Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Gordon Ramsay's 'Healthy Appetite' Review.

I got this book a few Christmases back from my Mum and I have used it quite a lot.  I tend to go through phases and have had another recent phase of referring to it often.  It must be when my jeans feel too tight!

The book's chapters are divided into healthy breakfast, healthy brunch/lunch, healthy working lunch, healthy Sunday lunch, healthy barbecues, healthy suppers, healthy kids, healthy entertaining and healthy desserts.  There are hundreds of ideas - some really easy and none particularly difficult or time-consuming.  It is healthy eating but not faddy or weird - just good food.  There are lots of lovely pictures but not every dish is photographed.  There is, however, quite a lot of helpful advice about a healthy diet and how to boost your eating. 

I have made many recipes from this book and there are still a good few more I want to get round to.  Some I have found successful are Stuffed Mushrooms with Ricotta and Walnuts on Toast; Berry and Yoghurt Smoothie; Smoked Trout, Orange and Wild Rocket Salad;Spiced Pork Chops with Sweet Potatoes; Guinea Fowl with pea and lettuce fricasse.

Actually, I can't think of anything I have made so far from this book that hasn't been successful!

See this post to see the recipe for his seeded honey loaf.

 See this one for his rice noodle salad.

  Adam and I made his banana oat muffins recently and they were great for breakfast or a healthy snack after pre-school.  Here is Adam making them and the muffins cooling in the pan.

I made Wild Rice and Basmati Salad with Smoked Ham for tea a week or two ago.

Other recipes which are on my to do list are Oaty Walnut and Cheese Scones; Marinated Halibut with spiced aubergines; Venison Pie with Sweet Potato Topping (calling me this Autumn, I think).

 Today's recipe is also from this book - Fishcakes With Anchovy Dressing. These are lovely lemony fishcakes and I have made then twice in the past week.  The anchovy dressing is brilliant but for the second serving I made a dressing by microwaving some chilli jam and honey together and it worked well too.

My anchovy dressing would have looked nicer on the plate if I had, a) not forgotten to keep back some of the flat leaf parsley and, instead, piled it all into the fishcakes and, b) not overcooked it by forgetting about it so that the anchovy has all practically melted into the sauce and turned everything a sludgy brown colour instead of staying in lovely fleshy chunks.

Recipe - Serves 4.

Ingredients - 

400g waxy potatoes
2tbsp olive oil
finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
2 -3 tbsp lemon juice
sea salt and black pepper
few thyme sprigs
1/2 lemon, sliced
300g salmon fillet
300g smoked haddock fillet
handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
handful of chervil, chopped
3tbs plain flour
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
50g Japanese Panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp olive oil

Anchovy dressing:
2 tbsp capers
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
4 marinated anchovies, chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Method - 

1. Peel the potatoes, cut into even-sized pieces and drop into a pan of well-salted water.  Bring to the boil and cook for 10-15 minutes until tender when pierced with a knife.  Drain well. While still hot, mash the potatoes using a potato ricer back into the pan.  Mix in the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and seasoning to taste.  Leave to cool.
2. Meanwhile, add the thyme, lemon slices and salmon to a wide pan of slowly simmering salted water and poach for a minute.  Slide in the smoked haddock and gently poach for another 4-5 mins until both fish are almost cooked through.  Transfer to a plate, using a fish slice.  When cool enough to handle, break the fish into large flakes, discarding the skin and any pin-bones.
3. Mix the fish and chopped herbs into the mashed potatoes, using your hands.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Divide the mixture into four and shape into neat patties.  Season the flour with salt and pepper.  Coat the fishcakes in seasoned flour, then dip into the egg and finally into the breadcrumbs, turning to coat evenly all over.  Reshape them as necessary and place on a tray or plate.  Chill for 2 hours to set the shape.
4. To cook, heat the oven to 180C/GM 4.  Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a wide ovenproof frying pan.  Fry the fishcakes for 2-3 mins until golden brown, then flip over and fry the other side for 1-2 mins.  Finish cooking in the oven for 5-7 mins.
5. Make the dressing in the meantime, by gently warming all the ingredients together in a pan for 3-4 mins.  Spread a generous spoonful of dressing on each warm plate and rest a fishcake in the centre.  Serve immediately with peas or beans.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Fresh From The Oven 8 - August 2011 - Vegetable Bread.

