Monday, 21 July 2014
The Slow Cooker is often put away in the cupboard over the summer, in the Slow Cooker Challenge for July I have challenged my readers to get that Crockpot or Slow Cooker out of the cupboard and make a summery dish to enjoy after a day out. Let's face it we are more likely to be away all day to the beach, the park or other attraction over the summer months and it's so nice to come home to a meal that's ready as soon as you walk in the door.
This recipe for Mexican Chicken Drumsticks comes from The Slow Cooker Cookbook by Gina Steer which is reviewed on the Slow Cooker Challenge post. I used chicken thighs rather than drumsticks but either would work just as well. The chicken was soft and fell off the bone and the sauce was rich with an intense tomato, chilli flavour. Highly recommended.
4-8 chicken drumsticks or thighs, skinned
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2-4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 red serrano chilli, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp tomato puree
475ml (16 fl oz) chicken stock
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 squares (50g)/1 3/4oz) bitter chocolate
salt and freshly ground pepper
2tbsp sesame seeds
Cooked rice and tossed green salad, to serve
Preheat the slow cooker on high. Lightly rinse or wipe the chicken drumsticks and pat dry on kitchen roll. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, brown the drumsticks on all sides, drain and place in the cooking pot.
Add the onion, garlic and chilli to the frying pan and saute for 5 minutes or until softened. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, then take off the heat. Blend the tomato puree with a tablespoons of the stock and gradually stir into the pan with the remaining stock and the chopped tomatoes. Add the chocolate with seasoning and bring to the boil Cook, stirring until the sauce has thickened slightly, then pour over the drumsticks. Cook on high for 3-5 hours. Remove from the cooker, adjust the seasoning of the sauce then pour over the chicken. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, garnish with lime wedges and serve with freshly cooked rice and a green salad.
I served my chicken with couscous and roasted peppers, courgettes and onions.
You can win a copy of The Slow Cooker Cookbook by Gina Steer on the Slow Cooker Challenge post entries open until 28th July, 2014.
Friday, 18 July 2014
With the final of the 2014 Masterchef just finished, I thought it was appropriate to post my review of 2010 Masterchef winner Dhruv Baker's new cookbook: Spice - Layers of Flavour.
About the author
Dhruv Baker was born in Mexico and moved to India when he was four years old. He has lived in Spain and Tanzania and his travelling and rich cultural background has included how he cooks and the spices he uses in his dishes www.dhruvbaker.com
Dhruv Baker describes his love of spices in a well written introduction, citing his mum as the 'best cook I've ever known and has a culinary heritage that is impressive. This is followed by Dhruv's Spice Philosophy and his Flavour Map, both of these are well worth reading before starting to make the recipes.
Small Plates: some of the dishes that appealed to me were Butternut Squash with Red onion, Feta and Coriander, Cheese and Cumin Croquettes ooh and a recipe for Crab Cakes (see my adventures in Nova Scotia).
Fish and Seafood: Wow, some fabulous dishes in this chapter, how about Garlic and Chilli Clams, Harissa Sardines, Malabar Prawn Curry and Monkfish with Chilli and Black Cardamom.
Meat: features a variety of different spiced dishes includes 'The Best Spare Ribs Ever', Slow-Roasted Pork Belly with Fennel and Coriander, Lamb and Lentil Shami Kebabs and Homemade Salt Beef.
Chicken and other birds: I made the Super Simple Chicken Curry (see photo above), not only because it was straight forward but because it was the first dish that Dhruv cooked using spices, one which his mother taught him when he was 11 years old. Other recipes in this chapter include Roast Chicken with Garlic and Paprika, Turkey Mole and Achari Spiced Duck.
Vegetables and Grains: this chapter takes classics and spices them up like Saffron Pommes Anna and Cauliflower Cheese with a Cumin and Macadamia Crust. Other highlights are Cumin and Chilli Potatoes, Miso and Ginger Glazed Aubergine and Cauliflower and Peas with Chilli and Coriander.
Sweet: oh my, how droolworthy are these desserts? The titles alone should tempt you, I know that I am totally mesmerised by Lemon, Lime and Cardamom Tart, White Chocolate and Cardamom Mousse, Rum and Star Anise Poached Figs, Masala Chai Ice Cream with Poached Pears and Chocolate Truffles and Pistachio and Cardamom Shortbread.
