Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Week 34 - Apple Crumble

My lovely OH had a hankering for some sort of apple pie/crumble dish, perhaps due to the miserable weather. There is something about this desert that warms you up just like a cuddle from Nan. First time attempting a crumble, I guess I never realised how simple it was to construct! Now I know I think, dangerously I will be eating this more often. 

Book: http://www.jamieoliver.com

Recipe: Apple Crumble

For The Crumble

35 g rolled oats
35 g wholemeal flour
20 g caster sugar
35 g margarine or butter
For The Filling

400 g cooking apples, peeled, cored and quartered
50 g sugar, to sweeten
1 tablespoon water


Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Peel and core the apples, quarter and cut in to chunks.

Put the apples into a pan with the sugar and water. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes and place in a small ovenproof dish.

Place the flour and oats in a bowl and mix well. Cut the margarine or butter into small cubes and add this to the oats and flour. Mix with your fingertips until it resembles an even crumb texture. Add the sugar and mix through.

Cover the fruit with the crumble mixture. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until the crumble is golden and the apple hot

Changes Made: I added some frozen mixed berries as we always seem to forget we had them. Also I did not have green apples so used pink instead, just didn't cook it for as long.

Results: Like a big hug!

Next Time: I would try with green apples as I like them more, but the OH wouldn't let me!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Week 31 - Onion Gratin

Jamie commended this recipe as a great representation of how onion can be a stand alone dish. I love it, and rarely cook a meal without it but other than a whole roast one on Sundays (or camping) I don't think I have cooked a side with just onion. You cook it for so long that the taste is delish but still respected. I also loved the addition of cheese.

Book: Cook with Jamie

Recipe: The Best Onion Gratin


Serves 4

4 medium red onions, peeled and quartered
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, picked
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
a small wineglass of white wine
4 tablespoons creme fraiche
500g gruyere cheese, grated
50g parmesan cheese, grated


Preheat the oven to 200°C. Break the onion quarters apart to give you little 'petals'. Place these in an A4-sized dish or earthenware oven dish. Drizzle with a couple of gluts of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, and toss in your thyme and garlic. Mix up well, add your white wine, cover with a double layer of tinfoil, wrap tightly and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the dish from the oven, take the tinfoil off and pop the dish back in the oven for 15 minutes to start caramelising. Once the onion is looking lightly golden, stir in your creme fraiche and sprinkle over the cheese. Turn the oven down to 180°C and let the gratin tick away for about 15 minutes or until golden and gorgeous. You can eat this straight away, or cool it down and flash it under the grill later.

Changes Made: I only had cheddar and parmesan, and used creme rather than creme fraiche, plus I used a mixture of red and white onions. 

Results: So good, I am a huge fan of onion and this hit all the right spots! I halved the recipe but for two of us it was not enough.

Next Time: More onion.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Week 30 - Baked Apples

Speaking to my OH I came to realised he has not had the pleasure of ever eating a baked apple. I am not sure that I had that many when I was little, but they are such a simple, tasty desert I just had to bake them for him. He opted for no raisins but couldn't not have them. They cooked up so nicely the cut around the middle really helped to get the flavour on the outside along with the middle.

Book: Ministry of Food

Recipe: Baked Apples


Serves 4

50g unsalted butter
4 large Bramley apples
2 bay leaves, dried or fresh
2 cloves
50g flaked almonds
100g light muscovado sugar
75g raisins
1 orange
1 lemon
1 heaped teaspoon mixed spice
1 shot of brandy or whisky


Take your butter out of the fridge about 15 to 30 minutes before you start making your baked apples so it has time to soften a bit first. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Use an apple corer to remove the cores from your apples, then carefully score around the middle of each one, using a knife. Place the apples in a baking fish. If using dried nay leaves, crumble them into little pieces; if using fresh you will need to finely chop them. Place into a pestle and mortar with the cloves and bash up. Put into a large bowl with most of the almonds and the rest of the ingredients. Using your hands, mix well, squeezing all the flavours into the butter. Stuff this mixture into the hole in each apple (where you have removed the core) and rub the outside of each fruit with any leftover mixture. Toss the remaining almonds in the bowl so they become lightly coated in any leftover juices, then sprinkle over the top of the apples. 

Place in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden and soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool down for about 5 minutes before serving. Put each apple into a small bowl and spoon over the lovely caramalised juices from the pan. These apples are great with a dollop of good vanilla ice cream, creme fraiche or custard (or just by themselves!).

