February 27, 2009

Italian Oxtail Stew


I haven’t eaten oxtail in years, but I remember my parents cooking it and the meat being really delicious. I cooked this Italian style stew in my Tefal 4-in-1 and it was really nice.
  • Serves: 4-6 
  • Cooking time: 9 hours 

  • 3 Tablespoons plain flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.5kg/3lb 5oz oxtail pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar mixed with 150 ml water (or the equivalent amount of red or white wine would be good)
  • 2 x 400g/14oz tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 beef OXO cube 

  1. Put the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Roll the oxtail pieces in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan, then fry the oxtail pieces until brown all over. You will probably need to do this in batches. Set the browned oxtail aside.
  4. In the same pan, fry the onions and garlic until the are just starting to soften and colour.
  5. Add the white wine vinegar and the water and rapidly boil until it has reduced by half.
  6. Add the tinned tomatoes and bring to the boil.
  7. Crumble in the OXO cube.
  8. Pour everything into the slow cooker and cook for at least 9 hours for tender meat (this is the maximum time you can set the Tefal to slow cook), but anything up to 12-15 hours would be even better.

  • Ideally I would cook this in advance and allow to cool so I could skim off the excess fat as oxtail is quite fatty and then reheat to serve. 
  • Oven Cook: You can also cook this in the oven in a covered casserole dish for 5-6 hours on Gas mark 2/300°F/150°C/very low.

Swirly Lemon Drizzle Fingers

Lemon Drizzle

This recipe is from BBC Good Food magazine and I thought it would be a good recipe to try out as we had loads of lemon juice and zest leftover from Pancake Day.

It uses polenta, which I have baked with before (see my recipe for Blueberry Crunch Cake) and it gives cakes a different texture and flavour. If you can’t find polenta then you can just use 200g/8oz self-raising flour instead.
The swirl part of the cake is lemon curd, but you can leave this out and it will still be delicious.
  • Makes: 18 fingers
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C moderate
  • You will need: 20cm x 30 cm rectangular baking tin 

  • 200g/8oz butter, softened
  • 200g/8oz golden caster sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 100g/4oz fine polenta or fine cornmeal
  • 140g/5oz self-raising flour
  • zest 3 lemons 

For the swirl and the drizzle:
  • 4 Tablespoons lemon curd
  • 4 Tablespoons golden or white caster sugar (I used a mixture of half demerara and half white caster sugar)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 Tablespoons) 

  1. Preheat oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C and make sure the middle shelf of your oven is ready.
  2. Butter your baking tin and cut a sheet of baking paper a bit larger than the tin, then push it in and smooth it out so it sticks to the butter. Snip into the corners with some scissors to get the paper to lie neatly. (Don’t skip this step, even if you use a non-sticks silicone pan like I did, as it will make it much easier to get it out of the tin later).
  3. Put all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and use electric beaters to beat until creamy and smooth. Alternatively put the cake ingredients into a food processor. I found that the mixture looked like it had split a little, but this was fine.
  4. Scoop into your prepared tin, then level the top.
  5. Spoon the lemon curd over the batter in thick stripes. I found it easiest to give the lemon curd a good mix in a small bowl first to get it nice and soft and smooth.
  6. Use the handle of a spoon or a chopstick to swirl the curd into the batter, but not too much or you won’t see the swirls once it’s cooked. I found you can’t really see the curd swirls after it’s baked and you’re going to cover it with drizzle anyway.
  7. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and risen. It should have shrunk away from the sides of the tin and feel springy.
  8. Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes, or until just cool enough to handle. Then carefully lift out of the tin and put it onto a cooling rack, sat over a tray or something similar to catch the drips of drizzle.
  9. To make the drizzle: mix the sugar with the lemon juice and spoon over the cake.
  10. Let the cake cool completely and cut into fingers.
  11. Will keep in an airtight tin for 3 days.

February 18, 2009

Fish Pie

Fish Pie

All the recipes I had for fish pie were for 6 to 8 people, so I've made a recipe to serve 2 which is easy to double/triple. I made individual pies using little tapas dishes.

