Friday, April 29, 2011

Recipe: Creamy Asparagus Soup, with Wild Garlic Pesto

This soup is soooo lush! Really tasty and creamy, and made with some fantastic tasting local Wye Valley asparagus. Beautiful and thick, and the nutty wild garlic pesto drizzled on top compliments it perfectly. If you have any pesto left, it's delicious to have as a simple dip, with loads of crunchy vegetable crudite.

Asparagus soup with wild garlic pesto (serves 2)

For the soup:
50g butter
4 wild garlic leaves, roughly chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme
200g asparagus (woody ends and all!), finely chopped
300g potatoes, peeled and finely diced
700ml chicken stock
250ml skimmed milk
Salt and pepper to taste

For the pesto:
8 wild garlic leaves
20g toasted pine nuts
10g finely grated parmesan
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the white onion, thyme and wild garlic in the butter on a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add all the other ingredients, increase to a high heat, and cook for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, blend all the pesto ingredients in a food processor until smooth, season to taste, and set aside.
3. Remove the soup from the heat, allow to cool a little, and blend until smooth. Return to the pan and heat up until nice and hot again. Season to taste, swirl in some of the wild garlic pesto, and serve!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Recipe: Green Vegetable Minestrone

This is a lovely tasty summer soup, wonderfully fresh tasting with the seasonal green vegetables and fragrant fresh herbs! The hint of savoury smokiness from the bacon makes it taste wonderful as well. This year I am trying to grow my own french beans from seed, so im hoping perhaps in a couple of months I might be able to make this dish with my own homegrown beans! Stellini (sometimes called Astrini) is the MOST adorable pasta i've ever seen- it's all diddy! They are tincy, star shaped pasta (hence the "Stell" or "Astr"- latin routes for the word star) that i got from my local farm shop. If you can't find it, add some little macaroni instead, and give the macaroni at least an extra 5 minutes of cooking time. You can also, of course, make this soup vegetarian by using veg stock and getting rid of the bacon.

Green Vegetable Minestrone (serves 6) £1 per person, with bread and butter

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for garnish)
1 red onion, finely diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 rashers smoky bacon, diced
1.5 litres vegetable or chicken stock (or a mixture)
2 bay leaves
2tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ tsp dried thyme
120g spring greens
50g tenderstem broccoli, sliced
50g french beans, sliced
50g Sugarsnap peas, sliced
90g very small pasta
50g frozen peas
Finely grated parmesan and torn basil for garnish

1. Sautee the red onion, celery, carrot, bacon and garlic in the olive oil, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add stock, bay leaves, parsley and thyme, and bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes.
2. Add the spring greens, broccoli, green beans and sugar snaps, and cook for five minutes. Add pasta and cook for 3 minutes. Add frozen peas and cook for a further 2 minutes.
3. Season to taste, garnish with parmesan, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a few torn basil leaves.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Recipe: Tomato and Basil Spaghetti with Herby Garlic Chicken

This is an easy mid-week meal, that can be made to look particularly sophisticated! Spaghetti, coated in a scrumptious fresh tasting tomato and basil sauce, and topped with shredded chicken, that has been flavoured with thyme and garlic. Give it some fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a some grated parmesan, and you've got yourself a delicious, sexy and healthy dinner for two.

Spaghetti with chicken and tomato and basil sauce (serves 2)  £1.67 per serving

250g diced chicken
½ tsp dried thyme
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar

210g spaghetti
1 tin chopped tomatoes
10g fresh basil leaves, torn (plus extra for garnish)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 vegetable Oxo cube
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. On a roasting tray, place the chicken, sprinkle with chopped garlic, thyme, olive oil, and seasoning, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the tomatoes, fresh basil, sugar, vegetable bouillon, and extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan on a medium heat, covered, for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Blend, season to taste, and set aside.
3. Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions. Once ready, take the chicken out of the oven and shred it with a fork. Drain the cooked pasta and mix into the tomato sauce, making sure everything is hot.
4. Put the spaghetti with the sauce onto the plate. Top each plate equally with the shredded chicken, some more fresh basil, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and garnish with extra basil.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Recipe: Mexican Spiced Potatoes and Green Peppers

Well, my lucky parents are sunning it off in Cancun (Mexico) at the moment, and whilst im stuck in (to be fair, quite a sunny) Blighty i thought i would make a nice Mexican dish to make myself feel slightly less jealous. I say slightly- my mum has been texting me about some of her escapades out there- she has swam with Manta Rays man! Arghhhh here comes the green eyed monster!!! And what's funny is that for my Film Studies A2 lvl we have been studying Mexican cinema too! Anyway, this is such a super tasty dish, lovely by itself but also very nice as a tortilla filling, with salsa, lettuce and sour cream. Ps: Yes i know, Lancashire cheese is hardly traditional Mexicana! But it goes well so why not?!

