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Tag Archives: prawns

Cajun Chicken and Cherry Cheesecake

I love the Internet. Properly, well and truly in love with it; til death us do part, in sickness and in health kind of love. As much as I cherish my cookbooks, they’re not cut out for ‘renovation cooking’, whereby the basic means to bake, roast, boil and pull a delicious joint of pork out of the oven are cruelly denied. Please, put your violins away, I’m fine, really. Google, Pinterest and many food blogs have stepped in to replace the books and given me some much needed inspiration for my slow cooker and George Foreman limitations. The Internet, what would we do without it eh? Going with my love of American food, and Cajun food in particular, I plucked from the infinite depths of the Internet a recipe for slow cooker Jambalaya. I say depths, what I really mean is the All Recipes UK website, and you can find the link to the recipe here: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/9410/jambalaya-in-a-slow-cooker.aspx . Being the total rebel that I am, I made a few changes while cooking it to suit what I had in the kitchen. Smoked pork sausage was out, pork and red onion sausages from the local farmers market in. Not authentically Cajun but they are delicious sausages and went really well alongside the flavours of the Deep South. I also chucked in some garlic and red chilli because let’s face it, nothing can go wrong when chilli and garlic gatecrash a party. You know it makes sense. Don’t feel you have to follow a recipe slavishly, throw stuff in if you think it will work and go with your tastes and instincts, cookbooks should be a guide and nothing more. I also halved the amount so that I’m not overwhelmed with frozen leftovers for weeks on end. If you’ve never had Jambalaya before, it’s a tomato stew cooked with chicken, sausage (traditionally this would be andouille sausage but it can be tricky to find on this side of the pond), prawns, herbs and rice and is really tasty. The word stew doesn’t really inspire but Jambalaya does and hints at the spicy treat awaiting the diner. I’ve made jambalaya before, from Jamie’s America, which was lovely but knowing I can cook it in the slow cooker makes it so much easier and for me is the better option – much less mess to clean up. Give it a go, its simple but tasty and a great one pot dinner as the rice cooks in the stew.

Waking up this morning hungover after a great night out, it felt like it was finally time to attempt making dessert in our makeshift kitchen, although with no oven Baking Sunday is clearly out of my reach. So Baking Sunday today became Cheesecake Sunday! I’ve tried my hand in the past at baked cheesecakes and have never been able to really do them justice, which is a huge shame as baked cheesecakes are far superior to chilled and hark back to Jewish tradition and give me that New York feeling. I’d eat baked cheesecake off the floor a la Rachel and Chandler if I had to, they really are so good. Still, a chilled cheesecake is not to be sniffed at and while lacking in fluffiness, it delivers in density. Not needing heat of any kind, I made cherry cheesecake from Nigella Express although in the end I was sorely lacking in cherries. A chilled cheesecake is really quick and easy to make, the only time consuming part is waiting for it to set in the fridge. I could not be bothered to get my electric whisk out and needed to vent some minor irritations and aside from kneading bread which is currently out of the question, whisking cream by hand is one of the best ways to vent. I’m not a confrontational person and its by no means a big issue but being made to feel like I’m putting up with a thoughtless, selfish boyfriend and hearing sarcastic comments from friends when The Boyfriend could not be more lovely and awesome is extremely frustrating. But being a classic girl means having a difficult conversation with someone about practically anything will lead to me crying despite the fact I am neither upset not angry, but just want to clear the air. I’ll go the cowards way out and vent on my blog then: The Boyfriend is not a selfish, thoughtless pig and I’m not a pushover girlfriend who has very low expectations. That may not have been how it was meant to come across but that was the implication and it was quite hurtful. And let that be the end of the matter!
Back to the cheesecake – it was supposed to be topped with a cherry conserve but I mistakenly bought jam, which may not seem like a big difference but conserve is chunky with fruit while jam is a smooth paste which while great on toast would not be so great spread on a cheesecake. It ended up being a plain vanilla cheesecake and while there was nothing particularly wrong with it, it really needed the cherry flavouring to crank things up a notch. It just tasted a bit plain and ‘meh’, nothing special. And there’s still 7 slices of it left, gah! I know everyone’s on a diet at work so I will apologise in advance for bringing in inferior but fattening cheesecake and hope they can find it in their hearts to forgive me!

