Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Best Burger and Fries, West Coast Rock Cafe

Situated in the centre of Blackpool, West Coast Rock Cafe is a very unassuming Mexican bar/diner. In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that Billy had heard good things about it (or that Pizza Hut didn't have the buffet on), we would never have gone in.

But, I assure you, if you go there you will not be disappointed. 

Yes, maybe the decor could do with a bit of TLC (it looked a bit like a run down youth club) but the food more than makes up for that.

For starters, Billy ordered potato wedges and I opted for the Ribs n' Wings. We we're very hungry and when they brought the food out it was a big plate of wedges for Billy, and half a dozen ribs and three chicken wings for me. Portions were certainly generous.

And this is what a King Kong burger looks like...

Each: two burgers, two cheeses, ham, bacon, and sausage. It was a mammoth task to eat and involved a precision attack. Undoubtedly in the Top 3 burgers I've ever eaten - along with one a vaguely remember having in the South of France and another in Rockerfella's American Diner in Liverpool. 

The fries were also unbelievable - the best I've had in a very long time. They had a crispy exterior, coating a soft inside. 

Hope you all had a fun and happy Christmas. 

And, I wish you all the best for the New Year x

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Cognac Chicken

Before I start, I feel the need to admit I've got Christmas Movie Soundtracks! on in the background. Just throwing that out there. I love Christmas songs. Anyway...

Ever have that feeling that you've forgotten something, but you can't remember what it is? I'm pretty sure everyone has experienced this at some point. In this case it was the BBQ sauce. I know it's easy to make, but sometimes I just want a meal where I don't have to do anything other than put some chicken in the oven.

Of course, now that I've got to make the sauce, I don't want any regular one. After a quick rummage in the cupboards, I found one ingredient that I had to use... the champagne cognac that's been hiding in the back of the biscuit cupboard since last Christmas. I find making the most of what I've got hidden away in the corner of your kitchen can be very rewarding, especially if I can be creative with it. 

With the rice, I mixed in some onion, green pepper and deseeded chipotle chilli. Then served it with a drizzle of basil oil. The remaining cooking sauce was strained, and I skimmed the fat off the top, to make a little dipping sauce. 

Cognac Chicken

Serves 4

Chicken pieces (I used the thighs, drumsticks and wings from 3 chickens)
125g unsalted butter, cubed
125ml cognac
70ml sweet chilli sauce
60ml tomato ketchup
1tbsp maple syrup
1tbsp soy sauce

Pre-heat oven Gas 5 (190°C/375°)

In a small pan, gently melt the butter. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir as it comes to the boil. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

Place the chicken pieces in an ovenproof tray and smother in the sauce. Cook in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, turning the chicken every now and again. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Cauliflower (and Chestnut) Cheese

As always, I've been stressing out about uni today. I've got an exam next week, too, which seems to have crept up on me. When I get frustrated with work, I tend to procrastinate. Usually in the form of food, whether that's eating it, cooking it, or reading about it.

I'm also starting to get quite giddy about Christmas. I think that's distracting me a little too. I've finally wrapped up all the my presents and they're sitting nicely under the tree. I'm most excited about what I've got my youngest niece. It's a cute, little vegetable market stall. 

As with sprouts, there's only certain ways I like to eat cauliflower. In a creamy, cheesy sauce is definitely one of them.  But, as it's Christmas, I've added a few little twists. The main one being chestnuts, and the other are additional Christmas spices. 

To be honest, chestnuts are a bit time consuming and a bit of a bother to prep from fresh. I've found that the best way to do this is to make a small incision in each one and boil them for 10 minutes, then peel them. But, I'd totally understand if you bought them ready-peeled.

Cauliflower (and Chestnut) Cheese

Serves 4-6 as a side

750g cauliflower (net weight), cut into florets
200g fresh chestnuts (net weight), peeled and roughly chopped (see above)
75g unsalted butter, cubed
4tbsp plain flour
450ml milk
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 clove
100g cheddar, grated
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven Gas 6 (200°C/400°F)

Boil the cauliflower for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside whilst you make the b├ęchamel. In a pan and on a low heat, melt the butter then stir in the flour. Next, slowly add the milk whilst continually stirring. (Alternate with a whisk, if you get any lumps). Add the spices and allow to gently cook for 10 minutes, then remove the clove and stir in the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Now combine the cauliflower and chestnuts, and place in an ovenproof dish. Cover with the cheesy b├ęchamel sauce and bake for about 20 minutes, until the top has turned golden-brown and has some crispy bits.

