We’re Back to Meat – Apologies to Enthusiastic Vegetarians

So that vegetarian post really got you guys reading, huh? I always wonder why. For example, I already know that this post won’t get half as many of you interested as the previous one did. Even though this was really rather tasty…
Have I written about pork loin before? It’s a rather cheap cut, even for Waitrose, and I only discovered it last month. I love everything about it. Very tasty, very simple to cook, and it only slightly reminds one of a walrus’ privates. Not to put you off though, see for yourself.
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Anyways, I found this meat to be so easy to use. Flavour it as you want, then just whack it into the oven and it is ready in about 40 minutes or so.
For this occasion, I used a varied mix to spice up the dinner.
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But I’ll write it down just for the hell of it… So for marinading, I used
3 tbsp Worcester sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 big pinch of black pepper
1 big pinch of salt
1 tsp brown sugar
And now that I think of it, I gave it a small drizzle of honey too. Must have forgot to include it in the picture.
The fun part: rubbing this mixture into the mix. (Again, don’t be put off.)(Yes, I am very entertained by the similarity I mentioned before. Even though it reminds me of the movie Tusk, which honestly gave me nightmares and I made my boyfriend swear never to speak of it again. What a horrible film that was. Yikes.)
Back to topic…
I left this bad boy marinade for about 3 hours under a foil-cover. Before cooking, I added a cup of water, which evaporated slowly during the oven time and kept the meat extremely soft and juicy.
After about 30 minutes at 180 degrees, and then an extra 10 minutes with a grill function set to medium-high, cut into the middle of the meat to check it’s no longer bloody – and you’re ready to go for something like this:
porkloin (6)Doesn’t that look gorgeous?
Now I am aware that foodies are going to come at me with ‘where is the sauce’, and I am totally to blame. But I was too lazy, and that’s the honest truth. I would have gone for ketchup, but I am not a fan. So here’s a little competition for you! 
If you’ve got a great idea for a sauce for this dish, write the recipe down in the comments and I will give you a major reward. … well… How about a mention in my next post?
 PS. I just remembered the last time I made this…
Served with cubed, fried courgettes and cranberry jam.
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Also delicious.
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Vegetarian Break – Tomato and Mozzarella Re-interpreted

Hello, yes, I’m still alive – frankly just extremely busy trying to survive my MA course. I mean it is fun, but I feel lucky if I get to leave the flat at least once a week nowadays. But I’ve come back to try and bring back you lovely readers, especially because Christmas is approaching fast, and well, that’s my time to shine. None of the last year’s duck business this year though. Strictly cookies and truffles and… well… we’ll see I guess.
But for now, here is a recipe that I came up with on a desperate night. There is always the dilemma: should I hold back, lose some calories, eat those tomatoes that are about to go off and feel good about myself? Or should I order an unnecessarily huge amount of Chinese, devour it all by myself, and then wake up with a food baby and the shame… oh the shame…
So this time I was strong.
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The ingredients that I dug out of my fridge:
1 pack of mozzarella
1 can of butter beans
2 celery stalks
A jar of capers in brine
Garlic paste
2 huge tomatoes
And that’s all it took. Here’s how to make a delicious, baked, vegetarian muffin.
Drain the mozzarella and cut into small cubes. Take your tomatoes and carve out the insides – seeds, core, juice, until all you have is a hollow case. Season the inside well, especially with salt, as this will drain the moisture and give you a more firm case.
Squeeze a bit of garlic paste into the tomato and smear it on the bottom. Then, start packing your mozzarella. Halfway up the tomato, insert a handful of capers, then keep packing your cheese until the tomato is full. Drizzle the top with olive oil, add a couple more capers and season with pepper. Salt at this point is not necessary, because the capers will do the job just fine.
Now came the clever part: since my tomatoes refused to stand up straight, I popped them into a muffin tin. A bit more olive oil drizzled on top and they were ready to be baked at 180 degrees; I also put on the grill on medium to get a nice colour on the top.
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Honestly, this dish doesn’t even count as vegetarian. At least to me, if there is cheese involved, it is automatically acceptable. I mean, bring on the halloumi and melted brie or reblochon, and I’m happy.
So when these babies came out of the oven, I squeezed a bit more garlic paste on top and that gooey inside with the warm but firm outside made a fantastic dinner. It really is just mozzarella and tomato, just presented differently – not only is it healthy, it is also super quick. And I got to stuff my face with cheese, which is always nice.
Anyways, there are tons of recipe pictures that I’ve taken over the past couple of weeks, and they’re just waiting to be shared, so expect more to come. And then we’re entering Christmas cooking week, and that’s the best.
‘Till then!
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Milk Chocolate Brownies – For Loneliness and Sweet Teeth

