Saturday, December 31, 2011

Travel: Iceland Day One

Hey everyone! Sorry it’s been a while, but I have been super busy from before Iceland, over Christmas, and right up until now. And in fact I will now be really busy until mid-January, as I’m going full time next week at The Cosy Club, and I’m moving in with my Nicky next week too! Anyway, so finally had time to write a little bit about my travels, hope you like!

So I was very nervous about this trip, as I was going on my own, but I actually found myself quite relaxed getting the coach to Heathrow, and going through all the airport stuff. I suppose foodie-wise, my trip didn’t really get off on the right foot! I decided to try out this Café Est place in Heathrow Terminal One- and oh my god guys, seriously, don’t eat here!!! When I came in, I noticed there was something on the menu outside that said “early lunches” that had basically the same stuff on the main menu, but for cheaper, because they served it 11am-12pm. Like an early bird special I guess. So I went in, and I noticed this early thing wasn’t on the menu this woman gave me, so when I ordered my meal (lasagne) I mentioned this but the woman was like “oh we must not have put the new menu up there” but I thought screw it, I’ve already sat down, I’ll order it anyway. I was thinking £11-12 for a lasagne, I hope this is good. I also ordered a double espresso, which took forever to arrive, and then the lasagne took ages to arrive as well. When it arrived, it didn’t even come with salad, and it was FROZEN in the middle, meaning of course that they hadn’t make it fresh (or it was v doubtful to have been made fresh). When I told this to the woman she was like “oh I’ll go sort this out for you” but I was just thinking, NO, I want something else, I don’t want to be served a reheated reheated lasagne, I don’t want to end up ill- but she hurried off! And I noticed a guy two tables over from me that had the exact same frozen lasagne thing as well. So it was served back to me and mreh, it wasn’t really that nice. Paid, didn’t tip, and left- super disappointed. Literally, look at this lasagne, even this cool looking Asian businessman guy sat next to me asked literally “what is that??” when it arrived.

Flight was quite nice; IcelandAir had done it up all nice and Christmassy, and had all these cute messages about Icelandic folklore/ Christmas traditions/ languages. And the plane was called Heklar, which is one of the volcanoes on Iceland. Got into Reykjavik fairly easy, although the moment I got to Iceland I realised that it wasn’t just the hotel/ booze that was expensive in Iceland, it’s just EVERYTHING. I mean, I had to get a Flybus to the main BSU bus terminal, and then a shuttle thing from the terminal to my hotel. The shuttle was all right (I thought shuttle transfers were included in the hotel price but apparently not) but the Flybus was £11!?! Usually travel costs are always really good everywhere else I’ve been in Europe, like when Nick and I went to Prague we were shocked that we spent about £3.50 for a 24 hour travel pass, which worked on buses, trains and ferries- amazing. So got to the hotel and it felt late because it was so dark- but it was only 6pm! It is really hard to get used to, in fact, I don’t think five days was even enough to get used to the almost constant darkness- I expect it would take years to be fine with it. You just naturally feel tired because it’s dark, but you just have to keep reminding yourself “Doesn’t matter if its pitch black, its 9am, Doesn’t matter if it’s pitch black, its 6pm” Lol. Hotel was nice, SUUUCH a comfy bed. Mind you though, am I the only person that thinks this is weird- my bed was a double bed, but it had these weird little “personal” 1 person covers, instead of the normal 1 big one. Weird right??

Decided OK, I will be brave, and Instead of just having dinner at my hotel restaurant I would have a bit of a wander about outside my hotel, central Reykjavik, and try and get my bearings. Now, when it comes to food, I brought with me a load of names of recommended restaurants. The best ones were the ones that my boyfriend’s work colleague Sif recommended- she is Icelandic also, so she really gave a nice personal account of which places I should try/ what I should eat whilst I was in Iceland. I then looked at Trip advisor and wrote down a lot of their recommended restaurants, which were in a close radius to my hotel (A lot of these synced up with Sif’s recommended places). Whilst walking around and going down different streets, what was super useful was that there was this little Christmas market outside my hotel, with this big Christmas tree covered in bright red lights. So if I felt like I was getting a little lost, or too far away, I knew that I had to keep my eye out for the red Christmas tree, and then I would know how to get back to my hotel. Saw some funny things on my way too- love the MASSIVE puffin with all the little puffins. Awww, gawd I wondered how much that actually cost- Lol! Imagine trying to get that back through the airport, haha!

