Saturday, 14 November 2009

Nigella Express - Quick Chilli

Come and join me at Lili in the Kitchen for a delicious Chilli recipe taken from Nigella Express!!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Sweet & Simple Bakes - White Chocolate & Orange Cookies

I discovered the lovely Sweet & Simple Bakes blog a month ago and couldn't wait to try the October recipe. Every month readers are invited to try a sweet recipe, blog about it and send an e-mail link so that results can be included in the monthly round up.

I was a little apprehensive about using the orange/chocolate combination as I'm not a fan of Terry's chocolate orange! I shouldn't have worried though as I discovered that I do like orange with white chocolate, especially when combinbed in a melt in the mouth cookie.

Easy to make, and a delight to eat, these went down very well with everyone who tried them.

The recipe can be found here and here is the end result:

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Weekend Eats

Bitching in the Kitchen has moved to Lili in the Kitchen! Please come and join me here!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

A New Me!

After a little time away, I have decided to change the name of my blog so that it is a little more "me". Lili is my family's nickname for me and has become the "online me". Sorry for being away so long, I haven't lost my passion for food and cooking, just not had time to write down my thoughts for a while. I also tend to follow a lot of other blogs and get a bit distracted by them as some are just too good!! I have been inspired by quite a few recently, and thought it was time to come back. I sometimes wish I had a different job which would allow me more time to do what I love doing, but as I am lucky to have a job at all right now, I will save that wish for some time in the future.

While I try to find out how to import/export/merge blogs (help!), please join me at Lili in the Kitchen where normal business will resume shortly. Thank you for all your lovely comments in the past, they are what makes me want to carry on!

Monday, 10 August 2009

La Belle France

So, before i get back to talking about food, here are some shots of my other holiday (which is now also a distant but wonderful memory..).

I spent a week with my wonderful parents, lovely sister (Claire) and gorgeous 7 month old nephew (Ben), in a beautiful house in south west France. It was a very chilled out holiday, although Claire and i managed to fit in some running, lots of swimming (very cold pool) and a little bit of yoga to start the day. We visited food markets, Bergerac, St Emilion (where we had a lovely lunch here and enjoyed some wine tasting) but mainly hung out at the house, being entertained by Ben, preparing nice food and drinking good wine.

The Dordogne

Lovely food market

Stopping for refreshments

The house had a few cookery books which we flicked through for inspiration, this being my favourite and I might have to get my own battered copy now...

Home made tortilla

Tarte Noir from the Patisserie

Monsieur Cyrano

It was so lovely spending quality time with my family and a week wasn't really long enough. But there's always next year...

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Granada 2

I'm still here and following lots of your lovely blogs... just don't seem to have time to write much these days! Life is good, a little too good really so i can't complain. Before i tell you about my latest holiday, i promised to post photos of Granada, so here are some of one of my favourite places in the world, the Alhambra...

Being a bit of a novice with a digital camera, i managed to lose some stunning shots that i'd taken during the first couple of days of my stay. It goes without saying that i won't make that mistake again! Still, i know i'll be going back again next year so i'll just have to try recreating some of the shots i lost.

Granada really is a stunning city and if you ever get the chance to visit, i can assure you that you won't be disappointed.

My latest trip was to south west France where i had an equally lovely time, more on that to follow.

And i've still found time to cook and eat (they'll never replace food you know!) so will also be sharing more recipes soon!

Thank you for all your lovely comments while i've been away! :)

Sunday, 31 May 2009


One of the reasons for my recent absence was a holiday to Spain. Many moons ago, I studied Spanish and had the joy of living in Granada in Andalucia for a year. During this time, I became fluent in Spanish, learnt to dance Sevillanas, visited the Alhambra on a weekly basis, became obsessed with Spanish food (tapas in particular), developed more than a liking for vino tinto and hence managed to put on at least a stone before coming home to finish my degree...

