18
Aug 13

My book launch!

Book Launch

Last Thursday was a bit of a crazy day for me. It was my book launch day, and book launch party in London. What a day it was. Like no other really. I spent most of the day bombarded with lovely messages, calls and flowers, which was so touching, and then I dashed over to Goat Chelsea, the launch venue, to help set up.

It was the most beautiful sunny day and rumoured to be the hottest August day in 10 years. It certainly felt like it as I trekked across town with my bags! My lovely team from the publishers came to meet me at the venue, which was a great opportunity to catch up face to face – there are surprisingly few opportunities to see your publishers in the flesh, despite almost daily email contact in the book writing process.

I was really touched that so many people came along: it’s always scary when organising an event – you hope people will actually turn up! The venue, Goat, was absolutely fantastic and really went out of their way to make every aspect of the event just right. They organised some special cocktails for us on the night; pineapple margaritas and a run and ginger cocktail. Both of which were really fantastic and very popular indeed.

Attending your own book launch is a strange experience. It was so much fun and absolutely wonderful to see my colleagues, friends and family all in one place. The evening seemed to go by in a blur as I tried to speak to everyone. It was so much fun – I’m already looking forward to the next one!

For more detail on the night, please see this report by HELLO! Online.


11
Aug 13

Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures is the latest book published by Matt Tebbutt, Welsh TV Chef.

This book is really quite different. It celebrates fun, enjoyment and playfulness with food with the purpose of the book being to celebrate those foods (and drinks) we all love, but often feel a bit naughty about enjoying. It wholeheartedly embraces the idea of enjoying a bit of what you fancy, and that, in turn, does you good. The chapters are broken down into ingredients and include: peanut butter, Marmite, white bread, coffee and tea and booze.

This is a very characterful book, with gorgeous photos and lovely retro images and fonts. As I first flicked through the book, I instantly found several recipes I wanted to cook straight away. Soy and honey tea-smoked chicken, Slow-cooked pulled pork, Vodka cured salmon and Marmite potatoes instantly stood out. Although the recipes sound rather different and intriguing, they are all straightforward to make and do not require any specialist ingredients or equipment. After all, ingredients like ketchup and peanut butter are commonly found both at home and in professional kitchens.

The first recipe I tried was the Wide Awake Black bean chilli, which looked absolutely gorgeous and, as I was cooking for a vegan, very simple and suitable. I managed to pick up all the ingredients to make this in a small local supermarket and threw this chilli together one evening in around 20 minutes from start to finish. The spices used in the chilli give the sauce a wonderful richness, which is often found in slow cooked dishes.

This book is really fun and ideal for anyone who fancies something a bit different. It is a genuinely refreshing book, full of some really interesting and unusual ideas which I’m dying to make for friends soon. Highly recommended.


19
Jun 13

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

 PBC1

Some of you may know that I run a cake company, Go Free Foods. We make award-winning allergy friendly cakes to order. We very occasionally make some special cakes on demand for customers who are after something specific. I recently made these for a customer’s 40th birthday and they went down a storm, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you.

With cupcakes, it’s really important to make sure the mixture is mixed really well at the wet stage – i.e. before the flour is added. This will make for a light and fluffy cupcake. Use electric beaters or a stand mixer if you can. The same goes with making the buttercream.

Use a great quality muffin pan – I used this super one by Kaiser, which is so great you don’t even need to use paper cases if you don’t want to.

PBC2

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Makes 12

Ingredients

For the cakes

35g butter or dairy-free spread

145g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large free-range egg, beaten

3 tbsp peanut butter (I used smooth)

100g gluten free plain flour or 125g wheat flour

120ml milk, or soya milk

For the cupcakes

250g icing sugar, sifted

70g butter, or dairy-free spread

4 tbsp peanut butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

50ml milk, or soya milk

Method

1)   Preheat the oven to 170C. Place your cupcake cases into your muffin tin.

2)   Place the butter and sugar together into a large mixing bowl. Beat together until light and fluffy.