Anyway, managed to find this really nice Italian place called “Hornid”. Staff seemed fairly friendly, and they sat me next to where these two fit Nordic looking guys were making the pizzas (Mmmm! Haha!). Ordered a nice cold beer called “Skor” (except with a pointy thing over the o, I don’t know how to do that with my computer), which was the nicest beer I had whilst I was in Iceland, I recommend it. I then got the “Pizza con Rucola y Parma” (Pizza with rocket and Parma ham) with a side salad. The side salad was rubbish (iceberg lettuce, sundried tomatoes and olives and a thin salad creamy type dressing) but the pizza was delicious. I don’t normally order pizzas because usually I can’t eat all of it, but I was so hungry by then I really fancied one. Pizza was so delicious, with loads of parmesan and fresh rocket and tasty Parma ham. There was also garlic oil and chilli oil to dip the crusts in- mmmm!

After this a wandered back to my hotel and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow- travelling really does knacker you out doesn’t it???

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Recipe: Chilli Garlic Chicken, with Smashed Carrot and Parsnip

A recipe using the old and the new- from the last harvest of my summer chillies, to the lovely seasonal winter root veg! To be honest i probably shouldn't be blogging right now- i've got a lot of packing and organising to do!! Going to Iceland on saturday (and no- not the shop!! No chicken tikka bites for me!!). Will update you all on my shinanigans when i get back, promise! The root vegetable "smash" doesnt look amazing I guess, but the flavours in this dish are to die for!

Chilli Garlic Chicken with smashed carrots and parsnips (serves 3) £1.81 per serving

The chicken
3 large chicken breasts
50g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
3 little hot green chillies
25g fresh coriander, stalks and leaves
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp crushed ginger
Salt and pepper

The mash
400g parsnips, peeled and diced
800g carrots, peeled and diced
1 tsp cumin or dukka
2 tbsp single cream
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Mix all the chicken ingredients (except the chicken!) in a food processor. Put the chicken breasts in an ovenproof dish, and rub the butter all over the breasts. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes (Halfway through cooking process, baste with the juices).
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil. Boil the parsnips and carrots in salted water for 20 minutes, or until soft. Remove the chicken from the oven, and remove the chicken from the juices it’s been cooking in.
3. Drain the vegetables, and mash with the cream, cumin, and all of the juices from the chicken. Season to taste, and serve alongside the chicken!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Recipe: Carrot, Maple and Bacon Soup

Sounds like a reeeeeeally weird combination I guess, but when you think about it things like honey and maple syrup are used with root vegetables all the time. Honey roasted parsnips or carrots are of course, a very popular dish at Christmas. So I thought I would try and see whether maple syrup and carrots compliment eachother, and it worked out really really well! I then thought, this soup is quite sweet, so it needs something salty to set it off- and then I remembered Americans love putting maple syrup on their bacon and pancakes at breakfast, so I thought that would make a good garnish. In some supermarkets you can actually get "maple cured bacon" as well, which is delicious too. I am entering this recipe into Love The Garden's "Christmas Carrot" recipe competition. It is a recipe competition for bloggers that ends 21st December- all you have to do is post up a carrot recipe onto your blog, mention their site, and you are end up with a chance to win a £200 dinner at any restaurant of your choice! Here is the URL, if any of you fancy going in for it!

Carrot, Maple and Bacon Soup (makes 2 large bowls) £1.06p per portion, £1.16 with bread and butter

50g butter
1 red onion, diced
1 white onion, diced
½ tsp mixed herbs
500g carrots, peeled and diced
30ml maple syrup (plus extra for drizzling)
700ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
4 thin rashers smoked bacon (or generally 2 rashers per person)

1. Sautee the onions, mixed herbs and carrots in the butter and maple syrup, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid, and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables have started to caramelise.
2. Add vegetable stock and cook on a high heat for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to as high as possible, and cook rashers of smoky bacon on s non-stick baking tray until they go nice and crispy (this generally takes 10-15 minutes).
3. Blend the soup, add any extra water/stock if necessary to get to your desired thickness, season to taste and serve hot- garnished with crispy smoked bacon and an extra drizzle of maple syrup!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Recipe: Leek and Potato Cakes, with Chickpea and Carrot Salad

The last of the leeks- and pretty much everything else in the garden to be honest! There's only about a dozen little red chillies left on my plants, and i expect the first frost will kill them off. This was a nice little relaxed brunch i made for me and my parents- i spose the leek and potato cakes are pretty much like bubble and squeak, except for the indian spices. Good way of using up leftover mashed potato if you have any as well.

Potato and Leek Cakes, with a Chickpea and Carrot salad (serves 3) 83p per person!

