Sunday, March 30, 2014

Recipe: Spiced Chickpea and Spinach Soup

So this dish is vegan, and yet I happily fed the South African boyfriend this with nothing but praise and requests for second helpings! Had to double check that hell hadn't frozen over, and that there weren't any flying pigs going over on my way to work the other day. It is spiced similar to Moroccan dishes I suppose- with cinnamon, and mix of tangy flavours (tamarind) with sweet tomatoes/ sugar to taste. If you have any leftovers of this it goes really well chucked into a tagine or curry actually.

Chickpea and Spinach Stew (serves 5)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 red onions, diced
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tins chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tin chopped tomatoes
40g tamarind paste
1.4 litre vegetable stock
250g spinach
Salt, sugar and pepper to taste

1. Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil in a large saucepan for 5 minutes. Add the cayenne pepper and mixed spice, and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add all ingredients except the spinach and cook on a high heat, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes.
2. Add the spinach, and cook for a further 6 minutes. Season to taste with salt, sugar and pepper, and serve!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Restaurant Review: The Rudloe Arms, Corsham

This is a restaurant review I wrote for Total Bath:

Nestled in a quiet corner of Corsham is a beautiful country hotel, with a lovely stylish restaurant, and well presented, delicious food.  The Rudloe Arms restaurant, in the Rudloe Arm’s hotel, has recently gained some interest and foodie insight of three Michelin starred celebrity chef Marco Pierre White. This is very noticeable when entering the hotel, and with many “cheffy” pictures of MPW adorning the walls of the atmospheric and charismatic dining room.

My brother and I visited the place on a Wednesday night not for a particular celebration or anything, but for a bit of dinner and a good old natter. I reckoned also that despite my brother having the most unsophisticated palette of anyone in existence (His opinion of food is either “yeah, it’s nice” or “…..i don’t like it”), with him being a waiter, and me being a chef, I think we would both be pretty good at getting an impression of the place- from the front-of-house to the food!

Soon after being seated and given menus we were asked by a quirky waiter what we would like to drink,  I requested a glass of house red wine (was given a choice or merlot or tempranillo- I chose the merlot) and my brother asked for a coca cola (as he was driving). The waiter asked my brother if he would like him to make him something special to drink, rather than having a “boring soft drink”- a little surprised, my brother nodded. He arrived swiftly with what he called a “Moustachio” (to suit the waiter’s unusual “Dali-esque” moustache)- which was a mixture of lemonade, ginger cordial and angostura bitters, which my brother thoroughly enjoyed. My merlot was classically oaky and smooth, and very good for a house selection.

I perused the menu- simple country pub classics I suppose, like Fish and chips, sausage and mash, steak and chips etc. I expected this to be honest- what Marco Pierre White likes to do with his food is create simple dishes (e.g. Bolognese, curry) but do them well and do them elegantly. The one criticism that you will hear in this review (which feel I have to mention) is that there wasn’t a vegetarian main course option, which is rather odd- I am not vegetarian myself, but my parents and a lot of my friends are, and to not be given a choice is unusual- and is something that definitely ought to be remedied. 

I ordered the beetroot, feta and walnut salad to start, and the Lamb dijonaise with Dauphinoise potatoes for mains. My starter was beautifully presented- the beetroot was very thinly sliced and presented on the plate delicately, similar to how a Carpaccio would be plated. The flavours were very well balanced, and the dressing was just right- not too oily or too vinegary. My brother had duck egg and black pudding on crostini starter, and said that the duck egg was “cooked to perfection”.

My lamb main course was delicious, with a well-seasoned and executed dijonaise (or red wine) sauce- not too winey, sharp or sweet. The Dauphinoise potato had great texture and taste too. The lamb had a very nice mustard and chive flavour to it, I could taste that the meat was of good quality. I must admit the lamb was very rare- but as luck would have it I like all my meat very rare, so this was fine. My brother ordered their bacon cheeseburger (available on the lunch as well as the dinner menu) and some onion rings on the side- the portions were very generous, and I was glad to see that the onion rings were home-made (with a surprising amount of restaurant these days just buying frozen offerings).

