Thursday, January 30, 2014


Although cooking for yourself is good if you want to experiment or try a recipe you're not so sure about, it is definitely more fun cooking with friends.  The other day I got together with a couple of people to cook dinner and as one of them is a vegetarian I decided to try a recipe I've had my eye on for a couple of weeks now in my GoodFood Magazine; mushroom fajitas with avocado houmous.  Although not a vegetarian myself this doesn't stop me from enjoying a good veggie meal from time to time and I love houmous so this recipe seemed perfect.

Mushroom fajitas with avocado houmous
Mushroom fajitas with houmous
As there were 5 of us we had to scale up the recipe but I think the quantities were about right in the end, although we did have some of the houmous left over (no worries, I had it for lunch the following day!)

For the houmous:
3 avocados
1kg chickpeas (weight of chickpeas before draining - drain and rinse)
1 large garlic clove (use 2 if the cloves are small - crushed)
the zest and juice of two lemons (if you're not as keen on lemon just use 1)
5 tomatoes (deseeded and diced)

It has to be said that making houmous without a food processor is tricky and probably not worth the effort.  I tried it last year in Germany and with only a garlic press to crush the chickpeas it took me a while!  Fortunately, at the beginning of the year I invested in a mini 250ml food processor (the Kenwood mini chopper).  As it is quite small I had to add the ingredients in stages and mix them together in a large bowl afterwards.  I did the chickpeas first, then the avocado and once I had processed them I mixed them together with the crushed garlic, lemon zest and juice and the diced tomatoes.

While I was busy doing that one of my friends was making the fajita spice mix.  You can buy this pre-made but as I had all the necessary spices I decided to make my own.  We used:
2tsp chilli powder
1tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1tsp cumin
2tsp ground coriander
1tsp salt
1tsp white caster sugar
1tbsp corn starch (if you don't want to buy/use this then use more of the other spices but be aware that you won't need as much spice mix as what you have will be spicier)
(you could also add 1/2 tsp onion powder but as we were using fresh onions anyway we decided not to)
To make the fajita spice just mix all these things together in a bowl.

The rest of the ingredients
2 onions
5 large flat mushrooms
olive oil (for coating and frying)
tortillas (at least 1 each)
lettuce (little gem works well - shredded)
Tabasco sauce (optional)

My lovely friends sliced the onions and mushrooms for me nice and thickly.  I then drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled over the spice mix and used my hands to toss them to make sure they were nicely coated in the mix.  Heat some olive oil in a pan, make sure it is really hot, then fry the onions and mushrooms for about 5 mins until they are nicely browned.  For an even better effect you can use a griddle pan but a frying pan works just as well.

spiced mushrooms and onions
Toss the mushrooms and onion in the spices
Once cooked you're ready to make and serve your fajitas, we just put everything in bowls on the table and helped ourselves but if you want to present them nicely then spread some of the houmous down the middle of each wrap and top with the mushrooms and onions.  Then sprinkle over some shredded lettuce (little gem lettuce works well for fajitas) and if you fancy you can add a dash of tabasco sauce.

The fajitas were really tasty and went well with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Afternoon Tease - review

Returning to Cambridge after Christmas I was delighted to discover that a lovely little café had opened up on King Street behind my college.  It is a lovely little place called Afternoon Tease which serves delicious homemade and freshly-baked cakes, brunch and lunch along with Kandula teas and coffee (featuring Cambridge's very own Hot Numbers Coffee).

 Everything is served on beautiful mis-matched china and if you're lucky the milk comes in one of these adorable little milk bottles.  I've tried several of the teas now from the English Breakfast tea to the slightly more unusual Ceylon Black and next on my list to try is the Ceylon pink!

tea served in vintage china with little milk bottle
Tea served in beautiful china
I always wait for my tea with excited anticipation as you never know which of their many teapots you are going to be given.  When I last went I was delighted when we were given the cow teapot, which I love, and the more unusual pineapple teapot which I hadn't seen before.

a pineapple teapot and a teapot with a picture of a cow on it
I love their range of teapots

chocolate cakecarrot cake

I apologise that the pictures above do not do the cake served at Afternoon Tease justice (it may have something to do with the fact that I could hardly wait to start eating them and so took less time over the pictures!)  The picture on the left is of the chocolate cake - possibly the richest I have ever eaten - needless to say I will definitely have this again the next time it is on offer.  I am not usually a fan of carrot cake, but Afternoon Tease has converted me!  It was lovely and moist and the cream cheese icing gave it just the right amount of sweetness.  The next time I visit I really want to the try chocolate Guinness cake which has looked very tempting when I've visited previously.

