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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Veggie Patties – Weekly Vegetable Portion, Done

For a while now I felt like I have ran out of inspiration in the kitchen. I mean, it has been chicken and potatoes for quite some time, and I started missing the challenge and the new in dinners. The best thing to do in such a situation for me is to buy a new cook book. And of course, what better way to refresh my love for cooking if not through Gordon Ramsay’s most recent, Ultimate Home Cooking?
While I hate watching the TV show because of all the forced camera happiness in the Ramsay family, the recipes are naturally mouth-watering. I’ve also had a serious vegetable craving for the past few weeks (I mean I am constantly munching on cherry tomatoes!). And since my boyfriend, who is probably the most anti-vegetable person I know, is working late this week, I decided to go with this delicious mix of vegetables and halloumi to catch up on my crunchies.
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(Recipe taken from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Home Cooking, edited to what I did and used)
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 courgette, grated
250 g halloumi, grated
Bucnh of fresh coriander leaves
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tbsp breadcrumbs

Put the grated courgette and carrots into a colander, season with salt generously and let drip for a while. The salt helps to get rid of the liquid – which you will definitely definitely need. Try and squeeze out all the liquid to make your patties stick together more.

Put your vegetables into a bowl. Add your grated cheese, shredded coriander and season well with pepper (don’t add too much salt as the cheese is very savoury anyway). Note: Gordon also uses some fresh mint in this recipe, but I’m not a fan. Add your eggs and mix well; finally, add the two tablespoons of breadcrumbs and mix again. The mix should now form into patties easily (squeeze out the remaining liquid whilst you do that). Place them on a plate and cool for 20 minutes until they firm up a bit.

Shallow-fry the patties until the two sides are lightly browned and they are warm thoughout… and you are ready to serve!

I had these with a bit of watercress, dressed with a honey and grainy mustard dressing which went perfectly with the salty patties.

These are so fun to do (or is it weird that I like grating?) and are so good to get some vitamins in. I mean, the weather is getting colder and all that…

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Over-Simplified But Time-Saving Paella – I’ve Made Peace With Jamie

I’ve always, always preferred Gordon Ramsay over Jamie Oliver. I mean, you just have to take sides in the epic chef-off when you live in England, don’t you? Ramsay is, no doubt, the god of cooking for me. Well, the side of him you don’t see on Hell’s Kitchen or Kitchen Nightmares, but the one you see on his Ultimate Cookery Course for example.
On the other hand, having watched a whole minute of Jamie, I decided I didn’t like him. After Gordon’s dead-serious, prof cooking, you’ve got this ligh-hearted, easy come easy go guy with his simple omelettes and his 30 minute meals… I wasn’t used to this kind of slacking off.
But now that I have a TV licence and I get to see his shows from time to time, I have to admit, Jamie kind of grew on me. Also, a friend of mine got me a Jamie cookbook for my birthday, which was kind of like getting someone a mug (no idea what they like but good intentions) – and having flicked through time and time again, last week was the first time I found something I wanted to try.
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This chicken and chorizo paella is a sweetly simplified and cheaper version of the true Spanish dish – but when you don’t want to spend too much and feel like cooking something out of the ordinary, this is perfectly satisfying. (By the way, I call the little afro-man Louie, and he is a washing up sponge officially. I think he looks better just standing there though, next to the red microwave.)
Since the recipe isn’t mine, you can view it Here. Honestly though, give it a try – it doesn’t take much skill and it is so delicious.
Something I don’t usually do is take photos of the mise en place, but this recipe was so pretty to prepare that I decided to take a quick picture.

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The only thing to remember about this dish is A, season very well, because I swear, no amount of salt and pepper is enough; and B, use a big, shallow dish. I used my Le Creuset casserole since that’s my only dish that seemed suitable for this recipe – but alas, the lowest layer of rice still burned, no matter how hard I kept stirring. It burned so bad and left such a black grease layer that I had to soak the poor thing for 3 days, and even then I had to do some serious scraping to get all of it out from the bottom.

