Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Old Foil Bag Approach.

this is a genuine Mother Ana method of cooking y'all. I've seen a lot of people use it and i don't blame them, it's simple the easiest way of cooking fish and meat in the easiest way. Basically you bake your chosen food in a foil bag with olive oil and seasoning. it stays tender and juicy and the flavour stays in the bag as theres no evaporation. it's my favourite way to cook salmon.

i used a tattie peeler to get thin slices of courgette, and lay them on the bottom of the foil. topped with a salmon steak, brocolli, mange tout, black olives, olive oil, seasoning, garlic and a touch of water. seal the foil up with a little room for steaming and pop in a 180 degree oven for 20 minutes

i ate a little before i realised i should document what it looks like cooked

please do try this method of cooking, it works well with all fish and chicken. obviously cook it a little bit more :)

Friday, 19 February 2010

Holy Crepe!: A Video

so, I know it's been and gone, and it's a little late for a p-cake video, but it's less of a tutorial and more me pissing about whilst "expertly" flipping batter circles, singing and dancing, and doing Julia Childs/Meryl Streep impressions.

warning, there are copious amount of Sabrina references in here. you'll see what I mean.

and a big up to Dean, who filmed and edited this, when he really didn't have to. LOVEFORYOU.

pancakes are the easiest thing to make ever.
flour; eggs; milk. - a sprinkle of sugar for sweet, a sprinkle of salt for savoury. if you're making both from the same batch, then don't add either.
whisk 'til smooth.
more flour = thicker batter = thicker, probs smaller pancakes (american style)
less flour = thinner batter = flatter, bigger pancakes ("normal" ones)

course, a smaller frying pan will mean your small, thick pancakes are actually round and not questionably shaped, yknow?

I put maple syrup on, innit.

Holy Crepe! came from the pancake stand at uni on Tuesday...

this is, of course, the same mixture as yorkshire puddings, which should be a thick batter (more flour!), mebs with a salt sprinkle, then in t'oven, in a greased cupcake tin, for about half an hour. THERE ARE NO EXCUSES.

Curries! Galore

i know jenn has already posted a curry recipie (am i spelling that right?) (no, you are not, it is recipe. loveforyou - jenn) but here are 4 of my favourites...

Tikka Chicken (per person)
1 chicken breast
3 tablespoons natural yoghurt
2 tsps Tikka seasoning (this is available from most supermarkets, its bright red)
4 cherry tomatoes
fresh coriander
1 tsps garam masala
salt and pepper
squeeze of lemon

combine all the ingredients on a bowl, mix well and leave in the fridge for no less than 6 hours. mix everything but the chicken first and taste and add more spice the spicier you like it.
heat some oil in a frying pan, and pick out the chicken pieces and fry until they turn a darker colour. bung in the rest of the sauce and stir. add a little more yoghurt if it looks dry. preheat the oven to 180. put the chicken and sauce in a overproof dish and put in the oven for half an hour. when serving, blop on about a table spoon of yoghurt.

Vegetable Curry
for the basic curry sauce:
2 cloves of garlic
2 tsps Garam masala
1 tsps chilli powder
squeeze of lemon
half an onion
half a can of chopped tomatoes

fry the garlic gently in oil, make sure you dont burn it. add chopped onion, and fry to soften them. add the garam masala and chilli powder, stir into the garlic and onions. add a little bit of water if it looks dry. add the lemon juice and seasoning, stir then add the tomatoes. at this point you can add any precooked veg you like. butternut squash is particularly good, and even spinach. when you've added the veg, pop the curry in the oven at 180 degrees for half an hour

Bombay Potatoes
follow the basic vegetable curry recipie, except cut out the chilli powder and tomatoes. add par boiled halved new potatoes. if the curry is too dry, use water to make the sauce less thick. still bake in the oven at the same temperature and time

Spiced Rice
enough brown or white rice for one person (half a cup)
1 tsps tumeric
1 tsps garam masala
2 tbs chopped onion (pre fried)
2 tbs peas

prepare the rice as usual. when cooked, add the spices, onion and peas. continue to heat through until all the ingredients are hot.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Best Pasta Bake Ever.

Some notes:
- This makes enough for tea and lunch the next day! Did for me, anyways.

- I'm really into double cream right now
- You're gonna need a shitload of mushrooms

Luckily, my housemate had a bag to get rid of, so before they went out of date, I thought I'd scoff 'em down.
I mean, really, look at them...

