Monthly Archives: March 2012

Custard Hearts, Broccoli Soup

It’s definitely a weekend for cooking. Apart from a Zumba class last night, this weekend is a quiet one and I’m actually quite glad for that. There are times (and this is one of them) when I just like to shut myself away, do what I want to do, not have to go out and put make up on and just chill. I love spending time with my friends and family, and obviously the best weekends are the ones when I’m with The Boyfriend, but when he is at home it’s very very rare that I get a whole weekend to myself to do exactly what I want to do. I couldn’t do it every weekend, and I can imagine when you don’t have any choice but to be on your own all the time that it would get depressing and dull. But hey, this is one of those very few upsides of an absent boyfriend – no tea making, no Sky Sports News in the background, no reading a book with the occasional interruption of “whats happening in your book?”. I’m pretty sure that if The Boyfriend were to list positives of being away from me it would include not hearing me snore every night, not having to watch me cry at the last episode of Friends/SATC again, and being able to play Football Manager all weekend. The downsides though are many, and too numerous to list! I tend to think as well that if you can’t be happy in your own company, how do you expect other people to be? Plus, you have to turn negatives into positives, so instead of spending the weekend moping and counting down the days until his return, I might as well enjoy it and do some cooking.


So, to the cooking. After going to the gym this morning (so technically I have left the house, but no make up and no effort to look nice required!) I decided it was about time I put my shiny new blender to use and try my hand at soup. The soup in question was broccoli – cheddar soup and is from Americas Most Wanted Recipes buy Ron Douglas. I cooked from this in one of my first blog posts (Chicken Fettucine) and it was delicious, as were all the things I’ve cooked from it before I started this challenge. I know what you’re thinking, broccoli soup, really? But you would be foolish to judge this soup by its cover, as it is so so good and very more-ish. If you’ve eaten at Panera in America then you’re probably already familiar with this soup, and if you’re not familiar with Panera then it’s a soup and sandwich fast food chain, but with high quality food rather than the usual greasy slop you get with fast food. When I had this soup over there last year, I was really surprised how good it was, especially as when I was a child I would not eat broccoli and my dad had to liquidise it into gravy to get me to eat some greens. Safe to say I’ve now moved on from those dark dark times! I actually think that by making it at home I’ve improved the taste, as today it was even better than I remember it. Well, I say I improved it, but I just followed the recipe, so well done Ron Douglas for improving on an already delicious dish. But I will happily take some credit for it, after all I had to convert everything from cups to mls, and ounces to grams. Don’t get me started on cups as a measuring tool, how the hell do you know what 3 cups of broccoli looks like? Sainsburys don’t sell vegetables in cups, they sell it by the gram. Grrrr. Anyway, just because this soup contains broccoli, carrots and onions, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s healthy. There is a lot of butter, cream and cheese in it, but lets face it, thats what makes this food taste so good, and hey,its the weekend!

Before the blender:                                                                                     After:











I also fancied doing a bit of baking, so turned to Feast by Nigella Lawson, which is a brilliant cook book and includes feasts of all kinds, from Passover to Christmas, Eid to Valentines Day. Now I know I’m a little late for a romantic Valentines’ feast, and that it would be a pretty depressing Valentines’ feast with just me present, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t make heart shaped biscuits now does it? Get rid of the prejudice and make heart shaped biscuits for yourself, because what Eva/Beyonce/Cheryl says is true: you’re worth it. These heart shaped biscuits were Custard Cream Hearts and it does seem silly making a biscuit that you can get in every food shop across the land, and are already well loved by pretty much everyone. But shops don’t sell them in heart shapes, so in your face Tesco! It helps that the home made version is much better than the bought ones, the cream sandwich filling is sweet, buttery and full of delicious custard flavour and the biscuit itself is like a thin shortbread with a good crunch. The cookie cutter I had was a bit bigger than recommended so I got fewer biscuits than planned, and a few of the hearts look a bit wonky thanks to the dough being a bit too sticky. You could say they are broken hearts. Very bad joke, I do apologise. Apart from that though, they are really easy to make and taste good enough to justify not just taking a detour down the biscuit aisle. To make these more romantic maybe I’ll send a picture of them to the boyfriend, but there’s no doubt that by the time he’s back these will all be gone. You can see now why I have to go to the gym, I can’t sacrifice good food so work out I must. It seems to be working, and tomorrow is D-Day, the deadline for being able to fit back into my pre-Florida jeans. I haven’t tried them on since Christmas, so keep your fingers crossed for me tomorrow!






