Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Vibrant summer salad.

First of all, apologies for not updating this blog in a looong time, but finding time to revise for my final university exams and update my cooking has not been easy (plus if I'm honest there have been more than a few late night takeaway pizzas recently...)

The good news is that I am officially finished and graduated and ready to become - gulp - a real adult person, which means I can now find plenty of time for cooking. Hoorah. 

I thought I would start off with one of my go to summer salads, something that's easy to make, looks and tastes delicious, plus is a little more exotic and interesting (both for the eyes and the tongue) than a somewhat overdone caesar salad or chicken club sandwich for when you're feeling like a light meal. I know that, for us Britons at least, the summer really hasn't started, but what the heck - maybe this summertime dish will encourage the weather to finally perk up. 

Quinoa with feta, pomegranate seeds and mint, served with a lemon vinaigrette
75g quinoa
100g feta
1-2 pomegranates 
handful of mint leaves
50ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
50ml good quality olive oil
salt and pepper, to season

1. Cook the quinoa following the instructions on the packet, then drain and rinse thoroughly, setting aside for later. 
2. In the meantime, chop the feta into chunks and chop the mint leaves into shreds. Put in a large bowl with the pomegranate seeds (if you're struggling getting the seeds out, try holding half the pomegranate over the bowl and banging with a wooden spoon, never fails for me).
3. In a measuring jug, measure out the lemon juice (making sure to squeeze the lemon through your fingers, in order to catch any pips) and then add the olive oil, mixing thoroughly until combined. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste (obviously you can play around with the quantities - if you like it really lemony then feel free to add more lemon and vice versa)
4. Tip the quinoa into the bowl with the feta, pomegranate seeds and mint, and stir well. Pour the lemon vinaigrette over the top and serve. 
5. Finish with a handful of mint leaves and a few more pomegranate seeds to make it look beautiful. 

And it's as simple as that. The flavours are super clean and fresh, but mainly I love the fact that the dish ends up looking so vibrant and colourful, just perfect for summer (when it finally arrives...)


Monday, 16 April 2012

Super speedy 10 minute pizza.

I know it's hard to believe (as I almost couldn't believe it myself), but this really is a recipe for a pizza that can be prepared and cooked in a mere ten minutes. Now if that isn't convenience cooking, I don't know what is. 

I don't know about you but I am a diehard fan of pizza - there is something about the crispy crust, the rich ruby red tomato sauce and the gooey chewy mozzarella that means I can always polish of an entire one myself. Easily. Hey, those Italians really knew what they're doing. 

This recipe gains speed from using a tortilla as the pizza base - it means you don't have to worry about making your own dough which is time consuming and labour intensive (kneading produces muscles for a reason, you know), plus it gives the pizza a razor thin crispy crust which I find delicious. 

The following recipe is a super simple classic - mozzarella and basil with a little garlic and black pepper, although obviously you can add whatever toppings you want to this simple foundation; some of my more original favourites include pesto (swirled with the passata) with mushrooms, minced lamb (pre-cooked) with red onion and greek yoghurt spooned over the top once its cooked, or blue cheese and toasted walnuts scattered liberally over the mozzarella.

Super speedy 10 minute pizza
1 plain tortilla
100ml passata
1/2 ball fresh mozzarella
1tbsp garlic powder
handful freshly chopped basil leaves
sprinkling parmasan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 220°c and place a baking tray in there to get hot. 
2. Place the tortilla on a work surface and cover with the passata, leaving a small ring around the outside for the crust. 
3. Sprinkle the garlic powder over the passata evenly. 
4. Tear the mozzarella and scatter over the tortilla. 
5. Bake in the oven for 8 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden and the tortilla is crisp and brown. 
6. Once out of the oven, scatter the shredded basil over the top and sprinkle liberally with freshly ground black pepper and grated parmesan cheese.

See I told you it only took ten minutes!


Sunday, 8 April 2012

Orange glazed hot cross buns.

