Monday, December 30, 2013

Recipe: Ham, Mushroom and Leerdamer Stuffed Crepes

This recipe requires a little bit of multitasking and more effort than most of my recipes, but the results are worth it. I haven't made crepes in years! This crepe batter mix is fool proof, even if my flipping skills aren't! Have stopped being flashy and just turn the crepes over with a skillet, saves time and saves the ceiling. You can of course, cheat with this recipe too if you want- through buying ready made crepes. I served this with buttered broccoli, which goes very well with it. Be careful when seasoning the crepe batter and the cheese sauce, as sometimes the ham in the filling can be fairly salty.

Ham, Mushroom and Leerdamer Stuffed Crepes (serves 3)
115g plain flour
2 medium eggs
285ml skimmed milk
Pinch salt
Vegetable oil (for frying)

15g margarine
200g mushrooms, diced small
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
275g finely diced ham/ gammon
100g Leerdammer, finely diced

Cheese Sauce (topping)
50g margarine
40g plain flour
400ml skimmed milk
100g Leerdamer, finely diced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Mix together the plain flour, eggs, milk and a pint of salt in a mixing bowl (to make the crepe batter). First make the crepes- get a non-stick frying pan, put a little bit of vegetable oil in it, and wait until pan is hot. Pour some of the mixture into the pan, swirl around until pancake coats the pan, and cook for 1- 2 minutes each side. Once crepe is ready, slide the crepe onto a piece of greaseproof paper. Repeat same process until the batter is used up (should make 6 crepes).
2. In a saucepan, fry the mushrooms, garlic and parsley in the margarine for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the ham and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the diced Leerdamer, stir well to mix, and set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, melt the margarine, add the flour and stir, and gradually add the milk (as you would normally make a cheese sauce). Add the Leerdamer, and cook for a further 4 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the sauce has thickened. Season sauce to taste and set aside.
4. Grease a large baking dish (or 2 smaller baking dishes) with a little oil or margarine (to prevent the crepes from sticking). Add 2-3 tbsp of the mushroom filling into each crepe, roll up, and place in the baking dish. Pour cheese sauce evenly on top of the stuffed crepes. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, and then place under the grill for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese sauce on top is beginning to go golden. Remove and serve!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Recipe: Chestnut Roast

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! This is a legend of a recipe. This is what my mum has cooked for Christmas dinner for as long as I can remember. People look down on "nut roasts" (the Christmas veggie option) as being a bit dry and tasteless and boring, which to be honest in 9/10 cases is utterly true, however, THIS is something else, seriously. I would actually choose it over meat on Christmas day. It is a little fussy I suppose, but the end result is worth it.

Chestnut Roast (serves 4)
90g butter (plus an extra 5g for buttering the tin)
2 red onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp wholemeal flour
200ml vegetable stock
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
225g ground almonds
110g brown breadcrumbs
2 eggs
450g chestnut puree
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Butter, and line (with greaseproof paper) a 2 pound loaf tin. Fry the onion in 60g of the butter, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until softened. Remove 2 tbsp of the onion and set aside.
2. Add the wholemeal flour to the remaining onions, mix well, and stir in the vegetable stock. Cook gently for a few minutes until thick, and remove from the heat. Add the herbs, almonds, breadcrumbs, 1 of the eggs, and seasoning to taste. Set this bowl aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C. Mix the chestnut puree well with the remaining egg, remaining 30g of butter, and the reserved 2 tbsp of cooked onions. Season this mixture to taste.
4. Put half of the almond/breadcrumb mixture into the loaf tin and spread evenly. Top with all of the chestnut puree mixture, and spread evenly. Top with the other half of the almond/breadcrumb mixture, smooth over, and cover loaf tin tightly with two layers of tin foil.
5. Place loaf in the oven for 90 minutes. Remove from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes, remove the tin foil, and carefully turn out onto a plate/serving dish. Decorate as desired, and serve!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Recipe: Artichoke, Port Salut and Parma Ham Canapes

Here are some lovely big bites to hand out on your New Years Eve parties! Delicious roasted artichoke hearts, with a chunk of creamy port salut on top, wrapped in powerful tasting prosciutto de Parma. Found out the other day that "prosciutto" and "Parma ham" are basically the same thing, it's just that Parma ham is a type of prosciutto that is made specifically in Parma (Spain), but prosciutto can be made anywhere (it is typically Italian, but we even cure our own prosciutto in Britain). These canapés are quite rich- your party-goers may only want a couple, but then again, I love rich food at parties!

