Friday, 30 November 2012

Freestyle Friday #1 (plus Cupcake Cases!)

Welcome to the very first Freestyle Friday, my experimenting day! It was quite a simple dish, but still very nice, and most importantly, it was filling! This is what I did. I cooked some dried egg noodles and drained them, then added stir-fry sauce, carrot, and sesame seeds. There was going to be a one egg omlette on the top... but I may have dropped an egg on the floor this morning... Anyhow, here's some photos!

They were going to be matchsticks, but the noodles were already done!

The finished prouct!
I'm very excited about next week's Freestyle Friday as I know that I'm going to have some butternut squash left over...
And, as promised, here are the Christmas cupcake cases I made the gingerbread muffins in.
I'm decorating my Christmas cake tomorrow... check back in the next few days to see how it went!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Experimental Entertainment

Let me get this straight. I am not usually an experimental cook. I like recipes. I am quite happy to play aroung with recipes, but I don't do freestyle... until today!  I've been watching Nigel Slater's tv programme, and to start with I couldn't believe how he didn't plan any of his meals! But suddenly, while watching one episode, I wanted to try it. I could barely believe I actually wanted to do it! But I decided I would have a go, and maybe experiment every Friday with what I had left from my weekly shop. I'm doing it two days this week, as that's just the way things have worked! So, please give a very warm welcome to my first freestyle dish!

Apologies for the half eaten meatball, but I forgot to take a photo before I started eating!
It's based around some pasta sauce I had leftover from the pasta bake I made last week, which you can read about here. (I don't usually buy my sauces!). The meatballs are made from one sausage I had in the freezer. I added tomato puree and some Worcestershire sauce to the tomato sauce, which made it lovely and rich. I could get used to this experimenting lark...

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Batches of Baking!

I had a rather productive morning: First, I made gingerbread muffins. They're a Nigella Lawson recipe we've made lots of times before, and as always, they were absolutely deicious. Just imagine eating a soft, light as air gingerbread cloud and you're there. I ate one as soon as they came out of the oven, as it was past my mid-morning snack time, and it was so good warm! You could even have one with custard as a dessert, or for breakfast, just because you can... I made them in some Christmas cases I got from Accessorize, which had little owls in winter outfits one! You can't see it too clearly here, but I'll definetely post a photo of them soon as they are so cute! These really are Christmassy, gingerbread in a Christmas case... I just can't get enough!

Next up was covering my Christmas cake with marzipan. Read about the making of it here. It went really well, considering this is the first time I've done it totally solo!  There were some scraps- some of which I ate, I adore marzipan!- but look out for what I'm going to do with the rest...

For lunch I made some tortilla wraps from a quick recipe I found on the internet. It really was easy, just mixing flour, water, and baking powder, then leave for 15 minutes. Then roll out and dry fry! It made two as well, which is perfect for spur of the moment wrap making thoughts. It's also good as if it made too many they would go off before I could eat them all!

And last but not least, tea. I had a Mary Berry cottage pie recipe. The recipe had the option to do smaller ones so I made mine in ramekins as I bought them with me but hadn't yet used one. I halved to recipe; one I had tonight, one for tomorrow, and one for the freezer. I thought they were quite cute in their little ramekins! It was the perfect meal for this weather. Eating a steaming, hot pie when you know it's so cold outside is just, well, perfect.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Not Quite a Curry

Tonight for tea, I had a curry- kind of. It was a normal vegetable curry, but I didn't have the turmeric. Or the ground coriander. So all the 'sauce' was was water with chili powder, lemon juice and cumin in! Even though the recipe didn't call for cumin, I put some in anyway, just because I thought it might need something extra because of the missing ingredients... The recipe just said 'mixed chopped vegetables', and I used carrot, celery, onion and peas. That was partly why I picked this recipe- I'd already bought those things for other recipes, but they wouldn't get used up. Anyway, despite the missing ingredients and the rather strange sauce, it was very tasty. I even left the celery leaves in, which turned surprisingly sweet!
Lovely bright colours to chase away the gloomy weather!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Tantalising Thai Chicken

There's a dish I used to make a fair bit at home, called Lime Sherbert Chicken. As with quite a few recipes, there are some variations, and when flicking thorough the book to choose this week's menu, I found it hard to believe I hadn't tried any. As I had most of the ingredients, I went with the Thai Chicken fingers- the chicken is marinated in lemon juice, fresh ginger, fresh mint and chili. I used chili paste because it retains it's spiciness after cooking much better than an actual chili.

