Monday, April 21, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - R is for Rhubarb vodka

If rumtopf was available by doctor's prescription I'm pretty sure it would save the NHS a lot of money - it is a cure to so many ills. 
Rhubarb vodka
My Dad has experimented with many things in the liquid form - home brew wines of many kinds, sloe gin with sloes from Dartmoor (don't pick after rain!), home brew beer, raspberries in brandy (along with the rumtopf) are another Christmas specialty. This is the latest from this recipe which we made up this morning with the rhubarb from my garden.
It's called rhubarb and strawberry vodka - you add the strawberry when you serve it. This would also make a great sorbet.
Should be ready in a month!

Related posts

Elderflower liqueur

Saturday, April 19, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - Q is for Quinoa and sesame crusted squid

Nothing like this for a late night snack!
Quinoa and sesame crusted squiddly diddly  with soy and lime
Ever since I discovered the salt and pepper squid I've been hooked - such a simple & quick way to cook squid and it tastes fresh rather than covering it in batter as some do.
If people have heard of quinoa most people aren't sure what to do with it. It's nice to use like cous cous as a side or salad. But you can also use it as a crust like this - you can also sprinkle uncooked quinoa on top of fish before grilling/ baking - it goes crispy.

Almost one for hen parties...... the tentacles of this one went on for miles
Quinoa crusted squid - for 1 portion I used:

1 squid, prepared, cleaned and dried
handful flour
1 egg
20g quinoa
20g sesame seeds
20g black sesame seeds
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed sea salt

1. In a mixing bowl mix together the quinoa, sesame, salt & pepper.
2. Cut the squid into rings (leave the tentacle part whole).
3. Dip the squid rings and tentacles into the flour, then egg, then in the quinoa and seed mix.
4. Shake off excess and place on a tray. It is best to refrigerate them for an hour or so before use - helps the quinoa/ seed crust to stay on while cooking. Although if you are in a rush you could just go ahead and fry them anyway.
5. Heat oil in a wok to 180 oC - you can test the temperature with a temperature probe. If you are using gas to cook on be very careful - hot oil can start fires.
6. Fry till golden - probably only 1 minute.
7. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon on to a tray with kitchen paper to mop up any excess grease and serve straight away!
Wok fried - sitting next to the aubergine cooking for the next but one #AtoZChallenge entry
Soy and lime dip

Light soy sauce (has to be light - dark soy is too strong)
Freshly squeezed lime juice
Rice wine

You can read fascinating facts about quinoa here - there's also a link to 25 quinoa recipes.

Friday, April 18, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - P is for Picnic loaf: ham, egg and tomato filled tiger loaf

The local business we regularly make lunch buffets for always look forward to our arrival and fight for first place in the queue. They're never sure what they'll get - it depends what recipes/ ideas we fancy trying out. 
Ham and egg picnic loaf
I had wanted to try out a picnic loaf for years - just never got round to it till last year. You cut the very end off the bread and scoop/ tear out the insides of the loaf. Then dice a bit of the bread inside and mix it with whatever you like. I did this with ham, egg, tomato, pepper, onion, rocket bound with mayo. You need to bind your ingredients with either cream cheese or mayo to make it stick together. 
Fill the inside of the loaf with your filling making sure every space in the loaf is filled & almost overflowing. Place the sliced end of the loaf back on and place on a tray/ plate and cover with cling film. Refrigerate for at least an hour to help the filling 'set'. Then you can slice it - use a very sharp serrated knife. 

This looks impressive for a picnic or summer buffet. 


Stromboli is a similar idea - the filling is added to raw bread dough and baked inside. Ideally it should be pinwheel in appearance - should have rolled out the one below wider.......
A fusion of Caribbean and Italian ideas? This was Caribbean style chicken and fresh coconut in the middle of bread dough.

Caribbean style chicken stromboli 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - Onion pie

Mini caramelised red onion pies with cheese scone style topping/ base

This is my current bedtime reading - only 14 years after it was realeased....