That is a lot of mushrooms, non?
This is the first time I used cream to make the sauce, and I only used it to use it up, but it took it up a level and I'm probs gonna put it in every pasta bake I ever make now - yes, the sauce is rich, but it's also delicious, creamy, and full of flavour.

one shitload of mushrooms (what? it's a standard measurement unit! orite, orite, a couple of handfuls)
two handfuls pasta (as usual, I use wholegrain...)
one garlic clove
one small onion (or half a large one)
one slice bacon*
one handful baby spinach

a splash of milk
about 50ml double (or single) cream

one small handful of grated cheese

sprinklings of

cook the pasta as per the instructions. you might wanna turn on the oven (to a medium heat) already; it'll be nice and warm by the time you need it.
chop the onion into slices and the garlic finely, and chop the bacon and mushrooms into bitesize chunks - fry them all off in that order, until they all look about done.

when the pasta is done, drain it then put it back into the pan, wherein you should quickly add the milk and cream, and the sprinklings and stir 'em. throw in the frying pan of food, and the handful of spinach, and keep on stirring til everything is covered in sauce.
if the sauce is too thick, add some more milk; if it's too thin, add some plain flour and whisk it into the mix so you don't get lumps.

pour the mix into a casserole dish (anything that will withstand the oven, yeah?) and whack it into the oven for about 15 mins. it should be crispy up top.

after this time, sprinkle the cheese on the top (this is, of course, optional) and cook for another 5-10 mins. as long as the cheese is melted but not burnt, it's all good.


*course, leave out the bacon (again, using it up) for a veggie meal; i have tagged it as such!

Monday, 15 February 2010

The Cake Debate.

Me and my housemate Luke (that's him taking macro pics above; with his latest creations) have a bit of a rivalry with cakes. I don't make them much, he probs whips up a batch or a big cake once every couple of weeks, but we have different styles.

My cakes are (as I was always taught) sifted dry ingredients first with gradually added wet ingredients and whisked till light and fluffy. It's a testament to this method that my cakes are always awesome; but I always use a simple flavour - lemon sponge, chocolate sponge, butterfly cakes... Preference, because, I'm not a fan of fruit in my cakes (if I wanted fruit, I'd eat fruit, goddammit) and if I have a sponge craving, let's face it, any flavour will do. No need to get fancy.

Luke makes his the wrong way round - wet ingredients first - and doesn't sieve up his flour, but he's much more adventurous with his flavours - raspberry and white chocolate is his favourite; and right now there is also a very zesty lemon cake in our fridge, as well as the above cupcakes (which are banana with white chocolate topping, btw). As a result, his cakes are often hit and miss (SIEVING IS THE KEY; but does he listen?) whether on flavour or moistness, which is key.

I think I'm in a bit of a minority; the other people in the house (OK, mostly Dean, maybe Aaron. Gemma doesn't do cake) tend to either love or hate Luke's dessert endeavours while mine enjoy a middle ground - better than his disasters but not as good as his triumphs. Personally I think your own brand can't be beat, and the last lemon cake I made was the moistest I've ever tasted. The main difference between us is he is willing to spend stupid amounts of fresh fruit and flavours for it, while I just chuck in whatever is round the shop/I have in the house.

The testament is, Luke sometimes has to throw mouldy cake out.
Has this happened to me, ever?

Suck it, McNaney.

Course, it's best to throw the cakes out when this occurs...

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Eating Out: The Living Room

Last night was a big (12 of us) meal for a friend's birthday, and we went to The Living Room in Newcastle.
The Living Room is a chain, but they're all pretty upscale places - not particularly more expensive than other places we've been, but it felt like it.
I spent around £25 for a 3 course meal plus a cocktail; which was about average for our party.

Strawberry cream cocktail - most excellent. It was like an alcoholic milkshake, honest.

Me and Luke shared the humous starter, complete with toasted pitta and sesame seed topping:

That sprinkling of chilli sauce-y stuff was excellent; but the pitta to humous ratio was a bit off. Bigger pittas please. This goes for most servers of humous; we don't all like to pile on the humous, yeah?

Main course; blurry picture. Pork belly with mustard grain mash and caramelised parnsips; with a red wine jus (gravy, rights. Dean looked confused when ordering extra gravy for his steak&ale pie, and the waiter came over going "red wine jus? red wine jus?" to a table of blank stares).

Absolutely beautiful. Not too big a portion, but just right, I think - I was stuffed after these 2 courses but I was determined to try the dessert so I soldiered on. The pork was to die; melt in the mouth; cooked to perfection. I'm a fan of fatty meat, though, and that might be its downfall, if you're not into that. It was like, a layer of meat, a layer of juicy, tasty fat, a thin layer of crispy skin. Delish. The mustard mash and parsnips were awesome too, as was the gravy - I couldn't taste much caramelisation nor red wine, but mebs this would've been a flavour overload. I couldn't recommend this enough, honest.

Dessert was treacle tart with raspberry ripple cream...

A bit full for this, and I think I would've preferred to have something in a sorbet after the rich main, but that's my own fault for choice of dish so I'll let 'em off - the treacle tart was warm, and sweet, and soft, and lovely; the cream sweet and thick, but unusual.

