Friday, 15 October 2010

Prawn, Avocado and Pecan Herb Salad

After too many lunch times consisting of the same sandwich or tortilla wrap day after day I decided it was time for a change and with Hubby working from home it was a perfect opportunity to make something special. What better way for a change than with a heart healthy recipe from Sally Bee’s The Secret Ingredient? This dish proved that salads do not have to be boring! The prawns cooked with the garlic, spring onion and soy sauce combined wonderfully with the avocado and pecans to deliver a great tasting, warm and full of texture salad. This is a recipe I will certainly make time and time again! It would also make a great healthy starter.

Prawn, Avocado and Pecan Herb Salad

Serves 2

drizzle of olive oil
2 salad onions or spring onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
8 (or more) uncooked king prawns
mixed salad leaves
1 ripe avocado
2 tomatoes, sliced
juice of 1 lemon
handful of fresh basil, torn
handful of shelled pecan nuts

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped salad onions or spring onions, crushed garlic, soy sauce, black pepper and raw prawns. Sauté until the prawns have turned pink all the way through.

Arrange the salad leaves, watercress, avocado and tomatoes in a big dish, then pour over the prawns and other cooked ingredients. Squeeze over the lemon juice, sprinkle with torn basil and pecan nuts and serve.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

It’s National Chocolate Week from the 11th to 17th October and the perfect time to bake and eat lots of chocolate! I decided to keep it simple as I'm watching my waistline, (ha who am I kidding but seriously I am) and bake this Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake from Nigella Kitchen. I adore the choc/orange combination and find it totally irresistible. This loaf cake may look plain but it was very moreish and didn’t last longer than a day! The sponge was fluffy, light and very moist, with the chocolate and orange blending together delightfully!

Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

150g soft unsalted butter, plus some for greasing
2 x 15ml tbsp golden syrup
175g dark muscovado sugar
150g plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
25g best-quality cocoa powder, sifted
2 eggs
zest 2 oranges and juice of 1

1 x 900g (2lb) loaf tin

Preheat the oven to 170oC/150oC fan oven/gas mark 3 and line your loaf tin with baking parchment or a paper loaf-tin liner.

Beat the already soft butter with the syrup and the sugar until you have a fairly smooth caffé Americano cream, though the sugar will always have a bit of grit about it.

Mix the flour, bicarb and cocoa powder together, and beat into the syrup mixture 1 tbsp of these dry ingredients before beating in 1 egg. Then add another couple of spoonfuls of the dry ingredients before beating in the second egg. Carry on beating in the remaining dry ingredients and then add, still beating, the orange zest and finally, gradually, the juice.

Pour and scrape into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes, though check 5 minutes before and be prepared to keep it in the oven 5 minutes longer if need be. Leave to cool a little in the tin on a wire rack, then turn out with care and leave on the rack to cool.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

Did you all have a lovely weekend? My weekend was nice but busy around the house. Dare I mention it but with Christmas around the corner I like to give the house a good de-cluttering and sort out before the madness begins. Then I have free time to bake, cook and enjoy the festive season; of course the daily housework will always be there! So our weekend kicked off the start of our autumn clean up project. I did however manage to find some time to get into my kitchen for a spot of baking and baked these wonderful Apple and Cinnamon Muffins from Nigella Kitchen. The smell of these muffins while baking was divine and they reminded me of all the wonderful xmas scents to come. As I expected these muffins were beautifully moist from the apple chunks and had so much flavour and texture. Hubby and I both agreed these muffins are definitely a must bake but you should seriously try them served as a pudding with lashings of custard, we did!

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

Makes 12 (I ended up with 18)

2 eating apples
250g plain flour (or spelt flour)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
125g light brown sugar, plus 4 tsp for sprinkling
125ml honey
60ml runny natural yoghurt
125ml flavourless vegetable oil
2 eggs
75g natural (unblanched) almonds

Preheat the oven to 200oC/180oC fan oven/gas mark 6 and line your muffin tin with papers.

Peel and core the apples, then chop into small dice (about 1cm) and put them to one side.

Measure the flour, baking powder and 1 tsp of the ground cinnamon into a bowl.

Whisk together the 125g brown sugar, the honey, yoghurt, vegetable oil and eggs in another bowl or jug.

Chop the almonds roughly and add half of them to the flour mixture, and put the other half into a small bowl with the second tsp of ground cinnamon and the 4 extra tsp brown sugar. This will make the topping for the muffins.

Now fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Add the chopped apple, and stir to combine but don’t over mix.

Spoon this bumpy batter into the muffin papers, then sprinkle the rubbly topping mixture over them.

Pop the tin into the prepared oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, by which time they will have risen and become golden.

Take the tin out of the oven and let it stand for about 5 minutes before gingerly taking out the muffins and placing them on a wire cooling rack.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Pasta Bake

On Friday evening we had our son Jake and his girlfriend Sophie over for dinner. I miss Jake and a huge hole has been left in my life since he moved out but I refuse to be one of those mothers that try and hold him back for my own reasons. I didn’t count on my son moving out so soon and even more so starting a family of his own but I can only admire and be so proud of the man he is becoming. We are all so excited about the arrival of the baby which could be any day now and I can’t wait to meet my grandson! Whenever Jake comes over I always make the food he loves and enjoys, so when I saw this Pasta Bake that Jan at A Glug of Oil blogged about it seemed the perfect choice for Friday nights dinner. We love pasta and this recipe is very similar to one I make which always goes down well. This pasta bake was full of flavour, really delicious and we all thoroughly enjoyed it! This recipe is a keeper, thanks Jan for sharing this wonderful pasta bake!

