Thursday 30 December 2010

Turkey Pie

I think I love Christmas leftovers more than I love Christmas dinner...since Sunday morning I have been steadily grazing on whatever I can find in the fridge and, seriously, enjoying it more than I did when it was fresh out of the oven!

Tuesday evening (after stuffing our faces with hors d'oeuvres and nuts and cheese and chutney) I attacked what was left of the turkey, dividing it up to make 2 pies....leaving just enough for Wednesday lunch (and just enough stuffing, and just enough cranberry sauce).

Using my lovely new red shallow casserole (i love love love it) I sweated a whole heap of chopped leeks, then added some cooked, diced carrot and a couple of handfuls of frozen peas...then sprinkled 6 tablespoons (gak) of flour over the mixture....coated everything in the flour and added 500ml of stock, letting it thicken then a tub of cream, loads of chopped parsley and sage and thyme, and finally the turkey I had carefully divided up.  Into a pie dish (or 2)...pastry on top and then 1 in the freezer for next week and 1 in the fridge for Wednesday night.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

a few christmas pics...

napkins sent from auntie sandi 

present from mummy and dad...wonder what it could be?

oooo shallow casserole 

baked goodies for the dessert table

very crowded table...turkey with potatoes and yorkshires, brussels with bacon and chestnuts, stuffing and pigs n blankets (carrots with hazelnuts out of sight)

pancetta and sage wrapped stuffing with pigs n blankets 

boxing day breakfast...

A not so traditional Christmas dessert

3 full days of family stuff and my head is finally starting to clear, the kitchen is no longer an obstacle course, and I can sort of see the back of the fridge through the foil wrapped bundles.  I'm not happy that Christmas is over, but I am glad for a little break from it all.

As you probably know, once it was decided that we would be hosting this year (our first proper Christmas meal as hosts) I spent hours pouring over Christmas magazines and cookbooks and the internet, planning my menu, planning the weeks running up to it...planning planning planning.  Do not fear, I didn't agonise over it, I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted....then had to change it on David's insistence on having a turkey...and then pretty much finalised it, checked it over with the hubby and....all I had to do was wait, and prepare...and wait some more...and then finally Christmas Eve arrived and I got peeling and stuffing and baking and slathering...

And then David said...what are we having for dessert?

What do you mean, what are we having for dessert? We had this conversation MONTHS ago (problem numero uno)...

Anyway, after a discussion about the dessert and my pointing out that I had ALREADY made it...he seemed somewhat convinced that it would be met with hungry eyes (or...more technically...I'm so stuffed eyes but I just have to have a slice of that torte-eyes) and all would be good in the world.

Like I said before, this was planned months ago...and after racking my brain and all the resources available to me, I turned to the no-fail, always a success, crowd pleasing wealth of knowledge that is my mummy and kindly (very kindly) asked her for her recipe for Apple Bavarian Torte...something that she has been making for ages...always to high acclaim...and, in my opinion, an impressive dessert with little effort.

This torte is difficult to describe, and that is where I got into a muddle with David...he didn't quite buy my description, and was...totally...dubious of my choice for our first BIG Christmas.  The only way I can think to describe it is like a cheesecake...but has a crunchy base (like a cheesecake) and a cream cheese middle (like a cheesecake) and a topping (like a cheesecake) but it isn't a cheesecake...he just looked at me like there was a chance I was going to ruin Christmas (I didn't...I will have you know).

The recipe comes from a family friend of my parents' so it holds many childhood memories for me...making it an extra special addition to my table...just like having my family here with us too!

Well, it went down a storm...more praise than I could ever imagine.

Monday 20 December 2010

Linzer Sandwich Cookies...Christmas baking almost completed!

Well it is cold and snowy...that can only mean one thing...CHRISTMAS IS COMING!! My baking is coming along nicely, everything has been counted and divided up and now...I am just waiting for the time to put it all together into lovely little gift bags ready for gifting!!

This year I have made traditional family favourites, grandma's shortbread and cherry loaves...and tried my hand at some new recipes, gingerbread, panettone and most recently Linzer sandwich cookies.

I say Linzer sandwich cookies in the loosest sense of the word.  Traditionally Linzer cookies are made with ground almonds, but I've got nut allergies to cater for, so I used this recipe which is more of a sugar cookie-shortbread hybrid.  I filled the heart cookies with Tiptree Little Scarlet Strawberry Jam, and the flower cookies with Tiptree Lemon Curd...supporting my local jam makers!!  These cookies are crunchy, sweet and...if I do say so myself....oh so cute!

