Saturday 31 January 2009

SCC takes precendence

Apologies for the lack of post yesterday. Time grew short during the day and an important SCC meeting couldn't be missed in the evening! SCC, for those of you not involved, stands for Swansea Curry Club. Food usually sets the tone for these evenings, and, this being a food blog, you'd be expecting the curries to be the 'star' of this particular post. Last night, however, too much chatting and general merriment reigned, so a thorough analysis will have to wait until the next event, from which I will give you a detailed food review!

The meeting was a reunion of all those who attended the annual conference, held this time in Goa. As usual, the atmosphere was one of bubbly enthusiasm, excitement and anticipation at the prospect of the main presentation and we were not to be disappointed. Our host had excelled himself; the conference room itself was fantastically equipped and all enjoyed reminiscing over those halcyon days, waiting (some longer than others!) for the fish to bite. Food, as is usual at these events, was organised very well, thanks to Stuart / Matt and our host. The local Indian take-away provided more food than we could shake a stick at and in particular, several members found the green chilli madras worthy of note! (Click here for a recipe.) Despite having to leave earlier than most - you just don't know when that last train to Benelux will depart - and my lack of drinking ability, I'd like to congratulate all involved in hosting yet another successful SCC event.

Now, onto other matters. Thursday night's tea! A simple recipe, quick to whip up in a short time: Salmon Parcels. Take a fillet of salmon and place in the centre of a large piece of foil. Mix up a couple of spoonfuls of wholegrain mustard with a large dollop of creme fraiche. Spoon over the salmon, then fold foil loosely around it. Easy. I served it with savoury rice.

Thursday 29 January 2009


As you know, I live from one meal to the next and am, generally, always thinking about food! The book I'm currently reading is, also, based around the nutritious stuff: Julie and Julia; My Year of Cooking Dangerously, by Julie Powell. It documents her year trying to cook her way through an old classic - Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Childs. I must admit, I'm a little disappointed: The food and adventures sound great, such as the first time she flips a pancake successfully (can you believe that someone can reach the age of 30 without flipping a pancake? No, neither could I!) and are very interesting. A couple of times I've laughed out loud, but on the whole, it's really not that well written. For a start, I didn't expect her to be American, (don't ask me why but I presumed the author was British) and therefore, because cooking is quite a specialised subject, the vocabulary is also quite unusual. It's still recognisable, but I think American cooking is, on the whole, very different from British cooking - not for the worse, or better, but just...different. Only a few chapters left to go so I'll keep you updated!

Talking of foods from around the world...last night was Raclette. For those of you who haven't heard of this, Raclette is actually a hard Swiss cheese, but also a 'dish'! The idea is you chop up mountains of vegetables into thin strips, add any bacon / prosciutto / pre-cooked cubes of potatoes / herbs / creme fraiche - really whatever you'd like, and grated Raclette. If you can't find Raclette, a Mature Cheddar, Gruyere or Emmental will do the trick.

Now comes the fun part - the cooking! It's sort of a DIY 'at the table' barbeque! There's a little portable electric grill with a hot plate - sometimes a hot stone - on the top. The idea is that you choose your mix of ingredients, cook it lightly on top, then put into the little pans, sprinkle with cheese and pop under the grill part of the machine. You can be as inventive as you'd like with the ingredients and even use it to cook kebabs, but I'd suggest the cubes of meat weren't too chunky.

A demain,
Merlotti x

Wednesday 28 January 2009


Erm - this was all that was left of the cakes I made two nights ago. It's taken me until now to 'fess up' about them as I forgot to take pictures so desperate was I to eat them ;) I was longing for something sweet to eat and didn't have anything in, but I did have one egg - it's amazing what you can knock up with things from the cupboard! We didn't even wait for them to cool once out of the oven, wolfing down three each within as many minutes.

Three Little Pigs!

Dinner was lovely - much better than expected! The pork rolls needed quite a lot of holding together with cocktail sticks, but tasted scrummy - the pan-frying first really helped develop the flavour. We didn't have pasta or potato with it but a simple rocket and watercress salad with a honey and mustard dressing.

Three Little Pigs

pork escalopes
apple sauce - you could even make your own!
cinnamon and nutmeg

Honey and Mustard Dressing

wholegrain mustard
olive oil
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

For the pork, mix a sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon to the apple sauce and stir well.
Spread a little onto each escalope and cover with a thin layer of grated cheese.
Season and, here comes the difficult part, roll, try to keep all the stuffing inside! Seal with cocktail sticks but don't forget to tell the guests to take them all out!
Pan fry to seal the meat, then place into a hot over for about 10-15 minutes.