Pasta Bake (adapted)

Serves 8

500g gigli pasta (or pasta of choice)
500g minced beef
500g minced pork
extra virgin olive oil - a few glugs for frying
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
3 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 x 400g tin of good quality Italian chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato purée (paste in the USA)
350ml of red wine
a good pinch of dried oregano
a pinch of nutmeg
salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the white sauce:
750ml of whole milk
100g of unsalted butter
55g plain flour
100ml double cream
plus a good handful of grated extra mature cheddar cheese and Parmesan to sprinkle over the top

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F or Gas 4

You will need a large frying pan, a large saucepan and a 2.5 litre oven proof dish. And also a balloon whisk and a wooden spoon.

In a large frying pan heat a about a tablespoon oil over a medium heat. Fry gently the onion and carrot for about 10 minutes, moving it around from time to time. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Then set this aside while you cook the meat.

Add another glug of oil to the frying pan, turn the heat up and fry the beef and pork to brown it, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Keep it moving so it browns evenly. When it's browned nicely, now you can put the onion mixture back into the frying pan with the meat. Give it all a good stir. Add the tomato purée and cook for one minute then tip in the tin of tomatoes including the juice, oregano and red wine. Add a little salt and pepper to season. Still stirring, allow it to come up to simmering point. Once everything is simmering away nicely, leave it to cook over a low heat for about 30 minutes. Be sure to give it a stir now and then so you know it's not going too dry. By now you should be well on the way to having a nice thick, reduced concentrated sauce, that has very little liquid left in it. If you haven't - no worries just leave it for another 10 minutes or whatever it takes - you might have the heat a bit too low. Have a taste to check the seasoning, when you're happy with the thickness of the sauce, put the pan to one side and make the white sauce.

Put the butter and flour into a large thick-based saucepan and put it over a medium heat whilst stirring with a wooden spoon. Let the flour and butter cook for a minute or so (or the sauce will be lumpy). Now, remove from the heat and using a balloon whisk, add the milk in a little at a time, whisking all the time. Once all the milk is in, put the saucepan over a gentle heat and whisk continuously until the sauce comes to simmering point and thickens nicely. Add some salt and pepper to season and have a taste to make sure it's okay. Don't leave the salt out or the sauce will have no taste. Then, with the heat as low as possible, continue to cook the sauce for about 10 minutes. When it's nice and thick, remove from the heat and stir in the cream, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Once that's done you can turn off the heat and cook your pasta - following the instructions on the packet. Go for very slightly undercooked 'al dente' because the pasta will continue to cook when it goes in the oven.

Drain the pasta and reheat the white sauce, stirring all the time. Tip the pasta into your meat sauce and gently give it a stir to coat it well - you don't want the pasta to break up.

Put half of the mixture into your oven proof dish (2.5 litre in size) and spoon over a little of the white sauce. Don't fuss about the evenness of it, just pour over randomly. Add the rest of the pasta and meat mixture. Now pour the rest of the white sauce over to cover the pasta as best you can.

Sprinkle the top with a good amount of grated cheddar and Parmesan.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Banana Chocolate and Pecan Loaf

Hi everyone I’m back from a lovely restful weekend at the lodge. The weather wasn’t the best and it rained on and off but we made the most of it. When the weather was dry we picked more cooking and eating apples, chopped up wood to bring back for our open fires and enjoyed our walks around the woodland and open field we have at the lodge. It was a very productive weekend and I came home with 2 gorgeous new tablecloths and matching napkins that my mother in law made with the fabric I recently bought from eBay. My Lemon Curd and Blueberry Loaf Cake was thoroughly enjoyed and didn’t last beyond Sunday evening, it’s definitely a must bake! In addition I also made this scrumptious Banana Chocolate and Pecan Loaf, I couldn’t go away for the weekend and leave the sad looking bananas in my fruit bowl. I adapted this loaf to my taste and added chocolate instead of raisins and Total Greek Yoghurt instead of buttermilk. The end result was a moist, chocolatey, nutty and very yummy banana loaf.

Banana Chocolate and Pecan Loaf

100g softened unsalted butter
140g light muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
3 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 450g/1lb total weight)
50g pecans, roughly chopped
50g milk chocolate, chopped (or raisins)
150ml buttermilk or Total Greek Yoghurt
280g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to fan 160C/ conventional 180C/gas 4. Butter a 20 x 13cm loaf tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time (don't worry that the mixture looks curdled). Stir in the mashed bananas, pecans, chocolate and buttermilk/Greek yoghurt.

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda on top of the banana mixture, then fold in until evenly mixed, taking care not to overmix. Spoon into the prepared tin and level the top.

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes until a skewer pushed in the centre comes out almost, but not quite, dry. Remove from the oven and leave for about 10 minutes, then turn it out of the tin on to a cooling rack to cool.