Saturday, 15 December 2012

Bratwurst Hotdogs with Caramelised Onions

I've been wanting to do this post for a few weeks now, but getting hold of bratwurst sausages has been a little tough. I was unable to find a single shop in Portsmouth that sold them. Even the Bavarian market didn't sell any. (Well, even though they call it a Bavarian market, there's nothing Bavarian about it). 

Eventually, though, I got hold of some.

The last few years has seen the rise of the gourmet burger, which has come about due to the popularity of high quality street food. Restaurants jumped on to this and the people have become more discerning. 

So, it's about time that hotdogs have followed suit. 

No longer should hotdogs be considered the stuff of over processed "meat" from jars of brine. They should be substantial and (at least) decent quality. And, of course, they should be accompanied by caramelised onions. 

1kg onions, finely sliced
100g butter, unsalted
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 bratwurst per person
1 submarine roll per person
American-style yellow mustard, to serve

In a large pan, over a very low heat, gently melt the butter and add the onions. Allow to softly cook for an 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally at first and more frequently towards the end. They will drastically reduce in volume and will become prone to sticking to the pan. 5 minutes before the end, add the balsamic vinegar.

Caramelising onions is a long and slow process, and you must be patient. Rushing it will result in either them not cooking for long enough or becoming burnt and bitter. 

Shallow fry or grill the bratwurst to colour them. Assemble the hotdogs by cutting vertically along the rolls, laying down a bed of onions, followed by the bratwurst and mustard.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Piri Piri Flat Iron Steak with Borlotti Beans

Steak and chip has to be in at least my top 5 favourite meals. Also in there would be curry, (I say "curry" as a general term because to pick just one would be an abject choice to make) and pizza.

When I was looking for a steak in the shop, I had the options of fillet (too expensive), ribeye (my favourite), sirloin (overrated) and flat iron steak. I chose the latter, not only because it was the least hurtful to my bank balance, but because I'd never had it before. And Oh My God was it good.

I like to cook my steaks very rare. This leaves them tender and juicy. I realise that it doesn't appeal to everyone, but I implore you: try have your steak a little less done than you usually would. If you like well done, go for medium. If you like medium, go for medium rare. And so on.

There are a few other key notes to bear in mind:

Cook the steak from room temperature. Cooking it straight from the fridge will "shock" the meat make it tough.

After cooking, allow the steak to rest for a few minutes. This allows the meat to relax which means it'll be more tender.

Before serving, slice the steak across the grain. It'll make it easier to eat and looks good for presentation. Check out this video.

Serves 1

2tsp Piri Piri spice mix (see below)
1 flat iron steak
1tbsp olive oil
1/2 tin of borlotti beans in water

For the Piri Piri spice mix:
1 1/2tbsp smoked paprika
1tbsp cumin seeds
1tbsp cardamon pods (about 20)
1tbsp garlic salt
1tbsp dried thyme
1tbsp ground ginger
1/2tbsp cayenne pepper

First make the Piri Piri spice mix by grinding all the spice ingredients together in a mill or pestle and mortar.

Coat the steak in the oil then rub the spice mix in and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the borlotti beans and their water into a small pan, season well with salt and pepper and gently heat through.

Heat a frying pan on a high heat then fry the steak on both sides for 1 minute 30 seconds on each side for very rare (longer if you don't want it as rare, but why wouldn't you?). Allow the steak to rest for 10 minutes before slicing it and serving atop of the beans.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Christmas Cinnamon Shortbread

As I write this I've got the music tv channels on and I'm listening to Christmas songs... as I have been doing for most of the day. Yesterday, I got my first Christmas tree and decorated it. I hung up some fairy lights my parents sent me. And I wrapped up all of Billy's presents. 

I'm so excited for Christmas!

With all the presents bought decorations up, it's time for me to turn my thoughts to the food. There's going to be a few baked goods and, no doubt, shortbread will be amongst them. I chose to add a little cinnamon just because it reminds me of mulled wine and all the inherent Christmas nostalgia that goes along with that. But feel free to try other flavourings such as vanilla.

Makes approximately 15 depending upon size.

130g butter, salted
60g caster sugar,
1tsp ground cinnamon
180g plain flour
Icing sugar for dusting
Caster sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale. Then add the cinnamon and mix in the flour until it's evenly combined. You'll end up with a dough-type mixture. At this point, the dough can be frozen for use at a later date. Otherwise, on a lightly floured worktop, roll the dough out to 1cm thickness and cut it into whatever shapes you wish to use - just bear in mind that larger shapes will take slightly longer to cook than smaller ones. Transfer them to a baking tray and dust with icing sugar. Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden, then transfer to a wire rack, dust with caster sugar and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container once cooled.

