Sunday, 29 April 2012

An Evening with Raymond Blanc

I may not have posted many recipes in the last week, but there’s actually a very good reason that doesn’t just revolve around exam revision! On Friday 20th of April, I took my Dad to Oxford Playhouse for “An evening with Raymond Blanc.” Raymond Blanc is by far my Dad’s favourite chef, and he has visited Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons a few time now, most recently for his and my Mum’s 25th Wedding anniversary. The idea was that Raymond would talk for 45 mins and then there would be 30mins or so of a question and answer session. On the way there Dad was getting together all the questions he wanted to ask.

When we arrived and Raymond came on stage it soon became clear we might not stick to “schedule”. Raymond is a natural born story teller and as he told us the story of how he got to where he is today we were all sat in awe. I still can’t believe that he is completely self-taught! He says his passion for food came from his mother’s kitchen, and I am beginning to wonder whether she should have had a Michelin star under her belt if she taught him a lot of what he knows! Now, I won’t rehash the stories he told of his life to date but there are a few points I want to focus on, which have partly contributed to my lack of posts.

One issue he discussed with a lot of passion was seasonality. This has been something I have been thinking about for a long time. I am yet to find a good reliable farmers market near where I live, so often find myself picking up the same old vegetables on the supermarket shelf, without considering where they’ve been grown and whether they are in season. Having said this there are a few things I avoid like strawberries. So many people complain about how much strawberries cost in winter, when it is a fact that when they are season in the summer and there is a glut, the laws of supply and demand will bring down their price! Buy seasonal, buy cheap!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Tikka Paneer Kebabs

One of my favourite things about going out with a veggie is how it has expanded my horizons. When I started seeing Jon when I was just 13 I hadn’t tried vegetable curries, mousakas, pasta dishes, vegetables such as Aubergines and Okra or ingredients such as chick peas and lentil! Food in my house was very much meat and two veg, but as Jon came round for more dinners both my parents and I had to think a little bit more about what food we ate.

His vegetarianism has made me infinitely more creative in the kitchen and has opened up a whole new range of foods to choose from in restaurants. I doubt I will ever become a vegetarian – partly because I love my fish too much – but because I feel so long as you buy well reared, local meat you’re not damaging the economy or environment too much! Nonetheless, I will continue to eat roughly 80% of my meals meat free.

When I offered to cook Jon a romantic meal last weekend I knew I had to go down the Indian route – it’s by far our favourite type of cuisine and we’ve even joked that our wedding breakfast will be contemporary Indian cuisine (don’t panic folks, there’s no ring on my finger yet!) So, I decided to branch out and try a new ingredient I hadn’t cooked with before – paneer. Paneer is an authentic Indian cheese that is often found in vegetarian curries. It’s got a soft sometime spongey texture and is very mild in flavour which makes it the perfect addition to a whole variety of curries.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The East of England Food Festival 2012

This time last year as I was breaking on to the food blogging scene (perhaps a bit dramatic...) I went to my first food festival by Oakleigh Fairs. You can find the write-up of last year here: East of England FoodFestival.

This year, with a notebook and camera in hand, I knew I couldn’t miss it come rain or shine! So on Sunday the 22nd of April, I drove up the long drive to Knebworth House to be confronted by a sea of cars the marquees poking above the trees just over the hill. Unlike the day before, the sun was shining, so I was hopeful for the food filled day ahead!

There were three main marquees, 1 for crafts which was a little larger than last year and 2 filled with various food stalls including everything from breads and oils to cider and sweets!  
Buying Bread...

Within minutes of entering the first food marquee my partner had bought a delicious red onion and stilton loaf! So much for being sensible and checking out all of the stalls before buying! But, to be honest it was worth it. The loaf is has a lovely crust, slightly crisp but soft enough to tear, and topped with beautiful stilton cheese the red onion running through the rest of the loaf. (We are hoping to enjoy the rest of it with a delicious terrine we brought made from nettles, wild garlic and clever (the long plant that sticks to clothes, you may know it better as sticky willy) as well as other vegetables.

Who ate all the pies!?

The next stall we stumbled across was the Lime Tree PantryFarm. They were selling a variety of meat and fruit pies. I had the chance to taste the chicken and leak pie and was pleasantly surprised. I find chicken, ham and leak are often swimming in sauce or too dry! This was perfectly balanced. The chicken was well combined with the sauce which was a lovely texture in the mouth. I could’ve eaten a whole pie to myself! In the end we chose to go for the Game and Red Wine pie! We will be having that for dinner tonight with mash potato and veg from our garden.

Seasonings and Salts...

