A-Z Fun Foodie Photo Cooking Challenge!

With our month of selfie photos rapidly coming to an end, we had a bit of a think as to another challenge to keep us busy over the coming months. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we’ve come up with a combined cooking and photo challenge…..with my cooking skills it really will be challenging!

We debated several ways to do it, but have finally come up with the idea of an alphabet cooking challenge. Each challenge will correspond with a letter and we’ll cook using an ingredient beginning with that letter and post the photos to share. Now, if you’re already thinking about how many letters there are in the alphabets and how many months it will take to complete this challenge, let me save you the brain power by telling you that if this challenge were on a monthly basis, it would run until June 2016!! So the thinking is, rather than monthly, we’ll let each other know when we’ve cooked with the ingredient, share the photos and move onto the next letter – hopefully it’ll speed things up!

The ingredients we have chosen are all (no, make that mostly!) fairly simple and are all veggie friendly too. I’m very much doubting that my recipes will stay veggie though, to keep my family happy.

So, here’s the list we’ve compiled…..

A – Asparagus
B – Butternut Squash
C – Chocolate (bring it on!)
D – Dates
E – Eggs
F – Flour
G – Goat’s Cheese
H – Hazelnuts
I – Icing
J – Jam
K – Kale
L – Lemons
M – Mushrooms
N – Noodles
O – Oranges
P – Pears
Q – Quorn
R – Rum
S – Spinach
T – Tofu
U – Ugli Fruit
V – Vanilla
W – Walnuts
X – Xigua
Y – Yoghurt
Z – Zucchini

That’s quite some shopping list! The emphasis is going to be on the photos and will hopefully help improve my food photo skills – at the moment I take a photo quickly, eat all the food even more quickly and then check the photo and find out it’s rubbish! I WILL get over that thanks to this challenge….I hope! So, bring on May and bring on the asparagus!

 

 

Happy Valentines Day!

As I’ve said, ask me a question and I feel honour bound to answer…. So when Cottage Delight asked about Valentines menus and how you’d use their products, of course I had to rise to the challenge!

We’re very lucky to have a supplier of delicious Cottage Delight products quite close to us – you might have one too, check out the handy Local Stockists section of their website. I thought I’d take two of my favourites of their ingredients and see what I could come up with….. here’s the results.

The great thing about Cottage Delight products is that you can often pick up leaflets and delicious recipe cards, so they’ve done the hard work for you!

YUM!!!

YUM!!!

This time, however, I thought I’d go it alone with my recipes using, firstly, Caramelised Onion Chutney. Thinking along the Valentines theme, I decided that having my first attempt at palmiers, given their heart-ish shape, would be a good idea.

If you fancy a try it’s very easy and pretty effective looking too – as well as being delicious of course! If you’d like to use make-your-own puff pastry then, please, be my guest! Ready made is, however, far easier and has equally great results so I went with that.

Take your pastry square from the fridge and bash it hard with a rolling pin! Yes, really! See, you’re liking this recipe already! The palmiers don’t actually need to “puff” much so mistreating the poor old pastry on this occasion is a plus, not slapped wrists from Mary Berry time.

Now roll out your bashed pastry to approx 30 x 35cm and spread with your Caramelised Onion Chutney. Crumble cheese over the top. I used Blue Stilton given the strength of its taste, but you could use whatever you wanted.

Turning the short end of your pastry towards you, roll each of the long sides towards the middle of the pastry rectangle, so they kiss (this is Valentines remember) in the middle. Brush whisked egg along the join so that they stay together. Place the whole lot in the fridge for 30 mins to allow the pastry to harden. After the time’s up, take the rolled up pastry out and cut it into thick pieces (about 1cm wide). Lay them on a greased baking tray and spread with lots more of the egg. Bake them in an oven heated to 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes until crisp. They should look something like this….

Caramelised Onion Chutney and Blue Stilton Palmiers

Caramelised Onion Chutney and Blue Stilton Palmiers

Okay, better speed things up or it will be Easter by the time you’ve finished reading this, let alone Valentines Day!