I used a stand-mixer to mix the ingredients, but it can also be done in a food processor or by hand.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Movember

Hi guys. This is just a quick post to let you all know about Movember: the month of the mustache  The aim of Movember is to raise awareness of men's health, particularly prostrate and testicular cancer.

It's a little bit daunting for me because I've not had a clean shave for over 2 years... plus mustaches look silly on me.

But, here's my first picture...

Not a bad start.

Please support this cause by donating at or by growing a mustache.

Keep an eye out for Movember updates.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Chocolate and Cinnamon Brioche

On Monday, me and Billy went away for a couple of days to Bournemouth. Our hotel was right next to the sea. Well, I say that but what I really mean is that it was on top of a cliff which meant we had to hike up a steep slope to get back to it from the beach (over 24 hours later and my calves are still not seeing the funny side of this). 

As you can see from the photos, October wasn't the best month to have a seaside break but, you know what? at least we had each other (...and it didn't rain... and the hotel was nice... and the food).

So, some good old fashioned comfort baking was needed upon our return, and I've been trying to perfect this recipe, a twist on the Hairy Bikers' recipe, for a few weeks now. As I write this, the warming aroma of cinnamon and chocolate is filling the air. And it's very much a welcomed aroma. Outside the autumnal season has arrived: cold, windy, and semi-golden leaved. 

1 1/2tsp fast action yeast
1tsp caster sugar
125ml lukewarm whole milk
500g plain flour
1tsp salt
4tbsp caster sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
4 medium eggs, beaten
175g unsalted butter, melted
5tbsp dark chocolate, finely grated

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the milk and allow to stand for 10 minutes whilst it froths.

Note: Be careful not to have the milk too hot or too cold. Too hot and it will kill the yeast; too cold and the yeast will not activate. When you dip you finger in the milk you should not be able to feel it either it way i.e. it is at body temperature. 

Using a kitchen machine, slowly mix the sifted flour, salt, sugar and cinnamon and add the yeast mixture and eggs. Continue to mix for 5 minutes.

The next stage is going to take some patience and faith. Turn the speed of the kitchen machine up a little and, very gradually, add the melted butter one tablespoon at a time, ensuring that each is incorporated into the dough before adding the next. This will take some time (about 10 minutes) and the dough will become very wet. However, when done, the dough shouldn't be sticky but with have a gloss to it. Place a damp tea towel or some oiled cling film over the bowl and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

Next, re-knead the dough with the kitchen machine for 1 minute and turn it out on to a well floured work surface. You will need to roll the dough out to make a large rectangle that is about half an inch thick. Sprinkle the chocolate over the top.

Then, roll the dough up like a swiss roll and cut into eight even rings. Place them into an 8 inch round greased tin, with one in the centre and seven encircling it.

Note: when placing the "ends" of the dough have them facing downwards. 

Place a clean, damp tea towel over the top and allow to prove in a warm place for 45 minutes. And, whilst it's doing so, preheat the oven to 180°C.

Once the dough has proved, bake it in the oven for 30 minutes. After which, turn it out on to a wire rack and allow to cool... or eat immediately (being careful, of course).

Friday, 19 October 2012

Black Treacle Bread and Chocolate Brioche... So Far

The past few weeks have involved a bit of experimenting in the kitchen. All of which I hope to share with you soon. 

It's mostly revolved around two main things: 1) should I make brioche with plain flour or strong white flour? and 2) trying to smoke chillies. Never of these has been an absolute success so far, but they're not far off. (If anyone has any tips on making a smoker out of a bread tin, and tell me where I'm going wrong, that'd be a great help). 

I've also just pulled a black treacle loaf out of the oven. It's sitting patiently on the wire rack, waiting for me to inspect it's acceptability as an edible object. Given that I don't actually like black treacle, it's got a lot to prove. 

Recently, I've discovered a website, Curious Cook, written by non other than the father of molecular gastronomy and the mastermind of food science, Harold McGee. I spent a very happy 10 minutes reading, geekily, about caramelisation and how sugar doesn't actually melt. 

It's just occurred to me that Mr McGee might have something to say on the use of flour in brioches and smoking foods. I'll have to remember that for later. 

On Monday, my and Billy are going for out first little holiday of the year. All the way to far flung... Bournemouth. I got a good deal on a moneysaving app and, to be honest, it's good just to get away with him for a couple of days. So, if any of you know of any food highlights in the area, let me know. 

Got a new jumper today.

Pizza. Obviously one of the first things I cook in my new oven.