For the Cakes
1 kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
50g butter
1 tbsp medium curry powder

30g butter
1 large/2 medium leeks
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp olive oil (plus maybe extra if needed)

For the Salad
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 carrot, peeled and grated
Handful fresh coriander, chopped
15ml lemon juice
10ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Natural yoghurt (optional garnish)

1. (Either use leftover mash, or…) Boil the potatoes for about 25 minutes, or until soft. Drain, and mash with the butter and curry powder. Set aside.
2. In a large deep frying pan, fry the leeks in the butter and sugar covered for 10 minutes. Cook for a further 10 minutes uncovered. Add the leek mixture to the potato mixture and mix until well combined. Season to taste and set aside (with the lid off to allow to cool).
3. Mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, sugar and some salt and pepper. Add all the other salad ingredients, season to taste, and set aside.
4. Heat a large frying pan up with 2 tbsp oil until quite hot. Shape the potato/leek mixture into 6 patties. In batches (adding more olive oil if needed) fry the patties about 3 minutes on each side, or until the patties have become browned.
5. Serve the patties with the chickpea salad, and a dollop of natural yoghurt on top if desired.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Competition: Bel Cheese Academy's Recipe Competition

Biggest one yet! Or at least one of the most exciting, certainly. Bel held a recipe competition a couple of months ago. You had to be a professional in the catering industry, and you had to come up with a recipe using one of their products.

Bel is a large company- they make Boursin, Laughing Cow, Baby Bel, Leerdamer and many other types of cheese. I sent in my recipe for lasagne- the one with the pack of garlic and herb boursin mixed into the white sauce- and I won! I won a brand shiny new Ipad 2, and wait....theres more..

Bel has asked me to be a "Brand Ambassador" for them, which basically means that three or four times a year, Bel is going to send me products, and with those products they want me to make delicious recipes which they will publish on their website! How cool is that!!! This is the kind of thing that i would love to get involved with after my degree, working with food based companies and even perhaps working with them on product development. It's definitely a big step in the right direction when it comes to my career. Very exciting though!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Recipe: Yoghurt and Mustard Baked Chicken

This is a really good way of getting flavour into chicken, and at the same time keeps the meat so moist and tender. Marinade it for a least a couple of hours, or even for a much longer time- up to 24 hours even. What's also good is that you mix the marinade, marinade the meat, and then cook the dinner all in the same dish- so that avoids any extra washing up! I have served this with some spicy kidney beans and green salad- lovely!

Yoghurt and Mustard Baked Chicken (serves 3-4)

4 normal or 3 large chicken breasts
50g natural yoghurt
30ml honey
20g wholegrain mustard
5g grated parmesan
5ml lemon juice
Salt and pepper

1. Mix together all the ingredients in an oven proof dish except the chicken. Add the chicken, prick a few times with a knife (to allow the marinade to seep in) and mix into the yoghurt mix. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 200C. Cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes (depending on the size of the breasts), and serve, with any extra juices from the dish poured over your side vegetables/ salad.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Recipe: Pasta with Leeks and Mushrooms

This is a strange little dish- weird mix of herbs and spices and using worchester sauce! But it works, celery salt, worchester sauce and lemon works very well together (c'mon, just look at the bloody mary- possibly the most perfect coctail in the world, minus the tabasco, lol) and all of those ingredients happen to go very well with mushrooms and leeks. In the picture I have here I used tagliatelli, but I think this recipe works better with spaghetti or linguini actually.

Pasta with leeks and mushrooms (serves 1 generously)  £1.92 per portion

125g dried spaghetti, linguini, tagliatelli, or any pasta of your choice.
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek, or 2 medium leeks, diced
200g sliced mushrooms
¼ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp mixed herbs
¼ tsp celery salt
2 tbsp Worchester sauce
Squeeze of lemon
10g freshly grated parmesan
Wedges of lemon for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Fry the leeks and mushrooms for 10 minutes covered, stirring occasionally.
2. Put the pasta onto the boil and cook according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile, remove the lid from the vegetables, add the spices and Worchester sauce and cook for a further 10 minutes.
3. Add the pasta into the vegetable mix, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and stir until everything is well coated. Serve, with freshly grated parmesan on top, and lemon wedges on the side.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Competition: Black Garlic Recipe Competition

Yes, i've won another won! This time it's with a company called Black Garlic. They sell a product, conveniently, called black garlic, that you may not have heard of. Black garlic is an aged version of normal garlic. This aging or "fermentation" process turns it black, changes its flavour slightly (its less strong than normal garlic, and has a nice rich kinda molasses-y flavour to it), increases its level of vitamins and antioxidants, and also does not give you garlic breath!! Cool right??

Well they held a recipe competition, and i entered a version of my Ginger and coriander salmon with sesame noodle salad, using plenty of black garlic instead of normal garlic. So i won £100 and a load of black garlic goodies! Brilliant!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Recipe: "Secret Ingredient" Roast Vegetables

I guess it kinda becomes a "well known" ingredient once i blab about it all over my blog, but never mind. I just call it that because theres an ingredient in this recipe that people wouldnt expect you to use for roast vegetables, but it ends up completely perfecting the dish. The couple tbsp i use of cherry cordial in the recipe just makes the vegetables go beautifully caramelised in the oven, as well as providing a slightly sweet fruity flavour too. You can use any type of undiluted cordial or squash that you want, i just use cherry because theres this type I get from Sainsburys that's so delicious, so I always have some in the cupboard and that's how i ended up trying this out. I served this alongside some roast chicken and gravy- but reckon it would be fantastic on the side of a big roasted leg of lamb.

