Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Time Out Tuesday

Today has been a long, cold Tuesday filled with trials, tribulations, and being towed down to the garage to get my car fixed!
So it goes without saying that I don't have the energy to cook tonight, and I'm giving in to the temptations of an M&S ready meal and a glass of warming red wine.

Oh and the latest Grazia, of course, seeing as it's Tuesday..

I'm so looking forward to getting Toby to bed so I can have a hot bath, do my nails and relax! Hope you've all had a far less stressful day x

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The night we danced...

Had a great night with Rene last night...you're the best dance buddy!

And, of course an excellent pouter. I just can't compete with those lips!

This morning, I was in dire need of poached eggs on toast. And about a litre of orange juice. The best hangover cure around.

Sorry for the short, rather ineloquent post, but I'm not feeling at my most articulate this morning. And Rene, my love, I look forward to dancing with you again! x

Friday, 26 November 2010

Rachel Allen's Mincemeat

I love a challenge. And I'm usually too nice to say no to people. So when I was asked to make 100 mince pies for a special Christmas late night shopping event at the boutique where I work in Bath, there was only one thing for it! So Toby and I had a day of baking yesterday, which of course he loved. I did have to play some Christmas music to get me in the mood though!

I used a mincemeat recipe from Rachel Allen's Bake cookbook-a book which hasn't yet let me down, and this recipe was no exception. It really is simple, and makes 2.7kg of mincemeat. That was enough for me to fill my mini mince pies, and a 1ltr kilner jar which will keep in the cupboard until nearer Christmas. In fact, the flavours improve over time (it will actually keep for a year!) so ideally you should make this a few weeks before use. What are you waiting for??

Here's what you need:
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 ranges and 2 lemons
250g shredded suet (I used vegetable)
275g raisins
275g sultanas
275g currants
125g candied peel, chopped
650g soft dark brown sugar
50g chopped almonds or pecans
2 tsp mixed spice
75ml whiskey or brandy (I used whiskey)
Place the apple chunks in a small saucepan with 1 tsp water, cover and cook for 8-10 mins until the apples are cooked down to a pulp. Leave to cool.
Now mix all the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the apple mixture.
Put into sterilised jars and (ideally) leave for at least two weeks before using.
If you're more disorganised, like me, then use straightaway. It will still taste deleicious.
We used ready-made shortcrust pastry to make our pies, which we rolled then cut out cirlces to fit our mini muffin trays. This is where Toby came in very handy.

Line the holes of the tray with the larger circle, fill with a tsp of mincemeat and top with one of the smaller rounds. If you are so inclined, you could cut out small stars to top the pies instead.
Brush the tops of the pies with beaten egg, and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200'C/Gas 6 for 10-13 minutees until pale golden. Leave to cool.
You can't argue that these certainly look...home-made!
Sprinkle with sugar or dust with icing sugar,and serve.

They went down well with the customers, although I'm sure the free bubbly also helped. It was a great evening though, and be sure to check out the shop's websites:

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Swooning over Ron Weasley

A very big night for Zoe and I last night, as we went to see the latest Harry Potter film! It was a bit of a 2 for 1 event, as it was Orange Wednesday and Pizza Express also do the same offer. More money for the Pinot Grigio then!

Despite being absolutely stuffed, we managed to find room for some chocolate at the cinema. You can see how excited Zoe is..a lady behind actually told us to calm down as we kept squealing so much. Not cool, I know, but we just couldn't contain ourselves!

Anyway I highly recommend the film (OK it was nearly 3 hours, but I could have taken another hour!)....and the dough balls.
I'm off to work this evening for a special Christmas late night shopping event. I've spent all afternoon baking up a frenzy in the kitchen, making 100 mini mince pies for the customers! Pictures to follow tomorrow, now I have to go and make myself look festive..x

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Crown at Bathford

My parents came to visit today, and took Toby and I for lunch at the newly re-furbished pub in Bathford. Having been recently taken over by a French couple, and branded as a "bistro pub", we were curious to see how things had changed..

Well, the decor had certainly improved for a start. The atmosphere was also relaxed and welcoming, with a large roaring fire in the centre of the pub. It wasn't too busy either, which is unusual in a pub on a dreary Sunday, so we were able to relax and take our time. The drinks also arrived very promptly which always helps! We had the house red, as recommended by the waiter, and it was delicious.
But, I hear you cry(!) what about the food?
At £12 per roast, I was a bit apprehensive that we might be disappointed. But when they arrived-beef for Mum, Lamb for myself, Dad and Toby-we were very impressed. The meat was cooked to perfection, with a bit of pink the middle, and there was a generous amount of it. It was accompanied by proper, big fat puffy yorkshires; as good a roast potato as I've ever had; and some cabbage, sprouts and leek that had been cooked in a garlic butter.
I must say it's nice to go for a roast and not come away thinking "could've done that better myself". Thanks to Mum and Dad for a lovely afternoon, and if you live in the Bath/Wiltshire area then give this one a try!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Prawn Jacket Potato!

Here's a simple one, but a goody nonetheless. I was inspired to rustle this up after seeing it on my friend Rene's blog http://www.renehumphrey.blogspot.com/

Basically pop a jacket potato in the oven (after pricking all over, and smearing with olive oil and sea salt) for 1-1/2 hours.

Meanwhile put a 150g packet of cooked, peeled king prawns into a bowl. Add two generous tablespoons of creme fraiche, the juice of half a lemon, just under a handful of chopped dill, and season. Mix it all together then pop back in the fridge.

Serve with the potato and some salad. This amount of prawns will serve two, but I kept half and had the rest on a toasted bagel for lunch today. Delish!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Spinach and Barley Soup

So I got round to trying Sophie Dahl's Spinach and Barley Soup. I've got a bit of a thing for soup at the moment. This one's very cheap and easy to make, and super good for you. If I'm being honest it's not the most exciting soup I've had, but it's certainly very virtuous!