For the dressing, put a dollop of the mustard, a squeeze of the honey, a large splash or two of oil and a smaller splosh of the vinegar into a jar.
Add salt and pepper, screw the lid on tight and shake!
Pour over the salad and drizzle over the pork.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Busy, busy, busy...

Will have no time later so am checking in now instead. Hoping to fit in a 'quick make' tonight, between tutoring, arriving home and going to orchestra! I've got some pork escalopes from the other night still in the fridge, so thought I might combine them with spiced apple sauce. I'm hoping to add a little spice to the (shop bought) apple sauce, layer on top of the escalope with grated cheese, roll and secure with a cocktail stick before pan frying for colour and finishing off in the oven for a few minutes. Might have a baked potato with it for ease, or maybe some herby buttered pasta with veg.

Will let you know how it all goes when I have more time!

Monday 26 January 2009

Buenas Nachos!

Or 'Buenas Noches' as they say in Mexico! A quick tea tonight with Nachos followed by Fajitas. Again, a cheat was in order in terms of a jar of salsa to go over the nachos. I do often make my own to try to reduce salt / sugar and artificial gloop, but was too hungry by the time we arrived home at 8!

Simple Salsa

jar chopped tomatoes / passata
mixed herbs
pepper - chopped finely
onions - chopped finely
chilli and garlic to taste

Gently fry off the peppers and onions, and garlic if desired.
When softened, mix together with the other ingredients and pour over the nachos.
Sprinkle grated cheese over the top and bake for about 10 minutes at 180 degrees.

Fajitas were simply Mexican seasoning, strips of beef, peppers and onions, all wrapped tightly in soft tortilla and smeared with soured cream.

Thanks must go to my boyfriend, though, who cooked a delicious tuna steak last night. He marinated it in lemon juice and crushed peppercorns before pan frying on both sides. He seared it until the outside was coloured and flavoursome, then served it up on a bed of 'bottom of the fridge rice salad'. (See post from 23.01.09 for recipe - it tastes yummier than it sounds!)
Thanks hun!

Sunday 25 January 2009

Life's Too Short for Making Mayonnaise

As the title suggests, I may have cheated when making the mayonnaise - cheated as in, didn't make any of it, apart from adding a squeeze of lemon! It was delicious, however, so thanks to the River Cottage shop in Axeminster who supplied the jar of aioli, or garlic mayonnaise. It's a good job life's too short as the cat had most of it anyway, getting too close to my boyfriend's plate, cooly dipping in his paw, then proceeding to cavort around the lounge, leaving mayonnaise paw-prints as he went (the cat, not the boyfriend!) He now thinks it might be nice if he apologies by snuggling up as close to my laptop as possible, whilst sitting on both arms as I write!

The Pot au Feux were delicious, but I would suggest only putting them under a hot grill rather than back in the oven if you want a slightly runny yolk!

As for the schnitzel, they went very well, but as suspected, the meal was quite dry and would have benefitted from a sauce of some sort - maybe sweet chilli?! Other suggestions welcome. Jamie (Oliver, hitherto simply known as Jamie!) suggests a spiced apple sauce. The recipe is very basic: buy good quality pork escalopes, coat them in plain flour, then beaten egg, then breadcrumbs ( again, I cheated and bought mine in a packet, but they're very easy to make: just lightly toast, then crumble some bread or break up a few slices into a coffee grinder or electric chopper!) Heat a good few slugs of oil into a heavy based frying pan, wait until hot, and fry for a couple of minutes each side. If it's good quality pork it doesn't matter if it's slightly pink still in the middle - honest! The colcannon is simply finely chopped leeks and cabbage, fried off in a little butter and added to mashed potato with a little more butter and milk.

And for today? We're having the extra Pot au Feux I made yesterday for lunch and then tuna steak, which my boyfriend is cooking this evening.

Saturday 24 January 2009

Pot au Feu Smoked Haddock

Firstly, I've added a new comments section on the right hand side, so you have a choice at the moment as to where / how to leave your ideas! I'll see how it works!

There's nothing better is there, than curling up with a good book. Especially when its a cookery book and you've got all weekend to have a go! That's what I've done this morning, and I've at least decided on dinner for this evening. The need to make Pot of Feu is still there so that's what I'll begin with. Ensuite, I thought I'd keep it simple with pork shnitzel, colcannon (or mash with cabbage / bubble and squeak!) and lemon aioli.

I invented the haddock recipe after visiting a local restaurant that had this as one of their starters.

