Friday, 25 March 2011

Reading, recipes, reminiscing and Mum's version of Cowsway.

I havent written my blog for a few weeks and that has mainly been due to the fact that I have revived my love of reading and, after what can only be described as a shopping spree in Waterstones and the glorious Primrose Hill Books, I have grabbed every second I can with three brilliant books. The first is The Cookbook Collector, I thought this would be more cooking orientated but what it lacks in actual cooking talk it more than makes up for in the romantic liaisons!

The second book is The Lollipop Shoes by my favorite Author Joanne Harris and this is one of her best - known famously for writing Chocolat, she is the Queen on Fantasy thrillers, and yet again she has produced a book that is full of love, food and witchcraft....a must read.

And finally onto my final God send - Return to Paris: A Memoir with Recipes by Collette Rossant - one of my favorite books of all time. My mum gave me this book about 6 years ago, she said it was one of her favorties and that I would love it and sure enough I did. It is about Collettes discovery of cooking and her love for French food that makes her decide to move to Paris. Its just such a lovely lovely book, full of mouthwatering recipes and romance on every level.

So why the sudden change to book reviews....obviously I am becoming a book critic....yeah right! Its actually becasue I have decided to write a cookbook and after years of struggling to find an idea that I really wanted to run with I think I have finally found it and my inspiration comes from fictional books. I am going to write a story about a girl who meets lots of people throughout her life, each giving her recipes that she keeps close to her heart so that whenever she needs to feel comfort she simply makes one of the recipes from her past and falls into a nostalgic dream world.

And so to my blog post - On thinking about what recipes I want to write about in the book, I decided that there is one which wins hands down and that is my mums 'Cowsway'. Now, my mother is certainly not renowned for being a lover of cooking, in fact she winces at the very thought of chopping meat and her idea of producing a meal is sprinkling oxo chicken stockcubes on some chicken and poping it in the oven but I have to give it to her, when it comes to Cowsway the women knows what shes doing. In fact, it was so good that I requested cowsway for every single birthday celebration!!!

Now hang on just a second - Most of you have never heard of Cowsway and actually apart from my mum calling it that I have never heard of it either so I just googled it and apparently its the most popular dish in Burmha and the actual recipe is completely different to what mum used to serve up so although Im calling this Cowsway, its not the real recipe - God only knows where mum conjured this up from!!

My Mums Comforting Cheats Cowsway

1 tsp ginger finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
4 x chicken breasts or thighs, diced into little chunks
1/2 Lemons zest
1/2 pint chicken stock
1 lemons juice
half bunch coriander
1/4 onion very finely chopped (after chopping the onion sprinkle with salt to draw all the water out, this adds a bit of crunch!)

Gently fry the ginger and garlic on a low hear for 5 mins. If it starts to stick, turn the heat down and add a dash of water. Then add the diced chicken and the lemon zest. Turn the heat to medium and cook for 5 mins. Then add half a pint of chicken stock and simmer for 10 mins. Put the fresh pasta in the boiling water and cook for about three mins or to taste. Add the pasta to the chicken mix, squeeze in a whole lemons juice and sprinkle with the coriander and finely chopped raw onion. Season to taste and enjoy.

This dish is perfectly balanced, its homely and filling but fresh and vibrant. Perfect in the summer or winter come rain or shine!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Who ate all the Pies? Celebrate British Pie week with 5 delicious homemade, quick and easy pie recipes.

I love a good pie. In fact, I dont think you can really beat a good pie and certainly if you're in the mood for pie nothing else will suffice. And thanks to the heros that invented 'national weeks', this week is National Pie Week, and the humble, delicious pie deserves nothing less a week of admiration and indulgence from everyone. Whether your a chicken and leek fan, a fish pie lover, a shepherds pie admirer or a good old steak and ale devotee, you now have an excuse to eat pie all week guilt free and happily, so get scoffing.

There isnt one pie i could devote my pie admiration to and therefore here are my top five pie recipes - and theyre all really quick and simple. Ps. All Pies must be served with Petit Pois

1. Steak and Ale Pie
4 x rashes of bacon finely chopped
200g Mushrooms finely sliced
2 x sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
1 x Onion finely sliced
2 x Rump Steaks cut into small chunks (you can use any cut of beef but everything else in this recipe is cheap so why not treat your self?)
1 tbsp Flour
1/2 can of ale or beer
1/2 pint of beef stock
1 x sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Sweat the onion on a low heat for about 5 mins. Add the rosemary, bacon and mushrooms, turn the heat to medium and fry for a further 5 mins. Then add the steak and cook for a further 5 minutes. Pop in the flour and mix around for a minute to soak up all the juices. Mix in the ale and beef stock, and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a pie dish and place the pre-rolled pastry sheet on top. Brush with egg and then place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

2. Chicken, Mushroom and Leek Pie
4 x Chicken Breasts, cut into big chunks
4 x leeks roughly sliced
400g Mushrooms finely sliced
2 x Garlic Cloves finely chopped
2 x Sprigs Fresh Thyme
1/2 tsp Dried Tarragon
1 tbsp Flour
3/4 Pint of Chicken Stock

Preheat oven to 180 degrees In a large frying pan, fry the chicken in a little olive oil until it starts turing white. Then add the leeks, mushrooms, garlic, thyme and tarragon and cook for 10 minutes on a medium/high heat. Then stir in the flour to soak up all the juices. Then stir in the chicken stock and simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce is thick. Transfer the mixture to the pie dish and place the pre-rolled pastry sheet on top. Brush with egg and then place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden. 

