Saturday, 31 December 2011

Potted Crab

Bearing testament to what I’ve learnt in the kitchen over the last year since I started Culinary Conquests, this year I made the Christmas Lunch starter for the first time. I opted for a Potted Crab dish served with toast and crab claws, as crab is always a treat and I thought it would provide a light prelude to the Beef Wellington we have at Christmas. Now being a keen reader of BBC Good Food magazine I had a flick through their December issue and stumbled across this simple recipe by Gregg Wallace of Masterchef fame. We are a small family of only three, and this year we chose to have just us on Christmas day, and this recipe meant for two was easily sized up to serve three.

The cayenne pepper gives this dish a little kick without overpowering the delicious flavour of the crab, and although I made this for Christmas Lunch it would make an appropriate starter for any special meal.  

Adapted from BBC Good Food (December 2011)
150g butter
zest of ¾ lemon
1 tsp lemon juice
a generous dash of Tabasco sauce
a pinch of freshly ground mace and freshly grated nutmeg
¾ tsp cayenne pepper
150g dark crabmeat
150g white crabmeat
toast, to serve
  1. Melt the butter over a low heat, add the lemon juice and zest, Tabasco sauce, spices and salt and pepper. Simmer for 2 minutes, then stir in the crab meat and cook over a gentle heat for 1 minute.
  2. Spoon the mixture into 3 small ramekins, leave to cool, then cover with cling film and place in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.
  3. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before you wish to serve.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Happy Christmas!!

A belated Merry Christmas to you all!! I hope that you have all had a wonderful time, however you choose to celebrate. I am pleased to report that all my culinary related Christmas wishes came true and I am now the proud owner of a red KitchenAid Stand Mixer, as well as numerous baking tins, cutters and icing nibs. I also have 6 new recipe books to add to my now overflowing collection.

As expected, I have eaten a lot of very good food and generally over indulged as in only right during the festive period. My Christmas culinary conquest offerings starts with the Christmas cake that I decorate every Christmas Eve. Penguins, carol singers, flowers and of course Father Christmas have all adorned the top of my cake over the years, but this year I opted for something completely different and created a Christmas Lunch table on my cake. Consisting of a candle centrepiece, turkey, Chistmas Pudding and crackers amongst other things, I created the decorations by moulding marzipan and painting each with food colouring. It’s certainly a conversation starter!!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Review: Laura Ashley's New Tea and Biscuit Range

I think I can safely say that a good cup of tea and a biscuit or three is a highlight of pretty much anyone’s day. Well, you can imagine my excitement when Laura Ashley asked me if I would like to sample their new tea and biscuit range; I leaped at the chance. Having been a fond fan of the high street brand for many years, perhaps known best for its beautiful fabrics, women's clothes and furnishings, I couldn’t wait to try their new range. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the huge box that arrived on my doorstep, for inside was not only some Orange and Chocolate Chip Biscuits, some loose leaf English Breakfast tea with silver plated diffuser but also a beautiful ‘tea for one’ floral pot, cup and saucer. At £4, £12 and £25 respectively, they don’t come all that cheap, but would make the most fantastic presents for any aspiring domestic Goddess. The beautiful packaging is almost too pretty to cover with wrapping paper!!

Now lets get down to the nitty gritty, and talk about the biscuits. This being a food blog, I tend to try and make mine at home, but if you are going to shop buy, these are the kind of thing you want to go for. I love the flavour combination of chocolate with orange and these little biscuits, the perfect size for dunking, did not disappoint; the moment you open the tin you get this deliciously strong smell of orange. The biscuits have the right amount of crunch and a good oaty texture too.

I always like giving loose leaf teas away as gifts, particularly in the hamper I make for my parents each Christmas, and with Laura Ashley’s addition of the silver plated diffuser, this tea is elevated from small token to proper gift, and would surely go down well with any tea lover.

And finally, the ‘tea for one’ pot. With a vintage feel that would suit any girly girls kitchen, the pot is a good pourer and its compact design and size make it a suitable choice for anyone short on space.

