Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ultimate Rocky Road

I had intended to post this before Christmas but of course as usual I got caught up with the rush and bustle of the season. That plus my son's Christening on boxing day and his 1st Birthday on the 27th meant I was three times as busy! However I had to post this recipe as it is too good to miss out on.... so better late than never, my Ultimate Rocky Road.

Ultimate Rocky Road
I couldn’t decide whether to call this ‘Ultimate Rocky Road’ or ‘Million Calorie Rocky Road’! This really is for special occasions when only chocolate will do – perfect for Christmas, the season of over indulging! The inspiration for using all of the chocolate bars came from the recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, however I changed the rest of the recipe to suit my tastes and what I consider to more of a rocky road. I’ve suggested using Double Deckers (available in the UK), Snickers, Mars bars and Crunchies, however feel free to change the chocolate bars to whatever you like – mini Rolo’s and Turkish Delight are both on my list to try next!

These also make lovely edible gifts, especially if you package them nicely. Either put some squares in a clear bag and tie with ribbon and if you want add a sprig of holly, or if you can find some mini loaf tin wrappers and make individual Rocky Road bars – a perfect, personal and delicious gift!

*A little tip – I don’t recommend using Cadbury’s chocolate for this recipe. I tried it and despite using very low heat it didn’t melt smoothly and turned into a horrible, gritty mess! After a little searching on the internet I discovered that apparently Cadbury’s milk chocolate is designed to melt in the mouth and won’t stand up to any sort of high temperature! (I’m not sure if they are using a new recipe as I used to use Cadbury’s all of the time without any problems.....)

2 Double Deckers
2 Snickers
2 Mars bars
2 Crunchies
135g Maltesers
100g glace cherries
100g dried cranberries
100g digestive biscuits
100g mini marshmallows
600g milk chocolate
150g butter
4 tbsp golden syrup
Edible glitter and edible gold stars to decorate (optional but so pretty and Christmassy!)

Line a rectangular baking tray (with deep sides) with baking parchment (or alternatively use little individual loaf cases – available from specialist cook shops or Lakeland).

Chop up all of the chocolate bars into small pieces (I cut them into small slices then each slice in half) then add to a large bowl. Roughly chop the maltesers and add to the rest of the chocolate bars. Do the same with the cherries and add to the bowl along with the dried cranberries. Break up the digestive biscuits into small pieces (I like a mixture of sizes and some crushed up rubble as well) and add to the rest of the ingredients then finish by adding the mini marshmallows. Stir everything together so that it’s well mixed the set aside.

In a separate bowl add the chocolate, butter and syrup. Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and gently melt everything together until smooth and evenly melted. Remove the bowl from the pan and leave to cool for a few minutes before adding to the bowl of ingredients. Stir really well so that everything is covered in the chocolate then pour the mix into the lined baking tray and press down with a spatula or the back of the spoon. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight if you wait that long.

Once set, tip the rocky road upside down to remove from the tray and put onto a chopping board. Sprinkle over the glitter and stars if using, then cut into squares or rectangles.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone - I hope you all have a fantastic day with lots of good company, food and drinks. Be safe and happy x

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Quick and Easy Nibbles

At this time of year when you have people popping by for a festive drink it’s always good to have a few fast nibbles that you can have ready to go or that you can whip up in a hurry. The following recipes are ideal for that and also make lovely gifts when packaged nicely.


Marinated Olives

The perfect nibble for making ahead of time as the olives can just marinate in the jar kept in the fridge. I normally use a 500ml mason jar so the quantities below fit into that – you can vary the quantity of olives and oil though as needed. Once you have eaten the olives you can use the flavoured oil to drizzle over pasta, pizza or for a salad dressing – delicious!

265g/ 9oz approx. Mixed black and green olives
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
Zest of ½ orange or 1 satsuma
1 tsp rosemary, chopped
½ tsp thyme
Good pinch of dried chilli flakes
225ml approx. olive oil

Put all of the ingredients into a jar and top with the oil. Put a tight-fitting lid on the jar and shake a few times so everything is evenly mixed (alternatively put everything into a small bowl and mix well with a spoon). The olives can be kept covered in the fridge but take them out early and serve at room temperature.


Hot Spiced Nuts

Crunchy, hot nuts turned amber with a chilli and paprika infused oil – perfect party food.