Sweet potato bread.

Courgette bread.

This month I have made two types of bread.  One, a courgette bread from the recipe given to us by Sally from My Custard Pie who challenged us to create breads with vegetables in them; and the second, a sweet potato loaf.  She gave us the recipe for courgette cluster rolls as she found it to be a great way of using up a glut of home grown courgettes.  The recipe is adapted from a recipe by Roz Denny printed in House and Garden magazine.  

My courgette rolls all just amalgamated into one big loaf so we just tore off chunks to have with our soup.  Another sneaky way of getting vegetables into the children - my boys are bread mad so this worked like a treat!

Courgette Cluster Bread 
Makes 8 rolls or clusters

Ingredients - 

450g courgettes, grated coarsely
Salt (for degorging and for the dough)
675g strong white bread flour
2 sachets of easy-blend/fast-action yeast or 14g instant dried yeast
3 tablespoons parmesan, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
Tepid water - about 200ml
Milk, to glaze
Sesame seeds, to sprinkle

Method - 

1. Place the courgettes in a colander, sprinkle lightly with salt. Allow the juices to drain for about half-an-hour, then rinse well in cold water and pat dry.
2. If using instant yeast whisk it into 90 ml of the tepid water until frothy and dissolved. Mix the flour, yeast, parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some black pepper together in a bowl, then stir in the olive oil and courgettes. Add some more water until the mixture comes together as a firm, soft dough. 
3. If kneading by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly floured board or work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Or use a stand mixer with a dough hook. 
4. Lightly oil a bowl and put the dough into rise, covered with cling film or a cloth, for about one hour or until doubled in size.
5. Knock back the dough in the bowl (punch the air out of it) and then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead again briefly until smooth.
6. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces and roll to shape into even balls. Lightly grease and line the base of a 23 cm cake tin with baking parchment. Place one ball of dough in the middle and all the others around it.
7. Brush the tops of rolls with milk and sprinkle over some sesame seeds. Cover again with oiled cling film or a cloth and leave to prove until doubled in size and the balls touch each other - about 30 minutes.
8. Put into a preheated oven at 200 C for about 25 minutes until golden brown and cooked. Cool on a wire rack. Tear each roll off to eat as a bun.

I then decided I would like to try making a loaf with sweet potato.  I felt the sweet potato would be quite soft (like the courgettes in the fluffy bread above) and, for this one, I wanted a bit of texture so I decided to try and adapt my favourite recipe for a seeded loaf.  The recipe is Seeded Honey Loaf from Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Appetite.

The basic recipe makes a really lovely every day seeded loaf and here is a photo of one I have made recently.

I will continue to make the basic one but I will also add the sweet potato version to my repertoire.  It is quite different - obviously quite sweet and a bit more chewy.  A lovely taste and will go very well with soup.  In fact, I would say that this is one of the tastiest breads I have had and I am very pleased with it indeed.  The fact it will sneak more vegetables into the kids is the cherry on the top.

Here, I will put the basic recipe and my changes in red.

Recipe -
Makes two 500g loaves. 

