Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Salad and Schnecken

Something happened in the borough of Scotland this weekend...something so strange that people gathered in large open spaces, stood or sat open mouthed and stared at the big orange ball in the sky.   What caused such mass hysterical behaviour?   What were the Scots looking at with such awe and wonder?   Was that......sunshine??   Yes!   Twas indeed!   Oh, happy days, the boroughfolk cried....happy, happy days and they stripped to their underwear immediately and promptly got burnt to a crisp.   The End.

And such is the scene all over the country every time the sun dares to rear it's gorgeous head from the sky.   It makes us happy though.

I was supposed to be in France last weekend but alas, it wasn't meant to be.   The reason appears to be the numpty gene I've inherited from a well dodgy gene pool.   But at least the sun shone.  But wait, I hear you cry....weren't you supposed to go to London tomorrow?   Surely that will make up for missing France.   Yes, dear reader, I was.   I was supposed to go to London tomorrow with my daughter.   Happy days again!   Ah but alas, once again, that numpty gene...the one that lay dormant for many years, switched on with the passing of the years has suddenly come up trumps again and it looks like we won't be going to London after all as daughter's passport is out of date.   Yes, we need a passport these days to travel within the country.   Can I get a new one?   Sure, they have a fast one day service for the price of a small cottage.   Why don't I do that then and stop moaning?   Because the passport office won't let you book for a same day appointment, even if you call them at 8am.   Stupid?   Oh yes.   Ways round it?   No.   But hey, the sun still shines.............

Lots of salads have been consumed lately; pasta salads, artichoke salads, meaty, fruity salads...you know how I love me an artichoke...and salads with chicken, cheese, vegetables, fruit and anything else I care to fling in there on a particular day.   Here are some of my favourites:
Artichoke and mint salad with feta, crispy Parma ham, roasted chorizo and Parmesan cheese.

Chicken and Lemon Pasta Salad....doesn't look like much but well tasty, hot or cold.

Chargrilled Chicken Salad

When not eating salads the past few weeks, we've indulged in mini Toad in the Hole...
Mini Toad in the Hole.....delicious with gravy and mash!

....and a bizarre looking concoction of puff pastry, saute potatoes, grated cheese and hard boiled eggs.   Delicious, according to the kids!

I made Brian a Key Lime Pie for his birthday....yum!

Skinny Lemon Muffins with lemon drizzle icing for us all.....Fraser was particularly smitten.

A team of hardy laddies what I know, will be taking part in the Caledonian Challenge to raise money for charity; I'll be baking Schnecken, my favourtie bun ever, to help provide some tasty fuel during this gruelling two day challenge.   Check out their page and maybe sponsor them a quid or two, if you think they're worthy...I do!

Back to receipts, menus and recipes next week as well as that darn giveaway that never happened.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why I'll never be a millionaire

I've been clearing out; I seem to spend my life clearing out but the amount of junk amassed over our lifetime so far is vast and varied: beds, oil paintings, crystal roses, funny, odd shaped wooden things, books, clothes...lots and lots of clothes....to name but a few.   Now, I will turn my hand to anything, if it means making a profit.  This is all to avoid getting a proper job, you understand.  I bake, cook, sew, paint, manage, teach, cajole and lecture...a jack of all trades, master of nought.   I will also sell things on ebay or adtrader like Craigslist rather than throw it in the dump as, like many of us, the items we store are in great condition, we just don't need them anymore.

So, an ad goes in to adtrader for a cabin bed; I put it up for next to nothing, hoping to give someone a nice bargain and to have it lifted and out of my conservatory where it has been living for the past month.   I'd like to sit in my conservatory without scrambling on top of furniture so by selling it cheaply, I wouldn't break my neck and everyone would be happy.

