Category Archives: cooking

Spooky Carrot Soup and Soup Maker Review

This post is slightly belated but this recipe will be great if you are having a bonfire night party this coming weekend or you can make it at anytime of year without the spooky bit! Pumpkins are the main source of everyone’s enthusiasm at this time of year and although they look great as lanterns, they are quite fiddly to prepare and there are only so many ’50 ways to use up leftover pumpkin’ posts that I can read.

Therefore, I would like to draw your attention to the humble carrot. In the UK, We produce 700,000 tons of carrots per year (source here) and I wonder how many of those get thrown in the bin? I used to buy a bag of carrots from the supermarket then use 3/4 out of the bag and throw the rest away. I am sure I am not the only one who has done this. Anyway, I have the solution to this problem, my simple carrot soup recipe. The recipe is below and my simple carrot soup recipe has been made even easier by being sent a VonShef Premium Digital Soup & Smoothie Maker 

VonShef Soup Maker

VonShef Soup Maker

Until I had one, I always thought that soup makers were a gadget too far. I mean how hard is it to make soup really? However, in the two weeks that I have had the soup maker, my views have been transformed. A soup maker is basically a blender that cooks. You add in all the ingredients, add the stock, turn on and 40 minutes later you have hot puréed soup ready to go. I have been using it to make soup for me to take to work and heat up in my Crockpot Food Warmer.  It is a great way of using leftover vegetables and saves money too.

The only downside I have found to soup maker is that when I fried onions and garlic in it before adding the other vegetables and stock (which it says it can do in the instructions), it fried them very fast and burnt them, leaving a nasty taste in the soup and tiny black specks in the soup. However I discovered the soup maker has enough power to cook everything, just by putting all the ingredients and the stock in and leaving it to cook. The soup maker blends as it cooks so you do not even have to touch it when it is has finished unless you want to purée it more.  The soup maker can cook eggs and rice too (although I have not tried these functions yet).

Tell me, what gadget did you think you could live without in the kitchen but then once you had it, you discovered it was the most useful appliance ever? I would love to know!

Spooky Carrot Soup

Ingredients (make 2 large or 3/4 smaller portions)

For the soup

  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 8-12 carrots (depending on size), peeled and finely chopped
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the spooky bit

  • 2 Babybel cheeses per soup bowl, packaging and red outer bit removed
  • 1 black edible ink pen

Method

  1. (In a soup maker) Add all the soup ingredients into the soup maker. Turn on to low heat mode and allow to cook for allotted time. Serve with the eyes, as described below
  2. (Without a soup maker) In 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, fry the onions and celery until softened then add carrots, vegetable stock and cook until the carrots are cooked through and soft. Season to taste then using a hand blender, blend until it reaches desired consistency.
  3. (For the spooky eyes) Draw a black eye in the middle of each Babybel cheese. The pen might stab into the cheese a bit so the do the best you can. Float cheeses on top of soup, eat and enjoy! Boo!!

Disclosure: I was sent a VonShef Premium Digital Soup & Smoothie Maker  for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review

Tasty Tuesdays

recipe-of-the-week

CookBlogShare

Simple Beef Stew for #crocktober!

Crock-Pot 4.7L Countdown Slow Cooker

Over the last few weeks I have been testing out the Crock-Pot 4.7L  Countdown Slow Cooker for the month of #Crocktober! Alongside I have also been testing out the Crock-Pot Food Warmer which is the ideal way to take your leftovers to work, especially if you do not have a microwave nearby.

I immediately impressed with the slow cooker when I set out to make my simple beef stew (recipe below) in it for the first time. Slow cookers that I have had in the past seem to ages to warm up and get going. This one was hot within 10 minutes of me turning it on. The stoneware pot is removable so you can take it to the table to serve the contents easily. The pot is very easy to clean either by hand or in dishwasher and if stuff gets stuck to the bottom, it is very easy to scrub off.  As well as making the beef stew in this slow cooker, I have cooked chilli con carne, chicken stew and slow cooked a gammon joint in it too. This coming weekend, I am planning on slow cooking a beef brisket joint in it. I can see me doing a lot more slow cooking in the future which is exactly what I need being a busy working mum of two little ones.

