Monday, 30 May 2016

Strawberry, Cucumber and Mint Salad with a Pimm's Dressing


Summer is teasing us a bit at the moment, certainly here in the far North East corner of Scotland. We've had some absolutely glorious days but others most definitely hold true to the 'ne'er cast a clout til May be oot' adage. For me one of the unmistakable flavours of Summer is Pimm's. It makes you think of the Chelsea Flower Show, Henley Regatta, Garden Parties, Punting on the Thames, Polo Matches and of course Wimbledon. National Barbeque Week kicks off today (May 30th) and runs until 5th June. The recipe I'm sharing today is perfect for al fresco dining and makes a great BBQ side dish. It was inspired by Nigel Slater who wrote about a sweet strawberry and cucumber fruit salad in his Observer column. I immediately thought of Pimm's and decided to have a go at a savoury version with a Pimm's Dressing. It turned out to be the perfect taste of summer.


Whilst I know that I like Pimm's I really don't know what exactly it is. Time for a wee bit of research. First surprise - and probably why I like it so much - is that the alcohol base is none other than my good friend Gin. Apparently Pimm's is a 'fruit cup' but may also be considered a liqueur. First produced in 1823 as a tonic to aid digestion it was served in a small tankard known as a 'no. 1 cup'. Over the years other variants were introduced from no. 2 cup right through to no. 6 cup. All had different spirit bases covering whisky, rum, brandy and vodka. Hence what we buy today is known as Pimm's No 1. It's also worth while checking out supermarket own brand versions such as Austin's, Jeeves and Pitchers for Pimm's O'clock on the cheap. 


PIMM'S SUMMER SALAD
Strawberry, Cucumber and Mint Salad with a Pimm's Dressing

Salad 
2 Punnets of British Strawberries
1 Cucumber
Fresh Mint leaves

Dressing
1 Tbsp Pimm's No. 1 Cup
1 Tbsp Runny Honey 
1 Tbsp Olive Oil 
1 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar 
1 Tbsp Fresh Mint - finely chopped
Freshly ground Salt & Pepper

Hull and roughly chop the strawberries.
Cut the cucumber length ways and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. Slice into crescents.
In a jam jar shake together the dressing ingreedients and season with salt and pepper.
Stir the dressing through the salad just before serving and sprinkle of few whole mint leaves on top.


It's Pimm's o'clock! For further recipes celebrating this essentially British taste of summer check out the following

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Granny's Cornflake Biscuits



A nostalgic bake from me today. Cornflake biscuits were a staple at my maternal Grandmother's house. There was always a tin of them on the go along with Ministers Slices (yet to be recreated) and Grandma Monearn's Shortbread. They are super simple and cheap to make and when I posted a photo of them on Instagram there was an outpouring of love. Glacé cherries are retro in themselves and I had to scout around the supermarkets to get ones that were actually bright red rather than a more natural colour. I can't imagine that these biscuits or Pineapple Upside Down Cake would look quite so appetising without a bright red cherry on the top. 




Cornflake Biscuits such as these seem to have been made by a lot of Nan's and Gran's over the years but I suspect that many recipes will have been lost along the way. I rediscovered this one in a in a teenage reporters come recipe notebook along with my Mum's New Zealand Biscuits recipe. I've converted it from metric to imperial and also doubled the quantities. I've not come across a requirement for half an egg in a recipe in recent times! I think that the Lard does give them a bit of a special flavour but if that's not your thing feel free to substitute for a white vegetable fat. I also reckon that green glacé cherries would look fab on these. If you manage to track some down please do let me see your creation. I will of course be green with envy. 

Post Script! My lovely friend Janice over at Farmersgirl Kitchen left me a comment to say that her Mum used to make biscuits that looked exactly like these and called them Melting Moments. I had a sudden realisation that this in fact is most probably their proper name, although they will always be Cornflake Biscuits to me. However they definitely melt in the mouth and do only take a moment to make. 




Granny's Cornflake Biscuits

120g Lard (or vegetarian white fat alternative) 
60g Baking Margarine 
120g Caster Sugar
250g Self Raising Flour
1 Free Range Egg, beaten
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Cornflakes
Glacé Cherries

Remove the lard and margarine from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
Preheat your oven to 180c
Cream together the fats and sugar.
Add the egg, vanilla extract and mix well.
Finally stir through the flour until just combined.
Shape the mixture into small balls and roll each in cornflakes.
Place on a greased/lined baking sheet and flatten slightly.
Top with a piece of glace cherry and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.


