Archive | October, 2012

Scotch Eggs

31 Oct

These are so fun to make! Provided you don’t mind your hands getting a bit messy. They are the sort of thing that, when homemade, really impress people! Also, they taste good. This is another BBC Good Food recipe:

I made them for a surprise party earlier this year and they went down very well.

Note that the scotch eggs are much harder to shape with the addition of bacon, so whether you include it or not depends on how much of a bacon fiend you are. I made some with and some without – I actually preferred them without and the whole conveyor belt process speeds up significantly!


Mango and Caramelised Macadamia Slaw with Chicken and Couscous

30 Oct

This is an exciting meal. The inspiration for the salad came from a page I ripped out of a Good Housekeeping magazine ages ago, but I’ve adapted it to my tastes and decided on the accompaniments.

The salad is enough for 3, but you won’t want to leave any. The rest serves 2.

  • 2 Chicken Breasts
  • 100g Couscous
  • 50g Macadamia Nuts
  • 1 tbsp Caster Sugar
  • Pinch of Dried Chilli Flakes
  • Approx 3 Leaves of Savoy Cabbage (About 60g), Finely Shredded
  • 1/2 Mango, Peeled, Stoned and Cut into Thin Strips
  • 1/2 Papaya, Peeled, Deseeded and Cut into Strips
  • 1/2 Fresh Red Chilli, Deseeded and Finely Sliced
  • Large Handful of Mint and Coriander, or Parsley, Leaves Picked and Roughly Chopped

For the Dressing:

  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1/2 Lemongrass Stalk, Chopped into Small Pieces
  • 2 tsp Maple Syrup
  • Scant tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
  • Dash of Soy Sauce
  • Pinch of Dried Chilli Flakes
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  1. Make the dressing. Put all the ingredients in a small pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5-10 mins, or until thick and syrupy. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
  2. Prepare some baking parchment on a baking tray. Caramelise the nuts by heating a dry frying pan over medium heat. Add the sugar and a splash of water. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then boil until the mixture caramelises to a deep amber (swirl the pan rather than stirring). Stir in the nuts, chilli flakes and a big pinch of salt. Empty onto the baking parchment, leave to cool, then chop.
  3. Add some sunflower oil to the pan used for the nuts and fry the chicken until cooked through. The skin will be beautifully and subtly caramelised. Prepare the couscous according to the packet instructions.
  4. Put the prepared cabbage, mango, payaya, chilli and herbs into a large serving bowl. Toss through the nuts and dressing.
  5. Just before serving, stir the remaining herbs through the couscous, slice the chicken and prepare your plates!

Since keeping this blog, I’ve noticed a definite ‘fruit with meat theme’ appearing.

Coffee and Pecan Cake

29 Oct

This is a recipe from a book called Breads and Baking. The general editor is Gina Steer… no ‘author’ as such.

I never thought I was a coffee cake person, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so greedy for a cake before this one.

The icing. Is just. My favourite.

It cuts into 8, but then it can cut into lots of other amounts of pieces as well 🙂

  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g pecans, roughly chopped, plus extra to decorate (can be left whole)

For the Icing:

  • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 75g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g icing sugar, sieved
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°c. Line the bases of 2 x 18cm sandwich tins and grease around the edges.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Dissolve the coffee in 2 tablespoons of hot water and allow to cool. Lightly mix the eggs with the coffee  liquid. Gradually beat into the creamed butter and sugar, adding a little of the flour with each addition.
  3. Fold in the pecans, then divide the mixture between the prepared tins and bake for 20-25 mins, or until well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 mins before turning out and cooling on a wire rack.
  4. To make the icing, blend the coffee and cocoa powder together with enough boiling water to make a stiff paste. (The first time I made this, I was far too heavy handed with the water and ended up with a VERY loose icing! It still tasted fantastic, but the cake didn’t look it!) Beat into the butter and icing sugar.
  5. Sandwich the 2 cakes together using half of the icing. Spread the remaining icing on top and decorate with the reserved pecans.

