Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cookbook Review ~ Full of Flavour: Create....how to think like a chef - Maria Elia

This book was a Christmas present from my brother and sister-in-law, that I picked out for myself on a fabulous day in London with Susan (sis-in-law), from one of my absolutely favourite shops ever – Books For Cooks. I was lucky enough to go into the shop with money to spend so I knew I was coming out with at least one new book (which realistically would have happened even if I hadn't had any money since I can never resist!). So Sus and I took off our jackets (nothing like making yourself feel at home in a book shop!) and despite the absence of the big comfy couch we managed just fine, scouring all the shelves checking out the titles one by one! A little alarmingly for me was the fact that I was able to tick off a few too many books as already having them in my own library but I shouldn't really be too surprised when I have hundreds and hundreds of books!

As we were searching through the shelves and tables I soon came across this book. As soon as I saw the brown and pink cover sitting on the 'new releases' table I was instantly drawn to it and things only got better once I opened it and started looking at the recipes. You know it's a good sign when your tummy starts rumbling and you start drooling looking at photographs and reading the recipes!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cookbook Review ~ Jamie's 30 Minute Meals

It may come as no surprise to you but I am a huge fan of Jamie Oliver! This is nothing new – I have loved him and his style of cooking from the get-go and now more than ever I admire his determination and drive to change the way we eat and view food. His simple, easy, no-nonsense style radiates throughout all of his books and he makes me want to cook and try out his recipes. One of the most recent books I added to my Jamie collection was his 30 Minute Meals cookbook. This book has received a lot of attention (more than most of his books!) due to the fact that he claims you can make fantastic, delicious meals in 30 minutes or less......that's quite a claim.

At first glance this is definitely a book with a lot of appealing recipes – made even more attractive by the fact they should be on the table in 30 minutes – who wouldn't love that?! With 50 meals in this book there are more than enough choices, guaranteed to keep everyone happy but the big question undoubtedly that everyone has with this book.... is it possible?!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Orange & Sumac Scented Quinoa {Random Recipes # 12}

This months Random Recipes (RR) Challenge was right up my alley as for Random Recipes # 12 Dom from Belleau Kitchen challenged us to cook something from a book we received as a Christmas present! Since I got 11 new books this Christmas (6 were part of a collection - honest!!) I had plenty of recipes to choose from! I guess technically I should have closed my eyes and randomly picked a book from the 'Christmas Collection' but I didn't (tut tut, although the rules did say just to pick your newest book!)...instead I went for one that I was desperate to cook from – Full of Flavour by Maria Elia.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fiery Lamb & Spinach Curry and Spiced Green Beans {Sweet Heat # 5}

As if I ever need an excuse to cook a curry, Michelle from Food, Football and a Baby gave me the perfect one this month when she chose Indian food as the theme for this month's Sweet Heat Challenge. On top of that, my husband recently declared that he just doesn't find Indian food spicy (I know!! What is that all about?!).....cue the perfect excuse for me to make an extra hot and spicy curry!!
It had been a l-o-n-g week....hubby had been gone for work all week and Wee One had been sick (and I myself hadn't been feeling 100% and also completely uninspired) so I was really looking forward to Friday night and my curry feast that I was planning. Of course as is always the way for me when I make a curry, I find it absolutely impossible to only make a curry.....there is always rice (naturally) but I always have to make some other things to go along with it. This time I made one of my favourite side dishes to have with curries – my Spiced Green Beans. It had also been my intention to try and make my own Naan bread for this occasion but time got the better of me so thankfully I had a packet on standby which I had recently bought! Next time though.....

The meal was fantastic – just what the doctor ordered and my wonderful husband had to retract his comment about Indian food not being spicy (although he can definitely take it a lot hotter than I can – which is saying something!)!! This curry really packed a punch and since my heat tolerance seems to have gone up recently and my cravings for spicy food have intensified this hit the spot perfectly! The perfect Friday night feast enjoyed with my husband and an ice cold beer or two!

Fiery Lamb & Spinach Curry

4-6 dried red chillies
2 onions, peeled & halved
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
900g/ 2lbs boneless lamb shoulder, cubed
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
300ml water
6 fresh red chillies, split lengthways ¾ (keeping the stalk intact)
85g/ 3oz fresh baby spinach
Drizzle of Natural Yogurt
1 fresh chilli, finely chopped

Put the chillies in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak and rehydrate for 10-20 minutes.

Put the onion, ginger, garlic, and soaked chillies into the bowl of a food processor and whizz together until you have a paste. Heat the oil in a large pan then add the onion mixture and cook for roughly 10 minutes until just turning golden. Add the coriander, cumin, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne pepper and cinnamon sticks and stir well so everything is mixed together. Leave to cook for another minute or so then add the lamb and stir well so its coated in the spice mixture. Cook until the lamb has browned on all sides then add the tomatoes, tomato puree, water, salt and pepper and the 6 split chillies. Bring to a simmer then over with a lid and put in the oven for 2 hours until the lamb is tender (alternatively you can continue to cook it gently on the stove top for the same amount of time, stirring from time to time to make sure it doesn't burn on the bottom).