500g mixed nuts (Almonds, cashews, pecans, Brazil nuts and unsalted peanuts all work well)
1 tbsp mild olive oil
Good pinch of maldon sea salt
½ tsp red chilli flakes
½ tsp smoked paprika (use sweet or hot paprika depending on how spicy you want them to be)

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the nuts and stir or shake the pan so that all of the nuts are coated in the oil. Add the salt, chilli and paprika and cook for a couple of minutes to warm through. Serve immediately.


Chocolate & caramel popcorn

And for something sweet, who can resist some chocolate and caramel popcorn?!

85g/ 3oz/ ½ cup popcorn kernels
125ml/ ½ cup sugar
125ml/ ½ cup water
55g/ 2oz milk or dark chocolate
55g/ 2oz white chocolate

Using a popcorn maker pop the corn according to the manufactures instructions (alternatively put the corn in a large microwave-safe bowl and cover with a lid or plate and cook on high for 2 ½ - 3 minutes until the sound of popping has slowed right down). Put the popcorn onto a large baking tray in a single layer and set aside.

Add the sugar and water to a small pan and gently dissolve the sugar without stirring (you can swirl it around if need be but do not stir it as it will crystallize). Once the sugar has completely dissolved continue to simmer it until it starts to turn golden brown. Remove from the heat and drizzle over the popcorn. (Be very careful as caramelized sugar is very hot). Leave to set while you melt the chocolate. In a small bowls melt the chocolate in the microwave with 20 second bursts until it is evenly melted and is silky smooth. Drizzle the milk chocolate over the popcorn then repeat with the white chocolate. Leave to set then put into a large serving bowl or individual bags and dive in – you won’t be able to resist it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Prawn & Butternut Squash Curry

At this time of year when we are so busy with work, Christmas parties, shopping, decorating and everything else December entails, its nice to have a few quick and easy recipes that you can make at the last minute. This recipe is exactly that as it is takes no time at all but is delicious and very comforting. If you prefer you can use sweet potato instead of the squash and for a completely vegetarian meal use mushrooms instead of the prawns.

Prawn & Butternut Squash Curry

1 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp ginger, finely grated
1 red chilli, finely sliced
2 stalks of lemongrass, tender part finely sliced (or ½ tsp pureed lemongrass)
2 tsp yellow curry paste
500g (approx.) butternut squash, peeled & cut into bite-sized pieces
400ml coconut milk
250ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp peanut butter
½ tsp sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 kaffir lime leaves, very thinly sliced
225g/ 8oz peeled & cooked prawns
Handful of coriander leaves
½ lime

To serve:
225g/ 8oz Jasmine or white rice
Lime wedges
Naan bread (optional)

In a large pan heat the oil then add the onion and saute for roughly 5 minutes until softened but not coloured. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli and lemongrass and cook for a further minute before adding the curry paste. Cook for another minute then add the squash and toss with the onion and spice mix. Add the coconut milk, stock, peanut butter, sugar, fish sauce and kaffir lime leaves and bring to a simmer then cook for roughly 12 minutes or until the squash is just tender.

While the curry is cooking cook your rice.

Taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary then add the prawns and cook until just warmed through. Finish by sprinkling over the coriander and spritzing with a squeeze of lime juice.

Serve with rice, additional lime wedges and if you like some Naan bread.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Snow Comfort - Barbecue Beef Stew with Fresh Pasta



I can't help but continue in the comfort theme with all this cold weather around. This recipe is for everyone out there who is surrounded by snow....this is guaranteed to warm you up and make you happy to be tucked up indoors!

This is a really delicious, comforting stew. The addition of the barbecue sauce adds such a lovely depth to the dish that is a little different from a traditional beef stew. I love to serve this with fresh pasta (you can either make your own (recipe below) or buy some good quality fresh pasta) but if you prefer you could serve it on top of some light and fluffy buttery mashed potato.


1-2 tbsp olive oil
3 rashers of streaky bacon, cut or snipped into small pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled & sliced at an angle
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
750g stewing beef
2 tbsp flour
150ml red wine
500ml beef stock
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
2 bay leaves
125ml barbecue sauce
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped


Pre-heat the oven to 350F/ 180C.


