30/10/2010

Yogurt, yoghurt or yogourt, however you spell it, it's great!

Because I am a sucker for a freebie, I answered a post over on UK Bloggers to say "Why yes! I would love some of your finest yoghurt, my dear purveyor of dairy goodness."

And man did I get me some yoghurt. A lovely Total coolbag turned up, carried to me by an equally lovely - but possible not as tasty - courier. He was intrigued as to why I had so much yoghurt and I think I did convince him it was nothing at all kinky, and just me being a greedy foodie.




2 large full fat pots, 1 large 2% fat pot, 2 of the 0% small pots and a small pot of 2% with honey. Can you guess, boys and girls, which one got eaten straightaway? I'm sure you can. I expect you know a song about that too.

Total has always been a favourite of mine, generally to eat straight out of the tub, or with fruit and honey but this time I decided to use it in cooking as well. It really is a gorgeous product and is usually my preference. You can make an incredibly good tzatziki with it, as the thickness of the yoghurt combats the wateriness of the cucumber. It also tones down the bite of the fresh garlic!

The 0% got eaten with honey for breakfast at work I am afraid so that didn't get tested in the kitchen. My colleague tried one pot as well and we both said it was very nice indeed. Creamy enough not to need sweetening but with a nice hint of sourness that kept it light. Not that that stopped me putting honey on it, I am Greek after all!

The full fat got used as a dessert. Yes, yes, I know, fruit with yoghurt how inspired but this was served with a compote of the lovely British red skinned, yellow fleshed plums that are currently in season, cooked down with brown sugar and cinnamon, and served over a bed of yoghurt. It worked very well indeed with the sweet but sharp plum compote, and all the bowls came back cleared.

There wasn't much left over, but what was left was served the next morning with a crunchy granola, and topped with more of the yoghurt. A perky breakfast for tired husbands.

Plum Compote with Total Greek Yoghurt (full fat)
12 large red plums, de-stoned
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs brown sugar (or to taste)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cut the plums in half, put in a pan with 4 tbs water.
Mix in the sugar, cinnamon and extract.
Stir well, cover, and simmer until the plums are soft.
Take the lid off then simmer until any juices reduce and thicken.
Serve over cold yoghurt.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'd a hankering to make a lemon cake as I had some lemons that I'd brought back from Cyprus to use up, so a lemon yoghurt cake was planned. I used the 2% for this one as it has a lighter texture.

It mixed in very easily, no hassles with adding eggs to it at all. The result is a solid cake, but not a stodgy, heavy one.

Lemon Yoghurt Cake
250 g butter
250 g caster sugar
4 eggs
270g semolina
125 g Total Greek Yoghurt 2%
130 g ground almonds
50 g plain flour (I used Dove’s Farm wheat free)
2 tsp baking powder
Juice of 1 lemon, zest of 2

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Lightly butter a 21b loaf tin. I lined mine just in case.
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth between each addition.

Stir in the semolina, beat in the yogurt, and add the ground almonds, flour and baking powder.

Beat in the lemon zest and juice.

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for about 50 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes, then remove, and transfer to a cooling rack to cool.


The cake keeps incredibly well, wrapped in greaseproof paper. I am quite a convert to using yoghurt in cake recipes now, so I shall keep on experimenting.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Last, but not least, I did finally get around to something savoury. Spiced Yoghurt Chicken. I used the 2% for this one as it is akin to the yoghurt that I eat when I'm in Cyprus. Creamy but with more of a sour backnote, which works incredibly well with spices and meat.

4 heaping tablespoons Total 2%
1 rounded tsp of Ras El Hanout spice
1 rounded tsp of Za'atar spice
1 rounded tsp cinnamon
1 rounded tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
4 large chicken breasts (I would usually use thigh, as they are juicer, but my husband hates the dark meat)


Mix all the yoghurt and the spices together to form a marinade.
Add the cubed chicken, mix well and leave to sit for 30-45 minutes.
Spread out the cubes on a lined baking sheet and grill on both sides until slightly blackened and cooked through.


That one will more definitely be made again.

Many thanks to the people at Total and to Traffic Partners- for giving me the chance to review a product that I am already very fond of. Me, and spoon and a pot of honey would be the usual treatment of the yoghurt, so I am glad I branched out a little more!