For £25, this is a bargain; the atmosphere perfect for couple of groups of friends. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Sweet Potato, Spinach & Mushroom Curry.

it comes to my attention that mostly we write and post at night here, and I find this odd cos I always post on ventures first thing.
i mean, currently i'm supposed to be on a night out, but I'm tired and lazy and have to be in uni at 9, so i'm sat in bed, eating chocolate and writing. dumdedum.

anyways, i made this a couple of nights ago - i'm usually a chicken korma or tikka masala kinda gal, but i acquired a free bigass bag of mushrooms and had to have mushroom based meals for the rest of the week - you have a mushroom pasta bake to look forward to, too.

i served this with brown rice, but you can add whatever (rice, naan, poppadoms, mango chuntey..mmm...), just follow directions on the packets etc etc.
i might get around to making a naan sometime, cos i have the recipe, but we will see, we will see.
(note from Ana - try making a refreshing's super easy and cools your mouth if your curry is too hot, otheriwse it's just a tasty side dish!
chop 2inch of cucumber into small quatered pieces, keep them quite thin. add to some natural yoghurt and season. you could try adding some lemon juice to. to add a sweet twist, which works well with this kind of curry, add some dessicated coconut or even replace the cucumber with banana. i tried this at a curry place is spain and it worked surpirsingly well)

these veg portions are rough guides - put in the amount you'd like, if you're more of a certain type of veg.


3 small sweet potatoes, diced
2 handfuls of mushrooms, diced
one handful of baby spinach

half a large onion (or a whole small one!), chopped
one garlic clove

one small tub of natural yoghurt
1/3 of a bar of creamed coconut (you can usually get this in the world foods aisle; and blue dragon do a slightly more expensive one), cut into slices

spices - one teaspoon of each!
garam masala (essential for curries, really!)

+salt&pepper to taste

optional - if you like a spicier curry, i'd recommend adding a chilli or two (instead, or as well as the chilli powder!), and maybe less yoghurt.


chop all your veg and fry off the sweet potatoes in a large flat pan or frying pan for 2 mins. add the onion and crush or chop the garlic and add this too (if you're adding chillis, these go in now too!). fry for another 2 mins.

add the mushrooms. keep frying, keep stirring...throw in the spinach after another couple of mins, then add all the spices and herbs and stir, making sure all your veg is coated in them!

add the creamed coconut and add a little water, a bit at a time, until the coconut has melted. you don't want to add too much water otherwise it will take a long time to reduce and the veg will be overcooked, and you'll be hungry.

add in the yoghurt and stir a lil bit more, til it's all mixed in, then simmer until your curry has reached peak consistency - I'm a fan of the thicker sauces (as likely you can tell from the pic), but if you like a runnier sauce then don't simmer for so long!

curry really isn't that hard to make at all!
(i doubt this is particularly authentic, but it is easy...)


if you're a curry fan and this is the first one you've made, it's worth experimenting with flavours and spices, and trying different amounts until you find the flavour for you.

by the way! this should make 2 small portions or 1 really big one - I had a small portion for tea and the rest for lunch (without side dishes) the next day. woo, value for money!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

All Sorts of Salmon-y Goodness.

i'm not a huge fan of pasta, i think it's boring to be honest. I recently turned to brown rice, pasta and bread and they just bloat me much less. However i do like creating a pasta dish every now and again, its quick, its easy, its my way of using up my veg at the end of the week. i didnt fancy a plain vegetable recipe, so used some salmon i had in the freezer:

1 salmon fillet
half a red pepper
half a red onion
2 handfuls of spinach
4 asparagus spears
1 small can of peeled plum tomatoes
clove of garlic
squeeze of lemon juice
olive oil
1 and a half handfulls of pasta

first, bang the salmon in a pre heated oven (200 derees). this is so much healthier than frying it and the salmon flakes easier so equally spreads amongst the sauce.
boil the kettle for the pasta. add the boiling water to the pan of pasta and turn on the heat, and add a sprinkling of salt.
turn the heat onto another pan, and gently fry in olive oil the chopped garlic. after the garlic has cooked a little, add the onions and cook until soft. add the red pepper, which should be chopped quite small. cook for a few more minutes, then open the can of tomatoes and bung it in. the tomatoes will be whole, but are really easy to break up with a wooden spoon. add the chopped asparagus spears and the spinach. stir until the spinach is wilted and add the lemon juice and seasoning and take off the heat. when the salmon is done, flake it with a fork and add to the mix, then add the cooked pasta. give it a quick stir, taste for more seasoning then serve piping hot :)

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Best Meal You've Had

sometime Jenn will do one of these...

