Howdy foodies. Apologies, it’s been a while. I’ve been busy, working, studying and wedding planning. The wedding is just over 3 months away. Eek! Jemima has also been running me ragged, leaving my blog somewhat abandoned. I have been busy in the kitchen though, I’m finding my stride again. And, we’ve been putting the outside kitchen and terrace to use for barbecues, hence this post tonight; to tell you all about a special summer veggie dish I made last weekend.
This really is a super simple and deliciously tasty quinoa dish, and it was a huge hit. Strangely, not only amongst my female guests as one might expect.
Richard often pulls a funny face at the mere suggestion of something like cous cous or quinoa. Like it isn’t manly enough for him or something. That said, he really enjoyed this recipe. Having to admit defeat and confess that it had “loads of flavour” in his words, although it probably pained him to say, no doubt. He sees food like quinoa as a ‘fad’ that nobody actually likes. I admit that plain quinoa would be bland, boring and quite frankly a chore to eat. Throw in the mix though some delicious roasted vegetables and a zingy dressing and it’s transformed into a bright summery dish that is a pleasure to eat.
The dish will serve about six to eight people as a side dish, or it would stretch to four weekday lunches for work. I know I enjoyed the left over portion for my lunch yesterday. I would say this is fine to keep in the fridge for around 4-5 days, just pop it in an airtight container to keep it fresh.
One thing I really missed when I was pregnant was steak, since I won’t eat it unless it’s very rare (practically blue), I didn’t really eat it at all. So last week when Richard asked for fillet steak, I was more than happy to oblige.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t choose fillet; I find the fatter cuts have much more flavour, but I must confess this particular steak was utterly delicious and really melted in the mouth. It was also reduced to about £2.50 per steak, a real bargain not to be missed. I have a slight obsession with the reduced section of the supermarket.
I’ve been making the same whisky and peppercorn sauce for some years and it never fails me. Rich even said that he had never really liked peppercorn sauce until he tasted mine – high praise indeed. I’ll take that.
So I figured, if we were pushing the boat out and having fillet steak, we should serve it with the whisky peppercorn sauce and not worry about calories, hence the accompaniment of creamy mustard mash. The spinach adds a much needed touch of colour to the dish as well as offsetting the sweetness of the mash.
For the peppercorn sauce:
In a small saucepan, heat 300ml of beef stock and 1 tbsp of freshly cracked black peppercorns over a medium heat, allow to simmer (stirring frequently) until it has reduced by a third. Add 60ml of whisky and 100ml of double cream continue to simmer until it has reduced by a third again. Do not boil.
For the mustard mash:
Place the cooked mashed potatoes into a bowl; add 1 tsp of Dijon mustard and 1 tsp of wholegrain mustard, a pinch of white pepper and 60ml of double cream. Stir well to combine and ensure the mashed potato is a very smooth texture.
Serve with wilted spinach and steak cooked to your liking.
This recipe would make a lovely dinner party dish over the festive season, perhaps for that New Year’s eve dinner?
Now, you may have noticed an improvement in the quality of my photographs, well I certainly hope you have. I finally got round to buying an SLR camera (I’ve only wanted one forever), I just need to learn how to use it properly now. I’ve often thought that a photo doesn’t do a dish justice, so hopefully now I have more chance of truly capturing the deliciousness of my recipes and enticing you to cook them yourself. That, after all is the purpose of this blog, to get others cooking and sharing recipes.
Generally speaking, I’m not the best baker. In fact, if truth be told, I’m terrible. Richard often makes fun of the fact that most of my bakes end up with some deformity or another – soggy bottom, flat cake – you see where this is going. For someone who has such a passion for food and cooking I suck at baking! That said, I persevere time and again – I figure one of these days I’ll create something wonderful.
This week I decided to make coconut biscuits. If you’ve ever tasted coconut rings, they are fairly similar, perhaps just a little crunchier. They actually turned out well, much to my own surprise – so I thought I’d share the recipe with you. Coconut is one of my favourite ingredients, it’s the versatility of it that I love – use it in sweet and savoury dishes, either way it’s delicious.