23/10/2010

All's well that eats well.

On Tuesday night I ended up in Moshi Moshi at Liverpool Street station. I'd gotten soaked whilst waiting for a bus as the driver of the number 11 didn't bother to stop, despite the gaggle of people
waiting in the pouring rain at the bus stop, so by the time I got to the station all I wanted was some food, and some warmth for a while. I didn't need to be home so the lure of fresh fish and noodles won out. I also felt like celebrating a little bit of good news at work, so a Treat to myself was in order.

The menu is lovely. Simple, and full of flavourful dishes. I could have spent a fortune just on nigiri sushi but there were so many other things to choose from. The sushi was very tempting as it is always so very good there. They had hand-dived scallops on the menu which are like slices of pure silk on rice, so I struggled with that for a bit but in the end what I really wanted was hot food and a bit of comfort. In the end I didn't have noodles at all, but went for some gorgeous fish tempura, rice stuffed tofu and a truly delicious pork stir fry, though that name doesn't do it justice. Steamed brown rice helped soak up the sauce, because you just don't want to waste any of it.

The inari tofu, tofu skin 'pillowcases' filled with sweet rice, were as good as ever. There's an underlying tang which negates any oiliness there might be, and the whole thing is one large mouthful of flavour. They don't last long around me at all, even with my cackhanded 'if in doubt stab it' attempts to use chopsticks. Tofu skin is a great ingredient to work with as well. It makes the best low carb 'spring'rolls when it is deep fried.

The 'stir'fry'  - or Pork Shogayaki to give it its proper name - was exactly what was needed. Paper thin slices of deeply flavoured belly pork, cooked with ginger, carrot batons and yellow courgette strips. I only had my phone with me so you get to have a moody black and white shot instead of the full on autumnal effect of the dish. It was covered with shredded, deep fried crispy spring onions which added a nice crunchy texture and another layer of flavour.

The fish tempura arrived with it and again it was just perfect. Flaky, pure white fish pieces and a whole prawn, surrounded in a very light, almost bubbly batter. I couldn't have asked for anything better, and so I sat happily reading whilst drying out and devouring my feast for one. £14 the lot.

I loved sitting at the window overlooking the station,  watching the trains pulling out. I always wonder where people are going, what they are doing. It's like people watching except that they cannot see you. The design of the restaurant is also very pleasing. A bit of zen, a bit of mood lighting...and funky wooden booths that look vaguely space age.

Quick, efficient, friendly service, excellent food and a peaceful atmosphere. It is one of my favourite places to go, and I need to remember to go there more often.

http://www.moshimoshi.co.uk/restaurant_liverpool.htm

Unit 24, Liverpool Street Station, London EC2M 7QH (above platform 1, behind M&S)
Tel / Fax: 020 7247 3227
General Opening Times
Mon-Fri 11:30-22:00

21/10/2010

Convenience food isn't all bad or It's What You Do With It That Counts.

In fact, a lot of the time, it's a very fine base for a meal. It does depend on the nature of the convenience food of course. Findus Crispy Pancakes have their place, but you can't do much else with them. Okay, you can put them in a sandwich as a friend used to do but...(mind you a fish finger sandwich is a triumph of trashy deliciousness.)

Wednesday night's dinner had to be a fast and easy one as I was very late making it out of central London to East Croydon. Soup was the order of the day but me being me, I couldn't just leave it alone. I had to fiddle. So;

Mucked About Mushroom Soup!

Fry up a whole chopped medium sized onion and 1 whole pack of chopped smoked pancetta with oodles of diced mushrooms.
When that is all softened and the fat has melted away from the pancetta (and you have avoided just eating that lot by the spoonful) add in two tins of Baxters rather lovely Mushroom Potage and a slosh of white wine.
Simmer for about half an hour.
Serve to a full of cold Chap and give him plenty of fresh crusty bread to go with it.
Observe many smiles, and later on observe complete cleaning of the saucepan with more bread.
It was very nice indeed. Even I had seconds!
Tonight was deemed to be sausage night. My friend Karen had told me about Bonfire Bangers in the Co-op. Pork sausages with apple and treacle. Toffee apple sausages dammit! 

