Gastronomically Terrific

January 31, 2016

Stilton and leek tarts

Filed under: starter, vegetarian — Tags: , , , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 2:13 pm

And so, on to the three courses I made for my dinner party in mid January… I had to pick vegetarian or fish courses, and make sure everybody coming liked what was on offer! So, for starters I chose this stilton and leek tarts.

The hardest part of this starter was making the cheese pastry. Not that this was especially hard, as long as you are used to making pastry! It took me 20 minutes or so rub all the ingredients together, roll out the pastry and cut out circles to line a yorkshire pudding tin.

The topping for the tarts is fried leek, topped with grated cheese and chopped parsley. An egg, cream and nutmeg mixture is then poured into each tart before being baked for 20 minutes. When I first poured in the wet mixture it spilled out the side of each tart a little (I had to cut the pastry rounds slightly smaller than recommended as I didn’t have a big enough cutter), and I was worried that the mixture would spill out over the sides once baked and look awful. It turns out I needn’t have worried – the whole thing rose (upwards, rather than outwards) in the oven, and they looked pretty impressive once baked. They tasted pretty good too!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, pg. 39-40


January 27, 2016

Baking update

Filed under: Cake, fish, main, party, starter, vegetarian — lawsonanna @ 1:18 pm

Since we returned from California in September 2015, I have done a fair amount of baking. I’ve made a mixture of old favourites, new interesting recipes, and things I think my son will be able to help with. What I haven’t done is blog about the majority of these bakes. I do have some draft posts saved here, with some pretty good photos of some of my November and December 2015 bakes.

So, instead of attempting to blog about all the baking I have done over the past few months (and really can’t remember that well), I’ll try and supplement the draft posts I’ve already written and add them to the blog.

I’ll then do my best to start blogging about my bakes and cooking experiments again! I have a good starting point for this, because last weekend I put together a 3-course meal for a few friends. To whet your appetite, this is what I made for it:

Stilton and leek tarts for starters

Baked salmon with parmesan crust for main

Tiramisu for afters…

… and some mini cocktail cupcakes for aperitifs. I’ll write proper posts about these four bakes once I’ve had a go at redrafting and posting about some of my more interesting bakes from 2015. So look out for a smattering of blog posts from me over the next week or so! I’m going to start with ladybird cupcakes…


December 29, 2014

Hoisin duck / goats cheese filo baskets

Filed under: Christmas, meat, starter, vegetarian — Tags: , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 5:37 pm

Firstly, I’m gutted that I don’t have a photo of these as they looked amazing.But I guess there’s a bit too much going on on Christmas Day so things like photos of food do get forgotten. I’ll just have to make them again in the not too distant future!

Wanting to make a starter for Christmas Day, but not wanting anything too big, I thought that these mini-size tartlets would make a good choice. I decided to make the filo cases in advance and freeze them, topping them up with the duck/ goats cheese mixture on Christmas Day.

In order to make the filo baskets I had to read the recipe twice in order to understand how to do it, but once I had figured it out, it was quite satisfying to cut and prep the pastry. What was less satisfying was really burning it in the oven (seriously, they were black) – and I only cooked it for half the time the recipe stated! In hindsight, there were a few reasons for this:

1) I put it in our super-fast fan oven. I should have divided the time by at least 10.

2) I use a mini tart-sized tin. Re-reading the recipe, it said to use a mini-muffin tin (so presumably something about 3 times the size of what I actually used). Again, I should have divided the time by at least 10. (although, oddly, the pastry did fit in these tins perfectly…).

Having said that, I’m pleased I used smaller tins. I wanted little bite-size starters, not something the size of mince pies. What you don’t need before your Christmas dinner is a large starter!

Once I had (begun to) stop feeling quite so grumpy about my burnt efforts, I went ahead and made another batch of pastry cases. This time I put them in the conventional oven for a minute. When I took them out they were a gentle golden brown, just cooked and perfect.

These cases were then frozen until a couple of days before Christmas Day, when they were defrosted at room temperature. The filling itself had to be made on Christmas Day, but this wasn’t a great hardship – because it was for a starter I made it when the turkey was just sat in the oven, before things went mental! I fried and sealed the duck, then put it in the oven for 20 mins (it should have been 10, but the oven was only at 160C for the turkey) to cook it through. The duck was then broken up into tiny pieces, and hoisin sauce, small pieces of cucumber and spring onions were added to the filo pastry tartlets. Because Dan is veggie, about half the tartlets had goats cheese added to them instead of duck – but that was the only difference.

