Tuesday 31 March 2009

Fish Cakes

If you're looking for something quick, easy, and out of the store cupboard, then read on...

These fish cakes are really quick and easy: I simply follow Delia's 'Cheat' recipe and add in my own bits and pieces as I go! It's a case of mushing up mashed potato, tinned fish, capers, cornichons and whatever else you'd like. I used tuna rather than salmon and left out the spoon of chopped watercress. I also covered in (shop-bought - ssshhh) natural breadcrumbs rather than semolina.
The most difficult part is frying them; I find that you need a good layer of oil that the fishcakes can sit in, rather than just a little to line the pan. And heat the pan til very hot, then turn down once browned to heat the middle. You could always pan-fry first and finish in the oven if you prefer.

I served mine with a tomato and onion salad smothered in dijon mustard dressing.

Sunday 29 March 2009

Cooking for One

Since the boyf's been away this week, and I've been attempting to buy a new kitchen, I've cooked bits and bobs throughout the week, so I thought I'd give you a quick run-down. None are particularly exciting, but all were quite tasty in their own way.

The first is a Mediterranean Vegetable tarte...

You may recognise the next one as it's the same sauce (using the smoked hot paprika) as a few days ago (see pork dish) with with chicken and pasta. Still delicious!

Last I found that I had bits of ingredients left that didn't really go together, so I made a Naan Bread Pizza!

Thursday 26 March 2009

New Kitchen

Ok - I've been so busy trying to sort out a new kitchen this week that I haven't had time to cook. Getting home late, meeting the builder, going to look at ideas, etc, etc, etc. The thing is, I don't want to get it wrong. This could be the kitchen I have to live with for the next 20 years!

I think I've made a few decisions though - I'm definitely going for gloss white, with a few accent doors in 'aubergine'. Curves here and there and a wider breakfast bar-type thing. the big question is, what type of surface shall I have? I've looked at granite, quartz, solid surface, Corian, well, the list goes on and on. Like I said, it's going to have to last, so I want something that will continue to look good. The granite and quartz are nice, but a bit 'cold'. I like the idea of a clean and seamless kitchen, so solid surface and Corian fit the bill, and although they're 'sturdy', they soften it slightly by having that warm feel, but are on the pricey side.

I've heard differing reports about Corian - there seems to be a love / hate relationship there, but I think I would be on the love side. At least I hope I will, as that's the stuff I've asked the builder to investigate for me! Will keep you posted...any comments re. Corian and I'd be pleased to hear them.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Deconstructed Pork Stroganoff

Having spent Sunday gardening and planting, see my other blog to find out more, I thought a well deserved rest and book catch-up was in order in the hot tub. The garden looked great, dad had mowed the lawn for me last week and the birds were tweeting away, mainly at the cat who was upset he couldn't get into the spa with me!

It arrived at half past five without me realising, and I began to wonder what I was having for tea as I knew there was little in the fridge. Having investigated the freezer, (which didn't take long as I only have a small fridge with a tiny freezer compartment at the top!) I found a pork chop. I also had some left-over creme fraiche from the night before and mum had bought me a pot of smoked hot paprika, so stroganoff it was!

I began by frying off some leeks, mushroom and garlic until tender. I then 'swapped' these for the pork and fried until just cooked. This I then rested and returned the vegetables to the pan with a sprinkle of hot smoked paprika, seasoning and a large splodge of creme fraiche. I served this mixture on top of the pork chop, rather than cutting it up and popping into the sauce, and a green salad. Considering it was something out of nothing, it was really delicious, and the smoked hot paprika was actually very subtle, and not at all like it tasted when I tried a bit on the end of my tongue after first opening!

Sunday 22 March 2009

Last Minute Saturday

Well, the boyfriend is going away for a week to a wedding in Mexico this week - so not fair that I can't go too, but that's teaching, and no jokes about all the other weeks holiday I get please! We were going to go out for dinner/tea, but then the plans changed as he and his brothers were taking their mum out for mothers' day, so we went out for lunch instead. Then it changed again, and he ended up staying in for the evening, playing the PS2 with his brother, and after, making tea for us.

