Thursday, 30 September 2010

Chickpea and Leek Soup

Leeks are in season now, and are so versatile. Here's a great little soup recipe from Jamie Oliver. It's easy, quick and costs practically nothing. This is just the thing you need for lunch to keep you going on a chilly Autumn day. You'll thank me for this one!
Makes 6 portions
340g chickpeas, soaked overnight then rinsed, and boiled for about 1 hour
(or use tinned, as I did. Sorry Jamie!)
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
5 medium leeks
1 tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
salt and pepper
850ml/1 1/2 pints vegetable or chicken stock
parmesan cheese, to taste
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

First, prep your leeks. Remove the outer skin, slice lengthways, wash carefully and slice finely.

Warm a heavy-based pan, and add the tbsp of oil and the knob of butter. Add the leeks and garlic to the pan, and sweat gently with a good pinch of salt until tender and sweet. This will take about 5 minutes.

Add the drained chickpeas and potato and cook for 1 minute.

Add two thirds of the stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Now decide of you want to puree the soup, or leave it chunky and brothy. Or do as Jamie suggests, and puree just half the soup, leaving the rest whole- this gives a lovely smooth feel but still retains a bit of texture.

Now add enough remaing stock to achieve the consistency you like, check for seasoning, and stir in some grated generous!

Serve in a big bowl, with a drizzle of olive oil, a grinding of black pepper and an extra sprinkling of parmesan.
Miss P's Top tip: Buy the best butter you can afford! I'm not one for spending a fortune on food, but quality butter and olive oil will really enhance the flavours in your cooking. Especially in soups or dishes where there are few ingredients used.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Cupcakes for Granny

Well it's a bit belated, but I couldn't not show you these pictures from Margaret's birthday last week (Tim's Mum). Toby and I made her some chocolate cupcakes, and Toby made her the cutest birthday card. By the way, check out the cupcake boxes I purchased from Morrisons! They come in a pack of two and each hold six cupcakes. You assemble them yourself, fill with your homemade cupcakes, et voila! A perfect little gift. Hope you enjoyed the rest of your day, Margaret! x

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Fig and Ricotta Tart

So here's what you need to know... figs are in season right now. They are so cheap (I got a pack of 4 for £1), and this tart is a great way to show them off at their best. Now you know.
The original recipe is by James Tanner, and the tart will serve 4-6. I served it for just me and Alice (with leftovers I must add!) so I halved the vegetable accompaniment to serve 2.
First, heat the oven to 200'C/Gas 6.
Roll out a 375g pack of shortcrust pastry (if you're a serious cook you can make it yourself).
Line a flan/quiche tin with the pastry. Ideally, it should be a loose bottomed tin.
Fill with baking beans or rice, and blind bake for 20 minutes.
Take out and leave to cool. Reduce oven temp to 180'C/Gas4.

Meanwhile, prepare your filling. Beat 3 eggs in a mixing bowl, add 500g ricotta cheese, and mix until smooth. Season. Pour the mixture into the cooked pastry case. Bake for 30 minutes.
Now remove from the oven, arrange your quartered figs on top, then put back in the oven for 10 minutes whilst you prepare your chargrilled veg to serve alongside.

Slice 1/2 a courgette,1/2 a small aubergine,1/2 a yellow pepper and 1/2 a red pepper. Place in a bowl, then pour over 1/2 tbsp balsamic and 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Mix well to coat the veg.

Heat a grill pan, then cook the veg for approx 2 minutes each side.

When the tart is ready, remove from the oven. Serve with the vegetables and some salad. We also had some garlic bread but, on reflection, this was a tad excessive! And don't forget to drizzle some honey all over before serving. Don't ever say I'm not good to you guys...x

Monday, 20 September 2010

Goats Cheese Salad with Honey Roasted Veg

Autumn is coming, there's a chill in the air and the evenings are getting darker. It's difficult to conjure up any enthusiasm for salad in these times, and even more difficult not to delve striaght into hearty old favourites such as stews, casseroles and pies. That is, however, before you discovered my warming Goats Cheese Salad!
Anyway it's all very simple. To serve 1 greedy person: peel and roughly chop 1 large carrot and 1 beetroot (you will have some beetroot leftover-try using it up in a risotto). Place in a roasting tin, season, drizzle with 2 tsp honey, and roast in a medium oven for about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, casually assemble a salad using whatever leaves you have handy. I added a big handful of spinach, as its robust leaves work well with root vegetables. I also added cherry tomatoes and some mixed olives. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

For the last 10 minutes of cooking time, add a generous goats cheese round to the roasting tray. Alternatively, you could brown it under a hot grill for 5 minutes.