I hadn't been back to Granada for over 20 years and unfortunately had no imminent plans to, until getting back in touch with a very good friend last year. Suzanne and I went to the same school and college, and spent our year in Granada together. After nearly 20 years of no contact, last year we discovered we were living in the same town and a revisit to Granada was one of the first things we talked about. The holiday became a bit of a road trip, with six like-minded girls driving from Alicante to Granada for Las Cruces festival. Suzanne had booked fantastic apartments in the Albaicin, which had views of the Alhambra and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada. We revisited old haunts, enjoyed delicious tapas, danced Sevillanas and decided that we would definitely be back next year.

Whilst much of the juerga* has moved on, one of the mainstays of the traditional tapas scene is the Trastienda. This gorgeous place looks like typical shop from the front, with legs of ham hanging in front of the counter, but behind the scenes is the cutest little tapas bar with tiled walls and low tables. Nice to see it mentioned here. We enjoyed a plate of aged pata negra ham and some tapas, before heading here for lunch, where we had traditional Moroccan food and the most beautiful views of the Alhambra.

Photos to follow...

* juerga = the good time (ir de juerga = to go out on the town)

Saturday, 30 May 2009


Firstly, i must apologise for another absence. I have so much i want to mention, i don't really know where to start... so, i thought i would put together a little cocktail while i think.

I picked up a gorgeous looking bottle of St Germain elderflower liqueur from Waitrose recently (currently on introductory offer) so here goes my version of an elderflower martini:

Eldertini - serves 1 (in a martini glass with enough for a second helping)

50ml vodka
15ml elderflower liqueur
10ml extra dry martini
100ml organic apple juice

Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
Add above ingredients and shake.
Strain into a martini glass and enjoy.

Monday, 20 April 2009

leek & potato soup

Quite frequently i discover that i have a fridge full of vegetables that are almost past their best. This stems from over-zealous shopping trips to the supermarket when i want to be healthy and stock up on seasonal fruit and veg. I then find that life takes over and i'm not at home long enough to use it all up. Combined with an organic fruit and veg box delivery, i discovered that i had leek, potatoes, aubergine, sweet potato, celeriac, peppers, celery... oops. Poor neglected vegetables.

Anyway, back to those in a bit. An indulgent weekend started off with a chinese takeaway on friday with old school friends - a fab night as always.

On saturday, i had a great pub lunch here with old college friends and house-mates, Suze, Fi and Marianna. It's been 19 years since we were all together and this meet-up was long overdue. Great food accompanied a really good catch up on each others lives and we promised not to leave it so long until next time (which would take us to an age i don't even want to think about for a long while yet).

The girly chat continued into saturday evening and then the early hours of sunday morning, aided by champagne, wine and Suze's homemade sloe gin.

Needless to say by sunday, it was time to make amends with my liver and i made a vat-full of this delicious creamy soup from Tessa Kiros' Apples for Jam.

This book has been on my wishlist for quite some time but as i have a self-imposed ban on buying any new cookery books this month, i decided to order it from my local library instead. The theory here is that if i really love it (and i already do), i can reward myself after payday.

This is the first recipe i have tried from the book and it produced the most velvety smooth soup i have ever tasted, let alone made for myself.

leek & potato soup - serves 6
6 leeks
40g butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
2 tsp brandy
600g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
freshly grated nutmeg
100ml single cream
grated parmesan, to serve

here's how:
Trim and thoroughly clean the leeks - you'll need about 400g of trimmed leek. Slice the leeks quite finely and put them in a sink with cold water, then drain and wash them again if they are still sandy.
Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the leeks and garlic and saute over medium-low heat until all the water has evaporated and the leeks are soft and faintly golden. Add the brandyand carry on cooking until it has evaporated. Add the potatoes and season well with salt. Add 1.5 litres of hot water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down slightly, cover with a lid and simmer for abour 45 minutes, or until the leeks and potatoes are very soft. Grate in a little nutmeg.
Puree the soup until it is totally smooth. If it is too thick, add a little hot. If it is too thin, return it to the pan and cook uncovered until it is has thickened a bit. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary. Add the cream, heat through and serve immediately, with a good tablespoon of parmesan sprinkled over each serving. Top with freshly ground black pepper, and ideally, some very fine slices of truffle. I made do with a few drops of white truffle oil - heavenly!

recipe keeper part 2

It's here! My fantastic hand-made recipe keeper book arrived all the way from New Zealand last week! It took me completely by surprise as it only took about a week in the post - things take that long being sent from one side of London to the other using Royal Mail!!!
So a huge *thank you* to Rachel of Books by Rachel for making this especially for me! I will now be able to organise my random clippings and scribbled notes, and I won't need to borrow cookery books from friends and family anymore (which is always a nightmare as you don't actually want to risk cooking from them in case they get splattered!).

