Tag 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

Jo Cooks: Go Green Week Cookery Demonstration

This is the second in my occasional series of video posts of me cooking in my kitchen. However, this time I am not in my kitchen. I am cooking in the food technology room at the University of Worcester. This was a special event for Go Green Week, a student action week to raise awareness of climate change. I told you about my then impending cookery demonstration here.  I made:

  • Local Vegetable Curry and Naan Bread
  • Roman style Vegetable Pizzas
  • Caramel Apple Meringues

The vegetables were kindly donated by Paul from Worcester Produce. The demonstration was filmed and edited by the wonderful Martin Duke. Thanks  to both of you for your help. It is much apperciated :-) You can download a PDF with my recipes on here: Cookery Demo Recipes Please note, you will need Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat to read and download the file.  I really enjoyed doing the demonstration and I hope the people who attended enjoyed it too. I hope you enjoy watching the video. Please let me know what you think. Below is a small selection of photos from the event.

Photo by Martin Duke

Happy Cooking! :-)

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 :-)

Cheese Please!

As I am sure I have already told you before, I love cheese in whatever shape and form it comes. Therefore, I was really happy when Lizzie from Kerry Low Low Cheese sent me a Le Creuset baking dish and money off a purchase of Kerry Low Low Cheese to try it out. This was absolutely ages ago and I must apologise to Lizzie for taking ages to get this post up. It took me a while to find the cheese in the supermarket to try it out, as it seems to be very popular in my area and was always sold out.

Kerry Low Low is a low fat cheese made with semi –skimmed milk. I am always sceptical about anything that says ‘low fat’ or ‘reduced’ whatever on it, as I am concerned that they will not have the same amount of flavour that the full fat normal versions do. However, I need not have worried; Kerry Low Low is rich, creamy and full of flavour. I decided the ultimate test for it would be to go into my absolute favourite dish for cheese: Cauliflower Cheese. I have loved cauliflower cheese since I was a child and I can eat it by the bucket load. One of my Nan’s still makes it for me on a regular basis. A few weeks ago, I was home alone one evening as Stuart was working and I decided to make it myself with the Kerry Low Low cheese. I added broccoli to it to give the dish a bit of colour but it’s entirely up to you, if you add it all not. My recipe is below and it worked really well. I really enjoyed it and after a busy day at work, it was the best and simplest comfort food ever!

Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese

(Serves 1 hungry person on their own or 2 as part of a main meal)

Ingredients

  • 1 small head of cauliflower, broken up into florets
  • 1 small head of broccoli, broken up into florets
  • 160g cheese, grated and extra cheese for sprinkling on top (optional)
  • ¼ pint of whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 50g butter
  • Sea salt and white pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of mustard powder

Method

  1. Boil the cauliflower and broccoli until tender in water with some salt added. Drain and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan, add the flour and whisk together. Let the flour and butter cook out together for 30 seconds before adding all the milk in.
  3. Keep whisking the milk to prevent lump forming and let the sauce thicken up. When thickened up, take off the heat and the cheese. Stir until cheese melts into the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Add the mustard powder and the nutmeg and stir again.
  4. Put the cauliflower and broccoli into serving bowl or oven proof dish (if you want to sprinkle extra cheese over the top and grill it to melt it) and pour the sauce over it and eat and enjoy! If you want melted cheese on top, sprinkle extra on and then put it under a grill until the cheese is melted and golden. Serve and enjoy!

That’s it for today. Hope you have a lovely weekend

Happy Cooking! :-)

Easy Comfort Food

Good afternoon everyone. Sorry for the delay in between posts, I was away with work last week in Edinburgh and was away again this weekend in Chester with Stuart. Posts about both will follow shortly. Today, I would like to discuss a couple of my favourite comfort food dishes with you. The first is my version of Cottage Pie and the second is the Hairy Biker’s Mince Beef Stew and Dumplings.

Cottage Pie


Cottage Pie should traditionally be made with leftovers, the same as Shepherd’s Pie, however, I think it is a simple easy to make Sunday lunch dish when you have time to spend in the kitchen but do not want anything to complicated to make.

Ingredients

  • 1 large or 2 medium white onions, chopped finely
  • 500g lean steak mince
  • 3-4 carrots, depending on size, chopped smallish
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 8 average sized potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 250 ml beef stock
  • Few drops of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Tomato Purée
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Big knob of butter
  • Salt and pepper (white pepper is best for the mash)
  • Olive Oil

Method

  1. Put carrots into a saucepan with some water and salt and boil until tender. Drain and set aside.
  2. Put olive oil in a saucepan with the onions and some salt and allow them to soften. Once softened, add the steak mince and brown all the meat.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, stock, Worcestershire sauce, tomato purée and sugar. Season with salt and pepper, stir and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes until it has thickened. Pour into an oven proof dish (a nice as you will be serving it in it) and leave in the fridge for an hour or to set slightly.
  4. Go and get a glass of wine!
  5. Put the potatoes with some water and salt in a saucepan and boil until cooked through. Drain and put back in saucepan, put back on stove for 20 seconds to get rid of any excess water from the potatoes.
  6. Put lots of butter into the potatoes, with salt and pepper and mash until smooth. Put mashed potato on top of the mince mixture in an even layer (a palette knife seems to be the best), decorate with a pattern if you like and put into the oven at 180° for 40 minutes to one hour until golden and bubbling. Take to the table, serve and enjoy!

Hairy Biker’s Mince Beef Stew and Dumplings


I have recently brought a copy of the Hairy Biker’s new book called ‘Mums Know Best’ which accompanies their current BBC TV series. I was very eager to try one of their recipes straight away and this one jumped out at me, as another easy comfort food Sunday lunch dish.

The mince beef stew part of the dish is very similar to my cottage pie mince recipe above, except their recipe has the addition of a bay leaf in it. The dumplings are simplicity in themselves too. Its only half suet to flour with some water added. Parsley is an optional extra too. I recommend that you buy their new book as it is full of traditional simple and easy to make recipes and no, I am not being paid to say that! Let me know what you think of the book if you have brought it, I would like to hear your opinions.

Rediscovering Food & Flavours – Kidney Care Cookbook


I have been asked by Jacqueline from Mccann who is working with Shire to tell you about a new cookbook that had been produced by Lawrence Keogh (from BBC One’s Saturday Kitchen and head chef at Roast restaurant in London’s Borough Market) for sufferer’s of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). CKD sufferers have strongly regulated diets as they are restricted by the amount of salt, sugar and fat they can have. In a bid to vamp up the quite often dull and boring foods that CKD sufferers are allowed, Lawrence has taken his knowledge and passion for food and worked closely with Renal Dietician, Diane Green to develop a cookbook specifically for kidney disease patients – Rediscovering Food & Flavours.

Rediscovering Food and Flavours consists of 16 recipes that are healthy and safe for kidney disease patients. Dishes include Pea and Ham Frittata, Spice Baked Salmon with Spelt and Beef Rump Steak with Cream Onions and Tarragon Sauce. It is not only CKD sufferers that need to watch their sugar, salt and fat intake, if you are on any kind of diet or just trying to be generally healthier; these are the things you need to watch. If you would like a PDF copy of the cookbook, please email joskitchen@hotmail.co.uk and I will email one to you.

Blog Awards

Recently, I have been awarded two blog awards from Helen of Helenthornber.com and Charlene from No Love Sincerer. I just want to say a big thank you ladies and I will pass them onto other bloggers soon.

That’s it from me today. I will be back with my first Fresh from the Oven challenge post on Thursday.

Happy Cooking! :-)

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