Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Steak and Chips

Food trends come and go but Steak and Chips still reigns supreme.  According to a recent poll, this is Britain's favourite dish this year; leaving other contenders such as spaghetti bolognese, pizza, lasagne and chilli con carne.  I cannot believe fish and chips or any pies and stews did not make it to the top ten list.

I do like steak and chips, and there's just something so honest about the dish: grilled meat and fried potatoes, simple as.  I like it so much, my essay on 'Decoding Popular Culture' during my undergraduate study was based on Steak and Chips.  I wrote about its significance, what the dish represents and its philosophical consequences, particularly for the French during the war.

But anyway, I don't want to bore you.  The meat and potatoes were lovely.  I had them with grilled asparagus and peppercorn sauce.  I'm afraid this is the last home-cooked meal this year as tomorrow morning I am leaving for Bath and will be spending the New Years in London. I wish everyone a very Happy New Year in advance; may next year be a joyful one.  Thank you for all the support this year and I'll see you in 2011...

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Dear Alex, Thank You for the Christmas Cake

Several weeks ago, I received an email from one of my favourite food bloggers, Alex from Dear Love Blog offering an edible gift for Christmas and continuous support for her blog.  Being an openly greedy person, of course, I couldn't say no.  Alex presented a list of delicious goodies and the task to choose was not an easy one.  Satsuma & Clementine Marmalade? Honey & Ginger Fudge? Winter-spiced Vodka? But at the end I settled for a Christmas Cake.

I have two contrary views on Christmas Cake. One, it's this dreadful dried-fruit cake, covered in jaw-achingly sweet royal icing or marzipan so hard, I'm afraid my teeth will break; and two, it's just not Christmas without a Christmas Cake.

I received the cake a couple days before Christmas and the cake is the highlight of my holiday.  I cannot stop bragging about it to my friends.  I must tell you, the cake smells absolutely incredible and I know it'll taste delicious.  I haven't actually cut the cake yet because I want to "feed it with brandy like an alcoholic pet" as Alex wrote, for another week or two.   

If you would like to see better pictures of the cake and would like to see the recipe and how to make it, please visit Alex's blog, by simply clicking here.

I think this is the wonderful thing about the food blogging community, it's not just about sharing recipes, pictures and stories, it's also about making friends.

Alex, thank you so much for this wonderful present.  It was so generous of you.  You really made my Christmas.  Thank you again for thinking of me.   Have a great holiday season.  Here's to a long lasting friendship.  Cheers!

Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas Eve, Day and Panettone French Toast

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I had a great one with some friends, eleven of them and the Christmas Eve feast was a success.  I cooked a fairly traditional Christmas meal with some delicious twists a la Nigella.  There was hardly any leftovers. My friends managed to gulp all the dishes including, yes including, the brussels sprouts!  Here are some of them:

Dressing or stuffing is possibly my favourite part of the meal.  This year I made Panettone and Italian Sausage Stuffing and it was utterly delicious.  I used hot Italian sausage here and it worked really well, giving a nice savoury contrast against the sweetness of the dried fruit in the panettone.

Every year, I'll be eating the sprouts alone as none of my friends would eat them.  This year however was a different story.  Pancetta Sprouts with Chestnuts was so delicious, this was the first dish gone that evening. 

Despite of its dark appearance, this was one very juicy turkey. Brining the turkey really made a difference.  You don't suddenly get a turkey that's flavoured with onions, orange, peppercorns, maple syrup or caraway seeds, etc.  Brining the turkey somehow gives an extra roundness and moisture needed by the lean turkey. So good! One thing didn't change however, the turkey was then shredded rather than cut into slices as I cannot carve.

For something sweet to finish the meal, I made Christmas-Spiced Chocolate Cake because you cannot go wrong with a chocolate cake.  This flour-less chocolate cake is flavoured with cinnamon, cloves, zest of satsuma/clementine and espresso powder; and topped with sticky caramelised flaked almonds. Yum. 

A party is not a party without a drink or two.  I am happy with just wine, but tis is the season to over-indulge, so cocktails were in order.  The thing is, after cooking all day, I don't want to be a bartender all night.  I want to be part of the party and have few drinks myself .  So I chose easy cocktails to make and my friends can help themselves.  I like Snowball which is advokaat, a creamy, custard-like liqueur made from eggs, sugar and brandy, mixed with fizzy lemonade and lime. It tastes like ice cream... Another favourites are Amaretto and Coke and Peach Schnapps and Lemonade (or Prosecco).

And for those who might not want alcohol, but still want to indulge, I made two pitchers of Seasonal Breeze which is an equal part of chilled cranberry juice, clear apple juice and orange juice; and also Xmas Xinger which is two parts of chilled pomegranate juice with one part of ginger ale.

The rest of the evening was spent by playing few rounds of charades and we opened our secret santa presents.  I got a lovely LSA handmade glass jug from my dear friend, Juliana. Thank you.

Christmas Day started by going to Church and then a whole day of more food, drinks and presents at home with friends, this time only five of them.  For a nice pick-me-up in the morning, I made Espresso Martini made with chilled espresso, toffee vodka, coffee liquor and served over ice.

We watched No Reservations and Home Alone whilst munching two different kinds of cocktail sausages, one flavoured with wholegrain mustard and ginger and another one with cranberry and soy.  I also made baked Camembert with garlic and thyme and topped with sweet chilli jam served with crusty white bread. 

Santa was very nice this year.  I must had been a good boy.  I got a nice jelly mould, wine bottle holder and Jamie's 30 Minute Meals cookbook amongst other goodies.

And then it was dinner time again, we had slow-roasted pork belly with braised onions, a recipe inspired by Jamie Oliver during my Cook with Jamie project.  This recipe seemed to be better and better every time. In a pestle and mortar I bashed some fennel seeds with salt and massaging this fragrant mixture to the scored skin before cooking and this will make a fantastic super-crunchy crackling after three hours of cooking.

