Monday, 30 May 2011

look away vegetarians! Howdini

I have been enjoying the support of the internet in my culinary adventures, especially in a spot of light butchery, as in here: chef shows how to quarter a chicken. Liking Howdini and Chef Marc Bauer.


I tried making these hard italian biscuits today. So tempting, I love eating them. Also they actually match the label in their preparation. Bis cuit, or biscotti as they say in Italy, means twice cooked, and unlike most of what we eat imagining it is 'biscuit', cantucchini are actually cooked twice. Like a lady finger, apart from you might break your teeth on these, which is what makes soaking them in alcohol so worthwhile and also makes them rarely used in trifle.

The originals are made without fat, and should be oh so simple, and yet I haven't found a recipe that works for me yet... so I'll keep trying. Done the trying and this recipe works.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

couscous with chick peas and oven roast veg

If you’ve been looking for an easy couscous recipe, this is it. The grains are plump, flavoured and colourful and are partnered by roast vegetables and chickpeas. An all in one dish that can be eaten on its own or made to go with a roast. You can use it as a starter and as part of a mixed mezze type spread, and it tastes good hot or cold.

The flavour comes from the lemon, giving a lovely citrus zing

Most people I know think making couscous is easy, just pour on boiling water and there you are. The result is not something I like to eat. If you’re going to make it like this, as least put a lid on the bowl, so that the grains can make the most of the moisture. The traditional method is to moisten the couscous with cold water, drain it and break it up with your fingertips, then steam it thoroughly for 20 minutes, put it into a shallow bowl, sprinkle it with cold water, oil your hands with olive oil and gently rub the couscous through (oiling hands again as necessary), add salt or other seasoning, and steam again for ten minutes. Done properly, this will result in the plumpest grains you’ve ever seen. Most people would like to cut out at least two of the stages. Some people are happy with the pour-on-boiling-water method. You decide.

In terms of this recipe, the couscous prep is a halfway house.

I’ve used a few extras to add something to the dish. If you want to use the Tahini, do make sure it’s mixed through well, as a lump is very claggy on the tongue. If you want to use a little harissa, add it little by little, as it can pack a huge punch – I usually use a dry mix, sometimes the harissa that comes in a tube (like tomato puree). You might fancy throwing in some finely chopped coriander too.



Roast veg
1 red onion

2 peppers (I like to get variety of colour)

1 courgette

3 garlic cloves

2 tbsp olive oil


Salt and pepper


350g couscous

½ tsp turmeric

¼ tsp paprika

400ml hot vegetable stock (or boiling water)

3 tbsp finely chopped mint

3 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 lemon (juice and zest)

1 tbsp olive oil juice

1 tin chick peas



Sun dried tomatoes

Fresh coriander

1 tbsp tahini


Turn the oven on, to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6

  • Peel onion and cut into wedges
  • Deseed the pepper and cut into pieces about 2cm square
  • Roughly chop the courgettes
  • Crush and peel the garlic cloves
  • Put all ingredients in a roasting tin, and toss in olive oil and season with thyme, salt and pepper
Cook for around 25 minutes, turning once (shake them around a bit), until the veg look browned.

While the veg are roasting 

  • Put the couscous in a bowl (about twice the size of the couscous) and pour on the liquid, cover and leave to cool. Remember couscous can vary, so you may need a bit more or less liquid.
  • Loosen the couscous with a fork – I like to wet my hands and rub the couscous the make sure the couscous is not sticking together.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and spices and add the drained chick peas.
  • Scatter the couscous over the roast veg, stir and pop the lot back in the oven for 5 minutes.
  • Add the chopped herbs and lemon zest, stir lightly and taste before adjusting seasoning and adding olive oil if needed.

Serve in a large bowl, as a stand alone dish or to go with roasts or mixed vegetables, or as part of a mezze type meal. Don’t forget some nice green salad with family dressing.

If you like a bit of a kick, add a small amount of harissa, mixing it with the lemon juice before stirring it in.

Adding a spoonful of tahini will make the dish richer, but make sure it is mixed through – warm it on the base of the roasting tin, so it becomes more liquid.

If you like the sweetness of sun dried tomato, add chopped sundried tomatoes and roast with the veg (soak them if you are using from dry, rather than from a jar).

    Wednesday, 18 May 2011

    cake gallery

    Kitty knows what people like

    Happy Birthday to Wilma

    sticky fingers in the lemon cake

    Christmas tart

    Tuesday, 17 May 2011

    easy chocolate fudge icing, you can call it frosting if you like

    Now that my junior item has started baking, I am only called in for the icing. I use a recipe from a book I got at Leeds university bookshop, which indicates my focus as a student. 1000 Freezer Recipes. It's a much used book, despite my having had no freezer at the time, and little tendency to freeze stuff now. The book is covered in stains, and the icing recipe is easy to use, because it's the most stained page in the book.

