Saturday, December 29, 2012

Recipe: Aloo Gobi

A traditional street food dish- aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower curry) can be found cooking on all the food stalls in Pakistan, as well as in our good ol' fashioned curry houses back in Blighty. The sweet cauliflower matched with the soft spiced potatoes make this recipe a delicious- and very cheap!- dinner, paired with some steamed basmati rice and peshwari naan bread. A big dollop of mango chutney on the side goes very nicely with it as well!

Aloo Gobi (serves 4)

500g potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tbsp oil
60g butter
1 white onion, diced finely
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 green chilli, finely diced
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp mild chilli powder
½ a cauliflower, diced
350g passata
400ml water
1 tsp salt
Large handful of fresh coriander, chopped (plus extra for garnish)
Sugar and black pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Boil the potatoes for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. In another large pan, fry the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and cumin seeds In the oil and butter, for 10 minutes, stirring often.
2. Add the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric and chilli powder, and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the potato and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add all the other ingredients, and cook on a medium heat for 20 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.
3. Season to taste, and serve with extra fresh coriander!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Recipe: Loaded Jacket Potato Skins

Hey guys, I hope you all had a lovely fun and foodie filled Christmas! Mine was good fun, with lots of yummy things, but a little bit stressful to be honest. I got the 23rd, 24th and 25th off work, but i had to do a big three course dinner for a client on the 23rd, and the other two days felt a bit...i i was kept thinking about pressures and how much work annoys me/ Univeristy worries me. And i've had to start work at 9am this morning. Can't switch off- I'm terrible! Anyway, this is a nice recipe I cook fairly often- it's very easy to make, and good as a side dish, starter or main course. Whenever I bake jacket potatoes, I always bake about 6, because I know with any I have leftover the next day I can either stuff them with something nice (like with this recipe) or cut them into wedges and fry them for an easy brunch.

Loaded Jacket Potato Skins (serves 4 as a starter or side dish, serves 2 as a main)

2 baking potatoes
2 thin rashers smoked bacon, diced very finely
6 spring onions
20g butter
75g garlic and herb Boursin
Splash of milk
Salt and pepper
20g parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Bake the potatoes for 60-80 minutes or until soft on the inside and the skin is crispy. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool a little.
2. Meanwhile, fry the bacon and spring onions in a non-stick frying pan, for about 5 minutes- or until the spring onions are cooked and the bacon has started going crispy.
3. Whilst still warm, slice the jacket potatoes in half, and scoop out the flesh. Mix the flesh with the butter, boursin, spring onions, bacon and seasoning. Re-stuff into the potato skins, top with parmesan, and put under the grill for 5 minutes- or until golden!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Recipe: Italian Meatballs with Cirio Sauce

Hey guys. So I won a lovely little prize draw, from My favourite recipes (who i still write for) and Cirio- an Italian food company. I got sent a lovely tomato hamper- with these sorts of products in it: tinned tomatoes, tomato sauces, pizza sauces, tomato puree, and a few other bits and bobs.
Both me and the boyfriend have been lucky lately actually- Nicky won a hamper too! He won a hamper from New covent garden- a lovely fruit, veg and nut collection just in time for Christmas! These meatballs are scrummy- my tip for the perfect meatballs, is whiever "flavour" you make them with herbs and spices (e.g. spanish, spicy, scandinavian etc.) use half pork and half beef mince. The fat in the pork keeps the meatballs moist, and the beef gives them rich flavour. If you can't get cirio tomato, garlic and herb sauce- just use your favourite pasta sauce.

Italian Meatballs with Cirio Sauce (serves 4)

250g pork mince
250g lean beef mince
1 very finely chopped red onion
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Handful fresh basil, chopped
1 egg
50g breadcrumbs
½ tsp dried mixed herbs
¼ tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper (plenty of!)

4 tbsp olive oil
1 jar Cirio garlic and herb tomato sauce
400g spaghetti

1. Mix together all the meatball ingredients, shape into medium sized meatballs (makes about 30) and put on a plate in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 200C. Put a pan of salted water onto the boil for the spaghetti. In a large frying pan (you will probably have to do this in batches) fry the meatballs on a high heat, stirring often, for 8 minutes. Put the meatballs in a baking dish and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
3.Heat up the tomato sauce, drain the pasta, and serve the meatballs and sauce over the cooked spaghetti with whichever garnishes you might fancy (grated parmesan/cheese, freshly chopped herbs, extra virgin olive oil, cracked black pepper, etc.).

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Recipe: Chorizo and Broad Bean Risotto

Ugh, finally!! Finally submitted my lame lab report. I had to write a 2000 word lab report on how bacteria grows in egg mayonnaise- seriously!! And I actually already hated egg mayonaise, and don't understand how people can eat the stuff- now I can barely even look at it at work! Lol! This is a nice risotto recipe, bit of a strange combination, lots of strong flavours together, but it's gorgeaus and earthy and comforting. You can use soy beans or peas as well as or instead of the broad beans if you fancy it.

Chorizo, broad bean and wild mushroom risotto (serves 2)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 knob of butter
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
800ml vegetable stock
120g chorizo, diced
15g mixed dried wild mushrooms
800ml vegetable or chicken stock
Pinch of mixed herbs
120g frozen broad beans, soaked in boiling water and podded.
1 tbsp parmesan (plus extra for garnish if you want)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C.
2. Sautee the shallot, celery and garlic in the olive oil and butter, in a large sautéing pan, for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Add the chorizo and fry for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the rice, stir to coat, and add the drained soaked mushrooms, mixed herbs and stock(adding the stock gradually, and stirring often). Cook for about 12-15 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all the stock and is al dente. Around 5 minutes before the end of cooking, add the parmesan and the broad beans.
4. Meanwhile, put the chorizo in a roasting dish and roast in the oven for 8 minutes. Serve the risotto with the crispy chorizo garnished on top, and some extra grated parmesan if desired.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Recipe: Onion, Mushroom and Brie Tart

Hey guys, sorry about the lack of posting lately- but I must admit there is most likely going to be fewer posts than normal, until June next year probably- because of my degree. Got a lab report due in a week from now, which is absolutely horrifyingly boring and scary. Any way, this is a lovely quick dinner i made for myself last week- I had some brie to use up from when I went to a cheese fair. The brie was lovely actually- it's made in tipperary, soft and a great flavour, and some lovely nice old man sold it to me- Nick told me i'm such a sucker for an irish accent!!

Onion, Mushroom and Brie Tart (serves 4)

Knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ tsp oregano
6 cherry tomatoes
8 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
50ml tomato juice
1 tsp sundried tomato paste
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
200g brie, sliced thinly
1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry
Egg (for brushing- optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Fry the onion and garlic for 10 minutes on a low heat, or until caramelised. Add all the other ingredients (except pastry, brie and egg) and cook for a further 5 minutes.
2. Roll out the pastry onto a baking try lined with greaseproof paper. Mark a small border around the edge of the pastry with a knife, and then prick the middle with a fork to stop this part from rising. Spread with the onion/mushroom mixture, and top evenly with slices of brie.
3. Brush the edges of the tart with beaten egg or milk, and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes- or until the pastry has risen and is golden. Serve, with a healthy green salad.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: Aio, Sardinian restaurant, Bath

I’ve been waiting to go to this Sardinian restaurant for months, since Nick promised me he’d take me there sometime in the summer, so as a late anniversary treat Nick finally managed to book us a table and get us here! The atmosphere is lovely, it is a very small restaurant, about 40 seats, but that gives the place a nice cosy feel. The staff informed us of the specials on the board, and other specials that they hadn’t put up there yet (I like the sound of their specials, although they seemed far pricier than what was on the rest of the menu). What I liked on the drinks menu is how dishes from the main menu have been suggested with the wines, so you can pair up the dishes you are going to order depending on your wine choice. Since we already knew that we were going to share an antipasti platter and we were both going to be ordering pasta, we chose the house red option “Arpeggio Rosso” which had said complimented these dishes, which I would say was a pleasant enough wine.