In a large pan or casserole dish heat 1 tbsp of the oil then add the bacon pieces and cook until starting to turn crispy. If there is a lot of fat remove some of it from the pan then add the onion, celery and carrot. Cook for roughly 7 minutes until the onion and celery have softened then add the garlic and cook for a further minute.


While the vegetables are softening put the beef into a large freezer bag and sprinkle over the flour, along with a little salt and pepper. Seal the bag and shake it well so all the pieces of meat are evenly covered in the flour.

Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside. If you need to, add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan then cook the meat (in batches if need be) until it is browned on all sides. Push the meat to the side of the pan then add the red wine and de-glaze the pan (in other words, scrape up all of the lovely, sticky brown parts that are on the bottom). Mix the wine and beef together and then let the wine simmer and reduce a little  before adding the vegetables back to the pan, then add the beef stock, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, bay leaves, barbecue sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer then put in the oven for roughly 2 hours until the meat is tender.

While the stew is cooking, if you are making fresh pasta you can do it now, if not now's the time to relax by the fire!

Remove the stew from the oven and taste to check the seasoning. Discard the bay leaves and just before serving sprinkle over the fresh parsley. Serve at once with fresh pasta or some mashed potatoes.


Fresh Pasta



400g/ 14oz flour
4 large eggs
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil (optional)



There are two ways to make pasta....the traditional way using nothing but your hands and a flat work surface, and the modern way using the wonders of kitchen appliances to cut down on your own labour! I have to admit since I now have the appliances I feel it would be wrong not to put them to use so I opt for the easier and faster way. (Although in the past I have made pasta plenty of times using the traditional method).

Whatever way you choose, start by sifting the floor (either onto your work surface, or into the bowl of your processor). Make a well in the centre and crack in the whole eggs, then add the salt and oil if using. If taking the easy option, turn the machine on and pulse until you have a resemblance to bread crumbs. Transfer onto a work surface and knead until it comes together and you have a smooth dough.

If you are sticking to the traditional method, using a fork beat the eggs with the salt and oil until mixed then slowly start incorporating the flour into the egg mixture. Continue to do so until it is too tough to use a fork. At this point gather it all together and knead for a good 5-7 minutes. If the pasta is a little too dry and firm add a splash of olive oil or water (no more than 1 tbsp) so that you have a smooth dough.

Wrap the dough in clingfilm (plastic wrap), and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

When you are ready to make the pasta, unwrap the dough then cut it into 4 pieces so that you have manageable pieces to work with. Sprinkle some flour onto your work surface and rolling pin then give the dough another quick knead before rolling it out slightly. You can either use a rolling pin to roll it out completely, or a pasta maker. If using a pasta maker follow the instructions given, until you have perfect sheets of pasta.

Once the pasta has been rolled out to your desired thickness you can then cut and shape it and use as needed. For this recipe I use my cutter to make linguine. You can make whatever long pasta you like but I do recommend a thicker pasta (plus it's easier to cut, especially if you don't have the cutter attachment). Once the pasta has been cut you can either lay it flat on a large tray or baking sheet lined with kitchen paper and dusted with flour or alternatively you can make little 'nests' of pasta, just make sure it is well floured so you don't end up with one big clump of pasta! Set aside until you are ready to use.

To cook the pasta, bring a large pan of salted water to a boil then place the pasta in and cook for no more than 3-4 minutes. Drain and serve with your choice of sauce and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chilli Con Carne


The first snow of the winter arrived at the weekend so what better way to warm yourself up than a bowl of chilli con carne.

Chilli is one of those dishes that warms you up just thinking about it! The deliciously spiced sauce (that can be as hot as you like) is comfort in a bowl. It is a perfect family meal but it is also the ideal dish to serve to a crowd. You can make it in advance and if need be freeze it then simply re-heat and serve with all the accompaniments I have suggested below. I honestly can’t think of anything more perfect for a cold day, than a giant pot of simmering chilli.


When you first look through the list of ingredients, there may be a couple that surprise you, however don’t be put off! The first one is the chipotle pepper (which is actually a dried and smoked jalapeno) and if you can get these then it really is worth the effort. The chilli adds a real depth of flavour with its smoky, chocolate tones that is delicious. If you can’t get the chipotle pepper then you could add a little cocoa powder to add a little extra depth to the chilli, but I promise you won’t be disappointed if you go to the extra effort to track down the chipotles!

