Monday, 31 January 2011

The Inspiration Chain: Giveaway!

Just a quick post to say that you still have 11hrs to enter the Inspiration Chain giveaway! To get your hands on a copy of the most awesome Flavour Thesaurus, simply leave a comment on this post! Entries close at midnight GMT!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Crunchy Kohl Rabi and Apple Coleslaw

Kohl Rabi.  Ugly, isn’t it?

I’d never heard of it until we found one in a local market and then it’s spent a good few days sitting in the bottom of the fridge.  They are from the cabbage family and are just like a big swollen root the size of a tennis ball. 

I decided to turn it into a coleslaw especially as although I’m overly fond of ‘stick-to-your-ribs’ food, it’s nice to have a something fresh and crunchy!

1 kohl rabi (or white cabbage if they are proving illusive)
1 small onion
1 crunchy eating apple
2 spring onions
1tsp white wine vinegar
Light mayonnaise
Salt and pepper

1, Peel and julienne the kohl rabi and apple and finely slice the onion.  I did mine on a mandolin so it was all vaguely uniform.
2, Finely chop the spring onion and toss everything together
3, Stir in the white wine vinegar and add mayonnaise to taste.  I only used a tiny bit as I’m not a huge fan of mayonnaise.
4, Season to taste and serve. 

I’ve added kohl rabi seeds to my list for the cottage garden this year!  Going to order them tomorrow!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

A huge, huge thank you to freerange girl over at This Yorkshire Life for awarding it to me!

I’d like to pass this on to some of my favourite bloggers! (Sorry, if you have already received this)

This award comes with a condition, I have to tell you seven things about me:-

1, I have hyperextension in my elbows.  This freaks people out when I pick things up and my elbow goes all crazy and bends in a stupid direction.  I don’t pick up heavy things in front of people I don’t know

2, I have two older sisters and an older brother.  I love having a big family. 

3, I work in a huge Georgian town house conversion.  It’s drafty, creaky and the windows shake when the wind blows.  It’s the most amazing building mainly because it’s a rabbit warren of rooms and corridors.  I have my own office and my desk looks like Hello Kitty threw up all over it.  Stops people stealing my pens.  Especially when they have a giant cartoon Japanese cat staring back at them…

4, I worked for a term at my local college assisting students with varying forms of autism. It was an amazing experience and I met some of the greatest young adults. 
5, I’m starting pole dancing lessons tomorrow.  I’m a little nervous!

6, I have a pea phobia.  Yes, the vegetable.  An example of how embarrassing this is:- In Sainsburys on Sunday, where I had just finished putting the last of our shopping on the belt.  I reached over and put down the dividery things and the bloke behind me, reached into his basket, pulled out a bag of frozen peas the size of a newborn baby and thumped them down.  I had to fight my way to behind Jim whilst getting tangled in the trolley.  Smooth…

7, Spring is my favourite month and I’m already overly excited.  Followed by Autumn.  I love the transition seasons.  And daffodils.  Mainly daffodils.  

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Spinach and Feta Rolls

I love how food memories can be created at any point in your life.  Whether it be your first sip of wine (Wales, family camping holiday, 1996ish), my Mum’s amazing lemon meringue pie (that I still have to fight one of my sisters over) or the delicious spinach and feta rolls that Jim and I once devoured (last weekend, sitting in our car in a car park behind a farmers market in Rochester, we skipped breakfast…)

It’s not a surprise that in time where everyone is trying to save money, eat better/seasonally etc that packed lunches have started to feature heavily in cottage life.  Even when it gets to bedtime, Jim and I sleepily dance around each other in the kitchen preparing sandwiches, pasta, cous cous, salads, rinsing out Tupperware, writing jokes on each other’s fruit (time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana etc…) and chatting about our days and what we have on tomorrow. 

These spinach and feta rolls are a memory of a relaxing weekend which is definitely something you want to be reminded of when you’re sitting at your desk, trying not to make eye contact with that huge pile of files…

1 small onion
1 clove of garlic
1 small potato
Olive oil
260gr fresh spinach, chopped roughly
1 pack of puff pastry (500gr block)
200gr feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg, well beaten for brushing