Must get dinner on soon. Ham risotto tonight.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Chicken Katsu Curry

I first came across chicken katsu when I went to Yo! Sushi for the first time earlier this year. And, as a big fan of all things curry, I had to make it. 

The mirin rice wine gives it a sweet flavour, whilst the birds-eye chilli brings a kick that certainly warms you up in this cold weather. It's easy enough to adjust the heat to your own tastes, though, just by altering the amount of chillies you use. 

Serves 4

50g butter
1 onion, finely diced
1 birds-eye chilli, deseeded and chopped
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp coriander seeds
1tsp fennel seeds
1tsp fenugreek
2 cardamon pods
150ml chicken stock
2tbsp dark soy sauce
3tbsp mirin rice wine
1 1/2tbsp plain flour mixed with 3tbsp water
4 chicken thighs, boned and skinless
50g plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
75g dried breadcrumbs
2tbsp vegetable oil
Rice to serve

Gently melt the butter in a pan and sweat the onions for a few minutes. Add the chilli, spices, stock, soy sauce and mirin wine and bring to a simmer. Add the flour and water paste and allow to cook for a few more minutes, thickening up. Once done, take it off the heat whilst you sort out the chicken. 

Place the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs on a plate each. For each chicken thigh, dust in flour, then coat in eggs and cover with breadcrumbs. Then heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the chicken for about 10 minutes. Keep a careful eye on them so that they don't burn but are thoroughly cooked. You could start the cooking process this way then finish them in an oven. 

To serve, reheat the sauce and slice the chicken into strips. Serve the strips on top of cooked rice and then coat in the rich sauce. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sistema Food Container Set

I'm starting to really like Groupon. And I'm not just saying that because this post is sponsored by them. There are some great deals on there. This set of Sistema food containers came from For those of you that don't know (and I was one of them up until a few weeks ago) this is how Groupon works: find an offer that you like, buy the voucher, then use the voucher to redeem the offer from the retailer. This process was very easy with because they have a "Redeem you Groupon" link on their homepage.

I waited 10 days for the containers to be delivered, which I thought was a few days more than perhaps it should've been. But because they'd already told me the timescale I was ok with it. When the delivery driver called at my flat there was no one in, so he rang me and we arranged for it to be delivered when it suited me (which was the same day).

The set includes salad, soup, breakfast, chill it and shaker to go containers. So far, the salad and soup containers have been my favourites.

First, the soup container - which I have yet to actually use with soup. Macaroni cheese and sweet and sour pork (post coming soon) have been my foods of choice so far. The container is microwavable and has a little vent on top. I can see this being a major part of work lunches as the weather gets colder. The only thing it's missing is a little spoon, but then I guess it's meant to be for soup and you can just drink it.

Next the salad container. Again, I've not actually used this for leafy salads yet, but who needs that when you can have chicken noodles! There's a little container for a dressing, so the food doesn't get soggy, and a little knife and fork that double as salad tossers.

I've found the shaker is perfect for the early train rides to work. I've been using it for banana milkshakes (literally just banana and milk blended together), giving me a healthy start to the day. I thought the little flap on top might be prone to leakage, but so far it's been very secure and not dripped at all.

The chill-it lunchbox is superb for picnics or if you don't have a fridge at work. It'll keep your food cold for a few hours.

And, finally, the breakfast container is handy if you're a bit short of time in the morning. It has two separate compartments to keep your yoghurt and cereal apart (unfortunately milk leaks a little).

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Chicken and Pesto Risotto

Risottos are a great way of using up any bits and bobs you've got hanging around in the fridge. It's also a very satisfying dish to make because it takes a little bit of care and patience, but the results are well worth it. A creamy, comforting meal and it only takes 20 minutes.

The creaminess in a risotto comes from taking the time to look after it. Frequently stirring it breaks down the rice grains, releasing the starch; giving it that oozy texture.

You can take the basics of this risotto and add any flavour you want - I used some leftover roast chicken and some pesto I tend to always have in the fridge. A splash of white wine would also have made a great addition.

Makes 1 large portion or 2 smaller portions

500ml chicken stock
2tbsp olive oil
2 handfuls of risotto rice
1 chicken breast, cooked and roughly chopped
3tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Salt and pepper
1tbsp pesto
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve

First, heat the chicken stock - this will speed up the cooking time. Then, in a large bottomed pan, heat up the oil and add the rice. Allow the rice to cook in the oil for a couple of minutes, starting the process of breaking down the rice grains to release the starch.