The dessert menu was brought round and I opted for the caramel ice cream, whilst my brother went for the rice pudding. The caramel ice cream was OUT OF THIS WORLD! Perfect level of salt and sweet, absolutely delicious. The rice pudding with stewed raspberries was a very traditionally presented dish, which my brother also enjoyed.

I very much savoured this meal- each course was presented well, and tasted beautiful. I also felt that everything was portioned quite well- I left feeling comfortably full, but not horrifically stuffed- something that I think is quite hard to balance right when consuming a gourmet 3 course dinner. The service was warm and friendly- if any of you are visiting Bath soon, take a little drive out to Corsham and have a meal at this lovely country hotel- you won’t be disappointed!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Recipe: Roast Turkey Drumstick

What is this rather "Flinstonian" looking creation I bring to you today I hear you ask?? Well it makes a darn good cheap tasty Sunday roast that's for sure. I've noticed a few of the supermarkets starting to sell "Turkey Drumsticks" (which is the cut of meat in question)- which is great, as usually you can only get large cuts of turkey (e.g. thighs, whole birds or crowns) at Christmas. The Co-Op charge £3.25 per kilo for this cut, so basically only costing you around £2.60 for this bad boy- which will easily feed 3 for a Sunday roast (with trimmings of course), or could serve four if you add the meat to a big curry or stir fry or something. There aren't many roast dinner cut's you can get for less than £3 that's for sure! The trick is with turkey is not to cook it as long as they tell you to- Like this packet says to cook it for 70mins+20 per kilo, making it 1 hour 25. I've shaved 10 minutes off this recommendation- the only reason why people think turkey is "dry" is because people overcook it- if cooked properly it's a lush meat.
Roast Turkey Drumstick (serves 3)

1 x turkey drumstick (usually weighs between 850-950g)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fennel seeds
Plenty of salt and pepper
400ml water

1.       Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the drumstick in the large roasting tray. Rub with the butter, sprinkle over the fennel seeds and plenty of salt and pepper. Pour the water into the roasting tray.
2.       Roast the turkey drumstick for 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, put the drumstick onto a plate and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. Sieve the juices from the pan, and these can be used to make a gravy if you desire.
3.       Carve the meat off the bird, and you should be able to get about 450g of meat off it! Serve!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nutrition: Carbohydrate Factsheet

This is a nutrition article I wrote for Total Guide to Bath:
Fact sheet- Carbohydrates

Many of you may feel a little scared or confused by the recent media highlighting of sugars and carbohydrates- such as the documentary on BBC’s “Horizon” programme, and Change4Life’s warnings regarding the hidden sugars we feed our children. But theres not reason to fear! Carbohydrates (even sugars!) should be playing an essential part of our daily diets.

Firstly, here are the basics regarding carbs. There are 4 different types of carbohydrates:

Monosaccharides- includes Glucose (found in almost all carbohydrates), Fructose  (sugars derived from fruits) and Galactose.

Disaccharides- includes Sucrose (table sugar), Lactose (Dairy products) and Maltose (Malt-based products).

Oligosaccharides- a group of complex carbohydrates, found mostly in vegetables.

Polysaccharides- the mostly complex carbohydrates, and includes starches (found in foods like potato and pasta) and Fibre (found in wholegrain products, cereals, and pulses).

So what does all this mean I hear you cry! Well, in our daily diets, 47% of our nutritional energy intake should be coming from Carbohydrates, with not more than 10% coming from sugars. To keep carbohydrate intake high, but sugar levels low, you need to try to consume more of the Low Gi or “Complex” carbohydrates, like the oligosaccharides and polysaccharides mentioned above- through consuming plenty of starchy root vegetables and wholegrains. If you base your main meals around those foods, and avoid the (perhaps obvious) sugary drinks, sweets, pastries, chocolates and (perhaps less obvious) white bread and sweetened “Juice Drinks”, then you shouldn’t be consuming too much sugar and you should be leading a healthy diet.