I get a phone call from a wee girl who asks if it comes with a mattress; no it doesn't, I reply.   I wouldn't sell a used mattress and the bed is being given away for a few pounds.   She hums and haws on the phone, unsure whether it is worth it.   The dinner burning, I try and hurry along the conversation but she can't make up her mind.   Bleeding Nora.   I'm very courteous and tell her to go away and think about it.   Eight phone calls later does it have shelves...yes, see that picture I put up of it, the one with shelves...does it come apart...um, see the part where I said the bed was disassembled....does it have pink flowers on the side....what...?  Uh...no....?, she still hasn't made up her mind.   Another phone call; could I deliver it to the East End of Glasgow?   She'll throw in another £2.50 if we do and, oh, can we assemble it for her?   Then...how big is the mattress?   It doesn't have a mattress.   Her response: "Whit??   It doesn't have a MATTRESS??  It's no' a bed then!".   She sais she'll think about it and call back.   Similar conversations take place over the course of two nights with different people.

A young lass calls back; she would like to come pick it up.   We go through a rigmarole, trying to figure out a good time for us both; we agree 6.30pm the following evening.   At 8pm she calls to say they can't make it.   We find it difficult to agree on another time and by this point, I'm imagining the bed chopped up for firewood.

Sunday night, the door goes.   It's quite late but I answer it.   It is young lass, so quietly spoken I can hardly hear her and she thrusts money into my hand.   She's come for the bed.   This is the girl who couldn't make it at 6.30pm but she has my address.  Dad comes down to carry the bed away and I can find no change so thrust most of the cash back to her and tell her just to keep it.  And that is why I'll never be a millionaire.

The door goes again 30 minutes later; I'd only given them half a bed.   Idiot.

I've been trying different khorma dishes for a while as it is my husband's favourite but none seemed to hit the mark.   Last night I experimented and think I have come up with the winning formula.   It's very simple, plain and straightforward but my goodness, it was tasty!   My husband loved it and thinks it is the best to date.  Being daft, I didn't write down amounts but I have a fair idea and I don't think you could really go wrong, as long as you don't overdo any particular ingredient.

Helen's Chicken Khorma
3-4 chicken breasts
For the marinade:
Curry Powder, teaspoon
Ground Fenugreek, scant teaspoon
Ground Turmeric, scant teaspoon
Ground Ginger, scant teaspoon
Garlic cloves x 2, crushed but left whole
Pinch dried chilli flakes
Yoghurt, preferably thick Greek style but any would do, 2 large tablespoons
 1 Lemon
Tablespoon vegetable oil
Dash of oil
Large Onion, cut into 8
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Curry Powder, approx. 1 heaped teaspoon
Fenugreek, 1 scant teaspoon
Turmeric, good sprinkling
Sprinkle ground Ginger
Pinch dried chillies
Approx. 1-2 inches fresh ginger, grated
Sachet coconut milk (I use Patak's 50g sachet, sold in packs of 4)
Chicken Stock, 1/4 pint
Double cream, good splash
Ground almonds, approx. 2-3 heaped tablespoons
Small handful Sultanas or Raisins
Scant tablespoon Sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice from 1 lemon
Cut each chicken breast into three or four chunks.   Place in a bowl and season lightly.   Place all marinade ingredients into bowl except lemon; squeeze juice from lemon first and then mix everything together, making sure there are no lumps of curry powder or spices.   It should smell divine and be a lovely yellow colour.   Add more Turmeric if not.   Throw in the skins of the lemon, cover with clingfilm and leave to marinade for at least 4 hours, overnight if possible.

When making curry, turn the oven to 200 degrees and once warmed, place the chicken onto a shallow baking tray and bake for 20 minutes until cooked with the tips and edges starting to darken.   The chicken should be cooked and no more, cut open a chunk to check; it shouldn't be pink but it will cook for a further 10 minutes in the sauce so if it is borderline, do not keep cooking in the oven as you want the chicken to be tender and not overcooked.

