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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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Raspberry Macarons, Lamb Cutlets and Chinese Chicken

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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Double Whammy – Samosas and Cupcakes

So today I finally got round to baking after getting the oven fixed last week. The parents came round for some lunch, which I saw as a perfect opportunity to tick off a couple of recipes on the list. The recipes I chose were lamb samosas from Rachel Allens Favourite Food At Home, and pineapple cupcakes with a lemon cream cheese frosting from Irresistible Cupcakes by, err, Next! Making the samosas was fiddly work, I used ready made filo pastry and pretty much as soon as I’d got the pastry out of the bag I’d torn it. Luckily it was salvageable, but it made for interesting looking samosas. I lack finesse at the best of times when it comes to cooking (who am I kidding, when it comes to anything!), so working with torn pastry  took away any finesse I may have had. If I was on Masterchef – which  I never would be because I’m not a masochist – John Torode would have a heart attack at my lack of presentation skills and my disgracefully messy cooking style. It aint pretty! Luckily I am not on Masterchef, and my dad and step mum do not expect Michelin standards of me. They’d be very disappointed if they did. Anyway, enough about me and back to the samosas. Despite the fact that they were stuck to the pan, leading to an escaping  lamb/pea situation, they were pretty tasty although they could have been a bit spicier. Everyone seemed to like them, and there are plenty left to snack on through out the day. With the samosas I also served ham (cooked in cherry coke) baguettes, mini duck spring rolls and spicy prawns (these were from Tesco, I have a limit to how many nibbles I can make myself in one morning). Not a bad spread. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onto the cupcakes. These were from a book that todays guests bought me as a Christmas present, and my opinion on them was that they were a little bit dull. I adore pineapple, and even though it had chunks and juice from the fruit in it, it just didn’t taste enough of pineapple for me to love it. The cream cheese frosting was delicious and lemony, and without this the cakes would have been instantly forgettable. I don’t know if I feel this way because they genuinely are tasteless, or because I know someone who makes the most amazing cupcakes I’ve ever had, and therefore all cupcakes pale in comparison to her creations. I’m not kidding, they are delicious, and look amazing and are covered in the most decadent icing ever. She has wisely gone into business with these bad boys. My personal favourite is the mint chic chip flavour that she does, immense and a very popular choice amongst the lucky people to have eaten them. So perhaps my cupcakes were always doomed. But as I’ve got 2 more recipes from this cupcake book to cook, I will assess the cupcake situation at the conclusion of this challenge. Its still too soon to call!  

 

I’m hoping that eventually I will cook something in this challenge that I actually love, as other than the chicken fettucine a few weeks ago, I’ve not had much success. Fingers crossed next week will improve, I’ve got some lovely sounding recipes planned so I have high expectations!

 

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in Baking, Books, Cooking, Indian, Lunch

 

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