Cream of Mushroom Soup

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Its cold and wet, I want a nice warm bowl of home made soup. I think soup is the easiest thing to make in the world. Unless you're trying something fancy, your timings and ingredients don't need to be precise, just stick whatever you have in a big pan, boil it up and wizz it with the hand blender.

Here's a recipe for ridiculously easy cream of mushroom soup. I used a big box of reduced mushrooms from the supermarket and they worked a treat.

Ingredients: Serves 4-5

  • 50g butter
  • 1 garlic clove crushed.
  • 500g mushrooms- any variety will do.
  • 850ml vegetable stock
  • 200ml single cream 
  • Salt & Pepper to season
Method:

  • Clean and quarter your mushrooms.
  • Heat the butter in a large frying pan and add garlic and mushrooms.
  • Fry for around 5-10 minutes, until they soften and start to brown.
  • Add stock. Bring to the boil and then turn heat down and allow to simmer for around 20 minutes. 
  • Add the cream, season and allow to cook for a few more minutes. 
  • Allow to cool and then blitz to desired consistency (fyi, this isn't a particularly chunky soup).
  • Add a drizzle of cream and salt and pepper before serving.  


Low res but still looks delicious, I'm sure you'll agree!

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BBC Good Food Show Winter - its on its way!

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For all those Midlands based foodies out there, its the BBC Good Food Show Winter next week -  at the NEC Birmingham from 28 November - 2 December. I'm very excited and will be there on the Saturday, bright and early waiting for those doors to open!  Surprisingly I've only ever been to the Good Food Show once. Even more surprisingly it was in Capetown back in 2008! On the last day of our holiday, facing a rainy sky, we stumbled on the show and decided to go in. We had an amazing time, trying samples of this that and everything in between and even met a couple of chefs..

**me and my friends looking very youthful and fresh faced**


Since that time, my love of food has grown and I'll be attending the GFSW in Birmingham with a different agenda. Of course, I'll still be excited to meet chefs and I'll have my wine tasting glass and hand ready for samples at every stall but really, I want to use this trip to enhance my understanding and skills.

I'll be visiting the supertheatre to see the great baking master at work - Paul Hollywood. And I'm equally excited about the Masterchef cook off challenges.

The opportunity to meet the experts also fills me with joy. If I get the chance, I'll be asking questions about all things fishy. My weakest link is fish!  I don't cook with it very often and when I do, its a piece and nothing more exciting than that. I love eating fish and so, I think its time I learn more about cooking with it My goal to prepare and cook with one from fresh! Wish me luck!

There are still tickets left for the show, you can book them directly on the BBC Good Food Show Winter website. 
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End of the month dinners..

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Its almost pay day but not quite. We don't want to do a food shop...but inspiration is running low. Time to do a stocktake!

I find that listing everything you have is always a really useful exercise because you can see exactly whats in and it allows you to plan your meals accordingly. You'll be surprised at what you can pull together out of not many ingredients! Without that list you'll be popping out for odd ingredient here and there, and the pennies soon add up.

Today's stock take has revealed:

Freezer
  • Chicken drumsticks
  • Chorizo style chipolatas x8
  • Pork chops x 2
  • Peas
  • Soya beans
  • Spinach
  • Fish & Leek pies X 2
  • Frozen chips (we all have them, even food bloggers!) 
 Fridge
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 brocoli 
  • 1 box of eggs 
  • Chunk of parmesan cheese 
  • 1 courgette
Cupboards: 
  • 2 cans tomatoes
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • Stuffing mix
  • Puy lentils
  • Rice 
  • Onions
  • 2 large potatoes 
If you're really lucky, you'll have an over enthusiastic kitten helping you..
  1. Vegetable curry - everyone I know tends to have a jar of curry paste in the back of their fridge. I have several! Fry some onions with a spoon full of curry paste for a few minutes, chuck in broccoli florets and allow them to cook for a few mins before adding a tin of tomatoes. Veg curry is so versatile, you can really put anything you have in there, the more the merrier! I love chickpeas too so I'll probably throw them in. Add a handful of frozen peas at the end too - always works well.
  2. Chorizo fritata  - A good midweek meal - chop up half the pack of chorizo sausages and fry with an onion and a little garlic. Throw in some slices of courgette and let them colour. In a jug, lightly whisk 4 eggs and a dash of milk. Pour in and sprinkle with parmesan. Once its started to set, stick it under the grill to colour the top. Sprinkle with grated parmesan and VOILA!
  3. Sweet Chilli Chicken - Again, this uses a few ingredients from your cupboards - Mix 1 tsp honey, 4 tsp sweet chilli sauce, 3 tsp soy sauce and pour onto your chicken, leave in a bowl to marinade for up to an hour. Grill the chicken, turning until cooked through and coloured all over. Serve with rice. To jazz the rice up, fry an onion and garlic, add some dried chilli flakes if you have them and the mix into the cooked rice with some frozen peas or soya beans. If you still have some veg left, that'd work well. 
  4. Fish and Leek pies - I made these pies a couple of weeks ago and they've been sat in the freezer waiting for a busy day. Serve with peas and maybe some oven chips if you're feeling cheeky! You can see the recipe here.
  5. Pork Chops with Stuffing - Grill the pork chops for a couple of minutes, to get them started. Then top with stuffing (made up with water as per instructions but pre cooked) and continue to grill. This is something my Nanna does and its really nice - keeps the meat moist and adds another dimension. Serve with mash and carrots.  
  6. Sausage & Puy Lentil One Pot - Brown the chorizo sausages in a casserole dish with some onions and stir frequently to stop sticking. After about 10 mins, add the lentils and vegetable stock. If you have it, a splash of red wine works well too. At this point you could add something extra like some frozen spinach or soya beans. Add the lid, leave to cook on a low heat for 25-30 mins stirring very occasionally. 
These dinners aren't exciting and you won't be leaping off the sofa in delight but they are a good way to use up those left over ingredients and getting you through to pay day. Use your spices and sauces to jazz up plain meats and you'll find that there's always something you can rustle up before you end up at the beans on toast stage


Good Luck!
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Baked Chicken with onions, garlic & tomatoes

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As you know, I'm a fan of batch cooking. Both of us work full time and often work late and away from home. You probably know from your own lives how tempting it is to grab a McDonalds or order a takeaway during the week, after all, you get home and want to flop on the sofa, not start cooking! So, by batch cooking, I can keep the naughty food at bay and avoid spending too much time in the kitchen after a long day at work. 

This one pot recipe is another one from my good old 'Dinner in the Freezer' book. I did this in my cast iron casserole dish, the flavours really intensify because of the slow cooking and when you reheat, it tastes even better. Funny how some dishes taste better the next day (or in this case, the next week!).

Ingredients: (serves 4)
  • 8 pieces chicken, skin on
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
  • 3 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 small dry white wine
  • 400g peeled whole plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 300ml hot vegetable stock
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
Method: 
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Season the chicken well with salt and black pepper, then dust with the flour.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large flameproof casserole (preferably a cast-iron one) over a high heat. Add the chicken pieces, skin-side down, together with the bacon, and cook the chicken for 5–8 minutes on each side until everything is golden. Remove from the pan, and set aside.
  • Reduce the heat to low, and add the remaining oil to the casserole with the onion and a pinch of salt. Sweat for about 5 minutes until soft, then add the garlic, celery, and carrots. Sweat for a further 5–6 minutes until soft.
  • Increase the heat to high once again, and add the wine. Let boil for a few minutes until the alcohol has evaporated. Tip in the tomatoes and their juices, and pour in the stock. Gently boil for a few minutes more. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and return the chicken and bacon to the casserole. Stir through, cover, and transfer to the oven to cook for about 1 hour. Top up with more stock or hot water if it begins to dry out.

Browning the chicken and baconRemove the Chicken and saute carrots, onion and celery Glass of wine ready for the casserole
Stirring the onion, garlic and tomato sauce
Baked chicken with onions, tomatoes and garlic

Freezing instructions:

Leave to cool, then transfer to a seal-able freezerproof container, making sure the chicken is completely covered by sauce. Freeze for up to 3 months.

To serve, defrost overnight in the fridge, then transfer to a casserole dish, cover, reheat in the oven (180C/35F/Gas Mark 4) for 30-40 mins or until piping hot. Add a little hot water or stock if the casserole is drying out. Serve with mash or rice.
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Mary Berry's Melting Moments

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I stumbled across the brilliant Belleau Kitchen blog yesterday and felt inspired by the 'Random Recipe' challenge and decided to give it a go.


Here's what you do: 
  • Take all your cook books off the shelf and shuffle them up 
  • Close your eyes and run your fingers down their spines and stop at a random book
  • Close your eyes again and randomly open the chosen book at a page
  • Cook this dish (if it's something you've cooked before then turn to the next page and cook that dish)... and don't cheat... (do it with a friend in the room who will make you stick to it...) it's a challenge after all and you're only cheating yourself... this is specifically designed to take you out of your comfort zone...! (I love this bit, its so true!) 

