Saturday, 29 June 2013

Homemade Passion Fruit & Orange Cordial


I found this recipe in an old Easy Living Magazine I was flicking through last week - it was featured as an idea for homemade gormet picnic foods. Whilst I have no upcoming picnic plans I was inspired to give this recipe a go - I'm not a massive fan of fizzy soft drinks so I mostly drink water, cordials/squash and tea whilst at home. My family gets through numerous bottles of Robinson's orange squash and Bottlegreen's elderflower cordial! So trying to make my own cordial really appealed to me for a bit of a change.

I'd never made a homemade cordial before, and didn't realise how easy it is to do. The cordial tasted delicious and my family loved it - it wasn't long before it was all gone! I really liked the passion fruit flavour too - when I looked in my local Sainsbury's store there weren't any similar flavours to this, so it was definately more of an exotic flavour to the standard orange squash I normally drink!


Recipe - Passion Fruit & Orange Cordial
Makes about 750ml

Ingredients:

375g sugar (I used white caster)
6 oranges
3 passion fruit

Method:

1. Add the sugar and 375ml of water to a saucepan. Add the zest of one of the oranges to the pan and bring the mixture to the boil - simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often to dissolve the sugar.

2. Squeeze the juice from all the oranges and scoop out the pulp from the 3 passion fruit. Add this to the saucepan and allow the mixture to cool. 


 

3. Once cool, strain the mixture and put it into a bottle. I didn't have anything of a suitable size, so used a couple of empty gin bottles that my mum normally uses for making sloe gin for christmas!

You can dilute the cordial with either still or sparkling water - it will keep for up to 5 days in a sealed bottle in the fridge. Make sure you give the bottle a bit of a shake before each serving, then dilute to your preferred strength.


Lisa x

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Curried Potato Salad with Cauliflower

Last week I posted a recipe taken from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's 'Take Three Good Things' that used potatoes, asparagus and halloumi (find the recipe here). 

This week I have tried another delicious recipe from this cookbook (available on Amazon) using potatoes, cauliflower and curry as the three key ingredients. I made this for my lunch today and it took me no more than 15 minutes to prepare.


Recipe - Curried Potato Salad with Cauliflower
Serves 4

Ingredients:

400g new potatoes, cut into approx. 2cm chucks
Half a medium cauliflower, trimmed & cut into small florets
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper (to season)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons plain natural yoghurt
1 tsp of curry paste (I actually used a teaspoon of mild curry powder as a substitute, but this still worked well)

Method:

1. Bring a large pan of water (with a pinch of salt) to the boil. Add the potatoes and simmer for about 3 minutes. Then add the cauliflower and cook for another 3 minutes until both are just tender. Drain and leave to cool.

2. Make the curried mayonnaise whilst the veggies are cooling - combine the mayo, yoghurt and curry paste/powder in a bowl.

3. Once the potatoes and cauliflower are cool mix them with the curried mayo. Season with some salt and pepper, and add the squeeze of lemon juice.

Done!
A great quick lunch idea. I actually think it would also be nice served warm - just mix the potatoes and cauliflower with the mayo mixture before they have cooled. I think I'll try it this way next time.

Lisa x

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Jamaican Ginger Cake Recipe


This ginger cake is definately not the prettiest of cakes, but it's certainly full of flavour. 
I personally like to eat it as a dessert with some warm custard, or alternatively you could enjoy a slice with a cup of tea for an afternoon treat!

Recipe - Jamaican Ginger Cake
Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:

75g butter
150g flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
¾ tsp ground ginger
A pinch of ground nutmeg
2 tbsp milk 
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
75g black treacle
75g golden syrup
75g dark soft brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

Method:

1) Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.

2) In a large bowl sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate bowl mix together the milk and bicarbonate of soda.

3) Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the treacle, syrup, sugar and 75ml of water - kept it on a gentle heat so the mixture does not boil. Add this to the bowl of flour & spices and then add the milk mixture. Stir in the beaten egg.

4) Stir the mixture well and pour into the loaf tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for about an hour and 15 minutes - or until a metal skewer comes out clean. The cake will be dark in colour, but if it looks as if the top is starting to brown too much during cooking then cover the cake with some foil halfway.

5) Leave the cake to cool on a wire rack. 