“Secret Ingredient” Roast Vegetables (serves 4 as a side dish)

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp cherry cordial (undiluted)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 celeriac, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 red onion, diced
1 large or 2 medium leeks, diced
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Put all these ingredients into a roasting tin, mix until all the vegetables are well coated and combined, and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
2. Stir the roast vegetables and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes. Remove, and serve!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Competition: Take a Break My Favourite Recipes Magazine

Hey guys. Well i've won another competition- just a little one, winning £25 in Tesco Vouchers, but i've found myself much more interested in the organisation that ran this competition since i won it. I joined their facebook page about a month ago, and in started learning about them. They are a new small magazine, published every 2 months, made up entirely of reader recipes, rather than professional chefs/ regular food writers. Not only do they run regular competitions on their facebook page to win vouchers/cookbooks, but every recipe you enter onto their facebook page gets a chance to be published (where you receive £25 if your published). Furthermore, if your recipe is published, every entry there is a facebook vote for everyones' favourite recipe, and the one that gets the most votes wins £500!

So my recipe for Black Bean Chilli won me £25, but I am hoping that one of my recipes will be published in January's issue, and that i'll have a chance of winning the £500 on top of that! Will keep you all updated on this one xx

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Recipe: Autumn Vegetable Soup with Pesto

My mum loved this soup so much- she said this should be the next recipe competition winner! Lol! Maybe i'll enter it into one of New Covent Garden soup recipe competitions, i dunno. I always want more soups in winter, and this soup is packed full of all of the delicious root veg that reminds me of autumn. I think autumn is my favourite season- maybe because of Firework night on the 5th November, and my birthday on the 17th November. Not sure what i'm doing this year for my birthday- it's 21 so maybe i should do something big? Anyway, the pesto in this is optional of course, but i think it really adds the finishing touch to the dish.

Autumn Vegetable Soup with Pesto (makes 3 bowls) £1.25 per portion (1.35 with bread and butter)

30g butter
1 white onion, diced
1 large or 2 medium leeks, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 swede, peeled and diced
100ml red wine
1 litre vegetable stock
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tbsp readymade pesto
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Sautee the onion, leeks and garlic in the butter for 10 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the red wine and cook for a further 5 minutes, uncovered. Add all the other ingredients (except the pesto and olive oil) and cook on a high heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Blend half of the soup, and return to the pan. You may need to add more water/ vegetable stock at this stage if the soup has become too thick.
4. Season to taste and heat the soup up again until nice and hot. Mix together the extra virgin olive and pesto, and serve the soups with this “pesto oil” drizzled on top.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Recipe: Braised Leeks and Peas

This is a nice little side dish- tasty, sweet, moist, and full of vitamins and minerals. We had this on the side of chicken and mushroom pies and it worked really well. A really nice dish to show off the flavour of home grown leeks.

Braised Leeks and Peas (serves 4 as a side dish) 71p per portion

40g butter
30ml extra virgin olive oil
4 large leeks or 6 medium leeks
450g frozen peas
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
250ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
2 spring onions, finely sliced

1. Sautee the leeks in the olive oil and butter on a medium heat, for 10 minutes covered, stirring occasionally. Cook a further 5 minutes, uncovered.
2. Add the peas, parsley and stock, and cook on a high heat for 5 minutes. Season to taste, garnish with the sliced spring onions, serve!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Recipe: Chilli Jam

Yay. Finally, I can give up preserving for a while. My room is full of jars and i have spent so much time and a fair amount of money this year making all these things. I've just got to make chilli jam until the frosts kill my chilli plants, and i'm all done. In this recipe, it's hard to judge how hot the recipe is going to be, because there are so many different sizes and varieties of chilli, all with different heat (or "scoville") ratings. The ones i've been picking from outside "Apache" chillies, are fairly hot, and very little. I would guess using 8 "normal" large red chillies that you get in the supermarket would do the trick though. This Jam is not that hot really, its just delicious and peppery and sweet- would be a good accompaniment to asian dishes (like spring rolls/tempura etc), and dad actually loves it in cheese sandwiches! He'll put chilli in anything, lol!

