Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Clementine Curd

Jamie, Jamie, Jamie.  Your cheeky-chappie persona grates more than my easy-peel clementines did.  But you seduced me with your free Christmas recipe booklet from my mother's Daily Fail at the weekend.  Your Get Ahead Gravy came highly recommended by one of the few friends whose taste and culinary skills I implicitly trusted.  So despite my initial reticence, I was swayed by the glorious orangeyness of the clementine curd.
The ingredients

It started so well.  Aside from the battle to zest easy-peel clementines.  Now I understand why there are difficult-to-peel ones.  You use them for making curd.  Clementines juiced.  One lemon, two limes juiced and zested.  Lots of sugar added.  Butter cubed.  Eggs, cracked and lightly whisked.

Heated gently until it coated the back of my spoon.   It looked a little dodgy at the start.  I won't say what I think it looked, like - take a look and decide for yourself from the pic. In the end, no scrambled citrus-flavoured eggs for me.  But It's-Not-Setting.  I keep nipping downstairs to take a look.  But it seems to be getting runnier rather than thicker.

Early's not scrambled, honest!
I made Nigel Slater's lemon curd a few weeks ago and this worked perfectly.  The difference here being that he cooked it in a bain marie rather than straight into the pan.  Taste-wise, Jamie's is very sweet.  Too sweet for me in fact.  But it would work well on toast or with cream in pancakes.

But Sir Nigel's set.  Beautifully.  And despite him saying it only keeps for a couple of weeks (I missed that bit until last night when I re-read the whole article I posted a link to previously) mine has been in the fridge for six weeks and when I cracked it open, instead of finding a slimy mess, it was still the same gorgeous, canary-yellow, unctuous, wobbly curd that I remembered from when I made it.

Have just now filled one large jar with my clementine curd and have left the rest to cool in the pan.  Not looking hopeful, however just stirred a spoonful into a pot of greek yogurt and it tastes pretty darn good.

No longer lumpy, but it won't thicken...
Looking at the two recipes, they are pretty equivalent (Jamie's is roughly double that of Nigel's).  The only difference being that they use the same amount of butter.  Would double have made Jamie's thicken more?  This is where I find myself again desperate for someone (please Heston!) to publish a book on the science of normal cookery that isn't in French.  Why isn't there one on the market?  Or if there is, someone please tell me where I can get a copy.  Surely we all could do with some help along the lines of 'if you use more eggs in recipe X then Y will happen'.

Jamie's Clementine Curd recipe is here.  But I would still recommend Nigel's recipe for Lemon Curd every time.

Picture of the finished jar as me and the camera are two flights of stairs away from the jar.  #toolazy #thisiswhyI'mfat

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Baked Eggs with Ratatouille

Ratatouille is one of those things that I've often made but I've never actually followed a recipe.

My general method is to chop up lots of whatever mediterranean looking vegetables I can find in my fridge, bung them in a pan to fry for a while, pour in some tinned tomatoes, a couple of Knorr chicken stock cubes and a tin or two of chopped tomatoes et voila.  Ratatouille.

It has a runny yolk!
Today, I learned to make it Gordon's way.  And I wasn't too wide of the mark until it came to seasoning.  He doesn't use Knorr!  Or any other kind of stock.  Just some smoked paprika and cumin, a little garlic, some chilli, salt and pepper.  A complete revelation!  In fact, I'm not sure I can remember the last time I used a stock cube (except when making soup) whereas normally I bung them into everything (savoury!) to add flavour.

The other thing that surprised me was how little 'sauce' the ratatouille had.  He suggested adding just 250g (slightly more than half a tin) of chopped toms to the mixture.  I ended up using the whole tin as I had quite a large aubergine and added some mushrooms as they were kicking round the fridge and I was a little light on the bell pepper front.  In fact, it very nearly simmered dry before the veggies were soft, but in the end, it was so much nicer than my usually 'wet' version.

Not a single rat in sight
Despite the lovely, Spanish aroma emanating from the pan, it had to be seasoned within an inch of its life with salt and pepper to compensate for the blandness of the vegetables.  I've noticed that 'sleb chefs use an inordinate amount of seasoning when they're on the telly.  Is this because their food is really tasteless???

My biggest success today was getting a baked egg to have a runny yolk.  I watched the clock like a hawk and then gave it an extra two minutes because I don't have a flat-ish oven proof dish suitable for this (I think he used something like a sabayon dish) hence, a couple of extra mins for my deeper dish.

This made it really hot when trying to eat it and I now have a burnt tongue but it was a passable, reasonably healthy meal - I had it for tea, but most people would probably see it as a light lunch.  Using the rest of the ratatouille for lunch for the next couple of days, but I think I'll keep looking for a better recipe that needs less salt and pepper.

Serves 4
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 1 onion, sliced into 1.5cm pieces
  • 1 aubergine, sliced into 1.5cm pieces
  • 2 peppers, sliced into 1.5cm pieces
  • 1 large courgette, sliced into 1.5cm pieces
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp hot paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder or chopped fresh chillies (optional)
  • 250g chopped tomatoes (I used 450g)
  • 4 large eggs

  1. Heat the oven to 190C. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over a high heat, then add the onion. Saute for 2 minutes, then add the aubergine and pepper, crush in the garlic and fry for another minute. Add the courgette and saute for another 2 minutes.
  2. Add the cumin, paprika and chopped tomatoes and give it a good stir. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes until the vegetables are tender, stirring every so often.  Test and adjust the seasoning.
  3. Divide the ratatouille amongst four shallow oven proof dishes.   Make an indentation in the ratatouille with a spoon and then crack an egg into each one.
  4. Bake for 8-12 minutes until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny in the middle. Serve immediately with some french bread.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Red Onion Marmalade

I'm now trying to get into the swing of Christmas cooking.  This is the first time I've ever hosted Christmas for the family and it's a really big thing for me.

In my head, I know exactly what I want to cook and how things will go.  In reality, it will probably be a total disaster - although I must stop pondering that in case it turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When I was younger, I was classed as fussy by my family.  My mum readily reminds me that when she weaned me, I'd eat literally anything.  That morphed into eating anything so long as it had mint sauce on it.  Then I learned to say no and became fussy.

The last bit of knowledge is a recent revelation.  For many years, she led me to believe that I got fussy when I went through my 'I-will-only-eat-crunchy-peanut-butter-and-celery' phase.  But she's finally conceded that I got fussy when I learned to say 'No'.  I think she's now realised the level of frustration I've reached since Miss A learned to say 'No' and how useless I feel that my daughter will only eat cheese and fruit despite my attempts to maintain her once cosmopolitan palate.

My family think I'm fussy because I don't eat pork and lamb and will absolutely not eat offal or tomatoes that have the slimy insides in.  They still don't quite know me as well as they think they do.  I won't eat pork or lamb that's been roasted to within an inch of its life and is covered in layers of chewy fat and gristle.  In the same way that at lunch today at work, I failed to finish my chilli beef soup on discovering a piece of solid fat floating halfway down the bowl.  Visible meat-fat in food turns my stomach.

