Monday, 24 September 2012

Vanessa Kimbell's Ndali Vanilla Gift Swap

I am lucky enough to have been invited to join Vanessa Kimbell's latest event. The concept is similar to the Christmas Gift Swap however this time with a focus on vanilla and fair trade. To be more specific Ndali Fair Trade Vanilla.

Vanessa went out to Uganda earlier this year see where and how the vanilla is produced and the impact that fair trade has. Over the years I have increasing looked to buy local and where this isn't possible to buy fair trade but I have to admit that often this was without really thinking why. I was buying fair trade because I 'should' not because I really understood or that it resonated with me. Reading Vanessa's posts has really brought home the reason that fair trade just makes sense. The clue is in the title. It's fair! We all know it's wrong to steal from someone so why would we underpay farmers and producers?

For this reason I'm proud to be a part of the event and very grateful to all involved, including Vanessa Kimbell, Ndali Vanilla, Fortnum and Mason, Kenwood and The Fair Trade Foundation.

We were sent some vanilla and I already had some Ndali extract

There are four categories and I have decided to enter two - sweets and cakes.

I have made some vanilla latte fudge. I decided on this flavour largely as I seem to have a slight addiction to vanilla latte's.

My second gift is a rhubarb and vanilla crumble cake as I always think vanilla and rhubarb are the perfect pairing. It's not the most beautiful cake to look at but I think it tastes divine. We were encouraged to use as many fair trade ingredients as possible. The rhubarb I was given from a friends garden so as I didn't pay for it I guess it won't be fair trade unless I make her a cake in return!

I'll post later to let you know how the day went, but very much looking forwards to it.


Vanilla Latte Fudge

100g fair trade caster sugar
75g fair trade light soft brown sugar
227g tub of clotted cream
1/2-1 tsp of vanilla powder, depending on your taste
1tsp fair trade instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp of boiling water

Place all of the ingredients in a pan and stir continually over a very low heat until the sugar has all dissolved. I find that if you rush this part the fudge tends to be more grainy.

Stop stirring, bring to the boil and put the lid on. Turn it down and leave it for 3 minutes. Watch it to make sure the sugar doesn't start to burn.

Take the lid off and use a sugar thermometer to keep it boiling until it gets to 116 C.

Once at 116 C plunge the pan into a bowl of cold water and leave for about 20-30 secs before starting to stir. Stir it until the fudge starts to set and then pour into a container lined with greased cling film for it to set.

Leave to set overnight and then use a hot knife to slice into equal sized squares.

This is lovely with your favourite hot drink and would make a great present.

Rhubarb and Vanilla Crumble Cake

For the rhubarb compote
About 4 lengths of rhubarb
2-4 tbsp fair trade soft brownn sugar to taste
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the cake
2 eggs weighed with their shells on
The same weight of self raising flour
The same weight of fair trade sugar (I used a 50:50 mixture of caster and light soft brown)
The same weight of margarine or butter
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract.

Crumble topping
75g lights soft brown sugar
100g plain flour
75g butter

Preheat the oven to 190 C

Start by chopping the rhubarb into small chunks and cooking slowly in a pan with the sugar. If it looks like it is going to catch turn the heat down and/or add a splash of water. Cook for 10-15 mins until the mixture it quite thick and jam like. Leave to cool slightly

Meanwhile make the cake. Mix all of the ingredients together and beat well.

Make the crumble mixture by using your finger tips to rub the mixture together until it forms the texture of bread crumbs.

Line an 8" cake tin and place the cake batter in the bottom, cover with a layer of rhubarb compote and top with the crumble mixture.

This also works well with berries it apple or I'd guess any fruit which is soft once cooked.

Bake for 30-40 mins until golden on the top.

Serve as a cake with a cup of tea or as a pudding with custard.

Steak with peppers, onions and spinach

This is another super quick dinner. I tend to cook the veg first and then flash fry the steak as I like it to be served medium-rare.

This is a made up recipe and I intensified the depth of flavour by dusting the steak in porcini mushroom powder before cooking it. The first time I heard of porcini mushroom powder is when my mum bought me some for Christmas last year, but not it's a staple in my kitchen. It is great in obviously things like a mushroom risotto but also adds depth of flavour to stews and steak.

The spinach was spinach beet from my garden

And I served it with salad, also from my garden.

Recipe to follow

Chicken cataccioa and minted courgettes

This is another recipe I picked up whilst on a cookery holiday with my mum.

The recipe is slightly different to what I have always thought of as traditional. I'm not sure if that is my ignorance or if this is a regional variation but I don't really care as this version is fab!

I paired it with minted courgettes using baby courgettes grown by my our fair hand.

Recipe to follow

Lemon and Oregano Roast Chicken

This has become a real favourite for an easy dinner and you can always roast two chickens so that you have leftovers for lunches and dinners later in the week.

Again it is a Tessa Kiros recipe originally which I have prob my adapted a little over time. I know I cook it slightly differently as she finishes her chicken under the grill whereas I prefer to roast it.

It is great served with a variety of salads for a light dinner.

One observation I would make is, that in my humble opinion, oregano is about the only herb which is worth buying dried.

Recipe to follow

Lamb Tava

I love any dishes that you can throw all of the ingredients in a pan, leave them for a few hours and they become more than the sum of their parts. Tessa Kiros' Lamb Tava is one of these dishes. It is all about great flavours and ingredients.