They are an ideal dish to prepare in advance, as you make them and then refrigerate overnight. If you do this then I would let them come to room temperature before baking in the oven.

I used salmon and white fish, but some nice smoked haddock would be great in this too. If we'd had some small cooked prawns I would have added those too, but times are hard so we can't afford that luxury!

I served the pies with Creamy Cheesy Leeks which uses some of the white sauce for the pies and they're really delicious.
  • Serves: 2
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C moderate/hot
  • You will need: 2 oven proof dishes that can each hold 1/2 pint (250ml) 

  • 250ml (1 cup) milk
  • 25g (1 oz) butter
  • 25g (1 oz) flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped - green and white parts separated
  • 250g (9 oz) fish (I used 2 salmon portions with skins removed and 1 portion thin white fish)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 500g (17 oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
  • 25g (1 oz) butter
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • Salt and pepper 25g (1 oz) grated cheddar cheese (optional) 

  1. First make the potato topping: Boil the potatoes in water until soft and tender. Drain then mash with the butter and milk over a low heat. Stir in the green parts of the spring onions. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Now poach the fish: Pour the milk into a pan and bring to the boil. Add the fish and gently simmer for about 5 minutes, until just cooked. Lift the fish onto a plate to cool slightly and reserve the hot milk. Break the fish into large chunks, putting them into your dishes.
  3. Next make the white sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the flour. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the reserved hot milk a little at a time, constantly stirring and simmer for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Add the white part of the spring onion. Allow the sauce to cool for a few minutes before mixing in the egg yolk. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the sauce over the fish, reserving about 4 Tablespoons for the leeks. (If you're using prawns then you would add then at this stage).
  5. Assemble your pies: spread the mashed potato on top of the pies and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Put the pies onto a baking sheet and bake them for 15-20 minutes until the piping hot and they are nice and golden brown.

  1. Wash 2 medium leeks, cut in half lengthways and then slice thinly into half-moons.
  2. Melt a knob of butter in a pan and add the leeks. Gently fry until coated in the butter and then add a splash of water. Fry the leeks until nicely softened.
  3. Add the reserved white sauce and a handful of grated cheese and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

PHOTOGRAPHY UPDATE: I used my new Photo Tent to take this photo and used 2 bedside lamps. I'm quite pleased with the result, but I am going to buy some angled desk lamps with trumpet bulbs as they produce white light (5000k daylight balanced neutral colour). Credit goes to Steve for a little Photoshop airbrushing!

February 17, 2009

Tefal 4-in-1


This is the brilliant multi-cooker I got for my birthday! It was bought from Lakeland where it costs £53.82.

It can cook rice, steam, slow cook and cook porridge, so I have been using it quite a bit to test out the different functions. So far I have used it to cook rice (absolutely perfect results!) and I have tried a few slow cooking recipes.

The recipe book that comes with the cooker hasn’t got many recipes, so I’m developing my own. The slow cooker function only has a low setting, unlike the traditional slow cookers which have low and high settings. I have successfully used the slow cooking function quite a lot to make stews and curries.

The porridge function works quite well too, but I haven’t used the steamer function yet. I hope to try things like Jam Roly Poly and Treacle Sponge soon though!

I absolutely love it!

February 11, 2009


I was getting really frustrated with my photos not coming out the way I wanted, so I have invested in a Photo Light Tent which I bought from www.stevesphotoshop.co.uk

It cost me about £30 which isn't too bad as I've been lucky enough to get quite a lot of money for my upcoming birthday! I just need to get some lights, but I can't quite afford the fancy ones from the website where I bought the tent, so I'm going to get some desk lamps and experiment with different bulbs, probably starting off with those energy saving fluorescent ones.

Now I need to go and make something to photograph!

February 3, 2009

Food of San Francisco

Here's a compilation of some of the great food Steve and I got to eat during our 3 month stay in San Francisco...

The Cheesecake Factory @ Macy's, Union Square:

Apple CcakeLUNCH: Chocolate Oreo Mudslide Cheesecake and Dutch Apple Caramel Cheesecake, washed down with iced cafe mochas. Trust me, this is more than enough just for lunch!