Chilli Jam (makes 5 normal jam jars) £1.50 per portion

8 red peppers, deseeded and chopped
15 little red chillies
10g crushed ginger
8 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tin chopped tomatoes
½ tsp chilli flakes
750g sugar
200ml red wine vinegar
50ml cider vinegar

1. Blend the peppers and chillies in batches in a food processor until finely chopped. Add all the ingredients to a large pan, bring to the boil, skim any scum that forms, and cook on a high temperature for 1 hour and 10 minutes, stirring often.
2. Pour into jars, allow to cool, and then seal!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Recipe: Apple and Brazil Nut Chutney

Phew, at last- my final batch of apple based chutney of the year! At the moment i am just drowning in jars of preserves and i really honestly need to stop making things! The only thing i've got left to make is a couple of batches of chilli jam, and then I'm done. I've definitely stored up enough stuff this year to not even have to bother making anything next year actually, which is a good thing because i'm sure by February-time i'll be up to my ears in my degree work/revision. This chutney is a festive tasting, very sweet chutney. I would say interestingly that this chutney would go best with meats such as duck and pheasant, due to it's orange flavour and it's sweetness.

Apple and Brazil Nut Chutney makes 10 jars, 72p per serving

6 small white onions, thinly sliced
950g peeled diced apples
200g Brazil nuts, diced
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp allspice
Zest and Juice of 1 Orange
400ml cider vinegar
450g sugar

1. Place all the ingredients into a large saucepan, put on a high heat, and cook covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Remove the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and allow to settle for 10 minutes, then transfer to jars. Allow to cool, and then seal with the lids.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Recipe: Root Vegetable Savoury Crumble

I know, a "savoury" crumble does sound a little weird I guess, probably because when we think of crumble it conjures up images of custard, blackberries and ice cream! However strange this may seem, it's really worth a try- you end up with a delicious creamy root vegetable casserole, with a golden crunchy topping, which is just perfect served with some steamed greens and a nice veggie gravy!

Root Vegetable Savoury Crumble (serves 4) £1.90 per person with lots of green veg and veggie gravy

500ml vegetable stock
1 celeriac, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 large or 3 medium sized leeks, sliced
100g Philadelphia
20g wholegrain mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
120g butter
120g flour
60g parmesan
30g flaked almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the celeriac, carrots, sweet potatoes and leeks in a large pan with hot vegetable stock, and cook on a high heat, with the lid on, for 15 minutes.
2. Put the butter, flour, parmesan and flaked almonds in a mixing bowl, and rub together with your fingers until you have made a fine crumble mixture.
3. Mix the Philadelphia and mustard into the cooked vegetables, season to taste, and pour into an ovenproof dish. Top with the crumble mix, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Put under a hot grill for a further two minutes until browned on top, and serve!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Recipe: Leek, Pea and Red Pepper Risotto

Another lush leek recipe! Still got loads in the garden, but I spose i've got to dig them up soon because some of them are bolting, and I reckon it wont be long before we get frosts! I love those roasted peppers you get in jars, they are so convenient and yummy. I guess a bit of a "cheats" ingredients, but I really love the flavour of them. The sweet leeks and red peppers in this risotto really compliments the creamy rice and parmesan. Heaven in a bowl!

Leek, Red Pepper and Pea Risotto (serves 2) £1.64p per person

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 large or 3 medium leeks, finely sliced
160g Arborio rice
100ml sherry
1 tsp herbs du Provence
700ml vegetable stock (made with 2 stock cubes)
120g sliced roasted red pepper (the ones you get in jars)
100g frozen peas
25g finely grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

1. Fry the leeks in the butter and olive oil for 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the sherry and herbs du Provence and cook for a further 2 minutes.
2. Begin to gradually add the stock, as the rice absorbs it (this should take about 15 minutes). 5 minutes before serving, add the red pepper, peas and parmesan. Season to taste, garnish with some finely chopped parsley (optional) and serve!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Recipe: Sweet Chilli Chicken Curry

This is a really nice, quick, simple supper dish for two. It's not really like a chilli chicken dish you get in chinese restaurants (my boyfriend luuuuuuurves them), i've used some indian spices here to make it taste a little different. I've got a bit of a cold at the moment as well, and the slight spiciness in this dish was really good for making me feel a bit warmer and better!

Sweet Chilli Chicken Curry (serves 2) £1.95 with basics rice.

