Sunday, 26 May 2013

super awesome cookies

Sometimes only a cookie will do and these chocolate, caramel and cornflake cookies make for a 'super awesome' treat.

Ingredients Makes about 22-24 cookies
225g unsalted butter at room temperature
200g granulated sugar
200g light brown sugar
40g ovaltine or other malted milk powder
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
225g bread flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate soda
1 tsp salt
100g dark chocolate chunks (I use a bar of dark chocolate and roughly chop it with a knife but use pre-formed chips if you like)
60g cornflakes
135g chocolate covered caramel (I used a smashed up galaxy caramel bar)
  1. Cream the butter and sugars together using an electric mixer for around 2-3 minutes. The mixture will look like creamy coffee. 
  2. Next add the egg and vanilla and beat for a further 5 minutes. It will become much lighter in colour and have a fluffy texture. 
  3. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt and using a wooden spoon or spatula mix the dough until it comes together. 
  4. Add the chocolate chunks and cornflakes and stir until just mixed. Try not to break the pieces up too much. 
  5. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and place tablespoon sized portions of the mixture on to the tray. Cover the tray with cling film and place in the fridge for at least an hour. 
  6. When ready, preheat the oven to 180C then space the cookies out on baking parchment so that they are at least 16cm apart (they will spread out a lot). Then bake for around 15 minutes or until slightly browned on the edges but still mostly unchanged in the centre. 
  7. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the tray before you remove them to an airtight tray for storing. They will last for about a week at room temperature or can be frozen for up to a month.

Saturday, 25 May 2013


British asparagus is in season right now and I couldn't resist buying some this weekend. This recipe is super easy and there's hardly any effort involved.

1 bunch asparagus
1 fat clove garlic, whole
salt & pepper
splash dry vermouth or white wine
knob of butter
juice of half a lemon
  1. Snap each asparagus spear so that you've removed the woody base. Place the spears in a wide pan that has a lid, add the garlic, vermouth, butter salt and pepper. Cover with the lid then cook over a medium heat for around 8 minutes or until the spears are cooked through.
  2. Finish off by squeezing over the lemon juice and adjusting the seasoning as needed. Keep the cooking juices and drizzle over the top of the asparagus when serving. This was particularly good with some gridled tuna steaks and boiled new potatoes. 

almond layer cake

I've been on the look out for a suitable almond cake recipe to be part of my wedding cake in a few weeks time. After a few wrong turns I discovered this beauty. It's ridiculously easy to make, has the firmness you need to stand up to fondant icing but isn't too heavy at all. Also with the alcohol syrup you have an added richness which is exactly want you want from a celebration cake. This version is based on Dan Lepard's yummy cake which you can find here. I have boosted the almond flavours by substituting the vanilla extract with almond and using amaretto instead of brandy for the syrup. I've also done a version using Krupnik, a Polish vodka and honey based liquer. That was pretty awesome too. My version here is also much lighter because I haven't slathered it with double cream as in the original. I'm sure it would be glorious with the cream but I didn't have any in the house and I wanted to make it just a little lighter. If you want to be more decadent go for it and layer the cake together with fresh raspberries or strawberries and some lightly whipped and sweetened double cream. 

225g caster sugar (+25g for syrup)
125g unsalted butter, softened
250g mascarpone
170g greek yogurt
4 medium eggs
2 tsp almond extract
75g ground almonds
325g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
Good quality Strawberry jam or conserve
  1. Grease and base line two 18cm round sponge tins with baking parchment and heat the oven to 180C.  Beat together the caster sugar, butter and 125g mascarpone with an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy - this will take around 3-5 minutes.
  2. Next add the eggs one at a time beating to ensure they are thoroughly combined.
  3. Beat in the almond extract and ground almonds, sift in the flour and baking powder, and combine thoroughly.
  4. Divide the mixture between the two tins then bake for about 30 minutes, or until completely cooked (a skewer will come out cleanly when it is).
  5. While the cakes are cooling heat 25ml of your chosen spirit with 25g caster sugar until the sugar dissolves then remove from the heat. Prick the tops of the cakes with a fork or skewer then carefully pour over the syrup. Cover the cakes with paper and leave to cool completely. This will help to keep them soft.
  6. Put one layer of the cake on a serving plate. Cover with a generous couple of dollops of good quality strawberry conserve/jam then beat together the greek yogurt and remaining mascarpone, adding a little sugar if you wish. Put half the mascarpone mixture on top of the jam then cover with the second cake layer before finally putting the remaining mascarpone mix on top. Yum.

Monday, 20 May 2013

egg-fried rice with pork and vegetables

Fried rice is a great dish to have in your repertoire. You can easily turn all sorts of left overs into another meal. Once you've mastered the basic principles you can vary the vegetables, seasoning and chosen protein with ease. Following this method the key to success is cutting your veg up to a suitably small size so that it cooks quickly, preparing everything before you get started and keeping your wok on full heat while you're cooking. 

