Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: Salathai Restaurant, Bath

Another review of a Thai restaurant I see! Yes, I cannot hide that I am rather obsessed with this cuisine. When I was very young, I believe about seven years old, I remember seeing a travel or cookery program on Thailand. At one point it showed a cook toasting huge amounts of coconut on a large hotplate thing. As soon as I saw this show, I went downstairs and said to my mum “Mummy, mummy, please can we go to a Thai restaurant! Pleeeease?? You can make it my birthday present if you want!”. Of course I got what I wanted, being the cunning foodie little seven year old that I was, and have been in love with Thai food ever since.

I’m a bit of a regular at Salathai, but only on weekday lunches, when it’s not very busy and they have a Fab lunch deal on (£5.50 for one course or £7.50 for two, with uggins of tea or coffee- and most of the menu available). Also it would be good to mention that it is no longer a ‘basement’ restaurant- they bought out the abandoned newsagents next to it and now seems much more noticeable and lighter.

It was a Sunday evening and a bit of an anniversary meal for me and Nick, and so was in good spirits. Talking about spirits, I arrived about ten minutes early and got seated, hoping to be asked for a drink order whilst I waited. Nope. Nothing. After I was sat down I was completely ignored. Nick arrived and they showed him to my table, and left us with the menu for quite a long time. By the time they came to take our order, we ordered drinks and the meal as well. I don’t know about you but personally I like to order a drink first and mull over the menu with a beverage. We ordered a couple of Chang beers and our starters came swiftly. I had the Por Pia (spring rolls) and he had the Chicken Tom Yum. Both were absolutely gorgeous. The spring rolls had thin almost see-through pastry and the filling was tasty and delicately shredded. Proper spring rolls are not like the ones you get in the takeaway, where they are all fatty and there is more pastry that filling- they are like what you get in Salathai, tasty and authentic. Nick’s Tom Yum soup was pretty nice too, very spicy, sweet and sour.

I wasn’t particularly happy when the main course came along. Nick’s red Thai curry and my coconut and lemongrass rice arrived. So we had my side dish, and nick’s main dish, so neither of us could start eating. Also the waitress smudged a bunch of the red curry sauce onto my plate which I thought was a little careless. My Chicken sizzling platter and nick’s stick rice then took a really long time to arrive, and by the time it had arrived, Nick’s curry was a bit on the lukewarm side. The food however was utterly delicious. I thoroughly recommend Salathai’s Thai red curry, it’s the best that I have tried and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s hot but not too hot, creamy, tangy, sweet and full of tasty and tender meat and vegetables. I fancied a change however, so I ordered the Chicken Kra ta Raun (sizzling platter). The chicken and vegetables were in a type of oyster sauce I believe, and quite tasty. The coconut and lemongrass rice was utterly delicious and cooked to perfection. However, service let us down again even during the main course, because as soon as the main course was plonked down the waitress buggered off- and I wanted to ask for a bottle of soy sauce for the table. In the end when no one came I just got up, went to the other side of the restaurant and asked for some at the front desk (it is separated by these two pillars, so the front desk cannot see certain parts of the restaurant, though this is no excuse to ignore any customers, especially seeing as the restaurant wasn’t atall busy).

We had a couple more beers and we finished the night, the bill ending up at £22 each (for two courses, with sides and two drinks each).

It’s such a shame how the front of house can let down a restaurant. The food here is utterly fantastic; I would say one of the best Thai restaurant in town, but if they don’t pay enough attention to their customers their going to have problems. The manageress is very nice, and along with me there are a quite a few regular diners, to whom she is very friendly, but I think she needs to pay more attention in training her staff.

I give the restaurant 9/10 for food but 5/10 for service, giving it an overall 7/10. I hope your front of house treatment is better than mine this time, but I would still reccomend coming here anyway- just for the grub!

Recipe: Potato and Leek Dauphinoise

This certainly isn't a dish for the diet-conscious in mind. Plenty of butter, cream, potatoes and cheese. But when you are making a dauphinoise i don't think healthy eating should be in mind. By design it is a rich, fattening and creamy dish, and i would never try and make it healthier, as it would sacrifice flavour! Perfect on the side of a juicy steak, or even eaten as a main course as my veggie parent's do!

