Pasta Puttanesca – Dinner vice!

I am amazed that it has taken me this long to post about this dish! Pasta Puttanesca and pesto genovese are easily some of my husbands favorite meals.  I know for most people, pasta is a go-to easy meal when you are low on time. For me, this isn’t the case. I very rarely eat pasta so when I do, it has got to be something I know I will enjoy wholeheartedly! Continue reading

A Surprise and Swedish Cinnamon Buns

Hey Ho Everybody!

I know its been shockingly long since I’ve written to you guys! I promise I have a very good reason! A month ago today, on a seemingly ordinary Thursday evening, I walked along the beach here in Whitstable to the best evening of my life! My boy was waiting for me on the beach on sunset and got down on one knee. It was a total surprise but we couldn’t be happier!

So naturally, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of celebrating and letting it all sink in. We were on holiday for a week too so I have shamefully neglected cooking and blogging. So today, instead of a healthy recipe, you are getting a very naughty one….only because you have been so patient! These buns are fab for a few reasons. Firstly, they are yum! But the main reason is that you can make them up the night before you want them and leave them in the fridge. The next morning, take them out of the fridge for 30 mins and then pop them in your oven for 25 mins.

Swedish Cinnamon Buns:

Gooey cinnamon buns

Gooey cinnamon buns

Serves 12, 10pp per bun:

For the bun dough

  • 240ml milk
  • 80g butter
  • 1x7g pack of fast action yeast
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 600 – 700g plain flour
  • 1 Tspn salt
  • 3 eggs

For the filling:

  • 90g sugar (I used half caster and half brown)
  • 110g butter (Its easier if this is left out of the fridge for an hour before you use it)
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
  1. Warm the milk in a saucepan until its starting to bubble but dont let it boil. Add the 80g butter and take the pan off the heat. The butter will melt but you want the milk to cool too – Wait until its blood temperature, lukewarm to the touch.
  2. In a large bowl, add the milk mixture and then sprinkle the yeast over it. Allow to stand for a minute. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl, starting with 500g of flour and mix gradually. You can do this by hand or in a food mixer.
  3. Gradually add the extra flour as you feel you need it, you may not need it all. I use about 650g. It depends on how big your eggs are. Once it forms a smooth ball, its time to knead.
  4. Here is where a machine comes in handy. Use a dough hook and knead on low for 5 minutes or knead by hand for 10 minutes until you have a smooth springy dough.
  5. Place in a lightly oiled mixing bowl and allow to rise for 1 hour.
  6. Meanwhile, make the filling. Mix the softened butter, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl until you get a smooth paste.
  7. After an hour, knock back the dough to get the air out of it. Roll out to a large rectangle about 1cm thick. Spread the cinnamon paste evenly across the dough and roll up tightly until you have a long sausage.
  8. Slice the roll into 12 even pieces and spread these evenly across a lined baking tray. Cover loosely with cling film. Here you have options. You can either pop these in the fridge for tomorrow morning or you can allow them to rise for 45 mins to and hour and then bake.
  9. If you have put them in the fridge overnight, take them out about 30 minutes before you want to use them to allow them to reach room temp. They will have risen in the fridge slowly. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius. After 30 minutes, remove the cling film and pop your buns in the oven.
  10. Mine took about 25 minutes. Towards the end of baking, mine were starting to brown too quickly so I covered them with tinfoil for the final ten minutes.
  11. When they are ready, take them out of the oven. You can eat these warm as they are but I like to drizzle a little icing made from icing sugar and water.

Healthy, Hearty Cassoulet

Cassoulet is one of those hearty French dishes that always reminds me that the heart and soul of French cooking is rustic food made with the best ingredients. This is pretty much the opposite of haute cuisine, but that’s what I love about French food. You can find perfectly presented dishes with 30 or 40 steps in the presentation but to me, a one pot of cassoulet made with the best ingredients is just as special! This is best served with some crusty bread and a good glass of red wine. It only improves if made the day before! The key to this is using a small amount of the best sausages you can find as well as decent red wine. It may seem a lot of ingredients but once you have got them all ready to go, its a case of adding them to one pot at the right time and that is about it!