I’ve decided to serve these with Beetroot Risotto…here’s the recipe…

500g fresh beetroot
2tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
1 heaped tsp Caramelised Onion Chutney
1 finely chopped red onion
1 finely chopped garlic clove
250g risotto rice
150ml white wine
700ml hot veg stock
Grated Parmesan

Heat the oven to 180 degrees (fan). Peel and chop beetroot into large wedges, toss in 1tbsp of olive oil, place on baking foil on a baking tray and place in the oven for an hour until soft.

Heat the remaining oil with the butter in a large frying pan. Saute the onion and garlic until translucent. Stir in the rice, ensuring it’s well covered with the butter/oil. Pour over the wine, add the chutney and allow to bubble for a short while. Stirring again, add the stock and allow the mixture to soak into the rice, softening it. Keep stirring as you go.

Remove the beetroot from the oven and blitz them or chop them into very small pieces and then stir into the risotto mixture with the Parmesan. Serve with palmiers….

Tastes as amazing as it looks!

Tastes as amazing as it looks!

Okay, moving on to the second of my favourite Cottage Delight’s products – Lemon Curd and a Lemon Curd Cake.

The ingredients are:-
100g margarine
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
175g self raising flour
1 jar of Cottage Delight Lemon Curd (I leave 2 tsp in the bottom of the jar to eat later….!)
1 level tsp baking powder

If you’re lazy like me, shove it all in your food processor and whizz it until it’s mixed together nicely! Or, the proper way mix it all together for about 5 mins. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (fan).

Pour the cake mixture into a greased (or, lazy me again, one with a paper case) 2lb loaf tin.

Bake for approx 35-40 mins until browned.

Serve drizzled with honey or maple syrup and top with ice cream or clotted cream. Oh, and champagne given the day of course!

Lemon Curd Cake - more amazing colour from lemon curd and free range eggs!

Lemon Curd Cake – more amazing colour from lemon curd and free range eggs!

Happy Valentines Day and thank you very much to Cottage Delight for the inspiration! I would love to hear if you give any of the recipes a go.

Recipe Fishing!

Do you stick to tried and tested recipes in recipe books you’ve had for years? Or do you like to try something different?

Since we moved house and my husband decided that boxes should be kept in storage until we’d decorated, I’ve been missing my recipe books and have been “fishing” for recipes online….so far the results have been good!

Bearing in mind all the recent articles in the news about food wastage, when I came across a packet of sausages in the fridge yesterday morning with a use by date of 16th, and noticed a few rashers of bacon which really needed using or throwing, I decided to use. As we were all busy yesterday morning there was no opportunity for a “grill-up” for breakfast. I decided to Google recipes using sausage and bacon and was promptly directed to the Philadelphia website. If you’ve never seen the recipes on their website before, you really should take a look. We’ve used them before so I was delighted to find myself on their website with a recipe ideal for the ingredients that I had.

Rather than repeat the recipe for Philly Sausage and Bacon Potato Bake to you, I’ll just direct you to the page and encourage you to have a go – you won’t be disappointed! My only reservations were the amount of mess I made (needed lots of saucepans, not me throwing things around!) and there didn’t seem to be much sauce to add to the other ingredients, so I added more boiling water to make it go further, which worked out just fine.

If you have a go at recipe fishing I’d love to hear the about the results!

Yummy Philly Sausage, Bacon Potato Bake!

Mad MAOAM Mummified Moggie!!

Okay – RIGHT at the start, no kitty was hurt during this process….!

Those very nice people at MAOAM raised a challenge on their Facebook page and, as you may have already guessed, if there’s anything I enjoy it’s a challenge, a chance to be creative and…maybe….a little bit of madness on the way!

MAOAM’s instructions were “Send a photo of MAOAM sweets or packaging in a Halloween setting in an image which is fun and where you have used your effort and imagination to create the image” – FUN!!!!!!!