Saturday 11 December 2010

Gingerbread Stars for a clear night

The thaw has come, the ice is almost gone, and I can see the grass in the backyard.  The days are warm, the sun is bright and low in the sky...but the nights are still bleeping cold! Clear clear skies tonight and I'm about to snuggle up with a mug of hot chocolate and a couple of gingerbread stars I made yesterday. 

I've been waiting for the couple of weeks before Christmas for what seems like ages...and I have been slugging away getting the baked goods for my Christmas gift bags ready and waiting...the cookie tins in the living room are getting HEAVY! Almost filled to the brim with cookies...just tempting me!!

Two of my most favourite Christmas time cookies are Grandma Kay's Shortbread   and anybody's gingerbread (no icing thank you).  I've already made the shortbread, they are waiting to be packaged up, and on Friday I turned my hand to making bite-sized gingerbread stars.  A move away from the traditional gingerbread men...for two reasons...first, I could get so many MORE stars out of the dough and second, well...I just wanted something a little bit different (but still know?).

The recipe I used this year came from the Christmas issue of delicious magazine and I've made sure to write it down in my recipe book so that next year I'm not running around trying to find the gingerbread cookies recipe...which is what happened this year, hence the delicious magazine recipe rather than whatever one I used last year.

oh twistmas twee...

Sunday 5 December 2010

Shortbread Sunday (and Saturday)

I've made my Christmas Menu list....what I am serving, what I need to buy, what I need to make in advance...all that jazz...and I've been going over it and re-writing it practically daily for the last week.  Now that it is well and truly December it is time to get my act together and!!!

This year David and I are hosting our first Christmas Day at our house...only four guests, mind you,'s gotta be perfect and it's gotta scream Christmas...We are having a turkey (as much as I tried to convince David of Beef Wellington) and...all the trimmings of course!!  The thing is...I have a tiny tiny tiny kitchen and a tiny tiny tiny there will be juggling, and reheating and most likely a small mental meltdown.  But for now, I am trying my hardest to bake what ever will keep in advance, and the few things that I can freeze...

Friday I bought the butter....let it sit out (in the tv room....the kitchen is freezing), let it soften....let it get be creamed (by hand, of course) be turned into a batch of fantastic, smooth shortbread cookies.

Cept that didn't happen.

Saturday...the butter softened, it was creamed (by hand) and it was patted out and cut into cookies and baked and...what came out of the oven were certainly buttery...but they most certainly were not lovely Christmas shortbread...instead I found somesort of flattened buttery flakey disks with crispy edges. 

I have no idea what happened.  In a frantic instant message conversation with my mum she assured me (and that my grandmother agrees) that sometimes, with the shortbread, the first batch doesn't quite work....hmmmm...perhaps it was the flour? perhaps it was the butter? perhaps it was my freakishly warm hands?

I decided to blame the butter...the quality, the fat, the cows...and I so rushed (as carefully as one can on the icy pavement) to the corner store, bought some totally overpriced brand butter and sat it the tv soften...

And so, Sunday...and new day...a new cookie! NO spreading, no disaster!

Thursday 2 December 2010

Mini Cherry Loaves for gifting

December is finally here, and it hasn't come quietly! Full on snow storms, closed airports, no trains, dangerous roads and never ending complaints...I'M NOT complaining but, then again, I have no where to go at the moment...the perfect situation!! I've got about a milllion of dozens of cookies and cakes to make for Christmas gifts and, of course, to eat!!! So, Decemeber 1st means it is finally time to get baking!!!

I've been planning my gifites for a while now and trying to figure out when it was OK to start how long can the cookies be kept in tins before they start to go stale, which cakes can be frozen, what has to be done last minute (like the panettones)...lots of thought and planning!!

I don't know about you, but when I was growing up my mom used to make tons and tons of Christmas goodies.  There were tins and tins stacked up, totally off limits...well "technically" off limits.  Most of the treats my mom made were Christmas time favourites...for the most part only made at Christmas...which, I think made them extra special.  This year I am making treats that remind me of Christmas with my family in Canada, and also a few new treats, which I hope will become part of my own "Christmas repertoire".

Yesterday I started my baking extravaganza with my Grandma Kay's Cherry Loaf recipe.  Just mixing up this pound cake with glacee cherries reminds me of Christmas Day at Grandma Kay's apartment...I've divided up the mixture into 8 mini loaves...perfect for Christmas gifting!!

Grandma Kay's Cherry Loaf

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs
2 cups flour, sifted
1 cup glacee cherries, cut in half

Pre-Heat Oven to 180C

Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl, until smooth
Add eggs one at a time, alternating with some flour
When combined, spoon into greased and lined loaf tin (or tins)

Bake for 1 hour, or until tester comes out clean

**I used mini loaf tins, and baked for about 20-25 mins**

Thursday 25 November 2010

The Girl who played with Beetroot...

