Umbrian Lentils with Homemade Sausages

17 May

I loved making these. And eating them!

It is an Antonio Carluccio recipe from his book Simple Cooking, changed slightly to suit my tastes.

The method for making sausages from scratch is so clever! I will be trying it again with different flavour combinations, and the puy lentils are so full of flavour – I had the leftovers for lunch the following day and it felt like such a treat. Also, this is a bit cliche but usually I cannot stand celery, but here it just seems to merge with the other flavours so well that all it does it heighten those flavours… I’m glad I took the plunge and threw the celery in or I may never have known that I could abide it in super-delicious circumstances!

A special meal 🙂

Serves 4.

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed
  • 50g sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 25og puy lentils
  • 450ml chicken stock
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the Sausages:

  • 500g minced pork
  • 50ml red wine
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 scant tsp dried rosemary
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. For the lentils, fry the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes in a good glug of olive oil for a few minutes in a large pan. Then add the lentils, stock and celery. Cook for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Cover and keep warm over a low heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the sausage ingredients together well and season to taste with salt and pepper. Take a handful of mince and roll it into a sausage shape, about 8cm long and 3cm wide. Wrap tightly in a piece of foil, closing by turning in the ends as you would a sweet.
  3. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Poach the sausages in the water until they pop up to the surface (2-3 minutes). Leave to cool a little, then remove the foil. Poaching the sausages should ensure that they hold together. GENIUS! 😀
  4. Moisten the sausages with a little olive oil, then fry or grill until golden on all sides, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the sausages to the warm lentils and allow to cook gently together for 5 minutes.

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We had ours with boiled potatoes and pencil leeks. Mmm! But crusty bread would also be a lovely addition 🙂

 

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Squidgy Chocolate Fondants

14 May

SO. MOREISH!!!

I expected these little nuggets of insane gorgeousness to be a disaster if I’m honest. They’re the sort of things that people tend to bang on about being difficult and “you have to do this at this exact time or else your efforts will have been entirely wasted”. Those fear-mongerers! I may have just been lucky, but these turned out perfect first time! And I recommend them 100%, especially if you’re in the mood to over-indulge slightly… you just will not be able to stop.

Particularly because these are mini versions and so it doesn’t feel quite so bad if you go for just one more 😛

The recipe I used was actually for 4 average-sized fondants, but I’d recently purchased a cute little heart-shaped silicone mould and I just had to use it, especially as I was making them to treat the love 🙂 it yielded me 8 little precious babies. I’m not over-reacting by calling them that, they are precious I tell you!!! I won’t tell you how many I ate *sniff*

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Makes 8 miniature fondants.

  • 2 eggs
  • 50g brown sugar (I used soft light brown)
  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 1 heaped tbsp cornflour
  • 140g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids) broken into small pieces
  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 3 heaped tbsp double cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°c .
  2. Use four average sized or 8 miniature moulds. Grease them and dust with flour or line with baking parchment. Place them on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper.
  3. Beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture turns pale. Sieve the flour and cornflour together, add to the mixture and continue to beat.
  4. Melt the chocolate, butter and cream in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  5. Pour the chocolate cream into the sponge mixture and mix until you have a smooth paste.
  6. Fill the moulds, put in the oven and cook for approx. 10 minutes for the mini fondants, or 15 for the average-sized ones. The cakes should be very soft to the touch. Turn out of the moulds and serve straight away with cream or ice cream 🙂

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Luscious, Cinnamony Sweet Potato Tagine

9 May

Ghillie Basan is one of my favourite food writers, and not least because Moroccan food is one of my favourite things to cook!

But this is my favourite recipe BY FAR that I have used from her book Tagines and Couscous – and I’ve made a fair few now!

It was difficult for me to decide what to call this meal because every ingredient is a star and combines so beautifully with the others… The only word I could really settle on was luscious because, well… that is exactly what it is! I did however really and truly believe with my whole heart that luscious was spelt with an ‘h’ after the ‘sc’. *sigh* I was so much better at spelling when I was 10…

So yes, if I was being super fair and diplomatic to all of the highly deserving ingredients in this recipe I would call it ‘Tagine of Sweet Potato, Shallots, Carrots, Prunes, Cinnamon, Ginger, Honey and Mint – Syrupy and with a Hint of Coriander’. But it’s quite a mouthful. No pun intended. But it really is an amazing mouthful.

Anyway, the reason I picked cinnamon and sweet potato for the title is that the former just permeated the house with its sweet and mouth-watering smell, making me feel as though I was been taken under in a haze of Moroccan balminess… *another sigh* (if only!)… and the latter simply because it makes up the bulk of the meal. Well hey, people need some idea of what’s really going on!