I find brownies fascinating. When I was about six or seven years old, my kind-of-godmother (who was and is one of my childhood heroes of the kitchen along with my mother) got me and my brother an American cookbook for youngsters. It was illustrated with awesome drawings and had all the classic recipes from corn on the cob to mini sausage rolls. You even got these colourful measuring spoons with the book to make cooking even easier.
Unfortunately my English wasn’t quite there yet at that age, and so my first attempt at brownies was a complete failure. We scraped that sweet, burnt, collapsed mess from the bottom of the pan for weeks.
A couple of years have passed since though, and making these milk chocolate and cocoa brownies was my second attempt (well, that is if we can count my blondies from last year as brownies). It was a blast. I’m not a fan of cake – in fact I hate cake if it consists of anything else but icing – but these brownies are nothing like sponge. With a thick, gooey consistency, they literally melt in your mouth.
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This day also marked the first trial of my year-old silicone ‘tin’, which I absolutely adore – I just never had a chance to try it. I love the heart-shape, although I must say that for transferring a liquid batter in it into the oven, it is absolutely useless.
Anyway, for these delicious and crumbly brownies, you’ll need:
200g unsalted butter
200g milk chocolate for cooking
85g plain flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
250g brown sugar
3 eggs
So to start off, prepare. Butter your tin and line with parchment paper.
Put your sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk for about 7-8 minutes. Seriously. This has to rise in volume and look gooey and light brown. When that’s done, set aside.
Sift your flour and cocoa powder into a bowl and add a pinch of salt.
Finally, melt your chocolate and butter in a bowl above hot water until no lumps remain and you get that beautiful, shiny liquid consistency. Let this cool to room temperature before you proceed.
When the chocolate is cooled, add it to your egg and sugar mixture and fold the two together gently, so as to keep the volume in the mix. When  nicely encorporated, add your flour and cocoa to the bowl, sifting again, and mix everything together gently – don’t overdo it! It may look very liquid and lumpy, but don’t worry about that.
Transfer the mix to your tin and bake at 180 degrees for about 35 minutes. It is ready when the top has formed a kind of papery film and is slightly risen. Take the tin out and leave to cool completely. It may look soft and not at all brownie like – but this is when the magic happens. When you come back after your long stroll to distract yourself, you will see that the brownie has hardened and shrunk in the middle, and you may now cut into it.
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Honestly, these are so very simple and are good anytime, anywhere. I kept them refrigirated because I wanted them to firm up a bit, but they’re awesome when still kind of warm and gooey in the middle too.
Trust me. It’s worth it.
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 PS. Happy 1st anniversary to the blog!
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Sole Meuniere, or Close – Discovering the Fishmonger

For the past three years, I have always shopped at supermarkets. In the area where I was based, there wasn’t really a nearby opportunity to buy fresh stuff – no butcher, no market, mainly just quick stop stores and superstores. Which was perfectly fine at the time. Standard Friday night dinner was usually pasta, frozen pizza or, my guilty pleasure, canned chicken korma.
Nowadays though, with the lovely kitchen and all, that’s no longer the norm. (Well, I’m not going to lie, there’s nothing wrong with a quick supper every now and then.) But when I can, I prefer spending some quality time in the kitchen, and ever since I did a little discovering in my new area, I’ve had some very pleasant suprises coming my way.
I discovered the six-day fruit and veg market that functions just two tram stops away from me, where I can get a massive bunch of coriander for 50p, or a bunch of asparagus for only a pound, and where they sell things that often I can’t even identify. And just near the market is the local butcher, where a bunch of jolly men, for some reason, tend do give me big smiles every time I walk by; and right next to that, the fishmonger, which is the shop that provided the base for this here blog post.
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I bought this beautiful lemon sole for the low price of £5 (would have been more than £10 presumably, had I gone to Waitrose), and they cleaned the skin and removed the head for me. It was fresh, very tender and it deserved good treatment – hence why I decided to cook it as a classic sole meuniere (or almost).
For sole meuniere, one needs:
1 lemon sole (whole in restaurants, filleted otherwise)
Lots of butter
Flour
Yep, c’est tout. Rachel Khoo had the lovely idea though of adding capers to the sauce, so I got a little jar of that too. This time I also decided to invest in butter that costs a little more than normal (in my defense, it was reduced) because this recipe really deserves it. Here’s what I used:
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Basically, the method goes: coat the sole in flour and fry in a pan with oil and butter, about a minute on each side. Now, me being me, I completely forgot the coating part; so I kind of just went with the flow and after more or less successfully deboning my first sole, I fried the fillets.
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After frying, wipe out the pan and melt a generous nob or two of butter. This needs to be cooked until it turns nutty brown, then it has to be immediately removed from heat. I was too scared of this, so I don’t think I cooked my butter long enough – but butter is always delicious, no matter what the colour.
Away from the heat, whisk in a couple of table spoons of lemon juice and you are ready to serve! I also added my capers at this point and it made a delicious, savoury and sour sauce that was heavenly with the fish. I served the sole with buttered parsley potatoes (so much butter!) and it certainly made a fantastic dinner.
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Despite its big reputation, this dish isn’t super complicated or expensive. Now, of course, I would have loved to fry the fish in whole and then have a French waiter bone it for my whilst I watch and sip my white wine, as they do in France… but if you’re a “servantless American cook” like me (minus the American part), this is a good method too.
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Chilli Beef Lettuce Wraps – Impressive!

