Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Puff Pastry Cheese, Bacon and Spring Onion Tart

This is an easy meal idea that is great for an informal dinner with friends, as it can be assembled before your guests arrive and then can go in the oven 20 minutes before you want to eat. You can play around with the toppings as well to use whatever you fancy - it's a good way of using up odds and ends in the fridge as well.

Simply take a piece of ready-made puff pastry - around 200g per person should be plenty, and I made each person their own - and roll out on a lightly floured surface into either a circle or square shape (or something in between!). Place onto a lightly oiled baking sheet.

Chop a few rashers of bacon and fry along with some chopped spring onions. When cooked, remove from pan and allow to cool.

Spread the pastry base with garlic and herb-flavoured soft cheese then scatter over the bacon and spring onion. Grate some cheese - Cheddar works well - and sprinkle over the tart. I also added some crumbled blue cheese.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 20 minutes or until the pastry has risen and is golden. Serve with a green salad.

I'm sending this to Cook Blog Share, hosted this week by Easy Peasy Foodie.

Hijacked By Twins

Monday, 20 March 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 12

It's Mothers' Day this weekend so I will be making my first cake in a while!

Lunch - was meant to be out with a friend but it got cancelled on Sunday night so I will make a sandwich (I wasn't eating bread otherwise!)
Dinner - chicken chargrill for him, lamb grillsteak for me

Tuesday - working from home
Lunch - tuna pasta bake using packet mix
Dinner - slow cooked chicken enchiladas

Lunch- leftover tuna bake
Dinner - my husband is out so I will have chicken miso stir-fry with cauliflower rice from this recipe

Lunch- mackerel and bacon salad based on this recipe
Dinner - spaghetti with prawns for me, spaghetti Bolognese for him

Lunch- mackerel and bacon salad based on this recipe
Dinner - chicken dippers and chips for him, fishfingers for me

Lunch- croissant French toast I was going to do a couple of weeks ago but didn't
Dinner- fish pie for me, cottage pie for him from this recipe

Lunch- with my family for Mothers' Day
Dinner - something easy from the freezer as I might be back late

Join in the blog hop!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Congratulations Baby Girl Card

A friend of mine was getting close to her due date and I realised I had a new baby card suitable for a boy but didn't have one for a girl. I didn't want to buy one, but I also didn't have a lot of time to make one.

I still had a box of pre-printed card blanks, if that's not a contradiction in terms - these are cards with different patterns but no pictures or wording that you can add a few embellishments to and personalise how you like.

I used one with a yellow and pink flower pattern as I thought this fit the new baby theme. Taking a pack of silver outline stickers, I stuck a bear and a rocking horse outline onto bright pink paper and cut around them, and stuck them onto the card. I used a 'congratulations' sentiment from the same sticker sheet on pale pink paper which I then mounted onto the bright pink paper and stuck on the top of the card.

Finally as I happened to have a small packet of brads to hand from another project and I spotted a couple of pink flowers in there, and decided they would add the perfect finishing touch. All ready now for my friend to have her baby!

I'm sharing this with Path of Positivity for this week's blog challenge which has the theme 'birth of new beginnings'.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Restaurant review: Pitt Cue, London

If you've heard about the amazing ribs they serve at Pitt Cue - smoky barbecue ribs sitting alongside pulled pork burgers, served on a tin tray with a stack of napkins - then you're in the wrong place. Pitt Cue is an upmarket restaurant in Spitalfields that is a far cry from the original food truck, which unfortunately I didn't realise when I decided to go there!

I was meeting a friend for lunch in the area and unusually for me, hadn't spent any time looking up local restaurants as I'd been really busy. I popped onto Google Maps about half an hour before we were due to meet, and spotted Pitt Cue. Remembering what I'd heard about their ribs, I immediately suggested we go there.

When I arrived in Devonshire Square and entered the restaurant, which is somewhat industrial in style but posh-industrial rather than actually-on-an-industrial-estate industrial, I did wonder if it was the same place I'd heard about. The moment I looked at the menu I realised it wasn't!

This restaurant is less ribs and pulled pork and more smoked eel and ox tongue. There were only a few choices on the lunchtime menu, with a couple more options on the specials board, and I was at a bit of a loss as to what to order. I went for the cured and smoked jowl - I'd never had jowl, or pig's cheek, before so didn't know what to expect. It turned out to be a circular piece of meat, that gave me quite a surprise when I cut into it - literally the top half was a kind of jellied fat, with the pork a sort of slow-cooked melt-in-the-mouth layer underneath. That part was very nice, but I hate eating fat - even though this was probably one of the big draws of the dish, I actually found it deeply unpleasant and scraped it off the top!

