Sunday, 9 December 2007

American Goodies

Pin It Now!

It's been nearly a months since I last posted. Shame on me! Well, what can I say, there are just no excuses.

I have just got back from a week long trip to New York City where I had a wonderful time. So much to see and do and just not enough hours in the day. It was my second time there and I'm already looking forward to going again, whenever that may be.

Being me I had to bring back some food stuff of course. I wish I could have bought loads more, but I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to squeeze anymore into my bags and with the hand luggage restrictions on liquids I found that I was hitting the maximum allowed weight already.

This is what I got:

Ranch Dressing mix
Sweet Hungarian Paprika (because I liked the tin it came in)
Old Bay Seasoning
Penzey's Aleppo Pepper
Penzey's Creamy Peppercorn Dressing Base
Penzeys Apple Pie Spice
Penzey's Pumpkin Pie Spice
Velveeta Cheese
Rotel Tomatoes (I forgot to get them out for the picture)
Nathan's Deli Mustard
Buttersotch flavoured baking chips
Peanut Butter flavoured baking chips
Pancake Syrup
Ranch Dressing
Ceasar Dressing
Hershe's Cookie n' Cream Bars
Hershe's Mr Goodbar
Baby Ruth bar (for my friend Ruth for Christmas)

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Roast Chicken

Pin It Now!

I have no idea what is going on at the moment. Everything seems so hectic and it doesn't even have anything to do with Christmas yet. I've not been doing much notable cooking over the last few weeks, that's why my posts have been so sporadic. I did buy a chicken to roast last weekend, with the intention to make it on Sunday, but we ended up going out so I made it during the week instead. This recipe is really easy though and doesn't require much effort at all, but still guarantees a well flavoured, moist chicken.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The original recipe calls for lime juice, but it also works well with lemon or orange. This is the perfect recipe for anybody who is roasting a chicken for the first time, but also good enough for company.

Honey & Lime Roast Chicken

1 chicken
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 lime, quartered
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp paprika
2tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

Rinse your chicken well, inside and out and dry thoroughly with a paper towel.

Rub salt and pepper into the cavity.

Stuff the cavity with the quartered lime, onion and the garlic.

Rub the olive oil all over the chicken and season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken in a roasting tin and place in the middle of your preheated oven.

The roasting time depends on size of chicken. You need to calculate it as follows: Roast for 20 mins per lb plus an extra 20 minutes for the whole chicken (example: 4 lb chicken: 4x20+20=1hr40mins).

Using the juices from the roasting tin, baste the chicken every 30 mins to stop it from drying out.

While the chicken is roasting mix the lime juice, honey and parika in a small bowl.

30 mins before your chicken will be done take it out of the oven and brush with the lime& honey glaze.

Cover the roasting tin loosely with tin foil. The chicken should already have a lovely golden colour and covering it will stop the honey from burning. Return the chicken to the oven to finish roasting, at the end of the roasting time make sure all juices run clear by inserting a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh.

Monday, 12 November 2007

More Soup

Pin It Now!

I hope you're like me and don't get bored of soup quickly, because that's exactly what I've been cooking again. During the autumn and winter month we often have soup every week or so. It's warming, quick and most of the time even a cheap meal. Even with the added cream one portion of this soup has only about 250kcal. If you wanted to reduce that amount even further, just leave out the cream, the soup is still yummy without it. I like to serve it with croutons if I'm having it for a quick lunch or with some fresh crusty bread if I want something a bit more substantial.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Parsnip Soup

2tbsp butter
900gr parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground corriander
2pints good quality vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 pint single cream
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
chives, for garnish
croutons (optional)

In a large soup pot, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the parsnip, onion and garlic and cook over a low heat until softened, but don't let it brown.

Add the cumin and corriander and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring continuously.Add the stock, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the parsnip is cooked.
Puree the soup with a stick blender or food processor until smooth.
Add the cream and re-heat, making sure that it doesn't boil again.Granish with chives and croutons and serve immidiately.

