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Cheesy Chipotle Stars

STARS  Copy of STARS

I figured that this recipe was rather apt. I recently won an award, earning myself a place amongst 23 other ‘Rising Stars’ as we are now known. The award was given by Strategic Proposals is for up-and-coming talent the bid and proposal profession. This week saw the completion of the training sessions for the award, and I sat an exam last week (which I passed – yay!). I’ve been travelling about a lot for work this week too, so it’s been one of those ridiculously busy weeks. Hurrah for the weekend!

These golden cheesy treats are a deliciously spicy savoury snack. They are the perfect balance of smoky Chipotle and yummy mature cheddar. It doesn’t get much better that that, right?

Just looking at these little golden wonders makes me excited that autumn is officially upon us. Amongst the many reasons I celebrate the return of autumn, are the leaves starting to fall, woolly socks, the smell of rain in the morning and of course pumpkins, roasted parsnip soup and gingerbread lattes. It’s is my favourite season for sure. So much so that I’ve decided to dedicate a whole blog post to ‘The Reasons I Love Autumn’… coming soon!

These cheesy delights are the perfect little snack alongside a delicious autumnal soup, or as my sister-in-law (which I can now call her as Rich and I got married 3 weeks ago, yay us!) suggested, these would be great washed down with a glass or two of sangria. She’s in Spain, jealous much?

The recipe makes a whole bunch. Forgive me because I didn’t count exactly how many, and I guess it all depends on the size and shape of your cookie cutter anyhow. Of course, you could use any shaped cutter, but I opted for ‘Rising Stars’ (ahem,  I make no apology for the shameless plug to my recent success).

The base of this recipe will serve you well for other varieties of snack. If you don’t like spicy food, or Chipotle – you’re odd. No, but seriously, you could try cheddar and rosemary, or poppy seed, or maybe some sunflower seeds for crunch. Experiment. It’s the best thing about cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 200g mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 115g plain flour
  • 50g salted butter (cold)
  • 1tbsp Chipotle paste (less if you don’t like it too spicy)
  • 4-6 tbsp cold water

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan)
  2. Tip the ingredients into a blender with a dough hook and blend adding a tablespoon at a time of water until a soft dough forms. If mixing by hand, combine and bring the mixture together by hand, knead on a floured work surface.
  3. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to 3mm thick.
  4. Using a cookie cutter stamp out your stars. Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 15-18 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
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Mushroom toasts with bacon, thyme, garlic and roasted bone marrow

This is without doubt one of the most deliciously mouth watering recipes I’ve ever devised, for obvious reasons I guess. Roasted bone marrow spooned over garlicky mushrooms and salty jewels of bacon and perfumed woody thyme… what’s not to love? These mushroom toasts would be ideal for a Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve dinner party. Just go easy on the garlic so as not to knock your guests side ways with your garlic breath.

This recipe really packs a punch in terms of flavour and it’s just so simple. Aside from waiting for the bone marrow to cook it only takes about 10 minutes to throw together, so even when you’ve still got some last minute wrapping to do you can find 10 minutes right?

Bring some restaurant elegance into your home

It is easy to bring a little bit of restaurant into your own kitchen. In fact, Christmas has to be the ideal time. Your guests will really appreciate the touch of elegance it brings to the dinner table, plus you’ll look extra chefy. All you have to do is ask your butcher for some femur bone cut into small discs and pop it into the oven. Job done! Well almost…

The inspiration for the recipe

The inspiration for this recipe came from a book I recently bought for a friend. It’s a book I feel compelled to share with all foodies I know. ‘The Flavour Thesaurus’ is always on hand in my kitchen. If you’re a foodie and you’ve not heard of it or read it I urge you to pop out and grab a copy. As the title suggests, the book is set out like a thesaurus and is a bible of parings, recipes and ideas for the creative cook. On many an occasion I’ve taken inspiration from the book, perhaps when I have a random ingredient left over and I’m not sure what to pair it with. I can always count on The Flavour Thesaurus to come up with the goods.