We began with nachos for starters, simply a jar of sauce poured over nachos, with grated cheese atop and a dollop of soured cream when done! The salsa is so easy to make yourself though. Just chop some onions, peppers and chilli finely, fry off a little and stir into a tin of chopped tomatoes. Add seasoning to taste.

For main course, he was insistent on tuna, and even remembered to take it out of the freezer to defrost! He cooked and served it simply and it was beautiful. Pan-fry until seared, then slice over a green salad with a splash of soy sauce and grated ginger on the side. Mmm. we decided that had he found the spring onions in the fridge and some sesame seeds in the cupboard, they would have also added taste and texture! Thanks hun, enjoy your week in Mexico!

Thursday 19 March 2009

Jambalaya - recipe stolen

Recipe stolen from Simon Rimmer at Something for the Weekend: he didn't mark it as Jambalaya but add a bit of spice, maybe a dash of tabasco, a red chilli and a spoonful of sweet chilli sauce, and substitute the bacon for chorizo...

It worked out a treat; not too stodgy, not too dry. The dish was incredibly easy to make and very tasty. A lovely every day evening meal with not too much to do apart from stuff it all in a bowl after pan-frying. Basically, you fry off whatever veg. takes your fancy, stir in the rice, cover with stock and bake. The omelette-type thing on the top may not to be to everyone's taste, but it just sort of finished it all off, gave it that top layer and extra texture.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Chocolate Fondants

Firstly, thanks to Dan for posting this recipe so promptly after my request! I made them as soon as I could and I wasn't disappointed. The recipe was so easy to follow, lots of eggs, butter and chocolate, but who cares? It is a dessert after all. I mixed the eggs with the sugar as requested; melted the butter with the chocolate; whipped it all together without scrambling the eggs and added the flour. I tipped it into buttered and floured ramekins - can't seem to get hold of Dariole moulds, any ideas? - and cooked two immediately - 10 mins in a hot oven. The other two I popped into the fridge to have the next night. Both the first set, and the second turned out perfectly. No, I couldn't get them out of the ramekins whole. but they were just as good dipping into them from the top! Delicious! In fact, I've even done them again this weekend for when mum and dad come down to visit.

Sunday 15 March 2009

1 Lombard Street


1 Lombard Street, 1 Lombard Street, London,

An apology for the photos with this post; my phone doesn't 'do' atmospheric lighting!

First thoughts:

I'd never heard of this restaurant before, but with a little search online, I found that until this year, it held a Michelin star. The chef patron is Herbert Berger and Tim Richardson is head chef, running the kitchen on a day-to-day basis. Before I go on, I must mention that after our first course, I popped to the toilet. (I know you're wondering why I comment on this, but please read on!) On the way, I came across the kitchens, and couldn't resist having a peep around the doors - well, one was open, so it didn't seem too rude. As I watched the bustle and preparation in awe, Tim Richardson invited me in! I was so excited, and couldn't possibly refuse! He showed me what happened at each section, how the restaurant and brasserie sections were under different chefs and what went where. He was really lovely, happy to chat and obviously very content to show someone round the kitchens without any worries on a busy Friday evening. I just want to record my thanks to him - it really made the evening and to see inside such a fantastic restaurant kitchen was a real privilege! Thank you!


The restaurant is 'housed' in an old banking hall and has a wonderful dome in the middle. We visited the brasserie section and the atmosphere was bubbling: There was a pianist playing at a lovely volume. The food all looked amazing; small, neat portions, beautifully presented.


The menu was a five-course set menu that we found on an offer, but the food was excellent. We began with a small cup of butternut squash soup. This was served in a little espresso cup and was rich, thick, creamy and well seasoned with a hint of pepper and spice.

To follow was the fish course. This was Asian inspired Salmon, cooked to perfection; sticky and crispy with a hint of spice on the outside whilst still pink in the middle. It was served alongside a trio of 'sauces': a thick and salty dark soy, crunchy and tangy pickled ginger and what I think was a coriander verde. The salad was served on a bed of something I couldn't quite put my finger on - I'm not one for reading menus properly either - but that I think had the freshness of Kaffir Lime, although I may be mistaken! A shame the waiters didn't place each plate down with the lines of sauce in the same place and going in the same direction.

