Friday 31 January 2014

Restaurant Review: Chiquito's, Leicester Square

Restaurant name: Chiquito Mexican restaurant and bar
Location: Leicester Square, London
Description: Mexican restaurant chain; the Leicester Square branch is big and noisy with quite cramped tables and such low lighting I had to use the torch app on my phone to read the menu! The restaurant does breakfast and cocktails as well as lunch and dinner.
Reason for visit: We needed a quick dinner after work before seeing a show on Leicester Square; I'd never been to a Chiquito's so it seemed a good opportunity to try the chain.

I ate: We didn't order a starter but were brought a bowl of popcorn flavoured with what I think was cheese; it was unusual but really quite good. I decided for my main course to try a Chimichanga - a tortilla filled with spiced rice, (I asked for it without the Mexican beans), cheese, and shredded chicken, then the whole thing is deep fried. It was served with a generous portion of fries and three dips.
My companion ate: A burger, of course... he never orders anything else!
The food was: Really good -I wasn't expecting to like the popcorn but did, and really wasn't sure about the Chimichanga until I had my first mouthful and decided it had been the right decision.
The atmosphere/service was: The place was busy but we had good service and were able to eat and get out within an hour which we needed to do for the show.
Price range/value for money: Not that cheap - the chimichanga was £11.95 and a BBQ double cheeseburger is £14.95, so it's what I call the Leicester Square effect. Even so the portions are generous and the food very good for a chain restaurant.
Would I recommend it?Yes, aside from the restaurant itself being a bit dark and cramped, I really liked the food.

Thursday 30 January 2014

Mini Heath Bar Pies

mini Heath bar pies

 This is my take on a delicious dessert I had in America. I spent a week there for work and one of my colleagues brought this dessert into the office that his wife had made. He said it was called a Heath Bar Pie - it had a base made of chocolate brownie, topped with Cool Whip (which I think is a synthetic whipped cream) and crumbled Heath Bars on top. It was gorgeous!

 I decided to try a new recipe for the brownie base and found a recipe on Bon Appetit for fudgy yogurt brownies. I used block chocolate instead of chocolate chips.

You need:
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
100g plain chocolate
150g butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla flavouring
1 cup plain Greek style yogurt

Preheat oven to 180C. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Melt the chocolate with the butter in either a bain marie or the microwave and stir into the flour.

Mix in the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and yogurt.

I got this brownie pan for Christmas which allows you to make individual brownies. Each square is quite deep so you get a good sized brownie, and each one gets the chewy edges and softer middle, rather than when you make a batch in one pan and the edges are more cooked than the middle. So while it does obviously take up more space in the cupboard, I think it's a really good idea!

I sprayed the tray with Dr. Oetker Cake Release and put about one and a half tablespoons of the brownie mixture into each section of the tray.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

The brownies were perfectly cooked though I'm not sure how much difference the yogurt made!

I brought back three individual Heath bars from America. They are described as English toffee with a chocolate coating - my colleagues were very surprised to find we don't have them in England! To me, they tasted exactly like a Dime/ Daim bar which was not what I expected but they were certainly very good!

To make the 'pie' I whipped some double cream

And crushed a Heath bar in a small plastic bag with a rolling pin.

As the brownies came out of the brownie pan in perfect individual portions I thought this would work well as a mini pie. So I placed one brownie on a plate, added a spoonful of double cream and sprinkled the crushed Heath bar over the top. Yum!

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Slimming World Stuffed Lemony Chicken with Quark

 Chicken stuffed with cheese has always been popular in my house so I was intrigued by this low-fat version that I found in a Slimming World recipe book, Extra Easy All In One. It's not entirely a one-pot dish in the sense that I would want to cook potatoes and vegetables separately, but it is pretty easy to make. I adapted it because the recipe involved roasting sliced red and yellow pepper and mini vine tomatoes in the same pan and I didn't want to have any of those with this dish. So this is just the chicken, but it's very tasty (and you could add the peppers and tomatoes if you wanted).

To serve two, you need:
2 large chicken breasts
1 clove garlic, crushed
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp quark
1 tbsp finely chopped Peppadew Mild Peppers
1tbsp chopped fresh tarragon or 1 tsp dried tarragon 
2 rashers bacon, all visible fat removed to make this properly SW (which I didn't do)
salt, pepper
1 lemon, sliced 

Preheat oven to 180C. In a bowl mix the quark, garlic, lemon zest, peppers and tarragon. Season.