Crock-Pot Food Warmer
wpid-Photo-20141028211735.jpg
The Food warmer is a very handy piece of kit to take your lunch into work. All you have to do is put cold contents in at home (leftover beef stew for example!), seal it up with its plastic lid and tight fitting screw top, then take it into work and plug it in about 2-3 hours before you want to eat your lunch. The food warmer then heats your food up gently and it is ready to eat when you want it to be. Soup is quickest thing to heat up (about 2 hours) but the food warmer will heat up chills, casseroles, stews, curries – basically anything you can cook in a slow cooker! In the picture above there is home-made carrot soup in it (recipe to follow in next blog post). I think this will be very well used by me to take my lunch to work in as it saves me money (not having to go to the work canteen!) and is excellent way of ensuring that I use any leftovers up.
I know #crocktober is nearly finished so who’s up for #slowvember?
simple beef stew
Simple Beef Stew 
Ingredients (serves 4 -6)
For the stew:
  • 400g diced stewing beef
  • 2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2/3 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped into rounds
  • 500ml of beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Tomato Ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the dumplings

  • 125g plain flour
  • 60g suet
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • a splash of water to form a dough

To serve alongside the stew and dumplings

  • 6-8 large peeled and cooked potatoes, chopped into big chunks

Method

  1. Put all the stew ingredients in the slow cooker. Stir and then cook on high for 6 hours. Stir the stew every 30 minutes or so once the first two hours of cooking have finished.
  2. Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Mix the plain flour, suet, salt and pepper together and add a splash of water and until it forms a stiff dough. Roll into 8 small balls then aside.
  3. When 30 minutes of cooking time are remaining, add the dumplings into the slow cooker and replace the lid.
  4. Once the time has finished, serve the stew and dumplings alongside the potatoes. Eat and of course, enjoy! (Don’t forget to take any leftovers to work in your food warmer!!)

Disclosure: I was sent a slow cooker and a food warmer for review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review

Slow-Cooker-Sunday

Slow Cooked Challenge

Family Fever

Cooking With Your Toddler: Jam Tarts

Cooking with your toddler: Jam Tarts

This is hopefully the first of many ‘Cooking With Your Toddler’ posts that I will do on this blog. A couple of months ago, I was looking for a simple food related activity that Thomas and I could do together. I suddenly thought of jam tarts has Thomas had tried one recently and loved it.

While he was having a nap, I used a pint glass to cut out the circles of  shop brought shortcrust pastry and put them in my Yorkshire Pudding tin. I then spooned some smooth jam into one of his food bowl and gave it a good stir. I rolled out the remaining pastry and left it on the plastic sheet it came on, with my star and a flower cutter next to it. I then eagerly awaited Thomas waking up from his nap.

Once he had woken up, we got to work. I made Thomas spoon the jam into the pastry cases and I was very impressed with his handiwork. His spoon control was excellent and I was very impressed. Once I showed him what he had to do, Thomas got the hang of it very quickly. Once all the tart cases were filled, I showed Thomas how to use the flower and star cutters. He was not strong enough to press the shapes out so I helped him do that. Thomas gave it a good go though. I showed him how to get the shape out of the cutter and was very impressed when his small fingers made easy work of getting the pastry out of the cutter.

Thomas did get slightly confused when it came to putting them in oven. I think he thought you could eat them straight away. We let them cool for as long as we could then we both tried one once Thomas had his dinner. He got in more mess eating them, then did making them! He even got jam in his hair. I really enjoyed our first cooking activity together and cannot wait to do another one soon :-)

Young Birmingham Chef Reaches Final in National Culinary Competition

Print

A young Birmingham chef is gearing up to battle it out in a live Masterchef-style cook-off and is hoping to impress celebrity judges as part of a national competition.