Artichoke, Port Salut and Parma Ham Canapes (Makes 24)
2 tins artichoke hearts (in salted water), drained, rinsed and halved
60g butter
1 large clove garlic, minced
Pinch mixed herbs
1 x 185g wedge Port Salut, rind remove, diced into cubes
8 slices Parma ham, each slice sliced lengthways into 3 strips.

1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Mix together the butter, garlic and mixed herbs. Place the artichoke hearts (flower side up) on a baking tray. Put a knob of the garlic herb butter onto each artichoke half. Put the artichokes into the oven for 20 minutes.
2. Remove the artichokes from the oven and allow to cool (cool enough to handle). Put each artichoke half onto a strip of Parma ham, top with a piece of port salut, and roll up. Place each of these on a plate, arranging them in an attractive fashion. Serve!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Recipe: Riiz bi Sh'arieh (Lebanese Rice)

Another rather exotic dish, but at it's base it is incredibly simple. This is a Lebanese rice dish, made lovely with the addition of vermicelli pieces and a generous sprinkle of toasted pine nuts on top. So easy when you think about it but it's one of my favourite Lebanese dishes, a Middle Eastern meal is incomplete with out!

Riiz Bi Sh’arieh- Lebanese Rice (serves 6 as a side dish)

2 tbsp olive oil
80g vermicelli (broken up into small pieces)
400g basmati rice
850ml water
1.5 tsp salt
60g pine nuts, toasted
Fresh Coriander for garnish (if desired)

1. Wash the rice in a sieve and drain. In a large deep frying pan (with a lid), fry the vermicelli pieces in the olive oil for a couple of minutes, or until they have turned deep brown. Add the rice and fry for a further 2 minutes.
2. Add the water and salt, stir, put on a low heat, cover,  and cook for 20 minutes (do not be tempted to lift the lid and stir it- this is important!).
3. After 20 minutes, remove the lid, and all the liquid should have been absorbed, and the rice cooked. Stir the rice up a bit, season to taste if necessary, and serve with toasted pine nuts on top. (and coriander if desired).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Competition: British Leek Association Student Recipe Competition

Been a while since I posted about competition wins (well, I say a while, in my terms I mean about a month!). The British Leek Grower's association ran a video recipe competition, where university/college students had to make a short video demonstrating a delicious leek recipe. I filmed my Leek, Bacon and Cheddar tart recipe (which is on the blog, check under pastry), you can check out the video here: .
I was the "regional champion"- basically the runner up, winning £200! Thanks very much British Leeks Association, and keep up the good work, I loves my leeks!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Recipe: Salami, Cantafrais and Salad filled Ciabatta

These are lush sandwiches!  Me and Brendan had these on the side of some nice homemade broccoli soup, but I had to keep going in the kitchen and making more of these sandwiches for Brendan, think I probably made about 6 for him in the end! Cantafrais is a delicious type of cream cheese, developed for the sandwich market by Bel. It's healthier and tastier than using a load of mayonnaise in my opinion.

Salami, Cantafrais and Salad filled Ciabatta (makes 4 small sandwiches, serves 2)
50g cantafrais
10g Dijon mustard
8 thick slices from a ciabatta loaf
8 slices salami, sliced in half
25g rocket, spinach and watercress salad mix

1. Mix together the cantafrais and the Dijon mustard.  Spread this generously onto the 8 slices of bread. Place the salami slices evenly onto 4 of the ciabatta slices.
2. Top these 4 slices with handfuls of the salad. Put the other 4 slices of ciabatta on top of the salami/salad topped slices, and press down to secure. Serve!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Recipe: Patata Hara

Another delicious Lebanese recipe, that my mum has been cooking me for years. Patata hara is traditionally known as garlic coriander fried potatoes, although every household will have it's different variations, some using fresh chilli, some using diced fresh peppers etc. Me and mum just love them because as we put it, "this is how the Lebanese do chips- and we love any variety of chips!!". If you like it super spicy, chuck in a fresh red chilli too, adjust to your own tastes.