It came with what I think was apple sauce but by this point I wasn't sure. I had some mashed potato with it and the only option was bone marrow mash - something else I've never had before, and was not particularly keen on.

I think this restaurant is aimed at people who know their cuts of meat and are either very traditional or very adventurous or a bit of both. Located just off Bishopsgate it's got a bit of a 'city boy' vibe -
I can imagine the meals being washed down with whisky. The meat is undoubtedly good quality and the menu speaks of its provenance, but give me some barbecued ribs and a pulled pork burger any day over cured jowl and bone marrow.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

I just wanted to quickly share this recipe with you as I've been making a lot of soups for lunch lately and this one is really good. It's a Betty Crocker recipe which you can find here; one of the things I like about it is that you put everything into the slow cooker and don't even need to stir.

It has quite a few ingredients (I left out the mushrooms as I don't like them) so you do have to do a little bit of prep; you also need to sear the chicken in a separate pan first unless you use chicken that is already cooked, which is what I did. Once you've done all that you pretty much just leave it to cook in the slow cooker.


There's definitely a kick to this from the ginger and curry paste; I would probably make it a little more mild next time. The chunky veg and pieces of chicken make this a meal in itself and I enjoyed it for my lunch at work over a couple of days.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 11

Finally this week things should be getting back to normal...I've finished my coursework (hooray!) and had booked a day off on Friday but might cancel it now I don't need it for coursework - depending on how busy I am at work. I've certainly got plenty of other things to be getting on with at home!

Lunch: chicken salad
Dinner: fishcake with poached egg for me, gammon with fried egg for him

Tuesday- working from home
Lunch: jacket potato
Dinner: sausage, mash and cauliflower cheese

Lunch: salmon salad
Dinner: chicken parmo, similar to this recipe, with chips

Lunch: chicken salad
Dinner: chicken chargrills for him, bubble and squeak patty for me

Friday - got a day off work booked today
Lunch: whatever I can rustle up from the fridge or store cupboard
Dinner: burger and chips

Lunch: eggs benedict on waffles from this recipe - might miss out the marmite!
Dinner: individual pastry tarts based on this recipe with a side dish of green beans with blue cheese from this recipe and sweet and sour carrots from the same page, and potato of some kind for my husband who doesn't like either
Dessert: cookie cup with biscuit base, filled with some concoction I haven't created yet

Sunday - going to a birthday party for one of my husband's nephews over lunchtime
Brunch: scrambled eggs with bacon on toast for him, poached eggs, smoked salmon and toast for me. That's a lot of eggs this weekend but it's good for you!
Dinner: toad in the hole I was going to do last Sunday but didn't

This is a blog hop, join in!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Slow Cooker Butterscotch Pudding

I use my slow cooker quite a lot but never really for desserts. I have a book called The Slow Cooker and it has a section at the back on cakes and desserts and decided a little while ago to try a butterscotch pudding.

It's not very healthy - full of sugar and cream - but as an occasional treat I think it would be OK! I reduced the quantities to serve two, and definitely wouldn't have been able to get six ramekins into my slow cooker at the same time. You cook the puddings in a water bath so they set like a custard - they taste really good.

To serve two, you need:
1 tbsp. butter
pinch of salt
137g soft brown sugar
150ml double cream
85ml milk
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter in a small pan and mix in the sugar and salt. Pour in the cream and milk and heat until just simmering but don't allow the mixture to boil.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and pour in the cream mixture slowly, whisking as you go. Stir in the vanilla extract and pour the mixture into two ramekin dishes.

Put the ramekin dishes into the slow cooker and carefully pour water into the slow cooker, taking care not to get any water into the puddings, until the water comes half way up the sides of the ramekins.

Cook on low for about two hours or until the puddings are set.

Cool the ramekins on a wire rack for 15 minutes then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Top with whipped cream to serve

These are very sweet as you might imagine and I could only eat half of one- but I couldn't have made them smaller as these were the only ramekins I have! My husband had no problem polishing one off anyway!

I'm sharing this with the Slow Cooked Challenge, hosted by Lucy at BakingQueen74 and also Treat Petite, hosted by Stuart at Cakeyboi and Kat the Baking Explorer.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Slimming World Coronation Chicken Jacket Potato

One of my favourite lunches for when I am at home is a jacket potato. I hardly ever do them at weekends, because I just don't get out of bed organised in time, plus my husband isn't that keen on them, but often do one if I have a day off or am working from home. They are ideal for "wfh" lunches as you can put the potato in the oven, come back to it an hour later and just slater some butter onto it, grate over some cheese and you're done.