3)   Add the vanilla extract and egg and beat into the mixture. Next, add the peanut butter and beat until smooth

4)   Sift the flour into the mixture and fold in gently.

5)   Now, add the milk and mix until smooth.

6)   Spoon the mixture into the cake cakes, so that they around half to two thirds full.

7)   Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cupcakes are well-risen and lightly golden.

8)   Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool fully.

9)   Whilst the cakes are cooling, make up the frosting. The cleanest way to make this is to do it in a food processor – I use a Magimix. Place all the ingredients together into the machine and blitz until smooth.

10)  Frost the cakes when they are cooled fully. Either spread on the frosting or pipe it on using a nozzle. The cakes will keep for 3-5 days in an airtight container.


12
Jun 13

Griddled asparagus with goat’s cheese

Asparagus

This is a great super-simple supper I’ve been enjoying recently, making the most of the English asparagus season. It’s light, fresh and full of flavour and can be made in 15 minutes – great when you are hungry when you get home in the evening. It makes a lovely starter or a main, too.

The asparagus is best griddled, if you can, either using a griddle pan or on the barbeque. The best goats cheese to use are the Somerset variety: not too hard, nor to soft. By cooking them this way in a non-stick pan, it allows the cheese to caramelise on the top, and remain meltingly soft in the centre. You do need to use a great non-stick to cook the cheese this way. Do not be tempted to use oil: it just won’t work. I used a lovely environmentally friendly non-stick pan by Green Pan which worked so well.

Make the most of the asparagus season by giving this a go!

Griddled asparagus with goat’s cheese

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 large bunch fresh asparagus, with the tip of the stalks cut off

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 Somerset goats cheese

Method 

1)   Place a grill pan over a high heat to warm up.

2)   Place the asparagus into a bowl. Add the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss, so that the asparagus spears should be lightly coated with oil.

3)   Transfer the asparagus to the hot pan and cook until tender. This should take around 10 minutes.

4)   Season the goat’s cheese well with pepper. Place face down in a non-stick pan and cook four around 5 minutes without moving, until it is caramelised.

5)   Serve the asparagus topped with the cheese immediately.


25
May 13

Roasted cinnamon plums

Roasted cinnamon plums

Roasted cinnamon plums

Somehow roasting fruit or vegetables seems to make them even more delicious. I love to roast tomatoes and peppers and keep them cold in the fridge to add to salads. It really brings out their sweetness and loses their acidity.

The same goes for plums. Especially those you so often get in punnets that never seem to ripen properly. This is a great way to use them up. They taste amazing and make a great dessert served with ice cream, or even a tasty breakfast, with some plain yoghurt.

Make sure you use a good non-stick baking tray though, such as this excellent one made by Judge, as the juices become very sticky, you don’t want to be chiseling them off once they’re cooked as roasted plums become very soft indeed.

Roasted plums

Roasted plums

Roasted cinnamon plums

Serves 4

Ingredients 

1 punnet plums

5 tbsp cinnamon sugar, or 4 tbsp caster sugar mixed with 1 tbsp cinnamon

Method 

Preheat the oven to 170C. Halve the plums and remove the stones. Lay out cut side up on the baking tray and sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar. Bake for around 20 minutes until soft. Serve hot or cold. They keep well in the fridge in a Tupperware container.


13
May 13

Homemade lemon curd with Vivien Lloyd

The ingredients to make lemon curd

The ingredients to make lemon curd

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that I have recently been discovering the art of preserving. I’ve made jam, chutney and marmalade, and recently my attentions turned to curds.

Vivien Lloyd is one of the UK’s leading preserves experts and her latest ebook entitled Fruit Curds: Make and Bake has been guiding me through every step of the way.

Curds are an often forgotten preserve, but are absolutely delicious, much more so homemade than shop bought, and have all manner of uses in cakes, desserts and ice creams. The first time I tried homemade curd, I was absolutely blown away by the flavour – it is in a completely different league to anything else I have tried.

Making curd is not difficult and the process is shown in much detail at every stage with photos and videos which are really useful as you know exactly how the curd should look and feel throughout the process.