Most cookery books you get one or two recipes which you want to try and will make again and again. With Nigella's books it's most of the recipes you want to try. Like this onion pie - which probably should be a more winter thing, but I had caramelised red onions to use up so it seemed rude not to......

As I didn't have much onion I made them as a canape size - would make a good canape! See recipe here

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - N is for Naan bread - Peshwari naan

Today's installment of the A to Z blogging Challenge was going to be nettle cordial using this recipe & nettle cocktail but it all suddenly got very busy with 3 fully booked weeks back to back. 385 covers in the next 9 days!

Seems like there's a lot of different versions of peshwari naan. This was mine - basic naan bread recipe with sugar, chopped pistachio, flaked almonds and sultanas.

Found this great method for making the tear drop shapes.... needs working on ;)

Peshwari naan on the griddle
Indian theme menu nights are one of my favourite - it's the flavours. The hens at this hen party said it was the best Indian meal they had ever had - makes such a difference when you make everything from scratch including the naan.
The dark bits = flavour - it's an essential part of the taste!
Homemade chapatti. We served these with yogurt dip & hoummous along with the starter. You really need high heat for these to work & puff up in the middle. Again the dark bits = flavour.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - M is for Madeleine, Apricot Madeleine

The secret to a good madeleine is all in the lightness of touch!
Assiette of 5 Desserts;
Almond and Apricot Madeleines (at back on top of caramelised oranges)
Shotglass of Elderflower and Prosecco Jelly with Berries
Strawberry and Cream Tartlets
Mini Chocolate Éclairs
Heart Shaped Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam

Madeleines are traditional French small shell shaped sponge cakes. They are lighter than normal sponge cakes.
The original madeleine recipe I use comes from here. I don't add the coffee, but fold in almonds and apricots. The secret is to fold the flour & butter very carefully into the well whipped egg and sugar mix so you don't lose the air. This ensures they are light and fluffy and seriously addictive!

See more assiette of desserts we have served here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - L is for Layered meringue pavlova with Flavor King plums

Heating the sugar before you make meringue? A new idea, but turned out very well:
No recipe for this one.... yet. You'll have to wait till this book is out as I was testing out the pav recipe from there before it's printed. You heat the sugar in the oven till it goes golden at the edges then mix it into the whipped egg whites - not so different from Italian meringue really. Adds a slight caramelised flavour & look - nice!

You make 3 meringues and layer them up with whipped vanilla cream and fruit. I did it here in January for a lunch party with South African Flavor King plums which were in season at the time - they're a cross between plums and apricots and very morish!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - K is for Kale - Gluten free vegan kale pizza with grilled vegetables

Yes - gluten free and vegan food can taste amazing! 

So I have been looking at this gluten free cauliflower pizza base for a while. Could you do the same with kale, and make it vegan as well? Why not!


200g   Raw weight kale with large stalks removed
50g     Silken tofu
25g     Pine nuts
1/4tsp Nutmeg
1/2tsp Salt
Crushed black pepper to taste

1. First wash the kale then steam for about 4 minutes till wilted & soft. I do this by removing from the water it has been soaking in to remove any dirt. There should be enough water left on the leaves to steam it when you put a lid on the pan. Once it is cooked leave to chill. 
2. Place kale into a tea towel and squeeze out the water left inside - this helps the pizza base bind together. 
3. Whizz the strained kale in a food processor with the other ingredients till you have a fine texture. 
4. Form into a pizza base shape on a baking tray and non stick baking mat. 
5. Bake the base in a pre-heated oven @ 180 oC for 35 minutes (yes it really does take that long to dry it out). 
6. Take the base out of the oven and add your toppings. 
7. Replace in oven for 5 - 10 minutes to cook the toppings. 
8. Remove from oven and delve in!

For my topping I added neapolitan sauce, caramelised red onion, grilled butternut squash, asparagus, olives and roasted peppers & sprinkled with pinenuts.
Next time I'll try adding a little tapioca flour as well to firm it up a bit more.......

