Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Potato and Wild Garlic Rosti with a perfect poached egg!

I am trying really hard to create meals out of what I have at home...sometimes easy, sometimes hard, sometimes downright annoyingly difficult!! We've decided to do a bulk buy for all of our perishables for the month and to be very very very good about buying only what we need...I think it will work, I think it will be ok, I think I will still be able to experiment...I think...

Tonight I felt like something light...something not too filling...something perfect for this warm spring evening. I decided on potato rosti, topped with poached egg...not too challenging? ha! flipping rosti AND poaching eggs...for the same meal?? Only one mini "flipping" accident....but all was saved in the end!

Poaching eggs has never been a particular talent of mine, but I have to say that I am getting better.  I've had some disasters...but more often than not they are soft and runny.  My mum uses silicone poach pods to make quick and easy NO-FAIL poached eggs. 

Basically you brush a little bit of oil around the edges of the pod,crack your egg in and plop the pod into about 1 1/2 inches of boiling water.  The heat from the water cooks the egg through and...it is surprisingly easy...or at least she says it is.  I tried them...once...I couldn't flip the egg out once it was cooked...but my mom swears that once you get the hang of it you won't go back to the OLD way....

Other than my inability to FLIP the flippin eggs out of the silicone pods there is only one other reason I choose not to use this "life changing" poacher...I actually really really LIKE the slight taste of vinegar poached eggs tend to have from the vingegar added to the cooking water...most people, however, do not like that! ha ha ha.  For now I will stick to poaching my way....but I continue to promote poach pods (I sell like a billion of them at work)!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Homemade Granola Bars...healthier? cheaper? tastier?

Now that I have started working again David and I go through almost 2 boxes of granola bars a week!! Not only does that amount to a large chunk of our weekly grocery budget, but it is also difficult to have a variety of bars...mostly it is just the same thing week after week...unless, by chance, something really good is on sale. 

I thought that I would try my hand at making my own granola bars to try to figure out if it would be at all cheaper...maybe a bit healthier?? and above all...be able to make bars in a variety of flavours...

I used this recipe from BBC Good Food for cinnamon berry granola bars, substituting some of the ingredients.

To be honest the only ingredient I didn't have already was honey...meaning that this batch of 16 bars only cost me the price of 3 TBSP of honey...for the next batch I will have to buy more porridge oats and more seeds, so it might be a bit more pricey...but the ingredients that I do buy will make more than 1 batch of these chewy homemade bars!

Meatless Monday...a special risotto (with an aside of meat)

We've been enjoying some glorious weather over the last week or so...warm days, cool nights and sun sun sun!!!  Finally outdoor eating is upon us!!  David and I took full advantage of this situation and enjoyed a lovely BBQ Saturday night with a few friends.  Yummy food and good friends...what a wonderful way to spend the evening!

Ok, enough about the meat...

After the BBQ was over we had two gigantic baguettes to use up.  Baguettes are totally a weakness of mine.  There is nothing quite like ripping off the end of a fresh baguette and munching on it while walking around the market...or slathering a big chunk with lovely soft butter...mmmmm

However, baguettes do not stay fresh for long.  We managed to use a whole baguette Sunday between lunch and mushroom sandwiches for supper...but what to do with the whole other stick? hmmmmmm

Bruschetta with roasted tomatoes and roasted red peppers...and some rubbed with garlic (i only had a handful of cherry tomatoes and one pepper).  I have never roasted a pepper before...I just cut it in half, rubbed it with oil and baked until soft.  It tasted really yummy and these bruschetta were a nice accompaniment to our meatless monday risotto!

Tonight's risotto wasn't just my regular stand-by risotto.  We received a gorgeous bunch of fresh asparagus in the veggie delivery on Thursday...and then today the Arborio rice that I usually, and have always, used to make my risotto was substituted (thank you Waitrose) with the more expensive and starchier Carnaroli rice.  In all honesty...I could tell the difference in the rice texture and the final consistency of my risotto.  I think this may become my rice of choice...worth the extra pennies.   

Thursday, 22 April 2010

yearning for an Al fresco lunch...

I've been sent a message telling me that by working I am taking too much time away from my blog...and you know what? it is true! I haven't been able to upload anything in AGES...stupid work taking up all my time...stupid work stifling my creativity....stupid work ruining my time in the kitchen...hmmmmmm...