The very first time I visited I tried the crumpets from Cambridge's Dovecote Bakery, served with your choice of jam, honey, marmalade (I honestly can't remember all the options).  They, like everything else, were incredibly tasty, light and fluffy and were a perfect breakfast, rivalled only by the bacon bap I had there the other day!  They also serve chunky sourdough toast which once again are served with your choice of topping - great if you want something simple but still tasty and filling.  Next on my list is the banana loaf which you can have with butter and cinnamon or griddled and served with streaky bacon and maple syrup - I had a bite of a friend's when I was there last and I will definitely be going back for it.

Ceylon black tea
Ceylon Black tea
After 12 Afternoon Tease serves a lunch menu which from what I've seen on Facebook usually includes a sandwich or toastie and soup.  Unfortunately I've not managed to try anything off the lunch menu yet as I'm generally busier with lectures and supervisions in the afternoons but I hope I'll find time soon to pop in for lunch.

Afternoon Tease is the perfect place to go, whether you want to catch up with friends over a pot of tea, or while away some time reading with a nice piece of cake to keep you going.  I would definitely recommend this place to anyone and will be returning frequently.

You can follow Jo Kruczynska (owner of Afternoon Tease) on Twitter or Facebook, alternatively check out her website and blog here.  I love seeing her daily menu updates with appetising pictures of the food she'll be serving.

Afternoon Tease can be found at 13 King Street, Cambridge, CB1 1LH - Enjoy!

Friday, January 24, 2014

French Toast

French toast is possibly one of the simplest, yet tastiest, brunches I can think of!  It's perfect for a lazy morning when you want something a little more special for not a lot more effort.

French toast with bananas, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries
French toast with mixed fruit

For 2 people you will need:
2 eggs
Splash of milk
(vanilla essence)
Bread (this was enough for 4 slices)
butter for frying
1tsp brown sugar
Your choice of toppings - for the first slice I used fruit (bananas, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries) and for the second I made caramelised apples with cinnamon.  You could also add a dollop of Greek yoghurt, or golden syrup if you fancy something sweeter.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl (the wider the better - to make it easier to dip the bread in) with a splash of milk and a drop of vanilla essence (optional).  Melt some butter in a frying pan (enough to coat the bottom of the pan), dip both sides of a slice of bread in the egg mixture and fry it in the pan.  It should only need a couple of minutes on each side.  Once browned remove from the pan and sprinkle over the fruit and sugar or syrup.

If you have a little more time you could peel and slice an apple and sauté (fry quickly in a hot pan) the slices in 1tsp brown sugar, 1tbsp butter and 1tsp cinnamon.

French toast with caramelised apples
French toast with caramelised cinnamon apples

Monday, January 20, 2014

Oh so seasonal!

I've heard a lot lately about kale.  For those of you who don't know it's a type of cabbage which is in season at this time of year and has become a very popular ingredient, especially in winter salads, as it is meant to be very good for you.  Having never tried it myself I decided to give it a go.  I have a calendar which came with one of my BBC GoodFood magazines and it has a different recipe for every month of the year, the one for January is a chorizo and kale hash with a fried egg.  I have been staring at it on my wall for a couple of weeks now and decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to try it out.  So here goes.

Chorizo and kale hash with a fried egg
For 2 portions you will need:
olive oil for frying
80g spicy chorizo sausages (cut into small pieces)
1 onion (red or white)
100g kale
400g potatoes
1/2 tsp paprika
2 eggs

This is enough for a hearty lunch for two.
The ingredients
The recipe suggests that you use left over cold potatoes but as I didn't have any I just bought two tins of new potatoes in water.  The kale needs to be prepared otherwise it can be a little tough.  So bring a pan of water to the boil, then add the new potatoes from the cans and the kale, simmer for 3 minutes and strain the water off.