Happy Easter everyone! I know (if you are anything like me) that you are probably suffering from a sugar induced coma, but if you fancy shaking off those easter egg shakes and making something really special, then read on for my recipe for the perfect hot cross bun. Doughy in the centre, crusty on the outside, sweet from the juicy bursts of the currants, and tart from the tangy citrus orange glaze, who could ask for more?

Yes, they are labour intensive, and yes, they do take a while to make, but hey, Easter is about lazing around the house during the afternoon, so why not set aside several hours and make these with the love and attention they deserve - a lot of the time is spent waiting for things to rise, and so can be spent employed with other activities, like eating chocolate and watching tv. Sounds like the perfect Sunday afternoon to me...

Orange glazed hot cross buns
For the buns:
600g strong white flour
1tsp salt
3tbsp mixed spice
45g butter
85g sugar
zest 1 lemon
zest 1 orange
2tbsp fast-action yeast
1 egg
275ml warm milk
150g sultanas

For the topping:
3tbsp plain flour
3tbsp water

For the glaze:
100g caster sugar
50ml water
juice 2 oranges

1. Sieve the flour, salt and mixed spice into a large bowl. Rub in the butter with your hands. 
2. Make a well in the flour and add the zest of the lemon and one orange. 
3. Heat the milk and add a beaten egg to it. Pour slowly into the well and mix until all incorporated and a dough is formed. 
4. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes.
5. Continue kneading, adding in the currants and kneading them into the mixture. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic.
6. Place into the mixing bowl (you may want to grease the sides with butter), cover with a clean cloth, and place in a warm place to prove for one hour.
7. Tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough for a further 5-10 minutes. Place back in the bowl and leave to prove for another half an hour.
8. Cut the dough into twelve pieces and shape into buns. Place on a greased baking tray, cover with greaseproof paper all over, and then wrap with clingfilm. 
9. Leave to prove for 40 minutes.
10. Whilst the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 240°c and mix the flour and water into a paste. 
11. When the buns have risen, score crosses into them and place the flour mixture into the grooves to make crosses. 
12. Cook in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. 
13. Whilst the buns are cooking, place the sugar and water in a pan on the hob, and heat whilst mixing continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Add the juice of two oranges and continue to mix over the heat for a few minutes. 
14. When the buns are out of the oven and still hot, spoon the sticky orange glaze over them, ensuring that each bun is covered and glossy. 

I know this is a long process, but trust me - the finished product is so, so, so worth it! The buns smell incredible (perfect for if you're expecting visitors, or even if you want to pull a chair up to the oven and enjoy the smell yourself), and, once glazed, they look so shiny and perfect you will almost not want to eat them. Oh, and they taste pretty good too!


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The chocolate festival, Southbank.

This weekend was something of a religious experience for me, as I was able to visit my spiritual mecca, also known as the chocolate festival. (And yes, it was as good as it sounds). 

As soon as I got off the train at Waterloo and made my way to the festival I was overwhelmed with the sights, sounds, smells, and, most of all, tastes, of the festival promoting only one thing; chocolate. I immediately allowed myself to be swallowed by the hungry crowd as we moved along seemingly in unsion sampling the delights that each stall had to offer. 

I was privy to it all; from the best quality 70% dark chocolate, to chocolate crepes, to macaroons, to cupcakes, to chocolate chilli (!), and I was honestly in heaven. The prices ranged from a mere 70p for truffles (which I stocked up on), to a whopping £8.50 for a box of five macaroons (I had to resit buying them, but couldn't resit photographing them as they were so cute). 

My personal highlights were numerous, although when looking for the most unusual things the festival offered to sample the prize had to go to Cocoa Magic, an initially unassuming stand tucked into a corner, who were selling an awesome array of unusual truffles, including mojito, cardamom & pistachio, marmite, and bacon jam (I did venture to buy these - the first two were delicious, the marmite had a unusual yet enjoyable tangy kick to it, whilst the bacon jam was, unfortunately,disgusting - akin to licking congealed bacon fat off of a greasy pan). 