For starter we had the Antipasto terra, which was a selection of cured ham, bologna, salami (or something similar?), mozzarella, little peaks of pecorino, olives, salad in a balsamic dressing and Sardinian flat bread on a wooden board. The wooden board actually is the same one we use for tapas at work- I can’t ruddy escape that place lol!! It also came with two kilner jars, one filled with marinated aubergines and the other marinated peppers. I think that the portion size was more than adequate, but I would have much preferred some nice hunks of rustic bread instead of the Sardinian flat bread they served it with- which was very nothingy and really thin, kind of like an Italian poppadum or something!! Overall perhaps I felt the whole selection was a little…salty perhaps. The pecorino, cured ham, and marinated vegetables were all very strong flavours, and I think perhaps they need to work on making the combination of ingredients work together a little better. However, I did enjoy the starter, as you could tell that all the separate elements were fresh and of good quality.

For the main course I had the “Malloreddus all Campidanese”, which on the menu was described as shell shaped pasta with Sardinian sausage, tomato and saffron. Nick had the “Culurgiones All Agnelo” which was pea and potato ravioli topped with a lamb ragu. When my dish arrived my first reaction was how very basically it had been presented. Not meant to be an insult, but it looked like any sort of pasta-in-a-tomato-sauce-like dish that any student could prepare and spoon into a bowl. But my first mouthful indicated to me that it was so much more than this. The flavours were so rich, intense, concentrated and delicious- that I completely forgot about the very “basic looking” plate of food in front of me. This is what rustic Italian food should stand for- nothing to do with looks, EVERYTHING to do with flavour! I really liked the texture and unique flavour of the Sardinian sausage as well- they had obviously been skinned and cooked into a sauce, similar to mince, but you could get hints of fennel/lemony flavoured meat in there which was very pleasant. I’ve got to admit, the saffron was completely lost in the dish, and I couldn’t taste any of it, but really saffron has no place in a dish with such strong flavours dominating it, and there was no need of this spice in my opinion. Nick’s ravioli was very nice as well- the filling could have done with a little more seasoning, but the ragu was rich and delicious and the ravioli had been made and cooked very well.

The staff were very attentive, and seemed very friendly to customers- the manager there seemed to be having nice conversations about Italian food and culture with various customers who had visited Sardinia and was interested in finding out more about it. Dessert I have got to admit though was terribly disappointing. We were told that the panacotta was sold out, which was a shame, so Nick suggested we order chocolate fondant, to share. I told Nick at the time that I wondered if they made their desserts fresh here, since I used to work in an Italian chain restaurant, and knew that we made none of the desserts fresh (except the panacotta ) and that a lot of Italian restaurants have the same supplier of desserts and therefore serve the same dishes, perhaps slightly differently described. Kinda like how you get the same desserts in Indian restaurants too- because they all have the same stockists and they don’t make them.

Well the fondant arrived, and I did the “fondant test” on it- putting your spoon into the middle of the fondant and spreading it out- to reveal what should be an oozing liquid centre. In this case- no dice, completely solid. There were also little line marks on the top of the fondant which would suggest to me that they had come from a foil packet of some sort. If as I suspect, it had come from a packet, they had also microwaved it for too long- the chocolate tasted bitter and overcooked. A disappointing end to the meal, but I didn’t leave there feeling completely cheated. The main courses were so delicious, and the atmosphere was so pleasant, that I would definitely return to this restaurant again. It is a mid-high priced restaurant so it would only be for a special occasion, but it’s a very nice and romantic place to eat I think. Service I would give 9/10, whilst for the food I would have to give a 7/10, mainly because of the issues with puddings. As far as I’m concerned, the place is a rustic, romantic, Italian restaurant, that incorporates fresh ingredients into delicious dishes.

PS: I forgot to mention, what I thought was a cool thing that the restaurant does on sundays that if you call in advance and book it, they can prepare you and your group of friends roast suckling pig, with rosemary potatoes and chargrilled vegetables- how rather scrummy sounding! I might try this out some day xx

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Recipe: Mediterranean Vegetable Baguette

Bit of an unusual sandwich but it was absolutely delicious, really quick to make, and really set me up for the night! You can use the roasted aubergine slices you get vac-packed in olive oil from the world bit of the supermarkets, or you can just roast slices of it yourself- thick slices, drizzled with plenty of olive oil, salt and pepper, and chucked in the oven at 200C for about 10 minutes.

Mediterranean Vegetable Baguette (serves 1)

1 demi baguette (warm: optional)
4 thick slices roasted aubergine in olive oil (use deli, or roast your own)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small clove garlic, crushed
½ green pepper, diced
4 chestnut mushrooms, quartered
20g Cantafrais
1 tsp sundried tomato paste
Salt and pepper

1. Fry the peppers, mushroom and garlic in olive oil, for 10 minutes. Mix together the cantrafrais and sundried tomato paste. Open up the baguette. Spread both sides with the sundried tomato cantafrais.
2. Arrange the slices of aubergine, and the hot fried mushrooms and peppers. Press together, slice and serve!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Competition: Red Tractor Assurance Recipe Competition

Hey guys, sorry I havent posted in a while, it's just i've got this mahoosive scary assignment that i've just only just manage to finish now (the day before the hand-in date) so i've had to really focuss on my Uni stuff recently. Anyway, so you might have remembered me mentioning this competition a little over a month ago, and, well, it's all over now and I got second place! My Cider and Mustard Chicken, made with Red Tractor Farm assured ingredients, won me a pretty Aga Cast Iron oven dish, and a red tractor branded apron and tote bag.
To be honest, I should have got 1st place, it's all down to the fact that these people can't run a competition properly (people could vote unlimited times, and I was winning for the full 5 weeks of the competition just from normal votes, then on the last night of the comp someone spam voted their entry in order to win), but hey ho, never mind- 2nd place is still pretty fab anyway! Thanks to any of you guys for voting for me xx

Monday, November 12, 2012

Recipe: Spiced Chilli Lemon Chicken with Potato Wedges

This is a nice relaxed saturday lunch i made for me and my boyfriend over the weekend- it was really using what we had in the fridge really, but i fancied something a little bit spicy, a little bit healthy, but filling- and this fitted the bill. The recipe is for two but it is very easily multiplied.

