Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A little name change

Hey Guys
I decided to change the name of my blog to make it a little more me and a little more personal. Increasingly this blog is becoming not just about cooking and I wanted to reflect that in the title.
I also decided the whole red shoes title was already being used very well by one of my favourite bloggers (the girl in the red shoes) and although I only found this blog after I had set up my own, I just felt maybe a change would be appropriate...

Oysters- my fav!
Anyway hope you don't mind the change - and please do give me a follow on here, I'd love to hear from you!!!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Confessions of a cheese addict: Mac ‘n’ Cheese

“Life is great. Cheese makes it better.”

Confession time: I have a complete addiction and obsession with cheese. Forget chocolate, crisps, candy etc it’s all about the cheese for me and the stronger the better. It’s my vice and also my love. Therefore this love affair often leads to a ridiculous abundance of cheese in my fridge and just last night I counted no less then 9 different types of cheese – who needs that much cheese you may ask? And in theory I quite agree but in practice I just can’t stop feeding my addiction to the cheese. It’s all about the cheese. Although I have to insert a disclaimer here that I can’t stand goats cheese –urgh just the smell of it makes me queasy
Anyway enough of my love letter to cheese, what it boils down to is this: I had a vat of cheese in my fridge, it was a horrible cold, dark and rainy evening, and my belly was growling at me. Comfort food was needed to soothe my soul and tummy and what better way then the good ole classic Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Now sometimes you want a simple velvety soft almost bland version which is a real comfort but not me, oh no last night I wanted excitement as well as calmness (I know I’m a mass of contradictions) and so here is my very non traditional version of an old classic – go on give it a chance,  its worth it ….
I’m sorry the ingredient measurements are kindda vague; you have to use your instinct with this dish and just keep tasting it!

Mac n Cheese

Around 100g cubed pancetta
Some breadcrumbs (I used some of my beloved panko)
Around 250g macaroni, cooked for around 10 mins, or according to instructions, and drained
1 leek, halved and sliced (omit this if you are a traditionalist because it will give your dish a strong flavour although using leeks is milder then onions)
Around 25 – 30g butter plus little extra for leeks
2 dessert spoons of plain flour
Milk (I think in the end I used around 1- 1 ½ pints of semi skimmed)
2 ½ large handfuls extra mature cheddar, grated (yum)
1 ½ large handfuls mature red leister, grated
1 ½ large handful of Gruyere, grated
Mushroom ketchup (I use this because I have a total aversion to Lea and Perrins)
1 tsp English mustard (most people use powder as it’s milder, but I like a little kick)
Tomato, sliced and quartered (This is optional of course)

So start by putting the pancetta in a pan – you don’t need to have any oil or butter in the pan as it releases its own oil when cooking. Allow it to brown for a little and then add the breadcrumbs for a couple of minutes so that they are toasted light brown.

bacon and breadcrumbs

Set aside in a dish and use some kitchen paper to wipe the pan clean. In the same pan melt a little butter and some olive oil and add in your leeks. Cook them until soft (this took around 5mins). Now being a bit unorthodox and being a bit lazy when it comes to washing up I leave the leeks in the pan and build the cheese sauce around it, this is so easy and trust me the sauce tastes just as good…. So add the butter (around 25g) and let it melt, then add in your flour. Take it off the heat whilst you make sure that the flour and butter are combined to make a paste of sorts (albeit with leeks running through it). Replace the pan on the heat and add the milk bit by bit, combining each time and constantly stirring so that there are no lumps. When you have the white sauce at a thick consistency (think double cream) add in the cheese

Mounds of my favourite thing - cheese!!

Keep stirring and add mustard and the mushroom ketchup. TIP: I added the cheese bit by bit until I had the flavour and texture I wanted.

Cheese sauce with the leeks - lush
You then add your cooked macaroni and make sure it’s all coated with the delicious sauce. Spoon it into an oven proof dish and add the tomatoes round the edge and then cover with the breadcrumbs and pancetta

Ready for the oven
Bake in oven for around 30mins at a moderate heat. Here's the finished product...

Mac n Cheese: my perfect comfort food on a cold day

I served mine with some mange tout but lets be honest you’d be just as good eating it straight out of the dish. This recipe had enough for around 4-5 portions so I also put some in containers for the freezer, ready to pull out for dinner in a hurry. I didn’t put toppings on these as you can add these fresh once it’s defrosted.

