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Monthly Archives: May 2012

These are a few of my favourite (foodie) things

  • Vanilla. Some people (foolish ones) use the term vanilla as a reference to something dull, bland or unexciting, which I must say I find abhorrent! Lets put the record straight, vanilla is amazing. Cheap ice cream has done much damage to the reputation of vanilla, but real vanilla ice cream with vanilla seeds in is truly one of the nicest things anyone can eat. Chocolate ice cream just doesn’t compare. Plus when you have in your hands a vanilla pod, you will be welcomed with the sexiest smell on Earth. Seriously, vanilla smells hot. Don’t be fooled by cheap body sprays, no vanilla scent is as good as the humble, sexy pod. Plus, fresh custard without vanilla would just be bland and tasteless eggy cream, which isnt appealling to anyone. Treat the vanilla pod with some respect peeps!
  • Cheese. Regular readers may be aware that my love for melted cheese knows no bounds. Sit the UN and all the worlds evil dictators around a table together, serve them melted cheese toasties and I think we could have world peace on our hands! Just a thought Ban Ki Moon. Whether its cheese on toast, parmesan on pasta or mozzarella on pizza, I love its stringy oozeyness, strong taste and the fact that its like a hug on a plate. Lets not forget mascarpone either. Next time you have a fresh punnet of strawberries on you, forgo the usual cream (forgive me Britain) and replace with mascarpone that’s had a tablespoon of icing sugar whipped into it. Also good with peaches. Some might call it a bit decadent, but don’t feel constrained by norms and traditions, break out and try something a bit different.
  • Chilli. This could well be my favourite ingredient ever. If I suddenly developed a chilli intolerance I would probably have a nervous breakdown. There goes all that spicy Thai/Chinese/Indian/Mexican/Morrocan/Mediterannean food that I love. Look how many cultures food thrives with the help of the chilli, and I’ve barely scratched the surface there. Without chilli my taste buds would go into mourning and all food would taste bland and unexciting (except for vanilla of course). It’s not that I want everything to be so hot that I come out in a sweat, but a good level of spiciness makes a good dish taste amazing and makes your mouth tingle. I never used to like spicy foods, but over time I’ve gradually built up my heat tolerance to a fairly high level. So if you’re a chilli beginner, don’t dive in head first with a super hot Thai jungle curry, break yourself in gently. Plus, the health benefits of chillies are too numerous to mention here, but check out this website for more information: http://www.chilli-willy.com/chilli-health-benefits/
  • Chocolate. I’m fairly certain you all know where I’m coming from. I love chocolate in almost all forms, whether thats a Galaxy from the vending machine, an expensive bar from a specialist shop, a mug of hot chocolate or as chunks in a tub of Ben and Jerrys. My favourite ways to enjoy chocolate are either by eating huge amounts of Lindtor truffles (truly heaven) or as melt in the middle chocolate fondants with a dollop of clotted cream on the side. Beautiful.

I did cook a recipe today from my June 2011 Delicious magazine but it was so unremarkable that it barely warrants a mention. But it was herb roasted chicken with baby new potatoes and while it was fairly tasty, it was also forgettable. Healthy though. Not even close to any of the above foods, which aren’t included at all in this recipe. Coincidence? I don’t think so!

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It’s a burger, but not as we know it

Today’s recipe came from what is essentially an encyclopaedia of American food, USA by Sheila Lukins. Now, I’m not what rappers would call a hater normally, but this Sheila had the task of travelling around every state and eating loads of delicious American dishes. So this woman gets to eat pancakes, waffles, burgers, steaks, sandwiches, ribs, fried chicken, lobster, pies, ice cream, milkshakes…. Phew, I think you get the point. And she gets to eat this for work. Just think of that when your alarms going off tomorrow morning, and you’ll realise why it’s easy to hate on this woman. In all seriousness though, if my job was to travel, eat and then write about it I’d be pretty darn happy, so fair play to her. If it makes you feel any better, she must be either really overweight or spends a huge amount of time at the gym. Every silver lining has a cloud! I seem to have amassed quite a few cookbooks centred around the States, I just love the food I eat when on holiday over there, and there is so much variation due to the sheer size of the place. It’s wrong to pigeonhole all American food as junk, although you’d be an idiot to not realise the amount of junk food there is there. 52 states, climates ranging from tropical to the tundra, swathes of the country covered by farmland (the cynical might say to keep McDonald’s in burgers and fries) and you’ve got a country that can produce a huge and varied amount of ingredients. And all I can say about the service over there is that it puts the UK’s service industry to shame.

