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.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

chinese sticky beef

This week I've been busily (and frustratingly) carrying on with my uni work. This week is reading week, so I'm hoping to get a decent amount of work done. I'm also hoping that I can get some nice food made. My neighbour brought around a carrier bag full of pears and I'm deliberating on what to do with them. Pear Tatin? Pear butter? Pear sponge? Whatever I do, I'm determined to stay away from poaching them. That just doesn't do it for me.

Anyway, on to today's post...

When it comes to cooking Chinese inspired dishes, it's very rare that I'll step away from stir-fries. And I'm not even too keen on them. So, when I came across this sticky five spice beef with fried ginger it looked the ideal Chinese dish to cook, especially at this time of year. 

At the moment, I've also got a particular fondness of slow-cooking meat. Recently, I've done this with chilli con carne and pulled beef. Maybe it's the cold frost that's nudging me towards these warming meals.

Chinese Sticky Beef
Adapted from Senses In The Kitchen

The biggest change I've made to the original recipe is not bother blending any of the ingredients. With the slow-cooking, the onions and garlic will break up easily enough anyway, especially if you slice them really thinly. I've also omitted the fried ginger. 

Serves 2-3

400g shin of beef
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp Muscovado sugar
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 star anise
2 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp ground ginger
250ml beef stock

Preheat oven Gas 4 (180°C/350°F)

Heat the oil in an ovenproof pan and brown the meat on all sides for around 5 minutes. Take the beef out and fry the onions and garlic for 5 minutes. Then, return the meat along with the rest of the ingredients. 

Bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and place in the oven for 3 1/2 hours. It'll be done when you can easily break up the meat with a fork.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Dining Etiquette: The Bootle Arms

As a treat for my mum's birthday, we went to The Bootle Arms. It was a Sunday (just gone) and we didn't arrive until early evening time. The sun was just setting over the fields that surrounded the pub. It was quite beautiful with all the autumnal colours and the crisp freshness in the air. 

When we entered the pub, we were met by a bustling atmosphere and, luckily, we were promptly seated. Unluckily, we were seated next to a table of four women and 4 kids (including a baby). Now, that would have been fine, except for the screaming. The constant screaming. And the unwilling women.

We managed to put up with the noise during our mediocre meal. But, by the time our plates were cleared and we were looking at the dessert menu (I was considering the trio of brownies), the noise had picked up. The women made half-hearted attempts to quieten them down but, quite frankly, they didn't seem interested in trying to control them.

I went to the bar to ask if we could be moved to another table. I think it was the manager we spoke to. We were met by a dismissive comment about how busy they were. Now, I understand that they may have had a lot of bookings, but the way he came across was like a "like it or lump it" attitude. We never ordered dessert and left slightly disgruntled.

So, what's the correct etiquette for dining out with kids? Should the women have made more of an effort to keep the kids quiet? If the kids couldn't behave, should they have been there in the first place, disturbing everyone's evening? Or, should I just "like it or lump it"? 

Friday, 4 November 2011

chilli con carne

Usually, when I cook chilli-orientated dishes, I use chilli flakes or at a push I'll use the bog-standard red chillies from Tesco. I've always been a bit wary of using different types of chilli, I think mainly because I've been unsure of their heat and how much to add. Lots of heat just doesn't do it for me. I like to be able to taste the food, not have the overwhelming urge to drink 10 pints of water because the inside of my mouth is burning off. 

However, this blog post from Hollow Legs has inspired me to be a bit more adventurous when it comes to using chillies. I've not used all the chillies that Hollow Legs does, just Chipotle and those aforementioned standard chillies. I'm so glad I did use the Chipotle chillies. Their smell is an intense smokey, BBQ one, almost like a multiplied flavour of paprika.

I know a lot of people use beef mince, when they cook chilli con carne. But, using slow-cooked shin of beef brings a different textural experience. I also think that using a combination of beef and pork means that the dish isn't so heavy. Though, I was a bit dismayed when I bought my pig cheeks from the butchers. Their price seems to have rocketed. Still, it's well worth asking for them (just check how much they are).

PS. Chips probably aren't the most traditional of sides to go with chilli con carne. Maybe tortilla chips or rice?

Chilli Con Carne
Adapted from Hollow Legs

This recipe calls from a less extensive range of chillies, but there is certainly still a lot of heat going on (hence the inclusion of crème fraîche). It also has pig cheeks and red kidney beans.

Additionally, if you don't fancy using lager, add a couple of shots of bourbon.

300g shin of beef
400g pig cheeks
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, diced
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
14g (about 4) Chipotle chillies, roughly chopped
2 red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
400ml beef stock
1 can of lager
400g red kidney beans, cooked
crème fraîche, to taste (optional)

Preheat oven Gas 4 (180°C/350°F)

In a large pan, heat up the oil and brown all the meat on both sides. You may have to do this in batches. Once browned, set the meat aside and throw in the onions, garlic, and both types of chillies and fry for 5 minutes. 

Put the meat back in the pan along with the beef stock and lager and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven for 4 hours. 

After 4 hours, place on the stove again and add the kidney beans. Cook for 5 minutes.