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Chocolate, Citrusy Goodness

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You can always tell when The Boyfriend’s gone on his travels again by the sugar content of whatever food I happen to be cooking and blogging about. If it isn’t putting you at risk of diabetes, I don’t want to know. Step forward brown butter, chocolate, orange and rosemary cookies from Gizzi Erskine’s Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts (no prizes which side this treat falls on). If chocolate cookies can’t lift the spirits, nothing can.

I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t in love with cookies. Whether it was going through the biscuit tin after getting in from school or buying giant, fresh, gooey cookies from the canteen to get me though GCSE Maths lessons, cookies have been there. As an adult, Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream has soothed after disastrous job interviews (during a maths test for an interview with a bank I panicked, writing out completely non-sensical sums and getting the answers totally wrong, wishing I was allowed to use a calculator. Upon finishing the interviewer gently reminded me of the calculator I’d been told I could use, which had been placed right next to the paper covered in maths gibberish. No, I didn’t get the job. Don’t even ask about the role play element of the interview), soul destroying hangovers and terrible days at work. Cookies are the best. The frustration with cookies is that it’s so difficult to bake a batch that aren’t dry and crumbly, dry being the enemy of a cookie lover. You want gooey cookies when fresh out of the oven which turn chewy once out of the oven for a few hours. I don’t think it’s possible to get a homemade cookie that stays gooey for longer than a couple of hours, although if anyone knows of a recipe for one please send me it!

These cookies totally deliver. Taken out of the oven while still pale in the middle, they cool to a perfect consistency and taste wonderful. Orange and rosemary go really well together, you can’t pick out the taste of the rosemary but get a subtle savoury hint on the tip of your tastebuds to complement the sweet chocolate and orange. At risk of sounding like I’m on the payroll of Rosemary PR, rosemary is super good in sweet foods and you should definitely try it. I brought these into work today without mentioning the rosemary and everyone loved them. Rosemary aside, the chunks of milk chocolate are divine and the texture of these cookies can only be described as fudgey. These cookies are practically good for you, after all, rosemary is believed to help improve memory, is antibacterial, can lift your mood and help detox your liver, whilst orange boosts the immune system, regulates blood pressure and can protect the skin. I haven’t researched the nutritional benefits of sugar and melted butter, but how bad can they be? Oh, turns out very. Never mind.

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Posted by on September 9, 2013 in American, Baking, Books, Chocolate, Cooking, Food

 

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How Do Ya Like Your Eggs In The Morning?

It’s been a while hasn’t it? So much has happened since we last spoke; monarchs have been born, rogue spies have hidden in Russian airports, pensioners have headlined Glastonbury and England has finally had a summer. And in more interesting news, I have done naff all in the kitchen. Naff. All. I’ve had what you might call a cooking ‘funk’. Cookbooks have gone unopened and chillies have gone un-bought. A serious case of funkery if ever there was one (it’s my blog and I’ll make words up if I want to). Could it be the heat? The fact that while The Boyfriends back for three weeks only I haven’t wanted to spend all my free time in the kitchen when instead we could watch New Girl over and over? Have I finally let my laziness get the better of me? Maybe, all I know is I went to bed the other night whining that I was in a cooking funk and upon hearing my dulcet, whining tones The Boyfriend eloquently came back with “well just do some bloody cooking then”. Not just a hat rack my friends, he was absolutely right. All that time I’d spent bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t up for cooking I could have spent cooking and getting back into the habit. No more oven pizzas/stir in sauces/fish fingers for us two, oh no. I’m back on it, ready to try the new and forgo the same old same old. This eureka moment has timed itself perfectly as his next work trip which was starting this Sunday has now been put back a month, so my favourite guinea pig has unwittingly walked himself right into a month free from chilli con carne and roast pork. Sorry dear.