It is a Cypriot dish from her book Falling Cloudberry's and became a firm favourite after it's first outing.

Recipe to follow

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Diana Henry's Roast Chicken with Quinoa and Feta Stuffing and Lebanese Beans

I love a Sunday roast but when the weather is warmer (or not cold at least) I don't feel like a full Sunday lunch with gravy and so on.

As I've mentioned before I think that Diana Henry is one of the most underrated cookery writers I have come across and this is one of her recipes which I love.

She roasted the chicken with the stuffing inside but I don't like to do this as I don't think you an fit enough in!

So I just simply roasted the chicken with a little herb butter under the skin and no stuffing. I like to use roasting bags (which you can buy in the supermarket near the cling film) as I think they result in really moist chicken. I forgot to take a photo of the chicken but it just looked like a roast chicken so nothing unusual!

I made the stuffing separately. I mainly followed her recipe but removed the bread that she uses and replaced it with quinoa so that it was gluten free.

While the chicken is roasting sauté one finely chopped onion in a little olive oil until soft. Add 2 crushed garlic cloves and cook for a couple of minutes. Add a packet of chopped cherry tomatoes. Stir into quinoa cooked according to the instructions on the packet add 100g chopped feta, a handful of chopped mint and parsley, 1 tbsp tomato purée, an egg and seasoning and stir. Put into an oven proof bowl and bake in the oven with the chicken for around the last 45 mins. You may need to cover it with foil to prevent it from getting too brown and dried out.

I served it with her Lebanese beans and some green salad.

Heat some olive oil in a pan and add a roughly chopped onion and sauté until soft. Add 2 crushed garlic cloves and cook for a couple if minutes. Add 4tsp ground cumin, 800g tomatoes (I used tinned) and season. Stir well and add 75ml of water and 1/2 tablespoon of tomato purée and a squeeze of lemon juice. Cover the pan and sweat the tomatoes for about 15 mins until they are soft and mushy. Add 500g chopped runner beans and cook for 15+ mins until they become really soft. Add additional water if the moisture starts to dry out and additional seasoning if you need it. You can finish with a few torn mint leave if you like.

Boiled eggs with asparagus 'soldiers'

This is great for a decadent Sunday breakfast (or any day you fancy a treat!)
Start by boiling your eggs to your personal taste. I like 5 minutes for a large egg so the white is set but the yolk is still runny.
Whilst the eggs cook blanch the asparagus by placing it in boiling water for a couple of minutes. You still want it to hold its shape and have a bit of crunch. Drain and wrap each spear in a slice of Parma or Serrano ham.
Serve with the top cut off the egg and the wrapped asparagus spears to dip in the yolk.

Chunky chicken and vegetable soup

This soup is great as you can use whatever veg you have left over and in fact whatever meat. Some left over roasted lamb would be good for example, or just leave it out. You could also add your choice of beans. I think butter beans would work well. Just put in what you fancy/have. It's as simple as that!
I placed the following in a pan, you could fry the veg and chicken up first for more flavour but I didn't bother. I just chucked it all in and cooked it on the hob. What could be easier!
- 1 leek roughly chopped
- 2 carrots roughly chopped
- 1 pepper roughly chopped
- two large handfuls of kale roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 2 tins of tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon of tomato purée
- two chicken legs with the skin on (just throw them in as they are)
- 1/2 litre of chicken stock
- salt and pepper
Boil the above for about 45 mins until all of the vegetables are soft. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and cook for a few more minutes. Remove the chicken legs and allow to cool slightly until you can touch them without burning your hands. Remove all of the meat and discard the bones. Chop the meat into smallish pieces and put back into the soup and stir.
Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate until you want to eat it. I make two big soups on a Sunday and eat them through the week. Just remember ones with meat in might not last for a week so eat these first!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is a funny thing. It looks and acts a bit like couscous but is in fact a seed so it's a lot better for you. I love it's flavour as well which is slightly nuttier than couscous. This could also be made with bulgar wheat or buck wheat, or a mixture.

Start by cooking the quinoa according to the packet instructions. Mine was to boil it for 20 mins. Drain well and put to one side to cool. Diana Henry has a recipe which toasts the quinoa first, which I imagine to be delicious, but I haven't tried this yet.

While it cools make a dressing from a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, the juice and zest of half a lemon, a handful of chopped mint and parsley, half a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper.

Chop your choice of veg up. I uses carrots, cucumber and spring onion, all raw but a mixture of roasted onion, peppers and courgette would be good, or some blanched asparagus.

Once the quinoa is cold mix with the dressing and vegetables. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper or lemon to taste

Apologies for the rather ugly container but it was ready to go to work!

A green goddess (or monster!) smoothie

This smoothie looks frankly terrifying as its dark green, but it's extremely good for you and you can't taste the 'green' taste. In fact it tastes a bit like a non alcoholic mojito

Place the following ingredients in a blender
Serves 1
- a handful of mixed berries
- a couple of sprigs of mint
- a chunk of cucumber about 3 inches long
- a teaspoon of spirulina powder (you can buy this in health food shops or substitute with a handful of spinach leaves of just leave it out)
- juice of half a lime
- an egg white (optional if you want to up the protein, read why here)
Blend all of the ingredients until smooth, you could blend with ice if it was a warm day, and serve.

