Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Cake Wrecks

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Just a quick post to mention Cake Wrecks, a blog dedicated to the disasters of the cake baking and decorating world. I was pointed in this blog’s direction by a comment from Jo and I spotted this post and pretty much laughed myself silly. My cake disasters don’t look too bad now eh? Take a look. 

Home Sweet Home

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

I was at home just over a week ago for a family reunion in Bangor, at my Parents house and then a weeks break in the Republic of Ireland. We had our pretty wet but relaxing week in Sligo and then trundled back to Belfast on Friday before flying back to Birmingham on Saturday evening. We decided to have a look round Belfast on Friday and had a nice meal in the Gourmet Burger company in the new Victoria Square shopping centre and then went to the cinema. When we had seen the film we walked back to the car in the early evening sunshine past buzzing bars with live music and alfresco diners. I may be biased and maybe it’s because I appreciate Northern Ireland more as I don’t live there now, but Belfast is a brilliant city. There is lots to do as well as great food and attractive buildings. 

The next morning we got up and went into Bangor to have some breakfast at a coffee shop owned by Pauline, one of the relatives I met for the first time at the family reunion. She had very kindly brought round some cinnamon scones to the party and when we had them warm with butter whilst on holiday, I really wanted to sample the other delights she had to offer. The coffee shop was situated in a bay fronted terrace and had a cosy welcoming atmosphere. We sat down and were attended to immediately by a very pleasant lady and asked what stage we were at in our day, whether we were having a late breakfast or early lunch or just in for coffee and a cake. We said we were having breakfast and were offered the choice of scrambled eggs and bacon and toast or poached egg and bacon and toast. I went for the poached egg and the other half went for scrambled and we both had a cappuccino (I had cinnamon sprinkled on top and Graeme had chocolate). When it arrived we devoured the beautifully crisp and tasty bacon and the perfectly soft poached eggs with some very nice coffee. The total price was just over £11, a bargain for the perfect start to the day. If you are ever in Bangor, Northern Ireland pay Pauline’s coffee shop a visit at 6 Hamilton Road, Bangor, BT20 4LE.


Smoked Pancetta wrapped Scallops with broad beans and toasted ciabatta

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

Smoked pancetta wrapped scallops with broad beans and toasted ciabatta

This is the final recipe I made with the scallops. It’s a really simple dish that can be a mid week treat as it’s so quick to make. Smoked pancetta goes really well with the scallops and the crunch of the ciabatta gives a good contrast in texture.


Serves 2

Half a ciabatta loaf

two large handfuls of fresh salad leaves (watercress and rocket works well)

16 fresh queen scallops

a couple of handfuls of podded broad beans

8 rashers of smoked or ordinary pancetta

a tbsp of grated parmesan and parmesan shavings to garnish

A bay leaf

tbsp olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil 

Walnut oil (optional)

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Place the broad beans in a pan of unsalted water and add the bay leaf. Bring to the boil and cook for about 20 minutes until tender. Immediately refresh under cold water to keep their colour, then slip them out of their skins. Cut the ciabatta into 1 inch chunks, put in a bowl with salt and pepper, tbsp of grated parmesan and tbsp of olive oil and mix to combine. Spread out on a baking sheet and put in the oven for five to ten minutes to go golden and crispy. Place the scallops in a bowl and season lightly and dress with a little olive oil. Take each rasher of pancetta and tear in half then wrap each scallop in a piece of pancetta and place on a baking sheet. Cook for about eight minutes until the pancettta is starting to crisp slightly. While the scallops are cooking, dress the salad leaves and broad beans with a little extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Take the ciabatta and scallops out of the oven. Place a handful of salad and broad beans on each plate then add the scallops and the ciabatta and drizzle with a little walnut oil and garnish with parmesan shavings. 