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Pie Oh My

Todays cookbook has definitely been one that fits into the category of neglected. It’s Pieminister by Tristan Hogg and Jon Simon, and when I bought it I knew, absolutely knew that I would from that day on bake pies every week and be like the perfect 50’s housewife: pinny on, oven gloves in hand holding a steaming hot pie that would cool on (where else?) the kitchen windowsill. I even imagined having a Homer like person in the family to wolf it all up before dinner. Oddly enough, this scenario never materialised and the cookbook went on the bookshelf to gather dust. I get these strange little fantasies in my head every now and then with a cookbook, but it soon passes and it becomes just another cookbook in my collection. This cookbook does have some pretty amazing looking recipes in it, all pies of course, ranging from sweet and savoury. Its divided into seasons, and the recipes have really creative and interesting names such as ‘Lucky Ducky Pies (duck confit pie), ‘Poussin Boots’ (chicken pie) and ‘The Hedonist Pie’ (chocolate pie) which make them seem even more appealing than pies already are. A lovely friend of mine from school days came round for dinner, so I decided to finally give Pieminister a go, despite the fact that the weather has been smashing and is not really traditional pie eating weather. But conventions were made to be broken, and if I’m ever going to break with convention then I can tell you it will only ever be with cooking. I chose Hunters Chicken pie which takes all the elements of the pub dish hunters chicken and chucks it into a pie. So you’ve got chicken in a creamy, mustardy sauce, onions slowly cooked into a BBQ relish, all topped with cheese and then encased in puff pastry. I love hunters chicken and can now say that I also love Hunters Chicken Pie! Its not as in your face as the pub dish, but much more subtle and the creamy sauce  combined with the melted cheese is a winner. And theres bacon in the sauce too, which can only help make this pie an absolute diamond. Plus, what can I say about piping hot puff pastry other than that it is magnificent with pretty much anything. (If you need more convincing on this subject, make ham and cheese empanadas and consider yourself convinced). I didn’t even consider making my own puff pasty from scratch, just buy it from the chilled section in the supermarket. Top chefs in top restaurants do this, so don’t be a martyr, and just do it the easy way. If you want to create thousands of layers of butter from scratch be my guest, but believe me no one is going to think its a good idea. Leave it to Jus-Rol.

It also got the thumbs up from V, who could barely contain her pleasure at this pie, so I consider this recipe a great success and will absolutely be using this cookbook again. Once the boyfriend comes back I’ll also be cooking this recipe once more: cheese, bacon, pastry, he’ll bloody love it! And you have V to thank for getting this picture on here, I was already chowing down when she yelled ‘Oh my god, you haven’t taken a picture for your blog, quick TAKE A PICTURE!’, it was quite the drama! Hence the fork shaped hole in the pastry, sorry!

I’ve now also had my new cookbooks delivered, which has given me plenty of reading material and ideas. The USA cookbook is filled to the brim with amazing authentic sounding recipes, it has 25 pages alone dedicated to pancakes, waffles and muffins so whats not to love? Only problem is picking what to cook out of these books as I want to cook them all! Supper Club is a beautiful book full of stunning pictures, and as well as recipes gives tips on how to set up an underground restaurant. This tempted me for all of about 5 seconds until I remembered I don’t really like strangers and can’t stand small talk (if all you can think to talk about with someone is the weather, just don’t bother talking at all, its less insulting), so setting up a mini restaurant in your home is really something you should only do if you will talk to anyone and don’t mind randoms snooping round your bathroom cupboard. And want to wait on people hand and foot. I don’t think so, even the boyfriend doesn’t get such treatment when I cook for him so why should total strangers? But the recipes are definitely worth giving a go. Have only flicked through The Book of Jewish Food but the food sounds so varied and delicious. Its not just cheesecakes, bagels and smoked salmon, let me tell you! It also includes a huge amount of history and culture of Jewish people and already I’m learning so much. I thought I knew plenty about the Jewish faith before this, but apparently idolising Larry David and watching Charlotte convert from Christianity to Judaism on Sex and the City isn’t educating me on the subject, so I’m happy to be enlightened.

