Wednesday, 31 December 2014

We all have that friend who ...

You know when you're on Facebook or Twitter and a friend posts pictures of some sort of food, wether its breakfast, lunch, dinner or even worse … dessert … and you just HAVE TO HAVE IT !!
Well I had one of those very moments a couple of days ago when a friend of mine posted a picture of a classical school dinners dessert, cornflake tart, and I wanted it right then.

There and then was just not going to happen since I was all out of the vital component, cornflakes, and to add to my predicament outside it was beginning to snow rather heavily so there was no way I was venturing outdoors.

Yesterday the sunshine decided to make a brief appearance so I grabbed my chance and off I went to get my hands on a box of cornflakes. 

For this recipe I made John Whaite's  rich sweet short crust pastry, but cheated with the custard and used shop bought.

For the pastry you will need :

1 egg
125g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
125g salted butter - cut into cubes

For the filling you will need:

4-5 tbsp raspberry jam
4 tbsp golden syrup
100g cornflakes
55g butter
25g soft brown sugar

  • Start with making the pastry. Place the egg, sugar & extract in a bowl and whisk together till combined.
  • Sift the flour into the mixture and stir together till you end up with a breadcrumb like consistency. Make sure there are no bits of flour left in the bowl.
  • Add in the cubed butter and cut the butter into the flour using a butter knife till it all comes together. I found that as it's been quite cold recently i managed to ' press ' the butter gently into the flour with the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Remove from the bowl once combined and knead gently for a couple of seconds. You don't want to over knead it as you'll end up activating the gluten which will end up giving you hard pastry and not the crumbly texture you want with short crust.
  • Wrap the pastry in cling film or baking paper and chill for at least 30 minutes before using it.
  • Once chilled, roll the pastry out onto a well floured board, to about a centimetre thickness, and line a round 20cm baking with the pastry.
  • Press the pastry in gently, making sure there are no air bubbles, prick the base lightly with a fork and place in the freezer for about 15 minutes. DO NOT cut off the excess pastry from the sides of the tin
  • Remove the pastry from the freezer, line with greaseproof paper or foil, weigh the paper down with baking beans, uncooked rice or even lentils
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 200c for 15 minutes. Remove the baking paper and bake for a further 15 minutes till lightly golden brown, leave to cool*
  • Once cooled. carefully cut off any excess pastry round the sides and set aside 
  • To make the filling, heat up the jam in a small bowl in the microwave in short 30 second bursts and pour into the case, spreading it out evenly with a butter knife.
  • Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a small pan on a low heat together. Gently fold in the cornflakes making sure they're all coated in the caramel. Pour the cornflakes into the pastry case and even them out with a wet knife. Allow the tart to cool and for the cornflakes to set slightly .. and serve away 

* i found that when the case was baking in the oven, most of the excess pastry fell to the bottom of the oven and made quite a bit of mess. Place the baking tin onto a baking sheet/ tray, that way you'll save the bottom of your oven getting into a mess and save your time cleaning up.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Who needs Amigos ?

As a foodie I love nothing more than going out for a meal and finding a dish that I've enjoyed that much I end up dissecting it and attempting to work out what components have made it as a whole - kind of like my very own Masterchef palette taste test !

One of those very dishes is from a Mexican restaurant - Amigos - their Chicken Poblanos is divine and the last couple of times the husband and I have been out to eat there I've ordered it and taken some serious effort to 'get' what, apart from the obvious chicken, it's made up of. So I've had a bit of a play around and this is my take on it.

This is one of my recipes where I've used a few cheats rather than making everything from scratch but I promise it delivers fully on flavour.  I originally made this to serve 3 but because a small amount is quite filling you could get away with 4 maybe even 5 people depending on the size of chicken breasts that you use. The one thing I struggled with was getting my hand on some genuine Poblanos peppers, so i stuck to the good old bell peppers. If anyone could point me in the right direction to get my hands on actual poblanos peppers I'd be forever grateful !