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So, here’s how you make it:

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Serves 2 generously, or 4 as a side dish for grilled/roasted meat.

  • olive oil
  • 20g fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
  • 8 shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 2 small-medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • handful ready-to-eat stoned pruned (about 60g)
  • 2 tsp dark, runny honey or agave
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • a few fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat some olive oil in a tagine or heavy-based casserole. Add the ginger and cinnamon – cook for a minute then toss in the shallots. When the shallots begin to colour, add the sweet potato and carrots. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring, then add the prunes and honey. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and cook gently for about 25 minutes.
  2. Uncover and stir in the mint and coriander. Season to taste and reduce the liquid, if necessary, by cooking for a few minutes uncovered. The vegetables should be tender and slightly caramelized in a very syrupy sauce.

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Most often I would serve this with couscous and toasted flaked almonds, but we were OUT OF COUSCOUS! I know, shocker! So instead we had it with red and white quinoa – really yummy! Though it does smell a bit weird… It worked, just so’s you know 🙂

And finally, may I just plead with you – if you are using a brand new tagine, PLEASE treat it beforehand and be careful when adjusting it’s temperature so it doesn’t crack and momentarily destroy your life. Been there… just saying…

I am going to make this so many times!!!

Miniature Turkey Meat Loaves

5 May

Happy May everybody!

Isn’t it beautiful?

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My latest posts have been very wordy. One might even say verbose 😉

(reference to a certain someone, don’t worry about it)…

So you may be glad (or sad?) to know that I don’t have an awful lot to say about this recipe, apart from that it is easy, healthy and delicious!

I was inspired by this recipe, but I have of course fiddled about with it to make it my own.

And um… Here it is!

Makes 4 mini meat loaves:

  • 500g turkey thigh mince
  • 1 egg white
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • pinch each of dried thyme, basil and oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 small or 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 tbsp ready-made tomato pasta sauce
  • 1/2 ball mozzarella (62.5g), shredded
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c and lightly grease 4 mini loaf tins with olive oil. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the pasta sauce and mozzarella.
  3. Divide the combined mixture between the loaf tins and press down to make them even.
  4. Add about 2 tbsp of the pasta sauce on top of each meat loaf and spread it out so it is covered, then bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and scatter the mozzarella on top. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes more, until the cheese has melted.

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There will be a little liquid in the bottom of your tins when the meat loaves are ready to serve, but they should come out easily and in one piece with the liquid remaining at the bottom of the tins.

I love to serve this with potatoes of any kind! Here it is pictured with new potatoes and mixed veg, but a jacket potato is not something I’d say no to alongside it 🙂

Also, as there are only 2 of us, making 4 at a time makes for great leftovers. I love it sliced in a crusty roll, or I simply freeze them for a super easy meal on a busy night.

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Hope you enjoy!

Decoupage Cows, Panda Cupcakes and Other Nonsense.

30 Apr

The time has finally come, dear readers, to unveil the astonishing piece of art I prepared for Dave’s birthday.

Feast your eyes on this:

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Yes! Gasp you should!

For those of you who are none the wiser about these ‘amoosements’ (one of Dave’s, not mine!), here is an excerpt from my Liebster Award post that hopefully explains the madness succinctly 🙂

So I am very pleased with the result, only I do wish I’d gone for the jeans-style decoupage paper to give the little guy some comfy trews! Dave likes the 70s vibe he’s got going on though, so all is well. I also thought his shoes deserved laces, but… one can go too far…

So yes! The 30th is Dave’s birthday.

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And of course that means cake.

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BUT it is also my babe of a brother’s birthday!!! And that means MORE cake!

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I believe I mentioned how inundated I am with birthdays this month (thank God it is May tomorrow – even if it is a bit ‘say whaaaaat? May already!?’) in my Celebrations of April post… Sorry about all the references to previous posts guys but this whole cownundrum (haaaaaa) has had quite a build up for me 😛

Yes, so as I was saying, a shed-load of birthdays, but I just want to underline the fact that I don’t mean to shadow all of the other special people’s birthdays in favour of Dave’s for any other reason than COWS!!! And LOOK WHAT I MADE!!! Sorry Dave, no offence 😀 cows.

And pandas.