And believe it or not, this recipe won me a luxury holiday to The Dordogne, courtesy of Sudocrem!!

Potato and Leek Dauphinoise (Serves 6 as a side, or 3 as a main) (70p as a side, £1.40 as a main)

1 kg potatoes (I use red rooster), sliced thinly (about 4mm)
Knob of butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, sliced thinly
1 leek, sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt, pepper and sugar
2-3 tbsp fresh thyme
100ml vegetable stock
200ml double cream
60g gruyere, grated
60g cheddar, grated
15g grated parmesan

1. Heat the oven to 200C. Boil the potatoes for about 5 minutes, or until the slices are soft but not falling apart, drain, cool and set aside.
2. Meanwhile sauté the onion, leek and garlic in the butter and oil, with a pinch of salt, sugar and pepper, and cook down for about 5-10 minutes, or until wilted and soft.
3. In a casserole dish, first use half the potatoes and layer on the bottom of the dish, and season. Add the leek mixture, and spread evenly. Top with the other half of the potato mixture.
4. Pour over the cream and vegetable stock. Sprinkle over the thyme, some black pepper, and top with the grated cheese. Place in the oven with the lid on for 30 minutes.
5. Remove the lid, and place the dish under a hot grill for about 5 minutes to make the cheese on the top go golden. Serve.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Recipe: Chickpea and Mushroom Rissoles

Theres something about making your own veggie rissoles that makes you feel like a bit of a hippie. I felt that when i was mixing this that i should be wearing flared jeans and a bandana. It's yummy anyway, here i have served them with a nice lambs lettuce and cherry tomato salad and yoghurt, but it would be just as nice in a seedy bap as a 'veggie-burger'. This recipe was published in "Take a Break's My Favourite Recipes" Magazine, and also won me £25!

Chickpea and Mushroom Rissoles (Makes 4- serves 2) £1.95 per portion (2 Rissoles+ 25g lambs lettuce, 50g cherry tomatoes, + 15g yoghurt per portion)

2 tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
250g mushrooms, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
50g thinly sliced spring onions
2 tsp medium curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
Zest of 1 lime, juice from half the lime
50ml water
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and mashed roughly
100g fresh seedy wholemeal breadcrumbs
1 egg
Salt and pepper.

1. Fry the mushrooms, garlic and spring onion in the oil and butter for about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and garam masala, and cook for a further two minutes.
2. Add water, lime zest, lime juice, and the fresh coriander, and cook down until the mixture is fairly dry and most the liquid has evaporated.
3. Mix the mushroom mix into the chickpeas, breadcrumbs, egg and seasoning together. Shape the mixture with your hands into 4 patties.
4. Fry the patties in a hot pan with oil, for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Recipe: Nigella's Chocolate Mousse

As you can see by the recipes on here, I don't often make desserts. It's not that I don't have a sweet tooth (oooh I do!!) or that I don't enjoy creating puds- but I often don't because usually me and my family are too full after dinner to have something sweet after! And although i love baking, if a baked a batch of muffins, i'd end up wasting them because our family of four don't eat cakes and things every day.

Anyway, because I may be hosting my first dinner party soon, I thought I might practice a few desserts (because i'm not going to do a 'Come Dine With Me' and make something for the first time for guests!).

The dessert needed to be easy, couldn't have too many ingredients, and couldn't be too complicated. This fits the bill rather well, I was very impressed by the flavour- it isnt as "light" as an egg white based mousse, but im a little intolerant to egg anyway and I don't mind because its very very tasty and still has a "moussy/fluffy" enough texture for me. And its so darn easy.

The only changes i made to lovely Nigella Lawson's recipe is by adding orange zest, cause i wanted a chocolate orange flavoured mousse, and also using good quality dark chocolate- the original recipe used "dark chocolate chips", and the cocoa quality wasnt all that good really. I may experiment with other flavours, like mint maybe, at some point.

Nigella's Chocolate Mousse (Dark Chocolate Orange flavour)- Feeds 6-8 depending on how greedy you and your friends are. 41p per serving.