Main course was rolled lamb served on a bed of mash and, I want to say Kale, but can't be sure! Sorry! It was served with slow-roasted shallots which were sweet and yummy and was seasoned with garlic. The lamb was soft and tender and simply melted in the mouth.

After main course was a tangy granita - my boyfriend's portion was considerably larger than mine, but that's probably for the best! I think it was passion-fruit, but again, didn't read the menu so can't be sure! ( I really ought to pay more attention if I'm going to review regularly!)

We both chose cheese for dessert, a selection of 5: Cheddar, Reblochon, Camembert, Goat's cheese (at this point I had disappeared for another sneak peek at the kitchen and my boyfriend couldn't remember exactly what they'd said!) and Stilton. Now, in good restaurants I'm used to the cheese being served from mildest to strongest (again, my boyfriend insisted it was from hard to soft, but what I thought made more sense) so I was disappointed to find this wasn't the case. The Stilton was in amongst the mild and creamy goat's cheese and the Reblochon, which was possibly the mildest of the 5. If I'd have sequenced them, I'd have begun with the Reblochon, moving onto the goat's cheese, followed by the cheddar, then the Camembert, and finally the Stilton.

We added on coffee that arrived with a whole plate of petit fours - just as many for us two as for the table of 5 next to us! And they were all delicious.

To Drink:

We bought a bottle of French red, think it may have been a Cabernet Sauvignon for £20, which was light and fruity.

Value for Money:

The set menu was £19.95 per person - excellent value. The wine, I thought, was a little pricey, but then it is a top restaurant, and we both finished with 'un cafe'. The bill came to £65, £73 ish with service. The food was outstanding, the atmosphere chilled and bubbling at the same time, and the service very good. I'd definitely return, again and again!

Friday 13 March 2009

Bread Pots

I was out at a lovely old mill at the weekend, which is now an antiques centre - all sorts of antiques, from architectural, to trinkets - and came across these little terracotta plantpots. Each one is roughly hewn and stands at only about 8-10 cm tall! I really couldn't resist buying them and knew straight away what I was going to use them for - Bread Pots! Well, they were only 30p each!

Dough - all risen as hoped and ready to bake!

I gave them a good scrub with very hot water and soap, but no amount of soaking and scratching could remove some of the embedded soil! Oh well, at least they were 'clean'. I buttered and floured each one well before starting and made a plain white bread dough. I used a Delia recipe, but ended up adjusting proportions as I went along - as usual. I only cooked them for about 20 minutes as I used teeny-tiny pots instead of huge great loaf tins.

I served them with delicious Insalata Caprese to soak up the olive oil and balsamic.

Thursday 12 March 2009

Monday Night Treats

Had a course locally today so got home a bit earlier than usual! Even managed a trip to the shop to buy food (rather than the leaf-blower I spent last week's food money on!) Getting home early gave me lots of time to cook. I had been dying to make Dan's chocolate fondant (more about those later in the week!) and also wanted to use fresh ingredients in a light starter and main.

We began with Insalata Caprese (sorry Dan, I'm really not trying to copy all your brilliant ideas!) I used baby on-the-vine tomatoes, packet mozzarella and fresh basil with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The mozzarella was tasteless, but if I had a local deli, I'd definitely have used it for this ingredient! You can't beat real, fresh, creamy mozzarella balls. I wonder if you can freeze them?! Ideas on a postcard...

I had two pieces of salmon that needed eating, so simply pan-fried them, wilted some spinach with butter and pepper for their bed and baked some herby scones instead of mash / potatoes / rice. All served with a dollop of aioli.

Pudding was delicious, and I won't spoil the later post by telling you now, that they worked out perfectly. All I need now are some of those lovely round pudding-type tins that I can't remember the name of!

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Green Thai Curry

A couple of weeks ago I had a rather mad cooking day; one of the things I attempted for the first time was a Green Thai Curry paste so I could cook my own green curry. Well, I finally got round to making the curry, so here it is...

Thai Green Curry

onion - sliced
green pepper -sliced
thai creen curry paste
chicken breast - cubed
can coconut milk
olive oil

First, fry off the onion and peppers in a little oil. You can add anything else at this stage - courgette, for example.
When beginning to get soft, transfer to a bowl.
Add however much of the paste you'd like to a large glug of hot olive oil. I used a good two tablespoons.
Fry off until the aroma is released, then add the cubed chicken.
Brown the chicken, return the vegetables to the pan and add a tin of coconut milk.
Simmer until the chicken is cooked.