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Been around the world and I, I, I….

Italy, Thailand, America, it’s like a round the world plane ticket in miniature, all in my kitchen. But not to worry that I (I, I, I) can’t find ‘my baby’ as he’s back next Saturday, nice and early first thing in the morning on my birthday. What more could I want as a present? I would just like to assure you all that I would never really call The Boyfriend ‘my baby’, I do have some standards when it comes to nick names, but when a song title fits, it fits! So to make the most of what free time I had this weekend, I got my ass in the kitchen and made the most of my last solo weekend for a while. Believe me, I can’t wait for him to be back and am desperate to not wake up alone every morning, but I do enjoy the ability to potter about in the kitchen all day and cook what ever my heart desires on a Sunday. It’s making the best out of a bad situation. So to celebrate my last lonely Sunday morning for a while I took some inspiration from Jamie’s America to knock up breakfast. I’ve said it before about the Americans and how they have the knack for breakfast and I would say it again but I don’t like repeating myself. So I went with the New York section as surely New Yorkers are the Kings Of Breakfast (I’m not sure why I’ve come to this conclusion but it just seems right to me), and made myself Omelette Gordon Bennett, which is a twist on the classic Arnold Bennett omelette which was apparently created by a very fussy customer in a top NY hotel. The twist being that Jamie replaces smoked haddock with smoked mackerel. As twists go, it’s not exactly up there with the polar bear in Lost but its Sunday morning, i’ll let it go. It’s a very simple dish to make and easy enough to halve (recipe gives enough for two, but 5 eggs even for me is a bit much), the only tricky bit is making sure the bottom doesn’t burn while you make sure the egg on top of the omelette is fully cooked. Because of the chunks of fish it’s not advisable to flip the omelette as the weight would collapse it, so you need to keep a close eye on the omelette and adjust the heat accordingly. Incredibly I managed to cook it perfectly and it tasted pretty wonderful. I love smoked mackerel and being advised to top the whole thing off with grated Parmesan at 9 in the morning makes this a winner for a filling breakfast. You probably won’t even need lunch. If you’re a fan of American food then Jamie’s book is great, he covers several different states and a huge variety of food, including Native American recipes. The best sections though are definitely Louisiana and Georgia, with some good old fashioned Southern recipes. Delicious.

On to Italy, and before you ask, no this recipe did not come out of Nigellas new book. Or any book at all actually. I made some focaccia using a recipe given to me by a chef at a cookery course I attended. The course happened to be about French food, but this did not stop us making Italian bread and for that I am very glad. This focaccia recipe is bread perfection and totally and utterly foolproof. As long as you’re prepared to do ten minutes of kneading then this is really easy and after all that kneading all you need is patience while the dough proves. If the kneading sounds like too much work for you, wait until someone has really pissed you off to make it, and then 10 minutes of pretending the dough is that persons face won’t seem long enough. Violence against flour is fine, less so against people. My favourite part of making bread (after eating it of course) is poking the bread once its ready to go in the oven as the feel of it is bouncy, pillowy and lighter than air. Do this once and you’ll completely understand my wish to one day sleep on a bed made entirely of dough. Heaven. When the bread is ready to go in the oven, poke some dimples in the bread and push some ingredients in said dimples. I went for chillies today, but feel free to go with rosemary, olives, sun dried tomatoes…. Whatever takes your fancy really. When this comes out of the oven it will be all but impossible to dive right in as the smell is amazing and it looks so inviting. It says something about the quality of this bread that I can eat it solely on its own without even a smudge of butter on it. (Bread and butter is one of my favourite things to eat. Good bread though). The crust is crunchy with sprinkles of sea salt and the middle is soft, bouncy and utterly divine. It does go stale really quickly, which shows just how many chemicals must be pumped into supermarket bread to keep it fresh as long as it does, but slice it up and pop in the freezer if you won’t use it all up straight away. I’ll post the recipe for this later as any budding bakers should give it a go, and its not a copyrighted recipe so I’m free to share the goods!

