Posts Tagged 'Recipe'

A RECIPE: Fruity farro salad with lemon chicken

Fruity farro salad with chicken

I am about to head off to the Hamptons for a month! I’m thinking long white sandy beaches, warm sea water, sunshine and one of those coconut drinks I sipped in the Dominican last month. And somewhere in between the lounging and galavanting, I’ll fit in the work that is the reason why I’m going and realise that it’s still only April and yesterdays rise in temperature was only a teaser. April showers are not over yet. So there may not be any swimming but I will be near the beach, albeit a cold one- and that has me thinking of eating summer foods. The kind you eat on your back deck, looking out over the ocean as the sun goes down sipping on a glass of pinot grigio….and there I go again- must have been yesterdays injection of vitamin D that has me dreaming. Amazing what a little sun can do for one’s mood.

This is my kind of salad- a bit of protein, some crunch vegetables, some fruit and a few grains for fiber to keep you going until tea time.  Farro is a wonderfully wholesome, nutty grain that makes Don raise an eyebrow and ask if I’m feeding him squirrel food again. You can swap it for absolutely any grain but I think something with a bit of texture is nice- Israeli couscous would be great. All in all it’s just begging to be packed up with a bottle of bubbly in a cooler bag and taken to a picnic. Now if only the sun would come back again….

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A RECIPE: Tabboulish chopped salad

tabboulish salad

I’ve just returned from a week in the Dominican Republic- poor me, I know.  If it’s any consolation I did manage to come home with a sun burnt scalp, which resulted in the embarrassment of dandruff-esque peeling but as with most trips I take I came back desperate for vegetables, and lots of them! Gluttony seems to take its toll on my system and a detox is always in the cards for the week following.  With a feeling of spring in the air in NYC I decided to stray from my typical cooked salads for this time of year and go out on a limb. Okay, so I skipped Spring and headed straight for summer with this salad based on tabbouleh. One can only dream, right?

Tabbouleh, because I love it and tabboulish because I didn’t have any bulghur wheat- plus I took some creative liscence. To stop it from becoming just a mouthful of herbs I added spinach into the mix, along with orange segments and pinenuts. Oh, okay so I got a bit carried away and tossed in some pancetta and celery too. It’s great on it’s own or with a grilled chicken breast but my favourite was stuffing it into a whole wheat pita with hummus. The orange segments and mint keep it tasting fresh, the pinenuts and feta add a creamy element whilst the onion and lemon keeps your mouth on high alert; preventing you from day dreaming off to warmer days. It’s a win win combination.

Enjoy.

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A RECIPE: Mum’s flapjacks

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flapjack3

My greatest pleasure when I receive compliments for my work in the kitchen is when people say that it’s better than their mothers. Usually said compliment is followed by a lengthy description about the effort and time that their mother had put into making the dish, the time of year it was made and a laborious list of ingredients that went into it. When somebody tells me that it’s not as good as their mothers, I have to be honest I find it difficult to look them in the eye, let alone listen to their tedious story about why their mothers rendition was so much better than mine even though it used boxed cake mix and margarine.

I find myself praising my mothers cooking little and often. Little because I (and I say this with the up most respect, mum) only remembe a handful of truly wonderful things and often because I speak of this handful of glorious dishes like a child mourning the loss of a pet guinea pig.  This goes to be said for most things I eat- if it’s fabulous I bank eternally in my taste memory. If it’s average I’ll forget it and if it’s poor it will on occasion come to haunt my dreams or worse yet a reminder will appear in the form of a bitter taste in my mouth.

Eternally banked in my good memory are the taste of my mothers flapjacks. I expect you want to know why these flapjacks are better than yours, your mothers and Nigellas? So, here comes my lengthy rant: My mum makes the best bloody flapjacks around- and those fortunate enough to try them fresh out of the over are forced into submission. I have school friends who still rave about ‘those squidgy oat things your mum made’. They are the only thing that I can consistently rely on seeing in my mothers depressingly sparse pantry. A reminder that there are no longer three hungry children in the house and yet the flapjacks live on.

What makes mum’s flapjacks so wonderfully special to me is they break all the rules. Firstly, most flapjacks set up hard but mum throws in an extra glug of golden syrup and spoonful of flour which leaves them crunchy on the edges, chewy in the middle and with a delicious sticky bottom. These are not tooth breakers but merely tooth rotters. Secondly, (and I’m sure you can imagine my shock and horror when I discovered this myself) mum uses margarine instead of butter. Yup, marg- that stuff we avoid like processed cheese for all its bad fats and oils. This is the second time in the past month that I’ve been confronted rather hostily by a recipe containing margarine, which I’ve been forced to admit tastes nicer than my own butter counterpart. But why, I hear you ask? In the flapjacks case, my mum just shrugged her shoulders, you can use butter if you like, she said but it makes them too rich. and my mum always used margarine because it’s cheaper. In these economic times who can complain about that? Of course, feel free to use butter- I won’t judge, not now that I have seen the virtues of margarine, but like I said they won’t be my mum’s amazing flapjacks made with butter. And if you’re still fretting about the bad fats popping out to haunt you just remind yourself that you’re much better off making something from scratch with margarine than buying something processed. I’m just saying.

