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.


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


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


* 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


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. 
Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Indulgent Chocolate Buttons

Every now and again you come up with a recipe that is just spectacular, and this one is. Giant chocolate buttons encrusted with delicious dried fruit and crunchy nuts, utterly delicious! I started out thinking I’d make some chocolate bark, but changed my mind and thought giant button shaped treats would be much more decadent. I'm visiting a friend on Thursday for dinner, so I'm planning on taking a few as a gift, they’ll make the perfect after dinner treat. These would also be lovely for a Mother’s Day gift, there is surely nothing better than a homemade edible treat?

You don’t have to stick to the same ingredients I've used, you really can pick any combination of dried fruit and nuts to suit your taste, just make sure the flavours complement each other. I think the salty pistachios and cashews work beautifully with the sticky sweet cranberries and apricots. You could also try using different chocolate, white, plain, milk or dark would all be equally delicious.

I used a combination of 70% dark chocolate and milk chocolate. I love the bitterness and depth of flavour you get from dark chocolate, but combined with the milk you get a slightly more subtle flavour that would suit most pallets. Use the very best chocolate you can afford, trust me it’s worth splashing out a little. The taste of these little jewel embellished treats is only going to be as good as the quality of chocolate you use.

I'm looking forward to experimenting with various flavour combinations; I think hazelnut or honeycomb would be delicious. We have the children over the weekend so I'm guessing they will jump at the chance of making a batch of these chocolate buttons, perhaps with popping candy, marshmallows or Smarties. I’d recommend using milk chocolate for the little ones as dark would be too bitter.

* 150g Green & Black's 70% dark chocolate
* 200g Green & Black's milk chocolate
* Handful of shelled pistachios
* Handful of salted cashew nuts
* Handful of dried cranberries
* Handful of dried apricots, roughly chopped
* Baking parchment paper

Start by placing a saucepan of water (about 200ml) on the hob; position a glass bowl on top of the saucepan, ensuring that the glass does not touch the water. Heat water until just boiling, and then turn it right down to a simmer.

Break the chocolate into individual squares and place into the bowl, stir constantly with a spatula, if you continue mixing the chocolate will melt evenly and become liquefied and silky smooth. One the chocolate has melted completely, remove from the heat and place to one side.

Lay out a large section of baking parchment paper and roughly stencil out circles, to your desired size. I found a small drinking glass was the perfect size to draw around. Spoon the chocolate mixture onto the drawn circles and scatter with the fruit and nuts, ensuring that each chocolate button has a couple of pieces of each.

Leave the chocolate buttons on the counter for a couple of hours, at which point they should be hard and dry. Peel them carefully from the parchment paper and place into containers and refrigerate.

These buttons are best eaten cold straight from the fridge and washed down with a nice cup of tea.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Crispy Duck Pancakes

Who doesn't love crispy duck pancakes? Drizzled with sweet, sticky plum sauce I just can’t get enough of them, especially when the duck is extra crispy. Quite often Rich and I order them from our local Chinese takeaway, not bothering to attempt them at home, until now anyway.

But, having found three duck legs reduced to just £2 at the supermarket I couldn't resist picking them up. I'm fortunate in the respect that I live next door to a co-operative supermarket; which can be super useful when you run out of something, or forget to pick something up. But, perhaps what I love best about it is that it’s great for bagging a bargain; I normally pop across at the end of the day when they are reducing everything and see what cheap treats I can pick up. So, this time it was duck legs, and we knew exactly what we wanted to do with them; attempt, for the first time, crispy duck pancakes.

There is a certain technique to ensuring the meat is super tender, but the skin is super crispy. It wasn't without a bit of re-search that we realised steaming the duck first helps to keep it really moist, then deep frying it crisps up the skin so nicely. I’ll take no credit for this particular recipe as it was Richard’s wonderful dish and he really did do a splendid job.

1 ½ pints of vegetable oil
10 pancakes
2 duck legs
1 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tsp Szechuan pepper corns
Bunch of spring onions
Plum sauce

Start by rubbing the duck legs with the five spice and peppercorns, then place them in a steamer over boiling water. Steam the legs for about 40 minutes, until the meat is really tender and cooked through.

Remove the duck legs from the steamer and set aside on kitchen paper to absorb any excess water. Heat a pan of vegetable oil on the hob and carefully place the duck legs in and fry for about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oil and place them onto the kitchen paper for a second time to drain the excess oil. Shred the meat from the bone and place in a warmed dish to serve.

