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!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Travel: Snowdonia Day Two

So I woke up the next morning and after having an amazing shower (it was this funky modern shower with, like, a steam room function and all these funny jets and a radio- it was so cool) I heated up me and nick some croissants and we had some with my lovely damson jam for brekkie. I loved the farmer's dogs there- as soon as we left the cottage to go out for the day, (and then every time we got in at the end of the evening) these three dogs would come running up to the door/patio windows. So sweet.

We decided since the weather was looking all right that we would drive to visit Portmeirion for the day. It is an iconic Italian style village this guy called Sir Clough Williams Ellis designed and built between 1925 and 1975. Some of you might know Portmeirion/ find these pictures vaguely familiar, because it was the set for a cult classic TV series from the 60s called “The Prisoner”. Mum, Dad and Nick really loved this show, and I’ve seen a couple of episodes so I found the place quite fun/ kinda recognisable.

After looking around a bit, going to “The Prisoner” shop, checking out the little areas, we stopped off for lunch at a café we found. If I’m honest, it wasn’t AMAZING. It was a place that did Italian food, but also cakes and coffees and things like that. The menu sounded like a proper Italian place as well, so we both had pizzas and they were a little disappointing. Wood oven baked, and nice and thin, but the cheese and toppings were of poor quality. I definitely have a recommendation for you if you visit Portmeirion- DON’T go to this café, go to the posher official Portmeirion restaurant. It’s down at the bottom of the town, right next to the coast; near the weird fake boat that they built that’s set in concrete, but at full-tide looks like a proper boat. Insane. The whole place is like that, just a weird dream of someone that had enough money to make it a reality- a strange closed off Italianate village in the middle of north wales. Just utterly bizarre. Anyway, back to the point- we saw the menu for the posh restaurant and it looked really nice, and the meals were only a few quid more expensive than the average café place (I say the meals- food was well priced, but they were selling really REALLY expensive wines to go with your food, I mean we’re talking £60 bottles+ . Mental.)

So after checking the place out, walking for a bit on one of the scenic walks they have round there (they have a forest walk and a coastal walk, both take about an hour, so we didn’t really have time for the whole thing) and set off in the car to a village where we could catch the Ffestiniog Railway.

The Ffestiniog railway is an old fashioned steam train driven railway, which travels from Porthmadog (which is where we caught it) to the small slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog . The trips about an hour each way, and there is a mix of beautiful Welsh countryside/ mountains/ seaside views that you get on it. I do highly recommend it, it was a really nice and beautiful trip, BUT I will mention that it certainly aint cheap. For a standard 2nd class return ticket (theres only 1st and 2nd) it costs £19, and the first class one costs £29. We got two second class tickets- but literally, if you’re going to spend money on this railway trip, you may as well shell out the extra tenna to get first class, because 2nd class was very cramped, which is not what you want if you’ve just spent £20 on a ticket to have a comfortable traditional steam train ride.

So yeah, we did 2nd class on the way there, then we thought, screw it, let’s go 1st class on the way back- and it was luuush! We got the carriage right at the front of the train all to ourselves, which was cool because we could see how the old train works and everything. When we drove back, we decided to have dinner at this place that a lot of people had recommended in the visitors book back at the cottage: “The Castle Restaurant Armoury and Bar”. It is a gourmet Caribbean restaurant situated in Harlech- we couldn’t believe it, here we are practically in the middle of nowhere, and we find a gourmet Caribbean place, what are the odds? Oh, and check out this sunset I took a picture of before we went into the restaurant- isn’t it stunning? It was weird cause it was really really cloudy and rainy, but there was still this magnificent sunset.

I was excited as well, because I’d never been to a Caribbean restaurant before, but I guess I knew what to expect from it- especially since we watched Levi Roots “Caribbean Food Made Easy” recipe program the night before (soooo coincidental!). I was so impressed by this place, quite a cosy little restaurant. Which had a fairly cool looking bar area on the 2nd floor that you could book for parties and events. Nick had a chilli and lime marinated chicken, and I had the beef and coconut curry. Both of these came with rice and peas, a vegetable curry, a pumpkin and spinach curry, salad and either a roti (with my curry!) and macaroni pie with nick’s dish. I took a picture of it- doesn’t it look luuush?? Gert portions too.

I liked the look of the dessert menu when I came in, so I didn’t have a starter. For my pud, I chose the mango bavarois, and nick had the “Chocolate Box”- which was kinda like layers of chocolate mousse and chocolate sponge, encased in a hard chocolate shell. Both desserts were quite nice but nick’s was better- jealous! We then decided to go home, watch a bit of TV and plan the next day. As a final note, I have to say that if you do any travelling in North Wales, make sure you check out Harlech, because there seem to be a few really nice looking decent restaurants in that little town, plus some charming traditional cafes for lunch too, I highly recommend you visit the place.