Take the tray out of the oven. Add the vegetables to the salad, top with the warm and melty goats cheese, then drizzle the whole thing with a small amount of balsamic vinegar.

Who said salads can't be sexy?

Sunday, 19 September 2010

A Spot of Sunday Baking

Today we had a lovely afternoon with Rene and Chris. Some tea, eclairs and my homemade lavender shortbread. In fairness, the lavender flavour was a bit too subtle so next time I would add a touch more. It was a bit of an experiment though, so hey-ho you live and learn!
You'll need:
175g organic plain flour
125g butter, at room temp
50g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tsp finely chopped fresh lavender flowers (I only used 1/2 tsp originally)

1. Set the oven to 170'C/Gas 4. Put the flour, sugar and lavender into a mixing bowl.
2. Cut the butter into cubes on a plate.
3. Rub the butter into the flour mixture between your fingertips, until it resembles breadcrumbs.
4. Squeeze the crumbs together with your hands until they stick together.
5. Press into a round circle on a greased baking sheet. Or if you have a loose-bottomed flan tin, press the mixture into this instead.
6. Prick all over with a fork. Sprinkle with some extra sugar. Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins.
7. Take out of the oven. Mark into triangles. Leave to cool.
8. When cooled, cut the shortbread right through and serve.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Spaghetti with Prawns in a Chilli and Tomato Sauce

What do you cook when you're by yourself, it's a cold blustery Saturday night, and you want something warm, indulgent, and full of carbs? THIS.

I made a quick spicy tomato sauce by gently frying 1 chopped garlic clove in some olive oil, adding 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes, and cooking for a minute. Then I poured in almost a whole tin of chopped tomatoes, brought to the boil, then reduced the heat and simmered for 10 minutes or so. I tipped in a handful of frozen prawns, left it simmering for 5 another minutes, then threw in some frozen peas and cooked for about 3 minutes more.

Meanwhile, I had a pan of organic spaghetti bubbling comfortingly away, and some garlic bread in the know this makes sense.

Drain the spaghetti, then add to the sauce, also adding a little of the cooking water if the sauce has become too reduced.

Top with some fresh rocket, shaved parmesan and a drizzle of your best olive oil.

Best accompanied with pyjamas, slippers and perhaps (if you're feeling really trashy) a wee bit of X Factor!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Hole in The Wall. Go there.

Tonight, me and my dear friend Rene ( were invited for cocktails and canapes at The Hole in The Wall in Bath, to promote their new chef. I've never been here before, and was impressed with the cosy atmosphere-the restaurant is basically in the basement of an old Georgian building-the attentiveness of the staff, and of course the food. Oh my god, the food. Canapes are normally so disappointing at these things, but we came away feeling like we'd had a full meal.
On arrival we had a choice of either a peach or strawberry Bellini. Our glasses were then duly topped up with Champagne throughout the night, never running completely empty (and trust me, we can drink a glass of Champagne quickly!)

And then. Best. Canapes. Ever.
Blinis with cured salmon, horseradish cream and caviar. Potted Bath rabbit on toasted bread with date chutney. Beetroot Carpaccio with goats cheese mousse. Smoked wild pigeon with a blue cheese veloute and slow-baked plum on an oatcake. Fried crab cake with a surf clam and aoili. Seriously.

Just when we thought that was it (and actually feeling quite full) out came the "main course". A deliciously slow-cooked and sticky pork belly, with potato dauphinoise, braised red cabbage and crackling. There was also some venison with parsnip mash going around but it didn't make it to us..I was tempted to have seconds on the pork. Don't worry, I restrained myself.