Serve with steamed pancakes, chopped spring onions and cucumber and plum sauce. 
Monday, 3 March 2014

Homemade Hummus

There is something about this pale, thick and delicious Middle Eastern dip that I just adore. Of course I'm a fan of the store bought stuff, but nothing beats making your own, and when you realise just how simple it is you’ll mostly make it yourself in future. You can experiment with the recipe and make various flavour fusions. I've stuck to a plain hummus this time, but you could try lime and coriander, lemon and garlic or sun-dried tomato. The possibilities are endless.

Hummus is perfect served with bread sticks, raw vegetables or toasted pita bread, simply brush the pita bread with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toast under the grill for about 5 minutes - the pita comes out so crispy and delicious.


1 can of chickpeas, drained
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)


Place the chickpeas in a blender (keep a few aside) and add the lemon juice, sesame oil and garlic. With the blender on full, slowly pour in the EVOO until you have the right consistency. You want the hummus to be thick, but not so thick that it’s a solid lump when you stir it.

Season to taste a serve in a bowl drizzled with a little of the EVOO and a few of the whole chickpeas for decoration.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Lemon Cupcakes

I had a rather eventful Saturday, baking batches of cupcakes for a charity fundraising night at my local pub. Having agreed to bake around 70 cupcakes, I was delighted that my friend Sam had offered to help me, she wanted to brush up on her baking skills and I was only too happy to share the load. We decided upon three kinds of cupcakes, lemon, chocolate and coconut and raspberry. The recipes for the coconut and raspberry and chocolate ones have featured on my blog before and can be found by clicking on the links below, so I thought I’d share the lemon cupcake recipe, which comes courtesy of Mary Berry.

The charity night was in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support and we raised a wonderful £647 from the door entry, raffle and cupcakes which I think is just wonderful for a small local pub. This is the first time I've put my cooking skills to use supporting a charity event, and it felt great to help raise money and the feedback was really positive. I’ll certainly volunteer in future to bake for any other events.

Lemon Cupcakes


125 g soft butter
125 g self-raising flour
125 g caster sugar
2 tbsp milk
2 large eggs
Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon

For the lemon icing:

125 g soft unsalted butter
250 g icing sugar, sifted
Juice of 1 small lemon
Edible silver balls or glitter to decorate
Deep 12-hole muffin tin and 12 paper cases

Makes:  12


Line the muffin tin with the paper cases. Put all the cake ingredients into a bowl, and beat with an electric whisk until evenly combined and smooth.

Divide the mixture among the paper cases. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C/gas mark 4 for 20–25 minutes until well risen and light golden brown. Transfer the cakes in their cases to a wire rack, and leave to cool.

Make the icing: put the butter and half of the icing sugar into a bowl, and beat with an electric whisk until evenly combined and smooth. Add the lemon juice and the remaining icing sugar, and beat again until light and fluffy.

Spread the icing over the cold cup cakes, and decorate with silver balls or glitter.

Raspberry & Coconut Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Hot & Sour Asian Broth

A very quick, simple recipe for you folks that love Asian flavours – you’ll be amazed at just how speedy this wonderful fusion of flavours is. It’s the perfect winter warmer, the heat from the chillies and ginger will warm you right through.

This is the second recipe for a hot and sour broth I've posted on Miss Friday’s Feast; it’s such a good dish, with so many delicious Asian flavours I didn't think you’d mind another recipe that is an improvement on my last one. This recipe brings much more pungent, vibrant and fresh flavours, and makes for a perfect light meal or lunch. It’s perfect for a diet as it doesn't compromise on flavour; in fact it’s overloaded with it and will certainly leave you feeling as if you've had a healthy, but filling meal. Rich was a huge fan, he loved it, which is always a good sign.       

I've not been very precise with the ingredient quantities here as it’s really a case of tasting as you go along. Some will prefer this a little sweeter, so should add less fish sauce and lime juice, whilst others (me) will love the salty tang of the fish sauce and fresh zing of the lime juice. It’s all a matter of personal taste, so be sure to have a slurp of the broth a few times throughout the cooking process. This is something you learn to do more and more, taste your food as you go along, it’s really important as some unbalanced flavours are hard to amend once the dish is finished. This recipe serves 2.

Hot & Sour Asian Broth 

Handful of king prawns
Handful of dried mushrooms, soaked and drained
Handful of freshly chopped coriander 
500ml chicken stock
2 nests of noodles (rice noodles or Pad Thai)
1 tbsp chilli oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
Small knob of ginger, minced
1 stalk of lemon grass, finely chopped
2 green finger chillies, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
Juice of half a lime

Start by boiling the kettle and soaking the noodles in boiling water.