Scandi Mackerel Salad

28 Oct

The amounts below served me and my boyfriend, with enough left for a packed lunch for him tomorrow.

  • 3 Large Peppered Smoked Mackerel Fillets
  • Small Bunch of Beetroot
  • 2 Large Shallots (I used Eschalion), Chopped
  • 200g Couscous
  • 1 Orange
  • Large Handful of Parsley and Mint, Chopped

For the ‘Scandi Raita’:

  • Larger Handful of Dill, Chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons Plain Yoghurt
  • 1 Teaspoon Horseradish Sauce
  • 1/2 Cucumber, Sliced Lengthways, Chopped and Deseeded
  • Salt and Pepper, to Taste
  1. Cooking the beetroot is the only thing that takes a long time in this recipe. To roast, beetroot takes 2-3 hours to become tender. I did not have this kind of patience today, so I boiled mine, which takes 20-30 mins. Simply place the beetroot (whole and unpeeled) in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. When boiling, reduce the temperature and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the skins come loose easily. When ready, leave to cool then peel the skins and chop. I would recommend wearing some CSI style gloves unless you want nicely dyed hands.
  2. While the beetroot is cooking you can make the ‘scandi raita’. Mix the yoghurt with half the dill, horseradish and cucumber. Season as you like and put to one side. Also, if you prefer less of an acrid taste to your onions, soak the shallots for 10 minutes in cold water or some white wine vinegar for added flavour.
  3. Now make the couscous according to the instructions on the packet. While it is soaking, grate in the zest of half the orange, then cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice of one half in as well. Cut the remaining half into wedges. Finally, add the mint, parsley and remaining dill.
  4. Flake the mackerel and mix everything together! Serve topped with the horseradish yoghurt and with edges of orange on the side, for squeezing over.


Autumn Days…

28 Oct

I am very proud to announce that today I have fulfilled a long-standing ambition. I have carved my first pumpkin! And of course I am keen to show anyone with eyes 🙂

Brace yourselves because here it is…



Another Autumnal adventure this afternoon: chestnut hunting.

Me and the love had a tip off from an anonymous source that our local woods were heaving with chestnuts right about now, so clearly, my mind bursting with ideas, we wrapped ourselves up and went on a bike ride with 3 bags for life. We were very optimistic.

In true ‘that is so typical of my life’ fashion, we got there and the only remaining chestnuts were shrivelled and soft, lying on the floor looking bright and inviting until we got up close and picked one up.

Oh chestnut pasta, oh chestnut chocolate torte, oh chestnut preserves and marrons glacĂ©s (I was going to look into whether you could make these from home). I guess I’ll have to buy some from the shops like most people. Well I’ve got to make them now haven’t I!?

Still, we had a lovely day. Autumn is beautiful, it’s not to be missed. Here’s some pictures.

A final word: isn’t it ironic how the last few days of college are torture; you drag yourself out of bed screaming inside because you’re just so tired. Then half term starts and for the first time in years and years, you spring out of bed at 5am! And this is the day that the clocks go back.  There’s something not quite right about this.

Preserved Lemons

26 Oct

I bought a tagine a while ago.

There was great build up to this event as I had dreamed about having the beautiful object in my kitchen and confidently slow-cooking all sorts of succulent, exciting meals in it on a regular basis.

I did my research, invested in a wonderful book by Ghillie Basan, and had even planned for ‘tagine Tuesdays’.

Obviously I read all about preserved lemons and made a few jars to use as accompaniments throughout the year!

It’s very simple to do.

A guide for making 8 preserved lemons is:

  • 8 unwaxed lemons
  • 8 tablespoons sea salt
  • Juice of 4 lemons (you may need more, this is why I call it a guide)

I am assuming that you will use the average lemons you find at the supermarket as opposed to the small Meyer variety traditionally used in Morocco. Obviously, this means that 1 home-made lemon goes a lot further than 1 out of a shop-brought jar, so if a recipe calls for 1 lemon, bear this in mind.

