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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Easy to assemble, exceptionally tasty salad recipes

Since the weather became good (finally!), I've been making a lots of salads. They're so quick to prepare and very satisfying. You can add anything you like to the salad, but just makes sure you include something from each of the following options:

- salad leaves
- cheese e.g. dolcelatte, soft goats' cheese, fried halloumi, manchego
- meat e.g. fried bacon lardons/pancetta, proscuitto, parma ham,  salami, cooked ham
- fruit e.g. fresh figs, baked/glazed pears or peachers, grapes
- a tasty dressing e.g. honey mustard, or even a very simple white wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil
- bread e.g. toasted and sliced pitta bread, walnut and raisin, sour dough
+ any other tasty morsels/left overs (I made a praline using peanuts and caramel recently. It made a great finishing flourish to a salad which included halloumi, since the praline off set the saltiness of the cheese perfectly)

Here's a detailed recipe of one of my favourite salads:

Serves 2

- Bag of peppery salad leaves e.g. water cress and rocket
- 1 red onion
- Bacon lardons
- Goats' cheese - creamy and mild
- Dressing (10 walnuts ground finely, 3 tbsp extra virgin oil, half a chilli finally chopped, half tbsp white wine vinegar, salt and pepper)

- Begin by peeling and slicing the red onion into 1cm thick rounds
- Place the onion slices on an oven tray, drizzle with oil, add salt and pepper and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes or until soft.
- Arrange the leaves, and small chunks of goats' cheese on a serving plate
- Fry the bacon lardons until golden and crispy, add to the dish.
- Add the onion slices
- Finally drizzle on the dressing, just before serving

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Recipe of the week - 17th May - Swirled Giant Meringues

These meringues are show stopping. I've seen huge, blowsy meringues everywhere I go, from Ottolenghi's, Del Aziz (around the corner from where I live), to Rick Stein's in Padstow. And now I have the perfect recipe (from Sainsbury's magazine) which will recreate them perfectly.

350g caster sugar
6 eggs whites (separate them from the yolks using your hands as a sieve, I find that they are far less likely to break the yolk done this way)
2 tsp cocoa powder

1. Begin by pre-heating the oven to 140 degrees Celsius.
2. Start by whisking the egg whites in a totally clean, grease-free bowl with an electric whisk.
4. Gradually incorporate the sugar, whisking on a high speed all the while.
4. After about 5 minutes, you should have reached the stiff peak stage.
5. Rub a little of the mixture between your fingers, it should feel totally smooth and not at all grainy.
6. Sieve the cocoa powder into the bowl and fold three times to get the desired rippled effect.
7. Spoon eight large meringues onto a baking tray covered in baking paper.
8. Bake for one hour and then leave to cool in the oven over night, to get that yummy chewy texture.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Chicken Escalopes

This is rather an unhealthy way of cooking chicken as the chicken is bread crumbed and then shallow fried. However, as at treat once in a while, it's a brilliant option. The bread crumbs retain the moisture within the chicken and give a very welcome crisp coating.

Chicken breasts (allow one per person)
Bread crumbs (either whizz up stale bread yourself or cheat by buying them pre-made)
Flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 Eggs, beaten
Vegetable oil

1. Begin by hammering out the chicken. You do this by laying each breast between cling film and hammering the breast flat using a rolling pin. You are looking for a thickness of 2cm.
2. Coat the chicken in flour, then dip into the beaten egg, before finally coating in bread crumbs.
3. Make sure you pat the bread crumbs firmly onto the chicken.
4. Repeat steps two and three, omitting the flour stage. This double layer of bread ensures a beautifully crisp chicken breast.
5. Fill in a shallow frying pan with the oil, approximately 5 cm deep.
6. Heat on a medium heat for 5 minutes until the oil is nice and hot.
7. Add the chicken breasts carefully to the pan (do not overcrowd the pan).
8. Fry for around 9 minutes or until the chicken is cooked (check this by cutting into a breast).

This is great served with a simple tomato sauce, lemon wedge and green salad. For an imitation of Wagamama's chicken katsu curry, serve the chicken with a shop bought katsu sauce and some sticky rice.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies

This is a fabulous recipe. I'm obsessed with making cookies, and finding a recipe which produces chewy, american-stye cookies has proven very tricky. Some recipes work brilliantly some of the time, but then will fail me for some unknown reason. This recipe is brilliant, it comes up trumps 99% of the time.