Almond Protein Shake

This shake is high in protein and ideal for after a session at the gym instead of a bought protein shake, which contains god knows what!

Place the following ingredients in a blender:

Serves 1

- 100ml of your choice of chilled, unsweetened, non-dairy milk (I uses almond milk)
- 75ml of natural yoghurt (I use 0% Total Greek yoghurt)
- 1/4 a pack of silken tofu (this isn't the tofu that you get in the chiller which is spongy in texture. It's found in the Asian section in the supermarket in the shelves in a cardboard/foil packet)
- a small handful of roasted almonds (roasting them isn't essential but it gives a great flavour)
- a few drops of vanilla extract (I used Ndali, as it is fair trade)

Blend all of the ingredients until smooth and place into a plastic beaker with a lid for after your workout

Berry, nut and chia seed smoothie

One of the key things I have been trying to follow is eating smaller portions more regularly and trying to keep my blood sugar on an even keel.
Although fruit is good for you, particularly berries, it does still contain sugar, in the form of fructose. Apparently eating protein at the same time reduces the impact of this on your blood sugar.
Place the following ingredients in a blender or a jug if you're using a hand blender
- a large handful of berries. I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries
- about a tablespoon of roasted nuts (they don't have to be roasted but I find them so much tastier. I used mixed nuts)
- about half a tablespoon of chia seeds (these are optional but apparently very good for you. Read more here)
- 200ml of your choice of chilled, non dairy, unsweetened milk (I used oat milk)
Blend until smooth and serve. If its a hot day you can blend with ice. This is obviously easily doubled, trebled etc.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Homemade Granola

I love granola with Total 0% Greek yoghurt but shop bought cereals and granola's are mainly filled with sugar.

It's so easy to make it yourself and you can make exactly the mixture you like plus you know what goes into it. Win, win!

You can also make it gluten free, just make sure the oats you buy are gluten free.

Start by putting 200g of rolled oats into a bowl, add a handful of chopped nuts (I used pecans and flaked almonds) and a smaller handful of chopped dried fruit (I used dates, apricots and cranberries), a dessert spoon full of coconut oil (this is optional, but is a good fat and can now be bought in most supermarkets), one egg, a teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. Mix well and place in a thin layer on a baking tray and bake at 180C for about 15-20 mins until it is golden. If you want it sweeter you can add agave syrup or honey, but this obviously makes it less healthy.

Allow to cool and store in a air tight container.

I like to serve it with Total 0% Greek yoghurt, which is lovely, thick and creamy and not acidic like some natural yoghurts.

Healthier Cooked Breakfast

Being British, a decent cooked breakfast is a welcome treat on a Sunday, but we all know they aren't always the best for you. So I made this lower fat and sugar version, which was a great substitute.

I poached the egg and grilled the tomatoes and bacon to avoid adding any additional fat and removed as much of the fat from the bacon as I could. I did fry the slice of black pudding but in minimal oil and then added the mushrooms. Rather than use ketchup, which is full of sugar I made some from scratch. I started by cooking chopped cherry tomatoes with a little beef stock cube, some freshly ground pepper, a squeeze of tomato puree and a splash of balsamic vinegar, yummy!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

A week of clean eating

I love food. Having a food blog is probably a good indication that I enjoy food and cooking, but I really, really do. I'm obsessed. I don't finish a meal before planning the next one (and the one after!). I spend huge swathes of time thinking about flavours and combinations and what I'm going to cook next.
I also concentrate on eating the best I can, in terms of time, and money. I aim not to eat processed food and would prefer to buy cheaper cuts to have better quality meat. I've always thought this way to a certain extent, but more recently have been reading more about healthy eating philosophies such as James Duigan's @cleanandlean and @metaboliceffect. Basically, they advocate eating unprocessed foods, especially protein/healthy fats/vegetables and cutting out sugar, alcohol etc.
This is in stark contrast to a lot of traditional 'diet' advice, which focuses on low calorie and low fat rather than food which is good for you. I honestly don't know how the supermarkets and food companies get away with marketing products which are full of chemicals and sweeteners as 'health' ranges.
So I thought I'd share some of what I'd been eating this week. I like to eat little and often do tend to have 3 meals and 3 snacks a day. Recipes to follow!
Breakfasts included:
- Summer Porridge
- A healthy cooked breakfast with sugar free homemade ketchup
- homemade, sugar free, granola with Total Greek yoghurt. I always buy Total Greek yoghurt. Yes it's pricey in comparison to the supermarkets Greek style yoghurt but it's much thicker and creamier (even the 0% fat one) and it doesn't have the same acidic taste that some natural yogurts do
- cooked porridge with cinnamon and nutmeg
- boiled eggs with asparagus wrapped in Parma ham as the soldiers
Snacks included:
- a handful of berries and a handful of raw nuts
- oat cakes with sugar free hazelnut butter (it's so much nicer than peanut butter and tastes very similar to nutella)
- homemade hummus and crudités (I use this recipe as I like the chunky texture but have recently read a Silvena Rowe recipe for a smooth hummus I'll try it soon and post the results)
- berry, nut and chia seed smoothie
- my almond protein shake for after the gym
- a green goddess (or monster!) smoothie - I promise it tastes amazing. A little bit like a non alcoholic mojito, it's such a dark green colour because I added spirulina powder, but you can't taste it once it's whizzed up
- cooked chicken or salmon with cucumber or tomatoes
- Total Greek yoghurt with berries and seeds
Lunches included:

- Chicken and Barley Soup
- quinoa salad
- chicken salad
- roasted vegetable salad
- chunky chicken and vegetable soup
Dinners included:
- Diana Henry's Roast Chicken, with quinoa wheat and feta stuffing and lebanese beans
- Tessa Kiros' Lamb Tava
- Tessa Kiros' Lemon and Oregano Chicken
- Chicken cataccioa and minted courgettes
- Steak with peppers and onions

Hopefully this will give you some healthy, clean eating ideas.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Summer Porridge

After posts full of cake and chocolate yesterday, I though it was time for something healthier.