Friday, April 11, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - J is for (Cheesy) Jalapeños wrapped in pancetta or with crispy breadcrumbs

This should spice up the wedding breakfast!
Cheesey jalapeno peppers wrapped in pancetta & topped with breadcrumbs
Originally we were going to do these as a canape for a wedding this coming June. But the wedding couple instead decided on serving them as a side dish for the main course. Why not! This will spice up the lamb & chicken dishes they chose. I am a new fan of jalapenos after making these jalapeno poppers for a Mexican theme menu last year. 

Cheesy jalapeno peppers

Cream cheese or quark
Red onion diced
Lime juice
Coriander (cilantro in US)
Ground cumin
Jalapeno peppers

Slice the jalapeno peppers in half lengthways and remove the seeds. Mix all the other ingredients together and stuff inside the peppers.
You can roll them in pancetta, or for vegetarians top them with  mix of breadcrumbs, herbs & grated parmesan. Both versions can be baked in the oven for c. 15 - 20 minutes @ 180 oC till peppers are soft and either pancetta is crisp (for pancetta version) or breadcrumb mix is crisped up and brown for the other version.

Related posts:
Jalapeno poppers for a Mexican theme menu

Thursday, April 10, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - I is for Italian veal rolls (involtini) with stuffed aubergine: Chef in Venice #11

There's nothing better than getting away from cooking 24/7 and going on holiday..... and cooking! 
Involtini of veal
My excuse is it's more relaxed cooking - and food shops and markets in other countries are always so much more exciting!
We're going back to 2011 now - seems a long time since my last holiday....
Been to Venice a few times - the Biennale keeps dragging me & my friend back - I've been told I'm going next year (yay!).

Cooking for yourselves rather than eating out in Venice (along with a few other canny tips) means you can get by on a shoestring - I'm only a poor chef after all.
I also try out new things. Right then I was trying out roasted whole aubergines. We served them at a few weddings afterwards - a great vegetarian alternative for hog roasts I find.

Roasted aubergine

1. Cut aubergine in half lengthways.
2. Slash the aubergine flesh with a sharp knife in centimetre wide cuts so you almost get down to the skin, but not quite. Then turn it 90 degrees and cut the other way so you end up with diamond shaped cuts.
3. Cut garlic cloves in half and place these in random places in the cut aubergine. Do the same with rosemary and oregano sprigs.
4. Drizzle olive oil over generously, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven @ 180 oC for about 20 mins.
5. Once cooked you can either leave to cool and scoop out the flesh and use for aubergine caviar or you can chop the flesh and mix it with.. say... parmesan, oregano, salami, tomato and cooked onion and place it back in the aubergine shell and re-bake it to let all those flavours melt together. Tasty!
Involtini veal raw with mozzarella, roast peppers & capers
With the involtini of veal you can either roll it in pancetta like I did with this one or secure it with cocktail ticks like the one above. You can be all healthy and bake it in the oven or fry it in butter with lemon juice added in at the end.
A trip the the Veneto hills is definitely recommended! (It really is that blue!)

Random figurine with parasol on the backstret walk early morning. Get to know the back streets & shortcuts - saves fighting your way through the grockles! 
Besides the 2 main exhibition centres of the Biennale (Giardini & Arsenale) other countries have their pavillions scattered in random palazzos, churches and tumble down buildings across the city - and it is these which by far provide the best experience... maybe because you have a break in between finding each one, or that actually finding some of them is a mission in itself!

For the 2011 Anish Kapoor offering you had to travel by vaporetto as Basilica di San Giorgio sits on its own island. Less is more they say. It is a work he has done apparently in other venues, but this was the first time in a sacred place - and the symbolism sure got everyone thinking....

Related posts 

Other Chef in Venice posts

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - H is for Haddock, Smoked haddock with creamed potato, cucumber and orange noodles & hollandaise

Time to rewind to Boxing Day (26th December to those outside the UK) 2012 near Fairford and this was on the menu - something lighter after the Christmas Day lunch and Boxing Day lunch buffet with a guest list who had included a few Windsors.....

 I know what you're going to say - who needs another re-working of fish pie? You could say that - or you could just get on and enjoy what is, in essence, comfort food after a few long days of Christmas celebrations!