Makes approximately 12 cookies.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celcius

75g butter (soft)
110g caster sugar
110g soft brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
225g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 handfuls of dried cranberries
100g giant white chocolate buttons

1. Cream together the butter and two types of sugar
2. Beat the eggs and vanilla together in a bowl.
3. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ones.
4. Sieve the flour and baking powder into the rest of the cookie mixture.
5. Add the cranberries and white chocolate and stir to combine the ingredients.
6. Add tablespoons of the cookie mixture to a oiled baking tray, 2 inches apart.
7. Bake for 10 minutes. Don't worry if the cookies seem rather moist, they do set when they cool, and it's better to have them slightly oozing.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Marcia's Bulgur Wheat Salad

This recipe was given to me by the nanny of the boy I tutor. It makes a delicious light accompaniment to a main meal and is easily transportable for a picnic. Personally, I prefer bulgur wheat to cous cous - it's far less 'cardboardy' and has a better texture.

Serves 6 as a side for dinner

500g bulgur wheat
10 spring onions
small bunch of fresh mint
3 lemons
3 tbs olive oil
1 tsp Bouillon vegetable stock powder
1 punnet of baby plum tomatoes

1. Add the bulgur wheat to a large bowl and cover it fully with boiling water. Add the bouillon to the bowl and stir. Cover with cling film. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.
2. Chop the mint, spring onions and tomatoes finely.
3. Juice the three lemons.
4. Combine all of the ingredients in one bowl.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Best ever toad in the hole

if you follow this recipe, you will produce a dinner which is transported from a standard, boring mid-week meal, into something you can serve up to friends at a dinner party.

Serves 6

12 good quality sausages
175g plain flour
2 eggs
175 ml milk
50 ml water
2 rosemary springs
6 garlic cloves
1 red onion (sliced into chunks)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/Gas 6

1. Begin by browning off the sausages, rosemary, onion, and garlic.
2. After 5 minutes remove from the heat (the idea is to brown only).
3. Make the yorkshire pudding batter by adding the flour and seasoning to a large bowl.
4. Create a well in the middle and crack two eggs into it.
5. Using a fork, gradually incorporate the flour and eggs until you have a smooth paste.
6. Gradually pour in the milk/water mixture and stir until you have a smooth batter.
7. Add an oven proof dish to the oven with 2 tbsp of vegetable oil.
8. After 15 minutes remove the dish from the oven, the oil should be piping hot.
9. Add the sausage mixture to the dish and pour the batter over the top.
10. Cook in the oven until the batter is beautifully puffed up and golden.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Recipe of the week - 24th January 2012

Chocolate Truffles

As promised, this week's recipe of the week is a chocolate one - chocolate truffles. These are incredibly easy to make, they simply require a ganache to be made. Sounds complicated and technical, I know, but it's really only a posh way of describing a mixture of chocolate and double cream which is heated together and then cooled and set, to give a soft and pliable mixture.

300g chocolate (this can be whatever you fancy - ultra dark, high cocoa percentage or bog standard milk chocolate or even white).
I large pot of double cream
1 knob of butter

Optional flavourings: whiskey, bourbon, amaretto, brandy, champagne. orange liqueur
Optional coatings: ground pistachios, almonds, cocoa, icing sugar, chocolate flakes (crumbled).

1. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and place into a large bowl.
2. Heat the butter and cream together until it is hot but not boiling.
3. Pour the cream and butter mixture onto the chocolate and stir to dissolve the chocolate.
4. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperatures.
5. Place in the fridge to set fully for 4 hours.
6. Use a melon baller to shape the truffles.
7. Dip in a variety of toppings to get that professional chocolatier look.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Latest news and review of Bob Bob Ricard

This is just a quick update of my latest news. Exciting times! I've just been booked to present a show (to be shown in schools) on cocoa growing in Ghana. I fly out at the end of this month. I had my yellow fever jab yesterday, so I guess it's all going ahead. This is a dream come true. I love chocolate both in its raw form and cooked versions, so exploring its cocoa origins will be incredibly fascinating. For my version of how to make chocolate pots, see the link below. I'll add one of my favourite chocolate recipes in my next post.

