Lemon Drizzle cake

4 Oct

DSCI0165I rarely make cakes but I made this an exception as I was preparing a High Tea for friends.  The lemon drizzle gave the cake a lovely crunchy top and a delicate lemon flavour to the sponge which, on reflection, was very similar to a Madeira cake.

We only ate about a third of the cake so I have frozen the remainder and will use another time to make a pudding. I have a lovely raspberry and sherry trifle in mind or maybe just make a summer berry compote to drizzle over it and serve it with fresh cream. Lovely.

I mentioned above I was preparing High tea, but maybe this was Afternoon Tea. So what is the difference?

Afternoon tea is served around 4.00pm. When afternoon tea became fashionable in the early 19th century, thanks to the Anna, the Duchess of Bedford it was never intended to replace dinner but rather to fill in the long gap between lunch and dinner at a time when dinner was served at 8pm. Lifestyles have changed since those times and afternoon tea is now a treat, rather than a stop-gap.

High Tea means different things to different people. The origins of Afternoon Tea show clearly this was the preserve of the rich in the 19th century. For workers in the newly industrialised Britain of the time ‘tea’ had to wait until after work and be substantially more than just tea and cakes. Workers needed sustenance after a day of hard labour, so the after work meal was more often hot and filling and accompanied by a pot of good, strong tea to revive flagging spirits.

The addition of High is believed to differentiate between the Afternoon Tea served on low, comfortable, parlour chairs or relaxing in the garden and the worker’s High Tea served at the table and seated on high back dining chairs.

Today, the evening meal in working class households is still often called ‘Tea’ but as working patterns have changed yet again, many households now refer to the evening meal as supper. (About.com)

Well, here is a link to the recipe and my , not very good, slideshow.

Lemon Drizzle Cake                     Cuts into 10 slices

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4942/lemon-drizzle-cake

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Chicken and vegetables with Soy Noodles

30 Sep

DSCI0104   I know I have said this before but I love Chinese food. It is quick, easy, healthy and, usually, cooked in one pan so saves on the washing up.  This recipe was a little unusual as it contained some spices I would normally associate with Indian food rather than chinese. Does that make it a fusion dish? I wouldn’t like to say as this terminology still confuses me. Regardless of whether it is fusion or not it tastes absolutely wonderful.

I found the original recipe on the Kikkoman web site but have changed it quite a bit to use ingredients I had to hand. It still tasted absolutely wonderful and is one dish I will be making again and again.

Here is the recipe.

Chicken and vegetables with soy noodles       Serves 2 -3

  • 150g thin or medium egg noodles
  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 pack of tender stem broccoli and asparagus tips
  • 1 orange pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 tbsp raw peanuts, toasted
  • 2 skinless chicken breasts cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp kikkoman Less Salt Soy Sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine
  1. Cook the noodles as per pack instructions, drain and keep warm.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a wok, add the pepper, broccoli, asparagus and spring onions. Stir fry over a brisk heat for 5 minutes. Add the peanuts, stir fry for 1 minute then remove from wok and set aside.
  3. Add the remaining oil to the wok , heat and stir fry the chicken for 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander and chilli powder and stir fry for another minute.
  4. return the vegetables to the wok and toss with the chicken. Add the noodles, soy sauce and rice wine. Toss everything together until piping hot then serve in warmed bowls.

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Mini Pizzas

26 Sep

imageI make bread, with some level of success, on a regular basis, but this was the first time I had tried to make Pizzas. There were two reasons I wanted to make these. Firstly, I was having the Grandchildren for a few days and it was pouring with rain so I needed something to keep do that would keep them amused.  Secondly, my three year old granddaughter was not eating very well and I thought she would eat her Pizza if she had made it herself. I was right!  We had great fun and even my husband, who says he doesn’t like pizzas, enjoyed the results and ended up eating two of them himself.

I got the recipe from a good food magazine but the idea was more local as one of our excellent restaurants, Zamanis, had held pizza making sessions for local children and they all seemed to enjoy it. I can see why.

My Granddaughters pizza stuck with the basics of tomato sauce and mozzarella whilst my Grandson was a bit more adventurous and added ham and a variety of Italian salamis.  My husband and I went the full hog and used the ham and Italian salamis as well as mushrooms, red onion, sliced peppers and olives with a separate one topped with anchovies, olives, peppers and onions.  They were all yummy.

Here is a link to their recipe on the website.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/mini-top-your-own-pizzas

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Cioppino – an Italian-American fish soup to die for.