Wing Yip’s ‘Oriental Young Chef of the Year’ competition set out to find the Midlands’ most promising young chef talent in Oriental cooking, and the oriental supermarket will be joined by celebrity TV chef Ching He Huang, Michelin-starred Birmingham chef Glynn Purnell, and President of the British Culinary Federation, Peter Griffiths, to taste the top talent’s creations and crown the winner.

Ching He Huang, Brian Yip

The competition is new for this year and offers young chefs between the ages of 18-25 who are training or working in the catering industry a chance to boost their culinary careers. The lucky winner will walk away with a once in a lifetime trip to Hong Kong, where they will gain an insight into the hospitality industry and explore the region’s cultural highlights.

Jamie Glanville

Jamie Glanville, 23, is currently working in the kitchen at The Punchbowl Gastropub, Kings Heath, and hopes to be in the running with his dishes of Spicy Confit Chicken Wings and Pan Fried Fillet of Seabass to win a once in a lifetime culinary trip to Hong Kong and of course add the coveted title to his CV.

On finding out the news, hopeful finalist Jamie said: “I can’t believe it; I’m a little bit nervous but mostly excited! To have such highly acclaimed chefs giving feedback on my work is a once in a lifetime opportunity- I can’t wait to get in the kitchen as I love creating Oriental dishes.”

Mr Wing Yip, Chairman of Wing Yip, said: “The increasing popularity of Pan Asian cuisine in the UK is extremely exciting. We launched the competition first and foremost to celebrate Oriental cookery with its delicious flavours and aromas, but also to identify the region’s most talented young chefs to encourage them to carry the tradition forward and preserve the legacy of this glorious cuisine.”

Glynn Purnell, Michelin starred chef and Young Chef judge, added: “The talent in the final line up confirms that the Midlands is a hot bed of culinary promise and, from what I have seen so far, the competition is going to be fierce! Winning the title will open many doors for the lucky champion and offers a helping hand at a stage in their career which can be tricky to navigate. I am honoured to be able to share my experience and offer advice to the region’s finest young chefs.”

The cook off will take place at University College Birmingham on the 22nd February and will see the finalists prepare two Asian- inspired dishes in under 90 minutes.

I have been lucky enough to be invited to the dinner and awards evening when they announce the winning chef. Stay tuned for more about this soon :-) 

Product Review & Giveaway: Crockpot Cook & Carry

I was recently lucky enough to be sent a CrockPot Cook & Carry to review. I was very impressed with its size. It is large enough to make dish for a family but due to its wide base, it will also cook a dish for two or three people with ease. The Cook & Carry comes with a lockable lid meaning you could cook at home for example and then take it with you when visiting people and reheat it, all in the same pot. Its comes with a handy carry case too. The pot is dishwasher safe making it very easy to clean.

Overall, I was very impressed with the CrockPot Cook & Carry and I have decided to give one away. All you need to do is follow a couple of simple steps below to enter.

1) Like Jo’s Kitchen on Facebook

2) Like CrockPot UK on Facebook

3) Leave a comment below to confirm that you have done the first two steps, leaving your Twitter username if you have one. This makes it easier to contact the winner.

Or

If you are not on Facebook, please leave a comment below telling me your favourite slow cooker recipe.

This competition has now closed. Thank you to everyone who has entered. The winner will be announced as soon as possible.

Good Luck! :-)

Terms and Conditions

  1. Only 1 entry per person
  2. The competition will close at 5pm on Friday 30th March 2012 BST
  3. The winner will be chosen by Random.org and will be contacted via email as soon as possible after the competition has closed.
  4. The competition is open to UK residents only
  5. The prize will be delivered by CrockPot UK once the winner’s contact details are confirmed.
  6. Any questions or queries, please email joskitchen@hotmail.co.uk


Product Review: Sauteuse Pan From Palmers

I was recently contacted by Palmers and asked if I would like to try out one of their products. I have been trying to find a decent sauté pan for ages, so when I saw the Stellar 7000 Sauteuse Pan on their site I jumped at the chance.