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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Baking, Books, Chicken


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Confession Time

I have a confession to make. Despite the love for cookbooks, the passion for cooking and the fact that I have had a very lazy afternoon and evening, sometimes I just can’t be bothered to cook. Yes I’ve got a long list of recipes on the wall and too many cookbooks, but today I just could not bring myself to cook anything from them. Today I really didn’t know what I wanted to eat, everything on the list just looked too time consuming or pointless to cook for one. Tempted with the idea of a takeaway, I nearly caved but possibly for the first time in my life, my willpower came to the rescue. Miracles DO happen! Driving to the supermarket, I had a brainwave and knew exactly what I had to have. Now foodies, brace yourselves because this is a very unfoodie confession and Italians, all I can do in advance is apologise and beg you to forgive me. But when I want comfort and a filling dinner, it has to be spaghetti bolognese, and, gulp, it has to be Dolmio, There, I’ve said it. A whole paragraph to summon the courage to say those words! I can’t help it, the heart wants what the heart wants! Or the stomach anyway. Anyway, I’ve said before, I’m not a food snob and I know that a bottled tomato sauce advertised by creepy puppets that look like David Gest isn’t authentic Italian food. I don’t eat it to get an Italian hit. I eat it because it takes me back to being a little girl watching Gladiators and Generation Game on a Saturday night with the family eating spaghetti bolognese. What you ate with your family as a child definitely plays a big part in what your tastes are as an adult, and it doesn’t matter how sophisticated your eating habits are or how many confits, emulsions or quenelles you’ve had, you will still hanker for food that takes you back to your childhood. Admittedly, the spag bol I had as a child was homemade and tasted marvellous (and randomly had peas in it), but I no longer live at home and today was not a day I wanted to stand around chopping onions and garlic, so Dolmio it was. I ain’t ashamed, and neither should you be of your go-to comfort foods! The boyfriend can’t understand the love for spaghetti bolognese, to him its just a run of the mill meal his mum forced him to eat with big chunks of veg in. I pity him for not having the Gladiators/spag bol experience, he don’t know what he’s missing!


If you’ve seen Ratatouille (a Pixar film about a rat who can cook, and is definitely in my top 5 films of all time),  then you’ll probably remember the scene where Anton Ego, the mean food critic, takes a bite of the rats Ratatouille and is instantly transported back to his childhood and his mothers lovingly made ratatouille. Then he is transformed into a lovely lovely man and they all live happily ever after after. True. The power of good comfort food! A certain cheap nasty sausage brand has ripped off this scene for its adverts, and for that they should be thoroughly ashamed!

To make this Saturday night even more comforting, I had some shop bought vanilla ice cream and some toffee sauce. Sounds unexciting doesn’t it? Wrong! Good vanilla ice cream is so overlooked, and while cookie dough, strawberry cheesecake and the like are delicious, vanilla will always be my favourite, its just so good. I’m not talking about cheap fluffy aerated vanilla ice cream, good ice cream should never be fluffy, only smooth, and must have little flecks of vanilla seed contained within. Otherwise don’t bother. Homemade toffee sauce by the way, is amazing and you really should make it. I used to make it for toffee apple crumble, but every time I made it I would sneakily eat several spoonfuls at a time, leaving not a great deal for the crumble. I always had a sneaky feeling it would go great with ice cream, and my instincts have not failed me! There is no nutritional value whatsoever to this sauce (its made up of cream, brown sugar, butter and golden syrup) and will keep your dentist in business for quite some time, but if you make a batch it does keep in the fridge for about a month. I can guarantee though that it will not be around that long. I know that I’ve been pretty bad this week with the food I’ve eaten, but in my defence I am running three miles tomorrow for Sport Relief, and have been to the gym several times. I only exercise so that I don’t have to give up the food I love.

Anyway, to compensate for the lack of cookbook challenges this weekend, here are some of my favourite comfort foods:

  • Cheese and baked beans toastie. Sounds messy, is messy, but is also delicious and my favourite childhood food. Best part is the nearly burnt crispy bits of cheese stuck to the crusts.
  • Dairy Milk. I love ‘grown up’ chocolate, but while they may be tasty and sophisticated, they do not comfort in the way Dairy Milk does. Christmas Day as a child was not complete without a ginormous Dairy Milk present, tucked down the side of the bed and bit by bit devoured by the time we had to go back to school. Unbeatable.
  • Roast chicken. No explanation needed.
  • Steak and dauphinoise potatoes. The fail safe meal the boyfriend cooks for me on a Saturday night in when he’s home. Red meat, carbs, cheese, cream, and the boyfriend back home – perfection.
  • Apple and blackberry crumble and Birds custard. I love homemade custard, but childhood custard was always Birds. Blackberries handpicked with the parents from the fields in the village. Heaven.

What about your comfort foods???