My favourite accompaniment to the pork belly is must try red cabbage braised with apple, bacon and balsamic vinegar, also a recipe from Mr. Oliver.  The red cabbage is cooked with bacon, fennel seeds, onions, apples and balsamic vinegar until the vinegar becomes syrupy and the cabbage is gorgeously sweet. Before serving, stir in a knob of butter and sprinkle with some parsley.

After dinner we played a round of drinking game with shots of sambuca and never made it to dessert as we were all hammered!

On Boxing Day after a day of shopping we finally had the dessert: Hazelnut Latte Tiramisu served with chocolate shavings and satsuma zests.  My favourite!

So, it's all done now and back to normality.  I plan to spend the day at home, relaxing, watching movies, reading blogs and cooking for one.  I had some leftover panettone bread and so I made French toast, served with cinnamon sugar, zest and warm maple syrup. 

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Linguine with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms

The first time I tried this recipe, I thought that I wouldn't like it, but I was clearly wrong.  Raw (chestnut) mushrooms is surprisingly delicious.  And this makes an incredibly speedy supper: slice the mushrooms, steep them in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon and thyme and then toss them into hot cooked pasta. Slurp!

I am finally almost done with my Christmas shopping, just one more present...
My friends, 12 of them are coming over for Christmas Eve Meal and for me it is always the big dinner day.  I've done as much as I can with the preparation.  This year I am going all Nigella.  I'll post about the day later. For now, the turkey is happily swimming in its fragrant brine of onions, orange, caraway seeds, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon, bouquet garni, maple syrup, cloves, star anise, honey, ginger and parsley. This is my very first experience of brining and I've heard some great reviews and a promise of juicy, succulent turkey. I cannot wait for the bird to go to the oven!

I've also cooked some onions, celery and Italian sausages for the panettone stuffing. Yum.
The Christmas-spiced chocolate cake is out of the oven and ready to be adorned. I'm gonna stay strong and try my best not to have a slice now.  The smell is just gorgeous.

I have new friends staying over this holiday season.  I am taking care of my friend, Adam's gold fish whilst he's on holiday. Adam made me swear not to cook them and don't worry I won't! I don't remember any of their names, so I call them A (the gold one), B (the black one) and C (the silver one)...

Tomorrow is the last day at work, and so I praise Hallelujah!

Linguine with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Serves 4 - 6

225g chestnut mushrooms
80ml extra virgin olive oil
1 x 15ml tbsp Maldon salt, or 1½ tsp table salt
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped to give 1 tsp leaves
500g linguine
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
2-3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper

Slice the mushrooms finely and put in a large bowl with the oil, salt, crushed garlic, lemon juice and zest, and marvellously scented thyme leaves.
Cook the pasta according to packet instructions and drain loosely, retaining some water. Quickly put the drained pasta into the bowl with the mushroom mixture.

Toss everything together well, then add the chopped parsley, grated cheese and pepper to taste, before tossing again, and eat with joy in your heart.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Jamie's ultimate gingerbread

If you have the chance to visit Lake District in Cumbria, it is a beautiful region in the North West of England.  Apart from enjoying the natural beauty and the scenery, you can also visit the Beatrix Potter Gallery or the Cumberland Pencil Museum among many other attractions.  One place you do not want to miss is The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop.  You cannot miss it really, as the aroma of freshly baked gingerbread will definitely lead you to this little charming shop. I have tasted Grasmere Gingerbread and they are out of this world...

This recipe is from Jamie Oliver's book Cook with Jamie and it is his attempt to uncover the secret recipe of the Grasmere Gingerbread; a recipe that has been a secret for over 150 years old.  I made this a few months ago during my Cook with Jamie - Project and it's one of my favourite recipes.

The base and the topping of this ultimate gingerbread is made with shortbread, which you can make yourself from Jamie's recipe, or your own favourite shortbread recipe or simply buy from the shop.  I like to make my shortbread from Jamie's recipe which is so-buttery, and modestly named the best shortbread in the world.

Making the gingerbread was an easy task.  Waiting for them to cool was the hardest part, but good things come to those who wait, right? The gingerbread does live up to its name. It has just the right amount of ginger and packed with flavours from the mixed peel, crystallised ginger, golden syrup and treacle which also give a nice chewy texture to the gingerbread. 

This makes a wonderful holiday treats and edible presents. Give it a try.

Ultimate Gingerbread
Recipe by Jamie Oliver
Makes 12 generous slices

400 g store-bought shortbread or home-made
170 g coarse demerara sugar
3 tsp ground ginger
40 g mixed peel, chopped
40 g crystallised ginger, chopped
70 g plain flour
a pinch of baking powder
40 g golden syrup
40 g treacle
70 g unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 170ºC and find a baking tray about 20x35cm. Put the shortbread, sugar and 2 teaspoons of the ground ginger in a food processor and whiz until you have crumbs. Remove 100g of the mix and keep this to one side. Add the remaining teaspoon of ginger to the processor, along with the mixed peel, crystallized ginger, flour and baking powder, and pulse until well mixed.

Melt the syrup, treacle and butter together in a saucepan big enough to hold all the ingredients. When melted, add the mixture from the food processor and stir with a wooden spoon until everything is thoroughly mixed together. Tip into the baking tray and spread out evenly. Press the mixture down into the tray, using your fingers or something flat and clean like a potato masher or a spatula. When the mix is a flat, dense and even layer, pop the tray in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Take the tray out of the oven and sprinkle the hot gingerbread with the reserved crumbs, pressing them down really well with a potato masher or spatula. Carefully cut into good-sized pieces with a sharp knife, and leave to cool in the tray before eating.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Fully loaded potato skins

I started my Christmas shopping today and it was not fun.  Town was absolutely busy.  It could had been easy if I knew what to get for my friends, but the thing is I am terrible at buying presents.  I bought few things but I need to go back to the shops tomorrow to get more stuff.  *sigh...