After wandering around tasting the many freebies on offer I was next drawn to the Flavour Magic stall. They had a number of seasonings/rubs which could be used to flavour meat, fish or salads. The rubs could also be mixed with oil to make a dipping sauce. I was impressed mostly with the concept of the seasonings. They were a mix of rock salt and other herbs and spices which when ground and added to a tomato as a sample added a whole new world of flavour. I was particularly impressed with the lemon and dill seasoning which I hope to use in salads, on fish and white meat. It is such a simple concept and they were brilliantly priced at 3 for £10 including the flavour magic grinder.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Oreo 'Cookies and Cream' Cupcakes

Uh oh I’ve jumped on the bandwagon again, given in, and made Oreo cupcakes! I’m sure most of you in the baking blog world have seen Oreo cupcakes, Oreo whoopie pies, Oreo brownies, giant Oreos, Oreo celebration cakes, Oreo cake pops and much, much more! Now I love Oreos as much as the next person but I have to admit I rarely eat biscuits so they’re not a staple in my house. Nonetheless they were on offer in Tesco’s and I thought I’d take the humble Oreo to the next level and bake with it!

I decided that I would do one cake with an Oreo in the bottom and another one which used crushed up Oreos as chocolate chips in the cake batter. That way, when you took a cake you never knew which one you would get – a new Oreo experience every time. Plus, when making the first batch, I soon realised that there was a lot of leftover Oreo pieces that I didn’t want to chuck in the bin (or gobble all by myself!)

So, if you’re a big Oreo fan, or if you’ve never had one before, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with both of my Oreo Cookies and Cream cupcakes – the perfect balance of vanilla cream and bitter chocolate in sweet cakey form.

Perhaps before giving you the recipes I should introduce you to the humble Oreo. Essentially it is two chocolate wafers (biscuits) separated by a cream filling. You can also get a chocolate cream filling. Believe it or not, the cookie has been around since 1912!!! And unsurprisingly is the best selling cookie in the US! They were first introduced to the UK in just 2008 and were originally only stocked in Sainsburys. If you’re lucky, you may find an Oreo Krushem or Oreo McFlurry in a KFC or McDonalds near you!

In the meantime, you’ll just have to stick to making your own Oreo Cookies and Cream Cupcakes. Here are the recipes.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Restaurant Review: Escabeche, Nottingham

Now, I must apologise, this post is a little over due to say the least! Just over a month ago now my sister, who’s a primary school teacher, had just had the dreaded Ofsted at her school! Coincidently my Mum had had Ofsted at her school just two weeks before and hadn’t quite had the result she’d hoped. So, when my sister found out that she’d got an EXCELLENT for some part of her teaching my Mum decided it was worth taking a trip to see us in Nottingham to celebrate and give her a big well done cuddle!

For those of you who know my family...or feel like you do seeing as I post about them so much...any occasion with us involves food, eating out where possible! So, come the evening, we needed a nice restaurant for a celebratory dinner.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken with Mediterranean Tomato Sauce

I don’t know about you but I am ready for summer!!! With exams just around the corner, come the 24th of May I will be free and starting a 15 week long summer holiday before attending Law School.

One of my favourite things as the weather starts to change and warm up is how eating habits change too: long sunny evenings lead to Alfresco dining, and salads fill you up like never before! I also love cooking recipes inspired from holiday’s abroad. Nothing says summer like Spanish Tapas, or a delicious Italian inspired pasta dish. This recipe is one of those!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Leftover Lamb Flatbread

This has to be the ULTIMATE of all left-over’s recipes. What’s more, it is pretty damn healthy! It is the perfect combination of simple flavours and how a little bit of home-cooking can go a long way.

My idea for this recipe came after having yet another lamb roast. My family absolutely love roast dinners, but to be honest, I can take them or leave them! I like the veg, I like the gravy, I like roast meat but as a meal they just don’t do anything for me. My favourite thing about roasts however are the next day’s meals made with the leftovers. I love cooking beef curries, chicken supreme and bubble and squeak – delicious dishes that can be made from what I think is a rather average meal.

So, when dad got another leg of lamb out of the fridge for Easter Day, I decided I had to come up with something new to do with the leftovers. Lamb for me, screams Greek! You can’t beat BBQ’d Lamb Souvlaki wrapped in a pita with tatziki on a beach in Greece, 40 degree heat, and crystal clear waters lapping at your feet! I’ve had many a lovely holiday like this and that was my inspiration for this dish.