Lisa x

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Baked Eggs with Spinach & Leek - Sunday Brunch Inspiration

During the week I normally have a quick bowl of porridge or cereal for my breakfast before heading out to work. Not very exciting! So at the weekend I always fancy taking my time to make something a little more special and delicious. A few months ago I found a recipe for baked spinach eggs in Easy Living magazine, and I've sucessfully made this recipe several times since. It's a great idea for a weekend breakfast or brunch, and it only takes about 15-20 minutes to prepare and another 12-15 minutes to cook.

Recipe - Baked Eggs with Spinach and Leek
Makes4

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
20g butter
2 leek, trimmed & sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
300g baby spinach leaves
4 eggs
80ml single cream
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Salt & Pepper for seasoning
Bread, to serve

Method:

1) Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

2) Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and garlic and cook for around 5 minutes until soft. Add the spinach and cook until wilted.


3) Blend the spinach and leek mixture in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of the cream. Season the mixture and add the nutmeg.


4) Divide the spinach and leek mixture between 4 ramekin dishes. Crack an egg into each one and then divide the rest of the cream into each dish and season with salt & pepper.


5) Place the ramekins into a baking dish and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Serve with some toasted ciabatta or sourdough bread.


So yummy!!

Lisa x

Saturday, 22 June 2013

A Quick Herb Update!

I mentioned last weekend that I had planted some parsley and basil seeds (see here) - and thought I'd show how my basil is progressing...


It's started growing!

Wish I could say the same for the parsley, but nothing has sprouted from my Seedpod yet :( I've been told this is to be expected though - basil apparently grows faster than parsley. Will continue to keep you posted!

Lisa x

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Take 3 Good Things - Potatoes, Asparagus & Halloumi (Recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)


Last week my mum bought Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's cookbook 'Hugh's Three Good Things on a Plate', and whilst flicking through it his recipe using potatoes, asparagus and halloumi caught my eye. So yesterday I decided to make myself this dish for my lunch, using a fresh bunch of homegrown asparagus before the British Asparagus Season ends in mid-June. Here's how it turned out...


It tasted so good, after I'd finished my big plateful I wish I'd made enough to have seconds! Unfortunately I was only cooking for myself, so had adjusted the recipe quantities to make only 1 portion :( This dish makes a great lunch, or Hugh suggests serving it with sourdough bread to make a more filling meal of it.

Recipe - Hugh's Take Three Good Things - Potatoes, Asparagus & Halloumi
Serves 4

Ingredients:

600 - 700g new potatoes
4-5 cloves garlic (unpeeled), bashed
2 tbsp olive oil
400g asparagus
225g halloumi
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to season
A tbsp chopped parsley (optional)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 190C. Cut the potatoes into small chunks. Pour the olive oil into a roasting tray and then add the garlic and potatoes with some salt & pepper to season.

2. Whilst the potatoes are roasting, trim the ends of the asparagus and chop the spears into 3-4cm lengths. Cut the halloumi into small cubes (approx. 2cm)

3. Add the asparagus and halloumi to the potatoes once the 30 minutes have passed. Toss the ingredients to combine. Return the roasting tray to the oven and cook for 15 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and discard the garlic cloves. Add a generous squeeze of lemon juice and toss all the ingredients together. Before serving you can scatter over some parsley if desired. 

After this success I'm keen to try out more of the recipes from Hugh's cookbook, although there are so many tasty looking things I can't quite decide which to try next! The cookbook is currently available on Amazon for a very reasonable £9.99 (see here).

Lisa x

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Tomato Soup with Orzo (Recipe from June 2013 Jamie Magazine)


I think I'm currently going a bit Jamie crazy! I do love most of the recipes of his that I've tried - and after writing about the June 2013 Jamie Magazine on Friday I was inspired to have a go at one of the recipes over the weekend. I decided to try to make 'Tomato Soup with Orzo' (which appears on pg 119) as it uses storecupboard ingredients which I already owned. Plus, I had a box or orzo which has been sat in my cupboard unused for months (probably a year or so actually!) and I didn't really know what to do with it until now. It's basically pasta that looks like rice....


Recipe - Tomato Soup with Orzo
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp dried mint
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
750ml chickent or vegetable stock (I used chicken)
100g orzo pasta

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a big saucepan and add the onion, garlic, mint and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook over a medium high heat until the onions soften.
2. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes. Use a stick blender to blitz the soup until smooth.
3. Add the stock and the orzo and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the orzo is tender.
4. Serve! I added a couple of roughly torn fresh basil leaves too on serving, just because I love the tomato/basil combo.