Remove from the oven and taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Add the spinach and cover with the lid again so that it wilts – this will only take a minute or two. Remove the lid and stir the spinach into the curry then serve at once drizzled with a little of the natural yogurt over the top, a sprinkling of fresh coriander and the freshly chopped chilli.

Serve with some Basmati Rice, Spiced Greens Beans, Naan Bread, Poppadoms and some extra natural yogurt mixed with some finely chopped fresh mint or if you prefer Raita.

Spiced Green Beans

300g green beans, tail end trimmed
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, very finely sliced
¼- ½ tsp red chilli flakes
½ tsp brown mustard seeds
½ tsp nigella seeds
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Bring a pan of water to a rapid bowl and season with a little salt. Boil the beans for 3 minutes then drain and refresh under cold water.

When ready to cook heat the oil in a frying pan then gently saute the garlic, chilli, mustard and nigella seeds. Add the beans and cook for a minute or 2 until warmed through. Season with the salt and pepper then serve.

 {I apologise about the quality of photos!! I was just too hungry to take good ones!!}

Friday, January 20, 2012

Vanilla Creme Brulee

I have been making this recipe for Vanilla Crème Brulee for years – ever since I first saw it in one of my Mum's cookbooks when I was a teenager. It is so good, I don't dare change it – especially since my mum and sister are both huge crème brulee fans and always compare any crème brulee to this recipe!! Praise indeed, however the praise for this recipe belongs entirely to David and Hilary Brown as this recipe is from their cookbook La Potinere. Unfortunately they no longer own the restaurant where this recipe originated from and the book is no longer in print (although you can buy it from select sellers) so I thought it my duty to share it with you.

One thing I have changed (I know) is that I use 6 egg yolks rather than the 5 suggested in the original recipe. There are a couple of reasons for this....Firstly I might be imagining it but I find eggs in Canada to be a little smaller than UK sized large eggs so this extra yolk just seems to make up for things! Secondly, having 6 leftover egg whites is much more convenient to have as I use them for meringues or my Pavlova. I promise you though – it doesn't change the taste in my opinion – if anything it just makes it a little richer and even more delicious!

This was the dessert I made for our New Years Eve party and since it was a special occasion I finished it off with a sprinkle of edible gold and silver leaf for that extra special sparkle and decadence. If you have some I recommend using some for a little extra luxury and food glamour!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sausage, Olive & Tomato Pasta

I have a constant struggle with my husband since he doesn't like tomatoes so every time I make a tomato pasta I'm as happy as can be and him.... not so much! Don't get me wrong – he does always say he enjoys it, just not as much as a cream sauce. The problem is (other than the fact that I love pasta with tomato sauces) is that they are so quick and easy to make and nicer to my waist line than cream sauces are! My compromise therefore is to always use passata or crushed tomatoes (otherwise I have to puree the chopped or whole tomatoes - I keep those dishes for when he is away!!) and sometimes to add some meat to the sauce. As far as I am concerned this is a perfect compromise as it's tomato based but full of rich, meaty flavours (and if you are looking for a healthier option turkey sausages are just as delicious). It is the perfect mid-week meal as it is quick and easy and guaranteed to keep everyone in the family happy. Perfect!

1 tbsp olive oil
4-6 sausages (of your choice), depending on their size
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
700ml (approx.) jar of Passata (just use whatever size you can get close to this amount)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar (or to taste)
1 tsp dried oregano
A pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
A large handful of pitted black olives – I use Kalamata
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Crumbled Feta, to serve (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

400g pasta of your choice – I use Radiatori

Squeeze little bite sized pieces of sausage from the casing to make instant sausage meatballs. (If you prefer you can roll them to make perfect little balls, but I just keep them as they are for a more rustic dish.)

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the sausage pieces. Cook over medium heat until golden all over then add the garlic and cook for another minute or 2 being careful not to brown the garlic. Add the passata, balsamic vinegar, sugar, oregano, chilli (if using) and some salt and pepper (go easy with the salt as the olives and feta are both salty). Add a little water to the passata jar and swirl it around to get all the remaining sauce off the sides then add to the pan. Leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes (depending on how much time you have!) until the sauce has reduced and thickened and the sausages are properly cooked through.

Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions. Before draining reserve some of the cooking water in a small cup.

Once the sauce is ready add the olives and taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Drain the pasta then add to the sauce pan and stir well. Add a little of the cooking water to the sauce to thin it slightly and help the sauce stick to the pasta. Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil then sprinkle over the parsley and finish by crumbling over the feta cheese if using. Simple, quick and completely delicious!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Leek & Potato Soup

I love Leek and Potato Soup and think of it as a very elegant soup – perfect for serving at a dinner party, which is exactly what I did for New Year's Eve this year. It has a mild taste but is unbelievably creamy and rich without being too heavy. This soup was the second course in our 4 course meal and was a huge hit!

3 lbs leeks (approx. 6 long thin leeks)
2 oz butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 lb potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1.5 litres vegetable or chicken stock
125ml milk
125ml whipping or double cream
Salt & Pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh chives, chopped to garnish

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cooking the Books!

