together the caster sugar with either 1 tsp of mint or lime zest and sprinkle over the top. 

Monday, 17 October 2011

Chorizo and Edamame Risotto

Apologies for 'Yet Another Chorizo Recipe' but the trouble with cooking for one is that you buy a something and then you have to cook with it day after day after day.  Thankfully I'm still in love with the Unearthed Mini Cooking Chorizos and tonight's recipe is well worth the effort.

After cooking for the child, and then the husband, I wasn't sure if I could be bothered to labour over a risotto, but the mindless stirring gave me ample opportunity to catch up with an old friend for twenty minutes - and at the end, I had a really gorgeous tea, all to myself.

It definitely needs a glass of crisp, dry white wine to accompany it.  And I would definitely recommend watching how strong the stock is as it was quite salty - in fact the nutritional information on the recipe (which I checked AFTER I'd made it) says there's a whopping 5.06g of salt per serving!  BBC Good Food, that is shocking.  Even though it was ever-so tasty.

The recipe is from this month's magazine and hasn't been published online yet.

Serves 4

  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 100g smoked bacon, diced (I used pancetta)
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 350g small cooking chorizo
  • 300g risotto rice
  • 1 litre hot chicken stock
  • 300g frozen broad beans (I used fresh edamame beans and cooked them first)
  1. Heat the oil in a medium pan, then add the bacon, shallots, garlic and chorizo.
  2. Cook gently for 8 mins, stirring occasionally so everything cooks evenly.
  3. Stir in the rice, coating all over with the cooking juices in the pan.
  4. Add enough stock to cover the rice, bring to a simmer and gently cook until all the liquid is absorbed.
  5. Continue adding the stock a ladleful at a time, and gently cook.
  6. Just before the final ladleful of stock, add the broad beans and stir through, cooking for 304 minutes until tender.
  7. Remove the chorizo, slice thinly, return to the pan and mix through before serving.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Nutella and Banana French Toast

Bridestock Bride, look away now!  In fact, don't read my blog at all today.  I'm suffering from a mother's guilt today so I don't want to also feel really bad for you breaking the engagement photos diet.

The plan for later today was to make Mojito cupcakes, but I have a poorly bubba on my hands and wanted to make her something for breakfast that she might eat as she's not eaten anything other than grapes for the past couple of days.

What could be more tempting to a toddler than chocolate, bananas and strawberries?  And with some wholemeal bread and eggs cunningly disguised as French toast, we are on to a winner.  Well except that she will need another bath when she's finished.

And a small note to any other mummys trying this - make sure you're not wearing a white top when your toddler eats this!

The recipe is courtesy of

It reminds me of another favourite recipe of mine - Elvis' Peanut Butter and Banana sandwich from the much-thumbed but rarely used Nigella Bites.  In fact, although I've salivated over the book on many occasion, this is the only recipe I've ever tried (so another book that needs to be used this year!)  I've only ever made this sandwich once, but it tasted like Manna from heaven after a week of sobbing into my pillow and not eating after I split up from my first long term boyfriend. I still can't believe that I was *that* upset that I didn't eat for a week, but it was worth it to eat this sandwich.  Apparently the recipe is a cut-down version of what The King consumed.  Much respect to him for managing more than the recipe - I think I only got through about half of it!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Chicken Noodle Soup

 I have a poorly bubba.  Poorly bubba = sleepless nights for mummy.  Needed something restorative for tea and to fortify me for the next impending sleepless night which is already underway judging by the levels of crying coming from the nursery (yes I'm a bad mother, I do controlled crying occasionally).

More green needed to glam it up
Had it in my head I was going to cook a lovely pasta dish but the husband insisted on chicken with pesto pasta - the dish he made me on our first date.  I do like it but just wasn't in the mood for so many carbs - it would just make me sluggish and sleepy and I need to be on the ball again tonight.

So a quick Google and check in the fridge saw me cooking another BBC Good Food recipe for Chicken Noodle Soup.  Very flavoursome although I will say the chicken wasn't very tender - maybe it was a duff chicken and would've been tough however I cooked it.  Sadly I didn't have any herbs or spring onions which would have made it a little more tasty and more aesthetically pleasing, but it was good enough.  And the amount of chilli, ginger and garlic should ward off any cold coming within a hundred miles of me for the next couple of months.

Mojito cupcakes tomorrow :o))))  - poorly child permitting!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Summer tacos with courgette and corn

Really short and sweet tonight as t' internet is broke.and I'm having to use my phone. Really tasty and quick lunch from Thomasina Miers. Am completely in love with her latest book to the point that I suggested a Mexican night to the hubby. Silly idea!

