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Tag Archives: weekend feasts

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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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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