60g butter
180g mini marshmallows
300g good quality dark chocolate, chopped up finely
75ml boiled water (from a kettle)
Zest of 1 orange
300ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract/essence

1. On a medium heat, put the butter, marshmallows, dark chocolate and boiled water in a pan, until the mixture is all properly melted (the marshmallows tend to take longer than the chocolate) keep stirring until you have a smooth liquid. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whip the double cream and vanilla extract until firm (“tip the bowl over your head firm” if you know what I mean.).
3. Pour the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream and stir through until the mixture is fully combined.
4. Pour into 6-8 glasses (martini and wine glasses work well) and place in the fridge. It only takes an hour to set. Serve.

Recipe: Butternut Squash Risotto with Spring Greens

I LOVE butternut squash. This risotto recipe is a little different, and I like the nice vegetable side dish- i would normally serve risotto by itself but somehow having two elements to a dish that compliments each other makes it seem more of an elegant meal. The contrast between the bright orange and the green is attractive as well.

Butternut Squash Risotto with spring greens (serves 3) £1.99 per portion

The Risotto:

1 butternut squash (Use about 500g of the roasted squash in the risotto)
Olive oil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Knob of butter
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp fresh thyme
210g risotto rice
130ml white wine
650ml vegetable stock
20g freshly grated parmesan
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley

The Greens:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 courgette, diced small
100g asparagus, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch dried mint
150g baby spinach
Knob of butter

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Add the peeled diced butternut squash to a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and a little sugar. Put in the oven and remove when soft and nicely roasted (about 40 minutes).
2. On a medium heat, cook the onion, celery, garlic and fresh thyme in extra virgin olive oil and butter until soft. Add risotto rice and stir around for a couple of minutes to coat.
3. Add the white wine and cook for 5 minutes or until most the wine has evaporated. Began to gradually add the stock, ladle by ladle, until the rice is al-dente (about 15 minutes)
4. In another pan, sauté the courgette, asparagus, garlic and mint in the olive oil for a few minutes. Add spinach and wilt down for another couple of minutes, Add butter and serve.
5. To finish the risotto, stir in the chopped roasted butternut squash, parmesan, fresh parsley and season to taste. Cook for a couple of minutes to heat and combine, and Serve.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Recipe: Parmesan Chicken with Pea Shoot Salad and Zesty Yoghurt

This is a yummy and healthy dish- one that i decided to make tonight because i've been wanting to lose some weight lately- and theres no time like the present! Theres tender protein, with a refreshing detoxifying salad and a flavourful yoghurt on the side.

PS: For an even better result, before coating the chicken in the flour/egg/ breadcrumbs bash the chicken breasts fairly flat with a rolling pin, placed between two sheets of cling film. This helps to tenderise the meat.

Parmesan Chicken with Pea Shoot Salad and Zesty Yoghurt (serves 2)

The Chicken
1 egg, beaten
Some plain flour (not much, only for coating)
30g stale white breadcrumbs
30g parmesan
¼ tsp garlic salt
½ tsp mixed herbs
Ground black pepper
2 chicken breasts

The Salad
40g pea shoots
80g frozen peas, defrosted
10 cherry tomato, halved
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Salt and black pepper

The Yoghurt
100g natural yoghurt
Zest from 1 lime
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Mix the breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic salt, mixed herbs and pepper, and pour onto a plate. Coat the chicken in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs mixture. Pat the breadcrumbs on the chicken to make sure it sticks (You may have some leftover breadcrumb mixture left, dont worry). Place onto a greased tray and put in the oven for 25 minutes.
2. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, sugar and seasoning to make the salad dressing. Mix together the yoghurt, lime and basil together.
3. Once the chicken has had its 25 minutes, put it under a hot grill for a few minutes, or until the coating is nice and golden brown.
4. Serve the chicken breasts, with the mixed shoots, peas, tomatoes and dressing. Dollop the yoghurt on the side and serve!

Recipe: Saffron Vegetarian Paella

I wasn't really sure what to call this. This is one of my Mum's fabulous recipes, that she has been making for me since i was very little, and she always called it "Saffron Risotto". When i come to cook it- in terms of the ingredients i would say it is more of a paella, but anyone could tell me that the recipe is in no way traditional. Its just a yummy rice dish i guess. Very unique flavour. This recipe was also published in local magazine Pukka Bath!

