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.