As a nutritionist I am often asked whether “fruit juice is healthy”, as it is very high in sugar. Because of the vitamin C content (which boosts your immune system so helps you avoiding catching colds and viruses) , and because fruit juice adds to 1 of your “5 a day” fruit and veg portions- there is no way that I could say to anyone “don’t drink fruit juice”, just because it’s a little high in sugars. I would advise people, however, who may be worried about consuming too much sugar, to not consume over 500ml of fruit juice a day.

How do you fit these carbohydrate recommendations easily into your diet? Well here are some examples of meals that keep’s your sugars low and your carbs high!

I bowl of All Bran, with 40g sultanas
2 slices wholemeal toast, with baked beans
Porridge made with milk, grated apple, cinnamon, and a little honey to sweeten if needed.

1 large bowl carrot and cumin soup, with 2 slices of wholemeal bread.
1 Baked sweet potato, topped with cottage cheese and salad on the side.
Large portion of tuna and butterbean salad, with a light mayonnaise dressing and plenty of lettuce mixed in.

Stir fried Beef and courgettes, in black bean sauce, served with wholemeal noodles.
Chilli con carne, with kidney beans and green peppers, served on brown rice.
Roast chicken, with skin-on potato wedges, sautéed broccoli and mushrooms, and onion gravy.

Hummus with carrot sticks, celery sticks and radish crudités
Handful of nuts and seeds.
2 ryvita, with peanut butter and sliced banana

So don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have carbs- enjoy them as regular part of your vibrant healthy  and tasty diet!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Recipe: Chicken and Asparagus Stir Fry

I love asparagus! It's lovely when the new English asparagus comes into season- especially since if you don't eat it in season, it's about twice the price, and usually shipped from The Philippines!! I served this with brown rice, but if you fancy going even more seasonal, why not serve with some steamed new potatoes, sprinkled with a little toasted sesame oil? This stir fry, which is delicious and healthy, is also an entry into Rix Petroleum's Food Blogger Competition! They have started running monthly foodie competitions, with the prize of £100 of Waitrose vouchers! Now I could buy a lot of scrummy asparagus with that kinda money! (also hot cross buns and easter eggs.....shhhh!!).

Chicken and Asparagus Stir Fry (serves 3)
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 white onion, slices
12 garlic cloves, finely diced
20g lemongrass paste
1 large red chilli, seeded and sliced
260g asparagus, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
130g pak choy, sliced
300g leftover roast chicken, diced
40g miso paste
100ml water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix together the miso paste, water, lemon juice, sugar and soy sauce, and set aside. Preheat the vegetable oil in a wok on a high heat on the boiling plate, and once hot, add the onion, garlic, lemongrass and chilli, and stir fry for 1 minute.
2. Add the asparagus, carrot and pak choy, and stir fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the chicken and stir fry for 2 more minutes. Add the prepared miso sauce and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring often. Season to taste and serve!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Competition: The Great Bramley Bake In Competition

Hi guys, not sure whether you remember but a few weeks ago i posted about entering the Great Bramley Bake In competition with my Turkish lentil and apple soup recipe. Well, as luck would have it, out of about 100 yummy recipes entered- I was one of the six recipes shortlisted as runners up! Meaning that I won £100 worth of shopping vouchers! A professional food photographer also took a beautiful photo of my dish, isn't it gorgeous looking! Anyway, there is now voting going on, until the 23rd of March, and the winner win's a gourmet cookery course/ getaway! I am about joint third place at the moment, with about 40 votes between me and the top place- however, you never know! Please chuck me a vote if you could, on their Facebook page: Cheers!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Recipe: Sweet Potato, Miso and Garlic Soup

This is a very unusual soup, and really rich, smooth and creamy (even if you don't garnish it with the cheeky drizzle of double cream that I suggest). Miso paste is a paste made of fermented soy beans, an ingredient used commonly in Japanese cookery, and can be found in all major supermarkets- usually in the 'World foods' section. I suggest "season to taste with soy sauce and pepper", as this further adds to the Asian flavour of the soup- although you just can use salt if you want. It's important to add this to taste though, as miso is a fairly salty ingredient all ready.