So I started as I meant to go on, by cooking a breakfast that I knew he’d grumble at. While I agree with him that nothing is better on a Sunday morning than a bacon sandwich, I don’t agree that I should eat that every Sunday morning. Mix things up, and have an emergency packet of bacon in the fridge just in case. After falling in love with huevos rancheros earlier on in the year in Liverpool, I knew the time would come that I’d want to make it myself and try it out on The Boyfriend. Step forward Gizzi Erskine and the Weekend Feast section of her most recent cookbook. Huevos rancheros is a traditional Mexican breakfast which combines corn tortillas, tomato sauce, re-fried beans and fries eggs. And cheese, coriander and sour cream. You’re right, it doesn’t sound like breakfast, or at least it doesn’t sound like a breakfast a Brit would have. If every country had a full English as their traditional breakfast then travel would get very boring, very quickly.

Anyway, while cooking this I was fully prepared for The Boyfriend to soon be putting the grill on for that emergency bacon sarnie. Looking at the re-fried beans heating up in their gloop (refried beans are not pretty), I knew just what his reaction would be on seeing these on his plate. Hence why I sandwiched the beans in between the two corn tortillas in the hope he would tuck in with gusto while blissfully ignorant of the legumes hidden under their corn blankets. This is the more exotic version of hiding cauliflower under a river of cheddar sauce for a fussy five year old. Unfortunately, like I said earlier, his head is not just a hat rack so as soon as I handed him his plate he peered between the tortillas to find the stowaway beans. Busted. On the flip side, he’s of the opinion that you should always try something before announcing you don’t like it, which is how we discovered the one pastry item he loves (empanadas, which again he frowned upon before trying and now loves) and that he really can’t stand celeriac. To my amazement, he actually enjoyed the Mexican eggs and ate the whole plate of food, refried beans and all. In his concise summary (at which he is very good at) he stated that “they were good but it’s not a breakfast”. Fair do’s, next Sunday we’ll have a good, old fashioned bacon sarnie where no dispute is needed over its suitability for breakfast.

In summary, just because something doesn’t look to your liking or a meal contains an ingredient you’re unsure of doesn’t mean you should completely write it off. I know and love plenty of people who limit the types of food they eat and don’t really experiment with meals, and that’s fair enough, you can only do what’s right for you and if you’re happy with what you’re eating that’s fine also, it doesn’t affect me one bit. However, I just feel that by doing this people are missing out on so much. If you try it and then find you don’t like it, I respect that, but to announce you don’t like something before you’ve even tried it? What are you basing that on? There is literally a whole world of food out there just waiting to be eaten. Open your mind, but more importantly, open your mouth.

 
 

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Skinny Saturday

Every time The Boyfriend goes away I make a decision that at the time feels like a brilliant idea but in the end turns out to be a completely idiotic one. And the decision is always the same one, every time he goes. I know, I’m an idiot. You’d think I would have learnt by now, after all The Boyfriend is regularly working away and has been for two years now. Yet still I think that by spending my first weekend sans Boyfriend all by myself doing solely what I want to do and being completely selfish is the best idea since sliced bread. It isn’t. Oh, it’s all good up until about 7pm on the Saturday, when a quick glance at Facebook reminds me of all the happy couples spending their evening together, or groups of friends getting ready for a night out and makes me go “huh, I probably should have made plans for this weekend”. Obviously, being apart from the person you’re crazy about isn’t tough in the way that cancer is tough, or your house being burnt down is tough, but it still has its challenges that at times make me feel pretty sorry for myself despite the fact that one of the things I dislike most on this Earth are people who feel sorry for themselves. If he’s only back for three weeks like he was very recently, we have an absolute whale of a time. We cram in trips to the cinema, meals out, our favourite foods, catch up with all the friends and family he hasn’t seen for months, have a ridiculous row that we always laugh at a few hours later (the last one of these was fuelled by me drinking a tad too much gin and turning into a huge drama queen), work on the house, plan holidays and spend a lot of time in fits of giggles. In short, it’s awesome. So obviously when he goes away its a pretty spectacular comedown and I think my reasoning behind spending time by myself is that while he’s home I haven’t had any time at all to bake, read, blog, watch Disney films or Sex and the City and I crave some downtime. Maybe next time I’ll just give myself a day of no plans.