Friday, 9 November 2007


Pin It Now!

I have no idea where this week has gone. Well, one thing I do know is that I haven't had much time to cook. It's been one of those weeks where I was glad I had some home-cooked meals in the freezer to just quickly heat up when I got home from work. I also have to admit that on Wednesday I even resorted to opening a tin of Ravioli. Oh well, at least it brought back some fond childhood memories. Saying that, my mum is a great cook and it wasn't often that we got fed Ravioli.

The one thing I have made this week is soup. Not only do I truly believe that everyone should be eating soup at this time of year, because it warms your heart and soul, as well as your stomach, but my 87-year-old friend Jock has just come out of hospital and I wanted to take him something that he can easily just warm up. He loves soup, so I thought that's what it'll be.

This particular soup is one of the quickest that I know to make and it uses ingredients I usually always have in my kitchen cupboards. It's great if you want a quick warm lunch or a soup as a starter. It can be on the table in less than 15 minutes.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Butter Bean Soup with Sundried Tomatoes, Pesto and Parmesan

900ml good quality chicken or vegetable stock
2 cans butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white kidney beans or butter beans or haricot beans, drained and rinsed
4tbsp sun-dried tomato puree
5tbsp pesto
2cloves of garlic, chopped finely
5tbsp freshly grated parmesan
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the beans and stock in a large pan and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and stirr in the sun-dried tomatoe puree, pesto and garlic. Cover and simmer for five minutes.

Remove from the hob and puree until smooth using a stick blender or a food processor. If you like you can keep some of the beans whole by removing them and adding them back after processing the soup.

Return the pan to the hob and simmer for another 4 minutes. Add the parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with some crusty bread.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Halloween Graveyard Cake

Pin It Now!

As I said on Wednesday my Halloween cooking didn't really happen until today. I've been invited to a Halloween party at my friend's house tomorrow and thought I'd bring a spooky cake. This isn't so much a recipe, but instructions so you can make your own graveyard cake when you have a spooky event to attend.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Just bake your favourite chocolate cake on a large, deep rimmed baking tray and cover it with a chocolate frosting. To make it look more like it's covered with soil, place about six bourbon cream biscuits in a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin until you have a bag full of fine crumbs. Sprinkle those over the whole cake. All you have to do now is decorate it with gravestones and all kinds of other halloween sweets like winegum worms and bats, squirty skulls and sugar bones. You could also use marzipan pumpkins and ghosts, there really is no limit, just have a look what you can find in the shops.

I really enjoyed myself doing the gravestones. All you need is some malted milk biscuits, a glaze for the biscuits and some writing icing in adifferent colours. To make the biscuits look mor like gravestones just use a small sharp kitchen knife to carve one end into an oval shape. Glaze each biscuit and allow the glaze to dry before decorating them with the writing icing. Alternatively you can place some small Halloween sweets into the wet glaze, they will stick once the glaze has dried.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Happy Halloween

Pin It Now!

I should have really saved a pumpkin recipe to post for today and I'm not even going to make a Halloween Cake until Friday either, but Happy Halloween to you all nontheless. I'm sitting here wondering whether there'll be any Trick or Treaters today or whether I'll have to eat all the mini chocolate bars I've bought this morning myself.

There is some pasta sauce simmering on my hob while I'm typing this. It's nothing particularly fancy. Instead it's one of those meals, I have made so many times that I don't really have a recipe. Today, I have meassured the ingredients though, so that I can share it here. One tip I have is that next time you buy some fresh parmesan and have used it all up, keep the rind. Just throw it into the sauce (or any Italian style tomato sauce) while it's simmering. It adds great flavour. The rinds freeze well too, if you have got no oppertunity to use them straight away.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Sylvie's Beef and Tomato Pasta Sauce

1/2 onion, chopped
1/2lb lean minced beef
1tsp vegetable or beef stock powder or 1 stock cube, crumbled
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 bell peppers (any colours, I like to use a variety), chopped
1 can of chopped tomatoes with herbs (400gr)
3tbsp Heinz tomato ketchup
3tbsp milk or single cream
1 splash Worcester Sauce
1tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2tbsp dried oregano
3/4tbsp caster sugar
6 chestnut or button mushrooms, sliced
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat a little oil in a heavy bottom frying pan.