Serve with boiled rice, or jasmine rice if you can be bothered!

Sunday 8 March 2009

Painted Pigeon Pate

Not my title! It was a 'dad' suggestion when I told him that the delicious-looking pheasant pate we had been kindly given (thanks Jane!) had been made in Rawtenstall, a place very close to where he grew up in Lancashire. He suggested that (and I'm not agreeing!) people in Rawtenstall may not have heard of pheasant, and so simply painted pigeons to look like pheasants instead! It made me laugh, so I thought I should include that anecdote!

As for the pate, it was part of a very late - as in as late as the Spanish eat - meal served to my boyfriend after he had worked all weekend and returned at 10pm on the Saturday night. I opened up the jar and scooped a quenelle for each of us, served it very simply with a green salad, torn crusty brown bread and a squeeze of lemon. The texture was rough and meaty with visible pieces of everything that had gone into making it, and the taste was rich and creamy. The sourness of the lemon cut through this and the crunch of the salad offered a different texture. Despite eating so late, it started off our meal beautifully and was a real treat.

Saturday 7 March 2009

France vs Britain - the food wars!

Ok, a few of my last posts have extolled the virtues of France and the French way of life, above all, the food. So lets have a recap.

Both countries have access to good quality, local ingredients, but I think Britain tops the list in terms of quality of meat in particular, especially the animal welfare. The food at Stansted really was of the highest quality.

You can have 'slops' in France as well as England, as proved by the demi-pension served during the recent holiday - the food was good and fairly tasty but looked a mess. Whereas in England the food would have been well-portioned in most hotels, here it was slopped onto the plates, almost overspilling at the edges! Like I said though, the taste was generally good, and my boyfriend certainly didn't complain about the portion sizes!

If I based my judgement on just one dish, Tartiflette would win hands down every time, but I guess I can't as I've had some amazing food in England too - and probably not as likely to lead to a heart attack in the coming years! (Although I do admire the French's resolve not to care about these things and their attitude to life - simply enjoy it, and if you can't do that, argue about it!)

Pizza - in France you are far more likely to get home-made dough, odd shaped pizzas, feu-de-bois cooking and a crispy thin base. They are, however, just as likely to leave it in the oven a little too long - see my recent post!

So, to conclude? Well, I don't think I can pick a winner: Both France and England have a lot going for them in terms of culinary skill, ingredient access and food knowledge at the moment. I would offer the advice to ask other people who have visited restaurants for their recommendations before you visit a new place if you don't want to just 'fill-up'.

You are just as likely to have 'bad food' in France as you are in England, and it simply depends on who's in the kitchen at the time of your visit!

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Cote D'Azur

Apologies for not writing sooner, but I've only just managed to dig a laptop out from the dust after having a little building work done. It's not the one with the photos though, so you'll have to wait a little longer for me to add those! (Since added!)

Why is it that French airport shops are generally much more attractive than English ones? Is it because even if you buy a children's book from the newsagents there, they wrap it as a present and take time to do it beautifully, despite the queue building up? Or is it simply that the produce looks so much more appetising? Rather than selling everyday chocolate and giant bags of sweets, they sell a range of delicious French cheese, magnums of French champagne, foie gras, saucisson...the list could continue, but those are just a few of my favourites.

The restaurant food is a self-service affair but not as we know it in England. Admittedly, there isn't a choice as at Stansted - see my post about the simple and delicious food at the airport, but the food all looks quite appetizing; the best thing being that you can buy wine in a carafe from a tap! How good is that?! Red, White or Rose from a machine that in England, only dispenses soft drinks -wonder if we could get one installed in the staffroom at school?! No Tartiflette on the menu unfortunately, so we both ordered pizza -not frozen from a packet, but made there in front of you with fresh dough and toppings of your choice, and cooked in a feu-de-bois (wood burning oven). Just a reminder, this is a self-service restaurant in the airport! Usually these are delicious, but unfortunately this once, the girl left it in a little too long and the base was certainly crispy in parts, if not burnt and black. Oh well, the carafe of wine made up for it at just 4 euros!

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