Ingredients - 
15g fresh yeast or 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
275ml tepid water (I halved this when making the sweet potato loaf as there is a lot of moisture in the sweet potatoes then just added a few drops at a time until I got to the right consistency)
225g wholemeal flour
225g strong white flour
1.5 tsp fine sea salt
50g mixed seeds - poppy, sesame, pumpkin, linseed and sunflower (I used pumpkin, sunflower and sesame and added probably about 80-90g)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp milk, to glaze
(1 large-ish sweet potato (about 280g), grated)

Method - 
1. If using fresh yeast, put 3-4 tbsp of the water into a warm bowl, crumble in the yeast and stir to dissolve.  Leave to sponge for a few minutes.
2. Put the flours and salt into a large mixing bowl, add the seeds and stir to mix. (If you're using fast-action dried yeast, stir this into the flour mixture.) Make a well in the centre and add the olive oil, honey, yeast mixture and remaining water (all of it if using dried yeast).  Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, adding more flour if the dough seems too wet.  It should be soft, but not sticky. (I kept the seeds and the sweet potato out until I had kneaded the dough for a while then I added them in to finish the kneading.)
3. Press the dough into a ball, then knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5-10 mins until smooth.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave the dough to rise in a warm part of the kitchen for an hour or so until doubled in size.
4. Punch the dough down onto a lightly floured surface and knead it lightly.  Divide into two pieces and shape each one into a round loaf.  Place each on a lightly oiled large baking sheet and cover with lightly oiled cling film.  Leave to prove in a warm spot until almost doubled in size.
5. Heat the oven to 200C/GM 6.  Remove the cling film and brush a thin layer of milk over the loaves.  Bake for about 20-25 mins until light golden in colour.  The loaves should sound hollow when tapped underside.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.  Best served slightly warm.

Thanks for a fun and healthy challenge, Sally. 

Grasshopper Pie For 1 Year Of Blogging.

Please Do Not Feed The Animals is one year old today and this is my 130th post.  If I post a photo from that first ever post, you can see how much my boys have grown over the last year.

My most viewed blog post BY FAR is my lion cake pops post.  I am sure there are a lot of disappointed viewers as my lion cake pops must come up on a search but the post itself has a couple of photos and a link to Bakerella's site so no instructions on how to do them or anything.  Bakerella is the person to go to, though, for information on making cake pops - she is the Queen of cakepops.

It was by reading others' blogs that I discovered cake pops and so many other things I have made this year.  I have loved having this blog and making new friends and trying new things.  Looking forward to another year of cooking with you all!

I decided to make a grasshopper pie for pudding to celebrate the blogoversary and we put a candle in it for fun.  You can't get much more fun for little boys than getting to blow out candles!!!!  As you can see, from the top picture, it is still in the tin I made it in as I didn't make it in enough time to let it chill properly.  It slid out of the tin beautifully later that day.

I have never had grasshopper pie in my life and had never heard of it until Christmas time when I came across a recipe for it in My Mum-in-law's copy of Nigella's Kitchen.  It looked like something the boys would love and I had visions of making it at Halloween so MIL gave me a photocopy of the recipe.  It was only later that I realised how much booze is in Nigella's one.  So, for this attempt, I used the no-booze recipe in my Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book that the boys gave me for Mother's Day. 

The recipe worked well and we all had a slice but none of us were that excited about it.  Not enough chocolate, I think.  Or maybe not enough booze!

Just before I post the recipe, I just wanted to mention another blog that has recently turned 1 - Mince and Skirlie.  Chris made a video of himself making his paella recipe for his 1 year post and I am very impressed with it. 

Okay, on to the recipe - 

Recipe - 
(Serves 10-12)

Ingredients -

For the biscuit base
250g (9oz) chocolate-flavoured biscuits
175g (6oz) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling
180g (6.5oz) large white marshmallows
180ml (6.5 fl oz) whole milk
1/4 tsp peppermint essence (I used a whole tsp and think it needed it)
1/8 tsp green food colouring (I used my sugarflair paste and put a fair blob in - my pie wasn't subtle)
700ml (1 pint 4 fl oz) double cream
chocolate shavings, to decorate

