Sunday, 12 June 2011

Pea and Mint Burgers

Mr Pea. You impress me. You look all small and humble but you're so versatile. You're so green. You're good for me. I can eat you au naturale. I can mix you with my mash or get all fancy and whizz you into a puree. I could even eat you frozen straight out of the freezer. OK, maybe that's just me.

Or, I could mix you with mint and other bits and bobs and make you into a pea-licious burger. OK OK, ignoring my bad word play, these were really yummy wee things, perfect for the summer. My carnivorous boyfriend even said that if he were a vegetarian, he'd be happy to eat these for a main course instead of the usual tart or risotto that vegetarians quite often get lumbered with. Was I shocked? Yes, I was.

I was actually searching for a recipe for a cauliflower cheese burger. I used to have them as a child, fresh from the frozen food section of the local supermarket. I used to really like them but I'd feel like I'd committed a sin if I was to be quite so kitchen lazy nowadays. I didn't find a recipe for the cauliflower burgers but I did stumble across these courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi. It's made me want to buy his book but I'm not sure I'd be allowed to add another to my ever expanding collection. Sad.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Spinach and Cheese Bake

The food gods haven't been kind to me recently. I must've done something really terrible in a former life. I was beginning to lose the love. It was a scary time.

There was a Moroccan pastilla that was just, well...meh. Strawberry jam that could easily have passed for a power ball. And worst of all, some walnut and honey soda bread that, no matter how long I baked it for, just wasn't ready. It's doubly disappointing when you didn't buy anything else in case of disaster and the shops don't open till four. A lunch of cheese minus soda bread wasn't quite as much fun.

So, owing to the Moroccan pie, I had a big wodge of filo pastry to use up. I wanted to make a 'spanakopita', a greek spinach and feta pie but, after looking at various recipes, I found that the quantities just didn't match with what I could buy from the shops here. So, I decided to make an Emma style Greek pie and just use whatever I could get hold of. It's certainly not a authentic spanakopita which uses leeks and certainly no ricotta. Let's just say I took inspiration from the Greeks shall we. (Before I upset too many people). This here is more of a spinach, feta and ricotta bake with a filo blanket.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Blueberry & Lime Drizzle Cake

So yes, my parents came to visit.

They brought me a little red friend. I took me about a month to decide which cake was to have the honour of christening such a thing of beauty. It had to be something to remember. It had to be something that would need maximum kitchenaid usage. It had to be something that didn't disappoint. So when my Mam mentioned this cake that a friend brought into work and was proclaimed by her colleagues to be 'the best cake they'd ever eaten', I decided I'd found 'the one'.

I'm not sure how I managed to just sit there and drink so much tea with my very own kitchenaid staring at me looking all offended because I hadn't used it yet. I tried to be polite as my parents had just arrived after an overnight ferry trip and all but I could barely sit still. My leg was twitching with excitement and my nails were all but gone. The only two words going through my mind were cake, baking, cake baking, baking, and cake. So after a couple of hours enough was enough. I left my Dad with John and my Mam and I got the baking underway.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A Dutch Tradition...the Uitsmijter

There's nothing better than your parents coming to visit you when you haven't seen them since Christmas and spending a week eating, drinking good wine, good beer and just chilling out. We spent the week in the province of Friesland which is in the North of the Netherlands. If you ever get a chance to visit, you definitely should. It's one of the most peaceful places I've ever been to and was the most beautiful area that we've been to in the Netherlands so far. Think windmills, boats (or rather yachts), tiny houses, bikes and fresh seafood by the sea. Bliss.

Friday, 20 May 2011

A New Arrival...this should mix things up

I don't lust after shoes. I don't lust after bags. I don't lust after coats.

So this little purchase isn't naughty at all...

Welcome to the family my new red friend. I expect we'll be seeing a lot of each other...

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Rhubarb Custard Pie with a Crumble Topping

Rhubarb, how I love thee.