So as if it was written in the stars, the book I chose was my newest - Mary Berry's Baking Bible -  which my lovely hubby bought for me earlier this week (in place of the more usual bunch of flowers). I think he was trying to tell me something - Bake More!

The recipe I landed on was 'Melting Moments'.

Ingredients:
  • 225g (8oz) softened butter
  • 175g (6oz) golden caster sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • A few drops vanilla essence 
  • 275g (10oz) self-raising flour
  • 50g (2oz) porridge oats
  • 12 red or natural glace cherries.
Method:
  • Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170C/ Gas mark 5. Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment.
  • Measure the butter, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract and flour into a mixing bowl and beat together to form a soft dough.
  • Divide the mixture into about 36 portions. Form each piece into a ball and roll in the oats to cover. Flatten each ball slightly and top each with a quartered glace cherry, if you like. Place onto the baking trays.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool sightly on the trays before lifting onto a wire rack to cool.
Verdict:

These taste slightly hobnob-esque and are very crumbly, buttery textured. To be honest, they don't taste of much really but then given the simple ingredients list, that's not surprising. They're easy and quick to make and nice to eat with a cuppa though so for that alone, they're worth re-making.


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Dukkah Spiced Belly Pork

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We love belly pork in our house. Its a cheap cut and when roasted in the oven for a couple of hours, tastes like heaven. Its my staple choice whenever I see it on the menu in restaurants but when I cook it at home, I fall into the trap of doing the usual - pork, roasties, peas, carrots, gravy etc.. so this weekend I had free time and decided to do something a bit different.

By rubbing the pork with Olives Et Al Dukkah spices mixed with some olive oil and serving with roasted veg and bulgar wheat, we ended up with a Moroccan inspired feast and more importantly - a refreshing change!

Ingredients:
  • 1kg pork belly (any weight of belly pork can be used for this recipe but adjust cooking time accordingly)
  • 2 tbsp Dukkah spice rub mixed with olive oil to form a paste.
Method: 
  • Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7.
  • Put the pork in a roasting tin and rub the skin dry with kitchen towel before scoring it.
  • Sprinkle salt over the skin and roast for half an hour. 
  • Turn oven down 180C/ 250F/ Gas Mark 4 and cook for an 1 hour.
  • Take out and rub the spice mix all over the skin and in the score marks.
  • Cook for a further 30 minutes then remove from the oven and stand for 5 minutes before carving.  
I served this with oven roasted veg (red onion, mushrooms, aubergine) and bulgar wheat, sprinkled with fresh parsley. Fantastic take on roast belly pork!   

My Sunday night experiment - result 10/10!!
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Fabulous Fish & Leek Pie

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As part of my Saturday batch cooking I made these individual fish pies. They are relatively quick to make and don't take too much effort. The recipe came from one of my favourite cook books. Before you ask, no its not written by a michelin starred chef or famous person, its a Dorling Kindersley book from a collection called 'Everyday Easy' and is called Dinner in the Freezer. I have a couple of them and they really are great, easy to follow cookbooks. Highly recommended!

Three Fish and Leek pies

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Happy Birthday Chocolate Alchemy!

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Tonight we braved the rain and cold to go down to Chocolate Alchemy in Loughborough. They were celebrating their 3rd birthday today - quite an achievement for an independent business in this current climate. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Chocolate Alchemy sign

A lovely shop in the Churchgate Mews area of Loughborough, Chocolate Alchemy is an artisan chocolate makers and coffee shop which also caters for corporate events and weddings. They also do chocolate making classes, a great idea for parties!

As soon as you arrive, the shelves of handmade chocolates draw you in and there's no going back! Tonight, in celebration of their 3rd birthday, a small crowd was gathered in the shop drinking champagne and sampling the chocolates. We arrived just in time to meet the staff and I even had a go at making truffles!

Truffle making
Handmade truffles

The shop has some really delicious chocolates, all hand made in the kitchen upstairs. The hubby forced me into buying some (ahem..). We opted for a selection of 12 for £8.95. The presentation is beautiful for all their products and our box of chocolates looked like a gift, not something we would sit and scoff on the sofa :-)





Loughborough chocolate alchemy gift box

It seems to me that Chocolate Alchemy has a lot to offer, head down on a saturday and enjoy a coffee and a dessert, I can highly recommend it. Also, why not pick up some chocolates for Christmas presents, what a great idea!
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Skinny Cream Cheese Choccy Brownies

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This is a recipe my American friend gave me - these brownies are absolutely delicious, fudgy and moist and you would never know that they are only 30 calories a slice (yes really)!!