Ingredients Serves 2-3
200g (uncooked) long grain rice
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups of cooked meat - I used the left overs from my slow-cooked crispy chinese pork belly
1 stick of celery, finely sliced
3 small carrots, halved lengthways then finely sliced
1 red pepper, finely sliced
1 cup of frozen peas
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
small piece of ginger, finely sliced
2 green chillies, chopped (optional)
2 spring onions, sliced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Soy sauce/fish sauce/chilli oil or whatever you fancy to serve
  1. Cook the rice: Use what ever method you like but this always works for me. Boil the kettle. Put the rice in a saucepan then add the freshly boiled water to the rice so that it comes to a centimetre above the rice. Put the lid on the pan then boil rapidly on a high heat for exactly 5 minutes. Once the time has passed, turn off the heat then leave the rice until you're ready to use it. Don't lift the lid and make sure you leave it for at least 10 minutes as it needs to finish cooking.
  2. Stir-fry: Make sure you've got everything to hand now as things are going to move pretty fast. The key to success here is being ready to go. Put a large wok on the highest heat you have and get it smoking hot. Add the oil then swirl it around to coat the lower third of the wok. Add the beaten egg swirl around then once it is bubbling round the edges start to stir it around.
  3. Add the meat, ginger, garlic and chilli if using. Stir for a couple of minutes until the garlic starts to go crispy and brown round the edges. 
  4. Add the remaining vegetables then continue to keep things moving for a couple more minutes and the vegetables are starting to cook through then add in the rice. Continue to cook and stir for another 3-5 minutes until everything is cooked through and well combined. Add the chopped spring onions then serve. Add some soy sauce or chilli oil if you want some extra flavour. 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

slow-cooked crispy chinese pork belly

I love pork belly. It's a great cut of meat with lots of flavour and is also one of the cheapest you can get.  I love it so much we're even serving it at my upcoming wedding. This recipe uses Chinese flavours to complement the richness of the meat and is great served with simple stir-fried greens and some steamed rice. There are no complicated techniques here or hard to find ingredients but you do need the time to allow the marinade to work and for the pork to slow cook.

1kg (approx) bone-in pork belly with the skin scored (you can use boned instead if you prefer)
1 onion cut into large slices
2 carrots peeled and cut into 2 or 3 pieces
2 sticks of celery cut into 2 or 3 large pieces
100/200ml cold water depending on method
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp chinese 5 spice powder
3 cloves garlic, finely minced/grated
thumb sized piece fresh, peeled ginger minced/grated
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 stick lemongrass
2 dried red chillies, finely chopped

STEP 1 - Marinade
  1. Make sure the meat is completely dry and pat away any excess moisture with kitchen paper.
  2. Mix together the marinade ingredients then spread evenly over the flesh side of the pork belly, working it into the meat.
  3. Place the meat into a sealable plastic food bag. Bruise the lemon grass with the back of a knife or rolling pin then add to the bag with the meat. 
  4. Put the pork belly in the fridge making sure it is safely away from cooked food and that no juices will drip from the meat then leave for at least a couple of hours or overnight to allow the flavours to develop.

STEP 2 - Slow cooking
Slowcooker Method
  1. Put the onion, carrots and celery in the bottom of the slow cooker put the pork belly, skin side up, on top of the veg and pour in 100mls of water.
  2. Put the lid on the slow cooker then cook the pork belly for around 6-8 hours on medium. You may need to adjust the cooking times depending on your slow cooker model.
Oven Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 150C. Put the veg in the base of a roasting pan or casserole dish and then place the meat on top with the skin facing upwards. Pour in 200ml water then cover over the pan with either foil or the lid if you have one. 
  2. Put the meat in the oven and cook for around 3 hours or until you can insert the blunt end of a spoon all the way through the meat.
STEP 3 - Crisping up
  1. Once the meat has cooked using your chosen method you can either continue with the whole piece of belly and cut to serve later or cut into portions now. If you decide to portion it before crisping make sure you allow it to cool enough so that you can handle it. As you can see from the pictures I decided to keep the piece whole. I enjoy cutting through the crispy crackling when I serve it. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C then transfer pork to a roasting pan then put in the oven to finish off for about 30 minutes or until you've got a nice crispy crackling top.
  3. Serve with stir-fried broccoli, pak choi or similar and some steamed rice. 

I've entered this recipe into A Kick at the Pantry Door's 'Feel Good Food Challenge'. Why not take a look at all the other great recipes featured. 

'turkish eggs'

I've now been to Peter Gordon's restaurant/cafe/bar Kopapa in London's Covent Garden a few times and the food and service is always great. It's not a stuffy place, really straight forward but the food and cocktails on offer are really exciting without being pretentious or hugely over-priced, this is an incredibly rare thing in London. One dish that has stayed with me since the first time I tried it was their version of an egg dish from a related cafe in Istanbul, Turkey. The combination of thick yogurt, soft poached eggs and spicy rich butter is heavenly. Seriously - this is a wonderful breakfast.