1, Finely dice the potato and boil in a little water until soft, this took about 10 minutes, drain and set aside.
2, Heat a little olive oil in a pan and slowly sweat down the onions and garlic until they are soft and translucent and starting to brown.  Tip in the potato and bring the heat up to a high and add in the chopped spinach.
3, Cook until the spinach has just wilted and remove from the pan to cool down in a separate bowl.
4, Preheat oven to 220o/c and line two baking sheets
4, Whilst the filling is cooling, cut the pastry block in two and roll each piece out in a long rectangle which is approximately 20inchs long and 6 inches wide. 
5, Split the cooled spinach mix in two and spread down the middle of each piece of pastry
6, Add half of the crumbled feta cheese on top of the spinach mix.
7, Brush the beaten egg along the uncovered parts of the pastry and fold the two sides crimping with your fingers, or a fork.
8, Cut each of the two pieces into 12 and brush with the rest of the beaten egg.
9, Bake for 12-15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
10, Eat either hot or cold.  They freeze amazingly well too, just let them defrost in the fridge overnight.   

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Almond and Orange Cake

Upon my recent rifle through my kitchen cupboards I found some ground almonds.  Well, three half empty packs of ground almonds.  The by-products of three successful, albeit, separate attempts at macarons.  The top of each was carefully rolled down to protect the insides and fastened with a grip then shoved back into the cupboard and forgotten about!  I really need to have some sort of list of what is in my cupboards, taped to the inside of the door.  Especially as I am small and the cupboards are so high…  I also have to stand on tiptoes when I’m cooking.  It’s a worry that one day I’ll end up with permanent Barbie feet…

So with three half full bags of ground almonds, no real energy for making macarons and a day that has so far sucked every last piece of inspiration out of me, I dipped into my copy of The Flavour Thesaurus.  Almonds and Orange jumped out and luckily there was a recipe.  Not all pairings have a recipe, but I love the book simply because it will give you inspiration.  Plus I had some ‘questionable’ oranges in the fruit bowl… 

The recipe in the book is an Almond and Orange Cake by Claudia Roden.  I've tweaked it a bit, adjusting cooking times and a couple of extra ingredients.  It is delicious and really moist.  I cooked mine in a bundt tin and it was perfect for slicing for lunches.  It is also gluten free and dairy free.  

2 oranges
1tbsp ameretto
6 eggs
250gr ground almonds
250gr caster sugar
1tsp baking powder
Small handful of flaked almond

1, Simmer the oranges in a large pan of water for two hours.  Keep an eye on it and top up the water if it gets low.  My cake may have had a slight burnt orange taste.  Which was in fact delicious mistake. 
2, When they are lovely and soft, cut them up and pull out any of the big pips.  Then blend the rest of them in a food processor with the ameretto until smooth.  Peel, pith and all.  Set this aside to cool for a bit
3, Preheat your oven to 190o/c. 
4, Beat the eggs, sugar, baking powder and ground almonds together until well combined.
5, Quickly beat in the orange pulpy gloop.
6, Grease or line a bundt tin and sprinkle a handful of flaked almonds into the bottom.  Pour in the cake batter bake for around 30-35 minutes.  Check on it after about 20 minutes though.  Test it is done with a skewer.  You might need to stick a layer of foil over the top to stop it browning too much.  The original recipe calls for it to be baked in a 9inch springform pan, for an hour.
7, When it’s cooked, leave it in its tin for 5 minutes before turning out.  Cool completely before eating.  Dust with a little icing sugar to hide the imperfections.  Icing sugar makes everything look better.

For your chance to win a copy of The Flavour Thesaurus, click here!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Inspiration Chain

The very lovely Louise from Please Do Not Feed The Animals held a giveaway for the latest link of the Inspiration Chain which was started by Chris at Mince & Skirlie.  You can read all about the Inspiration Chain here.

I’m exceptionally excited about this book.  (I don’t actually own a Nigel Slater recipe book.  Well, I have a copy of Toast… Does that count?)

I understand why Louise picked this to be the next link.  It is amazing.  I struggle to cook from recipes when I’m cooking dinner.  Cake recipes are different but if it’s something savoury then nine times out of ten, I’ll just wing it… Or look at a recipe for information and rough cooking times.  I am firmly of the philosophy that “It’s done, when it is done”

The best thing about this book?  It gives you the bones of a recipe and then give you ideas that you can tweak it with.  I like that.  I like that he measures things in handfuls too!

I’ve decided to make the delicious onion tart on page 298.

It was gorgeous and perfect for my obsession with packed lunches at the moment!

It didn’t take me long to figure out what I wanted to pass on! 

So, to get your hands on a copy of The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit, all you have to do is leave a comment below before midnight on the 31st January 2011.  I’m happy to post the book anywhere in the world.  Please only comment if you are happy to pass on a copy of your most inspiring cookbook. 