Skinny Cream Cheese Chocolate Brownie

Ingredients (this will make 16 squares):

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons low fat margarine, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 (8-ounce) block low fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup calorie-free sweetener
  • 3 tablespoons skimmed milk

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Beat sugar and margarine with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg, egg white, and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour and cocoa, beating well. Pour into an 8-inch square pan coated with cooking spray.
  • Beat cream cheese and sweetener with a mixer at high speed until smooth. Add milk; beat well. Pour cream cheese mixture over chocolate mixture; swirl together using the tip of a knife to create a marbled effect.
  • Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares.
Find this recipe and other healthy recipes here.
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My Kitchen Style

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As you will know if you read my blog frequently, I recently moved house. Now that the wedding, honeymoon etc.. are well past, I've turned my attention to making my favourite room in the house look good.

No matter how small your kitchen is, there is always some way to inject personality - ornaments, a clock, pictures?  I love vintage and try to get a bit of it into my everyday life, including my kitchen.

This Newgate clock is fantastic, it looks like its come straight from an old railway station and as well as being useful it looks great. I have this very clock, it was a wedding present from my siblings, but you can get yours in large or small from John Lewis.


John Lewis Newgate Clock
If your budget is a bit smaller, I've found a very similar clock online at Asda for a fraction of the cost... but then its not a Newgate is it?

Asda Kitchen Clock similar to Newgate Clocks
If you're lucky enough to have a kitchen big enough for a table, and are able to keep it clutter free (so hard!), its a real treat to set it up for dinner, even if its just a weeknight - I love these John Lewis` napkins and matching table mats we bought recently. They're casual but still look great and there is a whole range of colours available.

Table set for four with John Lewis napkins and table mats

Close up mint green and cream table mat and napkin from John Lewis


If you have hooks for utensils, why not use one of the hooks for something other than your spoons and spatulas. I love this litte dove - its a simple idea but an easy way to add some personality into your kitchen.

Chalk boards are available everywhere and don't take too much space up on the wall. Again, mine is vintage styled because that's what I like but you can get allsorts and they don't cost the earth. Also, great Xmas present idea!
Retro 1950s kitchen chalk board


Amazon have some nice styles, these ones are my favorites..


I love this one!

Next on my list for my kitchen are some tin signs for the walls. My dad has some old oxo advertising signs in his kitchen and they look amazing!
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Lamb Pasanda - al a Daddy Cool

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Dinner at my dads.. Perfect - no cooking, no washing up and a cuddle with the Bernard (more of which later).. Dad's known for his love of curry in our family and he's also known for his two specialities lamb curry and Bombay potatoes..  So, when we arrived earlier in the week to the smell of spices sizzling in his big pan on the hob, I knew we were in for a treat. Actually as it turns out, we were in for a bigger treat because he was making a new dish - lamb pasanda - from his M&S Curry Bible cookbook.

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 1lb 5oz/600g Boneless Shoulder or Leg of Lamb
  • 2 tbsp Garlic and Ginger paste
  • 2oz/55g Ghee or 4 tbsp Groundnut Oil
  • 3 large Onions, chopped
  • 1 fresh Green Chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 Green Cardamom pods, bruised
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp Ground Coriander
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp Ground Turmeric
  • 9fl oz/250 ml Water
  • 5fl oz/150 ml Double Cream
  • 4 tbsp Ground Almonds
  • 1.5 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • Paprika and toasted Flaked Almonds to garnish
Method:
  • Cut the lamb into small chunks and put in a bowl with garlic and ginger paste. Cover and set aside in a cool place to marinate for a couple of hours.
  • Melt the ghee or oil in a large pan and add the onions and chilli stirring frequently, for around 5 minutes, until the onions are golden brown.
  • Add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, coriander, cumin and turmeric and continue stirring for 2 minutes until the spices. Add the lamb and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until it is nicely browned all over.
  • Stir in the water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat right down and put a lid on the pan. Simmer for 40 minutes, or until the meat is tender. 
  • In a bowl, mix the cream and ground almonds together. Add 6 tbsp of the hot cooking liquid from the pan and then add the whole lot back to the pan. 
  • Season and add the garam masala and continue to simmer for 5 more minutes, uncovered. Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika and toasted almonds if you wish and serve with basmati rice and naan or in dads case, with his infamous bombay potatoes.

Dads bombay potatoes

And now... the Bernard.. as promised!


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