Saturday, 30 August 2008

Tonight's Dinner...

This is a slightly more upmarket version of my usual cheese strata. It occurs to me that, as a supper dish, it might be nice to layer some pieces of ham in the sandwiches with the Brie. I served it with a green salad and followede it with chocolate cake for pudding.

Baguette Brie Bake

1 baguette
250g Brie, sliced
4 eggs
300ml milk

Cut 20 slices from the baguette and use them, and the sliced Brie, to make 10 sandwiches. Put these in an ovenproof dish, with crusts facing up. Beat the eggs and milk together and season with salt and pepper. Pour this over the bread-and-cheese in the dish, then leave for 10 minutes to soak. Bake at 180­°c for about 35 minutes until the eggs are just set, but keeping some wobble.

The Omnivore's Hundred

This is doing the rounds on food-related blogs of present and it's been quite interesting having an extra insight into my fellow bloggers' attitudes to food and what they've eaten. It was started at Very Good Taste and I picked it up from Jules at Domestic Goddess in Training. Here is my effort.

Here’s what to do to keep it going:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (although I have eaten alligator)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses (just waiting for a chance!)
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters (I'm on a promise for this one though)
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette (When my Dad tricked me into it)
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini (I often make blini to go with smoked salmon)
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers (nasturtiums)
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor (sadly not - not even with a fried egg on top and SPAM)
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

That's all. Quite a few things to be working on there, though the wuss in me will (probably) never give in to raw chillies and phaal. Do you think there's anything missing from this list; something you've eaten which you think everyone should try?

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Summer? What Summer?

Well, the weather continues to be, frankly, crap. Neither cold and wet nor warm and dry; just kind of cloudy and damp all the time, with temperatures all over the shop. It sure makes it hard to know what to wear in the morning.

As well as my sartorial objections, the indecisive weather makes it difficult to know what to plan for meals, and some days everything just feels back-to-front. Tonight was a good example, when the dish was light, fresh-tasting and summery and the weather outside, well, wasn't. Oh well, it tasted good and that's the main thing. I used frozen soy beans for this, but you could substitute broad beans or peas. Equally the cheese could be ricotta, and feel free to use whatever tortellini filling you prefer. Think of it as a kind of moveable feast...

Summery (ha!) Tortellini

zest of 1 lemon and half its juice
50ml olive oil
handful fresh mint leaves, chopped
2x250g packs of 'fresh' spinach & ricotta tortellini
150g frozen soy beans (and see above)
150g soft(ish) goat's cheese

Put the lemon zest and juice in a small bowl with half the chopped mint and pour in the olive oil. Whisk together and set aside, while you put the water on for the pasta. Boil the tortellini and the soy beans until tender, the drain. Heat the lemony oil, then return the pasta and beans to the pan, stirring well to coat in the oil. Crumble the cheese in and mix through briefly, then tip into warmed bowls to serve.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

A Trifle Boozy

My in-laws came yesterday for a (flying) visit. They were only here for one night and, with one thing and another, we've hardly seen them all year; so I thought I'd better push the boat out, dinner-wise. We started with a platter of various antipasti - olives, prosciutto and salami, that kind of thing - then moved on to a tomato risotto (done in the oven for ease and less time spent kitchen-bound for moi). As a pudding I put together this rather glorious and decadent trifle; I can't help feeling that a trifle is pretty much the ultimate in pudding indulgence and this one comes pretty close to the apotheosis, believe me. I used frozen raspberries, defrosted overnight in the fridge. When you're crushing them, it doesn't seem to matter and anyway, they're cheaper (especially given that our raspberry canes produced the grand total of nine raspberries this year). We had some Kahlua left from a bottle my BFF Steph brought to my birthday party last week, so that kind of suggested itself, really.

Boozy Raspberry Trifle

250ml cold coffee
60ml KahlĂșa
2 tbsp sugar
500g Madeira cake
350g raspberries (and see above), crushed
250g tub mascarpone
400g can custard
142ml carton double cream
grated chocolate

Mix the KahlĂșa and the sugar into the coffee. Beat the mascarpone and fold in the custard. Spoon a layer of the custard mix into the bottom of a suitably decorative bowl (preferably glass so you can see the layers, but don't lose sleep over it). Cut the cake into slices or cubes, dip quickly in the coffee mixture, then tessellate it to form a layer of booze-sodden cake Follow this with a layer of crushed raspberries and half the remaining custard. Continue, using up the rest of the cake and berries, leaving you with about one-third of the original custard mix. Stiffly whip the double cream and fold it into the custard. Dollop and spread this over the top of the trifle, then cover with a layer of grated chocolate. Chill for a few hours to let it settle before serving, in big squelchy spoonfuls. It looks very glam when you first bring it to table but, I assure you, that doesn't last long...

