Monday, 30 January 2012

Marmitey Quorn Cottage Pie

You either love it or you hate it, but Marmite doesn’t half improve the flavour of Quorn mince. Whenever I cook with this beef substitute I have to add a teaspoon or so of Marmite, to create the depth of flavour that is often the one thing lacking in Quorn mince. I call this the Maramitey Quorn Cottage Pie because, for the first time, the deep salty flavour of the Marmite itself actually shines through. The Marmite is added to the pan at the same time as the Quorn, so it is really absorbed into the mince. Now all you Marmite-phobes out there are probably thinking you’ll want to steer well clear of this particular recipe, but I can reassure you that even Ben, the ultimate hater of Marmite, actually enjoyed the flavour, much to my own surprise. He’ll be eating Nigella’s Marmite Spaghetti by the end of the year I’m sure of it!!

Serves 2, with leftovers
1 carrot, finely grated
1 onion, coarsely grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
300g packet Quorn mince, frozen
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp Marmite
2-3 tbsp plain white flour
Around 300ml stock of your choice (you may not need it all)
Around 400g potatoes, left unpeeled
Handful of grated cheddar cheese, optional
  1. In a deep pan and over a medium heat, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the onion and carrot for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the crushed garlic cloves and fry for a further 3 minutes. Add the mince, and fry until cooked through.
  2. Add the tomato paste and the Marmite, and fry for a further 2 minutes. Cover the mixture with the flour and fry for 1 minute, before slowly adding the stock, continuously stirring to form a gravy. Add enough stock to make a slightly runnier gravy, and leave to reduce for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes and mash, and preheat the oven to 180C.
  4. Pour the mixture into an appropriate ovenproof dish, cover with the mashed potato and sprinkle over the cheese.
  5. Bake for around 20 minutes until golden and crisp on top and serve with salad. 

Monday, 23 January 2012

Parsnip and Apple Risotto

This recipe is an adaptation of Alice Hart’s Parsnip and Sage Risotto from her wonderful Vegetarian cook book, which I was very glad to find under my Christmas Tree this year.

I am not a vegetarian and am afraid to say I have too much of a soft spot for venison stew and steaks to ever really consider becoming one full time, but I have increasingly found cooking meat free to be a purse friendly and more imaginative option for suppers. Having dabbled with meat substitutes I decided to take the plunge and find myself a good vegetarian cook book to start me off properly, and when I heard that Alice Hart had written one, I knew I had to have it. Having exhausted the original Alice’s CookBook, I was expecting more imaginative and delicious recipes, and I’m pleased to say that I have not been disappointed so far. Like the original but bigger and with heaps more photographs, Alice has really inspired me to cook vegetarian, and I vow to do so at least three times a week from now on.

This creamy risotto is simple to cook and delicious to eat, and the addition of the chopped apple, added in the last few minutes before serving so retaining a bit of bite, in my opinion adds a complementary burst of sweetness to an otherwise exceedingly parsnipy dish.

Serves 2
1 parsnip, peeled and roughly grated
1 apple, peeled and chopped into small cubes
2 sage leaves, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
20g butter
125g risotto rice
½ glass white wine
500ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp mascarpone, plus extra to serve
a handful of finely grated parmesan (or vegetarian alternative)
  1. Melt the butter in a deep pan, add the shallots, parsnip and sage and cook gently, stirring, for around 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the rice and cook for a minute. Pour in the wine and stir until evaporated, then begin to add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, and stirring until it has virtually disappeared. Continue until the stock is gone, or the rice is plump and cooked. It should take 20 minutes to half an hour.
  3. Remove from the heat, stir in half the mascarpone and Parmesan, as well as the chopped apple. Cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Mix through the remaining cheese, and serve with a dollop of mascarpone on top.

Monday, 16 January 2012

My KitchenAid: Not Just a Pretty Face

Here it is, my pride and joy, my KitchenAid. Still stuck for names, all suggestions welcome, but I have finally got to use this baby, and I am oh so happy with the results. I’d been lusting after this particular piece of kitchen equipment for a long time, and I can’t quite believe it is now sitting on my worktop in all its red shiny glory. Thankfully, she’s not just about the looks and the first recipe I tried, Chocolate Orange Cupcakes from the second Great British Bake Off book (also available on the BBC Good Food website), certainly lived up to my expectations (I used only milk chocolate throughout the recipe, hence the discrepancy with the original recipe photographs!). 