Spiced Chilli Lemon Chicken, with potato wedges (serves 2)

1 tsp Lazy red chillies in white wine vinegar
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger paste
Juice of ½ a lemon
½ tsp sugar
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt and pepper
3 chicken breasts

4 medium sized maris piper potatoes, sliced into wedges
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried rosemary
Salt and pepper

1. Mix together the chillies, garam masala, paprika, garlic, ginger, lemon, sugar and oil. Add the chicken, coat it in the marinade, and then marinate for a minimum 30 minutes (maximum 24 hours).
2.Preheat the oven to 180C. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and boil the potato wedges for 6 minutes. Drain and add the parboiled potatoes into a roasting tray, with the olive oil, rosemary and plenty of salt and pepper. Toss to coat, and bake in the oven for 35 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bake the marinated chicken breasts (with the marinade) in the oven for 30 minutes. Once cooked remove chicken and potato wedges from the oven, and serve- with the remaining marinade poured over the chicken breasts, acting as a sauce.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Recipe: Gigantes bean and Vegetable Gratin

This is a gorgeaus dish that my boyfriend invented recently, that I thought was so nice i asked him for the recipe to put up on here. I was quite surprised really that Nick came up with this sort of dish, as normally if i ever cook him anything vegetarian he's moans "what no meat??". Fairly healthy as well I suppose. I love those jarred greek gigantes beans in tomato sauce that you get in delis/ the "world" section of supermarkets. The brand we used is called "Odysea Baked Gigantes Beans". About the chilli- last weekend we went to the food market that is held regularly in Green Park station in Bath, and we bought this yellow chilli from a small stall selling bits and bobs. We mainly bought it because the vendor said to Nick how horrifyingly spicy it was and of course Nick had to take up that challenge. If you cant find any yellow chillis about just put a whole red one in there instead.

Gigantes bean and vegetable gratin (serves 2)

355g Jar of baked giganti beans in tomato sauce and olive oil
1/3 of a large leek, sliced
1/4 red onion, diced
Clove garlic, crushed
1/4 yellow pepper, diced
1/2 a yellow chilli, diced finely
6 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp tomato chutney
2 ripe fresh tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp grated parmesan
15g grated cheddar
15g grated cheshire
2 tbsp breadcrumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Tip off oil from top of the jar of butterbeans jar into a saucepan (or just use a splash of olive oil). Fry onions, leeks, garlic and chilli, and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Add mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes. Mix in beans, chutney and chopped fresh tomatoes. Season to taste and transfer to baking dish and cover with the grated cheese and breadcrumbs.
3. Bake for 25 mins.Remove and serve!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Recipe: Spanish Tortellini

A rather student-y meal I suppose, but needs must as the devil drives, and at the moment the desire to eat tasty gourmet "chef-y" meals every night goes slightly against my university budget. Also where does the time go? with already 6 weeks into my second year of University I have so much work and reading to do, that I can't really spend hours preparing meals how I would like to. I do believe though that it entirely possible for someone on a low budget or someone that doesn't have too much time on their hands to produce delicious meals for themselves. This recipe uses one of my regular cheap staples: pre-made tortellini. I used sundried tomato and mozzarella tortellini from sainsburys this time, but most tortellini/ravioli flavours work in this dish. I used some of that Bath Pig Chorizo again as well- I know i'll be doing work experience with them in the Spring, but without bias I can honestly say it is the nicest cooking chorizo i've ever tasted. Great texture too.

Spanish Tortellini (serves 1)

150g any type shop bought tortellini/ ravioli
1 tbsp olive oil
50g raw chorizo, diced
1 garlic clove
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
Large handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
¼ tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated manchego or parmesan for garnish.

1. Cook the tortellini according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile, in another pan, fry the chorizo and garlic in the olive oil for 3 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes, parsley and smoked paprika and cook for a further 2 minutes.
2. Add the cooked tortellini to the chorizo and tomatoes. Stir well to combine all the ingredients, and serve with some grated manche

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Recipe: Potato and Chard Bake

This is a rather delicious side dish for two that I made a few nights ago- comforting, easy to make, and rather autumnul feeling I think! I managed to buy some gorgeaus rainbow chard from a lovely market in Kensington I went to last weekend (now doesn't that sound posh!). Bought some fab purple kale too as well actually, although we just steamed that and had it with butter, on the side of a gert pie - yum! If you can't find rainbow chard (or chard for that matter!) use kale or cavelo nero instead.

Potato and Chard Bake (serves 2 as a side dish)

250g chard (ruby or rainbow preferably), diced
850g potatoes, peeled and diced (I like to use Maris Pipers personally)
50g butter
Splash of milk or cream
Salt and pepper
15g breadcrumbs
30g parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Steam the diced chard in a steamer for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes, or until soft .
2. Once cool, squeeze the moisture out of the chard. Drain the potatoes, and mash with the butter and milk/cream. Mix in the cooked chard, and season to taste. Spoon into a small baking dish, top with the breadcrumbs and parmesan and cook in the oven for 20 minutes.
3. Put the dish under the grill for a couple of minutes, or until golden. Serve!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Recipe: Spicy Tomato and Chorizo Penne

This recipe is wonderfully picante and deeply saitsfying. The earthy flavours of smoked parika eminating from the chorizo, mixed with the spicy rich tomato sauce, stirred into wholemeal penne makes a wonderfully quick tasty gratifying lunch for two. The chorizo i've been cooking with lately is fabulous, I got it from The Bath Pig Company with whom i'll be doing some work experience in the spring. Their products are lovely, locally reared, and made with proper old fashioned curing techniques - and you can really taste that in the meat. My boyfriend is a bit of a fan of "burnt meat"- in a way that for instance, he likes his bacon 'cremated' - so if you want the chorizo really charred, put it in the oven for 15 minutes, but 10 is fine enough for me.

Spicy Tomato and Chorizo Penne (serves 2)

100g cooking chorizo, diced into small cubes
200g wholemeal penne
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 red chilli, finely diced
1 tbsp freshly chopped basil
1 tsp stock powder
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp mixed herbs
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Grated parmesan for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Put all the chorizo into a roasting dish and put in the oven for 10 minutes. Meanwhile bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
2. Meanwhile, heat up all the other ingredients (except the parmesan) in a small saucepan, stirring often. Season to taste, mix into the cooked pasta, and spoon into two bowls. Top with the crispy chorizo, some freshly grated parmesan, and serve!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: Hon Fusion

After a few fabulous cocktails with good friends on a night out, I realised that I was getting tremendously hungry so me and my friends went to Hon Fusion for a late night Chinese meal. This place is basically my local- opened up a couple of years ago and I have been there many times since. The décor is quite dark, but very comforting, with lots of Asian decorations on the walls, and a big specials board (written in both Chinese and English). As I have been here a few times (sit-in and take away) I have realised that the food here IS GOOD, but only if you know what to order (if you know what I mean). Starter-wise their soups are very nice (my boyfriend always gets the veggie hot and sour soup, says it’s amazing- bit too hot for me though!) as are their ribs, spring rolls, and salt and pepper tofu. This time I went for their “aromatic duck roll”- which is basically the duck you would normally get with pancakes, stuffed into a spring roll and then deep fried. Sounds a bit weird but it’s very nice, and served with a sweet and sticky hoisin sauce. It was really nice, but this time it was served lukewarm- I hate when food isn’t served hot enough! Would have asked for them to serve me the food hot and all that but didn’t want to be a pain.