    This icing gets a nice crunch on the outside, once it sets. It melts in the mouth, and in general is a pleasure to use. If you have to use margarine, it will be a little softer, and I think it is better with butter. The cocoa makes it nice and dark, and, despite being full of sugar, not as sickly sweet as some icing. Some fudge icing  is cooked, much like fudge itself. This is an easy alternative.

    The trick about spreading it is that you need to prepare it in advance, to allow it to chill. Then spread it using a hot knife – it should be a palette knife, but I just use one with a long blade – I heat it by dipping it into hot water in a tall mug.

    If you want an icing that you can wack into/onto a cake on the run, this isn't the one for you. Try a butter icing, and a glace icing on top. It may seem obvious, but don’t try and ice a cake warm from the oven. There’s no point, the icing will just melt into it, turning the cake to fatty mush, or, in the case of glace icing it will sink in. and you’ll have a drizzle cake. Actually, that can be quite nice.

    This amount is enough for a 15cm/7" cake - that's quite a small cake, and I don't even have a tin that size. I double the quantity, and use it to fill and cover a cake that is slightly bigger than 20cm. It's not the thickest icing, but I have never had a complaint, or any leftover cake.

    Chocolate Fudge Icing Recipe

    150g/5oz/1 ¼ cups icing sugar
    25g/1 oz/ ¼ cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
    50g/20z/ ¼ cup butter, thinly sliced
    2x5ml spoons/2 tsp honey (can substitute golden syrup)
    2x15ml spoons/2 tbsp milk

    ·         Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl
    ·         Put the butter, honey and milk into a pan and heat gently until the butter has melted, stirring all the time, do not allow to boil
    ·         Pour the hot mixture into the icing sugar mixture, stirring until it is combined and smooth – if it is too stiff, add a few drops of hot water

    Set aside and allow to stiffen a little

    Beat well before using

    Saturday, 14 May 2011

    sticky caramelised chicken wings

    Chicken wings can be delicious, and I've found a Vietnamese recipe that makes sure they are. You can prep them ahead, and cook them quickly in a wok. This is finger food of the most succulent, full of oriental flavour, with a lovely stickiness, to lick off your fingers, and sometimes your teeth.

    12 chicken wings
    2 tbsp oil
    3 garlic cloves
    1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
    1 tbsp fish sauce
    1 tbsp soy sauce
    3 tbsp honey
    2 spring onions, chopped

    • Prepare the wings by cutting off the tip, then cut them in half
    • Crush the garlic and chop it up with the ginger, set aside
    • mix the sauces and honey in a bowl and set aside
    • chop the spring onions and set aside
    • heat the oil in a wok, add the chicken with the chopped garlic and ginger
    • cook, stirring all the time for about 5 minutes
    • add the sauce and honey mix, stir well and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the chicken is lightly brown and tender
    • scatter spring onions over them and serve

    If you want to do these on the bbq, follow the recipe until the sauces are added, cook for 5 mins, allow to cool and then thread onto skewers
    cook on bbq for 2 mins a side, sprinkling spring onion over before serving


    Monday, 9 May 2011

    toril's apple cake

    I was lucky enough to get a piece of a delicious Norwegian apple cake made by my friend Peder the other day. The table was covered in cakes and I slithered past the hungry horde and grabbed a bit. I took it home wrapped in a napkin and sat down to enjoy it with a cup of tea. It was worth the wait. A not ungenerous layer of sponge, topped with sliced apple, cinnamon and some chopped almonds.

    Peder calls it Toril’s apple cake, and says it must be easy, since he can make it. It’s worth the effort.  Let's all have a go at making this lovely Norwegian treat.

    125 g butter + butter for tin
    125 g sugar + 2tsp
    125 g flour   
    3-4 apples
    2 tsp cinammon
    10-12 chopped almonds

    Set the oven to 200C/375F/gas Mark 6 and grease a 20ch cake tin

    • rub butter, flour and all but two tsp of sugar into a crumbly mix
    • stir in a teaspoon of baking powder
    • stir in both eggs
    • spread mix out into greased baking tin
    • peel, core and slice apples
    • cover mix with slices of apple
    • chop the almonds and sprinkle over apples
    • mix tsp of cinammon and 2tsp of sugar together and sprinkle over apples and almonds

    Bake for 30-40 min

    Cream:  an additional extra if you want it..

    Beat 3 eggyolks and 3 tbs sugar until fluffy.  Add scrapings from a vanilla pod and 2 dl of whipped cream.  Mix well.