Wednesday 25 February 2015

11: Jamie Oliver, Happy Days with the Naked Chef - Cooking the Books

Starter:     Onion Baguette

Main:        Chicken in Milk

Dessert:    Pancakes – USA stylie (Jamie’s words, not mine!)

jamie happy days

Starter: Onion Baguette

Easiness: 6/10

Taste: 6/10

Make again: 6/10

Cheats & Changes: I used my own basic bread recipe

I see bread boards on the starter menus time and time again now, so here’s one you could add to yours! Jamie doesn’t use a typical French Baguette recipe, so rather than use his basic bread, I used mine which I know works well.

Make your bread as per the recipe until you’ve finished the first prove.

While it’s proving, make your onion mixture. Finely slice white onions and garlic, pop into a pan with olive oil and cover until beginning to soften. Once they are turning translucent, remove the lid and let the water evaporate. When soft but not coloured, remove from the heat, add a splash of white wine vinegar and leave to cool.

Ready for the Oven


Once the dough has had its first prove, shape into baguettes on a well floured flat tin and rub the onion mixture into the top of each one. Leave until doubled in size then slide the tray into a hot oven for about 20 minutes or until they sound hollow. The onions will burn a little, but it doesn’t hinder flavour. For a crispier crust, sprinkle with water too. They are good, but would be improved even more by adding some of the onion mixture to the dough itself before shaping, just make sure there’s very little moisture left in it.


This is the perfect sort of bread for dipping into the juices from today’s Chicken in Milk post too.

Main: Chicken in Milk

Easiness: 9/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: none

Now, I know this doesn’t sound appealing; certainly not as tasty as slow cooked ham in cola, or something stickily similar, but I had a whole chicken, so…


The recipe's here but it’s a fairly simple combination of ingredients: sage, cinnamon, lemon, garlic and milk. You brown the chicken on a snug fitting lidded casserole, tip out excess fat, shove in the rest of the ingredients and cook. I left mine for a slightly shorted time than the recipe as I didn’t want dry chicken. I had a 1.6kg chicken that I left in for 1hr20m. Then removed from the heat, and left to sit with the lid on for about 10 minutes before serving. The meat fell off from the bone and was incredibly juicy. And although the milk sauce splits due to the lemon zest so you end up with curds and whey, which don’t necessarily look very appealing, the taste is really lovely, especially if you dip the onion baguette!

Dessert: Pancakes

Easiness: 5/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 5/10 much simpler recipes out there with the same basics and flavour

Cheats & Changes: none

This is a great recipe to whip up for pudding, although is more convoluted than the usual American pancake recipes as you whip the egg whites to create volume and air to help the pancakes puff up. I’d never choose to make this recipe as I think pancakes should be quick and easy, without having the pre-whip egg whites, etc. This also means it’s more difficult to use the mixture the next day as the whites are flat again by then. I’d normally just make a big jug of my usual one thicker with less liquid, that way it stores well in the fridge for a couple of days, but do cover it up. You can the add fruit as you go to whatever taste you fancy that day, and it makes for a super-quick and easy breakfast, especially if the frying pan is left out from the night before!

American pancakes with blueberries

Photo courtesy of

The recipe is online here and I chose to add blueberries to the mixture before cooking, then sprinkle cooked cakes with icing sugar and drizzled syrup. You can never have too much sugar! I ate mine before taking pictures but they did look fairly similar to the Jamie ones above! If you’re looking for a more ‘fun’ idea for pancakes, have a look at my Peppa ones.

Thursday 19 February 2015

10: Delia Smith, How to Cheat at Cooking–Cooking the Books

Starter:     Calamares Fritos (that’s squid to you and me!)

Main:        Grilled (Cornish) Mackerel with Salsa Verde

Dessert:    Cheat’s Eton Mess

delia cheat

When this book first arrived, telling people they could use shop bought jars, sauces, bases and frozen stuff, it caused quite a stir. This was Delia, after all, Queen of Cooking, saying it was ok not to start from scratch every time. She even goes so far as to say that television programmes ‘persist in ridiculing and humiliating people who can’t cook … perpetuating the myth that cooking skills belong to the privileged few’. Now, this book is copyrighted 2008 and I believe much has changed since then. Hugely popular programmes, such as Bake-Off and Masterchef, whilst they have their opportunity to share a giggle with the cooks’ mistakes, also celebrate the cooking skills of  the general public. Well known chefs, and indeed farmers, such as Jamie and Jimmy (love or hate them) have brought cooking back the everyday masses and made it quick, simple and fun…but most importantly, tasty.

When I looked through Cheat to choose recipes, however, I struggled as I found I didn't have many of the ingredients needed. Now, I could have prepared a 'How not to Cheat' version of the recipes, but instead picked more simple ones, and have since bought some frozen mash, you know, just in case!

