September 30, 2009

Tefal 4-in-1 Rice Cooking

I normally just cook Thai Jasmine rice in my Tefal 4-in-1, but Steve and I decided to start eating more brown rice for its health benefits and also a bit of a change. We’ve found cooking it in the Tefal gives an excellent result and we’re both enjoying the change as brown rice has a lot more texture and is a bit like pearl barley.


The cooking instructions for brown rice in the Tefal manual are very limited and it only gives directions to cook 4 cups of rice, which will serve 5-6 people. I only wanted to cook enough for 2 people and so it was a bit of an experiment to find out how much water to use.


The first time I tried, I put in 2 cups of washed rice and filled the bowl to the 2 cup water level. After about 20 minutes the Tefal beeped and I checked the rice. It was still very hard in the middle. So I added another cup of water and set it to cook again. I had to repeat this process another two times before the rice was fully cooked and fluffy (I lost track of how long it took to cook in total!).


So the second time I tried cooking the brown rice, I put in 2 cups of rice, filled up the bowl to the 2 cup water level and then added 3 extra cups of water. This brought the water level to 4 cup water level. So I set the Tefal to cook and it took 45 minutes to produce perfectly cooked fluffy rice.


I must mention that the brown rice I used was of the Tesco Easy Cook variety, which is apparently partially cooked already and lightly milled to give non-stick grains. Normal brown rice needs slightly different cooking in the Tefal. Asda Long Grain Brown Rice needs water up to the 3 cup level and it only took approx. 45 minutes to cook.


So to summarise for 2 cups of rice:


White Thai Jasmine rice 2 cup water level 20 minutes
Tesco Brown Easy Cook rice 4 cup water level 45 minutes
Asda Long Grain Brown rice 3 cup water level 45 minutes

September 29, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash Risotto


Although I discovered the wonders of oven-baking risotto, nothing can really compare to a properly made risotto and all that stirring is really worth it for this risotto!

Half of the butternut squash is cooked in the stock and then mashed into a puree. This makes the rice beautifully creamy. The other half of the squash is roasted and this gives it a wonderful charred flavour and a different texture. I love the smell of roasted squash; it just screams of Autumn.

Unfortunately I didn’t use a home-grown squash as they’re not quite ready yet!

  • Serves: 2
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C
  • You will need: a roasting tray, a small saucepan, a medium saucepan

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 600ml/1 pint vegetable stock (I used 1 Knorr Stock Pot)
  • 25g/1oz unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, picked
  • 140g/5oz risotto rice (I used Arborio)
  • 100ml/3½ fl.oz white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 50g/2oz Parmesan (I used Twineham Grange)

  1. Heat oven to Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C.
  2. Peel the squash and separate the bulbous seeded section from the long end. Chop the long end into 2cm cubes, toss in half the oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven, turning occasionally until they are golden brown and tender (should take the same amount of time as to cook the risotto rice, about 30 minutes).
  3. Cut the bulbous section in half and remove the seeds with a spoon, then cut into 2cm cubes. Warm the stock in the small saucepan over a low heat and add the squash and allow it to gently poach.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil and the butter in the medium saucepan, then add the onion, cover and cook for 3 minutes until the onion turns translucent.
  5. Add the garlic, herbs and some black pepper. Increase the heat slightly, then add the rice and stir uncovered for about 5 minutes until the rice has turned almost completely translucent.
  6. Turn up the heat and add the wine and allow it to bubble away until it has evaporated. Reduce the heat then start adding the stock a ladle at a time, stirring constantly whilst you allow each ladle of stock to be absorbed. It will take between 15-20 minutes for all the stock to be absorbed. Check the rice is cooked (it should be tender but not mushy) and then mash the squash that has been cooking in the stock before adding it to the cooked rice.
  7. Turn off the heat, add most of the Parmesan, cover and leave to rest for 2 minutes, then stir and check for seasoning.
  8. Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls, sprinkle over the roasted squash and more Parmesan if you like.

September 27, 2009

Grow your own Peppers 2009

  • PLANT: ‘Luteus’ Yellow Pepper
  • FEEDING: Feed frequently with high potash/tomato feed once first truss has set
This photo was taken on 22 May:Pepperplanted

I’ve been pretty chuffed that I’ve managed to grow so many things from seed, but I couldn’t resist buying this plant from Wilkinsons as it was reduced to 75p!

I tried to grow peppers last year from plants and they didn’t do very well, so hopefully this one will do better.











The photo below was taken on 1 June:

Pepper 1 June

I didn’t think the pepper had grown that much, but when I compare the photo from 22 May I can see that it has made a fair bit of progress! So I’m pleased with how it’s doing. It’s right next to the water bottle spike I’ve put in the corner of the bed next to the tomatoes, so it’s probably benefiting from the regular moisture.











The photo below was taken on 13 June:

Pepper13JuneNot much to report on the pepper really, it’s just plodding on and doing it’s own thing.

















The photo below was taken on 25 June:


Well the pepper is doing pretty good, it’s now 12 inches tall, even though I haven’t been feeding it any tomato food as I keep forgetting! But it is right next to some tomatoes so I guess it’s getting the right nutrients, because it’s also next to a squash plant which isn’t growing as big as the others.