I sadly don’t have the budget for a trip around America to satisfy my hungry palette, so cooking from this book will have to suffice until I have made my millions. I had really wanted to cook the recipe Apple Puff Pancakes from USA this morning to aid my hangover recovery, but soon found I didn’t have any ground cinnamon, and if I can’t do it right then I won’t do it. So I had to make do with regular pancakes smothered in syrup, poor me. In the end I made myself dinner with the recipe Beaufort Shrimp Burgers, which the author first tasted in South Carolina, which is supposed to be a beautiful part of the country, lucky cow. The recipe was intended for 6 people so I tried to round it down as best as I could to make enough for 2, which I couldn’t quite pull off. Miscalculated  how much mayo to add to the chunks of prawn so I ended up with burgers that were a little too runny and couldn’t quite hold their shape in the frying pan (or skillet as the Americans call it, which I think is a much better word if you happen to sing made up ditties while cooking. Not that I do,cough). Not that this mattered too much, the burgers tasted good and because it was made up of shellfish and not minced beef it didn’t feel heavy, greasy or unhealthy. The recipe advises spreading the rolls with tartare sauce which I did but I felt this overpowered the delicate taste of prawns, as without the sauce the burger tasted a lot more fresh and vibrant. Its definitely not your run of the mill burger, but sometimes it’s nice to make a change and try something different. Would I make it again? Not sure, it’s nothing spectacular, and while it’s nice to have a change, no burger can ever top the mighty beef. Not bad for the first recipe I’ve cooked from this book. The book is over 600  pages long, so plenty more recipes for me to sink my teeth into, both figuratively and literally. Bring it on!

 

 

 
 

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30 Minute Meals… Hmmmm

If someone, say, oh I don’t know, a celebrity chef well known for food crusades, tells you that you, yes you can cook a 3 course meal in no more than 30 minutes, it is indeed too good to be true. Jamie Oliver I’m talking about you. In case you hadn’t guessed, todays recipe comes from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals book, and while there are many lovely looking recipes within its pages, they are quite frankly unachievable in such a short space of time. I’m not just saying this after trying one recipe that took ages, I’m saying this as someone who’s cooked many meals from here that have taken a lot longer than half hour. I’ve even teamed up with The Boyfriend in the past to lighten the load and speed things up, but this still took 90 minutes. Why the rush anyway to cook dinner? If I want a quick meal when in a rush I take some leftover chilli out the freezer or pop a pizza in the oven. If I’m not in a rush, that’s what all the cookbooks are for. At the end of the day, cooking should be enjoyable and if I rush around in the kitchen I get stressed, overheated and am likely to accidentally stab someone while flapping about in a panic. Just take your time.

Saying all this, all the recipes I’ve tried from this book have been delicious and if you can forget Jamie’s false promises and just cook at your own pace then you’ll have a lovely dinner. Today I cooked Pregnant Jools Pasta, which I’m guessing from the name means his wife ate this a lot while preggers. I am not pregnant, but agree with Jools that its a tasty pasta dish. Now, the whole meal plan in the book also includes a salad and then some little frangipane tarts but I just wanted the pasta, which meant for the first time ever a dish from this book really only did take half hour. The pasta sauce is made with veg, herbs, spices and sausages that have been de-cased and mashed up so you have something resembling a bolognese sauce. It has a nice aniseed flavour from the fennel seeds as well as some strong balsamic notes. I used low fat pork sausages with a high meat content from Waitrose which made me feel a little bit more virtuous until I grated tons of Parmesan cheese over it. I’m guessing the taste of the dish would vary depending on what sausage you use, but these went very well with all the other ingredients so I recommend.

Other great recipes in this book include Satay Chicken Skewers (very addictive), cheesy grilled mushrooms (part of the steak sandwich meal plan, but this is a very rare occasion where the vegetable is more desirable than the meat) and piri piri chicken. Despite my reservations over the time frame, it’s a decent cook book, but don’t put yourself under any pressure to get the whole meal done in 30 minutes. You’re human, not Superman/Jamie Oliver after all.

PS: if it looks like I had a lot of pasta on my plate, well that’s because I did. Hunger struck!