The new Laura Ashley tea and biscuit range is available soon, and the 'Tea for One' pot is available now (just in time for Christmas). Visit

Friday, 16 December 2011

Baked Meatballs with a Spicy Tomato Sauce

According to the January issue of BBC Good Food Magazine Meatballs are in, and will be a recurring trend for 2012. Not sure when they were ever out really, but its always nice to be on the forefront of food fashions isn’t it. The third recipe from my series of midweek cheap suppers, this dish is an update to the classic Italian meal, and served over rice rather then pasta. You’re welcome to make the meatballs yourself, but I bought mine for £1.27 in Sainsbury’s. Feel free to play around with the quantities here too, adding more turmeric and chili if you like a bit more spice.

Serves 2
Pack of 12 lamb meatballs
½ red onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 chili, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
Rice and Coriander leaves to serve
  1. Bake the meatballs according to packet instructions. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Heat the oil in a heavy based pan over a medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes until translucent. Add the ginger, cumin, turmeric, chili and garlic and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the lime juice , tomatoes, sugar and season to taste. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the baked meatballs to the sauce and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  3. Serve over rice, and scattered with coriander leaves.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Spiced Parsnip and Apple Soup

A slight diversion from affordable mid week suppers, this Spiced Parsnip and Apple Soup is by no means expensive to make, but is probably more suited to lunch. If I’m being honest, my photos don’t really do this one justice, I’ll admit I was more interested in eating it then taking photographs of it. I made this soup for a lunch date with Rose, and I think she will agree it was really rather tasty, the empty bowls and six devoured petit pains bearing testament to this. The best thing about this soup was that both the flavours of parsnip and apple shone through rather then one dominating. Delicious and really easy to make too.

Serves 2/3
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
a drizzle of sunflower oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 small stick celery, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 tsp curry powder
750ml vegetable stock
½ tbsp honey
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Toss the cubed apple in the sunflower oil. Place in a baking tray and roast for around 10 minutes until soft. Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a deep pan, add the diced vegetables and cook over a low heat with the lid on for about 20 minutes.
  2. Stir in the curry powder and cook for 3 minutes, then add the stock. Bring to the boil, add the apples and honey and simmer for 5 minutes. Blitz with a hand held blender (or wait to cool a little before carefully liquidizing in a blender).
  3. Season and serve with crusty bread.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Tomato, Chorizo and Pea Pasta

The second of my affordable weeknight recipes is a Tomato, Chorizo and Pea pasta for one. Made completely by chance, and open to your own interpretation, all of the ingredients were already to be found in my kitchen. When Ben works in the evening, I always find it really hard to work out what to cook for myself, I always prefer cooking for someone else rather then just for me. When I do create meals for one, they tend to be made with things that can be found in the house – sometimes this experimentation comes out great, and sometimes not so tasty. Luckily, on this occasion the balance of flavours was spot on, with the chorizo providing smokiness, the celery a little crunch, and the peas a burst of sweetness.

Serves 1
5 slices of chorizo sausage, roughly chopped
1 small stick of celery, chopped
½ an onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
a small handful chopped fresh basil, plus more to serve
Around 3 tbsp pasatta, depending on how saucy you like it
A handful of frozen peas
Enough pasta for one
  1. Over a low heat and in a saucepan, gently cook the onion in a little olive oil. After 5 minutes, add the garlic, chorizo and celery and continue to cook gently for around 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Pour over the passatta and add the oregano, basil and season to taste.
  2. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, and when it is about 5 minutes from being ready, add the frozen peas to the sauce. Stir, and once the pasta is ready and drained, serve the sauce over the top, and garnish with a little more basil. 

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Beef and Ale Stew with Cheese Scones

So I’ve decided to post a series of cheap midweek suppers, after my friend Maddy asked me if I could suggest some recipes that might mix up her weekly menu a bit. By chance, I’ve been trying to cook on more of a budget of late, particularly through trying cheaper cuts of meats and by eating more vegetarian dishes. What I’ve found is that there is no need to scrimp on flavour, quality or creativity when your counting the pennies, and everyday meals can be just as exciting and interesting as those more expensive special occasion dishes.