Saffron Vegetarian Paella (serves 4) £1.55 per serving (without extra garnish ingredients)

Large Pinch saffron
85g butter
1 red pepper, cut into strips
225g button mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 red onions, chopped
225g Arborio rice
175g frozen peas
3 ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
½ tsp salt, black pepper
30g toasted flaked almonds (extra for garnish)
60g grated cheddar (extra for garnish)
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (extra for garnish)

1. Crush the saffron to a rough powder, and mix into 600ml boiling water.
2. Heat the butter in a large pan, and cook the mushrooms, red peppers and garlic for 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the red peppers and mushrooms and set aside.
3. Fry the onions in the remaining butter for 5 minutes, covered. Mix in the rice, add the saffron water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently and cook covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the peas, tomatoes, seasoning, and simmer covered for a further 5 minutes.
5. Stir in the nuts, cheese, parsley and the reserved peppers and mushrooms. Cook for five minutes or until the cheese has melted, and the ingredients are well mixed and hot. Season to taste and serve.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Recipe: Black Bean Chilli

Have been having rather a few cravings for mexican food lately. I noticed that there aren't many actual "mexican" or TexMex restaurants around anymore. You get spanish tapas restaurants, and we have a Las Iguanas in Bath- but apparently Las Iguanas uses South American rather than just Mexican cuisine. This is a very filling, and moreish vegetarian slow cook chilli, i served this with rice and warm tortilla wraps.

This recipe was published in "Take a Break's My Favourite Recipes" Magazine, and also won me £50!

Black Bean Chilli (serves 4)  67p per serving (without garnish ingredients!)

325g dried black beans (soaked over night)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, diced
150g celery, diced
150g carrot, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp mild chilli powder
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
3 bay leaves
1200ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, leaves and stems
Spring onion, coriander, sour cream, and grated cheddar for garnish.

1. Sweat the onion, garlic, celery and carrot in the olive oil on a medium heat for about 10 minutes.
2. Drain the black beans from their soaking water, and add to the pan with all the ingredients except the coriander and garnish ingredients. Cook covered on a medium heat for 1 hour.
3. Add fresh coriander, and cook for a further 15 minutes uncovered- or until the sauce is thickened and the beans are nice and soft.

Review: Bistro La Barrique, Bath

Bistro La Barrique is a small French restaurant a few steps away from the Theatre Royal, that serves French food in the style of tapas or what they call “Petit plats”. I decided to take my mother there on monday as a day-late mother’s day treat. We went there for lunch because I had noticed that during the week Barrique do set lunch menu (2 ‘petit plats’ and 1 side dish for £8.95 each) that I thought looked good value for money. We were welcomed and taken to or seats by a nice French waitress, who explained the menu to us, and told us that the full menu is still available at lunch, but only a certain selections and some specials can be part of the lunch deal. This didn’t really matter as much, as I would have said over half of the normal menu is part of the lunch deal, and this included plenty of vegetarian choices (which is certainly something to praise a French restaurant for). However, I feel that the menu is slightly confused. I feel that there are far too many British elements to the food here. French cuisine is so wide, varied and fabulous, and yet they choose many foreign ingredients like English style dumplings, sauerkraut and stilton, and I feel that this is really not necessary, considering the great quality delicious French ingredients you can get in this country.

Anyway, so my mum ordered Wild mushroom flan with chive cream sauce, Gratinated ratatouille cannelloni, and a side of chips. I had the braised pork casserole with winter spiced dumplings, grilled mushroom with roasted vegetables, blue cheese and mixed leaves (from the specials menu) and a tomato, shallot and basil side salad. The food arrived fairly quickly, and hot. My pork casserole was delicious- slight cinnamon backbone with tender meat and very little dumplings. And the portion of this was fairly big as well. The tomato and shallot salad was fresh and slightly sweet due to a very tasty balsamic dressing running through it. However, my grilled mushroom dish was slightly disappointing. The blue cheese used with it was incredibly strong- not something I usually protest about as I am quite a fan of “smelly” cheese”- and its tangy sharp flavour really clashed against the bitter red pepper that was in the stuffed mushroom as well.