Mexican Spiced Potatoes and Green peppers (serves 3 as a side dish) 79p per portion

1 kg potatoes, (I use red rooster) peeled and diced
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves very finely chopped
100ml olive oil
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sugar
Handful coriander, roughly chopped (plus extras for garnish)
Salt and pepper
A couple of tablespoons of grated Lancashire cheese (Optional garnish)

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and boil the potatoes for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
2. Put all the other ingredients, except Lancashire cheese, into a large mixing bowl. Add the potatoes with PLENTY of salt and pepper, mix together well, so that all the ingredients are well mixed and all the ingredients are coated well in the oil and spices.
3. Pour the ingredients from the mixing bowl into a roasting tray, and put into the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and stir around a bit, and cook for a further 15 minutes.
4. Transfer the roasted mixture into a large bowl, and garnish with extra coriander and Lancashire cheese.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Recipe: Chickpea and Spring Green Curry

This is a delicious vegetarian curry, using nice seasonal spring greens and lots and lots of coriander. I LOVE coriander! Oh and I get these beautiful delicious 'young spring greens' from waitrose- i'm not sure how long they'll be selling them for. But yeah definitely go out and buy them, cause they are so flavoursome and tender, and you dont have to remove any of the stalks or anything. In the picture here i have got the natural yoghurt on top as a garnish, but actually I reccomend to stir it into the curry before serving- I reckon it all tastes nicer that way.

Chickpea and Spring Green Curry (serves 2) £1.53 per serving with 60g (dry weight) white rice, cooked

3 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
120g young spring greens, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 large handfuls chopped fresh coriander (plus extra for garnish)
2 tsp dukka (a mix of toasted ground cumin, coriander and sesame seeds)
2 tsp garam masala (plus a little extra for garnish)
¼ tsp chilli powder
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tin chopped tomatoes
250ml vegetable stock
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp natural yoghurt
Extra coriander and a sprinkling of garam masala for garnish

1. Put a deep frying pan on a high heat. Stir fry the spring greens in the oil, cumin seeds, garlic, and seasoning for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat, take the spring greens out with a slotted spoon (to drain the oil off) and put them into a bowl. Set aside.
2. In the same frying pan, adding another tbsp of oil if needed, lower the heat and fry the red onion, garlic and 1 handful of fresh coriander, covered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the dukka, garam masala, chilli powder and chickpeas and stir all the ingredients to coat the onions and chickpeas in the spices. Add all the other ingredients, except the reserved spring greens, natural yoghurt and garnishes, and cook on a medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the spring greens and another handful of fresh coriander, stir in, and cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the natural yoghurt and serve, garnished with MORE fresh coriander and sprinkled with garam masala.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Recipe: Wild Garlic Roasted New Potatoes

Another scrumptious recipe using the lovely british seasonal ingredient that is wild garlic! A very tasy little side dish i've got here- not many ingredients, it just really lets the flavour of the wild garlic and good english new potatoes shine through. It is important to use small potatoes, and to bunch them all together (although not completely piling them up!) in the roasting pan, otherwise they will not cook together thoroughly and you'll end up with crunchy potatoes. Next time I make this, if i have a chance to go and pick some more wild garlic before their season is over, i'm going to make quadruple what I make here- it is just too good!