I love my cast iron casserole pot but do find that it struggles with cooking things like paella and risotto as the high sides prevent the liquid evaporating off quickly enough.  I was hoping the low sided sauté pan would stop this problem happening. The pan arrived very well packed with very clear care instructions. I took it out of the box and immediately loved the look and feel of it. It felt strong and the stainless steel looked stunning.  I immediately put it work making two of may favourite dishes; Chicken, Chorizo and Seafood Paella (recipe to appear soon) and Chorizo, Red Wine and Pea Risotto. I was impressed with the speed it heated up and how non stick it was. I have had apparent non stick pans before but this is the first one I have seen to work properly. After use, I washed it quickly and then put it in the dishwasher. It came out perfectly clean and ready for its next use. I am very impressed with the pan and am already planning what I am going to cook in it next! :-)

Many thanks to Liam for sending me the saute pan to review. It is much appreciated :-)

Tesco Real Food BBQ Challenge: The Recipe

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about the Tesco Real Food BBQ Challenge. While I was in Cornwall on holiday over Bank Holiday, I cooked a recipe using local fish and produce and have submitted into the BBQ Challenge. I decided to cook ‘Fish In A Bag!’ as you can use whatever fish/vegetables you would like, its very easy and simple and can also be cooked in the oven should the weather change and you cannot cook outside. While in Cornwall, I used Whiting that I brought from Armenack Fisheries in Falmouth but you could use any firm white fish or salmon to make this recipe.

We were camping near St Ives and while I got the dish ready to go onto the BBQ kindly supplied by Tesco, I let Stuart heat up the charcoal and get the BBQ ready to use.


Fish In A Bag!

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 2 fish fillets of your choice, boned and skinless if preferred
  • 8-10 new potatoes, cooked until tender, chopped into halves or quarters depending on size
  • Half a red onion, chopped into medium sized chunks
  • Small bunch of parsley, chopped finely
  • 50g butter
  • Large drizzle of olive oil
  • 50ml white wine
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper
  • Half a small sized lemon, juiced

Method

  1. In a roasting bag or make the bag yourself using tin foil, add in all the ingredients leaving the liquids until last. Seal the bag/tin foil.
  2. Put the bag on a preheated BBQ and leave it to cook for 10-15 minutes, depending on size of fish with the lid down. If at home and using the oven, cook at 180 degrees C for 15 minutes.
  3. Cut open the foil bag and serve with good bread, salad and large glass of white wine.

As you can see this recipe is very easy and if I can make it on a windy camp site in Cornwall, you can most certainly make it in your back garden at home.

Many thanks to Helen for inviting me to take part in this challenge :-)

Happy Cooking or BBQing! :-)

PS: A few weeks ago, I went to handmade burger Co in Birmingham to sample their food ahead of them coming to the Bullring as part of the Spiceal Street development. You can see what I thought on the Browse Bullring site here.

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

Cookbook Review: Simpsons – The Cookbook by Andreas Antona

I have wanted to visit Simpson’s Restaurant in Birmingham for a very long time and have not made it there yet. It is high up on my list of restaurants I really want to go to.  It climbed even higher on my list when I received a review copy of their second cookbook, which is to be published on 20th June 2011.

The book simply called ‘Simpsons the cookbook’ is written by Andreas Antona, chef and owner of Simpson’s with Luke Tipping and Adam Bennett, two of his sous chefs. They have chosen their favourite and most popular dishes and set them out in a simple format, aimed at amateur chefs and passionate foodies.

On first receiving the book, I was very impressed with the photography. It shows the restaurant at work and also it is one of the only cookbooks that I know of, that has a photograph of every dish in the book. You can see the time and effort that has gone into making the book on every single page.

Starters include ceps on toast with summer truffle; and risotto of goat’s cheese, piquillo pepper and rocket. Main courses are dishes from poulet Basquaise to  favourites such as cote du boeuf, Yorkshire pudding and roast new season carrots. Delicious desserts range from great retro efforts such as black forest in a glass and chocolate baked Alaska to the more simple but equally impressive white chocolate truffles with rum and vanilla; perfect as petits fours with coffee. Some of the dishes in the book seem very easy and straight forward to make (see my version of a dish below), however some of the dishes just seemed a tad too advanced for me. I love the look of the Black Forest in a Glass but it is the kind of thing that would take me (a reasonably competent cook) all day to make.