Boil the kale and potatoes for 3 mins
Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the chorizo and onion for about 8 mins until the chorizo is golden and the onion is soft.  It can be tricky to tell if everything has cooked because of the oils released from the chorizo but if you make sure the onion is soft then it'll be fine.

Fry the onions and chorizo
Turn up the heat, add the kale and stir-fry for a minute until the kale begins to wilt.  Stir in the potatoes, paprika and some seasoning and fry everything together for another 5 mins until the kale is tender.  Scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the tasty crispy bits off.  If you have a second hob then fry the eggs during these 5 mins.  If not, when the hash is ready put it onto your plates and then quickly fry the eggs and place them on top of the hash.

The hash
And there you have it a really simple, tasty lunch.

Friday, January 17, 2014

One pot pasta

I decided to try another recipe from SortedFood and it really is as easy as it sounds.  You can find the recipe here!/onepotpasta/ but it really is as simple as throwing everything into a saucepan.

I used exactly what they said in the recipe but halved it as I was only cooking for 2 people.  So I chopped up half an onion, finely chopped a couple of garlic cloves, halved a small handful of olives (I think you need more than they suggest), chopped a handful of roasted peppers (I bought a jar of these and once again, I think you need more than they suggest), chopped up a couple of sun-dried tomatoes, and gathered 100ml passata (a type of tomato sauce that isn't expensive and that you can buy in cartons from Sainsbury's), some olive oil, a tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (don't add too many), 1/2 small bunch fresh basil, 200g farfalle (bowtie) pasta.

Then you literally put the pasta in the pan, put everything on top, season and add 600ml water, bring to the boil, cover and turn the heat down so it simmers for 15 minutes (or until the pasta is cooked to your liking).

Everything in one pot

My comment on this recipe is be careful when adding the chilli flakes, I added slightly too many and it came out quite spicy!  If in doubt add a very small amount to begin with, leave to cook and if when you come to eat it you don't think there's enough add a few more at the end.  If it is too spicy then you can do what we did and eat it with a dollop or two of crème fraîche to help combat the spice.

The finished result - one pot pasta
The thing I love about this recipe was that it took about 10 mins to prepare and 15 mins to cook, but I just left the pot on the heat and did some reading while it was cooking and made sure I checked on it every 5 mins to give it a bit of a stir.  It really was that simple.  This is one dish that I will definitely be repeating.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Meat, Bread, Beer - Pint Shop review

I have decided to use my blog as a place to review restaurants I visit.  So here goes, my first review.  On Tuesday I was tired and didn't want to cook.  Plus I had just finished an essay so I felt like I deserved a night off.  So my boyfriend and I went out for dinner.  Just before Christmas a new restaurant opened up in Cambridge called 'Pint Shop' and it's slogan is 'Meat, Bread, Beer' - you pretty much can't go wrong!  I will note here that if you are a vegetarian this definitely isn't the place for you.

There are two sections to Pint Shop, the front bar area where you can order from their huge range of beers and ever wider range of gin and accompanying bar snacks.  However, we went through to the restaurant area at the back.  The atmosphere was nice and intimate, although I can imagine this would change slightly if we had been there on a busy night.  While we were looking at the menu we were given some bread and butter.  This is definitely worth mentioning as the bread was really good, lovely and soft with a crunchy crust.  I'm not sure if they bake their own bread but it was very good.

I decided to try one of the beers they had, so being more of a lager drinker (I attribute this entirely to the fact that I spent last year in Germany) I opted for the Adnams dry hopped lager.  It was a nice beer to have with the meal, not too heavy.  My boyfriend on the other hand went for the Adnams Copperhouse sloe gin with ginger ale and lime.  I will add here that Pint Shop has a very wide range of beer and gin it just happens that my boyfriend and I are very fond of the Adnams brewery and distillery.