Make a slit in each chicken breast to form a pocket. Spoon the filling inside.

Wrap a piece of bacon around each chicken breast, securing with a cocktail stick if necessary. As someone has pointed out in the comments below, I didn't remove all visible fat - you need to do this if you want it to be a proper Slimming World recipe. My bad!

Place in a baking tin lined with foil and add the lemon slices, plus sliced peppers and baby tomatoes if you are using them. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes depending on the thickness of your chicken as it needs to be cooked through, of course.

 Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Creme Brulee Cheesecake

creme brulee cheesecake

 I got a cook's blowtorch for Christmas and obviously the first thing I wanted to try making with it was a creme brulee, but instead I decided to turn it into a cheesecake.

I adapted the recipe from one on an Australian website called You can make it without using a cook's blowtorch as well; it tasted delicious.

You need:

200g digestive biscuits
80g butter or marg, melted
250g soft cheese
1/4 cup caster sugar plus extra for the topping
grated rind of one orange
1/2 tsp of vanilla flavouring
2 eggs
1/2 cup condensed milk  

Reduce the biscuits to crumbs either in a plastic bag using a rolling pin or in a food processor.

Mix with the melted butter and press down into a loose-bottomed cake tin. Preheat oven to 170C and in the meantime place the biscuit base in the fridge for 20 minutes. When the oven is hot, bake the base for 10 minutes then allow to cool in the tin.

Mix the cream cheese, sugar, orange rind, vanilla and condensed milk. For convenience I decided to do this in the same food processor.

Pour over the base of your cheesecake and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then leave to cool.

 Refridgerate for 3 hours until chilled.

To finish, sprinkle sugar generously over the top of the cheesecake. If you don't have a cook's blowtorch you can place this under the grill for a couple of minutes until the sugar has caramelised.

Instead, I used my new cook's blowtorch. I was a bit nervous about using it initially but it is very simple. You need a butane cannister, which my mum had bought me along with the blowtorch, and you fill the blowtorch with the fuel which involves little more than pushing a nozzle in (holding the blowtorch upside down - if you have one, follow the manufacturer's instructions). It has a safety catch and a trigger and when used correctly, it emits a flame - not as powerful or as scary as I was expecting, but you still need to be careful! Here you can see me holding the blowtorch ready to use on top of the cheesecake.

 Hold the blowtorch fairly close to the cake and keep it on the same patch of sugar until the sugar first melts then bubbles then turns golden.

Carefully move the blowtorch around the cake until the whole of the top is caramelized.

Don't forget the top will be hot to the touch once you have finished!

The cheesecake tasted lovely and light and the caramelized topping was the perfect addition.

The theme for this month's Calendar Cakes, hosted by Rachel at Dollybakes and Laura at Laura Loves Cakes, is "if it makes you happy". Rachel says that can be interpreted in different ways including trying something new for the first time. This is the first time I've used my cook's blowtorch and the result definitely made me happy!

Monday 27 January 2014

Meal Planning 2014 - Week 5

 I've got some time off this week to use up holiday before I change jobs, so the meal plan is a bit different to usual as I will be at home to cook. Though I am already finding plenty of ways to fill my time, such as going to visit a friend and her new baby, and - terrifyingly - taking driving lessons! In fact I think I might need to factor in a stiff drink after I've had the first lesson!

Breakfast yogurt

Lunch On a whim I booked a cookery lesson at L'Atelier des Chefs near my office before I change jobs, so for lunch today I cooked and ate chicken in a tarragon sauce.
Dinner home late after gym - chicken risotto using up leftover chicken

Breakfast cereal

Lunch out - visiting a friend and her baby
Dinner Out - eating at gastropub where we are doing the pub quiz

Breakfast cereal or porridge

Lunch warm baked goat's cheese salad with honey and melba toasts from this recipe

Dinner pulled pork and potato wedges

Breakfast cereal

Lunch coronation chicken jacket potato
Dinner chicken with goats' cheese gnocchi from this recipe followed by Heath Bar Pie (that I've put on the meal plan several times and still not made!)