I have pestered my mum for the recipe ever since I started this blog but being something that my mother could competently bake blindfolded it was difficult to get proper answers from her. A recipe that’s stored in somebody’s head is the hardest to get right. How much flour? Oh, one of my dessert spoonfuls, slightly mounded. How much golden syrup? Oh, about a third of the jar. This was no weigh your ingredients to match your eggs weight Victoria sponge. Last weekend, however, I made a trip home, and in a break from the never ending wedding planning to-do list I made it a priority for us to fit in a flapjack lesson- one on one; with a set of scales.

You can thank me later. In the meantime I suggest you buy yourself some margarine- it could be the best decision you’ve made all year.

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A RECIPE: Roasted carrot salad with lemon truffle dressing

roasted carrot salad with lemon truffle dressing

The weather is playing tricks in New York. One day it’s minus zero and I’m going to bed snuggling my hot water bottle and the next day I’m on my way to work peeling off the hat, scarf and Eskimo coat. It’s very confusing for my wardrobe and even more so for my stomach. Planning for meals is already complicated enough with my twelve hour work days. Don doesn’t seem to mind if he’s eating beef stew and mashed potatoes in the middle of summer- but I find the weather really wreaks havoc on my cravings. I’ll aimlessly open cupboards, the fridge and freezer trying to decide what it is I want to eat.  Primarily in the winter, I lean towards hot things- which means roasting vegetables, or steaming them rather than a salad. But on these crazy weather days when you find yourself pottering around the apartment without the need for the sheep-skin lined slippers, I’m a fan of the roasted vegetable salad. Roast up any veggies with some interesting spices and toss with raw arugula or mixed greens. Well, if sweet and sour makes sense when you order Chinese, then why shouldn’t hot and cold when you put together a salad? It’s a whole lot easier than making soup and if you’re really lazy then you can do what I do and roast off a pile of veggies at the beginning of the week and then just reheat as the week goes on.  They make great afternoon snacks, too.

My favourites? Roasted carrots, butternut squash, broccoli, brussels sprouts, green beans, tomatoes, asparagus, fennel, red onions- really, anything goes when it comes to roasting. Toss it with your greens then add a cheese and the toasted nut or crunchy addition of your choice and you have a meal rather than a side salad. My recipe today is for roasted carrots, but you could easily swap out the carrots with another favourite- this is merely happily digested suggestion. And it’s for one, because eating alone (as I so often do- sigh.) does not have to mean scrambled eggs on toast every night (though this is a favourite stand-by).  If only everything in life could be so simple.

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A RECIPE: Malted oat shortbread

malted oat shortbread

I’m not a demanding girl. Really, I’m not. I have simple tastes and I don’t require fancy clothes or jewels or wine. I’m not a bride-zilla and I’m not a nagging girlfriend- I simply tell Don to do something rather than ask. All I ever want is a decent cup of tea and in the afternoon an equally complimentary biscuit. Is that really too much to ask? I think not.

And yet, five weekends out of ten I find myself in a less than satisfactory tea situation delivered by my very own nearest and dearest. My father has made my mother tea, in bed, every morning of their marriage and yet here I am about to embark on holy matrimony and I cannot rely on an acceptable cup of tea. He insists on making it- and I try my best to encourage and compliment if and when it arrives in a drinkable state, but honestly most of the time it isn’t worth the cost of the imported tea bag.

Don does not drink tea. Seriously. Sometimes I question how English he actually is- a Brit that doesn’t drink tea? Sounds suspicious to me. And whilst I regret that we cannot read the papers or eat breakfast pouring each other tea from the pot, I regret even more that Don fails appreciate the finer points in tea making. This isn’t about how long you steep the tea bag for or whether or not the milk was put in before the tea was poured or after- this is about appreciating a quality cup of tea. Quality being key word. Don cannot see the difference between serving a cup of tea that resembles dirty dishwasher or one that it is rich in golden colour. This is a problem.

I can live with the dried up contact lenses that he flicks onto the floor rather than into the rubbish bin. I can handle the large shoes, which I trip over in the morning or the fact that he snores, can’t clean the dishes properly and always throws his dirty clothes over my neatly laid out clean ones. But, this tea situation is honestly quite dire.

My only consolation is that at least I can rely on myself for a decent biscuit (and tea, of course). Something buttery and rich, not too sweet, not too crumbly and one that will dunk without leaving too much biscuity residue in the bottom of my cup. This malted oat shortbread was inspired by a need for something wholesome- malt powder, whole wheat pastry flour and oats. The malted flavour is mild but it really adds depth so I highly recommend using it if you have some lying around. One things for sure, as healthy as these look they won’t be lying around for long- Don ate ten in a row after I scolded him for the abysmal tea he served me. Demanding? I think not.

