Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Baklava



I'm posting this in anticipation of New Year - I think baklava would make a  kick-ass addition to a New Year's party spread, and I'm not just saying that because I'm currently in Istanbul!

A somewhat non-traditional festive item, I was inspired by some leftover filo pastry (see: Christmas samosas). I love baklava but have never had the nerve to make my own. UNTIL NOW!

This, for me, is the perfect antidote to the normal Christmas fare. As much as I love my tins of garishly coloured and highly flavoured chocolates (and I do, the wrappers in my bin tell a tale..), these delicate, nutty, nibbly, shiny, sticky morsels are just perfection, and made an epic Christmas day dessert!



They’re fairly easy to make as long as you pre-buy your filo, which is totally acceptable because Mary Berry does it, damnit! I did find mine a little sticky and tricky to extricate from the pan, but it wasn’t the end of the world.



Also, I’ve gone a bit non-traditional by adding cinnamon (because it’s Christmas) and orange juice (instead of orange blossom, because I didn’t think ahead and buy it), and cooking a bit more after the syrup has been placed on. I have it on good authority that this is key to a good pastry.



Makes one lovely tray of deliciousness 

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Christmas Samosas



That time period between Christmas and New Year’s is so weird. It interrupts your Christmas days off, with a few half hearted days in work with leftover turkey sandwiches. And I never know what to make for dinner. Everyone still has the memories of being stuffed from the lashings of food for Christmas dinner, and the bright tins of sweets are still piled enticingly high by the Christmas tree.

I think I’ve found the perfect little nibble-y meal for this weird in between time of the season, which also makes a welcome addition to the Christmas dinner table (it did on mine!) or as part of your party table for NYE.



These are meaty, with a sweet spice which is warming and delightful. Perfect dipped in some sweet chilli sauce, or alongside a veggie curry!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Cinnamon Baked Donuts



Merry Christmas, everyone!

And since you’ve all been very good this year, I’m going to give you all a special treat.. What if I told you guys that you could go from zero to donuts in about 25 minutes?

I will give you that secret. It’s a Christmas miracle!!



These are the best donuts ever. They are so good that they make grown men jump up and down with glee. They are so good that I bought a SECOND donut pan so that I could make them more 
efficiently. Donut pan you say? Yes, these are baked in the oven, so you need a little mould to make the shape, but it's well worth it!

Simply put, they are wonderful and special and great and I love them. In the madness of the Boxing Day sales, try and source a donut pan – you will NOT be sorry. I got mine on amazon for less than a tenner and I WILL use it a lot.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Chockladbollar



Well hello, festive treats from Sweden!

You may have seen a version of these lurking around your local IKEA. They are a traditional Swedish treat, and they taste great! I like to think of these as little Scandinavian balls of love. I associate them with Christmas, because that’s when my Swedish boyfriend and I ALWAYS head to IKEA to get all sorts of Swedish food and Christmas decorations.



If you’re not a coffee fan (I don’t like coffee, but I like coffee and chocolate!) then feel free to substitute the coffee for a dash of mint flavouring, or fresh orange juice, or even a sprinkling of cinnamon. The possibilities are endless! But coffee is the traditional flavour, and it really compliments the whole “ball of chocolate.”

Friday, 11 December 2015

Pizza Topped Burgers

How's that for a slice of fried gold?


Mmmmm, hello weekend!

What is a girl to do when she has some pepperoni which is about to go past its sell by date and she bought too much mozzarella?

Well..

Pizza burger time!

I’ll confess, I’m not a big cheese fan. I don’t like the texture of it when it isn’t cooked, and I really don’t like cheese that is strong smelling/tasting. For me, mozzarella is the perfect cheese – it’s got that classic “stringy” cheesey texture and it doesn’t taste overwhelmingly cheesy. I have tried to incorporate it into my life as much as possible.

The secret to the mozzarella here is to keep the heat trapped in to allow it to melt all over the burger. Unfortunately it doesn’t get crispy on top, I think I’d probably need a working grill for that! Everytime I put the grill on, the fire alarm also goes off..

