Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Bacon & Pea Risotto

I do love a good risotto. I have never made one before - for some reason I had always though they were really complicated to make, but this recipe by Mary Cadogan proved me wrong.

6 rashers streaky bacon , chopped
300g risotto rice

1l hot vegetable stock

100g frozen peas

Finely chop the onion. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a knob of butter in a pan, add the onions and fry until lightly browned (about 7 minutes). Add the bacon and fry for a further 5 minutes, until it starts to crisp.

Add the rice and stock, and bring to the boil. Stir well, then reduce the heat and cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes until the rice is almost tender.

Stir in the peas, add a little salt and pepper and cook for a further 3 minutes, until the peas are cooked. Serve sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

It was really easy to make - the fact it uses only 5 ingredients added to the simplicity, and there wasn't really much to do - just chop a couple of things up then leave it to do it's stuff.

The result is a mixed bag. I thought it was really nice. I didn't love it, but it was nice. Jack thought it didn't taste of much and was a bit samey - but then I guess risotto is a bit samey. Louis had one mouthful and refused to have any more. This could have been due to the tonne of grated cheddar he'd dumped on the top. So, not such a huge success, but I'm happy because it means I have some lunch to take to work with me tomorrow! I would make it again for myself, but I think I'll try out a couple of other recipes in the meantime.

Sweet & Simple : Vanilla Cupcakes

Another monthly challenge I found was Sweet & Simple, who's challenge for the month was Vanilla Cupcakes. I am quite a cake lover, and the fact they promised to be simple was a bonus!

Vanilla Cupcakes
(Makes 12)


175g (6 oz) self-raising flour
1½ level tsp baking powder

175g (6 oz) butter, softened
175g (6 oz) caster (superfine) sugar

3 large eggs

2 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Buttercream Icing
150g (5oz) butter, softened
300g (11 oz) icing (confectioners) sugar, sifted

1 tbsp milk

¼ tsp vanilla extract

Edible food colouring(s) of choice,
Sprinkle(s) for decoration of choice

You will also require 12 holed muffin tin lined with 12 paper muffin cases

Method Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Sift the self-raising flour and baking powder into a large bowl, and then add the butter, caster sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Beat together until well mixes, trying not to over mix the mixture. Spoon the mixture equally into the prepared paper cases and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out to completely cool on a wire rack.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter until soft. Add the icing sugar and stir until it’s just mixed in, then add the milk and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Divide into as many bowls as you want different colour(s) and add edible food colouring (you only require a few drops). This is purely optional should you wish to leave out the edible food colouring(s) and keep the buttercream natural. Spread the icing on thickly with a palette knife on top of each cupcake or put the icing into a piping back and make a large swirl on top of each cupcake. Decorate each cupcake with your chosen sprinkle(s).

Well, they lived up to their reputation - the 'chuck it all in a bowl then mix' method was very simple, and they were in the oven within 5 minutes. I was very aware of the smell of baking powder as they were cooking, but this could just be my current state of super-senses kicking in again (I'm pregnant)!

They didn't take very long to cool, and pretty soon Louis and I were icing them. The recipe said the icing could be piped or spread on, and seeing as the rest had been pretty simple I thought I would try piping for the first time. I'm not sure if I did something wrong, but I think the icing was too thin to pipe it - as you can see from the photo, they're not perfect! Louis was helping by sticking his fingers in the icing once I'd piped it on, and "catching the drips"!

The cakes are really lovely - nice and light, and the vanilla in the icing takes over any baking powder flavours I was worried would be present. The icing had a very foamy texture to it. I think if I make them again I will try adding half the quantity to milk to the icing before adding the rest little by little until it has a firmer consistency.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Think Spice... Think Nigella Seeds (Kalonji)

As I mentioned earlier in my blog, while browsing some other food blogs, I came across Sunita's World, and her monthly spice challenge, Think Spice, which I thought sounded like a wonderful idea - a great way to delve into recipes you may not otherwise have thought to. This month's spice of choice was Nigella Seeds, aka Kalonji.

I have many Greek friends, and this spice brings back memories of my childhood, eating bread containing it which I thought was delicious. I have often thought back to that bread, wondering what on earth this fabulous spice was, and it wasn't until seeing it featured on the last series of The Apprentice that I realised that this was what it was called. As well as being called Nigella Seeds (no connection to Lawson), in Hindi it is known as Kalonji, and is also sometimes known as onion seeds or cumin seeds. I have looked for it in the past with no great results - and had decided I would need to visit a specialist shop, but just never got round to it. When I saw this challenge I decided that I was going to find it, had a Google, and there, on trusty eBay, I found my goods. It cost me £1.25 for 50g which I don't think is too bad considering it's supposedly one of the more expensive spices, my Mum was telling me, as she heard it was good for attracting a certain bird (Chaffinch maybe) to the garden if you left it out for them. Good taste!

When I began researching recipes to use for this challenge, I thought I had made my mind up with Spiced Potato Cake with Mint Raita - looks scrummy huh? But, on thinking about it more - I decided against it. The recipe serves 6, which would mean far too much food for Jack, Louis and I. I obviously know how to halve the quantities in the ingredients, but when it comes to adjusting cooking times accordingly I am useless... so I carried on searching. Thinking back to this childhood bread I'd enjoyed, I decided to go down that route and ended up with a recipe from Recipe Zaar to make bread rolls which were topped with Nigella Seeds, and were filled with feta, potato or beef. I went with the feta...

