Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Trees Are bad

Many apologies for my complete blog absence - a very naughty oak fell last week and took our internet with it! I am hipefly back on line soon but am at the mercy of crap phone signal and my phone until then!  

 There has been lots of food and I will blog when I can get back on the wifi! 

Smoked trout and leek parcels: 

How to recycle stale chappatis: 

And lots more! I shall leave you with my Swedish princess Tortlettes I made to coincide with last weeks great broths bake off: 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Speculaas Glazed Bundt Cake

Its amazing how a bit of random internet browsing, whilst making something else has led to me making repeatedly the Soured Cream Bundt cake that I blogged back in July from BBC Good Food. It really has become one of my favourite bakes, in fact it must be at least the sixth one now, including baking one on holiday at my Auntie's house in her very pretty tin (note to self: smuggle in suitcase next visit!): 

Anyway as much as we all love the original version, I am rather fond of a new spice in my larder in the form of Speculaas as proclaimed back in August and wondered if the two should meet... I am one for indecision at the best of times but it turned out to be a most wonderful meeting and they are now best of friends. Just call me Mrs Matchmaker!

To facilitate their meet, I decided to add a little of the Speculaas mix to both the cake batter and the glaze, which worked a treat. It came out a glorious colour - this is before the glaze has fully set, then it becomes a bit more crystallized and even more delicious! Patience is a virtue!

Also though I do love the original glaze, it makes lots, so with this version I scaled it back slightly and it was just perfect. Sweet, fragrant crackle encasing a heavenly soft, sweet scented sponge. Really it doesn’t get much better than this.


125g softened butter
180g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
180g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g sour cream
½ tsp Speculaas spice mix
Pinch salt


80g caster sugar
40g butter
3tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp speculaas spice mix
Optional – sprinkles of choice to decorate


Cream together the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy. Your mixer will do the hard work for you if not its time to flex those biceps!

Add a little of the egg at a time until its all combined along with the vanilla.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, speculaas and mix half of it into the cake batter, along with half the sour cream until combined. Add the remaining flour mix and sour cream and beat well until all nicely combined. 

Spoon into your prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden, risen and a skewer comes away cleanly. Cool for at least 5 minutes before carefully upturning onto a cooling rack and allowing to cool fully before glazing.

Place the glaze ingredients into a small saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for about 3-4 minutes until it is starting to reduce and thicken. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before painting or spooning over the cake. Allow the first layer to set slightly before repeating with the remaining mixture. I quite enjoy this stage, its a proper test of my patience - be calm, take your time and enjoy the gentleness.

Allow your glazed cake to set for a good few hours - overnight is best if you can resist its lure that long.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Zesty Lime and Coriander Spatchcock Chicken

This September marks the 20th Anniversary of Freedom Food, the RSPCA’s food accreditation scheme and in conjunction with Sainsbury's, who sell over 60% of the UK's Freedom Food certified products, and I have developed a delicious recipe for you to enjoy, using a Freedom Food certified whole Chicken. 

Freedom Food was developed to promote higher welfare foods but with a more affordable price tag and hopefully my recipe can inspire you to explore the range. I do try to buy free range or at least freedom food products where possible but I admit I am not perfect and by buying the best we can, it affords a little peace of mind that we are doing the right thing. This whole meal including the sides came in well under £10, approximately £7.50 for the four of us.

Now this recipe is possibly not for the faint hearted...It involves a little bit of butchery..but its relatively easy so don't fear! I have via trips en France acquired a few pairs of poultry shears but if you have a sharp heavy knife or decent scissors you can also achieve the results.. by spatchcocking the chicken, it cooks quicker, its easier to carve and also marinade too - a win win situation! I have given instructions but if in doubt simply look for online guides to show you how!

When it comes to marinading things, especially those involving chillies you want to be careful on the whole eye face contact afterwards...for which I can't recommend having been there got the tee shirt but I can recommend using CSI style gloves for this manouvere! You can pick them up pretty cheaply and they save a lot of mess and facial burn risks!