Serves 4

Monday, 7 December 2015

Grilled Chicken and Mozarella Flatbread



I love this meal. It feels like such a treat! I am not very good with just throwing things together and making something cohesive and edible. I'm more of a one-pot kind of person. So what I do is steal ideas from my favourite places to eat. Which is what I have done here. Don’t judge, just make it.



And the other great part of this meal is that making it can set you up really well for leftovers! For instance, I was able to use the rest of the flatbreads as a makeshift  garlic bread by cutting into slices, putting them on their sides and covering them in garlic butter. I used up the pesto with pasta and on pizza, and I roasted a bunch of peppers at the same time (thrifty!) to use on top of pizzas and to make hummus. For this reason, it is a great meal for the start of the week, because it gives you a leg up on the rest of the week! We are talking some serious “meal prep” without filling a million Tupperware containers with sad looking rice-salads.



Friday, 27 November 2015

Neapolitan Cake



This cake is SO. MUCH. FUN. Chocolate! Strawberry! Vanilla! Rosettes! Sprinkles!!

The nights are getting longer and colder, so I think we all need a little more cake in our lives in these dire times.

Neapolitan combines my favourite simple and sweet flavours, and I think the colours are absolutely classic together. I have been trying to up my cake decoration game lately, but I’m still quite cack-handed and impatient.  So I needed something which looked nice but was relatively simple. Enter, the buttercream rosette!



To make this, you just need buttercream icing, piping bag with star shaped nozzle, and a little bit of effort. To make the rosette, start in the centre with a blob of icing and then move the tip around the centre part, piping the entire time. I quickly youtubed it before having a go the first time.



You will have noted that this is a Neapolitan cake which is quite heavy on the chocolate. But I think that it looks quite impressive (if I do say so myself) and by decorating it all in chocolate on the outside, the inside becomes a complete surprise. I put some chocolate sprinkles on it because this is a lighthearted little cake, and I wanted to hint at the insides. Feel free to decorate however you like, but this was easy peasy!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Chicken Rough Puff Pie



Ooooh, I love a good savoury pie.

The nights are getting longer and colder, and for me that means one thing: comfort food. There is nothing more comforting than a big old pie, fresh from the oven, chock full of meats and veggies.  For me, making and then eating this is my perfect way to spend an autumnal weekend evening.



And I might just be a total weirdo, but I find making pastry comforting too. And I’ve never made rough puff before, but I have been inspired by the Great British Bakeoff where it seemed to make a lot of appearances! And I can see why – it is quick, light, flavourful and crispy, and slightly less labour intensive than it’s “non rough” counterpart. This is nicer than the M&S equivalent, a fact which makes me stupidly happy.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Pytt i Panna


AKA: "Stuff in a Pan"

Sweden calling! It snowed last night in Newcastle, so it feels very fitting to post a Swedish classic today.

My lovely Swedish boyfriend doesn’t often get homesick, but when he does, I normally just smother everything in dill.




This time, I decided to make a bit more of an effort, and make an absolute Swedish standard comprised of leftovers – pytt i panna. We had had a delicious roast beef dinner the night before, and I saved a good few slices to make this dinner. It couldn’t be easier – chop everything up small and basically add it to a pan together and let it cook. Beef and potatoes are the staples of this meal, and the veggies add some colour and flavour.




It took a while for my potatoes to cook, so next time I think I will add them in after the bacon and let the whole thing cook for about 10 minutes before adding the rest of the meat and vegetables.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Banana Peanut Butter Muffins




I'm post-nightshift and I feel like a zombie. I would be feeling worse if not for these little lifesavers, gratefully gorged on at 4am.

We’ve all been there. It’s the start of the week, and you have a bowl of rapidly browning, sad looking bananas left over from last week's shop in your fruit bowl. Sure, you could just eat them, but that feels like punishment. Instead, I'm going to give those bananas a fitting send off,

So, I decided to combine some of my favourite flavours and make some lovely muffins! These are really delicious, filling and flavourful. They make a very treat-ful breakfast. And are great for elevenses. And lunch-dessert. And midnight snack.



