Saturday 28 February 2009


One of the best things about a skiing holiday has to be the full-fat food doesn't it? I was introduced to this dish as part of a 'demi-pension' half-board skiing holiday in Valberg - a little resort in the Southern French Alps, and it has remained one of my favourites every since. Now, each ski holiday, I insist on eating it at least once, even if it means a trip down to the village rather than lunch on the slopes! And, because you've skiied all morning, you can eat it without any guilt at all, knowing that you've burnt off hundreds of calories in the morning and will continue to do even more in the afternoon - if you can actually get out of your chair or dare to leave the warmth of the sun after lunch!

My meal this year was in Auron, again in the South of France. The village is small and delightful and there is one restaurants that is superb - it's part of a hotel but has an outside terrace area in the sun and a lovely bar area for that all important apres-ski. The hotel is called Edelweiss, and their tartiflette is one of my two favourite! The other is in a restaurant in the back streets of Nice, served only in winter obviously.

For those who don't ski, or haven't heard of Tartiflette, it is originally a dish from the Savoie region of France and uses Reblochon cheese. Recipes vary, but all include potatoes, cheese and usually, bacon/lardons. Edelweiss' version also includes onions. It is served in a low pottery dish and this particular one had a delicious green salad with tasty dijon dressing. The basic idea is that all the ingredients are cooked, the covered with cheese and baked. here's my version of the recipe:


Potatoes - peeled and chunked
Onion - sliced
Lardons - smoked if preferred
Creme fraiche
Reblochon - sliced in half, both ways!

First, par-boil the potatoes until just cooked.
Fry off the onions and lardons and when cooked, add the potatoes to brown. Season if necessary.
Transfer to a low sided oven-proof bowl and stir in a good dollop of creme fraiche.
Place the large slices of reblochon on top with the crust uppermost. (The cheese should be cut in half so you have two semi-circles, then sliced horizontally.)
Bake in a medium oven (170) for about twenty minutes until the cheese is brown and the dish is bubbling!

It's not a light-weight dish, but if served with a crisp green salad, you can kid yourself you're at least getting some nutrients! And it's always best after a morning ski session, sitting in the sun with a cold, clear glass of white!

Thursday 26 February 2009

Good food at Stansted?

Having been on a few days away, I was surprised at how quick and easy the journey was. We left an hour and a half to get through check-in and security at Stansted, but when we arrived, there were no queues at check-in, a short wait at security and we were through in the lounges with nothing to do.

Nothing, that is, until I spotted the Caviar House and Prunier bar/restaurant and remembered how delicious it was last time I sat with girls and had a quick bite before heading off to sunnier climes! So, little more than a suggestion was needed to the boyfriend before we were sitting on the high stools and looking mouth-wateringly at the display of fresh fish, salmon and caviar in the fridges. All the food looked amazing and I quickly chose a simple plate of Scottish Smoked Salmon. My boyfriend was a little more adventurous and went for the Salmon Tartare spiced with chilli.

I think the thing I enjoyed most about the meal, apart from actually eating it of course, was watching the man prepare it. The company obviously has a 'set' way of presenting each dish, but it was deftly done with as little handling of the ingredients as possible. The salad and dressing was tossed in a bowl and the salmon and other fish arranged beautifully. The salmon itself tasted fresh and clean and was served with 5 brown bread triangles, a side of crunchy crispy salad and a slice of lemon, all wrapped in a little piece of muslin so that when you squeezed it, none of the pips went over your dinner - brilliant!

The boyfriend's dinner was also scrummy the salmon was made at the company, rather than bough in, and was served out of it's tin! The presentation was fab. with the salad begin packed into the base of the tin and the salmon being served almost on the side. It was very unusual having the salmon packed in a tin that way, but obviously kept it very fresh. Just a hint of chilli came through, but enough to add a little spice. I could have eaten his as well as mine!
Although the restaurant is a chain, and mainly an airport based chain at that, and despite the fact you know you get exactly what you're getting, the menu's do change regularly. You do, however, know exactly what you're getting, even if it is simple and formulaic. I've eaten there twice and it hasn't disappointed on either occasion. There's a good selection of wine and the Chilean White we had was also perfect with the salmon.

