A-Z Foodie Challenge – G is for Goat’s Cheese

Apologies that it’s been a while – life don’t half get in the way of fun!

“G” was indeed for Goat’s Cheese and, as she was first off the mark, I’m starting with Frances and her gorgeous looking creation which she says is a firm family favourite. It has crumbled hard goats cheese, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, spinach, mushrooms and cream all mixed together between layers of filo pastry. Looks delicious doesn’t it?

2015-01-22

Makes my mouth water just looking at it!

As I’m usually a firm follower of recipes and patterns and don’t end up making a lot using my own brainpower (shame on me!) I thought I’d try something different this time. Having never used goat’s cheese before I was at a bit of a loss, but decided that it sounded like it would go very well with bacon (easy guess work really as most things do!). I placed the sliced up goat’s cheese between 2 layers of back bacon and wrapped it in shortcrust pastry, popped it in the oven for 20 minutes with fingers firmly crossed that the cheese wouldn’t burst out from its casing. I have to say I was pretty pleased with the results. I ate my version hot straight away (well why wouldn’t you?!) and Kev has one cold in his packed lunch today so no doubt I’ll hear how that went later on (even more finger crossing!).

2015-01-221

As for Linda…..she’s eaten her goat’s cheese!! And why not?! Read her whole “confession” on her blog.

Next month we have hazelnuts to experiment with…..

 

 

A-Z Foodie Challenge – E is for Egg

Something a bit different this month … we decided to buy a kit, just add an egg and see how different thIMG_2090e experiences of the three of us Foodie Challenge(d!) Feasters turned out to be.

We decided on a Green’s Dreamy Lemon Meringue Crunch kit which Frances had tried before, but Linda and I had never attempted. I think the choice of kit to use was probably my fault as I’d said I’d like to try to make a meringue for the egg challenge but had never made one before. I must have looked at a particularly complicated recipe which described the process as taking 2 days (yes, honestly) and decided I couldn’t possibly commit to that (dahhhhling). This seemed a quicker and easier way to tackle the challenge, just to see how I got on and whether I could find another, none 2 day taking, recipe some time in the future. To be honest, I’d only ever eaten lemon meringue once before too (I know, shockingly deprived!).

2014-10-02

It’s not that flat Frances!

So, Frances tackled the challenge first and said the results were very well received by the family who declared it to be delicious. She did also say she thinks she should have beaten the meringue for longer as it was a bit flat and frothy – but it looks great to me!

linda meringue

Linda’s Mountainous Meringue

Linda went second and wasn’t too impressed with the lack of satisfaction she gained from the whole experience. Her meringue looks great and you can see what she thinks on her blog.

As for me, well, I’m blaming the equipment!! What should have been a really simple, quick and tasty task turned out to be a bit of a nightmare when my greaseproof paper decided to take my meringue captive and refuse to release my soggy biscuit base! I can only conclude that my measuring of the butter which was added to the crunchy base was wrong. I used old fashioned dial scales rather than electronic and think, given that this was my second baking balls-up of the week, it’s time I joined this century and got myself a new set of scales. Having said that, I did enjoy cooking the meringue, won’t be as scared to have a go at the real thing in the future, have bought another cake kit (red velvet cake) to stick in the store cupboard for “emergencies” and will be using a kit for next month’s flour bake too!

Greaseproof gripped soggy biscuit base!

Greaseproof gripped soggy biscuit base!

 

Quite interesting that we had 3 such different results from 3 identical kits.

 

A-Z Foodie Challenge – D is for Dates

Of course dates had a special offer on them when I went into the shop didn’t they?! So, unable to resist a BOGOF, instead of one recipe this month, I’ve actually tried three of them – and still have a whole bag of dates left over!

With some help from great birthday presents and from Kev’s Aunt Kate, I’ve got a good variety of treats this month.

My lovely daughter bought me the new Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking and a quick look through it brought forth the recipe for Oat & Honey Flapjack Cookies. These contain 100g of dried fruit and nuts…dates being one of their suggested fruits. To this I added pistachio nuts and dried cranberries to make up my 100g. I think they were the most successful thing I’ve made on this challenge so far – well successful apart from the fact I ate a few bits that had fallen off the side straight out of the oven and was a bit stressed by the sound of my tongue sizzling! Lesson learned – til next time!

IMG_1842

Second birthday present to come in very handy was a great little set called The Preserving Kit, a gift from my sister. From that I chose a recipe for Peach & Date Chutney which they suggest will be “a good accompaniment to ripe, creamy Brie, full-fat soft cheeses and roast poultry. Perfect for serving with your cold roast Christmas turkey”. Sounds good to me!