Peanut butter and banana really go well together and the hint of cinnamon just ties the whole thing together. The crumble topping really makes these muffins into something very, and you gotta make them to see for yourself.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Potato Bread and Creamy Peppercorn Sauce




Next in the series of “tastes of home..” Of course, it's all carbohydrate-based.

I had this as the most delicious starter in a little restaurant back in Belfast, and I was blown away by the taste. The full starter also had strips of steak, which I recommend pairing with this! Steak is personal though, so I’m leaving it to your discretion as to how you like it cooked.

I love potato bread, it is simple to make and reminds me of home. Another quick to prepare Irish bready staple. Basically, it is full of carbohydrates and then fried, what isn’t to like (for a little treat!).

I’ve written the two methods out separately, but you can easily be making the sauce while the potatoes are boiling. I don’t mind darting from pan to pan and having a few things cooking at once, but if you don’t, make the sauce first, set aside, do the spuds, and reheat the sauce just before serving.



Assembly is simple: potato bread on the bottom, strips of steak on top, and drizzle the peppercorn sauce on top. Dinner done!

Friday, 6 November 2015

Soda Farl



Happy Friday, everyone! I'm going back to Belfast this weekend, so some comforting, taste-of-home soda bread was called for.

One thing I love about Irish bread is that they never really require time to rise or prove. Because when an Irish woman wants bread, she wants it NOW. Ain’t no one got time to wait for bread to double in size. I’m talking potato bread, wheaten bread, soda bread..

This bread is pan-cooked, and it literally takes minutes from mixing to eating. Now that’s what I’m talking about.



It is an absolute staple of the Ulster fry, but works well as a perfect breakfast on its own, buttered when hot from the pan. Leftovers can be sliced and toasted, too. You need this in your life. Go on, go on, go on.


Monday, 2 November 2015

Parkin



Just in time for Bonfire Night..

And this time I’m going local! Parkin is a traditional North-East of England cake, made with oats and treacle. Thus, it is a sweet, moist and sticky cake. And the sweet, spiced flavours are just perfect for autumn.

I didn’t know about this cake until I took a chance on it as dessert in one of my favourite restaurants. 

My mum and I were really impressed by the syrup-y sweet, dense oaty cake, which was served with banana icecream (a revelation – a complete perfect partnership!). I knew as the cold weather rolled around once again, I wanted to try my own version.

And it went down a treat! Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any treacle, but if you can, substitute 100g of the golden syrup for 100g of treacle.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Tandoori Halloumi and Cashew Rice

God, I love spice mixing

This was utterly delicious. I’m really impressed with the flavours of this meal.

So, my favourite restaurant is a little vegetarian restaurant that is near my flat. It serves the most amazing and creative food I have ever eaten, and I am constantly impressed with what their chef cooks up. The menu is also seasonal, so every two months there is a whole new list of yummy food to choose from. This has meant that I have had to go several times in that period to get a good try of all the delicious dishes on offer. NO REGRETS. I never regret food eaten, only food missed out on.



Aaanyway. Since sometimes I like to have a vegetarian dinner, I decided to have a go at home as well. I have a reliance on chicken, and it is refreshing to find simple and delicious alternatives. Enter halloumi. I love halloumi, and I’m not a cheese fan. It is spectacular, meaty and holds its shape perfectly throughout cooking. It isn’t overpowering on its own so it really takes the flavour of the tandoori marinade beautifully.

The rice is my new favourite thing. It is the only way I want to eat rice from now on. I have a love for rice, but being able to bulk it out a big with veggies is always great for reducing the old carbohydrate count.



One last thing, don’t fret about the number of spices in the halloumi mix. If you would prefer, you can buy pre-made pastes or powders with tandoori flavour. I just happen to have a weird predilection for collecting seeds and spices.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookies - THE BEST EVER



I’m so happy/excited/giddy!!!

I’ve just found the best recipe for chocolate chip cookies! I make a lot of cookies. A LOT. Cookies were one of the first things I ever learned to bake, and I baked them all the time.