This is one of my favourite summer breakfasts and I often have some variation on it. It's so quick and easy, the only hard part is remembering to put the oats to soak the night before!

Start the night before, by putting the oats in a bowl. I use about 40g per person. Pour on your choice of milk until it comes just above the level of the oats. I tend to use oat milk to cut down on the dairy I eat, a good apple juice also works well. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning coarsely grate half an apple per person and stir into the oats. Top with your choice of fruits, I used a mixture of cherries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. It's also good to add some dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots. Sprinkle with a few chopped nuts and drizzle on some good honey, if desired. My favourite is Greek honey which is dark and has an almost caramel like flavour.


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

First Birthday Chocolates

I was recently contacted by the PR company of a boutique chocolate club. I only like to give reviews of products I would potentially buy and chocolate is definitely one of them! Plus as it is my blog's first birthday I thought it would make a good present!

The Cocoa Boutique is a chocolate club who send you handmade chocolates through the post. I love the idea of receiving a surprise, handpicked selection of chocolates.

The chocolate are made by various people, including master chocolatiers.

The box and packaging was beautiful...

As were the chocolates...

I tries really hard to savour the chocolates, but after one sitting there aren't many left. They were too good! My favourite was made by Barry Colenso and was a Cocoa Dusted Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel. The balance of sweet and salt was just perfect.

Personally I wasn't keen on the ones with alcohol in but I'm sure some people would love them.

I think this would make a great, unusual gift for a chocolate loving friend.

Happy First Birthday Sarah's Kitchen Diary

This is my 83rd post and one year since I started my blog on 22nd August 2011.

I wanted to mark the first anniversary in some way. I've been interested in cooking since I was a very small girl. I'd help my mum and my nan in the kitchen and I especially love baking. I think I've mentioned before my first baking book was Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book, which has been revamped and republished in various guises over the years. I've lost count of the number of copies I've bought as gifts and genuinely every recipe works! My copy, although well looked after, is also well loved. The recipes I've baked the most invariably have a smudge of cake batter or chocolate on them. These days a lot of the recipes that I've made time and time again are committed to memory and in even when I play around and create a recipe 'from scratch' the starting point and the baking knowledge is likely to come either from my mum or Mary Berry.

So in making a first 'birthday' cake I had to make something influenced by my mum and Mary Berry.

I have taken Mary Berry's basic Victoria sponge but added some fresh raspberries to the batter. This is something my mum used to do for a quick pudding when I was young, typically served with custard and using whatever fruit was in season, raspberries, blackberries or apples.

I also added some white chocolate to the buttercream as I think this makes it more of a celebration cake and goes very well with the raspberries.

I toyed with the idea of making a sophisticated celebration cake with minimal decoration but decided that because I could and as it was a first 'birthday' I would go to town with the decoration. So I decorated the cake with plenty of sprinkles and sparkles and topped with some long silver candles.

If you want to recreate this please remember that the addition of raspberries to the cake will make it very moist and prone to go off quickly so eat it or freeze it within a day or two otherwise you'll end up with a mouldy mess. I never seem to have that problem as cake never lasts long in my house!

Here is a picture of my creation.

Happy First 'Birthday' to
Sarah's Kitchen Diary!

Here is a picture of the bottom when it came out of the oven. You can see the raspberries.

Here is my bible!


8oz self raising flour (I use sponge flour as I think it gives a better texture)
8oz caster sugar (I use unrefined)
8oz margarine or butter (I always use Stork as I think it gives a better texture and have seen Mary Berry do the same so much be good)
4 large free range eggs
2 tsp baking powder
A couple of handful's of raspberries

For the icing:
250g butter
500g icing sugar
100g white chocolate

Start by pre-heating the oven to 180C.

Line two 8" round cake tins

Put all of the cake ingredients, apart from the raspberries, in a bowl and mix until blended.

Pour half of the mixture into each cake tin and place in the pre-heated own for 30-40 mins until a skewer, when placed into the cake, comes out clean and they are springy to the touch. Remember from the tins and put on a wire rack to cool completely.

Whilst the cakes are cooling make the icing. Put the butter in a stand mixer and beat for a few minutes until very pale, light and fluffy. Gradually add the icing sugar a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all of the icing sugar is incorporated leave the icing to keep mixing, whilst you melt the chocolate, as this will make the icing lighter and fluffier.

I always melt chocolate in the microwave on full power but for bursts of 15-30 secs stirring in between each one, but I know some people are scared of the chocolate burning so feel free to melt it in a pan suspended over a bowl of boiling water. Once the chocolate is melted, stop the mixer and put the chocolate to one side to cool slightly. This avoids the hot chocolate melting the butter and ruining your icing.

Once the chocolate is cooler pour it into the mixing bowl and blend until it is incorporated into the icing.