Add the onions and fry over medium heat until they start to soften, but not brown.

Add the minced beef, making sure you break it up with your wooden spoon. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sprinkle with the stock powder. Stir occasionally until the meat is no longer pink.

Add the garlic and chopped peppers. Fry for another couple of minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes, ketchup and milk (or cream). Season with Worcester sauce, balsamic vinegar and oregano. Stir in the sugar to take some of the acidity out of the tinned tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook on low for 20 minutes, stirring occassionally.

Add the mushrooms and simmer for a further 15 minutes. The sauce is now ready, but you can simmer it for longer to develop even more flavour. You just need to make sure that it doesn't get too dry, adding some liquid vegetable stock if that happens.

Serve with your favourite pasta and plenty of freshly grated parmesan.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Monday, 29 October 2007

A Day for Baking Bread

Pin It Now!

Today is one of those glorious autumn days, where the sky is bright blue, the sun is shining and the leaves on the trees and the ground really show all their great colours. So, the perfect day for an early morning run. Whilst I was puffing away I got in the mood for baking some bread.

I love baking bread. There is something so satisfying about kneeding the dough and seeing it rise, not to mention the smell it fills your house with. I actually find it quite therapeutical. When I first got into cooking and baking, I didn't really dare to attempt baking bread. I had grown up watching my mum make beautiful fluffy loaves and I just didn't think mine would be the same. Once I tried though I realised that it isn't that difficult at all.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I used some of the puree I made on Friday to make Pumpkin Bread. This is a German recipe for a yeast bread, so it's completely different from the more common American style Pumpkin Breads, which usually are more cake like. If you can't be bothered roasting your pumpkin to make the puree just for this bread, you can peel and cube a pumpkin and simmer it in water until soft, then drain and puree.

Pumpkin Bread

125ml milk
500gr bread flour
300gr pumpkin puree
1tbsp butter
2tbsp sugar
1tsp salt
1 packet quick action yeast
a handful of pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, butter and milk.

In a seperate bowl combine the sugar, yeast, salt, flour. Add bit by bit to the wet ingredients, mixing well. Once it's starting to look like bread dough and you can't stir it with your wooden spoon any longer, turn it out onto a clean, floured surface. Kneed well for about 5 minutes.

If it is very sticky, add some more flour, 1 tbsp at a time. You don't want to overdo it with the flour. The dough should remain nice and elastic. If you add too much flour the bread becomes very dense.

Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size. I usually fill my sink with hot water, place an oven rack over the top of it and stand the bowl on the rack.

Punch the risen dough down and again turn it out onto a clean surface, that you have dusted with flour. Kneed for five minutes. If you like you can roll it in a handful of pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

Shape into desired loaf and place on a baking tray, alternatively you can bake it in a greased loaf pan. Cover again with a clean tea towel and allow to rise for a further 30-45 minutes.

Whilst the loaf is rising pre-heat your oven to 170C or Gas Mark 4.

Bake in the middle of the oven for approximately 45 minutes.

You can test if the loaf is done by 'knocking' on the bottom of it. It should sound hollow.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Saturday is Market Day

Pin It Now!

Well, in the town where I live it's actually market day on Wednesdays and Fridays as well, but I think the market is best on Saturdays. I love walking down if I have nothing else on and have a look around all the stalls. You can buy everything, from cheap tat to fresh flowers and of course food. There are a number of butchers, fishmongers, green grocers, an egg and cheese stall, a Delicatessen stall and if it tickles your fancy a stall selling tripe.

