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Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

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The countdown to New York has well and truly begun. Not content with obsessively combing through my brand new yet already dog eared Lonely Planet guidebook, googling where to eat and watching any film that is set in the city (last night was the Woody Allen classic Annie Hall, most enjoyable), I’m also using it as an excuse to cook some classic American foods. Well, you might call it an excuse, I call it Very Important Research. Amongst iconic foods hailing from the US such as burgers, hot dogs and apple pie, buffalo chicken wings fit right in and absolutely deserve their place in this esteemed line up. So this is what I made, using a recipe from the February 2013 Delicious magazine issue, alongside Cajun spiced wedges and blue cheese dip, all from the same magazine.

Buffalo chicken wings hold a special place in my heart as it is, because they remind me of our last holiday in America, where after a long day out at the theme parks, we’d go back to our friends house far away from the Disney-fied Orlando and we’d all share a bucket of wings at the sports bar across the road. You don’t need fancy food to make happy foodie memories, sometimes all you need are chicken wings. Buffalo wings originate from Buffalo in New York state which made them even more perfect to cook in the build up. There are many different ways to make these wings apparently; for this version they were coated in oil, flour and cayenne, baked for 15 minutes then covered in a marinade and baked for another half hour. I burnt the 1st marinade horrendously after taking my eye off the ball (you cook it over the hob before covering the wings in it) so had to make it again from scratch, but apart from this oversight the recipe went without a hitch. The wedges are coated in a spicy, sweet mix and tumbled into a tray of hot oil, whilst the blue cheese dip is simply sour cream, Stilton, garlic and lemon juice mashed together.

The resulting dinner following this recipe was complete heaven. Delicious magazine totally nailed it yet again, reminding me why it is I have a big pile of them stacked in my bookcase. Their recipes deliver, time after time. The wedges were crispy with a crunch from the spicy coating, the skin on the wings had no trace of floppy sogginess to them and were crispy like the chips, and tasted marvellous. The blue cheese dip delivered with its intense cheesiness to counteract the spice in the wings, and the corn on the cob did a wonderful job of assuaging the guilt associated with eating wings covered in a marinade which consists largely of melted butter. Sticking with the American theme, I served this with glasses of cream soda and finished the meal off with slices of New York cheesecake (which I couldn’t be bothered to make myself). A real American experience and perfect wings to keep us going until we get the real deal. After all, ain’t no thing like a chicken wing.

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Posted by on September 2, 2013 in American, Books, Chicken, Cooking, Food

 

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Tastes Like Mojitos

This time last year I rather perversely made an Easter bunny bolognese, which displeased me so much that it went straight into the freezer and there it stayed until we moved and it was chucked away. You’ll be pleased to know that the Easter bunny was spared this year and there was no seasonal symbolic cooking involving cute fluffy rabbits at all. They breed like wildfire, bite, spread vermin and wiped out a lot of native Australian wildlife so I’m not sure why people are so fond of them, but there you have it, we eat lamb but seem horrified at eating those poor baby veal despite the fact they’re killed at the same age sheep are for our Easter roasts. Our eating habits make no sense whatsoever which probably really tickles the French. The only concern I have about veal is that if you eat it it should be British as veal imported from Europe has in general had a pretty horrendous life and spent an awful lot of time in crates. I’m straying a little here seeing as I cooked neither lamb nor veal this weekend, but nevertheless it’s worth knowing.