Anyway, let's talk about food... there is nothing like a plate full of crispy potato skins, filled with spring onions, sour cream, Worcestershire sauce and melting cheese.  Obviously they are delicious just like that, but to make these treats fully loaded, they are topped with crispy bacon. Yum!  I could eat these with wild abandon and preferably with some cider alongside to drink and be none the worse. *sigh...

I submitted my essay on Thursday and it felt great! The next one is not due until mid-January. I'll worry about that after the New Year.  In the meantime, I want to enjoy the whole festivities. I'll be having friends over for meals on Christmas Eve and Day and it'll be fun.  I planned the menu I wanna cook and made my shopping list.  Food shopping, that's shopping I can cope and actually enjoy.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Fully Loaded Potato Skins
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Makes 20 stuffed potato skins

10 baking potatoes
225g strong cheddar or red leicester
250ml sour cream
4 spring onions
1 teaspoon Maldon salt or  
½ teaspoon table salt or to taste 
good grinding of black pepper 
1 x 15ml tablespoon worcestershire sauce
10 rashers American-style or thin-cut streaky bacon
oil for frying
The day (or up to 2 days) before you load them, preheat your oven to 200C/400F and bake the potatoes (pricking them first) for about 1½ hours, or until the skins are crisp and the insides fluffy. As soon as you can bear to tackle the hot potatoes, cut them in half lengthways and scoop the insides into a bowl.
Put the husk-like skins of the potatoes on a tray and, when cool, cover until you are ready to fill them. Let the potato cool in the bowl, and then cover until needed.
When you are ready to fill the potatoes, preheat your oven to 200C/400F. Grate the cheese, and add 200g of it to the cold potato along with the sour cream. Chop the spring onions and add to the potato, with the salt, pepper and worcestershire sauce.
Spoon the potato filling into the potato skins, and lay each half on a baking tray so they fit snugly together. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese, giving each potato skin a light covering, and cook for 20-30 minutes until golden.
Fry (or grill) the bacon rashers in oil until crispy, then crumble them and sprinkle half a rasher’s worth over each potato skin to make them fully loaded.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Chorizo and chickpea stew

So, I am taking a little break from my essay.  This is my last piece of work before Christmas break! Whoo-hoo!
If you don't already know, I am currently doing my postgraduate study in media and cultural studies.  In my current essay, I am writing about how TV cookery programmes change our kitchen, our consumption and lifestyle; and as a case study, you may already guessed it, I chose Nigella.  She has such beautiful TV kitchen, with all that fairy lights, matching le creuset pots for every dish,.... I am obsessed, aren't I?!

Anyway, for dinner tonight, I made chorizo and chickpea stew, which is a good company especially when it's chilly outside.  Oh, and yes, it is a Nigella recipe.

This stew is pretty much instant.  It takes so little time and effort to cook, and yet, delicious.  The chorizo gives such wonderful spicy flavour and a nice kick to the stew.  The heat is balanced with sweet and sour from dried apricots and tinned cherry tomatoes.  The stew is then served on a bed of cooked bulgar wheat.  I never had bulgar wheat before and I wonder why, because it's delicious. It's like couscous, but better.

Chorizo and chickpea stew
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Serves 4

2 tbsp regular olive oil
50g spaghettini or vermicelli, torn into 3cm/1in lengths
500g bulgur wheat
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp sea salt flakes or 1 tsp pouring salt
1 litre water
2 bay leaves
350g chorizo, cut into coins and then halved
4 tbsp amontillado sherry
100g ready-to-eat dried apricots, snipped into pieces with scissors (optional)
2 x 400g cans chickpeas drained and rinsed in a sieve
2 x 400g cans cherry tomatoes, drained, plus 1½ cans tap water
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh coriander, to serve (optional)

Warm the olive oil in a thick-bottomed pan on a medium heat. Fry the pasta bits in the oil for a minute, stirring, until they look like slightly scorched straws, then add the bulgur wheat and stir for another minute or two.

Stir in the cinnamon and the salt, then pour the water into the pan. Add the bay leaves and bring to a boil, then turn down to the lowest heat, add a lid, and leave for 15 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed.

Put another thick-bottomed saucepan on a medium heat, add the chorizo pieces and fry until the orange oil runs out of them. Then add the sherry and let it bubble away.

Add the apricots (if using) along with the chickpeas and canned tomatoes. Half-fill each empty tomato can with water and swill it out into the pan. Put on a high heat to bubble for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with the bulgar wheat and, if there’s any to hand, some chopped coriander.

OK, back to more writing about Nigella now...

Friday, 10 December 2010

Sweet potato cottage pie

I am feeling much better now... Thank you for all the kind words on the previous post.  Much appreciated.

Last night, I was craving for a pie and I searched in my kitchen for some ingredients and with what I found in the fridge and cupboard, I made a sweet potato cottage pie.  The pie looks a lot bigger in the picture, it's actually just a small ramekin for one serving (well, maybe 2... but I am greedy).

Although for me most food is comfort food, there is something so soothing and extra comforting about a freshly baked pie.  This may comes in the ray of spices, like thyme, rosemary and bay; the sweetness of slowly cooked onions, carrots and mushrooms; the tender meat inside, and the rich savoury gravy underneath... And I prefer my pie to be topped with mash, not pastry.  White potato mash is great, but sweet potato is so much better... yum...

Elisabeth from Food and Thrift Finds kindly tagged me on a series of questions.  So, here are my answers:

1. Are you a vegetarian, or have you thought of being one?
No, I am not a vegetarian and I haven't thought of becoming one.  It'll be such a challenge.  I must say though, twice or three times a week, I always have meals that are meat-free.  But I don't think I can give up meat entirely.

2. Who inspired you to cook or bake?
That's easy: my mom.  She is a fantastic cook and an excellent baker.  My mom used to be a pastry chef and a private caterer.  One of my fondest childhood memories is following her and watching her 'perform' from one kitchen to another.  I sat quietly in the corner, watching the excitement whilst waiting if there's any extra food... and guess what? there's always extra food.

