Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Fried gnocchi with salad and pesto

Fried gnocchi
Well this isn't really something hard to create. It's one of those meals when you have things in your cupboard but you want to do something a little different with it.

So one Saturday night I wanted to try something a little different with it. Why don't we fry it for a change? The texture is amazing, almost like a roast potato. Crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. Why hadn't I don't something like this before?

What you'll need:
x1 packet gnocchi (we used the one that you buy off the store shelf)
olive oil
salt & pepper to season
chilli flakes (optional)
red pepper pesto
sundried tomatoes (optional)
fresh basil (optional)
rocket or any other salad leaves
parmesean cheese

How to make it:
1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan.

2. Tip in the packet of gnocchi and lightly fry it until they turn light brown and crispy. Add the chilli flakes at this stage, then the sundried tomatoes.

3. Season well with salt & pepper, add some fresh basil and serve on top of the rocket or salad leaves.

4. Drizzle some red pepper pesto over the top and sprinkle with parmesean cheese.

5. Stuff your face and wonder why you hadn't done this before!

Monday, 15 October 2012

"Skinny" sweet & sour chicken

Sweet & sour chicken
I love a good takeaway and usually it's good ol' fish & chips if I'm honest, but sometimes I feel like a curry or maybe Chinese.

Recently the Hairy Bikers went on a mission to lose a bit of their excess weight that they'd put on over the years. To be fair, I'd rather cut down my portion sizes rather than make recipes "low fat", but I thought I'd give one of theirs a go.

We made this last Friday night, served it with some flavoured rice and the result was lovely! We both agreed it tasted better than a shop bought one and it was minimal effort so you could even make it mid-week.

I substituted the bamboo shoots with carrots and it worked perfectly for us. I recommend you give it a go.

You can find the recipe on the BBC Food website: Sweet & sour chicken, by the Hairy Bikers

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Lolly Cake, a NZ childhood staple.

Lolly Cake cut into slices
When I was a kid, my mum used to make this amazing 'cake' out of what seemed to be biscuit crumbs and sweets. When you are small, this was the nectar of the gods and a huge sugar high too.

I had a craving last week for NZ lolly cake. So I thought I'd make some. Unfortunately over here in the UK I can't seem to find all the correct ingredients, but my lovely friend back home posted the two ingredients over, Eskimo lollies and Malt biscuits.

The way to explain Eskimo lollies is that they are the same texture as foam shrimps and foam bananas. The lollies are pink, yellow, green and white and extremely sugary, oops. As for the Malt biscuits? Very similar to the malted milk biscuits I've found in Tesco, but the NZ ones are more malty and a have a stronger flavour.

My next test is to make the Lolly Cake with UK ingredients, but for now, the NZ one made me think of home (after stuffing my face with three slices...)

Eskimo lollies, malt biscuits
What you'll need:
100gms butter, melted
1/2 tin sweetened condensed milk
1 packet (250gms) of malt biscuits
1 packet 'Eskimo lollies', cut into pieces
Dessicated coconut

How to make it:
1. Cut your Eskimo lollies into smaller pieces and set aside. Scissors work really well!

2. Using a food processor, rolling pin or hand blender, blitz the malt biscuits down into crumbs, just like you are making a cheesecake base place into a large mixing bowl.

3.  Make a well in the crumbed biscuits and first add the melted butter, then the condensed milk.**

** I've just read another recipe that says to gently melt the butter and condensed milk together first, then add to the crumbed biscuits, making sure it's not too hot.
4. Before stirring, add a couple of handfuls of the chopped Eskimo lollies, stir again, then keep adding more lollies and stir well until it's all mixed together. You might want to use your hands to make sure the mixture is well combined.

5. Now shape the mixture into a log/roll using your hands and make sure the mixture is pressed together well.

6. You can divide the log into two at this point to help with space in your fridge!
Roll the log in coconut, pressing it onto the mixture. Place on a tray, cover in clingfilm and place in the fridge until firm. Overnight works best, though a few hours is fine.