Patata Hara   (serves 4 as a side dish)
600ml sunflower oil (plus an extra tbsp for frying)
1 kg new potatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green chilli, finely chopped
½ tsp mild chilli powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh coriander for garnish

1. Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan. Deep fry the diced new potatoes until soft in the middle and crispy and brown on the outside (about 10 minutes). Remove from the hot fat, pat with kitchen towel (to remove excess grease) and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in another pan fry the garlic, green chilli and chilli powder in 1tbsp sunflower oil for 3 minutes. Add the fried potatoes and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring often.
3. Season to taste, and serve with fresh coriander on top.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Recipe: Arnabeet Mekleh

Arnabeet Mekleh- that's easy for you to say! Sounds like a Klingon war cry. Anyway, this odd sounding dish is simply Lebanese deep fried cauliflower with tahini sauce. It's quite sad that often the best way to make vegetables taste lush is to either deep fry them or put a load of cheese on top , almost defeats the purpose really! You may not have to use all the tahini sauce on top of the cauliflower- but the sauce as mentioned in the previous post is very versatile and can be used in lots of other dishes.

Arnabeet Mekleh (deep fried cauliflower with tahini sauce) (serves 4 as a side dish)
500ml sunflower oil
2 cauliflower, stem and leaves cut off and cut into florets.
Salt and pepper
Fresh coriander for garnish (optional)

Tahini sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
100ml tahini
100ml water
90ml lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Blend all the sauce ingredients together in a food processor and season to taste. Set aside.
2. Steam the cauliflower florets for 5 minutes. Meanwhile heat the oil in a deep pan (or deep fat fryer) on a very high heat. Remove the cauliflower from the steamer and put the cauliflower into the hot oil (carefully to avoid scalding!). Deep fry the cauliflower for about 4 minutes or until cauliflower is nicely browned.
3. Remove the cauliflower from the hot fat, and pat over with kitchen towel to soak up excess fat. Put cauliflower into a baking dish, season with a little salt and pepper, and pour over tahini sauce until cauliflower is well covered. Serve, garnished with coriander if desired.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Recipe: Tahini Sauce

Tahini is a middle eastern sesame paste, and is sold in every major supermarket (you usually find it in the "world" section. This a lovely sauce, which can be used as a dip for falafels and pitta bread, but also goes fantastically poured over any Greek or middle eastern dishes, like kebabs or over crispy spiced roasted vegetables. You have to really make this to how you would prefer it- adding lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Tahini Sauce (makes 300ml)
2 cloves garlic, minced
100ml Tahini
100ml water
90ml lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor/blender. Season to taste, and adjust levels of lemon juice to your personal taste.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Recipe: Port Salut, Spinach and Ham Tart

Gosh I love Port Salut! I just got sent a beautiful bundle of Bel products to start being creative with, including a couple of "triangles" of this lovely cheese! If you've never tried it, it is like a soft cheese, similar to brie or Camembert, but hold's it's shape a bit better (it's not runny), and doesn't taste as mature. I would say it's like a cross between brie and emmental! You can use any type of ham in this dish, I just used breaded ham because it was nice and cheap. I served this with ratatouille and rice (although to try and be a bit more posh a well dressed green salad would be a little more civilized/healthy!).

Port Salut, Spinach and Ham Tart (serves 3) 
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp dried rosemary
¼ tsp celery salt
250g spinach
160g breaded ham, diced
110g port salut, rind cut off and diced into big chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
One Sheet ready rolled puff pastry

1. Preheat the oven to200C. Fry the onion, garlic, rosemary and celery salt in the olive oil for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the spinach, and wilt down for a further 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the ham and fry for a further 4 minutes. Season to taste and set aside.

2. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Roll out the puff pastry from it’s cover, and lay flat on the lined baking tray. Fold over the edges of the pastry on each side, to create a border. Prick the middle  to prevent the middle from rising.

3. Spoon the spinach topping into the middle of the tart, and spread evenly. Dot the pieces of port salut all over the tart, and bake in the oven for 28 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Recipe: Baba Ganoush

Baba ganoush is a smokey aubergine Lebanese dip, that goes perfectly as part of a middle eastern feast/mezze, or really nice simply with some toasted pitta breads to dunk in! In Arabic, "Baba Ganoush" means "father of the pestle", so traditionally you should bash this all up by hand in a mortar and pestle, but I find using a food processor saves on time and doesn't effect the flavour. It's really worth making it fresh like this- I have tried pre-made ones (even a tinned one!) and they just really don't compare to making it from scratch.