The recipe

Garlic mushroom toasts with bacon, thyme and roasted bone marrow
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Starter, Main, Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 250g mushrooms (I used Chestnut and Shiitake), roughly chopped
  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped thyme
  • Splash of white wine
  • 2 disks of femur bone (bone marrow) - ask your butcher for this
  • 4 thick slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 tbsp each of butter and olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Turn the oven on to the highest temperature and pop in the bone marrow (in a roasting tin). It will take about 35-40 minutes.
  2. When the marrow has only 10 minutes from being done heat the butter and olive oil in a pan on a medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms, garlic and thyme, cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  4. Then add a splash of wine and allow to cook until reduced. Season to taste.
  5. Pop the slices of sourdough bread under the grill. Remove when lightly toasted and whilst still hot rub them with a garlic clove.
  6. Remove the bone marrow from the oven and carefully spoon out the soft marrow from the middle - stir this through the mushroom mix.
  7. Pile the mushroom mix on to the toasts and garnish with a little fresh thyme.
  8. Serve immediately.

 

 

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Adorable teddy bear sugar cookies

It’s no secret, I have an absolute obsession with Pinterest. I can idle away hours scanning through the images and picking up inspiration for recipes, tips and ideas. Back in September it was Jemima’s first birthday, so I began searching party ideas on Pinterest in the July… I was a rather excited mother. After all, it was her very first Birthday. I happened across this teddy bear picnic idea and I actually knew someone who had hosted this type of party before, so the idea was cast and I embarked on two months of party planning.

Who knew planning a party for a one year old would be so fun? Obviously from a food point of view the pressure was off as a traditional teddy bear picnic would mean everyone bringing their own lunch along. This meant that I was able to decide what food to offer without the pressure of having to provide a huge variety of sandwiches, meats and sweets etc. And, I didn’t have the worry of catering for exact numbers.

Having seen the adorable teddy bear picnic ideas on Pinterest I just had to decide which ones to run with. I’d never attempted iced sugar cookies before so it seemed a fitting time to try. I’ll be honest and say this is by no means a quick task and it requires a certain level of patience – the kind of patience I don’t normally have. However, it being Jemima’s first Birthday it warranted all the time and effort.

Everyone seemed to be greatly impressed with the effort . The food on the day turned out great and everything was so fitting with the theme. Richard’s niece Emily is an amazing baker and made Jemima a wonderful teddy bear Birthday cake – she’s also a blogger so you can check out her amazing creation here.

If teddy bears are not your thing, you could of course make any design you like. With Christmas just around the corner I’ll certainly be trying my hand at some festive designs. Most of us have made biscuits before right? So we know about making a dough that won’t spread in the oven meaning we lose the desired shape? Well, if you are shaking your head, don’t worry… there are a couple of super simple tips that will guarantee your biscuits are perfect every time.

Top tips for perfect sugar cookies

  • Don’t use baking powder – even if a recipe states you should
  • Don’t open the oven – even if you’re really tempted to check
  • Roll the dough out so it’s no thicker than a one pound coin
  • Place the cut out biscuits on a baking tray lined with parchment paper
  • Chill the dough for 45 minutes in the fridge/freezer

Chocolate teddy bear sugar cookie recipe

Iced teddy bear biscuits (sugar cookies)
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Sweet
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 230g softened butter
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 60g coco powder
  • 300g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl
  3. Add the egg and vanilla, mix to combine
  4. Add the dry ingredients and bring together using a wooden spoon
  5. Turn the mixture out on to a floured work surface and knead until you have formed a smooth dough (try not to handle it too much).
  6. Flatten out the dough, wrap in cling and place in the fridge for a minimum of 45 minutes
  7. Remove from fridge and roll out to the thickness of one pound coin
  8. Use a cookie cutter to cut out your cookie shapes
  9. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet
  10. Place in the center of the pre-heated oven and bake for 8 minutes

 

 

To make the flood icing

Outline the biscuits using thinned royal icing mixed with food coloring of choice (I actually used coco powder for my teddy bears), use a thin piping nozzle. Once you have piped the outline, immediately flood the rest of the biscuit with icing using a slightly thicker nozzle. Use a wooden skewer (or a scribe if you have one) to evenly distribute the icing. Gently tap the biscuit to settle the icing. . If using other colours such as the black and white you can add these after the initial colour has set for about 30 minutes. Allow 8-12 hours for the icing to thoroughly set

I found YouTube a great help when learning how to flood the icing.

