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.

Monday, 26 January 2009

bitchin' kitchens

I have been planning to throw in a few kitchen themed posts, rather than just recipes and photos of food. My first was going to be some kitchens to die for... and my lovely friend Biba from Inspiration Bubble has very kindly beaten me to it! Have a look at some of her favourite white kitchens, which are all rather beautiful:
And here is a glimpse of my very own little kitchen!

Sunday, 25 January 2009


So i wake up on a sunday morning planning to go running, but i hear the wind and rain outside and think... run... schmun...! There were much more enjoyable things i could be doing with my time. I needed chocolate and there was only one woman to turn to. The one and only Domestic Goddess. I flicked through her books but couldn't find anything quite chocolatey enough so i tried the website and found this. The results speak for themselves. Latte anyone?

Thursday, 22 January 2009

me and my blog

A little bit about me and the inspiration for this blog... I am an Aquarian female who loves food! I like nothing more than getting people together to eat and drink, and have had a growing interest in food over the last 15 years. I have collected a good number of cookery books over this time and plan to feature one of these each week, sharing at least one recipe and more if time allows.

I like to try to keep as fit as possible so that i can eat more than my little frame allows! So i run and walk (and occasionally go to the gym...) as much as i can.

Whilst eating is the main inspiration for my blog, i am working on my photographic skills and thought this would be a great way to take and share my photos.

I had been thinking about starting this since discovering the wonderful world of food blogs last year but it would never have got off the ground if it hadn't been for my lovely friend, the very talented Miss Biba. She was so excited about it that she has designed and set up the whole thing! Interiors are her thing and you can find out more here.

I hope i haven't offended anyone with the title of my blog but it is very much tongue in cheek, and what else rhymes with kitchen?! The name was inspired by the Livingetc forums and regular contributor Griffo, who established the popular Bitchingetc thread. Designing the monthly Bitchingetc cover is only one of his talents, and you can see many more of them here.

So thank you Biba and Griffo and welcome to one and all, i hope you enjoy what's to come!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

chicken soup for the soul

After a hard day at work, i was struggling to think what else to do with left over roast chicken! I settled for a comforting soup which i wasn't planning on writing about, but it was so good i decided it was blogworthy...

Here goes - these quantities will feed 2 comfortably but just increase the quantities if feeding a family:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 pint good chicken stock
150g cooked chicken, shredded
50g pasta for soup (optional)
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, celery and carrot, cooking for a few minutes until they start to soften.
Add the stock, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 mins.
Add the chicken and allow to heat through, then the pasta and simmer for the time indicated on the pack (i used a spanish short spaghetti called fideo which takes 5 minutes). Add a little more hot stock if required.
Season to taste and serve in your favourite soup bowls.

Delicious, comforting and credit crunch cheap!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

new year, new way of eating

I feel that i have been neglecting my blog! My excuse is that i had a hectic and very sociable weekend, and i haven't quite mastered the art of cooking for other people, being hostess AND taking photos to post on here!

Last Friday was a mexican night in with the girls, when i produced my famous guacamole, nachos, beef fajitas and vegetable chilli (Lee's Hippy Farm Beans from the Leon cookbook). Dessert was the most delicious Chocolate Pots from Nigella Bites.

Saturday was spent eating leftovers from the night before and going to a fantastic wedding reception in the evening.

Sunday was all about planning and preparing a roast dinner for a friend (who happens to be a very good cook - no pressure then...) when i made Jamie Oliver's perfect roast chicken (taken from The Naked Chef), crispy roast potatoes and parsnips, sweet potato gratin (from Ottolenghi The Cookbook) and some simple peas and carrots. I hadn't cooked a roast for ages, but it all turned out well and we finished it off with some home-made apple crumble and cream (should have been freshly made custard but it curdled beyond repair...).