I'm very happy right now. Nothing says comfort to me more than rhubarb crumble and custard. However, when it's not below 10 degrees outside, even a die hard fan like me doesn't really crave a steaming hot pudding. So please welcome my all time favourite dessert reincarnated in tart form. 

Rhubarb? Crumble? Custard? Inside a sweet, buttery pastry case you say? Yes please! I'm in! This has got to be one of the best things that's ever happened to me. Now I can indulge my cravings 12 months of the year. The crumble topping reminds me of a flapjack but is very tasty. Needless to say I'm a fan.

Unfortunately, my photography brain wasn't really firing on all cylinders today but don't let my shoddy pictures put you off. It tastes so much better than I've made it look. So if you, like me, spend most of the summer willing the cold weather to return just so you can eat rhubarb crumble, then make this!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Grow Your Own Radishes

Four weeks ago I planted some seeds. Today, I ate radishes. My very own radishes grown by me on my teeny little balcony.

We've been wanting to start growing some veg but having never grown anything bar a few herbs and only having a fairly uninspiring balcony at our disposal, we've been keeping our green fingers pretty clean. So after James Martin mentioned on Saturday Kitchen how easy radishes are to grow, I decided it was time to get my fingers dirty. And yes, the man was right, these were so easy, almost as easy as cress. Within a couple of days of sowing the seeds, little green shoots were showing their heads and there was no stopping them. They're ready to eat when they start to show themselves just above the surface of the soil. And there's really nothing better than eating something that you've watched grow from a seed. So much more satisfying than buying them from a shop. And way cheaper too! I really can't stop raving about them.

If you're wanting to have a go at growing some fruit and veg but don't really know where to start, I can definitely recommend radishes as a great starting point. It'll make you feel like you're the best gardener in the world even if all you've got is a little grey window box and a pair of novice hands to work with.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Street Party Custard Creams

So is everyone in the UK enjoying the insane amount of bank holidays that you've got? Unfortunately, over here in tulip land we only get Easter Monday off. No Good Friday. No May Day. And of course they'll be no Royal Wedding bank holiday for us either. Being an expat Brit, I feel I'm losing out so I guess I'll just have to host my own little street party and fly the British flag all by myself. Hopefully some other people will join in and I won't be sat by myself on my street with my tea, cakes and bunting.

Custard Creams have got to be the best biscuit ever conceived haven't they? And yup, unfortunately along with many other things that I love to eat, you can't buy them here. But wait, the story doesn't end there! I found a custard cream recipe which sent me into some kind of delirium. I ran to the kitchen, broke a tea cup whilst scrambling to get my pinny over my head and proceeded to have some baking fun so I could get one of these babies into my mouth as soon as humanly possible.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Happy Easter & Hot Cross Buns

I like baking. I like weekends. I like baking at weekends. This weekend I baked.

I like bank holidays. I like that Good Friday is less than a week away. I don't like that in the Netherlands you don't get Good Friday as a bank holiday. You only get Easter Monday. This makes me want to move.

So instead of making my hot cross buns on Good Friday like you're meant to, I'm making them a few days early. This also means that I can make these over Easter weekend too. Every cloud and all that I suppose.

I've never actually made hot cross buns before. In fact, as a child I didn't really like them but now that my taste buds have grown up a bit I love em. A sweet, spiced, yeast leavened bun filled with dried fruit. What's not to like? They have a cross piped onto them prior to baking and are traditionally eaten on Good Friday to symbolise the crucifixion. 

Apparently there are many superstitions surrounding the humble hot cross bun too. Did you know that a hot cross bun made on Good Friday will not spoil or go mouldy over the coming year. Guess I'll not be able to test that one out though will I? If there are any sailors out there, take one on your next voyage to protect against a shipwreck. And if you're a bread baker, then hang one in your kitchen and it will protect against fires and ensure that your bread turns out perfectly every time.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Pea, Mint & Goats' Cheese Tart

It seems I have a thing for baking tarts. You'd think I didn't eat anything else. Out of 14 posts, four of them are tarts but hey, they taste good and I wanted to makes something springlike that I could take along to a picnic at the weekend. I love, love, love the minty pea layer and what could be better than topping it off with goats' cheese? My slicing and photography skills don't show it off to it's best but I was totally taken in by how pretty it looks when you cut into it. A lovely bright green stripe topped off with the goats' cheese loveliness. It went down swell and was perfect spring picnic fare. And if you need another reason to give it a go then think of how much your wallet will love you. Frozen peas are as purse friendly as it gets and when your tart needs to be half filled with them then you're onto a money saving winner. Just don't tell your friends how little you spent on them or how easy it was to make. Just revel in the compliments.