7. When set, cut slices off the log, stuff into your mouth and enjoy!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Banana & Blueberry muffins

Banana & blueberry muffins
I'm one of those people that buys a big bag of bananas with the intention of eating them all during the week to be good as part of my '5 a day'. Of course come Friday and there's always a couple lying on my desk looking a bit sorry for themselves. I really don't like over ripe bananas and I either give them away or try and bake with them.

On this occasion I decided I was overdue some baking. I usually opt for a banana cake smothered with lots of chocolate butter-cream icing, but this time I actually went down the 'healthier' route.

Now when I say healthy, I mean they are low in fat*, but of course they still contain lovely sugar!

A simple Google search later and I found a great banana & blueberry muffin recipe by Jane Hornby on the BBC Good Food website.

I didn't have any muscovado sugar, so just used light soft brown sugar and I also only had a mild olive oil, but they turned out perfect. I had to bake them for a total of 27 minutes a little longer than the recipe said.

The boyfriend enjoys them, so again it's a winning recipe and I'll be making these often! Enjoy!

*Per serving
202 kcalories, protein 5g, carbohydrate 36g, fat 5 g, saturated fat 0.8g, fibre 2g, sugar 14g, salt 0.59 g

Friday, 18 May 2012

Yummy, sticky coffee cupcakes

coffee cupcakes
I was on birthday baking duties this week and instead of baking a large cake, I decided on cupcakes!

Cupcakes are by far my preference when it comes to baking (and eating of course). I love how cute they are and the fact there is always so much icing on top.

I found a really simple recipe for Coffee cupcakes with chocolate frosting (by Silvena Rowe) on the Good Food Channel website.

I did tweak it ever so slightly for my own purposes.

I wasn't sure if the birthday boy liked pecans so I didn't include them in the cake mixture, just a little one on top for decoration. I also had to ice them the night before since I was unsure how the mascapone would keep. I opted for the usual chocolate buttercream icing, which is delicious!

coffee cupcakes
I think the best part of this recipe is the coffee and sugar syrup you drizzle over the cupcakes when they first come out of the oven. Not only does it smell lovely, but makes the cakes a little gooey, yum.

And I quote my lovely boyfriend "...this cupcake is delish, deffo your best yet."

So, there you have it folks, they have the boyfriend seal of approval. Get yourself over to the website now and check out the recipe for yourselves.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Chorizo nachos

Just down the road from Crystal Palace there is a lovely pub in East Dulwich called The Bishop. They serve delicious food and lovely beer. My friend took me there one night and suggested I try the chorizo nachos as they were very tasty.

Indeed they were EXTREMELY tasty! Think rich paprika tasting juices from the chorizo cooked into minced meat (I'm still not sure if it's pork or beef, and I keep forgetting to ask!), spooned over corn chips and topped with a dash of guacamole, cheese and sour cream. To me this is heaven.

I wanted to create this heaven in my own kitchen. I created this recipe in the hope to satisfy my chorizo nacho urges. Amazingly the first attempt was a success, I didn't poison myself OR the boyfriend and we've got two more helpings in the freezer for further weekend eating.

I tweaked the recipe again a couple of weeks later and managed to serve it to a large group of people. No one got food poisoning, phew!

I usually make this a day in advance and then reheat. The flavours are much better that way! Enjoy!

Angela's Chorizo Nachos

What you'll need:
olive oil
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
1 red chilli, finely diced (I left the seeds out, but that's up to you)
500 grams lean pork mince
250 grams chorizo sausage, diced and roughly minced using a hand blender
1 tin red kidney beans in chilli sauce
1 tsp mild paprika
1 tsp hot paprika
worstershire sauce
2 tbsp tomato puree (approx, add to taste)
black pepper to taste
1 ham stock cube, dissolved in 250ml water, approx

To serve:
plain salted tortilla chips
grated cheddar cheese
creme fraiche (I always use the 50% less fat, tastes EXACTLY the same)
tabasco sauce (optional added heat!)