Well...I am now off from work for a week and so I hope my creative juices will once again start flowing more freely...for now I am enjoying the sunny weather...seedlings are sprouting, laundry is drying and it is almost time to christen our brand new BBQ!!  I've just finished enjoying my ode to Al fresco lunches (inside)...

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Cauliflower Cheese Pie...side or main??

Tonight's meal was a bit of an open the fridge and create something from nothing kind of meal...basically I had a gigantic cauliflower and that was about it!! My cauliflower repitoire is rather limited to cold cauliflower salad, soup, curry or cheese... I knew I didn't want a curry and David and I had soup for supper a few nights ago...after looking though some books and on the internet I decided to use some leftover cheese, cream and bacon to make a cauliflower cheese pie.  When I was out and about today I picked up a package of puff pastry and that's about all I needed!!! 

Before this morning I didn't even know there was such a thing as cauliflower cheese pie...I mean cauliflower cheese makes for an excellent side dish...but a pie?? Some of the recipes I saw on-line suggested putting the cauliflower in the pie mixture RAW and letting the heat from the oven/sauce cook it...I wasn't down with that...I love raw cauliflower (with dip) but not in a hot pie! So I par-boiled the cauliflower first...made the cheese sauce...and fried some bacon and shallots...mixed it all together, added some frozen peas...poured it all into a gorgeous enamel pie dish...topped with some puff pastry and baked!! 

Easy as....well...PIE! 

Originally, I was going to serve this just with a side of coleslaw...but then I remembered the two cooked chicken legs sitting in my fridge from last night....perfect! cold chicken, hot and cheesey cauliflower pie and crunchy coleslaw...CC and C!!

Taking this chance to show off the new oil cloth on our kitchen table...I love polkadots!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Orzotto...a switch up on my usual go-to meal

Hailing from Friuli in Northern Italy (close to the borders with Austria and Slovenia) Orzo, or barley, is a staple and...as I discovered yesterday...an excellent substitution for rice in Risotto...making it ORZOTTO (how clever!)  Seeing as my mother's family comes from not too far down the road from Friuli I figured I couldn't go wrong trying my hand at this regional dish (it has to be in my blood...right?)

Those of you who have been following for a while will know, and appreciate, how much I love making a risotto. I love chopping, I love stirring and I love seeing it evolve from individual grains of uncooked rice to a creamy, soft blob of yummyness. Last night Raymond Blanc made a risotto on his TV show, which he LEFT TO COOK WITHOUT STIRRING...I just had to look away...

When I was cooking this Orzotto, however, I paid it far far too much attention...mostly because I had never cooked barley this way before.  I didn't know how it would soak up the stock, I didn't know if it would get sticky...I didn't really know anything...

At the end of it all...I had cubed and roasted a small butternut squash, sauteed some sliced chestnut mushrooms in advance and then got down to sweating my leeks and toasting my barley and then...adding stock...ladle by ladle until it seemed (to me) just right.  

Tasty and slightly chewy this comforting and satisfying orzotto was, for me, more filling than a risotto.  I hadn't been sure how the orzotto would taste, or the texture, so I thought that I would serve smaller portions with a salad (leftovers in the fridge)...it was a great combination!!   

Monday, 12 April 2010

Working up an Appetite!

Sunday was by far the most glorious day we have had in a few weeks.  I mean, it has been sunny and warm and all that jazz for the last week or so...but on Sunday I had David all to myself...finally!! No work, no family, no friends...just us us us!!  We went out early, picked up a couple of lattes for fuel and then trudged along the river for a FOUR MILE WALK!...just exploring the River Chelmer, the wildlife and the wilderness. 

I was so surprised to find a series of locks and a whole bunch of narrowboats just on my doorstep! Seriously, it was such a wonderful adventurous walk along the river, exploring our community...and I can't wait to venture a little bit further next time! The whole river walk is 12 miles ONE WAY from Chelmsford to Heybridge (on the sea!!)..so I doubt we will be able to do a there and back walk...but I would LOVE to make it out there sometime in the future!! We can totally rely on public transportation to get us back home, right???  The only down side to the walk was that the river totally runs through the middle of nowhere!! It doesn't run through the centre of any little town...so...no pubs to stop off at for refreshments/relief!!!