Something to Drink: Cheers! Pear and Prosecco Spritz, Cardamom Martini, Cinnamon & Star Anise Hot Chocolate and Masala Chai.
Relishes and Accompaniments: relishes are such a great way to add to your meals, I like the look of the Kachumber, a cross between a salad and a salsa, the Plum and Black Cardamom Sauce and a tangy and sweet Tomato Relish.
Unlocking the Spice Cupboard provides a comprehensive guide to spices one of the best I've read, so much information about how to use each spice, what it tastes like, examples of how to cook with it and dishes where it plays a key role. There is also information about 'The Many Ways to Use Spices' like infusing, dry roasting and making marinades and rubs.
Who is it for?
This is not a book of curries, there are some curried dishes but it is much more than that. It's a book which is accessible to pretty much anyone who likes to cook with spices.
It's a well laid out book with a lot of background information to help the cook get the best from the recipes. The recipes are clearly laid out and easy to follow. There are some nice little stories from Dhruv scattered through out the book which I enjoyed reading.
Many of the dishes would be for special occasions and some require a long list of ingredients, but there are also recipes which are simple and you would have the ingredients in your larder and fridge.
Here is the recipe for I made from Spice, it was delicious and even better when it was reheated the next day, do try it, you won't regret it.
Super Simple Chicken Curry
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 green Cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
4cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and very finely grated
1 tsp turmeric
4 tsp ground turmeric
4 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
250g fresh tomatoes, whizzed in a blender
1 whole chicken, jointed into 8 pieces or chicken thighs
250 ml chicken stock
4 tbsp roughly chopped fresh coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large, lidded pan and, when hot, add the cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Fry for about 3-4 minutes over a medium heat.
Add the onions and fry for 10-15 minutes, until golden. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a further 2 minutes then pour in the water and cook for another 5 minutes stirring constantly.
Ad the blended tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes before adding the chicken pieces. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, then add the stock and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat and cook for a further 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has stared to thicken up.
Season to taste and sprinkle over the chopped coriander. Serve with steamed rice, naan bread and Cucumber Raita.
@FarmersgirlCook thank you so much for your review of the book - I'm delighted you like it! @orionbooksSpice - Layers of Flavour by Dhruv Baker
— Dhruv Baker (@DhruvBaker1) July 19, 2014
Publisher: Weidenfeld and Nicholson
RRP: £25 (eBook £12.99)
Wednesday, 16 July 2014
The Tropical Cocktails are sweet and fresh with a little kick of alcohol. There are four different 'cocktails' : Peach Bellini, Pina Colado, Hurricane and Caipirnha. We both really liked the Hurricane with dark Jamaican rum truffle blended with zippy Valencian orange and passion fruit, they were all very tasty but the others were a little sweet for our taste. I was a pack of Choc Fudge Sundae chocs, little chocolate pots filled with a sticky toffee and fudge sauce with intense praline and a sprinkle of crunchy cereal, absolutely delicious and a nice treat at at reasonable price.
Tropical Cocktails £10.00 for 115g 7/10
Choc Fudge Sundae £3.85 for 75g 9/10
Julian Metcalfe is obsessed with delicious and healthy food. Back in 2009 he was fed up of stodgy snacks that weighed him down and he wanted to create something that was light yet tasty to replace the bog standard crisp. Popcorn was the perfect fit and Metcalfe’s skinny Topcorn was born. There's a new flavour of Metcalfe's skinny topcorn it's white cheese and it's really really addictive! There are lots of other cool flavours too, from the simple salted popcorn to spicy and sweet flavoured popcorns. 8/10
75g Metcalfe's Skinny Topcorn - White Cheese £1.00 - £1.49
Tabasco Pepper sauce which she would use to add chilli heat to her cooking, fresh chillies were not easily available in my childhood and there was only one kind of Tabasco. Now Tabasco have launched a range of sauces to Transport Your Tastebuds, Louisiana Style
Now Tabasco® brand Pepper Sauce, the iconic kitchen staple for over 140 years, has created four vibrant new recipes that capture the essence of the Deep South, bringing those true American flavours to the UK.