How to make them:
  1. In a large heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and add the white onion, red onion and red pepper. Cook until softened (do not brown) and then add the red chilli. Cook for a further few minutes, until the chilli is softened too. 
  2. Remove from the heat and tip the onion mixture into a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Add a dash of olive oil back into the pan and brown the pork mince. Do this in batches depending on the size of your pan. Fry it, don't boil it. Tip the pork mixture into a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Add another dash of olive oil into the pan and add the minced chorizo sausage and cook over a medium to low heat. The oil from the chorizo should start to seep into the pan, turning it orange. 
  5. Add the onion, red pepper and chilli mixture to the chorizo. Mix well.
  6. Add the pork mince and any juice into the chorizo mixture. Mix well.
  7. Keep this on a medium heat and make sure that everything is mixed well. Add the tin of red kidney beans, paprika, a glug of Worcestershire sauce and the tomato puree. Season with black pepper.
  8. You should have a nice saucy chilli now. Add a dash of your ham stock and stir.
  9. Pop a lid on it, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and simmer away for 30 to 60 minutes. Keep adding a little of the ham stock if it starts to get too dry. Becareful it doesn't get to salty.
How to serve:
I served these two different ways. The first one I baked in the oven and the other we just served in individual small bowls with the ingredients layered on top of each other. Both very yummy!

Option 1 - the messy way
  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C
  2. In a large oven dish, first put a layer of corn chips, then spread with chorizo mince, then a layer of cheese.
  3. Repeat this until you fill the oven dish, making sure the last layer is grated cheese and also make sure you are very generous with it!
  4. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted and golden.
  5. Serve smothered with guacamole, creme fraiche and a splash of tabasco sauce.
  6. EAT!
Option 2 - good for large groups
In individual dishes, use a layer of corn chips, chorizo mince, cheese then guacamole and creme fraiche. Serve.

I did it this way for the large groups as we were using paper and plastic plates...not a good idea to put into the oven, otherwise it's melted cheese AND plastic!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Sunday baking - Savoury pinwheel scones

It's a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in London. I'm on call for work, so I can't stray far from home...this means I'm a bit bored, and hungry! Time for some baking!

When I was a kid, I used to make pinwheel scones. Most of the time these were cinnamon based ones, so very sweet and sticky. When I got sick of cinnamon, I changed the recipe slightly, taking out the sweet and swapping it for something savoury.

After searching online for a simple pinwheel scone recipe and found one from New Zealand Women's Weekly, a magazine that my mum always bought and apart from the celeb gossip, there were always yummy recipes in the back.

I've adapted this one a teeny bit and made them today. I'm VERY happy with the result and will be baking these again.

Savoury pinwheel scones

What you'll need:
 3 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/3 cup grated cheese
1 1/4 cups milk
Extra milk, to glaze

3/4 cup tomato relish (approx) - I used a slightly spicy red pepper based one
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (approx)

How to make them:
1.  Heat oven to 210 degrees C. Grease a baking tray. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl, then stir in grated cheese and make a well in the centre. Add milk to the well and mix just enough to form a slightly sticky dough.

2.  Turn the dough on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead lightly, just to bring together. Roll dough out into a large rectangle about 5mm thick.

3.  Spread the surface of the rectangle with tomato relish and scatter with grated cheese. Roll up to form a long log.

4. Cut log into equal pieces (just under an inch wide) and arrange these, spiral side up  on the prepared baking tray. Brush the surface of each scone with a little milk. Bake for 20 minutes or until firm and golden brown.

The end result! YUM!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The 'ol falling off the wagon trick

I wrote this on my way home yesterday when I was in 'one of my moods'. Due to unforseen circumstances*, I didn't get a chance to post it last night...but no doubt this feeling will rise again!
Friendly spar anyone?
It's easy to fall of the wagon when exercising and eating well. The last two weeks have been crazy at work, project meetings and deadlines preventing me from going to my favourite lunchtime gym classes.