A quick and easy recipe to make a filling and tasty soup!

Lisa x

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Planting Some Herbs - Parsley Seedpod & Sutton's Sweet Basil

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I received some free Suttons sweet basil seeds with my copy of Jamie Magazine this month. I also picked up a 'Pat Parsley Seedpod' for £3 at the Foodies Festival in Clapham last week - meant for kids but who cares?!? I've never been particularly green-fingered so a kit aimed at kids is probably my best chance at making some herbs grow!

So this morning I decided it was time to plant my seeds and attempt to grow some tasty herbs. I chose to plant my 'Pat Parsley' first as the kit seemed pretty straightforward and all you needed to do was add water!



The kit included some gravel, a 'coir' (a natural fibrous bi-product of the coconut husk - an eco-friendly soil), the seeds and instructions. You use the plastic Seedpod box to plant the seeds which is handy! 

Firstly I emptied the gravel into the Seedpod box, followed by the coir. I then added 70-80ml of water (the lid of the box can be used to measure the water - 1 capful). The soil then expands and you can plant 5 or 6 seeds into the soil. You need to leave the pod (without lid) in a warm, light position so I left it on a ledge in my kitchen.



I then dug out a plastic plant-pot from our shed, filled it with some compost and planted a small amount of the basil seeds. I left them on the kitchen ledge next to my parsley, in a small foil pie tray which I can top up with a little water from time to time. Not quite as pretty as the parsley Seedpod, but you've got to work with what you've got!

According to the Sutton's instructions basil should be sown anytime between mid-Feb and mid-June (so I got it done just in time) and can be harvested between June and October.




Fingers crossed my herbs sprout, I will keep you updated on their progress (and hopefully not their lack of it!)

Lisa x

Friday, 14 June 2013

Jamie Magazine - June 2013


Just a quick post about the June 2013 edition of Jamie Magazine - I picked up my copy last week for £3.99 and it has 2 good freebies included - a packet of Suttons Sweet Basil seeds and a liqourice and peppermint Teapigs tea bag.


I adore Teapigs and peppermint tea so was pleased to be able to try this flavour before deciding whether or not to buy myself a box.  I've also been thinking about attempting to grow my own herbs from seeds (having just bought myself a parsley Seedpod kit) - so will have a go at planting the basil seeds at the weekend.

As for the magazine content this month, it's an Italian themed issue - one of my favourite cuisines! I'm definately keen to try the lasagne that Jamie is holding on the cover, and there is a recipe for chicken panzanella - not something I'd previously heard of, but it sounds amazing! The recipe includes a ciabatta loaf which soaks up the herby juices from a roasted chicken to create delicious crunchy croutons.
There is also a recipe for a tomato soup with orzo that looks really simple - I have some orzo in my cupboard and I've been unsure what to do with it up until now! So think I'll be giving this one a go in the next few days.
Finally, there are some really tasty looking chocolate dessert recipes that aim to 'evoke the spirit and sweet tastes of Tuscany', including a milk chocolate torte and white chocolate panna cotta - both of which I will be adding to my Sweet Treats recipe file for future use (see here!
Just flicking through this magazine makes me hungry!

Lisa x

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Jamie Oliver's Pork and Cider Stew Recipe

Another recipe from Jamie Oliver's 'Ministry of Food' cookbook - a simple pork stew made with cider. I love the simplicity of this recipe - and it takes hardly any time to prepare. Preparing the stew takes less than 20 minutes, and then you can just forget it whilst it slow cooks in the oven for a couple of hours. The end result is beautifully tender meat and veggies - a hearty meal for the family!


Recipe - Jamie Oliver's Pork and Cider Stew
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

Olive Oil
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 tbsp of plain flour
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
Salt and Pepper (to season)
3 sprigs fresh sage 
500g diced stewing pork 
500ml bottle of medium-dry cider

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
2. Wash, peel and roughly chop the vegetables.
3. Put a casserole dish on the hob, add a couple of glugs of olive oil and tip in the vegetables and sage. Fry over a medium heat for about 10 minutes.


4. Add the diced pork and the flour, followed by the cider and chopped tomatoes. Give the stew a stir and season with salt and pepper.


5. Bring to the boil and give the mixture a good stir, then transfer the casserole dish to the oven.
6. Cook in the oven for 2½ hours. Keep the lid on until the final hour of cooking.