Feta Rolls topped with Nigella Seeds
(Makes 8 rolls)



  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup dill, chopped [I'm not a big dill lover and so used about 1/4 cup instead. It was still aparent in the roll, but not overpowering]



1. Combine 1 cup of the flour with the sugar, yeast and salt.

2. Heat water and butter in a small pan until butter melts. [The recipe actually says "heat water and milk until butter melts", but seeing as there's no milk in the ingredients list, I am taking this to be a mistake].

3. Stir into the flour mixture.

4. Stir in egg and remaining flour to make a soft dough.

5. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

6. Cover, leave to rest for 10 minutes.

7. Roll dough to a 14 x 10 inch rectangle and cut into 8 pieces.

8. Spoon enough filling into each piece.

9. Bring up sides to enclose filling, pinching seam and ends to seal.

10. Cover, let rise for 30-45 minutes. [I left mine for45]

11. In a small bowl, beat together egg and water; brush onto top of dough. Sprinkle with nigella.

12. Bake at 375F / 190C for 20 to 25 minutes or until done. [I have a fan oven and 20 minutes was perfect].

My verdict.... delicious! The smell of my house as these baked were just divine. I am definitely inspired to try out some more of my own bread rolls, knowing how easy these were. I am seeing Sunday mornings with freshly baked poppyseed rolls. Anyway, I digress... As I tore the roll open, I was expecting the feta to have melted, but the cubes were still in their whole form at the base of the roll. The first mouthful was heavenly - the cheese tasted buttery, the bread was warm, the nigella seeds complimented it beautifuly. As I got further in, I think that the nigella seeds became too overpowering where I had sprinkled them on more thickly. The recipe called for 2 tablespoons, and I had only used approximately 1 tablespoon when I thought I was done, but being a fan of the seed, I thought I would go with the recipe. Next time, I will stick with the one.

Thank you very much to Sunita's World for awakening my senses to the world of nigella seeds. I look forward to seeing what everyone else has made, so I can try some of those recipes out. Now I know where I can get these badboys, I don't want to stop!

Friday, 24 April 2009

Chicken Fajitas from Jamie Oliver's Minstry of Food

My shopping isn't arriving until Sunday, and I've been itching to get blogging. I'd planned to make these fajitas tonight anyway, so I thought it was a good place to start, seeing as I would go as far as saying these are the nicest fajitas I have ever had. Fajitas aren't the most challenging of dishes, but this recipe makes them.... just.... "wow". It's one of those things I always make, but as Jamie has asked us to 'Pass It On', I'm doing my bit...

Serves 2 (19 mins)

1 red pepper
1 medium red onion
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, preferably free range or organic
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
small pinch of ground cumin
2 limes
olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
4 flour tortillas [this means enough for 2 each, but I like to have one big fat one!]
1 x 150ml tub of sour cream / natural yoghurt [I use Sainsbury’s soured cream]
1 x 230g tub of guacamole
100g grated cheddar cheese

For the salsa

½ - 1 fresh red chilli, to your taste
15 ripe cherry tomatoes
a small bunch fresh coriander [I never add this as I don’t have a coriander bush and I forget to buy it]
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 lime
extra virgin olive oil

Put your griddle pan on a high heat [I always put it on low, then turn it to high once I start to make the salsa as otherwise it starts smoking], then halve and deseed your pepper and cut it into thin strips. Peel, halve and finely slice your onion, then slice your chicken lengthways into long strips roughly the same size as your pepper strips.

Put the peppers, onion and chicken into a bowl with the paprika and cumin. Squeeze over the juice of ½ a lime, drizzle over a lug of olive oil, season with a good pinch of salt and pepper and mix well. Put it to one side to marinade for 5 minutes or so while you make your salsa.

Finely chop your chilli. Roughly chop your tomatoes and the coriander, stalks and all. Put the chilli and tomatoes into a second bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper and the juice of 1 lime. Add a good lug of extra virgin olive oil, then stir in your chopped coriander [I did mine without the coriander and is still very yummy and tasty].

Use a pair of tongs to put all the pieces of pepper, onion and chicken into your preheated pan to cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the chicken is golden and cooked through. As the pan will be really hot, keep turning the pieces of chicken and vegetables so they don’t burn – you just want them to lightly chargrill to give you a lovely flavour. Give the pan a little love and attention and you’ll be laughing! [In between these cooking and me tossing them I grate the cheese].

Warm your tortillas in up the microwave or in a warm dry pan.

Divide your warmed tortillas between your serving plated. At the table, carefully help yourselves to the chicken and vegetables straight from the hot griddle pan. Just be sure to put it down on top of something that wont burn, like a chopping board.

Halve your remaining lime and squeeze the juices over the sizzling pan. Serve with pots of sour cream and guacamole alongside your cheddar and lovely fresh salsa.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

On the 'to make' list

I am going to make a note here of the things I plan to make within the next couple of weeks, so I don't lose the links, or forget about them! So...
  • I'd also like to try a risotto, although I haven't chosen a recipe yet.
  • I thought that would be enough food for though (boom boom) but have just looked at Bakerella's blog and seen something that looks absolutely divine - Deep Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake - although Im not sure if we'll be able to hack so much sweet stuff in the space of two weeks, we still have a mountain of Easter Eggs to get through too! Watch this space!
Roll on when the food shopping arrives, I'm itching to get started.

Monday, 20 April 2009

And so it begins

I've decided to try to be a little more experimental with the food I make. Im finding I cook the same things over and over, and often forget about something I made and loved. This is my way of keeping track of recipes, and of breaking out of my lazy comfort zone I seem to have got myself into.

I have signed up to a couple of monthly cookery challenges, and promise myself that if I see a recipe I like the look of, just try it, rather than bookmark it, only for it to be lost in the big long never ending list of bookmarks!