Sunday, 30 May 2010

Early Summer Frittata with Cherry Tomato Salad

I went out early yesterday to avoid the impending rainy afternoon and managed to spend my entire week's budget on fruit and veg at the Saturday market in town.  Early Summer veggies along with english strawberries and rhubarb as far as the eye can see...or just as far as high street...

Anyway I treated myself (and David) to some new season jersey royal potatoes, asparagus and cherry tomatoes to create a light and tastey summer frittata for supper tonight.

Carrot Apple Muffins

It is a long weekend here in the UK and true long weekend rained and rained yesterday.  I was trapped inside for most of the day (my day off) and since David is studying for his finals this week I was confined to the living room (shhhhhh quiet) and kitchen.  Nothing worthwhile on tv...meaning the only thing available to me for entertainment guessed it...BAKING!

My friend Clare kindly lent me her Primrose Bakery Cookbook the other week and I have been waiting for an opportunity to give it a go.  On a whim baking isn't always the easiest thing to do...eggs?SOFT butter? proper sugar??  umm.....lemme check...

No soft butter (no microwave either) so that cancels out most recipes...but not this recipe for Carrot Cupcakes, which are actually more like what I would call a muffin.  I didn't have as many carrots as the recipe called for so I added in a couple of grated apples to make up the difference. 

This recipe is really simple, and the muffins bake up light and airy.  I didn't bother with any icing (no cream cheese) but the recipe for orange cream cheese icing is on the list for the next time I bake these carrot apple muffins!! 

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Rhubarb Upside Down cake for an upside down kinda day

Rhubarb is back in season here on the east coast of England and I just can't get my hands on it fast enough for all the recipes I have been waiting all winter to try! I've been pipped to the post by Kaitlin over at Whisk Kid who posted a gorgeous Martha Stewart rhubarb upside down cake over the weekend.  As soon as I saw her post I just had to try it and ran out this morning to buy a tub of sour cream and got baking!! 

It has been threatening to rain all day.  Curled up now under a blanket with a mug of tea and a big slice of cake topped with a blob of creme fraiche...

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Homemade Two-Bite Brownies

One of my favourite of the most moorish...and one of the most addictive treats are TWO BITE BROWNIES.  These little morsels of sweet squidgy chocolatey brownie are so so so addictive and hardly "two bite"...I mean I can easily polish off the bag without a second thought. 
It is so hard to find these tasty treats here in Chelmsford.  I have spied them in the lush food halls of Selfridges Department Store...but haven't been able to justify the outrageous price (and have been too tempted by the macarons and Lola's cupcakes etc.). 

This past week I found a recipe for brownie bites in a children's cooking book (perfect size for little hands) and thought that it would be an excellent experiment.  Turns out it was a success!!

Not exactly the same texture as my dense store bought brownies, but a really nice substitute! These brownies are made in a pot on the stove top (novel??) melt the butter and chocolate together and then add in the rest of the was so so so easy!! 

Two-Bite Brownies with Walnuts (makes 24)

50g walnuts, chopped finely
80g butter
150g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
150g brown sugar, packed
1 egg, beaten lightly
50g plain flour
60g creme fraiche

Pre-heat oven to moderate (about 180 C), lightly grease 12 cup mini muffin tin, divide chopped walnuts among holes.
Stir butter and chocolate together in a small saucepan over low heat until smooth
Stir in sugar, cool until just warm
Stir in egg, then flour, then creme fraiche
Spoon into prepared tins (can be filled right up to top)

Bake 15mins
Let sit 10 mins
Turn out onto cooling rack

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Pierre Hermé made my week!

As I trundled into London this morning...bleary-eyed and sipping my grande latte (not half fat....full fat for this tired gal) I know what...I am working 7 days this week I deserve a treat! And what better than a gorgeous little (not that little) bag of french macarons from the Pierre Hermé counter in Selfridge's food hall. Oh my god...these little discs of pure decadence are easily the best thing I have treated myself to in a good long while!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

words can not describe...

well...a few words can

Delicious Vegetarian Lasagne...if I do say so myself!

