Miss Friday's Weekly Pick

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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

3 Minute Beef Noodles



I'm certain I'm not the only one who often has leftover roast beef knocking about in the fridge from Sunday. There are only so many roast beef sandwiches one can eat - and nine times out of ten the meat ends up in the bin. I can’t stand throwing food away, so last week I decided to reinvent my leftovers into these delicious 3 minute beef noodles.

Considering they really only take 3 minutes to cook they are packed with pungent Asian flavours that are truly delicious. The recipe is just perfect for a Monday (or indeed a Tuesday following Bank Holiday) when you can’t be bothered to slave away cooking dinner.

Ingredients:
  • 1 nest medium egg noodles
  • 2-3 slices leftover rare roast beef
  • 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
Cooking Directions:
  1. Add the nest of noodles to boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, or according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile mix together the sweet chilli, soy, vinegar and honey in a bowl.
  2. Drain the noodles and add the beef. Return the noodles to the saucepan and add the sauce mixture, heat over a medium heat, stirring to combine for a further 30 seconds. Top with the chopped coriander and serve.

Basic White Bread (and poppy seed loaf)



Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 4 hours (inc rising time)
Yield: 2 loaves

Ingredients:
  • 700g strong white flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp easy-bake dried yeast
  • 25g cold butter, cubed
  • 450ml warm water
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp milk
Cooking Directions:
  1. Sift the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a large bowl, then using your index and middle finger and thumbs rub in the cold butter until you have a bread crumb consistency.
  2. Make a well in the centre of the flour and slowly pour in the water forming a sticky dough, continue until you have used all of the water. The dough will feel really sticky, but don't panic, this is normal.
  3. Lightly flour the work surface and begin to knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and pop in a warm place to rise until doubled in size. I use the airing cupboard and normally leave it for around 2 hours.
  4. Once the dough has risen to double the size, knock it back by punching down the dough to deflate it. Remove it from the bowl and knead vigorously for a couple of minutes.
  5. Shape the dough to the desired shape and size and place in a lightly oiled loaf tin if using. Leave covered by a tea towel for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. This second rising shouldn't take as long as the first.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 230C.
  7. Brush the loaves with milk and scatter over the poppy seeds.
  8. Bake the loaves for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the bread has risen and is golden brown on top.
  9. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Ever had a baking disaster?


I can’t believe it’s that time of year again already. The Great British Bake Off is in full swing and the hunt for Brittan’s next best amateur baker is on. There is something quite magnificent about a group of people who share a passion for baking coming together under one roof (or marquee as it were) and battling it out to be crowned The UK’s Best Amateur Baker. It’s TV gold. From builders to actresses, designers and students, this year’s line up is as diverse as ever.

So, having been inspired to get baking, I set about making some bread in the hopes of producing a light and delicious loaf, only to find it had a disastrous outcome. I realised that I’d forgotten the salt in the first batch of dough I made, so that ended up in the bin. Then for my second attempt, the bread didn’t rise particularly well to start with, but I persevered. It looked and smelled wonderful – just like a freshly home baked loaf should – but let me tell you – it was the densest loaf ever. I was the laughing stock of my household for a week. I’d used a pot of yeast that had been open and lurking around in the cupboard for who knows how long, it was over a year passed its use by date and as I’ve learnt yeast won’t work if it’s stale.

My partner joked that it’s a known fact that men are better bakers than women. No I thought, I’m not standing for this – says who? Okay, so my first two attempts were rubbish, but it was the yeast’s fault, not mine. Anyhow this failure and his comment spurred me on to ensuring bread success. I stuck with it and made another loaf (using freshly bought yeast) and I cracked it.

There’s nothing more satisfying that admiring a gorgeous loaf of bread you made, well I guess there is – smothering it with butter and eating it!

Having ruined various batches of dough, but actually managing to master the technique of bread making – even if it did take a while, I feel compelled to share with you my top tips and tricks to bread success:

  • Use the freshest ingredients, yeast that’s been sitting about for ages simply won’t work.
  • Knead, knead, knead – and then knead some more – if you’ve got the ratio of flour and water right your dough will start out really sticky. The more you knead it the more elastic and smooth it will become - really put some elbow grease into it.
  • Be patient – something Paul Hollywood advised on last week’s programme. Leave the bread to rise, just leave it until it’s doubled in size.
  • Master the basic white loaf before you experiment with other flours, flavours of toppings – don’t run before you can walk. It took me three attempts to even get the basics right.