My self inflicted misery however has done wonders for this blog though. Every cloud! Not content with just one recipe to try out yesterday, I decided to really test Gizzi’s Skinny Weeks and try three of them: breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m aware I should be using more neglected cookbooks and believe me this week I will be using them, but I wanted to have a virtuous Saturday without denying myself that vital component, flavour, and I knew that Gizzi could deliver. Breakfast consisted of what Gizzi likes to call Elvis toasts, which is a far more heart friendly version of The Kings 2000 calorie mammoth fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Gizzi’s come in at a much more reasonable 284 calories, although as it was Saturday I used normal white sliced bread instead of sourdough rye, and a whole banana instead of half so that must bump up the calories a little. Still, for a healthy breakfast it’s scrumptious and comes with the added bonus of half a square of dark chocolate grated over the banana. Half a square may not seem like a lot but it really does go a long way. Who can argue with a chocolate fix at 9am?

Lunch, which came along pretty late after a Primarni binge, was pancetta, farro and bean soup and like most recipes in this book, was completely delicious. I couldn’t find farro in Sainsburys so had to substitute it with farfalline, which are tiny pasta shapes designed to be added to soups. You might look at the pancetta and think this soup shouldn’t be billed as healthy, but in addition to the pancetta the soup also contains onion, carrot, celery, garlic, tomatoes and cannellini beans so you’re getting a considerate amount of goodness from the hefty amount of veg and beans. I didn’t add quite enough stock so my version turned out more like a stew than a soup but tasted no less divine for it. Pancetta is the star flavour shining through, but you also get the sweetness of the tomatoes and plenty of crunch from the mirepoix. To make this soup even better, you’re allowed to sprinkle a small amount of Parmesan over your bowl of soup and you don’t need me to tell you that this takes the soup to diet perfection. I’m very please that I have three portions to take to work with me for lunch this week.

Last but by absolute no means least, for dinner I went with yoghurt chicken curry bowl. Well, it’s just not the weekend in my book (which this sort of is) unless a curry is included somewhere. Looking at the ingredient list it’s impossible to find an ingredient that’s bad for you (normally an ominous sign in a recipe) and yet this curry was one of the best I’ve ever made. You make a paste out of spices, chillies, onion, ginger and garlic, mix it with fat free yoghurt then marinade the chicken in the spicy yoghurt before baking in the oven. Paired with some brown rice and topped with a zingy mango salsa, this was the perfect dish to lift me out of my lonely blues (self inflicted, I must add). The curry on its own packed in lots of flavour and would have been perfectly acceptable without the salsa, but boy is the salsa immense. Don’t make this curry without it! The pairing of sweet yet sharp mango with mint, alongside onion (I should have used red but only had white), tomato and lime juice is phenomenal and made my tongue do a little jig in my mouth. Gorgeous. I want to put it on everything.

The real strength of these recipes is that regardless of trying to lose weight or not, I would cook them all again. And not just for myself either, I see no reason why these dishes couldn’t be served to guests, they are that good. Healthy food has long had a reputation for being dull, uninspiring and bland but Gizzi has completely turned that upside down and filled a cookbook with mouthwatering food that just so happens to be good for you. I’ve barely ventured into the naughty side of the book, and for a woman who likes a good pig out, that’s no small feat.

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And Fried Chicken, Could Be Fricken

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American food holds a special place in my heart. Regular readers are most likely very aware of this and probably sick of me declaring my undying love for the countries gastronomic goodies, but I just can’t help going back for more. Childhood holidays to Florida and more recent, fun filled trips with The Boyfriend to The States have given me very fond memories of the food eaten out there. Plus, it helps that as a greedy cow the portion sizes are right up my street. If I lived out there I’d be super sized in no time so its a blessed relief that I live in England where the food is smaller and the service less than delightful the majority of the time. Anyway, craving some American comfort and wanting to keep The Boyfriend on side, I stuck with a classic recipe that he would welcome with open arms into his heart (somewhat literally upon looking at the butter content of this meal). Fried chicken, biscuits, gravy and corn on the cob. When I’ve mentioned this combination before to friends I tend to be given a disgusted look and asked why I can’t just be content with fries. Us Brits are so used to being served soggy, flaccid fries alongside our chicken and yet we deserve better. Biscuits are the future. We discovered them in KFC after a long flight to Orlando and whilst we must have appeared completely gormless to the staff behind the counter trying to work out why we couldn’t have fries, the discovery of biscuits made looking idiotic worthwhile. If you’ve never had them before they’re similar to scones only more savoury, fluffy and light. They’re perfect, and while your brainwashed-into-liking-fries-mind might recoil at the idea they are amazing smothered in sausage gravy and served with fried chicken. I once thought like you too but I have seen the light and it tastes like biscuits.