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Posted by on March 24, 2012 in Cooking


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No Spring Chicken

Today, spring chicken from Nigella Kitchen. I know what you’re thinking, another Nigella recipe, but hey, her cookbooks are great as are the recipes so its hard to keep away! I’m on a Nigella ‘hype’ at the moment, as I believe the kids would say (but what would I know, I made a list of recipes I wanted to cook, then cook them and write the results up, so I’m not exactly what you would call ‘down with the kids’).  I’ve spent the week trying to repent for the cinnamon buns I made on Sunday, so far my week has consisted of going to the gym and circuit class, for which the only positive thing I can say about it is that it didn’t kill me. Have also bought a lot of fruit for my breakfasts (mango, grapes, pineapple, pomegranate seeds), although I’ve used this to justify eating chips and then Mcdonalds for lunch two days in a row. In my defence, I tried to get a Happy Meal today but was subsequently mocked for this, so peer pressure meant I caved and had an ‘adults’ meal. Shame, as the toy looked really good.

Spring chicken was a lovely dinner, it’s sauce is made up of cider, pancetta, leeks, celery, tarragon and garlic so as you would imagine is very fragrant and flavoursome. Once you tell me a sauce has cider in I’m pretty much sold on it, it smells so damn good while cooking and tastes sweet but salty and goes so well with meat. An obvious match would be pork but is just as good with chicken too. I’m not a big drinker, and tend to use alcohol more for cooking than anything else. Wine fans would probably be horrified to know I open a bottle of wine  for a glassful to throw in a recipe, then forget about the rest of the bottle for weeks until it has to be thrown away. There’s a scene in an episode of Peep Show, where Jeremy is in a restaurant drinking expensive wine with a girl, and all he’s thinking is something along the lines of “it’s no Ribena or hot chocolate, but for wine, yum”. This is pretty much my take on wine, I like it but can take it or leave it. Blame it on too many nights out that end with me falling asleep in the bathroom! Good thing I discovered mini bottles of wine to cook with instead. Spring chicken, its not a dinner that wows and stuns, but is a comforting way to end a long day at work. Nigella also gives ideas for leftovers in this book, and for this chicken recipe she recommends stripping the chicken off the bone, and using the sauce and chicken to coat some pasta. So thats lunch tomorrow sorted. I’m trying to avoid freezing leftovers now as the freezer is now absolutely packed with portions of dinners past, so I need to make a dent in these before filling it up again. I don’t like throwing food away!


In other news, it was payday yesterday, so naturally that means more cookbooks – three to be exact. I know, I’ve fallen off the wagon spectacularly with my cookbook binge. In classic addict behaviour, I am apportioning the blame to someone else, and this would be the demon that is Amazon. That tool which tells you ‘Like this? Then you’ll love these’ gets me every time, so I’m now impatiently waiting for “The Book of Jewish Food” by Claudia Roden, “Supper Club” by Kerstin Rodgers, and” USA Cookbook” by  Sheila Lukins. Well at least they are all very different. Just can’t wait to get my hands on them and get cooking!


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Found: Baking Nirvana

Today has been a day of 2 halves: the first half revolved around me lying in my nice clean bedding alternating between watching TV and snoozing. It’s what Sundays were made for and it was pure nirvana. The second half then involved doing a bit of baking and discovering a different kind of nirvana:  Baking Nirvana. Yes, there is such a thing and I discovered it through the supremely delicious Norwegian Cinnamon Buns from How To Be A Domestic Goddess. More Nigella I know, but I do have a lot of her books so she is going to crop up frequently on these pages. It seemed  very appropriate that I make bread today as this is what I most clearly remember doing with my mum when I was little before she passed away. I hadn’t planned on this when I decided to bake these buns, but while talking  to a friend about Mothers Day she asked me if I ever do anything for it, for which the answer is usually a no. But upon reflection it seemed like a happy coincidence to be making some buns today (Mothers Day) and would be a lovely way to celebrate my mum and to remember her by. It will have been 18 years this May since she passed, and while I’ve completely come to terms with it and love my life the way it is, it’s important not to forget her and to celebrate the things she taught and passed on to me. I do love baking and sometimes wonder if the reason I love it so much is because it is a link to those early days kneading dough with my mum. Or perhaps it is just because I’m a greedy pig and love eating! Either way, I love it. Back to the buns – they are the best thing I have ever baked and so so so delicious. But, if you are going to make these, be prepared for a lot of mess in the kitchen, with bowls, work surfaces and yourself all covered in dough which is not easy to remove. You will be cursing either me or Nigella for the mess, but believe me the effort is worth it, and when you’re sinking your teeth into these sweet, sticky, dense buns you will have forgotten all about the cursing and sticky bowls and be in Baking Nirvana. They are that good. These probably aren’t the best things to try if you’re a beginner with baking because of some of the hard work involved, but if you’ve got a bit of baking know how and have patience, then you should give this a go. The dough is soft but dense, the filling sugary but warm with the cinnamon and the top of the buns crunchy and caramelised from the sugar and egg glaze. Still warm from the oven is when they are their best but cold they are still a notch above any baked goods that you can buy in supermarkets. Highly recommended! I slated Nigella a couple of posts ago about the unreliable dough recipes, but with this recipe I take it all back. If you want me to ever forgive you, sugary buns are the way to do it! The only downside is that this makes 20 buns, and as good as they are, I could not wolf down 20. These will definitely be taken into work tomorrow. If you’ve got friends over for brunch then these would be perfect as they could still eat them while warm, but if you can only make them ahead for a group of people they will still be delicious cold.