For further breakfast cereal recipe inspiration take a look at these great ideas from fellow food bloggers and be sure to pin my recipe using the image below. 


Friday, 20 May 2016

BBQ Waffle S'mores - a decadent desert on the barbecue!




When Iceland challenged me to use the #PowerOfFrozen and show how their products can ensure you are BBQ ready as soon as the sun shines I wanted to think outside the box. When it comes to barbecue time deserts often get neglected in a flurry of sausages, burgers, salads, buns, relishes and kebabs. I don't have the sweetest tooth so I'm pretty happy to indulge my savoury side on such occasions but my kids think otherwise and always have room for desert. I'd normally resort to ice cream or lollies however why not use the residual heat on the BBQ to cook up something deliciously decadent?






Since I've been working with Iceland on their Power of Frozen campaign my eyes have really been opened to the quality and variety of frozen food stocked. Yes there are the basics of peas, fish fingers, garlic bread and pizza but I've also discovered speciality meats and fish, convenient fruit and vegetable medleys, rice, grains and superfoods. Oh and plenty of barbecue favourites. As far as British Barbecues are concerned you have to grab the chance when the weather plays ball. This is where studious stocking of your freezer can play a part. Frozen food combined with Sunshine can make for a perfect BBQ. It also avoids a last minute dash to the supermarket when barbecue weather beckons (and the disappointment of finding the supermarket shelves bare as everyone else has had the same idea!) Next time you pop to Iceland for sausages and burgers be sure to grab some waffles, fruit and ice cream. The resulting creation will definitely leave you wanting s'more. 






BBQ Waffle S'Mores


Ingredients
100g Mini Marshmallows
Chocolate Sauce

Method
Defrost the Raspberries (can be done in the microwave if time is short)
Place your frozen waffles on a foil tray or double layer of tinfoil. You don't want them tasting of burgers!
Cook for a couple of minutes on each side until they are beginning to turn brown and crispy.
Place a handful of mini marshmallows into the holes on each waffle and continue barbecuing until they start to brown, melt.and slightly puff up.
Liberally squeeze over lashings of chocolate sauce.
Serve accompanied by the Raspberries and Raspberry Pavlova Ice Cream.


If you've now got the BBQ desert bug, take a look at these other ideas from myself and the UK's most northerly food blogger, Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. 


For further #PowerOfFrozen alfresco BBQ and Picnic inspiration check out the following recipes and go forth and fill your freezer so you are ready at the drop of a hat when the sun does put in an appearance.


Disclosure : This is a commissioned recipe for Iceland. All views expressed are my own.


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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Norfolk Treacle Tart




I'm not ashamed to admit that pretty much all my holidays are based around food. Surely I'm not alone in that? As a foodie I find that self catering offers me the the freedom to dine out and sample local restaurants combined with the facilities to cook for myself with goodies bought from local farm shops and producers. It really is the best of both worlds. Part of the fun of holiday planning for me is checking out what the local foodie specialty of the area I'm visiting is, researching restaurants and tea rooms to visit and mapping out local Farmers markets and specialty food shops. I fear that my family sometimes despair of my foodie traveler obsessiveness! 



For a long time I've loved the idea of holidaying in the Norfolk Broads. A week in a cottage and a week on a boat would suit me just fine. I blame Rosie and Jim for my narrowboat fixation. We have managed a short stay on Blue Hue, a houseboat moored on the outskirts of Edinburgh. We're heading to Orlando in October this year so over the summer we shall be staycationing. I've been looking at the options on cottages.com and have fallen in love with the gorgeous thatched Captain's Cottage in Winterton-on-Sea which is absolutely picture postcard perfect! Foodie Loon was pleased to note that there is a pub just across the road! I wasn't aware of any particular foodie specialty of the area but apparently the local bake is a Norfolk Treacle Tart.


I've always been a wee bit confused by the whole concept of a treacle tart. First off they contain no treacle. What's that all about?! Do Trading Standards know? Apparently a Norfolk Treacle Tart is different from more traditional recipes as it does not contain breadcrumbs (nor does it contain treacle... just saying!) Still on the trail of the missing treacle I turned to Google which firstly told me that Golden Syrup is also known as light treacle. Hmmm. Not convinced. However Nigel Slater tells me that the word treacle actually refers to all forms of syrups made during sugar refining, from golden syrup through to black molasses. Still think its a misnomer but I won't argue with the lovely Nigel. 


