Monday 18 May 2015

18–Keith Abel, Veg Box Companion - Cooking the Books


Starter:   Globe Artichokes with Garlic Butter Dip

Main:      Undercover Onion Tart

Dessert:  Rhubarb Compote

abel and cole

My fortnightly veg. box has quickly grown to a veg., fruit, meat and fish box...which eliminates the need for a weekly shop and I just pop into the supermarket to pick up essentials such as bread and milk, making it oh so less stressful and time consuming! Accompanying the initial box came a recipe book to help me use those veggies well…and it’s one I regularly turn to.
The recipes from the free book also include meat and fish, and I find are vital, especially when using up the little bits and bobs you have left, or the more unusual veg, although I’ve also begun to create my own, such as Kohlslaw, which uses a kohlrabi instead of cabbage in a simple coleslaw of grated carrot, sliced onion and kohlrabi mixed with shop-bought mayo.

Starter: Globe Artichokes with Garlic Butter Dip

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: none


The start this week is globe artichokes, something I first had aged around 15 whilst in Switzerland on exchange. They family served steamed artichokes with a Dijon dressing, which were absolutely delicious but completed alien! Since then, I've always fancied trying them out myself, but the Abel and Cole recipe gave an easy melted butter and garlic dip. Steam the artichokes until the base stem is soft, crush garlic and melt with butter and salt. Tear each petal leaf by leaf and dip the base, the bit that is part of the heart, into the sauce, scraping off the flesh with your teeth...very animal! Once the leaf flesh has been demolished, remove the hairy 'choke' and quarter the heart, dipping this too. I'll be trying this again, especially since F asked the next day for another one, but with the Dijon dressing as I think the vinegar will really help lift the flavours, but the garlic butter was good too. Recipe here

Main: Undercover Onion Tart

Easiness: 7/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: used half leeks, half onions


Main course is onion tart, mainly because I have all the ingredients to hand and it'll serve well as a lunch dish to take cold to work. This was the first time I’ve made a proper savoury homemade pastry, life’s too short in general, but I’ll certainly be doing it again as it was so simple and worked a treat. The base was crisp – no soggy bottoms here – and the pastry short. I used half leeks as only had one onion left, and it could do with a little more crème fraiche, but really was delicious. As I was making it, I wanted to top with halved asparagus spears too, but refrained, sticking to as much of the recipe as i could to check it worked, and it did. This was definitely a perfect summer-time tea. Check out the Abel and Cole website here for the recipe.

Dessert: Rhubarb Compote

Easiness: 10/10

Taste: 9/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: none


Dessert is a simple rhubarb compote which is very versatile. I’m using mine to top some homemade meringue, something I’m usually rubbish as making, but seem to have the knack if I use the KitchenAid! The recipe is a simple and fast jammy mixture which you can use in many different ways…how about a base for crumble, or as part of a summer Mess with natural yoghurt swirled with icing sugar? Or even a little dollop in the glass before topping with Prosecco? I’ll leave the rest of the ideas to you, the recipe’s here. Put chopped rhubarb, sugar, half a vanilla pod and a little water into the pan and soften for around 10-15 minutes. Drain and retain the syrup to use as cordial. Thanks to Angela and Bella for the rhubarb – I’ll pop a jar of the compote round!


Friday 15 May 2015

17–Alice Hart, Alice’s Cook Book - Cooking the Books


Starter:   Sticky Tamarind Chicken Wings

Main:      Lamb, Courgette & Halloumi Burgers

Dessert:  Honey’s Raspberry Turnovers

Alice Cooks
I've had this book for a few years now. It was originally sent to me by the publishers as a sample copy, and I've since cooked a few things. The recipes are that little bit different, and unusual, but generally seem to work (apart from a cake disaster I remember!) Anyway, this time, I chose recipes I haven't tried before...sticky wings, lamb, courgette and halloumi burgers, raspberry turnovers served with the simplest vanilla icecream you'll ever make, which I’ll post at a later date.

Starter: Sticky Tamarind Chicken Wings

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 10/10

Make again: 10/10

Cheats & Changes: none – though I couldn’t find ‘fresh’ tamarind, so used a little pot of it already mixed from Tesco and added the whole pot. Skip the stage in the recipe where the tamarind is mixed with water.

These were a case of combining, leaving and roasting. My only quibble was finding free range chicken wings. The supermarkets tend to see and sell wings as a ‘cheap’ box of leftovers, and are, therefore, usually part of their value range. I did hesitate, and before cooking again, will attempt to find a higher welfare box of wings. Combine tamarind, groundnut oil ( I used olive) , runny honey, dark muscovado sugar, soy sauce, grated fresh ginger, squashed garlic cloves and chilli flakes. Pop into a bag with the wings and leave to marinate after giving everything a good squash together. Roast in a single layer at 190 degrees c for 30 minutes.


I prepped a batch of these and left in the fridge ready to watch the boxing a couple of weeks ago and they went down a treat! So much so that family in Mexico felt to urge for wings as well and had to order some in! The recipe is here, but it’s really one of those where leaving out one ingredients, or swapping for another, won’t really alter the flavours drastically, and it’ll still be delish!