Put half of the icing on one cake and then place the other cake on the top to create a sandwich. Add the remaining icing to the top and then decorate with your choice of sprinkles, sparkles and candles.


Sunday, 19 August 2012

Herby Rainbow Coleslaw

I love summer. The long warm days, light nights and the feeling that there is time to achieve anything. I know this summer hadn't been perfect but, in London at least, we've had enough decent weather to make my mood more buoyant.

This is a quick salad I made on a lovely summers evening. I had some leftover fresh beetroot and decide to make a take on coleslaw.

I shredded beetroot, carrot and cabbage (you could also add onion but I'm not a fan of raw onion) and then added a tarted up mayonnaise.

My friend who is pregnant was eating with us so I used bought mayonnaise to avoid raw egg and enhanced it with a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, seasoning, lemon juice and finely chopped parsley and mint and then mixed it with the vegetables to form a fabulously colourful salad.

This is great with a BBQ or a cooked chicken and salad.

The herbs came from my garden

Friday, 17 August 2012

Pork escalopes with lemon and parsely

I eat almost anything but I'm really not the biggest fan of pork but this recipe is so simple and so good that it almost has me converted!

It was another recipe which my mum and I picked up during our cooking holiday in Italy. Matilde, the teacher we had was the queen of making something delicious out of a handful of ingredients, extremely good ingredients admittedly.

I always advocate buying the best quality meat you can afford. Maybe eating it less often or cheaper cuts to do so. It makes me sad thinking about how some of the poor animals are treated and I genuinely think decent meat tastes better. Not to mention the antibiotics and growth hormones they pump into factory farmed meat.

Start by taking some thinly sliced pork loin, place it between two layers of cling film and bash it flatter with a meat cleaver, rolling pin or something else heavy. You want to make the pork quite thin without breaking it completely. Dust with flour.

Take a hot pan and a little oil and fry the pork in batches, cooking for a couple of minutes on each side. Once cooked place on some kitchen roll on a plate and season well. Repeat until all the pork is cooked.

Return all of the meat to the hot pan. Add a handful of finely chopped parsley, the juice of one lemon and top with slices of lemon. Place the lid on the pan and turn the pan off. Leave to rest for a few minutes.

I served with green veg and salad.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo so I'll have to make it again sometime soon.

Friday, 27 July 2012

1000th Tweet: Grandma's Birthday Cake

This will be my 1000th tweet so I thought it should be a special post. It was my Grandma's birthday this week so my sister and I made her a cake to help her celebrate. She's in a home now but she's always enjoyed homemade cake so we thought she'd like to have one to share with the other residents. When we went to see her her mind still seemed so young and it reminded me of this lovely story I read earlier in the week.
It is a basic Victoria sponge sandwiched with raspberry jam and then iced with a vanilla buttercream tinted pink with food colouring using this rose effect

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Guest Post: Easy Spanish Chicken

One of my team mentioned to me that although had an interest in food he couldn't cook. After asking a few questions it did seem that he knew how to cook almost nothing. It doesn't surprise me as if you don't have a parent or similar who has an interest in cooking then it is quite hard to learn. Most recipe books are quite inaccessible and assume a basic level of knowledge.
So I set him the challenge of cooking a meal. I will post his results once he's made the meal next week.
I chose one of my favourite simple, one pot meals and tried to write the recipe as clearly as possible. This recipe is not necessarily authentically Spanish but originally it was given to me by a friend's Spanish mum, hence the name.
If anyone else knows someone who claims not to be able to cook ask them to have a go at this recipe and send me a photo and/or comments to let me know how they get on.

Easy Spanish Chicken

Serves 4 but can be easily halved or doubled

4 chicken portions like the ones in the photo below or you could use 8 chicken thighs instead.
Salt and pepper
Two large peppers maybe a different colours
Two large onions
Two large potatoes (I leave these out to make it 'cleaner')
Two cloves of garlic (these are the small ‘segments’ from a whole bulb)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 head of broccoli
An oven
A large pan or dish which is oven proof
A knife
A chopping board
A tin opener
A wine glass
A saucepan
A strainer (if you have one)

Turn your oven on to pre-heat. You want the temperature to be 180C. If the oven is a fan oven you always have to put the temperature 20C less so it would need to be set to 160C. This is about 350F or Gas Mark 4
Take a large pan or dish, which is able to go in the oven. Something like a lasagne dish would be good. If you don’t have one large dish two smaller ones will do, but don’t be tempted to squash everything into one small one.
Get 4 chicken portions and place them in a single layer in the dish. Remember when handling chicken that you need to make sure that the raw chicken doesn’t touch anything that won’t be cooked so once you have put the chicken in the pan, wash your hands and anything the chicken has touched well.
Sprinkle salt and pepper over the chicken you want a pinch of each.
Cut the peppers in half and cut out the stalk out of the pepper and all of the seeds and throw these away. Take the pepper halves and cut each one into four roughly equal pieces. Scatter these on top of the chicken.
Peel the onions. This is easiest if you cut the top and bottom off the onion and then cut the onion in half first. Cut each half into 3 wedges. Scatter these on top of the chicken.
Cut the potatoes into half and cut each half into quarters scatter these on top of the chicken. There is no need to peel them.
Peel the garlic and chop it into small pieces. The smaller the better. You can also crush it a little with the flat side of a knife.
Take the lid off the tin of tomatoes and put them in a bowl, stir in the tomato puree and the garlic.
Spoon the tomato into 4-6 small piles around the chicken and vegetables and then carefully pour a small wine glass worth of water around the edge.
If the pan or dish you are using has a lid put it on. If not take a piece of tin foil and place it over the top and scrunch the sides to make sure it stays on.
Put the dish into the oven and set a timer for 1 hour. Check it about half way through by lifting up a corner of the foil. Be careful of the steam. If it looks dry add another wine glass full of water.
After 45 minutes take some broccoli and cut it into smaller pieces or ‘florets’ place it in a pan of boiling water and cook it for 3-5 minutes. I tend to boil the water in a kettle first for speed but you can boil the water in the pan just pop the lid on else it will take ages to boil. Drain the water off the broccoli using a strainer. If you don’t have one if you are careful you always fish them out with a spoon or fork.
After an hour take the chicken out of the oven and serve with the broccoli.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Pink Lady Apple Sorbet