NB: I put the bacon on top rather than through the sauce as I hate reheated bacon when it’s in a sauce (odd hey) and I know that with the amount this makes there will be leftovers! Feel free to go for it though. I love the crunch of the breadcrumbs and bacon, and by adding these and the leeks and the tomatoes it brings this dish into centre stage for a lovely, filling supper!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Warming Autumn Supper

This dinner is one of my favourites; its perfect for these dark, rainy, cold November evenings. The rich colours make this dish make you feel warm just looking at it and it tastes just splendid (plus uses up the glut of cherry tomatoes I received in my veg box this week)! Like a lot of my dishes it's pretty easy and even better its all in one tray - saves on washing up!
Credit to Jamie Oliver for the origins of the dish but I've always put my own spin on it, as I share with you now;

Sticky Autumn Sausages

6-8 sausages (I used Cumberland)
Around 1kg cherry tomatoes, halved
2 large carrots, halved then cut into chunks
1 large red onion, cut into sixths
2-3 cloves garlic (leave skins on just crush them a bit)
2 sprigs of thyme, 2 of rosemary
3 bay leaves
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sweet potato

So very simply put the tomatoes, other veg, garlic and herbs in to a baking tray. Coat liberally in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Mix everything together (I use my hands for this its so much easier)

Prick each sausage a couple of times and then place them on the tomatoes.

Place in oven at 200oC for 30mins then take the tray out, give it a good shake and turn the sausages. Put back in the oven for another 30mins. In this time you can boil up some sweet potato, then mash it up with some butter and lots of black pepper (alternatively you could serve with normal mash, jacket potato, pasta or some crusty bread). Take the tray out of the oven, remove the sausages and then stir up all the tomatoes and veg so it is a nice thick, rich sauce. Serve this over the mashed sweet potato and feel yourself and your heart warm up....


My Monday Bargain

Check out these extremely cute mini cookware pots and pans I found on Monday, I had to share them;

Aren't they just adorable?! I think they look like mini Le Crueset pans and the colours are so funky! There are 3 different styles and I got 2 of each...

I cant wait to use them I think they will be great for side dishes, or to serve stews in, or mini fish pies or for pate's... the list is endless!
But here's the bestest thing about these.... They were only £1!!!!! Bargain! I went in to PoundLand because I wanted some cheap plastic boxes for my crafty bits and thought they'd probably have some and I suddenly saw these! I'm definitely going to be less of a snob and go in there again, who knows what other gems I may find!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Lush Baked Aubergines

I use the word lush far too much. Fact.
In my lovely veg box from my beloved Pete (he has his own Fruit n Veg stall don't you know?! My best friend picked good) there were a few lovely looking aubergines some small sweet red peppers and copious amounts of lovely red cherry tomatoes.

As I'm not precious about having meat at every meal, in fact i think its nice sometimes not to have it, i decided to bake the aubergines and use the tomatoes and red peppers to make a yummy sauce to bake with the aubergines along with some of my Easy Peasy Pesto and some Ricotta cheese - the result is Lush - no other word to describe it!
I cant be bothered to type out all the ingredients but I'll talk you through it step by step. Promise.
Sooooooooooo........ slice your aubergine in half and criss cross the flesh, put in baking tray and then splash lots of olive over them

Put in oven at a moderate to high.
A the same time halve the cherry tomatoes and red peppers, put in baking tray, cover in olive oil and then put in oven along with the aubergine

The tomatoes and peppers will take 20 mins or so and the aubergines around 40 mins
While they are cooking away, whizz up 1 onion and 2 cloves of garlic in food processor, whizz it up until it forms a paste and then transfer it into a pan with a bit of oil. On a low heat, gradually cook this mixture through - don't let it burn! take the cherry tomatoes and peppers out of oven, they should be lovely and roasted, put then in blender and blitz until they are a smooth paste. Add the paste to the onion and garlic along with a cartoon of passata

Let the sauce simmer for 15mins or so.
Take the aubergines out of the oven. In oven proof dish spread a layer of the tomato sauce. Place the aubergine on top and dot with ricotta cheese. Add a splash more tomato sauce and drizzle with pesto (I used my homemade pesto)

Doesn't look great just yet! Bare with me! Pop this in the oven for about 20 minutes and then it will look like this, You could serve this with a salad, crusty bread maybe but I like it just as it is ( although I did only manage 2 halves):