Well, naturally, the first idea that popped into my head was to mummify the cat….. Before I hear the howls of protest, I did have our cat doorstop in mind.  Here’s the poor guy before the process started

Bare, naked kitty doorstop

Bare, naked kitty doorstop

As my daughter’s a big fan of Decopatch we thought that perhaps we could eat lots and lots and lots of yummy MAOAM sweets (yes, you can see why we like a challenge can’t you?!) and then Decopatch (or stick on paper in bits to you and I) the empty wrappers.  Here they are!

HOW many MAOAM did we eat?!

HOW many MAOAM did we eat?!

They look good just like that don’t they? The Decopatch glue is great as you glue under and over the object you’re sticking, as normally you’d use smaller pieces and layer them slightly,  and then your finished work has a nice shine afterwards too, without the hassle of varnishing.

I have to say that I’ve never really done much of this before, whereas my daughter’s a bit of an expert, especially at being frugal with what she does with her glue. As a result her sheets were dry within hours, whereas mine were still a bit damp and sticky several days later!! I had wondered how that little pot of glue had lasted her years with the amount of sticking she does!! She’ll need some new now though!

After the sheets were, eventually, dry I cut them into strips and then “bandaged” up kitty….and here’s the result! For people who are still a bit freaked out about a covered cat LOOK, I left a space for him to breathe through his nose, even though he’s an inanimate object – I’m not a complete monster!!

MAOAWWWWW!

MAOAWWWWW!

But, but, but….that’s never enough once you start an idea is it?! After that I thought I’d make a sign to go behind kitty for our final display. I hand drew this, and whilst drawing the “M”‘s realised they looked a bit mouth like….. Okay, so bring on a MAOAM pumpkin then!

I really like the M shaped eyes and mouth – they work very well

Please see below for a recipe to make your own ectoplasm!

Please see below for a recipe to make your own ectoplasm!

I think! However, that was a bit dull for us really wasn’t it?! Why not have the pumpkin’s brain’s dripping out in some ectoplasm?! Why not indeed! As our usual ectoplasm supplier is currently busy with other Halloween duties, we decided to make our own. We melted some MAOAM in the microwave (BE CAREFUL if you try this, it only takes seconds and the results are MOLTEN hot – don’t stick your fingers in it!). To this we added some green food colouring and some of the pumpkin seeds. It’s a pretty icky result isn’t it?! Absolutely ideal!!!

We decided that, as well as offering trick or treat callers MAOAM from the handy skull called Ozzle, which we borrowed from my mother (you see, it’s hereditary!), we’d make them up some cupcakes too! I’m VERY pleased with how these turned out. We wrapped the cake cases with more of our decopatch style paper, used unwrapped MAOAM as eyebrows and then a Cyclops style eye in the middle!

Eye spy MAOAM!

Eye spy MAOAM!

You’ll be pleased to hear that we really did think it was time to stop after all this crazy creativity, and put the whole scene together (before Halloween was over and done with!)…… so here’s the final result….. Hope you like it!

HAPPY MAOAM HALLOWEEN!

HAPPY MAOAM HALLOWEEN!

…and by night…..!

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Oh, you Mug!

So, have you heard of Cakes in a Mug before? Using a microwave? Yes, really! If you’ve not been initiated to this AMAZING art yet, then read on dear friend (if you already know all about it, read on anyhow, you might learn something, or be able to comment and teach me something!).

I’m not sure how long microwave mug cakes have been around – when Googling in an effort to find out I did come across an article entitled “Magic Chocolate Mug Cake Microwave Recipe” dated 2008….and I think the concept is every bit as magical today.

Bringing up right up to date, those terribly clever people at Whittard have decided to celebrate the magic with a Cake in a Mug Blogger Carnival. As they say in their article, cake in a mug is a perfect solution for someone who really fancies a little cake without the time and effort involved in baking an entire cake. So, with this spirit in mind, here’s my recipe. Some of the ingredients may seem a little “different” but I PROMISE you that they make a wonderful cake.

The ingredients are in such small amounts that I’ll just run through them as part of the method:-

Optional for decorating purposes later……melt a little dark chocolate in a small bowl, dip in a strawberry and place it on a plate in the fridge to cool (now melt the rest of the chocolate and eat the rest of the strawberries…..if you’re me….).