3. How do you celebrate Christmas? or a favourite holiday of your choice?
Christmas is definitely my favourite holiday.  Sadly, I have not been home for the past eight years to celebrate the holiday with my family.  My family is in Indonesia and my break from work and studying is not long enough for me to visit them.  I'll be visiting them soon though, so I'm really looking forward to that.  If I were home, we'll go to church in the morning and then later, we'll have the elaborate Christmas lunch and open our presents afterwards. 

4. Do you prefer to celebrate New Year's Eve with friends and/or family, or prefer to ring in the New Year quietly, and privately, at home?
I am always out on New Year's Eve either with friends or family.  The past three years and again this year, I'll be in London, outside the London Eye to watch the fireworks.  I think it's more exciting outside and I like to be part of the countdown with thousands of other people.  

5. If someone were to ask you to bring a dessert to a party, what would you bring? Store bought, or home-made, and if you were to make home-made, what would you make?
My friends always give me a hard time every time I bought something pre-made from the store.  They think I'm being lazy.  If I had the time, it's got to be home-made, maybe something like cream cheese pound cake, chocolate cheesecake or chocolate cola cake.  Everybody can go to the store and buy something, but it's definitely more special when you make all the effort and it shows that you care about them.  

6. How will you celebrate your next birthday?
I don't want to think about my next birthday... Maybe in an island where time stands still and I don't have to get older.

7. Do you have a New Year's resolution-and will you be sticking to it?
I don't have one yet for 2011.  My resolution for 2010 was to eat more avocado and I think I've done pretty well this year.  If it's food related, maybe I'll stick to it.  

Thank you Elisabeth.  So, now it's my turn to tag other bloggers, my chance to get to know you better, and since I still have 23 awards to share, I'd like to give you an award as well.  Aren't I nice?

Tubuko DX - Da Washoku Kitchen
Alexandria - Dreams of Sugarplums
Kristen - Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker
Katrina - Goodbye, Butter
Lucy - The Kitchen Maid
Jenn - Jenn's Food Journey
Jennifer - Indigo's Sugar Spectrum
Bella - Mangiabella Tasting the Beauty of Life
Joan - The Artist Chef
Joy - Joy and the Yamdaisy

And here are my questions to you:
1. When did you learn to cook?
2. Name three things that are always in your fridge.
3. Do you have any food guilty pleasures?
4. Tell us about your most memorable meal...
5. What is your drink of choice?

When you received this, you can set up your own questions and pass it on to other bloggers of your choice.  I look forward to reading your answers.

This weekend I'm gonna try to finish my essay as I really want to get it out of the way before the holiday.  My friends are coming over tomorrow for X-Factor finale which will be fun.  Enjoy your weekend everyone...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

My mom's chicken soup

I am having one of those days.  I woke up this morning with blocked nose, sore throat, watery eyes, feeling horrible basically.  I don't get sick often, but at least once a year, I'll catch a cold that zaps all my energy and I don't like it.  I just realised the last time I was feeling like this was exactly this time last year.  Strange. 

I called my mom and she told me to make chicken soup.  Somehow around midday, I managed to pull myself together, went to the market and bought some chicken.  Like many chicken soup recipes, my mom's chicken soup is simple and comforting.  In a pot, place the chickens, I use six drumsticks, a couple of unpeeled cloves of garlic, one peeled medium onion, sea salt, a cube of chicken bouillon and cover with water.  Let it come to the boil and then add a handful of goji berries.  If you never seen goji berries before, they look almost like dried cranberries, maybe a savoury version of it.  These berries add a lovely sweetness to the soup and they're very good for you as they contain vitamin c, beta-carotene and iron.  Many supermarkets have them these days, or you can always look at your local health food stores.

As the chicken cooks, I like to skim the white foamy frothy stuff that rises to the surface of the soup.  There's no need to do this, but I like to have clear broth not cloudy.  Let the soup simmers for 20-30 minutes and adjust the seasoning with more salt and white pepper if you wish.  Serve with rice.

This chicken soup, a marathon of Scrubs, and a good nap... And I feel much better now.  I don't know why and how but chicken soup just have the medicinal qualities that actually help to cure the common cold.

Thank you Mom.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Weekend of Food

My friends and I went for a long weekend in London to attend the Taste of Christmas food festival at ExCel House.  There were hundreds of food stalls and restaurants in the arena and I imagine this is what heaven would be. We ate and drank our way through one stall to another, sampling all kinds of wines, spirits, beers, cocktails, chocolates, pastries, ice-creams, fudges, chutneys, bread, cheeses, etc... I over ate but I guess that's not really a surprise.  Like any other holidays, I must get some souvenirs, and so I did.  For souvenirs, and trying not to sound as if I am an alcoholic, I bought a bottle of toffee vodka which will be delicious for Christmas cocktails; margarita and pina colada mixers; and a jar of Nigella seeds (My friends think that I am obsessed).

After about 5 hours of eating and drinking, we went around Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street for a little sightseeing and to stretch our legs and stomachs a bit before dinner time (yes, you read it right... more food).  For dinner we went to Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Italian at Westfield shopping complex.  To start, I had the wild truffle tagliatelle which was just heavenly; freshly made pasta tossed in butter, nutmeg and parmesan cheese and then top with shaved black truffle. 

Next, I had the humongous Burger Italiano made with British beef pattie, with melting fontina cheese, crispy salami, lettuce, tomato salsa, dill pickles and crispy fried onions. Yum.

To end the meal, I had my all time favourite dessert, tiramisu.  This classic Italian coffee flavoured trifle was served with orange mascarpone cream and dusting of cocoa powder...

I still to be honest not sure how I managed to eat that much in one day...

Every year at work we raise money for a charity and this year we are supporting Movember for the prostate cancer charity.  Movember challenges men to change their appearance and the face of men’s health by growing a moustache.... Much like the commitment to run or walk for charity, the men of Movember commit to growing a moustache for 30 days.  Some of the guys at work are doing it but unfortunately, I cannot grow a moustache.  To raise money, my team and I held a bake sale and some raffles earlier and I contributed a couple batches of Nigella's sweet and salty crunchy nut bars which went down like hotcakes! We're gonna have another bake sale and I have to make more of them among other things.