Introducing Tabasco® brand Sauces and Marinades. Brand new and brilliantly different, these are table sauces with a twist. Add a dollop on burgers, drizzle over chargrilled skewers or marinate baby back ribs to bring the real American diner scene to your kitchen. From hot and tangy to smokey and subtle, experience the four great flavours and three different heat levels across the range.
The Chipotle and Smokey Bourbon sauce is inspired by the jazz clubs and bar scene of New Orleans. The subtlety of smoked chipotle peppers blends perfectly with the Bourbon to create the ultimate sauce for authentic American ribs and pulled pork - sweet and finger licking sticky.
Sweet Chipotle and Cola is the ultimate sauce for traditional American burgers. Tabasco® has taken the sweet flavour of cola soft drink and combined it with the smokiness of Chipotle peppers to create a deliciously rich sauce, that’s incredibly moreish. Try it on hotdogs too! I used this sauce with pork leg steaks cooked slowly in the sauce with a little water added, I added the chickpeas at the last minute and really enjoyed the rich flavours.
The Peppery Deep South Creole sauce transforms chicken wings and veggie burgers. Rich tomatoes and bell peppers are brought to life with a vibrant blend of herbs and spices to reflect the diversity of flavour in Louisiana.
Fruity and Fiery Habanero is an exotic infusion of hot Habanero peppers, sweet mango, banana and papaya. It delivers a blast of hot chilli that’s great for dipping or marinating and brings Deep South sunshine to seafood or veggie skewers.
The full range of Tabasco® brand Sauces and Marinades is available from Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, RRP £2.29. Enjoy them as a dip, use them as a condiment or as a marinade, each flavour will transport your tastebuds, Louisiana style. 8/10
250 Premium Glossy Business Cards : £26.81 including VAT 9/10
Many thanks to the PRs and companies for the samples to review, I was not paid for these reviews and all opinions are my own.
Monday, 14 July 2014
We've just returned from a couple of nights away in Appleby and a trip over the other side of the M6 to Ullswater. The weather was perfect and we had a great time. I'm just going to share a few pictures with minimum text. Enjoy!
The Helvellyn Country Kitchen at Glenridding for these fantastic scones with jam and cream.
Appleby Castle well worth a visit.
First night dinner in the Dining Room at Appleby Manor.
The Helvellyn Country Kitchen at Glenridding for these fantastic scones with jam and cream.
A beautiful day spent on and around Ullswater.
On the second night we had dinner in the Bistro, including local beer.
We headed home via The Watermill, Little Salkeld after indulging in an organic, wholemeal date and walnut scone and some refreshing tea. We left laden with some bag of the flour ground in the traditional way at the mill.
Saturday, 12 July 2014
I was delighted to be invited to the Royal Highland Show of Scotland by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and particularly to meet Jacqueline O'Donnell, Chef Patron of the Sisters Restaurants in the West End of Glasgow and winner of the Scottish round of the The Great British Menu 2014 but more about that later.
I arrived early to avoid any queues of traffic and first made my way to the Food Hall to meet up with the lovely Claire and her team at Mackays Jams for a foodie catch up.
Then I went for a bit of a walk around the show, here are a few photos from my walkabout, including a selfie with mini versions of the, now famous, Kelpies sculptures.
It was soon time to head to the Quality Meat Scotland marquee where I met up with Margaret. Margaret has worked for QMS for many years and, with a combination of a farming heritage and catering experience, Margaret was the ideal guide to the RHS.
We started with a tour of the different breeds of sheep. I know a bit about cattle breeds, but very little about sheep, so found it fascinating to find out about the way the different breeds of sheep are matched to the land. The Hebridean sheep, for example is a small sheep which helps it to survive in the demanding climate of the hebridean islands. It also has a tough wiry fleece to withstand the elements.
Scotch Beef and Lamb website. The one breed I didn't get a good photograph of is the Blackface Sheep, which is ironic as it is the most numerous breed in Scotland! If you'd like to see some great photographs of Blackies in their natural habitat head over to the Blackface Sheep Breeder's Association.