***I took the rest of the aubergine and tomato sauce, combined them and then added some wholemeal pasta - perfect for packed lunch tomorrow***

Easy Peasy Pesto

I made this Pesto fresh today as I wanted it for the next recipe that I'm going to blog but I thought that I would blog this recipe separately as Pesto deserves a post in it's own right. So versatile is the green stuff can be a salad dressing, its lovely on pasta, roasted vegetables, chicken.......the list could go on but I have other things to do with my Tuesday night! There are loads of ways to make pesto but this is my really simple version. Here goes;


Around 2 handfuls of Fresh Basil (though I think 3 would be better)
50g Pine nuts
30g grated Pecorino cheese (i think the slightly milder, nuttier taste makes this a better option than Parmesan)
1 clove garlic
Zest and juice of half a lemon
around 75ml olive oil

My directions are so unbelievable simple its embarrassing

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and whiz it up until its Pesto like. Taste, I could have done with a bit more basil but it still tasted yummy. You can then use it straight away or put in a jar in the fridge (usually keeps for about 3 days). Easy Peasy.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

French Onion Soup - or my take on it at least!

It’s taken me a couple of days to blog this recipe as on Sunday my sore head (thanks Charlotte and Pete for throwing such a great but messy party) made it such an effort to just make the soup that writing it up was just never going to happen – I’m bad enough with spelling and grammar, on a hangover I think it would be pretty horrendous. So hung-over on a Sunday my body was craving something calming to eat and remembering the rest of the chicken broth made a few days ago I decided to use it to make another soup – using the broth is great as it has even more flavour than stock so it really gives you something special.
This is by no means a traditional French Onion soup but I make no apologies for that, its lighter in both colour and flavour with the sweetness of the onions blending with the savoury of the broth. It’s as close to a cure for a hangover as I could find on Sunday and for that I forgive this soup for the onion breath left lingering in your mouth hours after you finished the last mouthful…..times like these I delight in being single

French Onion Soup

3 large Spanish onions or 6 average white onions
Olive Oil
1-2 tablespoons Plain flour
Around 2/3rd wine glass full of White Wine (dry is best)
4 tablespoons of port (yes port because I had no red wine, but it worked well so hey I’ll go with it)
Chicken broth / or stock - you can use veg stock if you want or even water
Splash Mushroom Ketchup (Gods gift to those of us who hate Lea & Perrins)
Bread – baguette is best but I had none so I just used a standard slice of white
Cheese, grated – use whichever type you prefer I went for Jarlsberg, its mild nuttiness worked well in this dish

Slice all your onions and throw them into a pan with melted butter and some olive oil, cook them on a low heat for around 20 mins until they are translucent and slightly browned – I so did not leave mine for long enough so they need to be a little more golden than this……

Taste then season and if you think it needs it add a little sugar. Stir in the spoonful or so of flour so it soaks up all the flavours of the onions and then add your liquid; Wine goes in first and then the port and then your broth / stock. Turn up the heat until it starts to boil then turn it down to a gentle simmer and add a splash of mushroom ketchup. Leave for 20 mins or so and then it should be ready. Serve with toasted cheesy croutons.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Le Petit Déjeuner - Œufs en Cocotte

So last night whilst making my Chicken Burritos I also decided to make one of my favourite breakfast dishes as I have a lot of smoked salmon in the fridge, and after partaking in my weekly French lesson it had to have an element of French Cuisine. The French know their breakfasts and they know their eggs -these baked eggs are so simple and I have been addicted to them ever since I saw recipes from both Nigella (ok not so French) and Rachel Khoo. Nigella suggests that you can make these with double cream but to be honest that’s a bit rich for a Friday morning breakfast, in fact it’s a bit rich any day and Rachel makes hers with Crème Fraiche – I go that one step further and make these with half fat crème fraiche. I added smoked salmon and spinach cos they were in my fridge but smoked ham or smoked mackerel also work well…. I add the extra ingredients into the crème fraiche as it seems to work better rather than layering them but how you put these pretty pots together is entirely your choice. Bon Appétit

Œufs en Cocotte

Crème Fraiche
Smoked Salmon
Salt and pepper
Little sprinkling of parmesan

Take you crème fraiche and put in to bowl (you need roughly 2 tablespoons per egg). Tear up some smoked salmon and spinach and add. Season (lots of black pepper here kids)

