Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Everyday Chicken Cassoulet

While strictly speaking this isn't a true cassoulet, it is nevertheless a delicious hearty casserole that has the basis of a cassoulet (beans, meat and sausages) and is ideal for a midweek meal. I used to make this a lot when I was a student as it had a little bit of everything in it and was an easy one-pot meal. Serve in bowls with hunks of chewy French bread or even better, some homemade garlic bread for mopping up the sauce. This is a really warming and delicious meal that you will love.

2 tbsp olive oil
150g chorizo, sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
2 x 400g (1 x 28oz) tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
Small pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp sugar (optional)
250ml chicken stock
2 tins of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and Pepper
4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp fresh Parsley
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a large casserole pan then add chorizo. Cook until it is sizzling and just starting to turn golden brown. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside then add the onion and celery to the pan. Cook for roughly 8 minutes until softened but not coloured, then add the garlic, paprika and oregano and cook for another minute stirring well.

Return the chorizo to the pan then add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, chilli flakes (if using), bay leaf, sugar, chicken stock, cannellini beans, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir well then leave to simmer for roughly 30 minutes until the sauce has reduced slightly.

Taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary, then add the chicken. Cook for another 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the bay leaf then add a tablespoon of the parsley and stir before serving in bowls. Garnish with a little extra parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Chocolate Easter Eggs

Nothing can beat a homemade Easter egg as a gift for someone special. With a little time and patience you can make a batch of your own eggs – great for giving away or as a special treat to yourself! Happy Easter!

Makes 1 large egg and 1 small egg

225g/ 8oz white, milk or dark chocolate (I used white)
Little mild tasting oil & kitchen roll
Egg moulds
Mini eggs or sweets of your choice to fill
Ribbon for decorating & clear bags

Put the chocolate into a medium sized bowl and gently melt over a pan of barely simmering water. When completely melted remove from the heat.

Put a little oil onto a piece of kitchen paper and lightly wipe the egg moulds. Using either a spoon or brush (I prefer to use a spoon) put a good amount of chocolate into a mould then using the back of the spoon (or brush) completely cover the moulds. You want it to be fairly thick so it doesn't break when you take it out of the mould. Also be careful to put the chocolate just over the edge of the moulds so you have enough chocolate at the sides. Make sure you leave enough chocolate to put in a piping bag to seal the two halves together. When the moulds are completely covered put the eggs into the fridge briefly to chill.

Once set carefully remove the eggs from the mould – I find there's not much advice I can give as all moulds are different so just try your best to do it the way that works for you. Once the eggs have been removed from the mould I put them back in the fridge for another 5 minutes to cool again.

When ready to seal the eggs put a handful of mini eggs or sweets of your choice into one of the egg halves. Put the leftover white chocolate into a small sandwich bag and snip a small corner off (really small corner) then pipe some chocolate around the edge of the egg. Carefully put the two halves together and hold until sealed. Using a small sharp knife trim off any extra chocolate then put the egg back into the fridge or some where cool (unless you have cold hands – unlike me, and can hold the egg for a while without melting it!!). Finish off by tying some ribbon around the egg then put into a clear bag. Decorate the bag as you like then keep in a cool place until you are ready to smash it open!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chocolate Easter Nests

Easter is almost here so it's time to start with some Easter baking. First up are my quick and easy Chocolate Easter Nests. Perfect for making with the kids but guaranteed to be enjoyed by everyone!

50g butter
225g/ 8oz milk or dark chocolate (whatever is your family favourite)
3 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp milk
125g cornflakes

54 mini eggs
18 cupcake cases (I used medium sized ones)

In a large pan melt the butter and chocolate with the syrup. Add the milk and stir well until smooth and glossy. Add the cornflakes to the melted chocolate mixture and mix well so they are all evenly covered. Put the cupcakes cases into two muffin tins then spoon into the cupcake cases until you have used all of the cornflake mix up. Top with 3 mini eggs onto the middle of each 'nest' then chill until ready to eat and enjoy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Priory Biscuits

{This isn't a new recipe - I moved it from 'First Storm of the Season'- however I make these cookies so much I decided they deserve a page of their own!}

This is mum's recipe for her delicious oat biscuits which are also called priory biscuits. I changed them slightly by using butter instead of margarine since I never use margarine. You can use whichever you prefer (or more conveniently, have in your fridge). The biscuits are finished with a small piece of glace cherry which I love – definitely retro but it adds the perfect finishing touch. Since my mum doesn't really like glace cherries she would only put a tiny little slice so in keeping with tradition I put 1/8 of a cherry on each biscuit (yes I know how ridiculous that sounds!!) - you do as you please. These are absolutely delicious eaten while still warm with a good cup of tea.

Makes approx. 16 - 20 biscuits (depending how big you make them!)

115g/ 4oz unsalted butter, softened
115g/ 4oz sugar
115g/ 4oz porridge oats
115g/ 4oz all-purpose flour (or self raising if in the UK)
½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp golden syrup
1 tbsp water
Glace cherries to decorate

Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C/ GM 4 and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter and sugar then add the oats, flour, baking soda, syrup and water and mix until evenly combined. Take a heaped tablespoonful of the mixture and roll into a ball before placing on to the lined baking tray. Press down slightly then top with a small piece of cherry. Continue until you have used all of the mixture, allowing a good 1 ½ inches in between each biscuit as they will spread, then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hot Greek Salad

A delicious and slightly different way to serve a Greek salad. Perfect as a starter with some crusty bread or an ideal side dish.