Changes Made: No muscovado sugar and used brown sugar instead. I also used granny smith apples. 

Results: Yum, reminded me of a simpler time, such an easy ones and great for the kids too.

Next Time: Nothing (again)

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Week 29 - Chicken with Mole Sauce

I liked the idea of this meal, it looked like something really different with the stock and the chilli, chocolate, banana sauce thing and rice. Unfortunately it did not work out like I had expected. My Mum had actually cook this a little while ago and really liked it, but it was too bland for me. I like taste! 

Bit of a fail in my books, but who knows, others may like it!

Book: 15 Minute Meals

Recipe: Mexican Chicken, wicked mole sauce, rice & veg


Serves 4

Chicken, rice & veg

2 carrots
2 spring onions
2 chicken stock cubes
1 red pepper
2 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
a couple of springs of fresh thyme
1 mug (300g) of wholegrain or basmati rice
4 x 120g skinless chicken breasts
175g okra
100g frozen peas

Mole Sauce

2 spring onions
2 cloves of garlic
½ a fresh red chilli
1 dried smoked chipotle or ancho chilli
1 pinch of cumin seeds
1 heaped tbsp smooth peanut butter
30g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1 heaped tsp cocoa powder
a 2.5cm piece of banana
1 lemon


Finely slice the carrots and trimmed spring onions, then put into the casserole pan with 500ml of boiling water and crumble in the stock cubes. Deseed the pepper, cut into 8, then add to the stock with the bacon and thyme sprigs and put the lid on. Put 1 mug of rice and 2 mugs of boiling water into the medium pan with a pinch of salt and cover with a lid, stirring occasionally.

Trim and add the spring onions, peeled garlic and chillies to the liquidizer with the cumin seeds, peanut butter, a couple of splashes of boiling wear, salt and pepper, then blitz until fine. Put into the frying pan, boil, then simmer. Add the chicken, okra and peas to the casserole pan until the chicken is cooked through, replace the lid.

Scrape the mixture from the frying pan back into the liquidizer and add the chocolate, cocoa, peeled banana and lemon juice, then whiz until silky smooth and season until it's incredible. Fluff up the rice, finely slice the chicken and serve with the mole sauce, veg and broth.

Changes Made: Could not find any yummy dried chilli's so just popped in some flakes.

Results: Unfortunately, I was not a fan. The chicken was bland, the stock tasted too much like vegetables. I liked the chilli, chocolate sauce but the rest needs a little work. 

That being said, it is a really healthy meal, so if that is your plan, go for it. 

Next Time: Not cook it, sorry Jamie.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Week 28 - Rack of Lamb

We have recently found a wholesale butcher that sold lamb racks for $13.99 per kilo! So we just had to snap some up and enjoy on a sunday evening. Lamb racks are just so special and really do not need much in the way of marinating, keep it simple and just don't overcook the meat! This recipe turned out so well, I loved the different sides and the family style platter.

Book: 30 Minute Meals

Recipe: Spring Lamb, Vegetable Platter, Mint Sauce and Chanti Gravy (I did not do the chocolate fondue) 


Serves 6

For The Lamb

1 quality 8-bone rack of lamb, fat removed
1 2-piece pack quality lamb neck fillet, approximately 250g
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
white wine vinegar
300 g cherry tomatoes on the vine

For The Gravy

4 rashers higher-welfare smoked bacon
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
½ glass red wine

For The Vegetables

500 g baby new potatoes
250 g baby carrots
1 bunch fresh mint, stalks of
1 organic chicken stock cube
200 g fine beans
200 g runner beans
½ Savoy cabbage
200 g frozen peas
1 knob butter
½ lemon

For The Mint Sauce

1 bunch fresh mint, leaves from
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar

For The Seasonings

olive oil
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
black pepper


Get all your ingredients and equipment ready. Put a large frying pan and a large saucepan on a high heat. Fill and boil the kettle. Turn the oven on to 220°C/425°F/gas 7. Halve the rack of lamb, then season with salt & pepper and add to the frying pan with a lug of olive oil.

Wash the potatoes and trim the tops of the carrots. Add everything to the large saucepan with a pinch of salt. Rip the leafy tops off the bunch of mint and put aside for the mint sauce. Make sure the band is still around the stalks, then add them to the saucepan. Just cover with boiled water and crumble in the chicken stock cube. Put the lid on.