To accompany it, I had an 'adapted' rice recipe. You might remember the Indian-Style rice salad I had last week? (If not, you can read about it here.) Well I replaced the curry powder with Thai-7 Spice, and omitted all the other ingredients apart from the dessiccated coconut... And it was very good! Some of the best things are things you just happen accross, so don't be afraid to try something you think of off the cuff in the kitchen!

You might also remember I went to the Winchester Cathedral Christmas market yesterday... and it was fabulous! Lots of food (I ate SO much) craft and gift stalls. I can't post a photo of one thing I bought as it was a present for someone who might read this (hi mum!), but this is what I got...
Krakauer (smoked bratwurst) with sauerkraut and curry ketchup
(I've had this in Germany, I love it!)

Chocolate fruit pot- strawberries and marshmallows

Roasted chestnuts

Black Forest Slice

A felted fox bag- see, I didn't just buy food!

I got the hazelnuts- original caramel with sesame seeds, orange peel and cinnamon sticks

The cathedral itself!

My feet at the end of the day... my boots leaked as well!

Friday, 23 November 2012

A Brilliant Bake

I don't mean a bake in the traditional sense, I mean a pasta bake. I hadn't had one for ages, and when I was doing my menu for this week, it just had to be on there. I like them because you can put pretty much anything in them. I knew I wanted tuna, because that's what I usually used to have. And that worked out pretty well, because I knew I'd have some sweetcorn left over from the Indian-Style Rice Salad I had this week. I also added in some chestnut mushrooms that were in the fridge, along with a tomato pasta sauce and it all went together rather nicely. It is literally only a case of partially cooking the pasta, mixing in the other ingredients, and, well, baking. Piece of bake- I mean piece of cake!

It looks like a lot, but my bowls are just really small!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

A Second Silly Salad?

I didn't really want to call this salad silly, it was SO good. It was an Indian-Style Rice Salad, from one of my student cookbooks. To start with, it had raisins in it. I am a sucker for raisins. Absolutely love them. And it also had coconut, another favourite ingredient. Slightly stranger was banana, but it did work! Also in the mix were rice (obviously!), sweetcorn and cucumber. The dressing was just curry powder and mayonnaise, which made the coconut stick nicely to the rice. It had just the right amount of sweetness- it even stopped me craving an after dinner biscuit! There was lot of different textures, which made it even more interesting. I'm so glad I have another portion for tomorrow's tea, although I don't know if it will last until then...

Potatoes in the Pan

So, last night, I made potato cakes. In a pan, in case you hadn't guessed. They're very easy to make, especially if you already have the mashed potato. I made mine at lunch time, but you could easily use leftovers from last night's tea! A lovely, simple tea that took no time at all. They would go with a lot of things- they could even be a side dish to a bigger main meal- but I just had mine with some broccoli. They were so quick, they could even be done for a filling lunch!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Christmas Countdown

Last Saturday, Christmas cake. This Saturday, mince pies. Can you tell I LOVE Christmas? And I love mince pies, so when my mum said she was making some I couldn't believe I hadn't even thought about making any. The supermarket had some humungous jars of mincemeat, but I managed to restrain myself and buy just a 411g jar... I could eat that stuff out of a jar. Seriously. And I fed the cake as well, which smellt so good when I unwrapped it!

Turned out well!
Except this one I put my thumb in, I'll just have to eat this one...

So, Christmas cake, mince pies, and next week, a Christmas market...

Friday, 16 November 2012

Silly Salad?

I fancied a salad for lunch today. Yes, I know it's November. And that it's cold and foggy outside. I wanted to use food I already had, so it was quite a random combination, but I think it turned out well. As the Special Fried Rice I'm having for tea didn't quite use a whole can of sweetcorn, the remainder of that went in, as did the green pepper that wouldn't all get used. I also put in a spring onion, some broccoli and some chestnut mushrooms that all wanted using. And keeping with the Oriental theme of today's meals, the 'dressing' was just a little soy sauce, and about a teaspoon of hoisin sauce.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Carrots and Crunchy Things- Part 2

Now for the carrots! As I had planned a filling breakfast (pancakes!) and lunch, I made tea quite light yesterday- although it was still very filling! I made Carrot, Beetroot and Chickpea Salad with Hummus. The carrots were dry fried in some cumin, and while they were cooking it was just a case of making the hummus and slicing the beetroot. By the time these things were done the carrots were ready, so it only took about 15 minutes from start to finish. My hummus was rather chunky as I don't have a food processor, so I had to mash the chickpeas with a fork! I quite liked it chunky though, and think I'll be having it like that more often. The only bad thing was that my pitta bread had gone mouldy so I had to have it with normal toast.

