Wednesday, 28 April 2010


Last week I'd had a pretty stressful week, so I did what any sane homecook would do and bought myself a new cookbook. I bought the River Cottage Everyday cookbook because I love the TV show and spend most days day-dreaming of becoming a Dorset small-holder.

Anyway, as I have failed to organise my time sufficiently to make all those loaves of homemade bread I dream of making, the idea of making flatbreads appealed. They are really quick and pretty easy to make - the dough only needs 15 minutes to rest and once rolled-out, a couple of minutes in a hot pan, et voila! You don't even need to use strong bread flour or yeast; just bog-standard plain white flour, some water, some olive oil and some salt.

Here I am cooking a couple. I ruined the first one because the pan wasn't hot enough and it went rubbery and not very nice.

My one complaint about the recipe is that there is way too much salt in it for my palate. I will definitely be using less next time! Still, I was proud of my achievement and I can see these being really versatile. I served mine with my dinner of salad (with homegrown salad leaves) and a Higgidy mushroom and spinach pie (the latter was ok).

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Hobz biz Zejt (with homegrown salad leaves)

I haven't been posting much lately because life has been very hectic for the past few weeks. Things are happening on the balcony garden, though and I have started harvesting some of my baby salad leaves. Today I had some for lunch.

It's a take on Hobz biz Zejt - a Maltese delicacy. My baby salad leaves added a nice crunch!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Meal plan

I've started using a mini-white board stuck to our fridge-freezer to plan our meals for the week. It's really handy as it reminds me what I need to get out the freezer the night before. My darling fiancé has also started using it to score the meals I make.

Wonder how I'll fare for the rest of the week.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Balcony Garden update!

Time for an update on my gardening endeavours. Mostly pictoral.

Salad leaves


And things happening outside! These are my radish seedlings. I've sowed carrots in the same pot too, but no sign of those yet. Very excited about my radishes, though!

Cooking disasters: Corned Beef Casserole

I nearly began this post with the picture of the Corned Beef Casserole I cooked on Tuesday night, but decided it might put people off from reading any further.

Recently I bought two old cookbooks from a second hand bookshop. One of them was an American book, first printed in 1942.
I decided that as an "experiment" I would cook something from the book. This book not only has 1300 tested recipes, but also contains cooking and nutritional advice. Did you know that vitamin B1 is "For good appetite, good digestion and steady nerves"?

I decided to go for Corned Beef Casserole because I already had most of the ingredients and would just need a tin of corned beef. My mum used to make Corned Beef Casserole but it was completely different to the one in this book: it had corned beef, baked beans and potatoes in it and it was one of my favourite dinners as a child. This version of Corned Beef Casserole, however, contains the following:

4 cups cooked rice
2 cups cubed cooked or canned corned beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 No. 2 can (or 2 1/2 cups cooked) tomatoes (no idea what a "no. 2 can" is, so I just used a standard 400g tin of tomatoes)
1 tsp salt
Few grains pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Now, first things first, I can't deal with working in cups. This tends to be why I avoid American recipes. We have cup measures, but I don't understand in my head how much each thing is, so I can't visualise what 2 cups of corned beef looks like, unlike when I work in grams or litres etc. I can even work in pounds and ounces better than I can work in cups. Cups give me a headache. Especially when they ask for something like "1/4 cup chopped onion". Why can't it just say 1 small onion or something? That makes much more sense to me.

Secondly, 1 tsp of salt when you're already using salty canned corned beef is an awful lot. I would never normally put that much salt in any of my cooking, but for the purposes of the "experiment", I did. I could feel my arteries shrivelling in horror as I did it.

Everything was put into a casserole dish (for some reason you were meant to put alternate layers of rice and beef and then mixed the rest of the ingredients and pour over the top) and then cooked for 30 minutes. Here was the result:

It tasted like ass. It was so salty, I couldn't get the taste out of my mouth for hours after eating some of it. I served it with some nice bread and butter and we both agreed that the bread and butter was tastier than the dinner. The dinner tasted of corned beef and salt. If you like those two things, go ahead and cook this. If, however, you are sane and have tastebuds, please don't put yourself through the trauma.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Great Pasty Adventure

On Bank Holiday Monday, making Mini Egg Tiffin wasn't enough. No, I decided that I HAD to make Pasties. I got the idea in my head when browsing through Nigel Slater's Tender looking for something to do with swede. And when I get one of my schemes in my head, there is very little that will prevent me from following through with it.

The recipe makes 6 pasties, which I thought would be fine, imagining them to be small pasties – my fiancé and I could have a couple each for dinner and then one each for lunch the next day. Perfect!

This pastry required me, for the first time in my life, to buy some lard. I have never bought lard before, mostly because my reaction to it is, "Ewwwww, lard!". Anyway, I bit the bullet and purchased the lard and some more butter, which was also required.

I duly froze the butter and lard for a good hour before use and then came the grating. I had to grate the frozen butter and lard into the flour. Dear God, it was hard work. And while this was going on I was boiling the chopped potatoes and swede and frying the onions and beef for the filling. I am not usually very good at co-ordinating lots of things at the same time when cooking (contrary to the popular belief that women are fantastic at multi-tasking), but I (mostly) stayed in control of the situation.