Likewise offal.  The only time I remember being offered offal at home as a child was when my mum used to make stuffed hearts and they stank the house out.  And kidneys that tasted of wee spoiled the lovely sausage-y dish otherwise known as Kidneys Turbigo.  I love coating liver in flour ready for frying but once it resembles a slab of concrete, it somehow loses its appeal.

All of the above are enjoyed by most of the people I'm cooking for (my mother, grandfather and stepfather).  The other guests (the husband and Miss A) only eat cheese, fruit, fish fingers and chicken kievs (the husband).

Would Paddington approve??
On my list of things I would cook for my imaginary family are: sprouts with bacon, pancetta and chestnuts; Jamie's Get Ahead Gravy; citrus basted Turkey; mulled cider; orange crust mince pies; clementine curd; red onion marmalade; ham in coca-cola; and Dame Mary's Christmas chutney.  All of which will sound lovely to most, but I can guarantee you that not one of them would go down well with the family.  They don't do sweet and meat.  They like traditional Christmas cake or Dundee cake.  The husband will only eat shop-bought mince pies.  And what's wrong with boiled-to-death sprouts and Bisto?

Ah well.  I'm going to indulge myself with some practice anyway.  Today's was red-onion marmalade, served with goats cheese crostini.

The recipe for the marmalade came from Leiths Simple Cookery.  Very tasty, but when it was cooking, I thought I was going to suffocate from the fumes from the wine and the onions.  Luckily it was tamed by the addition of the honey towards the end.  Makes for a very tasty, light snack and I can see it being applied to a cold turkey sandwich on Boxing Day which I shall enjoy whilst everyone else just has turkey and butter in theirs.


  • 3 red onions
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsps soft brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 300 ml red wine
  • 1 tbsp honey

  1. Finely slice the onions.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat and fry the onions until they start to soften and caramelise.
  3. Crush the garlic clove and add to the pan.  Fry for 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in the sugar and continue to heat for two minutes until the onions start to caramelise.
  5. Add the wine and cook over a medium heat until almost all of the liquid has reduced.
  6. Stir in the honey and season to taste.
For the crostini, I brushed slices of ciabatta with olive oil then baked at 200C (fan) for 5-7 mins.  I topped with slices of goats cheese and returned to the oven for five minutes until the cheese melted.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Apple and Rhubarb Pie

Staying with the Mothership this weekend, I figured it was the ideal opportunity for a masterclass in how to make pastry.  Many moons ago - before I was born - she was a pastry chef at the biggest hotel in Southampton so I thought I couldn't go wrong.
The finished pie (it leaked a bit)

I normally buy ready made pastry because it's easier and quicker and always tastes good.  Despite this, I still have shrinkage problems when I'm making mice pies and other small pies.  So I decided it was time to go back to basics and learn how to make my own.

And then she handed me her copy of 'Practical Cookery' by Ceserani and Kinton (1967 edition) and left me to get on with it!  Thanks mum.  I duly chose method two which she'd highlighted as the best option when she was a student in another lifetime.

It's a real chef's book because it's well thumbed, covered in prehistoric food splashes and annotated as she learned her craft and improved the basic recipes with her own twists.  In contrast, like me, she has a pile of pristine, glossy, celebrity chef scribed books that have barely had the spines cracked and have never even been near the kitchen - just salivated over with thoughts of a grand dinner party that never happens.

And yet, despite using a real chef's book, rather than a celebrity chef's book, I still had trouble.

First I made the mistake of asking why people say you should mix pastry with a round ended knife.  If there's one mantra I remember my mother chanting to me as a child (aside from 'don't get pregnant before you're married) was 'fingers were made before forks'.  This obviously applies to knives because she insisted that I use my hands like a real chef.  Even my comment that I remember always watching my beloved grandma using a knife to make her pastry as she lovingly crafted an apple pie (whilst I stole bits of apple when her back was turned) fell on deaf ears.  So if someone can tell me why I should use a knife, please email or tweet me.
Pastry made to a sixties recipes - looks like it was made then too!

The pastry didn't come together very well.  After a heated discussion, I was offered a second egg.  And yet the pastry still cracked every time I tried to roll it.  Apparently this is because sweet shortcrust pastry is similar to shortbread and more biscuit-like than regular shortcrust.  I'd really like the proper scientific explanation such as how it's something to do with the temperature of the butter or the gluten in the flour but Heston wasn't around when my mum was in chef school so the best answer I got was 'Because...'

Anyhow, the finished result wasn't all that bad.  The base pastry was a bit too thick as I struggled to roll that layer out without it breaking - but it cooked well and meant that the juice from the fruit didn't seep through.  No soggy bottom.  Result!

Ready for baking
The filling was from my mum's garden - half windfalls and half late rhubarb with a scatter of sugar and a water sugar glaze on the top.

The only thing I'd've changed was to use a bit more fruit but we were at the mercy of the garden supplies. Other than that, not bad for a first attempt.  Now to try a slightly different pastry recipe for my mince pies.

I now need to try and liberate the book and its brother - 'Patisserie' by L. I. Hanneman from her bookshelves - both are fantastic books with all the basic recipes that you then add your own twist to.  I could learn so much from these books - such a shame they're not still in print - everyone should own a copy.

Pate a Sucre (Sweet Pastry) Recipe

  • 500g flour
  • 150g chilled butter or margarine
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 1 egg (I used two in the end)
  • pinch of salt

  1. Rub the butter and flour together to make fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Make a well in the centre, pour in the sugar and egg and combine until the sugar dissolves.  Gradually incorporate the flour and butter mixture.
  3. Keep mixing until a smooth paste is achieved.
  4. Leave to rest for 20 minutes before using.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Chocolate amaretto fondue

I'm not sure my mum really gets this blog. I thought she might given that she used to be a chef and ignited my love of cooking many years ago, even if that love laid dormant for many years.
But staying with her this weekend, I've repeatedly said 'I need to cook something new today' and she's just looked at me rather bemusedly and carried on cooking.
Tea tonight was 'luxury fish pie'.  I asked if I could make it. She ignored my pleading and we ended up with a pie in need of seasoning (even she said it was rubbish) - serves her right. She should've let me do it :-)
So what to do? I have a fondue set at home I bought when I first left home and its never been out of its box because I was led to believe there was a dark art to the world of fondue making.  But where chocolate fondue is concerned, a quick Google revealed its just a runny ganache.
In a nutshell (recipe from bring 150ml double cream to boiling point. Stir in 100g chopped chocolate until combined into a silky-smooth sauce. Add 50ml amaretto or other booze of your choice. Serve with chopped fruit, marshmallows and shortbread biscuits or cubes of madeira cake.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Breakfast Burrito

I'm not normally one for a huge breakfast.  I fluctuate between porridge or toast and for work I now take Bircher muesli or my homemade granola and yogurt.

Back in the day, we always used to have a big fat cooked breakfast on a Sunday morning - my favourite being the fried bread.  Oh how I long for those days.  But it's no wonder why I have a larger than average family.

This morning, however, we had an electrician coming to fix the plug socket for our fridge freezer.  The fridge freezer is a recent purchase and although not capacious by American standards, for us, it is bigger than the last one.