Main: Lamb, Courgette & Halloumi Burgers

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: none

Try to use the best lamb mince you can for the burgers as this way you'll get a softer, more 'falley apart' burger. It's a case of combining, then cooking the ingredients, (courgette with the water squished out, lamb, halloumi, mint) so really not a lot to it, apart from grating the courgette and halloumi. The Greek yoghurt dip with mint is a classic combination with lamb and, therefore, obviously works really well. Even my little one wolfed down her burger with dip...the first burger she's actually enjoyed! The link is here.


Dessert: Honey’s Raspberry Turnovers

Easiness: 10/10

Taste: 9/10

Make again: 10/10

Cheats & Changes: none

For the raspberry turnovers, again, it's not hard. Cut pre-bought, pre-rolled puff pastry squares, fill with raspberries and a sprinkling of sugar, glue together with milk or egg and varnish the top before baking on high for 20 minutes. If you need a recipe it's here, but it really is a case of assemblage!


All in all, this little gem surprised me! All three recipes were quick and easy, especially compared to the disaster of a raspberry cake I had previously tried, and all were delicious. I’ll definitely be digging it out again in the near future!

 Alice's Cookbook - Paperback - 9781844008889 - Alice Hart


Friday 1 May 2015

16 – Nigella Lawson, Nigella Bites – Cooking the Books


Starter:   Halloumi with Chilli

Main:      Salmon with Greens and Shitake Mushrooms

Dessert:  Orange Breakfast Muffins

Nigella Bites

What did the cheese say when he looked in the mirror?

Hallo – me

Anyway, if you’ve got a better cheese joke, then feel free to comment it below! Sure there’s one about a bear in a tree, hiding donkeys, and so on and so forth!

This week was Nigella’s turn. Everything always looks so delicious when she cooks and I’ve never bought or used Halloumi before. The main was chosen simply because I have much salmon available after buying it half price from Tesco and filleting myself – why not have a go? It’s not a difficult as it sounds, I promise, and you get so many fillets which you can cut to whichever size you’d like.

Starter: Halloumi with Chilli

Easiness: 10/10

Taste: 7/10

Make again: 5/10

Cheats & Changes: none


I used a block of Halloumi, 1tbsp extra virgin olive oil and 1tbsp finely chopped red chilli without seeds. Slice the cheese into the thickness of a pound coin. Pop into a hot, dry frying pan and leave to turn golden. Flip so each side is evenly cooked. Meanwhile, combine the chilli and oil. As soon as the slices of cheese are ready, serve on a plate and pour the chilli oil over. Serve immediately while hot.

This last part was where we went wrong. Mine were cooked, drizzled and ready but my husband wasn’t! Therefore, when it came to the eating, the cheese was rather hard and squeaked on the teeth! I’d advise immediate eating in future.



Easiness: 9/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10 Very quick and simple

Cheats & Changes: I didn’t have any soy, the main flavouring, but thought it would work well with some Hoi Sin marinade I had in the cupboard, which it did. I added green and purple mange tout too.


The recipe for this is stupidly easy. Fry or grill the salmon, remove from pan and keep warm. Throw your pak choi, Asian greens, stalks and sliced shiitake mushrooms into the pan with a splash of soy sauce to taste. Now, there’s usually a bottle of this hiding, with a sticky lid and sticky base at the back of the cupboard in our house, but this night, it wasn’t to be so. So I improvised and used a similar jar of hoi sin marinade instead! First I marinated the salmon with that and some grated ginger (keep pieces in the freezer and grate straight from there!) then followed the recipe, throwing in some green and purple mange tout that was left in the bottom of the fridge too.

If you’ve got greens and salmon, it’s a really quick dinner. Noodles would be an lovely extra addition to bulk it out a bit more. The flavours I used worked well, but see no reason it wouldn’t be nearly as tasty with the soy, a grating of ginger and a sprinkle of lime.


Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 9/10

Make again: 9/10

Cheats & Changes: I used clementines, also mainly plain flour as I didn’t have enough s.r. flour, so added extra bicarb. Used OJ from concentrate, not freshly squeezed as suggested!

I know, I know…I’ve made it for dessert, but it’s name suggests a breakfast item. Well, yes. It’s cakey, muffiny, and hot with custard for pudding would be perfect. Nigella, however, eats hers warm from the oven, torn open and slathered with butter and jam. I don’t know how she does it, I really don’t! I did have mine for breakfast, gently warmed in the microwave, but I decided they probably already had enough calories without me decadently adding any more!


75g unsalted butter

250g s.r. flour

25g ground almonds

1/2 tsp bicarb of soda

1 tsp baking powder

75g caster sugar

zest 1 orange

100ml orange juice

100ml full fat ilk

1 egg


Preheat oven to 200 degrees c.

Melt the butter and set aside. Tip flour, almonds, bicarb, baking powder, sugar and zest into a large bowl. In a jug, pour the OJ, milk, egg and cooled melted butter. Whisk a little to combine. Pour the liquid ingredients into the powders. mixing with a fork. Don’t be tempted to do this in a processor, KitchenAid, or with an electric mixer…just combine with a fork until the flour is only just mixed in. It should be a little lumpy and never overworked! Spoon into the muffin cases and bake for 20 mins. Voila!


They really were good, and perfect to take into work for breakfast with a cup of coffee once you’re there. (Oh yes, I may have added chocolate chips to some of them by accident – the packet sort of spilled out of my hand into the mixture!)

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