I love Asian food. I love the taste, the fragrance, the texture, the versatility – I could honestly live on it. And by Asian food I do indeed mean everything from Indian to sushi. But I especially love it when some cuisines coincide and mix, because that’s when all kinds of magic is born.
This dish, as seen on Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course, is probably one of his best in the show. Not only does it look incredibly impressive, it smells and tastes fantastic, and the dipping sauce really is something else. It is not perfect, for sure – but it is really worth a shot. Not to mention it will make you feel like an Asian chef, even though you’re just chopping and frying.
In his original recipe, Gordon uses beef mince mixed with pork mince – but if you’re on a budget like me, one of them will do just fine. The mince turned out rather dry for me and not at all crispy – I’m not sure if the added pork would help that. Then again, it seems to me that crispy texture creation and me are just at constant war. I love eating it – cannot recreate it.
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Here’s what you need:

For the beef:
1 pack of mince beef
1-2 red chillies, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
A piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 lime, zest and juice
1-2 gem lettuce

For the dipping sauce:
Brown sugar
Soy sauce
Olive oil
Sesame seed oil
Bunch of fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
1 chilli, deseeded (unless you like your food super hot) and roughly chopped
Fish sauce
Lime juice

So to start off, heat your pan until it’s almost smoking. With a dash of olive oil, fry the mince until crispy (well, if you can – I can’t). Remove and drain in a sieve.

Wipe the pan with a piece of kitchen towel. In a dash of sesame oil, fry the garlic, the ginger and the chillies for a minute or two. Add a spoonful of brown sugar to caramelise, then add your mince back to the pan.

To the mix, add your lime zest and a generous squeeze of juice. Ramsay also suggests spring onions, added at the last minute for some crunch, but I didn’t have any this time.

Mix your dipping sauce in a separate bowl and serve your mince in gem lettuce leaves to impress anyone.

Now smell your kitchen… That’s something, isn’t it?

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Note about the dipping sauce: it doesn’t taste anything like I imagined. But don’t let that discourage: it is actually very nice with the beef. I served the dish as a main course, but when you have guests over, this could pass as a lovely party nibble as well as a starter. Attention: it is super spicy, so if you don’t like it hot like some, cut back on either the chilli or the ginger.

Love the texture of the dish, and I highly recommend it to anyone with a taste for the exotic :) Just try and keep your beef moist!

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Peanut Butter Cookies – Baking Still Gets Me Mad

