Monthly Archives: January 2011

Forman and Field’s Valentine’s Cook Off

Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us and with love in the air, it’s time to start thinking what you will cook for your loved one this year. I had to think about a bit earlier this time, as last week on Twitter, I saw that Forman and Field (@FormanandField) were after bloggers to take part in a Valentine’s Cook Off (#Formanslovecookoff) using a mystery box of food items that they would provide. This sounded like my kind of challenge so I signed up, along with Dan, The Grubworm, Carla, Meemalee, Food Urchin and Pavel.

The mystery box soon arrived and it contained:

A bit of a strange mix, I am sure you will agree. It took a few days of thinking but I managed to come up with a Valentine’s menu that I thought was simple to do and showed the amazing produce off at its best. To be completely and utterly truthful, I dislike anchovies with a passion, however I was determined to use everything that came in the box, so I thought that as the anchovies had garlic in them, I would make a foccacia as it is easy and a bit more upmarket then a pizza, where you usually find anchovies.  For my main, I simply griddled the salmon as it was too good to do anything else with, and served it with dauphinoise potatoes, with a generous grating of Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese on top and green beans, with both the tarragon jelly and horseradish on the side. For pudding, I made a chocolate pot with brandied cherries and honey biscuits. The pictures of my dishes and full recipes are below.

Stuart and I really enjoyed the meal. The Royal Fillet was the best salmon I have ever tasted and the honey was delicious. I am now addicted to brandied cherries as well. My big jar will not last very long! One minor downside is that the foccacia did not really work. It was simply too fishy and overpowering. I have included the recipe here so that someone who likes anchovies can have a go and see if they can make it better than I did.

Competition Time!

To be in a a chance of receiving a box of goodies from Forman and Field (worth £60)  like I did, all you need to do is a leave a comment on this post, with your ideal Valentine’s recipe or menu and a box could be on its way to you and your loved one, in time for the big day itself. Please leave an email or twitter name so that you can be contacted if you win. The winner will be chosen using and you have until the 10th February to enter.  My recipes are below. Please check out my competitors and see what they did with the mystery ingredients and check back soon to see if I won the Cook Off. Don’t forget, all the other competitors also have a hamper to give-away so why don’t you leave a comment on their blogs too! :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)

All Serves Two

Anchovy and Garlic Foccacia


  • 200g strong white bread flour, and more for dusting
  • 1 packet of dried yeast
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 125ml warmish water
  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped up into small bits and some oil out the container they were in


  1. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the olive oil and water and mix with your hand until its forms a sticky ball of dough.
  2. Put some flour on your work surface, and knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and springy. Put in a oiled bowl, covered with a tea towel, cling film or even in a bin bag and leave in a warm place for an hour.
  3. After an hour has passed, knock back the dough and place in an oiled tin or tray and spread the dough out until it covers the bottom. leave it covered for another half an hour in a warm place.
  4. After half an hour, uncover it and spread out the chopped up anchovies and oil all over the top of the foccacia. Put in a preheated oven (180 degrees C) and let it cook for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and enjoy.

Griddled Salmon with Dauphinoise Potatoes and Green Beans


  • 1 Royal Fillet, chopped up into two portions
  • 3 large or 6 small Maris Piper Potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
  • 100ml double cream
  • 300ml whole milk
  • 1/2 onion, peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Generous handful of Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese, grated
  • 1 packet of green beans, cooked according to the packet instructions
  • Horseradish sauce and tarragon jelly, to serve


  1. In a saucepan, put the potatoes, cream, milk, 1/2 an onion, salt and pepper and allow simmer gently until the potatoes are nearly cooked through.
  2. Remove the onion from the potatoes and place everything else in a lasagne type dish and put the grated cheese on top. Put in an preheated oven (180 degrees C) and allow to cook until slightly golden and bubbling.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat up a griddle pan and cook the salmon on both sides, until slightly charred and warmed through.
  4. Serve the salmon with the Dauphinoise Potatoes and green beans, with a spoonful each of horseradish and tarragon jelly on the side. Enjoy

Chocolate Pots with Honey Biscuits and Brandied Cherries

Ingredients for Chocolate Pots

  • 100g 70% dark chocolate, chopped up
  • 140ml double cream
  • 35g caster sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 6 pitted brandied cherries and 4 whole, for the top

Ingredients for Honey Biscuits (Makes 12-14)

  • 2 heaped table spoons Regents Park Honey
  • 2 table spoons whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 175g plain flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter


  1. (For the Chocolate Pots) Gently warm the cream and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar the melted.
  2. In a bowl, put the chocolate, 1 egg yolk and vanilla extract. Pour over the cream and sugar mixture and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Pop 3 pitted cherries into the bottom of each ramekin and pour the chocolate mixture on top. Allow to set in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  4. (For the Honey Biscuits) Put the honey and milk in a saucepan and allow to warm through. Add in the Bicarbonate of Soda and stir until frothy. Set aside and allow to cool.
  5. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add in the flour and frothy mixture and mix until combined.
  6. Roll and shape a knob of the biscuit mixture and flatten onto a baking tray lined with parchment. Do not make them too big as they will spread during cooking.
  7. Bake in a preheated 2o0 degrees C oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving with the chocolate pots and brandied cherries.

