Monday, 29 February 2016

Warwickshire restaurant kickstarter project!

I recently came across this kickstarter project for a new restaurant in Warwickshire. We could always do with some more restaurants in the local area and I'm happy to support a local business, so please find below a video and more info about the project.

There is only 7 days to go until the kickstarter finishes, so do check it out:

Pledges start from £10 and the money will only be taken if the kickstarter reaches its goal of £100,000. There are various rewards for backing the project. Personally, I like the sound of the handmade luxury truffles! If you want to know more about the project, you can check out the wesbite:, or follow Paul Foster on Twitter or Instagram.

Happy kickstarting!

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Wednesday 24th February: 15-minute chicken pasta

This 15-minute chicken pasta recipe is wonderful for creating something quick, healthy and tasty after work. Farfalle (bow-ties) is also my favourite kind of pasta, but I usually use whatever I have in the cupboards: in this instance, penne. I tend to use lemon juice rather than orange juice because I always have a stock of lemons in the fridge. And I don't always add the flaked almond, but it does add a nice crunch and flavour. To save time if you're in a hurry, buy ready toasted flaked almonds. I also often add some sliced mushrooms in with the chicken while I'm cooking it - chestnut mushrooms probably work best, but really any mushrooms will do.

Decided to take a photo with my proper camera for once...

Tuesday 23rd February: Spicy root & lentil casserole

Another busy week (there seems to be a bit of a theme developing lately...), but I was determined to do some cooking this week.

I had some slightly old parsnips and carrots in the fridge, and this spicy root and lentil casserole is a favourite of mine for using up carrots and parsnips. I like the way the parsnip and potato take on the flavours of the curry powder. I use Sharwood's medium curry powder, which is a really nice and fragrant blend of spices. It's a good way of using up root veg and a good way to get some of your five a day.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Sunday 21st February: Mustard pork fillet with roast vegetables

I'm a bit disappointed with how little I've cooked over the last week (I don't really count stir fry kits or ready made veggie burgers as proper cooking - certainly nothing to blog about, anyway), but I guess that's just how some weeks go. It was a tiring one.

I was determined to do at least some proper cooking at the weekend to make up for it. And I finally managed to use up that pork fillet that's been sitting in the freezer for ages. Let's be honest, a pork fillet isn't as exciting as a lovely bit of pork belly, but it's healthier, blah, blah, blah. I tried my best to jazz it up a bit.

I based it on this recipe from BBC Good Food, but I went more with a mustard-y theme, rather than a herb-y theme. I mixed 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard with a few squeezes of lemon juice, and coated the pork fillet in that rather than the herb mixture. I used carrots, parsnips and a large potato as the accompanying veg (sadly, I didn't have any apples - an apple would have been very nice with this). I also added a splash (about 100ml) of wine when I added the chicken stock.

Actually, it was pretty good. Definitely one of the tastiest bits of pork fillet I've ever cooked. I'll definitely be cooking it again. The sliced pork made a lovely sandwich the next day too.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Saturday 20th February: Foil fish parcels

Due to a online grocery shopping cock up, we didn't get our usual Saturday morning delivery, so I was a little short on ingredients on Saturday evening (I forgot to check an order out earlier in the week, lost the time slot, and didn't realise until Friday evening, when it was too late to book for Saturday morning... So, we had to go for Sunday morning instead).

No matter, though, as I had some haddock fillets in the freezer which I'd been able to defrost in the fridge overnight. (I usually try and avoid buying unsustainable fish, but the label on the packet assured me that these were MSC-certified...).

One of my favourite ways to cook white fish is to cook them in fish parcels, and this recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall does the job nicely. I did mine with plenty of sliced garlic, dried chilli flakes and soy sauce and served with carrots, peas and rice.

There also used to be a very similar recipe on the River Cottage website which included frying some sliced fennel and adding to the parcel, but they appear to have revamped their website and I can no longer locate it. But the fennel is also a nice addition to the fish parcel recipe.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Sunday 14th February: Pancakes & Haagen Dazs review

We don't 'do' Valentine's day. But we do tend to celebrate our 'House-iversary' on 14th February. It was the day we moved into our home 3 years ago.

It seems fitting that much of the day was spent clearing this corner of the garden. One of our shrubs keeled over recently and it needed clearing, and we also did a good amount of chopping back of other trees and shrubs in that corner, and have at last created some space. It was hard work, but I was pleased with a job well done.

Corner of the garden which used to be much bushier...

After the tiring garden work, I didn't much fancy spending ages in the kitchen. And as we had missed pancake day earlier in the week, I went for a pancake themed dinner for our House-iversary. For our main meal we had duck and pancakes courtesy of Gressingham. It's a very neat and tasty kit. I just added some cucumber and spring onions, and we had ourselves a scrumptious meal.

Then for pudding I made pancakes and we had them with lemon and sugar and Haagen Dazs ice cream. I was fortunate enough to be given some Haagen Dazs vouchers for review purposes, specifically to review their Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream. Now, I have to admit Strawberry Cheesecake flavour wouldn't normally be my go-to ice cream. Because everyone knows that chocolate is the best ice cream flavour. But this was pretty good - I liked the crunchy biscuit pieces in the ice cream and the strawberry sauce. And it went pretty well with the pancakes. It's still not my favourite Haagen Dazs flavour (that would of course be Belgian Chocolate), but it was good to try a different flavour for once.

