Sunday, 2 May 2010

I have moved...

This blog can now be found at -

I hope to see you all over there!


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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Preserved lemons

Like many of you out there, I have been enjoying spending my Wednesday evenings traveling Europe with Jamie Oliver. So far we've been to Marrakesh, Andalucia and Stockholm with Venice, French Pyrenees and Athens still to come. I have to say he has to be up there as one of my favorite TV chefs, he's just so enthusiastic and his recipes are very accessible (and always delicious), that he never fails to inspiring me to get in the kitchen. I particularly liked the look of the Moroccan tagines (especially the lamb and the chicken ones), the selection of tapas, paella, fish baked in salt and last nights Swedish buns.

I have that many cookbooks that I was trying to resist buying his new one but after only the second episode I cracked and bought it with my weekly shop! The book has all the recipes from the show and more so I wasn't disappointed. First up I decided to prepare my own preserved lemons so that I can have a go at the Moroccan tagines. The recipe is simple, with the only draw back being the wait of one month for them to be ready. I won't copy the recipe here but here is a similar one.

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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Homemade baked beans recipe

A couple of weeks back I got a phone call from my boyfriend whilst he was at work. Nothing unusual there you might think but he was ringing to tell me he had bought half a lamb from a work colleague and could I find room in the freezer for it. His colleagues brother has his own farm only 30 minutes from where we live and was selling half lambs and with the memory of the Lancashire hotpot still fresh in his mind my boyfriend jumped at the chance. You can't get much more local!

Now we don't have a chest freezer or anything like that, just your average tall fridge/freezer, so creating room for a half a lamb would be no easy task. We decided the best thing would be to split it with his parents, leaving us each with a quarter of a lamb. I set about sorting through our well packed, mostly unlabelled freezer (I know, I know I should label things but only one mystery item was unearthed). I managed to empty one and a half drawers and luckily it all fitted in one draw in the end. The only problem we had when the meat arrived was that none of it was labelled with the cut! Thankfully my boyfriends mum was able to identify it all and we labelled it all up and split the lamb between us. So expect plenty of lamb recipes over the coming months.

First up I decided to slow roast the shoulder of lamb over the Easter weekend. During the week leading up to Easter I saw an episode of Market kitchen where they cooked Sheppard's pie with homemade baked beans. The baked beans looked really easy to make and from the comments the dinners were making they sounded delicious. I've been meaning to make my own bake beans for some time but never quiet got round to it and on top of that I had an unopened bottle of pomegranate molasses waiting to be put to good use. The recipe was easy, the beans were delicious (perhaps a little too sweet for my liking so will tweak the recipe a little next time) and worked perfectly with the slow roast lamb and crusty baguettes still warm from the oven. If you thought there was no point making baked beans think again! these have a million times more flavour than any you can find in a tin.

Homemade baked beans
serves 4

100g lardons bacon
2 shallots, chopped
150ml tomato ketchup
100ml beer
50ml pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 x 400g cans haricot beans, drained and rinsed

fry the bacon and shallots in a large pan over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, or until golden-brown. Add all of the remaining baked bean ingredients and bring to a simmer. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and bake for 1 hour, or until the mixture is thickened.

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Monday, 5 April 2010

Easter cupcakes

Happy Easter, I hope you all have had a great weekend and eaten lots of chocolate! I have a few posts planned for the next few days featuring some of the cooking and baking I have done this bank holiday weekend (we need more long weekends!). First up I have some Easter cupcakes to show you. Then tomorrow I will be blogging about the delicious homemade bake beans I served with delicious slow roast shoulder of lamb and crusty baguettes fresh from the oven. Finally I hope to share with you a recipe using left over roast lamb to make Shepard's pie.