DINNER: Grilled Skirt Steak, which came with the most delicious Mashed Potatoes and Sweetcorn Succotash (I have blogged my interpretation).


Chevys on Van Ness Avenue:

DSC03449This is Steve’s Steak Fajita Burrito which I called Fajito Burrita by mistake, as I'd had more than a sip of alcohol so I was on the verge of being tipsy and then I got the major giggles! Not very authentic food but it sheltered us on a rainy day and was good for beer and free warm corn chips.

Dreyers Ice Cream @ Pier 39 Fisherman’s Wharf:

Ice creamA chocolate waffle cone with a scoop of Dulce De Leche ice cream and a scoop of Double Fudge Brownie ice cream. Luckily we only got one cone to share as it was massive!

Crab House @ Pier 39 Fisherman’s Wharf:

M_Wharf_CrabAnti-vampire food: 3 lbs of Killer Dungeness Crabs in garlic sauce and garlic fries. One of our most expensive meals out, but really worth it as the food was really delicious and because these crabs are huge you get huge chunks of meat, even inside the legs.

Frjtz on Hayes Street:

Frjtz-6Frjtz is a good place for a cheap and filling meal as it serves Belgian fries, crepes and sandwiches. We ordered 2 large fries ($10 each) and with that you get to choose 2 dips each, so Steve picked the Thai Chili Ketchup and the Red Pepper Mayo and I picked the Chipotle Remoulade (Chipotle is dried Jalepenos and remoulade is like mayo) and Ponzu Ketchup (I had no idea what Ponzu is but it sounded good!).

Mel’s Drive-In on Van Ness Avenue:
Mel's DinerCheesy place that does excellent milkshakes and pies. The milkshakes were really thick and they give you the can they make it in, which has the remainder that they can't fit into the glass so you really get your money's worth.
Popcorn @ City Hall Farmers Market:

Market-PopcornThe market is on every Wed and Sun and basically you can buy all sorts of fruit and vegetables, seafood, nuts and dried fruit, honey and eggs for extremely cheap prices. But definitely go there for the freshly made popcorn, it’s the best we’ve ever eaten!

Belly Dogs in Golden Gate Park:

Hot dogI’d never really been a huge fan of hotdogs, but that is until we discovered Belly Dogs! I played safe and opted for an All Beef and Steve took a gamble on the Louisiana Hot Link, which was damn hot! Golden Gate Park was one of my favourite places in San Francisco and these hot dogs are part of the reason why!

Pizza from ‘Milan Pizza’ on Geary Street:

Pizza This place was just around the corner from our hotel and we wished we’d discovered it sooner. We ordered the $23.99 Super Deal from here twice as the food is so good at an amazing price. For that price you get a large 16" pizza, 10 buffalo wings and a 2-liter soda. This pizza was so amazing that we made a special effort to order it from a payphone when we moved from our hotel to an apartment further away from the pizza place.

Noodles @ ‘On The Bridge’ restaurant in Japantown

NoodlesOn The Bridge is a teeny L-shaped restaurant and appropriately named because it is on a bridge walkway between two Japantown shopping centres. This was a cool place with 3 TV's on with different Miyazaki films playing: Princess Mononoke, Kiki's Delivery Service and Spirited Away. We ordered Yaki Udon which was delicious, even though the seaweed on top looks like a huge spider!

Heinz Baked Beans:

bangers mash beans After a few weeks living in San Francisco we were craving a taste from home so I decided to cook Bangers and Mash, as we bought some amazing Italian sausages from Safeway, but we knew it wouldn’t be the same without Heinz Baked Beans. So we found a shop that sells imported British food you say tomato and bought some beans and a bottle of Heinz Salad Cream. They also sell chocolate bars, Ribena, Aunt Bessies Yorkshire puddings and custard but it's pretty expensive in there. The beans were nearly $2 for a can but they were really worth it!

February 2, 2009

Rachel Allen’s Sweet Pastry


This pastry is really easy to make, especially if you use a food processor, but you can also make it by hand.