Drizzle olive oil straight into the pack of neck fillet and season. Turn the racks of lamb then put the two neck fillets in the pan. Sear the ends of the meat and keep coming back to the pan and turning each piece so they brown all over.

Pull the leaves off 3 sprigs of rosemary and put into a pestle & mortar with a good pinch of salt & pepper. Peel the garlic, add to the mortar, and pound really well. Turn the lamb over. Add Dijon mustard to the mortar with a good couple of lugs of olive oil and a swig of white wine vinegar. Mix well.

Make sure all sides of the lamb are seared, then use tongs to transfer all of it to a roasting tray. Pour away most of the fat in the pan, then put it back on a very low heat for the gravy. Spoon the dressing from the pestle & mortar over the lamb and put the vines of cherry tomatoes on top. Move everything around until well coated in the dressing. Sprinkle with salt, then whack on the top shelf of the oven and set the timer for 14 minutes for blushing to medium meat, slightly less for rare, and more for well done. Turn the racks over halfway through.

Finely slice the bacon and put into the frying pan. Finely chop the reserved mint leaves and add to the unwashed pestle & mortar. Pound, then add the red wine vinegar, caster sugar, a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of cooking water from the veg pot. Muddle together with the pestle, have a taste to check the balance, and add a tiny splash of extra virgin olive oil. Take to the table with a spoon.

Turn the heat under the bacon right up and add the leaves from the rosemary. Stir in the flour, red wine and a few ladles of cooking water. Trim all the beans and put the runner beans through a runner bean slicer or slice at an angle, 1cm thick. Cut the Savoy cabbage half in two and click off any fatty outer leaves, then discard the stalk. Cut the cabbage into thin wedges. Add the cabbage, beans and peas to the saucepan, then stir and put the lid back on.

Turn the lamb over. If your tomatoes are colouring too much, lean the meat on top of them. Stir in a spoonful of cooking water if needed.

When the 14 minutes are up, take your lamb out of the oven and leave it to rest for a minute. Drain the veg in a colander, then return them to the pan. Drizzle well with extra virgin olive oil, and add a good pinch of salt & pepper and a knob of butter. Squeeze over the juice of ½ a lemon and toss well. Tip on to a large serving platter and take to the table.

Taste and correct the seasoning, then pour into a gravy boat and take to the table.

Cut the racks into individual chops and slice up the neck fillet. Pile on a platter. Move most of the cherry tomatoes to the platter on top of the lamb, mushing the rest into the cooking juices. Stir in a good lug of extra virgin olive oil, then drizzle over the platter and serve.

Changes Made: I forgot to get the neck from the butcher.

Results: Everything a lamb rack should be! Lamb was cooked perfectly and the mint sauce has the perfect amount of kick from the vinegar. 

Next Time: The neck would have been a nice variation in the meat,

Monday, 29 July 2013

Week 27 - Chocolate Fudge Cake

I vowed to cook more sweets this year, while not really having done as much as I wanted this was another go. Gotta love something where you can just put everything in the (Jamie) food processor and off you go. This was super easy, and worked a treat! I loved the fudge, first time I have cooked with it and every time you heat it up it melts and goes all gooey.. yum

Book: Ministry of Food

Recipe: Mega Chocolate Fudge Cake


Serves 8

200g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
175 butter, plus extra for greasing
120 soft brown sugar
100g blanched almonds
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
4 large eggs
150g self-raising flour
100g fudge
creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream


Preheat the oven to 160ºC. Break up the chocolate, put it into a food processor with the butter, sugar, almonds, 1 tablespoon of the cocoa powder and the salt, and whiz until smooth. Crack your eggs one at a time, into the food processor and add the flour. Whiz again until smooth.

Get a deep baking dish roughly 25 x 25cm in size. Butter the dish really well and sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of cocoa powder over it. Shake it around a bit so it lightly coats the whole surface of the dish. Pour the cake mixture into the dish, using a spatula to scrape it all out of the processor. Break the fudge into pieces and sprinkle these over the top of the cake mix, pushing any larger pieces down into the mixture. Pop the baking dish into the preheated oven and cook for 18 to 20 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and stick a fork into the middle of it. If there's a little but of cake mixture on the fork when you pull it out, thats OK - you want the cake to still be a little moist inside so that it's nice and squidgy. However, if it seems a bit wobbly, pop it back into the oven for another 3 to 5 minutes to firm up a bit. 