Ok so I'm not actually 'cooking the books' (in either sense of the phrase!) but I've decided once and for all (having tried to come up with several ideas in the past and failed!) to really start using my cookbooks to cook from rather than just reading them! True, with reading comes a lot of knowledge and inspiration but it's also nice to actually cook the recipes as the author intended. It's far too easy to read them, drool over them then pop them on the shelves and over time forget about the recipes you were absolutely going to try! Trust me – I am the worst culprit for it! In fact I am quite often frustrated when I decide to randomly pick out a book to look at again and then am reminded of it's delicious recipes and beautiful photography and prose that I had completely forgotten about!

Dom over at Belleau Kitchen hosts Random Recipes which is a fantastic monthly bloggers challenge where you randomly pick a book every month (depending on his theme) then pick a random recipe from it, which I love and try and take part in when I can (if you haven't seen it have a look here for this month's challenge). This is a little similar except I get to pick my books and the recipes that appeal (big difference!). The similarity between the two is more to use your cookbooks to cook fromTherefore starting now, every month I will select 2 books to try and hope to make at least 4 recipes from each book. At the end of the month I'll post my reviews. That simple.

If you have the same books that I select please feel free to cook along with me and let me know how you get on. If you feel like doing a review I would love for you to add your link, however that's totally optional – it's not a challenge after all, just more a resolution for me really to use my wonderful library of books!

So there you have it, I am finally going to really start Cooking the Books! Up first for the month of January I have picked one of my new Christmas additions, Full of Flavour: Create....how to think like a chef by Maria Elia and Jamie's 30 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver – a good one for this time of year I think!

Remember if you have one or both of these books please feel free to join in and make an effort to cook from them this month! Happy Cooking!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Prawn Cocktail Trio

I love condiments and dipping sauces, and I love dipping juicy, plump prawns into a delicious sauce therefore Prawn Cocktail, for me, is an absolute favourite. So when I was trying to come up with a starter for our New Years Eve Party I decided to do Prawn (or Shrimp) Cocktail – except since it was New Year's Eve, I decided to go all out and do a Prawn Cocktail Trio!

You see for me (and everyone in the UK), Prawn Cocktail is served with a creamy Marie Rose Sauce which is a combination of Mayonnaise and Tomato Ketchup and is rich and absolutely delicious. But then I discovered the American style of Prawn Cocktail which misses out the Mayonnaise and instead uses some Chilli Sauce and Horseradish – how can you not love that!?! And then, I recently was given a Mexican Cookbook which featured a Mexican style Coctel and I had to try that! So the trio was created and I have to say, it was the best way to enjoy Prawn Cocktail!

The quantities are small since it was for a starter – each cocktail was pretty much bite size, which worked really well with the meal, however you can easily double the recipe for a more substantial sized portion. These made enough for 10 people with some of the sauces left over. I also cut the prawns up rather than serving whole prawns as you usually would, but again that was just due to the fact these were bite sized. If you prefer keep the prawns whole.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Turkey Noodle Soup

Turkey Noodle Soup (or chicken for that matter) although an American institution, was a new concept for me until I moved to Canada and my husband requested it once after I had made stock from a roast. In our home, growing up we always had pureed soups which I loved and still love and constantly make, but for him this was his favourite soup – especially when feeling under the weather. I immediately understood why – especially when it is made with a good stock that you have made yourself.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sweet Heat # 4

Christmas is over and New Year is over which means it's back to the reality of January! Boring? Maybe, but perhaps not since it's also time for a new Sweet Heat Challenge! That's right – the start of a new month (and year) means it's time to get those chillies out and come up with a spicy dish to enjoy and awaken your senses after the crazy festive period.

I am delighted that this month's Sweet Heat is being hosted by the lovely Michelle over at Food, Football and a Baby so head on over to find out what this month's theme is – it's definitely a good one with plenty of options. Can you handle the heat?

1. Brown Rice Moong Dal Khichadi
2. Green Peas Curry
3. Kerala Style Kumquat Pickle
4. Chicken 65
5. Palak Paneer
6. Baakar Bhaji/Pumpkin Subji
7. Paneer Jalfrezi
8. Spicy Steamed rice cakes
9. Mirchi ka salan/curried chiles
10. Chicken Biryani and Raita
11. Aloo Tikki Chaat
12. Tandoori Chicken
13. BBQ chicken biriyani
14. Sweet and Spicy Fruit Kebabs
15. Pani Puri/ Gol Gappa
16. Chicken Lollipops
17. Aamvada
18. Tru daali Daal
19. CilantroCorn Upma
20. AlooBath
21. Dry Chilli Chicken
22. Daal wada
23. Daal Paatra
24. Plantain (Raw Banana) Curry
25. Red Sorrel Leaves Chutney
26. Hari Daal ke Kebab
27. Fiery Lamb & Spinach Curry
28. Spiced Green Beans
29. Laal Maans
30. Molagai Podi
31. Baingan Bharta-Eggplant Curry
32. Paneer Steak with Roasted Pepp
33. Nasi Lemak with Prawn Sambal

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