Wild Garlicky Roasted New Potatoes (serves 2 as a side dish) If you pick the wild garlic yourself, 62p per serving

500g baby new potatoes, quartered
10 wild garlic leaves
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp sugar
Plenty of salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. In a food processor blend the wild garlic, herbs, olive oil and sugar until smooth. In a large bowl mix together the potatoes and garlicky oil, and add plenty of salt and pepper, making sure the potatoes are all nice and coated.
2. Pour onto a tray and bunch them up together (don’t spread them out). Roast in the oven for 50 minutes. Remove and serve!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Recipe: New Potato Salad with Wild Garlic

Now, wild garlic- have you ever tried it? If you havent, you MUST, it is fabulous! Now i'm not much of a "forager" per say, not like these chefs that go out picking their own mushrooms and catching their own seafood and things, but wild garlic is very easy to identify and collect. It's not like I could mistake it for something else, and end up ruddy poisoning someone! As you can see with the pictures here, wild garlic leaves are thin, dark green, and the plants have white flowers. The flowers can also be picked and consumed- they look lovely as a garnish! You will know it is wild garlic when you pick it- cause all you need to do is smell it- it has a very pungent garlicky smell! Infact often, when you get large patches of it like this, you can actually smell the wild garlic in the air- it's amazing!

Now, it's hard to make potato salad look pretty- but this dish is soooo tasty- and healthier than your adverage potato salad too, cause it uses yoghurt instead of mayonaiise (cause I aint a big fan of mayo). Wild garlic is seasonal to the UK in April/ early May, and can mostly be found in wooded or shady areas. It aint around for much longer now, so get out there and start picking!

New Potato Salad with Wild Garlic (serves 2 as a side dish) if you pick the wild garlic yourself, 48p per serving!

1 heaped tsp smooth Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp walnut oil
Pinch of sugar, salt and pepper
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
6 wild garlic leaves, finely chopped
500g cooked (cold!) new potatoes, quartered

1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and pinch of sugar, until it emulsifies (just like how you would normally make vinaigrette).
2. Mix the Greek yoghurt and wild garlic into the other ingredients until well combined. Mix the potatoes into the finished sauce (not too vigorously! You don’t want to mash the potatoes!).
3. Season to taste and serve!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recipe: Wild Mushroom Risotto with Griddled Asparagus

I'm loving the photo for this- Gert posh isn't it??? I would be very happy to serve people this at a dinner party, or even in a restaurant, because i think it looks very impressive- and lucky for everyone it tastes very impressive too! It does require a liiittle bit of multi-tasking, but us women are fairly good at all that! (Just kidding, I don't believe in all that "men can't multitask" nonsense. If that was true then there wouldn't be so many male chefs- cause you need to be very good at multitasking to be a chef. DEFINITELY). You will probably end up with some of the mushroom soaking liquid left- dont chuck it away! You could make a lush soup, sauce or gravy outta that! You can of course use vegetable stock instead of chicken to make it vegetarian- I just think the chicken stock makes it taste better!

This recipe won me "The Italian Table Cookbook" by Ron Suhanosky, through submitting it on "Take a Break's My Favourite Recipes" Facebook page.

Wild mushroom Risotto with Griddled Asparagus (serves 2 generously!)

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large knob butter
1 small white onion, very finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, very finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp fresh thyme
30g dried mixed wild mushrooms
160g Arborio rice
100ml white wine or rose
250ml chicken stock (made with 2 chicken Oxos)
2 bay leaf
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley (plus extra for garnish)
20g finely grated parmesan (plus extra for garnish)
Plenty of black pepper and salt
6 spears asparagus, woody ends trimmed

1. Soak the mixed wild mushrooms in a full pint of boiling water. Leave soaking for 30 minutes. Boil the asparagus for a couple of minutes, drain, and set aside.
2. Sautee the onion, garlic and celery in the olive oil and butter, on a low/medium heat for 10 minutes. Increase the heat and add the wine, and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and thyme and cook for a couple of minutes.
3. Drain the wild mushrooms, reserving all of the soaking liquid, and add the mushrooms, parsley and bay leaves to the rice. Start to gradually add the stock, stirring and letting the risotto to gradually absorb the liquid.
4. Once it has soaked up all the stock, start using the mushroom soaking liquid, and continue gradually adding liquid whilst the rice soaks it up, for around 10-15 minutes (you probably won’t use all of the mushroom liquid). Check the texture of the rice every so often- when the risotto is ready, the rice should be “al dente” (still with a slight bite to it).
5. Whilst the risotto is cooking, heat a griddle pan onto high. Season the asparagus spears with salt and pepper, and a little oil, and chuck onto the griddle pan. Griddle for about 2 minutes each side.
6. Add parmesan to the risotto, stirring until it has melted, season to taste, and it should be ready! Serve the risotto, topped with the griddled asparagus spears, a few shavings of parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Recipe: Meatloaf