What with it being a long weekend it felt only right to get stuck in to a bit of baking, using my dads oven. What with it being Easter I had to make something chocolatey, and craving some salted caramel I made Gizzi Erskine’s delicious salted and rosemary caramel millionaires shortbread. I made these last year and fell in love with the odd combination of rosemary and chocolate, yet didn’t quite manage to win anyone else around to them. I took these to a family get together and my cousins twin boys informed me that they would be much better if I used milk chocolate rather than dark. Chocolate is totally wasted on the young! However, I decided this time that maybe I should heed their advice and go for the less intense stuff. Kids, what do they know? While still utterly edible and moreish, these sweet treats need the slight bitterness of dark chocolate to take them from good to great, and being a bit richer its harder to over eat. With milk it’s oh so easy to just have one more. If adding rosemary to millionaires shortbread sounds like one step too far for you, I’d urge you to at least try it. The hint of rosemary stops the caramel from being too sweet and the slight umami taste alongside the chocolate and shortbread really adds something, but I can’t put my finger on what that is exactly.

As well as that, I made a lemon, mint and blueberry loaf cake from the April 2012 edition of Delicious. And Delicious it truly is. You make a simple loaf cake with blueberries, bake and while cooling pour over a mint and lemon sugar syrup and leave to soak up. The key to this cake is using real mint leaves instead of flavouring, and you end up with a soft, fruity cake that has a sharp yet minty crunch on top. Gorgeous, and tastes just like a mojito. In fact, I think this cake would be even better if the blueberries were replaced with raspberries, and the lemon with lime, resulting in what I’d like to call a raspberry mojito cake. Can you imagine anything more tasty than a cocktail turned into a cake? I can’t quite frankly and am now itching to make my own version. The blueberry cake itself is still very good and I love how it looks as though the blueberries exploded within the cake, leaving only a juicy blue stain as a clue that they were there. When you pour the mint syrup over the cake it looks like you’ve poured a delicious bright green sludge over it, but this soon gets absorbed into the sponge, leaving only crunchy sugar behind. Gorgeous.

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Posted by on March 31, 2013 in Baking, Chocolate, Cooking, Food

 

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A Load Of Rhubarb

Todays cooking endeavours started out so miserably that I was almost tempted to give up by 10am. My attempt to make a rhubarb compote without a recipe to hand didn’t end up as I expected – with me pulling it off perfectly and then feeling like a domestic goddess with no need for cookbooks ever again – but with a burnt tray of rhubarb and black sugar that, needless to say did not make it to my breakfast of banana and Greek yoghurt. Safe to say it was a very boring breakfast without that sweet – sour tang of rhubarb, and the cookbooks are staying. That’s what happens when you ignore the smell of burning wafting in from the kitchen! Luckily for my tummy (and for the blog) I picked myself back up and carried on undeterred with my planned cooking, as once The Boyfriend is back my weekends will be spent DIY-ing, moving and doing a whole lot of cleaning, so lets cook while we can!
While I’m not on a diet (because I hate them, don’t believe they are sustainable and don’t want to spend January starving) I am eating a lot more healthily and downsizing my portions in a slow burn attempt to drop a dress size by the end of April. I’ll never be able to stick to any eating plan that denies me chocolate and cake, so lets just be healthier. Bearing this in mind, for my lunch I blended up a soup from Nigella Christmas, sweet potato and butternut squash. It may not be Christmas anymore but there are plenty of winter friendly recipes and this one happens to be full of goodness, plus the golden orange colour peps up an icy day. The Boyfriend is not a fan of either sweet potato or squash which I find pure madness as I love them and they are exceptionally good for you to boot. It’s a really simple soup to make and tastes ridiculously good. There is a warming edge to it from the nutmeg and cinnamon, and the unusual addition of Marsala wine cranks the flavour up a notch. It’s sweet like you’d expect from a sweet potato soup but while the Marsala adds sweetness, the taste of alcohol stops it from being too much. If you cook a lot then a bottle of Marsala is an essential, you can use it in desserts like tiramisu and trifles, stews, soups, chicken dishes…. It’s indispensable and because its a fortified wine it lasts ages in the store cupboard. Get some now! In the cookbook, Nigella also recommends making a blue cheese sauce to swirl over the soup but this would turn lunch from healthy to indulgent. It helps my weight loss that its the week before payday too, otherwise that blue cheese may well have just accidentally found its way into my trolley.