The first dish that I wanted to share with you is a delicious and hearty Beef and Ale Stew with Cheese Scones. I can’t tell you how shocked I was with how cheap beef shin and braising steak is; an ample serving for two can be bought for around a pound. Couple that with a few vegetables and some store cupboard products, and you’ve got yourself an affordable meal. I cooked the stew in one big pan, and left the stock and ale to do their magic whilst watching Masterchef, so its hardly labour intensive either. Cooking the beef for two hours made it melt in the mouth, and the addition of the fluffy cheese scones meant all those lovely juices were soaked up.

Adapted from Bills Cook Eat Smile
Serves 2
1 small onion, chopped
1 large stick celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
350g stewing beef, cubed
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
300ml beef stock
1x 275ml bottle of stout
- For the Cheese Scones -
90g self raising flour
25g butter, in small pieces
¼ tsp baking powder
30ml milk
40g cheddar, grated
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Heat a splash of olive oil in a casserole (which has a lid) and cook the onion, carrot and celery over a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Put the vegetables in to a dish to one side, and then cook the beef in the casserole until browned all over.
  2. Put the vegetables back in the pan and add the tomato, stock and beer, and bring to the boil. Season, put on the lid of the casserole and place in the oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  3. To make the scones, rub the butter, flour and baking powder together with a pinch of salt until the mixture is breadcrumb like, then add the cheese and mix. Pour in enough milk to bind the mixture and make a dough. Roll into walnut-sized balls. Place on top of the casserole for the last 30 minutes of cooking, with the lid on for 15 minutes and then taking it off for the final 15 so they can brown. 

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Leekie Soup

Since when is it December?! The last few months have just gone so quickly, I’m at my 100th post and have almost been cooking a year now – how time flies. Not that I’m complaining, being a Christmas-aholic, the countdown has officially begun, and I cannot wait to hand in my last essay next Thursday and let the celebrations start with our Christmas Party. In the meantime, I’ve been keeping myself sane whilst essay researching and writing with cooking lots of lovely winter warmers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this season’s food is definitely the best, give me casseroles and soups over salads any day.

This leek and potato soup comes from Bill’s Cook Eat Smile, which never fails to amaze me with easy seasonal recipes that are always delicious. If you’ve got a spare couple of hours to chop and stir and check then it really is worth it making home made soup, and quite frankly it’s therapeutic too. I have become increasingly disillusioned with shop bought soups, which promise so much and deliver very little (although if you really are looking for a speedy lunch then the best I’ve found are from Glorious Soups with their tempting alphabet of flavours). Bill’s soup is called Cock-a-Leekie, but is without the chicken, so is really just leekie. The addition of half the chopped vegetables after blending makes this soup feel like more of a hearty meal, and served with crusty bread and butter, it makes the perfect lunch for a cold winters day.

Serves 2
½ tbsp olive oil
½ onion, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ tbsp butter
1 large or 2 small sticks of celery, chopped
small bunch of fresh sage, chopped
500ml hot vegetable stock
½ tbsp honey
  1. Heat the oil in a large deep pan, and fry the onion until translucent. Add the butter and when that’s melted, add half the potatoes, leeks, celery and sage. Cook gently for 25 minutes over a low heat with the lid on, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Blitz carefully with a hand held blender (allow to cool slightly if using a food processor) until smooth.
  3. Add the remaining vegetables and the honey, and season. Put the lid back on and simmer for 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle over a little more chopped sage and serve with crusty bread.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Sunday Feast: with Roast Potatoes, Nut Roast and Bread Sauce

You’d be forgiven for thinking that all I eat these days is roasts, seeing as this is the second post on the subject in the space of three. What can I say, I’m a big fan of tradition and this is one of the best. On this occasion I decided to tart up the more basic roast that I am accustomed to making, mainly because I wanted to impress some new friends.

To do this I bought one massive chicken that virtually filled the whole oven, and as well as serving my customary honey roast parsnips, carrots and sweet potatoes and greens, I attempted proper roast potatoes, for the first time ever I might add, bread sauce, pigs in blankets and my super-duper tasty nut roast.

