Monday, 28 June 2010

Groovy Chicken

This is a lovely hearty salad, named for my best friend G. Unsurprisingly your main ingredient here is chicken, but there are also lovely new potatoes and croutons in there to make this filling enough to be a perfect summer dinner.


INGREDIENTS:
2 Chicken breasts
8/10 Waxy little new potatoes
The end of a loaf of bread cut into chunks (I used the crust end of a bloomer)
Mixed leaves
Tomatoes (I used ten small vine tomatoes)
Red onion
Garlic
Fresh Thyme
Fresh Mint
Olive Oil (mine is infused with garlic and herbs)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper

METHOD:
1)Put your new potatoes on to boil and switch on your oven as high as it will go
2)Slice your chicken breasts into thin slices or slivers so they will cook through properly then dribble over some olive oil, crushed garlic, chopped thyme and good pinches of salt and pepper.
3)Heat your griddle pan and throw on the chicken pieces to cook - don't move them about too much or you won't get the nice striations from your pan.
4)Place your mixed leaves, roughly chopped tomatoes and finely sliced red onion into a bowl and drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and plenty of salt and pepper then pop this in the fridge
5)Toast your chunks of bread in your hot hot oven - this will only take 5 minutes
6)Drain your new potatoes and slice them in two, then throw a large knob of butter and a handful of torn, fresh mint leaves into the pan and stir them round in it so they are all coated in buttery, minty loveliness.
7)Throw your toasted bread into a hot pan with a splish of olive oil and toss, finish up with a little knob of butter to brown.
8)Plate up your salad from the fridge, add your chicken pieces on top, spoon on the new potatoes and add the toasted and browned croutons.
9)Eat while still warm!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Friday, 25 June 2010

Marrakesh Express

I've wanted to try and make a Morrocan lamb dish for ages, so when I came across a recipe by Jamie Oliver, I knew I had to try it, and with some tweaking and additions, I came up with this wonderfully exotic stew.



INGREDIENTS:
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
3 teaspoons dried chillies
a small bunch of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 dessert spoons of runny honey
500g cubed lamb (neck or shoulder)
mixture of new potatoes, carrots and butternut squash cut into small chunks
2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tin of plum tomatoes
1 tsp cinnamon
2 bay leaves
a handful of dried apricots
1 tin chickpeas

METHOD:
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Pound up your cumin, coriander and fennel seeds with the dried chillies, rosemary, ginger and a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a couple of dessert spoonfuls of honey. Spoon half of this marinade over your lamb, then put the meat to one side while you mix the rest of the marinade in a bowl with the potatoes, carrots, squash, onions and garlic.

Brown your marinaded pieces of meat on both sides in a pan with a little olive oil. Add the vegetable mixture to the pan and remove the lamb to the empty bowl while you fry your veg for about 4 minutes until the onions are slightly soft. Add your tomatoes, give the pan a shake and place the meat on top. Add 3 wineglasses of water, the cinnamon, bay leaves, dried apricots and the tin of chickpeas. Decant into an ovenproof dish and braise in the preheated oven (I suggest you do this uncovered to give it a little colour) for approximately 2 and a half hours.

Serve with fluffy couscous.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Budget Smudget

Today George Osborne delivered his emergency budget - full details available here it was 'austere' as had been outlined and included a hefty hike in VAT which is sure to tip my housekeeping budget on it's head. Thankfully this wont come in until January 2011 which at least means we will be happily married and not have to worry about wedding savings and payments. There will be more to come regarding the public sector and we shall see what we shall see as to how this affects us, but for the meantime; Bugger the budget.


This beautiful rose is blooming for all it's worth in our garden and the smell is even more gorgeous still. I especially love the muffled buzzy sound when a bumble bee is deep inside the core of petals. Every time I hear it, it makes me smile.

Monday, 21 June 2010

From a Solstice brightly...

Today is the summer Solstice. It therefore follows, as we are getting married on the winter Solstice, that it is also exactly six months to the day to our wedding.

SIX MONTHS

I am deliriously happy and excited about this. It is also though, most definitely, squeaky bottom time. We even have a little hand signal for the squeaks(!) So, as I bid you Happy Solstice! - I also bid my beautiful husband-to-be a happy T-six months. I love you so much it squeaks.