The second ingredient that may sound a little strange is the can of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup. This is what my mum uses to make chilli and it always tasted amazing. I have added some extra ingredients – spices mainly – but I have stuck with the soup! I appreciate that it is in no way authentic but I have tried making chilli both ways, using tinned tomatoes and secondly with the soup, and every time I have served the soup version people love it! When I tested it myself my preference was definitely the soup sauce so try it and see for yourself – you will be pleasantly surprised!

The recipe below serves 4 since I often make this during the week, however it is very easily (and successfully) doubled or tripled. If you want to make it more substantial serve it with rice.

For a vegetarian version, simply omit the mince and make it a 3 bean chilli instead using kidney beans, borlotti beans and black eye beans. Follow the recipe as above adding all three beans towards the end when it is suggested you add the kidney beans. Delicious!

1 dried, smoked chipotle pepper
2 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
500g extra lean ground beef
2-3 tbsp of chilli powder (depending on the heat of your chilli powder & how spicy you like it)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 can of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup
250ml/ 1 cup beef stock
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Salt & black pepper
420g can of kidney beans
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
Handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

To serve:
Spring onions, thinly sliced
Sour Cream
Grated Cheddar Cheese
Coriander
Avocado, sliced
Lime wedges
Tortilla chips

If you have a dried, smoked chipotle pepper re-hydrate it in a small bowl with boiling water while you start cooking the chilli.

In a large pan heat the oil then sauté the onions over a medium heat for 5 minutes until they have softened but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute before adding the mince. Cook until the mince has browned stirring frequently to break it up into small pieces.

Once the mince has browned add the chilli powder, ground coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper and oregano and stir well until the mince is evenly covered in the spices. Cook for another minute or so then add the soup, beef stock, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. If using the chipotle pepper, remove from the water and finely chop. Add to the chilli, stir well then cover and leave to simmer gently for 45minutes to 1 hour, until the sauce has reduced and thickened and all the flavours have intensified. Add the kidney beans and the red and green peppers and cook for a further 10 – 15 minutes. Just before serving sprinkle in the coriander.

Serve in bowls with extra coriander and all of the above accompaniments for a delicious and hearty meal.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Tale of Two Soups

Celery & Blue Cheese Soup with Buffalo Hot Sauce
The majority of time a recipe calls for celery I find I need one stalk and that's all so I'm left with the rest of it wondering what to do. Try as I might to make myself healthy snacks of celery sticks it just doesn't happen, so instead I decided to put the celery to good use and make a creamy celery soup. All I can say is that I wish I had come up with this earlier! The soup is creamy and rich with a delicious taste of celery that isn't too overpowering.

So as I relaxed and enjoyed a steaming hot bowl of my delicious creamy celery soup I stopped to think about when I actually ever do eat celery and realised that the only time I really enjoy eating raw celery is when it's served right alongside a big plate of hot and spicy Buffalo chicken wings with a rich and creamy blue cheese dip on the side (yum!), which got me thinking.....what about adding some blue cheese to my soup and perhaps a drizzle of Buffalo hot sauce?!?! And that was that... Celery and Blue Cheese Soup with Buffalo Hot Sauce was created!

So there you have it, celery soup two ways and both equally delicious! So good in fact that now I buy a head of celery especially to make these soups and just hold back a stalk of two for that inevitable recipe.

Creamy Celery Soup

If you have a head of celery for this soup by all mean use it all, however if like me you are always left with most but not all of the celery just use what you have – the amounts can vary a bit and still taste delicious.

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 leek, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 head of celery (approx.10-12 celery stalks ), sliced (leaves reserved)
1 medium sized potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 litre/ 1000ml vegetable stock
Salt & pepper
125ml cream
Yellow celery leaves (from the middle), finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Melt the butter with the oil in a large pan until sizzling then add the onion and leek. Cook for 5 minutes until they have started to soften before adding the garlic, celery and potato. Cover with a tight-fitting lid then leave to cook for 10 minutes over a low heat before adding the stock and some salt and pepper. Put the lid back on the pan and leave to simmer away for 20 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool before blending until completely smooth. Return the soup to the pan and add the cream then gently reheat. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary then serve garnished with the celery leaves and if you want a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Celery & Blue Cheese Soup with Buffalo Hot Sauce

The drizzle of buffalo hot sauce as part of the garnish is optional but adds a delicious hot and spicy twang to the soup! If you really want to go all out shred up some cooked chicken then toss with the hot sauce and serve as an extra garnish on the soup. A little different but tasty and fun!