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As I’m sure you all remember, Sunday used to be my baking day but with The Boyfriend being back for three months that got shelved. Well, its back for one day only! Thankfully I hadn’t burnt all of my rhubarb this morning and still had plenty of stalks left to bake a cake. Trawling through my Delicious magazines I found the recipe for rhubarb, vanilla and sour cream crumb cake in the March 2011 edition and knew I just had to make it. Rhubarb deserves more than crumbles, delicious though they are. It may come as a surprise to those of you who I haven’t been out drinking with, but I’m a big fan of hip hop and my preferred choice of music to bake to is always rap. I’m terrible at rapping myself although give me a few mojitos and I soon forget that, but what can I say, in the privacy of my own kitchen (and car, shower, bedroom….) I pretend I’m Azealia Banks or Lil Kim. This is how I found myself chanting “I guess that cake getting eaten” while spooning the cake and rhubarb mix into the tin (for those of you with a sensitive disposition, sticking with my cake lyrics to 212 is probably for the best). The cake itself is supremely yummy, but how could a cake with a vanilla sponge, tangy yet sweet rhubarb and a crunchy topping made of sugar and butter ever not be? I kept my portion to a small slice and resisted having any custard with it, but that would be a heavenly combination. The rest will hopefully be dished up tomorrow when friends are over for dinner, although I am now wondering if they are all as fond of rhubarb as I am? It’s so beautiful and pink though, how could anyone dislike it? Anyway, the cake is moist, sweet, sour with a tasty crunch from the topping, and in my eyes is the perfect cake to chow down on on a cold Sunday afternoon. In the words of Azealia (well, sort of) “Imma ruin you, cake”.

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Last but by no means least, for my dinner I made Malaysian satay chicken from Gizzi Erskines Kitchen Magic, which is one of my favourite cookbooks. I marinated the chicken in some Asian ingredients, left it all day then cooked and served with rice. The chicken was really tasty, with sharp, almost Thai tastes and kept me going back for more even when the rice was starting to fill me up. It was probably a mistake to serve with rice as although the marinade seemed plentiful when I started cooking, by the time the chicken was cooked through it had evaporated massively with just enough clinging to the chicken but not enough to stop the rice being dry. In spite of this though it was delicious and will be a tasty cold lunch tomorrow too. Another success from Kitchen Magic, which I can’t recommend enough as everything I’ve ever cooked from it has been a total success. You really should buy it.

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Pears, Pastry and Pain

It’s fair to say it’s not been the most successful of weekends. Looking forward to a quiet weekend in preparation for the busy week that lies ahead of me, I was hoping to spend my time quietly baking, watching films and finally having hours of spare time to finish the book Wicked Girls. While I got the baking side of things dealt with, everything else took a back seat when the migraine struck. Oh how I hate those bastards. Anyone who’s been unfortunate to have them knows they are more than mere headache, and in my case they make me feel like my foreheads been clubbed with a baseball bat and then make me feel nauseous without the relief of actually being sick. There goes the reading and film watching! All I could do was lie under the duvet in the dark, sobbing and desperately wanting The Boyfriend back. I’m not ashamed to say that I have a ridiculously low threshold for pain (The Boyfriend still hasn’t forgotten the time I exclaimed that a napkin had hurt my nose – in my defence, it really had) and when faced with proper pain I’m reduced to crying. Such was the extent of the crying that I couldn’t even venture out to the shops to get painkillers thanks to the puffy red eyes and an alcoholic looking nose. Irresistible! I most certainly wouldn’t hold up under torture. Or being threatened with a napkin with scarily pointy corners. Rather heroically though, throughout the pain I still managed to get my baking done even when standing up meant feeling slightly woozy. This migraine wasn’t going to completely ruin my weekend, damn it.