To (easily) serve 4-6 people you will need 

3 medium - large  chicken breasts 
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
4-5 tbsp smoked paprika
3-4 tbsp cajun seasoning
227g ready made breadcrumbs or crushed up cornflakes*
3 eggs whisked
6-8 large potatoes
1 jar of cheese b├ęchamel sauce**
3 x jar of chunky salsa***
2/3 handfuls of grated cheese
1 x squeezy bottle of sour cream***
2 spring onions
1/2 red, yellow & green bell pepper diced 
Oil for frying
Handful of fresh coriander 

  • Start by putting the breadcrumbs or crushed cornflakes into a bowl or dish big enough for the chicken to be dipped in. Add the chilli flakes, smoked paprika and cajun seasoning and mix it all together 
  •  Slice each chicken breast in half length ways .. so starting at the thickest end and working your way down to the thinnest end 
  • On a  low to medium heat, add about a 1/4 a pint of oil to a large heavy based frying pan. piece of chicken at a time dip into the egg, then into the breadcrumbs . Coat the chicken piece all over, place into the frying pan and fry till golden brown.  Repeat this with all of the pieces - I normally fry about 4 pieces at a time. Fry until each side is golden brown. I found that each piece took just under 10 minutes, but again this can vary depending on the size of the chicken breasts.
  • Set the chicken aside, peel and slice your potatoes, no more than an inch thick and in the same frying pan, lightly fry the potatoes till cooked and golden brown, and drain on kitchen paper 
  • Turn on your oven to 200c, (fan assisted) while the oven is preheating, in an oven proof dish, preferably rectangular, add the potato scallops , pour in 1 of the salsa jars, and a quarter of the cheese sauce and carefully stir through. 
  • Next place the chicken pieces on top of the potatoes, spreading them out evenly. Cover each piece with a generous amount of salsa, then spoon on the cheese sauce. 
  • Sprinkle some smoked paprika over the whole of the dish, add grated cheese (as much or as little as you want) then finally sprinkle over the diced sweet peppers
  • Place the dish in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted. 
  • Finish the dish off by garnishing with sour cream & chopped fresh coriander & serve  

* Using cornflakes will give you a slightly crunchier coating on the chicken

**I normally go for Dolmio's white lasagne cheese sauce. You obviously can stick to the brand you would normally buy 

*** I find the Old El Paso range the most full of flavour but again you can go with whatever brand you prefer

Friday, 11 July 2014

A nomination for a Liebster Award

Hi all,

How are we doing ? As some of you may or may not know it's Ramadan and we are almost half way through the 30 days - it will be Eid before we know it !

I have to apologise as again this blog is getting neglected due to house- wife & motherly duties and my new cake baking venture. As neglected as it's been, the lovely Hazel Duke at The Little Welsh House has nominated me for a Liebster award.

The nomination is about answering questions by the blogger that has nominated you, putting forward your own set of questions for the bloggers that you nominate and basically spreading the love between bloggers

Here's Hazel's questions from her post with my answers

What is your favourite animal or bird and why
It would have to be a toss between cats & dolphins. I've loved cats since I can remember and had a soft spot for them. I love Dolphins as they seem so free and elegant in the water and are so intelligent

Who outside your family has inspired you the most
I would say my close knit group of friends that I have, some of which I've known since my early teens. They inspire me as they all have their own individual journeys with highs & lows and how each one of them persevere through it all with a smile on their face

What is the one thing you have always wanted to do but never quite dared to
I would love to at some point in my life go on a Kenyan safari, this is mostly likely not happened yet due to the issue of money, so it's not so much about not daring to do it

If you could travel to any era past or future, when would it be
I would probably travel to the years in which my parents were growing up - the 40's & 50's to be a fly on the wall and see their childhood and what Pakistan was like back them

What is you favourite skill or hobby
This is easy - anything to do with cooking or baking, I'm at my happiest when I'm in the kitchen feeding people 

What song or piece of music really moves you (or your feet )
I would have to say any song by the late great Whitney Houston or Michael Jackson. I grew up listening to their stuff and love it even now