I feel that because we were there fairly late, we got rubbish service, which I thought was a bit lame, because it’s not as if we turned up 5 minutes before they closed (I get that all the time at Cosy Club- literally we get food orders 1 minute before closing it’s so annoying), we ordered at 10:20 and they stop serving food at 11, which is acceptable as far as I’m concerned. Mains were delivered before the starters had been cleared, which I think was either A) because it was fairly late and they wanted to rush us out (which I find unacceptable- because if I go for a meal at a restaurant, it doesn’t matter what time it is, I expect to take my time over a meal and not feel like I’m being forced to eat everything really quickly) or B) They didn’t understand us when we said we wanted the starters first and then the mains. I don’t mean to sound bad, but when ordering in Hon Fusion, it’s a good idea to just stick to the numbers on the menu, and not to try and ask for anything special to be made for you, as some (not all) of the staff don’t speak much English. One time I wanted to try something on their menu “Thai red duck curry”, but I wanted it with chicken instead of duck, and the waitress just looked blank at me whilst I tried explaining to her what I wanted and then said it couldn’t be done, which I reckon it could easily have been. In the end I don’t mind because the menu is great and the food is nice, but it’s just something to keep in mind (especially when ordering a takeaway over the phone and all that).

For mains I had the sizzling black pepper beef, my boyfriend had the fragrant chilli chicken (he orders it every time actually- it’s REALLY nice, a bit too spicy for me but it’s got such great flavour) and we shared some steamed rice and some noodles with beansprouts and spring onions (as side dishes). My main course was scrummy, and Nick’s main was cooked well. There are a few main courses I would recommend in Hon Fusion: their “chicken curry”, chicken in black bean sauce with green peppers, ooh and their courgettes in honey black pepper sauce. The courgettes actually I would say is the nicest thing on the menu- but I found myself stopping ordering them lately because they charge £8 for it, and I just think it’s ridiculous to be given a small amount of fried courgettes in sauce and be charged that much for it. I would expect that price if it had meat in it, but without it’s a bit of a rip-off really- I know how much courgettes cost.

Had a bit of an issue re-service during our mains though. On the table next to us all the staff came out (kitchen and front of house I’m guessing) and they all sat down and started eating and chatting. It was 10:45 (again, stops servind at 11pm- not closes at 11pm!), and I’m just thinking I don’t want to spend loads of money on a meal to feel like I was having dinner at some random person’s living room. In a restaurant you pay for the service as well as the food, and I felt like we were ignored because they all fancied finishing early. I would go out in my restaurant after we closed the kitchen and sit on a table and eat random food next to people. I don’t think it’s suitable.
Overall it came to about £22 each, which is the usual price for when you get a meal there. Seems like it doesn’t matter if I go there on my own or part of a big group and have loads of beers- it always ends up about £20-£25, which is fair enough. I feel like this review has sounded fairly negative, but it’s still quite a nice restaurant, and a great place to have only a couple of doors down from me. It’s just this visit was particularly rubbish on the service side I suppose. I would mark is 8/10 for the food (1 off for being served cold food, and 1 off because I feel that with their menu, there are some amazingly scrummy dishes on it, but also some really rubbish ones. You need to find out what you like if you know what I mean) and 4/10 for the service (based mainly on what it is like on this occasion, normally the service is all right).

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Recipe: Chicken and Roasted Butternut Squash Tagine

I love tagines! In fact at University at the moment, in one of my modules (Food Product Development- definitely my most exciting one!) me and my group have decided to develop a low budget, healthy chicken (or maybe turkey or lamb, we're still in the planning stage) tagine recipe, that would theoretically be for a basics supermarket range. Really exciting actually- I think theres a real gap in the market for Morrocan food. I reckon it's getting more and more popular as a cuisine, and yet there arent many products on the supermarket shelves currently. I'm just thinking lets all be a bit different and not go for our pizzas, tikka massalas and curries, but try something a little more unusual! This recipe is also very nice with sweet potato if your'e not a fan of squash.

Chicken and Roasted Butternut Squash Tagine (serves 2)

1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
3 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp garam masala
Salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar

2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp crushed ginger
300g diced chicken breast
1 tbsp Harissa paste
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cinnamon
100ml passata
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp cornflour, mixed with water.
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Add the squash, oil, rosemary, garam masala and seasoning to a roasting tin, toss to coat, and roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove and set aside. Once cool, weigh out 250g of the roasted squash (use the rest in another dish sometime!)
2. Fry the onion, garlic and ginger in the olive oil for 10 minutes. Add the chicken, Harissa pastes and other spices, and cook for a further 5 minutes.
3. Add the passata and stock and cook on a medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the reserved squash and corn flour, and cook for a further 20 minutes, stirring often. Season to taste and serve!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Recipe: Beef and Winter Vegetable Casserole

This is actually my boyfriend's recipe, and he cooked me this lovely dinner, but I thought I would have to put it on here because he does rather make some of the best comfort food in the world (although in our house we do actually compete for who makes the best!). I kinda feel like it doesn't matter even if I go out in my warmest clothes and winter coat and gloves and all that, I still come home feeling cold, and wanting a big bowl of some lovely hot food. Theres something about the need of stews and casseroles in the autumn/winter to make you feel much warmer on the inside, much more than other foods.

Beef and Winter Vegetable Casserole (serves 4)

1 tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
500g casserole steak, cut into bite sized pieces
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
2 sticks celery, sliced
3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and diced
¼ a swede, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
½ tsp dried mixed herbs
400ml beef stock
1 tsp Bovril
150ml red wine
1 Bay leaf
Dash Worcester sauce
Dash chilli sauce (such as Tabasco or Cholula’s)
½ tsp corn flour, mixed with water.
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Brown the beef in the oil in a medium-large casserole dish, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add butter to the pan then sweat off onion and garlic, adding celery, carrot, swede and potato, stirring around occasionally for about 10 minutes.
2. Return the beef to the pot add the herbs, seasoning, wine, stock and bay leaf and cover with lid. Cook in the oven for about 2 and 1/2 hours- 3 hours, giving it a stir halfway through cooking. At the end thicken on the stove with a little corn flour mixed with water, finish with a dash of the sauces, and season to taste.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Competition: Cider and Mustard Chicken - Red Tractor Assurance

Hey Guys! So 24th-30th of September was Red Tractor Week, a week where Red Tractor Assured Food standards ingredients were celebrated and shared in events all over the country! With this, Red Tractor have also created a recipe competition, where recipes including as many Red Tractor assured products were used in order to create a delicious dish, and to promote these wonderful good quality ingredients! I have submitted my cider and mustard chicken recipe, made with Red Tractor onions, chicken and somerset cider- Yum! The grand prize is a rather tantalizing set of aga cookware- which I would really love to win, so if you follow the link below, and share it in whichever way you like (adding to favourites, printing, sharing on facebook/twitter/pinterest etc.) that would be brilliant! Thanks guys!

Cider and Mustard Chicken - Red Tractor Assurance

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Recipe: Griddled Peach and Feta Salad

This is frankly the most GORGEAUS salad recipe I have ever made!!! It's got so much oomph, such zingy flavours, really well paired ingredients- basically it's just fab! If you cant get raspberry vinegar (i'm not actually sure how readily available it is in this country- the raspberry vinegar I have was a nice foodie buy from France this summer) then just use cider vinegar. You can also use nectarines or apricots in the place of peaches if you want. The nice dish i've presented this in was a present my mum brought back to me from Mexico- very pretty isn't it??