You then but a tablespoon of the mixture in a ramekin and pat it down. Crack an egg in over it and layer another tablespoon of mixture over the top. Simples! I then put these in the fridge ready for the morning but you can cook them straight away. When you are ready to cook them, sprinkle the tops with a bit of parmesan, place them into a roasting tray and fill the tray with boiling water until they come about halfway up the ramekin. Place in a medium to high heat oven and cook for around 15 minutes for a nice runny yolk (if you are cooking them from the fridge they may need around 5-8mins longer)

This could have done with a couple more minutes to brown off the top, but I’m a busy gal and I had to rush to work. However it tasted delicious with my toast and the joy of finding the golden orange yolk takes me right back to my childhood…..perfect breakfast any day of the week!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Spicing up my Life: Chicken Burritos with Sweet Potato Wedges

After a few days of bland bland food, today my taste buds were craving warmth of the chilli variety. That craving paired with the chicken that I removed from yesterday's chicken soup led me to decide on a recipe of the Mexican variety. This dish is so simple, tasty and has a great kick of heat - perfect warm and colourful food for these dark and dreary evenings! Please note - This recipe was originally from Mr Bill Granger but having made it so many times it's second nature, however credit where credit is due!!

Chicken Burritos with Sweet Potato Wedges

1 large sweet potato
1 red onion, sliced thinly
1 1/2 green chillis, chopped finely (use less or more depending on how hot you like it)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin kidney beans
chopped coriander
Iceberg lettuce shredded, i didn't have this so just used some yummy spinach
cooked chicken, shredded
tomatoes, cubed
Avocado, sliced
tortilla ( i used a wholewheat one)

So simply chop your sweet potato into large chunks (i don't bother removing the skin although you may want to), lightly drizzle with oil (i used my olive oil spray) to coat them, season and shake on some paprika. Put in oven on a relatively high heat and let them cook - they took around 30 minutes, turning a couple of times.
While these are cooking warm a bit of olive oil in a pan,  throw in your onion and chilli and cook until soft (around 5 mins). Add cumin and coriander and mix until the spice coats the ingredients. Add in the tomatoes and beans, a teaspoon of sugar at this point can help the sweetness of the tomatoes along. Turn the heat down and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes
Yum Yum!
Now its time to get all your accompaniments ready: Shred up your cooked chicken (lovely and moist still from yesterdays soup), chop a bit of coriander (although to be fair i just pulled the leaves away from the stems), finely chop some red onion, dice up some fresh tomato and make sure you've got some lime wedges (I love limes so much).....
I leave the avocado until the last minute so it doesn't go brown
Warm your tortilla (30 secs in microwave does it), spread your spinach / lettuce along the middle and then layer on your tomato and bean mixture. add the shredded chicken and avocado slices on top and then sprinkle with coriander, tomato and onion. wrap it all up (if you can, which i couldn't as i was only having one so i made it big) and add the wedges on the side

And there you have it, one yummy, relatively healthy and filling Mexican stylee dinner!
You can of course add all sorts of things to your burrito - cheese, sour cream, salsa, jalapenos etc etc but I think mine are just perfect how they are. Another bonus is that the leftovers are packed up ready to be assembled for my lunch tomorrow - my office will be jealous!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Chicken Soup to soothe the soul (and the tummy)!

I have been poorly sick, and I am never sick. I managed to contract the horrible Norovirus, otherwise known as the Winter Vomiting Bug, which is about right let me tell you...... yesterday was a complete write off, I could barely move let alone eat, in fact the mere thought of food made me feel worse - I must have been bad. After a rather restless night I emerged this morning feeling a bit better and in desperate need of something comforting but very simple to eat and what better than some chicken soup, although this recipe is more like a broth. There's a reason why they call this Jewish penicillin; once I'd finally made it the bowl of golden nectar instantly nourished and soothed me without making my tummy angry! Now it takes time but when your stuck indoors ill that's not really an issue and at this time of year when colds, flu and bugs are everywhere a bowl of this is all you really need.....