Heat the chilli oil in a small casserole pot, add the shallots and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chillies, continue to cook for 3 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and prawns, cook for 5 minutes until the prawns are pink and the mushrooms softened, and then add the fish sauce, lime juice, soy and sugar. Stir well and cover with the chicken stock.

Turn the heat down to a simmer and transfer the noodles to the broth. Simmer for 15 minutes and serve in warmed bowls with a sprinkling of coriander

If you enjoy my recipes then please do ‘like’ my Facebook page to keep up to speed with the latest culinary delights to come out of my kitchen. Each post features a photo and a link back to the blog where you’ll find the easy to follow recipes.  
Friday, 14 February 2014

Steak & Ale Pie

Bored of the age old steak dinner for Valentine’s Day? Why not impress your valentine with this super tasty steak and ale pie? If you’re planning on spending a romantic evening in with a bottle of wine and a delicious homemade treat then give this delicious pie a whirl, I promise you’ll impress you’re other half. If you’d rather not spend the whole evening cooking then you can use a readymade pastry, but make it yourself and you’ll really notice the difference, and possibly earn a few extra brownie points. What could be better than a man making pie and getting covered in flour? I digress.

This recipe serves six, so there will be plenty of leftovers (which is fortunate, because once you've tried you’ll want more and more). Once made, you can freeze the pie in individual portions ready for lunches or a quick weeknight dinner. You can also freeze any leftover pastry for up to one month, just wrap it in cling film and pop it in the freezer for another time.

The best part about this pie is in the decoration, of course for a valentines pie I perhaps should have used a heart shaped cutter, but never mind, stars it is. You can get creative with your pastry cutting skills, maybe even spell out your partners name in pastry... too tacky? Okay, moving on.


* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 450g casserole steak
* 230g pack of smoked bacon, roughly chopped
* 4 carrots, roughly chopped
* 1 large onions, roughly chopped
* 2 tbsp plain flour
* 2 tsp sugar
* 300ml dark ale (a cheap own brand is fine)
* 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
* 400ml beef stock
* 1 bouquet garni
* 300g mushrooms, halved

* 650g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
* 250g cold baking butter, diced
* 1 egg, beaten


Heat oven to 160C. In a large casserole dish, fry the steak and bacon in a little olive oil until browned all over, set aside. Add the chopped carrots and onions and more oil if necessary, cook on a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, then add the sugar and flour, stir well.

Add the steak and bacon back to the pan and stir well. Pour over the ale, Worcestershire sauce and stock, season well and add the bouquet garni, simmer for a few minutes before putting a lid on and transferring to the oven. Cook for 2-3 hours.

Meanwhile, measure out your flour and dice the butter, crumble them together with your (clean) fingers using a rubbing motion between your thumb, forefinger and middle finger. Add a pinch of salt. Once the butter and flour are combined, slowly add ice water and knead to form the pastry (I found that about 180mls did the trick). Wrap the pastry in cling film and pop it in the fridge while your pie cooks.

Once the steak is cooked, remove from the oven and turn the oven temperature up to 200C. Transfer the steak mixture to a pie dish and leave to cool while you roll out your pastry.  Roll out the pastry to a size that will cover the pie (you’ll want to leave another inch around the side). Pop your pastry on to the pie and cut around the edge, tucking the pastry under to form a seal. Brush the top with the egg wash and cut out your decoration. Add this to the top and brush again with egg. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes.

Serve with steamed vegetables and mashed, jacket or roast potatoes.  

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Stir fried Garlic Beef with Oyster Sauce

Hoo Hing's Chinese Supermarket

Have you ever been to a Hoo Hing’s Chinese supermarket? I had the pleasure of visiting the one in Enfield on Sunday, which was rather exciting. Really exciting actually, for a foodie it’s like an Aladdin’s cave of Chinese ingredients. You’d love it, assuming you like Chinese food that is. There is just so much to look at, it’s overwhelming really, with a hundred different sweet chilli and soy sauces, noodles and cooking utensils. I left with a receipt as long as my arm, if not longer, and still I hadn't spent a fortune. Who knew you could buy 60 vegetable spring rolls for £2.65? I know what you’re thinking, I bet they were awful, but they are actually delicious.   