I have several recipe books with recipes for proper American biscuits in them but I decided to be safe and stick with one of my favourite authors, Gizzi Erskine, and her book Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts. It doesn’t take a genius to work out which side of the book this lot falls on. The whole meal plan is fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, sausage gravy, corn in honey chilli butter and chard, but wanting to maintain my sanity I chose to only make the biscuits, gravy and corn. I’ve made fried chicken at home before and all it left me with was greasy hair, an oily kitchen, a smell that stubbornly refused to leave the flat and a deep feeling of guilt and shame. I’d happily tolerate all of the above if it tasted as good as or better than the stuff you can buy at that place with the smiling Colonel, but sadly it does not. I realised I could get all of the above results but without the intensive labour that leaves you with spitting oil burns all up your arm by just going out and picking up some chicken from KFC. I’m a dirty cheat but when it tastes as good as it does, who cares? The Colonel provides the chicken. I realise eating KFC goes against all my morals but I can’t help myself, it tastes so good yet makes me feel so dirty.

Anyway, I sent The Boyfriend out to pick up some fried chicken and hot wings while I got on with making the biscuits and gravy. I must say, this is the first time a Gizzi recipe has let me down. While the gravy turned out a treat, all thick and unctuous with meaty chunks of sausage, the biscuits were a total let down. I followed the measurements for the ingredients exactly, and yet when it was time to turn the dough out and knead it, instead of having a firm dough I had a liquid batter. It would have been like trying to knead cake mix, impossible. Having never been let down by Gizzi before I blindly gave it a shot, but there was no way the gloopy concoction was going to result in light, fluffy biscuits. I can only assume there must be a typo in the book and that in actual fact it needs at least double the amount of flour stated in the recipe, as this is what I had to add to get it to a knead-able consistency. Despite this, the biscuits emerged from the oven un-risen and distinctly un-fluffy and heavy. Disappointing. Smothered in gravy they weren’t inedible and tasted OK but they were nothing on a true American biscuit. That’ll teach me for ignoring all my American cookbooks by authentic American cooks and being too lazy to convert the American measurements into metric measurements. Lesson learnt. I’ll be having another stab at biscuits in the near future but not from Gizzi’s book. She’s still awesome, but her winning streak with me had to come to an end at some point and sadly it was with biscuits.

Next time you’re in KFC and lamenting the patheticness of their fries (which really are truly awful), think how good the Americans have it and demand more from your local KFC. I mean, us Brits invented the word biscuit surely, so shouldn’t we be reaping the rewards from our friends over the ponds version? Also, feel free to demand better care for the birds that go into their meals, they deserve better too. I’m impatient to get to New York in October now so I can check out some fried chicken restaurants that perhaps have more morals than both myself and KFC. I’ve heard good things about the fried chicken scene in New York, a scene I am more than willing to dive head first into.

 
 

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Afternoon Tea, Minus The Tea

I don’t like tea. I’ve never liked tea, can’t drink it and I just cannot get my head around the nations obsession with the stuff. I realise I’m the only person in Britain who thinks like this and will probably end up in Pentonville for crimes against patriotism, but I am right. Give me a vanilla latte or frothy cappuccino any day over an insipid cup of tea. I’m prepared for the hate mail.

It came as somewhat of a surprise to me then that I found myself knocking back a vanilla chai latte, and on pondering what chai actually was (if something sounds exotic and foreign then I’m a sucker for it, whether I know what it means or not) discovered through Wikipedia that it was actually a form of black tea. Yes, in a latte, you can imagine my confusion and also the horror that despite everything I stand against when it comes to tea, I found myself very much enjoying some. It helped allay my fears that it tasted absolutely nothing like tea. For those unfamiliar to Chai tea, it originates from India and uses spices like cardamom, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla and the like. In a vanilla latte it tastes very similar to a carrot cake although I can’t quite 100% work that out for certain. Its my new favourite hot drink and you can find tubs of Chai powder in the tea and coffee aisle, give it a go.

