Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lemony green salad

This is my favourite salad. My mother makes the best version- she uses lettuce, cucumber, onions and fresh dill (which really adds to the flavour) with a bit of salt, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Since I've no access to fresh dill (I know I can get it in the supermarket but I don't as it tends to go off very quickly) I've modified the recipe a bit to try and make it more flavoursome. I use lettuce, rocket, baby spinach, cucumber,  drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and add salt and lemon juice to taste. It is really light at refreshing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tomato, mozzarella, and pesto tart

An ad on tv for jus-rol puff pastry provided the inspiration for this. I rolled out a sheet of puff pastry to fit a baking sheet, spread it with 2 tbsp green pesto, and arranged 3 sliced tomatoes and 3 sliced balls of mozzarella.

The tart was baked at 200 degrees Celsius for about 20 mins (I didn't time it exactly, just judged by how the cheese looked). Next time I'll leave more of a puff pastry border but the pastry was not at all soggy anyway.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Eton mess

This is one of the easiest desserts there is and it can look really impressive (if you don't use too much cream like I did). I regularly make Eton mess and I've found that Tesco finest meringue nests are really great as the texture is good and they are rather large. You could of course make the meringue nests yourself but that sound altogether too much like hard work.
  • 400g strawberries
  • 500mL cream (totally too much-a 284mL pot would be better)
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 meringue nests, crushed
Remove the stalks from the strawberries and cut into quarters. Whip the cream with the vanilla and sugar (adjust the amount of sugar you use according to how sweet the strawberries are). Now just mix everything together and you're done!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hotdogs for dinner!

This isn't so much a recipe as dinner inspiration. I was quite tired one evening and I always keep some good sausages in the freezer (they freeze really well and the texture remains unchanged) so I picked up some soft rolls on the way home and put some nice big sausages (I think these ones were Tesco finest spring onion) on to grill.

While the sausages were cooking I assembled the various accessories: roasted red peppers, lettuce, onion, spinach, rocket, tomato salsa, BBQ sauce and coleslaw.

After bringing everything to the table everyone was left to assemble their dinner themselves.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chocolate and walnut breakfast rolls

The sweet dough I made a couple of days beforehand had kept nicely in the fridge and I wanted to make something with chocolate:

  • 200g milk chocolate chopped up
  • handful of dried cranberries
  • handful of chopped walnuts
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
Roll the dough out to a large rectangle and sprinkle with all the fillings. 

Roll into a Swiss roll of sorts, slice into rounds, stuff into a round baking dish (or whatever you happen to have handy) and bake for about 30 mins at 180 degrees Celsius. 

I drizzled it with maple syrup before baking but I don't think that's totally necessary or that it added much to the flavour.

Raspberry scones

The people I work with and I have developed a raspberry scone addiction. The ones in Sol are really nice and there's a bakery (/cafe) in the docklands called Valentino that has amazing ones (incidentally this bakery is really great in general). Since it was Sunday (so I had time) and there were some raspberries in the freezer I decided to make my own. I basically made a slightly dry scone mix with a bit more sugar than normal and added some (defrosted) rapsberries. I was a bit worried that the mix was too wet but they turned out fine (though I did slightly overcook them: 20 mins would be better than 25).
  • 225g self raising flour
  • half tsp of baking powder (I was worried the raspberries would weigh it down)
  • 50g butter
  • 5 tbsp caster sugar
  • about 140 mL milk (add the last bits slowly to ensure the dough does not get too wet)
  • a large handful of raspberries (or other fruit)
Stir the baking powder into the flour and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs then stir in the sugar and milk. Gently mix in the raspberries, place large spoonfuls onto a floured baking sheet (this mix made 6 for me) and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 mins. Cool on a wire rack and then eat with butter (the real stuff mind you, not margarine).

Coffee eclairs (of a sort)

I made these a while ago for Karl's birthday but I never got around to putting this up. These are very easy to make but just don't do what I did and let them cool on the baking tray. Those allowed to cool on the baking sheet left the bottom part behind whereas as those I removed immediately remained intact.

So, start by making a choux pastry. There are many, many recipes for this out there and they are all the same in essence. I used the amounts given in Michel Roux's great book Pastry which has a nice recipe for profiteroles. By the way this is a fantastic book containing everything you need to get the hang of many different kinds of pastry and I would not hesitate to recommend it (or indeed his other books: Sauces, and Eggs).
Melt 100g of butter, 125mL milk, 125mL water, pinch of salt, and a small spoonful of caster sugar and bring to the boil. Off the heat mix in 140g of plain flour, dry the mix a bit on the heat then, in a bowl, beat in 4 eggs.

I piped this mix onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper and baked at 180 degrees Celsius for about 15-20 mins (I was somewhat inconsistent with the size of my eclairs...). It's usual to brush the outside with some eggwash (egg and milk) but I neglected to do this. As I said above don't leave them on the baking sheet, instead transfer to a wire rack to cool.

The icing was very simple:make a cup of espresso coffee and mix some into about 200g of icing sugar a little at a time to make a smooth icing. After filling them with some cream (whipped with some caster sugar and vanilla essence) the ice the buns and you're done!


This is a recipe from my childhood. It is greek in origin (oregano and tomatoes are main ingredients which is a bit of a giveaway). For some reason I decided to cook a dish that requires onions on a day when we had nearly run our of onions. I'll describe the dish as I would normally make it but today I used one onion for the meatballs, one onion and a load of shallots for the sauce.

