Thursday, 28 February 2013

[Greek Gods] Honey and Strawberry Baklava with Pistachios

Q. What happens when Greek Gods meet the Kitchen Goddess (in training!) blog?

A. A modern twist on a Greek classic with honey and strawberry yogurt, filo pastry and pistachios.
Those of you who know the Foodies100 website may well be aware of the competition currently being run by GreekGods.

The idea was to make a love-inspired dessert fit for Aphrodite using some of the company’s own Greek Style yogurt.

I chose honey and strawberry flavour (after all, what’s more romantic than a red heart shaped fruit?) and decided to update the Greek classic Baklava and bring it into the 21st Century!

Each piece of filo pastry stacked on top of the next shows the layers of your love for the partner – each piece representing another thing you love about them. And what better way to say your love makes me “nuts” then with a good helping of pistachios!
This recipe is also super simple. It’s the perfect recipe for any Greek God (or Goddess) wanting to cook their partner a romantic dinner without spending all of their time in the kitchen. After all, the time you save on cooking, you can use for romancing.

Here’s my recipe!

Monday, 25 February 2013

[Review + Recipe] LovePickle and Low Fat Chicken Korma

NB. A jar of this product was given to me free for me to review. All opinions are my own!

Hey everybody! Today I’m brining you a double post – half review half recipe. I’m sure you’ve all noticed that I’ve been quite quiet on the blogging front recently, and not without good reason. Throughout February I was taking some very important law exams. Results don’t come out for ages yet, but I don’t think I had any disasters. I’ve also been on holiday! Just two days after I finished the last of my six exams, Mr KG and I hopped on a plane to Prague and I’ve just got back from a lovely long weekend filled with food, drink, sightseeing and Jazz. I hope to do a post on my trip soon as I discovered lots about the city that I would like to share (and not just restaurant recommendations). I’ll also be trying to recreate a dish I had while I was out there.

Over the last month or so I’ve also been inundated with requests from brands and PR firms. There have been so many I couldn’t possibly (and wouldn’t want to) say yes to them all. LovePickle however was a brand I was more than happy to give a try...
I was instantly intruiged by LovePickle because they looked like a fresh and funky company selling one of my favourite things – Indian pickles. They kindly offered me a (free) jar to review: all I had to do was decide the heat! (Mild, medium, hot and extra hot). I went for hot, and was pretty confident I could stand the heat.

One of the things that instantly drew me to the pickle, was that I wasn’t bombarded with an array of fancy flavours. Now they say variety is the spice of life, but it’s never a good thing to be a jack of all trades and master of none. The LovePickle pickle is handmade from ripe tomatoes, fresh chillies, garlic, ginger, mustard oil and seeds plus a selection of carefully selected quality herbs and spices. They have perfected their recipe only ever tweaking the heat of the finished product so that they know the taste is the best it can be every time.
LovePickle stress how it can be used in a whole variety of ways – either served with poppadoms and naan bread, as an accompaniment to main courses or as an alternative to chutneys, relishes and ketchups. So far I’ve served it up alongside a variety of home-made currys, and it goes particularly well with the korma which I am sharing with you below.

So what did I really think of the pickle? You can most definitely tell that it is a tomato based pickle, and I must admit I usually opt for lime or other fruit based pickles with my meals. However, unlike some, this pickle is not too sweet. You get a rich, deep tomato flavour as a base which the spices and chilli heat is built on top of. It is a very well rounded pickle and I think this is what makes it so versatile! I would happily serve this as a dip for crisps at a party, or alongside poppadoms and curries at dinner time.

Priced at £2.95 a jar it is a little more pricey that the likes of Patak’s or Sharwoods, but the quality is far far far superior. I couldn’t fault the sample I was given. (Except that it didn’t automatically refill itself! With a hungry family I think the jar only last 4 meals.)
If you want to try the pickle for yourself you can find the whole range on the LovePickle website. or follow their facebook or twitter pages (@Lovepickle_uk).

Now, on to the korma I’ve been serving alongside this pickle!
The Indian takeaway is one of the nation’s most loved dishes. But with many recipes including ghee or copious amounts of oil, the kind of curry that gets delivered to your door is also filled with extra fat and calories you just don’t need.

