Category Archives: comfort

Hairy Biker’s Cauliflower Cheese

Since finding out I was pregnant, I have been eating more comfort food and food that is generally easy to prepare, as my taste buds no longer like too much spice or complicated flavourings and I have little energy to prepare anything too complicated. One of my favourite things to eat ever is cauliflower cheese. I have already blogged my recipe for it here and it is one thing I turn back to again and again in times of need.

A little while ago, the Hairy Bikers appeared on The Great British Food Revival, a BBC TV programme telling us about the glory of cauliflower and they shared a recipe for Perfect Cauliflower Cheese with Bacon and Mushrooms. I was intrigued, could my beloved cauliflower cheese be improved by the addition of bacon and mushrooms or would it be too overpowering and destroy my favourite dish? Either way, I knew I had to find out so below is my adapted version of the Hairy Biker’s cauliflower cheese with bacon and mushrooms.

Cauliflower Cheese with Bacon and Mushrooms

Ingredients (serves 1 hungry person as a main or 2 as a side dish)

  • 1 bag of prepared cauliflower and/or broccoli florets
  • 1 packet of bacon lardons/pancetta cubes  
  • 6-8 Chestnut mushrooms, peeled and finely sliced
  • 250ml full fat milk
  • 25g butter
  • 2 -3 tablespoons of plain flour
  • Big handful of cheese – I use cheddar but use any strong cheese that you like
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

  1. In a frying pan, put in the olive oil and allow to heat up. Fry the bacon lardons/pancetta cubes in the oil until brown and crispy.
  2. Remove the bacon from the pan and put on a piece of kitchen towel to drain. Fry the mushrooms until cooked through in the remaining bacon fat and olive oil. Leave to drain on kitchen towel until needed.
  3. Meanwhile, boil or steam the cauliflower/broccoli until tender. Drain and set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan, add in the butter and cook gently until melted. Add in the two tablespoons of flour and whisk until combined. Allow it to cook out for a minute to remove the raw taste from the flour. Put in the milk and whisk the sauce regularly until it is smooth and thickened. Take off the heat otherwise it will over cook.
  5. Add in salt and white pepper to taste, along with the nutmeg and mustard. Add in most of the cheese but leave some back for the topping and stir until melted. Add the cooked bacon and mushrooms into the sauce.
  6. Put the cooked cauliflower/broccoli in an oven proof dish. Pour the sauce over and then sprinkle with any remaining cheese. Put under a hot grill for a few minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Serve and enjoy.

Overall, I was very impressed with this dish. I am not sure that I would cook cauliflower cheese with the extras in all the time, but if you have guests round and want to bring it up a notch, then this certainly fits the bill. Well Dave and Simon, you have showed me a way to make cauliflower cheese even better. Thanks guys! :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)

PS: Apologies for the absent and the long gap in between posts. If you would like to know why, please see the post on Jo’s Nursery here

Appliance Review: Morphy Richards Flavour Savour Slow Cooker

Since January, I have been reviewing a Morphy Richard’s Flavour Slavour 4.5L Slow Cooker. I have been using it on a regular basis and have cooked a variety of things in it, including my chicken curry, chilli con carne and a couple of beef stews. (A recipe for one of them is below.)

Overall I have been very impressed with the Flavour Slavour. It is not like a traditional crockpot slow cooker. It is a metal pan that sits on base that works like a hot plate. You can fry meat and vegetables in it  before adding any the stock etc meaning that you do need to use another pan.  It has a fast stew function that takes 1 hour and a half or an hour and 45 minutes, perfect if you forget to turn the slow cooker on before you go to work in the morning. It has the usual slow cook functions that you can adjust the time on, 4 hours, 6 hours and 8 hours. I usually used the 6 and 8 hours functions depending on when I put the slow cooker on. One small negative with the Flavour Slavour is that stuff sticks to it very easily during the Fast Stew function unless you stir the contents regularly. It can be a bit of pain however, I found the Flavour Slavour to be very easy to clean either by hand washing or in the dishwasher.

