England; birth place of many remarkable things

England; birth place of many remarkable things; take John Lennon, Rolls-Royce, Carry On films and indeed the radio…

Driving to work this morning I felt a great sense of pride being English, now for those of you that know me well, you’ll know this is something I don’t normally feel. However, listening to Absolute Radio’s list of 102 things that make us proud to be English made me realise that, actually, we have numerous great things to be proud of. Particularly the many wonderful culinary creations that are quintessentially English, and when you actually sit back and think about it the list is endless.
What ham sandwich would be complete without Colman’s English mustard? And, how could you eat Cheddar Cheese on toast without Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce? Perhaps, we often take these simple pleasures for granted, but the fact remains that these wonderful English foods deserve to be celebrated and savoured. There are also many foods that may not have originated here in England, but are, with out doubt, English in their very nature, such as a good ol’ cuppa, we literally drink millions of gallons of the stuff each year, or indeed beans on toast.
So, here is my list of 50 top nosh English foods (and drinks), by all means leave me a comment with anything I’ve missed. Let’s see if we can make 102 entries on the list.
  1. Cup of tea
  2. Cheddar cheese
  3. Pork pies
  4. Yorkshire puddings
  5. Roast dinner
  6. The sandwich
  7. Cornish pasty
  8. Maldon sea salt
  9. Tiptree jam
  10. Fish and chips
  11. Full English breakfast
  12. Crumpets
  13. Stick of Rock
  14. Branston pickle
  15. London Pride
  16. Cumberland sausage
  17. Colman’s English mustard
  18. HP Sauce
  19. Jam Roly-Poly
  20. Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
  21. Fish and chips
  22. Digestive biscuits
  23. Newcastle Brown Ale
  24. Summer Pudding
  25. Lancashire hot pot
  26. Toad in the hole
  27. Bakewell Tart
  28. Bubble and Squeek
  29. Steak and kidney pie/ pudding
  30. Sheppard’s Pie
  31. Cottage Pie
  32. Bisto gravy
  33. Twinings Tea
  34. Bombardier Ale
  35. Strawberries and cream
  36. Eton Mess
  37. Marmite
  38. Trifle
  39. Oxo cubes
  40. Victoria sponge cake
  41. Mr Kipling
  42. Black pudding (from Lancashire)
  43. Cream tea
  44. Fish fingers
  45. Crumble
  46. Balti (yes I know, an English invention)
  47. Pie and mash
  48. Cadbury’s
  49. Dover Sole
  50. Pimms and lemonade

Are you screaming at the computer because I’ve missed something incredibly obvious? 

Delicious Chicken Curry in a Hurry

I know, I know, before you say it, does the world really need another chicken curry recipe? Well yes, you can never have enough curry recipes, and there is nothing I like more than experimenting with spices; a little less garam masala, a little more chilli… you get the picture.
This recipe is one that I have developed over time; having read literally heaps of curry cookbooks and tested out many variations this is perhaps my favourite so far, and the reason is twofold. Firstly, you could chuck this together in less time it would take you to order and pick up a takeaway, and secondly it won’t even set you back at half the cost – not to mention it’s delicious. Okay that’s three reasons.
If thick creamy curries are not your thing, but quick convenient food is, give this a go. The fact that you use yoghurt instead of cream means you don’t get that ghastly heavy, creamy texture that so many Indian restaurants serve. This is a tomato based curry so it’s actually fairly light as curries go.  Essentially, all good curries start out the same; the basics are, of course, onions, garlic and spices, followed by liquid (water or stock) and meat, or indeed vegetables and perhaps a little cream or yoghurt. Once you have the concept and measurements right, you are ready to start experimenting yourself. Fundamentally, there are no rules here, by all means make this a fish, vegetable or meat curry if it suits you better, and up the spice according to your own taste. Served with plain boiled rice it’s perfect, or try out some of my more exciting rice and Indian side dish recipes.

300g diced chicken breast
2 tbsp butter or ghee
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large white onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 ½ inch piece of ginger, minced
2 red finger chillies
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
½ tbsp garam masala
½ tsp turmeric
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp caster sugar
300ml water
100g low fat natural yoghurt
Heat the butter and oil in a large non-stick pan, add the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies, cook for about 6 minutes, until the onion has softened. Add the spices and fry for a further 2 minutes. Do not let the spices burn. Add the chopped tomatoes, sugar and water, stir well and add the chicken. Cook for 12 minutes.
Meanwhile boil the rice. Once the chicken has had 12 minutes, add the yoghurt and stir well. It may look as though it is separating a little at first, but continue to stir and the sauce will come back together.
If you do prefer a thicker curry, mix a tbsp of corn flour with a tbsp of water and stir into the curry. Serve immediately with the boiled rice.