Many thanks again Louise!

Friday, 14 January 2011

We Should Cocoa: White Chocolate and Chilli Brownies

This month is being hosted by Chele at Chocolate Tea Pot who came up with the great idea of using something we had leftover from Christmas with chocolate!  You can see the round up of the dates challenge here

I scoured my cupboards.  It didn’t look good.  I had a copious amount of gin.  This is a good thing in my book but isn’t going to help with chocolate.  Then I found some white chocolate in the dining room.  I prefer really dark rich chocolate but I decided to class this my ‘leftover find’ and clutched it whilst running into the kitchen, grabbing my laptop on the way.

I stumbled on this recipe for White Chocolate and Chilli Brownies (Blondies…) and decided to give it a bash.  It was pretty faffy to make, simmering the chilli in syrup, melting the chocolate, whisking the eggs… And to be honest, it wasn’t worth it.  The chunks of chilli, no matter how small, just tasted dirty and out of place.  Get a piece with no chilli in it and it just tasted like a nice fudgy blondie. 

I would make these again but just with a handful of flaked toasted almonds in place of the chilli just to smooth out the strong sweetness of white chocolate.  

Despite the blondie fail, I’m excited about these.  Very excited.  

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Forever Nigella: Ham in Coca Cola

I don’t know if anyone else does this but I have a habit of seeing something I want to do and then storing it in my head for months.  Then it runs out of season/availability and I’m loathed to buy artificial tasting raspberries or strawberries.  Or, perhaps, worse, I run out of free time to do them! 

But this weekend is different.  Apart from a couple of hours at a wedding fayre on Sunday morning, I’m free all weekend.  It feels good to say that! After a shocker of a week at work and the good couple of hours mental preparation it will take for Sunday morning (Chair covers! Flowers! Table Favours! Balloons! Doves! Aargh!) comfort food is definitely in order! 

A quick deep dig into that head storage and I’ve pulled out something I have wanted to try for a long time.  It’s a Nigella recipe so I thought I would enter it into Forever Nigella that is being hosted by Sarah at Maison Cupcake.  Ham in Coca-Cola.  You can find the recipe here.

Since there are only two of us, we opted for a smaller piece of ham, about 750gr.  I used about 1ltr of coca-cola and half an onion.  It took about an hour to cook in the pan then a 15 minute blast in the hot oven.  It was really delicious and would definitely recommend it! The sticky glaze and the cloves make it perfect for the season!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Bad Runner

This is me after a 5k race.  The smile is an illusion, I felt like dying. 

I used this little app for training.  It’s actually very good but I haven’t completed it yet.  I always get up to Week 7 and then just stop.  It’s ridiculous to have such a mental block.  Problem is, when I stop, I stop. Then the I look at the app when I am at work and it tells me the last time I went for a run.  The last time I went for a run was in October.  This is bad.

I want to be able to comfortably run 5k.  This year is the fourth time I will run Race for Life for Cancer Research and I need to make the person I do it for, proud.  

I don’t want to bore you all with blogging about running but I need to put something down and out as motivation.  So here goes.  Week 7… I’m coming for you… Maybe not in shorts, something a lot warmer!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Gluten Free Vegan Cookies

I sincerely hope everyone had a good New Years!  A couple of good friends had organised a soiree around there flat so, we ate Chinese food, played pool, Mario Kart and Wii bowling, sang a very drunk version of Auld Lang Syne with glasses of champagne and then walked home, dodging the drunk of the town centre. 

I made mini cupcakes, simply vanilla cupcake recipe with vanilla butter cream plus something special for the gluten intolerant vegan friend.  These are very crunchy and not overly sweet so were a bit of a relief from all the heavy sweet sticky things from Christmas

100gr icing sugar
200gr vegan margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
400gr gluten free flour

1, Cream the margarine and the icing sugar together.
2, Add in the flour bit by bit until you can bring it together to form a dough. 
3, Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
4, When you are ready to start baking them, preheat the oven to 180o/c
5, Lightly flour your work surface with some more gluten free flour and roll out your dough.  If it falls apart a bit, give it a quick knead and then reroll. 
6, Stamp out the sugar cookies with cutters and place on a baking sheet.  They keep their shape pretty well so you won’t end up with a giant sheet of cookie.  
7, Bake for 10-13 minutes.  They need to be cooked until they go firm, but not golden brown.
8, Cool before icing

The cupcakes