Yesterday I had the life sucked out of me by a work meeting and instead of attending the after work Boxercise class, I opted for the easy option - home, dinner, sofa.

I'm actually very annoyed with myself as I needed the cardio, but to be honest, I don't think I could handle the wrath of the instructor...small company gym, small classes, he notices if you don't go and thinks you need a 'boost' by paying you extra attention. Aargh.

I have two other classes booked this week and I WILL go. This mentality has been working pretty well, I just need to fight back the project managers who think meetings during my lunch hour is a great use of time.

Maybe I should invite the project managers to Boxercise and we can fight deadlines out with a friendly spar? Now there's an idea!

*More on this tomorrow!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Mmm, cookies!

Triple chocolate chip cookies
Sunday night and we've just stuffed our faces with yummy spicy lamb chops. Now I'm in the mood for something sweet.

A couple of months ago I made a lovely batch of triple chocolate chip cookies and to prevent us stuffing our faces for days with chocolate, I froze half of the dough for another time.

Sunday night was the 'other time'. I hadn't frozen cookie dough before, so I was a little sceptical that they might not work out right...oh boy was I wrong!

They tasted just as good as the first day I made them...and I couldn't resist nibbling on the uncooked dough as I was rolling them out for the baking tray.

I found the cookie recipe online and as one of the comments said, I substituted 25 grams of flour for 25 grams of rich cocoa powder. I also used a mixture of chocolate chips and a broken up chocolate bar of 70% cocoa that was in the back of the cupboard. I found that 11 minutes in my gas oven worked a treat, any longer and they would have burnt. The end result? VERY yummy rich chocolate cookies. What a way to finish the weekend!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Picture perfect

My new pretty little photo frame
Frames frames frames. Remember those strange rectangular objects we used to hang on walls, place on shelves and sit neatly on our mantles?

I was skipping (okay not really) past our local picture framer yesterday and there were piles of photo frames on the footpath outside the shop. Lots of sizes, colours and styles.

A very pretty one caught my eye and for a few pounds, it's now sitting on my dining table, waiting for me to put a photo into it. I WILL put one in it, even though I have a few dotted around my house that are empty, this one will fulfill it's purpose, honest!

With all the digital photography out there sometimes we forget the simple pleasure of looking at photos on paper and not on on a a computer screen. It's fun, try it. :)

Friday, 13 April 2012

A very girlie post

Tape measures can be fun!
Now to get something off my chest. Or should I say something has left my chest.

About a year and a half ago, I was between a size 14 and 16. No one ever called me chubby, at least not to my face but I was never really happy. I joined the gym, cut out most of my bad eating habits and am now a size 10-12. I still eat (oh yes I love it), still indulge in booze and I do fall off the wagon every now and then, but I am human and not a machine, well, not in this life anyway.

I never thought I'd ever wear a bikini in public with the dreaded thighs and stomach, but now I thought I'd give it a go. There's one issue though. My rather generous bust has now gone to something like a couple of deflated balloons. Grr. 

Any women reading this will know exactly what I mean. The body is great at losing and putting on weight, but never where you want it. I'm very happy with the new me, but not so happy after trying on a swimsuit and bikini this afternoon. I think some extra padding is required, maybe some 'chicken fillets', though there would be nothing more embarrassing than them falling out when you are taking a dip. Maybe they'll help me float?

It's Friday night, I'm in my PJs, I've almost devoured a large bag of crisps and I'm eying up the bottle of wine in the fridge. Maybe the extra calories will go to my chest...we know it won't, but it's nice to dream!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Well hello there 2012!

Wow, it's been a very long time since I've even LOOKED at my Blog, let alone posted something! Today I remembered it existed, possibly because I've seen others blogging around me. Shh.

Today is about finding this blog again, bringing it out of it's winter sleep and giving it a bit of a shake up!

Tomorrow? Well, I'm going to give myself a kick up the backside and get blogging, no honestly I am.

Stay tuned!