Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Travel: Snowdonia Day One

Hey everyone! So I wasn't sure whether I was going to write some travel entries on my little holiday to Snowdonia, because I figured our cottage that we rented was kinda in the middle of nowhere, and that we would do some self-catering, and if lucky have a few bog standard meals out. Well I was completely wrong, had rather a nice little foodie experience out in Wales, so I thought I would fill you all in on it.

First of all, I had decided to go on this trip because I really REALLY needed a break, to be honest. I know I went to New York in February and all that, but I had all the stress of the end of my A levels, and then I’ve been working full time over all the summer, and so I thought just before I started University I should at least have one week off to recuperate. Also, it was Nick’s birthday and our three year anniversary so I thought it would be a nice way to celebrate. I didn't want to fly anywhere, but I still wanted to get away from it all, so I thought getting a nice comfy cottage in rural Wales was a perfect idea. I found this nice one bedroom cottage near Harlech called "Becws”, which means “Bakery” in Welsh, because it used to be an old Bakery (they still have the old oven and everything, it was cool). It was a very nice place actually- not as secluded as the pictures/ descriptions on their website indicated, but nice enough. I've just put a load of photos of our cottage on here because I didn't really take any photos the first day.

As it was self-catering, I thought, right “what shall I bring with me??”- and I remembered I had those £50 Waitrose/ John Lewis vouchers, so I thought I would use one of them up (you have to spend at least 50, cause they can’t give you change back on a voucher. I know, it’s weird) getting me and nick some lovely food for our holiday. To be fair, most of that £50+ was spent on booze, as I bought 1.4 litres of gin to make Sloe Gin with later in October (for people’s Xmas presents- watch this space!) and a really nice bottle of Pinot Noir- but basically the rest of these items are what I recommend that you take with you on a self-catering trip:

Instant Coffee, Tea, sugar, milk, orange juice, loaf of bread, ready cooked All Butter croissants, butter, jam, bacon, sausages, eggs, tomatoes, baked beans, cheddar, brie, grapes, apples, little gem lettuces, nice ham, and some form of chutney.

These essentially are the perfect items to bring to ensure lush self-catered breakfasts, and sandwiches to make on the trip there and the trip back (it took 4/5ish hours to drive from where we are in Bath). Usually at self catering places they provide fairy liquid/ washing up gloves and kitchen roll (not at ours though- stingy or what?) The drive there was lovely actually- we took the AA route instead of what our Satnav recommended and it involved driving through lots of beautiful Welsh countryside (although the rounds were really good quality and not windy at all). Much nicer than the motorway route we took back, lol. So on day one we had a lovely drive up there, had a little look round our local villages (the ones either side of us were “Llanbedr” and “Dyffryn Ardudwy” ) and settled into the cottage for a bottle of wine and a film, and planned the next day ahead.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Competition: "Haute Cuisine Love Marmite" Recipe Competition- Runner Up!

Heya everyone. So a few months ago I mentioned that i had entered Marmite's "Haute Cuisine, Love Marmite" Facebook recipe competition, and after entering two of my recipes (i think the one that won it was my "Marmitey Venison Casserole"- like my venison casserole on the website, just using marmite stock instead of beef stock) , and having a fair few votes for them, i have won one of the runner's up prizes!

I won a pair of Marmite Oven Gloves, and a month's supply of Marmite! (I did wonder how much "a months supply" of Marmite actually was, but i won 3 x 500g jars, which I reckon is a fair amount). This is a picture from another runner's up prizes, just like mine I guess, but i got 3 larger jars rather than 6 smaller ones.

So yeah, thank you Marmite! I think your campaign to prove that you can do many other things with marmite, other than having it on toast, was a success- well done!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Recipe: Apple and Sage Chutney

I realised that this food blog has started to become a bit of a preserving/jamming blog these days! It's always the way though, I would say that August through to November is the time when people get all their jam jars out and have a go at turning their homegrown/home gathered produce into things that will keep for the rest of the year. The good news is that certainly for the next month, I will be getting a nice steady stream of scrumptious apples, courtesy of my friend Ralph who has a shared garden full of fruit trees. It's a regular oasis, ralph's garden, with damsons, plums, pears, apples and blackberries- I must admit i'm a little bit jealous! Anyway, the more apples he gives me, the more jars of apple chutneys/preserves he'll be getting back- I think thats a fair deal! With most, if not all, apple based chutneys, you should avoid heavy stirring, because it's nice to try and keep chunks of apple in the chutney, rather than it all mushing down.

Apple and Sage Chutney (makes 2kg) makes 10 x 200g jars, 61p per jar.