Of course, there are loads of more interesting jacket potato fillings than cheese (though if you haven't tried grated cheese and chopped tinned hotdogs, put that on your meal plan now!). I recently made coronation chicken as a filler, from the Slimming World 100 Extra Easy Days book. It's a good way to use up leftover cooked chicken as well, if you have some left over from a roast or another meal.

You could also use Quorn chicken-style pieces or a similar meat-free alternative to make this a vegetarian recipe.

Adjust the quantities you need to taste - the chicken depending on how many people this is for, the red pepper and spring onion to personal taste (I don't like red pepper that much) and the same with the fromage frais and mayo - some people like their baked potato fillings quite 'wet' for want of a better word than others.

Simply mix together some cooked chicken pieces, some diced red pepper, diced mango, lime juice and zest, chopped spring onion and chopped fresh coriander. Season and mix in mango chutney, a little bit of curry powder, some fat free natural fromage frais and some extra light mayonnaise. Stir everything together and spoon into your jacket potato.

I'm sharing this with a new blog challenge, Desert Island Dish. Jacket potatoes would be one of my desert island desires but the theme for this challenge this month is actually fruit - there could well be mango growing on my desert island anyway but if not I'd like to have some! The challenge is hosted by the Good Egg Foodie.

I'm also sending this to One Potato, Two Potato - a new link-up for potato recipes, hosted by Family Friends Food.
one potato, two potato

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Red Velvet Cheesecake for Valentine's Day

I spent my first Valentine's Day with my husband at his mother's house - our boiler had broken down and luckily we were able to move in with her for a week. It did mean that my planned Valentine's dinner got postponed to some extent - I had wanted to make a nice dessert but didn't really want to make a mess of her kitchen!

So I waited until the following weekend when we were back in our house where I could make as much mess as I wanted, and finally made my husband his Valentine's dessert. I had fancied making a red velvet cake as I don't think I'd ever made one before, then while searching for a recipe online found this Eric Lanlard recipe for a red velvet cheesecake. It's a cross between a cake and a dessert so great for after a meal or in the middle of the afternoon on a weekend with a cup of tea.. any time really!

This cake-cum-cheesecake is absolutely amazing. It was pretty easy to make and tasted so, so good - the creamy filling in the middle was much better than buttercream!

You can find the recipe on the Baking Mad website; the only part I didn't manage to do was the cream cheese frosting around the sides. I made my frosting following the recipe but it was far too runny, and also slightly yellow in colour rather than white; I decided that I actually preferred to leave the sides of the cake exposed so you can see the depth of the filling inside.

I levelled the cake and crumbled up the part I sliced off, and spread the top of the cake with whipped double cream and then sprinkled the cake crumbs over the top; I'm not really sure that made a lot of difference to the appearance, taste or texture, but it did mean the crumbs all rolled off when I ate a slice of cake!

Did you know that when you make red velvet cake, it's not exactly a chocolate cake but does have 2 tbsp. cocoa powder in the mixture?

And the red colour originally came from the way the cocoa powder reacted with the acidity of baking soda, buttermilk and a dash of vinegar. But these days the cocoa powder that is commonly sold doesn't have such an acidic Ph level so you won't get the same kind of red colour any more. So most of the time when you see red velvet cake the colour has come from food colouring - which is exactly what I did here.

Spooning the cake mixture into the tin and levelling the surface.... yum

The cake came out of the oven with a fair dome to the top and a couple of cracks but that doesn't matter as I was going to level it.

Making the filling was fairly easy though involved a few steps. First you beat together the cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice then dissolve the gelatine and mix that in. Finally whip some cream and fold that in.

Here's the levelled cake, sliced in half - there is definitely a red tinge to the chocolate!

The way to get the filling to set properly inside the cake is to place a large piece of clingfilm in the loose-bottomed cake tin you used to make the cake (when it is cold of course). Put the bottom layer of cake into the tin onto the clingfilm and thickly spread the cream cheese filling over the top. Place the other layer of cake on top and wrap the whole thing in the clingfilm by bringing the film over the top. Put in the fridge overnight.

Carefully lift the cake, still in the clingfilm, out of the tin and unwrap. You have a delicious looking cake with a very deep layer of cheesecake in the middle.

I spread some whipped cream over the top and sprinkled over the reserved cake crumbs as I mentioned before.

I decided it needed something else - having decided that I wasn't going to or couldn't do the cream cheese icing around the sides and on the top, so piped on rosettes of double cream all around the top.

It looks quite pretty I think!

The cake and cheesecake combo was absolutely delicious and definitely something I would make again - I might try in a different flavour next time!