I was pleased with the service and our food arrived very quickly.  I had a steak and cheese pie (the puff pastry kind - as opposed to a cottage pie) with cabbage and my boyfriend had spit-roast pork with Brussels sprouts and bacon.  We also order sides of chips and onion rings.  I have to say that it was very difficult to find fault with the food.  The pie was beautifully cook and the steak just melted in your mouth.  There was a good amount of cheese but not so much that it overpowered the pie.  My only comment on the main would be that the cabbage, although cooked nicely (not overdone) was a little bland and could have done with a little more seasoning.  My comment for the onion rings is similar.  Although very tasty the batter could have done with a little more seasoning (maybe some lemon juice or pepper).  The chips on the other hand were perfect, crispy on the outside while still soft on the inside.

All in all the meal was excellent and although not cheap I wouldn't say it was overpriced either.  If you want somewhere a little more special, but still relaxed, then Pint Shop is the place.  I will definitely be going back before the end of the year.  I really want to spend an evening in the bar area in order to try some more of their beers and maybe some gin too.  I'm not normally a fan but maybe Pint Shop will convert me!

I know it's customary to include pictures in a review and I do have one that I will include below, but I must apologise for the quality.  The lighting in the restaurant was dim, which made for a lovely atmosphere, but meant that I wasn't able to take a particularly good photo.

If you want to find out more about Pint Shop then here's their website:

Steak and cheese pie with cabbage

Saturday, January 11, 2014

No Oven, No Grill Pizza

A pizza you can make without and oven or a grill?  Yes this really is a dream come true!  This post is for all of you who, like me, love pizza but don't want to always order a take-away which is often overpriced and greasy.

Edit: I have since tried making frying pan pizza again with a better dough recipe, have a look at the updated post here.

No oven, no grill pizza
All you need to make this pizza is a frying pan with a lid/a plate that will fully cover the top of the pan, a hob and the following ingredients.

Self-raising flour
Olive oil
Tomato base (passata and tomatoes)
cheese (mozarella)
toppings (anything you like!)

Prepare your toppings in advance.  I diced a couple of tomatoes, some red onion and finely chopped a couple of cloves of garlic.  Make as much or as little topping as you fancy.  I fried the onion and garlic before adding about 4 tbsp passata and the tomatoes.  You could alternatively use some chopped tomatoes from a can mixed with some tomato paste or replace my normal tomatoes with some halved cherry tomatoes.  I also added a few olives to the frying pan for the last minute.

Next make the dough.  My base didn't come out very well but I have some suggestions regarding how to make it better and will update this post next time I try making pizza again.  I used 225g plain flour, first mistake, along with 3 tbsp olive oil and 6-7 tbsp warm water.  Next time I do this I will be sure to use self-raising flour so that my dough isn't as dense and to mix the ingredients in a larger bowl so that I can combine them more easily.  Essentially you want to mix in the oil with about half of the water, then add the rest gradually until your flour comes together as you are mixing it to form a soft dough.  If you need to add a little more water to combine all the flour then do so, but don't add too much otherwise your dough will be too sticky.  Similarly, if your dough comes together before you have added all the water, then stop, don't add too much!

Roll out the dough on a flat surface.  I don't have a rolling pin, so I found an empty wine bottle, wrapped it in cling film (to make sure I didn't get wine/dirt in the dough) and used that to roll out my pizza base.  This was my next mistake.  You need to roll out your dough until it is the size of the base of your frying pan.  My dough was a little too thick.  If this is the case for you, either don't use all the dough or make two small rather than one large pizza.

Heat some oil in a frying pan and place your pizza base into the pan.  Cook it for a few minutes, then use a spatula to check the bottom.  If it is browning then carefully flip your base over.  If not leave it for a little longer until it does go brown.  Once flipped add your tomato base and toppings (you can use literally anything) and scatter on around 50g cheese (or enough to cover the top of your pizza).  Cover your pan with a lid (or plate or anything that covers the top of your pan) and leave for another few minutes.  Check after 2 or 3 minutes to see if the cheese is melting and try and use a spatula to check the bottom of the pizza.  Once the base has browned and the cheese has melted then your pizza is ready to eat.  Slide it carefully onto a plate and served.  I garnished mine with some fresh basil leaves as I happened to have some left over.