Sensational salad

Don't die of shock, but i've never eaten a fresh fig before. I know, terrible isn't it? I hang my head in shame.... So when we saw some in Gordon Rigg yesterday, I had to get one. It was fifty pence well spent. I have just had this delightful little beast with ham and tomatoes and lovely Lancashire cheese, and a dressing I made fresh from lemon, extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, a dollop of grey poupon - the grainy one, and pinches of sugar, cracked black pepper and Maldon sea salt. It was glorious. Though if i'd had some honey I would definitely have used that instead of the sugar.
I LOVE salad with all my heart, I really could eat it every day. By salad, I do of course mean a PROPER robust salad including cheese and/or meat and a lovely dressing. Not some anaemic diet food. Life is too damn short for that sort of caper.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

How does your garden grow?

After a long and spectacularly sunny day in the garden I am too pooped for perfect prose and so will just leave you with this wonderful collage courtesy of some button pushing in picasa. Glory in the green...............

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Small pleasures

Today was all about the food shopping and that meant a trip to Burnley. I won't bore you with a rundown of the offers Asda were peddling, but I wanted to include this lovely photograph I stole when we took a small detour to Homebase...


Once home and groceries decanted, we had a beautiful and decadent hour sitting together at the kitchen table nibbling cheese and crackers and sharing sliced apple; whilst watching Pirates of the Carribbean on the telly. Jon even had a glass of port just to complete the cliché. Small but oh-so-very-precious pleasures.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Love to hate you

Why on earth do people put the things that they do on facebook? I sometimes wonder if there is any engagement between brain and fingers before they click submit. Maybe there is....maybe the brain does engage but for some there isn't that killswitch that normal, intelligent people have. You know, the one that stops you posting something personal or completely fucking unnecessary. I've actually lost count of the amount of dirty linen i've seen washed in public via facebook, literally, I've witnessed five or maybe six marriages go west, I didn't want to, but there they were SPLAT in my face via status updates and comments.
I love facebook and it's ability to connect us, but I hate the ease with which normally lovely people feel the need to make themselves look like idiots.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Perfect Pavlova.....

This was our delicious dessert today....made with J and G in mind, a perfect round up to our mexicana meal and the perfect antidote to England's dismal first World Cup game. 1-1 in case you're even slightly interested(!)


INGREDIENTS:
4 egg whites
225g golden caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar

METHOD:
1.Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.
2.Cover a baking sheet with baking parchment.
3.Whisk the egg whites with electric beaters until they just form stiff and shiny peaks.
4.Gradually add the sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time and whisk really well between each addition.
5.When all of the sugar is used up continue whisking for 3-4 minutes or until the meringue is stiff and glossy and stands up in peaks, then whisk in the cornflour and vinegar.
6.Spoon the mixture onto the baking parchment and use a palette knife to make a bowl shape
7.Put in the oven, turn the temperature down to 120C/fan 100C/gas 1/2 and cook for one and a half hours.
8.Turn the oven off and leave the meringue inside until completely cold (you can make this the day before and leave to cool overnight).
9.Carefully peel off the baking parchment and put the pavlova on a serving dish. Don't worry if it cracks.
10.Fill with fruit and whipped cream - voila! (I used british strawberries.........Mmmmmm!)

~so incredibly simple and yet so damned tasty....it made me wonder why I don't make meringue more often!~

Friday, 11 June 2010

Vu Vu Voom.........

The world cup began today!!!

I know being excited about the world cup is wildly unfashionable and I'm also probably going to be seen as betraying the sisterhood....but I can't help it....I love big football competitions.


The opening match between Mexico and South Africa was a bit of a shock to the ears...the vuvuzela, a trumpet the African fan's blow, sounds like a nest of angry bees and made the commentary almost inaudible, to the point where we had to mute the TV and listen via fivelive! Anyway, it finished 1-1 and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for RSA that they can progress to the second stage, it being home turf.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Shrove Thursday

I feel quite flat today....a bit like a big pancake. I suppose it's due as have had a smashing week with Jon being off and his lovely birthday yesterday. There's nothing really wrong per se, but I've annoyed myself with my own idiocy (surprisingly folks, it happens more often than you'd think) and I feel incredibly tired and nauseous this evening, the latter an inevitable on-going side-effect of the Metformin. A tablet that I hope is helping me, but which I have no real results on which to base an analysis.

I'll leave you with my current desktop and a favourite from Tuesday's visit to the hall. I love the random placing of the coffee cup, sat on the windowsill where Lindsay our wedding co-ordinator has just left it after our meeting.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Happy Birthday Cupcake!