Chicken Soup/ Broth

1 medium sized chicken, no giblets
some chicken wings (I used about 10)
1 onion unpeeled sliced in half
2 carrots unpeeled and snapped in two
1 stalk of celery snapped in two plus a few sprigs of celery leaves
couple of bay leaves
teaspoon of black peppercorns
dessert spoon of sea salt

So you basically put everything, bar the chicken wings, in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring this to the boil and then turn it down to a gentle simmer, really gentle you then can leave it alone for about and 1 - 1/2 hours or until it look's a bit like this:

You then gently remove the chicken from the pan making sure you don't loose too much of the liquid. I then took the opportunity remove some of the scummy bits that gather on the surface of the pan. Back to the chicken - remove as much meat as you can from the chicken and put the carcass back into the pan along with the chicken wings - this may seem odd and it wasn't something that i'd thought of doing before until I read that it really helps enhance the flavour - plus you will be left with some yummy chicken to use in other dishes:

I already have plans for this meat.....

Back to the soup you need to let it simmer some more - another hour I'd say, gently skimming it as you potter by. Now comes the slightly time consuming part but please stick with it, it is well worth it. so you drain it through a sieve for the first time, then a second time and then i drain it through a muslin. Seems like a lot of strain and hassle but when you see the unadulterated golden amber liquid it is well worth it. return it to the heat, skim of any remaining fat and serve:

The photo doesn't do it justice, it truly is a beautiful dish. You could add some rice noodles, some chilli, some ginger, soba noodles, some carrot sticks, some of the torn pieces of chicken etc etc.... I happen to believe that this dish is beautiful in it's most simple form.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

I'm rubbish at keeping up to date but........

I am a bad human being, terrible in fact. I just never have time to update my blog - especially as at the moment I am juggling my full time day job, barmaiding a couple of evenings a week and helping my beloved best friend Charlotte plan her wedding.... life is busy busy busy and I kind of forgot my lovely little blog, which is a shame because I love to write, especially about food. And also opens me up to all kind of abuse from my favourite supplier Chris as we talk all the time about food but I never actually update!!
Trouble is at this moment of my life my time in the kitchen is limited to a couple of minutes here and there, usually to extract washing from the machine (my least favourite job in the world is unloading the washing machine, it fills me with dread). Cooking for me has been severely off the menu, which is sad, very sad, and I miss it and I miss how relaxed it makes me.... so my blog is going to change slightly, I will still be blogging my recipes but I'll also be blogging about the food I eat and where I'm eating it that way i wont be so constrained with what I can write on here......
So last night I finished work and went to see my gorgeous friend Kate and my little Godson Harrison and rather than making a huge dinner we went for the French classic Croque Monsieur, otherwise known as a posh cheese and ham toastie..... its so much more then a toastie though and when done properly they taste so amazing. Here we go:

Croque Monsieur (Posh Cheese & Ham Toastie)

I refuse to write out the list of ingredients for this, its simple stuff you can follow without trouble... so you take some bread and I hate to say it but it is the one occasion where brown bread is disallowed, it has to be white and you brush each side with melted butter and but under the grill so it can go golden brown. Whilst the bread is toasting you melt about a tablespoon of butter in a pan and add about a half a tablespoon of flour into it beating it until it forms a glossy paste. Gradually add some milk in (I warm the milk in the microwave first) until you have a nice smooth and thick bechemal sauce. Add in a small handful of grated cheese, I'm sure you should use the traditional Gruyere or Emmental but we just used some mature cheddar (MMmmmmm i LOVE cheese) and then your sauce is ready. Take your toasted bread put a thin layer of the bechemal on each piece of bread and layer some ham and then some grated cheese. Put the sandwich together and then spoon some of the sauce on top (if you like you can add a sprinkle of cheese as well but we didn't bother as we added a bit of cheese to the sauce) Then put back under the grill and let all the lovely cheese and sauce become gooey and warm. Then Voila! You have the bestest toasted sandwich ever.... .I can only apologise for the lack of a photo but its a  half hearted sorry because these have to be eaten straight away washed down with some very un-French cold beers!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

A couple of tasty soups: 1 spicy, 1 slightly sweet

Its so very hot...... and when its so very hot I like to have food that is light and fresh but is also filling and of course holiday season is approaching so healthy is always a bonus. Both these recipes are also so easy I made both of them in about 30 minutes..... so here goes guys, enjoy!!!

Hot and Sour Prawn Soup

This soup is so fresh and fragrant, and its also surprisingly filling especially if you add noodles as I did.

