Thursday, 30 October 2014

Blogtober Day 30: Facts about me

I love rain and thunderstorms and puddles, I like to be cold so living in the UK makes perfect sense for me

I am the worlds silliest and craziest dancer i look really mad but I love it and I love making people laugh when I'm dancing

My siblings are my world and I would honestly do anything for them, I love them so much and our bond is so special 

There is a  19 years and 7 month age gap between me and my love

 I am pretty photogenic but also maybe just a little bit vain

I tell my sister jenni everything even though i probably shouldn't- I've probably put her of men for life 

I still feel like a completely geeky, gawky, clumsy young girl 

I always have tomato ketchup sachets and a tube of english mustard in my handbag 

Recently I became a published food writer which was a dream come true. In the future I would like this to be my full time career 

 I am incredibly loyal and would do anything for my friends and family, even if I haven't spoken to you in ages I would drop anything to help a friend out 

One of my greatest achievements was getting my first and no matter what people say no one can take that away from me 

 Although i have been really hurt I would never change a second of any of the experiences I've had in life- they have made me who I am, be that a good or bad thing 

 I have a few close friends- they know who they are and without them i would be lost 

I love champagne and Prosecco they are my favourite thing ever 

I love cooking, I love going out for meals, I love flavours, I love menus, I love food full stop 

I am incredibly honest and very open about things, I like to think that this is why I'm quite good at giving advice 

I always have my phone on silent even though it drives my friends and H batty 

Sometimes I get so happy and excited about life I really want to walk along the streets dancing and singing 

I talk to myself ALL THE TIME its really embarrassing but Its one of the reasons I'm quirky

When I was younger I used to always look for drama in life, now I actively don't- life's complicated enough!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Cheesecake of the chocolate variety......... {Chocolate Cheesecake}

Fact # 1 - I am not great at making puddings look pretty

Fact # 2 - I do make great tasting puddings, so yes, there's that

I made this for a friend's dinner party we went to at the weekend. I always offer to do dessert if I am going to a dinner party. Or the starter. An I always take a bottle or two of wine and some flowers / chocolates for the host. Because it's not easy to host dinner parties but they are such wonderful occasions. I add the baileys because it tastes good but you can leave it out if so wish. The inspiration for this recipe came  from Lorraine Pascale's Home Cooking Made Easy 

Chocolate Cheesecake 

450g chocolate digestives or oreo cookies, crushed 
75g butter, melted 
800g cream cheese 
5 TBSP baileys liqueur 
2 TBSP icing sugar
500g milk chocolate 
100g white chocolate 
vegetable oil 

take the crushed biscuits and the melted butter and combine in a bowl. press the mixture in greased spring form tin, cover and place in fridge for half an hour. combine the icing sugar, cream cheese and baileys in a bowl. melt 350g of the chocolate in a bowl (a little vegetable oil helps) and spoonful by spoonful add the cream cheese mixture in the melted chocolate until combined and you have a silky smooth chocolate mixture. pour on top of your biscuit base, level off and then refrigerate for a further hour or so. melt the remaining milk chocolate and white chocolate (separately) and spread the milk chocolate on top of the cheesecake. take the white chocolate and pipe thin lines on to the cheese cake and use a cocktail stick to drag the pattern - this is where I struggle to make things look pretty, but who cares, everyone loved the taste! 

Today I'm linking up with Fitness Blondie - I know this isn't healthy but it's great as a treat! Happy Hump Day!

The Hump Day Blog Hop

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Italian Tomato Toasts..... {Bruschetta}

I love Italy for so many reasons (I wrote about it here) but one of the main reasons is the food. It's where I first fell in love with cooking, where I learnt to ramp of my cooking, to appreciate flavours and textures and most importantly to respect ingredients. If you have a piece of fish fresh from the boat cook it simply with the gentlest of seasoning, if you have a piece of fresh bread rub it with a juicy fresh garlic and a drizzle of local olive oil, ripe peaches are amazing if you grill them and serve with a drizzle of honey... you catch my drift. Simplicity is the key to beautiful Italian cooking and having a glut of tomatoes growing in the garden I used them to make this simple, traditional Italian starter which is done so badly throughout the UK in fake Italian restaurants. This is how it should be done. 