Make it.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Leek & Potato Soup

This is a great soup. This is an even better soup for when you think that spring has arrived, leave the house in your finest spring wear only to be attacked by the rain gods on the way home. In such a situation, something hot, comforting and insanely delicious is needed to get you out of that bad mood you're in and to get some warm blood pumping through your veins once again. This, for me was perfect and I can most definitely recommend this bowl of goodness with a steaming hot cup of tea. With milk. Because I'm English. Oh, and why not throw a blanket in the mix too with season three of Dexter.

Although I've eaten it a lot, I've never actually made leek and potato soup before but I'll definitely be doing this one again. In fact I'm hoping for a few more rainy days as an excuse. Who knew that these two ingredients could be so tasty. The recipe only uses milk and stock but I had a bit of cream to use up so threw that in too. Definitely not a bad thing. If you've never had this before, or have never tried your hand at making it yourself, then all I can say is do it. It'll make you very happy. And warm.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

A Carrot Cake Bake Off

I get a little bit over excited sometimes and want to make everything in sight. This happened to me this week when I wanted to make a carrot cake. My head was in tatters. There were so many options and not enough people to feed excess cakes supplies to. I haven't got a 'go to' carrot cake recipe and after looking through my books I came across far too many to choose from. I mean really, how am I supposed to know which one is best if I don't make them all? What if there's a better one out there that I don't know about? Well, in my (slightly crazy) mind there was only one thing for it...yup I made them all.

I'm not crazy enough to make them all full sized so I narrowed it down to three recipes and made a three layer cake with each layer being a different carrot cake recipe. All of them used three eggs so I could just use one egg for each recipe and divide everything else accordingly. Super simple. This is definitely the way to go if you want to try out lots of recipe to find the best one.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Chorizo, Chickpea & Bean Stew

We've been stuck in a food rut. And yes, whilst eating meat, potato and veg in it's various guises is always good, enough was enough. We weren't quite ready to dust off the salad servers but with a whole two days of almost springlike weather our senses were awakened and we were craving new flavours. Goodness was needed and lots of it, something less heavy and definitely no stodge! A kind of transitional meal to awaken us from the depths of winter and get us ready for spring.

And oh by jove, this soupy stew ticked all the right boxes. Delicious Spanish chorizo mixed with vegetables and beans with a bit of a kick. How could you not feel good after that? It's still warming and comforting so I wouldn't exactly call it light but it sure hit the spot. It's a great value little dish but if I can say one thing it would be to buy the best quality chorizo that you can afford. It really will make the dish.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Cheese & Pickle Burgers

Cheese & Pickle makes for a pretty formidable partnership. Fact. 
The two just kinda go hand in hand don't they?

Sometimes, living in a foreign country, you get a bit homesick and you just want to eat food that reminds you of home. Nothing fancy, just something takes you back for a moment and for me that something is cheese and pickle. What could be more British and comforting than that? And not fancy schmancy pickle. Oh no, I'm talking about the good old Branston variety. And imagine how excited I was when I found some in one of the supermarkets here! OK, so it was a 10 mile round trip on my bike to get my hands on it but I'd say that it was a small price to pay to have the pickle in my life once again. And after all that exercise I definitely had to do something awesome with it.

Friday, 4 March 2011

No-Bake Chocolate Tart and a Rescue Mission

I learned some lessons this week...

lesson one...don't use your beautiful homemade butter biscuits as the biscuit base for your chocolate tart. Why? Well this is what's not looking good is it? 