7. I served my stew with mashed potatoes, as they are a favourite in my household! In his cookbook Jamie suggests serving with dumplings - find his recipe for dumplings here.



Lisa x 
 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Foodies Festival at Clapham Common - My Goodies!


On Saturday I met with some friends in sunny Clapham and we headed to the Foodies Festival on the Common. The festival features pop-up restaurants, food & drink masterclasses and lots of exhibitor stands, including a local produce market. I loved wandering up and down the aisles of exhibitors, well and truly making the most of the freebies being handed out! I enjoyed various meats and cheeses, cakes, oils and dips, popcorn and drinks (gin, wines, flavoured vodka and my first ever sample of alcoholic ginger beer - Ginger Grouse - very nice!)

I was very impressed by some of the products I tried so I did a little shopping whilst there - and I thought I'd share some of my favourite bits. 

The Bay Tree Passion Fruit Curd
I often enjoy a slice of crusty loaf with some lemon curd alongside a cup of tea as an afternoon snack, so I was keen to try this passion fruit flavoured curd - it was amazing! It won 4 awards in the 2012 Great Taste Awards and they were well deserved.  The company suggest serving the curd on toast, or mixed with whipped cream and broken meringues as a dessert - I'll definately be trying that! I bought my 310g jar for £3.50 at the festival - and the company has an online shop selling all their products which can be found here: www.thebaytree.co.uk


Joe & Seph's Gourmet Popcorn
Last year at the Battersea Park Foodies Festival I got a bit carried away and bought 4 or 5 packs of this popcorn - it really is tasty. This is another product that has won multiple Great Taste Awards. The flavours are so unique and the team at the stall were so friendly and knowledgeable. They are also very generous with the tasters - they encouraged me to try most of the flavours without pushing me into buying anything. I did of course, but I was more restrained this year, only buying one pack (I'm currently on a strict budget!). I was torn between their 'Gin and Tonic' flavour (you could first taste the tonic, then about 4 seconds in the gin flavour really came through) and the 'Thai Style Peanut Satay' limited edition flavour. I decided to go for the later, because it seemed so unusual. I was planning to save the pack for a nice occasion, however I couldn't resist and am currently scoffing them as I write this post!
Sold in various shops, including Wholefoods stores - find your nearest stockist on their website: www.joeandsephs.co.uk


SimplyCook.com
I thought this was an interesting idea - it aims to help people cook great food at home from a range of recipe kits. The website states:
'We provide a SimplyCook.com box once a month containing easy to follow recipes and key 'taste ingredients', designed to transform fridge and food cupboard staples into great tasting, authentic dishes. The chefs at SimplyCook.com have devised a range of recipe kits, which provide the taste elements in just the right quantities to make cooking quick, easy, convenient and hassle free.'
I was given a free sample box by the staff at the SimplyCook stand, including the recipe and some of the ingredients to make 'cajun chicken with sweet potato mash'. The box included 3 pots of 'hero' ingredients - red pepper paste, cajun seasoning and garlic oil, alongside the recipe and a list of other ingredients needed to prepare the meal for 2 people. Sign up online and for £10 a month you will receive the instructions and taste ingredients to make 4 meals for 2 people (1 meal a week). I think this is a great idea if you enjoy cooking but fancy some new recipe inspiration - there is a list of sample recipes available on their website:
www.simplycook.com

There are upcoming Foodies Festivals this summer in Bristol (July) and Edinburgh (August). Then the festival will be returning to London in August at Battersea Park (August 16th,17th and 18th) - I've noticed they often have 50% off ticket offers on daily offer sites such as Groupon a couple of months in advance, so if you're keen on going it's a good idea to keep an eye out for those nearer the time.

For more info check out the Foodies Festival website here.

Lisa x

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Ideas for Refreshing Spring/Summer Cocktails!

I hadn't mentioned anything until now, but this week I started a new job. I'm a qualified Occupational Therapist and since arriving back from travelling around Australia and New Zealand in April I have been looking for a new job. Unfortunately, OT work in my preferred area is rather scarce at the moment so I have taken on some home care work whilst my OT job search continues - and after waiting weeks for my criminal record check to come through, I finally started on Tuesday.  I worked temporarily as a domiciliary carer previously (about 5 years ago now), so it seemed like the best idea in order to keep my CV up-to-date with some relevant healthcare experience!

To celebrate the successful completion of my first week in my new job I headed out last night night with a couple of friends for some cocktails - any excuse for a girls night!! 