Ah, good old Meatloaf- and no I don't mean the bat outta hell kind! I've never had a go at making this, but it seems to be rather an american dinner staple, so i thought i'd have a go. The changes I made were that I turned it into 1 big meatloaf (as their recipe was for "spicy mini meatloafs"), so had to adjust the amounts and timings a bit, I did not add any tabasco, and i added a couple extra cherry tomatoes. It was really delicious, me and my brother loved it! And it was not dry atall, which is a reputation that meatloaf has seemed to have gained in the past few decades.

Meatloaf (serves 3) £1.39 with 160g broccoli steamed each.

500g minced beef
50g white breadcrumbs
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
1 egg
1 tsp ground cumin
Small handful coriander, chopped (plus a little extra for garnish)
50g sweet chilli sauce
½ tsp salt
Black pepper
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
Vegetable oil (for greasing)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Mix all the ingredients together (except the cherry tomatoes and vegetable oil) in a mixing bowl until well combined (but do not over-mix, otherwise the meatloaf will become tough).
2. Line a non-stick loaf tin with a little oil and greaseproof paper, and arrange the halved cherry tomatoes face down. Then add the meatloaf mix into the loaf tin, making sure it is nice and even and flat at the top.
3. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove, and turn the oven up to 220C. Turn out the meatloaf onto an ovenproof plate/dish- be careful when you do this, as there will probably be plenty of juices that will come out with it.
4. Remove the greaseproof paper, drain away the juices (if you are making a gravy for the meatloaf, add these juices to it) and put in the oven for a further 5 minutes, just to brown a bit. Garnish with a little extra coriander, and serve!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Recipe: Lamb and Green Bean Curry

This is a delicious creamy curry! Cooking the lean lamb in the stock and coconut cream in this way makes it SO tender- melt in the mouth! A little too mild for my boyfriend I guess, but he's the kinda type that enjoys ordering a curry with a multitude of chillies, and then sweats his way through the meal! This is mild, but sometimes i want something mild. It's a curry that's not as sweet or as creamy as a korma or a passanda, and has a nice rich meaty flavour from the lamb. With stage three, where i reccomend to add some yoghurt if it has become too salty, i think that has only happened to me over the last couple of times because i've used Knorr stocks. I'm sorry, but they are all FAR too salty! From now on I am sticking to good old Oxo cubes (or Oxo's nice concentrated beef liquid one).

Lamb and green bean curry (serves 2)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp crushed ginger
3 spring onions, sliced
400g lamb (lean diced leg)
2 tbsp Pataks Mild curry paste
1 small tin coconut cream
250ml chicken stock
150g French beans, ends trimmed and then halved
Handful Fresh coriander (separated into stalks and leaves)
½ tsp sugar
2 tbsp natural yoghurt (optional)

1. Cook the red onion, garlic and ginger on a medium heat for about 4 minutes. Add spring onions and lamb, and cook for a further 3 minutes.
2. Add curry paste, stir to coat, and cook for 2 more minutes. Lower the heat a little, and add the stock and coconut cream and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Finely chop the coriander stalks, and leave the coriander leaves for garnish. Add the coriander stalks, green beans and sugar, and cook for 15 more minutes. Taste, and if it is too salty (which can happen depending on what chicken stock you use) add the natural yoghurt and stir in.
4. Garnish with the coriander leaves, and serve over some basmati rice!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Recipe:Chicken, Mushroom and Red Pepper Chow Mein

This another lovely noodley dish that I have randomly created! Y'know, I have been keeping a diet diary recently, for a couple of weeks now infact, to highlight factors that are wrong with my diet, and how I can lose weight and improve my skin whilst becoming healthier at the same time. I realised that A) I eat almost NO fruit atall. I mean, I eat plenty of vegetables, but no fruit atall. So i am incorporating more into my diet. And B) I sware half of my diet consists of noodles, haha, seriously. It's all noodle soup this and chow mein that, I have some form of noodle dish at least every other day. Literally I expect if I went without noodles for a week i'd end up having withdrawal symptoms! Queue a noodle-themed mickkey-take of the trainspotting cold turkey baby crawling on ceiling scene! Haha!