So there you have it, a no oven, no grill pizza.  It took me about half an hour to make and with a few adjustments to the base it will be the perfect, healthy alternative to a take-away.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


My boyfriend has recently got me into watching more of the NFL (American Football) and last weekend we decided to watch some of the play-offs.  I wanted something reasonably simple that didn't take too long to prepare that we could munch on during the match and maybe its a cliché but I always associate nachos with watching American football.  So here's what I did.

I've done Nachos before where I buy a bag of tortilla chips along with a ready-made jar of salsa and guacamole, scatter on some cheese, microwave it and dollop on the sour cream.  However, I wanted to try and make a few more of the elements this time.  As I didn't have an oven and I wanted this not to take too long I decided to buy the tortilla chips.  However, I did make the guacamole, salsa and beans to go on top.

I made this for two people and it was a large portion.  The good thing about nachos is it's really easy to scale the quantity up or down depending on how many people there are and how hungry you are.

For the salsa:
2 tomatoes - seeds removed, finely chopped
1/4 red onion - finely chopped
1/2 garlic clove (or one small clove) - finely chopped/crushed
a squeeze of lime juice
a dash of olive oil

The main work to do when preparing salsa is the chopping!  Once you've chopped everything simply combine the ingredients in a bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste and set to one side.  I've been a little vague about the amount of lime juice because it really is up to you, I like using quite a bit of lime juice but if you're not a big fan then don't put as much in.  You do need a little bit of acidity in there to freshen the dish up a bit though so I wouldn't leave the lime out all together.

Ok, on to the guacamole.  I've done a post before where I used guacamole in a wrap as a quick lunch (see  I really do love it as it's so simple to make, really tasty and very versatile, you can add so many different ingredients to it depending on what you fancy.  I kept the guacamole for the nachos really simple.

1 avocado
a squeeze of lime juice
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped coriander
a couple of drops of tabasco

All you have to do is mash up the avocado roughly in a bowl (make it as smooth as you like but I tend to leave a few lumps in mine for a bit of texture), stir in the spring onions and lime juice (once again as much as you fancy), add the coriander (you don't have to measure it out exactly the measurement is just to give you a rough idea) and season with the Tabasco.  Be careful!  I wasn't and added too much, you really do need only 2 or 3 drops.  If you do accidentally add too much then you'll have to do what I did which is mash up an extra avocado and combine it with the existing guacamole, then add a little extra lime juice and coriander.  You'll have a lot of guacamole but it will taste a lot better!

As I said above you can add other things if you fancy - red onion, diced tomatoes, chilli flakes for a bit of heat.  I didn't use these in mine as I've used the ingredients elsewhere in this recipe but if you just want to make a guacamole dip to go with your nachos then you can bulk up the guacamole with other things.

Finally on to the beans.  This is a really good way of turning nachos from a snack into more of a meal.

200g red kidney beans - drained and rinsed
1/2 garlic clove - finely chopped/crushed
(mild/medium chilli powder)
ground cumin

Tip the beans into a bowl and add a little chilli powder (I mean a little - if you're doing this recipe for two then you need less than 1/4 tsp), garlic and cumin powder (once again less than 1/4 tsp), then mash with a fork.  Add a tbsp of water, season and set aside.  If you want to make your beans a little hotter then add some more chilli powder, just add extra gradually and taste a little each time so that you don't overdo it.

Next, scatter your nachos onto a microwaveable plate and spoon on your salsa and beans (I also scattered on half a jalapeño - roughly chopped).  Then scatter on 50g of your favourite cheese (or more if you don't think 50g is enough).  I experimented this time with mozzarella, it tasted good but made getting the nachos apart difficult as it is so elastic when melted!  Next time I will probably go back to using cheddar.  Pop into the microwave for 1-2 mins on full power (or until the cheese has melted).  You should be ready to eat!  Dollop on some sour cream or some half-fat crème fraîche if you want to make it slightly healthier.  You can spoon the guacamole over the top but as I ended up with so much I decided to keep it in a bowl on the side and use it as a dip.

Spoon on the salsa and beans

The finished product

I hope your nachos are as satisfying as mine were, this is just one of those comfort food dishes that I don't make often but really enjoy as a treat.  Besides, it's great to make with friends as it is a perfect dish for sharing.  The team I decided to support (the Cincinnati Bengals) may have lost but the nachos more than made up for it!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pardon my French

This post is about the last two dishes I cooked before returning to Cambridge.  After this I'll be back to cooking without an oven, making do with my single hob and microwave.