Marco Pierre White, Great British Fat head

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

I have seen a couple of episodes now of Marco Pierre White’s Great British feast and have watched with amazement as this ostentatious, shaved ape in tweed throws his greater that average weight around whilst smoking endless cigarettes and shooting fluffy cute things for laughs. If I didn’t know he was a chef, I would never have guessed. His rough alcoholic nobility meets neanderthal man look belies his three michelin star talents, but enough of his unsavoury looks, at least he has a winning personality! 

The premiss of the show is to test different recipes on the general public in his Berkshire restaurant to come up with the ultimate great British feast. The public eat a selection of dishes for each course and record their thoughts on a form. At the end of the meal Marco’s long suffering Maitre d’ goes through the various comments as Marco scoffs and sneers that the public don’t know what they are talking about and then promptly strops off in a childish huff in his ridiculously extravagant chauffeur driven Range Rover. He also annoys me because I have to spend time coming up with a polite insult to describe him when there are so many swear words that would do just that. 

His chauffeur, Mr Ishii, is a quiet Japanese gentleman who has to put up with his purple fits of rage on a fairly frequent basis but as Marco and his faithful servant stood together on the river bank whilst Marco dangled his rod gently into the water their relationship reminded me of scenes of Ted and Ralph from the fast show! He not only seems to make the men around him uncomfortable but his greasy ‘awwwright me bootifuw daaarlin’ approach to anything female makes me and most certainly them want to rush to the nearest facility with running water and scrub with wire wool and extra strong bleach. More importantly his unwashed slimy appearance would most certainly put me off his food. I would no more eat his food than I would plate of slugs.  

Even though he irritates me greatly, it does really make me laugh when he tries to interact with the lower classes. He made a trip to the local supermarket to see what the little people get up to. I’m not sure what he expected to find. I had visions of him asking the staff to direct him to the isle with the Gulls eggs, which incidentally was one of the courses. He seemed about as comfortable as you would expect the Queen and Prince Philip to be, strolling up and down the isles.

               “BOGOF! Pheelippe!, no not those ones the Bird’s Eye Fish Fingers, they’re two for one!”

He was also picking leaves off potted herbs and eating them and then putting his mucky paws all over everything on the fish counter. 

Next week is the final showdown, the ‘world of puddings’ as he so eloquently puts it, so I will greatly look forward to that. 

Jamie’s Quesadillas

Sunday, July 13th, 2008


This recipe is a real favourite of ours for weekend lunches. It is so simple yet delicious and we never seem to tire of it. maybe because they are so versatile and you can put pretty much whatever you like in them. The recipe comes from Jamie’s Dinners and is well worth a try. This time I decided to put some prawns into it and a touch of lime to jazz it up a bit.


Pack of flour tortillas

3 Spring onions

1 red (or any other colour you fancy) pepper, finely chopped

1 red or green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

zest of one lime

a small handful of raw prawns

1 clove of garlic finely chopped

1 handful of grated cheddar and 1 of red leicester (again you can experiment with different cheeses)

1 little olive oil for frying


Heat a frying pan to a high temperature and add a little olive oil. Throw in the chilli and garlic and stir for a couple of minutes before adding the prawns. Fry until the prawns are pink and completely cooked. Slice the prawns once slightly cooled and add them to all the other ingredients in a bowl. Take a flour tortilla and sprinkle a little of the mixture onto it making sure you don’t add too much filling as the cheese will just drip out once cooked. Top with another tortilla and sandwich together. Warm a dry frying pan over a medium heat and put the filled tortilla onto it. Cook for a minute or so until golden on one side and then flip over to do the other side. Once cooked, remove from the pan, slice into triangles and serve with some bought or homemade guacamole.



Technical hitch

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Picture of sun coming out from behind cloud

I have been having a few problems with the old web site over the last couple of days so I apologise to my adoring public for my site not being available. The whole complex computery, internetty thingy is a bit too much for me to grasp so not entirely sure what went on, but apparently something to do with hosts and lack of stuff and too much of other stuff. Hopefully now all is well and back on line. 