Haagen Dazs Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream on a homemade pancake
I also feel I ought to mention my pancake recipe, even though recipe seems like a bit of an exaggeration. A chef friend of mine once told me how to make batter and I've followed this method ever since. First of all, you don't measure anything. For the pancakes I used two eggs, beaten with a whisk. I added the flour gradually, mixing with the whisk, until the texture was meringue-like (i.e. enough to form peaks). I then added milk and whisk that in until it was about the consistency of double cream. Works for pancakes, toad in the hole and Yorkshire puddings.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Saturday 13th February: Mushroom Chasseur

Mushrooms are one of my favourite things to eat. They are so versatile and I love the way they absorb the flavours of other ingredients. I usually have a stock of them in the fridge.

I also think they are just generally amazing. They are neither fruit, vegetable nor meat. And some of them are of course deadly poisonous. But luckily not the ones I was using for this recipe.

Anyway, this Mushroom Chasseur recipe by Jack Monroe is amazing, and perfect for a cold winter Saturday night in in front of the telly (we are currently watching binge-watching season 7 of Castle, which generally just gets sillier and sillier). I used large flat mushrooms in mine.

I have made this a few times and unusually for me, I tend to stick to the recipe with this one. It uses simple ingredients, but it's so flavourful. I usually remove the lid towards the end of cooking time (maybe for about 15 minutes) to let the sauce reduce a bit more, though. I can confirm that it is definitely worth letting it simmer for the full hour - I've tried to take a short-cut a couple of times before and cook it only for half an hour or 45 minutes, and it just doesn't taste as good. It really needs the full hour to let those flavours develop.

Served with lots of fluffy mashed potato this time, but it also goes will with rice or pasta.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Monday 8th February: Lighter Lancashire hotpot

Anticipating a busy week ahead, I actually cooked this on Sunday and then re-heated for Monday night's dinner. The recipe was from BBC Good Food, but I made a few of my own alterations.

I adjusted quantities and just made enough for two people (I had 350g lamb shoulder). I also added a chopped leek (I still had leeks to use up) and I used lamb stock instead of chicken stock. It may not be a true Lancashire hotpot, but it was delicious. Even if I did give myself a blister from gripping the knife handle too tightly while chopping the rest of the damn swede...

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Saturday 6th February: Root vegetable & quinoa stew

I've been buying a lot of root veg lately. It's in season and in my mind it suits the drizzly, cold weather. Sure, I'm looking forward to all the summer veggies, but there's something comforting about a big bowl of winter root vegetables.

Last week I'd bought a swede. I like the taste of swede, but I always get part way through chopping a swede and think, why did I buy a swede? They are a bugger to prepare.

The result of having a busy/tiring week meant that I ended the week with quite a lot of fresh veg still sitting expectantly in the salad drawer of the fridge. So, on Saturday evening I thought I'd better do something about it.

Winter veggies can be colourful too...

It was also my first time cooking a dish with quinoa, which is all the rage at the moment, I understand. I have to admit I cheated, though, and bought ready cooked quinoa. We all have to start somewhere.

Serves 2

1 tsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, sliced
1 leek, sliced into chunks
1/2 a swede, peeled and cut into cubes (good luck)
1 large carrot, peeled, sliced in half and then cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp cumin seeds
pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp tomato puree
700ml vegetable stock
250g cooked quinoa and puy lentils (this came as a packet from Waitrose - but you could also use just quinoa or just puy lentils)
salt and pepper to season

Heat the oil in a saucepan, and chuck in the veg. Cook gently, stirring until it has started to soften. Add the herbs and spices, and cook for a minute or two more, stirring. Add the tomato puree, stir, and cook for another minute. Add the vegetable stock, bring to the boil and then simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the cooked quinoa and cook for another 5 minutes.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Thursday 4th February: Chicken, leeks, sweetcorn & tomatoes

February arrived with its usual gloom. I had a very tiring first week back at work after our week's holiday, so I didn't cook much, but managed to knock up this reasonable chicken dish on Thursday. It wasn't massively exciting to be honest (this blog is not just meant to be about the roaring successes!), but it helped me use up a few bits towards the end of the week.

Serves 2

1 tsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes/strips
2 medium-sized leeks, sliced fairly thinly
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 195g tin of sweetcorn, drained and rinsed

Heat the oil, then add the onions and cook gently for a few minutes. Add the chicken and cook until brown all over. Add the leeks, garlic and herbs. Give a good stir, and cook for a few minutes more. Add the tomatoes and the Worcestershire sauce, then simmer for 15 minutes or until the leeks are nice and soft and the chicken is cooked through. Add the sweetcorn and cook for another 5 minutes.

Serve with rice.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Sunday 24th January: Spiced chilli chickpeas

A couple of weeks ago, we were on holiday (it seems like a million years ago now, though). We stayed in Hampshire near the New Forest, close to the Dorset and Wiltshire borders. We had fun exploring Bournemouth, Salisbury and the New Forest. We visited a brewery and a vineyard and brought back some beers and some lovely English wines. We also had a lot of lovely pub meals - our favourite being the Rose and Thistle in Rockbourne, Hampshire. It had a real log fire and the chocolate and pear tart was to die for.

A view of Bournemouth

Sunrise over Hampshire on a frosty day

However, we were staying in a self-catering property, so I also cooked on a couple of days. I ended up taking a few ingredients from home - stuff that would travel, so a few tins of things and some spices etc. The first Sunday there we had a lazy day in: I did some colouring in, and watched The Good Wife - it was a very relaxing day.

As we weren't inclined to wander outside that day, I thought I'd cook something for dinner. With a few basic ingredients, I put together this sort of spiced chilli chickpea dish.

Serves 2

1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs
pinch of chilli flakes
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to season

Heat the oil, and cooked the onion and carrots over a low-medium heat, until starting to soften. Add the garlic, herbs and spices, stir and cook for a further minute or so. Add the chopped tomatoes, bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Add the chickpeas and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper to taste.

I served ours with brown rice, but cous cous would work well too, I think.