Griddled Peach and Feta Salad (serves 2)

2 ripe peaches
1 tsp raspberry vinegar
½ tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
100g mixed leaves (preferably peppery Italian leaves)
100g feta, diced
Salt and pepper

1 tbsp raspberry vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Salt, sugar and pepper to taste

1. Put a griddle pan onto a high heat. Stone the peaches and cut each one into quarters. Brush each quarter with raspberry vinegar (or lemon juice) and sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper.
2. Put each seasoned peach quarter onto the griddle pan, one of the flesh sides facing down. In 2 minutes, turn it onto it’s other side, and then after another minute, turn it onto the skin side (making sure the peach “wedges” are griddled all over).
3. Put the leaves into a big serving dish. Top with the feta, and the still warm griddled peaches. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, season to taste and pour over the salad. Serve!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Recipe: Tomato and Black Olive Chicken

I made this tonight to warm me up as I believe both me and the weather have conveniently agreed that it is pretty much Winter now (ok... I know it's autumn really but I reckon we're just going to have a really cold time from now until march!). Nick however disagrees, and says it's not cold enough to start using the portable heaters around the house yet (our house doesn't have central heating or double glazing)!!. "Think about the heating bills" he says. It's so funny, my student friends were saying that because they are so skint (and also because they'd rather spend their money on alchohol) they are officially not turning on their heating until December, meanwhile they're all sleeping in jumpers and sleeping bags AS WELL as their duvet, haha! This was really nice served with this couscous dish I made on the side too- it's simply cous cous mixed with kidney beans, feta and sundried tomatoes.

Tomato and Black Olive Chicken (serves 2)

2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 chicken breasts, sliced
Knob of butter
1 large red onion, sliced thinly
Pinch sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
200ml chicken stock
1 tin tomatoes
100g black olives, halved (and pitted!)
Handful fresh basil, chopped (plus extra for garnish)
Salt, sugar and pepper to taste

1. In a large deep frying pan, sauté the chicken in 1tbsp of the oil, with some salt and pepper, for a couple of minutes each side, or until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
2. To the same pan, add the rest of the oil, butter and red onion, and cook on a high heat for a further 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the reserved chicken and all other ingredients (except fresh basil) and cook for 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the chopped fresh basil, stir in well, season to taste and serve- with some extra basil leaves on top for presentation.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Recipe: Avocado and Feta Salsa

Yes that's right, another feta recipe! I ought to get Apetina to sponsor me or something, haha! This sounds a bit unusual but trust me it works- the saltiness of the feta goes so well with the avocado, it's ace. It works fab as a guacemole-like dip for nachos and things, on the side of mexican/south american dishes, or actually it's very nice on toast- kinda like a bruschetta topping. If you dont have cider vinegar use some lemon juice or anything acidic- it's mainly just to stop the avocado from browning.

Avocado and Feta Salsa
1 Ripe Haas avocado, peeled and diced
80g feta, diced
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
½ red chilli finely chopped
Handful fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix all the ingredients together, season to taste and serve!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Recipe: Rice and Feta Stuffed Peppers

This is a nice recipe I rustled up as I had peppers, risotto rice, and now a load feta to use up suddenly- I had a big 1kg block of feta left over from Widcombe Rising, which (unopened) lasts until 2013 something, but SOMEONE (i'm pointing at you boyfriend!) drunkenly (or more worryingly, in his sleep, like sleep-eating!!) opened the pack of feta and had a nibble, so over the next month probably almost every recipe on here will include feta in some shape or form! I'm wondering whether it would be wise to make a big spanakopita filling (feta, ricotta, dill and spinach) and freeze it, to make spanakopitas at another time, but i'm not really sure how well feta freezes. Any way, this is a very pleasant healthy lunch for two, and very cheap to make.

Rice and Feta Stuffed Peppers (serves 2)

2 large or 3 smaller green peppers, halved and seeded
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 knob of butter
1 red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ tsp mixed herbs
100g Arborio rice
400ml vegetable stock
1 large ripe tomato, diced
Handful fresh basil, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
80g feta diced

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Lay the halved peppers in a roasting dish and drizzle with 2 tbsp of the extra virgin olive. Season with a little salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, sauté the onions and garlic in 1 tbsp of the olive oil and butter for about 10 minutes. Add the mixed herbs, rice, and stock and cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the chopped tomato and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the basil and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season the rice to taste and spoon into the roasted pepper halves. Top with the cubed feta, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Serve with some mixed green salad!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Recipe: Chicken and sweetcorn mayo

Hey guys, sorry I havent posted in a while, was on holiday in Barcelona! In fact I wisked Nick away there as a present for his birthday and our 4 year anniversary, aren't I the most awesome girlfriend ever? Haha! Basically this is the nicest filling for jacket potatoes or sandwiches- yummm! You can use full fat mayo, or if you are trying to keep the fat down, you can use low fat mayo or natural yoghurt- both work just as well.

Chicken Sweet corn Mayo (serves 2)

1 small cooked chicken breast, diced
1 340g tin sweetcorn, drained
100g mayo
½ tsp English mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Season to taste and serve!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Recipe: Creamy Coriander Chicken

Hey guys. Made this the other day because I had this block of creamed coconut that'd had been in the fridge for aaages, and a load of fresh coriander and chillies to use up- so I sort of chucked this together really! Rather scrummy, kinda like a passanda but very fragrant. Quite rich too- bit of a treat, considering i've been watching my weight and working out a lot lately. Mind you, it seems it doesn't matter what I do about my diet- pig out every day, or survive on nothing but salads and ryvitas for weeks, my weight always stays the same. Eh, maybe i'm just supposed to be this size- just "normal-sized"? Anyway, I served this with rice and peas and that went very nicely with it.

Creamy Coriander chicken (serves 2)

½ white onion, diced
Large handful coriander, roughly chopped (plus extra for garnish)
2 green chillis, seeded.
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 chicken breasts, diced
1 tbsp garam masala
100g creamed coconut
400ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Blitz the onion, coriander, garlic and chilli with a little water in a food processor until it forms a paste. Fry the onion, garlic and coriander in the rapeseed oil for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken and garam masala and fry for a further 5 minutes.
2. Add the other ingredients, and cook on a medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce is thick and the chicken is cooked. Serve with some extra fresh coriander on top.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Recipe: Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breasts wrapped in Parma Ham

Can't believe this worked so well! Yaaay! I've always seen people on TV and cookery programs making various types of stuffed chicken recipes, but I always thought if i'd tried to do it everything would fall out and it wouldn't work. This worked really well though! The chicken stays really nice and moist and when you slice it up it looks very "dinner-party-presentable"- despite being so seasy to makr. Nick wasn't too fond of the lemon flavour with the ricotta, but you can flavour the ricotta with anything really, sundried tomatoes, olives, herbs- very nice with rosemary actually.

Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breasts wrapped in Parma Ham
100g ricotta
Zest of half a lemon (or ½ tsp any type of dried herbs- rosemary,thyme etc.)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 chicken breasts
4 slices parma ham

1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
2. Mix together the ricotta, lemon (or herbs), olive oil and seasoning. Slice into the chicken breasts lengthwise, until almost all the way through, and open out. Stuff with the ricotta, and close up.
3. Place two Parma ham slices together, place the stuffed chicken breast on top, and roll up (so that the entire breast is wrapped in Parma ham). Place on a non-stick tray and bake in the oven for 35 minutes. Slice and serve!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Recipe: Chargrilled Courgette, Pea, and Ricotta Tagliatelli

This is such a divine recipe- the earthy flavours of the courgette mixing with the fresh zesty flavours of lemon and ricotta. I got this ricotta from the new Jamie's Deli that's opened up in town, the place is STUNNING- It's like a proper decent Italian deli, just with a few Jamie Oliver branded things scattered about. Theres meats hanging from the ceilings, big wheels of cheese, crates of unusual vegetables outside, and a fab deli counter. However, i had my sneaky eye on the ricotta they were selling, as i could tell it was THE REAL DEAL rather than the watery tasteless ricotta you get from supermarkets. This ricotta, sourced from Westcombe which is only a couple of miles from where I live, is so delicious and creamy and lovely- i'm hooked! This recipe takes 15 minutes to make and is very good for you- it includes at least 2 of your 5 a day in there! You can either use chargrilled courgettes that you get in a packet from the supermarket, or you could make your own by just chucking some courgettes on a griddle pan for a couple of minutes each side.

Chargrilled courgette, pea, and ricotta Tagliatelli (serves 1)

100g dried Tagliatelli
80g frozen peas
80g diced chargrilled courgettes
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Plenty of salt and pepper to taste
30g fresh ricotta

1. Cook the Tagliatelli according to the packet instructions. 2 minutes before the end of cooking time, add the frozen peas to the pan.
2. Drain the peas and pasta, and return to the pan. Mix in the courgettes, olive oil, lemon and seasoning. Top with the fresh ricotta and serve!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Recipe: Student's Basic Spag Bol

All of a sudden it seems, my little baby brother is going off the University!! Can't believe it really, he's such a numpty bless him! Me and my family werent sure whether he was going to get into Uni because his BTEC grades were a bit rubbish, but he's been accepted on a foundation degree (4 years, eep!) and is moving out on monday! This is the first time my brother actually wanted to learn a few cooking basics actually, because as we were growing up as kids I loved food and tried getting my brother into it, but he never showed any interest. Mum's taught him to cook rice and pasta, and some egg dishes (omelette and scrambled eggs and all that) and yesterday i went over and taught him how to cook spaghetti bolognese and chilli con carne. I think those are just great basic student go-to's, and mince is so cheap as well. This is the most simple, basic recipe I could teach him (as he has no cooking experience atall) with the most basic ingredients- and i honestly believe even the most kitchen-shy student could pull this one off. The mince can also be frozen in seperate portions if the student has a freezer (not completely sure whether my bro has one or not?)

Student’s Basic Bolognese (serves 4)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 white or red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped (or a tsp of pureed garlic)
500g minced beef
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tin chopped tomatoes
400ml beef stock (made with two beef Oxo cubes)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Sugar salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Grated parmesan on top

1. Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes- or until the onions are soft and beginning to brown.
2. Add the minced beef, a little salt and pepper, and mixed herbs, and cook on a high temperature for 10 minutes, stirring often, until well browned.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes, stock and Worcestershire sauce, and cook for a further 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste and serve!

*When cooking the pasta, it’s about 125g dried pasta per person

Monday, September 3, 2012

Recipe: French Pink Garlic Soup

This is my try at a traditional dish I tried recently on my holiday in the Dordogne, and as promised on this blog, i said i would try and recreate it at home and I think i've done a rather good job! I had a bit of a google to see what other traditional recipes include- many of which included egg or mayonaiise, which was a factor i wasn't too keen on, so i just tried making it as close to what i thought the dish tasted like in the restaurant. I wont lie to you guys, this recipe is not for the faint hearted, you have to really LOVE garlic in order to enjoy this soup. I brought back the large head of pink garlic (the size of a head of elephant garlic really) from my holiday in France (from the market in Sarlat)- but you may be able to get pink garlic from a local farmers market. If you can't, and you wanted to create this recipe with normal garlic (although i'm not sure whether the flavour of normal garlic is the same as pink) then i would reccomend using 25 normal sized garlic cloves. Yes ladies and gentlemen- I said 25. I did say this recipe was for alium lovers!!!

French Pink Garlic Soup (serves 2)

50g butter
3 large white onions
1 large head pink garlic, cloves peeled and roughly chopped
Pinch dried thyme
1 bay leaf
800ml chicken or vegetable stock
75ml double cream
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Fry the onions, garlic thyme and bay leaf in the butter for 6 minutes. Add the stock and cook on a high heat for 10 minutes.
2. Add the cream and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, blend, season to taste and serve!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Recipe: Puttanesca for One

Puttanesca is a traditional Italian tomato sauce, traditionally made with tomatoes, olives, capers, olive oil, chilli and garlic. In the Neopolitan region, it is also traditional to add lots of anchovies and oregano to the sauce. I've used worchester sauce because I don't like anchovies (too fishy for me) but worchester sauce is made with anchovies and I quite like that taste of it so i thought it made a good substitute. The sauce is said to have been invented in the 50s, and has been very popular in Italy from the 60s onwards. I have used wholegrain spaghetti this time- but that's what I just happened to have in the house, use white if you'd prefer.

Spaghetti Puttanesca (serves 1)

100g spaghetti
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
100g passata (or tomato juice)
30g black olives
20g capers
2 tsp Worchester sauce
Pinch chilli flakes
Pinch garlic salt
Pinch dried oregano
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (plus extra for garnish)
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

1. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the pasta, and cook according to the packet instructions.
2. Put all the other ingredients in another smaller saucepan, and cook on a medium heat for 6 minutes.
3. Drain the spaghetti, stir in the sauce, and put back on the heat until most of the excess liquid has evaporated and the sauce becomes thick (this normally takes 1-2 minutes).
4.Serve with some freshly chopped parsley on top!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Competition: TateOil's Summer Recipe Competition

Hey guys! So next competition in the line is TateOil's Summer Recipe competition. The company wanted everyone to send in their favourite summery recipes, in order to win the glam prize of a Kindle! I have entered both their last competitions and no luck yet, but I still think i'm in with a chance! There are 9 entries this year (including mine), and the voting closes on Friday 31st August.

If you guys could vote for my Parmesan Chicken with Pea Shoot Salad and Zesty Yoghurt, that'd be great, thank you!! The website is below:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Recipe: Roasted red pepper and tomato sauce

Wheyyy, I finally did it, I tricked my little brother into eating peppers! (He is eighteen bearing this in mind!). One night i just really fancied a fresh tasting healthy spaghetti dish with a sauce and now i've made this recipe a few times, i love it! That night i served it with pasta, and some freshly chopped parsley and parmesan as you can see in the picture. However, this sauce goes with almost anything- pies, cold cuts, roasted meats, other sorts of pasta, it's very versatile. You can even serve it as a soup too as well if you fancy it.