2 tbsp oil
1 small white onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp crushed ginger
Large handful fresh coriander, chopped (plus extra for garnish)
2 chicken breasts, diced
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tin tomatoes (or 400ml passata)
200ml chicken stock
50g sweet chilli sauce
1.5 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf

1. Fry the onion, garlic, ginger and coriander in olive oil for 5 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the chicken breasts and fry for a further 3 minutes on a high heat. Add ground coriander, chilli powder and cinnamon and cook for a further 2 minutes.
3. Add all the other ingredients, and cook for 10 minutes covered for 10 minutes. Continue to cook for a further 15 minutes, uncovered, stirring often, until the sauce has become lovely and sticky and thickened.
4. Season to taste, garnish with fresh coriander and serve!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Recipe: Chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce, with caramelised greens

This is one of the simplest "posh" recipes that i've made in ages- I was really impressed with the end result. I wanted to perfect a creamy white wine and mushroom sauce recipe, and I wanted to make the most of my homegrown leeks, and so this dish sorta 'came together'. Some people just like their cabbage/leeks steamed slightly with a bit of butter, or stir fried, but I really like to cook them for ages until they begin to go golden- cause it brings the natural sweetness out and turns what we consider as simple green vegetables into something so scrumptious! Important to note: with this recipe, you will usually end up with a fair amount of the creamy sauce left- but don't worry, it is a fairly versatile sauce, and goes particularly well mixed into pasta, or served with other types of meats (pork, turkey etc.)

Chicken in a creamy mushroom and white wine sauce, served with caramelised leeks and cabbage (serves 2)

The Chicken
Olive oil
2 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 tsp dried rosemary

The leeks/cabbage
1 tbsp olive oil
30g butter
¼ small white cabbage, sliced
2 large or 3 medium leeks, sliced
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper

The mushroom sauce
1 tbsp oil
30g butter
1 small onion or banana shallot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
75g diced white mushrooms
25g diced shitake mushrooms
100ml white wine
100ml chicken stock
200ml double cream
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the two chicken breasts in a roasting tray with the oil, rosemary, seasoning, and a little bit of water (to prevent the chicken from drying out). Put in the oven for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan on a medium heat, cook all of the leek/cabbage ingredients, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove the lid then cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring often.
3. Meanwhile, start making the sauce. In a large deep frying pan, sautee the onion and garlic in the oil and butter for 5 minutes, until softened.
4. Add the white wine and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the cream and stock, and cook for a further 7 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce has become nice and thick. Season to taste.
5. Remove the chicken from the oven, slice up and arrange on the plate, spoon over some of the mushroom sauce, and serve with the leeks and cabbage on the side.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Recipe: Apple and Cranberry Chutney

I'm so pleased with how this chutney turned out- not sure whether it really shows up in the photo i took, but the jars look really beautiful. The deep red colour looks really attractive, and i think these will make perfect Christmas gifts. This chutney would work very well at Christmas dinner actually, now that i think of it- the apples are good if you're eating roast pork, and the cranberries of course are the classic accompaniment to roast turkey! On the cheeseboard too, I think this chutney would go really well with wensleydale- cranberries and wensleydale go really well together, infact you can buy the cheese with cranberries already in it from the supermarkets. Almost finished with the preserving this year though, I am drowning in various jars of things now- I need to give it a rest soon!!

Apple and Cranberry Chutney makes 9 x jars 84p per jar

900g peeled diced apples
300ml red wine vinegar
2 large white onions, finely diced
300g dried cranberries
400g sugar
20g crushed ginger

1. Put all ingredients in a large pan, on a high heat, covered, for 15 minutes.
2. Lower the heats, remove the lid, and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally (but not too much- you don’t want to break down the chunks of apple completely).
3. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then pot and seal. Wait for two weeks and serve!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Recipe: Tomato, Leek and Bean Hotpot

This is a family favourite and in my opinion one of my mum's best recipes. All the time that I was making this, dad kept coming back in from the garden, and walking past me in the kitchen saying "ooh, one of my favourites this is!". Can't say I blame him- this dish is incredibly comforting and delicious, as well as being pretty good for you too. I used the first leeks i've picked this season to make this, and i think despite having a fair amount of other ingredients in it, the flavour of the leeks really shine through. Its amazing though, when i harvest my homegrown leeks, there is such an aroma- such a strong onion-y garlicky smell. I sware that homegrown vegetables just smell much more "vegetabley" then their supermarket counterparts (the lush smell of homegrown tomatoes holds no comparison atall in my opinion, to shop bought toms). If you don't have a food processor, just try and slice the potatoes as thinly as possible.

Tomato, Leek and Bean Hotpot (serves 4) £1.21 per portion with 200g peas.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large or 2 medium leeks, sliced
2 large or 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
300ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp marmite
800g potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly (using a food processor slicing attachment if possible)
50g butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a saucepan, fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil for 3 minutes. Add the leeks and carrots and cook covered for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Preheat the oven to 180C. Add the tinned tomatoes, kidney beans, stock and marmite to the vegetables, season to taste, and set aside. Pour this mixture into a large casserole.
3. Top the bean and vegetable mixture with all of the sliced potatoes. Every full layer, add a little bit of salt and pepper. Once you have layered up all the potatoes, dot with the butter, put the lid on, and bake in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes.
4. Remove the lid, and if the potatoes need any crisping up, put under the grill for a few minutes. Serve!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Recipe: Chicken and Green Vegetable Fricassee

This is a little dish I whipped up last night with my last harvest of courgettes. It's a shame they've ended again, but i got almost more out of these two plants this year than the three plants last year (8kg vs 10kg). *Sigh* the raised beds are looking a bit bare, now that we've cut down the courgettes and the french beans- but at least we still have some leeks to harvest- watch this space!!! This slightly french dish is delicious served with a big chunk of buttered french baguette.