Last night I made the most delicious vegetarian lasagne (but not homemade pasta...I was at work all day! sheesh!) EVER! It was a bit of a mishmash of different recipes so  I wasn't too sure how it was all going to turn out...but...surprisingly it tasted really good (applause please!!).

I had some left over butternut squash from the tagine the other night so I roasted that in the oven.  I remembered seeing in one of my Jamie Oliver books that he does a layer of roasted butternut squash in one of his more labourous lasagne recipes, so I thought hey! If Jamie does can't be all bad??  So that was the filling for one layer done...what about the other XXXXXX layers??


I boiled up about a cup of red lentils (with a few brown lentils to make it up to a cup!!) and added that to sauteed chopped onion, garlic, carrot, celery, zucchini and green pepper.  I added a tin of chopped tomatoes and a jar of store bought pasta sauce...let it all bubble away and thicken...and ta daaaaaaaaa Lentil Bolognaise sauce!

Lasagne sheets layer with bechemal and lentil bolognaise with a surprise layer of chunky roasted butternut squash, served with a side salad of rocket and red proud!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Vegetarian Tagine...Harissa Paste Novice

Harissa Paste is a concentrated chili sauce used in North African cooking...and used too can blow your socks off!!!  My auntie sandi brought me a little tube of this powerful stuff (amongst all the other wonderful things she brought me....what a great auntie!!) and I have been searching for the perfect vegetarian recipe to give this paste a go. 

At work the tagines have been flying off the shelf thanks to Jamie Oliver and The Hairy Bikers, who have both broadcast shows on Moroccan cuisine over the last month or so...and I've taken more than one look at the tagine cookbook....while I don't have my own tagine (or the space for it...although I have been dreaming of a fig coloured Emile Henry small tagine) most dishes can be made in a casserole dish...or even a standard saucepan really. 

Meat-based tagines can cook away for hours...tenderizing the meat and creating lovely thick juices...well....luckily....vegetarian versions only take a portion of the time (as long as it takes to cook the veggies)...

Butternut squash, carrots and chickpea tagine served with toasted almond couscous...and topped get it...YOGHURT! yum yum yum!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Thai Red Curry Primavera

Yesterday I needed a hit of some deep south east asian heat. What better than a creamy red curry made with thick coconut milk and lovely bright spring vegetables? 

This vegetarian version takes the amount of time it takes to make the rice...a quick and easy mid-week meal! I've made my own pastes before but without a food processor it is not that easy (or time friendly) so I always have a jar of red curry paste on the go in the fridge, and a couple of cans of coconut milk in the cupboard.  Last night I used up the end of a block of tofu, by pan frying the cubes and adding them to the broth and veggies just before we were ready to serve up.  To ease the cooking time I peeled the carrot in ribbons using my veggie peeler, thinly sliced the mushrooms and spring cabbage and just tossed in a handful of frozen peas at the end.  Yum yum yum!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Beluga Lentils with Quinoa

When my Auntie Sandi was here visiting for the wedding she brought me a package of the cutest little lentils I have ever seen.  Perfectly shaped and jet black these legumes are called Beluga because they resemble little gems of caviar.  I have been waiting for the perfect recipe to use the 2 cups of lentils (I want to use them sparingly!who knows when I will come across these lovely lentils again?)

I have been totally drooling over the grain and pulses recipes in the Ottolenghi cookbook and have been looking for similar recipes on the internet.  I came across this recipe for quinoa and lentil salad the other day and thought that I would try something similar but warm for our dinner tonight. 

The deep black colour, which totally survived the boiling process, works really well with the creaminess of the pale quinoa.  Essentially you could put anything you wanted in this "warm" salad, if I had had cherry tomatoes I would have thrown them in.  The ratio is about 2 parts lentil to 1 part quinoa...but what feels right to you.  I wanted this to be more lentil than quinoa.  With that I added 1/2 a red onion thinly sliced in half moons, a handful of chopped parsley and about 1/2  block of feta cheese cubed.  I tossed it all with come lemon juice, a bit of chili oil and fresh balck pepper...

et voila

This warm salad was really tasty paired with french style pan-fried potatoes (par boiled and cut into cubes then pan-fried in a little bit of butter with paprika), and a bit of warmed pita.  I also had half an avocado... David did not...his loss because it was simply...divine!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

lentil soup with spring greens and yoghurt

This is my new favourite soup!