So today I thought I would write a little about my favourite cocktails to have at this time of year, as we come to the end of the spring season and head towards summer. Whilst I admit that I rarely make my own cocktails at home (I've had a couple of months experience working behind a bar but I never really got the hang of mixing cocktails!) these are so simple that I hope you will feel inspired & motivated to try making one (or all) of these...

Raspberry Collins 
The UK raspberry season begins in June so why not pick up a punnet and try a Raspberry Collins? I first tried one of these at one of my favourite pubs in West London - The Defector's Weld. I have tried various 'Collins' cocktail recipes since (Lycee Collins, Blackberry Collins, and the original - Tom Collins) but this remains my top choice. Gin is my favourite spirit and it forms the base of this cocktail.
Find the recipe for a Raspberry Collins here.

Sea Breeze/Arizona Cooler
I love this cocktail - Pippa Middleton provides a recipe for it in her book Celebrate, and it's so simple that I have successfully attempted to make this drink for myself & friends a couple of times at home:
'Pour 100ml vodka, 200ml cranberry juice, 200ml grapefruit juice and the juice of 1 lime into a cocktail shaker, flask or jug. Shake or mix together well to combine. Divide ice cubes between four glasses and pour the cocktail over. Stir well and garnish with lime wedges'.
You could also substitute the vodka for gin and the lime for lemon in this one (if preferred) - it then becomes an 'Arizona Cooler'!

Flirtini
A modern take on the Martini - made with pineapple juice, vodka and champagne. Very fancy! This drink first came to my attention when Carrie and the gang enjoyed a jug of it during an episode of Sex and the City. Great for when you have something to celebrate - enjoy in a champagne or martini glass!
Find the recipe for a Flirtini here.

Elderflower Cooler
I'm a big fan of Bottlegreen Elderflower cordial and often use it at home for a refreshing alternative to a standard gin & tonic. To serve 1 - mix a shot of your favourite gin (approx. 25ml) with a shot of elderflower cordial (approx. 25ml again) and top up your glass with tonic water (approx. 100ml). Add ice cubes and either a wedge of lime or some mint leaves to garnish - whichever you prefer.


Finally, I've recently seen the new Pimm's Blackberry and Elderflower advertised and I'm looking forward to trying that this summer, served with some lemonade!



Lisa x

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Mid-Week Family Meal Inspiration - Ham, Cheese and Spinach Pasta Bake Recipe


I'm currently living back in my parents house (hopefully not for much longer!) and whilst we have a casual rota for making dinner during the week, I find myself cooking many of our family meals. I don't mind this though - I have the time at the moment, as well as the passion for cooking! One of the things I love about living back at my family home is being able to flick through all my mum's cookbooks and finding new recipes. Yesterday I was looking through her Good Housekeeping cookbook (available on Amazon marketplace here) and found a recipe for a pasta bake that looked tasty, so thought I would give it a go for our mid-week meal.

I adapted the original recipe slightly by using a little less cream and mustard powder, and a little more spinach to make it healthier (I absolutely adore spinach). It was lovely, so I will share my adapted version with you...

Recipe - Ham, Cheese and Spinach Pasta Bake
(Adapted from Good Housekeeping's 'Penne, Cheese and Ham Bake')
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

- 50g butter
- 25g plain flour
- 1 tsp mustard powder (the original recipe calls for 1 tbsp, but i'm not a massive fan of strong mustard flavour)
- 450ml milk
- 125g grated cheddar cheese
- 50ml double cream
- 120g pack of sliced ham, chopped (I used Sainsbury's Honey Roast Wiltshire Cured Ham)
- Pinch a nutmeg 
- Salt and pepper
- 350g dried pasta (I used fusilli pasta twists)
- 200g frozen spinach
- 25g parmesan, grated


Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°c.

2. Melt the butter in a pan, then stir in the flour until combined.

3. Add the mustard powder and milk and stir until smooth. Let the sauce come to the boil, stirring often with a whisk – let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cheddar and stir until all the cheese has melted. Add the cream and ham and season the mixture with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

4. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions and drain thoroughly went cooked.

5. Whilst the pasta cooks place the frozen spinach in a bowl and pour over some hot water until it has thawed. Drain and press out any excess water.

6. Mix together the pasta, sauce and spinach and pour into a big ovenproof dish. Grate parmesan over the top if desired and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. 


Pre-baking...




The tasty end result...



Lisa x