Fresh From The Oven: Khrushchev Dough

This is the first Fresh From The Oven Challenge that I have done in a while and it was hosted by Silvia and Ivan from mushitza. For the challenge, they wanted us to make Khrushchev Dough, named after former Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev as this was favourite dough and he liked fried as pirozhki.

Overall, I think it went quite well. The dough did not look like normal dough when I put in the fridge and I was not convinced it was going to work myself. However, after the stated time I got it out of the fridge and set to work. The dough was very hard to work with and I struggled to roll it out and to shape it into any kind of loaf/finger roll shape at all. I decided to fill mine with raspberry jam and in the end they looked, in my opinion, like sweet sausage rolls.  I took them into work and my colleagues loved them, saying they tasted like bagels, croissants and Yum Yum’s.  I would consider this to be a success, however I don’t think I will make them very often as the dough is very hard to work with.

Many thanks to Silvia and Ivan for hosting this month’s challenge :-)

Khrushchev Dough

This is the strangest and irrational dough recipe but it always works.

There are two key factors about achieving a good dough that do NOT apply here:

1. Never mix yeast directly with the salt. Exactly the opposite is what you have to do here. Since the salt kills the yeast when in direct contact we are using double amount of the yeast than we would usually use for this amount of flour.

2. Leave the dough to temper for an hour or two after taking out of the fridge. Not here. Work with the dough directly when out of the fridge. It’s essential for the dough to be cold, otherwise the butter will start to melt and absorb more flour which isn’t desired.

We must specify that this isn’t the original recipe, it’s our version of the recipe. The original recipe uses margarine and the fat is in bigger amounts, but we don’t use margarine and have always made it according to this version.

Notes: For mixing and kneading the dough, normally, we are using electric mixer equipped with the dough hooks. But it could either be used a wooden spoon. If needed at the end we are turning it a couple of times by hand, but to be honest I prefer not to touch it in order not to soften the butter too much with the warmth of my hands.

It have happened to me to decide to make the dough impromptu with butter directly out of the fridge. In this case it was enough just to cut the butter into small cubes (1 cm). Do not melt the butter.

Khrushchev Dough Recipe:

  • 40 gr fresh yeast (or 10 gr powdered dry yeast + 30 gr water);
  • 10 gr salt;
  • 250 ml cold milk(directly from the fridge);
  • 150 gr unsalted butter, cut in small cubes, room temperature(NOT melted);
  • 1 Tbsp sugar;
  • 500 gr all purpose flour + additional for the counter;

If using fresh yeast: Using an ordinary tablespoon rub the salt through the yeast block till it becomes liquid. If using dry yeast: Mix salt and dry yeast, then add the water.

  1. Add in the milk, butter, sugar and sift the flour on top. Mix with an electric mixer equipped with the dough hooks till all the ingredients are combined and soft dough forms. A wooden spoon could either be used. Cover the bowl with an airtight lid or plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
  2. The dough becomes firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly. Although the original recipe says it doesn’t, we are making it every quite often for more than five years, and it always rises, not as much as the other doughs but it rises nicely.
  3. The next morning, dust the counter with flour, place the dough on top, roll it out and shape it as you like. Work the dough as soon as you take it out of the fridge. If needed divide it in two or three parts and place one part in the fridge while you are forming the other.
  4. We’ve never freezed the dough but according to the Russian forums there’s no problem of doing so after the overnight proofing in the fridge. When you want to use it, leave it overnight in the fridge to defreeze.

What to do with the dough?

  1. Usually we a making small cheese rolls out of it.  For making them:
  2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  3. Take the dough out of the fridge, divide it in two and return one of the parts in the fridge.
  4. Dust the counter with flour and roll the dough out to 3 mm thick rectangle. Cut it lengthwise and widthwise to smaller or bigger rectangles. Place some grated feta, cheddar or whatever cheese you have in the fridge and roll the rectangles up to tight rolls. All kind of jams, preserves, nutella… could be used. Arrange them in a baking pan living some space between them since they rise in the oven. Brush the rolls with a mixture of egg yolk, a few drops of water and a few drops of vegetable oil.
  5. Bake for around 15 minutes or until golden brown.