We totally worked up an appetite, which was all the better since I had planned on making a slow roast pork belly for Sunday Dinner.  I have been itching to try Jamie Oliver's Slow Roast Pork Belly with Fennel recipe from Cook with Jamie...and finally I got around to buying a piece of pork belly during the week.  Originally I had thought that I would be able to just pop it in the oven before we set out on our adventure...but it is actually a recipe that requires attention every hour (BAHHHH)...anyway...we had planned on being home with enough time to slow cook the pork in time for dinner, so I just had to wait until we returned from the walk to pop it in the oven.  The pork belly is rubbed with crushed fennel seeds and then slow roasted ONTOP of fennel bulbs with white wine....it smelt amazing...it tasted amazing...

Pork Belly has a surprisingly rich taste.  Cooked this way the meat is tender and juicy and the fat is crispy and made me feel so greedy and gluttonous...but oh so heavenly!!!  Needless to say...we waited a good 3 hours before serving up dessert. 

Now that I have tried to make my own pastry (and had a positive expereince) I have totally felt my confindence grow and so when I was home alone Saturday night I made this simple and totally tasty French Apple Tart from Raymond Blanc's latest tv series. He calls it Tart Maman Blanc because it is the tart his maman used to make for them.  It was simple, and best of all...the pastry doesn't have to be blind baked!!!  I am a total sucker for french flans...fruit and custard baked in a tart shell...and this did not disappoint!  

But the nicest thing...my mum made it too! In Toronto!  But she changed it up a bit!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

tartelette au citron...pining for Paris

I've got a few days off from work...the sun is shining...the flowers are blooming...jackets are optional...and I am pining for Paris.  I've been addictively watching Raymond Blanc's most recent cooking show on TV dreaming off all things French.  To ease my pain I whipped up a small batch of lemon curd this morning and made these tartelettes au citron.  I just happened to have some pastry leftover from making the quiche on Tuesday. There is something about the delicate small pastries that are so prominetly and gracefully displayed in the windows of the patisseries of Paris.  While not bite-sized...these THREE bite (lady-like bites) lemon tarts lifted my spirits today!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Pastry making and Quiche...

Yesterday I finished work early so thought I would challenge myself at dinner time...take the time and try something totally new for me...Pastry! You might not believe me, but it is true...I have never really made (at least sucessfully) pastry...sweet or savoury! I knew I was finishing work early, so I was able to PLAN ahead and at least I knew in my head that I was going to attempt pastry and a quiche for supper...

After rushing around collecting bits and bobs for supper and the week from the grocery store (and having to go back for the flour, butter and lard)...I finally made it home and got down to pastry making! Well...for some flipping reason yesterday was the day that my kitchen decided to be hotter than you wold imagine! It has been cool verging on FREEZING for the last 4 months...and now...the day I want to make pastry...it is steaming!! PLUS my hands were hot!! GAHHHHHH!! Surprisingly, the pastry came together quite well, and it rolled out easily...blindbaked easily and in the end, was pretty satisfying!

The filling was a bit of a mash-up.  I took the wet proportions from a Raymond Blanc Quiche Lorraine recipe...5 EGGS/200ML HEAVY CREAM but added sauteed leeks and mushrooms to the cooked bacon lardons and sprinkled with Gouda cheese.  The egg seeped over the edge a bit (I wobbled a bit lifting it into the oven) making some of the pastry a bit spongey...but the majority of the pastry was WONDERFUL!

I am really proud of my first attempt at this easy meal and am already planning my next pastry adventure!!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Slow Cooked Oxtail for Easter

I know traditional Easter feasts usually include some spring lamb...images of baby animals, little bunnies and of course chocolate eggs...you know getting ready for the beginning of the new growing season...but the weather has just been so so so miserable recently and I have been working like NON STOP all I wanted was a rich, dark slow cooked stew...proper comfort and properly warming. 

A couple of weeks ago I borrowed from the library A Year in My Kitchen by Skye Gyngell (head chef at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond) and just knew her recipe for Braised Oxtail with ginger, five spice and garlic was going to be the perfect mix of comforting English Stew mixed with the heat from South East Asia.  Surprisingly the recipe only calls for 2 hours total cooking time (on the stove top)...I didn't really feel that it was going to be "stew-y" enough for me by the time 1 1/2 hours were up so I transferred the dish into the oven and cooked for a further 2 hours...the meat was falling off the bone and it was (in my opinion) perfect!