Roasted red pepper and tomato sauce (makes about 800g)

3 tbsp olive oil
2 red peppers, seeded and diced
1 red onion, diced
1 tsp herbs du Provence
Salt and pepper

1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
A little water (if necessary)

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Roast the peppers and red onions in a roastring tray with the herbs, oil and seasoning for 20 minutes, or until the peppers start blackening. Remove from the oven and set aside.
2. Add the roasted vegetables and all the other ingredients into a food processor and blend until a smooth sauce is obtained. Pour this sauce into a pan and heat until piping hot. Add a splash of water if the sauce is too thick for you, season to taste, and serve- with spaghetti, pies, meats, whatever you fancy!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Recipe: Wensleydale, Cranberry, and Caramelised Onion Pies

This is a dish I came up with to use the last of the wensleydale with cranberries I had left in the fridge- and it turned out to be delicious! I was a bit worried that maybe the pies would be too dry/ the cheese would be a bit too "claggy" (i find that can be problem with cooking with cheshire/lancashire/ wensleydale cheeses) but they were rather sweet and moist inside, and serving a sauce with it made sure the dish wasnt too dry. The sauce I used actually is just a watered down heated up version of my chilli jam, but any type of sweet-ish red pepper sauce would go well with this dish. Rather cheap and easy lunch wouldn't you say!

Wensleydale and caramelised onion pies (makes four)

Knob of butter
1 red onion
¼ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp sugar
275g Wensleydale with cranberries
100g red onion chutney
Salt and pepper to taste
1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry
Egg or milk (to brush over)

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Fry the red onions in the butter with the thyme and sugar for about 10 minutes, or until caramelised. Take off the heat, stir in the Wensleydale with cranberries and chutney, season to taste, and allow to cool.
2. Cut a ready rolled sheet of puff pastry into four rectangles. Fill these rectangles with the cooled mix evenly, fold over, and seal and crimp the edges. Cut a little hole in the top of the pies (to allow steam to come out) and brush with egg wash.
3. Place pies onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Serve, perhaps like I have, with a sweet red pepper sauce and salad.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Recipe: Jamie Oliver's Courgette and Boccocini Salad

This is a lovely little salad recipe that Nick made me last week, after we'd both seen Jamie Oliver make it on his "30 Minute Meals" program. Very simple and very refreshing I thought, and tasty too. We made half the amount Jamie made on his show, as it was to serve four- but other than that we followed the recipe to the letter. I will definitely be making this again, it is delicious, however i think that the salad would be nicer with some creamy goats cheese or some feta instead of the boccocini (mini mozzarella balls- sometimes called Mozzarella pearls in supermarkets) as I didn't think they actually added much to the dish. Nick actually took the picture of this dish with his iphone, they've got such fantastic cameras on them havent they??

Courgette and Mozzarella Salad (serves 2 as a side dish)

1 yellow courgette, peeled thinly into strips (discarding the middle bit)
1 green courgette, peeled thinly into strips (discarding the midd bit)
1 red chilli, very finely chopped
1 squeeze fresh lemon
Handful fresh mint, very finely chopped
salt and pepper
10 Boccocini

1. Mix all the ingredients together (except the boccocini) and season to taste. Lay the courgettes onto a platter and top with the boccocini- serve!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Travel: Dordogne Day Four

So today on the Cookinfrance Itinerary the group was supposed to spend all day in the kitchen, making a vegetable and poached egg salad, a tarte tatin, and searing the duck breasts (“magret”) that we had butchered off the ducks on the first day. However, we (I say “we”- I was a bit embarrassed so I got Nick to talk to Jim) said to Jim that basically, as I am a chef as my job back at home, I really didn’t want to spend my holiday in a kitchen (a bit of a bus-man’s holiday I suppose!) so we said that we would not do the cooking today and go out and explore the region- do some sight seeing. Any way, considering everyone else on the course was leaving Saturday morning, and we had to leave Friday morning (because that’d what Sudocrem gave us as a prize), loads of the prep-work during the week was for the “final meal” everyone was having on the Friday night. Which we of course weren’t going to be involved in, so we thought we’d leave everyone else to it.

So first of all we decided to check out “Le Regourdou Neanderthal site”, a site where it said in the guide book they had found the remains of pre-Neanderthal man, and also loads of bones of ancient animals. What also drew me to this attraction was the fact that is said there were real brown bears there!!! Awesome!! When we got there, every hour a guide took a group of people round the place, explaining in French as they went. We were given a guide thingy however that explained pretty much everything they were saying to the group in English. This place was amazing, and the story behind it crazy. Basically about 1km down the road, there was also a big attraction called “Lascaux caves” (which was a load of caveman wall paintings and things). When these “lascaux” caves were randomly discovered in the 50’s by four little boys walking in the countryside ( their dog got stuck inside the cave and when the boys tried to get him out, they ended up stumbling over all this cool stuff!)- a guy in a house nearby suddenly thought “Hey, I bet theres loads of this prehistoric stuff round here, maybe theres some stuff in my garden?”. So this guy dug MASSIVE holes and things in his garden for over TWO YEARS (notice theres no mention of this guy’s wife, lol, she must’ve given up in the end!!), without finding anything- then suddenly, he struck gold! He found a burial chamber (like a crude stone coffin thing) and inside this was the remains of a “Cro Magnol” man. Cro Magnol man is even older than neanderthal man. Not only did he find this intact skeleton, with loads of hunting trophies and flowers placed around him, but they found next to him the skeleton of an ancient MASSIVE bear! There is knowledge that many groups of prehistoric man worshipped bears, as they believed they were immortal (through not fully understanding their hibernation process) and it was believed the prehistoric men in this area were part of some sort of bear cult.
After this discovery this man continued his obsession with bears, and decided he would buy a couple of brown bears from a zoo in France, and then set up a pen for them in his garden! What a nutter! There were 6 bears there in total, all of which had to be seperated into three groups of two, because apparently if they kept them all together then the alpha male would kill the cubs/ the other males would all start fighting etc etc. However awesome it was to get so horrifyingly close to these cute looking but scary animals, I did feel really bad about the conditions they were being kept in. They were in really really small areas/pens and a lot of them were walking round in circles- a sign of an unhappy animal. I don’t think its right to keep animals in such confined spaces- there really was almost no room for them to walk around. In fact I would almost say that if this was in England I don’t think laws would have allowed those conditions. I hope maybe that the WSPCA find it and sort it out. I wrote a whole long big email to them when I got back but when I tried sending it to them it made me try and create an account with them and I was like, hey, screw you WSPCA, I’m trying to report a serious animal welfare problem and you won’t let me unless you have all my contact details and get me on your mailing list, wtf?