Vivien’s book shows you how to use your homemade curds in baking producing a range of incredibly delicious cakes and desserts.  If you’re interested in starting to make your own curd, I highly recommend this ebook, as it contains all the information you’re ever likely to need, and some really special recipes to make, too.

Vivien has very kindly allowed me to share her extra special Lemon Curd recipe with you here. Do give it a go and let us know how you get on. Vivien Lloyd can be found on Twitter as @vivienlloyd.

Making lemon curd

Making lemon curd


Lemon Curd


Lemon curd is the best known and my favourite curd with its rich flavour and bright colour. This is a traditional, tried and tested recipe and one to consider for competitions. I first made this recipe during my early days of preserving and it has become the one I return to most often. This recipe was first published by HMSO in 1929, Home Preservation of Fruit and Vegetables.

Makes about 1.25kg/ 2¾lbs

300ml (½ pint) freshly squeezed lemon juice ( 5-9 lemons)
215g ( 7½oz) unsalted butter 
700g (1lb 9oz) granulated sugar
300ml (½ pint) fresh eggs (5-6 eggs)

1.Wash the lemons and peel them very thinly with a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife before squeezing out and measuring their juice. Place the butter and sugar in an ovenproof  bowl over a large saucepan of barely simmering hot water. Add the lemon juice and lemon rind, and leave until the fat has melted.

2. Lift the bowl off the pan and leave to cool slightly. Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl but do not whisk them. Gradually stir in the fat mixture, then strain the curd through a sieve (leaving the peel behind) into a clean bowl and place it over a saucepan of barely simmering hot water.

3.Stir continuously until the mixture is slightly thickened- the curd is ready when it just coats the back of the spoon. This will take about 15-20 mins. Do not over-cook or it will curdle. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for 5 mins, during which time the curd will thicken slightly.

4. Sieve the curd for a smoother texture. Pour into clean jars, taking care to fill them absolutely full. Press a waxed disc waxed side down on the surface of the curd and leave to cool. Cover the pots with a cellophane cover when cold. Store in a refrigerator and eat within 4-6 weeks.

FIRST PRESERVES CURDS ebook cover2 sm 02


08
May 13

A day with Lesley Waters

Lesley Waters in action

Lesley Waters in action

Dorset is a very foodie county, renowned for its excellent produce flavoured by many celebrity chefs. One of those is Lesley Waters, who has been a regular feature on our TV screens for years. Lesley fell in love with Dorset just over a decade ago and made Dorset her home, converting a beautiful stone cottage on the rolling hills near to the Somerset border to create her own cookery school.

I recently spent a day at the Lesley Waters Cookery School with Lesley herself,  hosted by Aga Rangemaster, cooking with some of the best of local produce. Lesley is a very dynamic lady and a wonderful teacher and hostess, making sure everyone gets involved and touches, smells and watches everything.

The cookery school itself is absolutely beautiful, with stunning views from every window. Inside, the kitchen is decorated in a rustic yet modern style, with both walls kitted out with gorgeous deep red Rangemaster cookers. Lesley is a fan of the Rangemaster cooker, which is a delight to use, with fan assisted ovens which make baking accurate and gas hobs which are easy to control and cook with.

We made a range of Lesley’s signature dishes on the day which we enjoyed for lunch with a glass of fizz and I’m delighted to be able to share one of my favourite dishes of the day with you below.

Peppered scallops with puy lentils

Peppered scallops with puy lentils

Peppered scallops with puy lentil dressing

Adapted from the original recipe with permission

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

12 scallops, hand-dived and cleaned

Sea salt

Pepper

2 tbsp torn basil leaves

10g butter

4 tbsp puy lentils, cooked

For the dressing 

5 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

110g wild rocket leaves

110g sundried tomatoes

Method

1)   Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the scallops and season with salt and pepper. Cook for around 2-3 minutes on each side. Add the basil, butter and lentils and allow the scallops to cook for a further minute in the butter.

