Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Prawn, aubergine and green bean curry

After all that rich festive food, has you got a craving for something a little different, well I have just the recipe for you. A delicious prawn, aubergine and green bean curry, rich in tasty vegetables ideal to serve with rice for an informal supper.

Its so darn easy as well, and can be on the table in about 30 minutes start to finish, if you want to impress your guests why not whip up some roti or naan to serve alongside this dish.

What you need
  • Bag of frozen raw king prawns - defrosted or fresh prawns
  • 1 onion - peeled and roughly chopped
  • Good handful of chopped green beans (I used frozen homegrown)
  • 1 aubergine - topped tailed and cut into chunks
  • 2 tomatoes- chopped
  • Squirt of tomato puree (or you could use passata)
  • Fish stock or coconut milk if you like a creamy finish (I do)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Curry paste (from a jar or make your own)
  • A little coconut oil or vegetable oil
What you do
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and fry until softened and translucent
  • Add the curry paste to the pan and cook for a few minutes to release the flavours, add the aubergine to the pan, stir fry adding a little more oil if necessary.
  • Once the aubergine is starting to soften add all the other ingredients to the pan except for the prawns
  • Cook until the sauce starts to reduce and the vegetables are cooked, add the prawns and simmer until they are cooked through.
  • Serve strewn with fresh coriander and the accompaniments of rice and roti
  • Enjoy

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Spicy persimmon bundt cake

A few weeks ago I purchased 3 persimmons which were on special offer in my local market, these beautiful orange fruit are the unsung hero in this bake as they provide moisture and succulence, although you would never know they were there. Perfect for a wintery evening the spicing really lifts this bake and well worth the wait whilst the fruit was ripening.

What you need
  • 3 persimmons - peeled and pureed
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 115g butter
  • 200g light brown sugar
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Icing sugar and water to making glace icing
What you do
  • Pre heat the oven to 180c
  • Oil spray the bundt tin throughly
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy
  • Add the bicarbonate of soda to the persimmon puree, it will jellify don't be alarmed
  • Add the puree plus the other ingredients (except the icing sugar) to the sugar and butter
  • Mix until you have a smooth mixture, sppon into the prepared bundt tin
  • Smooth level 
  • Bake for 40 -45 minutes, until risen and tested cooked with a skewer
  • Cool fully in the tin on a wire rack
  • Once cool, a sharp inversion of the tin should release the cake
  • Ice when cool, using a drizzle technique.

I have just spotted that the theme for Love Cake for January 2015 is "Feeling Fruity" so I am linking up this post to this challenge. This is hosted over at Jibberjabber


Degustabox - a review

This month has seen quite a few items being delivered for review and the latest come from Degustabox (unfortunate name I know, the word however means to sample in Spanish) an online food box subscription service, were each month subscribers received a box contains a selection of food products that are new to market. The box costs £12.99  per month including delivery and for you lucky readers we have a discount code for you, so if you fancy giving the box scheme a try you can do so for a great price. The code is Z5QKW , just input at the checkout once prompted.

I was fairly impressed by the contents of the box as the value of the products ( I calculated the value was in excess of £25) and also the selection of products as I think there is something for most people in the box but a little strange mix of healthy stuff  some not so healthy items as well.

Our box contained the following items as you can see from the picture

Oats and chia - The Chia Co
A just add water breakfast pack which is a combination of oats, chia, coconut oil and quality fruits, for a great healthy breakfast on the go.

Clean Green - Pukka Herbs
A green tea with added cleansing ingredients, nettle, dandelion root and Silican lemon

Madras mix - Kents Kitchen

A meal kit with 3 steps to create a dish in 20 minutes, a perfect addition to the store cupboard.

Choco Liebniz - Bahlsen

Finest milk chocolate topping butter biscuits, one plain the other topped with decadent caramel

White Alcohol free wine- Eisburg

Alcohol free wine made in the traditional manner with the alcohol removed

Frylight Infuse Garlic - Frylight

Oil spray with added garlic to give that Mediterranean flavour to all your cooking, just spray and your away adding garlic flavours to your dish.

Sour cream and onion - Popchips

Air popped delicious crunchy snacks with less than half the fat of normal crisps

Various flavours - Gloworm

Raspberry and Orris
Cucumber and apple
Pear, spice and lime - our favourite
Ginger and lemongrass
Gourmet Mixers or over ice, would be nice without the high level of caffeine for my preference.

Coarse orange marmalade - Bonne Maman

Coarse chunky orange marmalade , zingy flavours and very orangey.

You can check out their website here
or on Facebook here
or on Twitter here

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Chestnut maple snowflakes

For quite a while I  have been wanting to experiment with chestnut flour, I think this stems from a holiday memory in idyllic Tuscany, when we stayed in a house over looking a chestnut grove and in it was the cutest rustic drying house. I was fascinated with the gnarly trees, the nuts and the recipes they were used in, chestnut flour is used in Italy to make pasta, pancakes and cakes amongst other things.