You will need:

3tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
500ml stock - i used chicken
1tbsp light soy sauce
thumb sized piece of ginger peeled and thinly sliced
2 red chilli's thinly sliced - you can use less as this does pack quite a punch
3 spring onions thinly sliced
300g raw prawns
Coriander, fresh lime and rice noodles - optional

So very simply put the vinegar, sugar, stock, soy sauce, ginger, onions and chilli's in a saucepan and very gently bring it to simmering point, allow to cook at the simmer for about 3 minutes then add the prawns and a few rice noodles.
I served this over some steamed pak choi and i added a sprinkle of coriander and a squeeze of lime juice. And there you have it the most simple and fragrant soup - its truly scrumptious!

Pea and Pesto Soup

This soup first came to my attention when Nigella did a version of it and when looking through the Internet there are many different versions. This however is my version and its fresh sweetness is both light but comforting on a summers evening.

I know I usually do a list of what you need but I'm terrible and not great at measurements with this soup as I just tend to lob everything in...... so gently fry a onion in some olive oil and butter add a couple of bay leaves and a small pack of frozen peas (about 400g) mix them in with the onion and bay leaves so they are coated. Then cover with stock (chicken is best) as you would when you cook peas in water! Leave to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes. Allow to cool for a bit then blend until smooth in your blender and then stir in a few tablespoons of pesto (fresh is best but to be honest stuff from a jar is fine). Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I have also seen some recipes that serve this with fish fingers!! Which may sound a bit retro but i reckon it would be lush!!!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Simple Suppers #1

A lovely old friend of mine asked me recently on twitter to provide some ideas for simple and cheap suppers and usually simple also means that it gets on to the plate pretty darn quickly - which is always a bonus when your so very busy and important.... or maybe that should just be far to exhausted to cook once home from work

Easy Peasy Mushroom Pasta

I really really love pasta; its easy to cook, its originates from my favourite place in the whole world and its just so god damn flexible! So many times when I'm stuck for something to make I turn to the cupboard in the kitchen, which incidentally has around 10 packs of the stuff in it already (bows, spaghetti, shells, multicoloured, spirals ec etc). Why is it whenever your doing the shopping you always believe that you need a bag of pasta? The mind ponders..... anyway my point is pasta is great and every girl should have a range of pasta based dishes in their repertoire!
Now as for this mushroom pasta of mine - its really simple and really clean and also its made with stuff that I usually have kicking around in my fridge meaning that this pasta tends to be a bit of a life saver! Theres no cream which I think can be the common mistake when people try and devise a mushroom based dish, saying that its not to say that this dish wouldn't be lovely if you wanted to add a glug (or two) of double cream, I'm not precious

You will need:
Around half a pack of chestnut mushrooms, sliced (flat mushrooms would also work well, or some exotic mushrooms, put please lets stay away from the boring closed cup variety)
1 onion, chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely (you can add less if your cooking this for your beau.... this of course wasn't the case for me)
glug of white wine (optional)
lots of olive oil ( I used extra virgin as I think it compliments the dish)
some butter
some thyme
Lots of black pepper and some sea salt
Linguine (as much as you need - I always over do it and end up having to bin some...)
Grated Parmesan

So very simply put the pasta on to cook and warm up some glugs of Olive oil with some butter in a pan and add the onion. Gently cook the onions until they are nice and soft and then add the mushrooms, sprinkle of thyme and garlic and allow to cook for a bit. After 5 minutes or so add a glug of wine and cook it almost out. Season with loads of black pepper and some salt. Add a bit more oil or butter if you want to enrich  the sauce a bit. Drain the pasta, add it to the mushroom sauce and toss it all together with some Parmesan (as much as you like)! I served this on a bed of spinach just because I feel guilty if theres no green on my plate..... Bellissimo!

Halloumi Salad with a kick!

As i have mentioned recently, I get a lot of free bananas at work, I also sometimes get some other goodies and this week we had an abundance of asparagus and cherry tomatoes, yum yum! Now I usually like asparagus nice and simple with a bit of butter or even dipped n a boiled egg (lush) but i love it roasted and it compliments the tomatoes perfectly
Now this salad has lots of components but it is just so simple to make and takes no real skill or time - trust me.....