As well as sending me the slow cooker to review, Morphy Richards set me a challenge. The challenge is the £4 Slow Cooker Challenge which is to feed a family of 4 for £4. You are allowed some free ingredients that do not come out of the £4 budget such as salt, pepper, stock and herbs however the main components of meal must not cost more than £4. To fulfil this challenge, I present to you my Braising Steak Stew.

Braising Steak Stew

(All ingredients brought from Morrisons)

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 300g Braising Steak (£1.36), chopped into chunks and large pieces of fat removed
  • 2 onions (30p), peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • 4-5 carrots (30p), peeled and chopped into 1/2 com rounds
  • 6 large potatoes, (£1.25), peeled and chopped into large pieces
  • 1 pint of beef stock*
  • 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs*
  • Salt and Pepper*
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce*
  • 1 teaspoon Soy Sauce*
  • 1 tablespoon Tomato Sauce*

* = Store cupboard ingredients

Total cost of ingredients: £3.21

Method

  1. Put the braising steak, vegetables except the potatoes, stock, dried herbs, Worcestershire sauce, Soy sauce, Tomato sauceand salt and pepper to taste into the slow cooker.
  2. Stir everything together and then set the timer for 6-8 hours cooking time, depending on how long you have.
  3. Carry on with your day….
  4. When there is 1 1/2 -2 hours left of cooking time, add in the potatoes and continue cooking until the time has elapsed.
  5. Serve in a big bowl with home-made bread and a glass of wine. Enjoy!

If you are interested in purchasing a Flavour Slavour, then you can here.

Many thanks to Chris from Morphy Richards for sending me the slow cooker to review.  It is much appreciated :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)


 

 

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! :-)

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas everyone. Sorry for the delay in between posts. Things have been a bit crazy round here with the snow, awful roads and Christmas preparation.  I am cooking Christmas dinner for six tomorrow and am off to start preparing as soon as I have written this post. For those of you who may be interested, I am cooking:

  • A Turkey from Goodman’s Farm in Worcestershire
  • Roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips
  • Steamed Brussels spouts and cabbage
  • Cauliflower Cheese
  • Yorkshire Puddings
  • Sage and onion stuffing
  • My nan is bringing sausagemeat stuffing
  • Proper giblet gravy

I know it is probably a bit late to give you a Christmas recipe now but here is my new recipe find of this Christmas: Mincemeat Flapjacks. They are really easy and quick to make and I am sure you have all the ingredients in the store cupboard.

Mincemeat ‘Christmas’ Flapjacks

(Inspired by Food Network UK and Waitrose)

Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • 1 410g jar of mincemeat or your own, if you have made some
  • 500g porridge oats
  • 200g Glacé Cherries, chopped (optional) 

Method

  1. In a saucepan, melt the butter, golden syrup and mincemeat until thick and runny.
  2. Turn off the heat, and stir in the porridge oats and coat every bit with golden syrup, butter and mincemeat mixture. Add in the glacé cherries if using and stir again.
  3. Pour the mixture into a lined big lasagne dish and cook in a 180 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. It will still be soft when you take it out of the oven.
  4. Allow to cool, cut into squares (it will be very crumbly) and serve. Enjoy!

Many thanks to Hayley at Sainsbury’s for sending me the most amazing mincemeat to make this recipe with. It is much appreciated. Happy Christmas!

Well this is it from me until after the big day tomorrow. Happy Christmas to everyone! I hope you have a fantastic day, whatever you are doing. Eat, drink and be merry!

Happy Christmas!