They had to become mine so on the way home I stopped off at the Coop and bought two packs of them, plus some mini baking potatoes. I have a great deal of time for The Cooperative and they didn't let me down. (Their fresh beef meatballs are so good they negate the need for me to ever have to make any. I still do  but, hey, I never do things the easy way.)

I tell you now, I will be buying many more packs of those sossies before the season of burning twigs ends.

Sweet but not too sweet, sticky and with the fresh appley tang cutting through the richness. We were very happy bunnies. Mini baked potatoes and a tomato salad with a mustard ketchup dressing. Oh my.

These are crying out to go IN a dish as well. I made sausage and apple chutney muffins last year, and I feel they may get made again. I may as well put the recipe here for posterity as it's that time of year. These were very nice savoury muffins, even if they did get christened Meat Cakes by certain of my social crowd. *narrow eyed stare* They disappeared off the plates very fast indeed.

Sausage and Apple Muffins
2 cups plain/all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt (I used 1/2)
1 large egg or 2 small
4 heaped tsp apple chutney
3 small Braeburn (sharp dessert) apples, grated (not skinned)
1/3 cup oil
1 cup milk

Cooked sausages of your choice - but good, meaty ones. Mayhap Bonfire Bangers! If you are anything like me you will have to cook double the amount you need as you will eat them. *ahem*

Put all the ingredients except the sausages into a bowl and mix until just mixed.
Put a sausage half in each muffin tin (I used silicon moulds as they do not stick and were the right size)
Pour over the batter.
Cook at 350F / 180C / gas 4 for about 30 minutes or until they test done. (a toothpick comes out clean of batter)

A really good recipe to play with. Use different sausages, herbs, a different type of apple....You could use veggie sausages too, add in grated cheese, all sorts of things! I'm thinking feta and chorizo...


 

19/10/2010

Test

Testing the posting by email!
And Lo, it works. Right. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

12/10/2010

The simplest things...

I have spent far too long today playing with this website. It's all Kavey's fault. (www.kaveyeats.com)
No, really, it is.

http://www.chocri.co.uk/

Choose your chocolate, add all the flavourings and toppings you can fit in/on. Choose your packaging, the the name of your bar, buy it and it gets sent to you.

Oh my god.

10/10/2010

The Essex Food and Drink Awards

Written up by the inimitable and irrepressible Monkey Food Urchin.


http://foodurchin.blogspot.com/2010/10/and-winner-is.html

OUR LOCAL FARM SHOP WON! YAY!

In the Bag - Tray Baked Mushroom Kibbeh

So. A challenge. The gauntlet had been thrown and for once I didn't chicken out and say "Ooof too much effort." Part of me - my aching back - still says I should have done and part of me also says that I should have stuck to recipes that I know and am used to. But when have I ever made things easy for myself?

In The Bag is a challenge set up by mischievous foodie people. Julie from http://www.asliceofcherrypie.com and Scott from http://www.realepicurean.com/

Essentially, they choose three seasonal ingredients, you then make a dish out of them plus whatever other ingredients you wish to add in, and then you blog about it.

This time it was mushrooms, nuts and herbs. Yay! Says I, forgetting that hubby is very, very allergic to mushrooms and so everything would have to be done with extra special care.

The only time I had to do it was this weekend, so onwards I went.

Kibbeh was in my head to make, bulghur wheat shells stuffed with, er, a stuffing, so I found a recipe from a noted expert and decided to actually follow that recipe to the letter. Not something I usually do but as this was for A Challenge I thought I should behave.

Ah ha. Ha ha ha.

I followed the recipe from here http://www.dedemed.com/index.php/Other-Recipes/Kibbeh-Recipe.html  but decided to do a mushroom, macadamia nut and parsley stuffing. I do have to say that the finished article tastes incredibly good but my art and design skills were somewhat lacking. The dough did not stick together well enough but here it is anyway.

Kibbeh Recipe :

Serves: 4-6 (more like 8)
Difficulty: hard (unless you chicken out and do a tray bake)
Prep & Cook time: 2 hours

Kibbeh dough
2 lbs superfine ground beef (I did mine in the food processor)
1 cup dry burgul/bulghur wheat No. 1 (fine – according to Dede)
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup parsley
3 tbs Kibbeh seasoning

Mushroom stuffing
1 bunch spring onions
100g pounded dry roasted macadamia nuts ( I just dry toasted mine in a frying pan and then ground them in a coffee grinder)
1 250g carton mushrooms
1 cup chopped parsley

Kibbeh Seasoning: (I made up a double batch of this so I had some for the stuffing too)
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 tsp sea salt

For the Kibbeh dough, rinse the bulghur in warm water and pour off the water but leave some excess for the burgul to soak up, let it sit for about 2 hours. It should end up nearly dry and free running.