Breakfast cereal or porridge

Lunch English muffin pizzas

Dinner Out for a friend's birthday

Breakfast cereal

Lunch baked potato with sweet chilli prawns for me, baked beans for him

Dinner Out visiting a friend who has just moved to a new flat

Breakfast cereal
Lunch Moroccan spiced turkey kebabs from Slimming World Little Book of Lunches p.15 with pitta breads

Dinner toad in the hole

Sunday 26 January 2014

Steak and Eggs Benedict - The Breakfast Club

This month's film for the Food 'n' Flix challenge is the Breakfast Club - the 80s brat-pack classic.

I'd never actually seen the Breakfast Club before - I was six years old when the film was released (1985) and by the time I was a teenager and could probably have identified with the characters (though not the plot - I never, ever had detention!) the film seemed dated and I just never got around to seeing it. So it was nice when Debra of Eliot's Eats chose this as the movie for the month.

If you had to describe the plot of this film, it would be quite hard, as not much really happens - but in the same way it's a cult coming-of-age movie. It features a group of very different students from different cliques, whose paths would never normally cross; they all end up in Saturday detention together. They are supposed to be silent for eight hours (really?!) and write an essay about who they are. The characters are very stereotypical at the beginning - there's the rebel, the nerd, the spoiled princess etc - but they become more rounded as their flaws and anxieties are revealed and they slowly bond as a group. I enjoyed watching the film and the 80s soundtrack; I'm not sure how well it would go down with today's teenagers though, as most of the film is set inside the one room in detention and the characters are just talking - but it's very well written and deserves its reputation as a cult classic.

When it comes to Food 'n' Flix, I like to recreate a dish from the film itself if possible, but there's no food in this scene other than when the students eat their packed lunches. It's interesting that what they've brought in to eat says something about their characters. For instance Claire, the "princess" played by Molly Ringwald, has sushi - John, the "criminal" (Judd Nelson) has never seen sushi before and asks what it is in disgust (to be fair, I imagine sushi was fairly rare as a packed lunch in the 80s) and asks Claire (who despite her sophistication and appearance of being sexually experienced, has admitted she is a virgin) "you won't accept a guy's tongue in your mouth, but you will eat that?".

Ally Sheedy, who plays the "basket case" (these are labels they give themselves at the end of the film) is playing with her food, sprinkling sugar through a straw onto bread, then piling Capt'n Crunch cereal on top and crushing it down and stuffing it into her mouth. Brian, the "brain", played by Anthony Michael Hall, has a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the crusts cut off (probably by his mum), I don't remember noticing what Andy (Emilio Estevez - the athlete) is eating, but John comments that together they have a very nutritious lunch with all the major food groups represented.

I didn't fancy making a sandwich full of sugary cereal for this challenge so decided instead to think about American breakfasts. I turned to a cookery book called "Breakfast for Dinner" as I thought this was my best bet, and near the front of the book found the perfect recipe - steak and eggs benedict. I once had a proper, thick steak for breakfast when I was staying at a wonderful B&B in South Dakota; meanwhile eggs benedict is an American invention (even though it uses an English muffin). So it was a no-brainer, as the Breakfast Club would say.

The recipe I used gave instructions to make hollandaise sauce from scratch, but told me to use an English muffin. I thought I would go one better and make the muffin myself, so found a recipe on the BBC Food website. They were surprisingly easy to make, and tasted great.

To make four large or six smaller muffins, you need:
300g strong white bread flour, plus extra for flouring
7g sachet dried yeast
6g salt
15g caster sugar
15g softened butter
1 egg
170ml milk
The recipe also included semolina or polenta to sprinkle over the muffins before cooking. I didn't have any and didn't want to buy any specially for this recipe and it turned out just fine.

Weigh out the flour into a large bowl and add the yeast on one side and salt on the other. Add the sugar, butter and egg and bring the mixture together by hand (or you could use a mixer with a dough hook).

Gradually mix in the milk until you have a ball of soft dough. Knead for ten minutes on a lightly floured surface.

Lightly grease the bowl with oil (I sprayed it with Fry-Light), place the dough in the bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to prove for about an hour.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 2.5 cm thick. Cut out rounds with a cutter. I decided that my largest circular cutter was too small, and I had the idea of making heart-shaped muffins as you could make these for breakfast on Valentine's Day.