The photo below was taken on 1 August:


The pepper plant has started to flower now and some fruits are growing too! I think these flowers are rather pretty (and I don’t normally like flowers!) so it is quite an ornamental plant.







The photo below was taken on 15 August:


The flowers have dropped off and the peppers are starting to grow and take shape. I’m hoping this plant does quite well as the last plant I bought from B&Q was useless and I think I only got 1 pepper from it!









The photo below was taken on 21 August:


Well I’m really chuffed at how well the pepper is doing – OK only 1 fruit seems to be growing, but I’m still pleased! It’s now 1.5 inches long, but if this growth rate continues then it shouldn’t be long until it turns yellow and is ready for picking!







The photo below was taken on 29 August:


Well my pepper is making really good progress and has grown to 3 inches long now. That’s a growth rate of 2 inches in a week, so fingers crossed it will keep it up! I’ve been feeding the plants in the raised bed with tomato food, which I think has helped. I’ve also got quite a few new flowers, so hopefully they will form into nice fruits!












The photos below were taken on 11 September:

Pepperpicked11SeptNone of the other fruits were growing and I thought it was because this big pepper was taking all the nutrients, but I was waiting for it to change colour. So I looked up when I should harvest in my Vegetable & Herb Expert book by Dr. D. G. Hessayon. It said you should pick them when they’re green as a mature green pepper will turn red in about 3 weeks under glass. Apparently leaving them on the plant until they turn red will not improve the flavour. But since this variety is a Yellow Pepper then I will leave it on the sunny kitchen windowsill and wait for it to turn yellow!






Pepperpicked11Sept21 I’m really chuffed at how well it’s grown, it’s a good size at 4 inches long and it looks like it’s from the supermarket! Hopefully now I’ve cut it from the plant, the other fruits will start growing more.














The photo below was taken 19 September:

The pepper that I picked last week didn’t get a chance to change colour because I’d accidentally stabbed it when I cut it off the plant with a knife (that’s a lesson learned!), so it was starting to go soft. But it was still tasty fried with some onions and beef chilli and chucked into a tortilla wrap!


Ever since I picked off that ripe fruit, loads of new flowers have grown and I’m hoping it’s not

too late for some new fruit to appear (I am not holding my breath though!).


















The photos below were taken 27 September:

Peppers27Sept09 Here is just one of the new fruits growing – there is another one that is this size further up the plant. Even though we are experiencing some unusually warm weather lately, it is probably a bit late for them to develop into fully grown peppers.












Peppers27Sept091 There is loads of new growth on the plant, with too many new flowers and fruits starting to grow, so I have chopped off the growing tips and all these flowers because I want to concentrate the energy into the two biggest fruits growing to give them a better chance of developing (I also got rid of the spider as I have a phobia – where have they all come from all of a sudden?!)

Grow your own Basil 2009

  • PLANT: ‘Sweet Genovese’ Basil
  • WATERING: Water by day and not at night as basil hates sitting in the damp and water only when the surface of the compost is dry.
  • THINNING: Thin seedlings to 20cm/8 inches apart.
  • LOOKING AFTER THE CROP: Remove flowers to keep the plants cropping for longer.


Last year we grew chilies, tomatoes, spring onions and strawberries, but as we went to San Francisco at the end of August for 3 months we weren’t around to take care of our plants.

I wasn’t planning on growing anything this year, but I received a packet of basil seeds and cherry tomato seeds with my latest issue of BBC Good Food magazine, so I thought I might as well plant them. There was a whole page in the magazine with advice on how to plant them, which was really helpful as I’m not blessed with the greenest fingers!

Sowing the seeds:

I put some crocks (broken bits of old clay flowerpots) into the bottom of my plastic pot, filled it with multipurpose compost, sprinkled over an even layer of seeds and then covered them up with a thin layer of compost. Sprinkled some water over the top and then left them on a windowsill.


It said that it would take between 7-14 days for the seedlings to sprout. I planted the basil seeds on 30th March 2009 and not much was happening after 6 days, so I re-read the advice in the magazine and it suggested covering with a plastic bottle to increase humidity and encourage growth.

So I covered the pot with a piece of cling film and moved them to a sunnier room and hey presto, the next day some of the seeds had sprouted!

So I’m quite excited that I’ve managed to get some seeds to sprout and I’ve now planted the tomato seeds and I think I might give the spring onion seeds I’ve got leftover from last year another try.

Basil seeds-1


It’s now been 14 days since I planted the seeds and they seem to be doing quite well. I was worried that they weren’t getting enough oxygen, so I stabbed a few holes in the cling film to let some air in.

The guide said to plant the seeds in seed compost, but I just used multipurpose compost and they seem to be doing OK! However, if there are big clumps in the compost then I try to pick them out as they seem to stop the seeds from coming up.

Basil Week 2


The basil isn’t doing that well, as a lot of the seedlings aren’t taking proper roots so they stopped growing. I removed the cling film at the beginning of the week and have only been watering when the soil is dry to touch.

I’ve removed the dead seedlings and sowed some news one in their place, so hopefully they’ll start growing and the bigger seedlings will take proper roots and not die!

Basil Week 3


Not that much progress this week. The established seedlings look a bit stronger and I’ve got a couple of new shoots from the new seeds I planted last week. I did put the cling film back on to help them along.