My mother enjoyed her dishes, and I felt after tasting them that they were a bit average. A bit “College-y” somehow- I remember doing ratatouille stuffed cheesy pancakes in the training college canteen and they tasted similar to her ratatouille cannelloni dish. The mushroom flan was rather strange- it had quite a nice, very rich mushroom flavour to it, but the texture and the look of the dish was very odd. It was a big perfect circular block of creamed mushroom, no pastry in sight. Very odd as a “flan”. Another disappointment, and certainly a pet peeve of mine, the side of chips were not chips as we know it, but premade “Oven Chips”. Oh how they make my blood boil, surely it’s not that difficult to slice and fry ruddy potatoes??

My mum and I finished the meal with some coffee. The bill at the end of the meal was £23, which I think is a fair price for the amount of dishes you get. My mum did enjoy her Mother’s day treat, but I feel that there could be some major improvements to this place. A little tweak here and there to the menu to make it a little more “French” and a little less “British catering student ‘French’”, stop using “fake” chips and then you have a restaurant that I want to go to. The surroundings are pleasant and the service was fast and friendly. I feel that I may come here again, for dinner, and try some different dishes from the menu. Maybe I chose wrong, I don’t know? Also apparently this place has a Fab wine selection as well. I think I shall give this place another go at some point, but in terms of this visit, I would rate the food as 4/10 and the service 9/10, giving it an overall rating of 6.5.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Feature: I Think We're Turning Japanese...

*This is a media peice I wrote for part of my English Language As Level Coursework*

Yo Sushi. Wagamamas. Wok Wok. Here in the U.K it is impossible not to notice our infatuation with Japanese food- with these massive chain restaurants dominating our high streets, and sushi being found in almost every shop and café. But have you ever had a go at making any dishes from this wide and varied cuisine yourself?

Japan has the lowest obesity levels and also the highest life expectancy rate in the entire world, and some say that it’s their diet that helps them to achieve this. Recently, many people have been adopting a Japanese diet in order to improve certain aspects of their health, such as cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and weight gain. A book that has assisted in the promotion of this traditional and healthy way of eating is “Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat” by Naomi Moriyama and William Doyle.

Here the author speaks about the “Seven pillars of Japanese home cooking” these being the seven main ingredients that Japanese cuisine is based upon. Here they are, with the health benefits:

1- Fish: Fish is a great food that is full of protein and nutrient, but also low in fat. Particular “oily fish” such as salmon, mackerel, sardines or tuna contain Omega 3 essential fatty acids that are proven to aid in maintaining a healthy heart.

2 and 3- Fruit and Vegetables: From a young age we are always told to “eat our greens” , and we all know how good fruit and vegetables are for us. They are a good source of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, and also act as a fantastic source of fibre- which keeps you full of energy. The Japanese are particularly fond of spinach, peppers, aubergines, mushrooms, carrots, beans and various sea vegetables. And fruit-wise, peaches, plums, apples and orange are especial favourites.

4- Rice: Nutritionally, rice is a very good source of carbohydrates. In Japan, it is usually served plain, unlike many carbohydrates we cook here (the more dense and calorific bread and pasta), that we cover in butter, oil or creamy sauces. The Japanese traditionally use "japonica" rice- a short grain variety that has a sticky or glutinous texture.

5- Soya: Now when I mention soya, I hope you don’t conjure images of hemp t shirts, pots of boiling lentils and sandal wearing hippies. Soya, including items such as edamame beans, tofu and miso paste, are absolutely delicious additions to any Asian dishes, as well as a good source of low fat protein.

6- Noodles: The main types of noodles eaten in Japan are soba, udon, ramen and somen. Their noodles, unlike traditional Chinese noodles, are made without egg, which is a healthier alternative as eggs contain saturated fat- something that is not common to the Japanese diet, due to the small amount of animal products they consume.

7- Tea: The relaxation and health benefits of having a cuppa may be even more than you think. Studies show that green tea in particular is high in antioxidants, can reduce the risks of certain cancers, lowers cholesterol levels and increases metabolism.