I guess all the butter in the biscuits combined with the butter I used to bind the crumbs was a bit too much. As you can see, what I ended up with was a sorry mess of crumbs swimming in a sea of butter. And so rescue mission number one began and back to the shops it was for some old faithful digestives and another block of butter.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Goats Cheese and Roast Tomato Tart

Don't you hate it when you get a bill from the tax man demanding money? Well, that's what happened to me this week.  Not my favourite way to start a week.

So, to try and make my bank balance feel a little better about itself I've been tight with everything else. The only problem is that my default place to go when I'm feeling stressed or down is kitchen which usually involves spending money. And so the challenge make a meal from what we had lying about in the fridge. Easier said than done when your fridge looks like it's just been raided by the food police.

I had butter, eggs, tomatoes and goat's cheese. Mmm, what to do? My little brain was beginning to steam when...brainwave! In times like these, make a tart! Tarts or quiches are a great way of using up all those odd bits in the fridge that are just asking to be eaten but you don't know what to do with. (OK, I admit that I had to go and pick up some cream, but at 57 cents, I could just raid the copper jar). All I do is rustle up a bit of short crust pastry, pop whatever I have lying around in the case, top it up with a mix of eggs and cream, bung it in the oven and bob's your uncle, 30 minutes later you've got a tasty dinner out of what you'd otherwise written off.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Clotted Cream...oh and Pear & Almond Tart

Good news: We found clotted cream in our supermarket here in the Netherlands.

Bad news: It cost €3.87.

Good news: At that price it's a good way to keep the waistline in check.

When life gives you clotted cream, the rule is you've gotta eat it. Our hands had reached for the little pot of goodness like they were someone else's and we had paid and were out the door before we knew what had happened.

And when you've got a whole lotta cream waiting to be devoured, then the rule is that you've got to make a delicious little something to put it on. This is where this little gem of a tart comes in. I thought that it was going to be the bridesmaid with the cream taking centre stage as the bride but I shouldn't have judged you so soon...sorry. Please forgive me.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

'Grown up' Mac and Cheese

I have a bit of a problem when it comes to watching foody TV shows. As in I watch them all...even if they're bad. Sometimes though, one comes along that you don't have particularly high expectations of and it rocks! It's just a shame that it finished this week...

This recipe comes courtesy of the Lorraine Pascale's 'Baking Made Easy'. Pretty much everything this girl whips up makes me want to get the scales out, put the pinny on get cracking. She makes everything look so effortless and she convinces you think that, yes, I can make that three tier look like it's just walked out of a fancy, schmancy cake shop. Lorraine used to be a top model, working with the likes of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell in the nineties. But, after deciding that she wanted to do something more worthwhile, she found cooking. She now has her own bakery in Covent Garden, London selling celebration cakes. I'm not jealous at all...not in the slightest. Yes, I'm lying.

So now for the star of the me, this is good.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Better Late than Never Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Does making a hybrid cheesecake using traditional Dutch biscuits for the base mean that I'm turning Dutch? Nope. But these tasty treats do taste mighty fine so I'm willing to go with it just this once.

These are a week late but finally I got to make these chocolate cheesecake bars. What could make for a better combination than biscuits, cheesecake and chocolate. Well I know that I'm struggling to think of anything. The recipe I used comes from Bakerella who uses 'Europe's favourite cookie' for the base. This 'European' cookie is the spiced speculaas biscuit and is one of the reasons why I wanted to make these bars so much. Oh and the cheesecake. Oh and the chocolate. Yeah ok, all of it. These biscuits are everywhere here in the Netherlands so I didn't have any problems finding them in the supermarket. If you're in the UK then look out for 'Lotus Original Caramalised  Biscuits'.

The chocolate ganache is amaaazing. I actually want to make a cake right now just so I can use it as the filling. I've never made a ganache with butter and icing sugar before and it's definitely my new favourite. Heck, I might just make some and smother it on some buttered toast. Yep, that's supper sorted.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Plan P 'Peanut Butter Cookies'

OK, a wee word of advice...if you're putting off making something because your other half doesn't like the sound of something, don't listen to them! Do it!