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 3 slices of bread made into bread crumbs using a food processor or just 3 handfuls of breadcrumbs
  • 400g beef mince (or thereabouts)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 2 tins of tomatoes
  • 3 tsp or oregano
Mix the chopped onion, bread crumbs, mince, egg, 1 tsp oregano and season. Make this into ellipsoids about the 6 or 7 cm long and 2 cm wide. Brown these in some olive oil in a frying pan then add the sliced onions (if there is not enough room in the pan take out the meat-ellipsoids) and gently fry them too. Add the rest of the ingredients and season generously (remember tomatoes usually need a bit more salt that you'd think). Simmer for about 15-20 mins (the same length of time it'll take you to cook some rice to go with it).

The photos do not make it look as good as it actually is.

Sweet breakfast bread

I made a large amount of rich sweet bread dough in the breadmaker using the following:
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 large spoonfuls of butter (say 3 tbsp)
  • 8 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7 cups plain flour
  • 3 tsp fast action dried yeast
This made a lot of dough and I refrigerated half of it and used the rest to make a fruity stuffed bread. 
I rolled out a large rectangle of dough, filled it with some chopped and peeled apples, dried cranberries, crushed walnuts and a sprinkling of cinnamon. You can use pretty much anything as filling: dried blueberries, pecans, chocolate, raisins, sultanas, dates, apricots etc.

Cutting outward from the filling to make radial strips and folding these over resulted in something rather homely looking...

Which was baked at 200 degrees Celsius for about 25 mins to give something no less homely but still quite delicious. This is great as a breakfast bread and I think it would go really well with some custard as a dessert.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Eggy in a basket

I saw this in V for Vendetta (an excellent movie btw and the comic's good too), I tried it the very next morning. That was good while ago and I've made it lots as it's a really hearty breakfast, really easy, and a bit fun too. It works better with decent bread, preferably homemade (remember how I said breadmakers were great) as you need a good thick slice. The hole in the middle can be cut out with a knife or pastry cutters (to make different shapes).

 Butter the bread on both sides and cut a bit out of the middle. Heat a frying pan (best to use a nonstick one and tefal are definitely the best) on a medium heat with a tiny bit of oil. Once the bread is in the pan drop an egg into the centre of the hole (it's easier if you break the egg into a bowl/cup/glass first) and cook gently then flip to cook the other side. Fry the cut out bits too (great for mopping up egg) and possibly some pudding too...

Veggie moussaka

I wanted to make something in the oven but healthy too. Besides dish in the picture, I had enough for another dish about half the size.

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 peppers, chopped (I used 1 yellow and 1 green)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • oregano (or whatever herbs take your fancy)
  • 1.5 aubergines (or just use 2), sliced
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • Half litre of milk
  • Ball of mozzarella, chopped
Saute the onions in some olive oil, add the peppers and cook for a couple of mins, then the herbs and tomatoes. Season and leave to simmer gently while you prepare the rest. Peel and slice the potatoes and parboil for 5 mins. With root vegetables you should boil from cold rather than blanching (already boiling water) as they are denser. 

A science bit: Alway, always use salted water as this increases the boiling point (boiling point elevation, a colligative property) meaning the water is hotter.A liquid cannot be hotter than its boiling point (unless it's superheated but that's a story for another day) and hotter liquid means faster heat transfer and more of it and therefore faster cooking. While we're on the subject the boiling point is when a liquid's vapour pressure is equal to the atmospheric (external pressure) and is seen to occur when evaporation occurs throughout the liquid.

Anyway back to the recipe: After cooking the potatoes the water will be nice and hot so blanch the aubergines for 3 mins. 

Some old recipes will tell you to salt the aubergine, let it sit then rinse off the salt (a browny liquid will be present on the surface). This serves 2 purposes, it reduces the amount of oil absorbed during cooking but it mainly serves to reduce the bitterness (this is tempered by cooking anyway). Modern varieties eaten in Europe have had this bitterness bred out of them so this in no longer necessary (unless you really want to reduce the amount of oil absorbed).

Now to make the Béchamel: Melt the butter in a pan, add the flour and cook gently for a couple of mins to make a white roux. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and bring to the boil. Keep whisking as you heat coz the sauce will try to stick to the bottom of the saucepan. Once it has reached boiling point simmer for about 10 mins (don't forget about its sticking tendencies). Stir in the mozzarella. Technically this is now called a Mornay sauce.

I layered like so: Potatoes, tomato sauce, aubergines, potatoes and then the Mornay sauce. Baked at 180 for 25 mins. Check it to ensure the potatoes in particular are cooked through.

If you want to make this with meat you should basically make a pasta sauce in place of the tomato sauce. You can fry the aubergines instead of boiling and the potatoes as well but I don't like dealing with hot oil and avoid it whenever possible.


I started off making chilli con carne but got distracted...
  • 1 large onion
  • 250g mince
  • half a red pepper, half a yellow pepper, half a green pepper (I keep a bag of chopped up peppers in the freezer so I always have some handy)
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • a generous squeeze of tomato puree
  • 3 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp oregano

Gently cook the onion in some olive oil, brown the mince, then add the peppers and cook for a couple of mins. Add in the chopped tomatoes (adding the rinsings from the tin to the pan), tomato puree, the herbs and spices, and season. Simmer for about 20 mins.

This is the point where I meant to add a tin of mixed beans but coz I was a bit tired and distracted I totally forgot. It turned out fine though with a bit of rice (on that note, rice is great if you add some stock to the water).