Hardly an attention grabbing title for a thrilling Swedish novel, but I can't help it...I've been totally engrossed in the Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson.  Oddly enough, as I sit here on my IKEA sofa surrounded by IKEA furniture I have to giggle at the recent Swedish references popping up in my life...I only wish I was able to say that I have been to visit, but alas I have not.  My brother has been, a friend of a friend studied at Uppsala, and there are countless references to famous Swedes in the novels and magazines I read...surely this is a sign (hint hint David...) As the days get colder and with the increasing chance of snow (it is coming...this weekend...) I thought I would try a "Scandinavian-style" dish I've been drooling over in an old copy of Delicious. 

This dish is easy peasy, if you can get your hands on beetroot (which, believe me was more of a problem than I could ever imagine).  The ingredients are...beetroot, creme fraiche (or sour cream), dill and meatballs! The original recipe gave directions for making your own meatballs: ground pork, breadcrumbs, dill, finely chopped onion, a touch of double cream, and lemon zest...but I cheated and bought Swedish-style pork meatballs (they were on-sale and half the price of the ground pork I would have bought...budget budget). you peel and cut into chunks enough beetroot for the number of people you are serving, toss with olive oil and roast in 180 C oven for about 25 mins...then you add the meatballs (store bought or home made) drizzle a LITTLE oil over top and bake for a further 25-30 mins, until beetroot is tender and meatballs are cooked through.  Finally, stir through a good dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream and sprinkle with dill.  I served with buttered steamed new potatoes. 

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Snow White Cupcakes for a freezing Wednesday

It is frickin freezing Mr. Bigglesworth! Thank you Austin Powers and your totally (in)appropriate movie lines! There is well and truly a "cold front" whipping its way across the UK is cold out there! Ok, so I grew up (and up and up) in Canada, so I should be totally invincible to cold weather right?? well..I mean, I sure know how to dress sensibly and keep warm outside, and wear layers and slippers and keep the doors closed inside....but's flippin cold! So...on goes the oven and out comes the butter from the fridge, and now...I wait...

I think I used every ounce of mind control I could muster today to will the butter to soften...soften....soften... but sure enough it did (thank you Jedi mind training) and I whipped up a batch of Hummingbird Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream warm the cockles and fatten me up for the long winter ahead!

Saturday 20 November 2010

Finally!! Yeast bread triumph!!

I am finally starting to appreciate the incredible gratification that comes with the lenghty process of making yeast breads.  I haven't had much success over the past year with white loaves and had pretty much accepted that yeast breads weren't ever going to be a strength of mine when I found a recipe for individual Christmas panettones and thought.....DAMN YOU YEAST BREADS! YOU WILL HOLD ME BACK NO LONGER!!

I've been waiting for an appropriately crisp and wintery day (and the whole day free) to embark on this potentially disasterous adventure.  I grew up on Panettone, it is one of my favourite seasonal baked goodies.  I had never thought about baking one before...In fact (I am embarassed to say this) I didn't know people actually baked them....I thought that everyone bought them in their pretty decorated boxes and that was that!! I don't mind admitting that buying one certainly is easier, and hey you get a pretty box/tin as an addition...but, if the thought of yeast breads doesn't send you screaming from the room in terror, there is certainly a huge degree of satisfaction in baking your own!!

The dough is similar to a brioche. Enriched with eggs, butter, sugar, raisins and chocolate chips this dough is not quite the same texture as the familiar store bought panettones, but, by baking in clean chopped tomato tins the finished product somewhat resembles my holiday favourite!

Baby Panettones
from 200 Christmas Recipes

2 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
125g caster suagr, plus 1tsp
175ml hand hot milk
700g strong bread flour
4 large eggs, plus 2 yolks
rind of 2 lemons
175g butter, very soft and diced
175 dried mixed fruit (or a mixture of dried fruit and chocolate chips)

Grease 8x 400ml clean food cans and line with greaseproof paper that extends above the rims. 

Stir the yeast and 1tsp into the milk in a large, warm bowl and leave for 10 mins until frothy.
Stir in 100g of the flour.  Cover with clingfilm and leave for 30 mins.

Add the eggs, yolks, remaining flour and the sugar, vanilla extract, lemon rind and butter.  Mix with a round bladed kife to make a soft dough, adding more flour if the dough feels sticky.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead.  Leave to rise in a lightly greased bowl 2-4 hours, until doubled in sized.

Knock back the dough and lightly knead in the dried fruit.  Cut the dough into 8 and drop into the tins.  Cover and leave to rise until the dough almost reaches the rims. 