I experimented through the flavours, and finally found the ideal chocolate version – peanut butter chocolate cookies which are flavourful, with perfect texture. And they just LOOK good, like real, proper cookies. I have made plenty of “plain” choc chip cookies, and I’ve never come close to that texture or look. So, I hunted.



..And hunted, and hunted. I read a lot of blogs, lured in by descriptions of perfect cookies that never just measured up to my expectations. I experimented with melted butter, non-melted butter, different sugars, different ratios of sugars, different leavening agents, chilling them beforehand…

But. Here we are. The perfect cookie.  I’m really happy right now, and it doesn’t even feel silly to care this much about a biscuit.



Ready, set, BAKE!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Dense, Dark Chocolate Cake




Okay. I have a terribly-kept secret: I LOVE CHOCOLATE CAKE.

So it is time for another variation on one of my very favourite things! You know how 
Mrs Doyle loves making tea? That’s the level of my feeling for chocolate cake. "Oh, won't you have a slice? You will! You will!" Which is why I’m posting a SECOND variation only a few months after the last one!



This cake is a little more grown up than the last iteration – it is dense and dark and moist and chocolatey and tastes extremely decadent. And it’s all in one bowl, minimal washing up! I made this cake as I was feeling inspired during the classic cakes finale of “Great British Bake Off.” I would bake a chocolate cake all day long for that challenge.



One thing that I wanted to show with this cake is that you CAN safely melt chocolate in the microwave. Sometimes there is just no time to melt over some hot water.

First, you break up the chocolate into a bowl:


Then, stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds:



Stir well, the bottom bits will melt quicker than the top, so mix them all up.  Stick in the microwave for another 15 seconds:


Now, this is the point where I STOP microwaving. I think this is where a lot of people go wrong and burn their chocolate. 

This is plenty melted enough, just keep stirring it. And pretty soon you will have this:


Don't stop, keep stirring!



I have fallen into a rut with my cake-decorating and that’s what I’ll be working on over the next few months, but for now, bask in the glory of chocolatey chocolate icing slathered dripping down the sides of your cake, and sprinkled with chocolate sprinkles for additional deliciousness.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Best Ever Squidgy Brownies



URGH. It's the start of a cold, miserable week. If you're anything like me, you'll need this to get you through to the comfort of the weekend..

I will concede that “best ever” is a bold claim. However, just make these and then tell me you feel differently. If your preferred brownie is dense and squidgy and moist*, unashamedly chocolatey, with the lovely crackly top, then this is the one for you. I brought these into work and they were a unanimous success!

The recipe that I present below is pretty much unadulterated from the source recipe (BBC Good Food), but I have made this several times since the original and I have changed it up slightly – substituting the half the chocolate for Nutella and adding hazelnuts with the choc chunks, or adding orange chocolate chunks and stirring through some orange zest.  No matter what you add, it always comes out delicious!

*this is the only situation in which that word is acceptable..

Monday, 5 October 2015

Chicken and Leek Cheesy Pasta Bake



Chicken and leek is one of my favourite flavour combinations. And everyone knows that I love a big bowl o’ pasta! There is something just unendingly comforting about tucking into a bowl of cheesy pasta, with vegetables and delicious roast chicken dotted between.



I feel like this is a perfect autumnal meal, and a great way to use up leftover chicken from the Sunday roast. This is a perfect weekday meal, and one I shall continue to perfect – next time I think I might do a b├ęchamel instead of just milk, and add some grated cheddar to make the cheesy-ness even stronger!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Chorizo and Pepper Risotto



I LOVE RICE!

I don’t like to mess with perfection, and I was so pleasantly surprised by the last time I made a risotto in the oven that I’ve decided to do it all over again! Of course, I’m changing the flavours around a little, but the basic method is the same.

I really stand by this kind of cooking, it is really simple to change recipes around by adding a different meat, or adding some spices, or even just changing the veggies can make a big difference and stop you getting fed up with dishes.



I decided to go kind of Mexican style with this risotto, with peppers, paprika and chorizo. Delicious for dinner and for leftover lunch the next day!