For my 18th birthday, my dad took me to Paris. I was excited to see the Louvre, the Chanel windows, the tower, and tour the beautiful city which is home to my love of art and fashion. My dad was excited to book tables at restaurants he'd read about. One in particular went by the name of Bofinger. Giddy with the prospect of actually managing to get a table there for an evening, we took a bus tour around Paris as a taxi towards the location of Bofinger. Located on 7 Rue de Bastille, Bofinger is a traditional french bistro offering the usual good french dishes such as steak tartare and even pigs trotters.

Bofinger boasts the title of "Paris' Oldest Brassierie". Tired and aching from a day of walking and sightseeing, we were seated in front of a mirrored wall next to a stunning french couple enjoying an inpressive and expensive looking Fruits De Mer. Looking at a menu the size of europe, i knew what i wanted as soon as i saw it. Fillet steak, served with bernaise sauce, green beans and chips. My dad went for Barbequed pigs trotter. He tried to persuade me to get one to. Nope, i wanted steak. For starters he chose Foie Gras served on thin toast. I decided, because it was now or never for all i knew, to try proper french soup. Until now all i had tasted was the Baxters version which was watery, oily and way too thin. Sitting back in the relaxed, warm enviroment created by the attentive waiters and gentle background noise of copper pans cooking steak diane and the rattle of the trolleys bringing steak tartare to the tables of the daring. My soup arrived, already filling the room with the smell of vinegar, onions and cheese. To get to the soup i had to first tackle the crouton, deeply baked with cheese. The onions underneath were thick in their stock, there was hardly any soup at all. It was a meal in itself if i'm honest, but it wasn't enough to make me regret ordering the steak. Every mouthful of the soup exploded with layers of onion, cheese, bread, wine, seasoning. It is still the most perfect bowl of soup I have ever eaten.

I have had steaks in the past, perfectly gorgeous steaks, always cooked rare, served with everthing from mustard mash to peppercorn sauce. The steak presented to me looked like every other steak I've eaten. There is no impressive way to present steak, green beans and chips. Elegant in its way, with its jug of bernaise sauce, the steak was perfectly cooked, the sauce hot and the chips freshly fried, still bubbling from their cooking. The four elements of the meal classically complimented each other with each mouthful. After I had finished, I had one thought. "that was the best meal of my life so far". Sure the dishes wern't made up of complex cooking techniques and probably had less that 10 ingredients each. But it shows that when good quality ingredients are cooked together well and eaten in an enviroment of total comfort they can make just as much an impact as much as an Blumenthal dish.

Pork Stir Fry.

this is our snazziest bowl.
it is square. it is deep. it is perfect for stir fries, pasta, and salad. it is always - ALWAYS - on the drying rack, because there is always someone in this house who has just used it.

this is also my superamazing chopsticks, as bought in the shop at the design museum in london last year for a measly £1.50. go there, honestly, it's one of the best museum shops i've ever seen. and I know museum shops, trust me.

ok, so, I make stir fries at least once a week. they're quick, and easy, and you can put anything in them. they're an excellent way to use up leftover meat, and they taste goooooood.
this one was especially good, because I marinated the meat beforehand.

this is a recipe for a one person serving.

a handful of pork (i used a boneless chop, but any leftover pork shall do)
1/4 red pepper
1/4 yellow pepper
1/4 red onion
1 small garlic clove

1 handful of chopped spring greens
1 handful of beansprouts

one bundle of rice noodles

splashes of:
soy sauce
lemon juice
worcester sauce

sprinklings of:
chilli powder
you can use different coloured peppers or onions, or add in other veg that you prefer, but if you're not sure which ones to add to the marinade, then leave them out. (I put only the peppers and onions in, and I would keep it at that.)

I use rice noodles (from Blue Dragon; I assume they are available at all good supermarkets) because I prefer them, but you can use any noodles you like, I guess! - just follow the instructions on the packet; most noodles require boiling or soaking in boiling water before being added to the wok/frying pan.
chop up the pork and all your veg into bitesize chunks, then add the first group of ingredients (pork, peppers, onions, garlic) to a tub or bowl. add to these the splashes and sprinklings, but leave the ketchup and honey for now.

put these in the fridge and leave them for a couple of hours - i left mine for about 2 hours and went to watch Misfits and read blogs, but you can leave them overnight or do this on a morning in preparation for an evening meal.

chop and wash the spring greens and pat them dry on kitchen paper - leave them to dry fully. this is how you make crispy seaweed, but you'd need to fry it in a separate frying pan for it to work properly!

when the pork is marinated, the spring greens dry and the noodles ready, start throwing them in a wok or large frying pan with a little oil and keep on stirring. I put the pork in first and let it brown off, then threw in the rest of the veg from the bowl, then the spring greens, then the beansprouts from the freezer.

add a teaspoon of honey and a squirt of ketchup; keep on stirring...

add the noodles; and stir until they're covered in the sauce. everything should now be cooked thoroughly - the food should only be in the pan for a few minutes total!


- jenn.