Bake in a pre-heated oven 200degrees for 20-25 mins. 

Friday 5 November 2010

a little bit of christmas cheer (i know it's early!)

On Monday Scott Mills started playing Christmas songs on his afternoon radio show...just one song a day, mind you, but still!! CHRISTMAS IS COMING!!! There is nothing a little bit of Christmas cheer can't cure...armed with a grande gingerbread latte I stirred some Christmas lovin into a gorgeous batch of sticky, spicy gingerbread cake.

Topped with a glorious splodge of clotted cream (yum yum yum) this is the perfect start to the Christmas season!

Adapted from Nigella Kitchen
Guinness Gingerbread

150g butter, plus some for greasing
300g golden syrup
200g dark muscavado sugar
250ml Guinness (I used Newcastle Brown Ale)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I used mixed spice)
300g plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarb of soda
300ml sour cream
2 eggs

o PRE HEAT oven to 170 degrees.  Line a square tin (23cm) with foil and grease it.
o PUT butter, sugar, syrup, Guinness, ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves into a pan and melt gently over low heat.
o TAKE off heat and whisk in the flour and bicarb (make sure there are no lumps...I actually sifted my flour)
o Whisk in the sour cream and eggs together in a measuring jug and then beat into gingerbread mixture until smooth.
o POUR into lined square tin, and bake for about 45 mins, or until tester comes out clean (I found it was cooked through but the tester wasn't totally clean...the cake is dense) 
o LET cool before cutting into slices (and topping with clotted cream!!!)

 Gingerbread on Foodista

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Paella novice

It is funny how many times I find myself about to type " I have never made...blah blah blah...before..." It is hard to believe that over the past year blogging and experimenting and generally being inspired by celebrity and amature cooks there are still heaps of what I would consider ordinary foods I haven't attempted yet.  Now, I am not saying that Paella is by any means ordinary, it is very special (hello...seafood!) but I mean that it is a dish that graces tables in the homes of Spain on a regular basis (right?)...heck it is sold as streetfood at markets in London...and so I am totally amazed that I haven't made it myself yet.  Ashamedly it took Nigella's simple pantry paella to get my butt into gear.  I say ashamedly because it is such a simple yet stunning dish that I am ashamed to say I haven't made it before and it took my latest cookbook purchase to knock some sense into my paella-blocked brain! 

In my defense I have made a heck of a lot of risotto over the last year (and throughout my cooking life)...or perhaps it was my afinity to a good risotto that's been holding me back...whatever the underlying issue has been it all ended last night with the creation and inhalation of my own version of Nigella's striaight forward, no mess, pantry paella.  In true Nigella fashion this seems effortless, and in truth it is...except I don't just happen to have bags of frozen frutti di mare tucked away in my freezer, or readily available cleaned baby squid....but, planning ahead (in true Victoria fashion) I had picked up a packet of frozen jumbo shrimp Monday in anticipation of this meal...oh and paella rice...and lemon...the frozen peas I already had...and the onion and garlic...but I can't declare this to be a pantry paella in Nigella's true sense of the words. The hardest part? you may ask....not stirring!! Oh my god it took every ounce of my mental strength to not stir...

Friday 29 October 2010

NIgella's Spanish Chicken with Chorizo

Totally simple one tray bake...thank you Nigella and all your domestic goddessness!

This takes like an hour and 15 mins to prepare and cook, and about a second to inhale! I totally over filled the pan with potatoes and chorizo...too much for just the two of us (don't worry we managed to eat it all!), but it was oh so good! We ate late last night and minutes after we had finished it was time to watch Nigella on tv... and guess what she made! Spanish Chicken with Potatoes and Chorizo!!! I actually squealed outloud!

Yin Yang cookies for Becky's Birthday

It is my friend Becky's birthday this weekend!! I couldn't wait to make something totally fantastic to take to her party...the problem?? We are taking the train...hardly the ideal environment for carting creamy cakes and delicate delecatables.  I was moaning about the totally obvious problem when David said "why don't you just buy something when we get there?" GAK! Stab me through the heart!!  Ignoring David I plowed though my recipe books and the internet to find something...anything...that would be perfect for Becky, and then...I happened upon this Martha Stewart recipe for two toned sugar cookies resembling the yin yang symbol...PERFECT! Becky is a total hippy child, and short of cookies in the shape of gerry bears or peace signs there is nothing I could think of that would be more fitting than ying yang cookies!!

Cue total un-hippy-like meltdown.  These are the flipping stupidest cookies in the whole wide world!!!  I was close to tears the dough was totally uncooperative and annoying!  I've only made these kind of slice and bake cookies once before, and NOW I do remember struggling last time too...what I will say is that they are delicious! BUT I will never make them again!