My favourite butcher had minced lamb on offer and as it's definitely feeling very autumnal today Shepherd's Pie came to my mind straight away.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I was born and grew up in Germany, so I had never eaten Shepherd's Pie until I came to live in England nine years ago. I think I've probably been hooked since I first ate it. It's one of my favourite autumn and winter comfort foods. When I first started making my own I have to admit to often using one of the ready-made dry mixes for the sauce, but trying to avoid using shop bought mixes, because you never quite know what's in them, I started experimenting with different recipes to make it from scratch. This is what I have finally settled on, it is a combination of various recipes, making a tasty Shepherd's Pie, which'll warm you up on a cold, dark night. You can use minced beef instead of the lamb, but that'll turn it into a Cottage Pie. This recipe is scaled down to serve just two people, but you can easily double all the amounts to serve four.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Shepherd’s Pie for two

1lb potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 knob of butter
4 tbsp milk
salt, to taste
½ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated

Meat Filling:
vegetable oil
½ onion, chopped
1 smallish carrot, chopped
1/2lb minced lamb (you can use finely cubed left-over roast)
1/2tbsp flour
125-150ml beef, lamb or chicken broth
¾ tsp fresh thyme, chopped
¾ tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 splashes of Worcester sauce
1tsp tomato puree

To make the topping, bring a pan of slightly salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, which should be about 12-15 minutes, depending on the size of your cubes. Drain.

Heat the milk and the butter in a saucepan, remove from heat and add the potatoes. Sprinkle with nutmeg and mash until smooth. Season to taste with salt. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 200C or Gas Mark 6.

Heat a little vegetable oil in a heavy bottom frying pan. Add the chopped onion and carrot and cook over a low heat until softened, but not brown, stirring occasionally. This should take 10-15 minutes. If you like celery you van also add a small chopped rib of celery at this stage.

Once your vegetables are soft, add the minced lamb, making sure you break it up with your wooden spoon. Cook until most of the lamb has browned. (If you’re using left over lamb roast, cook the pieces until they are no longer pink.). Drain off the excess fat.

Stir in the flour and continue to cook, whilst stirring continuously for another 2 minutes.

Now add the broth, herbs and Worcester Sauce if using. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Turn the heat to low and simmer until the sauce has thickened. This should take about 5 minutes. Don’t forget to stir occasionally. (You can also add some frozen peas at this stage if you like.)

Pour the meat and vegetable mixture into a small oven-proof dish and top with the mashed potatoes. Use a fork to ‘rough up’ the top of the potatoes. Alternatively you can pipe the potatoes onto the meat mix, creating little peaks.

Place the dish in the pre-heated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until the tops of the mashed potatoes have turned golden brown.

Serve with your favourite winter vegetables.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Pretty Pumpkins

Pin It Now!

Pumpkins are one of the things I really like about this time of year. Not only do they make for some great decorations, but I also really enjoy eating them in all sorts of different ways.

Many recipes ask for pumpkin puree, but as it's not easily available in the shops here in the UK, I make my own. You can freeze it and use it in all kinds of recipes from Pumpkin Pie to Pumpkin & Courgette Bread. I'll be posting some of the recipes as I'll be making them over the next weeks. But for now, here is how I make the puree. I use the orange culinary pumpkins that are smaller than the ones you use for carving, they have a better flavour in my opinion...

Easy Peasy Pumpkin Puree

1 pumpkin (of course you can use more if you like) is all you need.

Preaheat your oven to 180C or Gas Mark 4.

Cut the pumpkin in half or into quarters if they are large and remove all the seeds and stringy bits. (You can keep the seeds to roast them.)

Place the pumpkin quarters, skin side down, onto a large baking tray and roast them for approximately one hour, it might take a little longer depending on the size of your pumpkin.

You can check if it is done by piercing it with a fork, the flesh should be soft.

Remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Now cut off the peel, or you might find it easier to scoop the flesh out with a spoon.

Puree in a food processor or with a stick blender until smooth.

You can use the puree straight away or freeze it in portions to use in your recipes later on.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Finding my feet

Pin It Now!

So this is it. I've finally done it, started my own blog. Please bear with me while I find my feet.