Let your cake cool slightly and serve it warm and gooey. Lovely with a dollop of creme fraiche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Changes Made: I thought I had blanched almonds but found flaked in the cupboard. 

Results: Yum, yum, yum! Very moorish. My mix looked very different from the book, not as smooth when I whizzed it in the mixer. Still good as I love texture! 

Next Time: More mixing, too see if its better if it's smooth.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Week 26 - Pork Chops with Apple and Sage

I am a big lover of pork, while this wasn't always so I am driven to finding new ways of enjoying it. While pork chops are nothing new, and pork and apple (sauce) is nothing new, I have never thought to cook up wedges of apple alongside my pork. Actually do be honest I have a little fear/aversion to eating meat alongside fruit. I am not sure where this has developed from but it's something I am working on.

As we finally have a good knife sharpener (thanks Mum) cutting into the rind to make some delicious crackling was a breeze. This was such a simple, easy weeknight meal I might just have to eat it again, very soon.

I served this with some braised cabbage tossed in worcestershire sauce, yum.

Book: Cook with Jamie

Recipe: Old Style Pork Chops with Apple & Sage with Braised Cabbage


Serves 4

4 x 250 g higher-welfare pork chops
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
2 good eating apples (such as Cox or russet), unpeeled, cored and each cut into 8 wedges
1 knob butter
1 handful fresh sage leaves
100 g good strong cheese (such as Stilton or Taleggio), optional


Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. What I like to do is to lay the pork chops out on a board and, using a sharp knife, make 2cm deep cuts all along the fatty side of them. You can ask your butcher to do this for you if you like. It helps to render the fat out and will also make the skin crispy. Sprinkle the chops with salt and pepper.

Pour a lug of olive oil into a hot pan. Carefully place your chops in it and cook them for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. If you need to, open out the little pieces of fat along the edge so they don't stick together.

When the chops are nearly done, lift them out of the pan and put them on to an oiled baking tray. Add the apple wedges and a knob of butter to the pan and fry until lightly golden. Lay 4 wedges of apple on top of each pork chop. Dress your sage leaves in a little olive oil and top each apple stack with them. Sometimes I like to top it all off with a knob of Stilton or Taleggio. Put the baking tray into the oven for 4 to 6 minutes until everything is golden and melted.

Changes Made: I did not have any cheese.

Results: Yum, the apples still kept some firmness but had that caramelised burnt butter kind of taste which made for some amazing flavours. I also loved that you cook them in the same pan that the port was in as it just intensifies the taste.

Next Time: Nothing.. Oddly I find myself saying this an awful lot with Jamie's meals!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Week 25 - Roast Meatloaf with Zucchini Fritters

Learning to live on a budget while studying at University has been an eye opening time. I have come to realise you really can do a lot with a little and I am always looking for new ways to pimp up budget cuts such as mince. Meatloaf is one of those understated meals and for me always reminds me of being a kid.. and I don't even think we ate it much! I also love the idea of utilising my (Jamie Oliver) food processor, especially for weeknight meals.

This one was so simple to make, but I think next time I'll stick to the full size meatloaf. While these we nice they were just like rissoles, which is fine, just not what I was looking for. I also had some issues with the sauce/oil and the fact that it dried up really quickly and then so did the meat. 

The zucchini fritters are a recipe I found a little while ago from Stephanie Alexander's The Cooks Companion. I have cooked them many times and are a great go to, also done in the processor!

Book: http://www.jamieoliver.com

Recipe: Roast Meatloaf with Tomato, Basil and Garlic


Serves 6

2 red onions, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 large pinch ground cumin
1 kg quality lean beef mince
2 free-range eggs
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
8 sticks fresh rosemary, about 10cm long
10 ripe red and yellow cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
olive oil
1 small bunch fresh basil


Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/gas 7.

Whiz the onions, spices and the meat in a food processor until well chopped together. Pulse in the eggs and the breadcrumbs and season generously with salt and pepper. Tip on to a work surface and shape into 8 balls.

Strip the leaves off the bottom of the rosemary sticks, leaving the leaves on the tops (reserve the stripped leaves). Cut the ends of the rosemary sticks at an angle and push a stick through each ball of meat, leaving the tufty, leafy bit sticking out.

Chop the tomatoes in half and squeeze out and discard most of the seeds. Chop a little more and spread out with the garlic and the chopped-up extra rosemary leaves in 1 or 2 small roasting trays. Season and drizzle with just a little olive oil.

