Archive for April, 2008

Going a bit potty

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Flowerpot birthday cake

I was asked to do a birthday cake for someone in work, so I set about trying to find a book that I could get some inspiration from and also some hints and tips after my disaster with the castle cake. I have a habit of looking at instructions for things then ditching them and having a go at it myself, normally because I can’t be bothered to read them. This time, though, I read through a new book and followed the advice given. The recipient likes gardening and I had seen an idea of doing an upturned flowerpot and thought I could give that a go. The book recommended baking the cake in a terra cotta pot to get the shape and then I split it, filled it with buttercream and iced it. I then had a go at making the little man following rough guides from the book and I added the other little embellishments to finish it off. I’m really pleased with the result and I got a few more requests for cakes to keep me out of trouble for a while. 

North Africa rides again

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Harissa coated lamb

I had to use up the harissa and the preserved lemons that I bought for the couscous and having seen a few recipes with harissa smeared on various meats and poultry I plumped for a whole shoulder of lamb (bone in for more flavour). Lamb shoulder is a delicious tender cut of meat and is best slow roasted to render out the fat and let it baste the meat.

I simply trimmed off some of the fat and skin and delved my knife into the flesh to make big gashes all over. I then took about 2 tablespoons of harissa and smeared it all over the meat. The meat was put on a rack and roasted in the oven for about four hours at 150 degrees centigrade. It shouldn’t colour too much but if it does just put some tin foil on top for the last part of the cooking time. When the meat has finished cooking, take it out of the oven and leave to rest for up to thirty minutes, then carve delicious thick slices. Serve with roast potatoes and whatever vegetables you like.


Lamb leftovers with cous cous

A whole shoulder of lamb is quite a big piece of meat, even for the two of us, so with the leftovers I made couscous. Measure out whatever quantity of couscous you want and put into a bowl. Check the back of the packet of couscous to find out what quantity of liquid you need. Measure out some lamb stock (or use whatever stock you wish) and also put a few strands of saffron into it and a handful of chopped dried apricots to plump up in the liquid. Heat the stock with the apricots to boiling point, pour over the couscous and cover with cling film for about five minutes. Chop up a handful of pistachio nuts, mint, parsley and a couple of preserved lemons. Once the couscous has absorbed all the liquid and is tender, break it up with a fork and drizzle a little olive oil over or add a knob of butter, letting it melt into the grains. Finally heat up the leftover meat fully and add along with all the other chopped ingredients. A quick and easy delicious meal.


I’ve been tagged

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

I have never done one of these things before, but I feel I need to make the effort to join in with the fun so these are my ten best pictures.

Sweet corn fritters with sweet chilli sauce

Sweet corn fritters with sweet chilli sauce

Christmas spice shortbread

Christmas spiced shortbread

maple and pecan pie

Maple and pecan pie

BBQ chicken

Beautifully succulent BBQ chicken


white peaches and sparkling wine

Ripe peaches and raspberries crushed with cold, crisp sparkling wine

pudding in a glass

Crushed biscuits drizzled with Cointreau, and mascarpone with cream, orange zest and white chocolate mixed with fresh raspberries.

White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake

White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake

smoked salmon blinis with horseradish and lemon creme fraiche

smoked salmon blinis with horseradish and lemon creme fraiche

pestle and mortar crushing garlic and chillies

Mortar and pestle crushing garlic and chilli

Citrus risotto with garlic chilli prawns

Citrus risotto with garlic chilli prawns.  So there you have it.

Thank you to the Kitchen Goddess for tagging me. I am going to tag


1. Kate 

2. Eoin

3. Kitchen Vixen

4. Donal

5. Rachel

In a North African state of mind

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Lamb koftas

We seem to be having lots of dishes recently, inspired by the north of Africa. Last week it was the other half’s turn to slave over the stove (or Barbecue in this case) as he made Grilled lamb kofta kebabs with pistachios and spicy salad wrap from Jamie Oliver’s book Jamie at home. I am very grateful to Jamie as he has very helpfully put the recipe on his website and I don’t have to type it out. The kofta has a bit of a kick to it so if you don’t like chilli so much, just add a little less. They are also quite filling but I think we found that trying to eat the amount that was to serve four between the two of us was probably what made us have to lie down afterwards. It is a really good recipe for the summer and for entertaining guests who don’t mind getting their fingers mucky. A cooling yoghurty dessert for afterwards should ease the burn.