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 leek, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 head of celery (approx.10-12 celery stalks ), sliced (leaves reserved)
1 medium sized potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 litre/ 1000ml vegetable stock
Salt & pepper
75g blue cheese, plus extra for garnish
60ml cream
Yellow celery leaves, finely chopped
Buffalo Wing Hot Sauce (Optional)

Melt the butter with the oil in a large pan until sizzling then add the onion and leek. Cook for 5 minutes until they have started to soften before adding the garlic, celery and potato. Cover with a tight-fitting lid then leave to cook for 10 minutes over a low heat before adding the stock and some salt and pepper. Put the lid back on the pan and leave to simmer away for 15-20 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool before blending until completely smooth. Return the soup to the pan and add the blue cheese, cream and celery leaves then gently reheat. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary then serve garnished with the extra blue cheese and a drizzle of the hot sauce if using.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Onion Soup


Comfort season is in full force and in my mind there is nothing more comforting than a piping hot bowl of Onion Soup topped with deliciously chewy and melt-in-the-mouth croutons cascading with golden brown bubbling molten cheese.

This is my variation on the classic French Onion Soup. I've changed it slightly because as I much as I love the idea of French Onion Soup I always find I am slightly disappointed when I have it. With this version I use chicken stock instead of the traditional beef stock which gives a slightly milder version (for a vegetarian option you could also use vegetable stock), however even the most die-hard fans of French Onion Soup will not be disappointed with this version – my husband, who absolutely loves French Onion Soup, said this was the best version of Onion Soup he has ever had...praise indeed!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spaghetti Bolognese

 The clocks have changed along with the weather so colder, darker nights can only mean one thing - comfort food!

Spaghetti Bolognese is a classic hearty, family meal that I just can't resist. I've added some chorizo to my recipe as I love the depth of flavour it adds, but you can easily miss it out. Also if I'm in need of an extra vegetable fix I sometimes add some diced red and green peppers (add them when you add the mushrooms) which not only tastes great but adds a lovely burst of colour. The basic bolognese sauce is so versatile it's a good idea to double the recipe, just miss out the mushrooms (and peppers if you want to use them). Then you can use it for all sorts of recipes, including lasagne or cottage pie.

2 tbsp olive oil
125g/ (4.5oz approx.) chorizo, finely chopped
1 onion, finely diced
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
500g Mince/ Ground Beef (the best quality you can get)
150ml red wine
2 x 400g (28oz tin) Tinned tomatoes – crushed, chopped or whole – whatever you prefer
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
250ml beef stock
1 carrot, peeled & grated
Salt & Pepper
170g/6oz (approx.) mushrooms, sliced

To serve:
400g/ 14oz (approx.) spaghetti
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Small handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

In a large pan heat the oil over a medium heat then add the chorizo and fry for a few minutes until it has turned golden and is starting to crisp on the edges. Remove with a slotted spoon reserving the delicious paprika infused oil then add the chopped onions and celery. Gently sauté for roughly 5-7 minutes so that they have softened but not coloured. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute or so before adding the mince. Break up the mince as you go using either a wooden spoon or fork so that you don’t have any large lumps of mince. Once the mince has browned completely add the wine and cook for a couple of minutes until it has reduced a little, then add the tomatoes, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, 1 tbsp of the parsley, bay leaves, stock, the grated carrot, salt, pepper and the chorizo. Stir well so that everything is well combined then leave to simmer gently for roughly 30 minutes, so that the mince cooks properly and the sauce reduces and thickens. After 30 minutes add the mushrooms and continue to gently simmer for another 15 minutes with a lid on (unless it is still quite runny and needs to reduce further).*

After you have added the mushrooms bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Taste the bolognese sauce to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary then just before serving remove the bay leaves and add the remaining tablespoon of parsley.