This means that even though it has lots of food in it, it often looks empty.  So I've started hoarding jars of things.  And losing things at the back of the fridge for all eternity.  Having to empty it this morning, I turned up two 9 packs of eggs I bought for extra baking last weekend that I never did, a half eaten tin of refried beans and more chorizo than it is sensible to have in a house where only one person eats it.


Today also involves decamping to stay with the Mothership for a couple of nights after I finish work at midday.  This always raises my blood pressure - not least with all the complexity of getting out of the door in the first place.  I have to pack enough clothes just in case the child has multiple accidents - she hasn't yet touch plastic-covered MDF, but I just know if I pack light disaster will ensue.  Then there's all her attendant paraphernalia.  The lullaby light show.  Baby monitor.  Her pillow.  A selection of stuffed animals.  Her drawing stuff.  Her breakfast cereal as she will not eat cornflakes and that is all my mother will ever buy.  Her milk because she has special Lactose free milk.  Enough snacks to last until doomsday to avoid afternoon melt-down in case we drop in on friends before arriving at mothers.  And a million other things that I race around the house stuffing into carrier bags at the last minute.

Look...there are healthy green bits.
I know all my mummy friends are nodding in sympathy at this.  It's something the childless just-don't-get.

Anyhow this means that I'll miss lunch and as I'm out with the girls tonight (hurrah!) I won't eat until late. So a big breakfast was the order of the day.

And very satisfying it was too.  It's the kind of thing I'd expect to get if I ever went to Me-hi-co but in reality it's probably the thing served in McDonalds on CopaCabana beach and no self-respecting Mexican would ever go near it.

Also not something to eat if you're on a lose-weight diet like what I should be doing.

Check out the recipe here

I added some chives to the eggs and used the half tin of refried beans - I buy the little tins from Discovery as they're nice and spicy and don't look like cat food like the Old El Paso ones do.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Pineapple salsa

Busy day, busy evening.
Gordon Ramsay's pineapple salsa with ham salad for lunch.
Sounds odd but strangely tasty.
Will post recipe later - it's from Gordon's Greatest Hits.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Easy Vanilla Cake

When I had the lightbulb moment that gave birth to this challenge, I never considered the finer details of the rules.  What happens if I'm bedridden and can't cook?  Can I do two recipes another day?  Could I convince the husband to cook a new recipe for me (fat chance) and just try the food?  What if I try two new recipes on one day anyway?  Can I 'cheat' and carry one over to the next?  What about days like today when I'm trying a new recipe but won't be able to taste it until Friday?  Does that recipe count as today's recipe of the day because I'm cooking it today or not until the tasting is complete?  And I'm decorating it tomorrow so today's picture will look really rubbish as it will just be a sponge in a tin.

In all honesty it would be easier to carry it over to Friday because I have to work in the morning and then drive the cake half way across the country on Friday afternoon so I will struggle to find time to fit in another recipe.

I decided to make a fondant covered sponge celebration cake.  I wanted to do my usual chocolate cake, but I wasn't sure how it would stand up to being covered with fondant rather than just ganache so I figured I'd look to the expertise of BBC Good Food again.  I made a wedding cake from their recipe collection earlier this year for the same friend and the lemon layer was beautiful so I thought I'd give their Easy Vanilla Cake a whirl.

Very anaemic cake going back in the oven
Moist.  Here I go again with my wandering brain.  @MermHart (Miranda from the telly) you have so much to answer for.  I can't hear the word 'moist' without it making me chuckle to myself after a scene about eating National Trust cake - not that I've ever had a moist cake in a vastly over-priced National Trust cafe, but still it's worth a watch on YouTube.

When I finally got into 'Miranda' I just adored it as it's kind of how I used to imagine my life would be when I was a kid.  The wandering mind (I still have that); bursting into song like life is just a musical; dating a talented and gorgeous chef like Tom Ellis' character Gary - well you can't have it all...

Anyway, those first five paragraphs were from this morning when I was basking in the early morning glow of being proactive.  Fourteen hours later and disaster has struck.

I still don't know if it's me not having gotten to grips with my new cooker or if there was too much syrup poured over the cake but this took moist to a whole new level.  The cake is now languishing in the bin.  There is moist and there is soggy.  This erred on the side of downright soaking.  It just fell apart.
A bit that didn't end up in the bin being taste tested

When I took it out of the oven at first, it was really anaemic looking as you can see from the picture.  Another twenty minutes and it appeared to be cooked through (I stabbed it multiple times to test) but was still pale.  I continued following the recipe and duly cooled it, covered it with syrup and then left it to cool completely but as soon as I sliced the top to neaten it up I knew I had a disaster on my hands.

It was very vanilla-y and very moist.  The bits that weren't soggy tasted okay but all in all, an unmitigated disaster.  My chocolate cake is now baking away.  Should've gone with that in the first place and just tried a different recipe today.

Oh well.  Can't have success every day.  Will I make it again?  Probably not despite the rave reviews its had from other bakers.  I will look for another vanilla cake elsewhere.  And buy an oven thermometer too - just in case...

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Lime and Chilli Pitta Chips

Some days, I just really can't be bothered with cooking tea.  After a long day at work, precious time with my gorgeous girl and the bedtime battle (which is improving), I then have to face cooking two separate dinners.  And on days like today, I can't even be bothered with one.

I'd happily just eat toast for tea most days.  In fact, if I was ever stranded on a desert island, my luxury item would be a toasting fork.  Or thinking about it, I could make one from a bit of driftwood so maybe an endless supply of toastables (bread, crumpets, English Muffins....).

Second to toasted things, I like crunchy things.  This drives the husband potty.  We have curry.  He has naan.  I have to have poppadums.  He shoots me evil looks throughout dinner as he can't hear the telly. We have bread rolls.  I have to buy soft ones for him and the crunchiest ones I can possibly find for me.  Crunchy things encompasses so many (unhealthy) delights that I can't begin to name them all.  And I like Cadburys Crunchies too!  Which reminds me - homemade honeycomb will be going in the Christmas hampers although sadly, it's not a new recipe.  Maybe I'll make marshmallows...mind's wandering again!

Anyhow.  1) Can't be bothered to cook.  2)  Need tasty carbs.  3)  Need new recipe.  BBC Good Food to the rescue!

Lovely simple recipe.  Don't know why I've never thought of doing this myself.  Tear up a couple of pittas, brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with lime zest and chilli flakes.  Whack in the oven for 10 minutes until crispy.  Serve with a creamy dip - which is definitely needed if you are heavy handed with the chilli flakes.

In amongst my favourite crispy things are lime doritos.  The husband doesn't like them because a) they are lime flavoured; b) they are tortilla chips; c) they are noisy; d) I can eat a whole packet in one go (he doesn't know this but if he reads this, he'll take great pleasure in reminding me that THIS IS WHY I AM FAT - in my defence, I've only done it on really bad days and probably never more than twice in 34.9 years)

This recipe is now my replacement for lime doritos because a) it's a great way to use up spare pittas before they go mouldy; b) they are really tasty; c) they don't contain MSG; and d) they were so noisy he couldn't hear the football.