1.8kg cooking apples (unpeeled/uncored weight), peeled and diced
2 large white onions, finely diced
20g fresh sage, finely chopped
120g sultanas
550g sugar
170ml red wine vinegar
230ml cider vinegar
50ml Worchester sauce

1. Put all the ingredients into a large pan, covered, and cook on a high heat for 5 minutes.
2. Uncover (by this time the mixture should be boiling), and cook on a medium heat for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, but gently (to try and stop the apple pieces from “mushing up” too much).
3. Allow to settle for 10 minutes, pot, and seal!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Recipe: Blackberry Jam

Simple, but oh so good. The smell and taste of blackberries (that you've gone out and picked yourself- not from the shop) symbolise both autumn, and home to me. It's one of my favourite flavours because going out and picking blackberries was always one of the great things to do when I grew up in the countryside. Mum would always make a pie or a crumble with them, or later my first few experiments with jams- that got me interested in preserving- were always with mixtures of blackberries, elderberries and plums. Basically because that's what we had growing in the garden! It was funny, when i went blackberrying the other day, after i'd picked a few, Misty (my dog) started copying me and started picking the blackberries off the brambles and scoffing them! I sware my dog is so weird, she likes fruit and veg! She nicks potatoes, and gobbled up almost a pound of green beans that I picked the other day. Gawd i have to keep my eye on her these days. Anyway, this is a scrummy jam, really nice on toast with loads of peanut butter (although not Elvis style, with bacon too, lol!!)

Blackberry Jam (makes 1.2kg ish)
1.5kg fresh blackberries
225ml apple juice (from concentrate)
1200g sugar
45ml lemon juice.

1. Bring all the ingredients in a large pan to a rolling boil, and boil for 50 minutes, stirring often.
2. Pot, allow to cool for a couple of hours, and seal!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Recipe: Chicken and Kidney Bean Enchiladas

Now this recipe does make A LOT- I reckon if you used all the filling mixture in one go then you could probably make about 20 wraps (serving 6-10 depending on personal greed and whether you are serving them with a side dish or not). I love enchiladas because they are very quick to make, and because of their texture- i enjoy the contrast between the soft tortilla and filling, and the slightly chewy cheese topping. This isn't an incredibly authentic mexican recipe for enchiladas, but it's a good weekday supper, that can be adapted to feed an army, or to feed a couple of people with the rest frozen for another time.

Chicken and Kidney Bean Enchiladas(serves 5) £1.88 per serving with salad on the side.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp Schwartz Cajun seasoning (main ingredients: chilli powder, cumin, and oregano)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 vegetable Oxo cube
2 tins kidney beans, drained
1 x 340g tin sweetcorn
400g cooked shredded chicken
Large handful fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
10 Discovery soft plain tortilla wraps
2 x 300g jars of salsa (Sainsburys own brand if on a budget, Doritos Mild Salsa if you dont mind paying double!)
300g grated cheddar

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Fry the red onion, garlic and Cajun seasoning in the olive oil for 4 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, sugar, garam masala, oregano, paprika and the Oxo cube and cook for a further 4 minutes, stirring often.
2. Mix in the kidney beans, sweetcorn, chicken and coriander, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste and set aside to cool down a little bit. Get a tortilla wrap, put a few tablespoons of the chicken mix into the wrap, and then wrap it up. Put these wraps into a baking dish side by side (I can fit 5 into mine).
3. Spoon a jar full of salsa evenly over the top of these wraps, and then top with 150g of cheese. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, and then grill for 5 minutes to allow the cheese to gratinate. Serve!
4. You will have a lot of the filling mixture left, and you can now either repeat the cooking process with more wraps/more salsa/more cheese- or you can freeze the filling and use at another time. It will last a month in the freezer, make sure to properly defrost before using again.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Recipe: Green Bean Piccalilli

Had to google how to spell piccalilli, haha, i'm such a dunce. I'm not actually a huge fan of piccalilli, i think maybe it's the gloopy texture and the cauliflower in it- don't like the taste of picked cauliflowwer, just doesn't seem right. However, this green bean piccalilli i've made here with my glut of green beans is very addictive- could polish off a jar of this with a big chunk of cheddar and crusty wholemeal bread in no time. It has a slightly runnier texture compared to most piccalillis, but that's just how i prefer it. If you want it thicker, cooking it for a further 5 minutes at the last stage will probably do the trick.

Green Bean Piccalilli (makes about 1.6kg) Makes 8 jars, 97p per serving

450g finely diced white onions
360ml cider vinegar
80ml white wine vinegar

750g diced green/French beans

10g celery salt
10g turmeric
10g mustard seeds
30g flour
40g English mustard powder
200ml red wine vinegar

500g sugar

1. In a large saucepan, bring the white onions and vinegars to the boil, and then simmer on a low heat, covered, for 20 minutes.
2. In another pan, fill with water and boil the green beans for 10 minutes, drain, then set aside.
3. In a mixing bowl, mix together all the spices/ flours, and stir in the red wine vinegar, stirring until this mixture has no lumps.
4. Add this spice mixture to the onions, increase the heat to high, and stir continuously for 5 minutes. Add the blanched green beans and sugar, and cook for a further 20 minutes on a medium/high heat, stirring often.
5. Allow to settle for 10 minutes, then pot.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Recipe: Spicy Courgette and Tomato Chutney

Bit of a glut of courgettes again this year- not as many as last year, due to the fact that slugs got one of the three courgette plants very early on, but the other two are producing fairly well. I thought i'd have a go at preserving courgettes this year, since i didn't have a go last year. Courgette chutneys/pickles arent the most common of preserves, you don't really see them much in the shops, but this is rather delicious actually. Courgettes, tomatoes and chilli work very well as a flavour combination, and i think these will make good christmas presents, because it looks rather a nice colour in the jars. Oh yeah, you don't have to add the apple in 15 minutes later if you don't want to, you can add it at the beginning with the rest of the ingredients- it's just I had to because my pan wasn't big enough!