 Italian Bruschetta

400g cherry tomatoes, roughly diced - I used red and yellow
1/4 red onion, very finely diced
balsamic vinegar
good quality olive oil
Ciabatta loaf (or any other stone baked white loaf), cut into thin slices and toasted
clove of garlic

take the tomatoes and onion and mix together with a small dash of balsamic vinegar and a good glug of olive oil. season well and then leave to rest at room temperature for at least half an hour so flavours can develop. Take the toasted bread and rub one side of each piece with the garlic and a drizzle of olive oil. when ready to serve, add a spoonful of bruschetta onto each toast and a couple of the really small leaves of basil for decoration. This is a great canape or starter and goes very well with a chilled glass of prosecco

Linking up with Honest Mum 

Tasty Tuesdays on

Eat Drink & Be Mary

Monday, 27 October 2014

When One Raids the Contents of Ones Fridge......... {Spanish Wild Rice}

The other day was one of those days when I hadn't planned what we were going to eat, I had no idea what I wanted us to eat and I hadn't gone to the shop to buy anything to eat so I just opened the fridge and cupboard and cobbled something together. I like cooking like that as I'm a firm believer that if you trust your experience of flavours, textures and ingredients there's always something that can be made from not much at all and as a budding cook its the best way to learn. This was a sort of combination of a basque and a paella and it tasted wonderful; the oil for the chorizo and the peppers delicately flavouring the nutty rice. I had to blog it as H loved it so much and I need to remember the recipe....

Spanish Wild Rice  

150g Chorizo, sliced in to circles size of pound coin 
one chicken breast cut into chunks 
one large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
1/2 orange pepper, sliced
approx 200g cooked wild rice 
200ml chicken stock
100ml white wine 
1 TBSP tomato puree 
couple handfuls frozen peas

cook the chorizo in the pan, remove with slotted spoon. add chicken and cook in the chorizo oil, one cooked through and golden brown remove, add onion garlic and pepper to pan and cook until soften. add in the chorizo and chicken with tomato puree, stock and wine cook off for a couple of minutes before adding rice and frozen peas, season and transfer to oven proof dish and place in oven 200oC for approx 30-40minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the dish is piping hot. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Blogtober Day 22 : My Pet Peeves.... {rant ahead}

Confession: I am a pretty irritable and impatient person. It's funny because even though I like to think I'm pretty chilled out and calm about life in general I definitely have things that I get abnormally irritated by. H also says I have a time limit on my patience - if he starts to exceed it I will just take over. I say if you want a job done well, do it yourself.

Here are just a few of the things that wind me up:

1. Chewing with your mouth open. It's disgusting, it makes you look ugly, just stop.

2. Talking loudly on the phone when on a train. I don't care that "what Cheryl said to Paul was so f**cking amazing babe", I don't know you, I don't want to know your business, Shut Up. 

3. Vague Facebook status updates oh just spit it out or shut up 

4. Friends who don't put kisses at the end of texts. A text with no xxx at the end, is a text with no soul.

5. LOL, if i think what you say is funny I may just laugh out loud but please don't ever tell me too. 

6. And whilst we are at it ROLF, WTF, YOLO etc these are not cute, they are not clever they are just annoying, lest we forget! And don't even get me started to people who actually say it as well as write it 

7. People singing in American accents when they are British oh how I roll my eyes at this 

8. Not sealing food up properly so it goes stale H is THE WORST at doing this - it drives me bananas

9. Background noise when I'm trying to concentrate When I am trying to watch something/ concentrate on cooking etc and I can hear someones TV or people walking about in the flat upstairs I just can't cope with it. I like peace and quiet but so rarely get to experience it

10. Selfishness  I've just spent three and a half hours listening to you talk about your boyfriend's sister who just bought a puppy, after cooking you dinner and sharing my wine with you; you could at least ask me how my lunch was. 