Sweet Potato, Miso and Garlic Soup (serves 5)

2 tbsp vegetable oil
5 white onions, diced
8 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp cumin
1.5 litre vegetable stock
35g brown miso
750g sweet potatoes, peeled and cied
1 broccoli stalk, diced (or a handful of florets)
Soy sauce and pepper to taste
Swirl of double cream to serve (optional)

1. In a large saucepan, fry the onion and garlic in the vegetable oil for 5 minutes. Add the cumin and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add all the other ingredients (except the double cream) and cook on a medium high heat for 30 minutes.
2. Blend soup, season to taste, and serve garnished with a swirl of double cream if desired. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Competition: Come Dine with Lee Kum Kee competition

Hi guys! So i've been shortlisted in the Come Dine with Lee Kum Kee competition, as one of the "weekly winners"! My sticky soy chicken with sweet potato mash has ended up winning me a selection bundle of lee kum kee products. I am also in the running to win one of their "Grand Prizes", of a Samsung galaxy tablet! If any of you guys fancy entering yourself, you have until the 19th of March to like Lee Kum Kee Europe on Facebook, and submit an image of food made with lee kum kee products to their competition app. I think the grand prize winners are announced in April, so wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Recipe: Beef and Courgette Rendang

A "rendang" is a Malaysian beef curry, which is often cooked at celebrations and festivals. Traditionally it is usually comprised totally of beef (no extra vegetables- except shallots, and occasionally jackfruit in different variations)- but considering the facts that I am cooking on a budget, and I am on a diet, I have added a big amount of courgettes to this dish. My boyfriend's mum Marina gave me this steak (which was leftover from an awesome Braii on sunday!) and told me to make something nice with it, so I have!

Beef and Courgette Rendang (serves 2 generously)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemongrass paste
20g ginger, finely chopped
1 large rump steak (about 220g), sliced thinly
1 tbsp turmeric
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (plus extra for garnish if you like it hot!)
500g courgettes, sliced thinly
250g coconut cream
100ml beef stock
35g tamarind paste
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

1. Stir fry the garlic, lemongrass and ginger in the vegetable oil for 1 minute in a wok. Add the  steak, turmeric and cayenne pepper and stir fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the courgettes, stir fry for a further 2 minutes.
2. Add all the other ingredients, and cook on a high heat, stirring often, for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste and serve, with a little extra cayenne pepper or chilli flakes as a garnish if desired. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Recipe: Chilli con Carne with Green Peppers

So many people are down on green peppers, I really don't get it! Even Nigella Lawson (the queen of comfort cookery) says they are one of the only ingredients she will never eats, she hates them. Ok so they are not as sweet as their red, orange or yellow counterparts, but I love the juicy, slightly sharp flavour for them, and they taste really delicious in a spicy sweet beef chilli. I have topped this with Doritoes cool salsa because that's what we had in the house- I have however really fell in love with Sainsburys Basics Salsa recently- it's only 70p and really really tasty.

