Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Online Food Hygiene Certificate

A little while ago I was contacted to see if I would be willing to do an online course in food hygiene and blog about the experience. The course is offered by Virtual college. At the moment I don't have any real need for a food hygiene certificate so I haven't looked for this kind of thing so don't know how this one compares. Even though I don't cook for commercial purposes I decided to take up this opportunity as food hygiene is important anyway.

I have done e learning courses before for study purposes (not food or hygiene related) and found this one was well designed, easy to navigate and everything was well explained. There were frequent mini self tests to aid in learning the material and a final test to pass. A few days after completing the module I received my certificate in the post (very prompt). I didn't do the course all in one sitting but you could as it only takes 2-3 hours. It costs £25 + VAT. I think this is a good alternative if you need a food hygiene certificate but can not get to a face to face course.

To find out more about the course click here.

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Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Beetroot and spring greens risotto

I've been putting off doing something with the beetroots from the veg box for the last few nights. Tonight I decided to get on with roasting them and use them in a risotto. I washed them and put them in foil parcels with olive oil, fresh rosemary, a splash of orange juice, a pinch of salt and peeper. I roasted them in a hot oven (200C) for around 1 and a half hours. Once cooled, I peeled (wearing rubber gloves!) the beetroot and diced into roughly 1cm cubes. I added the beetroot to a basic risotto along with a bowl full of thinly shredded spring greens and ended up with a really vibrantly coloured (as usual my photo doesn't do the dish justice) and very tasty dish. I only used half the amount of beetroot I had for this risotto, the rest is going in the freezer for the next time I want to create a similar risotto (maybe spinach next time). I still have lots of spring greens left which I need to use up in the next few days.

Beetroot and spring greens risotto
Inspired by Able and Cole's Beetroot and summer greens risotto

Serves 2
Olive oil
small onion, peeled and thinly diced
stick of celery, thinly diced (optional)
1 garlic glove, peeled and thinly chopped
150g Arborio rice
Good splash of dry white wine
Approximately 600ml Chicken stock
Finely shredded spring greens (a good cereal bowl full - I know I should have weighed it for you!)
3 Roasted beetroots, diced
Salt and pepper
handful of parmesan cheese

  1. Heat the stock in a small saucepan.
  2. Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once hot add the onion and celery and sweat (with the lid on), stirring occasionally until soft but not brown (5-10 mins).
  3. Add the garlic cook for a few minutes, again stirring frequently.
  4. Add the rice and turn up the heat. Stir to coat the rice (from here on you need to stir much more frequently to stop the rice sticking or burning and also to release the starch to make it deliciously creamy).
  5. You should notice the rice become translucent and at this point you need to add the wine and continue to stir.
  6. Once the wine has been absorbed by the rice, add the first ladle of stock and turn the heat back down to medium. Keep stirring.
  7. Add the beetroot to the pan, stir well. The rice will start to become pink.
  8. Once this ladle of stock has been fully absorbed by the rice, add another ladle, stir and repeat until the rice is cooked. Add the spring greens after the first few ladles of stock or later if you like it more crunchy.
  9. Once the rice is cooked, remove from the heat, season to taste.
  10. Scatter the parmeson (and a few small knobs of butter if you like) over the top, replace the lid and leave to become oozy/creamy ( few minutes).
  11. Once the cheese and butter(if using) have melted, stir well and serve.

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Sunday, 17 May 2009

Able and cole

A few weeks back I contacted Able and Cole asking if I could feature a recipe of theirs (no longer on their website though) on my blog. I have tried a few recipes from their site and enjoyed them all. If you haven't seen their recipe page you should definitely take a look. It is easy to navigate and incredibly useful when you are looking for recipes using a particular item (fruit, veg, meat or fish). For example click on courgettes and you are transported to a list of tasty ideas all using courgettes. They were more than happy for me to feature one of their recipes and I was also offered a veg box to try. I of course accept happy to review one of their veg boxes on my blog for them. It also feels like a bit of a challenge deciding what to do with all the fruit and veg in the box.

Due to living in a mid-terraced house with no where for them to leave my box whilst we're out at work we had to ask if my boyfriends parents would accept it at their house for us. Luckily they deliver in their town on a Friday meaning we could pick it up from them at the weekend (they live an hour away from us). I like the idea of getting a box with different fruit/veg each week, forcing you to eat a wide variety of different types, getting creative with what to do with it and possibly increasing how much veg I eat. However in other ways I like sitting down planning my meals for the week ahead and then choosing what veg I need to buy. As much as I like the concept of having a box of fruit and veg delivered to my door weekly, currently it just isn't practical for us. The box arrived in good condition early Friday morning.

This weeks box contained:

  • Apples
  • oranges
  • Bananas
  • Spring greens
  • White onions
  • Potatoes
  • Beetroots
  • Cauliflower
  • 3 Courgettes
  • Aubergine

The fruit is being munched through already. The rest I'm not sure what I will do with yet. 2 courgettes could be used for balsamic courgettes but not sure what to do with the third. The aubergine may be used in a Parmigiana di melanzane (possibly with the final courgette as the aubergine is quiet small). The cauliflower was left with my boyfriends parents as neither of us like it. That just leaves spring greens (never eaten or cooked so no idea what to do with them) and the beetroots (again never cooked or eaten beetroot that hasn't been bought cooked, usually in vinegar). I have in the past seen recipes I've wanted to try using raw beetroot but I can't find any now. I might bake them in foil but that's as far as my ideas have got. I have Monday to Friday this week to use them for after work meals so has anyone any ideas? I could just cook the potatoes, spring greens and beetroot and serve them with some meat or fish but I tend to like to cook things that are more of a complete dish.