Chicken and Green Vegetable Fricassee (serves 2)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
350g diced chicken
100ml white wine
350ml chicken stock
1 bay leaf
250g quartered new potatoes
200g diced courgettes
100g Philadelphia
200g frozen peas
Salt and pepper

1. In a saucepan on a medium heat, fry the red onions in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Add the chicken with a little seasoning (salt + pepper) and fry for a further 5 minutes.
2. Add the white wine, stock, bay leaf, and new potatoes, and cook covered for 10 minutes.
3. Add the Philadelphia and courgettes, and cook uncovered for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the peas, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste and serve!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Recipe: Spiced Beef Casserole

I kinda lost the recipe for this, but then found my print-out behind the sofa and thought GAWWWD I havent made this for ages and it's soooo lush!! I guess with the cinnamon and the cocoa powder it has a slightly north african flavour to it, but i guess it isn't a specific sort of "named dish", it just happens to be tender and delicious! Perfect served with mash and buttered purple sprouting broccoli.

Spiced Beef Casserole (serves 3) £2 per serving with mash.

2 tbsp olive oil
500g stewing steak
1 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cocoa powder
½ tsp smoked paprika
250g passata
600ml beef stock
1 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves

1. On a high heat brown the beef off in a couple of batches, seasoned well. This should take about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon remove the browned beef from the saucepan and set aside in a casserole dish.
2. Add another tbsp of olive oil to the pan, and add the onion and garlic. Fry covered for 5 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. Heat the oven to 180C.
3. Add all the spices to the pan, and stir in well. Add passata and stir until well combined. Add the beef stock and reduce down for 10 minutes.
4. Add the reserved beef, add bay leaves, and cover. Put in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes, removing and stirring every 30 minutes.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Recipe: Feta Filled Cherry Tomatoes

This is such a cute little canape recipe- I love it! I invented it when i was 8, I think when i started inventing dishes, it was all about party food for me- i wanted to make food that groups of my friends and family would really enjoy at social gatherings. I used to make delicious big jugs of non-alchoholic coctails as well. They were always so nice, and have never been able to make drinks (whether boozy or not!) as good as those ones back then. I think it was the large amounts of fresh mint i used to put in them from the garden, theres just something about fresh garden mint. Its different to shopbought.

Anyway, rabbiting on like usual- This is a recipe I am submitting to Love The Garden's new recipe competition "A Taste for Tomatoes". It's all about celebrating this wonderful fruit, and sending in our recipes that bring out the full flavour of our lovely toms! I think my favourite variety of the tomato is the cherry- they're lovely and sweet and crunchy, LOVELY. The salty feta here works very well with the sweetness of the tomato. The competition is judged by food blogger James Ramsden, and the prize is £200 at a meal of your choice. If any of you want to have a go at this recipe competition, or check out their website for growing tips, here's a link:

Feta Filled Cherry Tomatoes

200g feta
A few slices red onion
50g peeled diced cucumber
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt, sugar and pepper to taste
About 20 large cherry tomatoes
Optional: herbs for garnish

1. Slice a little hole in the top of each cherry tomato, and hollow out the centres of them.
2. Blend all the other ingredients in a food processor, and season to taste. If it is a little too thick, add some water.
3. Fill the hollowed out cherry tomatoes with the feta mixture, and arrange on a place in a circle. Garnish with herbs if you fancy it, and serve!

PS: The feta filling also makes a very nice dip!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Travel: Snowdonia Day Three

So today after a cooked breakfast, made by my lovely boyfriend whilst I was in the shower (it’s so lovely not to cook sometimes!) we wrote our postcards and headed into Harlech. We had such a lush visit round Harlech Castle- it is such a beautiful fascinating building/ruin. It was constructed in the 14th century by King Edward I, and played an important part in the conquest of Wales. The historical section they have in the middle of the castle had loads of interesting info on it, but I must admit I can’t remember much of it!

Health and safety-wise however, this place is absolutely crazy! I mean, personally I am usually against all these ridiculous guidelines and safety measurements you have these days, risk assessments for nothing, all of that jazz, BUT literally, the stairs you have to use to get to the battlements is thin as hell, there are no safety rails once you get up there, and also loads of the spiral staircases to get down are v v dark. I mean, I guess it’s refreshing to see the castle AS IT SHOULD BE, without loads of modern signs and things, but I felt so scared on the battlements it was mental. Don’t tend to get vertigo, but the feeling that I could fall down really easily was totally freaking me out.