Lots of love

Jo :-)

Handmade Pasta Course at Loaf

Last month, I went to Loaf, based in Cotteridge, Birmingham and I learnt how to make pasta for the first time.  I have been wanting to learn how to make pasta for ages, especially since my friend Marie brought me a pasta machine for my birthday.  Loaf is a social enterprise, that promotes real food and healthy living in Birmingham through running cookery courses and a weekly bakery. Loaf is run on a day to day basis by Tom Baker (pictured above), who is my friend and fellow Midlands Food Blogger. The courses are run from Tom’s home in Cotteridge and are limited to six people.  The Handmade Pasta course teaches you how to make fresh pasta from scratch and you get to eat it at the end with a glass of wine too!

Five people and I arrived at Tom’s house on 6.30pm on a Thursday night. After a cup of coffee and a brief health and safety chat, we were paired off and got our aprons on ready to start. Pasta is simplicity itself to make. It is only Tipo ’00′ flour and eggs, mixed together to form a sticky dough and kneaded.  You leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes, while you make the sauce and then you are ready to roll!

It is best to roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is the size of an A3 sheet of paper.  You then cut it into the shapes you require. We made tagliatelle, pappardelle, mezzalune and tortellini.  Tom showed us how to make three sauces and a vegetable filling to go with our different shapes of pasta.

Mezzalune & Tortellini with Parmesan Butter Sauce

Tagliatelle with Carbonara Sauce

Pappardelle with Puttanesca Sauce

My favourite sauces were the Parmesan butter sauce and the Carbonara sauce. I did not really like the Puttanesca sauce as it contains olives and capers. My two least favourite ingredients ever. I will have a go at making these sauces and some fresh pasta in the New Year so I will give you my adapted versions of Tom’s recipes then.

Everyone on the course had a fantastic time. We all asked Tom lots of questions and by the end of the course, we quite merry after drinking some wine and having lots of good pasta.  Thanks to Tom for hosting the course and for showing me that pasta is not that hard to make. I look forward to coming on more courses at Loaf in the New Year, including Bread: Back to Basics and Butchery: Perfect Poultry.  Thanks again Tom! :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)

Review of Findus Fresher Taste

I was recently invited to attend a tasting event in London but unfortunately I could not attend. The tasting event was for a new range of Findus products called ‘Fresher Taste’. As a child, I adored Findus Crispy Pancakes, especially the minced beef and onion one. Therefore, I was quite disappointed that I could not attend. A few weeks later, a parcel popped through my door and to my surprise, it contained:

  • 4 vouchers to get free Findus Fresher Taste dishes
  • A £10 voucher for Odd Bins (I brought Three Peaks Chardonnay with it as it goes well with fish and chicken)
  • A blindfold (so that I could blind taste test the dishes- I didn’t!)
  • A memory stick with a video on about the Tasting Event (See bottom of post for video)
  • And a lovely letter saying that as I could not go to the event, that they were bringing the event to me!

The Findus Fresher Taste range is designed to give busy people frozen food that tastes as good as fresh. It has been created by the Findus head chef, Serge Nollent and uses prime cuts of fish and chicken. The see-through packaging acts like a roasting bag, retaining the natural moisture and flavours of the dish and allowing the meat or fish inside to self-baste. Each pouch is vacuum packed to help the food stay fresher. All the nutritional value is kept in and it takes less than 10 minutes to cook in a microwave.

Overall, I was very impressed with the Findus Fresher Taste range. I tried all of the dishes which are:

Roast Chicken Breast in a Sun Dried Tomato Dressing with a side of potatoes, peppers and courgettes

Wild Pacific Pink Salmon in a creamy White Wine and Asparagus Sauce with a side of Potatoes, beans, carrots and peas

Tender Chicken Breast in a Vintage Cheddar and Bacon Sauce with a side of broccoli, green beans and peas

Flaky Cod Fillet in a creamy Mornay Sauce with a side of potatoes, broccoli, carrots and parsnips

I am not a great lover of ready meals, especially the frozen ones but these were quite good. A couple of points that they could improve on, in my opinion is the size of the fish/chicken and the vegetables. The fish/chicken was lovely but needed to be a bit bigger I think. (This might just be me being greedy!) The vegetables had a lot of water in them from being frozen and this made the potatoes (that been sautéed) very soggy and lots of water went on the plate as I served the veg. It was not very attractive. The sauces that all the dishes came with were delicious. They did taste fresh and you could tell the quality of the ingredients. I can see me possibly having one occasionally when time is tight and I am hungry.