Chicken, Mushroom and Red Pepper Chow Mein (serves 2) £1.52 per portion

2 stack medium egg noodles
1 tbsp oil (plus extra for the noodles)
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp sweet chilli dipping sauce
½ tsp Schwartz Thai 7 Spice mix (made mostly of chilli, garlic and ginger powder)
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
60g sliced red pepper
75g sliced mushrooms
50g thinly sliced white onion
110g diced cooked chicken
90g beansprouts
Fresh coriander and chopped dry roasted peanuts, for garnish

1. Precook the noodles, 1 minute less than the packet instructions recommend. Drain under cold water until cool, and mix in a little oil (to prevent the noodles from “clumping together”). Set aside.
2. Mix the soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce, Thai 7 spice and toasted sesame oil together, set aside.
3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok. Add red pepper, mushrooms and onion and stir fry for 1 minute. Add chicken and stir fry for another 2 minutes.
4. Add beansprouts, cook for a further minute. Add noodles and for a minute mix together thoroughly. Add reserved sauce and stir fry for a further 1 minute.
5. Garnish with a little coriander and a handful chopped dry roasted peanuts. Serve!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Recipe:Homemade Beef Burgers, with Tomato Relish

I've never made my own burgers, but my head chef Boo's burgers at work have been selling like hotcakes over the last few weeks, so I thought i'd have a go at making my own! These are really yummy, made even better when they are griddled. Griddling is definitely the secret to a good burger- you want to get that lovely "charred" taste to it. The tomato relish is delicious as well, and can of course be made in advance and kept in the fridge for a couple of days. The burgers as well can be frozen easily, so if you're planning a barbeque any time soon, these would be a sure winner! In my burger here, I have put relish, salad, and also spread with a little bit of wholegrain mustard + yoghurt (nicer than mayo i think- and healthier). I also reckon a rasher of crispy smoked bacon chucked in there wouldnt go amiss! (although not as good for my diet-conscious mind at the moment!)

Homemade Beef Burgers, with tomato relish (makes 5 burgers) £1.17 per burger with mixed salad

500g lean minced beef
½ red onion, very finely diced
35g hoisin sauce
3 slices white bread, turned into breadcrumbs
1 egg yolk
Salt and pepper

1 tbsp oil
½ red onion, diced finely
1 celery stick, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dukka (a mix of toasted ground cumin, coriander and sesame seeds)
¼ tsp crushed chilli flakes
250g diced ripe tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
10g capers, finely chopped

5 burger baps

1. For the relish, sauté the onion, celery, garlic, dukka and chilli flakes in the oil, covered for 5 minutes. Add all other ingredients except the capers, and cook covered for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the chopped capers, and set aside.
2. Mix together all the burger ingredients with plenty of seasoning. Heat a griddle pan on a medium-high heat. Mould the meat into 6 burgers, all weighing 95-100g (trying to get them nice and flat!).
3. In batches, griddle the burgers for 2 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other side, and then flip over once more and cook for a further minute, pressing down. Serve the burgers in nice baps, with the tomato relish and salad!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Recipe: Barbeque Pork Loin Steaks

Allright, now this does sound very very weird, almost unappetising, when you look at the ingredients- but trust me, the results are GAWJUS! Tomato Ketchup with guinness I hear you say with suprise! I've come up with this recipe with influences from American recipes. You will see a lot of american recipes that cook with ingredients that we wouldnt normally consider cooking with- like for instance, baking a ham in Coca Cola. Again, sounds weird, but the results are delicious (thanks for highlighting that our lovely Nigella!). The sauce bubbles down and caramelises around the pork loin steaks, and ends up as a sweet barbeque flavoured sauce. The meat AND fat on the pork ends up so succulent as well. This is lovely served with mash and steamed broccoli. Hell, if you along the whole american route, why not try making a homemade coleslaw too?

Barbeque Pork Loin (serves 2) £1.79 per portion, with mash and 100g steamed broccoli each.