Which woman from history would you love to meet
There are too many to chose from but off the top of my head I would say Rosa Parks - An African American civil rights campaigner who defied an order of giving up her seat on a bus to a white person at the time of the apartheid 

5 blogs that I would like you to check out are:

The Boys Behaviour - a blog of an adoptive mum sharing her experiences of her journey with her son

Skint Dad  - an award winning blogger sharing brilliant thrifty tips for your home & family

The Puffin Diaries  Another blog of an adoptive mum & her journey with her 2 boys

My crazy mad world  One of my High School bestie's that blogs about food, crocheting
& things that make her smile

Red velvet baking a must for all that love cake and all things to do with baking

And my 5 questions for the bloggers I've nominated are :

If you could invite 4 guests for dinner (dead or alive) who would they be and why ?

What would be your dream career if you aren't in it already ?

If you could choose to live someone else's life for a day, who would it be ?

What foods would make up your all time favourite 3 course meal ?

Where would be your dream destination to live  ?

Get spreading the love guys x x x

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Spicy Lentil & Carrot soup

This is the classical lentil & carrot soup with a kick. It's a perfect winter warmer too with the addition of  spice. It's also brilliant for freezing in batches so you've always got some to tuck into on a rainy day

The amount below will give 4-6 generous servings :

4 oz split red lentils
2 1/4 pints vegetable stock
12 oz carrots - chopped
2 onions chopped
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
3 garlic cloves - crushed
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 green chillies
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp lemon juice
300ml milk
coriander to garnish

  • Start by washing the lentils under cold water, place in a large heavy based pan with 900ml of the stock, the carrots, onions, tomatoes & garlic cloves. Bring to the boil on a high heat, lower the heat, cover with a lid and leave to simmer till the vegetables have softened - about 20-30 minutes
  • While the vegetables are simmering, heat the oil in a frying pan & add the seeds, green chilli & curry powder & fry on a low heat till the seeds browned, remove from the heat & add in the lemon juice & salt*
  • Add in the remaining stock, milk & spice mixture to the vegetables. Blitz together with a blender, and simmer for 10-12 minutes - or until it's reached your preffered consistency. Serve garnished with fresh coriander & an optional swirl of natural yogurt 

*If you're freezing the soup, freeze after the 2nd step. Fully defrost the vegetables on the day of use & carry on with the 3rd step

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Potato & Chick pea curry

This is another vegetarian favourite of mine .. quick and simple but packed full of flavour. It's great with rice or naan or even on it's own with a good dollop of natural yogurt. It's also a dish traditionally eaten on Eid for breakfast with Poori's ( fried flatbread)  and halva (semolina based dessert), the combination of spice with warm sweet halva is just amazing

To serve 4-6 people you will need

1 large onion
2 tsp garlic paste or crushed garlic
1 tsp ginger paste or crushed ginger
1 tsp salt
1 green chilli
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp curry powder
2 x 400g tin chickpeas - water drained
3 large potatoes
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds
fresh coriander to garnish
2-3 tbsp natural yogurt ( optional )

  • start by chopping your onion and browning in a heavy based pan in a little oil, add in the ginger garlic & the salt
  • On a medium heat, cook the onion with the ginger and garlic till golden brown & completely softened.
  • Add in the chillies & curry powder, lower the heat, cook through until the chillies have softened. Remember to stir occasionally & add splashes of water if need be to stop it from catching the bottom of the pan.
  • Add in the chopped tomatoes and simmer on a low heat for about 10 minutes till tomatoes have softened. 
  • While the tomatoes are simmering, peel & chop the potatoes into quarters. Par boil them in a pan, drain and put to the side.
  • When the tomatoes have softened, add in the chickpeas, cook through on a medium heat for about 5-8 minutes and add in the potatoes. Check the seasoning & add more salt if need be to your taste,leave to simmer on a low heat
  • While the potatoes & chickpeas are simmering, toast your seeds on a low heat in a frying pan till browned. Remove from the heat as soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop & add into the chickpeas & potatoes and stir through*
  • Add enough water just to cover the potatoes & chickpeas and leave to simmer on a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Serve with boiled rice, naan or even poori's   
*if you'd like the consistency to be thicker, simmer for slightly longer or if it's too thick for your liking then add in a little more water