 I used the rest of the chickpeas to make more hummus, and had it with beetroot on toast for lunch today.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Crunchy Things and Carrots

You'd think the carrots would be the crunchy things... but they're not! The crunchy thing is a biscuit. Let me explain. At lunch I made a Sam Stern 'snack' dish, as I don't often get the chance to try them and I happened to have all the ingredients. It was called Honey Orange Biscuit Crunch, and it was very, very good. It contained- natural yoghurt, a chopped up orange (although I used a clementine), a few raisins, a ginger nut biscuit and a drizzle of honey. Other biscuits suggested were digestive and amaretti, both of which I think would be equally nice! The recipe says 150ml of yoghurt, but I just dolloped about 4-5 tsps in a bowl- the exact quantities really don't matter here. The only real work is crumnbling the biscuit, but honestly, it's heaven in a bowl. Lunch or dessert? Who knows...

And my tea tonight was equally delicious... but more of that tomorrow- stay tuned!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

A Colourful Combination

Today, I'm sharing my lunch with you. Not the actual food obviously, but you know what I mean! But I'll start with tea. Wrong order I know, but all will become clear. For tea today I made Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Baba Ganoush, and ate it in a toasted pitta. But the pittas came in packs of six, so I had one for lunch as well so they didn't go to waste- my freezer drawer is getting very full! In it I had salad cream, beetroot (which I mainly bought for my tea tomorrow!), pickled jalapenos and a smidge of peanut butter. Yes, it's very random, but it worked. I think it would have been better if it was eaten freshly made, because the spreads had kind of soaked in by lunch, but it was still nice all the same!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Perfect Pasta

A big statement, I know! But it was. The sauce was a Sam Stern recipe, the same one I used to make the Bubbling Baked Eggplant. Just canned tomatoes, tomato puree, a pinch of sugar, fresh basil, lemon juice, seasoning an a little dollop of pesto. Done in the time it takes the pasta to cook- in fact, it's usually done before the pasta is cooked! Not that it matters, because it's quite happy to simmer on a very low heat while the pasta finishes cooking. The recipe also said any pasta- I used fusili because it was the first one I came across in my cupboard!

Steamy stuff!

The dish itself...
Another combination was tried in the kitchen today... tuna and raspberry jam! It wasn't my sandwich, but I did try it... and it wasn't as bad as you'd think. Actually quite pleasant. The strange things students eat...

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Another Souper Soup and a Crazy Christmas Cake!

Today was a great moment. I made my Christmas cake. A bit late, I know, but I've been rather busy lately adjusting to university etc. I had several recipes, and decided to choose out of the ones that would go in the tin I bought last week, to save getting another. I'm quite indecisive, so it took a while to choose, but in the end I went for Good Housekeeping's Rich Christmas Cake. Lots and lots of dried fruit and nuts, yummy! The smell when it was cooking was amazing, I kept making excuses to go back in the kitchen! Now I just need to decide how to decorate it- good job I have a month to decide...

Just the butter, but it was so soft and a lovely colour, I just had to take a photo!

Butter, sugar, eggs and black treacle, smelling good already.

Glace cherries and dried fruits soaked in brandy for 4 hours!

In go the nuts!

Good luck in the oven!

Aahhh, smells like Christmas.
And as a side, I had vegetable soup for tea. The recipe was called Basic Veg Soup, and basic it was, but still very nice! Literally just veg and stock. Next time I'll hit it with some variations!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Fantastic(ish) Flapjacks and Soup-er Soup!

This morning I made flapjacks, to have as my mid-morning snack for the next two weeks or so. Or so I thought! The recipe made 24, so I halved it. But it only made 6! And they didn't stick together very well- I don't say they were crumbly, because they were actually quite sticky. But it's not all bad, because they are very nice to eat. I used muesli instead of plain porridge oats, just to mix it up a bit. The raisins, which were already quite big, swelled up and became enormous!

And tea was chestnut soup- a made up recipe. I just added some chestnut mushrooms to the puree and stock, and some celery that needed using up. And no, I didn't buy the chestnut mushrooms because they were chestnut... I used half the can of puree, and sweetened the other half so I can make Nigella Lawson's Easily Scaled Mont Blanc dessert. I've had it several times before and it's absolutely delicous. Now to find the recipe...
The puree doesn't look that appealing, but I can assure you, it tastes better than it looks!

The smell of Christmas...