Now that you know about the health benefits you can glean from the Japanese diet, why don’t you grab a wok and start cooking? Here is a delicious, healthy, and beautiful recipe for you to cook at home, shown below this article:

Recipe: Ginger Coriander Salmon with Sesame Noodle Salad

*This recipe was made for a peice of English Language As level coursework*
Many of these ingredients, such as soy sauce, soba noodles, enoki mushrooms, toasted sesame oil and mirin can be found in most major supermarkets, or Asian food stores.

This recipe, using black garlic instead of regular garlic, won me £100 in a recipe competition run by Black Garlic.

Ginger and Coriander Salmon, with Sesame Noodle Salad (serves 1)

The Salmon
300g salmon fillet
½ tsp garlic paste (made with normal or black garlic cloves)
½ tsp ginger paste
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 sliced red chilli
Drizzle vegetable oil

1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
Squeeze of lime juice
Little bit of lime zest
½ tsp brown sugar

The Noodles
1 nest wholewheat soba noodles
Vegetable or rapeseed oil
150g julienned mixed vegetables (I have used red onion, carrot, courgette, spring onion and enoki mushrooms)
1 tsp garlic paste (made with normal or black garlic cloves)
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp coriander, stems and leaves chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted.

The Dressing
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin (sweet rice wine)

1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Put the salmon fillet in a small non stick (or on top of tin foil) roasting pan. Drizzle over the oil and rub the ginger and garlic paste on top of the fillet. Sprinkle over the chilli and coriander and place in the oven for 25 minutes. Combine the honey, soy, lime and sugar and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, cook the noodles in boiling water, 1 minute less according to the packet instructions. Drain the noodles and run under cold water until cool. Place into a bowl with the dressing and mix in (this prevents the noodles from sticking together).
3. Heat up a wok on a high heat with a couple of tablespoons of oil. Stir fry the julienned vegetables and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Add the soy sauce, and allow to cook for a further minute. Pour the vegetable mixture into a bowl and set aside.
4. Once the salmon has had its 25 minutes, remove from the oven, pour over the honey/soy sauce mixture, and return to the oven for a further 3 minutes.
5. Mix together the vegetable mixture and the noodles, with the coriander and spring onions.
6. Remove the salmon from the oven, place on the plate with your noodle salad and pour over the liquid from the roasting pan. Garnish with extra red chilli, coriander, spring onions and sesame seeds. Serve!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Recipe: Cheesy Penne and Broccoli Bake

So this is just a basic and cheap family meal, thats easy to make,filling and also a good way of getting kids (or my fussy sixteen year old brother....) to eat their greens. It ain't exactly fine dining but anything big and covered in cheese keeps my family happy. I serve this with dressed salad or green peas.

Cheesy penne and broccoli bake (serves 4) 80p per serving

280g dried penne
280g broccoli, cut into florets
40g butter
40g plain flour
500-600ml semi-skimmed milk
½ tsp white pepper
150g cheddar, grated
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

1. Cook the penne according to packet instructions. 5 minutes before end of cooking time, add the broccoli.
2. Meanwhile, make the white sauce (like you would normally) with all the other ingredients, and half the cheese.
3. Drain the pasta and broccoli, pour the white sauce over and mix well. Pour into a baking dish, top with the rest of the cheese and put under a hot grill until nice and gratinated.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Recipe: Root Vegetable and Lentil Casserole

Hello everyone. So this is a bit of a comforting winter warmer recipe. I understand that we are heading into spring now but it's still a bit nippy out! Also nothing beats a good casserole, whether in snowy december or sunny july. This dish goes very well served with buttered crusty rolls and green beans.

