Category Archives: cooking

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

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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! :-)

Jo Cooks: Sainsbury’s Feed a Family of Four for £50

I was recently contacted by Damola from Sainsbury’s asking if I would like to take part in their Feed a Family of Four for £50 campaign. This campaign is to encourage people to plan their meals and do their food shopping at a reasonable cost. I do not normally plan my meals but with a baby on the way and the extra costs that it brings, I thought I should give it a go.

In addition to sending me a week’s worth of shopping to do this week’s meal plan, they also sent me a Sony Bloggie HD Camera to record myself cooking one of the dish’s from the plan. The results of which are above and have been submitted to Sainsbury’s to possibly appear on their website or on one of their TV adverts shown during Britain’s Got Talent this week.

I decided to cook Sausage, Tomato & Cannellini Pot with mash for the video. I served it with a few extra vegetables and made it for my Mom Elaine, my Stepdad Bernie and Stuart. All of them are featured in the video above.

Overall, I was quite impressed with Sainsbury’s home delivery and the quality of their produce. The vegetables (those that were not frozen) were excellent quality and very fresh. The sausages used to make the dish were frozen and did not have much flavour too them, but they were perfectly usable. Most of the products used were from their basics range but they seemed quite good quality. The meat looked good too. I am not entirely sure if I had just served the dish above with mash above that it would be enough for four people. I think a bit of extra vegetables makes it go a bit further and I would hate to think of anyone not having enough food to eat in my house. One complain though is that they sent me 3 loaves of wholemeal meal, all with a use by date of 31st May. My shopping was delivered on Saturday. Unless the bread was frozen, it would never last a family of four for seven days.

I think I would quite happily use Sainsbury’s home delivery again and although I do like the principles of their meal plan, I am not sure if as a foodie it gives enough choice for me. I know I am very lucky not to have such a tight budget for food but if I did, I think the Sainsbury’s meal plan with a few minor adjustments would work for me :-)

Many thanks to Damola and Hayley from Sainsbury’s for sending me the shopping and the camera for free. It is much appreciated :-)

Thanks to my Mom, Stepdad and Stuart for being featured in the video and additional thanks to Stuart for filming it. :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)

Fresh From The Oven: Favourite Savoury Bread

Hip Hip Hooray! I have finally taken part in a Fresh From The Oven Challenge. My first since the end of March. Sorry for my tardiness of late but I have had so much going on, I keep on forgetting to take part. This  month’s challenge is hosted by Michelle of Utterly Scrummy Food for Families and she asked us to share our favourite savoury bread recipes. For me, this was easy. It is the Garlic and Rosemary Foccacia from the River Cottage Bread Handbook Number 3 by Daniel Stevens. My family love it. Whenever there is a special occasion, they ask for me to make it. I made the one above for my Sister’s 18th Birthday earlier this month. It went down a treat! The recipe for the Foccacia is here but I do highly recommend that you buy the bread book as it is really useful and has lots of interesting recipes in it.

Many thanks to Michelle for hosting this months challenge. :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)

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