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swanky spag bol.

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♥ your favourite cut of steak - i use either rump or sirloin
 ♥ around 75g of fresh tagliatelle or linguine pasta per person 
♥ half a dozen cherry tomatoes per person 
♥ 400g chopped tomatoes 
one red onion, chopped
♥ two cloves of crushed garlic
♥ a twist of black pepper
♥ a knob of butter

forget measly minced beef, 7p tins of pasta sauce and trying to pass off stale spaghetti as "al dente." some of us student types like to live in style. so here i present to you a posh(ish) alternative to good old spag bol with nice chunky cuts of steak, fresh pasta and homemade sauce.

begin by turning the hob to a medium heat and throwing half the knob of butter into a frying or grill pan. when the pan is nice and hot, place in the steak and grind a little pepper on top. try to only turn the steak once; around three minutes each side for rare, five minutes each side for medium and seven minutes each side for well done. when you are happy with your steak lay it to one side on a clean, flat surface to rest. (probably not a student worktop then).

next is to make the pasta sauce and cook the pasta. boil a kettle and leave the pasta to cook on a back hob whilst you have the pasta sauce on the go.

for the pasta sauce, use the remaining butter in a saucepan to soften the crushed garlic and chopping onions on a medium heat for a around five minutes. next tip in the chopped tomatoes and whole cherry tomatoes and leave to simmer for a further five minutes.

now that you have all the components ready for this culinary creation, slice up the steak into lovely chunks, discarding the fattier edges if you wish. it should be lovely and pink inside. unless you foolishly opted for 'well done', ahem.

next throw in the steak to the sauce and keep on a low-ish heat as to make sure it is all hot and cooked through but try not to cook the steak any further. drain the pasta ready to serve. if you like, add torn basil leaves, grated Parmesan or black pepper to taste.

and abracadabra, your new favourite italian dish.

oh and if you aren't already convinced, click on the picture of the finished result, where that particular time i used a mix of egg and spinach fresh pasta and rump steak. i feel like the thumbnail doesn't do it justice.

thanks for stopping by my blog :)

diy nando's.

Homemade DIY Nandos

This is a great feast for any party and can be adapted for any number of people or tastes. just like, well Nando's.

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chicken of your choice - here i used wings and two breasts
two large potatoes per person
block of haloumi cheese
pitta bread
nando's seasoning
plenty of olive oil

preheat the oven to 220 degrees and begin by cutting the potatoes into "chip size" pieces, as in the picture. leave the skins on for a crispy rustic taste. season with salt, pepper or any herbs you fancy, drizzle with olive oil and shake the tray until covered. these take around 45 minutes so put these in the oven first.

Homemade Chips

next, the infamous chicken. arrange your desired chicken pieces on a tray and use a dash of olive oil to get the seasoning rub to stick. i used official nando's lemon and herb on some and a schwartz "perfect shake" grinder on the others.

i believe you can also get nando's wild herb and garlic rub, bbq peri-peri rub, hot peri-peri
rub and, not for the faint hearted, xxhot rub. i bought mine in a tesco but you can also get it at the official nando's online shop.

Homemade Nandos Chicken

also you'll be surprised how cheap chicken pieces are in the supermarkets these days and yet how actually easy they are to cook. i got a tray of around 10 wings for just under £2.

the chicken takes around 25 minutes, so by now you should be on time for the chicken and chips to be ready together. turn your oven down slightly to around 200 degrees if you feel the heat is going to burn the chicken.

now, i'm not going to pretend i made the sides. i bought them. but if you're feeling keen, here are some coleslaw and houmous recipes. another side idea would be sweet potato mash. the houmous in the picture is actually an italian one with basil, pinenuts and garlic. it was, the industry would say, yum.

whilst you wait for the chicken and chips to cook, move onto the last minute preparations such as slicing up the haloumi and toasting the pittas. as the haloumi requires a grill and you will currently have your oven set to "oven" mode, the next bit can be quite tricky. unless you're lucky enough to have an aga.
you can either, take out the chicken and chips and serve whilst the haloumi is grilling (it only takes a matter of minutes). you could change the oven to grill mode, have the haloumi on the highest shelf and keep the other food in the bottom keeping warm. or, you could always just buy a new oven. it's a pretty good investment afterall.

serve and enjoy my peri-peri loving friends!

the sweet taste of success: my trip to a leicestershire dessert factory.

You might have enjoyed a Torta Della Nonna at an Italian restaurant – that may have been one of Vittles’.

You might have nibbled on a Banana and Honeycomb cupcake in a cafe – that could have been one of Vittles’.

And you might have indulged in a slice of Chocolate Junkyard from your local supermarket – that very possibly was one of Vittles’

Leicester-based family business Vittles are the undercover stars of the baking world. You’ve loved the products, but you’ve probably never heard the name. That’s because they modestly make their cakes for other people, and stay out of the limelight themselves.