For the courgette noodles slice the courgette thin on a mandolin (or you can do this with a peeler). Saute these in butter or olive oil. Add orange zest and chopped fresh mint. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - G is for (Cotswolds) Gin and Tonic sorbet

"What?! There's a Cotswold Gin?!" It was enough to make me forget about the bread rolls in the oven while I read up about it a few weeks ago. You can go the place in Bourton-on-the-water where it is made!.....

Gin and tonic sorbet

Ever since I posted the gin and tonic sorbet on the Scottish & Irish theme night we did last year it has become so popular! I was amazed then about the difference that Hendrick's gin made and this Cotswolds gin does exactly the same - lending it's own distinctive taste to the sorbet. What I find is the freezing temperature of the sorbet seems to bring out more flavour in the gin, which is why it is so important to have good quality gin which has been distilled with love. It's like the difference between using vin de table and vintage claret - life is only so long so you might as well enjoy it!

I use the recipe from Ices the Definitive Guide:

120ml (Cotswolds) Gin
500ml Sugar syrup (about 300g sugar, 300ml water)
375ml Tonic water
Juice 1 lemon
1 egg white (pasteurized)
Makes about 1 litre

Combine the gin, sugar syrup, tonic water and lemon juice (may need a bit of extra lemon). Cover and chill in the fridge.
When ready churn in the ice cream machine (I have one of these ones now - best I've had!) or still freeze (there is a link on how to do this here). 10 minutes before the end of churning (I did mine after 40 mins) add the egg white. Continue churning for a further 10 mins.
Due to the alcohol content in the sorbet it won't freeze completely to the point where it can be eaten straight away - you will need to empty it into a container and freeze overnight. Make sure you hide it at the back of the freezer or someone else will have polished it off by the time you come back!
Serve straight from the freezer - it starts to melt faster than normal sorbets due to the alcohol content.
Assiette of deserts in Bourton on the Water 2012 with gin and tonic sorbet shotglass at the back - this was about 1 mile from where this gin is produced (wish I'd known about it then!)
I should point out that I brought this with my own money (great customer service btw):

In other interesting news they also produce a Cotswold Vodka! Just saying.....

Monday, April 07, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - F is for Fabergé avocado

The great thing about the A to Z blogging challenge? I've finally gone through that archive of old pics on the hard drive and found 3 years worth of unused things. Like this avocado event that MsMarmitelover hosted on 27 October 2011 and I helped cook at - it's taken this long to get round to posting all this. This is the story of my life as it stands. I should point out that all these ideas are hers - I just get to do the handiwork.

'I try out one.... you make the rest!' MsMarmitelover is a typical chef!
This avocado themed meal was for The Avocado Brotherhood (now there's an interesting blog!) and each course had avocado as a star ingredient. Just as we had cleaned all the kitchen and were waiting for her guests to arrive she looked around the kitchen at all the prep - "Do you think this is too much avocado?" Going to one of her events you certainly get something you wouldn't get anywhere else - nobody else would put that much work in to it!.

The fabergé avocado was based on a faint recollection of some idea she had seen once, then made into something of her own: the way the best things are created!
The filling was mango salsa mixed ["Here! Chop this!] with ponzu dressing (before ponzu was really popular). We cut the avocados in half, de-stoned them, filled with the mango salsa and put the halves back together. Then rolled in a mix of black sesame, chopped pistachio, pink peppercorns, dried marigold and cornflours. Maybe some other things from the vast collection of spices, salts, peppers which fill every available space of her kitchen. They certainly created a stunning centrepiece sat on rock salt. Getting the things to stand up - now that was fun!

Whoever knew avocados were so versatile!

Avocado pisco sour. 
Tuna steak seared on the aga with guacamole

Avocado creme brulee - before initial baking (would this also be good savoury?)
Avocado and lime sorbet
Avocado truffles (avocado maximalisation!)
Trying to get ripe avocadoes? So difficult! The Avocado Brotherhood had sent her so many to make this meal - so many there were all these left over! What better thing to create than an avocado suite
Pumpkin and marmite in the dining room - got that autumn feel!