I would like to think that on the second weekend in May we would be well rid of cold, wet and rainy afternoons.  I know, I know, I know...I live in rains...but in May it is usually a warm sort-of rain, a sprinkling...but not today. Today it is miserable, today it is cold, today it is not nice at all...and today...I am BLAH. 

David and I did our chores in the morning and came home cold cold cold.  I thought waht better to warm us up on this miserable Saturday than a nice big bowl of filling soup! I used this recipe from 101cookbooks  (also my new favourite website) and used the gorgeous bunch of spring greens we received in our veggie box on Thursday with a big hangful of parsley to make up the 3 cups of leafy greens. 

If it is still cool where you are, and you aren't quite ready to give up on warming soups yet...I urge you to try this recipe.  The only change I would make next time I make this soup would be to substitute vegetable stock for the water.  Lentils tend to be very bland unless seasoned heavily and I think that by using stock there would be a deeper flavour...just a thought, I'll let you know!

ALSO yoghurt...yum!!

quick and easy mid-week supper

ok ok ok I keep on going on about the difficulty of juggling work and cooking satisfying dinners, but I am seriously having trouble getting my shizzzzz together.  I have done meal planning...I have prepared food in batches...I have...I have...I have....gaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

One of my staple cupboard ingredients is a jar or two of really good quality pasta sauce.  Nothing with added sugar...just tomatoes, basil and a little cheese...or maybe roasted veggies...or spicy arrabiata...anything good and in a jar.  For a quick and easy pasta sauce saute a chopped cloved of garlic with some chopped shallots until soft.  Then chuck in a huge couple of handfuls of mushrooms sliced quite chunky and saute until just soft (and any water has evaporated).  Finally add your jar of store bought pasta sauce and stir everything together. 

I know it sounds like common sense...but it is such an easy way to jazz up a boring jar of pasta sauce.  Add any veggies you like...sometiems I toss in some courgettes, eggplant...peppers...anything i have in the fridge waiting to be used up. 

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Crumbly Granola Bars with Quinoa

The granola bars I made the other week lasted us about 10 days.  They were dense, moorish and totally decadent.  This week I thought that I would try something a little bit different (why stop at one recipe when you can experiment?) and added about a cup of cooked and toasted quinoa to toasted oats, coconut, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, rasins, chopped apricots and chopped walnuts.  I didn't have quiet enough butter and sugar to combine the mix as stickily as the last time...resulting in a crumbly, sweet and crunchy granola bar. 

Monday, 3 May 2010

Bank Holiday Baking...with Yoghurt

A few weeks ago, when it was REALLLLY quiet at work, I spent more time than I should have going through the Mary Berry Baking Bible copying out recipes (shhhh) and debating which baking tins to buy to fill out my collection...yesterday I found myself with the time, ingredients, new tin and the opportunity to try out one of these fabulous recipes. 

This Lemon Yoghurt Cake was simple to make and baked really nicely.  There isn't much butter (only 50g!!) and the yoghurt and whisked egg whites makes it really light and moist.  I haven't baked with yoghurt before...but I was acutally really pleased with the result! 

Lemon Yoghurt Cake (from Mary Berry Baking Bible)


300g caster sugar
50g soft butter
3 large eggs, separated
225g (8oz) greek yoghurt
grated rind of 1 lemon
175g self raising flour


Pre-Heat Oven to 180 C
Grease and Paper 8 inch round springform pan

Beat together sugar, butter and egg yolks.
Add yoghurt, lemon rind and beat until smooth.
Gently flod in the flour.

In a separate bowl whisk egg whites until soft peaks have formed and carefully fold into mixture.

Bake for 1-1/4 hours (leave to cool in tin for 10 mins before removing from tin to cool completely)

When cake is cooled completely combine 100g icing sugar, sifted and 1 TBSP lemon juice.  Pour over the cake and smooth over with a palette knife.  Leave to set.