Ladle in the the stock a bit at a time, stirring as often as you can - ideally not leaving the stove. When most of the stock has been absorbed, add more stock and keep repeating this process. When it's been cooking for about 15 minutes, start tasting to make sure it doesn't get over cooked. The rice grains should hold a little bit of a bite at the end, al dente, so you may not need all the stock.

A few minutes before you think it's ready, add the chicken, Parmesan and season generously. Serve immediately with a spoonful of pesto and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Sweet Chilli Chicken Noodles

After watching the BBC series Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure, with Ken Hom and Ching-He Huang (or, as Billy calls, "that dad and the girl"), I was inspired to do a bit of Chinese cooking myself. Well, I say "Chinese" but I'm in no way claiming this to be a traditional Chinese recipe. It's just something I thought would work well.

Not all Chinese cookery involves strange long list of ingredients. This recipe certainly doesn't, and can be cooked in 5 minutes flat.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Beef Biryani

This is a rice-based curry dish that is cooked all in one pot. So there's not much washing up to do afterwards. A totally good thing when I've got a week off work to do other things...

Yesterday we went to Winchester, where I did my Fine Art degree. This would've been made a great little picnic meal, but our decision to go was only made first thing in the morning, so there was absolutely no time to do anything.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Pesto Fusilli

The boyfriend came down to visit me last Monday and he's staying for four weeks. As I write this he's sat next to me getting increasingly frustrated with Little Big Planet. But's he's still not as frustrated as he was when I was playing along with him. I'm hopeless at some games, so I don't blame him.

However, I do succeed in making him nice food. Well, at least I like to think I do, and that his nods and mmmm's of approval are sincere. Yeah. Of course he likes my food. And I'm currently turning his attention to pesto.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Black Cherry Jam Roly Poly

Along with spotted dick, bread and butter pudding, apple crumble and chocolate sponge, jam roly poly is one of those desserts that sends my thoughts straight back to school meals. It's nostalgic food. 

Along with the chicken kiev, Angel Delight, Vienetta ice cream and prawn cocktail, roly poly was really a food of the 70's and 80's. But in the British food revival of recent years it seems to have been forgotten about. And what a shame.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Homemade Burgers

There are a million different ways to make a burger. Let's start with the patty. If you're going with the standard beef, then what cut? Skirt, silverside, rump? But, of course, there's also chicken, turkey, lamb, and or even buffalo, kangaroo and the other more exotic meats. Then, do you add spices and herbs, or just salt and pepper. Do you add tomato puree? Onions? Caramelised or raw? 

Next the bun. Regular soft white roll? Crusty white roll? Seeded? Or should you go with something a little more posh, a brioche roll? 

The toppings, then. Which cheese? Cheddar, edam, brie, or, dare I say it, processed slices? (I must confess, I love processed cheese slices on a burger). What else? Pickles? Onion (again)? Lettuce? Egg? Bacon? The sauce. Mayo and ketchup? Or just mayo? Or just ketchup? Or something else?

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Thai Red Chicken Curry

Today's been a busy day, with eating a hog roast barm and buying ox cheeks at the Southsea Food Festival to watching the Olympic torch go past my flat. The hog roast was run by the same people that do the farmers' market... I get one every time and the lads recognise me now. I'm hoping that means I'm now a regular and get extra crackling.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Almond and Chocolate Tartlets

Last week I bought myself a Kenwood Chef. Not as good looking as a KitchenAid, but it's performance is better (I realise that may sound a bit bias). And, after giving it pride of place in my kitchen I was itching to use it.

Now, I've got loads of ground almonds in the cupboard, so the challenge was to find a recipe that meant I could use both the almonds and the Chef. Luckily, my Mum and sent me some food magazines that I subscribe to, but hadn't changed the delivery address yet. In Delicious., happened to be a recipe for Amandine Tart - basically a fancy Bakewell Tart without the jam.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Homemade Pizza

I definitely need to make pizza from scratch more often. Making pizza dough is just about as satisfactory as making bread, but without the long wait. As far as toppings go, you can pretty much choose what your heart desires. Next time, I thinking of cracking an egg into the middle.  

My recommendation for toppings? Keep it simple. Don't overload it. Use mozzarella. 

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Carrot Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

A quick Google search, during my lunch break at work, informs me that carrot cake has its origins in Medieval times. Perhaps this makes it the first vegetable to be used in sweet cookery, though I have no other basis for making this claim. Now you can find recipes for allsorts of desserts using vegetables: beetroot brownies; courgetter lemon sorbet... I forget what else. Oh, rhubarb (maybe that predates carrots).

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky toffee pudding is a British classic. It was always had a place on dessert menus when I was working in restaurant kitchens, whether it was  the middle of a cold winter or a record breaking summer. 