Once the spaghetti is ready, drain and toss in a little extra virgin olive oil. You can either serve it on 4 individual dinner plates or 1 large platter for everyone to help themselves to. Whatever you prefer, pile the spaghetti onto the plate or plates and spoon the sauce on top. Drizzle over a little extra extra virgin olive oil then finish by sprinkling over a good grating of Parmesan cheese and some torn basil leaves. Serve with a salad and if you like, some garlic bread.

*You can also cook the bolognese for much longer over a very low heat, allowing the flavours to intensify, however for a quicker mid-week version cooking this for 45minutes to 1 hour will still result in a delicious bolognese sauce.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gnocchi with chorizo, peppers & spicy tomato sauce

This is a perfect quick and easy mid-week meal. If you don't like gnocchi or don't have any on hand, this sauce is just as delicious with pasta, and for a more child-friendly option miss out the chilli. If you want you can make the sauce ahead of time then just reheat as you are cooking the gnocchi. For a more substantial meal serve it with a green salad and some crusty bread.

Gnocchi with chorizo, peppers & spicy tomato sauce

Serves 4-6

2 x 500g packets of gnocchi
2 tbsp olive oil
125g Chorizo sausage, sliced into roughly ¼ inch thick slices
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped (or ½ tsp dried chilli flakes)
2 x 400g tins of tomatoes
150ml white wine, stock or water
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp sugar
Salt & pepper
1 red pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 green pepper, sliced into thin strips
3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle (optional)

To serve:
Freshly grated Parmesan
Fresh rocket (arugula), optional

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large pan and fry the chorizo for a couple of minutes until golden and just starting to crisp on the edges. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same pan sauté the onions for roughly 5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and continue to cook for another minute or so. Add the tomatoes, wine, paprika, sugar and salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 25 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Check for seasoning then add the sliced chorizo and peppers.

Cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water, until they float to the surface which will take roughly 3 minutes. Scoop carefully out of the water using a large slotted spoon and add straight to the sauce. Take the sauce & gnocchi off the heat and gently stir so that the gnocchi is completely covered in the sauce. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil then sprinkle over the chopped parsley and a good grating of Parmesan. If using top with the rocket then an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Serve straight away as is or with some French or garlic bread and a simple green salad. The perfect winter warmer!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone, I hope you have had a great weekend. We had a party on Saturday night and all got suitably dressed up for the occasion. It turned out to be quite the collection of costumes including a geisha (moi!), catwomen, the joker, a vampire, superboy, a rocker, pirate, cowgirl, horse, 80's prom queen and Greek God to name a few!! On the menu were some bat wings with mouldy dip, trolls toes, slime dip and an eyeball cheesecake....not for the fainthearted!


Bloody Good Cocktails
These recipes are a little late for Halloween now but the are so delicious that you can serve them at any party, perhaps just stick to their original names though!

Bat Wing's
(Honey Garlic Chicken Wing's)


Most often than not we cook these on the BBQ, however you can cook them in the oven and they are still delicious. If it's easier you can also cook the wings ahead of time then just warm them in the oven for about 5 minutes before tossing with the sauce. The wings I buy are quite small so if you buy the bigger ones you will need to cook them a bit longer than I have stated. I use half a packet of chicken wings for this recipe and use the other half to make some hot and spicy buffalo wings (see below). If you prefer though just double the amount of sauce and use all of the chicken wings.

½ large packet of chicken wings (roughly 24)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp ginger, finely grated
6 tbsp honey
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp light soy sauce

Put all the ingredients for the sauce into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer gently for 5 minutes until reduced and slightly thickened.

To cook the chicken wings –

Season the chicken wings with a little salt and pepper. If cooking in the oven, preheat the oven to 200C/ 400F/ GM 6 then cook the wings for 40-45 minutes or until they are completely cooked through and crispy and golden on the outside.

If cooking on a barbecue, once the barbecue is ready (or preheated if using a gas one) cook the wings over a medium-low heat with the point of the wings on the outside and the meaty drums inside so that they cook evenly, for roughly 20 minutes or until they are completely cooked through and deliciously crisp and slightly charred on the outside.

When the chicken wings are ready transfer them to a large bowl and pour over the sauce. Serve at once with lots of napkins!

(If the wings aren't crisping up enough, simply turn the grill on for a minute at the end until the skins are crispy and golden brown)

Buffalo Chicken Wings

To make these hot and spicy wings I just cook the wings as above then right before serving drizzle over some buffalo wing hot sauce and toss well – be warned though, they will have a good kick!