So, if you’ve been thinking about baking for a while, now’s the time to dust off your apron and get stuck in. The Great British Bake Off is such a source of inspiration. I’ll be fixed to the TV every Wednesday at 8pm over the coming weeks to see what showstopper and signature bakes look good enough for me to replicate. I’ve earmarked Luis or Martha for winner.




Bread Baking Techniques


Kneading, proving and knocking back – what’s it all about?


If you’re a novice baker like me, you might well find all these terms very confusing.

It’s all very well someone telling you to ‘knock back your dough’ – but if you haven’t the foggiest idea what they are talking about it can all be very baffling. 

My advice is to get yourself a good reference guide, such a decent baking book and spend some time doing your homework. If you get to grips with these terms before you set about making the bread you should have a decent head start.

Start with a simple recipe, such as a basic white loaf and learn the techniques before you attempt to use other flours or flavours. For instance, some wholemeal or rye flours take more kneading than others. There I go, doing exactly what I didn’t want to do – assuming you know what these terms mean.

I wanted to give you a brief overview of a few of the basic bread making terms, but I’m certainly no expert and I won’t pretend my advice is worth noting, so I’ll leave it to the experts.

The following techniques are taken from Paul Hollywood's website

Mixing

Always put the flour in your bowl first, then add the salt and the yeast to opposite sides of the bowl. This is important as the salt can kill the yeast. Next add fat if you are using and then add three-quarters of the water. Then using your hands, ‘scrunch’ all the ingredients together, incorporating all the flour and adding more water until you have a soft dough. This can be very messy, sticky and wet. However, it will all come together when you start the kneading process.

Kneading

The kneading process helps work the gluten in the flour to create a smooth, elastic dough. When kneading, you need to stretch the dough out and then fold it back on itself and flatten it, and then repeat the process, making sure you turn the dough round between stretches. It can take between 5 and 10 minutes until the consistency of the dough changes and it becomes smoother and more elastic. Eventually, it will begin to hold together in ball and develop a soft skin.

Rising

Put the kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film or a clean tea towel to protect it from draughts that might cause a skin to form. Leave it anywhere in the kitchen. The dough needs to rise until it is at least doubles in size. When it is fully grown it will start to develop crease marks on top and it may start to collapse on itself. Do not leave it any longer than this. You can let the dough rise for a second time at this point if you wish.

Knocking back the dough

After rising, the dough needs to be ‘knocked back’. This process makes it easier to handle and shape and helps create a uniform texture to the dough. Take the dough out of the bowl and put it on a lightly floured surface and fold it repeatedly in on itself using the heels of your hands, until it is smooth and all the air is knocked out of it.

Shaping the dough

You can experiment with different shapes, choosing anything from a simple round loaf to a decorative plait.

Proving

During this final stage, the shaped bread is left to rise before it can be baked. Covering the dough during this stage with a plastic bag helps prevent the dough from forming a skin. You can tell when the dough is ready by gently pressing it and seeing if it springs back. If the dough starts to crease and slump slightly, it has over-proved. If this is the case, knock it back and shape the dough again, and let it prove once more.

Baking and cooling

When your bread is ready, it should be a good brown colour with a crisp crust. To check if it’s ready, take it out of the oven and tap the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s ready; if it doesn’t, put it back and check again in 5 minutes. After baking your bread, it should be allowed to cool completely on a wire rack before eating. Whilst it cools it will let  out all its steam and finish cooking.
Wednesday, 20 August 2014

English Muffins with Hot Oak Smoked Salmon and Poached Egg



Breakfast is always a carnival in my house, at weekends anyway. There’s always plenty choice, from bacon and eggs, to tea and toast – we start the day the right way – with full bellies. From the moment I open my eyes in the morning I’m ready to eat and love creating a bustle in the kitchen at this time of day.

When Richard’s kids are here for the weekend they love soft boiled eggs with soldiers and bacon sandwiches. Max likes Rich to make him pizza toast, with basil – yes, he is quite particular about it. If there is no basil he doesn’t want it. I love that they enjoy their food so it’s no fuss to get different pots and pans out for everyone.

If we are not having breakfast in our kitchen we pop across the road to the local cafe – they serve up huge breakfasts, the kind you need with a fuzzy head. The liver and bacon breakfast is my fav with a huge mug of tea.

I found some hot oak smoked salmon lurking about in the fridge the other morning so I decided to have it for breakfast. This one couldn’t be simpler. Toast and butter an English muffin, top with the salmon and a poached egg, sprinkle with chopped parsley and tuck in.