As an aside, I ended up buying beef shin instead of beef skirt – because that's what happens when you decide to cook something at the last minute on bank holiday Monday and you have to purchase your meat from the supermarket – and it worked perfectly well. I was worried about it being too tough at the end of cooking, but it was lovely and tender.

Assembling the pasties was quite fiddly and I wasn't very neat at all with it. My work surface in my kitchen is so small, that I didn't have room to roll out all six balls of pastry at once, so I had to work in batches. I also wasn't able to use a round plate to guide me because all the plates we own are square. Once all the pasties were made and I put them on the oven trays ready for baking, I realised the enormity of what I'd done.

Yeah, I made six of those. There are only two of us in my household. Overcatering, much?

I was tired by the time it came to brush them with egg, so the browning ended up quite uneven. But they still tasted good, if lacking a little in pepper (when you only have a small pepper mill, there is only so much grinding you can do...). I served one each with chips.

We donated two to family and then had one each for lunch the next day. They were even tasty cold and I was quite impressed by how well they stayed together!

According to Nigel Slater they're not proper Cornish Pasties because in this recipe the filling is cooked first, whereas in a traditional Cornish Pasty the filling should be placed in the pastry raw and then the whole thing cooked.

Not bad for a first attempt though, eh?

Monday, 5 April 2010

Mini Egg Tiffin

When I saw that Jam and Clotted Cream had posted a recipe for this Mini Egg Tiffin (originally posted by Butcher, Baker), I knew I had to make it this weekend, especially as it's a "no-bake" recipe and my fiancé absolutely loves Mini Eggs. Fortunately they still had some left in Sainsbury's this morning.

It was the first time I've ever broken digestive biscuits using a rolling pin to use in a recipe, and it felt a little like a rite of passage. Crushing mini eggs with the rolling pin was fun too, although this distressed my fiancé who felt I was "destroying" the mini eggs. He agreed that it was worth it in the end though.

As you can see, mine does not look that neat, but it was very yummy all the same! In fact, it is quite rich and not a good idea to eat too much in one go.

Follow the links above for the recipe. And try not to eat too much and make yourselves sick. You have been warned!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Happy Easter and an award!

First of all, Happy Easter, everyone! However you celebrate it and whatever you are doing today, I hope you have a wonderful day.

Secondly, I've been passed an award by Luigi of Luigi's Tastes of Italy. I'm glad that he enjoys my blog and in the spirit of the award, I thought I'd pass it on to highlight some of the blogs that I enjoy too.

The Sunshine Award is given to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blog world. Here are the "rules":
* Put the logo on your blog or within your post.  Pass the award on to as many as 12 bloggers.
    * Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog
    * Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.
    * Link to the nominees within your post.

Like Luigi, I don't think I will comment on people's blogs: I'm just going to use this award to write briefly about the blogs which inspire me. I know I've done a similar thing before, but I've started following some new blogs since then, so it's always good to update! So, here they are, in no particular order.

1. A Taste of Savoie
Sarah who writes this blog is currently attending the Cordon Bleu School of Cookery in France. A fascinating read!

2. Butcher, Baker
Butcher, Baker are a husband and wife team writing about fantastic, delicious-looking food. The most recent update about how to make your own cheese press is inspired!

3. Chocolate Log Blog
For all things chocolate, you won't find a better blog than this!

4. Comida Y Vida
I am including this one in the hope it will encourage Louise to write more in it! Louise has a passion for Spanish food and is a fellow West Midlands-based blogger.

5. Farmersgirl Kitchen
A wide variety of recipes and updates about the development of Janice's brand new kitchen.

6. Horror Kitchen
One of the funniest food blogs I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Documents kitchen genius as well as kitchen disasters, with some inspired ingredient combinations along the way.

7. In the Kitchen, etc.
By Jen, an American blogger. I love reading and learning about the differences between British and American food culture!

8. Jam and Clotted Cream
Great recipes and info about local food events in Cornwall. Makes me wish I lived in the West Country!

9. Jo's Kitchen
Jo is a fellow Midlands-based blogger who is doing a stellar job promoting food bloggers in the Midlands. A wide variety of scrummy recipes on this blog.

10. Norfolk Kitchen
I love following Tracey's adventures in allotment growing. I lived in Norfolk for a time and this blog makes me pine for the flatlands!

11. Serenely Full
An amusing collection of recipes, observations, pictures and video. Love the MasterChef innuendoes!

12. The London Vegetable Garden
Helped inspire me to start my own balcony garden. Well worth checking out if you like to grow your own.

13. Where's My Pork Chop?
A unique take on a food blog, where Food Urchin asks other food bloggers to cook him food, he eats it then writes about it. A witty and interesting blog.

14. Loaf Online
Great information about local food in the Birmingham area and also home of the Loaf Cookery School.

I realise that is more than 12... Also, don't forget to check out Luigi's Tastes of Italy - his blog is great if you like authentic Italian food!