I was definitely surprised by how well the lime flavour came through given that only the zest was used.  Will now make again (and again, and again...) and try other combinations of spices to flavour the pittas and other variations on the dips - I picked the garlic and herb one today.

The recipe for the pitta chips can be found here (if the instructions above weren't explanatory enough) and the selection of dip ideas can be found here.

Thank you BBC Good Food.  You're making my year really quite lovely!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Prawn rice noodle salad

The trouble with cooking for one is that you often end up with piles some special ingredient with a limited shelf-life and having to eat it for days on end.  Kind of like the Christmas turkey, you have to keep looking for different and interesting ways to use ingredients.  Or just eating the same thing over and over again.

This weekend saw me with prawns and rice noodles a-plenty.  And I really wasn't in the mood for them after Friday's lovely Singapore noodle-fest.  But, this challenge is all about looking for different recipes and being a little adventurous, which is why my lunch today is a prawn and rice noodle salad - with mango.

Sweet and meat is kind of like marmite.  You either love it or hate it.  Growing up, whenever it was gammon steak for tea, there was one camp inhabited by my mother and grandfather where pineapple on the side was a crime (they had a fried egg instead) whereas my grandma and I embraced the contrast of salt-pink gristle and oversweet, metallic-tinged pineapple rings alongside lashings of cauliflower cheese (heaven) and oven chips (god how I hate those things).

Please excuse the tidemark round the box...
But sweet and seafood is an entirely new thing for me.  The ingredient seems very pan-Asian but seeing as how the furthest East I've been is Turkey (the place, not the bird) I couldn't say if it's anywhere near authentic.  But I had all the ingredients to hand and it sounded portable so game on.

It's different.  I adored the dressing, but still not sure about the salad as a whole.  Probably a 'grower'.  I'm not saying I wouldn't eat it again, but I wouldn't go out of my way to make it in my current lifetime.  I don't know anyone else who would eat it if I cooked it.  I know people who would eat bits of it (my mother the prawns but she'd hate the mango and peanut butter, the child would eat the mango) but unless I am ever faced with visitors with distinguished tastes, the next time I eat this will be when I throw caution to the wind in my late fifties, take a gap year and backpack round the far East.  Like I said - not again in my current lifetime.

And please excuse the tidemark around the box in the picture...trying to save on the washing up, I mixed it in the box - lazy or good for the environment????

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Bread of the Week: Naan Bread

For every yin, there is a yang.  A few weeks back, I had success with replacing the usual Sunday night curry with Dame Mary's Chicken Tikka.  It is now the husband's favourite ever dish and I will be cooking it for all eternity - especially since the unfortunate Loyd Grossman curry sauce episode.

Sadly, for that yin, today's yang is the total failure of the Naan bread recipe from Breads of the World (or whatever the book is's downstairs and I can never remember....)
The teardrops exploded

A long time ago, we used to eat the dry, tasteless shop-bought naans that have a sell-by date of 'the twelfth of never'.  Then, when the husband was diagnosed by some Chinese quack herbalist as having a wheat intolerance (and a tomato, dairy, meat, poultry, sugar, caffeine, starch and life intolerance) I switched to making my own.  Well cheating at it.  I just bought Sharwood's Naan mix.  I figured that one teeny bit of wheat a week couldn't hurt.

When we finally realised that someone as fussy as my husband would never survive on a diet of mung beans and fake bread made from super expensive non-wheat flours that went mouldy the second it was out of the oven, we reverted back to wheat bread, but I continued pretending that I was making the same naans that we'd had before because he liked them.

And then Sainsburys stopped stocking the mix.  Or they only have it sporadically, and never it seems, when I venture into the shop.  I can't find it anywhere else (other than from so tonight I decided to follow the recipe from Breads of the World.
Post baking

It got a thumbs down from us both.  It may be partly my fault for over-baking it slightly - but even so it was completely tasteless.  Just a half-teaspoon of salt to 8oz bread flour seems so wrong.  It's funny because for the past few weeks, I've actually been making naan out of my quick bread recipe and although it's not quite as soft as the Sharwoods naan mix comes out, it was far nicer than the proper recipe we had tonight.

Ah well.  Back to the drawing board. Make of this recipe what you will.

Makes 3 large naan

  • 225g bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 7g sachet dried yeast
  • 1 tsp onion seeds
  • 4tbsp lukewarm milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 1tbsp melted butter or ghee

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add the wet ingredients and knead to a smooth dough.
  2. Leave to rise in a warm place in an oiled bowl covered with oiled cling film for 45 mins.
  3. Knock the dough back.  Divide into three balls and roll each into a teardrop shape approx 10 inches long (mixed measurements, I know!)
  4. Preheat the oven to the hottest temperature available (at least 230c) 
  5. Place two heavy baking trays in the oven to heat. 
  6. Bake the bread on the hot tray for 3-4 minutes until puffed up.
  7. Brown under the grill if necessary.

Brush with melted butter or ghee

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Salt and Pepper Chicken

Following on from my homemade takeaway last night, I decided to have a go at salt and pepper chicken tonight.  Although I still have some prawns left, I figured that if the husband so much as saw a prawn anywhere near the dinner, he wouldn't try it.  Didn't matter in the end as he took the fajita option.  When will I ever stop cooking two different dinners?

Stodgy - but not as stodgy as takeaway...
Anyway, I've been wanting to try this one out for a while - whether chicken or prawn. The recipe is a Rachel Allen for Good Food one.  I don't think I'd waste prawns trying it out as I just couldn't figure the batter out.  Firstly it was so thin, it didn't adhere to the chicken.  But the merest addition of a half-teaspoonful more cornflour and it turned into a thick, claggy paste.

As for salt and pepper.  Well it was really quite tasteless - only saved by the flavour from the 'sauce' although next time I'd double the quantities of the sauce ingredients as it was both stodgy and dry.

I did try thinning the batter back down again on the second batch of chicken and it was better - but still not what I expected.  More research needed.

In it's defence though, it wasn't greasy like you'd get from the takeaway and the chicken inside was beautifully soft.

I can't find the recipe online - it was from the November edition of the magazine so will post it later.  But I wouldn't recommend it anyway.  Fingers x'd something better happens my way soon!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Singapore Noodles

Having to post from my phone as the dog is on my lap and there's no judging her. She may be small but she's stubborn.
I always have Singapore noodles when we have takeaway but wanted to look for a recipe that was far less greasy than the ones I normally get.
Pound for pound in cost the homemade ones were probably only slightly cheaper but hopefully so much healthier than takeaway ones. According to the recipe its less than 300 cals  per portion.
Check the recipe out here

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Chocolate and Cherry Roulade

Watching the Great British Bake Off recently, I was surprised to see that Chocolate Roulade was one of the technical challenges.  For these experienced bakers, surely it couldn't be *that* difficult, could it?  So when I had the urge for chocolate cake with lots of whipped cream and cherries today when my day was slowly falling apart at the seams, I figured that I'd quickly knock out Dame Mary's chocolate roulade with some cherry compote and eat the entire thing myself!