Mouldy Dip
(Blue Cheese Dip)

125ml sour cream
125ml mayonnaise
85g/ 3oz blue cheese of your choice, crumbled
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

Mix together the sour cream and mayonnaise then crumble in the blue cheese. Mix with a fork crushing the cheese a little as you do. Add the lemon juice and parsley and stir well. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Troll's Toes
(Honey & Sesame Chipolatas)


60 chipolata or cocktail sausages
125ml honey
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
Sprinkling of sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 400F. Put the sausages on a non-stick baking tray so they are in a single layer. In a small bowl or jug mix together the honey, maple syrup, sesame oil and soy sauce. Drizzle over the sausages then toss well so they are evenly coated. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes or until properly cooked through and are sticky and delicious. Just before serving sprinkle over the sesame seeds.

*The slime dip was made by my brother-in-law and is my spinach and artichoke dip.

* The cheesecake my sister made was from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food (as we are testing his cookbook), just slightly adapted with the topping!





Thursday, October 28, 2010

Friday Night Chicken Curry

Nothing beats a good curry on a Friday night whether you are home alone, cooking for your family or for a crowd of people. I have loved curries for a very long time and whenever I go home one of the first things I want to eat is a curry from a local Indian restaurant or takeaway. Here in Canada where I live there aren't really any Indian restaurants so when I get that curry craving I make my own which is just as delicious and hits the spot perfectly!

My Friday Night Chicken Curry


This makes a lovely, creamy and mildly spiced curry with plenty of sauce to mop up with naan bread. The heat of the curry depends on how hot the fresh chilli is and also the curry powder you use. If you prefer a really mild curry simply use less chilli or miss it out completely. Also if you prefer a thicker curry half the quantity of chicken stock and cream.

I tend to use chicken breasts for this recipe and just add them for the last 10 minutes of cooking, to keep the chicken nice and moist. If you prefer however, you could easily use chicken thighs instead. This is a good option if you want to make the curry in advance as the thighs can quite happily cook for a while without drying out. If using thighs I would suggest 8-10 good sized boneless and skinless thighs and simply add them to the pan after the onion and garlic have sautéed.

Serve this curry with saffron and cardamom rice (see below), mango chutney, raita and lots of naan bread.

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red chilli, deseeded & finely chopped
5 green cardamom pods, slightly crushed
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground ginger
2 tsp curry powder
1 stick of cinnamon, broken in half
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled & finely grated
100ml passata or crushed tomatoes
400ml tin of coconut milk
250ml chicken stock
½ tsp sugar
2 small bay leaves
125ml whipping (double) cream
4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper
4 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped

In a large saucepan or wok heat the oil then add the sliced onions. Cook over a medium heat for roughly 5 minutes until they have softened but not browned. Add the garlic and chilli and continue to cook for a further minute before adding the cardamom pods, turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, curry powder, cinnamon stick and half of the ginger. Stir well and cook for a couple of minutes then add the passata, coconut milk, chicken stock, sugar, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Leave to simmer uncovered for 30 minutes before adding the chicken and half of the cream. Simmer and reduce again for a further 7 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and the cinnamon stick and continue to simmer gently for a further 2-3 minutes or until the chicken is properly cooked through. Just before serving add the remaining cream, ginger and half of the coriander. Serve with the rest of the coriander sprinkled over the top of the curry.

Cardamom & Saffron Rice

285g/ 10oz basmati rice
Small pinch of salt
Small pinch of saffron strands
3 cardamom pods, crushed
2 tbsp coriander, chopped (optional)

Cook the rice according to the packet instructions adding the salt, saffron and cardamom to the water. Once it is ready, drain well then fluff up with a fork. Just before serving scatter over the chopped coriander.

Cucumber Raita
250ml/ 1 cup plain natural yogurt
½ cucumber, cut in half lengthwise
1 fat spring onion, finely sliced
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Salt & pepper

Remove the seeds from the cucumber halves then cut each piece into 4 batons, then cut across the way so that you have small diced pieces. After that simply combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. Season to taste and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.



Friday, October 22, 2010

A toast to the new Mr. & Mrs!!