Because I cooked the stew for so long the flavours from the ginger, garlic, chillies and chinese five spice definetly were different from if I had followed Skye's recipe timings...I think her's is meant to taste more South East Asain inspired...but the heat from the chillies and ginger was lovely with the ox tail.  I served the stew just over some mashed potatoes. I think if the Asian flavours had been stronger I would have served rice or sweet potato mash (as suggested in Skye's book).  Regardless...so so so yummy...either way!

Most of Skye Gyngell's recipes include a combination of flavours to achieve Agra-dolce...a balance and harmony from contrasting tastes like salty (or savoury) with sweet...totally complimenting eachother.  So into the oxtail stew I added (in the last 20 mins of cooking) fish sauce, soy sauce and maple syrup...salty, sticky and sweet all together! Seriously different, and seriously yummy!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Lentils coming out my ears!!

Work work work...so much work...I totally loved the shepherds pie I made at the beginning of the week so I thought that I would try my hand at another lentil dish for Friday night's dinner.  We sort of celebrated Good Friday on Thursday with a totally yummy fish n chip supper so Friday night's dinner wasn't much of a Easter Celebration...

Vegetarian Lentil Burgers wrapped in lettuce leaves.  I found a recipe for lentil burgers on 101 Cookbooks and adapted it slightly with my own ideas from lentil burgers I have had before.  The base of the burgers was Puy Lentils, but brown or black lentils would be just as nice (they hold their shape really well).  To that I added chopped onion, chopped red chili, chopped parsley and grated carrot,  along with fresh bread crubs and a couple of eggs.  The mixture was way to wet in my opinion so I stirred through about a 1/4 cup of white flour just to bind it all a bit better.  I simply pan fried them and wrapped them in a lettuce leaf...iceburg for crunch...they were so so so yummy and the mixture made lots!! So...lunch tomorrow at work will be able to help me through the day!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

A trio of Lemon Sables with white chocolate

A couple of weeks ago I was at a friend's house and she served some amazing lemon butter cookies dipped in white chocolate.  She had bought them at a TO DIE FOR eatery in Pimlico, London called Daylesford Organics...anyway, the cookies were so so so nice ( I had to stop myself from eating the whole packet) and I thought...hey! I could totally make these! So I did!  I used this recipe from AlpineBerry and was pretty pleased with the results...Although next time I am going to add more lemon zest and some lemon juice...they just weren't lemony enough.

You can have the plain, or dipped in chocolate (like the original inspiration)

Or sandwiched together (like a whoopiepie) with melted white chocolate

All wrapped up ready for an adult easter treat!

Happy Easter!!  xo

A Lentil Based Shepherds Pie (to make up for the miserable meatless monday)

Tuesday the weather let up and bit, and so did my mood, allowing me a small window of time to wander into town and buy some supplies for the week (you know bread for sandwiches and other lunch stuff...)  Not only did I have time to wander into town but I also had time to tackle the "batch cooking" I needed to get used to doing.  My first proper attempt at batch cooking...now that i am a working housewife...and I thought that I would make a big batch of Shepherds Pie...but with LENTILS!

I used this recipe from the BBC good food website. It took about an hour to actually cook the filling because I used dried lentils, but you could just as easily use canned green lentils.  This recipe made an unbelievable amount of filling...enough for two casserole dishes for 4 people AND my two ramekins...so 10 servings in all (3 meals for us plus left overs for lunches for me!) I decided to top Tuesday's pie with sweetpotato mash (a nice change) and topped the other with regular mashed potatoes (to freeze).  The flavour was actually really close to my idea of cottage pie or shepherds pie..the texture is obviously different but really nice in my opinion. 

David really enjoyed it.  And then...after dinner...when we were watching tv....Sophie Dahl made Lentil Shepherds Pie on her new cooking show The Delicious Miss Dahl!

AWARD! to lift the weather blues!

Thank you so much to the wonderful Jenny at Be Delicious for this gorgeous and totally awesome award! It has totally lifted my spirits!! Thanks Jenny! :)

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