22 Sep

DSCI0101Cioppino is a fish stew originating in San Fransisco. It is considered an Italian-American dish, and is related to various regional fish soups and stews of Italian cuisine.  Cioppino is traditionally made from the catch of the day, which in the dish’s place of origin is typically a combination of Dungerness crabs, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish. The seafood is then combined with fresh tomatoes in a wine sauce, and served with crusty bread. The dish is comparable to caccissio and brodetto from Italy, as well as other fish dishes from the Mediterranean region such as bouillabaisse, burrida, and bourride of French Provence, and suquet de peix from Catalan speaking regions of coastal Spain.

Cioppino was developed in San Francisco in the late 1800s by the famed Italian fish wholesaler Achille Paladini, (later titled “The Fish King”) who settled in the North Beach section of the city, he came from the seaport town of Ancona, Italy in 1865.  He originally made it when the boats came back from sea and the ‘left overs’ were used to make a fish stew, a few Dungeness Crabs were also added. It eventually became a staple as Italian restaurants proliferated in San Francisco. The name comes from ciuppin, a word in the Ligurian dialect of the port city of Genoa, meaning “to chop” or “chopped” which described the process of making the stew by chopping up various ‘left overs’ of the day’s catch.  Ciuppin is also a classic soup of Genoa, similar in flavour to cioppino, with less tomato, and the seafood cooked to the point that it falls apart.

Generally the seafood is cooked in broth and served in the shell, including the crab (if any) that is often served halved or quartered. It therefore requires special utensils and, importantly, a bib. My version is a lazy version but tastes fantastic and is much easier and quicker to cook.

Cioppino                                 Serves 3-4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • small knob of butter
  • 1 banana shallot, finely sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp tabasco
  • 500ml fish stock
  • 500g of firm white fish (I used cod loin), cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 200g raw prawns
  • 1 pack ready cooked mussel meat
  • handful flatleaf parsley, chopped
  1. Heat the oil and butter in a large pan until melted then add the shallot, fennel and garlic. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, checking occasionally to ensure it does not burn.
  2. Stir in the tomato puree, and white wine and cook for a few minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Then stir in the tomatoes, Tabasco and fish stock.  Mix well and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the prawns and cod loin and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes then add the mussels and allow them to warm through for a minute.  Add the parsley, mix carefully, then serve with crusty bread.

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Ramen beef and mushrooms

18 Sep

imageThis lovely beef Ramen dish reminded me of two things. Firstly, there are still amazing recipes to try that will shoot straight into your top 20 and secondly, always buy the best you can afford.  In this case I bought fillet steak and the end result was melt in your mouth beef accompanied by soft noodles in an incredibly beautiful spice infused broth.  Overall a sensational combinations of taste explosions in your mouth that I was still savouring for some time afterwards.

The broth is based on Miso, a traditional Japanese staple food and seasoning.  There are two main types of Miso and its popularity varies dependant in where you are in Japan.  The most common types are white miso traditionally consumed in the western part of Japan including Kyoto, while the eastern regions including Tokyo tend to prefer red miso. Miso is typically salty but its flavour and aroma depend on various factors such as ingredients, fermentation and the length of the ageing process. Other important variables that contribute to the flavour of a particular miso include temperature, duration of fermentation, salt content and the variety of koji. These different ingredients and variables result in miso which may be described as salty, sweet, earthy, fruity and savoury. You can find Miso soup in most large supermarkets in the UK. Miso paste is more difficult to find. For a great selection of both try the Clearspring on-line shop.

Here is the recipe, a variation of the one I found in a Tesco magazine.

Ramen beef with mushrooms                                              Serves 4

  • 3 sachets of Miso soup (I used the red version)
  • 1 inch piece of root ginger, finely sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 star anise
  • 150g Udon noodles
  • 2 fillet steaks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 oz shiitake mushrooms, halved if large
  • 4 oz chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1  x 200g pack baby leaf greens, finely shredded
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced
  • 6 spring onions, finely sliced
  • A few leaves of coriander for garnish
  1. Dissolve the Miso soup in 1 litre of freshly boiled water in a large pan. Add the ginger and star anise then leave to simmer over a low heat.
  2. Meanwhile cook the noodles as per packet instructions. Drain well.
  3. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat. Lightly oil the steaks and season well.  When the pan is smoking, griddle them for 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes then slice thinly.
  4. Add the mushrooms to the broth and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Heat a little oil to a clean pan and fry the chilli and spring onions until just turning brown.
  6. Divide the noodles between 4 bowls and ladle over the broth in equal measures. Lay the beef slices on top then scatter with the chilli and spring onions. garnish with the coriander and serve immediately.

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Mediterranean Baked haddock

6 Sep

DSCI0094  As I get older I find I am eating much more fish than I am meat. It isn’t that I don’t like meat but I seem to be going off the consistency.  I thought that by increasing the amount of fish I eat in my diet the healthier I would become but this may not be so.