  1. Slice the ends off as many unwaxed lemons as you can fit in your jar(s). Stand each lemon on one cut end and cut a cross three-quarters of the way through them, as if cutting them into quarters but keeping the base intact.
  2. Stuff 1 tablespoon of sea salt into each lemon and pack them into sterilized jars (see end of post). Seal the jar and store in a cool place for 3-4 days to allow the skins to soften.
  3. When this time is up, press the lemons down into the jar (they will now be much more obedient). Pour lemon juice over the lemons until they are completely covered. This is important as any fruit left uncovered will quickly decay. Reseal the jar and store in a cool place for at least 1 month.
  4. They are now ready to use! Rinse off the salt before using.

So, back to my story.

The tagine was delivered and I was right on the job! I enthusiastically got to prepping everything I needed for a beautiful chicken and preserved lemon tagine… except the tagine itself. Meaning the actual vessel.

You’re supposed to ‘treat’ tagines before first use to strengthen them, otherwise there is a strong chance of them cracking.

You are supposed to soak the lid and base in water for at least 2 hours or overnight, dry it, then (if it is unglazed), rub it with olive oil inside and out. The olive oil helps to seal the clay and adds flavour during the cooking process, so may as well be added to ceramic tagines too. Now it goes in a cold oven which is then turned up to 150°c and left for 2 hours. This is necessary as tagines can also crack when subjected to rapid changes in temperature, a fact that also makes it important not to add cold food to a hot tagine or vice versa. The last steps are to turn the oven off and leave the tagine to cool completely, then wash it by hand and coat with oil again before storing or using!

No need to tell you what happened to mine. I was gutted. Another mistake I made was to place the tagine over too high a heat as I was too impatient to wait for my food to come to a simmer over a low heat. My poor heat diffuser was redundant 😩

Clearly, patience is fundamental to success with this method.

But the contents were salvageable and very delicious. In a way this only added to the pain of my loss. It is too soon to replace it with another.


Sterilising Jars.

Similar to curing a tagine really. Preheat the oven to 180°c. Wash the jars in hot, soapy water and rinse in clean warm water. Place the jars upside down on a rack in the oven and allow to drip-dry. Leave for at least 20 minutes.

Sterilising jars and equipment is essential to the success and longevity of any preserves you make.

Again, don’t add anything cold to hot jars, or anything hot to cold jars or the jars will shatter.

Venison with Quince

19 Oct

This is my first time with venison AND quince, which is why I’m posting a picture:

I was incredibly impressed by both, and was really proud as I did them justice via the cooking!

The recipe is entirely taken from: www.­bbcgoodfood.­com/­recipes/­166611/­venison-­with-­quince

When it’s my first time with an ingredient I like to follow the advice of the professionals so I know how it’s supposed to turn out!

It’s an expensive meal but couldn’t be more worth it. And everything needed is in season, so what better time to have a go?

The quince is meltingly tender, sweet and buttery; the venison – likewise though obviously rich and juicy to boot. Rosemary is my favourite herb so a winner all round for me as it’s added to everything! I didn’t cook the cavolo nero because I felt there was enough on the plate without it.

I found the quince paste from a local farm shop, but at this time of year I imagine it will be much easier to find than usual. I know they do it in John Lewis… In any case you can always find these things on the internet! Ocado…

My New Challenge!

19 Oct

Hello everyone 😀

There is a good chance I am getting way ahead of myself with this blog as I haven’t actually been cooking for very long (see About!), but since I’ve been living in my own flat I have become head over heels with experimenting, and for a long time I’ve felt a real need for an outlet to help channel my obsession.

I still tend to follow quite a few recipes from various sources, but I’m developing the confidence now to put my own spin on things, and to start creating my own recipes.

My aim for this blog is to record my progress with cooking, which will hopefully rise until I can bang out recipes like nobody’s business :P, and to promote positive body image as far as possible.

Other notes:

  • My photography is likely to start out terrible. I am hoping to improve in this area too.
  • There will be tangents. I’m very tangently inclined.

I truly hope you enjoy what you find 🙂