I also love the receipt book i ordered, which again will help me get organised (i so need to).

Rachel also sent a lovely letter and a gorgeous little gift of a "matchbook" book, perfect for keeping in your purse and for writing down reminders or possibly even phone numbers... well, you never know... ;)

Sunday, 19 April 2009

banana bread

Another useful recipe from Bill Granger's Feed Me Now... delicious for breakfast, but also nice with a cup of tea in the afternoon.

melt & mix banana bread - makes 2 loaves
45g soft light brown sugar
30g almonds, chopped
255ml sour cream
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g unsalted butter, melted
230g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
250g mashed ripe banana (2-3 bananas)

here's how:
Preheat oven to 180C/gas 4.
Grease and line two 10 x 18cm loaf tins (i used 1 large loaf tin) with baking paper.
In a bowl mix together the brown sugar and almonds and set aside (this will be sprinkled on the loaf before baking).
In a large bowl, mix together the sour cream and bicarb, leave to stand for 5 mins, then stir in the melted butter, caster sugar and beaten eggs.
Sift flower, baking powder and cinnamon into another bowl. Gradually fold in the sour cream mixture, followed by the mashed banana.
Divide the mixture equally between the prepared tins and sprinkle the brown sugar mixture on top. Bake for 1-1.5 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre of each loaf comes out clean.
Cool in the tins for 20 mins then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Nice on its own and can also be toasted and spread with butter or honey (just make sure you don't slice too thinly or it may fall apart and your toaster will never be the same again...). I've put some individually wrapped slices in the freezer so i can have a quick fix before i make it again.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

easy chicken dish

Having not had a proper cooked meal for quite some time now, i was craving roast chicken... here's a simple one-pot chicken dish adapted from Feed Me Now that hit the spot last night.

baked chicken with lemon, potato & green olives - serves 2

500g roasting potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
handful of green olives
1/2 lemon, sliced
30g diced pancetta
1 x bay leaf
generous teaspoon of tomato puree
generous teaspoon balsamic vinegar
60ml chicken stock
4 x chicken pieces (with bone and skin)
extra virgin olive oil
4 x chicken thighs (or any chicken pieces)
1 small red onion
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
here's how:
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
Place potatoes in a roasting tin or ovenproof dish.
Scatter over the onion, olives, lemon, pancetta and bay leaves.
Stir the tomato paste and balsamic vinegar into the chicken stock and pour over the potatoes.
Lay the chicken pieces on top, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast for 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is golden and cooked through.
Transfer the chicken to a warm plate, cover with foil and set aside to rest in a warm place.
Increase the oven setting to 220C/Gas 7 and return the roasting pan to the oven for 10 minutes or until the potatoes etc are well coloured (you may wish to drain off some of the cooking juices).
Place the chicken pieces back on top of the potatoes, scatter over some fresh herbs if you havew some, and serve.

This was delicious on its own but could easily be served with extra veg, however you like it.


healthy brownies

I decided on Bill Granger's new book, Feed Me Now, for my recipe book of the week as it is the newest addition to my collection and there are quite a few recipes i want to try.
At the weekend i made "healthy" chocolate brownies to give as Easter gifts, and packaged them up in cellophane parcels with some Cadbury's mini eggs for a touch of colour. You'll have to trust me that they looked pretty cute, as i forgot to take any photos. Bad food blogger...
Anyway, here's the recipe when you need a virtuous chocolate fix.

healthier chocolate & date brownie - makes about 15-20
140g unsalted butter
140g pitted dried dates, finely chopped
60g good quality cocoa powder (i use Green & Black's)
90g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
95g soft light brown sugar
3 medium eggs
1 tsp natural vanilla extract

here's how:
Preheat oven to 160C/gas 3.
Lightly grease a 20cm square baking tin and line the base with baking paper.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the chopped dates, take off the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
Sift the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar and stir to combine.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla together, then stir in the dates and butter.
Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes or until set.
Turn out and cool on a wire rack (i always wait for 10-15 mins to allow the mixture to set a little) and then cut into squares and enjoy without feeling too guilty.