Anyway, enough about me. How was your weekend? It's 19 days to Christmas. How exciting!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Peanut Butter Fudge

Warning: the following post contains a lot of sugar...

Well, you have been warned.

When I first came across this recipe, my heart stops for a split second and when it beats again, I know that I just have to make it.  Yes, there's butter, sugar, peanut butter and more sugar.... I know I've mentioned this before, Mae West once said, too much of a good thing can be wonderful, and I live by this saying and this fudge is one great example of that.

When it's cold and snowing outside, it's so comforting to be next to the stove making sweets.  And the nice thing about this recipe is, there is no need for a sugar thermometer and all of that fandango.  There are already so much to do especially at this time of the year, and if I can find peace, quiet and joy, let it be in the kitchen...

The fudge can be made in the matter of minutes.  The only thing to make sure is to beat the icing sugar thoroughly to the sugary, buttery, peanuty mixture, making sure there isn't any lumps.  This takes a bit of muscle, but I don't mind burning a few calories before replacing it with a piece or two of fudge.

The soft fudge is treacle-y sweet and salty at the same time from the chunky peanut butter.  In the words of Sophie Dahl, "it's like when you're little, you went to the beach, and you've been swimming, and so your fingers were salty and then you ate something sweet, like ice cream... and you got that mix of salt and sweetness... and that is this... and this is heaven".

Eat at your own discretion.

Peanut Butter Fudge
by Sophie Dahl
Makes 36 - 42 pieces

125 gr butter
500 gr dark brown sugar
120 ml milk
250 gr crunchy peanut butter
1 vanilla pod, seeds only
300 gr icing sugar
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.
  2. Stir in the brown sugar and milk, and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes without stirring.
  3. Remove from the heat, and stir in peanut butter and vanilla seeds.
  4. Place the icing sugar in a large bowl, and pour the hot butter and sugar mixture on top.  Using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture until smooth.
  5. Pour into a 20cm baking tray, and set aside to cool slightly, then place in the fridge to chill completely.
  6. Cut the fudge into squares with a sharp knife, turn out of the tin and store in an airtight container.
Sometime ago, I was given not one but two Lovely Blog Awards from Maya at Foodiva's Kitchen and Elisabeth at Food and Thrift Finds.  Two wonderful ladies who are so passionate about flavours, eating and cooking.  I am so grateful for this award, so Thank You.

And I just found out that when you received an award, you're supposed to pass it on to another bloggers (see, I learn something new everyday).  So, I'd like to share this award with some of my favourite food bloggers. You may already know some of them, but if you haven't please take a moment to stop by. They are (in alphabetical order):

AJ's Cooking Secrets - AJ is a talented young baker who lives in Seattle and he aspires to be on the Food Network one day. 

The Ardent Epicure - Alisha and her family cook all sorts of joyous and delicious food. They know the pleasures of food.

Bittersweet - Rick loves his sweet things and I know he likes peanut butter.  His blog posts often surpass my daily calorie intake but it's worth it.

Dear Love Blog - Delicious food and stunning pictures by Alex. Alex is currently on the quest for an amazing vegetarian sausage recipe. Anyone?

La Bella Cook - Bridgett puts her heart into her dishes. And we both love Nigella.

More Than A Mount Full - Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, THE-Wonderful-Chef-Dennis, need I say more? I don't think so.

One Perfect Bite - Reading Mary's delicious blog is part of my morning ritual and then I ask myself, WHY?!?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Late Thanksgiving Dinner

Obviously, Thanksgiving Day is not part of the British festivity.  But how could I not celebrate the day when I get to stuff my face with delicious food all day long.  Thanksgiving day is the perfect excuse for it, not that I need any excuses to eat.  Have I cooked Christmas dinner with all the trimmings in the middle of July? Absolutely yes.

I don't normally do nibbles especially knowing there will be a feast ahead (well, that's a lie. There's always nibbles), but it is the season when you are expected to over-indulge, so why not (that's the truth).  These wholegrain mustard and ginger cocktail sausages are so welcoming, delicious and addictive.  The recipe is taken from Nigella's Kitchen.

Taking the centre stage last night was my maple roasted poussins, not turkey. *gasp... Yes, this may be a shock to some and I have this notion in my head that the Thanksgiving/Turkey police will come to arrest me in the middle of dinner... but I feel like, even though I am borrowing the celebration, I do not somehow strict myself to its tradition.  These tender birds look so beautiful and bronzed by the maple syrup.

To accompany the bird, we had double mashed potatoes made with sweet and regular white potatoes; green beans in warm maple and lemon dressing and my favourite Thanksgiving side dish, cornbread, sausage and apricot dressing.

No Thanksgiving is complete without a pumpkin treat and instead of the traditional pumpkin pie, I made pumpkin, ginger and lemon cheesecake.  Served with a good dollop of whipped cream.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Chips Kebab

I hope all you had a great Thanksgiving.  I was away in London for work yesterday, and I just returned home today, so I'm not gonna have my Thanksgiving dinner until tomorrow... I cannot wait!

Here's the thing, I had a fantastic night in London and I had too much to drink.  I drank all sorts and when I woke up this morning, it was painful... It was not good.  Even the guy sitting next to me on the train noticed that the state of me was horrendous.

Few hours later and after two paracetamol, I am feeling much better and now I need food (read: carbs) to absorb last night's excesses.  I saw Nigella made this chips kebab few weeks ago in her TV show.  The idea of it was so bonkers that I have to try it!

This is what you do:
Get a flat bread of your choice, I use tortilla.  Smear it generously with hummus and pile the chips on top.  Squirt a little lemon and sprinkle with sea salt.  Roll and apply to face.

I need this.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Poulet rôti tout simplement

Or in simple English: roast chicken, pure and simple.