I spent ages trying to decide what to make with the chicken but after much deliberation I decided to go vaguely down the Thai route, using zesty lime juice, fresh fragrant coriander and a little chilli to add a little zing to the party! It worked really well, I just wish my oven understood the crispy setting - I am sure it will go a far more delicious shade of golden n crispy in a regular oven! 

Serves 4


1 x whole Freedom Food Chicken
15g fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp Nam Pla (fish sauce)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

You will need 2 x metal or bamboo skewers to keep the chicken in place but its not essential so don't worry too much if you don't have some!


Start by turning your chicken over and using your shears or equivalent sharp implement remove the backbone, cutting through either side of it. Remove any excess fatty bits or skin.

Turn the chicken back over so its breast side up and use the heel of your hand to press down so that the chicken breast and legs are all one equal layer

In a small bowl combine the coriander, chilli, lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, oil and season with salt and pepper.

Glove up and get massaging your chicken all over. Place on a large, shallow baking tray and using the skewers, thread through to form a kriss kross, to keep the chicken in one layer.

Marinade for a couple of hours, though one hour will be okay..

Pre-heat the oven to 180o, then cook the chicken covered in foil for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, baste with the juices and roast for a further 15-20 minutes, or until juices run clean and its cooked through. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before carving.

The easiest way is to use a sharp knife to remove the legs, then remove the breast meat. This way you can also please your squeamish guest who dislikes meat on the bone! 

Personally for me the legs are the best bit - juicy and flavoursome! What is your favourite part?

To go with my chicken I tested out my Steama cooking basmati rice for the first time - I flavoured it with a little coconut and seasoned on serving with soy sauce, nice and simple! I also added steamed broccoli dressed with sesame seeds and a drizzle of sesame oil:

Many thanks to Sainsbury's who provided vouchers to cover the cost of the meal and my time developing the recipe. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Roasted Chilli and Tomato Fusilli

Whilst I do at heart believe a sharp knife is the foundation of a smooth running kitchen, its also quite nice to play with new tools now and again as well! Over the years I have gone through a variety of herb choppers, including an Italian food mill that was mostly a nightmare to clean after use, 2 electric mini choppers that were also both messy to use and clean after, a blender – too big for the job and also a pain to clean, several chopping boards and possibly even more items but on this occasion I got to play with an OXO’s new herb mincer (RRP £12) which I was sent to review.

It was quite fun to play with apart from maybe being a little too flimsy in that twice I dislodged the protective cover whilst chopping, though admittedly I was using it inside a mixing bowl which was on the small side, which probably didn’t help! (On a chopping board this didn't happen) Overall it made light work of chopping the basil leaves and kept the pine nuts in quite nice sized pieces, so it was overall quite a success, when I was a bit more gentle with it! My other comment is that I had to use a knife to safely remove stray herbs that got inside the mincer but it was easy to do. I also decided to test it to chop the chilli – great as it meant no chilli burn fingers and good if you don’t want it too finely minced – my chilli was quite big and it kept it in largish pieces but no so large it would be a mega chilli hit in the mouth!

I also received OXO UK's little salad dressing shaker (RRP £10) which I used to make the marinade up in. The dressing bottle was very busy kitchen friendly, the lid screws off easily so its easy to fill with your ingredients, with convenient measures on the side of the bottle and its stopper is leak proof even with vigorous shaking! I used all my prepared dressing on the tomatoes but it would definitely keep air tight with other home made dressings and it’s far prettier than sticking the more usual ripped label jam jar on the dining table! It was easy to clean afterwards and I really like this item for both practical and aesthetic qualities.

In my kitchen I use a variety of oils and vinegars depending on both mood and cuisine but chose Filippo Berio’s extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to make my pasta dressing , they both work well together and complemented the tomatoes perfectly. Their balsamic is sweet enough to bake without being too acidic and the oil is pleasant on the palate without being too grassy or punchy like some of my other speciality oil’s. Whilst these were both sent for review, I do buy their extra virgin olive oil on a regular basis as it’s a good all rounder type of oil and stores well.