It’s the simple things in life that make me happiest, sitting down at the kitchen counter on a sunny morning with a delicious treat for breakfast and a deadly silence in the house because everyone else is sleeping, utter bliss.

I’d love to hear your favourite breakfast recipes, am I missing out on the best breakfast?
Saturday, 16 August 2014

My Foodie Tour of Nice

Image used from http://misadventureswithandi.com


Becoming a food blogger was probably one of the best personal decisions I’ve made. It’s enabled me to become a better cook, experiment with food and flavours and delve further into the online world of culinary expertise. Blogging has become a profound hobby, one which has blossomed immensely over time.  

It allows me to share my passion for food and offer my recipes and advice to others. It’s also presented me with various opportunities, such as food competitions, product and equipment reviews. All of which I have a genuine desire to be involved with; why would I not want to try the latest product on the market or test culinary treats?

I’ve recently been presented with the best opportunity yet, a foodie trip to Nice in France. Imagine my surprise. So in anticipation of my trip I wanted to share with you what I’ll be doing on my trip and where I’ll be staying.

The trip will comprise of a 4 night stay in a beautiful apartment in the traditional centre of Nice, close to the market square and surrounded by restaurants and shops. I’ll be there over the first weekend in September, which happens to coincide with the Fete du Port, with its amazing 'Chefs Village' –which I’m told is a must for all foodies.

Every year in September, the Port of Nice Festival is organised by the French Riviera Chamber of Commerce, and offers thousands of people an opportunity to enjoy specialty foods, entertainment and concerts - the perfect opportunity to taste French and local cuisine.

As if that didn’t sound brilliant enough, I’ll also be embarking on a gourmet walking tour - Pure Nice Food Tour organised by Your Nice Apartment. On the tour, I’ll get to taste local specialities and get a feel for the flavour of Niçois cuisine, whilst learning about the unique history and culture of Nice. During the tour we will sample: the ultralight and delicious orange blossom fougasse sickly sweet candied fruit. Socca, the only true Niçois fast food Tourte aux Blettes les Petits Farcies—literally "the little stuffed ones" Pissaladière—there is no such thing as too much onion! Swiss chard in a way you'd never imagine it, the humble side of Riviera wine, the health benefits of Mediterranean cuisine, local art at Gallery Lyl plus various surprises.

I promise to take plenty of pictures and blog about the food tour and the festival upon my return...
Friday, 15 August 2014

Butternut Squash & Feta Quinoa Salad




When I've nothing scrumptious left over from dinner the night before, or simply don’t have time to make lunch I pop to the supermarket in search of a ready-made salad or sandwich. Let’s face it, from time to time most of us end up eating packaged flavourless and quite often disappointing lunches we've grabbed on the way into the office. However, a few weeks back I was pleasantly surprised by a Tesco packaged salad – it was utterly delicious, but at £3 a pop it’s a little over-priced.

I decided I’d have a go at making it myself – and it was just as good. I didn't follow the ingredients list exactly; as you well know these supermarkets love an ingredients list that’s as long as your arm. But, I ensured all of the big flavours were captured and it really was great.

The best thing about this salad is that its part of the Tesco Healthy Living range, so we know it’s good for us. I made a big bowl as a side dish for our barbecue and everyone loved it. This salad is so easy to prepare, the only cooking involved is the roasted vegetables. I bought the bulgur wheat and quinoa already cooked, so it’s really just a case of assembling the ingredients. What could be easier than that?

Cooked Bulgur Wheat and Quinoa (I used a mixed bag)
500g butternut squash (about half a large squash), cubed
Pack of feta cheese, cubed
100g cooked soya beans
1 can chickpeas, drained
Half a red pepper, diced
Half a yellow pepper, diced
Two handfuls of raw spinach, finely sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
150g low fat natural yoghurt
Bunch of mint, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by placing the peppers and butternut squash onto a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and season. Place in the centre of a pre-heated oven on 180⁰C for 30-35 minutes.

Meanwhile re-heat the bulgur wheat and quinoa and place in a large bowl. Add the soya beans, chickpeas, spinach, red onion and half of the mint – season well and mix to combine. Once the peppers and squash have cooled add them to the bowl too. Top with the feta and mix carefully to ensure you don’t break the feta up. The salad is now ready to serve.

To make the dressing, mix the yoghurt, lemon zest, juice and remaining mint in a smaller bowl. Serve this on the side. 
Thursday, 14 August 2014

Hasselback Potatoes – the best way to cook spuds



I adore hasselback potatoes, there is something quite fun about the look of them, plus they are super tasty. 