4 pork thin cut loin steaks (or 2 thick cut ones!)
120g ketchup
100ml Guinness
40g sugar
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp Worchester sauce
Salt and pepper

1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients (except the pork!) together in a bowl, until well combined.
2. In an ovenproof dish, lay out the pork loin steaks. Pour the sauce evenly over the steaks, and cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove and serve!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Recipe: "Get Better in a Bowl!"

I'm poorly again! Poor Mel, it's the easter holidays and i'm all ill again! This is a sick-recipe standby, this always without fail makes me feel better. Several nations dating back hundreds of years have used chicken noodle soup as a form of culinary medicine- the turkish, the jewish, the asian populace, and eastern europeans. There is a little science behind why it makes us feel better as well- there is a chemical found in chicken and turkey called "Tryptophan". It is a type of amino acid, and it actually works as a form of anti-depressant, and is essentially a natural mood elevator. And of course, this is a healthy dish, as it is a good mix of carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables, and a warming broth- helping with those colds! In my recipe, the garlic and parsley in it also helps with recovery, as garlic is a well known natural remedy for curing colds and also aids in lowering cholesterol. The fresh parsley has a lot of iron in it as well. It isn't the prettiest dish I admit, but its all that i ever want when i'm poorly.

“Get Better in a Bowl” Chicken Noodle Soup (makes 2 bowls)

75g finely diced white onion
75g finely diced celery
75g peeled and finely diced carrot
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
30g butter
¼ tsp celery salt
¼ tsp dried thyme
100g diced cooked chicken
3 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
700ml chicken stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 stack fine egg noodles
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Sautee the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, celery salt and dried thyme in olive oil and butter, covered, for 5 minutes. Add all the other ingredients except the noodles, bring to the boil, and cook for 3 minutes.
2. Add the noodles and cook for 2 more minutes. Season to taste and serve, perhaps with some extra soy sauce on the side.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Review: Giraffe

So, a new branch of this wonderful chain has now arrived in Bath! It is in the shiny new Southgate area, opposite the bus station. I like what they’ve done with the place actually- the décor wasn’t atall like the one I went to in Horsham, which was all quite colourful and plastic-y. It’s nice and dark and atmospheric, and based on two levels, so it’s quite a big place. They had this cool opening 50% off food offer going on, so me and my brother decided to take our mum out for dinner there (as our “mother’s day gift” to her was for us to take her for a meal at some point).

So we got a few cokes and sat down. Waitresses fairly chatty and friendly. I really like the menu as well- it isn’t MASSIVE, but it seems to have something for everyone. Not too bad for vegetarians either. For starters, I had the “hummus, baba ganoush, and mixed olive sharing platter” to share with mum. This was soooo gorgeous! Was very impressed with the baba ganoush as well, often restaurants get it wrong and it ends up tasting far too smoky, but it had quite a traditional flavour. The breads that were served with it, toasted bits of focaccia and pita bread, were hot and super tasty as well. This was the best bit of the meal definitely; I really recommend their sharing platters. Michael had the chicken potstickers with soy chilli dip. I had these last time I went to Giraffe, and ehhhh, they’re not that amazing to be honest. Fairly average I would say.

For mains I had the “Rodeo Chicken Burger”, which was very tasty. It is basically a tasty piece of grilled chicken, with cheese, fried mushrooms, barbeque sauce, and an onion ring, served with skin-on chips. I was slightly annoyed that I had asked for it without mayonnaise and not only did it still have mayonnaise on it, it seemed to have LOADS. I wonder if the kitchen though “no” was “extra”, lol! I ate it anyway, but I thought that was a bit crap, cause eating too much egg products can make me a little ill. And the chips could have been a little hotter- they were kinda lukewarm. But, despite all of this, it was a verrrry tasty burger! Their onion rings are fab as well, I recommend ordering a side dish of them. Mum had the “Falafel Deluxe” Burger, which looked very nice, as did Michael’s Parmesan Chicken Schnitzel with mash and salad. I think the portions are the perfect size as well actually, not too small or big.