As ever, whenever I review a cookbook, I always make a dish from it. I decided to make Tagliatelle with Black Mushrooms. However, I could not find any black mushrooms in my local supermarket so I made it with Portabello mushrooms instead. The recipe also called for fresh pasta and although I can make fresh pasta (see here) I decided against it as I made it as an after work treat and with baby brain and general tiredness going on, making pasta was a step too far for me. I did use fresh free range egg Tagliatelle from the supermarket instead. I also got slightly confused between two mushroom dishes in the book. One the Ceps on Toast called for Black Summer Truffle and I thought the tagliatelle dish needed it instead so I ordered a truffle from Mister Truffle to make the dish. Therefore, my version has extra truffle on it. Here finally is my version of Andreas Antona’s classic dish.

Tagliatelle with Portabello Mushrooms and Black Summer Truffle

Ingredients

  • 100g tagilatelle per person, cooked according to the packet instructions
  • 2 shallots, peeled and chopped finely
  • 4-6 small portabello mushrooms, peeled and chopped finely
  • Small knob of butter
  • Bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • Parmesan, grated (optional)
  • Salt ad pepper, to taste
  • 5g of Black Summer Truffle, grated very finely (optional)

Method

  1. In a frying pan, add the butter and fry until melted. Add in the shallots and mushrooms and fry gently until cooked.
  2. Add in the cooked pasta and parsley. Stir gently to combine.
  3. Pour the pasta and mushrooms into a warm serving dish. Grate truffle and parmesan over the top, if using and then enjoy!

Overall, I am very impressed with the Simpson’s cookbook. It contains simple Michelin starred recipes but it also contains recipes that give you something to aim for and challenge you. It is not an everyday cookbook but it is one you want to look at everyday.

You can preorder Simpson’s The Cookbook here

WIN a LIMITED EDITION copy of the new Simpsons Restaurant Michelin Cook Book: Download some FREE Recipes to win: http://tinyurl.com/67s7qso

Many thanks to Syamala for sending me the book to review

Happy Cooking!

Prepped Cookbook Launch

A little while ago, I was lucky enough to be asked to do some recipe testing for a new cookbook that was coming out, called ‘Prepped‘. I tested the Eccles cakes recipe for Vanessa Kimbell, the author of the book.  At the end of May, ‘Prepped!: Gorgeous Food without the Slog – a Multi-tasking Masterpiece for Time-short Foodies’ was released and I went to the official launch of the book at The Black Bottom Club in Northampton last week.

Vanessa is a fellow member of the Midlands Food Bloggers and I was joined at the launch by Julia of A Wannabe Foodie, who I met just recently at the MFB Meet Up in Burton Upon Trent. We were also joined by Ruth of The Pink Whisk, Helen of Jessie’s Crazy Kitchen and Lea of Off The Eaten Track amongst many others. All of whom had tested recipes for the book. We were warmly greeted by Elderflower Fizz and Elderflower water and lots of cake made by the Preperati (recipe testers) especially for the event.

Giles of How To Books, Vanessa’s publisher then gave a speech on how Vanessa had managed to get the published with them. It was mostly to do with cakes apparently! Vanessa then gave a speech herself thanking everyone for helping with the book.

The rest of the afternoon sped by with lots of talk of cake, cooking and blogging. I had an absolute amazing time. It was great to meet Vanessa eventually after many emails and phone calls and it was lovely to meet my fellow bloggers too. I cannot wait for ‘Prepped 2′ to be launched so we can have another party! :-)

Many thanks to Amy of Lush Mummy for the fabulous black Diamond Dress that I wore to the launch. (See pictures above) It is an amazing dress and I got lots of lovely compliments about it. For the first time since finding out I was pregnant, I actually felt and looked good. It is much appreciated. Thank you :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...