I didn't grow up on whole roasted chicken.  My mom would always buy chicken already in portions, and then cook it in many different ways and it tasted amazing.  I must have been about eight when I asked my mom to cook whole roasted chicken.  At the time and often still I thought, this is the most elegant dish.  My mom's whole roasted chicken looked just like the ones in old recipe books or TV commercials; golden in colour, crispy skin and moist.

There are countless variations when roasting chicken, but I like mine, simple.  The fresh tarragon, the garlic and the herb-y cheese here give such wonderful flavours.  The only change I made to the recipe below is, I use butter instead of olive oil.  Olive oil is great but nothing crisps up the skin like butter...

Next, to truss or not to truss, that is the question.  I think it depends on the size of the chicken, I don't bother most of the time to be honest. 

When the chicken is cooked, like any other meat, it's good to let it rest for a little bit to let all the juices come back to the centre.

Everybody has their own culinary disasters, and for me, one of them is carving.  I cannot carve to save my life and I normally just ended up tearing the chicken and my excuse is "it looks more rustic".  I still tried though and today it looked kinda alright.  Martha Stewart would have been proud.

I serve the chicken with some cooked green beans and peas, dressed with the juices from the chicken.  And no wine tonight.  I still need to finish my essay...

Poulet rôti tout simplement
by Stéphane Reynaud
Serves 4

1 Whole chicken, preferable organic
1 Boursin-style cheese with garlic and fines herbes
1 Bunch of fresh tarragon
3 Cloves garlic
Sea Salt
Olive oil
  1. Remove the chicken's innards, and reserve the heart and liver.
  2. Peel the garlic, fill the chicken with the cheese, garlic, tarragon and reserved giblets.
  3. Oil the chicken and sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Cook uncovered in pre-heated 200C oven for an hour, basting the chicken regularly. Cut the chicken into portions and dress it with a mixture of melted cheese and cooking juices.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Sweet and salty crunchy nut bars

I don't know where to start to describe how delicious these sweet and crunchy nut bars are.

It may seem odd to add salted peanuts to chocolate bars, but let me tell you the combination is YUM and these bars are addictive.

Feel free though to change the chocolate to your liking, if you want to use milk or dark chocolate only.  I'm sure Nigella wouldn't mind.  I personally like the mixture of both chocolates.  And yes, there's chocolate, butter, golden syrup, and more chocolate; but hey, this is a treat.  I would recommend not eating the whole tray for one.  It's nice to share sometimes, but the decision is yours.

Sweet and salty crunchy nut bars
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Serves... 16 generous slices or 32 medium one... whatever you fancy

200 gr dark chocolate
100 gr milk chocolate
125 gr butter
3 tablespoons golden syrup
250 gr salted peanuts
4 x 40 gr Crunchie bars
1 foil tray, approximately 30 x 20 x 5 cm

In a saucepan, break up the chocolates into pieces and add the butter and golden syrup.  Melt gently under low heat.

Tip the peanuts into a bowl and crush the Crunchie bars, letting the rubble falls into the nuts.

Take the melted chocolate mixture off the heat and stir in the peanuts and crushed Crunchie bars, then tip straight to the foil tray.  Smooth the top of the mixture and put it in the fridge for about four hours before cutting into slices as desired.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Chocolate and Raspberry Pavlova

I have an essay due next week and I have no motivation whatsoever to do it... I'm not normally like this... oh, why?!  *sigh...

Anyway, let's talk about something delicious.  Here's the thing, I don't like wasting food.  When a recipe calls for just the egg yolks, there's no way I'm throwing away the whites.  And when I have egg white lying aroun in the kitchen, that usually means pavlova day or meringues, depending my mood.

Pavlova was created in honour of the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova.  There's been a debate over the origin of pavlova whether it's from Australia or New Zealand.  Well, I don't know, but what I know is it's delicious and that what matters to me. 

A good pavlova for me should have a dry and crsipy crust and the inside should be soft and marshmallowy.  And of course, adding cocoa powder makes it even better.  You could certainly add some chopped semiweet chocolate to the pavlova, but I didn't.  Instead, I'm topping the pavlova with chocolate whipped cream (and raspberries). Yum...

Chocolate & Raspberry Pavlova

For the chocolate meringue base:
4 egg whites
12 tablespoons caster sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon corn flour

For the topping:
284 ml double cream, lightly whipped with 2 teaspoon of cocoa powder
300 grams raspberries
Grated chocolate of your choice

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Beat the eggs with freestanding or hand mixer until it reaches peak form and the beat in the sugar a tablespoon at a time until the meringue is stiff and shine.   If you touch the meringue with the tip of your fingers, it should be silky smooth, not grainy.  Gently fold in the cocoa powder, vinegar and corn flour.  The vinegar and corn flour will ensure the inside of the meringue to be soft and chewy.  Mound on to the baking tray into a fat dome, smoothing the sides and top.

Put into the oven and immediately turn the temperature to 150C and cook for about an hour.  After an hour, the outside should look crisp and dry.  Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the meringue cool completely.

When ready to serve, invert the giant meringue into the platter of your choice and then pile your chocolate cream and raspberries and grate some chocolate on top if you wish.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Korean Keema

The word keema simply means ground/minced meat.  It is a traditional South Asian dish of spicy lamb or goat cooked with onions,garlic, ginger with variant of spices like curry powder and garam masala.  In some variations of the dish, potatoes, peas or lentils may be added.

Nigella's Korean Keema is a wonderful variation of the traditional dish.  The recipe calls for minced turkey here which, let's be frank, can be a bit on the bland side, but it's a good thing here; because of its mild flavour, minced turkey is a great carrier for all the spices and the Gochujang paste.

Gochujang or Kochujang paste is a new ingredient for me.  It is a delicious hot and sour red pepper and soybean paste from Korea, hence the name of the dish.  You may need to make a trip to your local Asian food store or specialty store to find this paste.