Unfortunately, this was just a quick lunch so I didn't have the time to make my own tacos - although will definitely give that a try with one of the other filling suggestions another day.  But this was a really good way to use up left over flour tortillas with a bunch of fridge staples - corn, courgettes, shallots, feta and lime juice.  A real taste of summer.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • corn kernels cut from a cob 
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 700g courgettes, cut into small dice
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped chervil
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • crumbled feta to serve
  1. Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan and add the oil.
  2. When it's hot, add the shallots, garlic, corn, chilli and courgettes.
  3. Fry, stirring all the time, until the vegetables are gently coloured on all sides and the onion is translucent.
  4. Stir in the herbs, squeeze over the limes and season to taste.
  5. Crumble the feta over.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Chorizo Pasta

The husband has just asked me why I want to bother to stay up this evening baking pirate cupcakes to take to one of my oldest friends.  He suggested that I just hit the sack early and 'buy some in Sainsburys like everyone else'.


He really doesn't appreciate food.  He's definitely eating to live rather than living to eat.  I'm the other way round.  Which is why, after being awake since 3am, running at 5am, getting to work at 7am, having a pretty stressful day, coming home to make tea for Abigail (scampi, peas and pasta), playing with her and sorting out bedtime, I then found myself cooking two more different dinners - which, lets face it is a frequent occurrence in our house.

See tonight I'd planned to have a go at Carbonara.  Yet something else I've never made.  I thought the husband would go for that as he likes spaghetti, cheese and bacon and I offered him garlic bread with it which would ordinarily seal the deal.  But he just looked at me sceptically and said 'Have I had that before?" Yes, in a restaurant, many a time.  "Can I have something else instead?'  Do I have one toddler, or two?

Red pasta in red bowl = bad presentation
So despite me being absolutely shattered, he got sausages, egg and bacon and because I didn't have to please him, I made Rachel Allen's fab chorizo pasta.  Thank you to Ocado for delivering me Unearthed Mini Cooking Chorizos and all the other bits and bobs my fridge was devoid of shortly before the critical dinner decisions were made.  I shall be noshing on the rest of those divine little sausies, simply baked with some home made bread on Sunday.

Made a couple of changes to the recipe.  Used chilli oil instead of dried chillies, didn't add rosemary as I didn't have any and used Garden Gourmet parsley as I'm tired of those 'Growing Herbs' dying on me before the week's out.  I also served it with spaghetti instead of the recommended rigatoni - but pasta is pasta is pasta some days in my book.  In truth, it's probably easier to serve with spaghetti for one portion - I'd probably use pasta shapes if I was serving to more people.

In fact, this was so lovely and 'inoffensive' that I shall be making it for tea on Saturday for the hubby with a mix of chicken and chorizo.  Top marks.  Here's the recipe.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Today's recipe was scuppered by a burst water main on the one way system, meaning I couldn't get to the supermarket for fresh veggies for Thai chicken noodle soup. Apparently the whole of Chippenham is at a standstill.  I am just grateful that I was able to slob around working from home today!

Contents of the fridge are rapidly dwindling.  So out came the filo again.  A small piece of feta.  And hey presto, we have borek.

I absolutely adore these little gems.  I fell in love with them on holiday in Turkey when I was nursing my first teenage broken heart.  We were upgraded to a four star hotel where all the other tourists complained that there were no full English breakfasts and decamped to the local McDonalds, leaving my mum and I to indulge in traditional Turkish fayre at our leisure.

I've never tried making them until now and am amazed at the simplicity.  Will definitely be making again.  A similar recipe I have to try during this year was given to me by a good Serbian friend.  It's a similar dish which he calls Cheese Pie and uses a mix of cottage and feta cheese and baked into squares rather than little cigarette rolls.  I've eaten his offerings many times, but never got round to using the recipe myself.  So watch this space.

The recipe today was courtesy of the Good Food Channel and can be found here 

I only made a quarter of the recipe otherwise I'd've eaten the whole lot!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Veggie Samosas

If I really tried hard, I could turn vegetarian.  Not proper vegetarian of course.  None of this no-dairy, no eggs vegan-ness (because you can't make decent cake without eggs and butter).  But one of those veggies who doesn't eat  meat, who will eat fish if they're out at someone's house for dinner.  And has the occasional bacon sarnie because if nobody you know sees you eating it then you're still a real veggie.  Yup!

I've never really been that into meat.  I'll eat it and I'll cook it.  But mostly, I can live without it.  I'd miss roast chicken dinners a bit but I only ever have those when I go home.  The only thing I'd really miss would be spag bol.  In fact, I should add spag bol to my list of things I'd eat for my last meal (see yesterday's post) because I love it.  Take me to any Italian restaurant with a huge and enticing menu and if they serve spag bol, then that's what I'll have.  It's my lucky, pre-race meal (I eat it the night before - who could run ten yards after a huge plateful, let alone 10k?).  And I'd eat it nearly every day if I could.  But the husband only tolerates it once a month.  So I guess that makes me very nearly veggie anyway.