I love fresh fruity sorbet's and ice creams. There used to be a fab little place in Ealing which sold a huge variety, but since it closed I've been missing my fix.

Although they did more interesting flavours I always really enjoyed their green apple sorbet so decided to have a go at recreating my own version.

I love Pink Lady apples. They are so much sweeter and juicier then most varieties of apple and as they are naturally so sweet it meant I had to add very little sugar.

This recipe is so simple. I started by making a apple purée as the base by cooking 8 apples chopped into rough chunks (pips, skin and all), adding 1 tbsp of caster sugar and the juice of half a lime for some zing plus a small glass of water and cooked until the apples were soft and starting to fall apart. I let it cool for a few minutes and then sieved the mixture to end up with a smooth purée which was a lovely pale pink colour without adding and food colouring. I popped the purée into the fridge to chill.

Once cold I churned in my ice cream maker until frozen.

I have one of the basic ice cream makers which you freeze the bowl and then churn the mixture until frozen. It's not great and I want to buy the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid but unfortunately I can't justify that at the moment. In the meantime it does the job! If you don't have an ice cream maker you can place the mixture in the freezer and give it a good stir every hour or so to break up the ice crystals.

Once frozen either eat immediately or pop into a freezer proof container and freeze until you want to use it.

I served the sorbet by piling spoonfuls into a glass and topping with a spring of mint. Such a lovely, light and relatively healthy pudding.

I am entering this into Kavey Eats Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream challenge this month, which has fruit at the theme.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Virtuous Red Velvet Cake

As much as I love red velvet cake I always question if it really is a good idea to use the best part of a bottle of food colouring purely for the visual effect.

Now this isn't a virtuous cake from the point of view of fat or calories or anything but rather because it uses all natural ingredients to achieve the colour rather than red food colouring.

I wasn't really sure where to start with this recipe other than thinking that beetroot and raspberries both made very red smoothies/juices so probably had a reasonable chance of replacing the colouring. I looked at lots of recipes for red velvet cake, carrot cake and chocolate and beetroot cakes. I also looked at Harry Eastwood's book as she uses a lot of vegetables.

None of them had a recipe for red velvet, with no food colouring so I made one up. The mixture was slightly wet so next time I might use less liquid and it isn't quite the same flavour so I think I'd use maybe 1 tbsp more of cocoa but I have to say I'm pleased with the over all result. In particular that I managed to get a good depth of colour with all natural ingredients.


Makes a 9" square cake plus an extra cup cake

10oz self raising cake flour
10oz caster sugar
8oz margarine (I always use stork)
4 eggs
1/4 pint whole milk
1/4 pint natural yoghurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1tsp vanilla bean extract
4oz raw beetroot, grated
4oz frozen raspberries, defrosted, blender and sieved to remove all seeds.

Measure the yoghurt, milk into a jug. Add the beetroot and raspberry purée and blitz with a hand blender until very smooth.

Beat together the margarine and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between each.

Add the flour, cocoa, baking powder, cream of tartar and blend.

Add the yoghurt mixture and stir well until combined.

I took a large spoonful of the mixture out to make a single cupcake. I did this so I could check the colour and also so I had some 'spare' to crumble for the decoration on the top.

Pour the rest of the mixture into a lined and greased tin and bake in an over pre-heated to 180C for about 40-50 mins (the cup cake will need to come out after 15-20 mins).

Once cooked remove from the oven and cool.

I iced the cake with a standard buttercream with cream cheese mixed in and the topped with crumbs of red velvet cake from the cupcake I made.

Here is the finished result

And the cupcake so you can see the colour achieved

I am going to submit this as part of the Alpha Bakes challenge from The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes. This months letter is V hence the Virtuous Red Velvet cake

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Chicken, tomato and flageolet beans

As I've mentioned before I try to replace simple carbs with beans or complex carbs for dinner. This is a fab meal when you need a filling but healthy dinner.

It's also all made in one pot and doesn't take that long to make. Butter beans also work well.


Serves two

2 chicken breasts
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tins of tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tin flageolet beans
A handful of green olives
A beef stock cube
A large bunch of basil, torn
A glug of balsamic vinegar
Parmesan, grated

In a heavy based frying pan start by browning the chicken on each side in a little oil. Add the onions and once softened add the garlic. After a few minutes add the remaining ingredients apart from the balsamic and basil. Add a wine glass full of water. If the pan has a lid put it on. Turn the heat down and cook for about 20 mins. Check the chick is done. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and most of the basil. Finish with the remaining basil and grated Parmesan. Serve with a green salad.