So on to the Easter baking. Silver spoon recently sent me a selection of their new range of edible cake decorations to try out and tell you all about. I regularly use items from the Silver spoon range and have always been happy with them so jumped at the chance to try their new range. The parcel included a yellow icing pen, chocolate chips, food colourings, orange and lemon extract and a couple of tubes of sprinkles. Since there was only the two of us this weekend to eat them and what with all the Easter eggs I decided to make cupcakes rather than a cake. Cupcakes also meant I could try out a few of the sprinkles/icing as each cake could be different. Since it was Easter I also bought a bag of mini eggs to add to the decorations. I haven't used the natural lemon or orange extract yet as I haven't been able to find a recipe using them, so if any one knows any please leave me a comment.
The icing pens are a great idea. I have used them before and have always been happy with the colour, consistency and ease of use. The decorations were also tasty to eat and produced great results. This is the first time I have used this cupcake recipe which is from Gorgeous cakes by Annie Bell, a recent addition to my bookshelf. The book is packed full of stunning cakes which I can't wait for an excuse to bake them all! This recipe will definitely be used again as it is much nicer than the ones I've used before and so quick to prepare (30 minutes from weighing ingredients to coming out of the oven, helped by my trusty kitchenAid).

Adapted from Gorgeous cakes by Annie Bell
Makes 6 cupcakes

110g unsalted butter,
110g golden caster sugar,
110g plain flour,
2 large eggs,
1 teaspoon baking powder.

Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/ gas mark 6. Line a muffin tray with 6 cupcake of muffin paper cases.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer. Add the eggs, flour and baking powder and mix well.

Fill the cases by two-thirds with the cake mixture.

Bake for 17-20 minutes until risen, springy to the touch and lightly golden. Leave to cool before icing.

Have fun and decorate the cupcakes with your choice of icings and decorations. See here for the great range of decorations available from silver spoon. Thank you to Silver spoon for providing me with the samples to write this review.

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Sunday, 28 March 2010

Fresh from the oven - March 2010 - Kringel

This month's Fresh from the oven Challenge was hosted by Jo from Jo's Kitchen. She chose Kringel (an Estonian sweet or savoury bread) that has recently been featured in the Hairy Biker's programme, Mum's Know Best. Thank you Jo for hosting this months challenge.
It's been a while since I updated the blog and even longer since I took part in a challenge so hopefully this challenge will see me back to regular blogging and taking part in challenges. I ended up baking this bread today! as it was the only totally free day I have had at home in ages. I also baked a wholemeal loaf for this weeks lunch. It has been so long since I baked I had to get my bread book out to check on all the quantities which I used to know by heart!

Since there is only the two of us to eat this sweet bread I halved the recipe and we also decided to make it a little healthier and omit the chocolate topping (partly as we had none in the house). The recipe was simple and relatively quick and the end result was like nothing I have baked before. I do think that the chocolate topping would have improved it. I used dried yeast and just halved the quantity. There were also a few comments from members that 1tsp salt was missing from the recipe and the original recipe stated 'flour' and we decided it meant white bread flour. I have added these additions to the recipe below but have heard the some members struggled with this recipe as they stuck to the original recipe which perhaps has a few flaws. I couldn't make my mind up from the recipe instructions for platting the dough in which direction to cut the dough in half. I went for length wise which made the platting easier but the bread didn't turn out like the picture!

(adapted from The Hairy Bikers, mums know best)

Ingredients (Makes 1 Loaf)


  • 40g fresh yeast
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 250ml milk, lukewarm
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 1tsp salt
  • 600-700g white bread flour


  • 100g butter, softened
  • 3 handfuls of raisins
  • 10 tsp sugar


  • 150g dark chocolate (at least 50% cocoa solids)
  • 75g butter


Mix the yeast and sugar in a bowl. Add the lukewarm milk and egg yolks, then mix in the flour, salt and melted butter and knead well. Shape the dough into a ball, cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°c/Gas 6. Dust your work surface with flour. Take the dough out of the bow, knock it back and roll out to a thickness of 1cm. Spread the softened butter evenly over the rolled sheet of pastry, then sprinkle with raisins and finally sugar.

Roll up the dough like a swiss roll and cut it in half with a sharp knife. Starting from the uncut end, plait the dough, lifting each half over the other in turn. Finally, shape the plaited bread into a B shape and transfer to a buttered baking tray. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.