Some fish, such as king mackerel, shark, and swordfish, are consistently high in mercury, which can harm the nervous system of a fetus or young child. Certain other fish, including canned light tuna, are also occasionally high in that metal. While the health effects of sporadic exposure are unclear, our fish safety experts think that women who are pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant, as well as young children, should take special precautions. The risk posed by mercury in fish to other people is less established, though in general the heavier you are the more fish you can eat. Certain other contaminants sometimes found in fish, such as dioxins and PCBs, have been linked to some cancers and reproductive problems. While it’s unclear whether the levels typically found in fish pose health effects, a few types may have lower levels of those pollutants. For example, some studies suggest that wild salmon may contain less mercury than farmed salmon.

On the other hand, fish is the only food that directly supplies large amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to cut the risk of heart attack and stroke. Omega-3s may also elevate mood and help prevent certain cancers, cognitive decline, and eye disease. Most people can get enough by consuming fatty fish at least twice a week. Good choices include salmon and sardines, since they’re also low in mercury. People who already have coronary heart disease require about a gram a day of those fatty acids, an amount that frequently requires taking a supplement.

So, I guess the answer is to eat fish in moderation, just like all other food groups. Did I really need to listen to experts to come to that conclusion?

Well, here is the recipe.  It is based on Mediterranean ingredients and tastes lovely. If you are cutting down on carbohydrates this is the perfect meal served with green vegetables.

Mediterranean Baked Haddock.              Serves 2

  • 2 Haddock fillets, skinned
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 400g can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • about 12 pitted black olives (I used Kalamata)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 5.
  2. Lay the fish in an oven to table dish and season lightly.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion until it is soft but not coloured (takes about 10 minutes).
  4. Add the tomatoes and simmer until reduced by 1/3, then add the olives, capers and garlic.  Simmer for 2 minutes then pour over the fish.
  5. Bake the fish in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes (depends on thickness of fillets) or until the fish is cooked and is opaque and flaky.
  6. Serve immediately with green vegetables and new potatoes if you like.

 

 

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Chicken cacciatore

2 Sep

imageI love rustic food and this is one of my favourites.  I like to serve it with either mashed potatoes or pasta but my favourite is krithiraki (Greek version of Orzo).  I made this the other night for my Brother and Sister-in-law. It is so easy to make and you can prepare well in advance and warm up when you are ready so ideal for entertaining.

Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. In cuisine, alla cacciatora refers to a meal prepared “hunter-style” with onions, herbs, usually tomatoes, often bell peppers, and sometimes wine.  The dish is originally from Central Italy, but like so much Italian cuisine, every region has put its own twist on the recipe.  This one, with tomatoes, is probably the most widely travelled.

Chicken Cacciatore                                              Serves 6

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 small onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic (4 if small) crushed
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 250g pancetta, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 200g button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 12 chicken thighs, skinned but bone in
  • 130 ml dry white wine
  • 3 tins chopped tomatoes
  • Good pinch sugar
  • 1 oregano sprig
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Heat half the oil in a large pan or casserole. Add the onion, garlic and celery and fry over a moderate heat for 10 minutes until golden and softened. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.
  2. Add the pancetta and mushrooms. Increase the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until starting to brown. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add the rest of the oil and fry the chicken in batches over a high heat to brown all over. Season as you go with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Spoon off any excess fat then add the wine and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated.
  5. Add the tomatoes, sugar and herbs with 125 ml of cold water. Bring to the boil the stir in the reserved pancetta mix.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender but remains on the bone.
  6. If you like a thicker sauce, remove the chicken pieces and keep warm then boil the sauce until thickened. Season to taste. return the chicken to the sauce and heat thoroughly then serve with pasta or mashed potato.

 

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Pasta bake with courgettes and sausage

29 Aug

DSCI0165I suppose every one has their own version of comfort food but, for me. pasta does it every time.  Apart from it being so versatile, it is quick and easy to cook and, often, freezes well so there is always a ready meal in the freezer.

This pasta recipe was the ultimate in comfort food.  Little nuggets of sausage in a beautiful tomato sauce and topped with melted cheese.  Absolutely delicious.  I am already thinking about how I could vary the recipe.  Maybe, instead of adding a pinch of chilli to the sauce I could use chilli sausages, or for an added Mediterranean twist maybe Italian sausages.  How about a Spanish influence with chorizo? I could vary the vegetables too.  Perhaps replace the courgettes with spinach or asparagus spears.  I can see we will be having this dish a few times in the future.