Spicy Courgette and Tomato Chutney (makes about 2.5kg) Makes 13 jars, 79p per serving

1kg finely diced courgettes
1kg finely diced cherry tomatoes
3 large white onions, finely diced
4 apples, peeled and finely diced
340ml red wine vinegar
260ml cider vinegar
500g sugar
25g mustard seeds
3 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp crushed chilli flakes
1 tsp crushed ginger
8 garlic cloves, crushed

1. Put all the ingredients into a very large saucepan, except the apples, and boil for 15 minutes. Add the apples and simmer for a further 2 hours and 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Allow to settle for 10 minutes, and pot.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Recipe: Beetroot and Orange Chutney

This is a wonderful preserve- that goes SO well with goats cheese and walnuts. I think with the citrus and mixed spice it tastes a little "christmas-y" so this might be a nice recipe to make ahead for your homemade Xmas pressies! This year i'll be giving people various jams/jellies/chutneys, but also having a go at making my own Sloe Gin. I've never made it before but it should be allright, my last few flavoured alchohols (raspberry vodka, blackberry brandy, elderberry vodka) have worked and gone down quite well, so Sloe gin can't be much more difficult to produce. Try this chutney on a cheeseboard, or alternatively try using it on crostinis or tarts for beautiful colour and a little zing!

Beetroot and Orange Chutney (makes about 800g) Makes 4 x 200g jars, £1.09 per jar.

500g peeled and diced beetroot
2 oranges, zest and juice
2 apples, peeled and diced
2 small white onions, peeled and diced
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp mixed spice
180ml white wine vinegar
100ml cider vinegar
20ml red wine vinegar
300g sugar

1. Bring all ingredients to the boil and cook on a fairly high heat for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Allow to settle for 10 minutes, and pot.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Recipe: Lebanese Green Beans

This is a recipe that my parents got from one of their Lebanese friends in the 80s called Sam. I must say that, cause we have always followed his recipes to the letter and time after time they turn out great. My parents got to know Sam because he was the owner/head chef/ manager of this little lebanese restaurant that they soon became regulars of. Apparently i met him as well but it was when i was very very little, i can't really remember. This recipe is very similar to green beans cooked in a Greek style as well, but you often find that some Lebanese, Turkish and Greek dishes can be very similar to eachother. I suppose the only difference is that this dish is traditionally served cold- but it is of course lovely hot too.

Lebanese Green Beans (serves 4 as a side dish) £1.05 per serving

1 small white onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for garnish)
1 tbsp tomato puree
250g fresh ripe tomatoes, diced
120ml water
500g green beans, trimmed and halved
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (plus extra for garnish)

1. Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato puree, stir in a little, then add the tomatoes and water and cook covered for a further 10 minutes.
2. Add the green beans, salt, sugar and fresh parsley, and cook covered on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
3. Season to taste, garnish with some extra finely chopped parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil. Now either serve straight away, or allow to cool and refridgerate for an hour.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Recipe: Tomato, Walnut and Chard Spaghetti

This is a dish i have been meaning to put on here for probably over a year now, but Chard is so darn difficult to get hold of. I've stopped getting the riverford boxes now (because of full-time chef-ing and going to University soon, i'm a little too busy for it) but in the last delivery we got a nice big bunch of mixed chard! The red leaves ("ruby" chard) are the nicest i think. Chard is seasonal to August/September, and it's kinda like spinach but it's got an earthier richer flavour. If you cant find chard for this recipe (i reccomend scouting for it at farmers markets) then spinach would work just fine- just steam it for 5 minutes less than the chard I reckon.

Chard, Tomato and Walnut Spaghetti (light lunch for two)

100g wholemeal spaghetti
120g chard, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus a little extra for drizzling)
1 small white onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp tomato puree
250g diced ripe tomatoes
30g green olives (chilli marinated if possible!) diced
30g capers, diced
50g walnuts, toasted and chopped roughly in food processor
½ tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan for garnish

1. Boil the spaghetti, whilst steaming the chard in a steamer above the pasta, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile in another pan, fry the onion, garlic and oregano in the olive oil for a few minutes to soften.
2. Add the tomatoes, capers, olives, and sugar and cook for a further 3 minutes.
3. Drain the spaghetti, and add it along with the chard and walnuts into the tomato mixture, add a dash of olive oil, and stir for a couple of minutes until everything is well combined.
4. Season to taste, and garnish with some finely grated parmesan. Serve!