The KitchenAid standmixer is supremely easy to use, consisting of just two levers, one to lift and set down the head and the other to adjust the speed of the mixer. The bowl is easy to fit into place, and although I have found the attachments a little tricky to fit, I think this will get easier with practice. The pourer/guard attachment that came with my KitchenAid is a godsend, and fits easily over the bowl.

As I added the ingredients and beat according to instructions I became more and more confident with using a higher speed setting. I’ve only gotten up to 5 so far and think if I pushed it any higher the thing might actually take off, its just so fast. I might seriously have to reconsider my January healthy eating regime, because making cake just became dangerously quick and easy. What would have once taken a good 20 minutes of hard graft can now be completed in under 5, and the result is far more professional, smooth and lump-free then I could ever achieve by hand. After baking for the allotted time, the cupcakes turned out uniformly perfect, with a light fluffy texture.

But it was in the making of the buttercream that the KitchenAid truly shined. I do not get on with frostings, and have never been able to get mine to the correct pipeable consistency. That is until now, because with a quick flick of the switch I made smooth and thick buttercream for the first time. So thick it started to ooze out of the seams of my piping bag, but what did make it on to the cake looked professional and stayed in place. I managed to make peaks, peaks I tell you!!

Piping bag fail.

So what can I say except that I am totally and utterly in love with my beautiful red KitchenAid. You’re not just a pretty face after all!! 

Friday, 13 January 2012

An Indian Feast

Last Bonfire Night, I hosted an Indian themed supper. Each guest brought a dish, and I made chutneys and onion bhajis. It went so well that I decided to recreate the feast again this week, but this time I made everything myself, including three curries, chutneys, raita, bhajis and naan bread. As you can imagine I was pretty exhausted after a good four hours of cooking - I think I chopped 12 onions, 12!!

All the recipes came from the wonderful BBC Food and Good Food websites, except for the main chicken tikka curry which is a Gordon Ramsay creation, originally found by my lovely friend Maddy. The best thing about these recipes is that they can all be made up ahead and reheated, saving time, energy and hob space later.

Chicken Tikka Masala

I doubled up the Chicken Tikka recipe to serve 6 people with leftovers. I started by making the sauce and blending it, then leaving it to one side, before reheating it just before serving and adding the browned chicken pieces which I allowed to infuse in the sauce for about 10 minutes or so. This curry has a good red colour, creamy texture and a deep flavour, with just a hint of spice that should appeal to even the most chilli fearing of friends.

Spiced Paneer and Tomato Curry

I’m a big fan of paneer, an Indian cheese similar to halloumi, and the Spiced Paneer and Tomato Curry I made was sympathetic to its delicate flavour. Again the spice level was more warming hint then blast.

Chickpea and Spinach Curry
The final curry I made was a Chickpea and Spinach number, Ben’s favourite, which made for a bit of colour on the table, and also could be described as healthy (mainly because it was green). I made the entirety of the curry up ahead, except for the addition of the spinach, which I added to the warmed sauce to wilt, about 15 minutes before serving.

The mix for the onion bhajis was again made up ahead, except for the flour, which was added to the onion, egg and spices just before frying. Once fried, I popped the bhajis in a Pyrex dish and placed them in the oven, on a low heat, to keep them warm until I was ready to serve.

Onion Bhajis, Raita and Naan

I can’t take all the credit for the feast though. Ben did make the Naan breads. He followed this Madhur Jaffery recipe, and cooked them on a slightly oiled pan on the hob rather then in the oven. They puffed up perfectly, and made for a sweet and fluffy accompaniment to the meal.

Alongside all this I served my trusty coriander chutney with the addition of a little natural yoghurt to create a smoother consistency, and cucumber and mint raita to cool everything down.