Here is the finished dish.

I am going to submit this recipe as part of the New June Herbs on Saturday blog challenge.

I love herbs and a you can see from previous posts I cook with then a lot. Since I've moved I have a small garden and am now the proud owner of a little herb garden. It's not much and I've focused on pretty standard herbs, but it's mine and I've been caring for it and watching it flourish and I'm proud of it (I have tried growing some Thai basil but as I type the little seedlings are curling up and giving up).

Simple herb and lemon risotto

This is such a simple risotto; creamy, comforting and restorative. It's amazing how so few ingredients can come together to make such a wonderful dish.

Feel free to experiment, add chicken or use red wine instead of white, the beauty of a risotto is that you can adapt it to whatever you have in the kitchen.

On this occasion though it was Friday night and I was eating on my own so I wanted something simple, plus I hadn't been shopping for a while so there were a limited choice of ingredients to choose from.

It's a great dish to make after a stressful week at work. I find the gradual adding of liquid and repetitive stirring somehow therapeutic. Add some gentle music and feel the tension melt out of your bones.


Serves one but can easily be doubled

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
Olive oil
A couple of handful's of risotto rice. I used arborio.
A small glass of white wine
Good quality chicken stock, heated up. I always make some after each roast chicken and keep it in the freezer
1/2 lemon, zest and juice. I always try to buy waitrose's as you seem to get some much more juice for your money from them
A large bunch of soft herbs such as parsley, mint, chives and basil, finely chopped
Plenty of Parmesan

In a heavy based pan sweat the onion off in a little olive oil. You're aiming to just soften them without adding colour. After a few minutes add the garlic, lemon zest and the risotto rice. Again keep the heat low. You're aiming to get no colour. Once the rice starts to turn translucent add the white wine and stir until it has absorbed. Add a ladle of hot chicken stock and stir until it has absorbed. Keep repeating this until the rice is softened but still al dente. This will take 30-40 mins. You don't need to stir all of the time but make sure you stir frequently. Patience is the name of the game. The slowly the stock is absorbed the creamier the end result is. If you want to cheat you can add an egg yolk and a spoonful of cream or creme fraiche but I prefer to leave this out.

Once cooked finish by stirring through herbs, lemon juice, a handful of parmesan and seasoning. Serve and top with a few extra herbs and extra Parmesan if desired.

Here are the herbs I used.

And this is the finished dish

I am going to submit this recipe as part of the New June Herbs on Saturday blog challenge.

I love herbs and a you can see from previous posts I cook with then a lot. Since I've moved I have a small garden and am now the proud owner of a little herb garden. It's not much and I've focused on pretty standard herbs, but it's mine and I've been caring for it and watching it flourish and I'm proud of it (I have tried growing some Thai basil but as I type the little seedlings are curling up and giving up).

Friday, 22 June 2012

Slow cooked shoulder of lamb

If I do say so myself this recipe is a stunner. It's one of those dishes which is far greater than a sum of its parts. It takes a very long time
to cook but the preparation is quick and easy and as I was hosting a little dinner party for friends directly after working a long day this was just the dish.

It's an adaptation of a James Martin recipe I found years ago on the BBC website. Over the years it's changed a little bit from the original.

You will need:
A shoulder of lamb
4 cloves of garlic
Half a tin of anchovies
4 sprigs of rosemary
A handful of thyme
2 bay leaves
300ml red wine (replace this with water to make it 'cleaner')
300ml water
2 tins tomatoes
2 tins butter beans (leave these out to make it Paleo)
3 tbsp tomato purée
One beef stock cube

Serves 4-6

I start by taking a shoulder of lamb and making deep incisions all over the joint. In each incision I put a piece of anchovy, a few of rosemary leaves and a slice of garlic. For a whole shoulder I'd use about 8 anchovy fillets, two large garlic cloves and a couple of sprigs of rosemary.

I then heat up some oil in a large my oven proof pan which also had a lid and sear the meat on both sides. Once browned remove from the heat and in the juices gently fry 2 chopped onions and 2 cloves of sliced garlic. Add a bunch of thyme, a couple of sprigs of rosemary and a couple of bay leaves (preferably fresh. I get mine from my friends garden).

Once the onion is translucent and golden, place the shoulder of lamb back in the pan and add about 300ml red wine, two tins of chopped tomatoes, two tins of butter beans, about 3 tablespoons of tomato purée, a beef stock cube (I use Kallo as it doesn't contain MSG) a small amount of salt (as the anchovies and stock are both salty), plenty of black pepper and about 300ml water.

Give it a good stir, put the lid on and place in an oven pre-heated to 140C. Cook for 8-12 hours checking occasionally to stir the mixture and add more water if it starts I get more dry. When you remove from the oven spoon off any excess fat. By this point it is so soft and unctuous that I serve it in the pan it was cooked in and simply use a couple of forks to pull apart the meat.

The original recipe serves it with mash but as it has the beans in the sauce I just serve with mixed green veg. In this case I blanched some green beans, sugar snap peas and asparagus and then drained them and dressed them with lemon juice, rapeseed oil and chopped mint.

The beautiful lamb...

I am going to submit this recipe as part of the New June Herbs on Saturday blog challenge.