Many thanks to Molly and Caroline for sending me the surprise parcel. It was much appreciated

Happy Cooking! :-)

PS: I will be at the BBC Good Food Show Winter tomorrow and Sunday so if you see me, please say hello!

Red Risotto!

Recently, I was watching Good Food (it would be on in our house all the time, if Stuart would let me!) and I saw a Rachel Allen programme called ‘Home Cooking‘. In this programme, she made a chorizo, red wine and pea risotto. This seemed an ideal dish to me as I love red wine, chorizo and risotto and was interested to see how they would work as one dish. I used venison chorizo from Great Glen Game and it was yummy! I cannot wait to cook with it again :-)

I adapted Rachel’s recipe slightly as I can not understand why the chorizo was not cooked in the risotto from the start, therefore I added the chorizo in before the onion so that that everything could have a bit of its lovely spicy flavour. I also did not use fresh peas as they are not in season at the moment and I think they would be wasted in this dish. Frozen peas worked fine, added in near the end of cooking. Fresh peas sweet flavour would of been lost as the chorizo and the red wine overpowered it.

I absolutely loved this risotto. I prefer it to normal white wine risottos. The red wine and the chorizo gave it a real kick and the sweetness of the peas was an excellent contrast. I will definitely be making this again!

Happy Cooking! :-)

Jo’s Field Kitchen

A short time ago, I went on an archaeological dig in Shropshire for a couple of weeks. This involved 30 of us, living in a farmers field camping in tents during the hottest two weeks of the year so far. After spending all of the day digging, there were 30 very hungry people on site and Jo’s Kitchen turned into Jo’s Field Kitchen. To feed everyone, we used an ex-Army field kitchen that is normally used in war zones to feed up to a 100 soldiers at a time.

The stove did prove to be slightly temperamental as unlike army chefs who are trained how to use it, we had to work it out for ourselves. It took us a little while but we soon cracked it. The stove also came with a big metal box that you could put on top of the stove and have an oven if you wanted too. The students took it in turns to cook and I just gave advice whenever needed most of the time. In our little field kitchen, we were able to make:

  • Sausages, Mash and Beans
  • Shepherd’s Pie
  • Pasta with a very yummy tomato sauce
  • Jacket Potatoes with various fillings
  • Veggie stew
  • Chilli con Carne
  • Roast chicken drumsticks, with cous cous and salad
  • Barley Risotto
  • My very own new potato and spinach curry (chicken version recipe here)

In the end, I made so much curry and everyone loved it so much, that we had it twice in a row.  Helping me help the students to cook was another student called Beth, who was staying in a caravan on site with us. As she had a normal oven, she was able to bake us lots of cakes, flapjacks and biscuits that made everyone very happy. She also planned the menu for the dig and was always on hand to offer advice and help. Thanks for all your hard work Beth. :-)

I have recently brought The Camping Cookbook by Annie Bell which is full of lots of ideas that I intend to use the next time we go on a dig like this again or go camping with Stuart. The book also looks quite suitable for students going to university and having to cook on their own for the first time, as it full of ideas that only need a stove top to cook on. Overall, we all had a fabulous time on the dig. The archaeology, the weather, the people and the food were all fantastic!  I hope this post  has inspired people that camping cooking is not just opening a tin of beans. You can cook wonderful food- you just need to put a little thought into it.

