Gastronomically Terrific

February 27, 2014

Roast beef with port and stilton gravy

Filed under: main, meat — Tags: , — lawsonanna @ 9:50 pm

Apart from the chocolate pudding, this was the last of my cooking endeavours over the Valentines Day weekend. My parents were staying for a couple of days, so on the Sunday we decided to have a roast dinner. Most of the elements were things we had made before, but I thought it would be nice to cook a joint of beef as I don’t get to eat a proper joint with my roast very often.

The cooking times and methods for the beef itself was a combination of what Nigella and my mum suggested, as I didn’t buy the forerib Nigella suggested, but just a brisket (well, that’s what the shop had, so that’s what we got). I did follow Nigella’s recipe for the port and stilton gravy though. Now, I’m pretty rubbish at making gravy, and I wasn’t sure whether or not I needed to add liquid to the stock. It turns out that I did need to add it. But I didn’t – resulting in a very, very thick gravy. When I say gravy, I mean sauce. It tasted really good, but it needed to be smeared on the roast rather than poured. Next time I’ll add the water to the stock and maybe we’ll have tasty gravy rather than a tasty sauce…

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 154-157

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February 25, 2014

Fairy feather cakes

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , , — lawsonanna @ 9:42 pm

P1040173The next thing I made was some fairy feather cakes, ready for when my parents visited towards the end of the weekend. I made them on Saturday morning just before some friends arrived – but the decorating happened when they were here, and took somewhat longer than anticipated.

The fairy cakes themselves were easy to make – just simple orange flavoured fairy cakes. I don’t make orange ones often, but I make fairy cakes all the time so that was no problem. The challenge here was the decoration. It involves covering each cake in jam, then a layer of buttercream (again, both things I do quite regularly). You then pipe circles of jam onto the still-wet buttercream, and use a toothpick to almost join the circles up. I wanted to try this because I had been bought a new piping set for Christmas (the kind where you throw the bag away after use, rather than the horrible plastic type). I admit that it was much, much easier to use than my old plastic tube, and I’d be willing to try a similar process in the future. It takes some time investment though!

The fairy cakes themselves tasted fine, but they were rather sweet. I suspect there were two reasons for this – I used orange juice to make the buttercream, and I think it would have tasted better if I had used just water. Also, I used redcurrant jam instead of strawberry or raspberry (as the recipe suggested), simply because this was what I had in the house. Raspberry would probably have worked a lot better.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Fairy Cakes, pg. 42

February 24, 2014

BBQ baked beans with squashed sweet potatoes

Filed under: main, vegetarian — Tags: , , — lawsonanna @ 9:35 pm

DSC05021And this was the main for our Valentines Day meal. I picked it because it looked like a substantial vegetarian meal with sensible ingredients that we (mostly) had lying around, even if it potentially wasn’t going to be the prettiest of meals to look at.

As with other Jamie Oliver recipes from his Save with Jamie recipe book, this has a number of stages to it. Firstly you need to fry up some vegetables with the spices. Then you prepare the sweet potato. Then you add all the sauces, beans and herbs to the fried vegetables. Then you put the bean mixture and the sweet potatoes in the oven for an hour or so. Finally, you roast some stale bread at the bottom of the oven for 10 minutes or so to create croutons. Once it’s ready, you then mix it all together.

Although there are lots of stages to this, thankfully each stage is pretty simple. The biggest problem you’ll face is the sheer amount of washing up (and chaos) it creates. Oh yeah, and it tastes pretty good as well!

Who made it: Anna (with a little help from Dan)

Recipe: Save with Jamie, pg. 64

February 23, 2014

Chilli cheese crostini

Filed under: canape, side, vegetarian — Tags: , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 9:29 pm

DSC05015And so, on to our Valentines Day meal. For a starter, we made chilli cheese crostini. These are pretty similar to the double blue crostini I made back in January – but instead of a mixture of blue cheese, cream cheese, sour cream and jalapenos, you mix together cream cheese, sour cream, paprika, jalopenos and Worcestershire sauce to make a coral pink mixture. Except that we had run out of sour cream, and I replaced the Worcestershire sauce with dark soy sauce so my veggie husband could eat them.