Basil Week 4


Although some of the new seeds I planted have made some progress over the past week, the other seedlings haven’t grown very much. So I’ve sprinkled more seeds in the hope they’ll start growing!

Basil Week 5


The basil was doing quite well and the 4 leaves had formed on most of the seedlings, so I decided it was time to thin them out before the roots got too tangled up together.Basil thinned out Week 5.5

I moved 9 of the seedlings into individual peat pots and left the other 2 in the original pot. Hopefully this disturbance doesn’t kill them off!Basil thinned out Week 5.5 pot

They’re starting to look more like basil leaves and already have a really strong basil smell, so I can’t wait to start using it in my cooking!


The photo below was taken 18 May:

Basil 18 May

Whenever I look at the basil I think it’s not making any progress, but then I look at the previous photos I can see that it is growing – just not as fast as I’d like! I thought it might be because the peat pots are too small, but they’re actually growing better than the basil in the big pot, so who knows what’s best for them? But I think the bigger ones will outgrow their peat pots pretty soon and hopefully I’ll have my raised bed sorted soon.

The photo below was taken 22 May:

Basil planted

I’ve planted the basil in between the tomato plants, as I read they will help each other grow and improve flavour. I’ve planted them in groups of 3, whether this is right or not I’m not sure! Fingers crossed! I’ve also put a few seedlings in pot which I’ll leave on a windowsill, just in case they hate being outdoors.

The photo below was taken 1 June:

Basil 1 June

The basil is doing well, even though I’ve planted 3 seedlings so close together when they should be thinned to 8 inches apart! I have 2 patches of basil like this in the raised bed and another lot in a pot and some are still in peat pots, so I’ll have so much basil I won’t know what to do with it all! I’d better get myself an ice cube tray so I can freeze some!


The photo below was taken 13 June:

Basil 13 JuneThere hasn’t been much sunshine lately, so the basil hasn’t made much progress. It looks quite yellow in this photo, but it’s actually still a healthy green colour! I’m still toying with the idea of thinning the plants out as I’m not sure if having 3 plants so close together is stunting their growth. I will probably spread these 3 plants out and see what happens!


The photos below were taken on 25 June:

Basil in bed 25 JuneIn my last post I said I might thin out some of the basil plants to see if it would improve growth. Well I did thin them out, but unfortunately something (I suspect a cat) made a huge hole and totally destroyed that patch, so I didn’t get a chance to see the results! This is my other patch of basil and it looks in a bit of a state! I’ve been removing some of the bigger leaves to encourage more growth and bush them out a bit. The same goes for the basil growing in a pot:

Basil in pot 25 June

I haven’t actually eaten any yet as I keep forgetting it’s out there! So next time I make a tomato based pasta sauce or a pizza I must remember the basil!


The photos below were taken on 1 August:

 Basil 1 Aug

The basil is doing really badly outside as it’s being eaten by everything except me! So I’ve brought them inside to sit on a sunny windowsill, so hopefully they’ll recover.


Basil 1 Aug new growth

There is a lot of new leaves growing at the top, so I’ve removed all of the leaves that have holes in them and fingers crossed the plant will bush out.

The photos below were taken on 9 August:

Basil indoor flower 9 Aug

The basil plants I brought indoors are doing better now that nothing is eating it! But 2 white flowers started growing so I removed them so that the plant keeps cropping for longer. The plants still look quite scraggly and spindly and not much like basil plants at all!



Basil in brown pot 9 Aug

But the basil I planted next to the tomatoes in one of the big brown pots is doing remarkably well considering I haven’t attended to it at all. OK it hasn’t grown very big, but the leaves are a healthy shape and colour and nothing has been eating it! The plants in pots are located in a different part of the garden, so maybe that’s why.

The photos below were taken on 15 August:

Basil 15 Aug I double checked some info that I’d got off the Internet and apparently pinching or deadheading doesn’t stop flowering, it encourages more flowers! So to discourage flower production and stimulate more leaf growth, you should cut the stem at least six leaf nodes down. If basil is allowed to go to seed, the leaves will develop a bitter flavour.


Basil tops 15 Aug

So I’ve cut the tops off the plants as suggested. I’m pretty pleased that the plants seem to have made a pretty good recovery since I brought them indoors 2 weeks ago.

The photo below was taken 27 September:

Basil 27 Sept 09 Well I’m pleased to finally say that my basil plants now look like those prime specimens that you buy from the supermarket all wrapped up in plastic.

I’ve been picking the leaves and using them in tomato sauces and the leaves have just regenerated and the plants are looking really healthy. They seem to love it on the kitchen windowsill where there’s plenty of sunshine. The ones outdoors that are planted with the tomatoes are getting eaten to shreds, so I will definitely be keeping my basil indoors in the future!

Growing my own basil from seed has been a bit up and down. They germinated really quickly and quite easily, but finding the right spot for them to carry on their growth has been a bit of a struggle. But now I know that the best place for them is on the kitchen windowsill, growing them next year will be a breeze! It has been really satisfying too, as buying fresh herbs from the supermarket can become so expensive! But a little care and attention given to the seeds I acquired (for free!) was really worth it.

