Saturday 31 August 2013

Food 'n' Flix Roundup - When Harry Met Sally

This month I guest hosted the Food 'n' Flix challenge and the movie I chose was When Harry Met Sally. The idea behind the challenge is to cook something inspired by the film - whether it's a meal the characters eat, or something that ties in more loosely to the city in which it is set, for instance.

It's the story of how a friendship over many years turns into love - but to many people, When Harry Met Sally means just one thing - the "I'll have what she's having" scene. It's the most memorable moment in the film, and comes about because Harry (Billy Crystal) insists he's never been with a woman who has faked an orgasm and that he would be able to tell - so Sally sets out to prove him wrong. She very loudly fakes an orgasm in the middle of a deli (Katz's in NYC). When she's finished, a woman at the next table tells the waiter "I'll have what she's having!".

The themes of food, eating and restaurants occur again and again in the film, even at the very beginning, when Harry and Sally car share on a trip to New York, Harry offers Sally a grape and she says "No, I don't like to eat between meals" - this is just the first indication of her rigorous and rather picky attitude to food. Not long after, we see them in a restaurant, and Sally - without pausing for breath - orders "Chef's salad with oil and vinegar on the side and apple pie a la mode, but I'd like the pie heated and I don't want ice cream on the top I want it on the side and I want strawberry and vanilla if you have it and if not then no ice cream, whipped cream, but only if it's real, if it's out of a can then nothing, just the pie but then not heated." She is certainly a woman who knows what she wants!

So without further ado onto the roundup... my own entry was the apple pie a la mode, described by Sally above. There was so much food mentioned and eaten in the movie I wanted to recreate one of the recipes, and I really like apple pie.

Heather from Girlichef made this Smoky Chicken Paprikash Soup. She was inspired by a funny scene from the movie where Harry and Sally decide to talk in silly voices and he gets her to say "Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash but I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie". Paprikash is a stew of Hungarian origin and here Heather has turned it into a soup.

Smoky Chicken Paprikash Soup {inspired by When Harry Met Sally for Food 'n Flix} |

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla made these "mess-omars". In the film, Mallomars are described as "the greatest cookie of all time". I'd never heard of them, but apparently they are called Schokokusse in Germany - which I absolutely adored when I lived there. Camilla very bravely decided to make her own Mallomars, infusing them with ginger. It's a complicated three-stage recipe so I think she did a great job - though the name comes from the fact that Camilla thinks they look a bit of a mess! I'd be more than happy to try one :-)

In the film, Sally is typically specific when she orders a Bloody Mary, asking for "Regular tomato juice, not too much ice, and fill it up about three quarters, and then add a splash of Bloody Mary mix,  just a splash, and a little piece of lime, but on the side.” Evelyne from Cheap Ethnic Eatz has made these Bloody Mary Popsicles - I love the idea of the frozen cocktail, and the stick is a piece of celery. Evelyne says you have to eat these fast before they melt!

bloody mary orgasm 050

I was hoping someone would bake or cook a dish inspired by the famous "I'll have what she;'s having" scene, and Evelyne didn't let me down. She also made this Tropical Orgasm, which is a cocktail based on a strawberry daiquiri with added vodka and rum, topped up with pink lemonade. It looks delicious!

bloody mary orgasm 059

Debra from Eliot's Eats had never seen When Harry Met Sally so I'm glad to have introduced her to the film! She also used the "paprikash" scene as inspiration and made this Dilled Chicken Paprika, which she served with noodles. It looks like a tasty dish and one I might have to try myself.

2013-08-02 19.10.18

But that's not all - Debra also made this coconut chocolate cake. At the end of the film, you see an interview with Harry and Sally, some years later, where they are talking about their wedding.
Harry:   We had this – we had a really wonderful wedding.
Sally:  It was – it really was a
Sally:   Beautiful wedding.
Harry: [overlapping] It was great. We had this enormous coconut cake.
Sally:   Huge coconut cake with a – with a – tiers and there was this very rich chocolate sauce on the side.
Harry:  Right, cause not everybody likes it on the cake, cause it makes it very soggy.
Sally:   Particularly the coconut soaks up a lot of excess and you really – it’s important to keep it on the side.
Debra's cake sounds delicious and looks really pretty in this bundt form:
2013-08-02 18.41.57

Thanks to everyone who entered. The movie for September is Toast (based on Nigel Slater's book) and is hosted by This Mama Cooks.