2)   Mix the oil and balsamic vinegar together and add the rocket leaves and tomatoes. Mix well to evenly dress the salad. Place on a plate and top with the scallops and lentils. Serve immediately.


03
May 13

Lemon polenta muffins

Lemon polenta muffins

Lemon polenta muffins

If you love cake, like me, but sometimes keep half an eye on how much you’re enjoying, these delicious mini muffins might just be for you. They’re wheat free and really quite nutritious for cakes.

Polenta cakes tend to be a little more crumbly by nature, so for the best results, use a really good quality non-stick tin, such as this one made by Judge, and make sure it’s greased well if you are not using paper cases.

Lemon polenta muffins

Makes 12 mini muffins

Ingredients

75g butter

75g caster sugar

75g fine polenta

75g ground almonds

1 large free-range egg, beaten

Finely grated zest of one unwaxed lemon and 1 tbsp lemon juice

Method

1)   Preheat the oven to 180C

2)   Line your mini muffin tin, or grease well. Set aside

3)   Place the butter and caster sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat together well until light and fluffy

4)   Add the remaining ingredients and beat together well.

5)   Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown


24
Apr 13

A superfood sundae

Superfood sundae

Superfood sundae

We all love a frozen treat, particularly when the weather is warm, and this is one of my favourite low-fat, nutritious desserts. It may sound like a slightly strange combination of ingredients but I promise you they all work fantastically well together, making a healthy dessert that’s full of flavour and texture.

Frozen yoghurt is much lower in fat than ice cream, and the fruit adds one of your five a day with plenty of essential fats and protein from the pumpkin seeds. A drizzle of maple syrup is naughty but nice, but do use Organic if you can, as some maple syrups are not pure. I used YooMoo frozen yoghurt which is really tasty and very low in fat and calories.

Superfood sundae

Makes 1 sundae

Ingredients

1 large scoop vanillamoo vanilla frozen yoghurt

¼ small banana, sliced

40g blueberries

1 tsp Organic maple syrup

1 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds

Method

1)   Place the frozen yogurt into a bowl or sundae dish.

2)   Scatter over the banana slices and blueberries.

3)   Drizzle over the maple syrup and finish by topping with the pumpkin seeds. Enjoy immediately!


22
Apr 13

Espresso chocolate moelleux

 

Espresso chocolate moelleux

Espresso chocolate moelleux

Having recently learnt how to make the perfect cup of coffee, I’ve been busy practicing at home and decided to try baking with a delicious shot of espresso.

I just prepared a standard shot of coffee in exactly the same way as I would to make a cup of coffee using my machine at home and left it to cool. You don’t want to use hot liquids when you are baking, as it will affect the properties of the other ingredients in the mix. This is particularly the case when baking with eggs, as if they come into contact with any hot liquids, they will curdle.

I was mulling over what to make and decided on a moelleux, which is a deliciously dense and moist chocolate cake that’s very popular in France. It’s quite like a lighter version of a brownie and is very easy to make.

I’ve also been using a Gaggia Carezza coffee machine from John Lewis which works extremely well and is a lot cheaper than the models I tried on my coffee making masterclass.

Espresso chocolate moelleux

Makes 12 large slices

Ingredient 

225g 70% cocoa dark chocolate

1 shot espresso, cooled

225g vanilla caster sugar

225g butter

3 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch sea salt

65g plain four (gluten free or wheat flour)

1 tsp baking powder

Method 

1)   Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 9” square baking tin with non-stick baking paper.

2)   Carefully melt the chocolate in a bain marie or in the microwave. Once melted, stir in the cooled coffee and allow to cool.

3)   Using the Kitchen Aid, whisk the butter, sugar and vanilla extract together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla and sea salt and pour in the melted chocolate. Whisk well until the chocolate is evenly combined with the butter and sugar

4)   Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in to the mix gently. It will be a light and fluffy cake mixture by now.

5)   Spoon into the prepared tin and level off using a spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top has formed a crust. The middle will still be pretty wet.

6)   Allow the cake to cool in the tin for at least 45 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. It can be sliced when cold or refrigerated overnight and then cut the next day.

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