The minced turkey is steeped in this paste along with honey, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar before cooking it with spring onions and petit pois.  Serve over plain boiled rice and sprinkle with chopped coriander.

Ok, I gotta go now. I am almost late for my lecture....

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Pasta alla genovese with potatoes, green beans and pesto

It's no surprise that I LOVE pasta.  Nothing to me says Italian food like pasta.  Unlike other infamous Italian foods like pizza and tomato sauce, which have a fairly recent history, pasta may indeed have a much older pedigree going back hundreds if not thousands of years.

I was once told that the Venetian merchant, Marco Polo brought back pasta from his journeys in China in 1295. So I did a little research and found out there are evidences of Italian recipe books from earlier years containing references to pasta dishes. Since China is an ancient civilization, with a complex culture dating back thousands of years, it's likely that pasta existed in China very early.

Right, so pasta did not arrive in Italy courtesy of Marco Polo; and let's just stop here. I am not a food historian and instead I want to focus more on pasta as a staple ingredient in my kitchen and in my family.

I have been eating pasta for as long as I can remember. Pasta is one of the ingredients in my mom's chicken soup recipe. My sisters and I loved this soup. With so many different kinds of shape and flavours of pasta available these days, it isn't difficult to be creative when deciding upon a dish.

I have always considered pasta as one of the great pleasures of the table. For casual get-together, I know there's nothing more satisfying (and economical) to set on the table than a big bowl piled high with pasta. Everyone can serve themselves as much as they want, and it can either be a side dish or as a main course.

And today, I made pasta alla genovese with potatoes, green beans and pesto from Nigella Kitchen book.  It's ridiculously easy to make and absolutely delicious.  The potatoes, linguine and the green beans all cook in one pot and then coated with home-made pinenutless pesto of basil, garlic, parmesan cheese and olive oil.   

I know some might have a concern about the double carbohydrates intake in this recipe, I personally don't, but it just works! The soft potatoes will crumble a bit and thicken the pesto which makes such comforting sauce.  And green beans are good for us, so if it helps to make you feel better, simply add more beans.

Pasta alla genovese with potatoes, green beans and pesto
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Serves 6 - 8, depending on age and appetite

500 gr large floury potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
500 gr linguine pasta
200 gr fine green beans, trimmed and cut in half

for the pesto:
100 gr basil leaves (2 fat bunches)
100 gr grated parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, peeled
100 ml regular olive oil
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil

Put the prepared potato chunks is a large saucepan with enough salted water to take the pasta later; and bring to the boil.

Cook the potatoes until tender and then add the pasta.  Check the packet instructions and four minutes before the end of the specified cooking time, add the green beans.

When this is bubbling away, make the pesto in food processor.  Drain the saucepan, reserving a little of the cooking liquid. Tip the drained potatoes, beans and pasta back to the dry pan.

Add the pesto and enough cooking water to give a runny sauce that coats the strands of pasta, potatoes and the beans.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Sausage Carbonara

If my evening meal were an episode of Friends, the title of this dish would be 'the one that should have been eaten yesterday' or 'what was I thinking trading pasta, cheese, bacon, eggs and cream for muffins?!' Silly me...

If you like pasta carbonara, this is the next level to it, it's oh-so-delicious.

The sausage not just adds extra meatiness to the dish, because depending on the kinds of sausage you use, I used spicy Italian sausages flavoured with chilli, garlic and smoked paprika; you also get an additional instant seasoning to the pasta.

And what I always like when making carbonara sauce is to add lemon zest which gives lightness and balances the cream and parmesan cheese.  One of the things I learned from Jamie Oliver. 


Sausage Carbonara
by Jamie Oliver
Serves 4

4 good-quality organic Italian sausages
Olive oil
4 slices of thickly cut pancetta, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g dried linguine
4 large free-range or organic egg yolks
100ml double cream
100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
A sprig of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil

With a sharp knife, slit the sausage skins lengthways and pop all the meat out. Using wet hands, roll little balls of sausage meat about the size of large marbles and place them to one side.

Heat a large frying pan and add a good splash of olive oil. Gently fry the sausage meatballs until golden brown all over, then add the pancetta and continue cooking for a couple of minutes, until it’s golden. While this is cooking, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the linguine, and cook according to the packet instructions.

In a large bowl, whip up the egg yolks, cream, half the Parmesan, the lemon zest and parsley. When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water, and immediately toss it quickly with the egg mixture back in the pasta pan. Add the hot sausage meatballs and toss everything together. The egg will cook delicately from the heat of the linguine, just enough for it to thicken and not scramble. The sauce should be smooth and silky. If the pasta becomes a little claggy, add a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water to loosen it slightly. Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan, season if necessary, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve. Eat immediately!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Chocolate Banana Muffins

The plan was to have pasta for dinner tonight.  But, when I got home from work I saw three overripe, sad bananas and of course, I couldn't throw them away; and so I made chocolate banana muffins...You guessed it, from Nigella Kitchen.

Start by mashing the bananas in a bowl and then add some oil, eggs and light brown sugar.  In a separate bowl, mix in the flour, cocoa powder and bicarb.  Mix the dry mixture to the banana mixture, gently.  I think muffin batter should be gently stirred until all the dry ingredients are moistened.  The batter will be lumpy, yes; but lumpy batter makes better muffins.  Spoon the batter into the cases and bake in preheated oven. 

Chocolate banana muffins and red wine. Who says muffins are only for breakfast?!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

Bread and butter pudding is a classic, old-fashioned English recipe.  When made in the traditional way, that is by pouring milk/cream custard to a pile of buttery triangle sandwiches before baking it in the oven, it's simply the most comforting and warming sweet treat during cold winter nights.

This chocolate chip bread pudding is Nigella's American take on the classic dish, in which the staled bread is simply cubed before being drenched in an eggs, brown sugar, milk, cream and rum custard then sprinkled with crunchy demerara on top and baked until the pudding puffed up.