I can't wait now for another opportunity to leave the country and sneak in a simple but sophisticated lunch!

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Final Results

So, we finally found the infamous packet of Fish and Chips flavour, and couldn't wait to add it to our taste test. One lunchtime, we gathered excitedly around the packet and opened it with trepidation. Two original members of the taste team were absent - one in Wales and the other doesn't work with us - but we had already chosen two super substitutes; thanks girls!

Ok, onto the important things! Comments and results:

Fish and Chips
On opening the packet, the immediate smell was of Prawn Cocktail Flavour and Scampi Fries without the lemon! On closer examination, however, they definitely had a Bovril aroma, unusual we thought, since they were meant to have nothing to do with meat at all! On taste, comments ranged from smokey bacon to Bovril again. Overall, we decided that out of the 6 tasted, they were the ones that tasted least like their name.

I think you've waited long enough, although we all agreed, if there was a bag of cheese and onion or salt and vinegar, those would definitely be eaten first!

The winner of the overall testing process, and indeed the taste test, was Onion Bhaji, closely followed by Cajun Squirrel. This was, I believe, because they are very familiar flavours that we are already used to (well, not squirrel, but the meaty flavouring used in in!)

The only question left is, will we vote? Erm - probably not! We don't really want to see any of these flavours on our shelves, although it was good fun trying them! If you'd like to hear the opinions of others, have a look at this article - a friend posted it as a comment under my first post, Walkers' Taste Test , and I couldn't believe how similar some of the comments raised were to our own discussions.

Sunday 22 February 2009

My Guilty Pleasure

What more can I say? I couldn't help myself. A fellow Twitterer blogged about her Guilty Pleasures Dinner Party and it all sounded great fun - I might even hold one myself. Well, this is certainly one of mine. Bacon, fried egg and cheese bap. It's not that unusual for breakfast, but when it's for tea, it doesn't really offer a balance of nutrients does it? Oh, well; once in a while won't hurt. :P Thanks Lizzie!

Friday 20 February 2009

Review: Mustard Bistro

Mustard Bistro

Mustard Bistro, 37 New London Road, Chelmsford, Essex CM2 0ND

First thoughts:
Since I have lived here, this little 'space' at the back of the shops has always been a restaurant. I first ate there about 8 years ago when it was under different management. It has then re-invented itself a few times and is now known as Mustard. It's very well presented, clean, with friendly 'homely' service. (You'll be pleased to know there was only one spelling mistake this time - 'brocolli' instead of 'broccoli'.) Over the course of lunch, a varied display of music was heard, ranging from Morrisey to Queen. I think the mp3-player may have been on 'shuffle'!

We opted for main courses and desserts. All were very nicely presented (photos will appear shortly!) in a modern style. Portions were a good size and the food appeared well cooked. One fish pie was browned beautifully but unfortunately, the other looked a little anaemic!

Two of us had the Fish and Chips; cod goujons with chunky chips. Two had Fish Pie; a mixture of prawns, cod, smoked haddock and mussels. One had Cottage Pie.
While the Fish and Chips looked good, it had little taste. The fish wasn't particularly well seasoned and was fairly bland. It was, however, served with a delicious chunky homemade tartare sauce, full of freshness.

The Fish Pies looked a little different from each other but both tasted really good. There was much fish in a thick creamy sauce with smooth mash on top. The salad with which it was served also had a tasty dressing and was fresh and crispy.

My option was the Cottage Pie and this was very rich. It was a little fatty, (perhaps the meat could have been drained before being put into the bowls?) but that did add to the flavour! It was served with delicious baby carrots and cabbage which had been par-cooked, then crisped in the frying pan I think.

Pudding didn't fare so well. The syrup sponge was overcooked and very stodgy. It needed thicker custard and more syrup in order to balance the textures as there wasn't enough sauce for the amount of 'cake'. The chocolate pecan pie looked rather overcooked too, with very 'crispy' pecans on the top. Although this could have been due to the chocolate caramelsing on the top, it did taste burnt. "Instead of being a sophisticated adult dessert, it resembled (in smell and taste) a children's rice-crispy cake," was the comment from one of the girls. The gooey-ness of the middle, however, was very tasty and the pastry was crisp and golden.