Essentially it’s a low fat kebab with homemade flat bread, lean roasted meat with salad and mint yogurt. It’s so tasty and entirely guilt free!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Easter Lemon Macaroons

Happy Easter!!!OK, I’m a day late, but I can be forgiven right? Easter’s a time for family so I had to pass on the season’s greetings yesterday. But today is a bank holiday and with the extra day off work, there’s no excuse for not getting into that kitchen!
And who doesn’t love macaroons? They are the perfect tea-time treat, especially at Easter when you can shape them like Easter eggs, and colour them nice spring-time colours. (Granted I didn’t manage either of those quite as well as I’d hoped, but you get the idea!) I don’t know where the idea came from but I think it worked out quite well in the end, and my family most certainly agreed.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Chocolate Fudge Cake

What’s this? More Cake!

Now my blog is not purely about baking, you’ll find plenty of recipes here for savoury lovers but this last week or so I feel like I’ve been cooking cake, cake and more cake! First it was the Simnel cake, then cupcakes for my Mum’s friends birthday (check out the pictures on Facebook?), and now, Chocolate Fudge Cake!

This cake was specifically for my sister’s birthday. She is a big chocolate fan so wanted the ultimate chocolate fudge cake. So here it is; a super moist chocolate sponge with an indulgent chocolate buttercream. We also made a batch of vanilla cupcakes to decorate with the chocolate buttercream to go alongside the main chocolate fudge cake, just in case it was possible to have TOO much chocolate in one cake!

When you read the recipe you will notice that the cake itself uses oil instead of butter – unfortunately I don’t know the ins and outs of butter v oil in a cake recipe but what I do know is that it makes the sponge a lot more moist and spring-y! The buttercream also has an added ingredient. Instead of being made with cocoa powder, the recipe calls for melted chocolate! This makes it taste ten times more chocolate-y! Just make sure you are careful not to add it when it is boiling hot!

To give your cake a darker colour, you can always replace the milk chocolate with dark chocolate – or do a mix of both if you’re not too keen on the bitter flavour of darker chocolate. I promise though, despite the buttercream being quite pale, it certainly doesn’t lack taste!

This cake is perfect for birthdays and other celebrations. It's also the perfect treat for anyone who has given chocolate up for lent - maybe I'll make another one for my Mum...


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Simnel Cake

Easter is a BIG deal in my house, and I mean big. My mum has no problem saying to anyone that to her “Easter is more important than Christmas.” If you hadn’t already guessed, my family are Christians, C of E to be precise, so there are a lot of traditions that I automatically associate with this time of year - including Easter Eggs of course!

Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday all involve church-related traditions and in my house you know it’s holy week as my mum is blazing Jesus Christ Superstar from the CD player 24/7!

(For those of you that don’t know it was an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about Jesus and the run up to his death. It really is very catchy...)
But as with ALL good traditions Easter also involves FOOD! We always have hot-cross buns on Good Friday (no earlier) and lamb on Easter Day. We also always make rice crispie egg nests to take as “energy” on our annual ‘Easter Walk’. We used to do a pilgrimage to St Albans Cathedral but foot and mouth put a stop to that when I was still quite young. Instead now, my family and I (all...16+ of us) go for a walk in the countryside in pursuit of a pub for lunch!)

But, one of the food related traditions that stands out most for me is the illusive ‘Simnel Cake.’ Every year my Mum, Nan and aunties would complain about a lack of Simnel Cake’s in the supermarket and at how expensive they were when they could find them. As they were so ‘rare’ I hadn’t even eaten a piece of Simnel Cake until last year, and they are delicious! They are also steeped in tradition of their own!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Currently Craving: Fish!

This is the third post in my new series "Currently Craving." Each month I will look at another food or drink that I am currently craving sharing with you my favourite recipes, or branded goods!

Currently Craving: Fish!

I mentioned in one of my posts a few weeks ago that I am now coming into the home stretch, with the final exams of my university career in just under two months time. It’s a very scary thought, but also a very exciting one! I definitely feel ready to leave uni behind and move on to the next challenge but unfortunately for me it’s not going quite how I planned just yet. I will be moving back home with my parents while I go to Law School in London. The fees are huge so it would be stupid to turn down free food and rent while struggling under a mountain of debt! So, all I can do now is try and do my best in these exams and as a result I started my first lot of revision today!

Just last week, I posted a fish recipe and discussed how oily fish in particular is great for your brain. Now I love fish at the best of times, but ever since doing that post I have absolutely been craving fish! Last night I was lucky enough to have fresh mackerel on toast for supper, and tonight I’ll be having salmon so I thought with fish at the top of my menu at the minute I would do a round-up for you of all of the fishy-posts from the first year of my little blogs life!


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