Today is my dearest Jonny Voodoo's 39th birthday....so I made him a special batch of cupcakes

*HAPPY BIRTHDAY JON!*

The recipe I used was simple as pie, or should that be simple as cupcakes...anyway, here it is for all those who like spongey little cakes :)

INGREDIENTS:

100g butter or margarine
100g caster sugar
100g self-raising flour, sifted
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence (optional)

This Cupcake Recipe serves 12 people.

METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 180°C (Electric oven | Electric fan oven 160°C | Gas Mark 4) and place 12 paper cases into a muffin tin.
Using an electric whisk, food processor or wooden spoon, beat the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating each one in well before adding the next. Add the vanilla essence if using.
Carefully fold in the flour (and baking powder if using).
Alternatively, you can mix the ingredients together using a food processor. Use the pulse button to mix together in between adding the ingredients in the order above.
Bake in the oven for 10 - 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, check to see if the cupcakes are ready by inserting a cocktail stick into one of the cupcakes. If it comes out dry then the cupcakes are done. If not, then back in the oven for a few minutes more. Don't overcook the cupcakes otherwise they will dry out. Lift the cupcakes out of the muffin tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

*For simple icing - whisk butter and icing sugar to make a quick buttercream and spread over the top....I have also added fondant roses, ingeniously made using a trick taught to me many years ago by squishing pink marshmallows and icing sugar together!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

In search of a rose....

There is more to say, about this wonderful day, but for now...consider the rose


Magnificent Millstone

After our meeting at the Hall we went on to the Millstone at Mellor our main accommodation venue and the place where we are having a meal with Jon's family and the wedding party the night before the big day.


We had planned to just have a quick sarnee, but due to getting there late we were over the cusp of lunchtime and needed to chose from the main menu. What a huge stroke of luck this turned out to be! Jon ordered the lamb shank, with bubble and squeak and cabbage....

I the haddock and chunky chips with mushy peas and home-made tartar sauce.....they even wrapped the lemon in a muslin cover so when you squeezed it you didn't get pips in your food!


WOW.
It was incredible.
Jon's lamb just fell off the bone and melted in the mouth , my Haddock had the loveliest crispy home-made beer batter and those chips....AMAZING......we were both so FULL we nearly popped(!)

This place genuinely deserves the moniker 'gastropub' a much maligned term so often wrongly applied. The chef-patron Anson is a real talent and his love of good food, properly-made from scratch shines through like a beacon. I can't recommend The Millstone at Mellor highly enough, and we can't wait to return.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Bread is....

This evening I am thinking about bread....glorious wonder food and manna from heaven, having watched Mary Portas try to deliver Maher & Sons from hell el Seventies. I am dumbfounded by the owner's lack of enthusiasm for the staff of life, not to mention her total and utter rudeness, but of that, I will make waste no further time on. Let's all adore the bread.....


And here is my foolproof recipe, completely adaptable to add seeds, herbs, spices, or anything you have to hand...I even use it as a perfect pizza dough.

INGREDIENTS:

500g Strong White Flour (or brown/wholemeal/country grain/seed&grain) - I mix my own :)
2 tsp Salt
7g Sachet of fast action yeast
3 tbsp Olive Oil
300ml Warm water

METHOD:
  1. Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, then add the oil and water, and mix well. If the dough seems a little stiff, add 1-2 tbsp water, mix well then tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead. Once the dough is satin-smooth, place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Leave to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size or place in the fridge overnight.
  2. Grease a baking tray (or a loaf tin). Knock back the dough, then gently mould the dough into a ball. Place it on the baking tray or into the loaf tin to prove for a further hour until doubled in size.
  3. Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. You can dust the loaf with flour or paint it with a little egg white. You can cut crosses along the top of the loaf with a sharp knife, sprinkle it with seeds or leave it plain. Bake for 25-30 mins until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

At the end of a vine

Isn't there something utterly wonderful about tomatoes on the vine? I adore all tomatoes, but there's something incredible about these little red spheres attached in a line.

Glory in the green

Today is all about the green beans....they are twirling their tendrils around our newly made framework and spiralling upwards....I think I'm in love


and what's even more heartwarmingly rewarding...we've grown these wonderful beasts from seed...



I find the way they emerge from their little bean pod just the most beautiful thing to witness, without waxing overly lyrical, it really is like nature in motion.