This week, I've been mostly investigating options to use up the packet of frozen filo I bought.  And no, I won't be researching how to make my own filo this year.  I was going to try making Baklava, but Ocado failed on the pistachio front so savouries along the lines of Borek and Spring Rolls are probably in the offing.

Unfortunately, my veg bowl is rather lacking in fresh vegetables at the moment aside from about seven tonnes of onions (the mountain is slowly decreasing), some sprouting potatoes and some avocados which just will not ripen.  Or, looking at it positively, I have the makings of vegetarian samosas.

A few weeks ago, I discovered some lovely ones from Waitrose and proceeded to eat them for tea every night for about two weeks.  I may complain about the husbands lack of adventurousness, but at times, I can be nearly as bad.  But at least I snap out of it after a while.  So this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try making something that I buy but making it better.  Or more cheaply.

Veggie samosas with garlic, coriander and yogurt dip
I often get caught up in (baking-related) discussions about the expense of cooking from scratch vs buying something time-saving and passable from the supermarket.  If I had the time and money, I would totally cook as much as I could from scratch.  And now I'm committing to trying one new recipe every day, I'm starting to find that some things are just as easily made as they are taken from the packet.  The only downside is not always having all the ingredients to hand but there's always improvisation.

I found the recipe at a website called  That sounds a bit porno now I've typed it out loud.  Nevertheless, the samosas were indeed tasty and they were indeed meatless.

I loved the technique of brushing the oil onto the filo with your fingers rather than with a brush as I often manage to tear the filo when I'm being a little over-exuberant with my brushing.  Hmmm...  That sounds a bit porno too!

Okay time to stop rattling on about nothing and point you in the direction of the recipe.  And for me to potter off to bed after a ridiculously early start for my run.  Yes there are two 4.30s in a day you know!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Tortilla Soup

Baby it's cold outside.  And blustery.  Perfect weather for soup!

I recently read an article about how the State of Texas have banned death row prisoners from requesting a last meal after one inmate asked for 'two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover's pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts'.  Rather flippantly, I think that would have been just as likely to kill him as the lethal injection, but in today's straightened times, I can see the State of Texas' point.

It got me thinking about what I would request if I knew I had just one last meal to eat ever.  If I was stuck on a desert island, I'd want to take a toaster and an eternal supply of toastables and butter (I just made that word up - but bread, bagels, waffles, crumpets, muffins....).  But if it was definitely the last meal ever ever ever then I would be stumped as it would depend on my mood.

Most likely it would be something that would bring back memories.  Like cauliflower soup.  Most people blanch at the idea or insist on adding so much stilton that the cauli flavour is lost but my mum used to make cauliflower soup when I was a kid and it is one of my favourite ever tastes.  In fact I had some from the canteen today at lunch and was pleasantly surprised that theirs was passable - but still not a patch on mum's.

Despondent avocado chunks
For main course, I'd have either 'Cheering Up Dinner' - my beloved grandma's roast chicken with all the trimmings or her sausage and potato bake and for pudding my mum's raspberry fool and a chocolate fondant with proper vanilla ice-cream.  And something with toffee in it... and then a Tia Maria coffee to wash it all down.  Because I could.  And I wouldn't care about needing elasticated trousers or looking like a beached whale because I would've enjoyed myself.

And I'm still enjoying myself fifteen days into the recipe-trying.  I made soup for tea too as I am soooo cold for some reason and when I'm cold, I like red soup.  Today, it was Thomasina Miers' Tortilla soup.  If I'm honest, I'd use less liquid as it was a bit to thin for my liking and all the toppings sank rather despondently to the bottom, rather than gracing the top like the picture in the book.  Nevertheless, the flavours were amazing.  Sweet, Italian-inspired tomato soup (this is a Mexican recipe!) with a smokey chipotle-chilli kick on the after-taste, complimented by creamy avocado and salty feta.  I didn't have any coriander to make it look pretty - the one in my garden has finally given up the ghost.

Definitely recommended though.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 corn tortilla
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Chipoltes en adobo 
  • 2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1.5 litres chicken stock (I'd use a litre next time)

for the garnishes
  • 1 ripe avocado cubed
  • lime juice
  • flour tortilla strips
  • chillies, finely sliced
  • coriander leaves
  • feta cheese, cubed

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and sweat the onions over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and tortilla and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the chipoltes, tomatoes, sugar, oregano and seasoning. 
  3. Cook for a further 5 minutes before adding the stock. 
  4. Simmer for 10 minutes then blitz with a stick blender.
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