So whilst summer is seemingly vanishing fast, I captured the last of it in my simple pasta dish, containing some beautiful tomatoes I bought in the market, which apparently are salt water grown. Something new to me but they were bursting with juicyness and tasted so good! They were a glorious hue of scarlet and their scent was heavenly! I used to grow tomatoes a few years back on my old balcony and really miss their evening scent, happy memories!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Apple, Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

Growing up we were spoiled by my lovely, and sorely missed Nanny J’s home made jams and marmalade's. In fact three years ago today the angels took her under their wings and we all miss her dearly. I have fond memories of wheeling around a trolley full of heavily reduced strawberries in order for her to make a giant vat of strawberry jam and over the years I have made the odd random pickle and jam but too few and far between! 

Last month I picked up some reduced rhubarb for 38p in one shop and a bag of bramley apples for 39p elsewhere and being rather hooked on ginger of late, I decided on a really hot evening to make a batch of jam involving all three ingredients. Fortunately after much stirring it magically worked and set perfectly with no need for fancy jam sugars – apple naturally contains high levels of pectin which helps the jam to set, one less bag to find space for too!

I am really pleased with the results, the ginger is not overpowering it just complements the rhubarb flavour perfectly with a lovely sticky, thick jammy texture. Its great for crumpets and toast! It proved popular after mentioning it on facebook – my spare jars went very fast with requests for more! you will all have to wait for the next Rhubarb season I am afraid!


440g rhubarb, trimmed and cut to 1cm dice
1 bramley apple, apx 230g, peeled, cored and into 1 cm dice
390g granulated sugar
260g light soft brown sugar
2 pieces stem ginger, very finely chopped

Place everything in a large, heavy based saucepan, add 2 tbsp of water to help get it started. Gently bring almost to the boil, then reduce heat slightly and simmer for about an hour until you have a sticky pan full of jam – if using a thermometer you are aiming for 105o celsius. If desired mash up the apple chunks – I used a potato masher or leave them whole depending on personal preference.

Pour into your sterilised jars. Makes 3 jar fuls. Store in a cool place and refridgerate after opening.

I am sending my lovely jam made with my bargain finds over to this months Credit Crunch munch, held by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary created by Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All

*I place my jars after a good soapy hot wash, in a deep roasting pan full of boiling water and cook them in a hot oven for about 20 minutes, then very carefully wearing gloves turn onto clean kitchen paper to drain. Remember to remove any rubber rings first too- they are not too keen on ovens*

Friday, 22 August 2014

Spicy Organic Sausage and Mozzarella Baked Spaghetti

Recently on a whim I decided to make a baked spaghetti dish for supper with my dad, using odds n ends up from the fridge, it worked so well – with the spaghetti providing a nice change to usual fusilli or penne that I tend to use in pasta bake and when Sainsbury’s got in touch about creating something with one of their organic hero ingredients I decided to try out their Organic pork sausages in another version of it. To be honest I couldn’t wait to try it again as we enjoyed it so much the first time around and was more than willing to try out an organic version!

Overall I was really impressed with the ingredients – I buy a small amount of organic food, in an ideal world I would probably buy more but it just doesn’t work in our household budget but I managed to make this from mostly organic ingredients for a total of £6.55 to serve 4 comfortably, which I am very happy with! I did however add a bag of salad and made some garlic bread so upped the cost slightly, though that did cover meals for the following day too so was still affordable.

One of my favourite discoveries were the sausages, they were so delicious! Meaty, no gristle or strange goo in the grill tray and a lovely porky flavour. Definitely something affordable at £3 for 6 and when stretched out into a pasta bake it was more than enough for us! The mozzarella too was really tasty, I adore cheese anyway and liked the delicate, milky flavour though would add bigger chunks next time – I think I was too mean chopping it too small it got a little lost in the bed of spaghetti! We all loved the wholewheat spaghetti too, I have been trying to switch to more wholemeal and brown foods to boost nutrition and it worked perfectly in the bake, adding a nice nuttiness to the flavour.
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