I first discovered the hasselback potato about two years ago, a Nigella recipe I believe. I thought they were wonderful, light and fluffy on the inside and a skin that gets so crispy and delicious – just like a baked potato. They are perfect served with steak, they make a nice change from chips and I guess they are a little healthier too. I believe these little fanned spuds are named so after a Swedish Restaurant ‘Hasselbacken’ in Stockholm, where they were first served.

Don’t they just look wonderful?

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
Medium sized Maris Piper potatoes (as many or as little as you like)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly chopped rosemary
Freshly chopped thyme

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 200°CWash and dry the potatoes.

Pop each potato onto a slightly curved wooden spoon, using a sharp knife cut through the potato every few millimetres, making sure not to cut all the way down and through the potato. The wooden spoon will prevent that from happening, the knife cannot cut any further then the upward-facing curves of the spoon. 

Place the potatoes into an oven proof dish and drizzle with some olive oil and a little butter if you like. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and add a generous sprinkling of freshly chopped rosemary and thyme.

Put the pan into the oven and bake the potatoes for 40 minutes, giving them a shake after about 20 minutes. The little potato fans will pop open during cooking. 

These are great served with meat or fish, or as a snack with some sour cream and chives.
Monday, 28 July 2014

Jamie Oliver’s Steamed Asian Chicken & Cabbage Parcels



I have a slight obsession with recipe books; in fact I’m running out of space for them in my kitchen. I’ve discovered that the only place to buy them is a charity shop. Indeed, all of the charity shops in my town sell 3 books for £1 –even large hardback recipe books. I’ve recently found various Jamie Oliver books lurking amongst the shelves. Why someone would get rid of a Jamie book is beyond me. I’ve always found his recipes to be so inspirational. I love the different elements he brings to them, nothing is served without an accompanying salad or side dish, and it’s really creative.

This recipe is from Jamie’s Kitchen – one of his earlier books – I can tell this by the young, fresh faced lad with a cheeky grin on the cover (sorry Jamie). The book is brimming with recipes that look delicious; I can’t wait to test more of them.

This recipe really appealed to me, those of you who read my blog often enough will know this is because of the pungent Asian flavours. I love the idea of little parcels that can be dipped in the sweet chilli sauce – for me that is food that is fun – and totally delicious.

A Totally Delicious Asian Treat


Ingredients:

1 medium savoy or Chinese cabbage
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
6 spring onions, white and light green parts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves
1 to 2 fresh small red chillies
1 tablespoon fish sauce
4 trimmed boneless skinless chicken thighs, roughly chopped
1 small can water chestnuts, drained
2 tablespoons juice and 2 teaspoons grated zest from 2 limes
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Serve with either sweet chilli sauce or soy for dipping

Method:

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Remove and discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage, then slice off the root end and separate the leaves. Plunge them into the boiling salted water to blanch for 2 minutes, then remove to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside. Pour out all but a couple inches of water in the bottom of the pot and place a steamer on top of the pot.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the garlic, ginger, spring onions, coriander, red chillies, fish sauce, and a 1/4 teaspoon of salt until everything is minced. Add the chicken, water chestnuts, lime zest and juice, and sesame oil. Process until completely pureed; the result will be a kind of meat paste.

Lay out the leaves of cabbage on a chopping board and place a small amount (2 tablespoons) of the chicken mixture onto the root end of a cabbage leaf. Fold the leaf over once to enclose the chicken, fold both sides in, then roll it once again so that the seam side is down. Repeat with the remaining cabbage leaves and chicken.

Bring the water in the bottom of the steaming pot to a boil, then place the parcels seam side down into the basket. Cover and steam until the chicken is cooked through, 6-8 minutes depending on their size.

Serve with the dipping sauce and the toasted sesame seeds scatted on top.


Monday, 14 July 2014

Fruit Purée Ice Lollies



Despite the fact that it’s July, the weather seems to have been rather horrid. The past couple of days we've seen torrential downpours and intolerable sticky humid nights. Typically, the few sunny days we have had have been during the week when most of us work. Nevertheless, it is July; it is summer, even if the weather is hell bent on convincing us otherwise. Having said that, this week is set to be the hottest of the year so far...

Remember those plastic ice lolly moulds you had as a kid? Yep - you know the ones I mean, almost everyone has one of these lurking somewhere at the back of a cupboard or drawer. Perhaps it's lost at the back of the ice box in the fridge? If you've got one - find it. If you've never owned one - buy one and get making these delicious fruit purée lollies.