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Quick Fix: Brie & prosciutto grilled cheese

briochebrie&proscuittosandwich

I have a new toy which has made me just a little bit overexcited. Actually I have two new toys and the best part about my toys is that you are going to benefit from them. Those are the only gifts I really like after all- the one where giver and receiver equally benefit from said gift. It brings a whole new level of joy to the actual giving of the gift- like giving yourself a present every time you give someone else a present. It’s a policy I firmly stand by and it works in several ways. I give Don a shirt because I want to see him wear something other than a polo with his school logo on it. I give my sister a weekend in New York because it’s really like giving myself a fun weekend in New York. If I go to a dinner and I’m asked to bring along something- I bring something that I know I want to eat. I give my doorman cookies because I want him to hold my keys when I go running. Some may call this bribing, I prefer to call it gifts with benefits.

My little gifts with benefits are a new camera- the Canon Rebel EOS and a photo studio light so I can snap away at all times of the day. Gone are the days where I have to worry about the lights or the sun and Don will be given a deserved rest from sun blocking duty. And for you, my dearest readers- it means a new series called quick fixes. It’s what I’m cooking on the weeknights, which means it’s quick and easy because like most people I can’t face much time in the kitchen after work. Most of the recipes will keep the ingredients flexible and I’ll keep the recipe format simple. This week it’s a brioche grilled brie and prosciutto sandwich- something that I made in ten minutes for Don when he thought he was dying of the flu (it was actually just a minor cold but he’s a sensitive soul, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt).  This is trashy gourmet at it’s finest.

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A RECIPE: Chocolate orange christmas fruit cake

Chocolate orange christmas fruit cake

I’ve always been put off making fruit cakes for Christmas. For one thing, you have to be organised enough to think about making one weeks before Christmas, then you have to think about soaking your fruit in booze the night before you make the cake, then you have to double line a cake tin really well so that the cake doesn’t burn during its 3-4 hour stint in the oven. Then, after staying up late into the evening waiting for your cake to finish baking you have to wait a few weeks to eat it- feeding it weekly with precious booze that you spent a fortune on and would rather be having in a cocktail with this minute rather than giving it to a cake you still have to wait weeks to eat. And then you result in a heavy fruit booze-laced cake, which needs to be decorated with marzipan (yuck) and some sort of royal or fondant icing. This has never appealed to my lack of patience nor to my lack of ability to pre-think let alone pre-plan.

I’m hosting Christmas this year for my family- I say my family but really there will only be four out of seven of us. My sister bailed for a better offer traveling across Asian countries of questionable safety in a Land Rover and my brother decided to head to Nashville to celebrate with his girlfriend’s family. That leaves me with Don, my mum and my dad- all of whom like fruit cake. Which left me thinking that 1/ I  really ought to make a Christmas cake this year 2/ I should buy two bottles of Grand Marnier (or beverage of choice)- one for the cake and one for the patient baker. Note to self: fill ice cube trays in the freezer.

I decided on three recipes Not that I was going to make three cakes only I liked elements from each of them- this was going to be a mix-and-match cake, who knew what would result of it. I was living life on the edge, people.  One of the recipes had been given to me by an old colleague who had developed it for a magazine- I still have it hand written on a scrap of notepaper from three years ago when I had first thought I ought to make a Christmas cake.  The other two came from Nigella- one because it  had the word chocolate in the title and one because it used marmalade and that paired with chocolate seemed like a winning combination to me. I decided on the Grand Marnier for my fruit soaker of choice and replaced the glacé cherries with dried apricots and orange zest because it all cried: Terry’s chocolate orange to me- and frankly that appealed more that fruit cake.

Three weeks a lot of patience and a few measures of Grand Marnier later and it was finally time to decorate the bloody thing. This made me quite grumpy. Usually I love to decorate cakes but I did not want to fanny around with marzipan, which I don’t even like and then wait another two days for it to dry- patience out the window, this was time I did not have. I also did not have any icing sugar and if it wasn’t actually 50 degrees below outside, then it certainly felt like it and I was not in the mood to walk the two freezing blocks to the supermarket. I took the leftover nuts and fruit from making the cake, melted the leftover marmalade in a pan with some honey and the last remaining drops of Grand Marnier and used this sticky glaze to bind the fruits and nuts on the cake. I tied a ribbon around the top for all of five minutes- long enough to take a photograph and then finally was able to sample the dried fruit of my laborious labour. It tasted like fruit cake. Only, it was actually quite tasty. It wasn’t dry- amazingly it wasn’t too boozy and there was a definite undertone of chocolate and orange. Just in time for Christmas. I might even think about making it again next year.

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