Wish list…

In case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, here’s a quick run down of what I’ve been up to:

1. Looking after my two kiddies.
2. Researching (OK, surfing amazon and adding books to my wish list).
3. Not writing – I’m turning it into a fine art.
4. Cooking, but not blogging about it, obviously!

Also Zodiac Publishing UK Ltd are launching a new cookery book called Dates later on in the year (1st November to be precise) and this is a totally shameless plug for it. I’ve been testing out the recipes from that although I’ve been surprised to find that while some UK supermarkets stock lots of variety when it comes to dates, some have none at all! The authors, Jo Parfitt and Sue Valentine originally published the book over 10 years ago and they have been refining their selection of mouth-watering recipes ever since. I think my family are beginning to tire of dates-with-everything but these are the trials of my life.

Have you got your copy of Budget Meals yet? If not, rush out and buy one today. Actually, you don’t need to leave the house, it’s on amazon.co.uk and, for everyone stateside, it’s here.

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A little winter warmer

As the first of this year’s snowflakes gently drift by my window, I thought that I’d finally update my blog. I’ve been slacking for reasons far too numerous to go into today!

I wanted to share a recipe from my new cookery book, Quick & Easy: 30 minute recipes for people on the go, which will be available as an ebook on 1st March 2007. It’s so delcious and perfect for a cold winter’s day like today. Serve this soup with some freshly baked crusty bread straight from the oven…You don’t have to be a master baker, just buy some part-baked rolls from the supermarket and throw them in the oven. Of course, if you are a master baker, please disregard the last sentence!

Lentil & Carrot Soup1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 carrots, finely diced
2 tsp mustard powder
3 pints boiling water
3-4 vegetable stock cubes
150 g red lentils (dry)
1 tsp coriander, freshly picked and roughly chopped
salt, to taste
pepper, freshly ground, to taste

Gently heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onions. Once the onions are translucent, add the carrots and the mustard powder. Cook for a few minutes. Dissolve the stock cubes in the boiling water and then add to the pan. Add the lentils and stir. Allow the soup to simmer for about 5 minutes before adding in the coriander and seasoning. Then leave over a gentle heat until ready to serve.

This is a simple, tasty recipe that is perfect for a cold winter’s supper. I tend to make a large pot of this soup and have it for lunch the next day. I like fresh coriander and have a pot growing on my kitchen windowsill but dried will work just as well. Work with the ingredients you have at home rather than going to the supermarket – you’ll be less likely to fill up your trolley with things you don’t really need! And you certainly don’t want to be going out in this weather, if you don’t have to.

Forgot to say…

Highly unusual to get two posts from me in one day (one morning if you want to get technical about it), I know but I wanted to share this blog with you. It’s called Cook (almost) Anything. The blogger is from Australia and shares the most delicious food with her (his? must look into this) readers. Like this. So go there…

Ginger Chocolate Mousse

I have always been a big fan of chocolate mousse, I know some people regard it as a little passe but I don’t care, I love it! This is my decadent, glorious Ginger Chocolate Mousse and it is simply divine.

Be warned however, do not attempt to eat the whole bowl on your own!!!

Ginger Chocolate Mousse
8oz good quality plain chocolate, I like Green & Black’s
4 eggs, separated
2oz stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped
2 tbsp syrup (from the stem ginger)

Melt the chocolate over a bain marie. Keep your eye on the chocolate to ensure it doesn’t get too hot and burn. Once the chocolate has melted, remove from heat and beat in the four egg yolks. Add the stem ginger and syrup and mix until well blended. If you like your mousse really smooth, then use a hand blender on the chocolate mixture at this point to get rid of any bits of ginger. I really like the bits!

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. These won’t be as glossy as when making meringue and the peaks will be softer. Slowly fold the egg whites in the chocolate mixture until blended. Pour the mousse into individual serving dishes, I like to use glass ramekins and chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve. I’d recommend at least an hour, if not more otherwise you might find your mousse is runny in the middle.

As an alternative method, Green & Black’s do a gorgeous bar of ginger chocolate. You could use one of these instead of the plain chocolate and stem ginger.

N.B. This recipe contains raw egg so the usual warnings apply to pregnant women and anyone else at risk.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a photo of this at the moment, I will whip some up this week and post it then. I’m writing a cookery book that is all chocolate, all the time. I must say that the research is so much fun. Luckily, I have lots of willing tasters or my diet would be totally shot!

Spicy beanburgers

I’ve had a copy of Ainsley Harriott’s Low Fat Meals in Minutes on loan from the library for a couple of days and thought I’d dip into it yesterday to see if there was anything good. I love this whole book, not in a gushy sort of ‘dahling it’s fabulous’ way but because we eat many of the ingredients he uses on a regular basis. The photography is beautiful, it has to be said, and that really doesn’t hurt my opinion of the book.

People in the UK will know Ainsley Harriott from Ready Steady Cook and, of course, the Fairy adverts. I’ve never met him but there is something so likeable about him, he’s got an easy manner and a huge grin. I bet he sells lots of books on that alone, in fact I’m fairly sure this is true as there’s a photo of him on the front of this one! I quick search on amazon and I can confirm that he’s on the cover of all his books.