So tonight, i was determined to cook AND blog! But first i will explain my new year way of eating. I have spent the last couple of weeks sorting out my finances, my cupboards, my life in general... This was brought on by reading The Thrift Book by India Knight which is a modern day guide to living well and spending less. Tying in with all things credit crunch, i have decided if i make less visits to Waitrose each week, i will definitely save money and not waste so much food. It is all too easy for me to get carried away deciding on a must-cook recipe and ignore the actual contents of my fridge. So, i am making the most of the food i have and only shopping for fresh essentials as and when i need them. The secret of this is having a well-stocked cupboard which, thanks to the aforementioned Waitrose, I do!
A book i will be referring to often and which i have had for a good number of years is off the shelf by Donna Hay. Tonight i needed to use left over roast chicken and this recipe was perfect:

I didn't realise there were so many recipes on her website so i am off to explore some more...

Note to self: do not post too many pasta recipes!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

dim sum lunch

As i haven't had time to post details of my latest creation (beautiful savoury pastries from Ottolenghi - more on those later...), i thought i would share one of my secret lunch locations with you which i visited today...
Known as one of the most expensive chinese restaurants in London, the Princess Garden of Mayfair serves delicious food but you really don't have to completely blow the budget. It's worth knowing that they serve the most delicious dim sum at lunchtime, with more food than you can eat and a bottle of wine coming to under £40 for two people (obviously considerably less if you opt for green tea rather than wine!).
Each of the dishes (imagine chinese tapas) contains 3 pieces and today we enjoyed spring rolls, mango salad cups, paper wrapped prawns and a selection of steamed dumplings (we had 8 different dishes in total each costing between £2.30 and £2.80 each).
The setting is quite formal so it is perfect for a business lunch although i regularly meet a friend there for a good catch up and the staff are always very friendly. If you haven't enjoyed dim sum before and aren't sure what to order, you can ask them to bring you a selection of dishes (you could mention if you particularly like the steamed or fried dishes, meat or seafood etc).
Sorry I didn't take any photos but I promise to next time!

Monday, 12 January 2009

leon's (not very) kashmiri rogan josh

When i was first given this book for Christmas, this is the dish i couldn't wait to make, and it didn't disappoint. It's worth getting organised and marinating the lamb the night before. I didn't, so can only imagine just how good this dish would have been if i had been a bit more organised!

Serves 6 (generously)
200ml natural yoghurt
1 heaped tsp dried chilli flakes (or chilli powder)
1 fat thumb-sized piece of root ginger, grated
1/2 tsp turmeric
4 cardamom pods
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1kg diced lamb or mutton
4 tbsps groundnut or sunflower oil
1.5 tsps mustard seeds
1 medium spanish onion, chopped
100g ground almonds
400-500ml chicken stock
500g pumpkin or butternut squash, diced
150g frozen peas (I didn't add these)
1 green pepper, diced
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
a big handful of coriander
salt and pepper

Put the yoghurt, chilli, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, bay leaves and cinnamon into a bowl. Add the meat and move it around to make sure it's well coated and leave to marinate overnight (or for as long as you can).
Next day, heat the oil over a medium heat in a large heavy-based pan and fry mustard seeds until they begin to pop.
Add the chopped onion and stir for a couple of minutes, then tip in the meat with its marinade and gently cook on all sides for 5-10 mins. Next, add the ground almonds and stir well.
Pour in enough stock to just cover the meat, season with salt and lots of black pepper and bring to a slow simmer. Leave simmering with the lid on for 1 hour 30 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent the almonds sticking to the bottom of the pan. After this time, the lamb should be softening nicely (might need longer if you use mutton).
Then add the diced pumpkin and green pepper and push under the surface of the liquid (adding more stock if required).
Let it bubble away for 20-30 mins longer with the lid off, stirring frequently, until the pumpkin is just beginning to lose its shape and the lamb is nice and tender.
Turn off the heat, add the tomatoes and peas and stir so they are all submerged, then put the lid back on and leave for 10 mins to allow them to soften up.
Check the seasoning, give a good last stir to smash up the tomatoes a bit and serve with rice, yoghurt and a handful of coriander on top.

My friend enjoyed it (and took the photo for me!)

Sunday, 11 January 2009

white chocolate and cranberry biscuits

These are delicious! I made a batch last week and had to give them another try...