Baking the sponge was a small challenge.  Not technically, but because my darling daughter managed to smash one of my mixing bowls early this week.  You need one to melt the chocolate, one to whisk the egg whites and another for the egg yolks and sugar.  I ended up whipping egg whites in my casserole dish!

Of course, I fully appreciate that I had the luxury of a step-by-step recipe.  I understand from the voiceover from the program that the bakers only get sketchy details of what to do and have to rely on their instincts.  Still, if you've made a whisked sponge before and know the ingredients, it's not too demanding.

Safely on the plate

Then I got on to the assembly bit.  The cake is very fragile.  You only have to look at it and it seems to scream back 'I'm going to fall to pieces if you so much as breathe on me in the wrong way.  To it round the right way, you have to take this delicate, thin sponge and flip it over without it breaking.  If I'd been on GBBO I'd've either been the one dropping it on the floor or in their funniest outtake sessions as I cajoled this temperamental piece of cake onto my chopping board.  Whipped cream slathered across the top, cherries scattered hither and thither, I managed to roll it up without it falling to bits but getting it on to the plate was yet another work of art.

Oh go on...just a small piece...
My spaniel sat drooling at my feet, willing me to wobble and let it slide in his direction, but with a sweaty brow and trembling hands, I finally got it to the plate.  Then the husband arrived.  On his way out to the studio, pro-cameras in tow, he decided it was worthy of a proper picture.  I literally had to beat him off to stop him taking it with him 'so I can take a decent photo under decent lights' - erm, no, so he could eat it all himself.  So the pictures are still only rubbish smartphone pictures.

I'd seriously intended to eat the whole thing myself - skipping both lunch and tea for that exact reason.  But one slice was plenty.  Gooey, creamy and rich - it was a little too sweet for my tastes and I think it needed the tartness of the cherries to cut through it.  But will definitely make it again - maybe with Baileys whipped cream for Christmas.

The recipe can be found on the BBC website.

I then used tinned cherries which had been hanging round in my cupboard for months.  I wanted to reduce the juice down to a sticky syrup but they had a very bland flavour.  So I added a tablespoon of caster sugar and the juice of half a lime then simmered everything for about 20 minutes.  Gorgeous!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Mixed Bean Salad

Today was one of *those* days.  My best intentions to get up and run at 4.30am were scuppered by a night of interrupted sleep.  So my plan to treat myself to something lovely for tea went by-the-by as the run was moved to this evening, meaning I had to re-research a recipe quick-smart.

I should've known it wasn't going to be the loveliest of days when I volunteered (read ever-so-slightly-co-erced) into doing something that wasn't my responsibility at another of our sites.  This particular site isn't far away from my main base, but you might as well be in the back of beyond.  It's a whole other hostile climate down there.  I do mean the weather of course - cold, wet and freezing on a ridiculously flat and exposed landscape is just not fun.

And the local diet is based on whatever past-its-sell-by-date fayre happens to be left in the vending machine.  So a quick lunch recipe seemed to be the solution.

Thumbing through my recipe books whilst juggling my hairbrush and eyeliner, I found a recipe for mixed bean salad - great idea to use up the leftover beans from the soup I made on Monday.
Lunch time!

The book is something like the Barbecue Summer Bible or 101 Barbecue Recipes or something like that.  One of those books that look like a really good bargain in the supermarket and then just sit there gathering dust as day after day after day it rains and then just when you pack all the garden stuff away, out pops the sun and you just can't be bothered to go to all the faff of barbecuing and head for a pub lunch instead.  Well that's what happens in our house (mostly because the husband has a bit of a fire phobia!)

Really simple recipe that you can just throw together with the contents of the fridge.  I just had enough for one portion but it was filling and felt super-healthy, even with the addition of some feta that wasn't in the original recipe.

Also, having a selection of Garden Gourmet herb tubes in the fridge is proving a real boon for dishes like this.  No more need half-dead 'Living Herbs' to adorn my window-sill in winter months.

Serves 4 as a side dish

400g tin mixed pulses
1/4 cucumber diced
4 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced (I rarely have fresh tomatoes as I don't like the slimy middle so used red pepper instead)
100g feta cubed
2tbsp oil
juice of half a lemon
1tbsp fresh basil
2 tbsp fresh parsley
2-3 garlic cloves minced

Mix it all together.  Season well with salt and pepper.  Serve.  Simples!

Well the book was a bit more long-winded than that, but am now too tired to copy it out!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Loaded Potato Soup

This challenge was inspired by my lovely cousin @BridestockBride.  A while back, she made this very soup and it was the accompanying blog post that sold me on the idea of trying something different every day for a year.

Having bought a huge bag of red potatoes several weeks back to make the soup, I finally got round to it tonight and I must say it was worth the wait and that I should've made it sooner.  It's a really filling, comforting winter-worthy soup and if you're a skinny-minnie, you can load it up with all kinds of goodies, but equally, the lower fat version that I made works just as well.

I'm supposed to be doing the eat-less-exercise-more thing between now and Christmas.  I made a good start yesterday and was going strong until at 7.25am, one of my colleagues presented me with a homemade brownie his young son had made.  Now nobody apart from my mum ever gives me homemade cake (this is an issue that needs addressing!!).  So I felt I couldn't refuse the offer.  Doubly so when I discovered that he'd bought in a box of out-of-date Mr Kipling apple pies to share with the rest of the team.

The brownie was much enjoyed with an afternoon cuppa (see I have SOME willpower) and I think that in the name of nurturing the aspirations of a young boy, I had no other option than to give it my full undivided attention.

Of course, that put paid to my plan to make the original version of this soup.  The one that requires handfuls of cheese.  And of course, despite him refusing to even go near this soup 'it smells', I would've made the husband put his handfuls of cheese in rather than my own.

Fully loaded
When arriving home, any notion of using cheese was scuppered anyway as the husband had used the entire weeks-worth of cheese - aside from a token dairylea-sized piece - to make himself a sandwich.

So I used skimmed milk and half-fat creme fraiche to reduce the calorie count.  Cheese was omitted from the actual soup and I scattered just a teeny bit on top along with some chorizo rather than bacon (no health reason behind this - just had some leftover in the fridge).

I can definitely see how this would benefit from copious amounts of cheese - what savoury recipe wouldn't?  But it was nearly as tasty without.

Also liked the top-tip about why you should only put pepper in at the end - 'the flavour of pepper evaporates the longer it's cooked' - so I've learnt something new today as well.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Mixed Bean Chilli Soup

If I've learned one thing over the past fifty-one days, it's that seasoning can really make a dish.  I'm not talking about bog-standard salt-and-pepper here, I mean the use of herbs and spices.

For certain dishes I will add a dash of this and a dash of that, but my eyes have really been opened to how a simple pasta dish or soup that I may have made before suddenly comes alive with the addition of that little something extra.

Healthy soup, healthy dollop of half-fat creme fraiche :o)
Take tonight's dish of Mixed Bean Chilli Soup.  Sainsburys sell a very good version in their chilled soup range but legend has it that this tasty soup can only be made by means of a secret rite that can be performed once a century when the moon is in the eighth house of Aquarius.  Yes, okay I watched too much 'Count Duckula' as a kid!

