Thursday, 26 January 2012

Scottish Oats

Perhaps it was my fix of haggis last night that did it; this morning I woke up with thoughts of a healthy, hearty breakfast and what better than another Scottish dish...porridge!

from this...

to just 3 minutes

To my basic bowl of this satisfying grain (made with half cup of oats and one cup of semi-skimmed milk) I added a sliced banana and some lovely runny honey...delicious and from jar to bowl in only 3 minutes!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Scots Wha Hae!

It's January, it's the 25th, it must be Burns' Night; the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scottish poet and lyricist.  I'm not so patriotic but I do love a good Burns' supper and the Handyman and I look forward to our annual haggis fest.

If you've never tasted haggis please give it a try, it's a spicy concoction, not too pretty to look at but very, very tasty; and available from most supermarkets here in England and at butchers and supermarkets in Scotland. 

Served with the traditional neeps (swede - if you're English/turnip - if you're Scots, mashed with butter and black pepper) and tatties (creamed potatoes) and, a not so traditional, onion gravy it makes for sturdy January comfort food.

So no bagpipes or Scots poetry for us, but a generous helping of haggis, neeps and tatties with a wee dram to toast the Bard's 253rd birthday - happy birthday Rabbie!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Salmon by Request

Over the Christmas period we were joined at Holly Grove by the Handyman's children, T and S.  T is a burgeoning cook and was keen to help me out in the kitchen on Christmas Eve.  The joy of cooking with an enthusiastic young cook is about sharing all you've learnt over the years and learning from their experiences and thoughts on food and cooking.

During our epicurean chatter T was keen to find out a bit more about cooking fish.  He's lucky enough to have a daily market close to his student flat and had seen the variety of fish on offer but was wary of buying any until he has mastered a few simple recipes.  So I promised a simple and tasty fish recipe for him to try, and here it is:

Baked Salmon with Thread Noodles and Broccoli
Serves 2
2 salmon fillets
2 small knobs butter or 1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
quarter tsp ground coriander
couple of glugs dry white wine or fresh orange juice
couple of twists of black pepper

Cut 1 piece of cooking foil, large enough to create a parcel for 1 piece of salmon.  Lightly butter or oil the foil.  Place the salmon skin side down on the foil and fold up the edges of the foil.  Add a knob of butter, half of the garlic, half of the coriander and a glug of wine or orange juice to the salmon and close up the parcel.  Repeat with second salmon fillet.

Place parcels on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 180C for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the noodles and broccoli and serve the salmon on top of the noodles with the juices from the parcel drizzled over the top and the broccoli on the side.

A quick, simple, healthy and tasty meal for two.  Go on T give it a try!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Lemon Zest

A few lemons in the fridge and a hankering after cake...hmm, must be lemon drizzle cake.  My favourite citrus sponge, there are many recipes for this cake but the one that I've found tastiest, reliable and, best of all, simple is the one below.

Lemon Drizzle Cake
225g soft unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
200g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
grated zest of 3 lemons
juice of 2 lemons
icing sugar

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  You can do this by hand, with a handheld electric mixer or in a food processor.  Add three quarters of the lemon zest and the eggs and beat well to combine, don't worry if the mixture curdles this will be resolved when the flour and almonds are added.

Sieve together the flour and the baking powder and fold this into the egg mixture, then fold in the ground almonds then add three quarters of the lemon juice.  Put the mixture into a 20cm round cake tin which has been greased and lined and bake in the oven at 180C for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile mix the remaining lemon juice with enough icing sugar to make a thin icing.  Using a chopstick make about 10 holes in the top of the cake and spread the thin icing over the top of the cake.  Leave in the tin until the cake is cool but not cold and then remove from the tin and sprinkle over the reserved lemon zest.  Zingy!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Flavours of Cyprus

I often find at this time of year that I struggle to get passionate about food and cooking; I think it must after the cooking and baking fest that ensues on the approach to Christmas and through the festive season...I think I just feel all cooked out.

But yesterday as I was doing the weekly shop I was inspired to make a dish that I haven't attempted for several years.  In fact as I began to think about when I'd last tasted it I was taken back over 5 years to a fantastic holiday in Cyprus.  The Handyman and I have a preference for isolated, self catering accommodation.  This enables him to completely relax and me to search out local markets and local produce and spend time slowly assembling our meals - we both have our kind of fun.

idyllic isolation
Anyway, back to Cyprus...I found a local shop for fresh vegetables, this was the easy bit as I just selected what I wanted and paid the amount requested.  The butcher on the other hand was a different matter; just try acquiring about a pound of minced lamb when you don't speak any Greek and the butcher has no English.  After some fun with hand signs and mime and some pointing and laughing I managed to leave the shop with the requisite minced lamb, though with about twice as much as I needed.  This was either due to our communication challenge or the butcher saw an opportunity to increase his sales that day; either way the lamb was delicious and made for several meals over a few days of our holiday.

sunset from the balcony
So can you guess what the recipe was?  Lamb kofta, meatballs with feta, stuffed pitta breads, kebabs?  None of the above but rather the most traditional's a recipe from the BBC Food website; there are a number of versions on the site just search for moussaka.

piping hot

served with salad
Although I made a very traditional version in Cyprus I substituted potatoes for the aubergines this time around.  Served with a simple green salad this really hit the spot with my January taste buds and took me back to sunshine and summer holidays on this grey and wet Shropshire day.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Back on Track

It's been a while since my last post due to a couple of life changing decisions including one to change my career direction.  You may think this has kept me out of the kitchen but on the contrary that's where I've been spending most of my time over the past weeks, I just haven't been inspired to blog about my efforts; my thoughts have been decisions made I'm back on track and feeling very relaxed and positive as I launch into 2012.

During the Christmas period I tried out a new (to me) soup on family and friends and it met with resounding success, so that, combined with the fact they all requested the recipe, has led me back to Holly Grove Kitchen, and it's good to be back.

The soup in question is a spicy parsnip soup, if you're quick you'll catch the end of the parsnip season and with the weather turning a mite chilly it's just what the doctor ordered.
parsnip and carrot version
Spicy Parsnip Soup
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 tbsp sunflower oil
675g parsnips, peeled and diced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1.2 litres vegetable stock
150ml creme fraiche

Gently cook the onion in the oil for a few minutes until softened.  Add the parsnips and cook for a futher 3 minutes.  Add the spices, stir well and cook for 1 minute.  Add the stock, bring to the boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes until parsnips are soft.

Remove from heat and liquidise the soup until smooth.  Add the creme fraiche and stir well to combine with the soup. Heat through and then serve with good crusty bread.

Note: I've also tried this recipe with a half and half mix of carrots and parsnips - equally yummy!  You could replace the creme fraiche with either cream or yoghurt or a combination of these dairy ingredients.
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