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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Food

 

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Mojito Cupcakes

Yep you read that right, mojito cupcakes. Cupcakes and mojitos, two of the tastiest things ever invented, combined in a delicious little cupcake. There is a god! This recipe shamefully did not come from one of my many cookbooks, but from another blog (when needing foodie comfort, if I don’t have a new cookbook to perv over, I turn to the food blogs) called OMG Cupcakes. Check it out, although don’t forget Neglected Cookbooks over here alright? Like any sane person, I love cupcakes and I definitely love mojitos, I’ve even been awarded a nickname by some over my love of the cocktail, so naturally when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. The first time I had a mojito I was in Cuba, and I’ve never had a better one since. But this is how it should be, as Cuba did invent the divine drink. Sadly, after that little taste of heaven, the hotel ran out of rum. For the entire duration of our holiday. I know, we thought it was fishy too, a Cuban hotel running out of a national drink, but what can you do? Perhaps this was the staffs revenge for rude tourists (there were a lot of them) speaking very bad holiday Spanish. Anyway, Cuba set off my love affair with the minty mojito and I am happy to say I am still very much in love.

The cake itself is your usual plain sponge with lots of lime juice and zest grated in. Once cooked and cooled, a little chunk of cake is scooped out the top to be replaced by a dollop of lime curd (I couldn’t find lime curd so had to make do with lemon), and then the cakes are topped with a rum and mint cream cheese topping and garnished with a mint leaf. You’ve got all your staple mojito ingredients right there in a cupcake: lime, mint, rum and sugar. And instead of a mixer, you have cake mix, what could be better? I will confess though, that although I would always rather use proper ingredients instead of synthetic substitutes, I couldn’t bring myself to buy a whole bottle of rum for the small amount needed, so bought rum flavouring. I know, I hang my head in shame. But I honestly couldn’t tell the difference and the icing still packs a punch. I should have more wild house parties so I always have whatever alcohol I need for baking! These cupcakes are delicious, and really do taste like a mojito. I really wanted to pipe the icing onto these babies, but I couldn’t get the icing thick enough and it just leaked out the piping bag, so they don’t look as pretty as I’d like, but they sure do taste good. It should be noted that these cupcakes definitely aren’t for kids, and if they tasted one I think they’d hate it, which in my eyes makes them all the more attractive. None of those pesky kids eating them all up before the grown ups even get a look in. They wouldn’t appreciate the zesty sponge, gooey and tart curd, and sweet cream cheese icing with a boozy smack in the face. Make them, eat them, and remember who told you about these genius cupcakes. I do accept cheques.

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PS: Don’t forget to check out OMG Cupcakes for the recipe if you want to give them a go.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2012 in Baking, Cooking, Food

 

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Dream on, dreamer

Trying to lose weight when your a bit of a foodie is officially a bloody nightmare. And when you’re supposed to be writing a blog about unusual and/or delicious foods, you come unstuck. All the things I want to cook from my poor neglected cookbooks contain pretty much all the things that need to be avoided: butter, cheese, cream, chocolate, saturated fat, cholesterol… Damn that saturated fat tastes good. So I’ve been very healthy this week cooking boring healthy foods and doing boring healthy exercise, and now all I can think about is the complete opposite. All I can say is bring on the weekend, when I don’t have to even pretend to be good. After 5 pm on a Friday, there are no rules. With all of the above in mind, and rather than boring you senseless with what I actually ate, here’s what I wish I could have eaten for dinner this week.

Monday: A gigantic slice of chocolate cake. If this wouldn’t make you excited to see Monday arrive, then you must be dead inside. That’s all.
Tuesday: Homemade burgers with loads of cheese and bacon. While any food that when squeezed oozes out grease can’t possibly be healthy, you know for sure that it’s going to taste good. Add melted cheese, crisp bacon and crunchy gherkins and you’re in heaven.
Wednesday: Lasagne. Oh how I love lasagne. What’s not to love- rich meaty tomato sauce, smooth, creamy, bland white sauce (bland is good!), silky sheets of pasta, and a lot of strong melted cheese, with the cheesy edges gone all crunchy. Lasagne and I should really get a room.
Thursday: Thai green curry. When done right, this is so good. But it’s full of calorie laden coconut milk so not diet food. If you’re going to eat it, do it right: either make it from scratch, paste and all, or go to a good Thai restaurant. Spice and flavour paradise!
Friday: Nandos piri piri chicken, followed by chocolate fudge cake and clotted cream. Oh wait, that is what I’m having tomorrow. Thank goodness!

Sorry if any of you working on your summer body now want to roll around in a vat of chocolate cake. Just hold out until the weekend!

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Books, Chocolate, Cooking, Food, Puddings, Thai

 

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Lamb Overload

Yes I’m back. I’m sorry to say that you can’t get rid of me that easily. The Boyfriend works away a lot and cooking then writing about it is what keeps me from long distance relationship insanity! So now he’s gone again its back to trying out new recipes and taking risks in the kitchen. And lucky for you, he’s gone for flipping ages so I’ll be blogging like no ones ever blogged before!