First up was my very first attempt at a savoury tart. I’m not entirely sure what drove me to so desperately want to cook one but I spent plenty of time leafing through my Delicious magazines to find one, and inspired by Great British Bake Off I really wanted to make some pastry. So I made a cheddar, onion and courgette tart with homemade shortcrust pastry. I used to be intimidated by the idea of making my own pastry, but shortcrust is actually very easy, all you need is plenty of flour and then crumble through half the amount of butter to flour and add a few splashes of water. Easy. I’m not really a big fan of courgettes, having only ever eaten them in big, slimy chunks, but this tart contains grated courgette which I’m much more comfortable eating as the texture is so different. While this tart does take a bit of time to make, the oven does most of the work so you just need to be militant about checking it’s progress in the cooker. My verdict on the tart was that while the filling was cheesy and contained plenty of goodness from the veg, I just wasn’t won over by the pastry. Filo, puff, sweet, all pastries I can happily get on board with and eat plenty of, but shortcrust just seems so bland and dry that it feels completely pointless as something to eat. I know the taste comes from the filling and the pastry is there to hold everything together but even so, it’s nothing to get excited about. However, the topping of melted cheese on this tart does go someway to make up for the shortcrust, so don’t let this put you off. I’m hoping this will be tasty cold as part of my lunch throughout the week. If you want to hunt this recipe down you can find it in the August 2010 edition of Delicious.

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Again inspired by Bake Off, I decided to make an upside down cake which was one of the tasks in the competition a few weeks ago. Going with my gorgeous Primrose Bakery book, I made ginger and pear cake which smelt wonderful in the oven. In the book, they say they bring this cake to the bakery counter in the autumn when the nights start drawing in and there’s a chill in the air as its ingredients are just made for chilly nights. You’ve got ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and of course, pears, which I love. This week has definitely seen a shift in the weather, and even though it was actually quite nice yesterday, I wanted to welcome in the autumn by baking this cake. We’ve had such a mediocre summer that I’m actually looking forward to the cold and crispness of autumn and winter. Bring on the jumpers and Ugg boots I say and let’s all hunker down in the kitchen with casseroles and warming roasts. The upside down cake is perfect for cold weather, with the mouth tingling from the ginger and spices, stodgy comfort from the damp cake and then a sweet coating of caramelised pears and stickiness from the melted sugar and better. Bliss. Plus, it means the pears are soft no matter what, which is a blessing as while pears taste gorgeous when just ripe, they have about a day in which they are perfect. If you don’t eat them on that exact day, they will either be too hard or too mushy. Fact, pears are tricky, but I still love them. The most impressive part of me baking this cake is that it doesn’t look all that different to the professional version, which makes me a very happy lady. Especially as while making it I felt like someone was drilling into my head with a Black and Decker. So maybe I wouldn’t hold up under torture, but knocking out a cake and a tart under the circumstances surely makes up for my low pain threshold, right? Luckily right this minute I have Nurofen Express coursing through my veins, a roast chicken in the oven and the Observer Food Monthly to inspire me, so the weekend is finally starting to look right, albeit on the last dregs of it. Happy Sunday everyone!

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Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Baking, Books, Cooking, Food

 