September 20, 2009

Sausage and Tomato Quiche

Sausage and Tomato Quiche


When I made my Leek and Bacon Quiche I came up with the idea of doing a Breakfast Quiche with sausage, bacon and mushrooms. I wanted to add some cherry tomatoes and now that Steve likes my home-grown ones, I decided to just do a Sausage and Tomato quiche (plus we didn’t have any bacon as we’d had Bacon Sarnies the day before!).

I thought the tomatoes tasted fantastic so I’d definitely put them into a quiche again.

I used the pastry that I’d previously made and put into the freezer. I defrosted it in the fridge overnight and it had little white spots all over it. It looked a bit like mould, but it didn’t smell off and Steve said it was probably just the fat in the pastry that had separated. So I just kneaded the pastry until it was smooth and it was fine to roll out.

  • Makes: 1 quiche but enough pastry for 2
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C
  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cooking time: 1 hour
  • You will need: an 8-inch flan tin

Ingredients for the Shortcrust Pastry:
  • 225g plain flour
  • 55g butter, cold
  • 55g lard, cold
  • approx. 9 teaspoons water

Directions for the pastry:
  1. Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl.
  2. Cut the fat into small pieces and add to the flour. Rub the fat into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you shake the bowl, any big lumps of fat should rise to the surface, so you need to rub these in.
  3. Make a well in the centre, then add the water and using a round bladed/palette knife, mix into a firm dough. Don’t force the mixture together, if you need to add another teaspoon of water to bring together the dry bits at the bottom of the bowl then that’s fine.
  4. There is no need to chill this dough, so you can roll it out and use it straight away or store it in the freezer for another time.
  5. You only need half the amount of pastry for 1 quiche, so split it in half and freeze whatever you don’t need - if you have a spare flan tin then it’s ideal if you line that tin with the pastry and then pop the whole thing in the freezer, then it’s ready to use for next time!
  6. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C.
  7. Roll out your pastry to 2-3mm thick and use it to line an 8-inch flan tin, pressing it into the flutes, then neatly trim away the excess with a knife. If your tin has a lip then make sure it is covered with pastry as when it bakes it will shrink. Then line the tin with some greaseproof paper and fill with a layer of baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes, it should be pale golden brown. Remove the baking beans and the paper and return the pastry to the oven for about 5-10 minutes to dry out the base.

Ingredients for the filling:
  • 4 sausages (I used Lincolnshire)
  • big handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 75g mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150ml double cream (I used Elmlea)
  • salt and black pepper

Directions for the filling:
  1. Grill the sausages until they’re golden brown. Slice on an angle about 5mm thick.
  2. Arrange roughly half the sausages into the blind-baked pastry case, sprinkle on the cheese, then arrange the tomato halves and the rest of the sausage over the top in a pretty pattern.
  3. Whisk the eggs with the cream, salt and pepper. Pour the liquid into the pastry case, being careful not to overfill it (you might not need all of it).
  4. Place in the top third of your oven and cook for 25-30 minutes at Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C. Serve hot or warm.

September 19, 2009

Grow Your Own Chives 2009

  • A great companion plant – their scent helps confuse pests such as carrot root fly.
  • Grow to 30cm tall and has a mild onion flavour.
  • Has masses of small, purple flowers in the summer.
  • Likes full sun or partial shade.
  • Water when dry.
  • In Autumn they die back and re-emerge in the Spring.
  • Young plants should not be harvested until late Summer in their first year so that they can establish a good root system.
  • To Harvest: cut with scissors and always leave 5cm of leaves to continue growing.
Steve’s Mum bought me a chive growing kit from Wilkinsons at the end of May. It was only £1 and you get the seeds and the compost in a pot, so you just sprinkle the seeds onto the compost, water them and cover. They started growing the next day and I didn’t have to really look after them at all.
Chives 15 Aug
I’d left them to grow in the same pot outdoors and the roots were getting a bit overcrowded and pot-bound. So I transferred the whole lot into a new pot which was slightly bigger. But I wasn’t convinced this was the right thing, so I looked on the Internet.
It said I should have transferred the seedlings outside a month after sowing with 10cm (8in) between each plant. So I had to separate each bulb, which was a bit difficult as the root ball was so compact.
Chives roots 15 Aug
But I did manage to separate them all and the bulbs looked just like mini spring onions – the smell of onions was really strong too!
Chives bulbs 15 Aug
So I replanted these in my new small pots and I also put some in with the Rosemary and Thyme plants. Hopefully they’ll grow a lot stronger now they’ve got more room.
Chives replanted 15 Aug
Chives replanted with other herbs 15 Aug
The photo below was taken 19 September:
Chives 19 SeptAll the chives that I replanted are doing very well as the ‘leaves’ are now thicker and they are splitting off into new growth. They were a great addition to my potato cakes!

September 18, 2009

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake


This chocolate cake uses cocoa instead of chocolate, so use a good quality cocoa for full chocolate impact! It might seem weird that the cake contains lard, but that’s what makes it so moist. I love the frosting on this cake too.
It’s cooked in a Swiss roll tin, so like any tray bake you can cut it up in any number of ways. I quite like it cut into squares and served in fairy cake cases.