To Drink:

We managed, very well, two bottles of white wine. Think it may have been a Pinot Grigio but didn't pay that much attention - sorry! It was very flowery though and on the medium side of dry.

Value for Money:

The bill came to £94 between 5 of us, so let's call it £20 per head.
Not bad for a main meal, dessert and a few glasses of wine.


I can't comment on the dinner menu, but I'd definitely go back for a quick lunch, skipping dessert, and choosing carefully.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Walkers' Taste Test

The Walkers' Taste Test

As you may have noticed, Walkers Crisps are trying out 6 new flavours and asking us to vote on our favourite. Now, being a non-discriminatory foodie, I thought that, in the name of research, I should test them all and let Walkers know of my favourite. As I considered eating 6 huge bags of crisps, my mind drifted to the effect on my hips and bum, so thought it better to create an 'event' and share the tastes, and calories, with my friends! Helen was specially over from the USA (not specially for the taste test! That would be real commitment!) so it was a novelty for her to be eating crisps again instead of chips!

First things first - I had to introduce the idea to my friends as part of a 'girly' day we were having. I'd thought about how best to do this: Get them drunk first? Suggest it was in the name of research? Beg them that I needed a new blog post? In the end, I simply suggested it might be fun to have a taste test of the new flavours and they all agreed with relish! In fact, everyone we told thought it was a great idea!

Secondly we had to find the crisps. An easy task you might think? Well, think again. Despite Walkers advertising this promotion everywhere (television, front of all normal packs of crisps, front of multi-packs,) we struggled to 'find' the 6 new flavours. We tried many high street shops, including major supermarkets, and eventually, after visiting 10 shops - no lie - found that WHSmiths was the ONLY place to stock any at all. After rummaging through their boxes,we left with 5 out of the 6 flavours. I even asked if they had any extra deliveries of 'Fish and Chip' flavour in the back, but no, they had all sold out. This, apparently, was the general theme of all we talked to - Fish and Chips were certainly the first ones people were trying.

We now had the crisps and over the course of the afternoon, had devised a 'strategy' and system for the evening! Excitedly, we made our way home, labelled each identical bowl on the bottom with the given flavour, poured in the crisps, swapped them all around and numbered each bowl visibly. Now to the experiment. My friend did ask where the score cards were but we made do with pieces of paper and a pen each.

We scored each new flavour in 4 different categories. The first was Appearance marked out of 5. The second was Smell, again out of 5. The third was Packaging - this could only be added after we had identified each flavour, out of 5 again. The fourth category, and obviously most important, was the taste. This was marked out of 10. Everyone made their own notes as we went along, and finally had a 'guess' at what each flavour might be!

The Flavours:

Onion Bhaji, Cajun Squirrel, Crispy Duck and Hoisin, Builders' Breakfast, Chocolate and Chilli, (Fish and Chips - results to follow!)

The Strategy:

Take each bowl in turn
Assess the appearance, smell and taste of each one, in that order
Drink in between each crisp test - purely to eliminate each old flavour so the new one is more apparent (?!)
Make final comments and adjustments to flavour matching
See if we were right and add scores to find a winner!

Even the shadow joined in - he initally went for the Onion Bhaji, but settled on Cajun Squirrel!

The Comments:

On the whole, given a bowl of cheese and onion or salt and vinegar, we'd have picked those every time. That wasn't, however, in our remit, so...

Bowl 1 - The appearance was much darker than the others and this put us off a bit. They also looked much greasier. The smell was quite sweet and when tasted, gave a certain spicy 'kick' at the back of the throat. One comment on the taste was simply 'Yuk!'

Bowl 2 - These were rounder than the others (!) and had speckles and flecks of colour. They smelt herby and spicy with a definite 'sausagy' hint, that led some of us to an obvious conclusion on the flavour. Read on to see if we were correct!