Yesterday for The Boyfriends last day at home for 4 long months, we rustled up a pretty scrummy roast lamb dinner. The trouble is, The Boyfriend, god love him, can’t just get a modestly sized lamb joint for the two of us, oh no. Instead, we ended up with an entire leg of lamb that could have easily fed 10 people. I should never let him into a supermarket without a chaperone. Sweetly, he did suggest he brought it so I could use the masses of leftover meat for dinners throughout the week, which would sound lovely if he didn’t know I don’t really like lamb all that much. Me thinks someone just wanted to pig out on lamb.

So what did I do today with some of the leftovers? Naturally I turned to the queen of leftovers, Nigella, and knocked up an Anglo-Asian lamb salad straight from the pages of Express. I’m finding myself more and more drawn to salads these days after a couple of very successful ones which regular readers may remember. I have some weight to lose for the summer so to enjoy healthy low fat food is now a complete and utter blessing. This fusion salad incorporates the Britishness of roast lamb and red currant jelly with the spiky flavours of Asia and while nothing ground breaking, is pretty damn tasty. The dressing is sharp, sour and spicy and includes chilli, spring onion, soy sauce, red currant jelly and rice vinegar. Coat the lamb in the dressing then toss through a plate of salad leaves. Rather poetically, I went for lambs lettuce as my salad of choice and I suggest you do to. You don’t want a leaf with a strong flavour as the dressing packs quite a punch. Nigella cooks lamb steaks fresh for this salad, but leftover roast lamb also works, making this a super speedy dinner after a long day at work and an excruciating legs,bums and tums class!

Now all I need to do us work out what else I can use that lamb for. 3 servings down, only 7 to go!

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Supper Club gratin

Well I’m back on the cookbook scene today after going AWOL for a bit, and today’s recipe was from my shiny new cookbook ‘Supper Club’ by Kerstin Rodgers. Finally using it after weeks of it floating around the living room just waiting to be put to work in the kitchen. There are lots of really intriguing sounding recipes in this cookbook and because she runs an underground restaurant they are also at times unique and sometimes downright disturbing. 7up salad anyone? In her defence, she puts that salad in a themed menu which is apparently an accurate summary of the food Elvis ate in his final few days. So if you don’t want to die on the toilet, you’d do well to avoid deep fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, candied yams and deep fried dill pickles. Bleurgh. Saying that, the majority of the recipes look very very edible and the effort she puts into presentation is to be commended.

I decided to start off with a pretty tame, unchallenging recipe- gratin dauphinoise with smoked salmon. The Boyfriend makes an immense dauphinoise potato dish that cannot be bettered, but as he spent the afternoon at work I thought I’d knock this recipe up as he does love smoked salmon. No, it isn’t as good as his but it is different and worth making as a main meal rather than a side dish. It was very tasty, with a carby hit from the potatoes, richness from the cream and some omega goodness from the fish. Fish purists may recoil, but in the last 15 minutes cooking time I grated some cheese over the gratin and obviously this raised the gratins game (melted cheese has an excellent tendency to do this) and gave it a crunchy, cheesy topping which was delicious. Apparently you shouldn’t mix fish and cheese, but what would you rather eat, gratin with cheese or without? Thought so. Rules were made to be broken so mix things up. Kerstin recommends serving this gratin with a green salad, scattered walnuts and a walnut oil dressing, but that shits not gonna fly with the old ball and chain, so we had corn on the cob and garlic bread instead. He liked it, I liked it, everyone’s happy. I suspect this dish would be even nicer on a cold and dark winters evening.

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Last night we both did a bit of cooking making homemade pizzas. If you’ve not made pizzas with your other half then you really should try it as it’s a lot of fun. I was in charge of the tomato sauce, he was in charge of the dough. Cue much hilarity from phallic shaped dough and trying to spin the pizza as if we were in the kitchen of an Italian restaurant. But he did make a better dough than I ever could, he may just have the makings of a master baker in him! Chuck your selection of toppings on it (I went for onion, pepper, peppadew peppers and chicken) and plenty of cheese,chuck in the oven for 10 minutes and voila, delicious homemade pizzas! Just don’t put too much cheese on top otherwise you’ll end up with pizza slices that can’t take the pressure and collapse. He learnt that the hard way. I highly recommend making pizzas with someone, it’s quite a bit to do alone and definitely not as much fun as when you’re with someone. We used a recipe from Rachel Allens ‘Home Cooking’ cookbook, but there are so many different recipes online so the possibilities for tasty pizza are endless.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Food, French

 

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