Tuesday, 25 January 2011

diy sushi.

shopping list
sheets of nori (toasted seaweed)
salmon fillet, cooked
one avocado
sushi rice, seasoned with a tsp of rice wine vinegar
mayonnaise

these handrolls, also known as temaki, are great as a snack, as a starter, shared with friends, or as part of other japanese treats.

for mine i used grilled salmon, with a slice of avocado and a little mayonnaise. i used cooked salmon with just light use of olive oil as i did not want to risk use of fresh sushi-grade salmon on my first attempt and knew regular supermarket salmon could be dangerous raw. i bought the nori from a local chinese supermarket though i am sure there is such thing as a fish based japanese mayonnaise or added sesame seeds for that extra something.

sushi rice can be as simple or as complicated as you want to describe it. to put it into better words, follow this recipe.

handrolls include fillings such as crab sticks, soft shell crab or veggie options.

we also tried making a crispy salmon skin roll, for which we asked for the offcuts at a local fish counter, fried them up in a pan and served in a temaki.

i used a diy video to help me prepare the roll like so.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

beef welly.


shopping list.
one piece of beef fillet or rib eye

♥ 200g of your favourite mushroom or chicken pate
♥ 200g button mushrooms, sliced
♥ one small egg, beaten
♥ a knob of unsalted butter
♥ salt and pepper
♥ a block of puff pastry





impress your friends, lovers, pets and even your nan with this sunday classic.
firstly, preheat the oven to gas mark 8, or a whopping 240 degrees.

next you will need a pan with a little melted butter to sear the beef. get some tongs and gently manoeuvre the steak until all the pink sides have browned. season as you like, as you go. once browned, let the meat settle for a few minutes on the side as the heat may have made it contract and could make the meat tough.

whilst it is settling, roll out the puff pastry in the same way you might deliberate how big a sheet of wrapping paper may need to be for a beef fillet sized present.

the next part is, in my opinion, the most fun. paste a layer of the pate over the beef, and, when covered, stick the mushrooms on all sides but the ends.

then place the mushroom decorated beef onto the pastry and pull the sides upwards. pinch the seam at the top, and cover the ends, as in the picture. if there are any leftover strips, use these to let your artistic pastry-related flair flow. glaze with the beaten egg once done.

place it in the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190C, Gas 5 and continue to cook for another 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden. remove from the oven to a carving board and allow to rest for 5 minutes before carving into thick slices

apologies for the awful phone quality picture, by the way.

but i suppose it proves i really made it that easily, eh?

parma ham and mozzarella risotto.

shopping list.
♥ 80g of arborio risotto rice per person
♥ a ball of mozzarella
♥ a few slices of parma ham per person
♥ a jug of vegetable stock at the ready
♥ a knob of butter
♥ a couple of cloves of garlic
♥ a red onion
♥ a bag of spinach
♥ a cheeky dash of white wine
♥ as much parmigiana reggiano cheese as you fancy


this is probably one of my favourite meals so far. i came across it in a restaurant in prague last easter and instantly wanted, no
needed, to recreate it.



the key to a good risotto is preparation. you need to have all your ingredients chopped, boiled, grated and on stand by to avoid any disastrous consequences. rice stuck to the bottom of a pan is just never good in the washing up pile. and it doesn't taste half as good either.


so for this recipe, begin by putting the kettle on to make the stock. there are no rules on how much to make, but as i said you don't want any unexpected rice-sticking situations so go for one cube and the biggest jug you can.


next chop up your onion and garlic.
you also need about two handfuls per person of roughly chopped spinach, but keep some if you want to decorate with afterwards. plus the spinach leaves taste AMAZING with the parma ham parcels.

you also need to chop the mozzarella into slices. i'd say you get about six to eight per ball. wrap the parma ham around the slices and arrange on a tray to grill later. this is something i sometimes leave to do whilst the rice is absorbing the stock, just so i don't get too impatient. though this is with experience. well, i say
experience, more just overdosing on risotto.

