Thursday, 20 December 2012

Crazy Christmas Cooking!

Yes, I've been a busy bee in the kitchen. I have meals that I haven't blogged about since before I came home, but I thought I;d stick with the Christmas cooking for now. So far I've made a Yule Log, cranberry and white chocolate cookies and decorated another Christmas cake... and I've only been home for just over 24 hours! Believe me, there's more to come. But here's the first batch anyway!

Chocolate for the icing melting...

No I didn't roll up the paper by accident! It helps you get a really tight roll, which has always bothered me (I make this every year!)

Dark chocolate, icing sugar, vanilla paste. Perfection.

Look at that roll!

Unfortunately I don't have a photo of the finished product... which has now been eaten! But this is the little bird we used to decorate it, from the Cologne Christmas market.

It's the cherry wreath on top of the cake!

The sparkly snowflake ribbon round the side.
I can't take credit for the actual making or marzipanning of the cake, that was my mum. We haven't tried it yet, but check back at the weekend and I'm sure that will have changed...

Chopped white chocolate for the cookies...

All the dry ingredients, minus chopped pecans.

Slightly crisp around the edges, chewy and soft in the middle. Everything a cookie should be!

Yum... just.... yum.
I had a cookie warm as soon as they were out of the oven and the chocolate was still soft- just to taste test you understand...

Up tomorrow is Mincemeat Cheesecake, a recipe that came highly recommended from a friend. I love mincemeat. I love cheescake. This recipe can only go well!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Good Burnt Baked Chicken

The actual chicken itself wasn't burnt, don't worry! But you'll see what I mean at the end... Tea last night was Baked Lemon Chicken, which I put with some simple boiled rice. It only had a few ingredients, so was quick to put together. The 'glaze' for the chicken thighs was: lemon juice, soy sauce, oil and sugar. The recipe didn't specify a sugar type, so I used light muscovado as I thought the sweet richness would go well in this recipe. All I had to do was put each ingredient on the chicken, and then bake for 25 minutes. Couldn't be easier! Although I didn't see that the recipe said 'skinless AND boneless chicken thighs'... I would have skinned them anyway, so that was probably why I didn't pay attention! They still turned out okay, I just took the meat off the bone about half way through the cooking time.

The chicken turned out tangy and juicy, which was a perfect complement to the soft, plain rice. I would definitely have it again as it was also quite filling.

Cook's treat!
You can see how the glaze has burnt onto the tray! I left it to soak overnight though, and it came off quite easily this morning. Last night I also manged to scrape some up to top the chicken with- it was strong, lemony, tangy yumminess. Good dish all in all.
And to finish... I had a very nice sandwich for lunch yesterday of Christmas Chutney, brie, and orange. I meant to put some chicken and stuffing paste in, but never mind! It was really tasty all the same, and I didn't even remember until a few hours later.


Friday, 14 December 2012

Freestyle Friday #3

Today was the first Freestyle Friday I didn't have an exact picture in my mind of how the dish was going to turn out. It was a little disconcerting, but fun to try at the end! I had quite a few left over veggie type things this week; half a tin of canned tomatoes, half an onion, the last of the not-that-nice tomatoes (read how I used the first of them here), about one third of a green pepper, a lemon that had been zested but not juiced, some sage leaves and some chestnut mushrooms. First of all I sliced the onions and browned them in a teenybit of truffle oil, while I roughly cubed the mushrooms. Then I added the mushrooms and stirred to coat them and left them to cook while I sliced the tomatoes. The sliced tomatoes were added along with the tinned tomatoes, and some capers. After that the juice of half the lemon. Finally, I sliced the sage leaves and stirred them through.
I enjoyed it; it was fresh but also comforting. My flatmate who tried it commented that it was a bit like ratatouille. I think the best way to describe it would be a cross between stew and ratatouille. I could have saved some to try cold, as ratatouille is also nice cold, but I was hungry... The only thing I would do differently next time would be not adding the sage leaves. They just didn't really 'go' in the dish, and they were a little too strong. However, this truely was freestyle and overall I think it turned out well!

Now for the less fun part!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Cracking Cacciatore!