Pour a little oil into a deep saucepan.   Add the onion chunks and stir.   Add the curry powder, fenugreek, ginger, turmeric and chillies and stir to coat.  Cook for 5 minutes on a low heat and then add garlic slices and grated fresh ginger.   Stir to coat once more.   Cook for a further few minutes, adding a few drops of water if it looks like it may catch and burn.   Dissolve the coconut milk inside the chicken stock until you have a thickish paste.   Pour on top of the onions and garlic mix.and stir.   Once it comes to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes until it thickens slightly and then add the double cream.  Stir.   Add the scant tablespoon sugar, lemon juice from half the lemon and some freshly ground black pepper.  Stir and taste; you shouldn't need any salt but add it now if you do.  It should be a little bit sweet yet tangy with a little bite, thanks to the pinch of chillies.   Add the raisins, the ground almonds and stir.   
Take the chicken from the oven and put it into the pot with the sauce; do not pour any of the juices left behind on the baking tray into the pot as you want a thickish sauce and this will thin it.   Simmer with a lid on for 10 minutes (put rice on at this point!).   Remove a chicken chunk, cut it open and check it is cooked; taste it, it should be firm but tender.   Squeeze over the other half of the lemon over the chicken curry and serve with plain boiled rice.

This recipe was tried by Valerie from yoga and she loved it so it has another seal of approval!   I recommend it wholeheartedly.   Pictures to follow.

We made Spaghetti and Meatballs; we made minced beef ones but also chicken ones for Kelly....they went down quite well.

Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes

Salmon Fishcakes with cucumber and carrot sticks

Braised Beef in Beer with Onions, Mash and Baby Carrots...recipe to follow.

Saturday Night dinner.....

 Feta, lemon and herb stuffed poached and chargrilled chicken with a white wine cream sauce and mixed veg, served with a potato rosti.  Recipe to follow.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I decided not to plan a menu this week and therefore took no list with me on my food shopping trip; I wanted to stay within the budget and see what I could make with the ingredients I found.   A leg of lamb, reduced to approx. £4-£5 per kilo was tossed into the basket as was braising beef at £6 for 4 huge steaks.   A few trays of free range chicken breasts were added too, along with fresh coriander, chillies, ginger, potatoes, pasta, yoghurt and other substance and sundries.

The chicken was made into a tasty Green, Creamy Chicken Curry which I served to my friends on Thursday night with some home made flaky pan bread.   I was rather pleased with how it had turned out; a good bit of spice but not too hot, the coriander and lime juice coming through the creamy sauce and mixing pleasantly with the rice.   I had had a very busy day baking cupcakes for a launch night which I attended with Anne before our other friends arrived at my house; add to that, making the curry as well as painting decorations for the school fair and, in my rush, I forgot to have dinner.   On arriving home, the curry, which was meant for a late supper was instead heated right away, the rice cooked and the bread re-warmed in the pan and served with no photograph as my stomach couldn't stand to wait.   We all enjoyed it.

We had leftovers tonight along with a quickly prepared lamb curry using the leftover leg of lamb we had on Sunday, rice and pan bread.

 Slow roast leg of lamb...
rubbed with a paste made from garlic cloves, fresh thyme, olive oil, soft butter, ground cumin, sea salt, black pepper and smoked paprika.   Rub all over lamb.  Put oven to 180 degrees, gas mark 3.5 for 20 minutes, then turned down to150 degrees for 2.5 - 3 hours; at this point, pour a cupful of stock and white wine into roasting dish.   Check every hour to ensure stock/wine gravy doesn't burn away.   Add some water if needed.   Throw in potatoes, carrots and a quartered onion as well as garlic cloves in the skin for the last 45 minutes-hour.   Let the meat rest for at least 20 minutes.  If veg not ready, turn up oven and keep cooking during the rest period.

Served with peas cooked in stock and leftover mash.