You're gonna feel so smug when you see the amount of spinach that goes into this...

(To serve 4-6)

Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add 1 chopped onion and 2 fresh sage leaves (I only had dried sage so used just over a teaspoon). Cook on a low heat for about 5 minutes.

Stir in 180g of washed and chopped spinach leaves, and cook for another few minutes.

Pour in 1.5 litres of organic vegetable stock. This is where the recipe states to simmer the spinach in the stock for 10 minutes before adding the barley. I didn't do this, however, as otherwise you just boil all the nutrients out of the spinach!
Add 150g pearl barley, bring to the boil, then simmer for half an hour or until the barley is soft.
Season to taste.
Ladle into bowls and serve with reshly grated parmesan. Easy.

Miss P's Top Tip: Next time I would try leaving the spinach leaves whole, to add a bit more texture to the finished soup.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

All play and not much cooking...

...makes Jess a bad blogger. Sorry I've abandoned you guys this week! Actually I've got some lovely things I've tried over the last couple of days, but just to be a pain the ass, my camera is deciding to play up and not connect to my computer. Well, I think it would get there eventually if I sat and waited about 5 hours for it to upload. I'm afraid I'm just not that dedicated.

When I figure out what the hell a technophobe like me can do about it (other than the obvious and buy a decent computer), I'll share some tasty treats with you guys. Until then, you'll have to hang on in there and don't give up on me....lots of love x

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

From One Miss to Another

I'm going food shopping tomorrow. So for now, I'm sitting down with a cup of Earl Grey, and flicking through my cookbooks for some inspiration of what to cook over the next few days.
One of my prettiest books has to be Sophie Dahl's "Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights".
The recipes do actually warrant the beautiful photography, styling and of course the equally beautiful Sophie Dahl.

The book is divided into seasons, which makes for easy scanning as you can go straight to the season and see what takes your fancy. Currently attracting my greedy attention are the Spinach and Pearl Barley Soup, Grilled Salmon with Baked Onions, Spelt Pancakes filled with Goats Cheese and Butternut Squash, and Buttermilk Chicken with Smashed Sweet Potatoes.

Look, even Sophie is excited by the sound of these...

It's nice to know this gal isn't just about style over substance. Each chapter begins with a little journey back in time to an important "Summer" (or relevant season) of Sophie's life, and although somewhat self-indulgent, it is intelligently written and contains some truly heart-warming anecdotes.
Anyway, now I must go and write up my shopping list...ooh wait, I've just seen her Orange Yoghurt and Polenta Cake! Stay tuned, readers! x

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Vegan Pumpkin and Walnut Bread

So I was looking for a way to use up my (frozen) leftover pumpkin puree from Halloween, and I needed something to make for brunch this morning. Now I'm going to share my discovery with you, you lucky things!

Here's a great little recipe I found from a fellow Food Blogger who I am a HUGE fan of. You might have heard of her, as she's making quite a name for herself on the blogging scene. Her name is Joy the Baker, she's based in LA, and her site is full of some great recipes, witty writing and beautiful photography.

I have to say, I'm becoming quite fond of the American cup measurements. They make everything pretty straightforward, and mean you don't have to faff around with your weighing scales. Mine are from Nigella Lawson's Kitchen range...

This recipe makes two loaves, but if you're like me and don't have two loaf tins, you can make the other half of the mixture into muffins - I managed to make ten out of it. So to the girls at work, guess what we'll be having with our morning cup of tea tomorrow! (I told you I was becoming a feeder...)

Give this one a try guys. It uses no egg or milk, so is great for Vegans, but is somehow still unbelievably moist. Oh, and don't abandon me for Joy the Baker! 

You can find the original recipe HERE.

Miss P xxx

Thursday, 4 November 2010

aka Comfort Pie

It was dark by 5pm. I think I'm coming down with a virus. I have to work tomorrow. The only thing I need (other than some hot honey and lemon, and perhaps a big cuddle) is some comfort food. This cottage pie did just the trick.
Top tip: I didn't have any beef stock, which I would normally use to make cottage pie, so instead I used ready-mix onion gravy. It worked a treat! I also added some thyme and rosemary for freshness, but in general I think this was a great time-saving little idea. And you know what...I'd do it again!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Spicy Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

This is what Toby and I had for lunch today, and will probably have quite regularly over the coming Winter months. Luckily I had some leftover for when my friend popped round after I'd helped her move house. I seem to have become something of a feeder friend these days!
Anyway here's how to re-enact this in your very own home:

Serves 3-4
Knob of butter
Olive oil
5 small sweet potatoes (or approx 3 large), peeled and cubed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
Just under 1 litre organic vegetable stock
1/4 can light coconut milk
1. Melt the butter with the oil and in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and soften on a low heat for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the spices and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
3. Add the sweet potato, stir everything together well, then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
4. Remove a couple of ladelfuls of the stock and keep to one side-this will all become clear soon!
5. Pour in the coconut milk. Whizz the soup with a hand-held blender until completely smooth.
6. Now you can gradually add some stock back to the pan, until you reach the desired consistency. You want the soup to be smooth and velvety, and not too watery.
Remember you can always make a soup thinner, but it is very hard to thicken if you've added too much stock!
7. Season to taste. This is delicious served with nann bread and sprinkled with coriander, if you have it.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

'Tis The Season...

...to eat clementines! Yes it's clementine time baby, and I'm hooked. I can eat three or four of these sweeties in one go, and with cold season well under way, it can only be a good thing as I'll probably be overdosing on vitamin C. Have you had your clementines today? x


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