Not having sour cream in these did make a difference, but it wasn’t the end of the world. They would have tasted nicer with it, but they were fine without too. The massive benefit of making these was that they take two seconds to do (and about the same time to devour), so the fact that our main course was already ready to be eaten didn’t matter too much.

Not as good as the double blue crostini, but a good alternative if you have no blue cheese in the house!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 17

February 22, 2014

Olive and fennel bread

Filed under: side, vegetarian — Tags: , , — lawsonanna @ 9:19 pm

DSC05017Next up was the homemade olive and fennel bread. I’ve never made bread before, but this was the February recipe from my 2014 Home Baking calendar. I had been looking forward to making whatever this months recipe was, so when I saw it was bread I figured I would give it a go.

I made this on Valentines Day afternoon, when I had the afternoon off work. It was fun to do because, for a rare treat, I had the house to myself. Of course, it was more fun once I had fixed the “oops, I’ve failed to buy any bread flour” problem – by dashing out to the shops and buying some! Making bread is a pretty involved process, and this even more so because you need to add fennel seeds and kalamata olives to it. I did realise that all those months of watching the Great British Bake Off had actually taught me something though – I knew vaguely what I was do from a relatively bare bones recipe, because I had seen it on TV so many times.

The other thing I knew I needed to do was find somewhere warm to proof the bread. Conversations with friends had made it clear that if it wasn’t somewhere warm enough, the bread wouldn’t rise properly. After having a think, I concluded that the warmest place in the house was my 18 month old sons bedroom. I could turn the radiator up and shut the door, and essentially turn the whole room into a proofing drawer. Which I did, and which seemed to work out quite well. Although it did have the potentially undesired side effect of me thinking I needed to be quiet every time I walked past the room, because usually a shut door to that room means a sleeping baby… ah well, I’m sure the bread appreciated the peace and quiet.

Overall, I think the bread worked out pretty well. It wasn’t perfect, but it was edible, and tasted like pretty good bread – not bad for a first attempt. I may not make the exact same bread again (not that there’s any reason not to – they are pretty good flavours), but I’d definitely be willing to give more bread making in general a try.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Home Baking Calendar 2014

February 21, 2014

Chocolate and lime cheesecake

Filed under: Cake, pudding — Tags: , , — lawsonanna @ 10:21 pm
DSC05035

Happy Valentines Day!

This Valentines Day weekend brought about something of a plethora of baking and cooking. Not just because it was Valentines Day, but also because we had 10 visitors over the course of 4 days. The feast began with a 3-course Valentines Day meal, which consisted of chilli cheese crostini for starter, BBQ baked beans with squashed sweet potato for main, and a chocolate and lime cheesecake for pudding. Saturday saw us consuming homemade olive and fennel bread, whilst on Sunday we had feather fairy cakes for elevenses, roast beef with port and stilton gravy, and chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce for afters.

I’ve blogged about the chocolate pudding before (still no photo, sorry), and it tasted just as good the second time around, so I won’t blog about that again. Of the other dishes, they weren’t quite made in the order they were eaten, so I’ll write about them in the order they were made.

First up, the chocolate and lime cheesecake. This was made a few days in advance, as in my house it’s generally felt that the longer a cheesecake has to sit in the fridge soaking up all the flavours the better. The hardest thing about making this cheesecake was the amount of lime zest I had to grate. The recipe called for 6 limes. I had a slightly smaller tin, so I went with 4 and a half limes worth of zest for the filling, and half a limes worth of zest for the decoration on the top (so 5 in total). I did all my grating a day in advance, so making the cheescake was actually really easy. It involved bashing up some chocolate biscuits for the base (always a great stress reliever, until all the crumbs explode out of the bag because you’ve bashed a bit too hard), mixing together sugar, cream cheese, vanilla extract and lime zest and juice, and popping the whole thing in the oven for 30 minutes or so.