Method - 
1. In a food processor with the blade attachment, blitz the chocolate biscuits into a fine crumb.  Alternatively, place in a plastic bag, seal the bag shut and crush with a rolling pin.  Pour the crumbs into a bowl and add the melted butter, mixing until all the crumbs are coated and can be squeezed together.
2. Tip the crumb mixture into a 23cm (9in) diameter pie dish or loose-bottomed tart tin, pressing it into the base and sides, then place in the fridge and leave for 30-40 minutes to set completely.
3. Meanwhile, make the filling.  In a saucepan over low heat, melt the marshmallows in the milk.  Remove from the heat then add the peppermint essence and food colouring and stir into the marshmallow mixture until it is evenly green in colour.  Set aside to cool for 10-15 mins.
4. Pour 300ml (10.5 fl oz) of the cream into a bowl and whip into soft peaks, then fold into the marshmallow mixture.  Pour the filling into the chilled biscuit base and leave in the fridge for 1-2 hours to set completely.
5. Once set, whip the remaining cream and spoon on to the top of the pie.  Sprinkle with chocolate shavings if you wish.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Bento Box 2.

My second attempt at making cute Bento boxes for lunch (first attempt here).  his time I made some Teriyaki chicken to go with some rice balls and vegetables.  And I added wee bottles of my posh soy sauce.

I was going to make my own Teriyaki sauce but as we were rushing round Tesco with two impatient little boys, I saw bottled Teriyaki sauce and decided just to use it.  I removed the skin from some chicken thighs and deboned then cut them into slices.  I then let the slices sit in the Teriyaki sauce for about an hour while I made the onigiri.  I then simply grilled the chicken and added to the Bento boxes.  The vegetables are sugar snap peas, sliced red pepper and carrots.

This was a lovely lunch - enjoyed by all of us.  The boys and I had ours sitting in the living room but it was nice to have lunch ready when we got back from nursery.  I received a text a couple of hours later from Steve at his work saying that the smiley face on his rice had made him smile.  Well, that's a result!

I had an extra couple of rice balls so I used those for Steve and I to take lunches to work the next day and replaced the chicken with seafood sticks out of the fridge.  Not nearly as nice but took two seconds to make lunch that day.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Soy Sauce!

Kwong Woh Hing

My friend (who has just started a blog, actually - a very creative and beautiful looking blog - little macaroon) emailed me a few months ago with a link to this blog post from I Eat, I Shoot, I Post talking about "the best soy sauce in the world" which is fermented in Singapore.  She offered to bring me home some to try.  Reading the post made me realise that I had never in my life even thought about soy sauce.  I didn't know how it was made and certainly didn't give any thought as to whether the stuff in Tesco was any good.  The above blog post is a real eye opener - he takes you through the whole process of making soy sauce with great photos too. 

She brought me a big bottle of light soy sauce and a small bottle of dark.  So first of all, I need to find out - what is the difference? Well, the dark soy sauce was a revelation.  It was so thick, I had to bang on the upended bottom of the bottle to get any out.  It looked like treacle.  I have never seen anything like that before.  The dark soy we get here is very watery.  
A google search tells me that dark soy is fermented or aged longer than the light and is little different other than the colour and usually less salty than the light.  Not sure I am much wiser.  I would be grateful if anyone can enlighten me more.  My small bottle of thick dark soy seems very special and I would love to know what the best way to use it would be.

So, back to the light -  in comparison with what I have in the house (at the moment I have a Tesco Tamari soy sauce but usually I have the Japanese Kikkoman).  I was worried about tasting the lovely Kwong Woh Hing sauce as I wondered if I would taste something amazing but then never be able to get it again in this country and forever be disappointed by soy sauce here. I first tasted the light soy with some deep fried prawns in filo and my first reaction was disappointment.  It lacked the saltiness that I am used to and I am a terrible salt fiend.  I love just licking salt and I add far too much to everything.