Bowl 3 - The appearance of these was noted as 'golden' and they looked delicious. Again, they were flecked with little specks of red but this time, had a strong smell of 'curry'. We agreed that the smell, however, was actually much nicer than the overall taste. 'Old Socks' was one noted flavour, though how they know what old socks taste of, we will never learn.

Bowl 4 - These were quite pale in appearance and many more of them had a 'skin' edge to them. They smelt sweet and saucy with a hint of cucumber and tasted similar.

Bowl 5 - These looked very appealing in terms of colour and shape as they were all quite 'uniform'. The smell was not particularly pleasant with eggy undertones. The taste was noted as 'smoky'.

The Verdict

Bowl 1 = Chocolate and Chilli (4/5 guessed correctly)
Bowl 2 = Cajun Squirrel (the sausage flavours threw us on that one! 2/5 guessed correctly)
Bowl 3 = Onion Bhaji (4/5 guessed correctly)
Bowl 4 = Crispy Duck and Hoisin (4/5 guessed correctly)
Bowl 5 = Builders' Breakfast (2/5 guessed correctly)

The Scores

Now, would it be fair to give the results without having tasted all 6 flavours? Of course not. I am currently trying to get my hands on a bag of the Fish and Chip flavour, and will complete the remaining test at the first possible opportunity. Post to follow. Our friend from America will not be present, but don't worry, a substitute has already been found and is raring to go!

All we need now are the crisps themselves!

Sunday 15 February 2009

Mess? What mess?

No, you were right Anne; the sweet potato bites were very messy! But well worth the doughy fingers. I must admit, I left out the cornflour as I didn't have any in the cupboard, but it didn't appear to make a difference - having said that, I couldn't compare...not having a batch with cornflour!

I made rough shapes first, then when I was able to have clean hands again, reshaped them using two knives, making them more square. I followed the rest of the instructions as advised and they turned out perfectly - crispy and brown on the outside whilst soft and gooey in the middle. We served them with the Sweet Chilli Jam and a glass (or two) of fizzy pink stuff - delicious. Thank you for posting the recipe!

Friday 13 February 2009

The Cock Inn, Stock

The Cock Inn


The Cock Inn, Stock, Essex, CM4 9BJ

First thoughts:

Well, to say we giggled for the first ten minutes of sitting down is an understatement. Firstly, the barmaid showed us to our table (since this is an Inn with a restaurant section) chewing strong-smelling minty gum with her mouth open! She appeared to have no idea of what menus were available ("I'm just the barmaid, you'll have to ask the manager,") and promptly left us to wait for the restaurant waitress. As we browsed the chalkboard 'specials' above our heads, I started to giggle. I'm not sure I fancied 'Melbra' toast with my chicken liver parfait- what cup size might it be? Or 'Parmasen' over the 'Rissoto'. The 'Panchetta', (this was lowest on the board, right next to me), served as part of the spaghetti 'Carbona', was somehow missing its 'h', leaving a guiltily obvious space. For dessert it was 'Cremé (cremay) Caramel'.

I know, I know - I'm a teacher, this is what I do: Get a little over obsessive about correct grammar and spelling, but when it's the first thing you see (apart from the gum-chewing barmaid!) it sets the precedent for the rest of the evening. I can't help it - and I apologise.

The restaurant waitress was very well informed, however, and assured us there may be a 10/15 minute wait as "All food is cooked to order" - I should bloody hope so, it is a decent restaurant.


Despite the giggles so far, the food exceeded expectations. Portion sizes were huge and all the food was well cooked. All dishes were nicely presented.


The chicken Liver Parfait (with Melbra toast) didn't come in a range of cup sizes, and was in fact served with toasted baguette. The pate was obviously home made though and incredibly rich and delicious, served with a red onion compote. The crayfish and prawn 'Rissoto', despite being wrongly spelt, was very tasty. We felt both, though, needed more seasoning to draw out the flavours. As you can see, the salad version of the rissoto [sic] also looked good.