So after all this, we got the bill, and of course due to the 50% off the food thing it was very reasonable. The normal bill without discounts would have been £52.70, which for 3 starters, mains and a drink each, is around average I would say. Our bill came to £29.70, result! Mind you, one last comment on the bill. We waited for a fairly long time for this bill, and when it got there I noticed the 10% service had already been added to the bill. I found out that this is a company policy- they do it with all meals. But I happen to think that this policy is a little bad really, as I consider service/ a tip as an optional device. It shouldn’t be forced on you atall, I’m not saying I’m a stingy non-tipper here- but if the service has been inadequate, then I honestly DON’T TIP. Doesn’t happen often, but when it does I think I should have to right to not tip them.

So, I would give the service at a 8/10, and the food 8/10, giving it (obviously!) an average score of 8! They gave me a 2 for 1 main meal voucher, so will definitely be bringing Nick there some time in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Recipe: Roasted Vegetable Stack, with Tomato Sauce and Feta Cheese

This is a really yummy vegetarian dish, and i think it looks very sophisticated. If I had to do a posh veggie starter for someone on Come Dine with Me, I would make this dish! With the tomato sauce, you can use your own homemade sauce or if you're in a bit of a rush you can use a pre-made one- the sacla ones are good. This time I made a basic tomato sauce with passata, dried basil, thyme, oregano, salt, sugar and pepper-easy peasy! A quick starter, that can easily be made into a main course when you serve it with crusty italian white bread and a rocket salad.

Roasted vegetable stack, with tomato sauce and feta cheese (serves 2) £1.42 per serving

8 round slices of aubergine (not too thin!)
1 large courgette, halved and then sliced into strips
1 yellow pepper, seeded and quartered
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

200ml tomato+ herb sauce (whether homemade or ready-made)
120g feta cheese
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. On two greaseproof lined baking trays, place all the prepared vegetables, drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
2. A few minutes before the vegetables are ready, heat up the tomato sauce in a saucepan, until piping hot.
3. Remove the vegetables out of the oven, and begin to layer up onto two plates. Layer them up how you would like, but I like to put the pepper quarters and courgette slices in between the aubergine slices (making sure I end up with an aubergine slice on top, as it improves the presentation).
4. Pour over the tomato sauce, crumble over the feta cheese, sprinkle over some fresh parsley, and serve!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Recipe: Mushroom, Sausage and Bacon Spaghetti

This is a quick and lush recipe that I cut out from this month's issue of Good Food Magazine. Made a few tweaks: Changed the amounts about a bit(as I was just cooking for myself), used spaghetti instead of "pasta shapes" like they suggest, and used philly and a little milk instead of creme fraiche. This is a really tasty dish and perfect when you come in hungry and want to make a quick lunch or dinner. Infact I came in starving at 2:30 this afternoon, after a 6.7km run, and this went down very nicely! Although whilst making it, I did think...hmmm, sausages, bacon, egg, mushroom....just add a grilled tomato and youve got a full english! Haha lol!

Mushroom, sausage and bacon spaghetti (serves 1) £1.08 per serving

90g spaghetti
1 pork sausage, skin removed and meat squeezed out
70g sliced mushrooms
1 smoked thick-cut back bacon slice, diced
1 egg yolk
30g Philadelphia
50ml skimmed milk
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (plus a little extra for garnish)
5g finely grated parmesan
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the spaghetti and cook it according to the packet instructions (making sure it comes out “al dente”- or “with a bite” to it).
2. Meanwhile, in another pan, cook the sausage meat in a hot pan, breaking it into pieces with a wooden spoon, for about 6 minutes (or until well browned).
3. Remove the sausage pieces with a slotted spoon, and in the remainder oil, fry the mushroom and bacon for five minutes. Mix together the Philadelphia, egg, milk and parsley until smooth.
4. Return the cooked sausage to the saucepan, drain the spaghetti and add to the pan, and then add the creamy mixture. Stir around for about a minute (sometimes even less!) until the spaghetti is well coated with all the ingredients and the sauce has thickened.
5. Season to taste (you probably wont need any salt - the bacon sausage and parmesan make the dish salt enough I’d say). Sprinkle with a little extra finely chopped parsley, and serve!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Recipe: Roasted Vegetables with Smoked Bacon

Questions: How do you make vegetables better? Roast em! And how do you make roast vegetables better? Add bacon! This is such a delicious side dish. Infact, i can get through a whole bowl of this as a main course, with a little yoghurt and a rocket salad on the side. It's such a beautiful combination of vegetables, made even better with the little nuggets of smoky bacon. I love roasted fennel as well, it makes me realise I ought to eat fennel more often!