Chestnut flour is naturally gluten free and is something you will need to seek out if you want to bake with it as its not routinely stocked in most health food shops, this is possibly due to a shortish shelf life but you can obtain it easily by mail order and most shops will happily order it in for you. If you are baking for a coeliac ensure the flour is truly gluten free.

Chestnuts are synonymous with the festive season so I decided to come up with a biscuit recipe which uses this lovely flour, combining it with maple syrup to give a lovely smoky earthy flavour and use my lovely snowflake cutters to give a seasonal twist to this bake. 

This recipe makes about 12 to 15 cookies, depending on the size of the cutters you use. These would make a lovely gift wrapped in cellophane and lovely festive ribbon or a parchment package. Don't expect a crunchy biscuit these are more tender, the snowflakes aren't overtly sweet either.

What you need

  • 12 tbsp chestnut flour (I used Shipton Mill) and little extra for rolling out purposes
  • 3 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 egg 
  • Icing sugar for sprinkling purposes
What you do
  • Mix all the ingredients in a food processor
  • Tip out on to a floured piece of baking parchment, roll out to just a little thinner than a pound coin and using a cutter to cut out the snowflakes.
  • Place on a baking tray (I use a silicon sheet to ensure they don't stick) 
  • Bake in a pre heated oven at 180c for 10 -15 minutes until just turning golden
  • Cool on wire rack, they firm up more on cooling
  • Sprinkle with icing sugar or ice with glace icing if you like.
  • Store in a tin

This month we are linking up with Treat Petite created by Cakeyboi , the theme this month being Christmas. 



We are also linking up to Family Foodies hosted by Bangers n Mash and Eat your Veg, the theme being festive foodie traditions, as these snowflakes are liable to become a new tradition in this household as they are delicious and ideal to baked as a gift particularly for adults.

                                      festive family foodies

And lastly December's Teat time treats hosted by Karen over at Lavender and Lovage and Jane at Hedgecombers. This months theme is Glitter, sprinkles, candles and shiny stuff, this bake I think qualifies as it has lots of sprinkled icing sugar and the staging includes candles.

                                         December Tea Time Treats: Glitter, Sprinkles, Candles and Shiny Stuff!

                                                                Tea Time Treats Lavender and Lovage

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Vonshef Premium Halogen Cooker - a review

The Vonshef Premium Halogen Oven has landed in our kitchen for review, available direct from Domu or alternatively Amazon  using this link.

The Vonshef represents very good value for money if  you are in the market for a halogen oven for the miserly sum of £34.99 (slightly less if you go for another colour than white) you can purchase a 12 litre (family sized) oven which comes complete with all the accessories you need, plus a stripey oven glove and handy Hamlyn 200 Halogen oven recipe book. This is sized oven is ample to cook a roast chicken and roasties for a family of 4.

Initially I was a bit sceptical of the claims that the oven would be new favourite thing but I must say after cooking a roast dinner in the oven, I think I am smitten. The oven is a little large for my family size and I am struggling to find worktop space but  I love the oven and the speed it cooks food especially meats, its also very handy for reheating food as the oven does not have to be preheated. I am still learning the best ways to cook various dishes but if you want a quick, healthy way to cook halogen ovens are for you.

The oven is easily controlled with the control knobs and once you work out the way the oven cooks then any recipe you can cook in a traditional oven can be cooked in a halogen oven. The washing up is also easy as all parts except the lid can washed in the sink or dishwasher and the lid itself just needs a good wipe and I have found so far that there isn't as much mess as normal as you cook with less fat than you normally would.

I am looking forward to trying baking in the oven, the roast beef was excellent beautifully browned but still juicy and moist, the roast potatoes crispy and tasty, given the level of interest in the oven at the recent cake club a few of my friends will also be splashing out on an oven soon too.

The oven was kindly provided free of charge for review purposes by Designer Habitat, I was not compelled to write a positive review, all views and opinions are my own.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Seasoned Pioneers

Recently those lovely people at Seasoned Pioneers kindly sent us a selection of their spices and also a pack of their new range "Knead the Seed" seed mixes. Seasoned Pioneers are a family firm based on the Wirral and their spice collection is extensive and second to none.

All their spices are packaged in light proof resealable pouches which are great for ensuring that your chosen spice has a maximum shelf life and is still fragrant and flavourful when you next come to use it after opening. Seasoned Pioneers stock a wide range of individual spices and spice mixes some of which are very difficult to obtain.

I'm in good company when it come to reviewing their products as their very informative product booklet is stuffed full of complements from the likes of Delia, Nigel Slater and Nick Nairns to name just a few. I can see why as the spice mixtures are very flavourful, reasonably be price and the unique packaging seals in the flavour, plus they stock some of the more innovative spices and spice mixes.

The website is very informative and can be found here and is a great place to start if you need to restock your spice rack and also if you wish to purchase a more novel gift, I for one would be very happy to find one of their gift boxes or seasoning selections under the Christmas tree.