Bacon & Cabbage Pasta with Chilli

Hurrah for Friday. It’s been a slow but eventful week, with a few too many late nights, so I feel as though I need to catch up on plenty of sleep this weekend. And, considering I don’t have many plans, I think that’s just what I’ll do, amongst the cooking and packing of course.
Speaking of packing, I feel I may be focusing on many quick and easy meals over the coming weeks. Today’s recipe is pasta; perhaps the king of all comfort foods, who doesn’t love a big bowl of it whilst watching TV on a lazy evening in? This recipe really is absurdly simple to prepare, and with just a few inexpensive ingredients it’s a budget friendly family meal that will keep everyone happy. The sweetness of the smoked bacon against the bitterness of the Savoy cabbage works wonderfully, and in true Nicole fashion I loaded this dish with fiery red chillies. And, yes I did just refer to myself in the third person. Now, if you’re making it for the kiddywinkles, perhaps just use a few (and I mean a few) chilli flakes instead of a whole chilli.
You may be thinking that bacon and cabbage pasta sounds dreadfully boring, or unexciting even, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. As well as the delicious flavours, I adore the ensemble of colours in this dish. With plenty of black pepper and just the right amount of parmesan and you’ll have found yourself a firm family favourite for years to come. Honestly, I believe you’ll love it as much as I do.

150g dried fusilli
6 smoked rashers of bacon, roughly sliced
½ head of Savoy cabbage, roughly sliced
1 Red chilli, finely sliced
1 large red onion, diced
2 Garlic cloves, minced
50g parmesan, grated
½ Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
Start by weighing out your pasta. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
Meanwhile add the onion, garlic, chilli and bacon to a pan with a tablespoon of oil and fry for about 7 minutes, or until the onion has softened and the bacon has become a little crispy.
When the pasta has 5 minutes cooking time left add the cabbage to the pasta water and continue cooking. After the 5 minutes drain the pasta and cabbage and add it to the onions. Stir in the parmesan ensuring the pasta is well coated and add a generous sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately. 

Chicken with Red Wine & Rosemary

Spring is finally here, and the sunshine is certainly making me feel happier. The year of 2013 is shaping up to be a good one already; I’ve had hen parties, weddings and there’s only more to follow. I’m off to Majorca in June, so it will be sunshine, sangria and delicious Spanish dining. Not to mention the fact that I’m moving house (yes again) in a few weeks.
In light of the sunshine that has finally emerged, and despite how much I love stews and casseroles, I’m hoping this may be my last warming meal for a while. For me, it doesn’t get much better than red wine with food, and this is a wonderfully simple dish to pull together, yet it’s something I’d be proud to serve at any dinner party.
This recipe isn’t a far cry from my Spaghetti alla Puttanseca, it’s essentially the same sauce, with the addition of red wine, although I did omit a few things. If you’re looking for a rich and tasty supper then I’d really recommend you try it. It’s really important to use a decent red wine (note – I said decent, not expensive), something you’d drink. If you’re not a red wine drinker don’t worry about getting a full bottle, all supermarkets have a fairly good selection of 18.7Cl bottles which are available from just £1.99, so it needn’t be expensive.   
With just a few inexpensive ingredients, the iPod blaring out your favourite tunes and a little help from your friends you can have this delicious dish on the table in just half an hour. The aroma of the red wine and rosemary will make your kitchen smell wonderful, served with roasted potatoes, crispy Pancetta and a good sprinkling of parmesan you’ll leave your guests asking for seconds. Although, this would also make a great weekday meal, so if you’re feeling a little lazy, simply serve it with a nice crusty loaf and a generous spread of proper butter – delicious. You really don’t need to use chicken breast for this recipe, I find the thighs stay moist and taste better – and the best part is that they are cheaper. Initially I was going to boil the green beans separately, but that seemed like hard work, so I just chucked them in the pan with the chicken, red wine and tomatoes… easy!
I guess there is no reason why you couldn’t use your slow cooker for this recipe too, if you wanted to prepare it ahead.
500g Chicken thigh fillets, skinless and boneless
3-4 Rosemary sprigs, freshly chopped
4 Anchovy fillets
4 Garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp capers
3 Echalion shallots, roughly chopped
100g of Pancetta (about 6 slices), roughly chopped
200g of green beans, trimmed and halved
400g chopped tomatoes
120ml red wine, something you’d drink
Freshly ground black pepper
4 medium/ large potatoes
20g Parmesan, grated
Knob of butter
Start by pealing and parboiling your potatoes. Once these have had 7 minutes or so, toss them in some butter, a table spoon of freshly chopped rosemary and place them in the centre of a pre-heated oven to roast at 200⁰C for 30 minutes. You want the potatoes to be roasted, but not too crispy on the outside, this way they soak up more of that delicious red wine sauce.
Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a pan or casserole dish; brown the chicken thighs all over. Then add the shallots, garlic and rosemary, cook this for a further 5 minutes until the onions have softened.
Add the anchovies, capers and Pancetta fry for a further 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, red wine and green beans before bringing to the boil. Cook for 30 minutes. 