Lets be honest, now I've started I could quite easily continue.......

What are your pet peeves? 

Linking up with Helene and Taylor for Blogtober!

Helene in Between Blogtober

To soothe away the sniffles....... {Elderberry Cough and Cold Syrup}

I have become quite attached to alternative remedies recently, I'm not entirely sure why but I just like the knowledge that I am not pumping my body full of unnatural chemicals. I came across elderberry syrup a while back and decided to make some of my own and it seems to be working for us. I firmly believe that better eating habits, juicing, alternative remedies and exercise are keeping H and I happy and healthy through this change of seasons whilst those around us suffer from coughs and colds. Two spoonfuls of this medicine every morning and we're fit and rearing to go - with the exception of Monday mornings of course....

Elderberry Cough and Cold Syrup

Recipe adapted from Holistic Squid Website

150g dried elderberries, I found them here
800ml filtered water
couple of thumb sized pieces of fresh ginger, grated 
1 TBSP cinnamon 
1 TSP cloves
250ml honey, raw is best but I used local blossom honey as it also helps with allergies in the lead up to Spring

put all the ingredient except the honey in a pan and bring to boil. turn down and simmer for an hour until liquid has reduced by half. take of heat and strain through muslin  /sieve. Allow the liquid to cool until it is warm and then stir in the honey. Transfer to bottle / jar and keep in fridge where it can be stored for 4-6 weeks

*** Disclaimer: I am in no way an qualified alternative medicine practitioner I am just sharing with you what works for my family of  two***

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Fish in Paper........ {Fish en Papillote}

It's a funny thing when people say to me that they think cooking fish is laborious and a pain. Many a friend of mine will turn their nose up at cooking fish but to them I say "try this dish, it's simple, healthy and tastes delicious"

Cooking en papillote basically refers to the parcel you cook it in - this is a French dish and it's basically a parcel encasing the fish and vegetables which then steam cook in the oven. Mmmmm so delicious. You can be adventurous on what veg you want to use - celeriac and fennel as well as cherry tomatoes work particularly well. You don't have to make my simple creme fraiche sauce, often I will just use a bit of white wine which works just as well.

The best thing is that this dish takes very little prep and is quick to cook - a fish supper couldn't be simpler but at the same time its a pretty fancy way of cooking so you could serve it at a dinner party to much fanfare and no one would ever know - you're welcome. 

Fish en Papillote

2 fillets of halibut, or you can use any white fish plus salmon is good too
1 potato very thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced batons
1 leek, thinly sliced
4 TBSP creme fraiche
4 TBSP dry white wine
zest half lemon
2 bay leaves

Mix the creme fraiche, wine and lemon zest in a small bowl,  season. take a piece of grease proof paper and create 1 or two layers of the potato - I often add a couple of bits of butter in between to help cooking. season. layer on the leek and carrot, a bay leave and a spoonful of the sauce. place fish on top with another spoonful of sauce and season again. 

fold the grease proof paper loosely and then tuck in the sides to create a parcel (see photos). 

Cook at 200oC for approx 25mins. when out of oven make a small cut in the top so that the steam escapes and leave for a couple of minutes before serving. I just serve these in the parcel as I like the rustic look but feel free to serve nicely on the plate.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Beans, Beans, Good for the Heart...... {One Pot Boston Baked Beans}

Exceptionally good for the heart are beans. Also good for the heart and general well-being is food that is natural with no artificial additives, step in to the spotlight Kikkoman Soy Sauce. I love Kikkomen sauces especially their soy sauce, mainly because I think it tastes great and I love the fact it is made from all natural ingredients. When the lovely people at Kikkoman asked if I would like to create a recipe using their soy sauce I jumped at the opportunity, especially when they said they didn't want it to be an Asian dish as they want to show the versatility of soy sauce in all variety of dishes. This is great for me as I often use soy sauce to substitute for Worcester sauce as I prefer the taste - just as savory but not as strong. 

