Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Kitchen Diaries II - Nigel Slater.

So, in complete contrast to Jamie's 15-Minute Meals, I come to Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries II (and, yes, there is room in my life for both of these books but Nigel Slater wins hands down for writing, recipes and inspiring food enjoyment). 

Here is a passage from the introduction, "We can either treat food as nothing more than fuel or relish its every quality.  We can think of preparing it as something to get done as quickly and effortlessly as possible or as something to find pleasure in, something to enrich our everyday life, to have fun with".

This is a beautiful book. It feels heavy, it has a beautiful typeface, evocative photographs and, above all, writing which makes me lose all sense of time.  

The book arrived the day after it's publication which happened to be a Friday - my meal planning day - perfect.  I was torn between getting started cooking from it straight away or placating my OCD side by waiting until the 1st of January to work through it in order.  My greedy side won, of course. 

I have now made several recipes from the book, all very successful.  The first Kitchen Diaries gets used a lot for inspiration.  I pick it up and flick to the date then go back about a month (up here the days get warmer and therefore produce becomes available that much later), see what Nigel would be eating around that time and copy or adapt.  I can see me using this book in a similar way.  I will also read a bit each night like I did with the last one.  I believe there are a lot of us fans who take Nigel Slater books to bed with us!

So here are a few pictures of some of the recipes I have tried so far...

Tomatoes, pre-roasting, for the Roast Tomatoes, Thyme and Goat's Cheese.
Oh dear the photo shows just how lazy we have been with keeping our outside table looked after!  One of the last outside meals of this year.

Sorry - half eaten!

Baked Chicken With Tomatoes and Olives.

Blackberry Ice-Cream Cake
This is amazing.  Heed his advice not to use the huge supermarket blackberries as they freeze solid and take too long to become edible.  Watch this space for some re-interpretations of this dessert.
Okay, yes, I have an obsession with this!
Apricot Couscous.
A Lentil and Pumpkin Soup-Stew.  This tastes so comforting and is very nutritious and cheap to make too.  I will be making this a lot for the cold days coming - a new staple recipe.

Making Tarts of Leek and Cheese.


Courgette Fritters with Tomato and Rosemary Sauce.

Broad Bean, Feta and Spinach Pie.


A Smoked Chicken and Dill Sandwich.  This is so much more than a sandwich.  It's a favourite of Nigel Slater's and now of mine too.

Lots more lined up to be made from this book. Some examples of things I am looking forward to making this Autumn - slow-cooked oxtail with five-spice and tamarind, slow-cooked rabbit with herbs, pear and chocolate oat crumble, fig and hazlenut loaf for cheese. And so much more.  The book is absolutely packed with recipes and ideas. 

I would suggest that any foodie would love a copy of this for Christmas.  I think the gift giver would be thought of as someone with very good taste!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

23 Minute Meal.

I had pre-ordered Jamie's 15 Minute Meals as I felt it would be a very useful addition to my cookbook library.  I am a working Mum who wishes she could do everything so rushing around is the constant state here. 

I realised this book was a bit controversial when I was following a Twitter conversation between @EvidenceMatters and @wotchers (Mary-Anne Boermans from the last series of The Great British Bakeoff).  She says, "Bit uneasy about the premise of Jamie's 15-minute Meals - if you hate spending time in the kitchen that much, why are you buying a cookbook?" and then continues, "If you loathe cooking, you won't have the skills to make anything in 15 minutes & there's other/better ways to provide for loved ones than rushing against a stopwatch. My family is worthy of better than just 15 minutes of my time".  I believe she is going to do a blogpost to give her tips for how to do the family cooking in a more timely way.  I agree with some of what she says but I think that last sentence somehow raised my hackles.  It just seemed rather judgemental.  

Having seen the book and having now made my first recipe from it, I still feel it is a good idea.  Most of the time I won't use it but there are good recipes in it and sometimes I will make them in a more leisurely way and sometimes I will try to do them quickly.  They are all full of great ingredients and are nutritious homecooking.  I don't see the problem.  And I certainly don't feel that if I make a meal for my family in a rush that it shows I don't value them enough!  Anyway, as far as I can work out, she hasn't even seen the book.

So, tonight I decided to make one of the meals and to time it and to try to do it quickly just out of interest.  I chose to make Mustard Lamb, Irish Mash and Watercress Apple Salad.  The first thing to note is that you have to have your equipment and ingredients all ready before you start.  This includes peeling the potatoes, having the kettle boiled and your pans hot.  This initial stage took me 11 minutes.  This is not included in the 15 minutes and Jamie states this quite clearly in the introduction.

Ready to start the stopwatch.