So, what have I been up to recently? Last Friday, my boyfriend and I went to Bob Bob Ricard (just off Carnaby street) on a friend's recommendation. It's a great change from the clean cut, common place restaurants which frequent the streets of London. If anyone has seen the video game 'Bioshock' you'll have a good impression of its interior; think 1920's chic. We were sat in our own little booth which is far better than being placed at sea on a tiny table in the middle of the cattle market dining section found in most restaurants. It had the additional quirky touch of having a plug to charge something (your camera, mobile....?). Totally unnecessary, but I liked it. There was a also a hugely extravagant feature of button to request champagne. If only...I can but dream.

The food itself was correctly coined to me by my friend as 'posh comfort food'. The posh aspect provided by the high prices, while the comfort element was in the chicken pie, steaks and mash featured on the menu.

I was intrigued by the chicken and mushroom pie with a truffle sauce. Bob bob's the kind of place where you expect such standard fayre to be transformed into a magical, micheline style dish. I am not a fan of mushrooms, but wondered if the chef's expertise would be enough to alter this. However, on asking the type of mushrooms, I was disappointed to be informed that they were button ones. I can just about cope with porcini or portobello but not the dreaded button mushroom. I settled, in the end, for the onglet with green peppercorn sauce and caramelised onions. It was fabulous - quite the best steak I've ever had. Incredibly tasty while tender; proving why onglet is becoming increasingly more fashionable and popular.

Unfortunately, my boyfriend was less pleased with his choice, chicken kiev with a sweetcorn mash. It was exactly what it says on the tin and, combined with its meagre size, meant that someone was extremely unhappy about having to spend £20 on it. Oh well, he should have picked better!

Personally, I would recommend Bob Bob again and again and am less than subtly touting it as a possible valentine's destination.

P.S. Almost forgot to mention dessert - the best, and only, Knicker bocker glory I've ever had. Pure indulgence.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Recipe of the week - 5th January 2012

Poached Pears

Such a simple, yet delicious desert. Perfect for a dinner party where the main and starter are a little heavy and time consuming to make. These pears will make a simple and light alternative.

Serves 4


4 pears
1 bottle of red wine (don't bother buying an expensive bottle here, having tried both budget and expensive versions the end result really makes no difference)
200g sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves


1. Begin by peeling the pears, leaving in the stick and keeping the pears whole.
2. Add all of the ingredients to a large saucepan and simmer gently for 30 minutes (or until the pears are tender).
3. Remove the pears and reduce the cooking liquor by half (keep an eye on it to ensure that it does not reduce too much and leave you with a sticky mess on the bottom of the pan).
4. Serve the pears with a generous lashing of sauce. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or short bread biscuit (purely optional and not at all necessary. This dessert is delicious by itself!)

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

General musings....

Well, I really can't believe that it's 2012! When on earth did that happen? This year seems to have flown past. I'm not altogether pleased with 2011. Work wise, I spent 6 months training to be a teacher (although enjoyable in parts, not actually what I wanted to be doing) and then the next 3 months working at the Ginger Pig which although sounded promising to begin with, turned out not to be. This largely was due to my actual job being nothing like the one I had been promised. I had been led to believe that I would be running their new cookery school, but what with one set back and another, my job in the end actually entailed being a shop assistant serving many rude customers. One of the best comments was 'Girl, get me a sausage roll!'. I hated the lack of pleases and thank yous from many of the customers. One thing I think that should be outlawed is the use of mobile phones when in a shop. It is abominably rude to use a mobile when ordering and expecting the server and other customers in the shop to wait while you finish your conversation. Grrrrr.

Soooo, new year, new start hopefully. It's so difficult working out exactly what to do. We all want a job that pays well, is enjoyable and gives lots of freedom, right? Considering the financial crisis we are in, I'm beginning to realise that this perfect job does not exist and that settling for second, third or even forth best, may be the best we can ever hope for. How very pessimistic, but it's the way I'm currently viewing the world.

For me, 2012 will be about finding the *best* job possible, while still managing to find time to explore all the avenues that food offers. Whether it is eating out at restaurants, travelling to explore local flavours, or merely testing out some recipes which particularly tempt me in my christmas cookbooks. This year I received 'Mrs Beeton's, How to Cook.'Do these old fashioned recipes really have a place in today's cosmopolitan world? I intend to find out and report back to you.