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Love Food? LOVE this Soup...

I can't help being proud of myself when someone else publishes one of my recipes. Not that this one really is mine, mind you. This is my version of my Mum's vegetable soup, made with the leftovers from a roast dinner. I submitted it to Love Food, Hate Waste, they published it and here it is for you.

Roast Dinner Soup

How many servings you get out of this depends, obviously, on how much you’ve got in the way of leftovers. I normally get 2-3 lunch sized portions out of an average roast dinner's worth. If you have made stock from the bones it would be really good to use this in the soup. Add some grated cheese or croutons to serve.  The apotheosis of this soup is that which I make on Boxing Day each year, with turkey stock from the carcass and the leftover veg, etc. from Christmas lunch.

Roast potatoes and/or parsnips
Cooked vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, courgettes,
Meat stock to cover
Ground black pepper

Put the potatoes and vegetables in a suitably sized pan (one that holds them snugly in the bottom and about halfway up the inside). Cover with stock by about 2cm (go easy, you can always add more to adjust the consistency).Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook for about 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated through.Liquidise the soup with a hand-held electric blender. Taste the soup and season. This is a soup that needs plenty of pepper. Serve in mugs or bowls with grated cheese or croutons.


Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Big 3-0!

Sorry I've been quiet for a while (it's so unlike me). We've been away on holiday - camping in Brecon - and yes, it was wet. Kind of like Glastonbury without Amy Winehouse and Portaloos, but we had a ball anyway. Immediately we got back I was busy turning thirty, having a 1950s themed party , complete with cocktails and barbecue.

Far from the "I-feel-old" nonsense that you might expect, bemoaning the departure of my twenties and the like, I LOVE being thirty and was excited about it for weeks. As one of my cards (from my fab friend Steph who knows me sooo well) read, "Think of yourself as an 18 year old with 12 years experience". Amen to that.

This is the cake I made for my birthday.

And, in a total moment of arts-and-crafts frenzy, I made these bowls to jhuzz (is that even a word?) up the party's rock 'n' roll atmosphere by melting some charity shop LPs and shaping them over a glass vase. You so know I'm still using them, don't you?

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Competitive Cooking?

I was quite nervous about cooking this tonight; it was by request, but Hubby makes a mean Bacon & Mushroom Pasta and I wasn't sure that my version would live up to (largely the kids') expectations. Never mind, it was a roaring success - and clean plates all round!

Pasta with Creamy Bacon & Mushroom Sauce

350g dried pasta
30g butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
200g bacon, chopped
150g mushrooms, chopped
200ml single cream
75g cheese, grated

Put the pasta on to cook in plenty of salted, boiling water. Melt the butter and soften the onion, before adding the bacon and mushrooms. Cook for a few minutes, then stir in the cream. Grind in plenty of pepper and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce begins to reduce. Add the cheese to the pan and mix well so that it melts into the cream. Drain the pasta and toss in the sauce.

We had some garlic bread (and also see my notes here on an easy shortcut to avoid the packet stuff) with it; well buttered and oozy. Dee-lish.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Colourful Days

I've always been a magpie, attracted to anything bright and sparkly. So, anything that allows me to indulge my passion for as much colour as possible is always popular. In fact, I've long said that my chances of having a fabulous day increase in direct proportion to how many different colours I'm wearing on that day. Decorating cakes is another outlet for some serious colour-therapy. This one, I made for a friend's birthday., A friend who, happily, collects Momiji dolls, so my homage was appreciated.

When we moved into our house (nearly six years ago now), we inherited an obviously homemade clay nameplate on the front of the house. I quite liked it's quirkiness, but the brown-and-beige colour scheme just did nothing for me - and even less once it was splattered with white paint when Hubby painted the front exterior wall. Yesterday I decided I'd had enough of it and set about it with a veritable rainbow of acrylic paints. A couple of coats later and - just look - isn't it great? So me, so us. I feel happy every time I pass the front door and see it now. You can't buy therapy like that, you really can't. Now, what else can I paint..?


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