I thought they would please my brother as they are suitably kitsch and all the rest of it. Plus I made one of them a saaaad panda which correlates with one of his most often used quotes 🙂

I would say that they pleased me too, but after laboriously decorating 3 cows and 3 pandas, I defy anyone to get tired of the repetition. Especially when you have a poorly shoulder and… enough moaning. I also made the mistake of stacking the finished articles in a cake tin. MISTAAAAAAAAKE I tell you! The eyes are the hardest parts to do and of course they were all smudged and had to be redone. These cakes are not stackable or easy to travel with. They take patience, love and strong healthy shoulders. But they are adorable :3

It took an awfully long time because the recipe I used did not state how many cakes it was for… So I assumed that if there were going to be enough cakes for two birthdays then I’d have to double the amounts. WRRONG! The mixture was enough for 48 normal-sized cakes. Please bear in mind that the aforementioned recipe was for MINI cupcakes. Mind-blown.

Boredom, by the way, did account for a few of the weirder cakes. I don’t know if you spotted the odd one out on the previous picture? Have another go:

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It’s a dolphin. Yes. Harry Potter also adorned the face of one cupcake, as did farm animals in a hot tub (also featured above) and the love’s artistic impression of himself.

So, moving on to the recipe which I will re-halve so that it is intended to make 24 normal-sized cupcakes 🙂

Serves 24.

Oh! (sorry, so much to fit into this post!) The cake recipe is in cups, the icing isn’t – I hope that isn’t an issue. If it is, I will totally do the honours of converting things for you 😀

For the Cakes:

  • 1 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 1 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (or other non-flavourful oil)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup hot water

For the Frosting:

  • 400g cream cheese
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Decoration:

First of all, a note on decoration: if you’ve taken a look at the recipe I used, you will see that the cupcakes over on there are super beautiful, perfect and all the rest of it. Trust me, if I thought I could find white sanding sugar, a black edible ink pen and pastel confetti sprinkles without too much bother then I would have. The effect is amazing. I improvised with caster sugar, leftover icing and black designer icing which comes in it’s own decorator bag… not as neat but it did the trick.

  • Icing (see above) 
  • Black designer icing
  • Caster sugar
  • Chocolate chips
  • Chocolate buttons
  • Chocolate sprinkles
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c and prepare a cupcake tray with cupcake cases. 
  2. In a large bowl, mix all of the dry cake ingredients together.
  3. Add the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Add the hot water, mix and DON’T PANIC! At this stage the concoction in front of you will look like a pool of… well, brown liquid. Have faith! Keep mixing until there is some body to the mixture. It will still seem too fluid, but the cakes turn out gorgeously moist once baked. Just go with it.
  4. Fill the cupcake cases about half way up. They rise A LOT! Then bake for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean.
  5. While waiting for the cakes to cool, make the icing by mixing the cream cheese with the vanilla until smooth. Then sift in the icing sugar and fold gently to incorporate. This is my brother’s favourite icing 🙂
  6. Prepare a plate of caster sugar and set up all of the other decorating bits in an assembly-line fashion. When the cakes are cool, top them with a heaped teaspoon of the icing, then turn them upside down and gently squish them in the sugar. This will spread the icing evenly over the the cake, so don’t worry too much about perfecting the smoothness of the icing beforehand 🙂
  7. For pandas, use 2 chocolate buttons as eyes and 2 as ears. A chocolate chip for the nose and chocolate sprinkles for the mouth 🙂 then use the handle of a little spoon (or something) to dip in the icing and dab a circle on each eye. Finally, use the black designer icing to draw on the pupils. For cows, it’s pretty much the same except I used 2 chocolate chips as nostrils and I halved chocolate buttons to make cow-like splodges on their faces 🙂 I also chopped up chocolate buttons for their horns.

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Woop!

One last thing before I go.

I am ever, EVER so grateful for this beautiful badge:

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I have neglected wearing too many times. From now on it shall be pinned eternally to… my heart… if not my clothes.

🙂

Pomegranate Lamb Stir-Fry

22 Apr

This is a concept that I’ve wanted to try for a good while – ever since I bought pomegranate molasses actually which was months ago!

It started with the knowledge that pomegranate goes well with lamb, but as there are only two of us to feed at the moment I didn’t fancy making a marinade for a big (albeit beautiful) Persian roast. I have nothing against leftovers but you know, it all feels a bit too over the top to be cooking up a huge hunk of meat when there isn’t one measly guest to share it with!

So I went fusion! This is attempt two because last time it didn’t turn out so great. Overpoweringly sour from the molasses and the wrong cut of lamb. Here though, the marinade suits the other ingredients perfectly and it is super-balanced 🙂 Also, stir-fry lamb! Why didn’t you jump out at me before!? Pssh. I really hope you enjoy this fast as lightning, exciting and vibrant meal as much as I do.