Today's recipe is ice lollies of course, or popsicles if you are from across the pond. Not just any old ice lollies either – healthy fruit purée lollies to help keep your bikini body in shape. These fresh and fruity lollies couldn't be easier to make and you really can pick which ever fruits you like. I choose Mango and Raspberry. You do need to add a little sugar to the raspberries as they can be quite sharp, add sugar and taste to ensure you get the balance right. You can also add a little fresh orange juice to the raspberries to dilute the tart flavour.

These lollies are simply delicious and so refreshing on hot and sunny day – the kids love them too. They will keep in the freezer for a good few months. Next I'm going to try coconut and raspberry lollies with natural yoghurt and coconut milk for a creamier lolly.

Is it just me, or are Mangos slippery little blighters? I still can’t cut one without a struggle, so hats off you if you've mastered it. Mangos have a flat long pit in the centre, the trick is to try and cut around this, a good guide for cutting them can be found here.

Mango & Raspberry Ice Lollies


1 mango, diced
1 punnet of raspberries
3 tspb of sugar

Place the mango into a large glass jug and blend into a purée using a stick blender. Do the same with the raspberries, except this time add the sugar as you blend.

Pour the mango purée into the ice lolly mould, making sure you leave room at the top for the raspberry purée . Place the mould into the freezer for 1 hour, remove the mould and add the raspberry purée – place the full moulds into the freezer and leave for at least 4 hours.
Friday, 4 July 2014

Miss Friday's 100th Blog Post

This marks my 100th post on Miss Friday’s Feast. Yes, really. Hurrah for me right? So, what does one post to mark such a milestone? The truth is this post would have come a week earlier had I been able to make my mind up. My top hundred favourite foods, my top 10 or most popular blog posts from the past, a celebration recipe...? The possibilities are endless.

I’ve decided to post a collection of pictures to give you an insight into a few of the things I’ve been up to lately. I’ve been so busy I just have to share it all with you. I managed to blag myself hospitality tickets to the Taste of London show with work, which as you can imaging was immense. Free champagne, spending money and all that delicious food, what’s not to love? That’s not even the best part, I was lucky enough to meet one of the most successful celebrity chefs – Michel Roux Jr, and had my photograph taken with him as he signed me one of his recipe books. That certainly topped my week, my month in fact.



As if that wasn’t enough excitement for one month, my dear friend Lee finished making me a new shelf/cupboard to house my recipe books, and it’s just about the most beautiful shelf I’ve ever seen. We sat down and discussed what storage I needed and what type of design I wanted. You can’t beat a beautiful bespoke piece of furniture, look how pretty she is!



So what else has been happening? Well, I ran the Pretty Muddy race and raised £198 for Cancer Research. It was such a fun day and all for a very good cause. There is still time to raise money, so if you’re feeling generous and would like to sponsor me, even £1, you can do so by clicking this link. Your support is really appreciated.



I’ve been writing Miss Friday’s Feast for almost two years now and every post has been a pleasure to plan, develop, cook, photograph, write and share with you lovely people. I’ve always taken an interest in food, but this blog has allowed me to develop that interest into a real passion. I’ve loved sharing my recipes and listening to the wonderful feedback. Knowing that people are genuinely interested and sometimes impressed by the recipes you share really does make all the difference. Which brings me on nicely to saying thank you to my readers, without you writing this blog wouldn’t be worthwhile. Don’t get me wrong there were a few hairy moments in the beginning where I thought I was the only one reading it. But, over the past (nearly) two years I’ve seen my audience grow, which makes me very happy indeed.

Writing this blog has seen me through some pretty crappy times, when I just wanted to bury my head and stay locked in the house, my blog was always there waiting to be written. Even when things were back on track and I rarely felt I had time to write, when I eventually did, here it was still waiting, just like my readers for which I am eternally grateful. 
Monday, 23 June 2014

Tuscan Inspired Ragú - #TuscanyNowCookOff

Being a food blogger often presents you with opportunities to review products and enter competitions, and when such a task presents itself I'm only too happy to get involved. Having said that, I've come to adopt rather a casual approach to cooking. The thought of making everything over fussy and complicated doesn't fill me with glee; in fact it makes me anxious at times. How can a self confessed foodie say this? Well, I've tried cooking many recipes and many variations of the same recipe and more often than not I find that simple is best. As long as you are not compromising on flavour and satisfaction, why wouldn't you choose the easier recipe? Not only does it save you hours slaving in the kitchen, but quite often it saves you money too.