In a food processor, whiz the bulghur until it is dough-like enough to hold together. Remove to a BIG bowl.

Next in the food processor blend the onion, 2 cloves garlic and parsley, then put that in the bowl with the bulghur.

Next, process the meat until it is paste like. Into the bowl with that too.

Add the first batch of kibbeh seasoning and knead all the ingredients until well combined. Keep going at it, and make sure it is all mixed in well.

The mushroom stuffing was fun. Put ‘shrooms, parsley and a bunch of spring onions in the food processor and blend until it looks like paté. Transfer to a pan. Add in the macadamia nut paste and 2 tsp of kibbeh seasoning.

Dede says: “Next you can shape the kibbeh into balls or footballs and stuff them with the stuffing and fry them in vegetable oil or make kibbeh in a baking pan and cook in the oven at 350-400 degrees for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. “

So…I gave up on the idea of stuffing wee footballs as the dough wasn’t holding well enough and my back hurt, so I made two tray bakes. One with a mushroom, nut and herb stuffing and one with a beef, date, sultana and onion one.

My skills of dealing with the dough were not brilliant. I smoothed the dough into the bottom of two lined pans, added the filling then smoothed more dough over the top. It all looked fabulous when it went into the oven, but the edges curled up, akin to a burger, really, so it didn’t look right at all.

The TASTE however….bring it ON.

Next time I will use the larger bulghur wheat and less meat in the dough. I had enough dough over to make some patties, and those will be lunch for tomorrow.

This was fun, despite it being rather hard work and panic inducing, as I haven’t had a mushroom in the house for nearly 20 years, and I got seriously paranoid! I will definitely make it again but next time…next time don't make two damned things at once (three actually as I was roasting a leg of lamb at the same time) and also listen to my gut instinct and follow my little cooking heart.






09/10/2010

Just like buses.

No posts for ages and then they all come along at once.

This morning a lovely thing was discovered in my local high street. It's a very good high street anyway, with two butchers, three bakeries, and two mini supermarkets. (One is a Co-op which makes me happy as they champion British food so I managed to get British strawberries again). It did have two greengrocers until a few weeks ago, when the bigger one of the two shut down. The remaining one is Joe's. A grocers that sells fruit and ethnic veggies (yams, sweet potato, plaintain) alongside the usual tins, packets and spices. It's more like a little general store and run by a Mauritian family.

The one that had closed is now open again and run by different people. Turkish or Albanian or something along those lines. What caught my eye initially was celery. Tall, dark green and with a full head of leaves. Not the anaemic stuff you get in British supermarkets where the only leaves are tucked right away in the middle; a proper, scented tree of the stuff! I have a longing for this stuff, as the leaves make a fabulous herb to add to soups and stews. Trying to get enough out of the tightly curled centre of a British celery bundle, well, it just doesn't yield much at all. So, after I finished ogling the celery I spotted white and pale green striped courgettes, wonderful for stuffing.They seem to be a traditional Middle East vegetable and I far prefer them to the darker green ones. Could there be more? There was.

Waxy long, thin, pale peppers, the kind you usually get pickled with your kebab unless you say no. Pointed, sweet red peppers, hot, pale chillies, artichokes, huge white cabbages that are used for making cabbage rolls, kohlrabi, aubergines, full grown, dark leafed spinach. Tomatoes that shone. Mini cucumbers, curly cucumbers! Boxes of fresh dates, sultana grapes, huge nectarines...can we say heaven? Can we? Because that's where I was.

Right in the middle of it all, when I thought it could not get any better I spied a small box. Only a small one, but it had something I have only ever seen in the markets in Cyprus before now.

FRESH OLIVES.