Friday 30 August 2013

Restaurant Review - Cote, Sloane Square, London

Restaurant name: Cote
Location: Sloane Square, London
Description: French bistro-style chain offering breakfast, lunch and dinner
Reason for visit: My choir was performing around the corner at Cadogan Hall, so I had dinner here beforehand with my boyfriend and his mum, who had come to see the concert.
I ate: cod goujons: breadcrumbed slices of cod fillet with frites and tartare sauce, £10.95, followed by tarte fine aux pommes: fine layered apple tart with vanilla ice cream, £5.45.
My companions ate: goats cheese salad: warm goats' cheese and roasted vegetable salad with black olive tapendade crostini £9.50; 10oz rib-eye steak and frites, £14.95. For dessert my boyfriend had the dark chocolate mousse, £4.50; I can't remember what his mum had.

The food was: My meal was basically a posh version of fishfingers and chips but was very nice. The only complaint was from my boyfriend's mum whose salad was served in a relatively small deep bowl, which she said made it hard to eat. My dessert was lovely.
The atmosphere/service was: Good- we didn't have much time before the concert and service was prompt and friendly
Price range/value for money: I would say pretty good; this is a mid-range restaurant though from looking at the menu the starters seemed a bit expensive - many were around £7.
Would I recommend it? Yes, I've also been to the Chiswick branch and like this restaurant chain.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

When I was in America last year I had the most amazing buttermilk fried chicken, so I wanted to try to make  something similar. I used this recipe from BBC Good Food which turned out pretty well, but it wasn't anywhere near as nice as the meal I ate in Arizona!

You need:
chicken thighs and drumsticks
enough buttermilk to cover - probably one 284ml carton is enough for 2-4 people
1 onion
100g plain flour
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbsp fresh thyme

Slice the onion, place in a bowl with the chicken pieces, season and pour over the buttermilk. Leave overnight.


Mix the spices - I used fresh thyme

Mix with the flour

Dip the chicken pieces in the spiced flour mixture

Heat 2cm of oil in a deep pan and when hot fry the chicken in batches until golden brown

Finish cooking in a preheated oven at 190C for about 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through

Definitely a tasty way to serve chicken!

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Slimming World Chocolate Truffles

Yes, it is possible to follow the Slimming World diet and still eat chocolate - even chocolate truffles!

Nothing is forbidden on Slimming World, but several foods have a "syn" number - similar to the Weightwatchers points system - and as long as you add up your syns, and try to stick within a certain number, you can eat pretty much whatever you want. Of course you can't eat that much chocolate... but it's up to you!

We had a food tasting at my Slimming World group last week and were asked to bring canapes or bite sized treats, as it was a celebration of the Woman of the Year competition. I found a recipe for chocolate truffles on the Slimming World website and thought they would be perfect for a celebration. I adapted the recipe as it asked for half-fat double cream, and I had half-fat sour cream in the fridge already opened, and decided to try out the recipe using this instead. They tasted really nice!

I also halved the quantities given and made ten truffles, which worked out at 3.5 syns each.

60ml half-fat sour cream
100g plain chocolate, finely chopped
1 tbsp liqueur of your choice - I used Chambord black raspberry liqueur, though an orange liqueur would also be nice
2 tbsp cocoa powder

Gently heat the cream in a pan and add the chocolate; stir until melted.

Add the liqueur

Stir until you have a glossy and thick chocolate mixture.

In the past I've had problems with putting chocolates into the fridge to set, where it has set rock hard onto the plate and I couldn't get it off! So I decided to line a small bowl with greaseproof paper which would be easy to peel off. I left it in the fridge overnight.