 Green, Creamy Chicken Curry
 Ok, so one thing you should always, always do when you are making up a recipe is take notes.   Me, I like to think my brain is the size of a planet when actually a pea is more accurate so the retention of information will stay with me until I get to a computer, right?   Wrong.   I remember all the ingredients but since I tend to work in 'dods', especially the first time, all these measurements are approximate.   Stick with the basic guidelines, and ye cannae go wrong!

 For the chicken:
8 chicken breasts....half the amount or use whatever is required
Marinade the chicken in the following mix:
Small tub creamy yoghurt
2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 teaspoons curry powder
Lemon juice (toss the lemon in there too, once juice extracted)
Sprinkling of turmeric
Grinding of black pepper

Once marinated...overnight or at least 4 hours....place onto a baking tray and bake in oven, 180 degrees (medium) for 20 minutes.   No need to turn.   Remove from oven and add to sauce when ready.

For the sauce:
1 25g packets/ 2 large handfuls coriander...if you dinnae like the green stuff, ye'll no' like this curry!!
Juice of 2 limes and zest from 1 lime
2 garlic cloves
Approx. teaspoon of cumin, half teaspoon coriander,quarter teaspoon fenugreek seeds, 2 cardamom pods, half cinammon stick, 1 clove, a few black pepper corns, ground turmeric all ground together in a pestle and mortar
Big dod of ginger....i.e. approx. 3 inches
2 green chillies, deseeded plus one whole chilli, slit a little down the middle
Small tub double cream
Thick Greek style yoghurt, approx. same amount as double cream
3 tablespoons coconut milk
2 good handfuls ground almonds
1 red chilli, deseeded and very thinly sliced into strips

Blend together: the ginger, garlic, chillies (not the whole one) and coriander.   Add the spices, blend and then the lime juice.   This should make a nice paste.

Melt some ghee or a mix of butter and oil in a deep pan over a medium heat.   Add the paste and cook for 10 minutes, making sure it doesn't burn.  You may want to turn the heat down after the first five minutes and add a few drops of water if necessary to stop the mix catching.

Add the cream and stir into the mix.   Then add the yoghurt and the coconut milk.   Add the whole chilli.   If you want the sauce a bit thinner, add a little stock.   A teaspoon of sugar and a good sprinkling of salt should be added although you could omit this.   Leave the sauce to simmer with a lid partially on.   Add the chicken when ready.   Thrown in the thinly sliced red chilli and the almonds.

Simmer gently together with the chicken for at least 20 minutes; the chicken should be cooked through (obviously) and will be tender.   Add the juice from a lime or lemon if you prefer and another good handful or two of finely chopped coriander.   Taste, season if necessary and serve.

Boiled rice, lamb and potato curry, green, creamy chicken curry and quick pan bread

 Curry close up!

The Lemon Madeira Cupcakes for the new product launch were frosted with a mix of pale pink and pink vanilla butter icing and topped with flowers, leaves and butterflies.   They tasted yummy.

250g softened unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
210g self-raising flour
90g plain flour

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy.

Grate the lemon zest into the bowl.

I made a double batch so I grated the first lemon and used a zester for the second to give longer strips.

Add a tablespoon of flour with one egg and mix together; repeat until all eggs are incorporated and add the remaining flour.

Add the lemon juice and mix until combined.

Place paper cases into a cake or muffin tray.

Add approx. a large tablespoon of cake batter to each paper case.

Bake in oven 170, gas mark 3 for approx. 20-25 minutes or until golden; use a skewer inserted into a cake to check they are cooked; it should come out clean.

Make frosting by mixing sieved icing sugar with soft butter, a little at a time until fully incorporated and creamy, adding colour of choice and vanilla to taste....a few drops at a time!

Frost cakes and decorate.


I made thai fishcakes;
The Thai green sauce was delicious but I totally mucked up the cake; it tasted nice but not great, far too greasy and in need of much simplification.   Back to the drawing board; I'll keep you updated.

Aww...except look at the expression on Lucy's face.....*shiver*