For main course, I opted for fish and chips, (I'm a Northern girl at heart), as I rarely make it myself at home. The fish was huge with a light and crispy batter. I couldn't possibly eat all the chips, but did indulge in mint sauce with the mushy peas! The steak, despite asking for it rare, came medium but was, apparently, very tasty. The Calves Liver was wolfed down in seconds and the duck with peach sauce was well received, tender and tasty. A little more 'pinkness' would have improved it further.

To Drink:

We ordered a 'cheapish' bottle of Red to drink and it rather surprised me by being really smooth and lovely with hints of smokiness and a deep rich flavour. I was impressed at the quality of this bottle considering its price.

Value for Money:

2.5 pints, 1 Martini, 1 Bottle of Red
4 Starters
4 Main courses
Total Cost: £85 - £21.25 a headGood value for money..


If you judged this restaurant on first appearances, you wouldn't get farther than sitting down to order. If, however, like us, you were able to 'forgive' and not forget the odd amusement, putting it down as one of the place's quirks, the food would win you over. The service by our restaurant waitress was polite, efficient and professional and the food very good. I'd definitely return, perhaps to try the lunch menu, and while there, see if I could adjust any more of the specials' menu without being spotted!

Thursday 12 February 2009

Waitrose vs Merlotti

Well, mum arrived tonight with a Waitrose offering, 'Pork stuffed with Spiced Apple sauce'. Sounds familiar doesn't it? Mine was Stuffed Pork Rolls with Spiced Apple Sauce, and I thought I'd made the recipe up! So, now to compare and contrast:

Waitrose pork was chunks rather than an escalope, which in fact, was harder to cook without it drying out.
Spiced apple was in smaller chunks - a good idea as they 'wrapped' better.

On the whole, though, I'd have to say Merlotti's were tastier - better cooked! Mum did, however, make really good dauphinois potatoes to go with it: Just what you need after 48 hours without eating anything.

The best part was cheese for dessert - a lovely selection of cheese from Cheeseworks in Cheltenham: Stinking bishop, St. Agur and (one we can't remember the name of!) Also a selection of salamis and walnut bread - delish!

Thanks mum, x

Wednesday 11 February 2009

No New Post

erm - well, there obviously is a post as you're reading it. What I meant was, really, I'm just writing this to say that for the first night, there will be no recipe post or review.
I was hoping to try a new restaurant in Witham tonight, but have spent the afternoon ill in bed, so didn't get to go. Food isn't a good thing at the moment either, so despite being ravenous, I'm not eating either :(

Hopefully will have a better post tomorrow: Mum and Dad are coming down and mum promised to bring food of some sort for dinner, so should be lovely, providing I'm eating again by then.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Mediterranean Chicken

Just a quick post tonight - last night's tea was also a quickie, as I had school-work to do!

Mediterranean Chicken

A friend suggested I do this recipe when I asked what i could do with chicken and tomatoes - her version was 'cheesy chicken' but I've sorted of added to it as I've gone along! You can serve with rice or potatoes, but it's usually enough on its own!
The chicken, if you remember, is the chicken I was going to use to test the Thai green curry paste, but forgot and had put them in this before I'd remembered!

Chicken Breast
Can of tomatoes
Bottom of the fridge veg, incl celery

Pan fry the chicken until browned, then leave to one side.
Fry off all the vegetables: they don't need to be cooked through, just browned off really and given a head start! I always use celery and something oniony, but again, it is really whatever you have rolling around in the bottom of the fridge. Last night I used celery, leeks, shredded cabbage, pepper and onion.
Pour over the can of tomatoes - add a dollop of tomato puree if you have any in the cupboard, and/or a splash of red wine!
Mix in the herbs and pop in oven til the vegetables are nearly cooked through.
Add the chicken and return to the oven until the chicken is just cooked.
Sprinkle grated cheese over the top and brown.
Serve hot!

(The pictures don't actually do this justice - despite being a little 'crispy' around the edges, the veg. still had some bite to it rather than being soggy! Think I need a new oven!)

Monday 9 February 2009


Had a cooking day yesterday, but only added a little bit of love to it, so things didn't turn out brilliantly. I've discovered that you need to cook with love if things are to succeed, and, as I mentioned, I only had a little love, so nothing was perfect.