I think the award for the most eye-catching stall is credited to Crumbs & Doilies, whose cupcakes and mini cupcakes were - at the risk of sounding painfully cliched and girly - so damn cute that I literally couldn't stop staring. I had to purchase one of their mini cupcakes (about the size of my thumbnail) and was not disappointed by the flavour either - my red velvet cake was rich and moist and the cream cheese icing provided a wonderfully soft tang to establish it as a perfect sweet mouthful. 

However the most important award (in my eyes), that of the tastiest thing I devoured on the day, has to go to Outsider Tart, an authentic American bake shop run by two guys from New York, whose cakey offerings were pulling huge crowds, offering classics like the chocolate brownie (with the addition of walnuts or white chocolate chips), combined with their reasonable prices, huge portions, and obvious enthusiasm for what they did - they could clearly do no wrong, and the constant crowd around their stall showed how much they were appreciated. After fighting my way to the front of the queue and purchasing a slab of their home baked goodness, I sunk my teeth into a huge doorstop-sized block of peanut butter chocolate brownie, and I must say, it was one of the richest, fudgiest, most decadent things I have ever tasted, and definitely worth the £2.70 I willingly invested. 

A truly brilliant day out, and, if possible, making my love for all things sweet and chocolatey even stronger. 

Friday, 30 March 2012

Simply scrumptious crepes and shakes.

I went here on a whim today, and am so glad I did, as I really feel I have discovered something of a hidden foodie gem (and so close to where I live - bye bye low(ish) cholesterol...). Simply Scrumptious really has it all - that is, if you're a crepe enthusiast like myself.  

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

400 calorie pasta.

I was really stumped when thinking what to make for dinner tonight, as it was a rare occasion where I wasn't in the mood for something heavy or fattening (difficult to believe, I know), but rather something light and refreshing, and low in calories. Seeing as its the middle of the week and people generally don't have time for hours of slow roasting, I also wanted something quick and simple to whip up, requiring few ingredients and absolute minimal effort, and thus my healthy pasta was born (plus its veggie)!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Rosewater cupcakes.

I was super excited when I located some cheap rosewater in Sainsbury's, and couldn't wait to try it out. What better way than to experience rose in baking than by baking rosewater cupcakes? These are beautifully light and fluffy (thanks to the Hummingbird Bakery recipe), and have just a hint of rose which makes the cupcakes beautifully light and floral - perfect for the supremely sunny weather we have been having recently. Enjoy with a glass of lemonade, or perhaps whilst smelling  bunch of long-stemmed - you guessed it - roses. 

A perfectly pretty summer treat. 

Monday, 19 March 2012

Johnnie cupcakes.

Being in teeny tiny Durham instead of big bad London for half the year whilst at university means I tend to miss out on things like delicious frozen yoghurt or cutesy cupcakes. That is, until my very very good friends got me a box of Johnnie Cupcakes for my 21st birthday (they know me so well). They are so delicious I am worried for my health/bank balance...

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Sticky peanut, chilli and ginger chicken noodles.

This is a very quick recipe perfect for after a long day when you still want something ridiculously tasty and moorish to eat. Plus it isn't that bad for you (always a bonus, as it means you can eat more...)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Perfect pancake day.

There is nothing more delicious than a freshly made pancake, especially when enjoyed on the most sacred of all holy days, Shrove Tuesday, also known as a legitimate excuse to tuck into some delectably fluffy pancakes completely guilt free. This year, I thought I would share some of my more unusual pancake recipes to really put some spice into your celebrations. However, I would like to make it clear that this in no way means that the unbeatable classic of lemon juice and sugar should be ignored. Heaven forbid...

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's menu (of lurvee).

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but I’m inclined to believe that this theory is just as relevant to a woman – there is nothing more romantic than having a man cook for you

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Maple syrup cookies.

I don't know what it is about maple syrup that makes me want to lick my lips whilst smiling profusely and looking like a bit of an idiot. Obviously there are few things better in the world than a steaming plate of thick and fluffy scotch pancakes drenched in maple syrup, but for those times when you want something to snack on that's still going to give you that hit of sweet syrupy goodness, these cookies are definitely for you. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Gourmet chicken, cranberry & brie burger.