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Pizza Party (on a Friday night)

There is something rather joyful about covering the kitchen in flour and making pizza. Granted it’s a terribly messy task, but that’s where the fun is right? We love making pizzas on a Friday night when we have Rich’s children Max and Daisy. It’s a great family activity – everyone gets stuck in. The children go mad for them and love rolling out the dough and choosing their own toppings.

Rich makes a huge load of dough and I knock up a big batch of tomato sauce. Or we swap jobs, but Rich is rather good at kneading dough so I tend to let him do the hard work. We have everything laid out ready for the kids, dough, rolling pins, aprons, tomato sauce and as many different toppings as we can find. We like to see who can make the nicest looking, the biggest or  most flavourful pizza. Max won in the ‘best looking’ category hands down… here is his little chorizo masterpiece. Yes, it did taste as good as it looked.

Max's Pizza CookedFlourMax's Pizza Uncooked

Miss Friday’s Pizza

Mine was rather a funny shape and size, but for me it’s ALL about the flavour and that crunchy texture on the crust – delicious. And a pizza is simply not worth eating unless it has anchovies and olives on it. Of course, the kids would totally disagree – it’s all about cheese and pepperoni.

Making it at home is not going to compare to that stone baked taste you get from making it in a traditional pizza oven, but it’s still pretty darn tasty. I’ve posted about my uncle’s pizza oven before and shared the dough recipe that I use.

Jemima (my 10 month old) even had her very own pizza – future Miss Friday right there!

Do you have a perfect topping combination? Feel free to share it in the comments!

Nicole's Pizza CookedNew Picture (10)Jemima's Pizza

 

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Tex Mex: Feed a Crowd Chilli Con Carne

Cooking for a crowd is great fun; the prospect of getting creative and offering up a huge variety of dishes that will really impress your friends and family excites me, but it often sends me into a whirlwind of energy and pressure. I’ve come to learn the secret of stress free entertaining, base many dishes around one recipe – a huge pot of smokin’ chilli con carne. It’s super easy to cook and oh so good to eat – serve it with jacket potatoes, rice, nachos or in a toasted pitta bread topped with cheese, sour cream, guacamole, fresh salsa and some fresh coriander, all washed down with an ice cold beer. Move over Chimichanga, I think I’ve died and gone to homemade Tex Mex heaven.

It’s great fun to base meals for a large number of people on a particular theme, you can simply throw together various dishes and people love getting stuck in to food they can eat with their hands. Nachos and stuffed pitta breads are great for this.

I won’t take all the credit for the scrummy looking food, Rich (the fiancé) made the loaded potato skins (look out for his guest recipe coming soon) and we kind of just threw the rest together whilst drinking with my brother Kelv and his girlfriend JoJo.

Now, i’m totally guilty of saying I can’t find the time to cook for myself, let alone to entertain, but if your guests happen to be relaxed family who also have a baby it’s all quite good fun. We managed to feed, entertain and put the babies to bed, have a drink and a laugh ourselves and we still managed to pull together this delicious feast and photograph it for the blog. A pretty successful evening all round.

The Recipe

I’ve included the recipe using my new recipe plug in below, so if you want to make this recipe for more or less people, just use the handy scroll bar and decide how many you want to cook for. The ingredient quantities will automatically update. Impressive I know! Also, don’t forget you can print the recipe using the small blue print icon. Happy cooking!

Chilli in PittaLoaded skinsChilli PotCold beerNachos

Print Recipe
Chilli Con Carne
This is a recipe for a rich smokey chilli con carne. This dish is so versatile it can be served with plain rice, on a jacket potato, in a pitta bread, or on top of nachos - however you choose to serve it though, be sure not to forget the essential condiments, grated cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, freshly chopped coriander and most importantly an ice cold beer. This recipe is great for feeding a crowd and it freezes well, so don't worry about leftovers - all the more for you.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy based saucepan, add the mince and cook until browned.
  2. Remove the mince from the pan and set aside, leaving a little oil in the pan, then add the onion and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes, or until translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, mushrooms, carrot, red pepper and then return the mince to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Add the oregano and spices, chopped tomatoes and water. Stir well to combine and bring to a boil then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer.
  5. Cook on a medium to low heat for one hour. The chilli will thicken and become rich. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
  6. 10 minutes before the chilli is cooked, add the kidney beans and freshly chopped coriander.
  7. Serve either straight away, or after sitting for up to 20 minutes (I prefer it when it's not piping hot).
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