The actual cooking part which should have taken 15 minutes, took me 23 minutes.  Not bad at all for a lovely meal.  A lot of that time was spent going back to the book to read what I had to do next.  I have no doubt at all that if I do this recipe one or two more times, I will cut the time taken to do it significantly.  However, I am actually more likely to repeat the recipe but to do it in a leisurely way.  For a start, doing it so quickly means that if you don't have a kitchen porter, the place looks like a bombsite when you are finished.  I think I would rather take the time to put things away and clean up a little as I go along.

I did feel it was a lovely recipe, though, and really does show how to make a lovely family meal in not much time at all.  It doesn't matter if it can't be done in the 15 minutes.  It is still done fairly quickly, is healthy, satisfying and tasty.

I am very aware that Jamie Oliver has a HUGE marketing budget so I don't particularly feel that I want to be promoting his book for him for free but I do like the book and I would definitely say to go borrow it from the library and get some ideas for those evenings when you are in a hurry.

Steve is going to try a different meal from it tomorrow.  Not sure if he is going to be timing himself or not but I will report back.    

Pinnies And Petticoats.

At the Scottish Food Bloggers' Conference, I was chatting to people who are members of baking clubs such as Jac who is in the Dundee Clandestine Cake Club and I decided it was time to start some kind of baking club in Aberdeen.  On the way home on the train, I tweeted to see if there would be much interest in starting something.  I got a good few responses from people in Aberdeen and then someone tweeted that @MissKazzieB and @colene1985 had already started to organise one and had a venue sorted out.

Brilliant!  It turned out that they were planning a fairly informal club which suited me perfectly.  Our first night was at Tiger Tiger in Aberdeen and there were no rules or regulations. 

I decided to bake Dan Lepard's Rye Apple Cake just because I love it.  You can get the recipe from the Guardian website here or from Dan's brilliant baking book, Short and Sweet.  I know I have blogged about this cake before but it is a good bake.

We had a successful night. Eight bakers managed the first night and there are a few more due to come to the next one.  Because it was fairly small, we started by sitting down and having a chat and getting to know each other.   We then got stuck into some serious eating. I'm sorry the photos aren't great - we will maybe have to make more effort with our presentation and lighting next time but, having said that, I think there were only two of us who were bloggers - the other blogger is Foodie Quine - great to meet another local blogger.  The bakes were brilliant and what a varied selection.  We had black velvet cake, passion cake, chocolate cakepops and cute cupcake cake balls, peanut butter biscuits, traditional Scottish tablet, sherbet lemon meringues, pale ale parkin (missed yourself with that one, Mince and Skirlie!), peanut butter balls and everything was very tasty and indulgent. 

We were then invited downstairs to Kanaloa for free cocktails to round off a very successful night.

I can't wait for the next one which is Wednesday 17th October at 7pm at Tiger Tiger on Ship Row.  
It is Halloween theme so looking forward to some fun bakes.  You are welcome to come along if you bring something baked and please bring along friends who are welcome just to eat.  You can find us on twitter by searching #pinniesandpetticoats or on the facebook page.

I'm away to start thinking about what I'm going to bake.  Here are some of the Halloween things I have made in the last few years - 

Cobweb and bat cupcakes.

My pumpkin cakepops.  These were the first ever cakepops I had made and I was so proud of them at the time!

My mummy cupcakes.  I still love these.

Last year, I made meringue ghosts.

Has anyone got any fun suggestions for this year?

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes.

These are not quite as good as a real lemon meringue pie, in my opinion, but they are VERY good for a cupcake.  I have filled my ones with shop-bought lemon curd so they are quick and easy to make.  I love lemon and the thrill of the wee shiver from the sharpness and I love gooey, chewy meringue so I knew these would be a great choice.

I actually asked Adam (my 5 year old sous chef) to choose the recipe for me for this month's Random Recipes. Random Recipes is combined with Teatime Treats this month so I collected all my recipe books which were predominantly baking and asked Adam to select from them. I got The Primrose Bakery Book by Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas.

 Adam then got to select the recipe.  This choice wasn't so much random as something that caught his eye but as I had no say in what it would be, I thought it would still count.

To make these, use a basic cupcake recipe like this. Instead of the vanilla essence add a couple of teaspoons of finely grated lemon zest to the batter.  Once the cupcakes are cooled, core out a hole from the top, fill the hole with lemon curd and replace the top.  Prepare some basic meringue mixture like this one.  Either put the mixture into a piping bag and pipe swirls on to the top of the cupcakes or just spoon the mixture on. Put into the oven at 160C/GM 3 for 15 minutes until slightly golden on top.

These cupcakes are a winner and I will definitely be making these again.  I do, however, now have cravings for lemon meringue pie.  I'm a bit scared of pastry but, hey, I can use shop bought!