Ingredients for the pastry (these quantities makes enough for two 8-inch tarts, so you can freeze one portion raw for another time):
  • 250g (9oz) plain flour
  • 125 (4.5oz) butter, diced and softened*
  • 75g (3oz) caster sugar
  • ½ – 1 egg, beaten

Directions for the pastry:
  1. In the food processor place the flour, butter and sugar and whizz up for a few seconds.
  2. Add half the beaten egg and continue whizzing. You might need to add a little more egg, but don’t add too much – it should just come together (I used a whole egg).
  3. Tip the mixture onto a board* and with your hands flatten out the ball of dough till it is about 3 cm thick.
  4. Wrap it in cling film and place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Putting it on a metal baking tray will speed up the chilling process (it will keep well for a couple of days in the fridge, or it will freeze).
* My butter wasn’t very soft as I made this tart on the day that it heavily snowed so it was really cold in the house! I’m sure this is why the mixture didn’t come together into a ball in the processor (it stayed like breadcrumbs) so I had to bring it together on the board which took a few minutes.
To roll the pastry:
  1. Take the pastry out of the fridge (and split into two portions if doing two tarts).
  2. Place one portion of the pastry and place it between 2 sheets of cling film bigger than your tart tin.
  3. Using a rolling pin, roll out a circle no thicker than ¼ cm.
  4. Removing just the top layer of cling film, place the pastry upside down (cling film side facing up) in the clean tart tin.
  5. Press the pastry into the edges, cling film still attached and, using your thumb, ‘cut’ the pastry on the edge of the tin.
  6. Remove the cling film and pop the pastry in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before baking blind.
To bake blind:
  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C*
  2. Line the pastry with greaseproof/parchment paper, leaving plenty to come up the sides.
  3. Fill with baking beans, or dried pulses (I used a mixture of red lentils and rice).
  4. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until the pastry feels dry to the touch (you can prepare the filling whilst you’re waiting).
  5. Remove the paper and beans. At this stage you can brush the base with a little left-over beaten egg (I didn’t do this as I didn’t have any left-over egg).
  6. Return the pastry base to the oven for another 5 minutes.

  • I accidentally cooked the pastry at Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C as that is what I’d set the oven temperature to for my Blueberry Pear Crumble Topped Tart and it worked out fine.
  • Pastry freezes perfectly when it's raw, so it's handy to have some in the freezer. If the pastry is completely frozen going into the oven, and is not in any way too wet, you can actually cook it without the paper and beans. But if the pastry is not frozen, or is too wet (i.e. with too much egg), it will fall down the sides of the tin while it is cooking.
  • The reason for baking the pastry blind is to prevent the tart from getting a soggy base - so when making a tart with a 'custard' filling (as in eggs and milk or cream), it's essential. But for other tarts such as a Chocolate and Pear Tart, baking blind doesn't seem to be necessary.

Blueberry Pear Crumble Topped Tart

Blueberry Pear Pie.jpg


This is a hybrid of three different recipes as I didn’t have enough ground almonds to make the original recipe I wanted to make. So I had to be creative and I’m pleased to say it was a great success!

I made the sweet pastry from scratch using Rachel Allen’s recipe (click here for a link) and for my first time making pastry I’m really pleased that it came out lovely and crisp. It was really easy to make in the food processor.
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C
  • Oven shelf: middle
  • You will need: an 8-inch tart tin

  • You will need 1 portion of Rachel Allen’s sweet pastry, or roughly 250 g of shop bought sweet pastry, baked blind.

  • 225 g (8 oz) blueberries, washed
  • 50 g (1.75 oz) caster sugar
  • 1 large ripe pear, cut into thin slices (I used Comice)
  • 25 g (1 oz) ground almonds
  • 50 g (1.75 oz) self-raising flour
  • 25 g (1 oz) caster sugar
  • 50 g (1.75 oz) butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C.
  2. Mix the blueberries with the sugar and set to one side.
  3. Place all the crumble ingredients into a food processor and whizz up until you have a soft crumble.
  4. Spread the blueberries out onto the cooked pastry base, then arrange the slices of pear on top.
  5. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the fruit.
  6. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the crumble is golden brown.
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