Monday, 6 April 2009

mushroom monday

Before I move on from my recent recipe book of the week, i needed to mention another little recipe from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea which i tried last week.

I really love risotto but often think it's just too much faff for cooking midweek for one... but i tried not one, but two risotto recipes last week and this one was delicious:

mushroom and porcini risotto - serves 6

1 handful dried porcini, soaked in 400ml hot water for 30 mins
4 tbsp olive oil plus extra for frying
500g mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and ground black pepper
60g unsalted butter
2 onions, finely diced
400g carnoroli rice
About 1.5 litres vegetable or chicken stock
150g grated parmesan cheese

Here's how:
Strain the porcini and reserve soaking liquid. Set both aside.
Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms with the garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Put 4 tbsp oil and the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook over a very low heat, stirring occasionally, till the onions are soft but have not yet started to brown.
Pour in the rice and cook over a medium heat, stirring, till it becomes translucent.
Add the porcini and some of their liquid and the sliced mushrooms.
Pour in the stock a ladleful at a time and cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed all the liquid before adding some more. Carry on adding the stock until you have a creamy consistency. The rice must be cooked but slightly 'al dente', and the mixture must hold together.
Remove from the heat and add the parmesan.
Stir well and check the seasoning.
Pour the risotto into bowls and serve immediately.

And after a weekend that involved a chinese takeaway with my friend Suzanne and then delicious chocolate cake in Tunbridge Wells (thank you Sister Claire!), it's back to mid-week healthy meals.

Having checked the fridge last night, it was a case of "shit-ake!' - i'd forgotten they were in there! So i picked up a delicious organic salmon fillet on my way home, and some baby pak choi with a Nigella Bites recipe in mind. And i think this can now be my new recipe book of the week...

salmon with greens and shitake mushrooms - serves 2

2 skinned salmon fillets, preferably organic
1 clove garlic, finely minced or chopped
2 tbsp vegetable or groundnut oil
125g shitake mushrooms, destalked and sliced
400g choi sum, roughly chopped
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
pepper to taste

Here's how:
Grill or fry the salmon fillets - preferably in a good non-stick pan or on the smooth side of a griddle - until just cooked through and remove them to warmed plates while you get on with or finish the vegetables. (I pre-heated the oven to 150C, pan-fried the salmon flesh side down until the surface was golden and the fillet looked almost cooked, then flipped it over and placed the pan in the oven, reducing the heat to 100C while I did the rest of the cooking. It was cooked to perfection, which is almost a miracle for me when it comes to cooking fish!)
In a heavy-based pan, fry the garlic in the oil until it is warm but not catching. Add the sliced mushrooms together with the choi sum stalks, stirring everything together for a minute or so. Cover the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, remove the lid and add the roughly chopped choi sum leaves, soy sauce and sesame oil, then let it cook for another 2-3 minutes until the leaves have wilted.
Pile the mushrooms and greens on the plates with the salmon and eat!
Nigella suggests making a little sauce to go with, by mixing Colman's mustard powder into a smooth paste with a little cold water, adding a few drops of soy sauce and a scant, pulpy puree of fresh ginger. I sprinkled mine with some black sesame seeds (and then, off-camera, a very generous dollop of sweet chilli dipping sauce...).

Thursday, 2 April 2009

books by rachel: recipe keeper

Books by Rachel: Recipe Keeper

I had to sneak in a little post during my lunchbreak as i have just spotted this beautiful "recipe keeper" book made by the lovely Rachel at Books by Rachel.

I am waiting to see if this is going to be available on Toggle, and if so will be ordering one asap! My recipe "drawer" is overflowing with print-outs, magazine/newspaper clippings and scribbled down notes, so it's time to get organised.