Chilli con carne with green peppers (serves 4)

25g margarine
2 white onions, diced
5 garlic cloves, diced
500g beef mince
¼ tsp hot chilli flakes
½ tsp turmeric
2 green peppers, seeded and sliced
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 kidney beans, drained and rinsed
400ml beef stock
1 rounded tsp hot chocolate powder
2 tsp dark soy sauce
Salt, and pepper to taste
8 tbsp tomato salsa (homemade, or your favourite brand) 

1. Fry the onions and garlic for 5 minutes in the margarine. Add the beef, chilli and turmeric and fry for a further 8 minutes. Add the green peppers and fry for a further few minutes.
2. Add all the other ingredients and cook on a medium heat for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste and serve, with a couple of tablespoons of your favourite salsa on top!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Recipe: Carrot and Cumin Soup

I'm sure many of you have tried and/or cooked the classic "Carrot and Coriander" soup, but I wonder if you've tried Carrot and cumin? If not, you must, it is an absolutely delicious combination of flavours. You can also garnish it with cumin seeds as well if you want to be schmancy!

Carrot and Cumin Soup (serves 6)

35g margarine
2 white onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
1kg carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp ground cumin (plus a little extra for garnish)
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 litres vegetable stock
25ml lemon juice
Salt sugar and pepper to taste

1.       In a large saucepan, fry the onions, garlic and carrots in the margarine for 10 minutes. Add the cumin and fry for a further few minutes.

2.       Add all the other ingredients and cook on a high heat for 35 minutes. Blend, season to taste, and serve with a little extra cumin on top. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Recipe: Szechuan Mince Beef with Sugarsnaps

You don't find many Chinese recipes using minced beef- I suppose they normally use steak in beef stir fry dishes. Mind you, you get minced chicken in yuk sungs, and minced pork in dumplings, so theres certainly no reason why minced beef shouldn't be given a shot. I've been cooking a lot with minced beef due to it's price- this is a delicious, quick mid-week meal, that is just as good as anything from your local takeaway.

Szechuan Mince Beef with Sugarsnaps (serves 3)

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large white onion, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500g minced beef
2 tbsp Gourmet Garden Thai Seasoning
1 rounded tsp Szechuan peppercorns
20ml dark soy sauce
450ml beef stock
250g Sugarsnap peas, julienned
Salt and sugar to taste

1. Stir fry the onions and garlic for 5 minutes in a wok on a high heat. Add the beef, thai seasoning and Szechuan peppercorns, and stir fry for a further 10 minutes. Add the beef stock and soy sauce and cook on a medium high heat for a further 10 minutes.
2. Add the sugarsnap peas, and stir fry for a further 3 minutes. Season to taste and serve!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Recipe: Coconut Spiced Roast Chicken, with Sweet Potato Mash

Want a Sunday roast chicken dinner with a bit of a difference? Got it all sorted right here. Got my first Ocado delivery the other day (i'm so middle class, lolz) and the large chicken they delivered me- WOW! So moist and delicious, and i'm not sure whether it's the cooking processes of this recipe, or the actual bird itself, but I barely had to carve the meat off it- the meat practically fell off the bones, was so tender. This "Thai seasoning" stuff is a handy pureed mix of garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chilli and a few other bits and bobs. This recipe requires a little multitasking but the delicious spiced plateful of roasted meat with silky sweet potato mash and punchy gravy is well worth it.

Coconut Spiced Roast Chicken, with Sweet Potato Mash (serves 4)
1 large (1.6kg+) chicken
1 tin coconut cream
800ml water
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp Gourmet Garden Thai Seasoning
1 tsp turmeric
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp golden caster sugar
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp butter
2 kg sweet potatoes
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 rounded tsp flour, thickened with water
Salt and pepper

1.       Preheat the oven to 200C. Mix together all of the ingredients (except the sweet potatoes, soy sauce and flour) in a roasting tin. Put the chicken in the roasting tin, rub with the butter, season with some salt and pepper, and baste with the spice mix. Roast in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes, basting with the roasting juices every half an hour.
2.       Remove the chicken, and set aside to rest. Strain the roasting juices into a small pan. Meanwhile, boil the diced sweet potatoes until soft (about 30 minutes).

3.       Meanwhile put the flour mixture and soy sauce in with the roasting juices, and cook on a very high heat, stirring often, for 20 minutes- until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Get the meat off the chicken, mash the sweet potato, and serve this with the thickened spiced gravy.