Treacle tart is usually served hot with a dollop of clotted cream. You could also serve it with whipped or single cream, custard or ice cream and its' also good cold. It's a favourite desert of Harry Potter who likes it so much that he smells it when he is in the presence of love potion. Alas I don't have the recipe as used by the House Elves at Hogwarts but hopefully you'll think my one is pretty magical. 


NORFOLK TREACLE TART

Ingredients
175g Shortcrust Pastry
125g Unsalted Butter
8 Tbsp golden syrup
3 Free Range Eggs
4 Tbsp Double Cream
1 lemon, zest finely grated

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 180°c
Line a shallow 23 cm (9 in) tart tin with the pastry.
Prick the base all over with a fork. 
Line the tart tin with baking parchment and fill with ceramic baking beans or dried pulses.
Bake for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans and cook for about 5 minutes more.
Gently warm the butter and syrup together in a pan - just enough for the butter to melt but not letting the mixture get too hot. 
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool a little.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs, cream and lemon zest together. 
Gradually whisk in the warm butter and syrup mixture, then pour the mixture into the pre-baked pastry case.
Place the tart on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the centre is set and lightly brown.


For further foodie holiday inspiration checkout the following recipes from my food blogging colleagues along with their Cottages.com recommendations for Dorset and the Peak District

Dorset Apple Cake - Fuss Free Flavours
Bakewell Pudding - Farmersgirl Kitchen


Disclosure : This is a commissioned post for Cottages.com All views expressed are my own.


Casa Costello

Monday, 16 May 2016

Orzo Risotto with Mint & British Asparagus




At long last Spring appears to have sprung. A sure sign of this is the appearance in the shops of British Asparagus. It seems to have been late in coming this year but is always worth the wait. Although the official season is from April 23rd (St George's Day) to June 21st, it's only in the last few days that I've spotted any in the shops which ties in with tweet below. Do make sure to read the label carefully when you are out shopping to make sure it really is British that you are buying.


In the quick and simple recipe I'm sharing today the Asparagus is showcased so that its flavour really shines. Using Orzo rather than arborio rice simplifys the whole risotto making process. I've used a mix of the larger Asparagus through the orzotto and some of the finer tips griddled and served on top. The mint, lemon and black pepper only serve to enhance the superb Asparagus flavours.



I don't know about you but over the years goodness knows how many packets of cut herbs and pots of growing herbs I've ended up buying and binning. What usually happens is that half a pack gets used and the remainder goes slimy in the bottom of my fridge. If I try to economise by buying a potted herb I then end up killing it by over or under watering. Cole and Mason asked me if I'd like to try out a Self-Watering Single Potted Herb Keeper from their new range. It promised to give longer life to fresh herbs and I've been seriously impressed with its performance. Not only has my mint flourished like a triffid it also looks much more stylish in my kitchen than a black plastic pot sat on a chipped saucer. No need to re-pot, simply sit your round or square potted herb in the Herb Keeper, fill the base section with water via the spout and a hydro felt pad draws up exactly the amount of water that your herb needs to absorb. It works a treat and there's also a version for Fresh Cut Herbs. I've also been using a set of their Precision Mills which have an easily adjustable courseness level. There are three settings for the salt and five for pepper so you get the perfect grind for you needs to take you from hob to table. Herbs, Spices and Asparagus ready - time to get cooking!


Orzo Risotto with Mint & British Asparagus

1 Tbsp Rapeseed Oil
1 Echalion Shallot, finely chopped
300g Orzo 
750ml Vegatable Stock
250g British Asparagus
75g Frozen Petit Pois
100g British Asparagus Fine Tips
2 Tbsp Fresh Mint, chopped
50g Parmesan (or vegetarian alternative) grated, plus extra to serve
Freshly ground Salt & Pepper
1/2 Lemon, juice and zest

Fry the finely chopped shallot in a large satue/frying pan along with the rapeseed oil until translucent.
Add the orzo and vegetable stock, bring to the boil then turn down to a gentle simmer for 7 minutes.
Check and stir regularly to ensure it doesn't stick and add more boiling water from the kettle if required. 
Meanwhile chop the stalks of the larger Asparagus into discs, leaving the tips whole. Prepare the mint, Parmesan and and lemon and set aside.
Add the frozen peas and the chopped Asparagus to the Orzo and cook for a further 7 minutes until the pasta is soft and starchy, all the water absorbed but there is still a bite to the asparagus.
Meanwhile brush the fine Asparagus Tips with some rapeseed oil and cook on a griddle pan until lighly charred.
Add the chopped mint, grated Parmesan, lemon juice and rind to the Orzo. Mix well and season with freshly ground salt and black pepper. 
Serve topped with the griddled Asparagus tips and extra Parmesan and Black Pepper. 