What a lovely way to record your favourite tried and tested recipes, and then perhaps one day pass them on to someone who will cherish them.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

rose bakery's quinoa and pepper salad

When i first started reading Breakfast Lunch Tea i was lusting after all the cakes and sweet things but as i'm trying to be healthy this week, the cakes will have to wait until the weekend!

So i made up a batch of this delicious salad instead to take into work for my lunches.

Rose Bakery's Quinoa and Pepper Salad - serves 6
170g (1 cup) quinoa
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red, 1 green and 1 yellow pepper (bell pepper), finely diced
2 medium onions, finely diced
1 courgette (zucchini), finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 dried red pepper (bell pepper), crushed
pinch of cumin (optional)
dash of lemon juice (optional)
chopped fresh parsley or coriander (cilantro) to garnish

Put the quinoa in a saucepan with 500ml (2 cups) water and a pinch of salt.

Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 15 mins, until the quinoa is soft and the water has been absorbed. Set aside.

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the peppers, onions and courgette over a medium heat with a pinch each of salt and pepper, add the garlic and dried red pepper.

Keep stirring unitl the mixture just begins to turn soft - the vegetables must not soften too much - and the colours blend into the oil.

Check the seasoning (adding a little cumin or lemon juice if you wish).

Pour the sauce into the quinoa and mix well.

Garnish with parsley or coriander and serve warm or allow to cool to room temperature.

I've been enjoying it with some salad leaves, avocado and feta cheese - who says healthy needs to be boring?

Sunday, 29 March 2009

bills and ben

This weekend was a busy one... Starting with a night out with the girls on Friday to see Dave - a really good local band who do the BEST covers. We planned to eat out first, then meet other family and friends at the gig. Unfortunately we then got a call to say that the band had had to cancel as the lead singer, Paul, had pleurisy... So we enjoyed our meal out and had an early night instead! We wish Paul a really speedy recovery, hopefully in time for our next girls' night out!

Saturday was a day out with the girls, this time my mum, two sisters and sister-in-law. I am blessed with a fantastic family, and like nothing more than spending time with them. Now and again, we manage to have a girls' day out having coffees and lunch, with a bit of shopping thrown in. Brighton is our usual destination and Food for Friends is a favourite for lunch.

What really made the day was the addition of my almost 5-month old nephew, Ben. He is THE most gorgeous baby ever (ok, so i may be a little biased...) and he delighted us with his smiles and baby noises all day.

The other delight was managing to get a table at Bill's for afternoon tea, and my first ever Lamington - raspberry if you will. It was made from the softest sponge cake, covered in a light rasberry jam and coconut, and topped with a white chocolate dipped strawberry. Yum!

Sunday brought the loss of an hour in bed (but yay for the lighter evenings!) and a 10-mile walk, getting into training for the London MoonWalk. I have done this fantastic 26-mile walk twice before, and am really looking forward to taking part again for this very good cause. More details to follow.

And then the weekend was nearly over, leaving just enough time for a flick through the Sunday papers, and finding a few recipes for the week ahead...

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

banana smoothie

Most mornings, I start the day with a smoothie. I get up and leave home at early o'clock but have to have something to eat/drink or i end up feeling sick on the train to work. I then have a second proper breakfast at my desk, which keeps me going until lunchtime (ok then, elevensies!).

I was given a Hamilton Beach Classic Blender over 15 years ago (which has just made me think what i actually did just over 15 years ago... but that's a whole other story which i will have to come back to at some point) and it's still going strong. I know a recipe for a smoothie might seem a little simple, but this one from Breakfast Lunch Tea is my new favourite.

So here it is, and it's a lot quicker than making granola (especially for you miss baglady).