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Serves 2.

  • 250g stir-fry lamb pieces
  • 300g straight to wok egg noodles
  • 1/2 pepper (any colour), deseeded and chopped
  • handful mange-tout and baby sweetcorn
  • 2 handfuls watercress
  • handful pomegranate seeds

For Marinade:

  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  1. First, make the marinade by mixing all of the ingredients together in a wide, shallow bowl. Taste to check for balance – you want it to have depth and savouriness from the soy sauce, and the molasses should pucker inside your mouth just a little. The oil gives the right consistency and means you won’t have to add any extra fat to the wok before you start cooking.
  2. Tip the stir-fry lamb into the marinade and mix well until all of the lamb is thoroughly coated. Leave for as little or as long as you like – I didn’t leave mine for long at all (impatience when hungry!) but I’m sure the flavour would intensify significantly if left for longer. Not that it needs to, mind.
  3. Place a wok over high heat until beginning to smoke, then add the lamb with it’s marinade. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, then add the noodles. Give everything a good mix and continue cooking for another minute. Now toss in the pepper, mange-tout  sweetcorn and watercress. Give it another good stir so everything is coated in marinade and cook for 30 seconds, until the watercress has wilted and the other vegetables are hot.
  4. Scatter a generous handful of pomegranate seeds over the top, then decant into bowls.

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My mouth is watering just looking at these pictures!

If I do say so myself 😉

The Celebrations of April

18 Apr

For a long time I have been in a frustrating funk where cooking is concerned. I’d utterly lost my mojo, motivation and satisfaction.

But! (I hope) this month things are changing, helped along by the multiple birthdays April comes with. My uncle’s, my mom’s, my friend’s, two of my brothers, the love’s step-dad AND his daughter all celebrate their birthday this month! Then come May and June during which the pressure does not reduce much.

So far the uncle, the friend’s and one of the brother’s birthdays have passed and I have made something for two out of three of those occasions. I was adamant that I would make something for my friend but she’s one of those types who plead with you not to make a fuss. Now it’s a very busy time at the moment otherwise I would have done as I pleased despite this, but just mark my words Megan – I will not let this slide 😉

I have used two recipes found online that I have barely altered, and if I made them again I would do exactly the same thing because they are perfect.

The first, which I made for my uncle, is this gorgeous nut brittle. I LOVE nut brittle, but this is the first time I’ve had a go at making it. It all seemed to be going perfectly, but unfortunately I made the mistake (I think) of taking the caramel off the heat too soon. This meant that when I looked in the fridge after leaving it to set overnight, the caramel was slowly oozing it’s way aaaaaall over the place! It was rescued however, by changing the greaseproof paper it was sitting on several times. This got rid of excess sticky stuff to leave nut brittle as it should be. You can use any combination of nuts and seeds that you like, and it has a sumptuous dark chocolate base which is just so necessary! Unfortunately I took no photos 😦 the reason being that at first, I forgot because I have become accustomed to not posting these things, and later because I thought it was ruined… But there are lots of lovely (albeit Christmassy) pictures of the finished article on the link I provided above.

For those of you out there who are caramel experts (which I am definitely not), am I right in thinking my mistake was not boiling the caramel for long enough? Or do you think there is simply too much caramel in ratio to the nuts? It is very sweet so, maybe… Not too sweet for my tastes but maybe some people’s. I’d consider making it with salted nuts actually. Oooh…

Now, I REALLY pushed the boat out for my brother’s birthday! I made a seven-layer rainbow cake which took me an awfully long time – I ended up in the kitchen at 11.30pm exhausted and covered in icing! It was so worth it, but I didn’t reap the full benefits of it there and then as I was so concerned about it having the right effect when it was sliced into.

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IT DID!

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And it was extremely well received!

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At my Grandma’s house…

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Where everyone said it tasted as good as it looks 😀

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There were so many compliments flying around I felt like it was my birthday!

Now I am out of pictures so I guess a little more description would be the way to go… Well, I highly recommend it!

My other brother (who has said that since I’ve made this for Liam I have to outdo myself for his birthday) doesn’t like icing, but he claims the ability to eat bowls of this. It is practically the same icing used for Nigella’s chocolate Guinness cake. As for outdoing myself… I don’t know what to do guys!!! I’m thinking along the lines of cupcakes, and now that this challenge paid off I’d really like another one… But I really will have to get my thinking cap on.

In other words, it is good. Do it.

Watch this space for more recipes 🙂