Recipe taken from the Ottolenghi Cookbook and makes 25-30

90g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g unsalted butter at room temperature
1tsp vanilla ectract
110g soft brown sugar
25g caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
80g whole rolled oats
60g white chocolate chips
75g dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 170C/Gas Mark 3. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and set aside.
Put butter, vanilla and sugars in large mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is lighter in colour and texture. Gradually add the egg, making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding more. Fold in the flour mixture and the oats, then the chocolate and cranberries. Do not over-mix.
Chill the mixture slightly to help shape the biscuits. Scoop out a teaspoon of the dough and shape into a ball (the size of a walnut). Press the balls lightly on to baking trays lined with baking parchment, leaving 6-7 cm between them as they spread. Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them as they are ready as soon as they are a good golden brown colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the trays before serving.

If you don't have time to make all the biscuits in one go, the dough will keep in the freezer and you can make another batch at a later date - just allow the dough to thaw a little before shaping into balls.

Friday, 9 January 2009

pasta with pancetta, leek & mushrooms

Being Friday night, i was tempted to order a takeaway but then felt guilty about certain items in my fridge that really needed using up, or they would have to be thrown away over the weekend...

As i am also planning to go running first thing in the morning, i decided a big bowl of pasta was required (carbo-phobes look away now...).

I have made this recipe before and whilst it was nice, it seemed to be lacking something so i used some fresh sage rather than the recommended flat leaf parsley.

Recipe below feeds 4 but i did 1/4 of everything (i increased the pasta from 75g per person to 100g as i prefer to have to struggle to eat the last few mouthfuls, rather than want to cook it all over again immediately!).

Adapted from the recipe featured in Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food

400g dried pasta (i used penne)
sea salt and black pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
125g pancetta, sliced
a handful of fresh sage, finely shredded
2 medium leeks, trimmed and finely sliced
250g chestnut mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
4 tbsp creme fraiche

Add the pasta shells to a pot of boiling salted water and cook for the time advised on the pack or until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the pancetta, fry for a few minutes until golden. Add the leeks and mushrooms and a little salt and pepper. Stir over a high heat for 6-8 mins until the leeks are tender.
Drain the pasta and immediately toss with the leeks, pancetta and mushrooms, and stir in the creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper and serve, finishing with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh basil.

Yum yum - and now i really DO need to go running in the morning!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

winter vegetable broth with haricot beans and chorizo

With all the excitement of my blog being launched today, i didn't even think about what i might cook this evening! After getting in at 8.30pm, i would have usually made to with some bread and cheese and a nice glass of wine, but it was cold and i needed comfort food (although being January, it had to be healthy).

After flicking through a couple of favourite cookery books and surveying the sorry contents of my fridge (i really should have started this on the weekend after a trip to the supermarket..) i settled on this comforting soup from Rachel Allen's Rachel's Favourite Food at Home.

The recipe is as follows and is enough for 4-6

2 tbp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 small leeks, trimmed and chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
150g chorizo, sliced and chopped*
900ml chicken stock*
1 x 410g tin haricot beans, drained
2 tbsp chopped coriander or flat leaf parsley*
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, carrot, leek, potato, garlic and chorizo.

Cover and sweat for 10 mins over a low heat, stirring every now and then.

Add the chicken stock and drained beans, bring to the boil and simmer for at least 5 mins.

Add the herbs, season to taste and serve.

Comfort in a bowl!

*Vegetarians can omit the chorizo and use vegetable stock instead of chicken. A pinch of smoked paprika would add some warmth.
*For a more italian vibe, use pancetta instead of chorizo, basil instead of coriander/parsley and finish with grated parmesan.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

unbake that cake

Hello and welcome to my brand spanking new kitchen blog. Without a doubt there will be kitchens, food, wine, cocktails and when i feel the urge I will natter (see no actual bitching... sorry!) about my running attempts and my keen interest in photography and interiors! Watch this space!
To celebrate my arrival, here is a "sushi" carrot cake for everyone to share!!!