Dessert canape: a chocolate, cherry, brandy and amaretti pot with a pistachio tuille biscuit.

This was truly adorable-a help yourself "sweet shop" when you left, with classic sweets the chefs had made in the kitchen, including sugar mice, cola bottles, turkish delight and a rainbow chocolate button. Oh and a goody bag with a small bottle of wine, vouchers and other goodies. They really made us feel spoiled.

I can't recommend this place highly enough. Now, when have I got an excuse to go out for dinner...

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Easy Prawn and Spinach Thai Curry

I had the girls round yesterday for an evening of X Factor, gossip, hugs, wine and my Prawn and Spinach Thai Curry! I adapted this from a recipe I scribbled down from somewhere ages ago, adding a few tweaks along the way. The result is a spicy, coconutty coriander-y sensation! Haha.

So you'll need (to serve 4):

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 small potato, peeled and cubed

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 tsp grated fresh root ginger

1 heaped tbsp thai red curry paste

3/4 of a 400g tin chopped tomatoes

400ml tin light coconut milk

400g frozen raw king prawns

A few handfuls of fresh spinach

Half a small punnet of cherry tomatoes

Fresh coriander, roughly chopped

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan or deep saute pan. Tip in the potato,onion, garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes until softened. Stir in the curry paste, then cook for 1 minute more until the paste releases its fragrance.

2. Pour over the tinned tomatoes and most of the coconut milk, bring to the boil, then leave to simmer for 5 minutes. You can add a little more of the coconut milk if the mixture appears to be getting too thick.

3. Tip in the prawns and cherry tomatoes, then cook for 10 minutes more, adding the spainch for the last 5 minutes.

4. Serve with some plain boiled rice and sprinkle generously with coriander.

For dessert, we had this divine Duchy Originals Organic Lemon Tart (available from Waitrose). It was just the right balance of sweetness and sharp lemon-perfect to have after a spicy main.

Thanks for a great night girlies! And Zoe, it was lovely having you as my little house guest for the night. Stay tuned for the recipe for my Feta, Brocolli and Tomato Fritatta that we had when we got up this morning! Hope you all had a great weekend x

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Sesame and Maple Syrup Flapjacks

I made a batch of these when Toby's friends came round a week or two ago, then took the rest into work. The girls loved them and I promised to post the recipe so I'm finally getting round to it! These really are a doddle to make..and relatively good for you...if you ignore the amount of butter needed.

So first set the oven to 180'C/Gas 4. Line a small baking tin (approx 20cm) with baking paper.
Put 200g butter, 200g light soft brown sugar and 5 tbsp maple syrup into a large microwaveable bowl. Put on a low setting for approx 2 minutes until melted, checking on it and stirring after a minute (if you'd prefer, you can do this in a saucepan on the hob).
You should get a sticky and oozy brown toffee-like sauce.

Stir in 50g sesame seeds and 250g oats.
Spoon the mixture into the baking tin.
Sprinkle with the an extra 1 tbsp of sesame seeds, and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and slightly dark around the edges.
Leave to cool for 10 mins, mark into approximately 12 squares, then leave to harden.
Lift the paper and flapjack out of the tin, then cut into squares. Enjoy with a cup of tea!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

More family time...

Well Toby and I are back in Bath after a lovely few days away. It feels like it's been a bit of a whirlwind, we've had so many things to do and people to see!
After getting back to Milton Keynes on Tuesday, it was my sister's turn to show off her culinary credentials with a fajita night. They were delicious, although poor Mum wished she hadn't sat in the middle as she had to keep passing somebody the cheese or guacamole!

The next day, Toby and I joined Kayleigh and her (boyfriend's) niece for lunch. We went Cafe Rouge at The Hub in Milton Keynes, and the kids got absolutely soaked in the fountains...allowing us the perfect time for some spinach tart and a good catch up!

A final meal at my Mum's last night, of whole roast chicken served with new potatoes, roasted balsamic vegetables and pesto mayonnaise. For dessert we had lemon tart with raspberries and ice cream. And we may have had one or two bottles of white wine in the sunshine..


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