The best thing about discovering a new ingredient is finding ways to use it. This is what led me to bake up a slightly adapted version of Gizzi Erskine’s chocolate and Earl Grey cake when I had some friends over on Sunday. For someone who dislikes tea so much I’ve sure used it a lot this past weekend, I know, I’m a huge hypocrite. You can find the recipe for her cake in Kitchen Magic, I’ve never made it in its entirety but it looks absolutely fantastic. I turned this cake into cupcakes and instead of making a chocolate icing and an Earl Grey cream, topped half of them with a simple vanilla buttercream and the other half with a vanilla chai buttercream. Icing these cupcakes nearly gave me an embolism by the way. The buttercream was pretty thick so when I attempted to use my new piping bag set I ended up squeezing the bag too hard resulting in an explosion as the bag split. Suffice to say, the piping bag got binned and while my cupcakes look nowhere near elegant or sophisticated, seeing the bag in my bin did wonders for my stress levels. What with the buttercream being so thick, spreading it on the cupcakes meant the cakes crumbled at times and looked like something a child with poor motor skills would make. These cupcakes have the perfect texture, are moist, light and very chocolatey. I could only really make out the tea flavour on cupcakes that had no icing on whatsoever (I got fed up of ruining cupcakes pretty quickly) and the chai buttercream, whilst being absolutely gorgeous, detracts somewhat from the chocolate & tea flavour of the cupcakes themselves. Saying all that, it really is having your cake and eating it with the chocolate cupcake and the hints of carrot cake lurking in the icing. If you’d like to try this yourself simply add 1 tbsp of chai powder into every 2 tbsp of vanilla buttercream.

I couldn’t have such a heavy emphasis on tea in all this baking and not include some homemade scones, courtesy of Nigella’s HTBADG, aka, The Best Cookbook Of All Time. After all, it was sunny and I have a lovely garden, afternoon tea just seemed like the British thing to do on such an occasion. Although with the heat we quenched our thirst with squash and kept the tea in the cakes. As of yet I have no table but a duvet cover on the grass sufficed! I’d never made scones before but I can tell you now that I will be making them all the time, they are so ridiculously easy to make. Why anyone would ever buy those dry, heavy lumps in cellophane from the shops when they are a cinch to make from scratch and taste so dreamy whilst still warm from the oven I have no idea. They are ridiculously light for something that consists mostly of flour and butter. I’m not sure there’s another recipe that so eloquently highlights how simple and tasty home made baked goods can be. If you’re a beginner to baking these would be a great place to start: easy, tasty, moreish and guaranteed to get rave reviews from whoever you feed them to. Smothered in clotted cream and jam, there is nothing better to eat while enjoying a brief spell of English sunshine. Nigella calls these ‘Lily’s Scones’ in the book: Lily, whoever you are, I salute you.

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Gizzi, Gizzi, Gizzi, Can’t You See, Sometimes Your Foods Just Hypnotise Me