Whilst it's in the oven, make yourself a cup of tea and stay in the kitchen.  The smell coming out from the oven is delicious.  Yes, waiting is a torture but it'll be worth it.  Serve warm.  On the outside, you'll get a nice crunch and the inside is soft with the chocolate chips melted into the bread.

If you're lucky enough to have leftovers, I must say, it's also delicious fridge-cold with a splash of cream.

Friday, 5 November 2010

I'm at a different home today

I am so excited.  Today, I am the guest post at More Than A Mount Full – A Culinary Journey, a mouth-watering blog by Chef Dennis.  It’s such an honour to be asked to write for his beautiful blog.  And no pressure for me at all, writing for a chef....

Chef, thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity.

You can read what I prepared, by visiting Chef Dennis’ blog.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy cooking, eating and sharing it with everyone.

If you visit my blog for the first time, I’d like to give you the warmest welcome...  (tight hugs... not too tight though. I don’t want to suffocate you. That wouldn’t be welcoming at all).  Please do feel free to leave comments as I also enjoy meeting new people and making new friends. 

Have a delicious day!


Thursday, 4 November 2010

Slut's Spaghetti

Isn't this the most fantastic translation of pasta puttanesca?!

Pasta puttanesca is one of my favourite pasta dish (in my top five, at least).  It's rustic, gutsy, feisty, really lives up to its name. I remember being a teenager when I first had this dish from a restaurant in LA.  I read the description, "pasta cooked in whore-ish fashion" and I was lured into ordering it, and it's so delicious.

A typical pasta puttanesca recipe would include ingredients such as anchovy, chilli, garlic, capers and black olives with a tomato based sauce.  Nigella includes all of these ingredients in her recipe, but I made a little addition to the sauce, a splash of red wine vinegar to enhance the sourness.

And therefore, you really get all the flavours... the saltiness from the anchovy and the black olives; the warmth of the chilli and a lovely fresh sourness from the capers and the tomato and red wine vinegar in the sauce.  Heaven...

Also, a couple of days ago I received the Lovely Blog Award from Foodiva's Kitchen.  The author, Maya loves purple sweet potato and she makes the most beautiful, beautiful and no doubt delicious creations in her kitchen.  So, please check out her blog.  Maya, thank you so much for this award.  I am flattered.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Canard à l'orange

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I'll mention it again, I love mixing meat with fruit.  But of course, the sweetness of the fruits have to compliment the savouriness of the meat, vice versa.

Food historians says that the practise of pairing of citrus fruits with fatty meat is thousands of years old.  The acid in the fruits contacts the fat in the meat, making the dish more enjoyable and digestible. Think: pork and apples, goose and cherry or plums and duck à l'orange.

This classic French dish is so delicious and not at all difficult to make.  Feel free though to cook the duck to your liking.  I like mine not so much still quacking, but a nice medium, that way you really get the taste and tenderness of the duck.

Canard à l'orange
by Stéphane Reynaud
Serves 6

3 Breasts from a fattened duck
4 Oranges
1 tablespoon honey
200 ml soy sauce
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
50 g butter
  1. Take the zest from two of the oranges, the juice from three, and the peeled segments from one.
  2. Slash the fatty side of the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern (the flesh should show through). Mix the juice with the zest, cinnamon, honey and soy sauce.
  3. Place the duck breasts in a dish, skin side up, pour over the sauce. Chill for 24 hours.
  4. Pan-fry the duck, skin side down, for 10 minutes on a gentle heat (the fat needs to melt and brown). Drain off the fat and return the meat to the pan. Add the orange segments, half of the marinade, and allow to reduce for 5 minutes. Remove the meat and whisk in the butter to make a sauce

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Lemon Polenta Cake

"If you were to imagine what lemon curd would taste like in cake form, this would be it."

Yes, you guessed it, this is from Nigella Kitchen... page 272.

This lemon polenta cake is utterly delicious. It's moist, buttery, rich and so refreshingly lemony. I also love the gritty, crumbly interior provided by the polenta and ground almond in place of flour here.

The dusting of icing sugar on top is my own touch to cover up the over 'goldenness' of the surface. I left the cake a little too long in the oven because I was replying to emails. Typical!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Grasshopper (Glee) Pie

Grasshopper cocktail is one of my favourite after-dinner drinks. It's sweet and refreshing. (However, it can be a little sickly if you have too many... How do I know? I've tried it.)

It's called 'grasshopper' because of its green colour which is provided by the crucial ingredient, Crème de Menthe (mint liquor). Typically the drink is made with equal parts of Crème de Menthe, Crème de Cacao Blanc (white chocolate liquor), and milk or cream. This is a 'shaken' cocktail which simply means all the ingredients are poured into a cocktail shaker with ice and then shake to mix before straining into a chilled cocktail glass. If you wish, a light dusting of cocoa powder at the end makes the cocktail extra special.

I was watching an episode of Glee last year, The Rhodes Not Taken. April Rhodes (played by the adorable Kristin Chenoweth) made her first appearance on Glee, if you can't remember what happened in this episode; and the Glee club performed one of my favourite performances from them, 'Somebody to Love'.

Anyway, let me get to my point, also in this episode, a character (Mrs. Schuester) ate four slices of grasshopper pie and I thought, "edible, chewable cocktail? I've got to try it!". But I didn't as I was busy with my other cooking project at the time.

This recipe is from from Nigella's new cook book Kitchen (The Nigella project may have already begun before I know it). And guess what? Her inspiration for this pie was from Glee!!

The base/crust of the pie is made with bourbon biscuits, dark chocolate and butter. And the delicious filling is made by melting some marshmallows with milk, adding the two necessary liquors and folding this mixture to some whipped cream. You can enhance the green-ness by adding a few drops of food colouring until it turns a light jade colour, but it's entirely optional. I did. I couldn't help it.

The pie then needs to chill in the fridge to set for at least four hours. I made it last night, so it's definitely ready to be served for my Glee evening with friends.

Before serving, crumble a bourbon biscuit and sprinkle on top of the pie... delicious!

So, Gleeks or not, enjoy!