Add a sprinkling of parmesan to your roasties 10 minutes before they are cooked. Season the casserole with freshly ground black pepper and serve with the potatoes. I wouldn’t suggest adding salt as the anchovies and Pancetta will be salty enough. 


Making Pizza in an Authentic Italian Pizza Oven (Jamie Oliver Pizza Oven)

I was invited to my auntie and uncle’s house yesterday. Well, I say invited, but I was actually contracted in to help them set up their website. And when I say help, what I mean is that I spent approximately nine hours doing it for them, with a house full of screaming kids, how’s that for dedication? I was however rewarded, very well, for my efforts; my uncle let me make a pizza and cook it in his amazing Jamie Oliver pizza oven and he kept the red wine flowing in to the afternoon, whilst my auntie bustled around making copious cups of tea for the various guests that arrived throughout the afternoon. I’m sure they saw the smoke from the pizza oven and dashed round to get a piece of the action, or a piece of the pizza to be more precise.
I’ll be honest; I’ve never really been a huge fan of pizza, perhaps because I’ve never been lucky enough to know someone with a proper pizza oven, and I have experienced some pretty ghastly American deep pan pizzas which are worlds apart from these thin, crisp based beauties. The art of making pizza is certainly a messy job, but my god was it fun. I don’t think my poor auntie could believe the state of her kitchen when we’d finished. There was semolina flour and various pizza toppings spread about the place, not to mention the dishes!
I’m not going to explain how to build, light or tend to your pizza oven fire as there appears to be a knack to it that only the most experienced of men could master. But then I guess most of you won’t have a pizza oven sitting in the garden anyway. The point is, these pizzas can be cooked in your conventional oven at home and they’ll undoubtedly still taste delicious.
The dough recipe makes six to eight medium sized pizzas – perfect for a crowd, you’ll be surprised just how far they go. One batch of this dough fed nine adults and four children, although we did also have a delicious Italian antipasti starter plate. I know, greedy gits, but that’s what Sundays are all about, aren’t they? For the toppings we had an impressive array of choices from prosciutto to roasted vegetables and delicious cheeses. If you do an antipasti starter you can even use your left over bits and pieces from that, such as the olives and cured meats. My pizza (as pictured) had a simple home-made tomato sauce, a few torn strips of mozzarella and basil leaves, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and onions, a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a very generous sprinkling of red chilli. Once cooked, I topped it with a handful of peppery rocket (dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar) – delicious.

Basic Pizza Dough Recipe – Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver
800g strong white bread flour
200g fine ground semolina flour or strong white bread flour
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
650ml / just over 1 pint of lukewarm water
Pile the flours and salt onto a clean surface and make a 18cm/ 7-inch well in the centre. Add your yeast and sugar to the lukewarm water, mix up with a fork and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork and a circular movement, slowly bring in the flour from the inner edge of the well and mix into the water. It will look like stodgy porridge – continue to mix, bringing in all the flour. When the dough comes together and becomes too hard to mix with your fork, flour your hands and begin to pat it into a ball. Knead the dough towards you and your right hand to push the dough away from you at the same time. Repeat this for 10 minutes, until you have a smooth, springy, soft dough.
Flour the top of your dough, cover it with cling film, and let it rest for at least 15 minutes at room temperature. This will make it easier to roll thinly. Now divide the dough into as many balls as you want to make pizzas, i.e.  lots of small ones or a few larger ones, but I suggest that 6 is a good quantity for this amount of dough.
Timing-wise it’s nice to roll the pizzas out 15 to 30 minutes before you start to cook them. If you want to work more in advance, it’s better to keep the dough wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge rather than having rolled-out pizzas hanging around for a few hours. Take a piece of the dough, dust your surface and dough with a little flour or semolina, and roll it out into a rough circle about 0.5cm/ ¼ inch thick. Tear off an appropriately sized piece of tin foil, rub it with a little olive oil, dust it well with flour or semolina, and place the pizza base on top. Continue doing the same with the other pieces and then, if you dust them with a little flour, you can pile them up into a stack, cover them with cling film, and put them in the fridge.
When you’re ready to cook them, preheat your oven to 250⁰C. Or, get your pizza oven going a couple of hours before!  At this stage you can apply your toppings. Remember: less is more. If you don’t have a pizza oven, try cooking the pizzas on a piece of granite or marble in your conventional oven- if not, do them one by one on the bars of the oven shelf toward the bottom of the oven. (If you’re going to cook your pizzas on the bars of the oven, make sure they’re not too big- otherwise they’ll be difficult to manoeuvre.) Cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until pizzas are golden and crispy.