The plan to satisfy my baking addiction this week was going to be these cheesecake bars. However, when John told me he was going to some silly conference that day, my plans were somewhat scuppered. (He's so inconsiderate). There was no way that I was going to give up that easily though so I had to think up a plan b pretty quickly. As I was now only baking for 2, I thought that a whole tray of cheesecake might be a little bit too much to get through. (I can't believe I just wrote that). After rifling through numerous cookbooks, I came across peanut butter cookies and thought yeah, they've gotta be made. Screw you John. And can I just say that this is a guy that eats peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon. So wouldn't peanut butter cookies be the ideal choice? I can't believe that I've waited this long to make these. Not that I'm bitter or anything...

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Date, Apricot and Orange Chutney

Whilst visiting family over Christmas, there was of course a ridiculous amount of food to make sure we left their shores a few pounds heavier. We definitely made the most of it and did a very good job of over indulging on all the things we can't get over here. (mmm, cadbury's chocolate, wensleydale and what would Christmas be without a mince pie - or 10?) I tell a lie. Some things they do import but unfortunately there's always a hefty price tag around it's neck. I actually saw a small jar of chutney in a department store for 8.95 euros!

So when I was rifling through my Mam's food stash and came across some homemade chutney I decided to build my lunch around it. The orange provided a great balance to the sweet apricots and dates and oh my it was good. We tried to control ourselves but, a little naughtily, we managed to finish it off in a couple of sittings. It was the perfect accompaniment to a nice bit of blue cheese and some melba toast. Mmm. Well she did say that it was there to be eaten so I did what I was told. Maybe she would've liked some too though? Oops.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I'm always looking for an excuse to bake and so when my boyfriend suggested that I could make something for him to take in for his French class I jumped at the chance. Being slightly obsessed with red I decided on these beauties which have been on my to do list for months. I realise that some people are getting a little bored of the whole cupcake thing but living in the Netherlands where cupcakes aren't available at every corner I still get excited about them. And they seemed to go down well with everyone so it was win, win for everyone involved. I got to bake and they got to eat! Now all I need is a red Kitchenaid to go with the cakes. Hint, hint.

The cupcake itself isn't too sweet and is rather plain actually as it only uses 10g of cocoa powder for 12 cupcakes. The cake is really just a platform for the deliciousness that is the cream cheese frosting which I most definitely did not eat with a spoon from the bowl. I was worried about putting too much on and them being too sweet and sickly but I honestly don't think that you can put too much on. Pile it high! This frosting would be a great base for additions too. Maybe a little lemon zest for lemon cupcakes or even a little finely chopped stem ginger if you're making ginger ones.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Proving it Works

It's taken me a while to get round to making a stab at my first official post. What with work and travelling back to the UK for Christmas things have been somewhat manic. So I thought I'd start with something that I try to make every weekend if I can. Homemade Bread! It's amazing and surprisingly easy once you get the hang of the kneading thing. In fact it's a great thing to do if you want to vent a bit of anger! I've tried quite a few recipes and methods and this weekend I thought I'd try a method that I've read about but have never been organised enough on a night to start. So, this weekend I tried the overnight proving method. The process basically involves leaving the dough to prove for the first time overnight in the fridge. This slows down the fermentation process and, so I'd read, makes for a more flavoursome loaf.

So, on Saturday night I got out the scales and gave it a go. I mixed, kneaded and covered the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and a little sceptically placed it in the fridge until the morning. I had a sneaky peak just before I went to bed and it had already started to grow which was exciting. I did have visions of opening the fridge the next morning to see that the dough hadn't stopped growing and that it had filled every available crevice. But no! It had nicely doubled in size and was still within the confines of it's bowl. So far, so good. From that point the process was the same as if you'd left the bread to prove at room temperature. I knocked it back, let it prove for a second time and then baked it.