Historically, I've never been a fan of Chinese food, finding it all too gloopy and stodgy, often feeling like I had a hangover after eating it, seriously! I've always preferred Indian and Thai food, who doesn't love a curry? But, I'm putting this down to bad experiences at poor Chinese restaurants. However, I've recently decided that it’s these bad restaurants that I dislike rather than Chinese cuisine itself. So, in an attempt to discover delicious authentic Chinese food I've decided I’d be better attempting to make my own, which prompted my visit to Hoo Hings Supermarket.

So, with my thinking cap on and a cupboard stocked to the rafters with tasty new ingredients, I set about making a delicious little beef dish with a fillet steak I picked up in Aldi for a few pounds, bargain! I marinated the beef in a little garlic oil, fresh garlic, ginger and some oyster sauce, before adding it to a hot wok and adding chillies, spring onions and green peppers and dried mushrooms (these had been soaked first). The almost sinister looking thick and sticky oyster sauce has such a wonderful sweetness that works beautifully with the steak and green peppers. Leaving it all to marinate couldn't be easier, stir frying it takes minutes and you've a delicious, guilt free Chinese meal to enjoy in the comfort of your own kitchen without spending a fortune.

Before you read the list of ingredients and panic about the monosodium glutamate (MSG), let me just mention that it’s really a small amount and you use it instead of salt. All Chinese food, takeaway or otherwise will have MSG added; it’s a flavour enhancer and it really does make the world of difference - and used in moderation it’s completely fine. In fact, you’ll be surprised at just how many foods contain MSG. Next time you reach for a packet of crisps check the list of ingredients, they’ll most likely contain it – that’s why they are so morish!

Stir-fried Garlic Beef with Oyster Sauce

Serves 2

* 1 fillet steak, sliced thinly
5 tbsp Oyster sauce
2 tbsp garlic oil
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp of monosodium glutamate
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
Knob of ginger, peeled and grated
2 green chillies, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
Large handful of fresh bean sprouts
Half a green pepper, roughly chopped
Handful of dried mushrooms, soaked and drained
2 nests of egg noodles (thick)

1. Start by marinating the beef in a dish with the oil, soy, oyster sauce, MSG, garlic, ginger and green chillies – leave this for as long as possible, but half hour will suffice.

2. Heat a little oil in a wok (over a high heat) and add the green peppers and half of the spring onions stir fry for a couple of minutes. Add the beef and marinade and stir fry until the beef is cooked to your liking, only a couple of minutes for me. Add the bean sprouts and mushroom, stir well and continue cooking for another minute until the vegetables have softened.

3. Serve the beef on a platter, garnished with the remaining spring onion and a bowl of egg noodles on the side.

This dish is delicious washed down with an ice cold Chinese Tsingtao beer.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Eggs Benedict (Hollandaise Sauce)

How do you like your eggs in the morning?

I call myself a foodie, yet it struck me that I’d never attempted to make hollandaise, which quite frankly is absurd. I remember watching a series of MasterChef where one of the initial challenges was for the chefs to make a hollandaise sauce, many of them failed miserably, yet they were able to create stunning dishes that I wouldn’t even dream of being able to recreate. So, it seems that however much of a culinary expert you are the basics can sometimes get lost in the hype of creating new recipes and being all too innovative with food. Let’s face it; the basics are as important as the fancy stuff.

In all honesty, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that the technique of making hollandaise (the thought of it splitting) has always put me off, but I decided it was about time I stopped shying away from such thoughts and had a go. I’m amazed at how easy it was – and it didn’t split (pats self on back in congratulatory manner). Harrah me!

Whisking together the eggs yolks, vinegar and water is certainly the easy part, whisking only until light and frothy, it’s when you add heat to the equation that you seem to think it’s going to explode before your very eyes. Okay, that is a slight exaggeration, but my point is the thought is scarier than actually getting stuck in and having a go. You slowly whisk in the butter until you have a thick pale yellow sauce – et voila hollandaise! It really is that simple.

Ordinarily, when Saturday morning comes around I think of one thing only - eggs, normally boiled with soldiers, sometimes scrambled or poached, but never with hollandaise. From now on though, I’ll be found in the kitchen lording it up with my eggs Benedict – well, every now and then anyway. It’s the perfect breakfast in so many ways, not least because it really sets you up for the day, all that protein keeps you going for hours before feeling hungry again – perfect if you’ve a busy day lined up. Granted, it’s not exactly a healthy breakfast with all the butter, but let’s be honest, weekends were invented for indulgence, especially around the breakfast table.