First, I tried a Green Thai Curry Paste so I can make my own curries with a splash of coconut milk. I think this turned out ok, but it is yet to be tested - and won't be this week as I forgot that I was going to use the chicken in the fridge to do this and used it in Mediterranean Chicken tonight - oops!

Secondly, I made another batch of Chilli jam. It was going so well until I left it too long between stirs and it all suck to the bottom, creating a rather singed smell that has possibly permeated the whole 5 jars. Will have to see with the first taste. I may even empty the jars and re-bubble to see what happens.

Dinner was a trial that mum suggested, again, a recipe from Good Food. It was Herby Lamb Cobbler. Now, I'm not great with pastry and this was no exception. All went well, even making the cobblers, but when it was time for them to do their thing, they didn't - I only got a very little rise out of them, but they tasted good nevertheless!

Sunday 8 February 2009

Venison Pie

We were lucky enough to be invited out again last night and had another lovely evening. We began with crisps and dips - I could just eat those instead of any real food I think! - and continued with a rich and gamey Venison Pie. Our hosts had 'found' the recipe online and added their own special twist. After the meat had been marinated in red wine and delicious herbs and spices overnight, it was browned and dark chocolate was added! A range of vegetables and a pie lid, decorated beautifully by Sophie, and it was ready for the oven. It tasted velvety and smooth with tender meat and a hint of sweetness - perfect.

Pudding was just as delicious; home-made chocolate brownies with vanilla ice-cream. Our host had substituted chestnuts for walnuts as the chestnuts mysteriously disappeared as she was making them (I blame Ellie!), but it was no loss - the slight crunch of the walnuts added a little crunch to the texture.

Thanks guys!

Saturday 7 February 2009

Friday Night Takeaway


Sweet and Sour Pork Balls
Plain Chow Main
Egg Fried Rice

From: Canton Chef, Chelmsford

Cost: £8.20

What you get: 13 (!) pork balls in batter, a large portion of egg fried rice, a large portion of plain chow mein.


Very good. The chow mein is one of my favourites. It doesn't use the thin noodles, but the thicker ones with a good helping of beansprouts. On occasions it has been 'over-peppery' but last night's was just right - enough to give it a good taste and a bit of spice. The pork balls were also well cooked - a thin, crispy batter without too much 'uncooked' batter on the inside and, unlike some take-aways, the pork was tender, rather than overcooked, tough and chewy. Egg fried rice is egg fried rice and no complaints.

Value for Money:

I would say it was very good value for money. Although I just had 'the basics', it was plenty for two people, as proved by my boyfriend when he ate a full meal of left-overs for breakfast this morning. I also snuck second helpings of everything last night too!

Friday 6 February 2009

Rustic Chorizo Paysan

Last night we had a ball! Before I begin, I must thank our fantastic hosts, Titto and Champs. Yes, I know we had to bring our own chairs, and that drinking wine from a sherry glass is often 'frowned upon' in more elite circles (!), but all of this added to the general merriment and fun of the evening. And we were amongst good friends which is what counts most.

The food was excellent, despite us agreeing that the blog's title could easily have been 'Prison Slops'. The flavours, however, spoke for themselves. Our main course was a rustic and very tasty chorizo stew/casserole. Titto also went to the effort to pop out during his precious lunch hour; he bought not one, but two types of chorizo to add to the depth of flavour. Whilst cooking, the stew developed rich and smoky undertones spiced with tomatoes, peppers, red onion and kidney and cannellini beans: It was scrummy! The boys even had second helpings, which is when we remembered to take the pictures, hence the muddled presentation!

Now, pudding was something of which I had never heard before - a self-saucing cake! Basically, this is a cake that comes out with its own sauce - it really is magic! From what I can remember, its a basic chocolate cake recipe in an oven-proof bowl with a layer of water, sugar and cocoa mix poured over the top. The cake cooks, the top bit makes a sauce and it all mixes up! Champs usually uses a tried and tested recipe from her school days but, as she couldn't get her hands on it, she adapted a 'found' recipe. It turned out perfectly and was delicious, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, mmm. I found a similar recipe online, and it's Australian, much like Champs!
(This is in brackets because I'm whispering! Before I go, I must just set the record straight! It appears that Titto 'developed' his Naan Bread Pizza recipe from one Champs had previously devised using large Pitta bread - so credit where credit's due!)
Thanks guys - we'll host the return leg very soon,

Thursday 5 February 2009


erm - I have a confession.