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Nigella's Rapid Roastini with pork escalopes

I'm not one for cheats, cept the odd block of shop bought pastry (shhhh).  I enjoy mashing potatoes, I enjoy making gravy from drippings, I don't mind making a cheese sauce, I enjoy peeling and chopping and all that... but when I saw Nigella make her rapid roastini a couple of weeks ago I knew that I would put the "cheat" label aside and embrace this side dish. 

All you do is get a packet of store made gnocchi. heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan, plop in the gnocchi and lightly fry on both sides.  It takes like 10 mins, and they are perfectly crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the roast potatoes! yum!! 

I served them with equally as speedy pork escalopes, bashed out thin and dredged in flour and then quickly fried on either side with a little sauce made out of the pan juices.....oh and a bagged salad (haha another cheat!). Rapid Tuesday night supper for two! YUM!

Monday 25 October 2010

extra-sloppy sloppy joes

I can confidently claim to have read Nigella's new book word for word, page for page and picture for picture five times now.  I can tell you the appliances she has been guilted into buying and then has given away (or never used), those that she can't live without, and her inspirations for each meal.  This, I know, is sad...

One meal that I couldn't wait to try was her BBQ mince...know across the pond by its more accurately discriptive name...Sloppy Joes!! Cue line from Billy Madison...

Sloppy Joes hold a special place in my heart, and stomach! Waaaay back in the late 80s and early 90s my mum used to treat me and my bro to lunch at an old fashioned American-syle diner in the old new section of Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto.  I don't remember its name, I don't remember anything else from the menu other than...Sloppy Joes and fountain pop!!! 

I jump at any chance to make American-style food, especially something that doesn't appear on the menus here in the UK.  I love sharing the foods that my friends have seen or heard about on American tv shows and movies (don't get me started on what they thought Kraft Dinner was) and I don't know why sloppy joes are not a staple here in the UK...perhaps they are too sloppy, perhaps they are too bbq-ey, perhaps they are too...North American.  Regardless...they should be a staple here...i mean...gooey, sweet minced beef on buns...yum yum yum !

Chocolate bake or not to bake?

On Friday I thought that I wouild do something special to celebrate the end of the week, and there is nothing better than a cool, creamy chocolate pot (oh ok....there is cake and cookies and custard and all sorts of yummy things, but a chocolate pot is pretty high up). 

I've attempted pots de creme before...way back in March I topped off a romantic meal with these delicious chocolate pots.  They were baked and then cooled, really tastey and totally romantic.  This week I just wasn't quite sure I wanted to turn the oven on to bake two small-ish pots...

Awhile ago I discovered a recipe for pots de creme on the outside wrapper of a bar of Green & Blacks chocolate, which called for cooking the custard over a simmering pot of I thought I would give it a go, substituting milk chocolate for the dark chocolate since that's what David prefers...

I rarely share recipes, prefering to inspire, but for Dom over at Belleau Kitchen...I have included this one!

Two Chocolate Pots 

200ml single cream 
1 tsp vanilla 
50g milk chocolate broken into pieces 
3 egg yolks 
1 tbsp sugar 
1/4 tsp salt 
Melt chocolate in heat proof bowl suspended over a saucepan on barely simmering water
meanwhile gently heat cream with vanilla
let both cool slightly 
beat egg yolks into chocolate mixture until smooth 
stir in sugar and salt 
gently stir cream into chocolate mixture 
place bowl back over simmering water 
cook until mixture coats back of wooden spoon (stirring all the time) 

Friday night treat for my hubby

Milk chocolate pot, what a perfect way to end the week!

Thursday 21 October 2010

the return of the risotto

I am not sure why...but recently I have abandoned my old stand-by favourite, risotto, in favour of thai curries and stir frys.  I don't know why, I don't know how...but somehow it happened.  Well...yesterday I was craving the chopping and slow stirring relaxation I get out of  making a gorgeous (and simple) risotto.  Originally I was picturing creamy rice with some frutti di mare...a dream which was crushed to a pulp when there was none at the local supermarket...nothing....fresh, frozen, cooked, raw...nothing!!! Wandering aimlessly up and down the aisles, putting cookies and crackers and cereals and things I didn't need into my basket I began to dispair. 

But then...what is that I spy?? up on the top top shelf??  oyster mushrooms? crimini mushrooms? shitaki mushrooms? SAVED!

I've avoided mushroom risotto for a while now.  I was getting bored of was same old same old...but not now!! The simple addition of different varieties of mushrooms makes this simple old stand-by new and special!  I tend to avoid "gourmet" mushrooms being on a budget, but, actually...these locally grown varieties weren't any more expensive than what I would have spent on the seafood. 