  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
  • Oven shelf: middle
  • You will need: a Swiss roll tin approx. 33 x 20 cm

Ingredients for the cake:
  • 100g (4oz) butter
  • 50g (2oz) lard
  • 40g (1½oz) cocoa (I used Cadbury Bournville)
  • 150g (5oz) brown sugar
  • 150g (5oz) caster sugar
  • 215ml (7½ fl.oz) water
  • 250g (9oz) plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 120ml (4 fl.oz) milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (this is necessary to react with the bicarbonate of soda. I use the stuff from a bottle)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for the frosting:
  • 50g (2oz) butter
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1½ Tablespoons cocoa
  • 225g (8oz) icing sugar
  • ½ vanilla sugar or extract

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C.
  2. Grease and line your Swiss roll tin.
  3. Place the lard, butter, cocoa and both the sugars in a saucepan with the water and heat gently under all the ingredients have melted, stirring all the time. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes.
  4. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. Pour in the melted mixture and mix with a balloon whisk until smooth. Stir in the milk, lemon juice, eggs and vanilla extract.
  5. Pour into your prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes. The cake should have shrunk away from the sides and spring back when gently pressed. Or test with an inserted skewer to see if it comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  6. Make the icing: Place the butter, milk and cocoa in a small saucepan and bring to the boil stirring constantly, then remove from the heat. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, then pour in the wet mixture with the vanilla sugar or extract and mix well until you have a smooth frosting. Spread the warm frosting over your cool cake and leave to completely set.




I made these last night to go with my Massaman Curry and they were really nice, just like naan bread from an Indian restaurant! I got the recipe from BBC Good Food and the dough is basically the same as for pizza or foccacia, you just cook it in a dry frying pan. They’re really easy to make so I’ll definitely be making these again, although I put the rest in the freezer (uncooked) so I have a ready-made supply to last me a while!*

I read the comments that other people had left about the recipe on the Good Food website and I tried cooking them both slowly on a low heat and faster on a higher heat. The results were much better on the higher heat, as the bread puffed up so it got the distinctive air bubbles and it was crispy on the outside by still nice and soft inside. On the low heat it just became too crispy. I followed everyone else’s advice and rolled my breads as thinly as possible and I agree that the recipe does not give you 250g portions!

Next time I will probably add some garlic or crushed coriander seeds to jazz them up a bit.

  • Makes: 8 flatbreads

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 7g sachet fast-action yeast (I used 1 tsp Doves Farm Quick Yeast)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 300ml lukewarm water

  1. Mix the flour, salt, yeast and oil in a large bowl and add enough water to make a soft, but not sloppy, dough.
  2. Knead well (for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and springs back when gently pressed).
  3. Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size (I find the airing cupboard is a good place!).
  4. Divide the dough into 8 pieces (about 100g each) and use a rolling pin to flatten each one into a circle, 15cm in diameter. Try to roll them as thinly as possible, about 2-3mm thick. Then leave the pieces on a lightly floured baking tray to prove for 5 minutes.
  5. Heat a large frying pan to a medium heat and dry-fry each piece until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes in total. Set aside to cool slightly before serving.

The recipe on the website says you can freeze these, but it didn’t say whether to freeze them cooked or uncooked. I froze mine uncooked, with layers of greaseproof paper between them. Unfortunately I think you’re supposed to freeze them cooked, because they have been a disaster when I’ve tried to cook them! I did defrost them before cooking. The first time I left them to defrost on the greaseproof and they stuck like mad, so that was a mistake. So the second time I peeled them off the greaseproof and laid them on some Magic Non-Stick liner to defrost. I tried cooking them in the oven for 15 minutes at Gas 4, but they were like cardboard. Dry frying them in the pan didn’t work either. So I’m going to try freezing them cooked next time!

September 16, 2009

Roasted Trout with Thyme

Roasted Trout

I took the flavouring idea of the thyme from a Jamie Oliver recipe, but I cooked the fish at a lower temperature and for twice the amount of time than he suggested. The fish was cooked perfectly, the skin and bones were easy to remove, leaving lovely big chunks of fish to pop into your mouth.
I did use Lemon Thyme as Jamie’s recipe suggested. I thought it was an incredibly subtle flavour, but Steve said he thought I’d put lemon on the fish when I hadn’t! He must have much more perceptive taste buds than me!

When I was younger I used to go fishing at a trout farm with my Dad, so I have fond memories of eating trout. This was the first time Steve had tried trout and he liked it, even though it had bones! But trout is one of those fish that is quite meaty and the bones are easy to remove once it’s cooked.

  • Serves: 2
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 7/425°F/220°C
  • You will need: a roasting tray

  • 2 whole trout, scaled and gutted (brought to room temperature)
  • 1 good handful of fresh thyme
  • Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Couple of Tablespoons of olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 7/425°F/220°C.
  2. Wash the trout inside and out and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  3. Strip the leaves from half the thyme and using a pestle and mortar (or a Jamie Flavour Shaker!), smash up the thyme leaves with a generous pinch of Maldon salt, a good grinding of black pepper and the olive oil (or very finely chop). Rub this mixture into the trout; smear the flavour into the belly cavity and onto the skin. Place the other sprigs of thyme into the cavity.
  4. Place the trout onto a roasting tray and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. To check that the trout is cooked properly, go to the thickest part of the trout fillet and try to pull the meat away from the bone. If it pulls away easily then it is cooked. Also look at the eye; if it is white and opaque then this is a good sign the fish is cooked.