You can find the recipe to the cake I made with the Quatre Epice spice mix here. I have also used the 8 seed mixture in a flatbread recipe and was very happy with the resultant bread which I served with a spicy fish curry.

Seasoned Pioneers can also be found on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Chocolate orange quatre epices cake for Seasoned Pioneers

Who doesn't love a chocolate cake but ever one to ring the changes what about a spiced chocolate cake. Recently Seasoned Pioneers sent across a selection of their spices and intriguingly one of the packs was of their version of quatre epices.

You  may have heard of five spice (Chinese in origin) but Quatre epice was more unfamiliar to me, Quatre epices is a spice mix originating from France and the near middle east, a blend of pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger, hence the four spice name. Used in sweet and savoury dishes its a versatile addition to the spice rack, I thought I would use the blend in a chocolate cake to provide some "Christmassy" spicing yet with an adult twist as the pepper in the spice blend provides a warm heat to the palate.

I have made this cake a couple of times now and it was very popular with visitors, christmassy yet not overly sweet and with a nice spicy edge, nice served with Hot chocolate.

What you need
  • 1/2 cup of Quality vegetable margarine
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar
  • Zest of 1 large orange
  • 2 eggs - free range 
  • 1 1/3 cups of plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa - organic if possible (I find it has a much better flavour)
  • 2 tsp Seasoned pioneers Quatre Epices spice blend
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 cup of yogurt
  • 1 tbsp skimmed milk
What you do
  • Preheat your oven to 180C and oil spray and flour an 8" square cake tin
  • Sieve the flour, cocoa, salt, quatre epice, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder on to a plate
  • Cream the butter, sugar and zest in a stand mixer until light and fluffy, add the rest of the ingredients including the flour and beat quickly until you a smooth fluffy mixture
  • Spread the cake mixture into the prepared tin
  • Bake for 30 -35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean
  • Cool in the tin and leave on a wire rack until fully cool
  • To remove from the tin, loosen around the edge with a palette knife and invert sharply the cake should slide easily out of the tin.
  • Place on a serving plate and decorate accordingly
  • You may wish to slice the cake horizontally and fill with ganache or cream if the mood so takes you.

So if you fancy making something a little different for a festive celebration this is the cake for you.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Roasted aubergine and tomato soup

We have another super easy soup recipe for you, this time using a bargain aubergine (eggplant for our American friends) unusually made in the oven, this recipe is based on a Hugh Fernley Whittingstall recipe.  Its frugal and very very tasty and the soup has a lovely comforting flavour, great for a cold winters day.

What you need
  • 1 aubergine (chopped into chunky pieces)
  • Olive oil or rapeseed oil
  • 1 heaped tsp vegetable stock powder ( I use Essential Cuisine)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Couple of cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • Water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh thyme or basil leaves to garnish
What you do
  • Preheat your oven to 180c
  • Place the chopped pieces of aubergine in a roasting dish and toss with a little oil
  • Roast for 20 minutes or so until the aubergine is soft and starting to colour a little
  • Add the contents of the tin of tomatoes to the dish, plus the garlic and thyme to the dish
  • Also add 1 tin of warm water and your vegetable stock cube / powder to the roasting pan
  • Return the roasting pan to the oven for another 20 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, then blitz with a hand blender or in a liquidiser or food processor until you achieve your desired consistency
  • Place the soup in a saucepan and warm gently until piping hot, taste for seasoning.
This dish would also make a perfect starter to any festive celebrations as its a no worry, no hassle and could be made a head and stored in the fridge. Vegan, gluten free and very healthy its a great contrast to the rich festive fare, but its equally suited to make at any time of year.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Oaty Date slices

These oaty date slices are perfect with a brew after returning from the frantic streets packed with Christmas shoppers, it a satisfying bake and fairly healthy due to the wholesome filling and the fact that it contains oats. Once baked it keeps well in an airtight tin and ideal served as part of a packed lunch or as suggested with tea or coffee.

What you need
  • 200g plain flour
  • 200g rolled oats
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 150g melted butter or vegetable margarine (if you wish to make vegan)
  • 250g stoned dates, roughly chopped
  • 100ml apple juice
  • Generous splash of lemon juice
What you do
  • Oil spray an oblong tin approx 4" by 10" 
  • Pre heat the oven to 180c
  • Mix the oats, flour, sugar and melted butter in a large bowl to make a soft crumbly dough, if needed add a few drops of water to help bind
  • Press half of the oat /flour mixture into the prepared tin
  • To make the filling , cook the chopped dates in the apple juice and lemon juice in a small pan until you have a sticky soft filling
  • Allow the filling to cool slightly then spread the filling on the base
  • Top off the filling with the rest of the dough, press down firmly
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes
  • Remove from the oven when slightly golden and cool fully in the tin before cutting into generous slices.

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