The recipes are from the cookbook called 'The Little Paris Kitchen' by Rachel Khoo.  I fell in love with her cooking when I watched her cookery series on the BBC, especially as she was also trying to cook in a very small kitchen (albeit with a mini oven).  It shows how much I love what she does, that when it came to naming my blog I decided to name it after her book.  Although these recipes weren't cooked in my little Cambridge kitchen, I have brought her recipe book back to college with me and hope to try out some more of her recipes this term.

The first of the two dishes is called 'Boulette de viande avec une sauce piquante et des pâtes d'Alsace' or meatballs in spicy sauce with Alsatian pasta to those of you who don't speak French.  I cooked this for my family and it came out really well.  The meatballs were tasty (made from a mixture of mince and sausage meat) and the sauce (red wine, herbs, veg and tomato paste) was also yummy.  I couldn't get hold of 'Alsatian egg pasta' so instead I just used the pasta we had in the cupboard.  My only comment would be that contrary to the title the sauce is not actually that spicy.  There are plenty of herbs along with some cornichons (mini-gherkins) in the sauce but I'd be more inclined to describe it as tangy rather than spicy.  Nevertheless it was tasty!  I'm glad I tried this at home as although it would be possible in my kitchen in Cambridge it took quite a while to prepare as the sauce, meatballs and pasta all needed to be cooked separately, something that would be tricky in my one-hob kitchen in Cambridge.

So here's a picture of the finished dish, I apologise a little for the presentation, I was in a bit of a hurry as the meatballs were getting cold!

Home-made meatballs and pasta with a red wine sauce
The second recipe I attempted was 'Hachis Parmentier tricolore' or three-coloured 'shepherd's pie'.  This looks stunning in her photo as there are three different kinds of mash on top and she has piped them in beautiful lines.  I made normal mash, sweet potato mash (instead of using pumpkin) and tried to parsley mash as she suggests.  Unfortunately, whether it's because I didn't use enough parsley, or because I didn't blend it properly, the mas did not go the lovely green colour it is in her picture, instead it stayed potato-coloured with flecks of green.  She also suggests using leftover roast or stewed meat but as I didn't have any I just cooked some mince.  If you are ever substituting different types of meat in recipes to look at whether the recipe is giving you the raw or cooked weight and adjust accordingly as meat will lose water/juices when it cooks.  Thus, for 300g cooked meat I substituted 450g raw mince.  If you want to make a shepherd's pie more interesting but don't have time to make more than one kind of mash substitute your normal potatoes for sweet potatoes or simply add some nutmeg to your potatoes while mashing them to give them a bit more flavour.  Don't add too much though as you really don't need a lot of nutmeg to be able to taste it.

Well, you're about to see why I called this post 'Pardon my French'.  The pie may have tasted delicious but my piping is nowhere near up to Rachel's standards meaning it doesn't look amazingly appetising.  You'll just have to take my word for it that it tasted good and was perfect for a hungry family on a cold winter's evening!

Multi-coloured shepherd's pie
As I said earlier, I'm now back in Cambridge trying to write a couple of essays before term starts, however I'm still finding time to cook, so look out for my next post all about nachos.

À bientôt!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Chocolate and Pretzel Cupcakes

Chocolate and pretzels may sound like an odd combination but I really enjoyed these cupcakes.  I followed the recipe from Sorted which you can find here!/chocpretzelcupcakes/ I love their website as the recipes are different and easy to follow.  However, I do have a couple of comments about their cupcake recipe.

Firstly, they are making American cupcakes, not English fairy cakes, so there is a lot of batter and if your cases are slightly smaller expect to make more than 12 (I made 18).  If lots of heavy buttercream isn't your thing then make less icing.  I made half the amount recommended.  Just remember you need half as much butter than icing sugar.  If made using this ratio then the buttercream comes out very thick.  If you want to make it easier to pipe (i.e. thinner) then simply add some more butter until it reaches the desired consistency.

The base before adding the mixture
The idea of using crumbled pretzels as a base is different and worked well, however, do be careful when taking the finished cupcakes out of their cases as the bottom may crumble, you will need to eat these over a plate!