Anyway, slightly going off topic, but the dig site, museum, bears, and story regarding the whole site, was absolutely fascinating- and I really would recommend it.
Our next stop was the Chateau at jardins de Losse- a beautiful and historic 16th century chateau containing amazing period furniture, tapestries, and weapons- and also the gardens surrounding the chateau were superbly maintained. The stories about the gardens was that although the people that did conservation on the castle and the gardens didn’t know how the original gardens would have looked like in the 16th century- they studied drawings, paintings and tapestries all over France to see what was fashionable for gardens at the time, and based their designs on this. In the gardens were classic Italian style architecture and garden patterns (fashionable in France in the 16th century apparently) and plants that were popular during that era, often due to their scent- there were many roses, lilacs, honey suckles etc. There was also a cool (perhaps with a bit more modern interpretation!) bamboo maze that after I went into I figured was designed for little children, as it was very small and the pathways very little. Cute though.
We found out half way through the guided tour (again spoken in French, but were given an English guidebook) that we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the chateau, but Nick managed to get a few cheeky ones in before that- some of the Tapestries in this place were out of this world! After the guide, we decided to have our picnic in a cute little picnic area they had set up right near the chateau, on the way to a riverside walk. Doesn’t it look scrumptious! All these lovely things we bought from stalls and markets whilst we were on holiday, and a nice crusty baguette we had bought from a boulangerie whilst we driving through Montignac earlier on. Nicest picnic I’ve ever had in my life I think!
On our drive away from the chateue, we decided to stop off at a really cute little village called St Leon de Vezere, mainly because we noticed it had a post office, so we figured we’d have a relaxed drink at one of the little bars there and write our postcards. We found the prettiest looking café covered in foliage and I have a lovely relaxed drink here whilst looking at the scenery. Also we ended up chatting to this older guy (mainly because I noticed he had the most adorable dog) from Austria that I am seriously not joking sounded completely like a Bond villain. He was saying funny/nice things about being on holiday in the Dordogne region for about a week, and that nowadays the dog is in charge of him and his partner’s holidays, not the other way around, which was hilarious. But I still kept thinking about him saying “How long will you be staying here, MR BOND! “ Haha! It’s funny the random people you meet on holiday isn’t it? This place was the nicest little village with two lush looking restaurants and friendly people around though- the kind of place you love to accidentally stumble over when you are on holiday.
Our next and last stop (we were deciding which attraction to go to next and since this place shuts fairly late and looked quite interesting we chose this) was the Maison Forte de Reignac. This has got to be the most amazing and alive museums/sites I have ever been to IN MY LIFE. The site (a set of very high cliffs) had been inhabited 20,000 years ago by Cro Magnol man- and then was built upon and lived in up until the Renaissance! It had a great defensive position and the entire castle that had been built around the rocks had loads of defensive structural functions within it- like holes in the walls to pun canons through and slitted windows to shoot arrows from and things like that. The museum as I said before, felt so “alive”- even with all the period furniture, stuffed animals, and artefacts in all of the rooms (each of which had a very detailed and fascinating description of in the free English guidebook they gave us) there was also lit fires, lit candles, bubbling pots/stoves in the fireplace, and food hanging from the ceilings/ on the table. It felt like we were intruders into a Renaissance man’s house- you could completely imagine what it would have been like to live there during those times.
I couldn’t praise this attraction any more- this was the best part of our holiday, and one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen in my life. If you go anywhere in the south of France- find this place and check it out! You can’t let yourself miss it!
At the time we were visiting, the attraction also had an extensive exhibition on the history of torture. This is something that had been to L.A, London, Mexico, Italy, Spain, and loads of big museums around the world but during July this was currently being displayed at this place. MY GOD. You kinda think that things aren’t going to shock you anymore, because you hear terrible things on the news about murderers, and you watch horror films all the time- but this exhibition completely got to me. There were all these different ancient torture mechanisms all round this room with explanations as to how they would have been used- like iron maidens and guillotines and spiky iron chairs and things. What was messed up too was some of the descriptions said “and this is still used as a method of torture in south America” or “this is still used by the US secret services currently as torture for terrorists”. Makes us think how messed up we all are really- to have come up with some of these devices.
Also, I didn’t know this about the guillotine- first of all, that it was originally a Scottish invention, but then it just got popular in France when Mr. Guillotine brought it over. Secondly that the last person to be executed by guillotine was in France in 1977. I was like, wtf?? In the seventies?? So whilst all the Beatles and Motown was going on people in France were still being executed by guillotine!?!? Mental!! I think one of the most messed up ones in this exhibition (apart from maybe “the saw”- where they literally strung you upside down and sawed you right down the middle- and often you wouldn’t die until they got to the chest because the blood was all at your head) was something called “The Jock’s Mare”, pictured last. They would make someone sit on it, with weights on high legs, then make them rock back and forth. Eventually the person would die of infected….”down there” and essentially this thing would split this person in two.
See, I told you it’s all a bit horrible isn’t it?? After I came out I was all white and felt a bit shaky, I was like “Nick, can you buy me a cornetto or something, I need cheering up after all that dreadfulness!”. After this we decided to drive to our last location to have our final meal of the holiday- the little village of Les Eyzies. I have been mentioning all the fascinating prehistoric things all around the area- well the National Prehistoric museum is located in Les Eyzies, but of course it was shut by the time we got there. Amazing looking place though- the museum had been hulled out of the rock just like many of the castles and settlements in the area had been too. We bought a few goodies in a shop that was just shutting down (Nick bought some Foie gras to bring to one of his friends back home, and I bought an awesome 16 piece amuse bouche set for like 10 euros or something equally as absurd!) and then found a little restaurant to eat in.
I can’t remember the name of the restaurant we went to, but the food was 50% brilliant, 50% lame, and I suppose the service left a little to be desired. The waiter was horrifically attractive (haha!) but dreadful at waiting tables, we heard an Irish couple next to us saying “it’s like faulty towers here isn’t it?”. Very Manuel, but French. For starter nick had a goats cheese salad, and I had the soup of the day, which happened to be Sorrel. His salad was quite generous, rather simple but pleasant enough. My soup was incredibly boring actually- just tasted of….i dunno, you know when soup just tastes of “soup” and you can’t really pick out any distinguishable flavours? Certainly couldn’t pick up any sorrel from it. Rather disappointing, and a far cry from the beautiful pink garlic soup I had the night before.
Mains then went marvellously for me, but rather disappointingly for Nick. I ordered one of the specials, “Lapin” something something, which I knew was rabbit, so I thought I would give it a go. Turned out to be roast saddle of rabit, in a really delicious thick onion gravy, served with sweet red cabbage, sarladaise potatoes (not as nice as the potatoes at the restaurant last night- much more claggy) and “vegetables”- which I reckoned was some sort of cauliflower gratin thing but it was hard to put my finger on it. The dish was unusual but incredibly delicious, rabbit is a bit fiddly when it comes to bones but if it’s cooked properly is a fantastic meat, never dry, and comes off the bones easily. Nick’s main, Duck with cep mushroom sauce and fries (he had to go for that option again after last night I suppose!) was really disappointing. The duck was dry, it had not been served with much sauce at all as you can see, so when Nick tried to get the waiters attention to bring him more sauce, he just came back to us with a few mayo and ketchup packets, by which time the fries and duck had gone cold. Felt very sorry for Nick at the time to keep feeding him bits of my rabbit, haha. We did consider getting puddings (well, I did anyway!) but it took so long to get the waiters attention, we just went straight upstairs and paid for the bill. Which the staff got wrong and we ended up paying about 20 euro less. Their mistake I guess, if the service was that bad I wasn’t going to question them making a mistake on the cheque- that’s just them continuing their bad service and is utterly their fault.
Shame that our last meal wasn’t the best, but we had such a nice time on this holiday it didn’t dampen our spirits. We loved the Cookinfrance location, the villages surrounding the area, the fascinating museums and medieval villages scattered around the place, and we LOVED the food. We both thought that the Dordogne region was so jam packed with things to see that we will definitely will be coming back here again, perhaps to a slightly different part of it. We might have spent a bit of money- but it was still an amazing free holiday, a prize that was really worth it! Cheers Sudocrem, for introducing us (I would dare to say) to the nicest region of France!