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Tandoori - not cooked in a tandoor - Roast Chicken

This is one of those recipes that sounds so much harder than it actually is .. Probably due to the 'tandoor' part of the name.. a tandoor is a clay pot or oven that meat or even breads are cooked in, over charcoal. As the fat from the meat drips on to the hot coals, the embers flare up onto the meat giving the meat a distinct charcoal taste & appearance. It's basically the equivalent of the much loved barbecue

Tandoori's are used in a lot of Indian & Asian restaraunts to this day, but obviously in home cooking it's the oven that takes centre stage for preparing large meals, and it's just as good for this recipe too. You can always get the barbecue out on a day when the sun decides to make a rare appearance then you're even closer to getting the authentic tandoor taste.

To serve 5 people you will need

10 drumsticks - skin removed
1/2  of 454g tub natural yoghurt
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp carom seeds (optional)
6 tbsp oil
14 tbsp tandoori masala* (powder)
lemon wedges & fresh coriander to garnish 

  • Start by making a small cut in the thickest part of each drumstick - this will help them cook through evenly
  • Place the drumsticks in a bowl, add all the above ingredients to the drumsticks and mix well. Leave to marinate for a couple of hours minimum, or even better overnight for the marinade to be  absorbed by the chicken.
  • Pre heat your oven to 200c, place the chicken in a roasting tray or oven proof dish. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Half way through the cooking time, remove the foil, and turn each of the drumsticks over. 
  • Bake uncovered for the last half until the chicken crisps up a little . The chicken is ready when it has a charcoal like appearance and the juices run clear from the thickest part of the drumsticks 
  • Serve garnished with wedges of lemon and fresh chopped coriander 

*Tandoori Masala is a red coloured powder mixed with other Indian herbs & spices that gives the chicken its well loved red colour. It's now widely available in most big name supermarkets too as well as any Indian & Asian grocery store*


Monday, 20 January 2014

Pimped up Banana Cake

Bananas - Now there's a fruit I really struggle with, I've never liked them since I was a child and even now I will avoid them at all costs. What I also really don't like it wasting food, the absolute feeling of guilt of throwing away edible food is one that I could do without out.

So picture my despair a few weeks back when for what must have seemed the billionth time, as I noticed 3 very over ripe & lonely banana's sitting in the fruit bowl. I certainly wasn't going to eat them and i knew full well that as the kids had already eaten their daily share as part of their school lunch, that they wouldn't have another. So what to do ? I decided to take to twitter and ask my fellow tweeters what to do 

The overall majority suggested banana loaf or cake, and I was even given a recipe by a fellow mum who i have come to know through twitter. So make it I did, and even dared to try a bit and I have to say I rather enjoyed it, the kids and other half loved it.

So I've now made it a few times, tweaked it and added my own twist ! I do hope you'll like this variation

For my banana & walnut sandwich you will need:

4oz melted butter
4oz  soft dark brown sugar
4oz self raising flour
75g walnuts - crushed roughly
3 medium ripe bananas
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 medium eggs

For the Vanilla butter cream you will need:
300g icing sugar
150g butter softened
few drops of vanilla extract 

  • Grease and line 2 20cm cake tins & preheat your oven to 180c 
  • In a bowl, add the butter, soft brown sugar & golden syrup, mix until combined.
  • Whisk the eggs, add into the bowl with the sugar & butter
  • Mash up the bananas, add to your mixture  along with the crushed walnuts, cinnamon & milk
  • Stir through thoroughly and add in the flour through a sieve, fold in quickly and lightly so as to keep in as much air as possible
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 sandwich tins and bake for about  15- 18 minutes till golden brown or the cake has a slight spring to it. Leave to cool completely
  • To make your buttercream simply combine the icing sugar & softened butter till smooth. When the cakes have cooled, spread the buttercream onto the top of one the cakes so the buttercream comes almost to the edges
  • Take the second cake and gently place on top of the iced peice - and there you have a banana & walnut sandwich    

