Thursday, 25 February 2010

Rigatoni Al Forno

When the weather is cold, wet and miserable I take comfort in my kitchen making winter-warming food for my family. I love making meals that we all look forward to after a long day at the office or college and this pasta dish is comfort food at its absolute best. I was thinking about what to make for dinner when I remembered this pasta recipe that I used to make often and was a favourite of ours. My boys actually got excited when I told them what I had made for dinner and there wasn’t a scrap left on any of our plates. This is definitely one that all you pasta lovers out there should try!

Rigatoni Al Forno

Serves 6

For the meat sauce

1 onion
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
2 cloves of garlic
50g unsmoked streaky bacon or pancetta
50 g butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
500g minced beef
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
250ml red wine
2 bay leaves
200ml water, swilled in the tomato can

For the béchamel
85g butter
50g plain flour
500ml milk
Salt or stock granules to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg

1 x 500g pack Rigatoni pasta

25g Parmesan, freshly grated (I also used cheddar)

Roughly chop the peeled onions, peeled carrots, the bacon or pancetta and the celery. Peel the garlic clove and put them along with the chopped veg and bacon into a food processor and finely chop. Or chop finely by hand. Heat the butter and oil in a large pan and fry your bacony vegetable mush gently for 10 minutes or until soft.

Add the minced beef and fork it through until it browns in the pan as much as possible. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, puree, red wine, bay and tomatoey water. Stir well and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat, partially cover and let cook gently for 2 hours.

To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan then add the flour and stir and cook together to make a roux. Take off the heat briefly, and whisk in the milk – just using a hand whisk – then put back on the heat and, stirring all the time, let the sauce come to boil and bubble away for a few minutes to get rid of the floury taste. Season with salt and pepper (or you could use some crumbled stock cube or bouillon concentrate). Turn down the heat slightly and cook until slightly thickened, though this needs to be liquid-y enough to coat the pasta easily. After turning off the heat stir some freshly grated nutmeg through the sauce.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/fan oven 180˚C/gas 6 and put the water on for the pasta. When the water comes to the boil, add salt and cook the pasta until its al dente.

Drain the pasta and, while still a little wet, put it back into the saucepan and pour the white sauce over, mixing well. Add the meat sauce and mix again, until the pasta is covered in both. Tip the sauced pasta into a large buttered roasting or oven-proof dish, cover the top with grated parmesan and cook for 30- 40 minutes or until the top is crispy and golden.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Rocky Road

As promised here is the Rocky Road and 3rd recipe I have made from my latest book purchase. These are not your average Rocky Road; they are a lighter, less dense version and unlike the ones I have made by Nigella you can actually eat more than one slice and not feel like you’ve had too much. Don’t get me wrong I love Nigella’s version, but if I am going to be honest and judging on my boys reactions, I would have to say that given a choice we would have these again. This Rocky Road consist of a wonderful combination of creamy, buttery chunks of shortbread, spongy marshmallows and crunchy rice krispies all fused together with chocolate caramel. I dare you to make these and stop at one!

Rocky Road

3 Mars bars
100g butter
5 shortbread fingers
140g marshmallows
50g Rice Krispies

Chop up the Mars bars and place them in a small pan with the butter. Melt over a gentle heat. Break the shortbread into chunks and stir into the mixture with the marshmallows and Rice Krispies. Press the mixture into a lightly oiled 15cm-square tin and leave to set in the fridge. When set, cut into squares, turn out upside down and serve.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Cottage Pie with Cheesy Mash

I bring you my second instalment from The Hairy Bikers’ Family Cookbook; mums know best. I love cottage pie and any excuse to try out different variations of this recipe. So when I spotted this recipe in the book I was excited and made it for dinner that same evening. For me nothing beats a plate of delicious home-made comforting food in this cold weather and this pie certainly is a winter warmer. My boys and I really enjoyed this version with its cheesy mash topping and sumptuous meat and veggie underbelly, definitely one I will be making time and time again.

Watch this space for my next instalment from the book. Will be posting Rocky Road tomorrow!

Cottage Pie with Cheesy Mash

Serves 4-5

1 tbsp sunflower oil (I used olive oil)
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
500g lean beef mince
150ml red wine
2 tbsp plain flour
250ml beef stock (fresh or from a cube)
250ml cold water
2 tbsp tomato purée
½ tsp mixed dried herbs
1 dried bay leaf
splash Worcestershire sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping
800g/1lb 12oz floury potatoes, such as King Edward or Maris Piper, peeled and cut into even-sized pieces
40g butter, cubed
3 tbsp milk
100g mature cheddar, grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the sunflower oil in a large deep sauté pan or saucepan and gently fry the onion, celery and carrots for 8 minutes or until the onions are softened and lightly coloured. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir all the vegetables occasionally to prevent them from becoming too brown.