Anyway, back to the book, the layout is clear, consise and easy to read. The recipes all sound so lush and not low fat at all but, that’s the twist, they are and each one has detailed nutrition notes. There’s a techincal bit about the different types of fat in the front and what’s good for you and what’s not.

I made the Spicy Beanburgers on page 126 last night, although with my own slight twist, as usual. Ainsley’s (he doesn’t seem like a Mr Harriott kind of guy, does he?) recipe called for cannellini beans, which I used but I also added kidney beans for a bit of colour. His ingredients included frozen spinach (I chopped some fresh) and breadcrumbs (which I left out). I blended the beans slightly with a hand blender, only because I was too lazy to mash the beans as directed. And I forgot to buy a fresh chilli so I had to use some powdered. The burgers were a huge hit even my brother, who doesn’t like anything consisting of mainly veg, ate two.Ainsley suggested serving them with some yoghurt but I went a step further and made up a quick Raita-type dressing with lots of garlic and cucumber. So delicious, although I’m sure the breadcrumbs would have made much firmer burgers, mine still held together nicely.

The recipe for Spicy Beanburgers is here. Just flicking through the book this morning, I’m drooling over the Red lentil soup with lemon yoghurt and the Crisp filo-wrapped mustard chicken. I’ve got some filo in the fridge….

Cupcake anyone?

I’ve been slacking the blog area of my life this week – there’s lots going on around here! But I’ve still been cooking, you’ll be pleased to hear. All this lovely cold weather makes me want to stay home and bake yummy treats for my family. A bit of random surfing brought me to the wonderful 52 Cupcakes blog and I spent lots of time, far too much, reading all the recipes and drooling over the gorgeous cupcakes. The Cupcake Queen does some serious decorating. One link lead to another and I found myself immersed in cupcakes, although sadly not literally. There are loads of blogs simply covering cupcakes, it’s almost an obsession! And it’s not hard to see why.

I’ve added The Artful Cupcake to my wish list simply because of it’s elegant cover and I really want 500 Cupcakes: The Only Cupcake Compendium You’ll Ever Need. I think the author, Fergal Connelly, may well be right – it would take me ages to work my way through that one. And I have to just mention Crazy About Cupcakes as I’ve just ordered it today. I couldn’t resist, I mean just look at that cover, I want to make all of those – tonight!

I followed the recipe from 52 Cupcakes for Chocolate Cupcakes by Billy Reece. They were simply divine although my mum pointed out that she couldn’t possibly eat a whole bowl of the frosting! I highly recommend these, in fact you must rush to your kitchen and make them. In case, I have yet to convince you…

chocolate-cupcake.jpg

Serve with a huge pot of tea. Yum!

Weekend Cookbook Challenge 12

I came across the Weekend Cookbook Challenge via the iliketocook blog. The theme for this month is stew so I thought I’d have a go and make something from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries. It’s called Chicken Stew and mash – but I didn’t do the mash nor did I have any bay leaves and I forgot to put the orange rind in. Apart from those minor details, I followed his recipe.
                                       stew.jpg

dried cannellini beans – 150g
a large chicken, jointed
olive oil – 50ml, plus more for frying
balsamic vinegar – 50ml
garlic – 4 plump cloves, peeled
bay leaves – 3 or 4
dried herbs de Provence – 1-2 teaspoons
the pared rind of a small orange
leeks – 3 medium, thickly sliced
mash, to serve

Soak the beans in cold water for three or four hours, though overnight will not hurt (the older your beans, the longer they will need). Bring them to the boil in unsalted water and boil them for forty minutes.
     Put the chicken joints in a glass, china or steel dish. Pour over the olive oil  and a couple of tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar, then tuck in the peeled garlic cloves and the bay leaves. Scatter over the herbes de Provence,a  good grinding of pepper and salt and the strips of pared orange. Leave in a cool place, overnight if possible or at least for four or five hours.
     Set the oven at 200C/Gas 6. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a shallow pan (don’t be tempted to fry the chicken in the oil from the marinade; it will spit and pop because of the vinegar). Add the chicken pieces, shaking the marinade from each as you go, and let them fry until they are golden brown on each side. You may it easier to do this in two batches. Transfer the browned meat to a deep casserole – one for which you have a lid. Drain the boiled beans and add them to the pot.
     In the same oil, fry the leeks over a low heat, so that they soften rather than colour. Allowing a leek to brown will send it bitter. Now add the garlic from the marinade, then pour in the remaining marinade, the rest of the balsamic vinegar and about a litre of water. Don’t be tempted to use stock instead; it will make the dish too rich. Bring to the boil, season generously with salt, then pour this mixture over the chicken. Tuck in the bay leaves and orange from the marinade, then cover the casserole and put it in a  preheated oven for two hours. Half way through cooking, check that the chicken is still submerged. Check for seasoning: it may need salt, it will need black pepper and you may feel it needs a little more balsamic vinegar. Serve steaming hot, with mash, letting the thick juices from the stew form pools in the mash.

Copyright: Nigel Slater, The Kitchen Diaries (Fourth Estate, 2005)

It was lovely, we had ours with loads of crusty baguette that I warmed in the oven before serving. I’ve just had some for my lunch and it tastes even better today!