Starter: Calamares Fritos

Easiness: 6/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 7/10

Cheats & Changes: none – but I did batter and fry the little tentacley bits too!

DSC_0539 (2)

DSC_0542 (2)

“It’s very nice, the squid, isn’t it?”


“I said the squid, the octopus, it’s really quite nice.”

Comment below if you know the film! My bet’s on my mum being first (if only she could comment successfully!)

Something I never make at home is squid rings. Now, Delia suggests using a frozen packet of these whole baby squid, but, not bothering to go to the supermarket, I've ordered fresh, so it will be the first time I've actually prepared these slippery little creatures!

DSC_0540 (2)

The main body is easy – check it’s empty, then slice into rings. The tentacles needed a little but more grit! I spread them out, then chopped off the little hard knobbly bit at the top and the one long, middle trailing tentacle thingy. Then sliced the remains in half long-ways so each ‘part’ had a few legs!

DSC_0541 (2)

The recipe is online, but it’s so easy: they don't even require a batter making up. Prep., slice, season, dip into flour, then whisked egg white and shallow fry. Serve with some delicious sweet chill sauce. Either make your own, or cheat and buy a jar!  Delia suggests Tracklements.


These were delicious, but it would have been just as quick, and [probably more tasty and crunchy, to make a quick light tempura batter, rather than just using the egg white, as it didn’t really stick!

  Main: Grilled (Cornish) Mackerel with Salsa Verde

Easiness: 9/10

Taste: 6/10 (too salty)

Make again: 7/10

Cheats & Changes:  fresh mackerel

Oily fish tends to be slightly neglected in our house. When weaning F, I read that girls should have no more than three portions a week, but she's lucky to get that. She often has white fish, and 'good' oils from nuts and olives, but rarely the fish. So this week, one of the recipes chosen is mackerel. A quick classic I usually do is buy the peppered, cooked mackerel fillets, break up into a blender with some lemon juice and crème fraiche, and whizz up into a pate purée. This is a brilliantly quick starter or simple lunch. This time, however, I'm using fresh mackerel and serving it with a green salsa. The recipe is online, as per usual for Delia, and is fairly simple. The salsa is just combining then blitzing the ingredients, and the fish is simply brushed with olive oil and grilled. It really is a quick one!

Another quick and easy one this, once the salsa is made, but I’d suggest only using one anchovy rather than two as it was very salty. And only pepper the mackerel. I served with rice, but a large salad and some pasta would work well.


Dessert: Cheat’s Eton Mess

Easiness: 10/10 (Frankie did all the chopping and crushing, not me!)

Taste: 8/10 (would have been more if I’d used red berries)

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: I used whatever fruit was to hand: kiwi, tangerine, apple, etc. I chose the book’s Greek Yoghurt rather than the Double Cream required in the online recipe.

The online recipe here differs slightly from the one in the book, as it uses double cream rather than Greek yoghurt I’ve chosen to use a tub of Greek style natural yoghurt with honey. It’s a very basic idea of breaking up the shop-bought meringue nests, adding the fruit and folding in the yoghurt. Delia also used some of the fruit to make a puree to give a sort of marbled effect, but you could leave this out if you wanted and cheat even more by pouring over a shop-bought coulis.


Obviously, this is going to taste nice, especially if you like the fruit you’ve used! It’s just sugar and fruit after all…but using shop-bought meringue, which is virtually as good as home made (much better in my case!) , and if you choose Tesco’s or M&S is even chewy in the middle, which I like best.


Monday 16 February 2015

Peppa Pancakes

Saw these recently and thought I'd give them a go: Good fun, and lots of mistakes to eat up. And no matter how they turn out, even if they only vaguely resemble the famous pig, your little ones will love them!

Monday 9 February 2015

9:Antony Worrall-Thompson, Slow Cooking-Cooking the Books

Starter:     Italian Leek Stew

Main:        Lancashire Hotpot

Dessert:    Treacle Sponge Pudding

For those who are new to the blog, I’m about a third of the way through a self-set challenge – Cooking the Books! I decided I had so many recipe books that I rarely used and wanted to try some of the recipes rather than sticking to the same few I use every time. I have no idea where this week’s book came from, who may have bought it, but I do know that Antony Worrall-Thompson and his recipes don’t often feature in my cooking or chosen ideas, so this will either change or confirm my opinions!


Starter: Italian Leek Stew

Easiness: 7/10

Taste: 7/10 but needs extra salt and pepper, and more parmesan on top!

