Tuesday, 29 July 2014

July Slow Cooker Challenge Round Up

Canellinni Bean Dip is a hummus style dip made in the slow cooker, what a clever idea from Corina at Searching for Spice

Slow Cooker Provencal Style Chicken with Rice  is the delicious summery entry from Sarah at Tales from the Kitchen Shed

Slow Cooker Orange Pistachio and Honey Cake  oh my goodness Baking Queen 74 has excelled herself with this delicious moist cake full sticky syrupy goodness.

Camilla at Fab Food For All has cooked up this Slow Cooked Italian Chicken, a tasty dish and ideal for summer.

Many thanks to all of you for entering the Slow Cooker Challenge in July, remember to check out my Mexican Chicken recipe too and I'll be back in a day or two with a new challenge for August.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Fruity Iced Green Tea - A cooling drink for a hot summer

I am really rather excited about finding a new way of making iced tea.  Now this may not be news to you, but I had never thought of adding green tea bags to cold water and leaving it to brew in the fridge!  Helen  featured Cold Brew Green Tea on her blog Fuss Free Flavours last week and I just had to try it.

I used some of the lovely new range of green tea bags from Tetley.  Sales of green tea are on the rise in the UK - thanks in part to growing evidence of its health benefits, but also because of its distinctive, refreshing flavour.  I've made a few jugs of Cold Brew Tea now, the one featured in the photo was Green Tea with Mint and I added some slices of lemon and mint sprigs, as recommended by Helen.  However, I have also tried the Mango and Passionfruit variety and it was also delicious.  You could add sugar or honey if you like your iced tea sweet, but I found it a really refreshing drink without any additions, it is reminiscent of the flavoured bottled water but without the artificial sweeteners.  I've also tried the peach and apricot flavour as hot tea and it is equally refreshing and a nice alternative to black tea.

Helen left her tea to brew overnight, but I found that 2 tea bags in 1 1/2 litres of water had enough flavour after a couple of hours which is more good news on a hot day! It's also incredibly economical with 20 tea bags for around a £1.00, you need never buy bottled flavoured water again.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Courgette and Hummus Pizza

I saw a photograph of a Courgette (Zucchini) and Hummus Pizza on Pinterest, unfortunately the link went to a blog that was private so I wasn't able to get the recipe, however I was intrigued by this unusual topping, so decided to have a go myself.

Having recently returned from Appleby and the Lake District  via Little Salkeld Mill, near Penrith,  where you can see the flour milled, enjoy the delights of the cafe and stock up on all the organic goodies.

Courgette and Hummus Pizza

For the dough
2 tsp fast action dried yeast
300ml milk
200g spelt flour
300g strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp plain yogurt
30g butter, melted

This quantity of flour will make one large pizza and three flat breads or two large pizzas. Just half the quantities if you only want enough for one pizza.

For the topping
1 large courgette (zucchini) finely sliced
200g hummus (I used homemade, if you can try and find one that is not completely smooth but any will do)
100g Tickler Extra Mature Cheddar with Red Onions (or cheese of your choice)

I made my dough in the bread maker, but if you want to make it by hand, put all the ingredients in a large bowl and add the salt and the yeast keeping them away from each other.  Add the olive oil and 150ml of the water and mix. Add the remaining water a little at a time until you have a smooth, soft dough.

Tip the dough onto an oiled surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth.  Leave to rise until doubled in size.

Split off enough dough for your pizza and roll is or press it onto a tray, spread the hummus in a thick layer over the dough, place the slices of courgette over the hummus.  Crumble the mature cheddar and scatter over the pizza. 

Cover the pizza with oiled cling film  and leave to rise for a further 30 minutes.  

Bake at 200C for 20-30 minutes until the base is cooked, the courgettes have crisped and the cheese is melted and golden. 

The combination of the hummus and courgette was absolutely brilliant!  The spelt base was soft rather than crispy but full of flavour, the red onion in the cheese also worked well with the combination, but you could add some finely chopped red onion to the topping to compensate if you don't have this cheese. 

I had the opportunity to try out the new Clean Cut Pizza Wheel  from OXO Good Grips, so here is the result, it was easy to hold and cut through the topping and base with ease.  I also liked the plastic cover for the sharp blade although it can be a little tricky to get the cover off!  See the pizza cutter in action in this little video.


Clean Cut Pizza Wheel:  For the perfect pizza party, use the OXO Good Grips Clean Cut Pizza Wheel. This hand-held pizza slicer provides leverage and control for easy slicing and the 10cm stainless steel wheel easily cuts through thin- or thick-crust pizza. The soft, comfortable, non-slip grip will make portioning out slices for everyone a breeze. The handle comes apart and blade removes for easy cleaning, and the blade guard snaps on to protect the blade and hands for storage. The Pizza Wheel is dishwasher safe.  RRP £10

Monday, 21 July 2014

Mexican Chicken in the Slow Cooker

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.

Mexican Chicken
Serves 4

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
Lime wedges
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

Super Simple Chicken Curry - Spice, Layers of Flavour by Dhruv Baker

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
Serves 4

2 tbsp vegetable oil
6 cloves
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
75ml water
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.

Spice - Layers of Flavour by Dhruv Baker
Publisher: Weidenfeld and Nicholson
RRP: £25 (eBook £12.99)

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Chocolate Cocktails, Popcorn, Sauce and Business Cards on my Kitchen Table

On my Kitchen Table is a post to share with you some of the products I've been sent to review over the last month, it's a rather eclectic mix this month so let's get stuck in!

First up are some summery chocolates from Hotel Chocolat.  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

I remember my Mum had a little bottle of 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

Vistaprint have a range of great products at reasonable prices which transform your photographs into books, calendars, mugs, t-shirts, phone cases.... in fact just about anything that will hold an image!  I was going to make a photo book as I have done previously and found them to be excellent, but I simply ran out of time. As  I needed some new business cards, I used the simple step by step instructions to create these cards featuring a recipe I made last summer.
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

Appleby and Ullswater Staycation

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!

Excellent lunch at Tufton Mews Cafe and Wine Shop.  Service wasn't brilliant but the food was delicious.

Appleby Castle well worth a visit.

Appleby Manor

First night dinner in the Dining Room at Appleby Manor.

Selfie taken after climbing up that hill behind us and, even more challenging, coming back down - it was very steep!

We stopped off at 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. 
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