Phew, I’m exhausted just recounting it all to you here, but I’m pleased to say the meal went down very well, and six people managed to eat almost all of the different curries, which had been meant to make 16 portions!!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Liebster Award

I am really excited to announce that I have been nominated for a Liebster Award by the lovely Sue of Cake Balls, Cookies and More. I am really chuffed to receive my first blogging award, and just before the one year anniversary of Culinary Conquests too!! Thanks so much Sue!!

The Liebster Award, meaning favourite or dearest in German, recognises up and coming blogs with under 200 followers. The blogger awarded then gets to share the award with 5 bloggers of their choice, and I’m really excited to share with you some of my most loved food blogs.

Michael's Cappuccino Pavlova
First up is Michael of Me, My Food and I.
Michael was one of my very first followers and was the first person to comment on one of my posts, which was very much appreciated as I was starting out in the big wide world of blogging!! I love Michaels chatty style, and the stories that accompany his often Nigella themed recipes great!!

Emily's Hazelnut Macarons with Nutella

Secondly is Emily of What Emily Ate.
I originally stumbled across Emily’s fantastic music blog after she was awarded Blog of Note, and through it came to find her food blog, which is the perfect combination of delicious recipes and beautiful photographs. She has the loveliest crockery too!!

Laura Elizabeth's Granola and White Chocolate Cookies

Thirdly is Laura Elizabeth of Chocolate & Pears.
Laura is a girl after my own heart, she loves baking and florals too!! I adore her pretty blog and the biscuits, cakes and brownies she makes look so delicious. She’s also representing us students, being in her first year at university, and I’m pretty sure she must be the most popular girl on campus!!

Fullest Part of Life's Mango and Cardamom Infused Coconut, Almond Tarte

Fourthly is Fullest Part of Life.
A new blog find for me, this medical student makes tasty treats, and what makes Fullest Part of Life really appeal to me is her step by step photo guides for each recipe, ensuring your cooking goes without a hitch.

Jo's Chocolate and Strawberry Cake
And last but by no means least is Jo of What do you Make of my Cake?
Another baker, Jo has a very endearing obsession with crockery and often shows off her fabulous eBay and charity shop finds. Her recipes look delicious, and I love the stories that accompany them. 

Friday, 6 January 2012

Milk Chocolate Truffles

Happy New Year everyone!! So I really ought to be posting something healthy, probably a salad, to welcome in the New Year, and ‘start as I mean to go on’, as they say. Instead, I’m sharing with you a recipe consisting of chocolate, cream and alcohol – its not like we’ve indulged enough over the festive period. OK, enough excuses, these little balls of chocolatey joy mark my first tryst with homemade confectionary, and I’m pleased to report that it was a great success. I actually made these truffles as a Christmas gift, presented in little Lakeland truffle cases in a box with ribbons and baubles, they were hugely simple to make and really delivered on flavour. The initial bitter darkness of the cocoa powder exterior is soon replaced by an almost caramel, smooth, milky interior – I think they’re simply delicious, and suggest you break your New Years resolutions immediately and try making them too, you won’t be disappointed.

Adapted from The Good Housekeeping Cookery Book
Makes around 24 truffles
225g good quality milk chocolate (I used Green and Blacks)
90ml double cream
3 tbsp brandy
Good quality cocoa powder (I used Green and Blacks)
  1. Grate the chocolate into a small heatproof bowl that will fit over a pan. Add the cream and stand over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate begins to melt. Stir well until smooth and remove from the heat. (At this point my chocolate started to look a bit greasy, but don’t worry if this happens to you, it didn’t effect the end product)
  2. Leave to cool for around half an hour, then beat in the brandy. Use an electric whisk to beat the mixture until fluffy and paler in colour, about 5 minutes. It should be firm enough to stand in peaks.
  3. Spoon into a shallow tin, flatten out, cover and refrigerate for two hours until quite firm.
  4. Sprinkle a plate with cocoa powder and, using a teaspoon, spoon even-sized amounts and place on the plate. Dust your hands with cocoa powder and quickly roll the spoonfuls of chocolate into balls, making sure they each get a good cocoa covering. Place on waxed paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  5. Keep the truffles packed in cases and boxes in the fridge, and eat within 3 days.
See these truffles and more delicious treats over at the Sweet as Sugar Cookies Party.

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