Until next time,

Happy Cooking! :-)

PS: Don’t forget about my Masterchef Apron Competition. You have until Wednesday at 12 noon BST to enter. All details and how to enter here :-)

Childhood Favourite

When I was a child, I used to go to one of my Nan’s houses after school and they would cook me dinner before my Mom would come and pick me up on her way home from work. One of my absolute favourite things that I used to have for dinner after school was fish fingers, mashed potatoes, peas and parsley sauce. I still enjoy making this today so when I had the house to myself a while ago, I decided to cook this for my dinner and make my own fish fingers for the very first time.

Fish Fingers, Mashed Potatoes, Peas and Parsley Sauce


Ingredients

  • A fillet of fish (skinless and boneless of your choice – I used sustainably caught haddock, but you could use salmon (farmed) or any other firm white fish, cut into finger sized pieces)
  • Potatoes (peeled, chopped into chunks and bolied until cooked – I used Maris Piper)
  • Peas (tinned, frozen, fresh – whatever you like, cooked as per usual instructions)
  • Large handful of Parsley, chopped as finely as you can manage
  • Half Pint Full Fat Milk
  • 2 large knobs of butter (Hairy Bikers Style!)
  • Plain flour (enough to coat fish and a couple of tablespoons to go into sauce)
  • Sea salt and white pepper
  • 2 eggs, in a bowl and beaten lightly
  • Breadcrumbs (homemade or not – whatever you like), seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Oil for frying fish fingers

Method

  1. First make the parsley sauce. Melt one of the knobs of butter in a saucepan and then add in the two tablespoons of flour and make a thick paste. Allow it to cook out for a minute, to get rid of the raw flour taste. Pour in all of the milk and whisk without stopping until you get a thick sauce. Take off the heat and add in the parsley. Then add salt and pepper to taste and set aside until later.
  2. Dip the fish pieces into the flour, egg and then breadcrumbs and fry gently for a couple of minutes until cooked through. Turn them over halfway through cooking. Drain on kitchen towel to remove excess fat.
  3. Mash the potatoes with the other big knob of butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the fish fingers and peas. Finish with the parsley sauce. Eat and enjoy!

That’s it for today. I will be back with another post at the weekend. Until next time,

Happy Cooking! :-)

Review of Ragley and Pure UBU Ale Sausages

Last week, I was contacted by Sundeep from GoughBaileyWright asking if I would like to try some new Ragley Pork and Pure UBU Ale sausages that have just come on sale. I of course said yes as I am a great lover of sausages and always like to try something new. However, I am also very picky with sausages and had high expectations for these. I also got sent a bottle of Pure UBU Ale to try with the sausages.

Ragley Estate Meats are based in Warwickshire, quite near to where I live. They make the sausages with their own rare breed pork with caramelised onions and Pure UBU Ale which is made by the Warwickshire brewer Purity Brewing Co. Pure UBU was chosen as the key ingredient because it made with 100% English Maris Otter Malt with Challenger and Cascade Hops, making it balanced and full of flavour.

Ragley Estate Meats are also donating 10% from the sale of the sausages to Help for Heroes which raises money to support wounded servicemen and women in the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. The sausages went on sale for the first time on Saturday 24th April at the Alcester and Forest of Arden Food Festival.

To try the sausages, I decided to cook one of my favourite quick after work dinners, Sausage and Mash. I grilled the sausages and did the mash in same way I have done for my cottage pie, with a big knob of butter and lots of salt and white pepper. It was served with vegetables and good old Bisto gravy. The sausages were as promised full of flavour and you could really taste the ale. Stuart and I both really enjoyed the sausages and Stuart enjoyed drinking the Pure UBU ale as well!

Thanks to Sundeep for personally delivering the sausages and ale to my work. It was a pleasure to meet you.

Easter Cake Bake

A couple of weeks ago, I entered a cake into Julia Parson’s of A Slice of Cherry Pie blog Easter Cake Bake competition. The competition has now gone to the public vote and I need your help. Please go to the link here and vote for my cake, pictured below. The vote closes tomorrow so please be quick! Many Thanks :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)

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