I didn’t make Rich breakfast as he was sleeping off a hangover and I didn’t imagine hollandaise would sit well in his stomach. But, having seen the photos I took, he was in fact quite jealous of my delicious breakfast and has requested I have another bash at making it again soon. I guess this one is going to become a weekend staple in my household. This recipe serves two.

What have you shied away from making before, only to find it was so much simpler than you’d imagined?


2 eggs
Small packet of smoked ham
1 English muffin, halved
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tbsp freshly snipped chives

For the Hollandaise:

2 egg yolks
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp water
125g softened butter, cubed
Lemon juice, to taste
Salt and ground black pepper


To make the hollandaise sauce, add the egg yolks to a heat proof glass bowl and whisk until light and frothy. Place the white wine vinegar and water into a small saucepan and reduce by half, allow to cool slightly.

Place the glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering eater and add the reduced vinegar. Ensure that the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the glass bowl. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is light and airy. Gradually add the butter a cube at a time, whisking the whole time. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice and keep warm.

Poach the eggs for 3-4 minutes and toast the muffin halves.

To serve, butter the muffins, place a couple of slices of ham on each, followed by the poached egg. Season with salt and pepper then pour over the sauce and garnish with the snipped chives. 
Friday, 31 January 2014

Chocolate Button Cakes

Kids love cake, fact! So, it was no surprise when I asked Max (Richard’s boy) if he wanted to make a cake, he jumped at the chance. So, I proceeded to gather all of my recipe books that contained cake and asked him to have a flick through and pick one that caught his eye. Mary Berry’s Heavenly Chocolate Cake is what he chose, splendid choice indeed I thought, especially as I already had most of the ingredients.

Having decided upon making the most calorific cake in the entire world, I realised that although I had nearly all of the ingredients, I had no cake tins – which makes cake making all the more difficult. I'm not much of a baker you see, more of a savoury cook. I did however have a muffin tin and some cake cases, these would have to suffice. Max on the other hand felt quite differently about the absence of a cake tin and decided to have a strop over it. That was until I explained that we’d still be making the same cake, but we’d be making individual ones instead of one big one. Kids ay! So with the ingredients ready, the cooking equipment in order and the mood restored we set about making these delicious little cakes.

I've never made a Mary Berry cake before, of course I've watched her on the Great British Bake Off and various other foodie programmes, but never attempted any of her recipes. They always look delicious, but aside from the fact that I'm not much of a baker, a sweet tooth is something I'm slowly beginning to lose as I get older. Harrah, there is hope for my ever expanding waistline after all.

These cakes, as well as being devilishly chocolaty and delicious, are somewhat light, which I can only imagine comes from whisking the egg whites and folding them in - the part of the recipe I insisted on helping with, for fear of losing all the air and ending up with a rather dense cake, or dense cakes even. If you’re a chocolate fan you’ll simply rejoice at the thought of a chocolate cake with chocolate fudge icing and Cadbury’s chocolate buttons on the top (an addition Max and I felt was essential).

I've included Mary's recipe below, but we obviously changed a couple of aspects, either way I guarantee you'll end up with a delicious chocolate cake. 

Cuts into 8 slices (615 cals each)


* 125g butter, plus extra for greasing
* 200g plain dark chocolate, broken into pieces
* 2 tbsp water
* 3 eggs, separated
* 125g caster sugar
* 90g self-raising flour
* 60g ground almonds
* 60g butter
* 30g cocoa powder
* 3 tbsp milk
* 250g icing sugar, sifted
* White chocolate curls to decorate


1. Lightly butter a deep 20cm cake tin and line the bottom with baking parchment.

2. Put the chocolate into a heatproof bowl with the butter and water. Put the bowl over a pan of hot water and heat gently, stirring, until the mixture has melted. Cool.

3. Combine the egg yolks and caster sugar in a large bowl and whisk together with an electric whisk until fluffy and very light in colour. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture. Carefully fold in the flour and ground almonds.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into the sponge mixture, gently but thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C (160°C fan, Gas 4) for 50 minutes or until well risen and firm to the touch.

5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for a few minutes, turn out on to a wire rack, and peel off the lining paper. Cool completely.

6. Make the fudge icing: melt the butter in a pan, add the cocoa powder, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the milk and icing sugar. Beat well until smooth. Leave to cool until thickened.

7. Split the cake in half horizontally and sandwich the layers together with half of the fudge icing. With a palette knife, spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with white chocolate curls.
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