Place a baking rack over each tray of tomatoes and lay the meatloaf balls on top. Put the tray in the oven for 30 minutes or until the meat is cooked and crisp on the outside. Cover the rosemary sticks with foil if they start to look too brown. (The tomatoes taste fantastic with all the meaty juices from the meatloaf stirred in.)

Serve 1 meatloaf per person with some tomatoes and juices from the tray. Sprinkle with fresh basil just before serving.

Changes Made: I did not have any rosemary to slide through the middle, perhaps that would have helped. 

Results: It was OK. For some reason there wasn't really much liquid, not sure why, which caused the whole dish to be a little off. Nice for rissoles, not for meatloaf. 

Next Time: Look into another recipe for a larger meatloaf. 

Monday, 8 July 2013

Week 24 - Curried Roast Chicken

We have roast chicken every few weeks. I pretty much have my perfect roast sorted now and rarely step out and try something new. This recipe seemed really difference, I just loved the idea of all the various ingredients and flavours so couldn't wait to get outside of my roast chicken box. 

Get ready for a match made in heaven of flavours, from the chicken to the potatoes and even the gravy. This was something special and may be just as good as my (other) perfect roast chicken.

Book: Jamie's Great Britain

Recipe: Empire Roast Chicken with Bombay Style Potatoes


Serves 4-6

For the Chicken and Marinade

1.4 kg higher-welfare chicken
1 heaped tablespoon garlic, finely grated
1 heaped tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1 heaped tablespoon fresh red chilli, finely grated
1 heaped tablespoon tomato puree
1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric
1 heaped teaspoon garam masala
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
2 heaped teaspoons natural yoghurt
1 lemon, zest and juice of
2 level teaspoons sea salt

For the Gravy

3 small red onions, peeled
1 stick cinnamon
10 cloves
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 level tablespoons plain flour
500 ml organic chicken stock
fat-free natural yoghurt, to serve, optional

For the Bombay Style Potatoes

800 g new potatoes
sea salt
ground pepper
1 lemon
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
1 heaped teaspoon garam masala
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric
1 bulb garlic
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small bunch fresh coriander


Slash the chicken's legs a few times right down to the bone. Get a roasting tray slightly bigger than the chicken, then add all of the marinade ingredients and mix together well. Put on a pair of clean rubber gloves, then really massage those flavours over and inside the chicken so it's smeared everywhere. Don't be shy! Ideally marinate overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and organize your shelves so the roasting tray can sit right at the bottom, the chicken can sit directly above it, right on the bars of the shelf, and the potatoes can go at the top. Halve any larger potatoes, then parboil them in a large pan of salted boiling water with a whole lemon for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through. Drain the potatoes then let them steam dry. Stab the lemon a few times with a sharp knife and put it right into the chicken's cavity. Move the chicken to a plate.

Roughly chop the onions and add to the roasting tray along with the cinnamon stick, cloves, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, then whisk in the flour. Pour in the stock or water, then place this right at the bottom of the oven. Place the chicken straight on to the bars of the middle shelf, above the roasting tray. Cook for 1 hour 20 minutes.

Put another sturdy roasting tray over a medium heat and add the olive oil, the mustard and cumin seeds, garam masala and turmeric – work quickly because if the fat gets too hot the mustard seeds will pop everywhere. Halve a bulb of garlic and add it straight to the pan, with the sliced chilli and chopped tomatoes. Add your drained potatoes to the tray, mix everything together, then season well. Finely slice and scatter in the coriander stalks, and keep the leaves in a bowl of water for later. After the chicken has been in for 40 minutes, put the potatoes in.

Once the chicken is cooked, move it to a board and carefully peel off the dark charred bits to reveal perfect chicken underneath. Pass the gravy through a coarse sieve into a pan, whisking any sticky goodness from the pan as you go. Bring to the boil and either cook and thicken or thin down with water to your preference. Put it into a serving bowl and drizzle over a little yoghurt. Get your potatoes out of the oven and put them into a serving bowl, then serve the chicken on a board next to the sizzling roasties and hot gravy. Sprinkle the reserved coriander leaves over everything and serve with any condiments you like. 

Changes Made: Unfortunately I forgot to add the yoghurt at the end, although it was not missed it might be nice to try.

Results: Ahhhhhmazing, everything worked so well together! The chicken was lovely and tender and the mix of spices was just so good.

Next Time: Maybe some yoghurt at the end, but really it was practually perfect in every way.