After having a ponder, as one likes to do I decided to use the soy sauce for my classic American, one pot, winter warmer dish: Boston Beans. The savouriness and richness of the soy sauce really helps bring out the smokiness of these BBQ style beans. Often you find recipes for Boston Beans call for bacon or pork belly as the meat but I like to go for chorizo as I think it adds so much more flavour and colour to the dish. You can be flexible with what beans you use, cannellini beans work well for this dish. I just love the way you basically throw everything into the pan and leave it bubble away in the oven whilst your house smells of lovely BBQ food - it's the perfect comfort food as the dark night draw in and would be a great addition to any bonfire parties! 

Boston Baked Beans 

150g chorizo, cubed
1 onion, finely diced
1 tin (400g) kidney beans 
1 tin (400g) haricot beans 
1 tin (400g) butter beans 
3 TBSP soft brown sugar
2 TBSP black treacle
4 TBSP Kikkoman soy sauce
2 TSP English mustard powder
½ TSP smoked paprika
400g chopped tomatoes
300ml chicken stock, or you could use beef if you prefer
crusty bread, toasted

cook the chorizo and onion in a large pan or casserole dish until the onions are soft and the chorizo crispy. Stir through the beans, sugar, soy sauce, treacle, mustard powder, treacle, paprika and chopped tomatoes. add the stock making sure beans are covered. cover pan with a lid and either cook in oven at 180OC for two hours or simmer on the hob for the same amount of time, until beans are soft and the sauce had thickened. Serve on the toast.  

***Thank you to Kikkoman for asking me to be involved in this recipe challenge and sending the bottle of soy sauce to create this recipe***

Friday, 17 October 2014

Autumn Roast ....... {Pork Belly, Baked Beetroot, Pumpkin Gratin, Candid Apples}

Autumn walks are my favourite walks and walks that end at the Farmers Market make me even happier . Seeing all the autumn produce makes me happy - the pumpkins all different shapes and sizes, kentish cobnuts ready to roast, beetroots all ugly on the outside but different vivid colours on the inside. Taking home our wares and producing a wonderful Autumn Roast. Each component is simple, you let the fresh flavours of the meat and vegetables speak for themselves.

Pork Belly, Baked Beetroot, Pumpkin Gratin, Candid Apples

I'll just talk you through what I did..... In my spice blender I whizzed up some bay leaves, pepper corns, 4 cloves of garlic and a drizzle of olive oil. After patting the belly pork down I rubbed all of this concoction into the skin (Make sure the skin is scored in to diamonds). salt liberally. place in oven directly on to the wire rack with a tray of water below - this will steam the bottom. Cook on high heat for 45 mins and then turn down for a further hour or so until the met is cooked how you like it. 

For the candid apples I placed butter and sugar in a pan with a bit of stock and brandy, let that reduce and added in the apples, letting them get lovely and candid and then setting aside to cool. 

Taking the beetroot I peeled them, cut them in to quarters and  roasted them with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, they took over an hour to cook through

I used half a small pumpkin, peeled and sliced, seasoned and layered in to a pan buttered pan. covered it with cream that had warmed with a clove of garlic and a grating of nutmeg. I then baked it for about 45 mins. 

The cabbage was savoy that I cooked with pancetta and a splash of wine and a good grind of black pepper

A good roast can take time but its well worth it every now and again for the end result 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Blogtober Day 15 : My Favourite Quote

I wrote a post about my favourite quote a while ago now and you're welcome to go back and read my musings about that. It's funny because that quote totally encompassed what I felt at that time and how I felt was mainly to do with the man I was sort of involved with at the time. I love how I said in that post that i knew how he was "the love before the love of my life" and he was readers, he really was.

Times change and so do favourites and now I've got to say that this is probably my favourite quote:

Firstly because it's from such a wonderful author who I loved growing up and secondly because it is just so very true and yet so easy to forget when we self doubt. I look at what I go through, at what people around me deal with, what my loved ones are going through and I always think of these words.  Our ability to cope and deal with situations always seems to surprise us but I think we are all as strong as bears underneath!