you will also need to grate some parm reg. this may seem like a lot of prep, but think how excited you'll be will all the little bowls of ingredients around you. it'll feel like masterchef. maybe even invite a bald cockney and a dr fox lookalike round to taste and judge your masterpiece.

okay so now you can start. begin by throwing the knob of butter into a pan (literally if you like, everyone loves an ainsley harriott) followed by the onions. keep it on a low heat as you only want to soften them. if it starts looking like the onion grill/pit at a fast food van, stop and begin again. the better you do the onions, the nicer the risotto will be. if they are burnt then you will really taste it later.

next add the chopped garlic. again make sure they do not go much more than a golden brown as if they do your risotto will have a bitter taste.

drum roll please. you are now ready to add the risotto rice. add the rice to just the onions and garlic at first to lightly toast and infuse the rice. then after no more than a minute, add a dash of the stock.

then next part is a waiting game. keep adding the water bit by bit over about half an hour and stirring to keep the rice moist. nurture it as it were your child. no walking off to check your facebook feed or re-organise your blackberry contacts, oh no. you may also add a little wine or black pepper to taste.


about five minutes before you think the risotto is ready, put the parma ham parcels under the grill on a medium heat. at about the same time, stir in the chopped spinach to the mixture. and lastly, stir in some grated parm reg to taste. the more you put in the creamier your risotto will be. i would say less is more, as you could add more cheese on top later.
these last few steps should mean that your risotto and parcels are ready at the same time. the risotto will be ready when the rice has softened and there is no watery stock left in the pan. the parcels will be ready when they look crispy and the cheese is melted, as in my picture.

serve and arrange with the parcels and a few spinach leaves on top. perhaps a crunchy twist of black pepper and a sprinkle of parm reg to finish. and then, enjoy!

oh, and if you need any more convincing of how amazingly tasty this dish is. i actually spent an extra ten days in prague due to the icelandic volcano flight cancellations. and this, my friends, is what got me through.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

light trout and rocket salad.

shopping list.
♥ one or two fillets of trout per person
♥ mixed herbs
♥ a bag of rocket, perhaps mixed with watercress or spinach
♥ a squeeze of lemon
♥ honey and mustard dressing


this is a lovely little meal for those watching their weight but looking for variety and indulgence.

i think people are put off trout. just the name of it makes you picture your old geography teacher in wrinkly tights with a face like she's just eaten a whole lemon. well, if it didn't, it does now.

well, think afresh, for trout is the new salmon.

it has a much lighter delicate flavour which only need be slightly seasoned. what's more, it's about half the price.

a dash of olive oil, perhaps a sprinkle of your favourite mixed herbs, wrapped in foil and grilled on a medium heat for ten minutes is all it needs.

serve with rocket salad, or other peppery leaves such as watercress and spinach. squeeze a little lemon and drizzle with honey and mustard dressing. yum.

say cheese.


shopping list.
♥ a miniature camembert
♥ a few sprigs of rosemary
♥ a little chopped garlic
♥ your favourite bread


dipping and dunking soldiers into gooey egg yolk, liquorice into sherbert, nachos into salsa and biscuits into the perfect cup of tea. bliss.

crusty bread and baked boxed camembert is just another of these combinations of guilty pleasures.

and don't forget a dash of olive oil, fresh rosemary, chopped garlic and salt and black pepper before you put it in the oven.

in the picture above i had mine with roasted tomato and olive mediterranean bread.

bake at a low temperature, 180 degrees, gas mark 4ish, for around 15 minutes. or just when it looks too gooey and delicious to leave in any longer. beautiful.

simple chocolate truffles.


shopping list.
♥ two 284ml pots of double cream,
♥ two 280g 70% dark chocolate bars (or perhaps a bit more if like me you eat chunks when you think noone is looking) 

♥ a pinch of salt
♥ a drop of vanilla extract
♥ nuts, chocolate, coconut, alcohol etc to decorate and flavour.