It’s not to say that I don’t like taking the time to cook up something delicious and spend a little cash being indulgent with food, especially where a competition is concerned, but sometimes I prefer recipes that are undemanding - especially on a Monday. Recently, I've become a slave to the clock, work has been busy and my social life, not that I'm complaining, seems to have flourished. All in all, it’s left me feeling exhausted and in need of the sort of food that can replace a loving embrace, if you get where I'm going with that - comfort food.

So the easy part is that I've made this recipe before and you can batch cook the ragú and freeze it for days when you feel like this, making it an incredibly quick supper. 

Although we've been lucky enough to have a gloriously sunny weekend, today has been all too gloomy and overcast for my liking. Incidentally, as I write, it has just beginning to rain. And, it’s weather like this that brings me back to the thought of comfort food. Today that comfort is in the form of a delicious rich Tuscan inspired ragú.

Ragú is perfect for this lazy approach to cooking, aside from chopping a few ingredients, you pop everything into a big pot and leave the hob to do the hard work. Apart from a little stirring here and there it’s effortless. Serve it up with some delicious toasted ciabatta, rubbed with a little garlic. Top it off with some sweet cherry tomatoes, basil leaves and a few shavings of parmesan and you’ll be in comfort food heaven. Once you've poured yourself a glass of red wine that is.

And, as I finish this post the rain is lashing down on my window whilst I scoff down my delicious fuss free supper.

I was recently contacted by Tuscany Now asking if I would like to contribute to their Cook-Off Competition #TuscanyNowCookOff. This recipe is perfect as it’s a Tuscan inspired creation that is simply delicious.





Recipe makes a large batch for freezing

250g Beef mince
250g lamb mince
200g Chicken livers, finely chopped
5 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil (such as De Cecco Il Classico)
800g chopped tomatoes
5 tbsp tomato purée
200ml of red wine
Salt and black pepper
Handful of freshly chopped basil
10 vine tomatoes, halved
4 tbsp parmesan shavings

A combination of the following ingredients finely chopped is what the Italian’s call Soffritto, which forms the basis of many authentic Italian meals:

2 Red onions
2 Carrots
2 Celery sticks
1 sprig of rosemary (optional in most Soffritto recipes)
2 bay leaves (optional in most Soffritto recipes)

Start by heating the oil in a pan and gently frying the red onion, carrots and celery. Add the rosemary and bay leaves. Cook until golden, about 12-15 minutes. Remove the rosemary and bay leaves and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add the meats to the pan and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes. Once browned add the wine and stir well. Cook until the wine and fat from the meats has evaporated.

Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée and season to taste.

Serve with toasted ciabatta, topped with a generous spoonful or ragú, a few chopped vine tomatoes, freshly chopped basil and parmesan shavings.
Monday, 16 June 2014

Many Foodie Endeavours

Yet again, time slips away from me. How is it possible that seven weeks have passed me by without a single blog post?  Now, although I've not managed to get round to blogging any recipes, many foodie endeavours have presented themselves to me over the past few weeks. I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few pictures with you, which might explain what on earth I've been up to.

I've written and had my first recipe published in the Local Network Magazine, which you can read here. Hurrah for me! I've also just submitted the July article, which will be published any day now. I've been in consultation with the magazine about doing some freelance copy editing for them. I proof read for a living, so this opportunity is quite apt. As you can image, I'm feeling rather busy at the minute.

I embarked on a two week healthy eating pre-holiday style diet, which went fairly successfully, until my uncle invited us over for a pasta making party. Yep, you heard right, pasta making party!  Everyone got stuck in and we ended up with about seven different pasta dishes, so we had a little of everything.  I've been camping in Mersea, which to my delight gave me the perfect opportunity to check out the Oyster Bar for some... yep you guessed it oysters, and lobster. And, of course, I've been on holiday to Tenerife for a week, which obviously bought many delicious delights. All in all, not a bad few weeks really! 

On top of all of this, I've had a couple of delicious picnics and beer festivals to see in the summer in proper British style. So, having given you all of my excuses as to why I've been too busy for the world of blogging, I thought it best to share with you some pictures from the last few weeks...



Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Pasta Puttanesca



Being an avid foodie, it’s almost impossible for me to pick a favourite dish, but there are a few that are certainly up there and this pasta dish certainly deserves a place in my top 5 meals. My friend Emily and I just adore this dish, mainly for its pungent delicious flavour, but also because there are few things more comforting that a big bowl of pasta. I've posted a puttanesca recipe before, but this is a variation on the last recipe, I wanted to create a super quick version of my favourite pasta dish that is just as delicious.  