Sausage is a food usually made from ground meat with a skin around it. Typically, a sausage is formed in a casing traditionally made from intestine, but sometimes synthetic. Some sausages are cooked during processing and the casing may be removed after. Sausage making is a traditional food preservation technique. Sausages may be preserved by curing, drying, or smoking. Charcuterie is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage and other foods, primarily from pork.

Wikipedia lists 189 types of sausage from around the world and the list is incomplete! Looks like I will have more variations to this recipe than I initially thought.

I found the recipe in a Good Food magazine and adapted it to my taste.  Here is the link to the recipe on their website and my version below.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/courgette-sausage-rigatoni-bakes?destination=node/4063616

Pasta bake with courgettes and sausages                Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 good-quality pork sausages
  • 3 courgettes, sliced on the diagonal then cut into batons
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • good pinch chilli flakes
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 300g / 10 oz penne
  • 150g ball mozzarella, patted dry and torn into chunks
  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Squeeze the sausage meat out of the skins and breaks into small nuggets. Fry in the oil until brown and cooked through. You may need to do this in two batches.
  2. Add the courgettes to the pan with the garlic and chilli flakes. fry for a couple of minutes then pour over the tomatoes. Season and allow to bubble for 5 minutes, adding a splash of water if it is too thick.
  3. Meanwhile cook the penne as per packet instructions. Drain well and stir trough the sauce.
  4. Transfer everything to oven-to-table dishes, either individual or one large dish.  Sprinkle over the mozzarella and place under a hot grill until the cheese is golden and melted. Serve immediately.

NB This dish can be frozen after assembling. Defrost before reheating and heat through in a low oven for 20 minutes.

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Chicken and Roquefort salad

25 Aug

imageI am always looking for interesting salad recipes to eat during the summer. This recipe is an absolute delight. I found it in a Sainsburys Magazine but, even with an extensive search, could not find a link on their website so I have written it out in full below.

I would never have dreamt of putting chicken, blue cheese, pecans and peaches together in one salad, although I have made salads with a combination of some of these flavours. This is also the first time I used honey in a salad dressing and I was very nervous that the overall effect would be too sweet. I need not have worried. The saltiness of the cheese was a perfect complement to the peaches and dressing and the pecans and chicken made for a great variation in textures. My husband loved it so I am sure we will be having this again. Be sure that the peaches are ripe as the hard ones have little flavour and will not be sweet enough for the overall effect.  If you measure the honey after the oil it will slide off the spoon easily.

Chicken and Roquefort Salad                        Serves 2

  • 2 ripe peaches, stone removed and cut into 8 wedges each
  • 2 small chicken breasts, cooked (I braised mine in chicken stock for 15 minutes before slicing and cooling)
  • 100g Roquefort cheese
  • 1 romaine lettuce heart, leaves washed and shredded
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 1.5 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1.5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp clear honey
  • handful of pecans, halved
  1. Divide the lettuce between two plates and scatter with the peaches. Crumble over the cheese and scatter with the chicken (cold) and pecans.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the thyme, vinegar, oil and honey. Season with salt and black pepper the drizzle liberally over the salad.
  3. Serve immediately.

 

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Pork, broccoli and cashew stir fry

21 Aug

DSCI0111I have become a little disillusioned by the food served in Chinese restaurants of late.  Somehow it all tastes very similar and I seem to have a headache the day after eating it. Maybe that’s the wine, oh well.  I have had some success with just throwing in various meats, fish and vegetables into a flavourless oil and stir frying but it is the sauce I struggle with.  There are some amazing Chinese flavourings for sauces but the combination of them to make a balanced tasty sauce is quite tricky.  I have, over recent years found some excellent combinations for classic Chinese dishes such as Sweet and Sour.  The sauce for this dish is similar to a Sichuan sauce but not nearly as fiery as those I have experienced in the past.

I thought I would find out a little more about cashew nuts.

The cashew tree is a tropical evergreen that produces the cashew nut and the cashew apple.  The cashew nut is served as a snack or used in recipes, like other nuts, although it is actually a seed.

The cashew apple is a fruit, whose pulp can be processed into a sweet, astringent fruit drink or distilled into liqueur.Although a nut in the culinary sense, in the botanical sense the nut of the cashew is a seed. The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant chemically related to the better-known allergenic oil urushiol which is also a toxin found in the related poison ivy. Properly roasting cashews destroys the toxin, but it must be done outdoors as the smoke (not unlike that from burning poison ivy) contains urushiol droplets which can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening, reactions by irritating the lungs.  It seems like someone has to go through a hazardous process to bring us this snack.

I found the recipe in a Good Food magazine.  Here is a link to it on their website. http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/sichuan-pork-broccoli-cashew-stir-fry

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