although not the ideal recipe for those new year's resolutions, these tasty treats make a thoughtful gift, an after dinner delight or even a fun idea for a date.

i came across the inspiration to make these for christmas presents, looked through various online recipes and sort of jigsawed them together. there was an online video i found which was rather helpful in showing me the consistency of the mixture, though unfortunately it casually forgot to inform me of the ingredients, let alone their measurements. my personal fave ended up being good old jamie oliver's, which i sort of doubled/swapped around.

i used flaked almonds, desiccated coconut, white chocolate and cocoa powder. use whatever you like. if it's cheaper, go for it, you can always crush/melt/play around with them to get the desired effect. i probably spent no more than a fiver on the whole lot.

note: many recipes suggest using unsalted butter. in my experience, this wasn't needed.

yes, i did forget to buy it and then spent about half an hour googling "can i use i can't believe it's not butter to make truffles?" after forgetting to buy it in the supermarket.

no, it didn't make them any less yummy.

so, to make the ganache, break up the dark chocolate and put it in a bowl, sat over a saucepan of boiling water, until melted. i found a pinch of salt took the edge off the bitterness and read that it brings out the chocolately, um, ness of the chocolate. this is also the part where you add vanilla extract or essence and if wanted you could add a drop of your favourite liqueur.

when melted, allow to coo
l to room temperature. leave the double cream out of the fridge for a bit too, the more the two reach the same temperature, the better.

next, slowly pour the cream into the melted chocolate bit by bit, at times using a hand blender. or if you've been eating your spinach, just stir it in yourself. just as long as you're quick so that the mixture get lots of air in them to make them as light as possible. don't worry we aren't talking aero quality.

the mixture should start to look a little like nutella, and probably not taste much different either. but, resist! put the mixture in the fridge for a few hours, i put mine in whilst at work but most recipes suggest four.

now the fun part. the ganache mixture may be a little hard. (unless, of course, you've been si
tting by the fridge waiting for it to look even slightly ready). do not panic, the mixture can be left out again until it gets a little softer.

get your nuts, cocoa powder etc all set up and ready to roll. literally.



i then got a teaspoon and scooped out little balls of the ganache. it 
doesn't have to be a perfect circle, it may even come out in chocolate flakes. once it is in your hand just roll it into a ball and the heat of your palms will make them into perfect spherical bites.

in between making the balls, it's a good idea to wash your hands with cold water as this prevents the ganache from sticking to your fingers.

for the toppings, i crushed some flaked almonds in a sandwich bag, which then gave a sort of ferraro rocher effect to my truffles. the coconut ones looked a little like snowballs and the cocoa powder ones looked the most classic.
yet they were rather bitter and i would consider using drinking chocolate powder in future.
if you're feeling brave, a white chocolate coating is a must. for these, i melted a small white chocolate bar in the same way i had for the dark chocolate in the ganache. i then let this cool. THIS IS IMPORTANT. if you get over excited and roll the chocolate balls in the warm white chocolate, the whole thing will melt.

this, however, can be used as a great tactic for eating the mixture early because you "ruined one."

at first i put the uncoated chocolate truffle on a fork and dipped it in the white chocolate in an attempt to be less messy. this soon become irrelevant and i came to the conclusion that my chocolates would be rustic, as can be seen in the pictures. these set really quickly aswell and give quite a pretty marble effect. i'm sure these could again then be rolled into/dipped in/throw at something. but i'll leave that to you.



and so i made probably about sixty chocolates in all from this mixture as i wanted them for family occasions over christmas and boxing day. again, i did tweak and double other recipes and
so likewise this could be halved if you didn't want to much. be warned, your hands/patience does start to ache after a while.

i can see why this would make a great date/dinner party activity as you get to pick you
r own flavour as you go along, rather than delving in a box of roses and crying when you find there are simply no green triangles left.

in all, the diy chocolate boxes went down really well, luckily i'd had my fair share whilst testing all the possible combinations in the making of.

well, it had to be done.