I am submitting these for Random Recipes does Tea Time Treats which is hosted by:
Dom from Belleau Kitchen,
Karen from Lavender and Lovage,
and Kate from What Kate Baked.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Cake.

This month the Cake Slice Bakers made the Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Cake from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book.  Now this recipe is a bit of a faff - you have to have plenty of time to make and chill each layer separately - but ultimately it is worth it.

The crunchy bottom layer is made with crushed wafer biscuits, a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder and some melted butter.  Next is a peanut butter mousse followed by a chocolate mousse.  Topped with a dark chocolate glaze and then a generous sprinkling of honey roast peanuts.

I won't reproduce Tish Boyle's recipe but you can actually find quite a few adaptations on the net just by googling.  Next time I make it, I'm going to put salted peanuts on top as I do love the sweet/salty contrast and this one really is very sweet so could be doing with the salt. It does take a while to make because you have to individually chill each layer but the length of time spent on actually making the layers is fairly minimal so if you are going to be in the house anyway and can do things in stages, you get a very impressive result for not too much effort.

This is our second last recipe from The Cake Book.  We are busy voting for our next book choice.  This means that for a short period we are open for new members who would like to join us in baking through our next cake book. Here is the info from Paloma if you wish to join in with our friendly group-
"Now for some exciting news! As this was our last cake from our current cake book, we are now opening up group to fellow cake baking enthusiasts who wish to bake with us for the upcoming year. Places are limited and you will need to buy a copy of the new cake book to participate, so dedicated bakers only please.
Anyone wishing to join us can email me at ([AT] along with their name, blog name, blog URL and email address for details. Please put ‘New Cake Slice Member’in the subject box."

Sunday, 16 September 2012

This Week I Have Been Mostly Eating...

Saturday - 

I was away out for a 5K race over lunchtime.  Steve made asparagus, halloumi and new potatoes from the booklet of recipes (which came in the Guardian) from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Three Good Things On A Plate.  Of course he didn't take a photo as normal people don't photograph their food.  More annoyingly, he didn't leave me any.  He made up for it though by making me a mozzarella and tomato salad.  I didn't take a photo of that because I had just done my fastest ever 5K time on a hilly course in the hottest heat we have had all summer - I was tired, okay.

In the evening, my parents took us out to the local Chinese restaurant (Yan in Westhill for those who are interested) where a lovely meal was had by all.


Lunch was antipasto, I think, but no pictures.

For tea, Steve made another recipe from the HFW booklet.  This time brandade, tomatoes and toast.  The brandade is a thick spread made from smoked haddock, potatoes and garlic.  The tomatoes were baked at a low heat for 3 hours so they were amazingly sweet and perfectly partnered the salty fish.


Monday -

Lunch was cheese, oatcakes and fruit.

Roast chicken and mash for tea.

Tuesday -

Work day so just packed lunches.

Tea was the leftover chicken from the roast made into individual chicken and mushroom pies.  I got the idea for making these in the muffin tin from Utterly Scrummy Food For Families. I have mentioned Michelle's blog before - bursting full of budget conscious family meals.

Wednesday -

Again a work day so kids get school dinners or lunch at the childminders. At night they get a packed tea I have made for them to eat at the childminders as they go straight from there to football.  I was busy so just ham sandwiches, grapes, raisins and juice.

Thursday -

Lunch was a tuna melt panini for Rufus and me.  It is strange now just being the two of us for lunch.  Adam has school dinners and is really enjoying it.

You can see it is served with mushrooms as Rufus was looking through the fridge and announced he wanted mushrooms for lunch.  Okay then. 

Tea was honey and mustard sausages with carrot mash.  I think it was inspired by the Tesco magazine.


Leftovers and fruit for lunch.  Poor Rufus is going to get a lot of these thrown together lunches as cooking for two seems a bit too much hassle!  Mind you, he loves this sort of thing.  He demolished that whole bowl of blueberries, most of the olives and blackberries too.  Wasn't keen on the fig so I ate that.

And a nice, easy tea - frozen, battered fish and some peas.

So that was our week in food.  I didn't even do any baking or make any puddings.  Have started off this week a bit better though with a pudding and some baking already done this weekend.  Sometimes I just don't have the time or inclination, though.

Oh, and I just wanted to include a lunch from the week before too - an idea given to me by Little Macaroon for eating our courgette from the garden. 

I had some wholemeal pitta to use up so used that as the base.  Courgettes and garlic fried lightly then splodged with yogurt, lemon zest and mint.  I'm sure Lil Mac's version is much prettier but it was delicious.

I think my favourite meal of this week was the roast chicken.  What was your favourite meal of the week?