When you are ready to make the truffles, place the cocoa powder in a small bowl.

I didn't take any photos of this part as it was quite messy - but check out this post I wrote after attending a chocolate making class. Peel the greaseproof paper off the chocolate, and taking small pieces, roll between your hands into a ball. Then roll in the cocoa powder. I ended up with a lovely little bowl of chocolate truffles that tasted delicious.

 I'm sending this to We Should Cocoa, hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen on behalf of Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog, as the challenge this month is to make chocolate truffles.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Slimming World Broccoli, Cauliflower and Pasta Bake

I made this one evening for dinner when my boyfriend was out, basing it on a recipe from Slimming World magazine for "macaroni and broccoli cheese".

To serve 2-3, you need:
about 250g pasta
half a head of broccoli
half a head of cauliflower
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp dried chill flakes
2 eggs, beaten
6 tbsp passata
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
150g fat free natural yogurt
100g grated reduced fat cheese

Bring the pasta, broccoli and cauliflower to the boil and simmer until just tender - you can do this in the same pan, if you add everything at the right time (pasta first then cauli then broccoli).

In a bowl, mix the garlic, chilli, passata, eggs, herbs and yogurt.

Place the pasta, cauli and broccoli into an ovenproof dish, pour over the tomato and yogurt mixture and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the cheese is melted.

I'm sending this to Pasta Please, hosted this month by Cate's Cates, on behalf of Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes, as the challenge this month is vegetarian pasta bakes.

I am also sending this to Let's Cook With Cheese, hosted by Simply Sensational Food, which calls for vegetarian recipes with cheese.

Finally I am sending this to the No Waste Food Challenge, hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen, on behalf of Kate from Turquoise Lemons. This recipe allowed me to use up yogurt and passata from open containers in my fridge.

Monday 26 August 2013

Meal Planning 2013 - Week 35

I put on a pound last week - the first week of living with my boyfriend! I hope this isn't a sign of things to come... it's a little hard to plan this week though as he hasn't yet decided if we are inviting his mum over or if he is going there, or what we are doing next weekend. It's so much easier when you can plan things by yourself... but I'm not complaining, I'm really happy that we are living together now :-)

Monday - bank holiday
Breakfast pancakes
Lunch  Out - Pub lunch after llama trekking (postponed from yesterday)

Breakfast yogurt
Lunch sandwich
Dinner crabcakes with sweet chilli sauce for me, (The no-waste meal planner p.34) chicken kievs for the Other Half

Breakfast cereal
Lunch leftover crabcakes
Dinner Out at Galvin restaurant

Thursday - working from home
Breakfast yogurt
Lunch sandwich
Dinner might send the OH to his mum's; salmon and veg for me. Or if she comes over here, butternut squash and feta enchiladas for me and her; (was supposed to be goat's cheese but the supermarket didn't have any!), chicken enchiladas for the OH - The Slow Cooker p.148 followed by orange curd pudding from James Martin Desserts p.60

Breakfast yogurt
Lunch out with work colleagues
Dinner Southern fried chicken from The No-waste meal planner p.36

Breakfast yogurt
Lunch Buttermilk pancakes with sausage gravy from The No-Waste Meal Planner p.38
Dinner Slow-cooked beef with shallot puree and wine sauce from Galvin Cookbook de Luxe, p.166

Breakfast yogurt
Lunch Sausage, cheese and onion loaf from Dutch Oven Baking p.94
Dinner  homemade burgers and chips

Sunday 25 August 2013

Giant Cookie - Nigella's Buttermilk Birthday Cake

This month's Random Recipes asked us "if you had ten seconds to grab one book, what would it be?". That's cookery books of course - the idea being if you were leaving your house in a hurry and could only take one recipe book with you, which would it be?