Tip the mince into the pan and cook with the vegetables for 5 minutes or until no pinkness remains, stirring regularly to break up the meat. Pour the wine into the pan and cook until all the liquid evaporates, then sprinkle over the flour and stir well for a minute or two.

Gradually stir in the beef stock into the pan. Add 250ml of cold water, the tomato purée and herbs. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and cook over a low heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mince is tender and the sauce has thickened. If it starts to look too dry, add some more stock or water. Season with Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and spoon the mince mixture into a 1-5 litre ovenproof dish. Leave to stand while you get the mash ready.

Boil the potatoes until they are very soft. Drain well, then return them to the saucepan and add the butter, milk and cheese. Mash until smooth and creamy and season to taste. Preheat the oven to 200oC/fan oven 180oC/ Gas 6.

Spoon the potato over the mince mixture, working around the edge before heading towards the middle. When all the mince is covered, rough up the surface with a fork and place the dish on a baking tray. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes are golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Serve with freshly cooked green beans or shredded Savoy cabbage.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Lemon Drizzle Cake

This Lemon Drizzle Cake comes courtesy of my new cookbook, The Hairy Biker’s Family Cookbook, mum's know best! This is the first cookbook I’ve bought in a good while and after watching the series that accompanies it I was sold. I love cookbooks that focus on great recipes’ that have been handed down through the generations and this book delivers exactly that. There are so many wonderful recipes that I want to try and what better way than to start off with this mouth-watering luscious Lemon Drizzle Cake. It’s one of those cakes that one slice is never enough. The sponge is so fluffy yet moist with its sweet tart flavour and finished off with a crunchy tangy sugar topping. If you love citrus cakes I recommend you try this recipe!

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Serves 10

2 small unwaxed lemons, well scrubbed
275g granulated sugar
175g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the tin
200g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
3 large free-range eggs

Preheat the oven to 180oC/fan 160oC/Gas 4. Line the base of a 900g (2lb) non-stick loaf tin with baking parchment and butter the tin well. Finely grate the zest of the lemons. Put 175g of the sugar in a food processor with the butter, flour, baking powder, eggs and lemon zest and blend on the pulse setting until the mixture is just combined and has a thick, smooth texture.

Spoon the cake batter into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake for 35 minutes or until well risen and pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Squeeze one of the lemons to get about 3 tablespoons of juice and mix this with the remaining 100g of granulated sugar.

Turn the cake out onto a wire rack set about a tray or plate. Remove the baking parchment and gently turn the cake the right way up. Make about 50 deep holes in the top of the cake with a skewer.

Slowly and gradually, spoon over half the lemon sugar, allowing it to thoroughly coat the top of the cake and drizzle down the sides. Leave the cake to stand for 5 minutes, then do the same with the remaining lemon sugar. Leave to set for at least an hour or until the sugar and lemon has crystallised. Serve the cake in thick slices with a nice cup of tea.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Honey-Seared Salmon with Sesame Noodles

Here is another great recipe from In the Mood for Food. The moment I first saw this recipe I knew I had to make it. I absolutely love salmon and stir fries and the both combined sounded really yummy. The salmon , soft noodles, sweet honey and crunchy veggies offer an amazing combination of texture and taste. With my fussy son, who is not fond of fish, being out for the night it was an opportunity to have a quiet evening in with hubby and enjoy this lovely meal with a glass or 2 of wine.

Honey-Seared Salmon with Sesame Noodles

Serves 2

2 strips of egg or rice noodles (I used rice noodles)
3 teaspoons sesame oil
2 thick salmon fillet, skinned and sliced into 2cm thick strips
4 teaspoon runny honey
4 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tsp sesame seeds
8 spring onions, sliced
2 handfuls of bean sprouts
4 large handfuls of spinach leaves

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions and drain. Toss in a teaspoon of the sesame oil to prevent them sticking together. Toss the salmon with the honey, soy sauce and chilli flakes. Heat a non-stick frying pan or wok over a high heat. Add the sesame seeds, toast until they are lightly golden, and then remove from the pan. Add a teaspoon of sesame oil to the pan and once hot, cook the salmon for about a minute each side or until golden (reserving any of the honey and soy left behind in the dish). Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Add the remaining teaspoon of the sesame oil to the pan and quickly fry the noodles, spring onion and bean sprouts until the noodles are heated through. Add the spinach, sesame seeds and any remaining honey and soy mixture from the salmon. Toss until the spinach is starting to wilt. Tip the noodles and spinach mixture into a serving bowl. Sit the honey-seared salmon on top and serve straight away.