I'm sharing this with We Should Cocoa, hosted by Choclette at Tin and Thyme.

I'm also sending it to Cook Blog Share, hosted by Kirsty at Hijacked by Twins.

Hijacked By Twins


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Restaurant review: Pizza Sophia, Bloomsbury, London

One of the benefits of living in central London is that you are able to explore the city's nooks and crannies and find neighbourhood restaurants that people passing through - even those who work there - may overlook. I'm one of the latter - I work in London but commute in, and so only know the area around my office and the main streets elsewhere (think Upper Street, Wardour Street and so on). One of my friends lives in Bloomsbury and she stumbled across a gem of a local restaurant on Tavistock Place: Pizza Sophia.

It's one of those restaurants that barely has a website (it just has the address and phone number), only has a handful of tables at street level (with more downstairs) and you'd almost walk past it if you weren't looking for it.

My friend has been a couple of times now and said the pizzas were amazing and she wasn't far wrong. They are absolutely huge, clearly homemade and smothered in delicious toppings - for instance the menu states that the restaurant smokes its own meat. There is a wide choice of pizzas and some pasta on the menu and they were happy to cater for my vegan friend by altering some of the toppings.

I had the New Yorker, which was a steal at £9 for a giant pizza, with smoked beef brisket, pepperoni, caramelized red onion, mozzarella and tomato. It was delicious and I barely managed to finish it. I spotted takeaway boxes on the way out so if you don't manage to finish the pizza you can ask for the rest to go!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 10

I have three days off this week as study leave to complete coursework for a professional qualification. I've been working on it for several weekends over the past few months and really hope I can get it finished!
leftover chicken in garlic sauce from Sunday
pizza from the freezer as we were home late
Wednesday – at home
Lunch - baked potato
Dinner - tagliatelle and meatballs
Thursday – at home
Lunch - leftover pizza
Dinner - burgers and chips
Friday – at home
Lunch - leftover tagliatelle or macaroni cheese on toast
Dinner - Maggi So Juicy Mexican chicken - found a packet mix in the cupboard I need to use! 
Lunch- croque monsieur
Dinner - out somewhere before we go to the cinema
Sunday – was supposed to be on a Wordpress course which was disappointingly cancelled (by the same college that has cancelled cake decorating courses more than once on me in the past!
Lunch- baked croissant French toast from this recipe.
Dinner - toad in the hole

This is a blog hop, join in!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Slow Cooker Lemon Chilli Chicken

I've been using my slow cooker a lot lately as I work from home every Tuesday, meaning I can put something on at lunchtime, forget about it while I go back to my laptop and work for the rest of the day. When I work from home I pick my husband up from the train station which means I would otherwise have to wait until we were back to start dinner, so this way it's already cooked!
I mainly do chicken in the slow cooker as my husband is a very fussy eater and he likes chicken. I love lemon chicken but he doesn't like sweet and savoury food together, and lemon chicken often ends up tasting quite sweet and tangy at the same time. I came across a recipe for lemon chilli chicken on which was ideal, as it's citrusy and spicy and not really sweet at all.

The recipe given is cooked in a pan while I did mine in the slow cooker, and I didn't reduce the sauce at the end so it was quite thin - I think it would be nicer thickened a little.

I browned the chicken in a pan and added the spices - coriander, cumin, chilli, turmeric:

and then put the chicken in the slow cooker on high for 4 hours, along with the stock, lemon zest and juice

Serve with rice and a green veg.

Friday, 3 March 2017

'A New Home' Greeting Card

I must have made this card seven years ago because it has my address written inside when I moved house... to my home before this one! I moved in 2010 and had been making cards for a little while but it was before I started blogging. I made several 'new home' cards and wrote my new address inside them and sent them to family and friends.

I had one left over that I'd never sent, but it did have my address written inside. When one of my dearest friends told me she had moved in with her boyfriend and gave me her new address, I wanted to send them a card wishing them luck in their new home, but didn't have time to make one (every spare moment is currently taken up with coursework for a professional qualification I'm doing and planning my husband's 40th).

So I decided to use this spare card - it's not recycling if I never actually gave it to anyone! I cut the front off the card and mounted it on another card - a purple one to match the patterned paper across the middle.

To make the original card I used a small house-shaped hole punch to punch out houses in a strip of stripey paper which I stuck across the middle of the card like a ribbon. I had a pack of gold outline stickers with the words 'a new home' and also a lock and key which I used to finish off the simple card.