Linking up with Helene and Taylor for Blogtober!

Helene in Between Blogtober

All in one ....... {Roasted Spanish Chicken}

Autumn is the time of year when you want lovely filling, comforting food - sticky ribs, stews, roasts but with both H an I working long hours at our jobs we don't really have a lot of time to prepare that sort of thing. Autumn really does become the season of food that can be cooked in one pot or on one tray and if I'm honest that's the kind of cooking I like best.

My old housemate Paul taught me how to make this dish and I think he got it from the lovely Nigella, I've just tweaked it a bit. We always tend to have chorizo in the fridge and chicken in the freezer so its a go to dish of mine. It's very easy to prepare and it tastes sensational - the chicken and chorizo juices blending together with the orange zest and garlic. Perfect with a large glass of red and the sound of rain.

Spanish Chicken 

5 chicken thighs
150g chorizo, cut into rounds the thickness of a pound coin
8 shallots, peeled and cut in half
250g new potatoes, I used apache as I love the colour and they are perfect for roasting
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled 
zest of one orange 
bay leaf
olive oil

take the chorizo, shallots, potatoes and garlic and tumble into a roasting dish. add a TBSP of olive oil and mix together until coated. Place the chicken on top and drizzle with oil and season with S&P. Sprinkle half the zest over the chicken and other ingredients. Cook on high for 20 minutes. Take the dish out and add rest of the zest and then put the dish back in the oven at a lower heat and cook for a remaining 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.  

Linking up with Honest Mum 

Tasty Tuesdays on

And with Delcious Dish Tuesday with Eat Drink and Be Mary and Full Time Mama 

Eat Drink & Be Mary

Monday, 13 October 2014

Blogtober: Day 13 ........ Favourite Fall Recipe {Autumn Pumpkin Soup}

Blogtober isn't easy. Life had been busy but I couldn't possibly miss a foodie post!Autumn is a wonderful time of year for fresh produce and this soup is a favourite of mine, we picked up all of the ingredients 

Autumn Pumpkin Soup 

one small pumpkin, cubed
one sweet potato, cubed
two carrots, cubed
red or orange pepper, cut into large slices
four cloves garlic, unpeeled 
two small onions, cubed
1/2 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 pints chicken or veg stock
couple of bay leaves
cracked black pepper

couple of rashers of bacon
some blue cheese
some bread

take the pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, pepper and garlic and coat in some olive oil. roast in the oven for about 40-50 minutes until cooked. In the meantime saute the onion and chilli in a pan until soft. take the roasted veg and add into the pan, cover with the stock and add in the bay leaves. simmer for 20 minutes or so. remove the bay leaves an then blend in food processor or hand blender under lovely and glossy and thick. i served this with some grilled bacon bits and bread and cheese on the side. H crumbled blue cheese into his soup and that tasted pretty amazing. nothing better then a steaming bowl of homemade soup after a walk in the cold and rain. i love autumn

Linking up with Helene and Taylor for Blogtober!

Helene in Between Blogtober

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Blogtober : Day 9 ........ Best and Worst Halloween

This prompt didn't real inspire me and here's why – compared to America,  Halloween is just not a big deal in the UK. It really isn’t. Sure some people dress up and they trick and treat but not everyone does that and it only tends to be the younger kids.

And here’s  a confession – I have never trick or treated. The curse of being a vicars daughter I guess. My parents were very much “Halloween celebrates the devil” blah blah as we grew up which I think is a bit extreme but each to their own. So growing up Halloween was the worst time for me as all my friends would be dressing up, sorting their costumes and I was never allowed to join in.

I digress..... so, the only time I have dressed up was at the pub I worked in a few years ago and they decided to have a Halloween themed night and being the good barmaid I am I dressed up as a zombie pirate and had a wonderfully fun evening!

Did you trick and treat as kids? Is Halloween a big deal where you live?

Linking up with Helene and Taylor for Blogtober!

Helene in Between Blogtober