Make again: 5/10

Cheats & Changes: Rapeseed Oil instead of Olive

This looked an interesting option for a vegetarian meal, which we’ve been having at least once a week since the veg. boxes arrived. It’s usually a veg lasagne of sorts, so it was pleasing to try something different. The recipe is fairly simple and combines traditional flavours, but after making it, I remember that I don’t really like cooked olives. I’ll eat them, don’t get me wrong, and I don’t pick them out…I think it’s the smell it gives to the overall dish that I have issues with!


Anyway, begin like this: Stir fry chopped leeks, sliced onions, garlic and cayenne until lightly browned and beginning to soften. Transfer to your slow cooker. Add some chopped kalamata olives, a tin of chopped tomatoes, 180ml water and a can of borlotti beans. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Turn to high, add cubed mozzarella and torn basil leaves and cook for another 15 minutes. Season.
A small bowl of this with some homemade rough bread is perfect for a little stew starter. Or serve with brown rice for a more substantial main course! I chose a simple homemade tagliatelle side.


I would make it again, but as a small lunch or a starter, as we had it as a main. I don’t think the flavours are strong enough to maintain interest for a large main course, although the OH said it tasted quite ‘meaty’,  and I needed to add cheese to the top, as usual!

I’ll share the spoils with Mr W-T!

Main: Lancashire Hotpot

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 9/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: lamb scragg/neck chunks not chops, I left out lambs’ kidneys (yuck)

Yet again, I find myself with lamb chunks ready to slow cook and a plethora of delicious recipes to choose from, so I was trying to find something different from my usual lamb stews bulked out with beans or grains. There were options of lamb taginey flavours but the one I chose this week was a Lancashire  Hotpot. Although not a slow cooker recipe, it is a one pot, long cook idea with very few ingredients.


Butter the bottom of an over proof casserole with about 10g butter (a big chunk), I'm using a low cast iron one. Next, place a layer of peeled and sliced (around 8mm thick) potatoes over the base. Fry off the lamb chunks until browned and place on top with some thyme springs, bay leaves and a sprinkle of sugar! The recipe actually states neck end chops, but any scragg end meat will do. Scatter sliced onions over the top and add another layer of potatoes. Pour over some lamb stock (I used beef) being careful not to cover the top layer of potatoes as you want these to be crispy rather than soggy. Brush the top with melted butter and pop into the oven on 160° C for two hours. Then remove the lid and turn up the heat to 200° C. Leave for another 30 minutes until golden brown.


Now, even when crisped on top, this didn’t look appealing. There was little sauce/gravy to be seen, and it looked flavourless, however, this was a classic case of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’: it was absolutely delicious. The potatoes at the bottom were squishy with the onions, the ones on top had an edgy crunch and the lamb just fell apart. I, as always, served it with a dollop of mint jelly and the suggested mulled red cabbage.

1.5 – 0.5 to Mr. W-T.

Dessert: Treacle Sponge

Easiness: 7/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 5/10

Cheats & Changes: none

I know I swore to stick to the oven when baking cakes but this one just requires a pudding basin, so I'm giving it a go! A treacle sponge pudding, of all things! Generally, this is made with syrup, not treacle, and this one is no different. There are also white breadcrumbs added, so we'll see how we get on.


You’ll find the recipe here but it’s a basic cake mixture with a bit more flour added, then some milk to make it sloppier – in fact, I think it could have done with being a bit less sloppy, but it did have the finished texture of a squishy steamed pudding rather than cake. It also has lemon zest and juice, If I cooked it again, I’d add more syrup.


Using the slow cooker as a steamer did work really well, especially since it was in a pudding basin rather that cake tin so I’ll keep that in mind for future recipes too.


2.5 – 0.5 to Mr. W-T.

So, this is post number 9, which means I’m nearly a third of the way through these books – where has that time gone?! If I’m not careful, we’re going to end up with a glut of Jamies for the last third, so look out for some in the next few weeks. I’ve also still got a few Delia’s and even another Nigel Slater one to come. Looking back at the original challenge, I’ve already failed by deciding not to go for Heston. After a ‘sort of’ Facebook vote, we decided that life was too short, and cash too tight to invest in the time, food and equipment needed! I’d rather be building Lego or reading books with F!


Monday 2 February 2015

8 - Coco, Phaidon - Cooking the Books

Starter:     Roasted Garlic Zeppole

Main:        Beef Tenderloin, Horseradish & Watercress Roll

Dessert:    Eccles Cakes


This was one of the books I haven’t been looking forward to, although it’s a great food-porn book! It’s published by Phaidon and is a collection of recipes from 100 contemporary chefs who have been hand selected by 10 ‘world leading masters’. My first challenge was to ensure i chose recipes where I actually knew that the ingredients and techniques were and could easily get hold of them: this discounted many of the recipes therein. Discarded ingredients included: lemon verbena leaves, cachaca, dende oil, cupuacu pulp, liquid nitrogen, goose barnacles… you get the idea! Techniques discarded included: putting ingredients into a Thermomix and processing for 10 mins at 160 degrees (what the hell’s a Thermomix?!) ; apply ultrasound for 25 mins at 75%, cycle 7 ( I decided not to bother hiring one from the hospital) ; twist the middle segment of the tail and pull carefully to remove the intestinal tract (been there, done that!)