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter into your (microwave-proof) mug (if you’ve never melted butter in the microwave, please be aware this only takes seconds – my poor nan tried to soften butter in the microwave once, setting it for a minute, then had to try to harden it back up in the freezer!)

Mix in 2 tablespoons of sugar until well combined, then stir in a medium egg.

Add 2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt (yes, really – makes it tasty!).  Then add 4 tablespoons of self raising flour together with a little bicarbonate of soda (I use just less than 1/4 teaspoon).

This is the point that you should add any other ingredients that you fancy. For this particular cake I added a tablespoon of Whittard Luxury White Hot Chocolate Powder and some chocolate drops. You could add cocoa, vanilla or any other flavour essence…whatever takes your fancy.

Pop in the microwave. I blasted my cake for 1 minute 30 seconds in our 850w oven. If that doesn’t seem long enough and your cake looks a little underdone put in for a while longer – but only go 10 seconds at a time as you can really ruin the texture if you overcook it.

Put on the kettle and make a lovely pot of tea. Take your cake out of the microwave and decorate as you wish…… And here’s one I made earlier!

Choco-Strawberry Micro Cake!

Choco-Strawberry Micro Cake!

I recommend eating it immediately, from the mug with a spoon, while the chocolate drops are still hot and runny…. Then do the brilliantly little amount of washing up that you’ve created, have a meal ready for your family when they get home from work/school and eat a tiny portion, claiming to be on a diet….. Go on, I’ll keep your cake eating a secret!

This post is an entry to the Whittard of Chelsea Cake in a Mug Blogger Carnival

UPDATE!

Delighted and absolutely over the moon to say that I was a runner up in Whittard’s Mug Blogger Carnival! The results are online and I’m most definitely going to have a go at some of the other entries – they look lush! Please let me know if you’ve had a go at a cake and how it came out!

Aside

A Good Kitchen To Cook (Yes!)

The best thing about the new house so far is the amount of room to work in the kitchen. Our first flat had a massive bedroom and front room but lacked severely in the bathroom (peachy orange – ick!) and the kitchen, which was so small that you had to enter sideways crab-style and then go back out again if you wanted to turn around to use the other side of the kitchen! It was so small that the only appliance that fitted was the cooker and everything else had to be kept in the front room. That of course meant a twin tub which had to be rolled into the hallway on washing day with a long stretch of hose to the kitchen sink…. The kitchen in our old house had lots of room but no surface space (designed by a man (sorry husband!)) so you’d end up having to create and cook on top of the hob – not ideal.

This kitchen has masses of room. It does need work but unfortunately the designer came on a day when I was at work and his plans reflect the opinions of not only my husband but my father, teenage daughter and her boyfriend. Their idea of kitchen heaven turned out to be taking away all the drawers (Noooooooo! I have so many drawers at the moment that I have a dedicated “party drawer”!) and have an American fridge (yes, lovely but for three of us?!) and wine racks. Needless to say, I wasn’t too pleased when I saw the drawings!

Party Drawer!

Party Drawer!

I think you’ll agree…..the party drawer has to stay!

Anyway, as I say, a lovely kitchen to cook so we’ve had some nice tasty treats at the moment including an apple and blackberry pie which would have had Mary Berry wailing as it had such a soggy bottom. It was delicious though, using honey instead of sugar because we all had colds – medicinal pie, yum, can’t beat it!

Soggy Bottom!

Soggy Bottom!

Then last weekend came two firsts for me – a goat’s cheese, thyme and fig tart and runner bean chutney. Both of them were delicious, though I say so myself – in fact in the case of the first I have to say so myself as the family wouldn’t eat it – bah humbug, their loss and all other statements made to make me feel better at their rejection! Think the chutney looks lovely in my Kilner Jars and wish I had more to try more chutneying – 6 weeks to wait to try the contents though – boooooooo!

MY tart!

MY tart!

6 weeks and counting!

6 weeks and counting!