Before the oven: 



Up close and personal:

For dinner today I cooked myself rogan josh braised chicken from the March 2010 edition of Delicious. This is a one pot dinner and really tasty and easy to make. You need to use a whole chicken and slowly cook it in the oven over a mix of vegetables and spices (which eventually make a curry sauce) until the whole thing is cooked and juicy. This recipe came from an article about braising, and I could have been a bit braver and tried the more obscure bits of meat such as pigs cheeks or oxtail, but I played it safe with the chicken! You know what you’re getting with a chicken, and on a Sunday there is nothing more nourishing and comforting than chicken. It may seem odd or excessive to be home alone and cook myself a whole chicken, but as well as tonights dinner it will also be part of lunch and dinner for the next couple of days. For this recipe that’s encouraged, as apparently the flavours intensify over night so hopefully at lunch tomorrow it will taste even nicer than it did tonight. And it was a tasty satisfying dinner, tender chicken with crisp skin with a vegetable curry and some plain rice. The best thing about cooking a whole chicken (to me anyway) is once I’ve stripped it of all the meat, I turn it over and pick away at the strips of meat most people forget about. The boyfriend thinks it’s disgusting, me tearing away at the carcass and digging around to find bits of meat, and I’m sure it doesn’t show me in a flattering light, but this meat is the best. Its been sitting at the bottom of the tray, soaking up all the fat that drains its way and so the meat is really juicy and tasty. Plus, don’t forget this chicken died so you could have a nice dinner, so be respectful and eat all of it. When I first started cooking I threw a chicken carcass away and it turned over in the bin and I was shocked at how much meat I’d just wasted. Being a meat eater isn’t pretty at the best of times, but if like me you’re comfortable with the fact you’re eating a dead animal, do the decent thing and make sure it didn’t die so you would then waste it. I’m not going to lecture anyone about what type of chicken you should buy as times are tough in this economy, but I eat less chicken during the week so that I can buy free range. Its more expensive, but if you eat a few meatless meals during the week instead of always having chicken or some sort of meat, then you have the spare money to buy a chicken thats had a happy life.


A very successful day for cooking then, and a nice way to end a very pleasant weekend. Happy Mothers Day, to mothers both present and absent!





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Lasagna, Key Lime and Masterchef

Someone please slap me. It has become increasingly obvious to me that since the boyfriend flew off to more exotic climes to work, I have turned into a big soppy ball of mush. It’s vomit inducing even for me, I need a good slap to knock some sense into me (although if you see me in the next couple of days, please don’t). Driving to work listening to the new Mary J Blige album (which is very good by the way), I was paying extra special attention to the lyrics and wondering when exactly I’d spoken to MJB about my love life and why she’d cruelly decided to turn it into a song for millions to hear? Thanks a lot Mary! But now any song which remotely mentions love has me going ” Oh my  god, this is EXACTLY how I feel, this song is about ME!”, and if it also happens to mention being separated by distance and/or time then I start wondering exactly when Alicia Keys started reading my mind and why I’ve not yet received any royalties. Its a sad state of affairs, I may have to take drastic action and start listening to heavy metal to remove me from this lovesick state. Cooking at least takes my mind off it, and I’ve taken another two recipes off the challenge list in the last couple of days. Not that this really puts a dent in the list, as I know already that come payday next week I’ll be adding another cookbook to the list. Like I said, its a sickness and I don’t want to get better.