Many apologies to the late, great, hip hop legend that is the Notorious B.I.G for the title of today’s blog, but on trying to come up with a title this was all that would come into my head. On repeat. All weekend. I knew the only way to get rid of it was to put it in the title, with the hope that it would annoy everyone else as much as it did me. You’re welcome. It would be downright odd if I’d put that title in and then not actually cooked any of Gizzi Erskine’s recipes, so you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve cooked not just one, but two from her latest book, Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts. The book, as the title makes pretty clear, is all about eating sensibly and healthily during the week and then upping the calorie content over the weekend after being good for the majority of the time. It’s absolutely not a diet book, I couldn’t bear one of those in my house, but is about eating sensible, smaller portions and filling yourself up with fruit and veg. I don’t do diets. While I go to the gym regularly, try and eat healthily and don’t want to be overweight, I really abhor the idea of a ‘bikini body’ and of being obsessed with flat stomachs, a certain dress size and calorie content. It’s not for me. I want to be healthy, but I don’t want to spend my life being miserable turning down food for the sake of having a flat stomach. If I happened to get a flat stomach by chance than that would be a happy accident, but I love carbs far too much to worry about what my stomach would look like in a bikini. For starters, the person I tend to go on holiday with is The Boyfriend who knows what my stomach looks like and he’s still with me. It’s not so bad. Strangers on the beach or by the pool are either too busy obsessing about what they look like in a bikini to care about what anyone else looks like, or too immersed in sunbathing/reading/posing to even notice anyone else. I’m not spending 6 months denying myself everything I love to eat so I can still feel self conscious and paranoid on holiday for the 1 day I might decide to spend at the beach. Secondly, when on holiday I eat like a king. At breakfast there is only one correct answer to the question “would you like your egg fried or poached” and that is “both”. I do not hold back. My hypothetical flat stomach would be ruined within minutes of arriving at my destination. Thirdly, we do not tend to take beach holidays. I will be damned if I spend months of my life on what the media love to call a ‘bikini body’ when my stomach is never on show in public. Balls to it. If having a flat stomach is what floats your boat and you’re happy to sacrifice carbs to get it, great, more power to you, you have more willpower than I’ll ever have. But it’s not for me. I’m fairly happy with the size that I am, I’d like to lose a touch more but I’m not going to look sadly at a tray of cupcakes being passed around and say no. Life is just too short. If you need more convincing on the subject, check out Caitlyn Moran’s excellent book How To Be A Woman and her thoughts and musings on women’s bodies and the pressure we are under from the media to look a certain way.

Saying all that, Gizzi’s book is filled with flavour packed, interesting recipes that are light on calories but that I would still eat whether trying to lose weight or not. From the two recipes I’ve eaten, you would never know from the taste that they are low on calories because the flavours are pretty full on and you’re allowed to use ingredients that you wouldn’t normally find in a diet book, such as chorizo and coconut milk. If this is what the healthy recipes taste like, I can’t wait to try out the sinful recipes in this book. First up, satay chicken noodle rice bowl. Being a big fan of Asian food, this naturally jumped out at me and I couldn’t resist cooking it first. Somewhere in Ukraine The Boyfriend is rolling his eyes, exasperated at the predictability of me. I don’t care though, it was so good. The recipe asks you to use yellow curry paste which I couldn’t find in the supermarket (although I have seen it there before) so I made do with green curry paste which is always in my fridge. I crisped up the chicken thighs (yes, you’re allowed to keep the skin on them, I love Gizzi), boiled up some brown rice and spooned over a supremely delicious curry sauce which was a combination of Thai curry and Indonesian satay, and if that combination doesn’t make you salivate then you’ve obviously never had either of them. As with any really tasty meal, I finished my plate with a combination of complete satisfaction and sadness that there was none left. You don’t get that with many ‘bikini body’ friendly dinners.

The second meal I cooked was pork and chorizo meatballs with spelt spaghetti. Although yet again the supermarket didn’t have what I was looking for so I stuck with my old faithful, linguine. Pork is leaner than beef, so the inclusion of chorizo doesn’t feel so bad and the sauce is made up of fresh, ripened on the vine tomatoes with mashed up garlic, fennel seeds and chilli so as meatballs and pasta goes, it’s pretty virtuous. The trick is dishing up a much smaller amount of pasta than normal, something I really struggle to do what with my unending love for the stuff. Yet again, Gizzi delivered on her promise. The meatballs had a spicy heat from the chorizo and while there wasn’t a great deal of sauce, the flavours of garlic and fennel shine through and there was enough to keep the pasta from going dry. I don’t like tomatoes when raw and firm, I’m not fond of the taste or texture, but once cooked down into mush like in this sauce I can get along just fine with them.

If you need inspiration for healthy meals and like big, punchy flavours then this is the best non-diet diet book around. Healthy meals that don’t leave you feeling deprived and hungry yet can also aid weight loss don’t come better than this. Remember though,there is no secret to losing weight despite what magazines and the Daily Fail might tell you, its just about eating sensibly, exercising and enjoying yourself. And never forget that being happy in yourself and full of self confidence on a regular basis will do more for you than a flat stomach on show for a few days of the year ever will.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Books, Chicken, Cooking, Food, Thai

 

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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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