For further British Asparagus inspiration check out the fab recipes below from some of my food blogging colleagues



Disclosure : This is a commissioned recipe for Cole & Mason. All views expressed are my own.


Link up your recipe of the week
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Saturday, 14 May 2016

Review - Optimum 600 Cold Press Juicer - The Ultimate Slow Juicer

I've got a new kitchen gadget. The Optimum 600 Cold Press Juicer. It's actually my third juicer in as many years. The first one was borrowed from my Mum and was a tiny wee thing from the 90's that you had to cut up the fruit/veg into minuscule pieces to feed into the tube. Cleaning it was a nightmare. I upgraded to one of my own which had a much larger feeding tube and could take a whole apple. This was a revelation and for as long as it lasted I was actually pretty happy with it. However towards the end of last year it died a death and I asked some of my food blogging colleagues what they would suggest as a replacement. The answer was a resounding recommendation for an Optimum Cold Press Juicer. A quick google to find out more and I was initially put off by the price tag. However when I watched the videos I was mesmerised by the auger which totally smashes up the fruit in a hypnotic manner. Watch for yourself and you'll see what I mean.



The Optimum 600 Juicer is a a cold press juicer as opposed to a traditional centrifugal juicer. Its low speed and squashing (masticating) action grinds your fruit and veg so that you get maximum juice and nutrients. 

What Comes In The Box?
  • 2 x 1.2 Ltr Juicing bowls/jugs
  • Juice tap and anti-drip cap
  • Spinning basket
  • GE Ultem Strainer and Screw Auger
  • Ice cream attachment
  • Base containing the 240W AC Brushless Motor
  • Recipe book and manual
  • Cleaning brush
I've had my juicer for over 4 months now so reckon I've given it a pretty thorough testing. By far the most noticeable thing about it is the sheer quantity of juice that it makes. It really does extract every last drop and more juice means more vitamins. The pulp is much drier that I was used to which means less waste and is a further visible sign of how much goodness is being extracted. There is particularly good extraction from leafy greens in comparison with what I'd had with the other machines. Celery and Pineapple can still be tricky because of their fibrous nature but chopping them up seems to help. Overripe pears need to be avoided as its not good in dealing with mush but that's pretty much the only thing I've had any clogging issues with. I've even completed one of Jason Vale's 5 Day Juice Fasts using the Optimum 600. Something that I couldn't have done with either of my previous juicers as I would have lost the will to live! It's actually a real pleasure to use.


The bugbare with pretty much all juicers is of course cleaning. The trick is to do it immediately after you've made your juice. If I'm going to be having another later on in the day I rinse it through with water which really helps. Otherwise hot soapy water and rubber gloves and it literally takes only a couple of minutes to wash. There's only really one tricky area which is at the waste outlet and for that you get a little brush with a handy hook on the end. Final piece of advice on the cleaning issue. Don't be stupid enough to go away for the weekend and leave it dirty. That would be a seriously foolish thing to do.


Pros...
  • So. Much. Juice.
  • Fascinating to watch!
  • Easy to assemble - simply line up the red dots
  • Quieter than traditional centrifugal juicers
  • No need to worry about what order to juice the ingredients in
  • Very little preparation/chopping of produce required due to large chute with internal knife
  • Less foam and less separation
  • Anti drip cap - no sticky worktop
  • Sturdy yet stylish design
  • Vertical machine means it takes up less room on your work surface
  • Can be used to make ice cream, nut butters/milks, smoothies and baby food (I fully admit that I haven't tried making any of these yet!)
  • 30 Day Money Back Guarantee – Including Return Postage
  • 10 Years Warranty On Motor & 2 Years Warranty On Parts
Cons... 
  • Cost. But well worth it in my humble opinion if you already know that juicing is for you. 
  • The spouts on the jugs only work if you are right handed (as pointed out by my leftie son!) 
  • The height of the machine (48.3cm) means it can't sit on my worktop underneath a cupboard, so do measure if that may be an issue for you 
  • I still have to clean it... 