The temptation to buy them all was strong but I have no idea how to cure them (yet) and nowhere to store them (yet) if I did know. That didn't matter. I now have a local shop that sells things that feel like home to me. How lucky can I get? I can get plantains and yams, locally grown sweetcorn, apples, plums and strawberries, Cyprus potatoes, local potatoes and now and even bigger range of Mediterranean fruits and vegetables. It's actually very happy-making for me. That I can just walk to the local shops and buy these things is comforting, although it is at odds with my Buy British Reduce Food Miles thing. I'm not quite sure what to do about that, really. I suppose that whilst I will always support UK growers, and buy local as much as I can I still want to use the familiar foods and flavours that I grew up with, that remind me of my second home in Cyprus.

I can eat a nectarine tomorrow morning and feel like I am having breakfast with my Mum again.

08/10/2010

Back with a bang and a dinner.

This poor blog has been rather neglected of late, and for that I apologise but life does have a tendency to get in the way of, well, blogging. A holiday, then the wearying attempt to catch up with life again, takes its toll. Work, then home, then work, then home, then work again makes me a bit of a dull girl.

However, last weekend proved to be a weekend full of very good food, and so gave me something to share.

It started off with a trip to Ashlyn’s Farm Shop restaurant, out in the wilds of Essex.

They cook with what they grow, as far as they can, certainly with what is in season and local. It’s a farm shop with a restaurant attached – a light, airy, open space at the back with wooden tables, scrubbed flagstone floor and exposed beams. You can see out over the fields and watch chickens pecking about and pigs actually gambolling. Brilliant!

The kitchen is open so you can see what is going on, and sympathise with the poor girl chopping endless amounts of vegetables for the next day’s roast dinner.

Fresh pressed Cox’s apple juice, sharp and sweet all at once and a bottle of cloudy Sicilian lemonade led us onto the starter.

We chose the soup, as the weather was questionable and soup just felt right. We were very glad that we did. Leek and potato made with homegrown leeks and tatties far surpasses anything out of a tin. Creamy, but with a decent body to it and most definitely moreish. It didn’t need the toasted baguette and butter that came with it, but that didn’t stop us eating it! The soup was absolutely delicious and on anther day, maybe that would have done me but I had spied oxtail stew on the main menu, and pretty much set my heart on it.


I am ever so happy that I did. My heart was gladdened by the first mouthful - rich, and full of winey overtones. The photos simply cannot do it justice. I shut my eyes to savour every taste that I could.
The meat was falling apart, as is only right and proper for a stew, and the sauce…dark and glistening, absolutely to die for. The mash was by far the best that I have eaten in a long time. Buttery, not overly whipped so it had a goodly amount of substance, and seasoned perfectly. The vegetables were crisp and cooked to perfection, but I had eyes only for the stew and mash partnership. I did worry that the waitress wasn’t going to allow me dessert as I hadn’t eaten all my veg but my fears were unfounded.

I had no room for dessert.

Himself ordered the Ashlyn’s Burger for his main course. This comes not in a bun, which makes a very pleasant change as far as I am concerned, but with glossy, baked potato wedges, crispy salad and two relishes. The meat is the star. It may look just like any other burger, but it really isn’t. It’s just beef and seasoning – and that is all that is needed as the quality of the meat is just so good. There were audible “Nom nom mm nom” noises from the pair of us during the whole meal.


He had no room for dessert either which, given that dessert was home baked gooey brownies the size of bricks, proves just how filling the meal was!

The staff are wonderful, and extremely accommodating. You felt like you were having dinner at a friend’s house, so relaxed is the atmosphere. I did think that asking to take the chef home would have been a step too far. The meal was around £35 which was more than a bargain.

And just when you think you cannot entertain the idea of any more food, you step into the farm shop. The cheese counter calls, the vegetables still with earth on them cry out for you to buy them and cook with them, the meat counter speaks of roasts and casseroles and the cakes…well, yes. The cakes. We came home with some gorgeous cheese called Ashdown Foresters, local apples and an apricot and ginger cake that was looking lonely and needed a home. 

Dinner was very, very much later that night and consisted of cheese and deliciously crisp apples.

This is definitely a place to go to again and again, and keep up with the seasons' changes. After all, I still have a brownie to try!
Ashlyns Organic Farm Shop, Epping Road, North Weald, Essex, CM16 6RZ
Telephone: 01992 525146
e-mail: shop@ashlyns.co.uk