But seriously, ever since I took a shine to it, they seem to only sell it in winter months and maybe it's so popular it just sells out quickly but I've only had the odd pot every now and again since I discovered it.

Last winter, I had a whirl at making my own.  Quite often, I steal my recipes from the back of packets of pre-made stuff and it normally works quite well apart from when the recipe in question has quite specific flavouring.  The producer lumps herbs and spices into 'natural flavourings' before listing all the additional e-numbers and a healthy dose of MSG that are also required to give said product a modicum of taste.

So I made my own version using a basic tomato soup and some chilli.  Nowhere near the same.  After a bit of Googling, I came across this recipe on  It sounded okay so I thought I'd give it a whirl.  And the minute I spooned the cumin into the pan, I knew what my previous attempt had been lacking.  It's silly as I use cumin a fair bit but I'd never stuck two and two together that that smell was the same as the chilli bean soup I was so enamoured with.

Top 80s Kids TV!
I am one happy camper tonight and will be making this soup regularly throughout the winter months.  

I didn't use mushrooms as the Sainsburys version doesn't and I wanted to do a like-for-like comparison.  in future, I will also try to find cans of mixed beans that don't contain chickpeas because despite cooking the beans in the soup for twenty minutes, the chickpeas still had a bullet-like consistency and the flavour just didn't really work with the other beans - or I'd just make my own bean mix next time.

Finally for those of you who are too young to remember the Eighties or who weren't living in the UK then, check this site out to find out more about Count Duckula and do watch the intro on YouTube - brings back memories :o)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Apple and Mango Chutney

Sunday night is curry night in the Crowdey household without fail.  Tonight, for pretty much the first time in years, it's not curry night as the husband has the lurgy.

Oops, I burnt the spoon! (but not the chutney)

So, my plan to try out the apple and mango chutney I made out of the nearly rotten mangoes Ocado furnished me with on Friday night has gone awry.

In some ways I'm glad we're not having curry tonight, having just read that Loyd Grossman Korma Sauce has been linked to two botulism cases in Scotland.  We have his Bhuna sauce, but still...

I really must get out the curry recipe book I bought years ago when I first thought about getting all domesticated and find a decent Bhuna recipe in there.  The trouble is I seem to remember it taking three-odd hours to cook and, whilst I'm sure it's worth it, when do I get three hours to myself these days to lovingly cook something.  Nope, don't answer that.

Finished jar needing a label
The recipe is another BBC Good Food one because I wanted something to use up the overripe mangoes quickly - it wasn't a pre-planned exercise, I just had all the ingredients for this particular recipe to hand.

When it's cooking, it smells and tastes very vinegary, but once it's reduced down, it has a lovely sweet and spicy flavour.  I did add a tablespoon of muscavado sugar as it was a little too sweet for me and the molasses flavour of the muscavado helped take the edge off of it.

Looking forward to trying it when it's had chance to 'mature' and may be making more for Christmas hampers although it's a pretty pricey make unless Ocado send you crap mangoes and give you a refund on them :o)

The recipe can be found here.  It's pretty easy to make less (or more) - I just made one mango's worth which made a 1lb jar.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Pistachio and Cranberry Cookies

I'm still trying to get ahead with stuff for Christmas hampers.  So far, I have lemon curd and mint chocolate truffles.  I found these cookies in (surprise, surprise) BBC Good Food Magazine as part of their Christmas hamper series.

The biscuit mixture is a pretty standard shortbread cookie mix but I've never used pistachios in baking before - they just don't last long enough to get into anything! - so I thought I'd give them a whirl.

Having no cranberries (thanks Ocado!), I used dried cherries.  I'd planned to stick some white chocolate chunks in as well but when I rooted through the baking cupboard, I discovered that a couple of mice (one 6ft, one just under 3ft) have been scoffing all my chocolate.

Need to work the fruit and nuts in a little more evenly!
I only ever buy unsalted butter and such was my haste in making these, I forgot to add some salt, which I think these needed to take the edge off of the sweetness.  Vanilla bean paste rather than essence gives a far better flavour to shortbread in my humble opinion.  And I had a little trouble cutting them once they came out of the fridge as some of them cracked through the middle - I'd probably leave it out for 5-10 mins before cutting next time.

Cooking took much longer than the recipe said but that may well just be me not having gotten the measure of my new oven just yet.

One other tip is that the cookies aren't as big as they look in the recipe picture at first glance.  Note how it's been cropped to make them look big but then you realise they're next to a pepper grinder so they're actually relatively small.  It's all about perspective.  See I have learned something being married to a pro-photographer.

Now thinking up other flavour combos to bake ahead.  Stem ginger and macadamia dipped in plain chocolate sounds like a winner.  Any other suggestions are welcome!

Recipe can be found here.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Spanish Rice and Chicken One Pot

This should've been Spanish Rice and Prawn One Pot from my favourite website - - but thanks to Ocado not bringing my prawns, I ended up using chicken instead.

It even has a few green bits in it!
Internet shopping is supposed to be easy but anyone who's used it more than once will have tales of things missing, ridiculous substitutions (a jar of capers instead of shelled pistachios??), surly drivers (that's one thing Ocado do have in plentiful stock - lovely drivers), and shopping just not being delivered full stop due to 'operational issues' (several times Ocado - sort it out).

But my alternative after a long working week is battling round Sainsburys with a fractious toddler is quite unappealing so week after week, I accept my internet shopping then head off to Tescos on a Sunday to buy all the stuff that I couldn't get or was too expensive.

Anyhow, although I was disappointed by the lack of prawns, at least I won't have the dilemma of what to do with the rest of them.  Chicken was an okay alternative and I think on a good day, the husband might even eat this dish.

Like many of the commenters though, it lacked seasoning so I used some Knorr liquid chicken stock and a touch of smoked paprika and the dish was transformed.  Definitely a keeper and will look forward to making it with prawns one day.

Next on the Spanish list of things to master (after Churros - but not sure if they're Spanish or Me-hi-can) is Paella or Pie-ay-ya if you prefer.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Bean and Sausage Hot Pot

Six fat sausages sizzling in the pan.  Three went pop and three went bang.  Miss Abigail would've found it hilarious if she'd not been banished from the kitchen due to things cooking on the stove.

I've never fried sausages before, having been bought up to religioulsy grill them to try to reduce a little of the fat.  Now I know why people prick sausages.  An exploded, semi-cooked sausage looks less than appetising and for someone who is practically veggie these days (if I could only give up chorizo and dairy), it turned my stomach and I very nearly binned the sausages and cooked fish fingers and chips (the husband will be most disappointed by that admission if he's bothering to read this blog).

The recipe is one that's been lurking in my BBC Good Food online binder for sometime as I discovered it on the only sunny day we had this year and had been saving it for the depths of winter.  It's very similar to the recipe for Chorizo and Butterbean stew that I pilfered from the lovely @BridestockBride's blog a few weeks back but a bit more family friendly.