Gram flour curry

Now I know you're reading this recipe and probably thinking that this has got to be a mistake and well just not right ? Well I promise this is one of my all time favourite served with pakoras. It is such a simplistic dish but bold on flavours

It doesn't cost the earth, it's quick to make & the amount will easily feed a hungry family of 4 with enough left over for the next day if any of you can resist it !

you will need :

2 x 454g tub natural yoghurt
2oz melted butter
4 tablespoons oil
2 tbsp gram flour (ground chick pea flour)
1 small onion finely sliced
1 tsp mustard seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp garlic paste
1tsp ginger paste
1 tsp salt
3 green chillies
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 bay leaf
coriander to garnish

  • Start by pouring the yoghurt into a jug, and add equal amount of water  (about 40fl oz) along  and whisk together. 
  • Put the gram flour into a small bowl and add enough of the whisked yogurt to the gram flour to make a smooth paste, pour the paste back into the whisked yougurt, whisk together till combined and set aside.
  • In a heavy based pan, heat up the oil & butter on a medium heat, add in the mustard seeds and cover the pan with a lid until you hear the seeds begin to pop
  • Add in the onions, when slightly softened, add in the garlic, ginger and green chillies. Cook through until the garlic & have browned. Add a splash of water if the mixture begins to catch
  • Next add in the curry powder, cumin seeds, tomato puree and bay leaf. Leave to simmer on a low heat for about 5 minutes
  • Turn the heat up to full, and quickly but carefully pour in the yogurt, stirring in a continous clock wise motion as you do. Keep stirring till it reaches boiling point* 
  • Lower the heat back down and leave to simmer for about 10-15 minutes till the curry has thickened in consistency. Garnish with coriander just before serving, and serve with pakora's  & chapatis 

*stirring the curry till it reaches boiling point ensures that the mixture won't curdle

Friday, 17 January 2014

Greek yogurt & fresh fig pavlova with honey & rose water

Anyone that knows me well enough should know that I've got a real sweet tooth & that I can never resist a meringue based dessert.
Imagine how ecstatic I was when I came across the Meringue Girls, they have taken meringues to a whole new level with creations that you wouldn't have even thought possible.

This post shares one of their amazing recipes from their book which of course I obviously have... A pavlova topped with fresh figs, Greek yoghurt & a delicate addition of rose water .. It is absolutely amazing ! 

For the pavlova you will need:
5 medium whites
300g caster sugar

For the topping you will need :
100g green pistachios ( optional ).
1tbsp rosewater
8 fresh figs
300g greek yoghurt
4 tbsp runny honey

  • The first thing is to make the meringue to form your pavlova. Start by lining a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
  • Preheat your oven to 200c/ Gas 6 line a small roasting tray with greaseproof paper, pour in the caster sugar and bake in the oven  for about 5 minutes till the edges are just begininng to melt a little.
  • While your sugar is baking, pour your egg whites into a free standing mixer bowl or a plastic bowl if using a hand held electrical whisk. Whisk on a low speed so you get small little bubbles forming
  • Turn up the speed a little once the bubbles have formed and whisk until stiff white peaks form - you should be able to tip the bowl over without the whites falling out.
  • Next step is to add the sugar, with the whites still whisking remove the sugar from the oven - the sugar should feel hot when touched (& lower the oven temperature to 100c) and add it to the whites a spoonful at a time. 
  • Once all the sugar has been incorporated carry on whisking the whites for another 5-7 minutes. Check a small amount of the mixture between your fingers, it should be smooth. If its a little grainy, whisk for another couple of minutes. 
  • The mixture will be ready when a small amount of it forms a smooth stiff peak on the tip of your upturned finger
  • Grind half of the pistachios and add them to the merge mix along with the rosewater. Fold it together as quick as you can but remember to be gentle- you don't want to knock out that air that will give your pavlova the volume
  • Spoon the meringue mixture onto your earlier lined baking sheet and mould into a nest like circle, about 10 inches wide. Use the back of the spoon to make a slight dip in the centre.
  • Sprinkle the rest of the ground pistachios on top of the nest and bake in the the oven for 2 hours
  • The pavlova should come away from the paper easily & base will be firm. Leave to cool completely
  • When you're ready to serve, cut your figs into quarters and roughly chop the remaining 100g of , pistachios.
  • Place your pavlova onto a serving dish, spoon in the greek yoghurt into the middle of the pavlova, let it run down the sides and add the figs, sprinkle with the chopped pistachios, drizzle over the honey and serve 
For a little inspiration you can check out the girls YouTube account here , as well as their instagram account  and their official website  too .. You will not be dissapointed I promise  