Monday, 12 December 2011

For those that don't like sprouts: Sprout Gratin

Sprouts. You either hate them or you... well... you loathe them.

Ok, that might be a bit of bias coming from my side. Apologies. 

They're a festive tradition in our household. Every Christmas, and only at Christmas, I'll cook them - mainly for my Dad. So far, I've only discovered on way that I will eat them - in this gratin. I'm curious about having them raw in a winter salad, but I'm not quite brave enough to venture there yet. 

I drive past Diglake Farm on a regular basis. So, instead of picking up a bag of packaged sprouts from the supermarket, I got them from here. 

As I was prepping the sprouts, my mind started to wonder. "Sprouts are mini-cabbages. The sprout leaves are a bit cabbage-like too. I wonder if sprout leaves are edible?" And yes they are. Well the younger leaves are. They tasted not a lot like sprouts. And were quite pleasant.

Sprout Gratin

Serves 4-6 (depending how much you like sprouts)

500g-600g sprouts (about one stick), shredded
1 tbsp olive oil
100g soft French cheese, roughly cut up
300ml single cream
Few handfuls of dried breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven Gas 6 (200°C/400°F)

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the sprouts quickly, just to soften them a bit. I did this in two batches.

Put the sprouts into a bowl. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Compact the mixture into an ovenproof dish. Press the sprouts down, but don't squash them.

Pour in the cream - you may not need it all.

Generously coat the top with the breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until it turns golden-brown and the cheesy cream bubbles up.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

A Christmas Post

I'll never get tired of Christmas. The gifts, the songs, the films and, of course, the food. On Friday, I went to the local butchers to place our Christmas order. Usually, on Christmas Day, we have beef and pork joints. This year, though, we're getting a turkey and a small piece of beef. (Obviously, this is going to last a few days). 

Christmas, this year, is going to be a bit different. I'm splitting it between my family and my boyfriend. So, after Christmas dinner, I'll be driving up to his house. I'm literally so excited about it. Just hope the weather isn't too bad.

Unfortunately, I didn't do any of the decorating this year. I've been too busy with university. So, Mum did most of it and left the rest for my nieces to do. The even had their own Christmas tree to decorate. 

I let Amelia, my oldest niece (9 years old), watch Disney's A Christmas Carol and it came out that she had one of the best ever ever Christmas films...

... She's letting me borrow it :)

Oh, nearly forgot. We're getting new neighbours end of next week. Never had new neighbours before.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Boyfriend's Birthday Weekend

This weekend, I went to visit Billy for his birthday. I get so anxious when I give him presents. Will he like them? Have I got enough? Much to my relief, he was very happy with his presents. I particularly liked the King Kong box set and The Natural History of Skull Island book. 

On the Friday, after he opened his presents, we headed into Blackpool. First stop: The Grundy Art Gallery, to show me an exhibition where one of his paintings was on display. Very proud. 

Here's more of Billy's work.

For lunch, we went to Pizza Hut. The very first place we had our first date in. We were even seated at the same table.

On Saturday, we went to a very wet Cleveleys. Amid running from shop to shop to avoid getting soaked, I managed to finish a bit more of my Christmas shopping. 

Then, in the evening, we went to Michael's Indian Restaurant for Billy's birthday meal. We were thoroughly stuffed. 

So, this was just a quick post really. I've got a couple of festive posts in the pipeline.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Ox Heart and Black Garlic Ragu

First off: 


It's my boyfriend's 21st birthday AND it's our 1 1/2 year anniversary tomorrow. (Yes, we're still at the stage of counting as many 'anniversaries' as we can).

To celebrate, I went to get my hair done at Toni & Guy. (Billy gets the benefit of seeing it, so that counts, right?). There's only so much of Dad cutting my hair as I can take. A boy needs to treat himself.

And OMG, have I missed getting my hair washed by someone else. It feels soooooo good. 

Despite the strikes yesterday, I had to go into uni to get some group work done. So, I had to cross the picket line.

In case I get any comments about this, let me explain myself...

A few weeks ago, our tutor for Product Development was off ill for quite a while. This meant that things were delayed and deadlines rearranged. I've got exams, presentations and reports to complete for deadlines. So, I'm a bit stressed. Yesterday was the only chance we had as group to meet up, so we did.