I set the grill on fire last night - it wasn't really my fault - I turned it on ready to brown the top of the omelette (can you tell we have nothing in the fridge?!) - normally there's nothing underneath it - but I could smell a burning - not coming from under the pan, no - not coming from the hob, no - open the grill door - ooops - haven't cleared away the foil from our unexpected snow-fry-breakfast on Monday - set alight - flames and everything - needed wet towel to put it out.

I am NOT person of the day - all our clothes smell of burnt smoke.

The omelette, however, (and this is the most important thing after all) was good!

Ok - we're off out to Titto's for a meal. It's all very 'cloak and dagger' as to the food, so I'll make my report tomorrow evening!

A demain x

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Buttersquash Risotto

Did you know that M&S cheeses have a little flap that folds over and sticks down to keep the cheese fresh? Saves me having to re-wrap the stuff in clingfilm! Brilliant idea!

Anyway, onto more important you may have read, I spend a good portion of yesterday wandering around 'finding' recipe cards, one of which inspired last night's tea. I used a combination of my own and the recipe card's recipe for Butternut Squash Risotto - I've decided to call it Buttersquash Risotto - I like that!

Having never really used or cooked with BS (can't be bothered typing Butternut Squash every time) i wasn't sure what to expect. I asked someone if they would peel it before roasting and they suggested the skin can be tough, so I took that advice, and good it was! Here's my version...

onion - chopped finely
risotto rice
small glass white wine
chicken stock
chilli flakes - you could use fresh red chilli finely chopped without seeds
cheese - grated. I used strong cheddar but you could use any you liked. A spiced or chilli cheese would be delicious.

First, cube the BS and roast until soft and just turning brown. Oven 180 ish as usual.
Next, add the onion to a hot pan - I used a wok - and fry til soft.
Tip in the rice and wait as long as you can bear before tipping in the white wine! It should sizzle nicely in relief!
When the wine is absorbed, add a ladle of stock and stir. Stir til absorbed.
Continue this process until the rice is cooked to biting point or as desired.
Mash half of the BS cubes and leave half to garnish at the end.
Turn off the heat under the risotto.
Add most of the cheese, (retaining some for on top,) chilli flakes, herbs, mashed BS and a dollop of butter. Stir in. It should become rich and creamy immediately.
Serve with a little of the grated cheese, chopped parsley and BS cubes on top - delicious.

It really was tasty - much more so than I expected and a completely different dish from, say, mushroom risotto, which I usually do.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

"Calories don't count in the Cold" according to Chris Evans, Drivetime, Radio 2

It's a good job, that's all I can say!

I've been lucky enough to have another snow day at home thanks to school being cancelled. Hurrah! So, again, I was up early and pottered around. Managed to get a bus into town and got enthralled walking around the food department of M&S. Now, don't think me odd, but I do love just wandering around their aisles and looking at all the yummy food. They're tending to move towards adding actual ingredients to their shelves now as well as simply ready-made stuff and even had lots of recipe cards out, to which I quickly helped myself, before making another tour of all the shelves to ensure I had got each and every one!

Tonight's meal will be a combination of one of those very cards and my own version. It should turn into a risotto of some sorts. Will keep you posted.

Last night, it was fish pie. I hadn't made this for a while and even went so far as to buy prawns to add to it, as requested by my boyfriend. Normally I leave them out - don't know why, just always have!