You will need:
Salad leaves - i used rocket and spinach cos that's what I had in the fridge!
Asparagus,  however much you want, with the ends snapped off
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Halloumi, sliced
A bit of red onion sliced thinly
Nandos garlic sauce (optional)
Balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil

So place the tomatoes and asparagus in a roasting tin and splash some olive oil over them and season. Put in the oven to roast ( will take around 20-25 mins) keep an eye on them! Rub some of the nandos sauce onto the halloumi (if you so desire, but trust me it tastes great) then fire up a pan (grill pan is best) and let the halloumi cook on each side, be careful it can spit. Whilst that's going on place the salad and onion onto the plate and dribble some olive oil and balsamic vinegar over. top with the asparagus and tomatoes as well as the cheese. I served this with some toasted wholemeal pitta, garlic mayonnaise (just average hellmans with a crushed garlic clove, squeeze of lemon, S&P) and an ice cold beer in my special freezable beer jug (what an awesome invention)

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Bank Holiday Baking

I know, I know, I know that I have been rubbish at blogging recently I guess life has got in the way a bit. Ive spent the past week working like crazy and all my spare time dealing with my darling friends and their various dramas - which is fine, my role as supportive friend is one I'm both accustomed too and good at. I love them all very dearly, truly i do but it is sometimes exhausting and after such a busy and full week i have absolutely been craving my own time. So when I'm stressed and a bit overwhelmed from it all my favourite thing to is bake.....Now I'm not a natural baker by any stretch of the imagination - I like to be instinctive in my kitchen and I'm usually too impatient to bake. however when stressed and weary from life there's something instantly soothing and calming about measuring out lots ingredients and combining them to make little morsels of heaven - the chemistry of it all it makes life make sense again and peace is restored in my life (especially as I turn my phone off whilst I'm baking)!

Banana Bread (with a little twist)

2 large eggs (beaten together)
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
120g butter
100g caster sugar
Around 500g of bananas- mashed up (I use my hands because its strangely satisfying)
Some raspberries (i used around 200g of frozen fruit)

Preheat your oven at 180oC and brush a loaf tin with melted butter in preparation

I would say sift the flour in a bowl with the baking powder and salt but i don't own a sift (I'm 26 years old, buying a sift is low on my list of priorities) so just bung it all in a bowl together. Cream together your butter and sugar and then slowly add in the eggs. Your mixture will look a bit like scrambled eggs but trust me that's ok. mix in the mashed bananas and then gently fold in the flour a bit at a time. You don't want to overwork this just do this, just gently fold until its all incorporated. Stir in the raspberries gently (you could always add walnuts or blueberries or chocolate chips) and then dump it all in your loaf tin. Cook for around 45mins until its firm but a little moist! Viola -  perfect warm whilst enjoying peace and quiet and a cup of tea

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Simple Sunday Supper

I very much enjoy Sundays; there is something rather luxurious about pottering around in a pair of ex boyfriends pj bottoms (well they say you should take something from every relationship you have and I've found this to be far the most effective thing) after a long weekend at work and a busy Saturday. Sometimes I'll mix it up and go for a swim or a walk, often I'll do some form of cleaning and of course when your in a relationship you tend to do couply things but I like my Sundays to be peaceful and quiet and preferably spent on my own.
Foodwise sometimes I'll be sociable have everyone over and cook one of my rather awesome roasts. As much as I'm at my happiest feeding my nearest and dearest, roasts create so much washing up and leave my cheeks so very flushed. Sometimes I'll go out for a meal with my beloved friends and sometimes when I have no work on the Monday I'll drag my friend Timmy to the pub to get drunk! Today after a bit of a mad girly night out I just decided that a nice simple supper on my own was all I needed.....
I made the pate the day before and this recipe is very much influenced by Mr Slater the God of all cooks but I've tweaked it around a bit and I absolutely insist on the peppercorns - the fireiness sets of the smooth texture of the pate perfectly! Once you've realised how easy and tasty this is you will find it hard to justify picking up a pack of the shop bought stuff!

Chicken liver pate with Peppercorns

400g chicken livers (average pack size me thinks)
150g butter (nice and soft)
100ml double cream
glug of white wine / brandy - most recipes call for brandy but i must confess i had none in my house so white wine was substituted, but it tasted delicious so we'll go with it!
1tbsp green peppercorns (as I've instructed before drain them first on kitchen paper

You start by de-viening the livers, this isn't the nicest job in the world and I do tend to hack away a bit but practise makes perfect. Place the livers into a bowl, cover with milk and leave them for about an hour - plenty of time to have a soak in the bath or do your nails!! Melt a third of the butter in the pan and let it froth and then add the livers one by one - stand well away these babies spit like nothing else! they need about 5-6 minutes and a couple of turns so they are lightly golden but not overcooked after all you want a pink pate! put all contents of pan (juices and everything) into a blender with the cream and the rest of the butter, start to blend. Put the pan back on the heat and add a couple of glugs of brandy, let is reduce a bit and then add it into the blender. Blend it until nice and smooth and there you have it! Most recipes say to sieve this mixture but I find you don't really need to, just mix in the peppercorns and pour into ramekins!