Classic Banana Smoothie - Serves 1
1 banana
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp apple juice
125ml natural yoghurt or soya milk (i use half and half)
Put all the ingredients in a food processor/blender and liquidize until smooth and frothy (does anyone remember Cresta? I can't say the word frothy without thinking about the large white polar bear wearing sunglasses)
*Add a handful of strawberries in season
*Replace the apple juice with lime juice, the honey with 1tbsp sugar and add a handful of desiccated coconut (i would have to add a shot of rum with this one to make a delicious tropical breakfast cocktail, mmm...)
*Replace the banana with chunks of ripe mango and add a dash of lime juice to the apple juice
*Use any poached fruit and some of its liquid, especially apricots, and you won't need the apple juice

Monday, 23 March 2009

rose bakery's honey granola

I have been lusting after this book for some time now... I first saw it at the top of Gemma's book list on Dressing for Dinner. I added it to my shopping basket on Amazon a good month or so ago and had resisted completing the order until last week. I knew i had been neglecting my blog and was in need of some culinary inspiration! Anyone who knows me well, knows that i would love to run a little coffe shop one day - serving the freshest, tastiest coffee, home baked biscuits and cakes and healthy quiches and tarts.

For now, i will keep attempting to write the business plan and try out as many delicious recipes as possible so when the time comes, i will be ready!

After a weekend of cake-eating, i thought I'd better start with a healthy breakfast recipe:

Honey Granola - serves 6

400g rolled oats
125g whole almonds (I used flaked)
100g sunflower seeds
100g pumpkin seeds
50g sesame seeds
1 tbsp wheatgerm
125ml sunflower oil
250ml honey (I used half honey and half maple syrup)
50g brown sugar (I left this out)
a few drops of vanilla extract
pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 handful dried fruit, such as sultanas (golden raisins) or dates
milk or soya milk to serve (i like it stirred through natural yoghurt and drizzled with honey).

Preheat oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3.
Mix together the oats, almonds, seeds and wheatgerm in a large mixing bowl.
Place the sunflower oil, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan with 125ml watwe and bring up to just boiling point, stirring constantly.
Stir this into the oats and seeds and mix everything together well.
Spread out evenly onto a large baking tray (i line mine with parchment/bake-o-glide) and place in the oven for 1 hour. (i gave a little stir halfway through).
Turn the oven down to 140C/275F/Gas 1 and bake for a further hour (again, i gave a couple of stirs).
Finally, turn the oven off and allow the granola to dry out for a further hour or overnight.
Stir through the dried fruit and allow to cool completely before placing in sterilised jars (i also put some in cellophane bags to take in to work).
I have tried quite a few different granola recipes and what i like about this one is that the mixture stays quite loose rather than clumpy and it has a lovely toasty, nutty flavour.
I will try it with different combinations of fruit and nuts next time too - pecans and cranberries would be lovely.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

happy mother's day!

Remember me?? Apologies for my extended absence... life's been hectic. It started with my parents moving house after two years of trying to downsize. From agreeing a sale to moving house, it all happened in under six weeks and i was tasked with selling furniture on ebay and helping on move day. I've only just recovered...

Then i had to go to France for work and in between i've been catching up with friends and family...

Long story short, i've been neglecting my blog and my lovely readers so i now need to make amends!

To kick off with, i thought i'd share some sweet treats from our Mother's Day afternoon tea.

My sister Claire made this delicious cake from a Domestic Goddess recipe:

Cherry Almond Loaf Cake - makes 8-10 slices

200g natural-coloured glace cherries
250g self-raising flour
225g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
2-3 drops almond essence
100g ground almonds
6 tbsp milk
23 x 13 x 7cm loaf tin, buttered and lined

Preheat oven to 170 C/gas mark 3.
Halve the cherries, wash them in a colander under cold water, then pat dry, toss in some flour and shake well to get rid of excess.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs and almond essence, then gently fold in the flour and ground almonds.
Fold in the cherries and then the milk and spoon the thick mixture into the prepared loaf tin.
Bake for 45 mins to 1 hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Leave in the tin on a wire rack until completely cooled.
Serve with a proper cup of tea.