(Method and Recipe words by Silvia and Ivan)

Recipe Testing for Prepped: Eccles Cakes

Image from Prepped. Used with permission by the author

Last week,  a plea came out on Twitter from Vanessa Kimbell (@VanessaKimbell) who is currently in the process of writing her first cookery book called ‘Prepped‘. She is in the final stages of preparing the book for publication (due out in May 2010) and was looking for bloggers to test her recipes. I jumped at the chance as I love using recipes that actually work and being given the opportunity to test one before publication does not come along very often. I decided to test the Eccles Cakes as it is something I have never made before.

Prepped is a linked cookbook designed with a busy cook in mind.  Once you make one thing, you can make another. Vanessa’s recipe was designed to use up leftover Brandy Butter, however as I do not have any brandy butter leftover from Christmas, the recipe (see below) was adapted with Vanessa’s advice.  The picture above is from the cookbook and mine are below.

I thought the recipe was really simple and easy to follow. I doubled the recipe and used a smaller pastry cutter so I ended up making 30 + Eccles Cakes. My colleagues at work did not mind though. They enjoyed them so much, they fought over them! These are something I will make again and again. I cannot wait to see what it in the rest of the book. If everything is this good, it will be amazing.  :-)

Many Thanks to Vanessa for letting me test the recipe and allowing me to share the recipe with you all. It is much appreciated :-)

You can pre-order ‘Prepped: Gorgeous Food without the Slog – a Multi-tasking Masterpiece for Time-short Foodies’ by Vanessa Kimbell in my new Amazon UK Store here.

Eccles Cakes

Makes 9

Prep time 20

Cooking time 20 minutes

Suitable for freezing? Yes


  • 1 x 375g pack sweet shortcrust pastry (or Sweet Pastry)
  • 75g Brandy Butter, softened (or 55g softened unsalted butter and 20g Caster Sugar)
  • 200g currants
  • 1 beaten egg, to glaze
  • 3 tbsp Orange & Clove Sugar (or Caster Sugar), for sprinkling


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/gas mark 4.
  2. Roll out the shortcrust pastry to about 6-7 mm thick. Using a 10cm pastry cutter, cut 9 circles (cut the first 7, then bring the pastry together again and re-roll to achieve 9). Use plenty of flour to dust with underneath and don’t over-handle the pastry: this makes it tough
  3. Mix the butter and currants well together in a bowl.
  4. Put a pastry circle in your left hand (I’m assuming you’re right-handed here!) and put a large tablespoon  approximately 30g  of the butter-currant filling into the centre. Bring your fingers together gently around the circle together, and as the pastry edges touch, simply pinch them together, using your right hand to seal the parcel.Place pinched-side down a very lightly greased baking sheet. Gently squash it down using the palm of your hand to make it into a patty shape.
  5. Once all the cakes are made, brush them all over with the egg for a glaze and dust liberally with the sugar. Cut 3 small slits on the top and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Place on a wire rack and allow to cool before transferring to an airtight container.

Jo Cooks: Chorizo, Red Wine and Pea Risotto

This is first of hopefully many posts where I will be filmed actually cooking in my kitchen. Today I am making Chorizo, Red Wine and Pea Risotto. This was originally a Rachel Allen dish, however I made an adapted version of it a while ago here and loved it and have made it many times since.  The chorizo in this recipe comes from The Bath Pig who I met at the BBC Winter Good Food Show. It was yummy!  I hope you enjoy my little video. I was very nervous making it. All constructive feedback is welcome.  Many thanks to Marie for doing the camera work. It is much appreciated. :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)

Forever Nigella: Seasonal Sensations

As I am sure most of you know, I am a massive fan of Nigella Lawson. I love her food, style and general enthusiasm for life as a whole. I have often said to friends and family that I would like to live in between Nigella and Nigel Slater.  Just think of the dinner parties, you could be invited to….

Anyway enough dreaming! I was very pleased when Sarah at Maison Cupcake launched a new monthly blogging challenge dedicated to Nigella. It is called Forever Nigella and each month, it will have a theme chosen by a host and you must use Nigella’s recipes as inspiration and cook a dish according to it. This month’s theme is Seasonal Sensations and could include anything from winter warming dishes to Christmas party food. There is still a week left to take part, so if you would like to, read the rules here and submit by next Sunday 16th January.