I had a few work friends round for dinner last night, and decided that instead of playing it safe with the usual lasagne then chocolate cake combo (wonderful though it is) I’d cook a more unusual take on lasagne. This one was from the May 2010 issue of Delicious magazine which is dedicated to Italian food and the recipe was mushroom, parma ham and mascarpone lasagne, which also had pork mince in it. Well I must say it was very nice, and a decent change from traditional lasagne. The meat and mushrooms were cooked in a white wine and chicken  stock sauce with lots of parsley, garlic and onion, and the mascarpone béchamel sauce was really creamy and complimented the meat. Feedback was also very positive and empty plates are always a good sign. I forgot to take a photo of it though, but if you want to picture it, just imagine a lasagne with a white filling as opposed to the usual red one. Thats it!

Dessert was then chocolate and key lime pie from Nigella Kitchen, which is another great cookbook from Nigella. I’d like to point out that there is absolutely nothing nutritional about this dessert apart form the lime juice, which lets face it once mixed with double cream and evaporated milk, then placed into a pie crust made up of butter, digestive biscuits, cocoa powder and choc chips, has lost all of its citrussy goodness. But if you eat dessert for its nutritional qualities, then what the hell are you eating for junk food??? The lime stands up to all the other ingredients though and the filling tastes really zingy and is also super smooth and delicious. The pie crust, while nice did not set very well and ended up crumbling everywhere and became rubble next to the filling. Three slices are still sitting in the fridge and I just know I am going to cave in soon and grab one. It would be rude not to.

And on that note I’m going to eat some leftover lasagne, and catch up on this weeks Masterchef finals. I’m pretty certain that with these heightened emotions and the manipulative use of emotional music I will be crying my eyes out when they surely crown Shalina the winner. Masterchef gets me every time, better take my make up off first!


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Spicy Lamb Pizzas (well, sort of)

Last night was one of those nights when stress and misery was rife, (I’m being a tad dramatic,  I was just in a bad mood) and urgently needed something to take this misery out on. Step forward Nigellas’ How To Be A Domestic Goddess and the recipe Lahmacun. She describes it as being similar to a pizza but do not be fooled by such a description! Firstly, pizzas have cheese, non? A pizza without cheese is either an abomination or in fact not a pizza at all, and as this recipe is not an abomination then one must conclude that it is not a pizza. The Lawson informs me that Lahmacun, as well as being fun to say, is a Turkish flat bread covered in a spicy lamb topping and the first thing she always orders when in any Turkish restaurant. I can tell you that while the Lahmucan itself was very nice with lots of flavour and crisp bread, the making of it was a complete disaster that nearly had me giving up on it. I’ve made various types of bread before and any that weren’t from a Nigella recipe have been a dream to work with, but as soon as I make bread from a Nigella book the dough ends up being so sticky it is almost un-kneadable. I don’t know why this is, although have my suspicions that as Nigella is an avid fan of electric gadgets in the kitchen she isn’t bothered about how sticky it is as the electric mixer does all the work for her. Not that this does the humble cook with no KitchenAid mixers any favours. In the end instead of kneading the normal way, I had to hold it in my hands and bang my hands together for what felt like an eternity until it reached desired consistency. Who needs the gym when you have unreliable bread recipes? And then there was a huge amount of dough literally stuck to the work surface that took a lot of convincing to budge, as well as getting it in my hair and on my clothes. Still, while it  may have been a disaster, all that alternative kneading meant the anger was kept at bay for a while. Once I’d kneaded and proved the bread, I had the impossible task of rolling the dough out. Impossible because no matter how much I rolled it out, it kept shrinking back to miniature size, meaning these would have to be mini Lahmacuns. It was all worth it in the end though because they were really tasty, but if I were to make these again I’d have to use a different flat bread recipe, or, heaven forbid, buy some pitta bread.


Apart from bad dough recipes, How To Be A Domestic Goddess is one of my all time favourite cookbooks. The food all sounds so dreamy and it makes me want to spend all my days in a pinny with a rolling pin in hand. Nigella got a lot of criticism for the title of the book and for making it seem like women belong in the kitchen, but the people criticising obviously never read any of it. Nigella herself says that this isn’t being a domestic goddess, but about feeling like one, and that by baking  it doesn’t mean women  have to ‘renounce the world and enter into a life of domestic drudgery’. Far from it. Just because a woman chooses to enjoy cooking/baking/spending time in the kitchen does not mean that she is taking a step back in time to a world where women had no choice in life but to stay at home, raise the kids and get dinner on the table for Fred Flintstone. Nowadays, women have the ability to choose what they want from their life, whether it be having both a career and children, or one or the other. If a woman chooses to go down the traditional route then good for her, because she has chosen it and not been forced or pressured. Being pressured or forced into a lifestyle you don’t want nor enjoy, whether it be working mum or stay at home mum, or even a wife or mum at all is anti-feminist, choosing and then doing what makes you happy is feminist. Quite a lot to get from spicy lamb pizzas I know! Still, if you want to get to grips with baking or have a wealth of amazing sweet and savoury recipes at your fingertips, then give this book a go. Try the dense chocolate loaf cake first and I guarantee you will be hooked!