3. Shepherds Pie
1 x Onion
2 x Garlic Cloves
500g Minced Lamb
400g Carrots finely chopped
2 x Rosemary Sprigs
1 tsp fresh sage finely chopped
1/2 pint chicken stock
600g Potatoes
knob of butter

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Pop the potatoes on to boil. Fry off the onion and garlic in a large pan on a low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the Lamb and cook for 6-8 minutes until it turns brown. Then add the carrots, rosemary, sage and chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and Mash the Potatoes. Pop the lamb mixture in a baking dish and cover with mash. Sprinkle over some rosemary and a few knobs of butter, season and pop in the oven for 25 minutes. 

4. Salmon and Butternut Squash
1 x Squash
1 x garlic clove finely chopped
1/2 a lemons zest
600g Potatoes
4 x Carrots
1/2 pint Milk
1/4 tsp fresh taragon finely chopped
2 x spring fresh lemon Thyme
4 x Salmon Fillets cut into small large chunks
1 x Squash
1 x veg stock cube

Prepare the squash by cutting lengthways in half and then half again, drizzle with olive oil, garlic and lemon zest and place in the oven for 25 mins. Place the potatoes on to boil. Separately place the carrots on to boil. In a large pan put the milk, tarragon and thyme and gently bring to a simmer. Once simmering turn the heat to very low and place the salmon in the milk. Cook the salmon in the milk for about 10 minutes. Once the Squash is cooked, peel it and add it to the salmon and milk with the drained carrots and vegetable stock cube. Then simmer for 5 mins. Drain the potatoes and mash. Transfer salmon mixture to an oven dish and cover with the potato. Cook for 25 mins until the potato is golden. 

 5. Apple Pie with Raspberry Sauce and Ice Cream
70g Butter
100g Caster Sugar
8 x Apples Cut into 8 wedges each (any apples will work but I like to mix it up with half bramley cooking apples and half cox or pink ladies)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp mixed spice
1 beaten egg
2 x Pre-rolled Short-crust Pastry or make your own.
A tub of Vanilla Ice-cream

For the Raspberry Sauce: 
200g Raspberries (if you can pick fresh definitely do, supermarket raspberries just arent the same, or by organic from your local grocer!)
100g Caster Sugar
1 x Vanilla pod / 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter with the caster sugar in a large pan. Then add the apples, cinnamon and mixed spice and cook on a low heat for 20 mins with a lid off. Take the apples off the heat and place in a separate dish to cool. Meanwhile prepare your pastry base. Cut two circles, the size of your pie dish. Place the first layer on the bottom of the pie dish so that it just laps over the edge. Drain your cooled apples and place on top on the pastry, and add two tbsps of the drained juice and then cover with the remaining pastry. Press the edges of the pastry together. Brush the top with a beaten egg. Prick the top of the pastry three or four times. Place in the oven for 45-50 minutes until golden. 

For the Raspberry Sauce, place the raspberries in a pan with a splash of hot water, the sugar and vanilla. Gently simmer for about 10 mins. Strain and drizzle over the pie with a big dollop of vanilla ice-cream. 

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Easy Italian/Asian Brunch - perfect for the weekend

After a fairly wine heavy Friday night, Saturday morning was slow starting and driven soley by hunger. After a squinty eyed cup of tea, we (Ed, Archie and myself) braved the outside world to go to the supermarket, not such a great idea when you're starving but without a clue as to what you want to eat. Needless to say, being with two, also hungover boys, did not help the situation. 

We started out with seedy bread and good old english salty butter - a crucial carb! Then to the meat section.. ( i have recently discovered that men and women shop very differently and that supermarkets are obviously laid out for women. Men always go to the meat section first and work their way back. Women start with the veg and go around like they are supposed too. I am not sure why this is but will look into it and discuss further at another time)...In the meat section none of use could really stomach cooking meat on a hangover so we opted for prawns and cold cuts. 

Traipsing back to the veg section, all feeling drained of energy we decided we wanted spicy squash soup and salad - its amazing how the hungover mind and appetite work. 

So after collecting a few more random bits and bobs we took it all home to work what we were going to do with it.

So you can imagine we were fairly surprised to find that we actually managed to create an Italian/Asian Feast....


Seeded Bread and Salty British Butter

Cold Cuts 
Salami and Parma ham

King Prawns
cooked in coriander, garlic, chili and ginger with lots of olive oil

Home Made Asian Style Squash Soup 
Sweat off some garlic, ginger, a red chili, a big onion, coriander stalks, celery and a carrot (all finely chopped) on a low heat (add half a pint of water after about 15mins and cover) whilst roasting the squash in the oven for 30 mins. Once cooked peel the squash and add to the mixture with half a pint of milk. Simmer for 5 mins and whizz up with a soup blender. Garnish with coriander leaves. 

Tricolore Salad 
Baby Plum tomatoes, Mozzarella and Avocado

Hummus and Tzatziki Dips