Root Vegetable and Lentil Casserole (serves 2)  71p per portion

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Knob of butter
1 white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large parsnip, peeled an diced into chunks
500ml vegetable stock
80g dried green lentils
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp celery salt
½ tsp garam masala

1. Sweat the onion, garlic, carrot and parsnip in the olive oil and butter on a medium heat for 15 minutes (making sure the onion does not brown).
2. Preheat the oven to 200C. Add all other ingredients to the pan, and cook covered for 20 minutes or until the vegetables and lentils are soft, but still with some of the cooking liquid left.
3. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish, cover and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Recipe: Spiced Sweet Potato Dahl

Now this....This recipe is a bit of a showstopper. The rich earthy flavours from the lentils and spices, twinned with fresh and sweet flavours of the sweet potato and the coriander is just divine. I have got a lot of fantastic feedback from this dish, and i know that when you make it, you will too. This recipe also won a seasonal recipe competition- We Grow Our Own's "Cultivate, Cook and Click" competition. Won me some lovely chilli products from The Wiltshire Chilli Farm! The recipe for dukka is on my Mushroom and Chickpea Tagine recipe, but just incase, the ratio is 2 tsp cumin seeds, 2 tsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Spiced dahl with sweet potato and spinach (serves 6) 61p per serving

2 tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
1 red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp dukka (toasted + blended cumin, coriander and sesame seeds)
1 tbsp garam masala
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
300g red lentils
Handful of fresh coriander, leaves and stems chopped
1350ml vegetable stock
100g baby spinach
Black pepper

1. Cook the onions and garlic in oil and butter with the spices for five minutes. Add the sweet potato and cook for a further few minutes.
2. Add the lentils, vegetable stock and chopped coriander, and cook for 20-25 minutes partially covered.
3. Add the baby spinach and cook for about 5 minutes more. Season with black pepper and serve.

Recipe: Simple Venison Stew

Hello everyone. So this is a really easy rich venison stew. It just uses a few storecupboard essentials and it really lets the flavour of good quality game shine through. Its an absolutely delicious dinner for two, may not look like the prettiest thing but dang it is the tastiest.

This recipe won me runner up in a Marmite recipe competition (using a "marmite stock" instead of beef or gamr stock, winning a months supply of marmite and some oven gloves!)

Venison Stew (serves 2)

2 tbsp Olive oil
Knob of butter
250g venison, big chunks
Salt and black pepper
1 red onion, chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme
150ml red wine
1 small or ½ normal tin chopped tomatoes
200ml beef or game stock

1. Cook the onions, venison, thyme and seasoning in the olive oil and butter for about 10 minutes, or until the meat is browned.
2. Add wine and cook for 5 minutes. Add all other ingredients and cook on a low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Serve!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Recipe: Herby Cannellini Beans

Hello everyone. Now this is a beautiful side dish, as you can see i have served this on the side of a baked potato and salad, because of my vegetarian parents, but i think this would work extremely well on the side of grilled spiced lamb chops or steaks.

Herby Cannelini Beans (serves 6 as a side) 59p as a side, 92p with a jacket potato as a main.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Knob of butter
1 red onion, diced finely
2 celery sticks, diced finely
1 carrot, peeled and diced finely
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
1 stalk fresh rosemary,destalked and chopped finely
2 tins cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 bay leaves
150ml vegetable stock
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Squeeze of fresh lemon, and lemon wedges for garnish

1. Sweat the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, thyme and rosemary in the butter and olive oil for 10 minutes, or until soft.
2. Add the cannelini beans, bay leaves, stock, seasoning and cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, parsley and lemon and cook for a further 5 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Recipe: Mushroom and Chickpea Tagine

Hello. This is a beautifully spiced vegetarian main course. I'm not sure whether this is a particularly authentic version of Dukka, the Egyptian spice blend, but i think it is certainly a very tasty version, and gives a nice smoky/toasted flavour to the tagine. I think it's nice to make a flavoursome veggie tagine, as often more attention is paid to the lamb or chicken tagines.

Mushroom and Chickpea Tagine (serves 3) £1.48 served with 70g (raw weight) basics rice, or £1.53 with 75g (raw weight) cous cous.