Ingredients Serves 2
1 small clove garlic, peeled and crushed
150g thick Greek yoghurt
25ml extra virgin olive oil
25g unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (adjust this according to your tastes, you could also use some hot smoked paprika or cayenne instead.)
stem of fresh dill or flat parsley, shredded
4 eggs
  1. Briefly whisk together the garlic, yoghurt and half the olive oil before setting to one side.
  2. In a small pan cook the butter until it just starts to brown. You don't want it to burn just colour slightly. Remove the pan from the heat then add the chilli flakes, paprika or cayenne. Add the remaining oil and the dill. Put to one side while you poach the eggs.
  3. Poach the eggs using whatever method you prefer. I have a suspicion that crispy edged, but still runny fried eggs would also work well here but I've ever tried so do what ever you fancy.
  4. Divide the yogurt between two bowls, put two poached eggs in each bowl then spoon over the spicy butter and oil mix. Serve with some thick sliced, toasted bread or some warmed fat bread. 
butter, olive oil, chilli and herbs
yogurt mixed with olive oil and crushed garlic
the finished dish 

I've entered this dish in the Breakfast Club Challenge with A Kick at the Pantry and Fuss Free Flavours.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

tomato salad

I love a good tomato salad. It works with most dishes and it's a fantastic way to enjoy tomatoes when they're at their best. I know it's not the tomato season in the UK yet but my local Turkish supermarket had some amazing vine tomatoes in that I just couldn't resist this weekend. The key to making this taste even more delicious is to prepare it at least 30minutes in advance of eating it to allow the flavours to fully develop and to make sure you serve it at room temperature. A cold tomato salad is a tasteless tomato salad. This is super easy to make and goes particularly well with grilled meats such as these spicy harissa chicken skewers

3 large vine tomatoes, sliced finely
2 spring onions finely chopped
generous pinch of salt
several turns of freshly ground black pepper
1-2tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or to taste)
handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
handful of fresh dill, finely chopped

Put all the ingredients together in a serving dish and mix together. Cover with a plate or cling film and set to one side until ready to serve.

russian salad / ensalada rusa

This variation on potato salad can be found in tapas bars all across Spain and never fails to satisfy my taste buds. It's not a healthy salad by any stretch of the imagination but it is a great side dish and you can adjust the quantities of any of the ingredients according to your preferences. I would almost never recommend using canned or jarred carrots or peas but in Russian salad they're the only thing that will do. I made a version cooking everything from scratch once and whilst it was a nice salad it just wasn't quite right. The key to success here is to get everything chopped to roughly the the same size. 

Ingredients Serves 6-10 as an accompaniment
1kg waxy potatoes such as cyprus, peeled and boiled whole in salted water then cut into 1cm cubes
approx 250g drained weight of tinned carrots and peas
1 small can of tuna in spring water or brine
handful of green olives in brine (approx 20), roughly chopped
decent pinch white pepper
2 hard boiled eggs, coarsely grated
4-6 tbsp good quality mayonnaise
  1. In a large bowl place all the ingredients then stir together carefully until fully combined. Taste for seasoning then adjust as needed.
  2. Garnish with strips of grilled red pepper, green olives, more mayonnaise or hard boiled egg halves if you wish. 

spicy harissa grilled chicken skewers

Harissa is a spicy pepper based sauce common in Tunisa and North African cuisine. This recipe is based on one I found in the Ottolenghi cookbook and goes brilliantly with most meats but works particularly well with these chicken skewers. This is very, very easy to make and makes an excellent dinner any day of the week.

Ingredients Serves 4

800g diced chicken breast
1 tbsp greek yogurt

2 fresh red chillies roughly chopped
2 dried red chillies roughly chopped
2 small or  1 large grilled red pepper (I used shop bought jarred ones but you could do this yourself)
1 small red onion, chopped
1/4 tsp whole cumin
1/4 tsp whole coriander
1/4 tsp caraway seed
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Put the cumin, coriander and caraway in a dry frying pan and gently toast for a couple of minutes over a low heat. They'll be ready when the scent is released. Place in pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder.

Next, heat the oil in the same pan you used for the spices. Add the onion, chillies and garlic and cook over a medium heat for around 10 minutes or until they have coloured round the edges and cooked through.

Place all the ingredients in a food processor with the lemon juice (or pestle and mortar if you've got the time and energy) and blitz together until you've got a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl now if you are just making the harissa but if you're making the chicken skewers mix in the yogurt. 

In a large plastic container mix together the chicken pieces and harissa paste until it is all thoroughly coated. Cover and set aside in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight if you like. 

When you're ready to cook your skewers preheat the oven to 200C and put your griddle pan on the stove. Divide the chicken pieces between four metal skewers then once the griddle pan is hot cook the skewers until chicken has got some colour on all sides but not cooked through. Transfer the chicken on the griddle pan to the oven and cook for around a further 10-15 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve with lemon wedges, salad and flat bread.

I'm entering this recipe in the July Four Seasons Food Challenge hosted by the lovely people at Chez Foti and Delicieux

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