Cassoulet:

Yummy Cassoulet

Yummy Cassoulet

Serves 6, 6pp per person

  • 1 tspn good olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 6 (around 250g) really good quality sausages, cut into three or 4 pieces each (I got some from my butchers)
  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced into chunks
  • 3 or 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks.
  • 2 celery sticks, cut into sizeable chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
  • 2 rashers of bacon or bacon medallions, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tins chopped tomato
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree or tomato paste
  • small glass good red wine ( about 120-150 ml….you can use the rest for the chef!)
  • 100ml water
  • 1 tspn sugar or sweetener
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tspn dried oregano
  • 1 tspn chilli flakes
  • 200g chickpeas (the large cans have 400g but only 200g when drained)
  • 200g cannelini beans or butter beans (same as above)
  1. Heat olive oil in a deep casserole and add the sausage chunks. brown the sausages on all sides and add the onions. Fry these until slightly coloured and softened but not burnt!
  2. Next fry off the chicken breast pieces until they are browned on each side. Stir in the garlic and bacon and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the carrot and celery and stir well so they get covered with the juices in the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, water and sugar. Stir well and the add the bay, oregano and chilli.
  4. Last but not least add the chickpeas and beans and give everything a good stir. Bring to the boil and either simmer for 45 mins or pop into an oven at 180 degrees celsius for 45mins.
  5. After 45 mins, test the thickness of the sauce, I find i need to add 100-150ml of water to the mix to make a nice silky sauce.
  6. Serve in a deep bowl with some crusty French bread and some of that leftover vino!

Halloween: Irish Teabrack – Tastes like home!

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This was all that was left when I got to it!

If there is one foodstuff that I associate with this time of year, it is this delicious loaf of fruitiness. It is almost a cross between a loaf of fruit bread and a cake and is lusciously moist. The main reason for this is the strong tea that the fruit is soaked in before it is added to the cake mixture. It can be found in every supermarket in Ireland in the lead up to Halloween but I have struggled to find it in the UK. One of the best things about this recipe is that the tea is the main liquid in the brack and so you dont need any fats such as butter. I love to toast a slice of this and spread it with butter for a perfect autumnal breakfast. There are all sorts of traditions surrounding this but for me, the best tradition is sitting with my family drinking warm tea and munching on a slice of this of an evening.

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Halloween Teabrack,

16 slices, 4pp per slice (unbuttered!)

  • 400g Mixed dried fruit – You could use equal quantities of raisins, sultanas and currants but I am shockingly lazy when it comes to this!
  • 300ml hot tea – Here you could use 250ml of tea and 50ml of good whisky or brandy but I was appealing to a wider audience leaving it out!
  • 1 egg
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 level teaspoon mixed spice
  • Scratch or two of nutmeg
  1. Put the dried fruit into a bowl and cover with hot tea. Leave to plump up overnight, although if you cant wait, a few hours will suffice.
  2. The next day, preheat the oven to 180°C.
  3. Stir the whisked egg, soft brown sugar, flour and mixed spice into the fruit and tea mixture. Mix well.
  4. Put the mixture into a lined 1lb loaf tin.
  5. Cook in for 1 -1 1/2hours or until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Leave to cool on a wire rack, cut and enjoy!

Healthy Moules Frites (and a few more pictures.)

Hi there folks, hope all is well. We are now in the height of summer, although you wouldnt really know it. Still, there is the odd glimpse of the sun poking through the clouds so we better make the most of it! Down here in Kent, we seem to be getting big heavy bursts of rain followed by an hour or two of sun so we cant complain too much. Summer recipes are very much on my mind now so im trying to get all my favourite summer cooking done while the sun is about!

Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer…or an hour at least!

After the rain….

When I was younger, my family would pack into the car every summer and drive from Cork all the way to the south of France  or even Spain on occasion. It occurred to me a few days ago that its probably why French food always makes me feel sunny and warm, a positive mental association. There are few dishes that can be more “French Summer” than, Moules Frites. It is quintessentially French and probably one of my favourite dishes. Ok so I know the “frites” arent exactly the most healthy but the recipe below is acceptable and as the saying goes, everything in moderation! Bon appetit et bon vivant!

Moule Frites:

Yummy summer dinner

Serves 1 but easily multiplied, 10 pp in total

  • 500g Mussels, well cleaned.
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped.
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped.
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 75ml white wine
  • 50ml good stock
  • 150g potato, cut into small cubes.
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon oil
  1. Heat a large deep pan over a medium heat. add the oil to the pan and then add the potato cubes. Cook for 20 mins, turning occasionally so that they brown. After 20 mins, add half the teaspoon of butter to the pan and toss well with sea salt and black pepper. Toss the potatoes onto an oven tray and transfer to a warm oven for 10 mins.
  2. Using the same pan, add the remaining butter and then add the onion, celery and garlic. Sweat gently for 5 minutes so that they are softened but not brown.
  3. Add the mussels, wine and stock to the pan along with a little black pepper. Dont add salt at this stage as the mussels will release their own juices which are salty.
  4. Place a lid on the pan and steam for about 8 – 10 mins, until all the mussels are opened.
  5. Serve immediately with the frites. Remember to toss away any mussels that dont open when cooked. I sometimes like to eat this with crusty bread for soaking up all the lovely juices.

Im SO So sorry…but Ive had an exciting few weeks!

Huge apologies to all of you, Ive been Awol for a few weeks. But I have a valid excuse I promise! I have been offered a new job and we are moving out of London! Very exciting! We are moving to the seaside town of Whitstable on the North Kent Coast. Good news for all of you though, whitstable is a serious foodie town and is less than an hour from London so be prepared for many posts to come! We are moving this weekend and I will get a post with pictures ASAP!!!
Love to you all,
E

Southern Baked Chicken

I tend to cook with chicken a lot….stews, currys, stir fries! So when Im rooting in the freezer looking for ideas, its usually something to do with chicken. Today I wanted to try something different. Last night, we watched the most incredibly inspiring movie, “The Help”. It was fantastic, full of very strong women. Its tough, funny,feel-good and inspirational all rolled into one brilliant film. It also featured lots of southern fried chicken which got both me and my other half craving fried chicken. Unfortunately, fried chicken is not really known for its health benefits! So I thought Id attempt a baked version of my own! Here it is, accompanied with a fresh salad and some oven chips.

 

Southern Baked Chicken:

Nice fast midweek dinner.

Serves 2, 5PP per serving

  • 250g Chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 75ml low fat buttermilk (see tip below)
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tspn Garlic salt
  • 1/2 tspn celery salt
  • 1/2 tspn cumin
  • 1/4 tspn smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper

TIP: Butter milk is not as easy to get in the UK as in Ireland and its usually cultured. I prefer to make my own. I basically stir about a teaspoon of lemon juice into skimmed milk and leave to stand for 10 mins. It will look curdled, this is exactly what you want!

  1. Marinate the chicken in buttermilk for at least an hour.
  2. Meanwhile mix together breadcrumbs with all the spices and season well
  3. After an hour, take the chicken out of the milk piece by piece and dip quickly into the crumb mixture. Turn the chicken over in the mix to ensure they are well covered.
  4. Oil a baking tray and place the chicken pieces well spaced on the tray. Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs on top.
  5. Bake at 180 degrees for approx 20 mins, util the chicken is cooked but tender.
  6. Serve with what ever you feel like, I think salad is yum with this as its a nice summery dish.