This week I took the plunge and bought my first ever food magazine. I really can’t resist a Christmas theme, and the December issue of Good Food certainly delivered. It was from here I found the Roast Potato recipe, which was surprisingly simple, and delivered on flavour and colour, with a deliciously fluffy interior incased in a golden crispy shell.

-For the Roast Potatoes-
Adapted from the Good Food Magazine
Serves 8
2.5kg roasting potatoes, peeled, and larger potatoes halved or quartered
1 tbsp plain flour
150ml (approx) vegetable oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil
  1. Tip the potatoes into a large pan of cold salted water and bring to the boil. Boil for 6 minutes exactly, then drain in a colander and allow to steam dry for a few minutes. Toss in the colander to biff up the sides.
  2. Transfer to a large bowl, sprinkle over the flour and toss to combine. Pour over around half the vegetable oil and toss to coat.
  3. When ready, preheat the oven to 200C. Pour the remaining vegetable oil and the sunflower oil into a baking tray, and put into the oven to heat the oil for around 15 minutes.
  4. Carefully add the potatoes and roast for 25 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven, increase the oven to 220C, turn over the potatoes and return to the oven for a further 40 minutes until gold and crisp.
You may think its more suited to your Christmas Day turkey but the home made bread sauce made a welcome accompaniment to our chicken. This hugely simple recipe is from the most recent episode of Saturday Kitchen and can be found HERE (as can the recipe I followed for the Roast Chicken).

My nut roast has been a firm favourite since I discovered it, I think in an old copy of Waitrose magazine, a few years back. It’s the only nut roast I’ve ever made or even tried, and its far from the bland dry nut roast that is the stuff of veggie legends. This nut roast is sweet and nutty and cheesy and moist and basically YUM. I serve it as an alternative stuffing, but would be happy to have it in place of meat any day.

-For the Nut Roast-
Serves 6-8
1 chopped onion
2 carrots, grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
large handful mushrooms, chopped
175g cooked brown rice
115g brown bread crumbs
55g finely chopped almonds
55g finely chopped brazil nuts
115g grated cheddar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  1. Fry the onion, carrot and garlic in a knob of butter for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the rice, bread, nuts, cheese, eggs and herbs and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake in a greased tin or Pyrex dish at 180C for one hour.
The whole thing may have taken four hours to make, and I didn’t half need those glasses of wine come serving time, but the excellent company, yummy noises and a Scrabble themed Thank You made it all worth while. 

Monday, 14 November 2011

Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese Pappardelle

Sadly, I don’t always get on with Nigella’s recipes, so I approached this Butternut Squash Pappardelle with a little trepidation. Thankfully, I needn’t have worried; Nigella excelled her self with this sweet and salty comfort dish, that looks beautifully Autumnal too. 

Serves 4 to 6
1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2cm cubes
100g pine nuts
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
125g soft blue cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp olive oil
¾ tsp paprika
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp red wine (Nigella uses Marsala but wine is cheaper)
125ml water
500g pappardelle
  1. Heat the oil in a large deep frying pan (with a lid), and fry the onions. Once they have become golden, add the paprika.
  2. Add the butternut squash and butter, and stir everything together. Then add the wine and water. Bring to a bubble, put on the lid, and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender.
  3. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until scorched, and turn out onto a plate to cool.
  4. When the sauce is ready season to taste and remove from the heat.
  5. Cook the pappardelle according to the packet instructions. Give the sauce the odd stir whilst you are doing this. Reserve a little of the pasta water before draining.
  6. Tip the drained pasta into the sauce and combine. If the sauce is too dry, add a little of the reserved pasta water.
  7. Crumble over the cheese, half the pine nuts and half the sage and gently combine.
  8. Serve, and sprinkle over the rest of the sage and pine nuts. 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Simplest Sunday Roast

I live for Sunday Roasts. I would happily travel the three and a half hour journey home just to eat my Mum’s roast potatoes (as I did last weekend), and there’s nothing better then a long lazy lunch followed by Sunday papers and TV – Downton Abbey anyone?