I knew right away - even though I have over 100 cookery books, one in particular stands out: Nigella's How To Be a Domestic Goddess. Not because it's my favourite or even the one that I use most, but because it was one of the first cookery books that I owned. I was given it as a birthday present by my friends, who all clubbed together (£20 was a lot of money to a student back then!) and presented it to me on what I think was my 20th birthday. It's a huge book with a lot of recipes, and I like the idea that they are all themed around being a 'domestic goddess' - so mainly cakes but with biscuits and savoury pies and the like. My favourite chapter is called 'the chocolate cake hall of fame'. I think that while I was swamped in academia I rather liked the idea of being a domestic goddess at the same time- even though my entire cooking facilities consisted of a double hot plate (provided by the university) and a mini oven (provided by my grandmother who used to have it in her camper van- so I was the only one in my building with an oven!). So I guess the other reason this cookery book would be the one I grabbed in a hurry is because of the memories that are attached to it.

So in accordance with the Random Recipes challenge, I opened the book at random and decided I would make whatever was on that page: it was the buttermilk birthday cake on page 210.

I can't find the recipe on Nigella's official website but there is a version of it - with small differences - on the Guardian website here. 

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cream the butter and the sugar together.

Mix in the eggs, then the flour, bicarb of soda and salt (the recipe I used didn't include the lemon).

Finally fold in the buttermilk and vanilla

In the book, Nigella talks about using different moulds like Barbie or a train - this is after all meant to be a children's birthday cake. I had a giant cookie mould I'd bought ages ago and never used, and thought this would be a good opportunity.

There are two silicon moulds of equal size, with a flower pattern and 'cookie' word in the middle. The moulds are very strong and robust and worked really well.

Spoon the mixture equally into the two tins and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes (the exact time will depend on the size and depth of the mould you are using).

You can see the pattern on the baked cake, though it is a little hard to read the word 'cookie'.

I mixed icing sugar with butter and some melted white chocolate to make a delicious buttercream, and used it to fill the cake.

It does look like a giant custard cream!

I'm sending this to Random Recipes, hosted by Dom at Belleau Kitchen.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Picnic ideas, tips and recipes

Who doesn't love a good picnic? There's something terribly British about taking a packed lunch and thermos to the beach or a park, and you can be as simple or posh as you like. Picnics were a staple of my childhood, often in the New Forest or Longleat; I remember the grown-ups sitting on folding chairs they had in the back of the car, while my sister and I played shuttlecocks. One particularly memorable picnic saw a New Forest pony with its head in the boot of the car, seeing what it could help itself to, and another time I recall eating sandwiches sitting inside the car on Poole Quay with torrential rain coming down outside.

In many ways, you can't go wrong when you have a picnic, as long as you have good food and your friends or family. But there are some 'dos and don'ts' I have picked up over the years, which I thought I would share with you. Read on and you will find plenty of tasty recipes and meal suggestions as well.

Tips for a great picnic
-      If possible, scope out in advance where you are going, and check if there are nearby amenities (e.g. toilets, a cafe to buy cold drinks, an ice cream van).

-      If you always eat sandwiches at work or your children take a packed lunch to school, try to think of something a bit different for your picnic. Finger food is far more fun to eat than great big sandwiches. Whether it's sausage rolls, strips of pitta bread and houmous, or snack boxes filled with salad, the possibilities are almost endless. If you do want to take sandwiches, why not try wraps, or filling chunks of crusty bread?

A pan bagnat is an interesting take on a picnic sandwich - scoop out the soft bread inside and fill with layers of different ingredients. Check out my recipe for pan bagnat here.

- Scones are filling too, and easy to make at home - check out these ham and cheese scones.

-      Avoid anything too messy or that will attract insects.

-      Traditional wicker picnic hampers are beautiful but not all that comfortable to carry especially if you have a way to walk. Try not to take too much - decide if perhaps you can buy cold drinks when you get there - and try not to overcater so you don't have to take leftover picnic food home.

-      In fact, share the load - children can carry small bags or backpacks. The Dot Com Gift Shop sent me this one to review, which costs £9.95. The design is really cute - probably better suited to a girl but it could be unisex.