This recipe is an adaptation of Coconut Biscuits from a book called Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits, which despite it’s very un-snappy title is a wonderfully illustrated book packed with fabulous looking (and tasting) biscuits. The book has everything from old fashioned favourites, such as custard creams and bourbons to iced baby shower, birthday, Easter and Christmas themed biscuits.
There are a whole host of celebrity and TV chefs out there, but few of them that have that laid back simplistic approach to cooking that I love. Matt Tebbutt definitely falls into that category, despite his training at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, he remains fairly grounded when it comes to food. He is probably best known for co-presenting Market Kitchen alongside Rachel Allen.
I was lucky enough to meet him at the Cressing Temple Autumn Food, Home and Craft Fair last week where he was hosting a cookery demonstration. He cooked a delicious glazed salmon dish with soy, sugar and Mirin (Japanese rice wine) with a sweetcorn fitter and pickled cucumber salad. Unfortunately, we only had a tiny taste as there was quite a crowd, but what we did taste was delicious. Even Rich, who isn’t a fan of salmon said it was very nice.
I’ve enjoyed watching Matt on many TV programmes on Food Network, particularly 12 Chefs of Christmas, not least because I love Christmas, but also because he really does have a great way of ensuring that his recipes are easy to replicate – one of my pet hates being pretentious food. Matt happened to mention that he isn’t a fan of MasterChef for that very reason. Well done that man – it’s refreshing to hear a TV chef say this.
As well as his loathing of MasterChef, Matt also talked about a few things he has been up to recently, including a new restaurant project Schpoons & Forx for Hilton in Bournemouth opening in December this year. He’s also been busy filming a new six part series ‘Lost and Starving’ (a cooking in the wilderness type show) with Kiwi survivalist Josh James which is due to air on the Discovery channel in January – the show sees the pair foraging for food in challenging environments in order to survive. I’ll certainly be popping that one on series link, I do love a good new foodie series to watch.
And here we are (Jemima and me) meeting him – couldn’t resist a cheeky photo opportunity!
I’m really rather fond of pies, especially when the weather is as wet and gloomy as it’s been today. There is something oh so comforting about pie, whether it’s steak, chicken or apple… you just can’t beat the deliciousness of buttery flaky pastry on a cold day.
Given that today has been rather horrid on the weather front, I thought I’d share one of these recipes with you to really get you in the autumnal spirit of things. I’m feeling rather autumnal myself, I’ve spent the entire day cleaning my home (yes it’s that bloody nesting instinct as baby still hasn’t arrived), I figured that there wasn’t anything else to do seeing as it was so wet outside.
I digress, here is my delicious home-made chicken and mushroom pie recipe made using left over roast chicken, so it makes a perfect Monday night treat that’s really cheap to make.
Left over roast chicken, pulled off the bone and shredded
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g shortcrust pastry (either home-made or store bought - I won't judge!)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish and add the onion, cook until translucent. Add the other vegetables and thyme, stir well to coat the vegetables with the oil and cook for 10 minutes until they have softened.
Add the flour and stir well to coat the vegetables, then immediately add the tomato purée and chicken stock. Season generously then add the shredded chicken. Turn the heat to medium and simmer for about an hour until the pie mixture has thickened.
Once the pie mixture is cooked remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for about half an hour.
If you are making pie with a base you'll need to blind bake the pastry crust first (see notes below). However, you may only wish to add the pastry on top, in which case follow the steps below.
Fill your dish with the pie mixture and pop the sheet of rolled pastry on top allowing about 2cm of pastry to over-hang the dish. Use cutters to decorate the top.
Brush with egg wash, poke a few small holes in to let the steam out and bake for 40 minutes.
Instructions for Blind Baking a Pastry Crust
If you wish to make a pie crust (which I think is best), roll out your pastry to the desired size, depending on the size of your dish. Use a small ball of pastry to push the corners into place so you don’t tear the pastry.
Ensure that you roll the pastry out so that you have about a 2cm overlap on the dish (sometimes the pastry shrinks in the oven). Place a sheet of baking paper over the pastry and fill the dish with ceramic baking beans. Pop into a pre-heated oven (180oC fan) for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and baking paper and bake for a further 5 minutes.