If you've never tried puttanesca, I’ll warn you, it’s instantly addictive, and will most likely become a real go to meal when you’re having a busy week. You can almost make the entire meal from your store cupboard ingredients, all except the lemon juice, parsley and red chilli. Of course you could use chilli flakes, and bottled lemon juice, but the fresh parsley is a must. A word of warning, don’t add any salt to the dish, the anchovies provide all the saltiness you need.

Traditionally, you would use spaghetti in this dish, but any pasta you have knocking about is fine, and to be honest fusilli worked really well here, and for a speedy supper it’s easier to eat – that is simply my inner greed. My boyfriend always comments on how quickly I eat my meals.

Ingredients:

250g fusilli pasta
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 can of anchovies
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 red chilli roughly chopped
2 tbsp capers
Juice of half a lemon
Handful of freshly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated

Method:

Start by cooking the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, add the anchovies to a hot pan, with the oil that they are in, using a wooden spoon break them up; the heat will turn them into a paste. Add the garlic and chilli, cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes, capers and half of the parsley to the pan. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon and mix well to combine, allow this to simmer over a medium heat until the pasta is cooked.

Drain the pasta; add to the pan with a good pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Serve in warmed bowls with a sprinkling of parsley and parmesan. 
Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Tefal OptiGrill Review

Move over George Forman, there's a new kid on the block; The Tefal OptiGrill and its one mean grilling machine. I was rather excited that the lovely people at Tefal sent me one to try out last week. The poor old George Forman grill has been tossed into the trash to make way for our shiny new kitchen gadget, but to be fair; it was getting a little old and tatty.

The OpitGrill features an automatic sensor to precisely measure the cooking process and a thickness measurement to adapt to the thickness of the meat or fish you are grilling, sounds great right? It also features a colour LED screen that indicates whether your meat is rare, medium or well-done – I think this is simply great, no more guess work with your steak.

With six automatic programmes you can have the perfect grilled fish, bacon, chicken, burgers and sausages every time and other features include a manual option if you are cooking vegetables, defrost and keep warm options. Obviously, I wasted no time in putting it through its paces and grilled just about everything in sight.

The OptiGrill is a stylish kitchen gadget; it’s mainly brushed stainless, with black detailing. The automatic programme panel and controls are easy to understand and the changing light makes the grill easy to use.

So far, I have tried steak, bacon and chicken, all of which were a success. The chicken was superb, I wrapped the breasts in cling film and bashed them with a rolling pin to flatten ‘escalope’ them and rubbed them with a Cajun spice mix before grilling them. The result was a super tasty, perfectly cooked chicken breast that was also a very healthy way of cooking it.  The steak was slightly more difficult to get right, but only because I cooked four steaks, which were all different in size and thickness, which I think, confused the OptiGrill. Next time I’ll ensure the meat is all the same size and I'm sure the results would be much better. I'm keen to try fish, vegetables and toasted sandwiches in the grill too.

The OptiGrill is certainly not a small piece of kitchen equipment. It’s rather large and bulky, but if you have a spare cupboard it can be popped away. I do find it takes up quite a bit of space on the worktop, but seeing as it cooks so well I can overlook this. It also feels very durable and hardwearing. The retail price is £149 which, if I'm completely honest, is slightly expensive for a glorified George Forman grill. Don’t get me wrong, it is an intelligent piece of equipment, that undoubtedly has more features but I probably wouldn't pay over £100 for it.

Despite the objectionable price tag, the grill really does have some great features, such as the removable plates; you can completely remove them from the grill and wash them separately from the machine, which of course makes cleaning it a lot easier. We all know just how horrid these things are to clean. The plates are also dishwasher safe, which I'm sure, if you have a dishwasher, is great. Overall, I was impressed with the features of the Tefal OptiGrill and would recommend it to anyone that loves a kitchen gadget. 



Monday, 7 April 2014

Steak with Gruyere and Chive Croquette Potatoes, Red Cabbage and a Mustard Sauce with Shiitake Mushrooms






This recipe is my entry for the Maille Culinary Challenge. I was invited to participate in the challenge to create a mouth-watering recipe including at least one Maille product. They were kind enough to send me two of their delicious products free of charge and I was able to pick from a rather extensive list including many delicious ingredients. Rather than just including one of the ingredients, I decided to use both; I figured this would ensure I really thought hard about a recipe with different components. I quite often create recipes with one star piece, either the meat or fish and the sides will be fairly simple - such is my style of cooking. However, seeing as this was a culinary challenge it was only right that I challenged myself and created a dish where each element bought something special to the recipe. I chose the following ingredients:


The red cabbage worked beautifully with the balsamic glaze; it brought an intense sweetness to the dish that truly was delicious, whilst the mustard has a woody earthy flavour that compliments the shitake mushrooms wonderfully.