Here’s the result by the way:

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All that water got quickly absorbed by the rice (in fact so quickly that you have to keep feeding it water all the time. It’s like the Kraken), and then you’re left with this delicious mix of chicken, chorizo, prawns, peas, carrot and rice. I highly recommend trying this recipe.
Oh and Jamie – my apologies for my lack of trust.
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Home-made Pizza – Oh My Goodness, This is Actually So Easy

I’ve always found online pizza recipes off-putting. Why? Because of that “oh” moment when you reach the ‘let rise for 24 hours’. That’s when I navigate away from the page onto some nearby restaurant’s menu, and my warm, steaming, delicious pizza arrives in 40 minutes tops.
So what made me try this at home? Well, I’ve made quite a few bases now – quiches, cakes, loafs and many more, and so I’ve decided to get a little creative. I mean, after all, it is just a base you need; you’ll be focusing on the toppings a lot more anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I adore frozen pizzas as much as the next person, meaning I seriously appreciate it if someone promises to cook me dinner and bakes me a Ristorante pollo pizza (chicken, spinach, cheese, thin crust, oh my I just came from the gym). They’ll have me at pollo. But I had time on my hands and a portion of lardons that needed a use, not to mention I wasn’t going to spend money on food when I just did a big shopping the day before – all in all, I had good reason to scrape up everything I had at home and create something.
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That baby took me less than 40 minutes, and it actually turned out delicious. It is so easy – kind of like a cheat’s pizza base, and you don’t even have to let it rest. You can just raid your cupboard and produce something outstanding from anything you have at home. So here’s what you need.
For the dough:
300g flour
100ml water
4 tbsp olive oil
Big pinch of salt

For the topping:
2 whole tomatoes, chopped up roughly
4 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic

Salt, pepper
A generous amount of pancetta or lardons or salami or…
Lots and lots of grated cheese (and when you think you’ve got enough, grate more)

So first off, make the base. Sift your flour into a mixing bowl. Add your salt, olive oil, water and combine well. Roll it into a ball – if you find it too sticky, add some flour or if too dry, add some more water. (I had to do both to get it right!)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Flour the surface you’re going to use and roll out your base into a thin circle (or something similar like I tried). Don’t keep it thick – this dough is tough either way, and I promise it will hold your toppings. When ready, cover a big baking sheet that can hold the base with tin foil and splash it with a lug of oil so that your dough doesn’t stick to it in the oven. Now pop in your base and bake for about 5-10 minutes; it doesn’t need colour, just heat it through a little to start the process. Take it out.

Now onto the topping: preheat your pan with some olive oil. Mince two garlic cloves and add it to the pan for extra flavour. Fry for a minute, then add your chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper, and on a low heat, cook until your tomatoes have broken down completely (don’t worry about the rough remaining parts, you can just discard them later).

Spoon the topping onto the base and spread it evenly – and then you’re free to go crazy. I added my lardons and my insane amount of cheese. I was really missing some basil but I’ll keep that in mind next time. When you’re done with this, just pop your pizza back into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until the bacon is cooked all over and the base turned a little brown and crunchy.

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So there you have it! Easy-peasy cheat’s pizza with anything you like. It really doesn’t seem hard, now does it?
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Pan-fried Pork Shoulder Steaks with Mushy Peas and Lime – a.k.a. I bought a hand blender!

For so long I’ve wanted to own my own hand blender that I never actually got around to seeing how much one would cost, for example. So when my boyfriend invited me to the magical world of Argos and I discovered that such a device can be purchased for the low price of £7, I couldn’t resist the temptation.
So in celebration of my new hand blender, I made mushy peas; a traditional English dish made to taste nothing like the traditional English dish. I mean, the peas you get with your battered fish in pubs is usually 90% water and 10% actual peas – so I decided to change that, and gave the old dish a bit of zing with a squeeze of lime. The outcome was magical. Naturally, due to an unfortunate placement decision, by the end of the process there were peas everywhere from the wall to my ankles – but even the cleaning up couldn’t take away my fantastic victory over the pea consistency. I felt like a demi-god.
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The best about this good looking dish (the peas really do look like a Metapod) is that it costs virtually nothing – the pork chops, I bought for around £4 and the peas, well, you get 1 kg frozen of them for a pound. So here’s how to transform these lovely ingredients into something even better.
2 pork chops, seasoned on both sides
A generous portion of frozen peas
A large cube of butter
A dash of water
2 garlic cloves
Olive oil, for frying and finish
Pinch of rosemary (I used the dried version)