September 13, 2009

Hollandaise Sauce

Eggs Benedict


Steve and I didn’t know what to have for lunch the other day. We settled on poached eggs and then I suggested Eggs Benedict as I fancied having a go at making hollandaise sauce. We didn’t have any ham or smoked salmon though, so it’s not a proper Eggs Benedict!

Our poached eggs went a bit wrong as we’ve never been able to master making them into perfect balls of egg, they always spread out in the pan! They still tasted good though and the yolks were nice and runny. I would like to buy some of those Poach Pods from Lakeland as I’ve heard they’re really good.

Anyway, the hollandaise came out really good, except I used salted butter when I should have used unsalted, but we didn’t have any. Thus the sauce was incredibly salty on its own, but with the plain toast and the poached egg it worked really well.

This amount of sauce makes quite a lot, enough to generously serve 4 people. So we had a lot of sauce leftover and I used some to jazz up the mashed potato topping of my Shepherds Pie.

I have to say that this is a quick and simple way to make hollandaise sauce and there are loads of different recipes and methods. I quite like the look of Marco Pierre White’s foolproof method on the Knorr website.

  • 4 egg yolks (you can freeze the egg whites and use them for meringues)
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 175g unsalted butter, melted
  • lemon juice
  • salt and white pepper

  1. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the egg yolks and the 2 Tablespoons of water over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). The mixture should look foamy and lighter in colour.
  2. Next, very slowly to begin with, whisk in the melted butter. Whilst continuing to whisk, add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Continue to whisk constantly with the heat very low, until the sauce thickens.
  4. Serve immediately or keep warm for up to 30 minutes before serving.

September 12, 2009

Chocolate Rose Cupcakes

Chocolate rose cupcakes


I used the recipe on BBC Good Food website (my favourite food website!) for the cake and the frosting, but I used milk chocolate instead of white chocolate. Even though I’m comfortable making cakes, the decorating aspect is something that I haven’t had a lot of experience with and I want to practice. So I used my new piping bag to pipe the frosting on – this video tutorial taught me how to do it like a pro!

I also decided to make some modelling chocolate from a new book I got today: Cupcakes by Sue McMahon. I used the modelling chocolate to make the ‘Simple Sugar Roses’ as it’s like sugarpaste and it worked really well. It was quite hot today, so I had to work quickly as it started to melt!

I thought the frosting and the chocolate roses were really nice, but I wasn’t too keen on the cake sponge. The ground almonds gave them a gritty texture and I prefer a lighter, fluffier sponge. But Steve’s family said they liked them!
I didn’t have any muffin paper cases, so I used normal fairy cakes cases, so they weren’t as deep but they still took 20 minutes to cook. I made 18 cakes, so I had to switch the bun trays around in the oven halfway through.

  • Makes: 12 muffin-size or 18 fairy-size cupcakes
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C

  • 150ml pot natural yogurt
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 175g unsalted butter, melted (I used Stork)
  • 100g milk chocolate (I used Tesco Value)
  • 140g unsalted butter
  • 140g icing sugar, sifted

  1. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases and heat oven to Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C. In a jug, mix the yogurt, eggs and vanilla extract. Put the dry ingredients, plus a pinch of salt, into a large bowl and make a well in the middle.
  2. Add the yogurty mix and melted butter, and quickly fold in with a spatula or metal spoon - don't overwork it. Spoon into the cases (they will be quite full) and bake for 18-20 mins or until golden, risen and springy to the touch. Cool for a few mins, then lift the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely. Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze as soon as possible.
  3. Chocolate frosting: Melt the chocolate in the microwave on High for 1½ mins, stirring halfway. Leave to cool. Beat the butter and icing sugar in a large bowl until creamy. Beat in the chocolate. Cover and chill for up to one month.
  4. Up to 48 hrs before serving (or the day before if it's really hot), bring the frosting back to room temperature, then spread or pipe over the cakes – with this amount of frosting I only managed to pipe it onto 8 cupcakes, the rest I had to spread it on.

  • 50g golden syrup
  • 100g plain chocolate, melted (I used Tesco Value)
  • cocoa for dusting
  1. Stir the golden syrup into the melted chocolate, until the mixture thickens. Transfer the mixture to a plastic food bag and chill until the chocolate is firm enough to handle.
  2. Knead the modelling chocolate lightly before using to soften it. If it’s sticky, use cocoa to stop it sticking.
  3. If you have hot hands, run them under cold water to cool them down before working with the modelling chocolate.
  4. To make the roses: Roll out the modelling chocolate to 1-2mm thin. Then trim into a rectangle about 8cm wide. Cut off a 1cm strip of icing widthways, keeping the rest covered.
  5. Carefully roll the icing up and around itself. For a more realistic rose look, start rolling slightly skew-whiff so that the outside edge of the finished rose sticks out further than the middle. With about 2cm to go, start to guide the end of the icing down and under to make a neat rosebud. Pinch to shape, then cut or pinch off the bottom. Set aside for at least 1 hr until firm. Repeat with the rest of the icing.

Simon Rimmer’s Jam Roly Poly

Jam Roly Poly


This might sound strange, but I don’t think I’ve ever had jam roly poly. I’ve definitely never used suet before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I cooked it in my Tefal 4-in-1 and it was the first time I’ve used the steamer function. It worked brilliantly and I didn’t have to worry about it boiling dry as you can fill the bowl with loads of water.