And who would’ve thought that this booming business of delectable desserts had it’s humble beginnings 24 years ago in a two bedroom terraced house on Fairfield Street, South Wigston?

“Back then in our tiny terrace, we had to dismantle the oven and rebuild it inside as we struggled to even fit it through our front door”, said Julie Zalesny, founder and Managing Director of the business.
“We were making desserts for corner shops, pubs, coffee shops and delicatessens.

“Sixth months later we opened our first 1000sq ft factory and have since purpose built this 18,000 sq ft production line to create our desserts on an industrial scale.”

Now, as a crumbly cheesecake base is carefully measured into baking tins, next door endless rows of tangy lemon tarts are being iced, sliced and carefully placed in boxes ready for distribution to restaurants, hoteliers and food wholesalers all over Britain.

The Humberstone Lane business has recently signed a contract with a worldwide famous brand that will almost certainly double their turnover.
(No, they can’t say who it is.)

“Today we’re making around 350 to 400 cheesecakes, which is an average day for us. It ta
kes about a quarter of a ton of mix”, said Liam Skinner, Bakery Production Supervisor, as he proudly inspected the finished layer. This sweet smelling bakery section is responsible for the beginnings of cakes, sponges and biscuit bases.

Leading the overall team is Operations Director Peter Simpson, who has worked under the Roux brothers in London. “We probably make between around 1,000 to 2,000 cakes a day, not to mention all our other products. Though our Tarte au Citron is by far the favourite dessert that we do”, he said.

This lemon luxury is handmade using Spanish lemon fresh cream made from real fruit and dusted with fine sugar. It scooped a gold star at the 2010 Great Taste Awards along with their traditional Swiss recipe country carrot cake.

It isn’t just the lemon tart that is so lovingly prepared with such fine ingredients. From mousses to "mulsters", the array of afters are made from fresh British cream, cream cheese and dairy produce. It’s all British – apart from the organic Fairtrade chocolate, which is from Belgium.

The spotless British Retail Consortium BRC Grade A accredited factory employs around 40 staff, some of whom have been there since the very beginning. Hayley Giles, has worked there for 14 years dusting, sprinkling, delicately decorating and painstakingly trimming the finished products. Now I watch as she places mouthwatering mandarin segments on an Orange and Whiskey roulade.

With their “traditionally influenced innovations”, Vittles make lip-smacking sweets from Blueberry Crème Brûlée to Bread and Butter Tart and Chocolate Eclair Cake to Chocolate Trifle Mousse. Not to mention their appetising Asian inspired Matcha Tea Pudding, made with fresh cream and infused with a fragrant green tea.

What’s more, Vittles’ are seeing in the Spring with their new addition to the foodie family, Flowerpot Muffins. These dainty delights are a garden of gourmet cupcakes, which come in blueberry, chocolate chip or muesli.

So next time you’re digging into that double chocolate muffin, chomping on that cherry cheesecake or munching on some Millionaire’s shortbread, think of Vittles. It could be your exotic dessert is actually a little taste of Leicester.

Served with cream, of course.

Written by me for Leicestershire Life magazine's new food supplement, which makes it's debut this June.

Photo credit to Leicester Mercury Media Group.

haddock korma with jasmine rice.

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two skinless haddock fillets
two heaped tablespoons korma paste
half a tin of 400ml tin low fat coconut milk
a handful of chopped spring onions
a few sprigs of fresh coriander, chopped stalks and all
♥ black peppercorns
one small fresh red chilli, finely sliced
one lemon cut into wedges
♥ basmati rice

white fish is a great, versatile base for any meal. but why just have it in batter? adding it to a curry or dishes with strong flavours is a tasty way to get your healthy omega oils, even for those who don't have a passion for poisson. this is also a yummy south east asian inspired dish that doesn't require having too much of an extensive spice collection.

start by rubbing half the korma paste and some black peppercorns into the fish fillets. leave this to really soak in for a couple of minutes whilst you follow the rice instructions and turn up the heat to get the pan nice and hot. then turn it down to a medium heat ready to go.

next add a dash of olive oil to the pan and place in the haddock steaks. the temperature should make the outer skin sizzle and lock in the korma paste coating. add the rest of the korma paste to spread on parts of the fillet where you see more of the white of the fish. after around 5 minutes, turn the fish and cook for a further 5.

turn the heat back up and throw in the sliced spring onions, chilli and coriander, followed by stirring in the coconut milk and a squeeze of lemon.

keep some of the chillis or herbs back if you wish to sprinkle these on afterwards. note, if you do this, the uncooked fresh chillis will be hot hot hot.

the rice should be done by now so give it a good stir and skim a fork round the sides of the pan whilst fluffing it up.

to best serve the fish, i laid the fillets on a plate with a portion of rice before pouring over the sauce as required. then making it look pretty.

this can be made similarly with cod, coley, pollack or monkfish. oh any another thing, with white fish you chose, be sure to look out for the sustainable labelling on any you buy.

for dessert, why not try making ras malai, a traditional indian dessert. :)