I’ve been cooking my own curries for years now, but never have I even tried to recreate a “take-away” style curry before, until now. Low-fat creamy sauces have become a bit of a ‘thing’ of mine recently and I’ve been trying to find ways to recreate indulgent dishes with less of the fat. This korma is another attempt at doing just that!
It is delicately spiced, with all the traditional spices you would expect to find in a take-away korma, however, by replacing cream with crème fraiche, and by using a food processer to get a thick and creamy base for my sauce I am able to bring a taste of India into your kitchen.

The tumeric and saffron give the sauce a brilliant yellowy colour in true take-away style so you don't feel you're missing out on any part of the experience.

This recipe also creates a good helping of the creamy sauce, so is great for mopping up with a sweet peshwari naan, wholesome chappathi or vegetable stuffed paratha!

Sound too good to be true? Give this recipe a go and let me know how you get on.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Cheese and Ham Muffins

Hands up. Who here enjoys a savoury muffin as much as a sweet Didn't think so.

Now I know that when it comes to food I'm a bit of an anomaly. Often the foods most people hate, I can't get enough off and my flavour and texture combinations can be a bit experimental. Now I'm not saying there's anything 'Heston-Blumenthal-crazy' about these muffins (quite the opposite, they make so much sense!) But, the first time I served up a savoury muffin as the token-carb allongside dinner, I did a few funny looks.

To most people - kids and adults alike - muffins are sweet treats. This recipe however breaks the mould combining doughy sustinance with oozing cheese and salty ham. Sounds good right?!

But what do you do with a savoury muffin I hear you ask. Well believe it not they are a great snack to nibble alongside your afternoon cup of tea. Go on, I dare you, swap the double-choc for the double cheese!

Just imagine biting into the satisfyingly crisp outside of the muffin, the soft centre with pockets of warm gooey cheese (I'm assuming you lack self control, and like me are eatingvthem straight from the oven). The little green flecks remind you that the courgette is one of your five a day! (Sort of.) And the hint of mustard powder balances perfectly with the salty ham making these an "adult" treat that doesn't involve alcohol for once...

But thats not where their versatility ends. They're also great to serve allongside soup, a really deep and creamy tomato soup!

And why not pop them into your kinds lunch boxes? Two small muffins to replace the boring old sandwhich will go down a treat! (Why not pop the rest in your handbag for lunch...)

So what are you waiting for?! Why aren't you cooking these bad boys right now!

Well I guess first things first you'll be needing the recipe...

Thursday, 7 February 2013

[Chinese New Year] Tea Smoked Duck with Rice Noodle Salad and a lesson in Mandarin


Xīn Nián Kuài Lè!

(Happy New Year!)

Ok, so it’s not quite Chinese New Year yet (the festival starts on 10th Feb this year) but I get excited about these things. Not least because I am obsessed with all things Chinese!

I thought it’d be fun to open this post with not only some traditional Chinese characters (which I hope are right!) but with a little bit of Pinyin. For those of you who don’t know, pinyin is the official system used to transcribe the sounds used to create Chinese words into latin script - in other words it a way of writing out the sounds that make up Chinese words. Thats the funny combination of letters and symbols you see below the traditional Chinese characters.

I’ve been learning Chinese (mandarin) for about 5 or 6 months now and while I am very much still a beginner, I am surprised at just how easy I have found the language to learn. Once you've grasped pinyin you're over one of the hardest hurdles! My course is purely a “spoken word” course, so I haven’t learnt how to write any Chinese characters yet, but I’m still really enjoying getting used to a tonal language, and a language where for once the uses of tenses (or lack of use...) and the sentence structure actually makes sense to me! Maybe I will be a multilingual person yet.

My love of the Chinese language is just one reason why I’m really looking forward to celebrating Chinese New Year this year. It’s also a great excuse to try some new and exciting Chinese recipes like the one I’m sharing with you today. But I also like to think of Chinese New Year as my New Year.

This may sound a little silly, but with all the hustle and bustle of Christmas (which...we all known I LOVE), I often find New Year a bit of a letdown, a disappointment. But, by Chinese New Year, things have always seemed to have picked up! Usually I would have finished any winter exams by now (unfortunately this year I don’t finish until 19th of Feb...eek!), any winter colds would have started to lift, and the old money situation has usually started to ease. So, Chinese New Year is often way more happy and full of hope and prosperity than the traditional December 31st celebrations!