Baba Ganoush  (serves 4 as an appetiser/dip)

2 Aubergines
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for garnish)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 black olive (for garnish if you want!)

1. Remove the ends of the aubergines and slices them into quarters lengthways. Place under a hot grill skin side up and the skin is charred and the flesh is browned. The flesh should be really nice and soft.
2. Peel off the skin and place flesh in a blender or food processor and blend. Blend in the lemon juice, then gradually add the tahini. Add the garlic and olive oil and blend. Season to taste, and spoon into a dish. Garnish with extra olive oil and a black olive, and serve!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Recipe: Broccoli and Gorgonzola Soup

The classic soup that is broccoli and blue cheese! I love it. Traditionally people tend to use stilton, but I find most stilton's a bit too dry, I much prefer gorgonzola because it's stronger and sweeter tasting, and creamier. Plus it's generally cheaper as well. This is another recipe you need a BIIIG pot for. But as I mentioned before, generally when I make soup I make a massive batch and freeze portions for later. This would make a nice starter for Christmas dinner, if you do starters that is (my family tend to just have nibbles throughout the day, like snazzy canapés and dips and things). If you are making for vegetarian guests, use vegetable stock and double check that the blue cheese you are using doesn't contain "rennet".

Broccoli and Gorgonzola Soup (serves 10)
70g butter
2 large white onions, diced
5 garlic cloves
900g broccoli (stems and florets)
1 potato, peeled and diced
2 litre chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp mixed herbs
160g gorgonzola, diced (plus 10g per person for garnish if desired)
100g cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Fry the onions and garlic in the butter for 5 minutes. Add the broccoli, potato, chicken stock, bay leaf and mixed herbs, and cook on a high heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the gorgonzola and cream cheese, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, blend, season to taste, and serve- with some extra blue cheese on top if desired!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Recipe: Kidney Bean Curry

Kidney beans are so cheap! They are only 28p for a tin of basic ones at the Co-Op. A big one pot vegetarian curry or chilli is really great for the wallet, especially if you make loads of it and freeze portions of it for later. I realised also that if you use margarine instead of ghee that this is actually a vegan recipe- thank god I didn't tell the carnivore boyfriend that, he might not have eaten it otherwise! Haha! As well as being a good meat-free main, I'm sure this would go lovely on the side of some tandoori chicken too.

Kidney Bean Curry (serves 4)

60g ghee (or use margarine)
3 white onions, diced
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 tbsp z’atar
6 cardamom pods, seeds only
½ tsp celery salt
1 tsp turmeric
¼ tsp asafoetida
¼ tsp hot chilli powder
4 large ripe tomatoes, skinned and diced
½ tsp sugar
4 tins kidney beans, drained and rinsed
500g passata
250ml vegetable stock (or chicken or beef, whatever you need to use up!)
Large handful fresh coriander, chopped (plus a little extra for garnish)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Fry the onions and garlic in the ghee in a large saucepan for 5 minutes. Add all the spices, and fry for a further 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomatoes and sugar and fry for 2 more minutes.
2. Add all the other ingredients, and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 35 minutes. Season to taste and serve!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Recipe: Golden Spiced Couscous with caramelised onions

Couscous is just the food of the gods, absolute Ambrosia I'm telling ya! Loads of people in this country don't really like couscous, and that's simply because so many people in this country don't know how to prepare it properly. Couscous, cooked in a tasty stock, with plenty of butter or olive oil, fluffed up with a fork, is heavenly. If you just pour a bit of boiling water on it you are going to end up with flavourless dry grains, simple. This side dish is really yummy, and goes very well with many middle eastern, north African and Indian dishes (like tagines and curries and things!). We had it on the side of some sausages and ratatouille actually, which sounds odd but it worked!

Golden Spiced Couscous with Caramelised onions (serves 3 as a side dish)
50g butter
4 white onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp fresh coriander (plus a little extra for garnish)
2 tbsp cinnamon syrup (or use 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp water, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon)
1 tsp z’atar
¼ tsp turmeric
450ml chicken stock (hot!)
250g couscous
40g seedless raisins
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Fry the onions and coriander in the butter with a little seasoning for ten minutes, stirring often. Add the syrup, z’atar and turmeric and fry for a further 5 minutes.
2. Add the chicken stock, couscous and raisins. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, stir all the ingredients are well combined. Season to taste and serve, garnished with more fresh coriander.