Buying them prepackaged wasn't anything like buying them fresh from the grower at my local market in London...but boy did it make my night!! 

And, I must have been onto something...Jamie made a mushroom risotto on his 30 minute meals last night!! Cept he managed to make the risotto, a salad, dessert and some crispy mushrooms as well...

Saturday 16 October 2010

sometimes disasters still taste good

fact one....fresh pumpkin puree is different every time you make it
fact two....i don't understand baking enough to create my own recipes with success
fact three...gaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh

today...a three alarm disaster took place in my kitchen...and....i was totally 100% to blame! i accept all responsibility for the ruining of the scones, i am the one who chose to go off course, i was the one who got all creative in the kitchen...i was the one is just so embarassing! I totally overworked the scone mixture, it was too was too needed more flour....but as little kneading as possible....gaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

let me take you back to the yesterday when I bought Nigella's new book and honed in on her pumpkin scone recipe.  They are gorgeous...they are bright orange and tall and look ammmmmazing.  I had to make them, I had to eat them...I HAD TO HAVE THEM....AND....I was ready for them.  I managed to buy a couple of small pumpkins at the grocery store yesterday and was ready to puree and bake....

Ready, Steady....GO! All evening I had images of pumpkiny scones slathered with cinnamon sugar butter....mmmmmm cue sugar problem...the recipe is for SAVOURY scones! GAK! chili oil and parmesean cheese and lea & no no this will not do! I love you Nigella and I want to make your scones....I do I do I do...but since I finished my last slice of Butternutsquash pie on Wednesday I have been craving its substitute....a sort of pumpkin pie scone?!!

My vision wasn't entirely realised this afternoon...using Nigella's proportions and method I simply swapped savoury for sweet...but with very little success.  She has you mix all the wet ingredients together into which you add the flour and rising hindsight I should have added the wet into the dry a little bit at a time...but, of course, that is the benefit of hindsight.  So the scones didn't rise, I know I overworked the mixture, I know i didn't roll them out thick enough, I know it was still a bit too wet because of the pumpkin...I know all that...I don't know if I can really fix it, but I will give the proper recipe a go in a few weeks once my ego has healed. 

The taste verdict?? oh....they tasted really good with their crispy sugar coating and the yummy cinnamon sugar butter I whipped up, but with out the rise and scone-like texture I just couldn't find that much joy in the three I managed to eat!

Sunday 10 October 2010

butternut squash moonlighting as pumpkin

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!! As I look out the window at the sun and my neighbours laundry drying in the wind I can't believe that it is already thanksgiving! It doesn't feel like thanksgiving...heck it doesn't even feel like fall this weekend...not to mention the fact that tomorrow I will be at work while my Canadian family and friends are waking up with turkey hangovers and getting psyched up for round isn't thanksgiving here in the UK, but I am trying my hardest to make it happen! an is David's birthday we are having a small family lunch today to celebrate.  I have to be careful to call it David's birthday around him...but secretly it Thanksgiving lunch...tee hee! I set the menu ages ago and set myself the task of finding canned pumpkin to make the piece de resistance... PUMPKIN PIE!! you think for the life of me I could find canned pumpkin? There are a few places I knew I would be able to get was sold out and the other was impossible to get to with tube strikes and late nights and everything...

Having conceded that canned pumpkin was not going to magically appear on my local supermarket's shelves overnight I searched around for some recipes using fresh (gak!) pumpkin puree...finding one that seemed simple enough I was then faced with the problem of finding a pumpkin...oh for flippin pilgrim's sake! Short of stealing one from a neighbouring plot in the allotment I was pumkinless and feeling the thanksgiving blues.  Luckily...butternut squash is a fantastic substitute for pumpkin and...while not as vibrantly orange it still produces the same texture when pureed. 

So once roasted and pureed I was ready to go...

Thursday 7 October 2010

Feeling bleurgh...remedy???

Woke up this morning feeling really bleurgh...between sneeze after sneeze after sneeze and a miserable tummy...I did not really feel like getting out of bed...But I did...and I went to the allotment...and I brought home three butternut squashes...and a HUGE bag of parsley...and I started to feel a bit better...

Now it's the afternoon and I am craving something sweet and chewy and well...comforting (as always).  So...only 75 grams of butter in the fridge...hmmmmmmm....I'm craving cookies, I'm craving soft, chewy, oatmealey, chocolate-chippy cookies...but only 75 grams of butter!

Never fear! I've become pretty good at halving recipes lately (who really needs 4 dozen cookies??) so I quickly whipped up a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies....and with a cup of tea....settled tummy!

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Nectarine and Plum Crumble for a rather warm evening...