I had to halve Simon’s recipe as it served 6-8 people and I was only cooking for me and Steve, so even with half the amount we still had a lot leftover! So my jam roly poly was slightly smaller and I didn’t reduce the cooking time, so I think that’s why it came out a bit dry. Next time I will check it after 40 minutes. Another reason why it might have been dry was I didn’t use a double piece of parchment and the roly poly burst out a little bit. So it’s definitely worth using a double layer.

I would also use more jam and a better quality one than the Tesco own brand we had in the fridge, as it was a bit bland.

It was easy to make but it's nowhere near as good as this other Jam Roly Poly recipe that I've tried.

The recipe below is half the quantity of Simon’s original recipe, which can be found here.
  • Serves: 3-4
  • You will need: a steamer
  • 113g (4oz) self-raising flour
  • 57g (2oz) shredded suet (I used vegetable suet)
  • 35g (1.25oz) caster sugar
  • ½ egg, beaten
  • 25ml (1 fl.oz) water
  • 100g (3.5 oz) strawberry jam
  • Hot ready-made custard, to serve

  1. In a bowl, mix together the flour, suet and sugar until well combined.
  2. Add the beaten egg and stir until well combined.
  3. Gradually add the water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together as a dough. (NB: You may not need all of the water. If the dough becomes too sticky, add a little more flour.)
  4. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to form a 20cm x 30cm rectangle. Transfer to a baking tray lined with baking parchment.
  5. Spread the jam in an even layer all over the dough rectangle.
  6. Starting from the narrower end of the rectangle, carefully roll the dough into a roulade, using your hands (use the baking parchment as a guide).
  7. Cut the roll in half, then wrap each half tightly in a double piece of baking parchment. Twist the ends of each parcel to secure.
  8. Place the roly-poly parcels into your steamer and steam for 40-50 minutes, or until completely cooked through (the jam roly-poly halves are cooked through
    when a skewer inserted into the centre of each comes out clean).
  9. To serve, cut each jam roly-poly half into three or four slices. Place one slice onto each of six to eight serving plates. Drizzle over the hot custard.

September 11, 2009

Haddock and Chorizo Gnocchi

Haddock Chorizo Gnocchi-1


This is my interpretation of a Gregg Wallace recipe from BBC Good Food Magazine. He used potatoes in his dish instead of the gnocchi, but I like the way the gnocchi absorbs some of the sauce, plus it’s quicker to cook!

I added some Parmesan to the dish as I’d just bought some from the Farmer’s Market in Epsom (read more about it here) and it worked well.
This is a really quick and easy recipe and the chorizo gives so much flavour. It’s quick garlicky, so there was no need to add any extra garlic!

  • Serves: 2
  • You will need: a frying pan with a tight fitting lid

  • 250g potato gnocchi (I used ½ 500g pack of Trattoria Verdi from Tescos)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small chorizo sausage, thinly sliced (I used Cooking Chorizo from the Tesco Ingredients range)
  • good handful cherry tomatoes, halved (home-grown of course!)
  • 1 teaspoon Knorr Chicken Stock Granules
  • 2 skinless thick haddock fillets (or other white fish)*
  • salt and pepper

  1. Cook the gnocchi as per pack instructions, drain but reserve a couple of Tablespoons of the cooking water and then set aside.
  2. Heat a large lidded frying, then add the oil. Add the chorizo and fry for 2 minutes until it starts to release its oil, then add the tomatoes, the reserved cooking water and the chicken stock. Cook until the tomatoes burst, then add the gnocchi and mix in well.
  3. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Lay the fish on top of the gnocchi, put the lid on and leave to cook for 5 minutes, or until the fish has turned white and is flaky when prodded in the middle.
  4. Sprinkle with a small handle of parmesan cheese.

*Take the fish out of the fridge and allow to come up to room temperature before cooking.

Rick Stein’s Rabbit Stifado

Rabbit Stifado


I knew I wanted to make a stew with the rabbit I bought from the Farmer’s Market in Epsom last Sunday, but as I’d never eaten or cooked it before I looked for some guidance. Even though I don’t like Rick Stein, I decided to have a flick through his Mediterranean Escapes book, which has been sitting unused on the bookcase since Steve’s Mum bought it last year. I spotted a recipe for Rabbit Stifado and thought it would be perfect because I had a packet of stifado herb and spice mixture that Steve’s sister brought me back from Halkidiki.

The herb mixture contained:
  • thyme
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • bay leaves
  • black peppercorns
  • allspice
So I just replaced all of the spices in Rick’s recipe with about a third of my packet and the flavour of the sauce tasted authentically Greek. But the rabbit itself was a huge disappointment. It was really tough and dry and lacked flavour. What a waste of a fiver! I was a bit dubious about the short cooking time of the recipe and I REALLY regretted not cooking this in my Tefal slow cooker! The sauce was also very watery, so I added some cornflour at the end to thicken.

I served the stew with rice and potatoes as that’s what was served to us in the restaurants we visited in Greece. I sautéed the potatoes with garlic and rosemary and they were the best part of the meal!