For my seasonal sensation, I submit a Nigella inspired hybrid recipe. It is a hybrid recipe as it is actually inspired by two of her recipes, not just one which are Rocky Road bars from Nigella Express and Crunch Nut bars from Nigella Kitchen. I made the bars in exactly the same way I make my Rocky Road normally, as shown here but replaced the peanuts with rice krispies as I dislike peanuts. I have called them, in what I hope is a Nigella-esq title ‘Indulgent Krispie Crunch Bars’.

Indulgent Krispie Crunch Bars


  • 200g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 5 tablespoons Golden Syrup
  • 400g milk chocolate, broken up into bits
  • 4 crunchie bars or homemade honeycomb, broken up into bits (I used a freezer bag and pestle (from pestle and mortar) to break up mine
  • couple of handfuls of rice krispies
  • Icing sugar, for dusting


  1. In a large saucepan, melt together the butter, golden syrup and chocolate. Melt it slowly otherwise you can burn the chocolate.
  2. Once melted, take off the heat and add in the bits of crunchie or honeycomb, along with the rice krispies. Stir everything thoroughly and make sure everything is coated with chocolate.
  3. Pour into a foil tray (like Nigella!) or pour into tray lined with baking parchment (like Jo!) and flatten mix down with wooden spoon or spatula.
  4. Put in fridge and allow to set for 6 hours or overnight. Dust with icing sugar and cut into squares. Enjoy!

I made this for a couple of family Christmas parties and everyone really loved it. I think it was my seasonal sensation! I hope you make it and love it too!

Happy Cooking! :-)


New Year Resolutions 2011

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a good time whatever you were doing. About this time last year, I spoke to you about my foodie New Year’s Resolutions for 2010. Well, I thought I would do the same again this year but before we look ahead to 2011’s New Year resolutions, I thought we could back at last years and see whether or not, I achieved them.

Last years New Year’s Resolutions were:

  1. Try and post on the blog more often (at least once a week) > This was generally achieved most of the time but not all. Will be worked on again in 2011
  2. To get more people doing guest posts and guest post on other people’s blogs > I got lots of people doing guest posts on my blog, including Linda, Charlene, Louise, Helen, Gary and Nora but I only did one guest post myself on Nora’s blog. Will be worked on again in 2011
  3. To be more adventurous in my baking and make more bread > I joined the Fresh From The Oven challenge and was quite active for a few months in 2010, so this was partly achieved. However, I think I can do better and will work on it in 2011
  4. To arrange meeting(s) with Midlands Food bloggers on UKFBA. < There were two meetings of the Midlands Food Bloggers in 2010 and I am hoping in 2011, there will be more, especially if I get help from fellow bloggers to organise them
  5. Meet other foodie bloggers from the UK and hopefully, beyond < I met many UK food bloggers in 2010 including Kavey, MeemaleeBron, Pippa, Helen and Edd. I hope in 2011 to meet more especially some from outside of the UK
  6. Go to my first Michelin starred restaurant < I achieved this when I went to Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor
  7. Make cupcakes < I achieved this by going to two cupcake making/decorating classes at Kiss Me Cupcakes and Cirencester Cupcakes. I now make cupcakes on a regular basis
  8. Make more use of the lots of cookbooks that I already own < I did not really achieve this. I brought even more cookbooks! I must stop buying and start using the ones I have already got
  9. Expand my cooking repertoire < I achieved this objective as I made paella for the first time and a variety of breads including Kringel and Croissants
  10. Get better at food photography < This was not achieved and will be worked on in 2011

Overall, I did fairly well on my 2010 resaolutions but think I could do better on some of them. So here are my New Year’s resolutions for this year:

  1. Post on my blog at least once a week
  2. Get fellow bloggers to get post on my blog and do some guest posts for people in return
  3. To create a regular series of events for the Midlands Food Bloggers (with help of fellow Midlands based bloggers)
  4. To set up a blog for the Midlands Food Bloggers with a list of members, people/companies who support us and get people to regularly contribute
  5. Make more use of the lots of cookbooks that I already own
  6. Expand my cooking repertoire – I now know how to make pasta so want to start making it regularly and cook more seafood dishes
  7. Get better at food photography – my Dad is making me a food stage with a white background so that I have something to put my dishes on to take a photo of them. Stuart and I have just purchased a second-hand Canon EOS 400D Digital SLR Camera, so with practice I am hoping that the images on the blog will improve.
  8. Meet Sarah and her goats at Brockhall Farm
  9. Go to The Wild Garlic Restaurant in Dorset
  10. Take part in more blogging challenges especially Fresh From The Oven and Forever Nigella

These are my foodie New Year’s Resolutions for 2011, what are yours? Can you help me with any of mine?

Happy Cooking! :-)

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