And i made these yummy gluten-free brownies, also courtesy of Nigella, which has got to be the easiest brownie recipe ever:

Flourless Chocolate Brownies - makes 16 squares

225g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids (i used Green & Blacks)
225 g butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
150g ground almonds
100g chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 170 C/gas mark 3. Butter and line a 24cm square baking tin (or use a foil one).
Melt the chocolate and butter gently over a low heat in a heavy-based saucepan.
Take off the heat, mix in the vanilla and sugar, and allow to cool a little.
Beat the eggs into the pan along with the ground almonds and chopped walnuts.
Turn into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 25-30 mins, until the top has set but the mixture below is still gooey.
Allow to cool for as long as you can resist, and cut into squares.
Nigella suggests serving these "squidgy-bellied" squares with hot chocolate sauce and ice-cream, but they are just as good served on their own, minus the additional calories!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

feel the love

I'm not one of those cynical singletons who rejects the notion of love and romance... but what's a girl to do when she finds herself home alone on february 14th?

Sorry? What was that? Drink cocktails and eat crisps? Oh, ok then...

Especially for the lovely Cottage Cheese, here is my Valentine cocktail:

Misty Bitch (taken from "the cocktail - 200 fabulous drinks" by Jane Rocca)
30ml vodka
30 ml Campari
1 lime
splash of pink grapefruit juice

Mix vodka and campari in a highball glass. Add fresh lime to taste and top with pink grapefruit juice. Oh how i love thee...

And how wonderful of the clever people at Tyrrells to bring back their "lovely chips" in time for this special day. Their "strawberry, sweet chilli and white wine potato chips" are the most heavenly creation and i'm almost through a whole bag already...

For each case sold, 10 % of the sales price will be donated to Breast Cancer Haven, so get them at Waitrose while you can!

And my final treat of the day will be a cup of "love" tea from Pukka. I couldn't resist the packaging... With a relaxing blend of rose, chamomile and lavender in an "organic blend to warm your heart", i'm looking forward to a night filled with sweet dreams...

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

birthday extras

I know my Birthday was over a week ago, but i haven't really had a chance to post since then, and i wanted to share with you some of my lovely food-related presents! And i do love an extended Birthday...

My wonderful guest blogger Biba from Inspiration Bubble sent me a parcel containing not one, but three delicious presents! The first was this adorable vintage crochet apron which i absolutely love:

Next was this lovely book on soups and vegetables by Marie-Pierre Moine, published in 1994, which I can't wait to cook from:

And last but not least was "the cocktail, 200 fabulous drinks" by Jane Tocca which she knew i had been coveting since she featured the cover illustration on her blog!

I am currently studying this beautifully illustrated book for my February cocktail of the month, which i think is going to have to be something romantic with Valentine's Day just around the corner. My current favourites are the aptly named "Valentine" and "Misty Bitch"! Watch this space to see which wins. This will obviously require some thorough research, not to mention taste tests...

I also had a get together with my gorgeous friend Suzanne. Having studied Spanish and lived in Spain together, we both adore all things hispanic. Suzanne also knows how much i love recipe books, so Movida by Frank Comorra and Richard Cornish was the perfect present:

This really is an amazing read. The recipes and photos are truly inspirational and i can't wait to try some of the recipes.

So i think that's my birthday done for another year but i now have a whole year of cooking and eating to look forward to!

Friday, 6 February 2009

eye candy

This is kind of like a guest appearance from me, Biba! As Lisa is having a rather busy week to put it politely, i thought i would pop over for a lovely brew and some cake, then post some eye candy while i'm here!
I'm far from a proper foody recipe kind of person, maybe because my main focus on food is what is looks like not what it tastes like - which, yes i know is wrong wrong wrong!!
But these cupcakes below are soooooooo pretty who cares what they taste like. Maybe this is why i stick to interiors ;)

pics via flickr NOT made by moi

Monday, 2 February 2009

birthday celebrations

Well, what can i say? I have the best family ever and they spoilt me rotten! Friday night was a sumptuous feast of tapas (marcona almonds, serrano ham, chorizo, manchego, prawns and bread) followed by THE most amazing fillet steak EVER! My brother Dom (a very good cook) was in charge of preparing it, and i believe the whole fillet had been marinated in olive oil, fresh rosemary and garlic, then pan-fried and put in the oven to finish off. It was then rested, sliced and served to everyone's personal preference, and it looked so succulent, most of us went for the perfect rare (vegetarians please look away now...). Served with proper chips, a spinach salad and a home-made roast tomato sauce. Amazing...