I decorated the cheesecake the next day, once it had had time to set in the fridge. The recipe book called for simply grating chocolate and some lime zest in a circle round the edge of the cheesecake, but I wanted to do something a bit extra as this was for Valentines Day. So I cut a heart shape out of some greaseproof paper, and put the remaining template on the cheesecake. This meant that when I sprinkled grated chocolate and lime zest on the cheesecake, it made a heart shape. I finished that off by making a ring of grated lime zest and chocolate around the edge of the cake.

I have to admit, I was pretty proud of how this looked. I’m not great at decorating things, and I thought I did a pretty good job with this. Of course, this was all helped by the fact that it tasted pretty good too. It’s actually a rather refreshing cheescake, as it’s very, very limey. The only chocolate is in the base and the decoration, so if you wanted to you could easily adapt the recipe so there was no chocolate at all. Although why anybody would think that’s a good idea is a different question.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days, pg.216

February 12, 2014

Fully loaded potato skins

Filed under: main, vegetarian — Tags: , , , — lawsonanna @ 4:14 pm

Fully loaded jacket potatoMaking this was an attempt to use up some of the leftover ingredients I had from some of the other fun, new things I’ve made recently. Admittedly, I had to buy potatoes in order to make this (there’s a clue in the name), but they’ll get used up. They always do.

This is another Nigella recipe – apparently they’re “fully” loaded because they have bacon on top. However, her recipe does point out that it’s a bit mean to put bacon on an otherwise veggie meal, so perhaps you could fry it separately and add it to the top of meat-eaters potatoes only. Which, because I’m a lovely person, I did, so that Dan could have one for lunch too.

Now, as long as you remember to cook the jacket potato waaaaayyyy in advance, this is actually very little hassle to cook. The recipe actually recommends cooking them the day before (for 1 1/2 hrs in the oven), then scooping out the insides and putting them in a separate bowl, which I did. So when you want to eat them, all you have to do is mix some sour cream, cheese, spring onions and worcester sauce (I don’t think I’ve missed anything…) into the scooped out potato insides – and reheat them for 5 mins or so (the recipe says 20-30 mins, but ours were done after 5 – but then I made 2 potatoes, the recipe was for 10).

The one problem with this is… Worcestershire sauce isn’t actually vegetarian. It has fish in it. I know, go figure. I fixed that by replacing Dan’s worcester sauce with soy sauce, but it did mean I had to divide the potato mixture in half first, which was a little annoying. Of course, I could have used soy sauce for both of us, but I really like Worcestershire sauce.

Anyways, it all made a nice enough lunch. It isn’t anything particularly special, but it was easy enough to do and made a nice change from microwaved jacket potatoes with cheese on top (because we always forget we might want jacket potatoes until we’re hungry, and are far too lazy to sccop out the insides). Not something I’m anti doing again, but also not something that’s really at the top of my ‘repeat’ list.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 40

February 8, 2014

Chocolate peanut butter cupcakes

Filed under: Cake, canape — Tags: , , — lawsonanna @ 4:12 pm
And these were the best looking ones...

And these were the best looking ones…

I won’t be making these again. They were a total faff to make, and didn’t even taste that great. They really, really weren’t worth the effort.

Part of the problem was my fault. A lot of the problem was the recipe.

The base for these cupcakes is a mixture of dark soft brown sugar, icing sugar, peanut butter and butter. Now, I admit, I didn’t sieve the icing sugar. And the butter wasn’t soft enough. So when I came to mix it all together, instead of a sandy paste, I mostly got sand. With large chunks of icing sugar peaking through. This was fixed a little by adding the mixture to the petit-four cases; they are so small you have to press the mixture into the case, forcing it to stick together a little.