I'm sending this to Penny's Challenges for her card making challenge.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Chicken Broccoli Pasta Soup

This soup is definitely a meal in itself - in fact it's barely a soup! The good thing about it is that you can thin it down as much as you like - so if you want something really chunky and filling (that's more like a bowl of pasta than soup) you can have it, or if you want to be able to drink your lunch rather than eat it with a fork (let alone a spoon) then you can do that too!

I came across a recipe for chicken broccoli alfredo soup on and decided to make it for my lunch last Sunday; I did reduce the quantity of the ingredients but still had enough left for the rest of the week!

Instead of half-and-half which you can't get in the UK, I used mainly milk with a dash of double cream. The resulting soup was deliciously creamy. I didn't have any farfalle pasta so I used macaroni which worked well.

This was a very filling soup that tasted rich and creamy and keeps well for a few days afterwards though you might find you need to add some water to thin it out again once it has been in the fridge for a while!

I'm sharing this with Cook Once Eat Twice, hosted by Corina at Searching for Spice.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 9

This week's meal plan...

Monday – I’m at a work event in evening so home late, but not out all evening, so we can have pizzas from the freezer (update - I was even later than I thought so had something from the train station for my dinner!)
Tuesday – pancake day. My vegetarian mother-in-law is coming to dinner, and as usual I’m working from home today. She loved the macaroni cheese I made once before so this time I am going to make macaroni cheese with garlic bread crust from this recipe -with a couple of sausages for my husband as he doesn’t think pasta by itself is really a meal!
Dessert: pancakes: I'm going to try this Nigella recipe as I already have Frangelico at home and it sounds delicious!
Wednesday- stir-fry with chicken and mooli for me, chicken chargrill for him
Thursday – tagliatelle with prawns for me, meatballs for him (using up the chopped tomatoes and white wine I have open)
Friday - something with chips from the freezer
Lunch- Greggs baked bean pasty with potato waffles for him, and for me tuna spaghetti
Dinner- chicken and potatoes in a creamy garlic sauce from this recipe
Lunch- going to see my sister and niece
Dinner- not sure what time we will be back - probably something from the freezer
This is a blog hop, join in!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Chicken and Chorizo Filo Parcels

Isn't it always the case that when you use ready-made pastry, you have some left over that find its way into the fridge or even the freezer? Not long ago I decided I needed to use up some filo pastry and had a look on the Jus-Rol (the pastry brand) website for inspiration. I thought these chicken, manchego and chorizo briouats.
I made them a little differently, as I always do; I left out the lentils as I don't like them, and rather than sun-dried tomato paste or even tomato puree (which would have been a good alternative) I used some chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and added some sweet potato puree I had previously made, and a little plain yogurt to create some moisture. I'm also not quite sure why the recipe on the link above mentions puff pastry and think this might be a mistake!

Making the parcels very small and tight isn't that easy and mine were rather bigger than expected; we ate them as a main course with potato wedges but I think they would be brilliant as part of a buffet. The chicken and chorizo are a great flavour combination and the sweet potato puree really adds something slightly sweet and creamy, though if you don't want to go to the effort of making this specifically, just use the cheese and the yogurt. Manchego is a Spanish's sheep's cheese which I couldn't get hold of for this recipe so I used cheddar which I thought worked fine. I also took the opportunity to use up some left over roast chicken, which I shredded.

Here's what I did:

Serves 6
6 Filo pastry sheets
2 tbsp. oil for brushing
50g chorizo, diced
1 onion, diced
dash of oil or low-fat cooking spray
25g sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
4 tbsp. plain yogurt
either 4 cooked chicken breast fillets or about 400g cooked shredded chicken
salt, pepper
75g grated cheese
4 tbsp. sweet potato puree (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Heat the oil or cooking spray in a frying pan and fry the onion and chorizo over a low to medium heat for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Transfer to a bowl and mix with the shredded chicken, cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Season. Stir in the yogurt and sweet potato puree.

Lay out a sheet of filo pastry and cut into three long thin strips. Brush with oil then add a spoonful of chicken mixture at one end.

Fold over the pastry to form a triangle, then flip the triangle up and to the right and then to the left and repeat until you have folded the filling all the way along the strip of pastry. Brush with more oil and place on a baking sheet.

Repeat until you have used up all the filling and the pastry.

Bake the parcels in the oven for 10-12 minutes. You may need to do this in a couple of batches. Serve warm with salad, couscous or potato wedges or as part of a buffet offering.

I'm sharing this with the No Waste Food Challenge hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary - it's a good way of using up filo pastry and cooked chicken.

No Waste Food Challenge

I'm also sending it to Cook Once, Eat Twice, hosted by Corina at Searching for Spice, as you can cook some chicken one day (eg a roast) and use it in this recipe another day.

Cook Once Eat Twice