Hannah's Fish Pie

fish - I used pieces of smoked haddock, cod and prawns, but you can chuck in your favourites!
plain flour
salt and pepper
cheese - grated - some for the white sauce and some for the top!
wholegrain mustard
squeeze of lemon

First, pop all raw fish into an oven-proof dish and cover with milk. Put into the oven at 180 until the fish is just cooked. If in doubt, remove it from the oven a little beforehand.
Using the milk from the fish, make a bechamel sauce - white sauce - roux, whatever you'd like to call it:

In a pan, mix a blob of butter and a splash of flour in the quantities such as you get a smooth paste! (I do mine by trial and error - a blob of butter, then add flour til it comes together, you can always add a drop of oil if it goes powdery!)
The trick to getting a smooth sauce is not to have the milk hot, but to have the pan hot and add it a little at a time. So, splash by splash, add the milk, whisking the mixture continually. It will thicken and look much as it did at the start for the first few splashes, but will gradually become runnier.
If you use up all the milk from the fish, add a little more!

When the mixture has a thick, creamy consistency that clings to a metal spoon and drips slowly, add a few teaspoons of wholegrain mustard to taste, salt and pepper and some of the cheese. Mix together.
In an ovenproof dish, flake the fish, add the peas and prawns and pour over the sauce, mixing a little to combine. Be careful not to mix it so much that the fish 'mashes'.
Spoon the mash over the top and sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
Pop into the oven at around 180 for 15 minutes or so, until the cheese has browned. Everything is cooked so it just needs time for the peas and prawns to heat through and the cheese to brown and bubble!

You could even make it up earlier and finish it off in the oven when ready.

Monday 2 February 2009

Winter Warmers

Oh no - we've got no food in. It's ok, we can walk to the supermarket. No we can't, it might not be get the point how I was feeling this morning, after I'd been informed that there was no school today! Hurrah! I have been up since 6.30 am though in order to update the website so the parents know as well as the staff. I've watched the snow all morning and pottered in the Cabbage Patch to clear the snow so I might have a few veggies this spring / summer to cook with!

I'm into the wintery, warming dinners at the moment and last night was no exception. It was inspired by 2 pieces I'd read or watched this week - 1) Jamie cooking a shoulder of pork on t.v. the other night, and 2) a recipe from the Food Stories blog. I bought an incredibly cheap cut of British Pork (cheap because it was shoulder and everyone prefers a leg joint), scored the fat on top, rubbed in salt and olive oil, blazed in a very hot oven for 20 minutes, then put on low for several hours. It was delicious, the crackling being the best part as you can see - or not see, as I'd actually picked off most of it by the time I remembered to take this photo!

I also made Jamie's Baked Onions, (I do have other recipe books, but his are so warming for this snowy weather.) I found that the Parmesan flavour was overpowering and would use a mature cheddar next time.

The World's Best Baked Onions
Jamie's Book "Happy Days with the Naked Chef. - serves 4.

4 tennis ball sized white onions, peeled
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled & finely chopped
4 twigs of fresh rosemary, lower leaves picked & chopped
8 tablespoons double cream
a couple of handfuls of grated Parmesan
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of pancetta or smoked streaky bacon rashers

Boil the onions in plenty of water for 15 minutes until slightly tender.
Remove from the pan and allow to cool.
Then, with a sharp knife, remove the top 2.5cm/1 inch of each onion, finely chop and place to one side. If need be, slightly trim the stalk end of the onions so that they will sit flat on a roasting tray.
Cut about a heaped tablespoon out from the inside of each onion, keeping the outside intact.
Finely chop and add to the rest of the chopped onion.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
Heat a frying pan and add a little olive oil, your garlic, the chopped onions and just a little chopped rosemary.
Fry for a couple of minutes until softened, then turn the heat down, add the cream and remove from the heat.
Stir in the Parmesan and season. I (Jamie) like(s) to wrap a nice slice of pancetta around the middle of each onion and just spike it in place with a sharpened twig of rosemary or half a cocktail stick. The rosemary and pancetta will make the onion taste lovely as it cooks.
Place the onions on a roasting tray and spoon some of the chopped onion mixture inside each one.
Bake in the preheated oven for around 25 minutes until soft and tender, depending on the size of the onions. It's cool to experiment with different cheese, so give it a bash.

I have got food in, btw; I'd forgotten I'd bought several pieces of fish for fish pie. Will save it for something to do a little later on!

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