But all that boiling and basting and roasting can seem a little bit daunting, especially when all you want to do is curl up under the blanket in front of the fire. That is until you invest in a little bottle of Maggi liquid seasoning, just shake it on the chicken, rub it all over, and then sprinkle over some salt and pepper. Pop it in the oven for the prescribed time and let it do its thing. The result? Deliciously crispy and flavoursome skin.

I serve my chicken with caramelized roasted root vegetables and buttered greens, and a simple gravy made from the pan juices.

To make the Roasted Vegetables…
Serves 2
1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut into slices lengthways
2 small parsnips, peeled and cut into slices lengthways
6 baby potatoes, halved
½ red onion, sliced
1 tbsp honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp mustard
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  1. Preheat the oven to hot. Heat the oil in a deep ovenproof frying pan, and cook the carrots, parsnips onion and potato, turning occasionally, until lightly browned.
  2. Remove from the heat, add the garlic, honey, mustard and rosemary and stir.
  3. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Halloween Cupcakes

Wishing you all a belated Happy Halloween!! I hope you had the most gorgeously ghoulish of times. I ended up working on the actual night, but managed to attend a Zombie party and dress up as the Solar System over the weekend. And I got in to the spirit by baking and decorating some creepy cupcakes to celebrate.

For the teeth cupcakes I made pink buttercream and attached some sweet toothy accessories, for the devil cupcakes I fashioned devil horns and tails from ready made icing and placed on to more coloured buttercream, and my friend Rose put together some fantastically scary spiders using more of the coloured readymade icing. 

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Honey Roasted Pear and Parsnip Salad

Now that I only have to be in University two days a week and Ben is home more in the daytime I have decided to try and make more lunchtime recipes. Rather then reheating leftovers or settling on the lazy option of pasta and cheese, I shall be trying more lunch options, and I’ve started as I mean to go on with a Honey Roasted Parsnip and Pear Salad from one of my faves Cook, Eat, Smile, written by the man behind the brilliant Bills Produce Store.

Root Veg. Pear. Honey Roasted. Blue Cheese. Quite possibly the best flavour combination ever and sexing up humble salad leaves everywhere. I’ll admit to you now, I am NOT a salad person, particularly in October. But the caramelisation of the sweet slithers of pears and parsnips, the creaminess of the cheese, and the zing of the dressing make even the most boring of leaves sensational. This recipe makes salads appetizing for colder weather too, no bad thing if you’re trying to watch your waistline.

Adapted from Cook, Eat, Smile
Serves 2
1 medium parsnip, peeled and cut into strips
1 pear, peeled, cored and quartered
1 tbsp honey
50g stilton, or any other blue cheese
2 large handfuls of salad leaves (I used spinach, Bill uses the head of radicchio)
-For the Dressing-
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp honey
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon or lime juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Toss the parsnips in half the honey, put on a baking tray and roast for 15 minutes. Add the pears and the rest of the honey and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from the tray and leave to cool slightly.
  3. Place the salad leaves into a big bowl, scatter over the roasted parsnips and pears and crumble the cheese over too.
  4. Whisk the salad dressing ingredients together and spoon over the salad. Mix it all together and serve.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Strawberry Jam Tarts

Introducing my exceedingly rustic Strawberry Jam Tarts. Now before you say anything, this was my first attempt at making pastry and to make it more of a challenge I had no biscuit cutters or rolling pin. I don’t make it easy for myself do I? All things considered I think they turned out pretty nicely, they were quick and easy to put together and they taste good too. If your a pastry making King or Queen perhaps stop reading now, but if you too are new to pastry why not give this uber simple recipe a go to get you started.