I’ve also been cooking some Thai food after the success earlier in the week with Rick Steins book Far Eastern Odyssey, so tried yellow stir fry curry with prawns from the same book. This version is a bit different from the other Thai curries I’ve had as it contains no coconut milk and uses stock instead. It is ferociously hot and this was without the dried Kashmiri chilli that I could not find in the shops, so I was actually quite relieved I only included some regular red chillies in the paste. I’m not entirely sure I would make it again as while spicy which I like, it didn’t have anything else much going for it. I’m not one of those people who eats spicy food purely for the sake of it, spicy food has to have more flavours to it than just pure hot chilli heat. Not that it isn’t funny watching someone sweat when they order the hottest curry on the menu in front of their mates, because it really is. Still, despite being blindingly hot, I managed to finish it without an audience so I suppose I’m no better than the show offs, sweating without the congratulatory pats on the back from the men on the table.

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Surf ‘n’ turf Saturday

Does this dinner presented below (ignore the presentation and focus on the food!) look like your idea of Saturday dinner heaven? :

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If not, then please stop reading, turn around and never darken my door again. We can never be friends! Anyone who could look upon steak with king prawns and mashed potatoes and say ‘meh’ must be either out of their mind or vegetarian. No offence to vegetarians, I respect the fact that meat isn’t for everyone, whether thats down to taste or ethics, but I could never give up meat and would never want to. Last night I was really craving the sort of food that Americans do best and would remind me of holidays over there, so I scoured the Internet to find the perfect dinner. I’ve got quite a few American cookbooks which are all awesome, but when it comes to surf n turf, there isn’t really a great recipe selection unless you want to go down the lobster route. Now I love lobster, and I know I bang on about making an effort with food even if you’re on your own, but even for me, cooking up steak and lobster just for one seemed a tad excessive. Plus I had king prawns in the freezer. The recipe I used came from All Recipes Australia and NZ website, and was steak with prawns in a garlic sauce with mashed potatoes and asparagus. What can I say, it totally scratched the itch for American ‘holiday’ food as it were. The garlic sauce was quite thick and claggy, but tasted of garlic, basil and parsley which made up for the odd texture and brought everything on the plate together well. Sadly I overcooked the steak, barely any trace of blood or pinkness in it, which sadly is how I always end up cooking steak. I don’t know how I do it, I follow advice given by chefs but just can’t master cooking steak, it’s either so rare it’s still mooing, or grey throughout. The steak still tasted nice but would have been nicer had I been able to master the art of medium rare. One day! I piled absolutely loads of asparagus on the plate to try and make up for the butter and delicious red meat, but as it was Saturday night I managed to fight off the guilt pretty easily.

Sticking with the American theme (well it is Independence Day on Wednesday after all) I had pancakes for a post-gym brunch this morning. But these were totally different pancakes called Apple Puff Pancakes from USA by Sheila Lukins (yes, the one where she eats her way around America… bitch). Instead of cooking them in a frying pan, you pour the batter over some cinnamonny and sugary apple chunks in a small pie dish then pop in a really hot oven for 20 minutes. The result is a light, fluffy, risen pancake that tastes of apple and cinnamon. It was so yummy, I’m a big fan of American breakfast and pastry goods as they usually have loads of cinnamon contained within them which wakes the taste buds up first thing in the morning. The Boyfriend detests cinnamon so while he’s still away I may as well cook as much of it as I can. I would have taken a photo of it but while getting it out of the pie dish it fell apart and it’s appearance did not do its taste any justice. So instead of judging it by it’s looks, my words will have to make do. Maple syrup really makes this dish, it tastes wonderfully sweet next to the tartness of apples and warmth of the cinnamon. Thank you very much America, and Happy Independence Day for the 4th!

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2012 in Baking, Books, Cooking, Food

 

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What must people think of me?!