The filled tartlets were then put in the oven for about 3 minutes before we sat down to eat (as everything else was being taken out), just to warm them through and gently melt the goats cheese.

The tartlets were a great success. They tasted lovely, and made for an excellent starter – we had three each, and were all still more than capable of fitting our Christmas dinner in! They may sound like a lot of effort on top of a Christmas Day dinner, but they’re actually quite fun to make and don’t take up too much time when other things need doing in kitchen.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, pg. 30-31

February 3, 2014

Double-blue crostini

Filed under: canape, side, starter, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — lawsonanna @ 4:59 pm

Double blue crostiniI had a friend coming over for a study session this weekend, which seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out a couple of new recipes.

The first recipe is from Nigella’s Christmas cookbook, and is a canape made with tortilla chips. I thought it would make a nice snack either when my friend arrived or when the study got underway. The dips for these crostinis are made by mixing together blue cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, and white pepper…

And it’s lovely! I wasn’t expecting this to taste so good. We ate the entire batch within 30 minutes of my friend arriving, long before we had sat down for lunch. I chose to add sweet yellow jalapenos rather than the recommended standard, hotter, green jalapenos, but you could use yellow, green or red ones, depending upon your preference. I’m not massively keen on really hot things, and for me yellow jalapenos worked really well. This is definitely something I’d make again. I’m not even sure I need an excuse to do it, I’ll just randomly make them one day.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 15

December 1, 2013

Chestnut soup with bacon

Filed under: meat, starter — Tags: , , — lawsonanna @ 9:31 pm
Mmm, still steaming.

Mmm, still steaming.

Wanting to make a soup that would feed both me, my son, a friend and her son, I decided to make this chestnut soup with bacon crumbles. It’s basically a mix of root vegetables, all fried up in garlic oil. Lentils and vegetable stock are then added and left to simmer before chestnuts and sherry are added. Up until this point the soup is veggie – but you then fry up some bacon (again in garlic oil) and add it, and parsley, to the soup. The fact that the basic soup was veggie was another reason it was appealing – it meant that when I made too much of it (which I inevitably did) my veggie husband could eat some of the remainder at a later date.

The soup, with the addition of bacon, was incredibly tasty. The problem was that without the bacon it did taste a little bland. The bacon gave it a little extra kick which was really needed. The friend  I shared this soup with suggested adding blue cheese to it, and after one serving without it (or of course the bacon), my hubby took this suggestion on board. He confirmed that blue cheese worked well, and with it the soup was a winner. One exciting thing for me here was discovering garlic oil – I’d never used it before, and it smells amazing! If you like garlic, that is.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 50-51

February 27, 2011

Creamy carrot and parsnip soup with orange

Filed under: starter — Tags: , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:30 pm

Parsnip soup is always a good thing, but I really liked the creaminess and orange twang from this recipe.


Mmmm, oranges with cream.


There are two surprising flavours in here – orange, and ginger.  The soup is otherwise a fairly standard affair – stock and cream and vegetables all blended together – but it does taste quite distinctive and in a good way.  We would have this again.

Method (serves 2)

Melt a knob of butter and fry half a chopped onion with a clove of garlic until lightly browned.  Add 200g chopped carrots and 1 large parsnip and saute until softened.  Add 1/2 tsp ground ginger 1-2 tsp on freshly grated orange rind, and 300ml of vegetable stock.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.  Blend in a food processor until smooth, then return to the saucepan, reheat and mix in 60ml of double cream.

Serve with a drizzle of cream, and a sprig of coriander.  (OK, that is parsley in the picture… the supermarket was all out…)

Who made it: A joint effort.

Recipe: The Daily Cookbook by Love Food, February 22nd.

January 30, 2011

Kuku with spinach

Filed under: starter — Tags: , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 10:36 pm

Kuku is omelette gone coo-coo.  It looks like nothing else in the world, but works amazingly well and this may become a staple approach to eggs for us.


The recipe book says that kuku comes in many variations over the middle east, and as far as I can tell it is ordinary omelette but a) it is baked, b) it has a little spice in.  The one here, is most definitely not ordinary omelette since it contains the most pure green – which is, in fact, spinach.  Again, I strayed a little from the instructions (overspicing as I like to do) so I’ll give brief details.



300g spinach, 3 eggs, 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped mint, 1 tsp ground cumin, 100g feta cheese.