Ok...not that I was to make people jealous but...Carol on BBC Breakfast has got my hopes way way way way up....apparently it is going to be 23 degrees by Saturday!! What the squuuueeeeeeppppp?? October? 23 degrees???

Well....despite the impending heat was somewhat wet and miserable today (although mild) which can mean only one thing....TIME TO BAKE! So, I don't know what my deal is with nectarines, but the last few times I have bought them they haven't softened...but have totally wrinkled up....ewww...nothing to do with them but toss them into a crumble!

3 or 4 nectarines and a few victoria plums sliced up and tossed in white sugar, popped into a gorgeous enamel baking dish and topped with crumble mixture.  Now, normally I would make my topping from oats, flour, sugar and butter...but for some reason today I had half a package of ready-made dry crumble topping, which I just added some butter to.  The mixture felt really grainy as I was rubbing the butter in, so I had a good look at the package and it turns out this particular brand uses flour, oats, breadcrumbs, salt and sugar...breadcrumbs?? weird....

Nigella's Small pasta with salami

Good Lordy! Nigella is back in true domestic goddess form and looking like one yummy mummy! One episode into Nigella Kitchen and I am totally under her spell.  As soon as she started creating this comforting meal I knew it was perfect for a quick mid-week fix for me and David.  In the time it takes to boil the pasta- the sauce has come together and bish bash bosh....dinner is served. 

Ok, so at first look this totally looks like KD with some chickpeas and salami...but I promise...I swear it is just a simple tomato sauce made from chopped tomatoes with some herbs.  I've used macaroni because it was the smallest pasta I could find....but I'm on the hunt for all those great Italian shapes I know are out there!You'll find the recipe on the bbc food website and please please please try it!

Saturday 2 October 2010

Simple Chocolate Tart...easy as...tart!

Masterchef The Professionals has returned to UK television screens this past week, leaving me slightly more motivated than I have been over the past few weeks.  I don't know what is up, but I've been finding it hard to look at the contents in my fridge and think up new and exciting meals.  The other day on the news I saw a segment in which they claimed the average person cooks the same 5-7 meals over and over and over again. 

Surely I am not average, I mean I try new recipes and foods all the time...right? be honest, recently I have found myself more and more relient on the old stir fry or thai curry to come to the rescue...

Anyway, I was inspired by one masterchef classic recipe challenge...chocolate tart.  Now...this is NOT the baked chocolate tart from the program, but it is decadent and rich and...most importantly...SIMPLE! The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver's The Naked Chef.  And basically, you line a tart tin with pastry and blind bake it until cooked though.  While the tart shell is cooling you boil up some double cream and sugar and then melt in butter and chocolate and, once slightly cooled, pour it all into the tart shell and leave to set a few hours. 

Tuesday 28 September 2010

chicken soup with rice (well veggie stock...but....)

In September, for a while
I will ride a crocodile
Down the chicken soup-y Nile
Paddle once, paddle twice
Paddle chicken soup with rice
Left over basmati from last night's curry...veggie stock cube...perfect

Saturday 25 September 2010

Cheesey Scones for a rain soaked day

The past three days have been gorgeous, sunny and warm....and today...when I am not working...pouring with rain! I know I said I love autumn...but c'mon! Well, I suppose the rain gives me the perfect excuse to do some baking (like I need an excuse!).

For the past couple of months BBC has been airing their reality baking show The Great British Bake-Off culminating in the finale this past Tuesday. For the last challenge the finalists had to create afternoon tea for a tea party held at Fulham Palace.  Well...I just LOVE afternoon tea....and even more...I LOVE SCONES!

I am not sure if it was the influence of Tuesday's episode or just my need to bake that created a huge craving in my belly for scones this morning.  Walking through Marks and Spencers I had to steer myself away from the prepackaged scones and hurried myself home to bake bake bake!

Scones are something you can always throw together.  You don't need soft don't need much of anything really...just one egg...some milk and flour, sugar and baking powder.  Today I was craving something savoury so opted to toss in a few tablespoons of parmesean cheese and a handful of cheddar cheese.  Yum yum yum!

Monday 20 September 2010

Butter Tarts...yearning for a Canadian fall

It is that time of year again...the last few lingering days of summer sun struggling to heat up the day and the almost in-your-face wall of cold that comes earlier and earlier each night.  Cool crisp mornings, sweaters and jeans, and mittens at kind of day! I love love love this transition period between summer and fall...infact I have been secretly counting down the days.  I know I know I know...I live in England, surely every summer day is like this...but...believe it or isn't.  This past summer we've had a pretty good spat of hot days and not too much rain...but I've just been waiting and waiting for now!!