I've come across a few variations on recipes that, inevitably, revolve around the key ingredient... dates. Some use black treacle, some, like mine, soak the dates in black tea, some use a selection of spices, and others keep it to the basics. 

Which ever way the recipe goes, you'll rarely find a sticky toffee pudding without butterscotch sauce.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Homemade Tomato Ketchup

A couple of weeks ago I started working for kitchen appliance manufacturer Kenwood, as a home economist. It's been a fun and interesting two weeks. Aside from the performance testing of blenders and juicers, there's also been lots of food - cookies, chocolate mousse, carrot cake, curries, banana milkshakes... it's a tough job.

The new flat is also doing pretty well, except for a couple of issues involving the oven and shower, but the landlord is going to get me new ones.

I've got Billy staying with me for a few weeks. He came down last Friday, which meant we had our 2nd anniversary together on Saturday, and it's been great to finally have our own space. He also met my friend, Rachel, who came down to visit me on Sunday, along with her boyfriend and baby. She brought some presents for us both, including a Le Creuset salt crock (which looks awesome in my kitchen) and some food treats like posh Italian nougat and black olive pate. We also had a lovely meal at the Italian restaurant Zizzi.

So, on to the tomato sauce. At work, there were 5kg of tomatoes left over and, not wanting them to see the bottom of a bin, I brought them home. 2kg went into a beef curry, another 2kg were oven dried and are now stored in a kiln jar, topped up with olive oil, and the last 1kg went into making tomato sauce.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Chicken Korma in Portsmouth

What an exciting week! I moved from the quite life of Lancashire all the way to Portsmouth, at the other end of the country, to start a new job as a home economist for a major kitchen appliance manufacturer. (Don't know if I'm allowed to name them - I'll check). I'm so pleased that all my hard work at uni (and yes, I did work hard) has paid off. 

It's been a big move. This is the first time I've had my own flat and everything has been a bit mad. So, it was nice to get a few cards and even flowers from my friend Rachel and her family, which were waiting for me when I arrived last Thursday.

Everything's unpacked, but the flat is still a bit untidy with a pile of crushed cardboard boxes stacked in the corner. The kitchen is a little on the small side from what I'm use to, but I suppose it's only going to be me, and occasionally Billy, that I cook for. 

Having no kitchen on Thursday night, this was my first meal...

On Friday, I had a break from unpacking and went off to explore the area a bit more. Literally a few hundred metres away is the museum and (I think close-by) the birthplace of Charles Dickens, then a further 10 minute walk or so is a really nice (and expensive) shopping mall. In the other direction is Southsea, which is where I think I'll be going most of the time. I found a good little butcher (where I got the chicken for this recipe), an Eastern market store, and good kitchen shop. There's also a monthly farmers' market that was on today. I picked up some potted herbs (coriander, parsley and thyme), ox cheeks (which the butcher didn't sell), a couple of pheasant breasts, and a couple of sausages. 

Oh... And I bought this piece of gorgeousness... A hog roast barm.

As I'll be working (hard) during the week, my plan for food is to try and bulk cook a few things at weekends. With the idea of just pulling something out the freezer in the morning for tea later on. I've already brought some chicken pesto kievs and chilli con carne with me. And, as always I need to have curry at least once a week, so that was a must this weekend. 

Chicken korma is probably only second to chicken tikka masala as the nation's favourite curry dish, which is surely down to its creamy sauce, delicate flavours, and unimposing use of chillies. But I think a good korma can be more. In my korma, the Queen of Spices, aromatic cardamom, plays a central role along with the earthiness of almonds and the sweetness of coconut. 

Chicken Korma

I used spring onions here purely because I forgot to get white onions when I was out, but they work just as well. Likewise, I used olive oil instead of butter, but if you have butter use that. 
Serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil
5 spring onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp each ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cumin, turmeric
1 tsp chilli flakes
10 cardamom pods, seeds removed and pods discards
1.5kg (about 6-7) chicken breasts, diced
6 tbsp ground almonds
100g desiccated coconut
600ml chicken or water
Handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper

In a large pan, gently heat the oil and sweat the onions and garlic for 5 minutes, until soft. Add all the spices and cook for another minute or so then throw in the chicken. Give a good mix up so all the chicken is coated in the those amazing spices. Pop in the almonds and coconut, and then the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes. 

Taste the sauce and add a little more of the any of spices if you feel its needs it - particularly the chilli. Season with our good friends salt and pepper, then stir in the coriander. 

Serve with rice. 

Or, if you're me, portion into six takeaway tubs and freeze. Just add a little water when you reheat one. 

Did I mention the beach is only 5 minutes away, too?