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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Baking, Books, Nigella Lawson


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Raspberry Macarons, Lamb Cutlets and Chinese Chicken

Brace yourself readers, this could be a long entry. I’ve been slacking this week, not in cooking but in writing, so here is an update on this weeks cooking adventures (adventures may be stretching it a bit). So what have I been cooking, you ask? Well Thursday after slogging it out in the gym I decided to make the most of the lamb cutlets (which is really just a fancy name for teeny tiny chops) that had been sitting in the freezer for a couple of weeks. Now, I’m not a big fan of lamb really but they needed eating and the recipe was on the list which meant it had to be cooked sooner or later. If I’m going to do this then I’m going to do it right, whether I want to eat it or not. The recipe was from Rachel Allens Home Cooking, which is a perfectly reasonable cookbook with good, solid recipes, but I find Rachel rather bland and quite patronising when I see her on the TV, and feel this is reflected in her recipes. Good basics, but if you want something with more flavour or a little bit different, she is not the cook for you. So I cooked the recipe lamb cutlets with chickpea and caramelised onion mash, and I was actually pleasantly surprised. It was a bit of effort just for me, but sometimes I quite enjoy taking a bit of time and effort for solo meals, if I just lived off ready meals or pasta when the boyfriend was away I would soon be very miserable. You deserve to treat yourself to good food whether you are alone or in good company. The mash felt like a healthier but still filling alternative to potatoes, the sauce was rich and delicious, and the lamb was, well still lamb, but credit where credit is due, I’d cooked it pretty well! But there was not a great deal of meat, which is why I have beef with lamb, its all fat and bones. Still, check out my presentation, its a step up from my usual style of chuck it on a plate and hope for the best.



Then today I decided to do a little bit of baking and decided to tackle the tricky art of macaron making. I needed to do something that would cheer me up after getting told off by a mechanic today for the state of my tyres, especially as he advised me not to do much driving until Monday when they are getting replaced, meaning I’m housebound now until then. I hate, absolutely hate spending money on fixing cars even though I know its a necessity, it doesn’t bring me any joy in the way cookbooks and clothes do. So to raise my spirits I decided to have a go at raspberry macarons from The Skinny French Kitchen by Harry Eastwood. When I first saw this book I really, really, really wanted it (it’s very pretty) and once I inevitably caved in and got it home, I didn’t really bother with it. This is why: French food is so good mainly because it is indulgent, rich and full of cream, butter and lots of other deliciously bad ingredients.The Skinny French Kitchen is full of very good looking recipes, but it focuses so much on how to reduce fat content and calories that it lost me. I don’t eat French food very often, but when I do I don’t want to be worrying about how much butter I’m using. Its a treat for me and treats mean calories, lots of ’em! I appreciate that there are some people who do want everything to be healthy all the time, but I’m not one of them. You may be wondering why bother making these when you can buy them quite easily nowadays but they are really expensive and I can’t work out why. It genuinely is cheaper to buy all the ingredients and make them from scratch, plus you get a great deal more. They were easy to make plus I got to try my hand at using a piping bag for the first time and it actually went OK. They didn’t look as neat and tidy as the ones you can buy, but thats the fun of home baking. Some were a lot bigger than others, but like I’ve said before, you’re not cooking on Masterchef so take pride in your wonky, lopsided cakes/biscuits/whatever! Traditionally macarons are sandwiched together with buttercream, but as this is low fat baking, they were sandwiched together with raspberry jam. Not as tasty and quite sharp, but the actual biscuits were just as they should be, meringue-y and chewy, a nice little snack. But I am still suspicious of anyone trying to make delicious unhealthy food healthy – it tastes so good for a reason, don’t bother changing it because you won’t improve upon the taste.



Then for dinner tonight I cooked garlic and ginger chicken from Chinese Cooking Class by Australian Womans Weekly. It wasn’t too bad, had a nice salty but garlicky taste and had lots of greens in it but it wasn’t really anything special. It would be a good healthy standby to have after work on a weekday as it’s quick and easy to throw together, but for a Saturday night in it was just a bit so-so. Must try harder next time!