Adapted from Queen of Crafts
225g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tbsp icing sugar
110g butter
strawberry jam
cupcake tin
biscuit cutters
  1. In a large bowl, sieve together the flour, salt and icing sugar. Add the butter and rub into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add cold water, 1 tbsp at a time, to bring the mixture into a dough. It is ready when it just about clings together. It shouldn’t be sticky and should come cleanly off the bowl as you gather it together.
  2. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  3. Once chilled, take the dough out and leave to warm to room temperature. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C.
  4. Roll out the dough on a surface dusted with flour to about 0.5cm thick. Cut rounds with a fluted biscuit cutter that is slightly larger then the holes of the cupcake tin. Be sure to leave a little pastry to make hearts and strips as decorations.
  5. Grease the tin and line each hole with a round of pastry. Put a spoonful of jam in the centre of each round, being sure not to over fill.
  6. Place the decorations on top of the jam and glaze with a little jam.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes until the pastry is a light golden brown. Remove and cool on a wire rack. 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Paneer Kebabs

Remember the Muttar Paneer curry I made the other day? You should do, it tasted pretty great if I do say so myself. Well, I had a bit of left over cheese to use up and as Ben had gone to London I decided to make my self a romantic dinner for one.

After a quick scan of Google I saw that the majority of recipes where curry based, so I opted for a kebab option. After marinating the cheese, onions and peppers, I threaded the lot on to skewers and grilled for 10 minutes. The flavour was great, the paneer a blank canvas allowing the spices to really shine through, but the whole thing would have been a little bit dry if I had not made my Coriander Chutney to go along side it. Good with curries as well as making a great dip for poppodoms, the chutney takes under 5 minutes to make, and elevated this dish from good to great.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Muttar Paneer

There is nothing better then a curry, whether it be homemade or takeaway, each has a time and a place. Their simplicity and throw-it-all-in-and-see-what-happens style makes them the perfect choice for the experimental cook. In regards to the curry recipes I’ve seen in cookery books, my top choice is Gizzi’s Kitchen Magic, as one reader commented, not the most trust worthy of names, but she sure does have some lovely and more unusual recipes. You may remember her Afghan Yoghurt Curry I made a few months back, well it was delicious, and I had high hopes for the Muttar Paneer Curry that I tried next.

Now my knowledge of vegetarian curries stretches little further then the obligatory butternut squash variety, which is great and all that, but gets a bit boring after a while. This curry uses paneer as the star ingredient, an Indian cheese with a squeaky likeness to halloumi. The cheese is fried until golden brown and then added to a delicious homemade curry paste (so simple to make and useable as a base for any curry) as well as peas. The mild sauce allows the sweetness of the peas to burst out with every mouthful and the cheese adds texture, making it a great alternative to tofu. Gizzi also suggests serving the dish with a naan rather then rice, a welcome change in my opinion.

Slightly adapted from Gizzi’s Kitchen Magic
Serves 2
1 tbsp vegetable oil
125g Paneer cheese
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
150ml vegetable stock
150g frozen peas
naan bread
-For the Curry Paste-
1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ onion, peeled and chopped
1.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
pinch of garam masala
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  1. Put all the ingredients for the curry paste into a blender and mix to a paste.
  2. Add the oil to a pan over a medium heat, then fry the paneer until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen paper.
  3. Add the paste to the pan and fry for 5 minutes, until it starts to brown a little. Add the stock and tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes until thickened. Add the paneer and the peas and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Season, and serve with naan bread.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Avocado Stuffed Tomato Tortillas

!!Frugal Student Tip Alert!! Rent cookbooks out from your local library for free!!

I can’t tell you how excited I was when I discovered Brighton Library had cookbooks to rent. Now although they don’t have all the newest releases or the more unusual of titles, they do have a large selection of the more popular names (think Ramsay, Lawson, Oliver and Slater) as well as some really useful reference books. And all for FREE!!

On this occasion I went for Jamie’s America, not something I would really be interested in buying myself (I’m not all that keen on the whole Jamie Oliver brand), but I am interested in learning about American cuisine. This book has opened me up to a really delicious and colourful range of recipes which go far further then the obligatory burger and fries. Crammed into this photo heavy, and perhaps a little self indulgent book (think Jamie Brokeback style around the campfire) is a huge variety of recipes with Mexican, Jewish and Navaho influences amongst others.

I found 14 recipes that I really wanted to try in my first flick, but went for the Stuffed Tomato Tortillas first. After making the tomato sauce and avocado mixture, you just need to wrap it up, pour it over, and in the words of Jamie Oliver, bang it in the oven for 15 minutes. Pukka. 