Place the muffins on a lightly oiled and lined baking sheet and leave for 30 minutes.

I assumed that these needed to be oven baked but instead you griddle them .I don't have a griddle pan so I used a heavy-based Le Creuset frying pan. Cook them on a low heat on both sides for about five minutes.

 Turn and cook on the other side. I made these the day before, as I wanted them for Sunday brunchh and knew I was going out in the morning and wouldn't have time on the day.

Now for the hollandaise sauce - recipe taken from Breakfast for Dinner by Lindsay Landis and Taylor Hackbarth. You need:
2 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of melted butter
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar - I used white wine vinegar

Place the egg yolks, 1 tsp of water and the salt in a bain marie and heat, whisking, until the eggs have thickened.

Gradually whisk in the butter and cook until thickened then add the vinegar. And that's it! It was surprisingly easy and worked perfectly - but what I would say is that you need to remove the bowl from the heat as soon as the sauce has thickened. Otherwise it starts to split, as mine did - so it was perfect and then not quite so perfect!

To serve, poach one egg per person. I have this handy microwave poacher which I think cost me about 99p several years ago - it's very useful.

Eggs benedict is usually served with ham but in the case of this recipe it said steak - which I thought would be great for the Breakfast Club challenge. So while my hollandaise was cooking, I fried some steak.

To serve, split one of the muffins - I popped both halves in the toaster to give them a little crunch. Top with the steak, then poached egg, then hollandaise sauce. You can't really tell from this picture that the muffin is heart-shaped but I think this would be a lovely breakfast to wake up to on Valentine's Day - or just on a lazy Sunday morning. I'd never made English muffins before and was a bit dubious when I realised I had to fry them rather than cook them in the oven, but they were perfect. This was a delicious breakfast/brunch and one I'd definitely have again.

I'm sending this to Debra at Eliot's Eats for the Food 'n' Flix challenge.

Saturday 25 January 2014

Yorkshire Curd Tarts


 I was flicking through a Weightwatchers recipe book called the Book of Recipes (see what they did there?) looking for some healthy meal ideas, and I came across a recipe for Yorkshire curd tarts. As the letter for Alphabakes this month is Y, and my boyfriend's mum was coming to dinner and we are both on a January diet (or semi-diet in my case!) I thought it would be a great idea to make for dessert.

It's a traditional Yorkshire dessert - a pastry tart with a filling made from butter, sugar, milk and egg and raisins or currants. As this is a Weightwatchers recipe it uses cottage cheese - but don't be put off!

To make a dozen small tarts, you need:
125g shortcrust pastry (I used Jus-Rol)
125g cottage cheese
finely grated zest of 1 lemon, or a dash of lemon juice
25g sultanas
25g soft brown sugar
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 egg

Preheat oven to 180C. Roll out the pastry and cut out circles and place in a tin. I used a whoopie pie tin but you can use a mini tart tin or a shallow cupcake tin. I sprayed the tin with Dr. Oetker Cake Release first.

Push the cottage cheese through a sieve into a bowl and beat in with the lemon, sultanas, sugar and egg.

Divide the filling between the pastry cases and bake for 20 minutes.

They've risen and gone golden brown on top.

 They were very easy to remove from the tray thanks to the Cake Release. These are bite-sized and if you are following Weightwatchers, the entire recipe has 31 ProPoints so it depends if you get more tarts out of your mixture and how many you want to eat!

I'm sending this to Alphabakes, the challenge I co host with Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker, as the letter she has chosen this month is Y.

I'm also sending this to the One Ingredient Challenge, hosted by Nazima at Franglais Kitchen, and Laura at How To Cook Good Food, as they are looking for healthy recipes this month. This is a Weightwatchers recipe that uses cottage cheese to make it lower in fat, which is definitely healthier than a lot of desserts!

I'm entering Maison Cupcake's Dead Easy Desserts challenge for the first time, which is for any dessert that takes less than 30 minutes to make.

January's Four Seasons Food, hosted by Louisa at Eat Your Veg and Anneli at Delicieux, has 'virtuous' as its theme this month. I always feel virtuous when I cook a Weightwatchers recipe!