Sepia toning makes the broccoli look overcooked!
Family friendly if your family like food that is.  The child is not eating anything other than grapes and yogurt at the moment.  No cheese, no pasta, no fish fingers, no bread, no peas (previously her five favourite staples).  And yet she loved the tomato sauce that this came in when I fed it to her straight from the pan.  She was long in bed by the time the meal was cooked so I've saved her some for tomorrow but no doubt she'll turn her little button nose up at it.

The husband also turned his far larger nose up at it.  But with the mood I'm in, he knew better than to complain because there was nothing else on offer.  He picked out the butter beans 'they're yuck' even though they are just like overgrown baked beans and grudgingly ate the rest without complaining that I'd used Cumberland sausages (for the coarse texture) rather than our usual choice by the Black Farmer.  Served with a dollop of mash or some crusty bread, this will warm the cockles of your heart in the bleak midwinter.

If you like food with taste and texture, then this dish is definitely for you.  If you like piles of bland, cardboardy mush with a hint of plastic garlic butter, try Sainsburys Chicken Kievs which is a favourite of the husbands.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Baked Eggs Florentine

After last week's Eggs Benedict, I thought I'd give Eggs Florentine a whirl.  To me, Florentine either means chocolate almond biscuits with cherries and sultanas or something full of cheese and spinach.

Back when I worked in Exmouth Market (not actually on a market stall) my favourite sandwich shop made a toasted Florentine ciabatta - containing a mix of cheddar, mayo, mushrooms and spinach.  A recipe for thunder thighs if ever there was one.  It was like a hug in a sandwich.  And during a particularly rubbish time of my life, I had a lot of sandwich hugs!
Would've looked more inviting with a runny yolk!

So reading Dame Mary's recipe for Eggs Florentine didn't surprise me that it had gallons of cheese sauce but I felt a bit guilty about such wanton abandon so I tried one from Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food instead.  This just used creme fraiche and even though mine was half-fat, it was still a gloriously rich dish.

Still have to get the hang of my new oven though as one minute the egg was barely cooked - the next the yolk had gone all solid.  I'm sure a runny yolk would make it even better.

Definitely a luxury breakfast or a light lunch with crusty bread.

Serves 4.

2tbsp butter
1lb (450g) spinach leaves
sea salt and black pepper
4 large eggs (room temp)
6-8tbsp creme fraiche
  • Heat oven to 400F. Melt butter in large pan over high heat. Add spinach and some seasoning and stir until wilted.
  • Divide spinach among 4 buttered individual ceramic dishes and spread evenly, making a slight indentation in centre. Let cool slightly.
  • Crack an egg into each indentation, then carefully spoon creme fraiche around. Season with sprinkle of salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • Bake in oven 10-12 min until egg whites are set, but yolks are still quite soft and runny. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Hummus or Houmous?

However you spell it or say it (Delia calls it Who Mouse) hummus is one of those things that most people buy from the supermarket because it's quick and easy.

Hummus and pita
And shop-bought is inexpensive too.  I've tried making it before and one of my issues was I bought a huge bottle of tahini only to find out that you had to use it within a week.  The recipe needed one tablespoon-ful and the bottle contained about twenty times that much.  Who wants to make eight gallons of hummus in one week?

The other problem I've had in the past is that all the recipes say to just blitz the chickpeas straight from the tin.  But I've always found it to be horribly gritty in texture.  I did some research yesterday into why this might be and it appears that it's because shop-bought chickpeas are generally undercooked.  Well duh!  I should've figured that out before by the fact that the instructions on the packet say 'Simmer for 4-5 mins'

So this time, I just picked the top hit on Google for Best Ever Hummus Recipe and pre-cooked the chickpeas even though the recipe didn't call for it.

This time, lovely, smooth (although not supermarket smooth through my own choosing - let's call it rustic) hummus.

Not sure about the raw garlic taste - won't be winning many friends at lunchtime tomorrow - and I used a squeeze of lime on top of the lemon as it just seemed to need something else.

I also made it in my blender attachment but should've used the food processor instead as too much got stuck under the blades and my blender jug doesn't come to pieces.

All in all a good recipe - now I've solved the problem with the chickpeas!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Yeah, yeah, it's red - not green.  More carbs.  Here comes the justification.

The child doesn't eat much meat.  But she'll eat meatballs hence today's red-not-green carb-filled fiesta.  For now.  I don't hold out much hope that this will be a long-term association but while the going is good, I'm happy to run with it.

*Sings* On top of spaghetti, not covered with cheese...
Being a busy working mum, I succumbed to the lure of the shop-bought meatballs but to be honest, they taste like balls of papier mache, no matter how good the sauce you put them in so I am going to try to find a really good, tasty recipe from somewhere.

I know a lot of people make them with half beef and half pork mince or a beef/veal combo but I only have beef and lamb mince at the mo so have gone with the pure beef option this time.  So I chose a recipe by the lovely Rachel Allen from Saturday kitchen.  I have several of her books somewhere, but can't find them.  Maybe they got lost when we moved from London?  But as they're all about entertaining, and I've not done any in the past five years, it's not a loss that has been too keenly felt so far.

I cheated and made the tomato sauce yesterday afternoon as I just knew that if I left the sauce simmering for thirty minutes while Miss A was still about, some disaster would occur and I'd end up burning the sauce and giving in to the husband's demand for chicken and packet rice (again).

Taste wise, I'm still not convinced these are the tastiest meatballs ever.  The sauce was really tasty (not bland enough for the husband) and so eaten all together, it disguised the lack of taste in the meatballs.  Am now wondering if all meatballs just taste bland and it's the quality of the tomato sauce that goes with them that makes the difference or if I should just use Masterchef quantities of seasoning?  Whilst I love that show, it's another one (like Saturday Kitchen and anything by Nigella) that should carry a warning that watching the programme may just cause your arteries to harden.

The recipe can be found here

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Mary Berry's Coffee Battenburg Cake

There really aren't enough green things appearing on this blog.  I'm currently suffering from carb overload from and decided last night, after the annual post-fireworks curry that I need to make more vegetable based things.

So what do I do today?  Discard the recipe for eggs Florentine (spinach, onions - green enough??) that I'd been planning for breakfast as I don't have any sabayon dishes to pop under the grill and instead, I decided to give Dame Mary's coffee battenburg from the Great British Bake Off a whirl.

Whilst my character was busily being assassinated earlier this week at a management 'development centre' (a course to most people), I was reminded that I'm always on the defensive about everything.  I always have to justify myself even when someone asks me a simple question.  The husband will say 'Oh, you have new shoes?'  He's looking for me to say yes.  Instead, I will always launch into some huge explanation about how they were cheaper than getting my old ones re-soled and heeled (shoe repairs are extortionate) plus they were in the sale, and they are blah blah blah blah.... until his eyes glaze over and he wishes he'd never bothered to ask.

You'd think he'd've learnt by now that he should say 'I like your new shoes' and then I might just say 'Thank you' instead.  Although knowing myself on that front as well as I do, I would probably still give a five minute justification.  Which is why my blogs are never short and why I always wander of on tangents.