Adapted from Jamie’s America
Serves 2
-For the Sauce-
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
½ lime
1 spring onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
-For the Tortillas-
2 ripe avocados
1 lime
4 tortillas
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and sliced finely
small handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
75g grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp soured cream, plus more to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Gently fry the garlic in the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the tomatoes and lime juice and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down low, season and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce has slightly thickened.
  2. Meanwhile, halve, peel and stone the avocados, then mash with the lime juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Pour a small amount of the tomato sauce into an appropriately sized baking dish, just to cover the bottom. Divide the avocado between 4 tortillas and sprinkle over the spring onion and chilli and some of the cheese and coriander.
  4. Place in the baking dish and pour the rest of the tomato sauce over, then dollop on the sour cream and sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese has melted and gone golden and crispy on top. Serve with a green salad.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Banana Fudge Layer Cake

I write this while sitting in the kitchen of my wonderful friend and fellow food lover Rose, at the second of our newly founded lunch dates (last week I cooked Naan Pizzas, this week I am being treated to Leek and Potato Soup). She’s very kindly allowing me to abuse her internet as much as I like, I have no internet until the 26th, and she’s giving me yummy food to boot. This has provided me with the perfect excuse to check up on my favourite food blogs and update you with my most recent culinary conquest.

Now although I did little cooking in the last month I did invest in two new fantastic cook books (its becoming an addiction), one being Mad Hungry, my first proper American cookbook complete with cup measurements, and the other being The Great British Bake Off: How to Bake, a baking book made to accompany the brilliant BBC2 series (with 50% off at Waterstones now I couldn’t resist!). This week Ben started working at the Tic Toc Café in Brighton, where he now prepares food and makes coffee, and asked me to bake a cake for the first evening opening of the café. I was more then happy to oblige, partly to make a good first impression but mostly because I couldn’t wait to get stuck into my baking book. After a quick flick of the Cake section I went for the Banana Fudge Layer Cake, having all but a couple of the ingredients in the kitchen. Now I speak from experience here, use an electric mixer. Creaming butter with a wooden spoon for a sustained length of time gave me blisters, not cool. Luckily, the injuries where worth it. The cake tasted great, the sponge light and the fudge and banana slices making each mouthful deliciously sweet. Making the fudge was surprisingly easy too, and I plan on using the same recipe to make blocks of fudge wrapped in cellophane as presents. Yum.

Makes one 20.5cm cake
- For the Sponge -
175g unsalted butter, softened
25g light brown muscovado sugar
175g self raising flour
1 tbsp milk
150g caster sugar
3 large free-range eggs, at room temperature, beaten
½ tsp vanilla extract
- For the Filling and Topping -
175g light brown muscovado sugar
75g double cream
1 ripe banana
150g unsalted butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease two 20.5cm sandwich tins (lining the bases with baking paper). Beat the softened butter in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until creamy. Add the two sugars and beat well until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  2. Gradually add the egg, beating after each addition. Add a tablespoon of the flour with the last portion of egg to stop the mixture from curdling.
  3. Sift in the remaining flour and fold into the mixture with a metal spoon.
  4. Mix the vanilla extract and milk before folding into the mixture.
  5. Divide the mixture equally between the two prepared tins and spread evenly. Bake in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes until the cakes are a light golden colour and just firm enough to the touch. Turn out the sponges on to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Meanwhile, make the fudge by heating the butter, cream and sugar in a medium pan over a low heat. Stir frequently until the butter has melted. Increase the heat a little and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the mixture from catching.
  7. Remove from the heat and stir vigorously for 30 seconds. Leave to cool, stirring gently occasionally. It will gradually thicken and is ready to use once it has become spreadable (You may need to put it in the fridge for a few minutes).
  8. Spread the fudge evenly on to each cake, swirling the fudge on the top cake with the back of a spoon or round bladed knife. Arrange the thinly sliced banana slices on top of the fudge on the bottom cake before sandwiching the two cakes together.
  9. Store in an airtight container for up to four days.

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