I love herbs and a you can see from previous posts I cook with then a lot. Since I've moved I have a small garden and am now the proud owner of a little herb garden. It's not much and I've focused on pretty standard herbs, but it's mine and I've been caring for it and watching it flourish and I'm proud of it (I have tried growing some Thai basil but as I type the little seedlings are curling up and giving up).

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Christchurch Food Festival

I have been meaning to write up this post for a while, but life has got in the way. A couple of weeks ago my mum and I went to the Christchurch food festival in Dorest. It's a well established festival and has a food market and various events. On the Saturday there were various demo's and we attended two. The first was Paul Potts from local restaurant Splinters and the second was the lovely James Martin.

Paul Potts made the following recipes:

Seabass fillet on tomato and red onion tarte tatin

Pan fry 5 cherry tomatoes, halved, season, add basil oil and chopped red onion and put into a 4 inch flan dish. You can arrange the tomatoes to all face the same way if you like. Top with a circle of puff pastry and bake in a hot oven for about 15 mins until golden.

Take a fillet of sea bass and at the wide end cut out a 'V' shape. This should remove any stray bones. Sear the fish in a hot pan, skin side down. Once brown and crispy turn over and top with a knob of butter.

Turn out the tart, top with the sea bass and drizzle with basil oil and a little balsamic vinegar and garnish with pea shoots.

Tuna Warm Salad Nicoise with Basil Oil

Boil 6 asparagus spears for a couple of minutes. Add a handful of sugar snaps to warm through. You want them to still retain their crunch. Whilst they are cooking fry 3 cooked new potatoes, cut in half, a few cherry tomatoes (roasted if desired) and a few olives.

Make a dressing of 3 parts oil, one part white wine vinegar, wholegrain mustard, chopped parsley, chives and seasoning.

Season a tuna steak, sear in a little oil. Only cook for a few minutes on each side as it is best served pink. Add a knob of butter to the top and put to one side to rest.

Serve the vegetables, dressed with the vinegarette and topped with seared tuna and pea shoots.

Scallop and Bacon Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts

Remove the roe from the scallops and the little muscle. Add a little oil to a hot pan and fry the scallops and some strips of bacon.

Julienne (finely shred) a carrot, courgette and half a leek. Add the fried strips of bacon, salad leaves, vinegarette and seasoning and toss. Top with the scallops and a drizzle of basil oil.

Scallops with Curried Parsnip and Apple Puree

Prepare the scallops as above.

Fry some cooked parsnips and apple together, add a little curry powder and seasoning and stock and blend to a smooth puree.

Serve by placing each scallop on a spoonful of puree.

James Martin made the following recipes:

Pea and Watercress Soup

Sweat one crushed clove of garlic and 1 finely shredded shallot in a some butter.

Bring some chicken or vegetable stock to the boil and add a glass of white wine. Add, a bunch of parsley, the garlic and shallot, a bag of watercress (holding back a few sprigs for garnish). frozen peas and seasoning. Blend.

Boil and egg in water for 5.5 minutes. Peel the egg carefully. Dip in flour, then beaten egg and then breadcrumbes and deep fry until golden.

Blanch some asparagus and then warm through in a little butter.

Serve the soup, topped with the asparagus and the egg with the top cut off, a sprig of water cress and a piece of crispy bacon.

Lamb Salad

Blanch some asparagus and put in iced water.

Remove the sinew from a loin of lamb and quicklysear in a pan in rapeseed oil. The pop it into a hot oven for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour over some sweet chilli sauce and put to one side to rest.

Make a pickle from some chopped radishes, the blanched asparagus, chopped cucumber, shallots, turnip (sliced on a mandolin), lime zest and then pour over a dressing made by putting white wine vinegar, a big pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt and the juice of a lime in a hot pan.

Serve by placing the pickle on a plate. Topped with slices of the lamb, a few sprigs of watercress and a few mint leaves. Drizzle with rapeseed oil.

Summer Pudding

Take a dariole mould or a tea cup and line with cling film. Cut the crusts off some cheap white bread and cut circles for the bottom of the mould and strips for the side.

Blend some fresh strawberries with some frozen berries, icing sugar and a little water and sieve to make a sauce, dip the bread in the sauce and line the mould. Mix more fresh strawberries with frozen berries and basil and squash into the mould, add a spoonful of clotted cream to the mould and top with a rough of bread dipped in the sauce. Release from the mould and drizzle over the rest of the sauce. Top with fresh berries, a clotted cream quenelle, a basil leaf, a dusting of icing sugar and some sugar work. You can make a sugar swirl by wrapping cooled sugar syrup around a steel (for a smaller one) or a rolling pin (for a larger one).

Jubilee Flag Cake

My dad made a cake. This should be headline news. I think I have seen him in the kitchen cooking about 3 times in my entire life and at least one of them involved a tin of bake beans!

He was given instructions, but still made it all on his own and it really was pretty good!

It was fashioned on Mary Berry's Flag Traybake but just with a standard sponge.

He mixed 24oz margarine with 24oz caster sugar, 24oz self raising flour, 12 eggs and 6 tsp of baking powder and poured it into a large roasting pan. It took almost an hour to cook at 180C.

He then made a basic butter cream with 16oz butter and about 16oz icing sugar and a splash of milk.

Once the cake was cool he spread the icing all over the top and placed raspberries and blueberries on it in a union jack pattern.