I halved the amount of ingredients used partly because I wasn’t sure if we would like it and partly because I’m quite short of jars at the moment. It resulted in 2 Kilner jars full of great smelling chutney which only have to sit for 2 weeks before we can try them. Bring on the Brie!

IMG_1848

Finally (until I start again with the second bag of dates!) I used the website suggested by Kate to find a savoury recipe – http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/collections/date+recipes  From there I chose Date, Gorgonzola & Prosciutto Tart as I’d always fancied trying to cook something using a sheet of puff pastry. Unfortunately I couldn’t find Gorgonzola cheese in town and had to opt for Feta instead, which didn’t melt as well of course. Had a bit of a panic when the pastry rose in the middle when it wasn’t meant to, but other than that it worked out okay and tasted really good. I’ll look around for the correct cheese and give it another go at some time in the future I think.

IMG_1843

Linda went a bit Nigella had a sticky date herself! Read all about it here http://lindasmakes.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/d-is-for-culinary-alphabet/

 

 

Fantastic Forman’s Feast

Have you heard of food writer and stylist Ren Behan before? If not you’re missing a treat and should follow her delicious posts. I thoroughly recommend you join up now, immediately make her Chocolate Rolo Cake and then share it with me!! Seriously, her posts are engaging, entertaining and always a really good read. I’ve followed her for a while and, at the end of last year, was lucky enough to win a meal for two at Forman’s Restaurant in London from her site.

We don’t get treats like this very often at all and, after quite a bit of tussling on our part to find a date we could both do given our current circumstances, my husband and I had an amazing meal there at the end of March.

Tucked away neatly in Stour Road, Fish Island, London, the restaurant is first floor, overlooking the Olympic Park and very classy and stylish. Here is where I admit that none of the photos we took that evening, unfortunately, came out that well – sorry! The website does show you wonderful images of the interior of this lovely location and I’ll add some of ours just to give you the general idea.

Forman's Restaurant, London

Forman’s Restaurant, London

Forman’s are world-famous for smoked salmon and seasonal British foods so, of course, the menu was a real treat. My husband and I both chose a salmon starter. He opted for London Cure Smoked Salmon with Buckwheat Blinis and I went for Smoked Scottish Salmon and Cornish Crab Salad with Fennel and Apple. Both were absolutely stunning, equally to look at and to eat. My husband isn’t usually a fish eater so I was surprised at his choice and a little nervous that he wouldn’t be keen, but he was bowled over by it. They do have a photo of it in their tasty, glossy catalogue so I’ve cheated and include a photo of that….

London Cure Smoked Salmon, Buckwheat Blinis & Accompaniments

London Cure Smoked Salmon, Buckwheat Blinis & Accompaniments

We both opted for Pepper Encrusted Rump of Rhug Organic Salt Marsh Lamb with Bubble & Squeak and a Port Reduction for our main and it was absolutely delicious. My husband’s a devil for adding salt and pepper to absolutely every meal he has, never mind if it’s already seasoned, but these were not touched during on our table during this meal – which I take to be a pretty big compliment and certainly not one I’ve ever had from him!! I just wish we had a photo of the meal to show you as it was gorgeous! We were also treated to a delicious bottle of House Red which accompanied the meal absolutely perfectly.

We opted to share a selection of British Cheeses, Melba Toast and Spiced Chutney to finish and, again, brilliant tastes and textures and a wonderful end to the best meal we’ve had in a very long time. Accompanied with a warming glass of port, we left very happy, comfortably full and wishing we lived closer so that we could call back on a regular basis.

Some of our friends thought we were mad travelling all the way from Devon to London “just” for a meal; having to pay for travel, parking and a night in a hotel, but this meal was more than worth it. It was a lovely and very rare weekend on our own and one we’d love to repeat.

If you’re lucky enough to live local to the restaurant please do pay it a visit. Spying on the table next to us, we wish we’d had room to order the Golden Syrup Sponge Pudding with Crushed Praline Ice-cream and indeed hope we’ll get back to try it some time. If you do go and give it a try we want a mouth by mouth review because it looks absolutely breathtaking! The jaws of the diners on the table alongside ours did physically drop as it was brought to the table!

If you’re not lucky enough to live locally, Forman’s do also have a delivery service – we’d love to try one of the hampers from their catalogue, which you can find online here.

View from our hotel room - Olympic Park with Forman's, designed to resemble a darne of salmon, to the right.

View from our hotel room – Olympic Park with Forman’s, designed to resemble a darne of salmon, to the right.

We’d like to thank Ren Behan for the brilliant competition, Forman’s for being so generous as to offer such a wonderful prize and all of the lovely staff at the restaurant who are quick, efficient, friendly and very helpful. Thank you everyone!

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!