Today one of my best friends is getting married! I've been so excited for them since the day they got engaged, however unfortunately as much as I wanted to I wasn't able to make it back to Scotland for their wedding. So to make up for the fact I was having to miss their big day I decided we would have a mini celebration for them here and what better way to celebrate than with cake and champagne! So Paula and Phil this is for you.....Congratulations to you both, I am so delighted for you and hope you have a fantastic day xxx

Vanilla Cupcakes with White Chocolate & Vanilla Icing

For the cupcakes I used the recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook then added my own icing and decorations.

White Chocolate & Vanilla Icing
100g white chocolate
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g icing sugar, sieved
1 tbsp milk
½ tsp vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time until completely melted and smooth. Leave to cool. Mix together the butter and icing sugar until smooth then add the milk, vanilla extract and white chocolate. Continue beating for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Top the cupcakes with the icing and smooth with an off-set spatula. Decorate as you please, I used some edible gold glitter and edible wafer roses.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day in Vancouver Part 2 - Hamilton Street Gill (Taste of Yaletown 2010)

At night we were heading out for a meal to meet a friend from home that we hadn't seen for a few years who is now living in Vancouver. We had spent quite a bit of time trying to decide where to eat before we left as we wanted to have a nice meal out but something that wouldn't cost us an arm and a leg. Whilst looking at a few restaurants I realised that Taste of Yaletown 2010 had just started which meant we could take advantage of eating at a lovely restaurant in Yaletown and have a 3 course meal for between $25 and $45. As it turned out both of the restaurants we had been considering were taking part in this so we booked a table at the Hamilton Street Grill.

The table was booked for 8pm and when we arrived the restaurant was completely full with a lively atmosphere to walk into. We all opted for the $35 menu and ended up pretty much ordering the same meal! To start I ordered the west coast mussels which were served in a chipotle cream sauce with house cured bacon and a cilantro (coriander) lime pistou and my sister and friend had the goats cheese salad with pickled beets and vanilla white balsamic vinaigrette. Both dishes were lovely and the perfect sized portion, however I didn't detect any coriander/cilantro or lime and think it may have been forgotten (since you can't really miss the taste of coriander!!). Similarly the goats cheese and beetroot salad had no hint of vanilla but was delicious regardless. Presentation was nothing special for the salad but they did use both yellow and red beetroot which I always think looks beautiful. Normally I like to choose a different meal from everyone else so we can try a few things but this time since we only had a couple of choices we all opted for the steak. That being said since Hamilton Street Grill is a steakhouse it seemed to make sense to pick something that they are known for and therefore should cook perfectly. They did just that and all of our steaks were perfect. Served with a red wine shallot demi glace and a compound herb butter all three were melt in your mouth. The steaks were served on creamy mashed potatoes with carrots and green beans which were lovely and crisp – just as they should be. We were all so full after our main course that we had to wait a while before we could even consider dessert. Thankfully our waitress was fantastic and we were told to relax, take our time and enjoy ourselves which was really appreciated since there is nothing worse than being made to feel rushed when you are in a restaurant. When we were finally ready we all rather boringly opted for yet again the same dessert, despite having a choice of five! The vanilla bean creme brulee won us all over as it seemed the lightest of the options, however as a good creme brulee should be it was rich, velvety smooth and thick with plenty of vanilla. I was reassured to see that the vanilla specks had all congregated on the bottom of the ramekin as this was exactly what had happened to me last time I made my creme brulee!! The sugar was scorched perfectly – not overdone as it sometimes can be leading to a dark bitter taste. My only criticism was that it was a rather large portion and so I was only able to eat half of it (that plus the fact I had already had mussels and a large steak!) but that really isn't a criticism, more of a disappointment that I had to waste some of it since it was so good!! For the three courses we each paid $35 (not including taxes and 15% tip) which was fantastic value for money, the only negative was the cost of the wine which was $40 a bottle but that seems to be standard now for a meal out. I would definitely go back to the Hamilton Street Grill with or without Taste of Yaletown, however having never been before, it was the perfect way to try out a new restaurant and see what it is like as there is nothing worse than going somewhere new and leaving disappointed. Taste of Yaletown runs until October 30th and is definitely worth taking advantage of it. For a full list of participating restaurants and their menus visit http://yaletowninfo.com/ 
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