Fingers crossed my recipe goes down well. The first prize for the Maille Culinary Challenge is a “Food Lover London Tour” worth £390, and two runners up will receive a luxury Maille Gift Box with accessories valued at £150. Yes please!


Serves 4

Ingredients

* Half a red cabbage, finely sliced
* Half a red onion, finely sliced
* 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
6 tbsp butter
2 tbsp water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large potatoes
2 tbsp chives, snipped
90g Gruyere cheese, grated
Pinch white pepper
100g plain flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
50g golden breadcrumbs (preferably not fresh)
1 litre of vegetable oil
100g fresh shiitake mushrooms
200ml double cream
4 Sirloin Steaks


Method

Start by finely slicing the red cabbage and red onion. Place in a saucepan with 2 tbsp of butter, the garlic, balsamic glaze and water; season with salt and pepper and cook on a medium heat for about 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the potatoes, boil for 25-30 minutes, until soft. Remove from the heat and drain well, return the potatoes to the pan. Add 2 tbsp butter, chives, cheese, white pepper and a splash of cream, roughly mash. Don’t worry if they are a little lumpy, a bit of texture works well in the croquettes. Allow the mashed potato to cool slightly.

Whilst the mash is cooling, line up three bowls, fill one with the flour, one with the egg and a tbsp of water and the other with the bread crumbs. Take a small amount of the mashed potato in your hands and roll into a small ball, slightly smaller than a golf ball, roll in the flour, shaking off any excess. Then roll the ball in the egg and finally the bread crumbs. Place aside and repeat until you have used all of the mash, set these aside while you prepare the sauce.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan. Slice the shiitake mushrooms, place in a pan with the remaining butter and season, fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes, once softened add the mustard and cream; heat through while you cook the steak and fry the croquettes as below.

Season the steak and fry in a little oil for the desired length of time, depending on how you like your steak cooked. I had fairly thick Sirloin that I like rare, so I fried for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Once cooked, set the steak aside and allow to rest. This is very important as it lets the fibres in the meat relax and allows the juices to flow, meaning you’ll end up with a much tastier steak.

Fry the croquettes in batches for about 30 seconds, they will brown very quickly. Remove from the oil and place on kitchen towel to drain off any excess oil.

Slice and serve the steak, topped with the mustard sauce and some snipped chives, three croquettes and some red cabbage.
Thursday, 27 March 2014

Halloumi Salad



This vibrant salad is bursting with flavours; the peppery salad leaves and red onion are delicious with the cool herby yoghurt and salty halloumi. I'm going to be honest, I quite often find salads the most boring thing to eat, but a well thought out salad with balanced flavours is actually quite a delicious little dinner.

I'm trying my hardest to be good at the moment, and failing quite miserably for the most part. You may or may not have seen my previous post on indulgent chocolate buttons. I'm constantly torn between my love of food and not wanting to be fat, a battle I fear I’ll always face. But, when I am disciplined enough to be healthy, I feel quite chuffed with myself, especially when a healthy dinner turns out to be so tasty. So, if you are like me and practically turn your nose up at the thought of having a salad for dinner, just give this a go, it’s truly delicious.

It’s hard to beat grilled halloumi, but if you’re not a fan feta would work well too; essentially, it’s the salty element of this salad that I love the most. Even my meat eating carnivore of a boyfriend was happy to have a supper without meat, for once! This dish would make a wonderful side for a BBQ too now that we are coming into Spring.
  
* 250g Halloumi
* 100g Watercress, spinach and rocket salad
* 225g vine tomatoes
* 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
* 50g croutons (either bought or homemade)
* 150g low fat natural yoghurt
* Handful chopped basil
* Handful chopped dill

Preheat the oven to 160⁰C.

Mix the chopped basil and dill into the yoghurt and set aside.

Remove the tomatoes from the vine, cut in half and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes for about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, assemble the salad; place the salad leaves, red onion and croutons in a large salad bowl, top with the roasted tomatoes and yoghurt dressing.

Place a griddle over the heat and add the halloumi and fry for about 4-5 minutes on each side ensure both sides are lightly browned. Pop the halloumi on top of the salad and serve immediately. 
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