Macbeth's Traditional Butcher and Game Dealer from Forres in Moray. Macbeth's is a family run business with the Scotch Beef they sell coming from their own upland farm where they rear traditional Scottish breeds in traditional ways.
he 'Scotch Beef' and 'Scotch Lamb' labels have Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status (like Cornish Pasties, Melton Mowbray Pies and Yorkshire Wenslydale Cheese) this means that products with this label are derived from cattle or sheep born, reared throughout their lives, slaughtered and dressed in Scotland. This is quality assured by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). Scottish Beef and Lamb may have been raised in Scotland but not born there so be sure to look out for the 'Scotch' label to be assured of quality produce. Just as an aside, and nothing to do with my visit to the Highland Show, the beef from our farm is quality assured by QMS as Scotch Beef. If you would like to find out more about the checks which are carried out then read about Cattle and Sheep Standards on the QMS website.
BBC Lambing Live, are members of QMS and had been taking part in a Question and Answer session for visitors to the Highland Show.
I was delighted to find that Jacqueline's demonstration was based on using cheaper cuts of meat and slow cooking techniques, including electric slow cookers/crockpots! The recipes are really simple to make and the samples I tasted were all really good. I think probably the Beef Cheeks in Honey and Soy was my favourite, so delicious. I haven't had a chance to cook it or any of the other recipes yet but here is one for you to try:
Beef Cheeks in Honey and Soy
1.5g braising Scotch Beef PGI, preferably 2 large beef cheeks, trimmed and halved.
2tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion roughly chopped
1 carrot roughly chopped
1 leek roughly chopped 1 celery stick, roughly chopped 3 garlic cloves
small bunch of thyme
5 coriander seeds
50ml sherry vinegar
60ml soy sauce
200ml Madeira (optional)
3 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp tomato puree
800ml chicken stock
For the Bok Choi
3 heads bok choi, quartered
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp icing sugar
small piece ginger
100ml chicken stock
Mashed potatoes to serve
Heat the oven to 140C. Heat the oil in a large oven proof casserole then spend a good 10 minutes browning the meat well on all sides.
Scatter the vegetables, thyme, coriander seeds and close in amongst the meat and continue to cook over a high heat for 10 minutes until browned.
Pour over the sherry vinegar, soy sauce and Madeira and drizzle over the honey. Stir everything together, then reduce over a high heat until it's sticky and syrupy and the meat is coated really well. Stir in the tomato puree.
Pour over the stock and bring to the simmer. Stir, then taste and lightly season with salt accordingly (it may not need any as the soy is already salty). Cover the pan and place in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring once or twice, until the meat is really tender (or place in a slow cooker/crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours or High for 4-6 hours).
Remove the meat to another pan or container. Boil the sauce for 10 minutes until sticky, then strain it over the meat.
About 20 minutes before serving. drizzle the bok choi with half the oil and the soy sauce and dust with the icing sugar, Grate over a little of the ginger, then toss well until completely coated.
Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan, add the bok choi and cook until the sugar coating starts to caramelise. Pour in the stock and simmer for 5 minutes until tender. Reheat the beef, you are now ready to serve.
Lift the meat out of the sauce and carve into thick slices. Place a large spoonful of mash on the side of each plate. Lay a few slices of meat on the mash. Sit two bok choi quarters on the other side of the plate and spoon over the sauce.
After the demonstration, I met up with John Davidson, Managing Director of Award Winnng Davidsons Specialist Butchers. Davidsons are based in Inverurie but have a fantastic website with information and recipes as well as an online shop where you can order all their great products and have them delivered to you anywhere in the UK and some parts of mainland Europe. If your own butcher isn't able to provide you with Scotch Beef Cheeks for the the recipes above then they are available from Davidsons. There are also many more recipes on the Scotch Beef and Lamb website
Pork Loin Tower which I stretched to feed three of us, it would certainly feed two comfortably. We really enjoyed it and it was simple to roast in the oven.
Many thanks to all at QMS for looking after me so well at the Royal Highland Show, to Jacqueline O'Donnell, Jock Gibson and John Davidson for their time and interest. I was not paid for this post and all opinions are my own.