In the meantime, prepare the chocolate topping by melting the chocolate and butter in a bowl over boiling water. Once out of the oven, let the bread cool down a bit, place on a serving plate and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

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Monday, 8 March 2010

Lancashire hotpot recipe

I've been full of cold and generally feeling under the weather for the past week or so (hence the lack of posts on either of my blogs). I haven't felt up to cooking much but once I started to feel better this weekend I have been planning what to cook and craving good homely comfort food. This dish fitted the bill perfectly. Lancashire hotpot is a traditional British dish which is essentially a lamb stew topped with sliced potatoes on top. Its simple to prepare and the flavours are delicious. But not the easiest dish to make look pretty!
Lancashire hotpot

Serves 4
1-2tbsp olive oil
500g Lamb neck fillet, diced
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm thick discs
1 onion, diced
1tbsp plain flour
250ml lamb stock
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1tbsp dried thyme (or a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme)
2 bay leaves
4 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices
few small cubes of butter (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170C
Heat the olive oil in a cast iron casserole dish over a medium heat. Add the lamb and carrots. Stir occasionally until the meat has browned and the carrots softened slightly. Set aside on a plate.
Sweat the onion in the meat juices (add more oil if necessary) for a couple of minutes.
Add the flour and stir well.
Add the stock, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and bay leaves and stir until the flour mixes into the gravy.
Make a layer of potatoes under the gravy (place in the gravy and use your wooden spoon to push them under the surface. Add the meat and carrots back to the gravy.
Arrange the remaining potatoes over the top. Add some small butter cubes around the top.
Put the lid on and cook in the oven for 1 hour with the lid on and 20-30 minutes at the end without the lid until the potatoes are golden.

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Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Tomato, sausage and fennel seed ragu with gnocchi

Recently my thoughts have been turning even more than usual towards Italy, Tuscany in particular (see here if you haven't heard why). The recipe below uses a typical combination of fennel seeds and pork. The recipe is simple to prepare and delicious to eat. It is from a great book I got for Christmas, The Italian cookery course. This book is fast becoming one of my favorite cookbooks. So far I have cooked a winter minestrone soup from it (which was the best I've tasted) and this delicious tomato, sausage and fennel seed ragu with gnocchi. I can't wait to find more time to cook more of the recipes. I also look forward to finding time to read this book cover to cover. The book includes lots of information on the ingredients used and traditional cooking in Italy and all it diverse regions. There are also lots of useful masterclasses on everything from breads, fresh pasta and risotto to stuffing a leg of lamb and how to bone a chicken or rabbit. To anyone who loves Italian food as much as I do this is 500 pages of wonderful writing, stunning photos of Italy and the food, lots of masterclasses and helpful techniques, not to mention several hundred delicious recipes. I am especially looking forward to spending some time trying out the bread recipes and masterclasses and also fresh pasta.

Back to the sausage ragu. I love the combination of fennel seeds and pork and this ragu works well with gnocchi as suggested in the book but I believe it would work equally as well with a pasta such as penne. I have only recently discovered gnocchi, its a nice change to pasta and very simple to cook (I love the way it floats to the top of the pan when it is ready). I really must find time to have a go at making my own gnocchi sometime soon. This recipe serves 6-8 and freezes well.

Tomato, sausage and fennel seed ragu with gnocchi

Serves 6-8

12 lean best-quality pork sausages
olive oil
4 whole garlic cloves, lightly crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
4 bay leaves
250ml red wine
800g Italian tinned plum tomatoes
6 heaped teaspoons tomato puree
grated Parmesan to serve
Packed of gnocchi to serve 6-8

Remove the sausage meat from the skins and chop up the meat to break it up.
Put the olive oil in a large frying pan (I used a cast iron casserole pot) over a medium heat and add the garlic, salt and pepper. Fry for about 2 minutes until the garlic becomes light gold.
Add the onion and fry for a few minutes, until translucent.
Stir in the fennel seeds and bay leaves.
Add the meat and fry for 6-7 minutes or until cooked through. Use a wood spoon to break up the mince and stop it sticking to the pan.
Add the wine and allow to reduce for a couple of minutes, then add the tinned tomatoes and tomato puree and stir well.
Leave the ragu to simmer for 10 minutes.
Cook the ragu according to the packet instructions.
Once cooked, drain the gnocchi and toss in the ragu.
Serve with Parmesan scattered over the top.

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