PS....For a bit of a kick, add a pinch of chilli flakes to the honey and soy sauce.

The salmon can be swapped for prawns or strips of chicken, pork or beef.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Coconut Cookies

My hubby has another badminton match tonight and guess who was nominated to provide some baked goodies? You guessed it, me again, not that I’m complaining because I love it. I was going to bake a Lemon Drizzle Cake but someone else is making a large cake already. So I decided to bake these Coconut Cookies which will no doubt put a smile on the men’s faces (don’t ask but you can imagine what the hubby said these resemble)! These moreish cookies are just delicious and have a macaroon taste and feel to them, with the coconut delivering a chewy consistency.

Coconut Cookies

Makes about 20

100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
100g plain flour
¼ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
100g dessicated coconut
Glace cherries for decoration, cut in half

Pre-heat the oven to 180oC/fan 160oC/gas 4. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment paper.

In a mixer, cream the sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. Then sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and add the coconut and mix well.

Roll out the dough into walnut size pieces and place on baking tray and flatten slightly. Place half a cherry on top of each biscuit and transfer to oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Sticky Toffee Pudding

As promised another instalment from Jo Pratt’s In the Mood for Food. I’m having fun rediscovering recipes I had book-marked. This Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe is one that I have had my eye on and then I remembered I had bought some Medjool dates, so no time like the present. This much loved British pudding consists of a moist sponge, made of chopped dates and covered in a toffee sauce. The original recipe in the book also includes stem ginger but I wanted to stick with the traditional and omitted the stem ginger. I will definitely be making this luscious sticky pudding again!

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Serves 8

For the pudding
250g date, stone and chopped (I used medjool dates for best results)
250ml black tea (not too strong)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
85g unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
175g self-raising flour, sieved
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice

For the sauce
75g light muscovado sugar
100g unsalted butter
125ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 180oC/fan 160oC/gas 4.
Place the dates and tea in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes for the dates to soften, then stir in the bicarbonate.

Cream together the butter and caster sugar before thoroughly mixing in the eggs, flour, mixed spice and date mixture.

Pour into a roughly 22cm square (or similar) buttered baking dish or tin. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is just firm to touch.

While the pudding is cooking, make the sauce by putting the sugar, butter and cream into a saucepan. Place over a low heat and simmer gently until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce is a light toffee colour.

Serve the pudding with the warm sauce and, if desired, a big scoop of vanilla ice cream or clotted cream.

Here are some pics that I took today of my gorgeous Madison.

"Talk to the paw cos this cat's sleeping!"

"Did I hear you say kitty treats"

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

White Chocolate and Macadamia Cookies

Warm cookies right from the oven, oozing with melted chocolate and macadamia nuts. Who can resist them? These cookies are my second offering this week from Jo Pratt’s In the Mood for Food. I had forgotten how many great recipes are in this book and I have a few more recipes book-marked to try in the coming days (so watch this space)! This cookie recipe is quick and easy, and delivers soft, chewy melt-in your mouth cookies that are definitely for those with a sweet tooth. The only trouble with these cookies is that it’s hard to eat only one at a time!

White Chocolate and Macadamia Cookies

Makes about 12 or more

125g butter, softened
85g soft light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
150g plain flour
75g white chocolate, chopped or broken into small chunks
50g macadamia nuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/ fan 160ºC/ Gas 4.
Beat together the butter and sugar until it is pale and creamy, either in an electric mixer or by hand.
Beat in the vanilla extract and egg yolk.
Add the flour, white chocolate chunks and chopped nuts. Mix until you have a smooth dough, with the only lumps being the chocolate and nuts.

Using your hands, roll the dough into golf sized ball and lightly press each one flat on to a greased baking sheet, making sure they are spread slightly apart.
Bake for 12 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and let cool for a couple of minutes before either eating or cooling completely on a wire rack.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Cheese, Onion and Potato Pie

This Cheese, Onion and Potato Pie (more of a bake, than pie but that’s the name of the recipe) is pure comfort food with its gooey, cheesy and creamy mash. The recipe is one from Jo Pratt’s In the Mood for Food and uses ingredients most of us will have to hand, making this the perfect recipe for a quick, easy and scrumptious weekday meal.