For some reason, to me, ultimate nuisances come from baking – even though I am the kind of person who gets angry pretty easily. But honestly, nothing gets me as much as when the sweet pastry doesn’t stick, or the cookie mix is too liquid, or when a perfectly shaped cake puffs up too much. Why? I don’t know. But I suppose this fact is going to interfere quite  a lot with my dream of getting the Grand Diplome at the Cordon Bleu.
Despite this though, I too often forget how annoyed I get when baking, and still try. And then again, when something turns out absolutely delicious, it erases the bad memories of desperately trying to get cookie dough off my fingers.
So yesterday, I picked another recipe from Gordon’s which I had all the ingredients for, and went for it.
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Originally in the recipe, there’s supposed to be both jam and peanut butter on the top of each cookie, but first of all, that’s quite the effort – and second, I love jam, and my boyfriend loves peanut butter. So it’s actually better this way.
Here’s the issue with this recipe: the proportions are ridiculously out of measure. I mean, if I didn’t know that Gordon tried this on national television, I would assume he has never even tested this recipe. Or if he has, there’s a massive typo in the cook book.
Here’s how the original measurements are:
185g flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
125g butter, softened
325g peanut butter
185g light muscovado sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
1 large egg, beaten
125g jam
(Instead of muscovado I used simple brown sugar, and instead of a vanilla pod, I used essence)
So the first issue is: 325g of peanut butter is a lot. I mean a lot lot. Which all by itself wouldn’t be an issue, but the fact that to this only 185g of flour is asked is ridiculous. I don’t know if I’ve done something terribly wrong, or whether it is truly not okay, but when I mixed all the ingredients, this was as far of being shapeable as it can be. I had to add at least double the amount of flour, little at a time, until I could kind of shape cookies of the dough. Other than that though, these cookies are extremely delicious, so here’s the method:
Start by sifting your flour, salt and baking powder into a ball. (You might as well start with more flour than said…) Set this aside. In a separate bowl, add your sugar, softened butter and peanut butter and mix until smooth. Here, the book suggests a whisk, but I think it meant an electric one, because with a hand held whisk, I didn’t get very far.
Once smooth, add the egg, the milk and the vanilla and you may now whisk until all is well combined. Finally, add your flour mixture little by little. This was the critical part: try forming a golfball of your mix, I dare you. If you can’t, like I couldn’t, add flour until you can :-)
With floured hands, form little dough balls and place on a lined baking sheet. With the tip of your finger, make a little indent in the middle and scoop in any filling you like. I used jam, peanut butter and chocolate spread (these were the ultimate hit) – but you could use anything you fancy really.
Bake in a 180 degree oven for only about 12 minutes, and even though they may be a little soft, take them out and let cool. They will harden just enough to hold, but the middle will stay soft and crumbly, even a day after the making.
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Delicious-looking, aren’t they? Totally worth a bit of experimenting, and honestly, they are delicious. I’m not even mad about the flour kerfuffle.
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White Chocolate Mousse With Lime Zest – Zing Baby, Oh Yeah

I hardly ever eat chocolate, and that is the truth. The reason behind it is usually I’d feel very gulity if I bought chocolate in a store, just like that, to eat. But a few weeks back I decided to go against myself and I bought an amazing dark chocolate bar seasoned with sea salt and it was so good that I only allowed myself a cube per day, so as to keep it going for as long as possible.
That little purchase opened a door though – at least temporarily – and so the second thing I decided to cook from Gordon’s new book ended up being a lime-flavoured white chocolate mousse, and oh boy.
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Now, I know what you’re thinking – that’s not lime zest. No, I’m not senile, I just ran out of lime zest by the end of the show, and so I went with a lemon decoration.
Anyway, for those not friendly with mousse, it is basically the same process as if you were making a soufflée. (So helpful, I know.) To clarify: the mousse is made so soft because of egg whites, whipped until stiff peaks are formed. So if you have an electric beater, this recipe really shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes – but seeing as I am still set on whisking by hand and buliding incredible muscles only in my right arm, it took me about half an hour. Totally worth it though.
For four portions of this deliciousness, here’s what you need:
(Once again, I’m just passing on this recipe, credit goes to Mr Ramsay)

3 large eggs (white only)
100g white chocolate
300ml double cream
1 lime, zest only
50g sugar

To start, break up your white chocolate into little pieces and put it into a heatproof bowl. Next, pour half your cream into a saucepan and heat until it begins to boil. (Don’t keep it on the stove after that, otherwise it will thicken and you don’t really want that.) So as soon as it’s bubbling away, pour the cream over the white chocolate and mix with a spatula until the mix is completely smooth.

Now comes the harder part that I always mess up: whisking cream. You need to whip the other half of the cream in a separate bowl along with the lime zest until soft peaks are formed. I think I may have whipped it a bit too long though, and so from time to time, whilst eating the mousse, one could feel little lumps of double cream. It’s annoying, but it’s not a catastrophe – but you might as well just learn from my mistake and stop whipping a bit earlier.

Add your whipped cream to the chocolate mixture, folding one into the other, then set aside.

Finally, whip your egg whites until they form soft peaks. This is so much fun. I love watching the consistency of that slimy, disgusting-looking liquid turn into bigger and bigger foam until suddenly it looks like a liquid meringue.
When you have soft peaks, start adding your sugar, bit by bit, and keep whisking until you have stiff peaks. (I like doing this – you can’t over-beat.) Once all the sugar is incorporated, fold your whites into the chocolate mixture gently, and you are ready to portion!

In the original recipe, Gordon puts some crashed raspberries into the bottom of the glass, but I didn’t have any, so I just took four glasses and portioned the mousse evenly between them. After a tiny bit of decorating, let chill for at least two hours, but more is always better, and voilá – dessert is served!

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The mousse is light and delicious – and the zest just takes it to a whole new level. While it may sound like it’s time consuming and difficult, I promise you that it’s not. I mean, I was even surprised to look at the clock afterwards and see that I only worked for half an hour. It’s impressive and super good – have fun trying it out!

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