Roasted vegetables with smoked bacon (serves 2 as a side dish) £1.27 per serving

1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 fennel, halved and sliced
1 red onion, diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
2 beetroot, peeled and diced
1 smoked thick-cut back bacon slice, diced
½ tsp dried dill
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
4 tbsp of olive oil
Handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Add all of the ingredients (except the fresh parsley) into a roasting pan and mix this around a bit to coat in the oil. Put in the oven for 20 minutes.
2. Take the roasting pan out, stir the ingredients around a bit, then put back in the oven for 15 minutes. Top with some freshly chopped parsley, and serve!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Recipe: Basil and Feta Cous Cous Stuffed Peppers

This recipe is one of the first recipes I ever wrote, when I started getting into cooking at eight years old. Ok, so obviously i've re-written it with proper amounts of things and written the recipe instructions in a more adult and professional way (originally it was like: "Add salt and pepper and taste to see if it is scrummy enough!" Awwwww!) but I honestly came up with this recipe when i was eight years old. When i started learning how to cook, I first started off with dips and salads and things, and chucking things under the grill, but then it fairly quickly progressed to more complex dishes such as this dish. It didnt take me long to start getting inventive with food, and experimenting with new flavours. I remember at that age i was mental about the flavour of basil- it was a new thing for me and it was like my favourite thing in the world, so delicious! I serve these roasted peppers with salad, or just by themselves. They are also very nice cold packed into a lunchbox!

Basil and Feta Cous Cous Stuffed Peppers (serves 3) £1.95 per serving, with shredded lettuce.

2 red peppers, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp sugar
180g couscous
220ml boiling water
1 yellow pepper, halved and seeded
1 orange pepper, halved and seeded
1 green pepper, halved and seeded
1 large handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
5 tbsp basil extra virgin olive oil
200g diced feta cheese
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. In a roasting pan, add the diced red peppers, olive oil, dried basil, sugar and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.
2. Put the couscous and boiled water in a bowl and cover. Meanwhile, boil the halved peppers for 10 minutes, remove from the water and set aside.
3. Increase the oven temperature to 220C. Mix the roasted red pepper, basil olive oil, feta cheese and fresh basil into the couscous. Season to taste.
4. Put the six pepper halves onto the roasting pan, and spoon the couscous mixture into them. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes, remove, and serve with salad.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Recipe: Chicken Cacciatore

This is scrumptious! "Cacciatore" is an Italian dish, which means "hunter" or a dish prepared in a "hunter style". So i suppose by this they kinda mean rustic! A traditional cacciatore is most commonly made with chicken or rabbit. You know i'm not really a traditional girl, so I kinda see this dish really as a nice chicken casserole with a tasty smoky bacon and tomato sauce! It does seem like when it comes out of the oven that there is a lot of sauce- but this is vital to make sure the chicken stays moist, and i think the best part of the dish is serving it with something to mop up all that delicious sauce! Again, traditionally in Italy they would serve this with big hunks of bread, but i've gone for a pile of creamy mash. By the way don't you just love this plate? My mum bought it decades ago, rather pricy at the time she told me! It really looks so fabulously eighties!

Chicken Cacciatore (serves 2)

2 chicken breasts with skin
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion, diced finely
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 smoked thick-cut back bacon slice, diced finely
1 stalk fresh rosemary, destalked and finely chopped
100ml white wine
350g tomato passata
2 tsp sugar
1 vegetable stock cube
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Handful fresh parsley, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the two chicken breasts on an oven tray with a little salt and pepper, for 25 minutes. Remove and set aside.
2. In a casserole, sauté the onion, bacon, garlic and rosemary in the oil for 10 minutes. Add white wine, and cook for another 5 minutes.
3. Add the passata, sugar, stock cube, and bay leaf, and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Put the reserved chicken breasts into the casserole pot, cover with the tomato sauce, cover with the casserole lid, and cook for 30 minutes.
4. Garnish with some freshly chopped parsley, and serve!

PS: After cooking this recipe a few more times, I have found it is also very nice to add a handful of halved button mushrooms in at stage 2 (before adding the wine).