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Mmmmmm, squeaky cheese

Foolish is the woman who goes on a healthy eating kick the same time that Masterchef and Great British Bake Off are back on TV. And very foolish is one who watches Bake Off at the same time as eating today’s recipe, so one can only assume that the fool is indeed me. After nearly a month of no exercise and eating pretty much whatever I want while The Boyfriend was home, it’s now time to get sensible again and eat healthily. Most days anyway, I need my baking Sunday’s now more than ever seeing as he’s flown away again. I was pretty darn determined to not eat dull, boring meals as part of my healthier lifestyle so I have torn through my cookery magazines to find plenty of delicious recipes to keep me going and to keep me interested in eating well. Today’s recipe has absolutely achieved that. I made fennel and halloumi salad from the August 2012 Delicious magazine and it really surprised me. I’ve not eaten a lot of fennel or halloumi before so had no idea how this would turn out, especially with the addition of dried cranberries which I wouldn’t automatically pair with any of the other ingredients. But what do I know, we’ve already established my foolishness after all, and in the end it was a nifty little salad with a tonne of flavour that was also super speedy to make. The only cooking involved was frying the halloumi so it browned and went a little bit squishy. Before today I was a halloumi virgin, and I have to ask why I left it so long as i loved it. The warm and soft halloumi went really well with the aniseedy crunch of the fennel, while the cranberries added a sour note which made the salad really interesting. It’s not often people say that about salad is it? I put a small portion on my plate thinking it would never fill my (slightly larger than a month ago) stomach but the cheese makes it deceptively filling. Ahhh squeaky cheese, what can’t you do?

As well as feeling virtuous by eating a tiny and healthy dinner, I also felt that I was doing my bit to spare an innocent chicken or salmon by declaring my day Meat Free Monday. This is despite the fact that I have a big bag of chicken breasts in the freezer and that my insignificant and completely insincere protest will make not a jot of difference to any chicken whatsoever. And I’m having salmon tomorrow. But it made me feel good, so high five for me! Anyway, it’s good to know that should you seek out salads that are a little more unusual, you will be rewarded with a great tasting dinner that leaves you feeling full and opens your taste buds up to some new flavour combinations.

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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Food, Salads

 

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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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Pancakes and Pears

Todays recipe could be described as perfect hangover food, were it not for the excessive amount of kitchen equipment needed to make them. The recipe is choc chip drop scones with caramelised pears, and to make them I needed: 2 saucepans, a frying pan, chopping board, 2 bowls, an electric whisk, a sieve and plenty of cutlery. A tad excessive for pancakes, but these recipes aren’t going to cook themselves and like I said, this  is the perfect hangover food so needs must! After finally getting out of bed at 3pm today and faffing around for several hours in a post-vodka inebriated state, I decided to scrap having a normal dinner and cook up these pancakes. I wouldn’t normally go to this much effort for just me, but I bought all the ingredients for this when I cooked hunters chicken pie last week for a friend, but she then brought along a lovely cheesecake and after the pie we had no room for any kind of dessert anyway. And the buttermilk needed for them goes out of date in a few days so not wanting to let anything go to waste I had these for dinner. Nigella would certainly approve, although these came from Delicious Magazines April 2010 edition, and not one of her books for once.

These choc chip drop scones (but lets call them pancakes as that is what they are), were very very delicious and brought me back to Earth. Fluffy, with gooey chips of melted chocolate drops and covered with sweet, sticky caramelised pears, heaven. If you ever decide to make caramel please do be careful. Molten hot melted sugar is an absolute bastard if you get any on your skin as it will burn, and on the pain scale is up there with touching your eye just after chopping chillies. I speak as someone who has had the misfortune of doing both so just take my word for it. I’m ashamed to say I’ve put my eyes through chilli pain at least twice. The first time I did it I’d put a ridiculous amount of eye make up on and while running my eye under the cold tap in the bath for 20 minutes to relieve the stinging I then got mascara gunk under my eyelid which only added to the pain. My cheek also swelled up and went bright red for the afternoon, so I looked ravishing! All for a bowl of chilli linguine that just tasted of foolish mistakes once I finally got round to eating it, and that the boyfriend didn’t really like. I’m fairly sure I’ve also done permanent damage to my right eye, it will randomly start tearing up at random moments, and it’s not hay fever or a scratched retina. Still, I do love cooking with chillies and they apparently boost your metabolism so it’s a risk worth taking if it helps burn more calories.

 

This recipe also calls for a chocolate sauce, but quite frankly there was no way I was going to get another saucepan out, and because of all the caramel I think the chocolate sauce would be overkill. And when I tell you the chocolate sauce would be overkill, you’d better believe it.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Puddings

 

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