Cute little gift shop as well, I bought a nice classic Welsh cookbook, which I’ll be having a skim through and cooking recipes from some point soon I think. Especially since my home-grown leeks are ready for harvest, and most of these traditional welsh meals are leek orientated. So after Harlech, we decided to have a look round Barmouth, which is this kinda sad traditional sea-side town near to where we were staying.

Theres something kinda sad about Barmouth. I mean, you could tell the town had been hit by hard times, because there were loads of empty shops/ restaurants (Including this café- Arousal Café!!! Ahaha! The C fell off a looong time ago by the look of the place) and lots of knackered pound shop places. It looks almost slightly abandoned I guess, but it was fun having a walk round there, at one point we found one of those old tuppence/10p arcades! OMG I used to spend so much money as a kid in those sorts of places, especially when I went to Ramsgate with my grandmother.

We eventually found, right at the bottom of the town, the NICEST pub!!! It looks so cool in there, it’s called “The Last Inn”, and it served one of the nicest plate of fish and chips that I’ve ever had! The pictures I took are rather dark I guess, so I hope you can see. The first picture is of me sitting on the ledge of what the Inn used to use to keep their beers cool- an open spring that was used as a kind of cellar I think?- and the second is of my lunch!
Hasn’t it been plated funkily? I love the chips in the mini-fryer basket-classic! I wish we’d gone there the night before actually, cause it said they did live music performances (of various genres) on Tuesday nights.

After that meal we decided to walk over Barmouth Bridge, which I wasn’t really aware of, but Nick said apparently it’s kinda famous. I googled it, and basically it is an old railway line as well as a pedestrian walkway, and it was built originally in 1867 (although parts had to be replaced at some point due to wood worms or something). It is a pretty bridge, and a nice little walk, so I would recommend it as an attraction I spose!

We figured after coming back off the bridge and having a quick cup of coffee that we had just enough time for a last attraction, so we thought we would check out a little sign we saw earlier, pointing to “Nantcol Waterfalls”. Must admit we did get a little bit lost looking for them, and by the time we found out where the toll booth was to pay to go and see the waterfalls, it was all dark, so we just walked and took a few nice photos of the fast stream that flowed from the waterfalls, and ended in the town of Llanbedr. Here we found a lush pub called “Tyr Mawr” (yeah….we never figured out how to pronounce it either…lol). If you stay in Wales anywhere near Llanbedr, you HAVE to check out this pub. It lays on a real ale festival the same time every year (unfortunately it started on the weekend 24th-25th September, the day after we left! Doh!), they serve some very nice ales in the pub, and they do some bloody fantastic rustic pub food!

I don’t want to slag the other pub off, but we had heard about this Tyr Mawr pub in the guestbook, but couldn’t find it, so we went to the other pub in town called “The Victoria Inn”, and yeah….it wasn’t very good. I mean the staff were quite friendly, but the atmosphere wasn’t nearly as nice, and the food couldn’t even be compared to the Tyr Mawr pub. I guess direction-wise, the only thing I can say is get into the main village, and if the Victoria Inn is on the right of you, turn left along what looks like just a load of houses, but eventually you will see the sign for Tyr Mawr. It’s a bed and breakfast as well as a pub and restaurant y’see.

Anyway, we had a couple of nice ales, I had an amazing lamb shank (which by the way, I noticed on a fair few menus in Wales, shanks are often called “henrys” instead. Dunno why) with a minted gravy, mixed vegetables and new potatoes, and Nick had a chicken and smoked bacon pie, with gravy, mixed veg and mash. Both of the dishes were stunning, the atmosphere was incredibly comforting and warm, and the local drinkers all seemed really nice. In fact, it was so funny, when we left, I made a point of saying to the man at the bar that this had been a lovely end to our holiday in Wales, and that the meal we just had was FANTASTIC. Just then one of the guys round the bar piped and said in a heavy welsh accent “Glad you liked it, my mum’s the cook”. Haha! Loved it. So traditional and no-frills, Nick and I loved the place.

Well, we then went home, had a bottle of wine, and played another game of Scrabble! I LOVE scrabble, haha! I hate losing though; I am definitely a bad loser. I won the first game by a MILE (mostly helped by “squad” on a triple word- OoooOoh!) but the second game he beat me on the last word! Jammy git! Lol. I like this picture- i managed to get my dog Misty onto the scoreboard....awwwww!Well, we had a lush time in Wales, and someday I will definitely go there again for a little break. I think if we did another cottage holiday though, I reckon we should try The Lake District, a lot of my friends really recommend visiting there. I hope you found this little Northern Welsh guide helpful!