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
There was nothing in the biscuit tin. There was nothing in the cake tin. I wanted something sweet now what did I have in the cupboard that would make a quick and easy sweet treat? I always have oats, dried fruits and a mix of pumpkin and sunflower seeds that we use in our bread, so I went looking for a FLAPJACK recipe and found this one by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in River Cottage Every Day:
Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars
Saturday, 5 July 2014
|Anuse Bouche - Gravad Lax style salmon with dill flavour and caper bite, on crispy crouton|
There are some places that you visit and you know straight away that you have come home. My drive to Pictou Lodge was uneventful and I started to really enjoy driving the Jeep, a slight scare as I approached a round-about (oh my goodness, I'm going to have to drive round it the 'wrong way') but I survived and arrived excitedly at Pictou Lodge to blue skies and the ocean.
I checked in and headed over to my cabin in Cedar Court or 'Ocean View', I later discovered that this cabin was one that Condalisa Rice had stayed in at a summit held at the Lodge, nothing but the best for me!
These wooden cabins were well appointed with a comfortable bedroom and living room complete with coffee machine, fridge and a view out over the ocean, oh and there is my Jeep again (love my Jeep). There's an ice machine down at the bottom of the row of cottages too so you can fill your ice bucket for chilled drinks.
If you've read my previous post, you will realise that I had only just stopped eating on my Food Tour of downtown Halifax at about 3pm then drove straight up to Pictou, and dinner was booked for 7.00pm. After freshening up, I headed to the main Lodge where I was welcomed into the dining room by Jill, my server. Jill has Scottish ancestory, being a Johnston by birth so we had plenty to talk about. She was also an outstanding server, friendly, knowledgeable and interested, she looked after me very well indeed.
Taste of Nova Scotia their menu is designed around fresh local ingredients as required by Taste of Nova Scotia association features seafood fresh off the boat from nearby waters, seasonal organic vegetables from a nearby farm, and local strawberries, blueberries, maple syrup and honey.
While the chef started on the dishes for the tasting menu I was served with the smoked salmon Amuse Bouche in the first picture of this post. Alongside this I received a brown paper lunch sack containing home made biscuits and a small pot of molasses butter. I've never tasted anything quite like that molasses butter, I had to restrain myself from eating them all as I knew I had more treats in store and had to pace myself.
Let me tell you a little about the dining rooms at Pictou Lodge Resort. The top picture shows the bar and lounge area where you can also dine, you can see the full range of menus for Pictou Lodge at Oceanside Dining. The bottom left photo is taken from my dining table, every table has a superb view of the ocean, turn around and behind you is the massive fireplace, how superb must that be in the winter?
This pretty little plate held parcels of hand made pasta, firmly al dente, with a creamy soft spinach and ricotta filling covered in a rich brown butter sauce with crunchy walnut pieces and tiny cubes of butternut squash, sprinkled with parmesan. I could feel the butter sauce coating my lips. It was served with a glass of fruity, red Cabernet Sauvignon wine, which was the perfect foil for the rich buttery and creamy dish.
Just when I thought I could eat no more, out came this dish of Northumberland Lamb Risotto, picked lamb shank and mushroom risotto with mint and peas. The Northumberland coast is renowned for it's lamb in Nova Scotia. The lamb is raised close to the shore, eating the shoreline plants and taking on some of the flavours. The risotto was incredibly rich, probably a little overseasoned for me, but still really delicious pieces of lamb fell apart, the rice was creamy, the fresh mint garnish helped to cut through the richness. I described it in my notes as 'a really grown-up dish'.
With this dish I was served a wine called Baco Noir which I can highly recommend, it had depth of flavour and you could taste and feel the tannin which was needed with such a rich dish.
Pictou Lodge Resort for dinner and, if you can, you should also stay, I've added a montage of my wanderings the next morning before I set off on the next part of my adventure.
This is the fourth in a series of posts about my trip to Nova Scotia. Read the other posts in my Nova Scotia adventure:
1. The Bridge, The Bison and the Four Poster Bed
2. The Citadel, Halifax : Sporrans, Rifles and the School Room
3. A Local Tasting Tour, South of Morris Street, Halifax
You can follow me on Twitter: @FarmersgirlCook, Facebook: Farmersgirl Kitchen Instagram: FarmersgirlCook and the Pinterest Board Atlantic Canada Eats which I share with Lavender and Lovage. You can also follow the hashtags #AtlanticCanadaEats #VisitNovaScotia and #ExploreCanada to see photos and posts on all of these social media sites.
I was the guest of Canadian Tourism Commission and Nova Scotia Tourism