Lamb kofta kebabs

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pizza Perfect

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Pancetta, spinach and pinenut pizza

Last weekend, when I had just managed to burn to a crisp a whole packet of free range organic bacon, I had to go rummaging in the fridge to see what else I could make for lunch. We had had pizza the night before and there was a little dough left, some tomato sauce,some cubed pancetta and some mozzarella. I also had some pine nuts hanging around and some spinach, so I thought that would make a very nice topping for the pizza.

I found Jamie Oliver’s recipe for the pizza dough online as I’m lazy and couldn’t be bothered to type it out again and low and behold it has the tomato sauce recipe on there too, thanks Jamie.

So simply make the dough and tomato sauce as instructed. Preheat the oven to it’s highest setting and put in what you intend to cook the pizza on so it gets very hot (we have a piece of marble that seems to work really well). Roll out a piece of dough on a floured surface quite thinly and transfer onto the preheated marble slab. Ladle on a small amount of the tomato sauce and spread over the surface evenly. Scatter the pancetta, pine nuts, and the torn mozzarella over the top, season and put into the oven for eight to ten minutes depending on how well done you want it. A couple of minutes before it is finished cooking, put on a handful of the spinach to wilt nicely on top. When done, carefully take it out of the oven and transfer onto a board, grate nutmeg over the top, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil, (I used a tiny amount of white truffle oil which worked really well) divide into slices and serve.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wonderful, warming vegetable couscous

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Fantastic roast vegetable cous cous

I first had this meal cooked for me when I was in Cumbria and I knew I had to do it again. This is no ordinary couscous recipe, it’s spicy, sweet and full of flavour and texture. The list of ingredients is quite comprehensive but each ingredient adds its own dimension to the rich and full flavour and the spices can of course be used again. The recipe is from the Guardian newspaper’s column “The New Vegetarian” by Yotam Ottolenghi, give it a go.

New food experiences

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Beef Jerky

Until a week or so ago I had never tried beef jerky. I didn’t feel it was something that was missing in my array of cuisine experiences, quite the opposite in fact, as having seen it before couldn’t imagine what anyone could possibly desire in a dry, chewy beef product. So when a friend of ours brought some quality organic beef jerky back from New York I was a bit dubious, but tried it anyway.

The Hickory smoked jerky was surprisingly nice and the packet didn’t last long. Who knew that you could dry pieces of cow to within an inch of it’s life and end up with such a nice tasting product. The other great thing about it is that, certainly the organic stuff, is actually quite a good snack to have as it is only 3 % fat, low carbohydrate and limited processing or artificial ingredients. Having got hooked on the chewy goodness I trawled the internet trying to find someone who would deliver to the UK. I finally came across Wild West Jerky and put an order in sharpish. The delivery came this morning and I wasted no time in tucking in. Their jerky is nice but not having tried a wide variety of producers, I’m not exactly a connoisseur. I like it anyway and it’s going to be featuring in my lunch box at work so I can hopefully resist the mountain of chocolate and cake that turns up in our staff room from time to time.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tags: , , , ,

Soul Food

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Chilli and rice

It’s all very well having your fancy foie gras and duck liver pate but when it comes to food that’s good for the soul, you can’t beat a hot steaming plate of chilli and rice. There is something so wholesome and comforting about tucking into the rich tomato sauce with tender morsels of beef on a cold day (or any day really). We tend to have chilli a lot at the moment, but I’m not complaining, and the recipe we have come to love is from Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the naked chef. The recipe will feed four people, or two people then freeze the rest and you have a meal that can be ready in minutes.


  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • olive oil
  • 2 level tsps chilli powder
  • 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cumin (or cumin seeds freshly ground)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 455g chuck steak
  • 200g sun-dried tomatoes, in oil
  • 2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 2 x 400g tins of red kidney beans, drained

Preheat the oven to 150 deg centigrade. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in large, oven proof casserole over a medium heat. Finely chop the onion and garlic in a food processor and add to the pan, stirring until soft but not golden. Add the chilli powder, cumin, fresh chilli, and seasoning. Cut the chuck steak into large pieces and pulse in the food processor. The steak should be in pieces about the size of small sugar cubes as you need a bit of texture in the dish. Once you have done this add the meat to the pan and stir until browned all over. Blitz the sun dried tomatoes in the food processor with about a tablespoon or two of their oil so it makes a paste. Add this to the pan with the cinnamon stick and tinned tomatoes with a wine glass of water.
Bring the chilli to the boil, then cover with greaseproof or parchment paper and the lid. Transfer the pan to the oven to cook for about 1 1/2 hours, adding the kidney beans half an hour before the cooking time is up. This a really good meal to make a day ahead as the flavour is better and then it’s quick an easy to prepare when you want it. Serve with either guacamole, yoghurt and crusty bread or good old fashioned boiled rice.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,