The second problem with the base was that there was way, way too much mixture for the amount of cases I had. That was entirely the recipes fault. It claimed that the mixture would make approx. 48 mini cupcakes- I halved it, and had far, far too much mixture for 24 petit four cases. I ended up filling up 12 normal sized cupcake cases as well, because I was beginning to lose my patience at this point, and couldn’t be bothered to do another 24 mini cases. I didn’t want to make 48 of the damn things! Apart from anything else, there’s nobody to eat that many!

… and then you come to the topping. It’s just a mixture of melted dark chocolate and melted milk chocolate. In contrast to the recipe for the base, the amounts here are massively underestimated. I had enough base mixture to make 48 mini cupckes, and enough topping to cover about 12 of them. I ended up melting all the chocolate I had in the house, which was double the amount the recipe stated, and it still wasn’t enough to cover all the bases I had created (24 mini bases and 12 larger ones).  The recipe also stated that the milk and dark chocolates should be melted separately and then mixed together. Strictly speaking, this is probably best practice… but it’s really, really not necessary. Milk and dark chocolate melt at such similar rates that they can be done together. Why make washing up for yourself? Now, if it had been dark and white chocolates, then yes, melt them separately and then mix. They do melt at very different rates.

After all that, and some pretty rubbish-looking results (also, don’t get your 17 month old son to help add the final decorative stars. They all go on the floor), they didn’t even taste that great. They basically tasted of peanut butter and chocolate. Which is exactly what they are.

Absolutely not worth the effort for the reward you get. Don’t bother.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 25

February 7, 2014

Prosecco and pomegranate jelly

Filed under: Christmas, pudding — Tags: , , , — lawsonanna @ 9:19 pm

Prosecco and pomegranate jellyAnd so, on to what was (for me at least) the show stopper of this Grown Up Nursery Super.

First things first… this tasted amazing. And looked pretty good too, I reckon. I was so proud of my little self. I’d never made champagne jelly, or anything like it before, so I followed the recipe word for word. I wasn’t even going to take risks with vege-gel so that Dan could eat this. It wasn’t for him, after all. The recipe suggested using leaf gelatine, so that’s what I did. I have to say, it was much easier to use than any of the other gelatines I’ve grappled with in the past.

The jelly is basically a bottle of Prosecco, water, sugar and gelatine. The pomegranate seeds are just for decoration to add some colour to the jelly. Whilst I did add them to the jelly, I don’t know how necessary they were. They did make the jelly look good, but for me the taste was in the actual jelly – I wasn’t bothered about whether the seeds were there or not. Dribbling Cointreau over the jelly, however, was definitely worth it.

I could have eaten this in one sitting, although I would have gotten very drunk. It’s soooooo nice. This one is absolutely going on my Christmas list must-makes.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 80-81

February 6, 2014

Parsleyed fish gratin

Filed under: fish, main — Tags: , , — lawsonanna @ 9:10 pm

So, here was my next excuse to make tasty food. Dan was going away for the night, so I invited a couple of friends over for dinner. I decided to go with Nigella’s ‘Grown Up Nursery Supper for 6’, because I’ve been looking at the photo of that Prosecco jelly in this cookbook for years now, and every time I see it I really, really want to make (and eat) it. And the main course looked pretty good too.

The main course is a fish gratin – basically a white parsley sauce mixed in with fish, and covered with potato. It’s relatively easy to make – especially if (unlike you me) you either know how to skin and bone fish, or buy ready skinned and boned smoked fish.

The one thing I will say about a gratin is that you’re not meant to cook the potato. You slice it very thinly, put it on top of the dish and cook it in the oven for an hour or so. We’ve made this mistake before, and ended up with uncooked potato. So, this time around, I sliced the potato but then parboiled them, just for 5-10 minutes, before putting the dish in the oven.

I’m pleased to say it all worked really well. My only slight complaint is that it didn’t seem like that much food. This was meant to be a meal for 6, so I halved the amounts as there were 3 of us. I could have done with just taking a third off. A bit of a shame, because the amounts in Nigella’s recipes are usually pretty good estimates.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 79

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