One evening, I then served some smoked salmon with a dish of the Tamari and a dish of the light soy sauce to Steve for a blind testing.  He chose the Tesco stuff as his favourite, again saying that the other wasn't as salty.  We felt the new stuff was much less salty, sweeter and tangier.  After a few tastes Steve said he felt the flavours in the new stuff were more complex and "you feel there is more happening on your tongue".  I then went back to the "old" stuff and amazingly I realised that the saltiness really does just slam into you and really overpowers the salmon.  It also now tasted much more synthetic.  By the end, I much preferred the Kwong Woh Hing.  It has a completely different flavour to the synthetic Tesco stuff and I now realise that, although, I love the saltiness of my usual soy, it really is a very uninteresting one dimensional taste. 

What a fascinating journey into the world of soy sauce.  I do prefer the more delicate Kwong Woh Hing but hopefully when it runs out I will still enjoy my salt hit from the Kikkoman.  Or I might just get my pal to bring back a case of Kwong Woh Hing if she ever finally gets the ship to bring her belongings home!  (umm, if you are reading Missy - you better come home soon - you and your family are missed!)

Random Recipe 7 - Part 2 - Lou's Seared Beef Tataki With Wasabi Mashed Potato.

This was the random recipe I got this month for Dom's challenge.  See here for Steve's challenge.
This was DELICIOUS!!!!  The recipe is from Yo Sushi: The Japanese Cookbook by Kimiko Barber.  We got the book from Steve's older sister and her husband at Christmas and this is only the second recipe I have made from it so far.  

And this recipe came at a fantastic time too as my good friend who is currently living in Singapore brought me home a couple of bottles of amazing soy sauce.  I will tell you more in my next post - who would have though soy sauce was so fascinating?

Recipe - 

Ingredients - 
450g (1lb) beef fillet - a long thin piece works better than a thick piece
salt and ground black pepper
100ml (3.5 fl oz) rice vinegar
2 punnets cress, to garnish
spring onion, to garnish (optional)

for the sauce
100ml (3.5 fl oz) soy sauce
20g (0.75 oz) fresh root ginger, peeled and grated (not in my version thank you very much)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 spring onions, finely chopped

for the wasabi mashed potato
600g (1.25 lb) all-purpose potatoes, such as Desiree or King Edward, peeled
50g (2oz) butter
4 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp wasabi powder, mixed to a paste with water
4 spring onions, finely chopped

Method - 
1. For the wasabi mashed potato, chop the potatoes into small chunks and cook with just enough water to cover for 10 mins or until soft.  Drain and add the butter while the potatoes are still hot.  Mash them while pouring in the mirin and wasabi paste.  Continue to mash until smooth then stir int he spring onions, seasoning with salt, if needed.  Cover the pan to keep the potatoes warm while you cook the meat.

2. Heat a heavy, cast iron griddle pan over a high heat.  Sprinkle the beef all over with a generous amount of salt and pepper and rub it in.  Sear the beef on the griddle for i minute each side, until both sides are browned.  Transfer the beef to a chopping board, cut into thin slices, then place in a non-metalic dish and pour over the rice vinegar.  Put each slice on a chopping board and slap witht he palm of your hand - this tenderises the meat.

3. Make the sauce by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl.
4. Arrange the meat on 4 plates, drizzle over the sauce, garnish with cress and spring onion, then serve with wasabi mashed potatoes on the side.


Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Cake Slice Bakers - Challenge 11- August 2011 - Monkey Bread.

Well my monkey bread is so called because it was made by my two wee monkeys.  What a fun recipe for the kids to do.  This recipe is Hungarian Coffee Cake also known as Monkey Bread from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman.  It is made by shaping the dough into small balls, rolling in cinnamon sugar then baking in a Bundt tin with sultanas and nuts and a caramel sauce.  Mmmmm.  The idea is to get a cake which pulls apart easily into individual balls.  The boys made this themselves with only a little supervision from me (and reading the recipe for them of course!) and they really enjoyed doing it.  We all loved the cake when it was done - beautiful cinnamon and caramel taste with lovely texture of the soft fruit and crunchy nuts.  It came out of the oven looking like a normal bundt cake but when you tried to pull it apart, it broke easily into lumps of cake more or less ball-shaped.