So now I have even more reasons to not like Rick Stein! Here’s Rick’s recipe if you want to make the mistake of making it!
  • Serves: 4
  • Cooking time: 55 minutes

  • 1 large rabbit, weighing about 1.5kg, jointed
  • 6 allspice berries
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 50ml red wine vinegar
  • 600ml red wine (I used Merlot Pinot Grigio)
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 5cm piece cinnamon stick
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 50g currants (I left these out as I’ve never had stifado with them in!)
  • 15g butter
  • 450g small pickling onions or shallots*
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • salt and pepper

  1. Season all the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper.
  2. Grind the allspice berries and black peppercorns into a powder.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a flameproof casserole. Dust the rabbit in the flour and knock off but reserve the excess. Add half the rabbit pieces to the casserole and fry over a medium-high heat until nicely browned on both sides. Remove to a plate and repeat with the rest of the rabbit.
  4. Return all the rabbit to the pan with the garlic and the remaining flour and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Pour over the vinegar and leave it to bubble for a minute or two, then add the red wine, tomatoes, ground spices, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, currants, 1 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, part-cover and simmer for 55 minutes or until the rabbit is very tender and the sauce has reduced.
  6. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium-sized pan, add the pickling onions or shallots and the sugar and fry, shaking the pan now and then, until they are richly golden all over. Then add 2 Tablespoons water, cover and cook gently for 10 minutes until tender. Uncover, raise the heat and cook more rapidly for a minute or two, shaking the pan until the onions are covered in a shiny glaze. Season with a little salt and pepper and set aside.
  7. When the rabbit has had the required cooking time, stir in the caramelised onions and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

* I bought a packet of baby onions and to make it easier to peel them, I blanched them in boiling water for about 1 minute, so the skins came away more easily.

Crème Brulee – first attempt!

Creme Brulee Inside


This is the first time I’ve made a proper crème brulee. We made a Simple Fruit Brulee on my cooking course at Tante Marie, but this was basically just sweetened creme fraiche on top of fruit and then the burnt sugar on top, so unfortunately I didn’t actually learn very much from that recipe except how to use a blowtorch!

I got this recipe from the BBC Good Food website, but I have basically halved the quantity as I only wanted to make 2. I didn’t use a vanilla pod as they’re too expensive, so I’ve altered the method slightly as I used vanilla extract instead.

When they came out of the oven I was a bit worried I’d scrambled/curdled the eggs because the top wasn’t smooth. I think maybe the water I put into the bain marie was too hot, as it had just boiled in the kettle, so next time I will let the water cool down a bit before pouring it in or I’ll just use hot tap water. This recipe says you should cover the tin with a baking sheet, but I’m not convinced this is the best thing to do because of the risk of condensation, so next time I’ll try it without the sheet.

Creme Brulee Baked
But surprisingly they did have a lovely texture and we both enjoyed them immensely! I used my new blow torch that I bought from Amazon and it’s brilliant! I should have cleaned up the sugar on the ramekins to make them look nicer, but I’m still very pleased with my first crème brulee effort! I also got my ramekins from Amazon.

I found the video tutorial on this website incredibly helpful: rouxbe

  • Makes: 2
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
  • You will need: 2 ramekins, a small saucepan, a deep roasting tin (at least 7.5cm deep), a baking sheet (optional?)

  • 300ml double cream
  • 40ml full-fat milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 25g golden caster sugar, plus extra for the topping

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C. Sit two 175ml ramekins in a deep roasting tin at least 7.5cm deep (I used a loaf cake tin), one that will enable a baking tray to sit well above the ramekins when laid across the top of the tin.
  2. Pour the cream into a small pan with the milk and the vanilla extract and bring almost to the boil. As soon as you see bubbles appear round the edge, take the pan off the heat.
  3. Put the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk for 1 minute with an electric hand whisk until paler in colour and a bit fluffy. Pour the hot cream into the beaten egg yolks, stirring with a wire whisk as you do so.
  4. Set a fine sieve over a large wide jug or bowl and pour the hot mixture through to strain it. Using a big spoon, scoop off all the pale foam that is sitting on the top of the liquid (this will be several spoonfuls) and discard – Don’t skip this step! Give the mixture a stir.
  5. Pour in enough hot water (from the tap is fine) into the roasting tin to come about 1.5cm up the sides of the ramekins. Pour the hot cream into the ramekins so you fill them up right to the top - it's easier to spoon in the last little bit. Put them in the oven and lay a baking sheet over the top of the tin so it sits well above the ramekins and completely covers them, but not the whole tin, leaving a small gap at one side to allow air to circulate. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the mixture is softly set. To check, gently sway the roasting tin and if the crème brulees are ready, they will wobble a bit like a jelly in the middle. Don't let them get too firm.
  6. Lift the ramekins out of the roasting tin with oven gloves and set them on a wire rack to cool for a couple of minutes only, then put in the fridge to cool completely (mine were set after about 3 hours). This can be done overnight without affecting the texture.
  7. When ready to serve, wipe round the top edge of the dishes, sprinkle 1½ tsp of caster sugar over each ramekin and spread it out with the back of a spoon to completely cover. Spray with a little water using a fine spray (I didn’t do this and it was fine) to just dampen the sugar - then use a blow torch to caramelise it. Hold the flame just above the sugar and keep moving it round and round until caramelised. Serve when the brulee is firm, or within an hour or two. 

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