I also have my own reasons to enjoy January 1st which don’t surround New Year’s Resolutions.  January 1st is mine and Jon’s anniversary, and this year we celebrated our 8th year together! (Confession...I had to double check with him how many years it’s been, it’s been so many haha – bad girlfriend alert!) So often we leave New Years party’s early and on New Year’s Day we are the only people heading out to a restaurant as people stay at home watching yet another Indiana Jones movie on TV.

So there you have it, my New Year, is Chinese New Year!

Before I share with you the scrummy Duck Salad recipe, I just want to tell you a little bit about Chinese New Year traditions. First of all, this year is the year of the dragon! Website tells a lovely story which is used to help Children remember the order of the animals.

The order of the animals is often explained with a folk-tale about how the animals were summoned to heaven by the Jade Emperor (玉皇 - Yù Huáng). The dragon, as the only animal of the twelve that could fly, was expected to arrive first. But the dragon’s nature is to be helpful, and he stopped to help some villagers and then the rabbit, so he was the fifth animal to arrive for the Jade King's feast.”

People born in the year of the dragon are thought to be lucky! (As a result there’s often a bit of a baby boom when the year of the dragon comes around! The dragon is also meant to represent good fortune, so I’m hoping this one will be full of luck and good fortune for all of you!

Red envelopes are also another feature of Chinese New Year. These envelopes are given to children and unmarried adults. They contain money (new notes, and always an even number), but if you’re ever in China for New Year, be careful not to include either 4, 40 or 400 as the number 4 also sounds like the word for death so it is very unlucky!!!

Fireworks are also mandatory as they ward off evil spirits! You can watch some fabulous firework displays in China this time of year. We will be celebrating in our own little way this weekend with an indoor firework show.

So, history lesson over, here’s my recipe.

It’s a little bit more complicated than normal so I’ve broken it down into it’s two component parts. Firstly, here’s how to tea smoke your duck breast. Secondly, I’ll share my recipe for the simple yet flavoursome rice noodle salad. Enjoy!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Mincemeat Bread and Butter Pudding

Overdue post alert!!!!!!!!!

Now that’s dealt with let’s move on.

This recipe is one that I have been DIEING to cook since Christmas, but you know what? It turns out you CAN have too much of a good thing, and despite everyone telling me how delicious my mincemeat was, they didn’t want to eat mincemeat leftovers. No-sir-y-bob!

In their defence, I think we only got rid of the last of our Christmas mince pies about a week ago. This is down to two main things. Firstly, most of my family were trying to “be good” this Christmas – aka not stuff their faces with all the delicious treats I had made them. And secondly, we tend to make at least two batches on Christmas Eve. This results in many leftover mince pies as people are far too full after Christmas Day/Boxing Day/all the parties in between, to gorge themselves on these little morsels of joy.

Their loss, not mine.

But hey-ho, you live and learn! Note to self: make less mince pies next year.

If you, like me, have found yourself still left with Christmas leftovers in the form of jars and jars of mincemeat, have no fear, because I have just the recipe for you.

I actually managed to serve this up in front of my parents by NOT mentioning the C-word. No, not that C word, I mean CHRISTMAS! Whenever I had mentioned making a Mincemeat Bread and Butter Pudding before, it had always been as a Christmas dish. Something to replace the Christmas Pudding with, or to serve with brandy butter in the main special dinners that make up the Christmas period. Consequently, as we moved further and further into January my parents didn’t want to hear the C word mentioned again, let alone eat anything that tasted so...Christmassy!

So, I had to disguise it!

Fortunately for me, my mincemeat recipe is choc-full of delicious fruits. I helped lift these flavours from the mincemeat by adding the zest of lemons and oranges giving it a lighter, more vibrant flavour. The light, gooey bread and butter texture was still present, but this complemented the succulent mincemeat within, rather than being dominated by it.

They were half way through their bowls before anyone even noticed what I had done! I had successfully served up Christmas in a bowl exactly 4 weeks after the big event.


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