2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
250g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 400g tin chickpeas, drained
1 small stick of cinnamon
300ml vegetable stock
60g dried apricots, halved
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp chopped parsley (and extra for garnish)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 bay leaves (or 1 fresh)
200g yoghurt (with 1 tbsp dukka mixed in)
salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

1. Toast the cumin, coriander and sesame seeds in a dry pan. Add to a spice/coffee grinder and grind until a smooth powder. This makes a spice mixture called Dukka.
2. Sautee the onions and the garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes, covered. Add the mushrooms and dukka and cook for a further 3 minutes covered. Remove the lid and cook for five more minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Add the tomato puree, stir to mix in, then add all the other ingredients (except yoghurt). Cook with the lid on for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add 1tsp more dukka. Cook for another 15 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently.
5. Remove the bay leaves, and cinnamon stick. Serve with the spiced yoghurt, chopped parsley and couscous or rice.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Recipe: Sweet Potato and Feta Salad

Hello everyone. Now, as im attempting to go on a bit of a "health-drive", I decided that eating a few more salads and few less pies would probably be a good idea! I have found that my skin has been really suffering lately, i expect because of drinking too much alchohol, coffee and high fat dishes. I also needed a salad that was going to fill me up, as i'm no Kate Moss and can't survive solely on lettuce. So heres a beautiful and nutritious salad recipe- Full of B Vitamins, Iron and Calcium.

This recipe, along with my "Spaghetti with Courgettes and Almonds" recipe, won me £150 worth of Joseph Joseph Cookware, in an Epicure recipe competition!

Sweet potato and feta salad (serves 3) £1.97 per serving

For the salad:

3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
Salt and black pepper
50g cashews or walnuts, toasted and then roughly chopped
180g feta cheese, cubed
3 tbsp chopped coriander
120g mixed watercress, rocket and spinach salad

For the dressing:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Add sweet potatoes, cumin seeds, olive oil and salt/black pepper to a roasting tray. Mix and put in the oven for 30-45 minutes, or until soft and slightly coloured at the edges (stirring after 20 minutes).
2. Separate the other ingredients onto three plates. Top with the warm sweet potatoes. Mix up the dressing and pour over the salads, serve.

Recipe: Chicken Korma

Hey guys. Now this is a delicious curry recipe- and a takeaway favourite for me. I know, i know, apparently (coined by Gavin and Stacey) Kormas are supposed to be a little bit 'boring' but the spices used in this dish help to make it taste delicious and authentic.

Chicken Korma (serves 2-3)

3 tbsp oil
6 skinned boned chicken thighs
Salt and black pepper
200g Greek yoghurt
3 tbsp korma curry paste
10g coriander, stalks and leaves finely chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
5 cardamom pods, crushed and only the seeds used.
1 cinnamon stick
1 small tin coconut cream
2 bay leaves
100ml chicken stock
1 tbsp ground almonds, mixed with water
50g sultanas
Toasted flaked almonds or extra coriander for garnish

1. Mix the Greek yoghurt, curry paste and chopped coriander together in a bowl.
2. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and sauté in the oil for about 10 minutes, or until slightly browned. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, and put straight into the yoghurt mixture.
3. In the same pan, add the onion, cumin seeds, cardamom and cinnamon, and sweat for about 10 minutes or until the onions are soft.
4. Add the chicken and yoghurt mixture, with all the other ingredients, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, and serve with basmati rice or naan breads.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Recipe: Creamy Cherry Tomato and Rocket Penne

Hey guys. So here i've got another delicious pasta dish, this time with morish creamy penne, with the flavours of fresh rosemary and sweet cherry tomatoes poking through. This is a Recipe for One (I was just cooking dinner for myself tonight) but it can be very easily multiplied to serve more. This was published in student newpaper "Banter"- which comes as a supplement with the Bristol Evening Post!

Creamy Cherry Tomato and Rocket Penne (serves 1) £1.33 per portion

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 sprig rosemary, destalked and finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, crushed
100g dried penne
40g mascarpone
10g rocket and extra for garnish
Grated Parmesan

1. Cook the cherry tomatoes, garlic and rosemary in the olive oil, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with some salt and black pepper.
2. Meanwhile, cook the penne according to the packet instructions.
3. Drain the penne, reserving 2 tbsp of the pasta water. Add the pasta, water, mascarpone and rocket to the cherry tomatoes, and cook for 1 minute or until the rocket has wilted, and everything is well mixed and hot.
4. Garnish with a handful of rocket on top, some cracked black pepper, and grated parmesan, serve!