A Day of Celebration …

It’s been a while but I think I’m rediscovering my creative ‘mojo’, certainly in the kitchen anyway. We had family for lunch yesterday to help celebrate a range of birthdays which are all really close together. It’s something we do every year but couldn’t last year due to my dad’s ill health. It was wonderful to have him there yesterday alongside my mum and both of my parents-in-law, as well as my husband and boys.
I really enjoyed getting everything ready – we’ve had our roof re-done and the scaffolding only came down on Saturday, luckily the sun shone and we were able to open the doors from the dining room onto the garden:
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So far as the food was concerned, I made a mac ‘n’ cheese with red peppers and chorizo, buffalo inspired chicken, a potato salad and green beans. I made the mac ‘n’ cheese first thing in the morning which freed me up later on to concentrate on other things. These were the food choices of my 2 boys as one has just had his birthday and the other will be celebrating in just a few weeks time.
Desert came in the form of cake and plenty of it. We had rocky road cupcakes – even the buttercream icing contained melted marshmallow!

Rocky Road Cupcakes

Alongside the cupcakes we had freshly made doughnuts. I used a Mary Berry recipe and although it was originally intended for filled jam doughnuts, it worked really well for ring doughnuts too:

Rocky Road Cupcakes and doughnuts

To finish off we had some delicious rhubarb vodka which I bought a few weeks ago at the Abergavenny Food Festival – nobody else liked it quite as much as I did but then that’s no bad thing as there’s plenty left for me to enjoy!

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My New Favourite Thing …

Is my slow cooker:

Crockpot

Work commitments plus the social lives of my children mean that there’s not always much time for cooking, especially during the working week. I found that I was cooking the same kind of meals each week because they were quick and easy but they weren’t always particularly tasty or interesting. I did a bit of research on the internet and read various reviews, we went to the shops and I chose the ‘Crockpot’ above. The fact that the ceramic dish can be used on the hob to brown meat first and/or soften onions etc is a real bonus. We’ve had our slow cooker for just over a week and I’ve used it 4 times so far to cook: salmon; lamb; pork and chicken. All have been delicious and ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ tender. The lamb korma below was incredible – I tried to persuade my family that it was down to my skills as a cook and had nothing to do with the crockpot but I don’t think they fell for it!

Lamb Korma

Yesterday we had pulled pork wraps, again the meat was succulent and tender – not at all dry or chewy. The pork joint had been slow cooking for 8 hours in orange juice and beer, an interesting yet tasty combination. It had been rubbed with a variety of herbs and spices which gave it a very subtle, warm rather than spicy flavour.

Pulled Pork Wraps

I think that the best thing about our crockpot slow cooker is that there are now days when I come home from work and the house is filled with the aroma of a delicious home cooked meal – my husband says that now I know what it’s like for him when he gets home, what a lucky man he is!!!

Madelaines …

We’ve just returned from a wonderful holiday in France, to make that holiday feeling last just a little bit longer I made some madelaines – any excuse !
The recipe was from Rachel Khoo’s ‘Little Paris Kitchen’ and included the addition of a raspberry into each madelaine plus some home made lemon curd once the cakes had been removed from the oven:

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It took several attempts to get the quantity of batter right – I kept putting way too much in and the cakes overflowed their moulds – I got it just about right in the end though.

These tasted lovely and light, still warm from the oven.
I wonder what I can cook tomorrow to extend that holiday feeling !

Wonderful Weekend …

We didn’t have much planned for the weekend but it’s turned out to have been a pretty good one. Yesterday, my husband and my older son went to see the Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, this left my younger son and myself with a day to ourselves.
We began by having breakfast at the Thali Restaurant, Easton, Bristol. We both had their coconut and banana pancakes with honey:

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We spent the rest of the day shopping and film watching and finished it off with our second visit of the day to the Thali restaurant, this time to fill up our tiffin tin with delicious curry:

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Today, myself and my husband went to visit Jekka’s herb farm herb farm, just north of Bristol. There was an open day today – it’s not normally open to the public – and we bought some delicious looking herbs as well as a yummy recipe book:

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The herbs are, from the top: Silver Sage, Black Peppermint, Zi Su Egoma (I’m not sure either but it’ll be fun finding out!) and Apple Mint.

I’m really looking forward to trying out some new recipes from this book:

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Lunch today was a very simple bread & cheese affair followed by a completely spur of the moment raspberry and strawberry roulade:

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We are loving the weather at the moment and eat outside at every opportunity – loving the summer!

What a Treat …

Doughnuts are something that I’ve never made before, thinking that they would be too difficult and probably just as good as their shop bought counterparts. How wrong was I ?!!
Not only were these incredibly easy to make, they tasted delicious – my son licked his plate clean!!

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We were very restrained and didn’t eat them all in one go – one with a vanilla latte later today is something I’m looking forward to!

Stunningly Simple …

I’m a huge fan of Nigel Slater, not least because his recipes are delicious and they ALWAYS work! This chicken recipe was taken from ‘eat‘, a perfectly pocket sized recipe book. The chicken is flattened and then liberally sprinkled with salt, the zest of lemons and limes and some chilli flakes. The grill is then used to quickly cook the chicken without it drying out. I served ours with boiled rice and steamed broccoli – for a more decadent meal next time, I think I’ll cook the rice in coconut milk:

 

To follow we had ¬†vanilla cupcakes. I made these for my son and his school football team as the dessert at their ‘Sportsman’s Dinner’. They were topped with fudge cubes and chocolate coated popping candy!!

A Birthday Feast …

It was my Dad’s birthday this week and yesterday, he and my Mum came for a celebratory lunch. I got up early (really early for a Saturday) and spent a lovely morning preparing, baking and cooking. Cooking without a set time limit (lunch would begin between 1pm and 2pm) was great as there was never any real time pressure.
To begin, we had caramelised red onion and goat’s cheese tartlets:

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Our main course was called ‘Rigas’s Lamb’, it was a slow roasted leg of lamb served with macaroni cooked in tomato passata. I really wasn’t sure about this recipe, I hoped it would work. As it turned out, it really did work, the fresh and dried mint added an extra layer of flavour:

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It wouldn’t have been a proper celebration of my Dad’s birthday without some form of meringue, I decided on an ‘ultimate’ pavlova – strawberries and raspberries mixed with some meringue and double cream (Eton Mess), on top of a large meringue base:

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As an alternative/addition to the pavlova, I made some Salted Caramel Cupcakes:

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I think we will need to be on meagre rations for the rest of the week!!