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: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Crab sandwiches

While I was in Devon I really wanted to get some fresh crab. Unfortunately crab wasn’t in season but I managed to get nearly half a kilo of frozen claw meat (although it cost me £10). The first time I tried crab I was about 10 years old and I remember not liking it, but for some reason I really wanted to try it again. I had some wonderful crab sandwiches last year in Arran, an island off the west coast of Scotland, which sparked my craving to get some when I was next near the sea.

I started off making a simple mayonnaise by whisking an egg yolk with a teaspoon of vinegar, Dijon mustard, a grinding of salt, zest from 1 lemon and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper (this can be done in a food processor but our accommodation didn’t have one so it was back to the arm aching old fashioned method) then drizzling in very slowly some light olive oil until the mixture was thick and wobbly. (If the oil is poured in too fast the mixture will curdle but it can be rescued by adding a teaspoon of boiling water and mixing vigorously to bring it together or by adding the curdled mayonnaise slowly to another egg yolk and whisking together.

Once the mayonnaise was made I added a handful of white crab meat and folded them gently together. The sandwich was assembled with thick slices of wholemeal bread and fresh rocket leaves, heaping the crab mayonnaise on last, delicious!

Butternut squash and pine nut risotto

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Butternut squash and pine nut risotto

I really like risotto but you have to keep trying different recipes to make it more interesting. This is one I made up myself although it is by no means ground breaking. I love Gruyere cheese and I thought it would go well with the nutty squash and pine nuts. The basic risotto recipe is from Jamie’s Italy.

Serves 6


1.1 ltrs chicken stock

3 tblsp olive oil

knob of butter

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 sticks celery, trimmed and finely chopped

400g risotto rice

2 wineglasses dry white vermouth or white wine

salt and freshly ground black pepper

70g butter

1 small butternut squash

1 tsp ground cumin

100g pine nuts

115g Gruyere finely grated

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade. Peel and chop the butternut squash into 1 inch size pieces. Toss them in a tbslp of olive oil, the cumin and salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the oven until soft.

Heat the stock. Add the onion, garlic and celery into a frying pan with the olive oil and butter and gently cook for 15 minutes. Add the rice and turn up the heat and fry for a minute or so. Add the vermouth and stir until absorbed, then start adding the stock a ladle at a time, letting the rice absorb it after each addition. The heat should be turned down to medium so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding the stock until the rice is cooked, which should take about 15 minutes.

Just before the rice is cooked dry fry the pine nuts until golden. Keep an eye on them as they colour very quickly once up to temperature. Remove the rice from the heat and add the squash, Gruyere, pine nuts and a knob of butter. Stir together, put a lid on and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.

Sausage and tomato bake

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Sausage and tomato bake

It was the other half’s turn to cook last weekend and he picked a very blokey dish of sausage and tomato bake. It isn’t a dish that I would’ve picked, probably because purely by looking at it I could hear the distant groan of my jeans as I try and force my sausagey bulk into them. The other thing is that it is a very simple dish and I sometimes struggle to do simple, thinking that complicated is more impressive. Having said all that the dish was lovely and just served with crusty bread and a glass (or four) of red wine it went down very nicely. The recipe is out of Jamie Oliver’s latest book Jamie at home.

Serves 6

  • 2kg ripe cherry tomatoes, all different colours if you can get them
  • 2 sprigs each of fresh thyme, rosemary and bay leaves
  • 1 tblsp dried oregano
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 12 good quality Cumberland sausages or course Italian pork sausages
  • extra virgin olive oilbalsamic vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade. Place all the tomatoes, herb sprigs, oregano, garlic and sausages in one layer in a roasting tin and drizzle well with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Mix this all together, making sure the sausages are on top and roast for 30 minutes. Take it out of the oven, give the tin a shake, turn the sausages and then bake for another 15 to 30 minutes depending on how golden you want the sausages. Remove the sausages from the tin and if the sauce is a bit thin boil it up on the hob until it is the consistency you want. Serve with warm crust bread and lashings of red wine. Real man food, but something for the girls to enjoy too. Grrrrrr!!