Well it turns out I have a reputation when it comes to food. And apparently it’s not good. Yes, someone at work dared to write down their opinions on fellow workmates and it wasn’t all flattering! I’ll mention no names but they know who they are. Luckily for her, we are a very good humoured bunch and found it hilarious. My reputation apparently is that I don’t share food, and don’t you dare criticise my cupcakes! Now, this could possibly have to do with the fact that on my 2nd week in the job many years ago (two), I may have gone out for a few drinks with my new workmates and while eating a kebab at the end of the night, shouted out in true Joey Tribiani style “Hayley doesn’t share food”. (That’s me in case you hadn’t twigged). And they have never forgotten it. Despite the fact I regularly bring in cupcakes for all to tuck into. I must confess, I have at times been a little overprotective with my food, even The Boyfriend couldn’t get a look in, but I’ve changed, I’m a new woman! But yeah, she’s spot on with one thing: don’t criticise my cupcakes biatch.

Let’s move on from questionable reputations and discuss dinner. Tonight I delved into my Delicious magazine from May 2010 which is an Italian special and full of pretty gorgeous looking recipes. I really love Italian food, but haven’t experimented much with the country’s cuisine, sticking to fairly safe and reliable dishes. And I’m sorry to say that I’ve done that again today. I needed a quick, easy dish after work and the gym, and this fitted the bill. It’s tagliatelle with prawns, chilli and courgette (catchy title), and takes 15 minutes from start to finish. While the dish was nice and easy, (and courgette free due to a lack of them in Sainsbury’s- I replaced them with a carrot) it was nothing special. Sauce was creamy and smooth, with a hint of garlic and a kick of chilli, while the actual tagliatelle may have been the best thing. I really love eating pasta, I don’t know what it is about it but I find the stuff so comforting even when it’s straight out of salted water, completely plain. Could be the many Saturdays in with the parents as a child watching Gladiators and eating homemade spaghetti bolognese. Food associated with comfort and happiness will always be our go to favourites after all. But I should definitely branch out and try more obscure or unusual pasta dishes, and not stick to the easy, comforting meals.

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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Food, Italian

 

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Goan prawn curry with hard boiled egg – Everyday Indian

Friends have called me a food snob. Personally I don’t know what they mean, I just like to shop in Waitrose, eat at nice places and only buy cookbooks by either famous chefs or acclaimed food writers. So maybe I’m a bit of a food snob. But before you judge me you should also know that I love McDonalds and fairground doughnuts, so how much of a snob can I really be?! Anyway, the cookbook for todays recipe is not by a chef or acclaimed food writer, indeed has no author at all apparently judging by the front cover. It’s from Everyday Indian, a book I admittedly would never have bought myself in a million years. I always feel that if there is no one who wants to put a name to this book, what is it that they don’t want to take credit for? If you’re proud of something then you put your name on it. Plus, while I am  a huge fan of good Indian food, I have never been able to replicate a good Indian curry at home. It always tastes either of onions or tomatoes and the reaction it tends to get is ‘meh’. Doesn’t matter how many recipes I try, the curry will always end up being bland, too watery and nowhere near the deliciousness of a proper Indian curry, I just don’t have the skills. Anyway this book was given to me by someone as a stocking filler present, and it went onto the bookcase on Boxing Day and has remained there for over 2 years, until today.

So, would this cookbook be the one that gave me the recipe, nay, the secret to an amazing, authentic, tasty, spicy, complex flavoured curry? Well, no. Sadly it did not. I’d like to say I give up on cooking Indian at home, but unfortunately I have another Indian cookbook to cook from as well as two more from the authorless book to complete the challenge. Bummer. The curry was alright, it tasted a little bit like the spices (ground fennel, ground coriander, turmeric and chilli powder), the egg surprisingly went well with the curry (probably because the egg had more flavour than the sauce), and the prawns were nicely cooked. But there was really nothing there to make me want to cook it again, and a few hours after eating I’ve completely forgotten what it tastes like. The boyfriend commented that the nicest bit of the curry was the coriander sprinkled on top. It tells you something about a curry when the condiment / garnish tastes better than the curry (although we really do love coriander, I used to eat leaves by the fistful when I was first introduced to the herb!). Whether this is the books fault or is down to my incompetence as a curry cook, I cant really know. But because I’m a food snob, I’m going to place the blame with the non-author of this book. No name  = not proud.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Indian

 

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