Today's justification is that I wanted to give this recipe a go because I intend to put one in my father-in-law's christmas hamper but didn't want to test it out the night before the hamper needs packing.  Last year, I turned every local supermarket upside down looking for a last-minute battenburg but none were forthcoming and he ended up with a box of bakewell tarts instead.  Like my husband, he finds shop-bought cake perfectly satisfactory.  I still refuse on a matter of principle and so he will get homemade cake in his hamper this year, whether he likes it or not.

If the husband gets to try a bit of this cake (I may well take it to work tomorrow) he will inform me that a) it's not real battenburg as it's not pink and yellow and b) it's too dry and not soft enough.  Husband, that is because it is real cake and has not been rammed full of chemicals to make it all soft and fluffy and able to sit on a supermarket shelf for 12 months.  I know which I'd prefer.

Slightly lopsided - I blame my scales!
As it's a 'whole' cake, I've not had a slice yet, I've just tried the trimmings from the edge.  It does seem a little dry and it's a bit lopsided as the vanilla sponge didn't rise as well as the coffee one.  I did try to weigh the mixture when I divided it but my scales are well and truly burgered and I have a feeling that this may well be why it's not the finest sponge I've ever made.  But it may be much nicer with the lovely coffee buttercream and marzipan that's now been added to it.

So new scales, a new washing line (that's another story) and a new dog-proof gate for the kitchen are on this week's shopping list.  But definitely no shop-bought battenburgs!

Incidentally, I got a tweet from the lovely @HollyBellMummy today in response to my question to her about whether it's best to use butter or marg in cakes.  She uses Stork in her cakes so I will be taking her advice, saving me from having to soften my butter on top of my radiators and thus avoiding greasy puddles on the floor when I forget to remove it quickly enough!  Another top tip if you need soft butter and yours is straight from the fridge - grate it.  Yep, that's right.  Get a box grater, use the fine side, not the thick side and it will give you a huge pile of pretty soft butter strands.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Mango, Pineapple and Lime Sorbet

This sounds like a variation on a theme of Thursday's blog, but after finding myself stuck with copious amounts of mango and pineapple which the child can no longer eat (you should've seen her face as I was chopping it up and had to say no, she couldn't have any) I had to make use of the fruit somehow.

Bonfire night is traditionally fireworks and curry night in the Crowdey household.  Well it was BC.  But now we are AC with Miss AC, the closest we get to fireworks is arguing over why we never remember to phone for the takeaway an hour before we're actually hungry rather than waiting to pick up the phone when we're hungry and are considering cannibalism by the time it arrives.

So no chance of a dinner recipe trial tonight.  Instead, I dug out the recipe for the aforementioned sorbet which has been kicking around in my BBC Good Food binder for more years than I care to remember.  It was one of those recipes that seemed like a good idea for a palate cleanser after a dinner party, but sadly, I've never held a dinner party in my life - hence no sorbet got made.

Whilst I was contemplating this recipe, I did some research based on the comments that it was too hard to scoop.  I discovered that there are no two ways about the ridiculously high sugar content if you want a relatively soft scoop.  Fibrous fruit like mangoes, strawberries and pineapple work best.  An ice cream maker is not essential although a mixing it during freezing every couple of hours will reduce the number of huge ice crystals.  And you should temper it for fifteen minutes or so before serving.

When the curry arrived, the sorbet was near perfect with just a tiny soft spot in the middle.  By the time we'd eaten and then watched an episode of Frozen Planet - a-MAZING TV! - my sorbet was indeed reminiscent of an ice block.  It was just about scoopable and I should probably have let it temper for fifteen mins before serving as advised, but being impatient to get the blog written, I forged straight ahead.

It was a little icier than I would've liked.  During the research I discovered that egg white may or may not help (beat in towards the end - it doesn't need to be whisked first though) but mostly commerical sorbet and ice cream is kept soft by the use of food grade anti-freeze.  Nice!  So I'll take my pure fruit slightly icy sorbet over commercial soft scoop sorbet every time.

Need to work on the composition of my pictures!
Simplicity in itself and cheek tinglingly tasty.  Based on the comments after the recipe though, I halved the fruit content but kept the amount of lime juice the same as I was wary that some commented it was too sweet.  This was definitely a good move in my humble opinion.

One other top tip is to use a reamer to juice the limes.  I have tried classic glass juicers, various electric ones (although not the citrus press that came with my Kenwood), heating the fruit in the oven or microwave and juicing it with a fork.  But none of these techniques work as well as the wooden lemon reamer I got from Ocado.  It's also a very satisfying activity.  And I just like the word.  Reamer.

  • 3 limes - zest one, juice all three
  • 100ml water
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 large mango, peeled, stoned and diced
  • 1 large pineapple, peeled, cored and diced

  1. Put the lime juice, lime zest, water and caster sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for five minutes, removing any scum.  Cool.
  2. Blitz the mango, pineapple and lime syrup in a liquidiser.
  3. Pour into a freezer proof container and freeze for 4 hours.  Giving it a quick stir every hour or so helps it to freeze better.
  4. Temper* for 15 minutes before serving

*Tempering ice cream and sorbet means taking it out of the fridge and leaving it at room temperature (unless the weather is scorchio - in this case, reduce the time)

Friday, 4 November 2011

Garlic Pizza Bread

I am not a fan of pizza, hence why the first time I'd ever made it at home was recently with Miss Abigail.  I'm not sure why - I love bread, I love cheese and I love all the toppings.  I think it's something to do with that faint tomato-sog you get on some pizzas - especially home made ones.

For someone who claims to love food, I can be 'a right fussy cow' as I was recently told.  A friend had bought cakes to work for his birthday.  Someone stole the eclair before I got there, meaning a box full of cream doughnuts left me cold.  There were more custard tarts than I've ever seen in my life.  Not for me.  Although I've never had one so they might be lovely.  I inherited my phobia from my mother's fear of cold custard.  So that left me with a jam doughnut.  Which suited me down to the ground. But I'm now labelled as a cake snob as Morrison's finest was not good enough for me.  And only homemade will do.  Not my words, but I know lots of people who'd agree with that.

Which brings me back to last night.  Whilst I don't like pizza, I do love garlic pizza bread.  There's a restaurant on the Isle of Wight which we frequented BC (before child) which makes the most amazing garlic pizza bread.  The pizza bread there is served as a starter and is so huge that even sharing with someone else means you're so stuffed afterwards that you only manage a few mouthfuls of your mains.

I got the recipe for today's pizza base from Jamie at Home (think this is the same recipe online) and I only made a quarter of the recipe.

It made a lovely deep pan bread.  I'd love to learn how to make thin and crispy style bread - you know the kind that has gorgeous bubbly bits in it.  But I don't have a proper pizza oven so I'm guessing that's out for this current experiment.

The garlic butter was my own invention - 50g unsalted butter, four garlic cloves minced, a squirt of Garden Gourmet parsley - about two tsp and a pinch of ground sea salt.  It might have been too much for this size of pizza as there is now a slick of cold garlic butter that needs cleaning from the bottom of my oven.

All in all a very yummy experiment - but too big for two people when served with sausage pasta.  Will stick to Waitrose's garlic baguette for its simplicity unless I happen to be making bread or having guests.

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