First, cook the spinach by placing it all into a large saucepan, alone, add a lid and put on a gentle heat.  The leaves quickly shrivel up, and with a little stirring the whole thing reduces about 10 fold.  Drain the spinach in a sieve or colander and squeeze out the extra water, then chop it up roughly.

Break the eggs and mix them up, trying not to beat them.  Add the spinach, chopped mint, crumbled feta cheese, cumin, salt and pepper to taste, then pour everything into a greased oven dish.  Bake at 180 degrees celcius for 25-30 minutes until just set.

The recipe book, no doubt following tradition, recommends serving this cold.  We did try that the following day and it wasn’t at all bad, but personally I prefer it hot.  The spinach forms an interesting base for the eggs, gently flavouring due to the long cooking time.  The feta cheese gives it a tang missing from simple omelette, and the mint and cumin make for a very flavoursome and different dish – no doubt you can make up the herbs and spices as takes your fancy.

Who made it: Anna and Dan jointly.

Recipe: “The complete Vegetarian cookbook” by Sarah Brown, page 181.

August 29, 2010

Mushroom and Sherry Soup

Filed under: starter — Tags: , , , — thinkingdan @ 10:12 pm

This soup provided our starter for our monthly three course meal.

A small parsley forest was filled for this meal.

This soup promises an awful lot.  Butter fried onion, garlic provide the base, whilst a whole medley of different mushrooms (ceps, porcini and chestnut) are reduced into a stock, padded out with vegetable stock.  Then it is flavoured with sherry and parsley, a little milk and some soured cream.  All the mushroom flavouring should come out into the sauce and there are a lot of whole pieces for texture.  With all that intense flavouring in there, it came as a surprise that the end result was somewhat bland.  Not dull per se, just not as perky as we’d hoped.

We had a second portion the for lunch the following day and blended it – for me, this was better, because the mushroom flavour was more intense and I’m not too fond of mushroom texture in large doses anyway.  The soured cream really helped, and I think a good dose more of that and something flavoursome (more sherry?  Or perhaps a complimentary herb or spice?) would benefit it a lot.  This was not bad, and we may try it again, but with modifications.

Who made it: A joint effort by Anna and Dan.

Recipe: “The daily cook book” by Love Food, for “September 30th”.

June 20, 2010

Samosas, Bhajias, potato cakes

Filed under: starter — Tags: , , , , — thinkingdan @ 1:31 pm

Mixed Indian starters today:

(right) samosa, (top) bhaji, (left) potato cakes.

Some fun with Indian cooking: how authentic can we get it?  Turns out, when following a good recipe we can get quite authentic indeed.

All of these are fried in fairly deep oil and are about as unhealthy as it gets.  The samosas were awesome – we added butternut squash instead of potato and it worked amazingly.  The bhajias were exactly as they taste in a restaurant – complete with that strange tangy taste that is unique to them.  (Its the asafoetida, a bitter but very interesting spice).  The potato cakes we were less thrilled by – they were just a bit plain.

The samosas are made with spring roll pastry, which is cheap from eastern supermarkets and really easy to work with.  You just make up whatever you want inside, wrap, and fry – what could be easier?  We were really impressed with how the Bhajias turned out – its just a whole bunch of spices mixed in with enough flour to get them to stick together with some onions, then fried. Quite a messy procedure in practice but very much worth it!

Who made it: Anna and Dan jointly.

Recipe: “Indian” by Shezhad Husain and Rafi Fernandez.  Bhjajias: page 14, Potato Cakes: page 23, Vegetable Samosas: page 34.

May 3, 2010

Celeriac and emmental soup

Filed under: starter — Tags: , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:38 pm

This tasty soup brings out the best of the flavour in celeriac.

As usual, soup looks like soup. Believe me, it was tasty.

Celeriac is a funny vegetable.  Literally, you laugh just looking at it.  It’s all knobbly and oddly coloured, clearly related to swedes and turnips.  However, as a root veg it has a very pleasant taste and smell – shockingly, it is something like celery – that is delicate and probably easy to boil out.  Soup brings this out very well.  I’d say the flavour is more pleasant than celery, perhaps because the parsnip like starchy texture is more reassuring.  This blends to a lovely thick soup that feels very satisfying to eat.

The emmental didn’t really add anything here and could be replaced by most cheeses – vegetable stock is the main secondary flavour.  I’d consider gentle spices but you’d have to be careful not to crowd out the celeriac.

Very tasty, we’d try this again.

Who made it: Anna and Dan jointly.

Recipe: “the complete vegetarian cookbook” by Sarah Brown, page 154.

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