Update: just separated the beets from the potatoes (which look quiet similar when coated in mud!) and there are a lot more than I thought. Maybe I need two meals out of them.

Update: What I did with all this veg!
  • Rosemary and garlic potato wedges
  • Balsamic courgettes
  • Parmigiana di melanzane (but I added in 1 courgette and the aubergine was a little small, not traditional but still delicious)
  • Beetroot and spring greens risotto
  • Used some bits in my first daring cooks challenge (but you'll have to wait until June 14th to find out what and how)
It was a bit of a challenge but I enjoyed all the dishs I made and we certainly ate more vegetables than some weeks.

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Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Balsamic courgettes with pasta

I will start by confessing that courgettes aren't one of my favorite vegetables. However I discovered this recipe last summer from Able and Cole's recipe page and it has become a firm favorite in our house. Tasty (the vinegar give the dish a delicious, tangy flavour), healthy and quick and simply enough to prepare after work (and more importantly minimal washing up!) what more can you ask for. One word of warning though, if you don't like balsamic vinegar this is not the recipe for you. This is not the most sophisticated looking dish and taking a photo to do it justice is not easy. The above is a photo of the courgettes just before assembling the final dish.

Balsamic courgettes with pine nuts and pasta.
Serves 2

3tbsp pine nuts
5 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, finely diced
2 courgettes (small to medium ones)
2 tbsp water
2tbsp balsamic vinegar
200g tagliattelli (Never weighed mine so hope this is correct)
freshly grated parmesan

  1. Wash the courgettes and then finely slice into batons (roughly 2 inch long).
  2. Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Stir frequently and cook for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer the pine nuts to a dish.
  3. Add the remaining oil to the pan. Add the garlic and onion and sweat slowly until translucent and slightly brown.
  4. Add the courgettes and increase the heat.
  5. Cook for approximately 4 minutes until they just begin to brown. Stir frequently.
  6. Add the water and balsamic vinegar to the courgettes. Cover the pan and cook for approximately 10 minutes. Take the lid off and stir occasionally to stop the courgettes sticking to the pan and burning. Remove from the heat. return the pine nuts to the pan, mix and serve with tagliattelli and top with parmesan.

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Sunday, 10 May 2009

May - Whats in season?

So it's May already, the months seem to be flying by. The amount of seasonal vegetables available are rapidly increasing and the short lived asparagus season is well under way. I have also made a start on growing a small amount of my own vegetables and herbs which are starting to appear.

Sources used to put this list together:

Sainsbury's Magazine May (& there 2009 recipe calendar).
Eat the seasons
River cottage seasonal guide - The Guardian


Vegetables: Asparagus, Beetroot, broad beans, Carrots, cauliflower, Fennel, Jersey Royals, Lettuce, Mint, Parsley, Pea shoots, Radishes, Rocket, Spinach, Spring greens, Spring onions, Watercress, Wild garlic

Fruit: Cherries, raspberries, Rhubarb, early strawberries (passion fruit)

Seafood: Cod, Crab, Dover sole, Gurnard, Haddock, Herring, Lemon sole, Mackerel, Monkfish, Plaice, Pollack, Prawns, Salmon, Sardines, Scallops, Sea bass, Sea bream, Sea trout

Meat: Duck, Lamb

For those of you who like to follow the seasons you have to visit Mostly Eating for a really attractive and informative guide to spring free to download. It includes all the details of whats in season and lots of great tips on what to do with it all.


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Sunday, 3 May 2009

Asparagus and parma ham pizza

After much deliberation, I am now the proud owner of a shiny, red kitchenaid mixer! I've been an admirer for some time but never dreamed I would ever own one. I love the way they look (especially the red one) and also how much they simplify baking. Mine will mostly be used for bread making (my cheap bread maker which has been used as mainly as a mixer will be having a new home with my parents) but I'm sure now I have a KA I will be looking for any excuse to bake sweet treats (I'm thinking cakes, pavlovas and other desserts).

I got the machine home this afternoon and within 30 minutes it was working its magic on pizza dough. We also bought our first asparagus of the season today so I thought I would combine the two and make a asparagus and parma ham pizza. To go with it I made a rosemary and new potato focaccia. I was really impressed with the KA, it made light work of the kneading, created less mess and the end result was the best texture of bread that has ever been created in my kitchen! The asparagus and parma ham were tasty too.

Asparagus and parma ham pizza

See here for the recipe I use for pizza dough. When I can get hold of it I replace 100g of flour with polenta to get a thinner crispier base. The only downside is the focaccia/garlic bread I make with half the dough is better without the polenta.

The sauce I use varies depending on what I have to hand. Usually it is a small amount of a simple tomato pasta sauce that I have frozen. Pesto also works well.

For the topping I layered mozzarella, parma ham and asaragus spears (pre-roasted for 5-10 minutes as these were a bit thicker than some spears.

Bake for 10-15 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 230C.

Rosemary and new potato focaccia

  • Roll out the dough left over from making your pizza.
  • Make dimples in the dough all over with your fingers.
  • Brush olive oil over the surface.
  • Lay thinly sliced new potatoes over the dough.
  • Sprinkle with sea salt and dried rosemary (I think this would be even better with fresh rosemary but I don't have any yet).
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven (230C) for 20-30 or until golden and the potato is cooked.


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