Pot au Feu Smoked Haddock

Smoked Haddock
baby spinach

Ok - start by poaching the haddock in a little milk until just cooked. It's going to go back in the oven so you don't want it too cooked, if that makes sense! Use the milk to make a roux - mix a little butter and flour into a paste in a pan, put over high heat and add the milk from the haddock a little at a time, whisking well after each addition. Continue until you have a smooth mixture that coats the whisk and is the consistency you'd like for your pots. Add more milk if necessary.
Add the spinach to wilt, and some of grated cheese to this sauce. Season with salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon if you'd like, and add some chopped dill to taste.
Flake the haddock and distribute between little pots - ramekin dishes, or small containers that can go in the oven! (the ones you get Gu puddings in are perfect!) Pour over the spinach and cheese mixture.
Poach your eggs until soft yolked and place one on top of each of the haddock and sauce pots, sprinkling with grated cheese to finish. Pop back into the oven to finish or under the grill to brown if you have slightly overcooked your fish to begin with! Serve hot!

Great as a lunchtime treat served with brown bread and butter to dip in, or as a starter! Mmm!

Merlotti x

Friday 23 January 2009

You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs!

Evening. Had lots of thoughts between last night and tonight's blog but can't seem to remember any of them! Firstly, can I say thank you to all for the lovely messages I've had about the blog so far! It's really spurred me on. Secondly, I'm having a few teething troubles embedding the comments box under the blog, so to comment, you actually need to click on the word 'comment'!

Now the housekeeping is out of the way, I can get onto more important things - like this evening's meal! I arrived home with a little knot of unhappiness in my tummy as I knew there was virtually nothing in the fridge, and I really didn't want to have to call in to buy supplies on the way home. So, I was all set for one of my 'Bottom of the Fridge' specialities. If you're not sure what I mean by this, let me enlighten you! 'Bottom of the Fridge' specials do exactly what they say on the tin - it's really a way of using up all those bits and pieces in the veg. compartment that you don't have enough of to contribute as a portion in a meal. Usually, bottom of the fridge rice (salad) is the order of the day. Simply slice and fry off anything left over (peppers, onions, leek, carrots, mushrooms, etc.), add seasoning, garden herbs and whatever other flavours are to hand, and mix with the cooked rice! Despite its name, its scrummy!

Sorry, little digression there! Back to the point: I was just about the begin this process, adding in chorizo and turning it into a risotto of some sort, when I received a phone call from mum. She suggested - and its a dinner I'd sort of forgotten about - making a Spanish-type omelette.

Spanish Omelette

bottom of the fridge vegetables
eggs + milk

Cube and cook the potatoes. Meanwhile, fry off your meat, then veg. Combine all in the non-stick frying pan. Beat the eggs with a little milk and add to the pan. fry over a medium heat until the bottom has set and the top is still runny. Add grated cheese (if you can find an odd chunk in the fridge!) and pop under the grill to finish. Serve with salad - except we didn't have any tonight. Instead I added a dollop of homemade hot chilli jam - delicious! (Click here for recipe or see recipe links on right - if you don't like it hot, remove the seeds first.)

You may have noticed I don't include quantities in my recipes - the reasons being we all have different tastes and you know what you like and don't like!

I've got nothing planned for the weekend and am really looking forward to making a delicious meal tomorrow night. I'm hoping to start with 'Pot au Feu' haddock; my mouth's watering already!

A demain,

Merlotti x

Thursday 22 January 2009

Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Vegetables

As I sit here writing this, my boyfriend has decided he too would like to write a blog and is asking all sorts of questions regarding how I know about blogging; what it costs; what I am writing about; why I am doing it, etc, etc! My mouth is watering, not because of all the questions and answers, but because the beef (cooked to perfection - rare) on the television looks fantastic. My dinner is still in the oven!

I guess the purpose of this is to see what happens. It's like when I pick up a wet leaf from the pavement - just to see; you never know what amazing patterns you're going to find underneath. Look at my little dinosaur leaf in Budapest! I couldn't just leave (he he he) him lying there on his own! So that's what this blog is: a leaf, well, the pattern left by it on the pavement. An experiment. To see what happens if I write a blog. I've chosen to keep food as the main topic as this is my passion. I live, breathe and eat the stuff, literally. Even as a child I needed to know what I was having for tea (does that give away that I'm a Northerner ;) ) before I left for school so I could look forward to it during the day.

To be fair, I arrived home fairly early and had time to make a meal and begin this blog - I don't know which I'm more excited about, food or blogging...

Tonight it's Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Vegetables.

A quick and easy Thursday tea. I stuffed the free-range chicken with garlic, garden herbs and cheese, then wrapped them in bacon. Before transferring to the oven, I pan fried them to add colour and flavour. Yum! Can't wait until the summer when I can use veggies from the garden!
(oops - spent too much time doing this and just rescued the veggies in time!)

A demain,

Merlotti x
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