Dessert was just as delicious. My talented Dad makes a mean ice-cream and tonight's was coffee and turron flavoured from Casa Moro. A real caffeine hit in a bowl, and served with heart-shaped Granny Boyd's biscuits (made by Dom) from Nigella's HTBADG.
And as if that wasn't enough, i even had a birthday cake! This is Mum's area of expertise and she made a gorgeous orange semolina cake, featured in this month's Delicious magazine.
Recipe's to follow!
So what with delicious food, nice wine, fantastic company and lovely presents (not to mention seeing my gorgeous nephew Ben), i couldn't have wished for a better Birthday!

Friday, 30 January 2009

happy birthday to me!

Yes, today is my birthday and i'm stuck at work... so i thought i would cheer myself with a virtual cupcake and a cup of tea!

I don't mind too much as it IS friday (yay!) and my family are planning a birthday feast for me tonight. Not exactly sure what is on the menu but my Dad has hijacked my sister's copy of Casa Moro and i know one of their ice cream recipes will be making an appearance. Yum!

Even though it won't be any of my own work, i will take plenty of pics and post all the details on here tomorrow. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

cocktail of the month - january

Yes, i know it's still january and everyone is detoxing... and it IS only wednesday... but yesterday's post on Inspiraton Bubble got me excited about cocktails... there also happened to be a fab article in the latest Observer Food Monthly entitled "48 Cocktails to Make at Home"... and it's nearly the end of the month so i'm running out of time to post my cocktail of the month... oh, and it's my birthday on friday... do we need any more excuses to have a cheeky midweek tipple??

This one stood out from the OFM artcile and really was delicious.

Ballet Russe - serves 1
2 shots vodka
3/4 shot creme de cassis or Chambord
1 shot freshly squeezed lime
1/4 shot sugar syrup
Shake all ingredients with ice and fine strain into a chilled glass.
Garnish with a wedge of lime (oops - I didn't)
1 shot = 25ml

Goodness knows how I stopped at only one... oh yes, it IS only wednesday.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

slow cooked chicken dhansak

Last night i enjoyed leftovers of chicken dhansak and rice that i cooked at the weekend. And it was pretty good. This classic curry is my all-time favourite indian restaurant dish and my test of a good curry house. I've had various attempts at recreating it in the past, none very successful, but this has been the best so far. Not sure whether the secret was in the actual recipe or the fact that i cooked it in a slow cooker but the lentils had melted beautifully into the sauce, and the chicken was tender and tasty. It had the right amount of spiciness (sometimes they are a little too hot to handle in the restaurants, depending on how generous they've been with the green chilli...). Give it a try and see what you think, and you don't need to use a slow cooker, just seal the chicken in the pan before cooking the onion and spices, double the amount of stock (and more if it needs it during the simmering time) and cook on a slow simmer for as long as you can, stirring often.

Recipe taken from Slow Cooking Curry & Spice Dishes by Carolyn Humphries and feeds 4...

Chicken and red lentil curry with tomatoes

  • 2 large potatoes, cut into walnut size chunks
  • 4-6 skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 175g/1 cup red lentils
  • 15ml/1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 fat green chilli, chopped (and seeded if preferred)
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves (i used 2 whole cloves)
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 750ml/3 cups boiling chicken stock
  • 30ml/2 tbsp malt vinegar
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp demerara sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped gresh corainder
  • Rice and/or naan bread to serve

Put the potatoes, chicken and lentils in the slowcooker/crock pot and stir well to mix together.

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic and fry, stirring, for a minute. Stir in the chilli and dried spices and cook, stirring, for a further minute.

Add all the remaining ingredients* except the coriander, seasoning well. Bring back to the boil and pour into the pot with the chicken and lentil mixture. Stir, cover with lid and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours until everything is tender.

Check for seasoning. The sauce should be thick but not stodgy, so thin it if necessary with a little boiling water. Serve garnished with the coriander with rice and naan

* I reserved some of the tomatoes which i added to the pot 10 minutes before the end.