I support the strike. They've got to do what they can to protect their pensions. But, I'm paying thousands of pounds to do this course, for my future. Doubtless, the lecture we missed because of the strike will not get rearranged. 

So, please don't have a go at me. At least I didn't say that those on strike should be shot in front of their families like Jeremy Clarkson did.

Ox Heart & Black Garlic Ragu

Some times, it's a nice thing to pair a relatively expensive ingredient, when compared to normal garlic, with a cheap one. Heart is one of the milder-flavoured portions of offal, so goes well with the deep, molasses flavour of the black garlic.

1 tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter, unsalted
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 bulb of black garlic, roughly chopped
2 tbsp mushroom ketchup
500g ox heart, roughly chopped and dusted in flour
Cold water
Flaked sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pasta of choice

Preheat oven Gas 3 (160°C/325°F)

In a oven proof pan, gently heat the oil and butter together. Add the onion, carrot and garlic and allow to sweat for 10 minutes. Pour in the mushroom ketchup and let it simmer for a couple of minutes.

Next, place the ox heart in the pan followed by the water. Bring to a simmer then put a lid on top and place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.

Cook your pasta per packet instructions, and serve.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Favourites List - 24th November 2011

These two are my nieces, Amelia and Josie. This picture was taken on the Saturday before Halloween, they were ready to go to Amelia's Halloween-themed 9th Birthday party. 

So, that was a few weeks ago now. Since then, I've been busily beavering away at university. I've got so much work to do, and it's starting to get the better of me recently. I'm keeping up with work, and in some cases I'm ahead, but I'm so desperate to get the best marks I can.

Next year, for four weeks in March and April, I've got to do a work placement as part of my Home Ec course. So, if anyone could help with that please let me know. I'm eager to work in food media. I'm thinking food photographer, food events, food magazines, food styling, home economist. You get the idea.

Love these lights for food photography

Would love to be a chocolatier...

Would love to work here more 

My portrait :)

Think this table is really cute...

Billy sent me this picture he took of me with my doppelganger, a Jack Osbourne doll :-/

Friday, 18 November 2011

beef & ale pudding

Is there anything more comforting than a good pie? Well... yes... a suet pudding. 

With homemade mushy peas.

And buttery mash.

This certainly isn't like one of those floppy, tasteless steak and kidney puddings you get from the chippy on a Friday night. 

For one there's proper ale involved (always a good thing). 

Until you make this recipe (and I seriously hope you do), you won't understand the tension of turning the pudding out of its bowl. After around 6 hours of cooking, truly nerve wrecking. 

Don't be put off by the long cooking time, though. 90% of it is slow-cooking. Not exactly hard work, but it does mean there is a degree of patience involved. 

Beef & Ale Pudding

To make the recipe more economical, I doubled the amount of filling. This can either be used for another pudding or in a stew or cottage pie. 

Serves 4

For the filling

2tbsp vegetable oil
600g beef (for example brisket or shin), diced
2 onions, diced
2 garlic, roughly chopped
125ml oyster stout
200ml beef stock
1/2tbsp tom puree
1/2tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
50ml cold water

For the suet pastry

400g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
200g shredded suet
1/2 tsp table salt
300ml (approx) cold water

1 litre pudding bowl, buttered

Preheat oven Gas 2 (150°C/300°F)

In an oven-proof pan, heat the oil and add the beef, onions and garlic. Fry for 5 minutes before adding the ale, stock, tomato puree and sugar. Cover and bring to a simmer. Then place in the oven and cook for 4 hours.

Meanwhile, have a cup of tea and make the suet pastry.

In a bowl, mix the flour, suet and salt. Gradually stir in the water until it comes together to form a sticky dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge until needed. 

Remove the beef from the oven and place over a low heat, so that it comes to a gentle simmer. Mix 50ml of cold water into the flour, whisking to remove lumps. Stir this into the beef filling to thicken it. Take off the heat.

Take the dough out of the fridge and cut a third off. On a lightly dusted surface, roll out the rest of the dough to about 1cm thickness and cut out a circle about 30cm in diameter (use a plate to help you). Line the pudding bowl with the pastry, being careful not to break any parts of the pastry. 

Spoon the filling into the bowl, leaving a 2cm gap between the filling and the top. 

Roll out the leftover pastry to form a disc for the top of the pudding. Place over the filling and press the edges of the pastries together. If there are any gaps, the filling could leak out and result in disaster. 

