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 CafĂ© 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.