Suffice to say I absolutely love my Optimum 600 Cold Press Juicer. If it was self cleaning it would be absolutely perfect. If anyone ever manages to invent a juicer that can do that they'll be a millionaire for sure! Tempted to get one for yourself? You can find out more and order one with a 30 day no quibble guarantee on the Froothie Website.


Disclosure
I am an Ambassador for Froothie and the links in this article are affiliate links which means that if you buy a juicer through them I will earn a small commission
I've not been paid to write this post but I did receive an Optimum 600 Cold Press Juicer for review purposes.
All opinions expressed, as always, are honest and my own. You can't fake enthusiasm so I only work with brands I really love and that I think my readers will too. 

Monday, 9 May 2016

Avocado, Egg, Bacon & Butter Bean in Garlic Mayo #BritishSandwichWeek



There appears to be a designated day or week for every food product under the sun these days, with some being more worthy of such an accolade than others. Surely there can be no denying however that the nation's love of Sandwiches truly deserves a week long celebration. As such we are currently in the throws of none other than British Sandwich Week which runs from Sunday 8th until Saturday 14th May 2016. The Wall Street Journal has described the Sandwich as Britain's "biggest contribution to gastronomy". It was named after an 18th century English aristocrat John Montagu who held the title of 4th Earl of Sandwich. Apparently he ordered his servants to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread because it allowed him to continue to play cards and eat without using a fork or getting his cribbage cards greasy. Others began to order "the same as Sandwich", the name stuck and the rest, as they say, is history.






In association with Warburtons the sandwich filling recipe I'm sharing today is one that appeared on the lunchtime menu of Aberdeen's Lemon Tree Arts Centre when I used to work there back in the noughties. You could have it as a baguette or baked potato filling and it was also available in a vegetarian version sans bacon. It's something that I've often recreated myself in the intervening years and it also works well on its own as a salad. I always use free range eggs, mine were from a local farm shop honesty box and had amazingly brightly coloured yolks. My bacon came from the Farmers Market and crisped up perfectly with none of that horrible white water. Chives from my garden and a nice firm Avocado. I favour the ripe and ready ones. Finish off with your favourite Warburtons bread product for the perfect sandwich.




Avocado, Egg, Bacon & Butterbean in Garlic Mayo

This makes enough for 3 or 4 sandwiches depending on how generous you like your filling. It also works well as a salad or baked potato topping.

2 Free Range Eggs, hard boiled
6 Rashers of Streaky Bacon
210g Tin of Butter Beans, drained
1 Avocado
3 Tbsp of Mayonnaise
1-2 cloves of Garlic, crushed
Chives
Salt & Pepper
Warburtons Seeded Batch Loaf or your favourite Warburtons Bread

Hard boil your eggs then cool and roughly chop them.
Fry or grill the bacon until nice and crispy. Drain on kitchen roll then cut into small pieces.
Peel, de-stone and chop the avocado flesh.
Drain the butter beans and tip them into a bowl. Add the egg, bacon and avocado and combine with approximately 3 tablespoons of Mayonnaise until the consistency is to your liking.
Season with crushed garlic, chopped chives and freshly ground salt and pepper.
Spread on a slice of Warburtons Seeded Batch Loaf or on your favourite Warburtons Bread.
Top with a second slice of bread and voila, you have a sandwich! 


Throughout British Sandwich Week 7 bloggers are taking part in the challenge of creating an ultimate sandwich filling recipe in conjunction with Warburtons. Eileen kicked off the week yesterday with a fab idea using Warburtons Toastie and I'll link up all the others as my fellow bloggers share their creations over the week.
Happy sandwich making!

Sunday - ET Speaks from Home - Strawberry Cream Cheese Sandwich
Tuesday - Recipes From A Pantry - Radish, Avocado and Egg Mayonnaise Sandwich
Thursday - Mad House Family Reviews - Bagel Heaven
Friday - Eats Amazing
Saturday - Dadventurer


Disclosure : This is a commissioned recipe for Warburtons. All views expressed are my own. 


Charlotte's Lively Kitchen - Food Year Linkup