The starter and main courses are from two chefs both chosen by Mario Batali (no, not Mario Balotelli), mainly based in the USA.The starter from Mario Carbone, head chef at Aeronuova, USA, and the main’s from April Bloomfield, who worked with Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray at River Cafe before moving across the sea to open The Spotted Pig and The John Dory in New York.

All the recipes require a pre-knowledge of cooking – they are not for the first timers, but the recipes I’ve chosen are easy and simple and I’ll let you know where I fell down so, hopefully, you won’t do the same! 

Starter: Roasted Garlic Zeppole

Easiness: 4/10

Taste: 7/10

Make again: 4/10

Cheats & Changes: Rapeseed Oil in stead of Olive

Begin by confit-ing the 2 whole heads of garlic … pop them into a small casserole, top up with oil and a few sprigs of thyme and bake for 45 minutes. Now, about half way through I thought the recipe through…how on earth was I going to get the garlic itself out. since I hadn’t peeled the heads or cloves before immersing in oil. This led to a mad Google of ‘how to confit garlic’ and, luckily, I decided I didn’t need to peel them first. It does mean though, that once cooked, you have a very messy, sticky job to remove the squishy garlic from the papery skins, albeit easy as they slide out nicely.


Next make the choux-type pastry. This is something I’ve rarely done so followed the instructions to the max. Boil 225ml water with 85g butter and 2 tsp salt. Add 175g plain flour and whisk in. Remove from the heat and, one by one, tip and combine 4 eggs and 2 egg whites. Finish by adding 60g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated, and the confit garlic. Mix thoroughly together and place into a plastic freezer bag. Snip the corner off and pip little shapes onto a baking sheet before baking for 25 mins (mine needed about 30) at just 140° C. Brush with some of the garlic oil and sprinkle with large flakes of Maldon Sea-Salt. Serve warm with drinks.


These were good, and are perfect for a canapé or pre-dinner appetizer. Rather a lot of phaff though, just for nibbles for two!

Main: Tenderloin of Beef, Horseradish & Watercress Rolls

Easiness: 9/10

Taste: 7/10

Make again: 4/10

Cheats & Changes: none


Apart from searing the beef, this is really just assemblage. Oil the fillet of beef and rub in chopped thyme leaves. Sear on a high heat for a couple of minutes only. Pour some lemon juice and balsamic vinegar over the top. Chill – the beef, not you. Make the horseradish cream, by grating fresh root, mixing with lemon juice and crème fraiche. Add salt and pepper to taste. Wash the watercress and group it into little bunches. Slice the beef thinly, paint the with horseradish cream and wrap around the watercress. For a main course, serve two or three with some mash or roasted potatoes and use the horseradish as a sauce. Served alone, these are perfect as a starter.


Would I make them again…probably not. If I’m searing such a nice cut of beef, I’d like to slice it thickly and eat with rare with some chips!

Dessert: Eccles Cakes

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 6/10

Make again: 4/10

Cheats & Changes: Used glacé cherries and stem ginger instead of mixed peel

I’ve never made Eccles Cakes before, so these, hot from the oven, I’m hoping are going to be delicious.

I had most of the ingredients for these except the mixed peel, so chose to substitute chopped glacé cherries and stem ginger instead. A for ease, there's nothing to it but to mix everything. The recipe states simply to combine all ingredients, but if I did it again, I'd batter the butter and sugar first, then add the fruit.


Mix together 40g soft butter with 100g sugar. Add 200g currants, 50 g mixed peel, a pinch of ground ginger and nutmeg. Roll out your shop bought puff pastry, or cheat like me and buy ready rolled, and cut into circles of about 10cm diameter. If you have some left over, rather than roll together and re-roll, take care just to place the remnants on top of each other, don't squish up, then roll again: this way you'll preserve the layers. Spoon the butter fruit mix into the middle of each circle and pinch up all sides. Turn the cake over and flatten slightly. Use a sharp knife to stab a little air hole in the top of each, sprinkle with water and sugar and bake for 20 mins on 220° C until golden.


Mine ‘bled’ a little whilst cooking so lost much of their moisture, so I’d ensure you seal them well. And whilst being fairly tasty and very easy, I’m not sure they’re my favourite cake.



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