Cheese, Onion and Potato Pie
Serves 2 generously

750g potatoes, peeled and quartered
40g butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
100ml milk
200g mature Cheddar, Double Gloucester or Red Leicester cheese, grated (I used cheddar)
1 tsp wholegrain or English mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tomatoes, sliced

Preheat the oven to 200oC/fan 180oC/gas 6. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 15 to 20 minutes until tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, melt the butter in a pan and gently sauté the onion until lightly golden and sweet. This will take about 10mins. Add the milk to the pan and heat until almost boiling.

Drain the potatoes and return to the pan. Mash really well with a potato masher, and then beat in the milk and onion, three-quarters of the cheese, the mustard and some seasoning.

Transfer to a buttered oven proof dish, scatter over the remaining cheese and lay the tomato slices on top and season again if you wish.

Bake for 20 to 25 mins until the top is bubbling and lightly golden.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Pear and Chocolate Muffins

It seems I am on a pear kick at the moment. I was asked by my lovely hubby if I could bake something yummy to provide towards the buffet after a badminton match he is playing this evening. Of course I jumped at the chance as I'm always happy to have an excuse to bake and it's always a great satisfaction when hubby comes home and tells me what a hit my goodies were.
I've not been food shopping this week so had to make use of what I had available, so I decided to use up the pears in my fruit bowl and make these Pear and Chocolate Muffins. I love this combination of flavours, the chocolate compliments the sweetness of the pears wonderfully! I am sure these are going to be a hit with the players and there won't be a crumb left going on the bakes I've provided for previous matches!

Pear and Chocolate Muffins

250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
170g golden caster sugar
1 large egg
240ml milk
75g unsalted butter, melted
3 small pears, peeled and cubed
125g dark chocolate bar (chopped) or chocolate chips

Measure out all dry ingredients into a bowl together: plain flour, baking powder, chocolate and golden caster sugar.
Melt the butter and leave to cool down, once cooled combine with the milk and egg. Then add wet mixture to dry ingredients and then stir in pears. Fill each muffin case with the mixture and bake in a pre-heated oven to 180°C (356°F) for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Blog Award

While I've been out of blogging action I was so touched and happy to recieve this lovely award from Lucie at Cooking at Marystow! If you haven't had the pleasure of visiting her blog, I urge you to make a visit to view her yummy bakes and delish meals.

I would like to pass on this award to the following blogs that brighten up day.

Chele @ Chocolate Teapot

Natalia @ gatti fili e farina

Petit Filoux

The Girl @ Living with a Boy

C @ Cake, Crumbs and Cooking

Kelly-Jane @ Cooking the Books

Katie @ Katiecakes

Bea @ El Rincon de Bea

Nic @ Cherrepeno

Margaret @ Kitchen Delights

This is what you need to do (if you wish to participate)
1. Copy the award image into a post.
2. Then list 10 things that make you happy.
3. Tag 10 bloggers who brighten your day.
4. Put in a link to their blogs.
5. Notify the award receivers.
6. Award recipients must link back to sender's blog .

Ten things that make me happy

1. My family
2. My kitties
3. My pink kitchenaid
4. Baking
5. Entertaining friends
6. Surprises from my hubby
7. Dining out with hubby or friends
8. Good wine
9. My pink kitchen
10. My collection of shoes and bags

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Pear and Ginger Muffins

Hi all, how have you all been? I've been absent from my blog for too long but life as it sometimes does took over. I can't beleive how long it's been since I last blogged, although I have been baking along the way. If I'm honest I lost my blogging mojo when sadly my kitten Ollie passed away last August but I'm ready and raring to get back to my poor neglected blog and bake lots of yummy goodies. I baked these Pear and Ginger muffins a while back and they were a recipe I couldn't wait to try. I've baked many variety of muffins but never a recipe with pear. The pear and ginger combo sounded too good to pass up and they couldn't have been more of a hit with my boys and I. The pear keeps the muffin moist and the ginger permeates everything. These are perfect for breakfast or snacking during the day.
Pear and Ginger Muffins

Makes 12

250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
75g light brown sugar, plus ½ tsp per muffin for sprinkling
1 tsp ground ginger
1 x 142ml pot sour cream
125ml vegetable oil
1 x 15ml tbsp honey
2 eggs (large)
1 large pear such as a Comice (or other fruit to give you about 300g in weight), peeled, cored and cut into 5mm dice

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6 and line a 12-bun muffin tin with muffin papers.

Measure into a bowl the flour, baking powder, caster sugar, 75g of brown sugar and the ground ginger.

In a large measuring jug, whisk together the sour cream, oil, honey and eggs and then fold into the dry ingredients.

Lastly, mix in the diced pear, and divide the batter evenly between the muffin cases.

Sprinkle each one with ½ tsp of brown sugar and bake for 20 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack. Best eaten while still a little warm.