2 large red peppers
1 yellow pepper
½ small red onion
85g/ 3oz feta cheese
115g/ 4oz cherry tomatoes
12 Kalamata olives
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 tbsp Olive oil
Extra Virgin Olive oil to serve

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.

Cut the red peppers in half, keeping the stalks in tact then carefully remove the seeds. Cut up the yellow pepper and feta into fairly small, similar sized pieces. (You don’t want them to be as big as you would normally do for a Greek salad as they have to fit into the peppers.) Slice the red onion.

In a bowl mix together the chopped pepper and feta with the onion, cherry tomatoes, feta and olives. Sprinkle over the garlic, oregano and seasoning then drizzle with the vinegar and oil. Stir well to make sure everything is covered with the oil then divide the mix between the 4 pepper halves. Place on a roasting tin and roast for 30 minutes.

Serve warm with an extra drizzle of good quality olive oil or if you prefer a chilli or herb oil.

(If serving as a starter I would serve it with some crusty bread to mop up all of the juices and a little rocket (arugula) drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Leek Carbonara

I absolutely love pasta...there is no denying it, and I would quite happily eat it several times a week (and normally do!). Actually I could probably eat pasta everyday – that I don't do....as much as I would like to! Normally my favourite pasta dish is tomato based but every now and then I enjoy a cream based sauce – especially when I get some beautiful fresh organic eggs that are just begging to be turned into a delicious Carbonara!

A classic carbonara is made using cream, eggs, bacon and Parmesan. This version is pretty much that with the addition of some silky leeks added to it which I love. If you prefer however, you can miss out the leeks and make a classic carbonara sauce. This pasta dish takes as long to make as it takes to cook the pasta so it really is perfect fast food, ideal for a quick, filling and delicious meal.

400g spaghetti
Drizzle of olive oil
6 slices of streaky bacon, cut into small pieces (or snipped with kitchen scissors)
2 leeks, cleaned & finely sliced
4 large eggs yolks, the best quality you can get
125ml double or whipping cream
55g/ 2oz Parmesan cheese
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pan of boiling, salted water to a boil then add the spaghetti.

Heat a frying pan and add a drizzle of olive oil. Once hot add the bacon and cook until just turning crispy. If there is a lot of fat you can remove some but make sure you leave enough to saute the leeks in and coat the pasta with. Add the leek and cook for another 5 minutes or so until the leeks have softened.

In a small bowl add the egg yolks and cream and whisk together with ¾ of the Parmesan cheese, a good pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.

When the pasta is ready reserve a good cupful of the cooking water then drain the rest. Add the spaghetti to the frying pan with the bacon and leeks and toss well. For the next part you need to be ready to go – have your serving dishes ready and get everyone to the table as it literally takes no time at all and you want to serve it while still hot! Take the pasta off the heat then quickly stir through the egg and cream mixture – you want to work fast so that the eggs don't scramble. Add a little of the reserved cooking water to the pasta to thin the sauce out a little and keep stirring so every strand of pasta is evenly coated. Sprinkle over the remaining Parmesan and stir until melted. Taste to check the seasoning and if it's still a little to thick add a little extra water. Serve at once and enjoy a beautiful, silky carbonara!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nominations and Awards!

To my surprise and delight I have been nominated for Babble's Top 100 Food Mom Bloggers of 2011! Now although I don't call myself 'mom' I am certainly a 'mum' that loves to blog about food and so it is really lovely to have someone nominate me. If you like my blog and you have a moment,  please stop by Babble's site and click that you like my blog (probably the easiest way to find it from the link I have given is to go alphabetically) - you will make me so happy!!

On top of that I have been awarded some more blogger awards so I want to say my thank yous for that as well! Thank you to Cheryl & Adam from Picture Perfect Meals and also to Sarah from Narcoleptic in a Cupboard who both awarded me with the Stylish Blogger Award. And a big shout out to Jill Colonna from Mad About Macarons (who not only has a wonderful blog but has her very own beautiful and delicious book on Macarons!!) who has just shared so many awards with me! (Literally there must be every bloggers award under the sun there!) I am so thrilled and touched to receive all of the awards. For me just to know someone out there is reading my blog and enjoying it is fantastic, but to actually get some praise from fellow bloggers is really the icing on the cake. Thank you all so much for taking the time to look at my blog and especially those of you who leave me comments. I really do appreciate it more than I can ever put into writing.

Thank you all!

Lynds x

*Since it was only recently that I mentioned the first awards that I received I won't bore you all with another 7 facts about me but if you are interested and would also like to see who I passed the awards on to click here. (I will pass these new awards on, I would just like to wait a little while before doing so - hope you don't mind!)


Friday, April 1, 2011

Mother's Day Afternoon Tea Menu

What better way to spoil your mum on Mother's Day than to invite her over and surprise her with a beautiful and elegant Afternoon Tea. Start things off with some simple Tea Party Sandwiches, served alongside Coronation Chicken Cups and Goats Cheese and Pesto Bites. And of course no Afternoon Tea is complete without some Classic Scones filled with clotted cream and jam. To finish the table and make her feel thoroughly spoilt indulge your mum with some Lemon Coconut Bars and Coffee Cupcakes with Irish Cream Buttercream all enjoyed with several cups of tea. And finally to show her just how much she means to you, send her home with a box of homemade Pink Champagne Truffles (and for an extra special treat pour her a glass of bubbly before the pots of tea arrive!!)

So to all of the mums out there in the UK and especially to my wonderful mum who is the reason why I cook and love it so much, Happy Mother's Day! Mum, you are my inspiration for so much : ) xxx

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