Chocolate dipped pretzels would make a good snack in themselves!
Here's the finished product, they look great and tasted delicious!  Thanks Sorted!

N.B. These are best served fresh and need to be eaten soon after baking (ideally within a day) as the pretzels go soft quite quickly and you loose the effect of the crunch.

As much as I love watching the Great British Bake Off it does make me quite jealous.  Although I am sort of grateful that I don't have an oven at uni because it has made me become a better cook, I do miss baking so it is lovely to be able to take advantage of the oven when I am back at home.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Since I'm spending the holidays at home I'm taking full advantage of the fact that I have access to an oven and my mum's cookware.  Today I decided to attempt an ambitious, but delicious-looking, lamb and dauphinoise hotpot from my BBC GoodFood magazine.  I say today, but I actually had to start preparing this dish yesterday in order to let the meat cool overnight.  So here it is!

To serve 8 people you will need:
3 large carrots (chopped into large chunks)
1 onion (roughly chopped)
1 bulb of garlic (N.B. you need an entire bulb not just a couple of cloves)
A few sprigs of rosemary and thyme (fresh herbs are best)
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 shoulder of lamb on the bone (about 2.5kg)
1 bottle red wine

For the Topping
4-5 potatoes (not too large)
4 sweet potatoes (once again not too big)
150ml double cream
a few knobs of butter

On the day before you want to eat the meal prepare the lamb.  Chop up the vegetables and peel the garlic, the easiest way to do this is by using the wide flat side of a (vegetable) knife and pushing down hard.  This not only loosens the skin on the garlic but it also crushes it slightly.  Scatter the vegetables and herbs into a casserole dish which is large enough to fit the lamb in, stir in the tomato purée and place the lamb on top.  Pour over the wine.  Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 and while the oven is coming up to temperature cover the dish and heat it up on top of the stove (I did this until the sauce was bubbling).  Place the covered dish in the oven for 3 hours.  Then remove from the oven and leave to cool before putting it in the fridge to chill overnight.

Place the veg and lamb in a casserole dish
Even better if you're at home and can use your mum's Le Creuset!
This is what your lamb should look like after 3 hours

The next day you need to remove the lamb from the dish, remove the hard fat and discard, then pull apart and shred the lamb, remembering to remove and large pieces of fat and the bones.  Before putting the lamb back in the dish (or another more suitable pie dish) strain the juices from the veg into a jug (keep the veg).  Put the lamb into your dish and pour over the sauce.  Pick out the carrots from the veg and add them too before gently mixing in with the meat and sauce.  Season and set aside.

I used a smaller pie dish
To make the topping peel the potatoes and slice (if you have a mandoline then that is ideal, if not just try and slice the potatoes as thinly as you can).  Put the sliced potatoes into a pan of cold water and bring to a hard boil, then remove from the heat and drain immediately.  Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6.  Once drained return the potatoes to the pan and pour over the cream.  Arrange the potatoes over the lamb (however you fancy) and drizzle over any remaining cream.  If you have any leftover potatoes, don't worry I'll tell you what to do with those below.  Dot the top of the potatoes with butter and bake in the oven for 40 mins to 1 hour until the top is golden and the sauce is starting to bubble.


If you have extra potatoes then simply layer them in a dish, season regularly with salt and pepper.  Then pour over equal amounts of cream and milk.  It's up to you how much you put on, I filled my dish about half full with cream and milk mix.  I baked this in the oven with the main hotpot (although I had to leave it in about 10 minutes longer for it to brown properly).  If you have to put one dish on a lower shelf to fit both in the oven then after about 30 minutes switch them round to make sure they both brown and cook.

Dauphinoise potatoes
You can cook any extra vegetables you fancy, I cooked peas as they were simple to do alongside the main dish.  I'm pleased to say that after all that work the hotpot tasted delicious.  I have started the year as I mean to go on, cooking!  If there is anything anyone would like to see me attempt then please comment or message me via my blog/Facebook/twitter/Instagram.  Please also follow my blog either through Google or on Bloglovin.  All that remains to be said is Happy New Year, here's wishing you a 2014 full deliciousness!