 It is pale blue with woodland animal print, and as well as the main pocket has a small zip pouch on the front, and the straps are adjustable, so children could use this for school or trips as well as picnics. To give you an idea of size, the bag is about 11 inches high and 10 inches across, so should be very manageable for a child. I have a friend whose little girl would love this!

- Children could even carry their own individual portions in these fun lunch bags, which also help keep the food cool.

-      If you do want to take drinks, why not freeze small bottles of water or squash; if it's a nice day they will have melted enough by the time you get to the picnic, and you can use them to help keep other food cool.

- Adults may appreciate a thermos of tea or coffee, but don't forget you can use a thermos to keep cold drinks cool. You can also use a thermos for a gazpacho (cold soup) - there are plenty of recipes on the internet.

-      If you are meeting friends, check in advance what other people are bringing - there's no point ending up with nothing but six baguettes and half a dozen packets of sausage rolls. Having said that, these chorizo sausage rolls are really nice.

- Another idea if you like pastry is this puff pastry tart; I've topped mine with goat's cheese and butternut squash but the flavour combinations are almost endless.

-      And while most picnics are carb-heavy, don't forget the fruit and veg. Ideas include carrot and celery sticks and dip, strawberries and cream or frozen berries that you can pop straight into your mouth.

- When it comes to salad, don't just think lettuce, tomato, cucumber - how about a couscous salad using.....  pasta salad always travels well and is a good way to sneak in a few extra veggies. My personal favourite is potato salad- there are plenty of variations you could try, from a traditional mayonnaise base to a honey and mustard dressing. Here's a low fat version that I like.

-      Take something to sit on - even though it may be bulky, a blanket or mat really does add to the picnic experience. It's more comfortable, helps mark out your picnic area, and gives you something to put all the food on even if people are actually sitting on the grass around the mat.

-      If possible, cut cake, quiche or other dishes into individual portions before you go, so you don't need to take a big knife with you.

Homemade salmon and dill quiche

- The Dot Com Gift Shop also sent me these snack boxes to review - they will keep portions separate on your picnic and can be used again and again in the kitchen or lunchboxes. The fruit print and bright primary colours are fun and the four different size tubs stack inside each other for convenient storage. The largest box is just under 5 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep; the next is just over 4 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep; the third is 3.5 inches in diameter and just over 1.5 inches deep and the smallest is 3 inches in diameter and 1.5 inches deep. They retail at £6.95 for a set of four.

- Food covers are bulky to carry but if you are travelling to your picnic by car - or indeed having it in your back garden - it may be worth investing in a couple of these food covers to keep the flies away.

-      If you are out and about, bring a bag to put all your rubbish into.

- Speaking of rubbish, disposable plates and cutlery aren't great from an environmental perspective, but they do mean you have a lot less to carry on the way home. These wooden knives and forks are nicer than the cheap white plastic variety in my opinion. Alternatively this pretty vintage style is reusable but lighter than carrying around metal cutlery. Paper cups are definitely a good idea too.

-      Don't forget napkins and wet wipes for messy food, and a corkscrew or bottle opener if you're taking wine and beer.

- Most picnics wouldn't be complete without something sweet to round off the meal. Bear in mind it needs to travel well; my suggestions include this lemon curd swirl cake, nanaimo bars, toffee walnut blondies, millionaire's shortbread or double chocolate muffins.

- It's not just about the food - games are a great way to keep children occupied and what adult can resist joining in with a game of Frisbee, or flying a kite?

- If your picnic is in a park or even in the woods, you can make your own nature trail: while I hated creepy crawlies as a child (and still do). some children would love this bug watcher and binoculars.

-      Stay safe in the sun - wear a hat and take plenty of sunscreen (and use it!). Also  take a mini first aid kit including treatments for insect bites and stings.

-      Don't forget your camera!

- And hopefully you won't need one of these on your picnic - but you never know!

Disclaimer: I was sent the rucksack and food containers by the Dot Com Gift Shop to review. I wasn;'t asked to write a positive review and the other products from their website are ones that I chose to mention myself.