After having made this a few nights ago, I couldn't stop thinking about how (if I do say so myself) utterly delicious it is, and feeling more and more as though I have to share the method of creating it with the world. Well, at least anyone who reads this post. It's something about the succulently savoury breaded chicken breast paired with the sweet cranberry sauce and gorgeously creamy brie that ensures I finish every last mouthful every time I make it. Plus the addition of crunchy salad leaves and a beautiful chunk of crusty, rustic ciabatta loaf finishes the whole thing off perfectly, as well as adding another textural element to the burger. 

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Easy-peasy cinnamon rolls.

I firmly maintain that in the winter anything remotely cinnamon-related always goes down a treat and succeeds in satisfying your appetite and making you feel all warm and cosy inside. So what could be better on a cold winter evening (I like to think you're sitting by the fire enjoying a novel and a cup of Early Grey) than having a fresh, warm cinnamon roll on the table next to you?

Friday, 13 January 2012

Yoghurt & marmalade loaf cake.

Wow, I definitely seem to be in the baking mood (to the apparent delight of my loved ones and stomach, and horror of my rapidly expanding waistline). This is one of my most favourite loaf cakes, mainly due to it being criminally moist yet supremely fresh due to the tangy sweet orange flavour permeating the soft sponge. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Nigella's rocky road.

Ok, so it may be featured in my beloved recipe book Nigella Christmas, and I will be the first to admit that it is, sadly, no longer Christmas, but I am of the firm belief (and I hope that the domestic goddess herself would agree with me here) that rocky road is so gorgeously chocolatey and rich that it would be a crime not to consume it all year round. That, coupled with the fact that it is so simple even your half-blind arthritic grandma could whip it up no sweat, means this is a firm chocolatey favourite that I revisit religiously throughout the year. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Gorgonzola gnocchi.

Living in a house full of vegetarians definitely has its pros and cons. The cons are pretty obvious - namely that I can't eat meat - thus ruling out some of my most favourite foods, like sausages, meaty pizzas, and all varieties of roast dinners. Which sucks. Hence my need to concentrate on the pros in order to cheer up both myself and my stomach. There are the obvious pros - better for animals, vegetarian alternatives to meat being cheaper and lower in calories, and, my personal favourite, allowing you to stumble upon ridiculously tasty, filling, and wholesome vegetarian-friendly dishes, like this blue cheese and spinach gnocchi, guaranteed to simultaneously satisfy and impress both vegetarians and non vegetarians alike.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

James Martin's raspberry & white chocolate cupcake mix.

I was innocently shopping in Tesco this afternoon and, before I knew where I was, found myself in the bakery isle drooling over cake ingredients. I maintain it can happen to anyone. Anecdotes aside, I came across something so fantastic and chic that I had to blog about it - James Martin, renowned English chef especially brilliant at all things sweet, and rather handsome to boot, has brought out his own range of cupcake and bread mixes, a delectable and fabulously presented line entitled James Martin's Bakery. Exciting stuff. 

Friday, 6 January 2012

Fire & Stone, Westfields.

What to say about this place? I love, love, love Italian food - cheeses, sauces, dough, basil, what's not to love? - but if I were really pushed for a favourite I would have to say that pizza is their finest achievement as a nation. In fact, it's one of my most beloved things ever; I am notorious for getting bored with foods easily and moving on to greener pastures, but not so with pizza. Not matter what time of day, month, year, give me a pizza and I will kiss you right on the mouth. 

Monday, 2 January 2012

Dollar Grills & Martinis, Farringdon.

Dollar Grills & Martinis is pure luxurious fun. As a venue it excites the moment you walk through the door, and continues to excite until the moment you leave - the dim lighting, the plush booths, the open plan kitchen, the old black and white movies playing, all combine to ensure that your dining experience is a pretty unforgettable one. 

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Modello Bar & Kitchen, Watford.

This is one of those rare finds; a place that simply oozes sophistication from the moment you step through the big glass doors, yet provides ample choice of food and drink to suit all appetites and palates, and all for a very reasonable price (not to mention the copious amount of deals they offer).