So all in all a fairly successful few days of cooking, have tried more recipes I wouldn’t normally go for and also tried my hand at healthy (ish) baking. Which is really what this challenge is all about, trying new things and going outside of my comfort zone.

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Posted by on March 10, 2012 in Baking, Books, Chinese, Cooking, French


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Red Velvet Cupcake Swirls

I promised I’d cook from my new Marian Keyes cookbook, and who am I to break a promise? Yes, I made Red Velvet Cupcake Swirls from her book, and I can now see why baking helped her out of a depression as they were pretty, pretty, pretty good and certainly cheered me up. There was an obscene amount of cocoa powder in these innocent looking little beauties, and with a sweet cream cheese mix swirled into the cake mix these are definitely an indulgent treat, but well worth it. If you need a chocolate hit then these will give you several. They were also ridiculously easy to make so for minimal effort you get pretty delicious little cupcakes. They look quite plain, but because the cream cheese is swirled into the mix, you don’t need to put the frosting on top of them. That would be cream cheese overkill (yes there is such a thing), and as someone who’s been through such a tragic event, I can tell you that you can indeed have too much of a good thing. All I’ll say is that if you are ever at Universal Islands of Adventure in Florida and get a red velvet cupcake from Snookers and Snookers, Sweet Candy Cookers, you too will know what cream cheese overkill is like. Top tip, also don’t eat it and then go on The Hulk as you will regret this. I make these mistakes so you don’t have to.

I took these cupcakes into work for our team meeting, which was really just a front for the more important issue of The Bake-Off. A friend had decided to go head to head with me with her ‘healthy’ lemon drizzle cake so the competition was intense. Everyone loves lemon drizzle cake and chocolate cupcakes so the heat was on! Unfortunately we will never know for sure as people were far too diplomatic to pick a winner, but they were both delicious so we’ll call this one a draw (grudgingly). Next time I will be triumphant!


All in all, a definite improvement on the pineapple cupcakes I made a few weeks ago, which had left me lamenting that I’d never be able to knock up a decent cupcake. Now there is light at the end of the tunnel! A great first recipe to try from Saved by Cake.

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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Baking, Books, Cooking


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Rainy Day Cooking

If you don’t think ice cream is the best thing mankind has ever invented, then I hate to break it to you, but you are wrong, wrong, wrong. Sure, the wheel has been pretty useful, and I guess penicillin has had its moments, but neither match the genius of ice cream. Days out at the beach = ice cream. First date at the cinema =ice cream. Broken heart = ice cream. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Making ice cream can be quite time consuming, so considering today has been cold and rainy I decided to dedicate a bit of time to making peach ice cream from Jamies’ America. However, making it is not for the faint hearted, so if you love ice cream but have even the slightest bit of heart problems, stop right there and go get yourselves some Ben and Jerrys instead (or maybe some heart medication). I however, like to live life on the edge and take risks! But seriously, trying not to scramble the custard base and then having to stir the ice cream every hour once it’s in the freezer is a pain in the arse so only do this if you want to dedicate a whole day to it. I know there are ice cream machines that could make perfect ice cream in an hour, but I also know this: if I had the wherewithal to make perfect ice cream that quickly, I can guarantee it wouldn’t take long for me to reach the point where if I needed to leave the house, it would only be achievable by crane. That’s why I don’t have an ice cream machine. That’s why I do it the hard way, so I only do it very occasionally.

This peach ice cream turned out pretty good in the end. Before I put it in the freezer I couldn’t resist having a taste and it was absolutely divine. Frozen it is still just as good, although the recipe calls for chunks of peach and when these are frozen in the ice cream they slightly ruin the effect of a smooth ice cream. Jamie should really have chosen to puree the peaches instead of keeping them chunky, the fool. However, the smooth, vanilla ice cream with a hint of peach is so good and really creamy. although it is no match for Ben and Jerrys cookie dough ice cream. But really, what is?


I also cooked another meal from my list today, one pot chicken and bacon stew from Delicious Magazine (September 2010). Yes, I’ve included my food magazines as well in this challenge, if I’m going to do this, then I’m going to do it right. And that too was very nice, really meaty and with a tasty sauce. Plus it was all in one pot so not a lot of washing up, and enough to freeze for another night.





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Posted by on March 4, 2012 in Books, Chicken, Cooking, Puddings


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