Now leave them to set in the fridge for about an hour. Melt some butter and then pour over each ramekin this helps the pate keep a bit better and makes it look a little bit more professional!

And so my pate's sat looking rather scrummy in the fridge and my lazy Sunday supper involved the great task of making some toast, spreading on some pate and onion marmalade and demolishing in front of BBC 4's "The story of Musicals". Rock n Roll is my middle name honest.

Perfect cure the evening after the night before

It was a rather long day in the office, which let's be honest may not have been helped by me suffering from a slight hangover after a rather boozy but rather brilliant night round my best friend's house (shots of Ameretto and Malibu on a Wednesday night is I admit rather excessive).  So whenever I'm feeling a bit like this my body either craves something really spicy and cleansing or stodge and on this occasion it was most definitely stodge.....
Perfect stodge and all round comfort food is mashed potato, and I'm a complete traditionalist here- quite simply I boil up the potatoes, drain, whilst they are in the colander i bang the pan back on the hob, warm some butter and either cream or milk, add the potatoes back in and get to work rather aggressively with the masher (as the potato ricer is being held hostage at my friend Amy Lou Lou's - she loves bragging about her perfectly smooth mash), season with sea salt and rather a lot of pepper and bish bash bosh after rather a lot of crashing around i have my perfect mash.
But as much as i love my mash the steak and peppercorn source were the stars of this dish so i share my perfect steak dinner recipe with you, although i say its perfect but I'm still thinking of tweaks now, I'm nothing if not open to suggestions!

Steak Supper (Steak and Peppercorn Sauce)

a good piece of steak (I went for rump- lush)
couple of shallots, finely chopped
fat clove of garlic finely chopped
100ml chicken stock (cube is fine for this)
100ml of wine or I think 50ml of brandy will work just as well, when i try it i will let you know!
Green Peppercorns in brine - now I'm not going to tell you how many you should use as its all to taste I'm a complete pepper addict so i use about a tablespoon but looking at other recipes it tends to be a couple of teaspoons. what i would suggest is that you drain them and pat them on a bit of kitchen paper so you don't get the taste of brine in the sauce.
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp double cream (extra thick stuff even better here)
Get your pan nice and hot add a knob of butter and a glug of olive oil, throw in your steak and cook to your requirement I wanted medium rare so went for 3 minutes each side but to be honest given that you leave the meat to rest a while I'd next time just go 2 1/2 on each side. So cook your steak and then leave it to rest on a board. In the pan throw the shallots and garlic in with the juices and a little extra butter cook on high heat, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes then add your wine / brandy and stock. let it bubble away manicly until liquid has reduced by at least half then stir in your peppercorns, mustard and cream. Let it all warm through and you're all ready to go!

My very first shiny new blog

So, what do you do when you decide that you want to do more of what your passionate about?? You start a blog that's what.....
I absolutely love food..... I love talking about it, I love shopping for it, I love cooking it, eating it, sharing it, smelling it..... hell i just love it, its what I'm passionate about and it makes me tick. There is nothing that beats your friends piled around a table, you creating a simple (or fussy) masterpiece to plonk in front of them and sitting back and letting the conversation ebb and flow helped along with copious amounts of vino (another passion of mine that)! Its corny but food brings people together and I cook with a lot of soul and a lot of love.... i also think i over use the word "love" if this post is anything to go for.... 
I get inspiration from everywhere and all manner if cooks and chefs (my bookshelf is straining under the weight of over 50 cookbooks) but at the same time I'm pretty instinctive as i think anyone who works a lot with food is... so this blog is to share some of my recipes with you and open up my kitchen doors and share a bit of my life and food..... I'm hoping to learn a lot from everyone else on the way!
Ive never blogged before so forgive me for any errors, bare with me a bit. And please forgive me for my horrendous spelling and my over use of exclamation marks!
So I'll be found in the kitchen, in the red shoes
Bon Appetit!