Recipe - 

Ingredients - 

For the topping-
1/2 cup (4oz/ 113g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup light brown sugar

For the cake - 
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
9 tbsp (4.5 oz) unsalted butter, chilled (I tell you I will be glad to get back to a recipe book using metric weights - seriously who in their right mind would measure out butter using tablespoons???)
3 cups plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp buttermilk, plus more if necessary
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup raisins

Method - 
1. Make the topping: Whisk together the melted butter and light brown sugar.  Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 180C.  Grease a non-stick 12-cup Bundt pan and dust with flour.
3. Combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a zipper-top bag.  Cut the butter into 1/4-inch dice.  Place the butter in a small bowl and set it in the freezer while you gather together the rest of the cake ingredients.
4. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add the chilled butter pieces and, with an electric mixer, mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stri in the buttermilk until the mixture just comes together, adding an extra tbsp or two if the mixture is too dry.
5. Use a small ice cream scoop or spoon to scoop up balls of dough and transfer them to the zipper-top bag.  Shake the bag to coat the balls with cinnamon sugar.
6. Place the coated balls of dough in the prepared pan, sprinkling walnuts and raisins over them as you go.  Pour the melted butter mixture over the cake.  Bake until the cake is firm and well risen and the caramel is melted, 35 to 40 minutes.  Let the cake cool in the pan, on a wire rack, for 10 minutes.  Invert onto a serving platter and serve immediately.
7. Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to a day.

So, we're coming to the end of baking from this book.  I have made 11 recipes from it.  I actually really like the book in that it has lots of good ideas.  Some of the recipes haven't been just right but they are the sorts of recipes that it will be fun to tweak about a bit to make perfect and choose your own variations.  On the other hand, some of the recipes I have loved as they stand.  So far, my favourites have been the cranberry cake and the orange-almond-caramel upside down cake.  There are so many more cakes I want to try from this book including apple and cheddar cheese cake, pear cake with sea-salt caramel sauce and red grape, polenta and olive oil cake.  Baking with the cake slice bakers has made me try lots of new types of cakes and, of course, I have made Bundt cakes for the first time.  I felt so grown up when I produced my cold-oven cream cheese pound cake as a beautiful Bundt cake.  I have also stuck mainly to the American measurements and used cups but have scribbled notes all over the book on what a stick of butter weighs, what the conversions from fahrenheit to centigrade are and I really hope that our next book has metric weights in it.  I just find weighing my ingredients to be so much more accurate and less messy.  Just what I am used to, I suppose.  Anyway, I have loved my first year as a cake slice baker and think that this was a really good choice of book for us to bake from.  It also inspired my lovely glass-domed cake keeper which I absolutely love and seeing it filled with cake, sitting out in the kitchen makes me smile.

See the cake slice bakers blogroll here

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Daring Cooks' Challenge No. 9 - August - Appam and Curry.

Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks' host.  Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is.  She challenged us to make appam and another South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.

Appam is a type of bread similar to a crepe made from a fermented rice batter and usually served with a curry.  Now, I didn't master this (because I left trying it to the day the challenge was supposed to be posted) but although my appam didn't look quite right, I really loved the taste of it and felt it was a refreshing accompaniment to a curry.  I chose to make Mary's Chemeen Pappas (a prawn and coconut milk curry).  The whole family loved this mild but tasty curry and I will certainly make this again.  Probably next time I try to make appam.  I'm going to get it looking beautiful next time.  I do know where I can make improvements.  I don't think I blended the rice enough and I also think my batter that I left fermenting was too thick.

Really enjoyed the challenge of making something quite different again.
I did spend a few hours of the weekend doing this, though, and I am finding that with trying to do all the challenges I am spending too long trying to fit them in when we should really be spending the weekends as a family.  So, this will probably be my last Daring Cooks Challenge and I will probably bow out of the Daring Bakers too.  Might be able to go back to them later when the kids are a bit older and I have a bit more time to myself.

Recipes - here.