Last night and tonight I had a new recipe, Mary Berry's Chicken Cacciatore. And safe to say, it is on my definitely-do-again-and-again list. I loved it! The cooking time is quite long (10-12 mins to brown the chicken, 45 mins in the oven, plus prep and adding other ingredients etc), but it doesn't have to be attended to the whole time. The ingredients were chicken (obviously!), bacon, garlic, green pepper, onion, chopped canned tomatoes, capers, sage leaves, lemon zest and mushrooms. I think that's it!

The mushrooms do cook down!

I loved it so much I even based a tosted sandwich on it! I had some not very nice tomatoes I planned to put in a toastie anyway, so I thought, why not! For the chicken, I used chicken and stuffing paste... not quite the same but oh well! I didn't really have time to separately cook the chicken and bacon, but maybe another day as I have both in the fridge.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A Cracking Christmas Dinner

On Monday night, one of my flatmates and I cooked Christmas dinner for the whole flat (seven of us). It went extremely well, and even though some of the food isn't what I would usually have at Christmas, it was still very good. I even made a microwave Christmas pudding! I made a microwave one for several reasons. One was because I hadn't done a traditional one and left it to mature. Partly because I couldn't find a pudding basin, partly because I've obviously been busy with university things. Also, on our tiny student oven, there would have been a lack of hob space to steam it. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was good! It was more 'battery' than 'spongey', but it was a bit different, it tasted nice, and everyone liked it. I even 'flamed' it with some brandy!

 Getting there...
Nearly ready...

Yum. That is all I can say.
The pudding! Sadly, I don't have the flaming photo as my flatmate took it.

 The remains! Not one leftover. Not one.
The mug with the blue spoon in was gravy. We only had two jugs, and had used them both!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Happy Happy Birthday

So, here is the promised birthday cake I made for one of my flatmates. I asked her a while ago what sort of cake was her favourite, and she said chocolate. So chocolate she got. I had a choice of three or four recipes, and I made a different cake to the one I was originally going to so, purely because I'd need to buy less ingredients for it! I'm sure they'll all get made at some point, so it doesn't really matter. I have fallen out with the recipe book I used though, and I'll tell you why.

The recipe didn't specify a cake tin size, just 'two shallow' or 'one deep'. I used one 20cm tin, as that is the only one I have available. And the cake turned out very flat! I had to make another one, as there was no way I could have sliced that one in half to fill it. And also, the recipe said to merely add more cocoa powder for a chocolate version, instead of replacing some flour. I thought that was VERY strange but went with it as it was a new recipe, even though it went against every single one of my baking instincts! I should have listened to them. A very very stiff mixture. But, despite all that it tasted good and was very well received! I just decorated it with a chocolate heart, and a smashed crunchie. Simple, but it looked rather effective.

So far so good...

Before the flour was added. This is how I imagine the consistency should have been like!

Looks ok...

No it's not. I was worried when I put it in, and I was right to be!

The chocolate buttercream, again very stiff, but tasty!

Ta-da! Apologies for the background but I nearly forgot to take a photo so it was a bit of a rush!

The Galaxy heart and smashed Crunchie.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Freestyle Friday #2

It was the second of my Freestyle Fridays today, and I rather enjoyed it. The main ingredient I wanted to use was some butternut squash, which was leftover from Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese Pasta, which I made this week. I also wanted to use the sage leaves I bought for the same recipe as I had to buy a packet instead of a plant. For the soup I simply browned a clove of garlic in some mint and garlic flavoured olive oil, stirred in the butternut squash, added 300ml of vegetable stock and simmered for twenty minutes. While that was going on I baked the sage leaves by tossing them with the same oil and some salt and then putting them in the oven, also for twenty minutes. At the end I mashed the butternut squash a little, just for... well, no reason really!

Now to get it to the table without spilling it...
And, as a matter of interest, here is what I did with the butternut squash peel, seeds, and a few sage leaves. I baked them using the same method as above, just with ordinary olive oil, cumin and chilli powder. I've had the seeds like this before (they taste just like flavoured popcorn!), and was inspired to do the same with the peel by Nigel Slater.

Check back tomorrow for the birthday cake I mentioned. Especially if you like chocolate cake... I'll say no more until tomorrow!