Tharka Daal

This is a recipe for daal that has fried garlic as a base - this is the tharka element. It gives the dish a wonderful aroma of  garlic, combined with the fragrant spices it's so simple but full of flavour.

It's another dish that is super cheap to make, a little goes a long way and is made in just 5 steps 

The amount below will easily serve 4 people:

3 tbsp melted butter
1 small onion
1tbsp oil
1tsp mustard seeds
3 garlic cloves crushed
6-8 fenugreek seeds
1/2 inch piece crushed / grated ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup /6 oz red lentils
1 pint/600ml water
2 tsp tomato puree
1 large tomato
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 green chilli
coriander to garnish

  • In a heavy based pan, add the melted butter & oil. Finely slice the onions and add to the pan on a high heat. When browned, add in the mustard seeds and cover the pan with a lid until the mustard seeds start popping
  • Take off the lid straight away, lower the heat slightly & add in the garlic, ginger, salt, fenugreek & green chilli
  • Stir through, add in the tomato puree, chopped up tomato & curry powder once the garlic and ginger have browned.
  • Add in the lentils & the water, simmer on a low heat for about 15 minutes
  • Just before serving garnish with coriander & serve with naan or boiled rice

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Chilli Con Carne

Texas - the state that gave us Dr Pepper, (honest) the state where more land is farmed than in any other American state, the armadillo is it's mascot, its the home of girl group Destiny's Child and of todays recipe .. Chilli Con Carne .. yes it's a Texan dish .. not Spanish or Mexican that some people do assume 

Beef seems to be the most popular choice for Chilli but quite often use lamb which tastes just as good in honesty, if you're vegetarian you can swap the meat for vegetarian mince which again tastes just as good and obviously healthier too !

For my chilli con carne you will need 

4 medium onions
2 tbsp garlic paste
2 tbsp ginger paste
3 green chillies
piece of cinnamon (about 2 inch)
2 tsp curry powder
2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp worcestershire or HP sauce
1 tbsp dark soy
1x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g tin of kidney beans
1kg/lb mince lamb/beef
chopped coriander to garnish

  • Start by chopping the onions, add to a heavy based pan and fry till they've softened. Add in your green chillies, garlic & ginger paste, salt, & cinnamon stick. Cook through till onions become golden brown & the chillies have softened. Add a splash of water if the mixture begins to catch.
  • Add in the chopped tomatoes, curry powder smoked paprika & stir well. With a masher, roughly mash the mixture - don't worry about getting a completely smooth consistency .. chunky chilli is good
  • Check the taste of your chilli base .. adjust the taste to your liking if any more of the ingredients need adding. Add your lamb or beef. Brown the meat on a high heat, once your meat has browned, lower the heat and add in the kidney beans, soy & Worcestershire sauce. Cook through  until the oil separates from the meat & beans. Again add a splash of water if it begins to catch
  • Pour in just enough water (preferably freshly boiled)  to cover the meat. Stir through and leave to simmer on a low heat for about 20 minutes. 
  • Check the seasonings of the chilli and add any extra of the spices if needed to your liking
  • Garnish with some fresh coriander and serve with my cumin rice or on jacket potatoes with cheese & sour cream & nachos on the side