Next, cover the top of the pudding bowl with a sheet of baking parchment, then a sheet of tin foil and tie with a piece of string.

Place a upturned saucer in a deep pan with the bowl on top. Fill with just boiled water to half way up. Cover the pan and simmer for 2 1/2 hours. 

Very carefully remove the bowl using oven gloves. Cut the string and take off the coverings, then allow to cool for 10 minutes. Use a round edged palette knife to loosen the pudding from the bowl and turn it out on to a plate. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Michael's Indian Restaurant

On Tuesday, I visited Billy for the day. Usually, we spend at least a few days at a time together but, with all our uni work to do, we had to make do. 

There's an Indian restaurant, close by to where Billy lives, called Michael's. I've eaten there once before and ordered several tasty takeaways, too. Their menu has a wide choice of meals which,  thankfully for me, they are all explained. I like to know what curry I'm ordering.  

The restaurant never seems to be busy and usually that's a sign that there's something wrong. I assure you, there isn't. And, as the evening went on, there were a few more customers, including a birthday group.   

We opted for the £12.50pp four course banquet. It included poppadoms and a selection of dips and chutneys, soup of the day, a starter and a main with side and naan bread. 

I'm not totally sure what all the dips and chutneys were (and I forgot to ask). I know that one was a mango chutney and another some sort of yoghurt and mint dip. It was a bit of a struggle to get the mango chutney away from Billy, but I managed to sneak a little bit. 

The soup of the day was a tarka daal, funnily enough this was the same as the last time I came. Still, it was nice.

For starters, we ordered seekh kebab and chicken tikka. The spicy meat of the kebab was well balanced with the cooling sauce it lay on (which was suspiciously similar to the yoghurt and mint dip). There was plenty of chicken tikka, which was succulent and tasty.

I was a bit dubious about the vibrant red colour of the kebab. Nevermind.

Apparently (so Billy tells me), I take ages to decide what to order. Well, it's an important decision. So it's a good job I checked out the menu online first. 

I ordered the Persian massala and Billy got the chicken makhani. Both were very pleasant, with some spice and heat but not too much. The Persian masala was pieces of lamb and chicken tikka in a sauce with garlic and coriander. The chicken makhani had pieces of chicken tikka in a buttery sauce. 

And this.... 

...Was our naan bread. We certainly couldn't complain about the size. From what I could tell, it was homemade (I'm going by the shape, size and 'chargrilled' bits). It was so nice. There were doughy bits and crunchy bits and was brushed with a garlic butter. The only issue was that it was too big for us to finish.

Staff: Friendly and attentive.
Food: Excellent.
Value: Outstanding.
Price: £37 (including 2 pints of beer and 2 pints of coke)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

chicken noodles

Hopefully, you may have noticed that I don't like to waste much in the kitchen. If I can help it. I also like to save money in the process (mostly because I'm a poor student).

This is where chicken can come in very handy. A whole chicken can be jointed into 8 portions, which I talk about in this chicken enchiladas post. In this recipe, I used the legs and carcass. The breasts were diced up, ready for a tikka masala later in the week. 

I like to freeze the wings until I have enough to pig out on.

I've gradually been getting better at portioning chicken. But I still leave some meat on the carcass, so this is a good way of not letting it go to waste. And, of course, the rest of the stock can be frozen.


PS. I had a comment that there was an error in one of my recipes. If you spot any let me know and I'll amend it.

Chinese Chicken and Noodles

Serves 4

1 chicken carcass
2 chicken legs
2 onions, halved
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1/2 bulb of garlic, lightly crushed
cold water
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 star anise
2 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
400ml chicken stock
3 pak choi, ends cut off
4 portions egg noodles (I used Sherwoods that come in portioned blocks)

In a large pan, add the chicken carcass and legs, onions, carrots and garlic. Add enough water to completely cover the chicken and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer for at least 2 1/2 hours and make sure it's topped up with more water, if needed.

The next stage is easier to do once the stock has cooled down. Remove the carcass and legs and pick off the meat. Strain the rest of the stock.

Heat a pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the chicken meat followed by the sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce, tomato puree and spices. Allow to cook for 5 minutes, then add the stock and cook for a further 15 minutes. Add the pak choi for the final 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles per packet instructions. Drain them, return to the pan and mix in the chicken. Making sure you remove the star anise.

Serve immediately.