Oh so many lovely treats come with the arrival of fall...corn on the cob, acron squash, slow cooked stews, chocolate pecan pie...and the best best best bit....BUTTER TARTS! Here in the UK butter tarts just don't exist.  I mean...of course they don't...they are quintessentially Canadian...which means if I want one I gotta make em!

I like to think that butter tart recipes are closely guarded family treasures.  Back in Toronto I used to volunteer with a group of older women who told me that everyone's recipe is different, PLUS there was also the debate over runny vs. thicker filling, raisens vs. pecans, depth of the many things to consider.

Well...I'll admit I don't have an old family recipe, but I am determined to introduce my version (borrowed from The New Canadian Basics cookbook) as a staple here in my UK world.  I've not made these tarts since moving in with David and so....there was a slight overflow of filling...mostly because I wasn't sure how deep the tart shells would be when I made them in my muffin tins (I need to invest in some loosebased tart shell tins), but the taste and texture were totally heavenly!!!

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Cabbage and Cashew Stir-fry

So Friday was back to parents had gone more free more more off to the library I trotted with my huge bag of books to return and came home with new inspiration in the form of Valentine Warner and the Abel & Cole cookbook (and a fresh veggie box waiting)

Still being in vacation mode (or at least in I don't want to go back to the real world mode) I haven't been able to really get stuck into cooking new and exciting things, but on Saturday (craving chinese food) I adapted a soba, cabbage and peanut stir fry recipe from the Abel & Cole book (not having soba or peanuts) and was most impressed with the results.

Cabbage is used in asian cooking...and I love it, but I don't think that I have ever really thought about using it as an MAIN ingredient in a stir fry. This dish is basically...cabbage...but a pointed cabbage, which has softer leaves and a milder flavour than bog standard white cabbages.  The recipe calls for soba noodles, which are nice...but not something I regularily have in my cupboard and are...expensive. Instead I used dried eggnoodles...easy to prepare, cheap and worked really well I think.  Basically what you do is stir fry thinly sliced 4 cloves...(I added some fresh red chili) and 1/2 a cabbage that has been chopped into squares about an inch wide, then I added about a handful of chopped cashews and a handful of corriander the noodles (already cooked) and the sauce-2 tsp caster sugar, 1 glug of groundnut oil, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar and 2 glug soy sauce all mixed together, toss the noodles and cabbage to coat in sauce and wait until it bubbles and thickens...and finally serve with more chopped corriander, cashews, soy sauce and lime.  Yum yum yum!

Cromer Crab and chillin with the 'rents

My parents have been visiting for the last few weeks and I am ashamed to say that I can count the number of times I actually cooked on one hand! How embarassing!!  But hey...if their paying....I'm eating!! so you can't really blame me...

My mum and I had a delicious lunch at the Ottolenghi by Angel in London...sadly the pictures are on her camera, but it was a great great great experience.  She had lamb koftas with two salads and I had pan fried salmon with avocado salas and two salads, and I made her share the lemon polenta cake for dessert....I've yet to try to make the cakes at home (he hasn't published the recipe anywhere so I'm gonna wing it) but they are on the list.  Other meals enjoyed included a massive plate of fish n chips at Geos in Clacton-on-Sea...The fish was crispy, comfortingly greasy without being messy and oh so HUGE! We had to trample a few seniors to get a we didn't, we waited in line patiently but I was prepared to use my handbag if needed! And then we hit the road up to the North Norfolk Coast where we feasted on Cromer Crabs...

This was part of a home "cooked" meal...cept we bought them already prepared, or "dressed" as they say here.  Now that I think of it, this was our starter...dressed Cromer Crab on peashoot salad...followed by...oh this is so funny...cornish pasties bought from the bakery beside the crab shack!! One less meal I actually cooked!! oh dear...

Saturday 21 August 2010

Fringing and Food Part Two

Ok, so when I said no chain restaurants....I didn't really mean no restaurants OWNED by the same person...

After our very fried and very yummy meal at The Sea Dogs we just had to try The Dogs, the original restaurant created by David Ramsden three years ago.  Same quirky atmosphere, same mis-matched furniture and crockery, same great service and choices.  David opted for the steak with chips (they were huuuuuge and thrice fried) and I had a small (not really that small) portion of barley risotto with goats cheese and fresh green vegetables (peas, runner beans, courgettes) and a salad of chickpeas, fennel and apple.

Followed by white chocolate cheesecake with strawberry compote for David...and....the best dessert all trip

Whisky Jello with toasted oatmeal cream and raspberry sherbert. This was such a yummy yummy treat that I am going to try desperately to replicate it at home.

Just a little great are the bus seats in Edinburgh??