So in order to make your chops deliciously moist, here’s the method I’ve learned from various cooking shows: heat the oil in the pan until almost smoking. Throw in two cloves of garlic, unpeeled (smashed with a knife a little) and fry for a minute to infuse the oil. Lay the pork chops into it, dressing them with your herbs. Fry for a generous 2 minutes, or until seriously coloured.  At this point, add half your butter (a large nob) and turn your chops. Take a small teaspoon and baste the meat with the butter. Just keep spooning the butter over them on occasions until they are cooked through and nicely coloured on both sides. Remove them from the pan and let them rest until you finish your peas.

For the peas, nothing could be easier. It is okay to over-cook your peas (in fact it’s probably even good); makes them easier to mush. Drain them, reserving a dash of the (salted!) cooking water and pop them back in the same pan. Add the water – honestly, not too much. It may seem like just a glass of water, but this will determine your consistency by far. Add the other half of your butter for glossiness; season generously with salt and pepper. Use half a lime to give zing; squeeze all that amazingness into the mix. Now take your awesome hand blender and just chop them until you reach the consistency you want. Taste for seasoning (most likely it will be under-seasoned), and you are ready!

Now look at that. Doesn’t it look delicious?

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Tamarind-glazed Chicken – Experiments

I’ve had a chronic fear of chicken thighs for about two years now. The reason for this is two years ago I bought a pack of fresh chicken thigs from a butcher – it was the first time I’ve bought fresh meat, and the first experiments with cooking too. So obviously, I was over-confident and an absolute amateur.
The experiment ended in me having chicken thighs for dinner which were still leaking blood from the inside, the sight of which made me so sick I threw up. It was disgusting. So when I say it was a big step that I tried to cook thighs again, I really do mean it.
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They turned out really fine though, thank Heavens – there was no blood, just tasty chicken and crispy skin, a consistency which provides me with ultimate pleasure. In fact, when my Mom used to make chicken with crispy skin, I used to just steal the skin and left the meat behind. (Who am I kidding, I’d still do it if I didn’t feel bad about it.)
Now, I know that you’ve been seeing roast potatoes on my blog for the last I don’t even know how many posts, and that’s an issue. But my creativity is stuck. It’s like a chef’s block or something. I can’t think of any good and interesting side dishes. Suggestions, anyone? (Not that I don’t live crispy skinned, soft on the inside potatoes, but one can’t just have potatoes forever…)
The glaze on my chicken was an Asian-style glaze I actually came up with, so I was quite proud it turned out delicious. Here’s what was in the glaze (a dash/spoonful of each):
Soy sauce
Fish sauce
Tamarind paste
Black pepper
Olive oil
Tiny dash of sesame seed oil
Minced garlic
I rubbed this paste all over the thighs and let them sit in it for about an hour until they turned brownish all over. After the marinade, it’s the usual stuff: I gave the thighs a little colour in a pan first, and then roasted them in the oven with some cut up potatoes for about an hour and fifteen minutes until the meat was soft and juicy, and the potatoes were soft.
Before the cooking, I was scared that the paste tastes too sour, too sticky, not so good – but after the cooking, the mixture turned sweeter, stickier and genuinely delicious (not bragging). Also, thanks to the high water content in the marinade, the mixture kept the chicken moist in the oven without drying out, and so it wasn’t the kind of chicken thighs you get bored of halfway through eating.
Give it a try if you like – it’s an easy, fail-proof recipe for an everyday, but more interesting than that still.

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