Once you have blind baked your pie crust allow it to cool slightly before adding the chicken mixture and complete the recipe from step five above.
There is something truly wonderful about this time of year.
The beginning of September marks the turning of the seasons into autumn and brings with it all the promise of crisp blue skies and the changing colours of nature. Not to mention that September is also the month in which I celebrate my birthday AND it’s the month in which I get to meet my baby. My little bundle really could arrive any day now, so I’ve been nesting and preparing things in anticipation.
One thing I was adamant about was ensuring that my freezer was fully stocked with meals. I’ve had friends tell me that having meals prepared in those early weeks really is a life saver, so as a first time mum I decided to take their advice on board. I figured the more prepared I can be the better… roll on those sleepless nights!
I’ve probably made enough meals to see us through at least the first four weeks of parenthood. Everything from chicken and lamb curries to stews, casseroles, cottage pies and meatballs. I found Pinterest to be a great help when deciding on suitable meals to freeze. I’m hoping I’ll have time to post a recipe link-up to these freezer meals… that’s if the baby doesn’t decide to make an appearance in the next week. My due date is only three days away!
You may recall me mentioning that throughout my pregnancy I’ve struggled with sickness and nausea and a real lack of appetite. The first few months I found it impossible to eat without being or feeling sick, but the second trimester bought some much welcomed relief as I regained my appetite.
Well, that relief was short lived as much to my disappointment, my sickness returned about five weeks ago.
I finally decided that I’d had enough of feeling so groggy and needed to see the GP and have anti-sickness medication prescribed. Let me tell you, these little pills really have been my savour. I’ve been able to enjoy cooking and eating again, so much so that I decided to celebrate the return of my appetite with a delicious steak dinner.
Essentially this recipe is for the creamed spinach and mushrooms as I’m assuming most of you know how to cook steak and potatoes to your own liking. I opted for a nice piece of ribeye, roasted herbed potatoes and this side dish which I’ve made a few times before but never shared.
This recipe makes a beautiful side dish for steak. The combination of mushrooms and thyme is utterly delicious. The earthy flavour of the mushrooms really works harmoniously with the woody essence of thyme.
I once read that mushrooms and thyme are true kindred spirits (The Flavour Thesaurus), which is so evident when you taste this dish. You’ll never look back – I honestly don’t think I can cook mushrooms without thyme any more, they’re just not the same.
If you’re a foodie and do not have this book in your cookery repertoire, I strongly suggest you rush out a pick up a copy – it’s a real cook’s bible, helping you to understand flavour parings and why they work.
I also feel it’s really important to use white pepper and not black in this recipe.
This is a great side dish for steak, but it would work equally well with chicken.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp thyme leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
300g closed cup mushrooms, sliced
200g spinach, washed
100ml double cream
1 tsp dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and seasoning, keep it moving with a wooden spoon until the onion is slightly browned. Add the garlic and thyme and fry for another minute.
Add the balsamic vinegar and cook until this has evaporated at which point you can add the mushrooms - cook these for a couple of minutes, they will soak up all the flavours in the pan and take on a nice colour.
Add the spinach and mix well to combine. It will seem like too much, but give it a minute and the leaves will wilt down.
Add the double cream and mustard and simmer on a low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time to ensure it doesn't stick.
I’ve said it before, autumn is without doubt my favourite time of the year, the crisp golden leaves that litter the ground and all the promise of the Christmas festivities to come. There are many things that make this season so special, the first appearance of your winter woollies, misty mornings, duvet days and the heating going on for the first time. But, perhaps one of the best things about this time of year is the comfort food, it’s all about pies, pastries, casseroles and stews and I’ve been busy scanning the archives to bring you my favourite autumnal recipes.
Some dishes just seem to warm you from the inside out and the three recipes above will do just that. Each is special for it’s own merit, the steak and ale is one of my old favourites, a perfect combination of buttery pastry and rich gravy. Those of you who read my blog regularly (I’m hoping that’s a few of you) will know that the Tuscan Fish Stew is probably my best recipe to date and my boyfriend loves it, we make it all the time! And last but certainly not least is one of my newest recipes, but it gets a big thumbs up for seasonality and it was so delicious I couldn’t help but include it in my top three.