An Autumnal Salad

I had a wonderful gig this summer, touring the country promoting Campingaz  BBQ’s. I toured pretty much every weekend showcasing my recipes and feeding the general public. The only downside from such a great job is that now I cannot even look at a steak, let alone eat it. I am cowed out!

Hence the last few weeks I have been trying to come up with no meat options for myself and the kids. The kids are not quite as enthusiastic about this phase as I am but I shall persevere.

After many a pasta, potato and couscous dish, even I was looking for something a bit different. Squashes and Beets are in season and on my last visit to Lidl (I bloody love that place) I grabbed some beetroots and made up this salad. It is soo good I have eaten it pretty much everyday for a week.  I hope you like it too.

Beetroot and Halloumi Salad

As long as you have the two main elements, beets and halloumi, the rest is up to you. There is something really addictive about the sweetness of the beetroot and the saltiness of the cheese.

(Serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 4 small or 2 large fresh beetroots
  • pack of Halloumi
  • Rocket
  • Half a red chilli (finely diced)
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Splash of olive oil

Method

Turn on the oven to about 180C, prick the beets and put them on a roasting dish, roast for about 40mins until they have a bit of give in them. Set them aside to cool enough for you to peel them.

Heat up a frying pan and slice up the Halloumi. Splash a little olive oil on the cheese pieces then fry them in a pan until each side has a golden tinge. Set aside and then peel and slice the beets.

Place the beet slices on a plate and lightly season with salt and pepper. Scatter the rocket leaves over the top then the Halloumi slices and chilli. Dress with the lime juice and olive oil.


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Burger Me

After doing a couple of shifts at the 3 Compasses Dalston for my lovely friend Michael AKA Stephen Fries. Flipping burgers and assembling his signature Stephens Piggie and Fat Ronaldo, he asked me to pop in and do a bit of tszujing for a burger shoot.

A few tips on styling a burger. First have a chef who knows how to cook a burger properly, which Stephen clearly does. The basic rule is, assemble the burger so you can see every element, the lettuce, the burger, the onion, the sauce. That and a little bit of oil to make the burger glisten just before you shoot. Thats it!

Have a lovely weekend.


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Strawberries and Chicken

The boy, when asked what he would like for his birthday dinner, raised his eyes to the sky and thought long and hard. In fact he thought for so long I left the room to put the coffee on. He followed me shortly to announce. “Strawberries and chicken, mummy!”

Right ok, well after a little teasing out of the details, we both agreed the chicken would be fried, and the strawberries would be in the cake. Thank god!

It is a tradition in my house for birthday meals to be full of “Crappy kids food”. I hold my nose and buy all the things which are pretty much banned from my house, sweets, crisps, white bread, you get my drift. However this young boy requested fried chicken, mac n cheese, and a strawberry cake.

Whenever things are a bit wobbly in the family, arguments, disappointment, sadness. I usually resort to my staple comfort recipes. It is amazing how a big plate of fried chicken can bring a smile to a sulky child’s face, or help an angry sibling, calm down and ask for another hot and crispy piece of chicken.

The fried chicken and mac n cheese are a no brainer for me to make. The strawberry cake however took a bit of thought. In the end I used a simple recipe for vanilla cake, and sweetened some cream with icing sugar then added the strawberry pieces, English of course.

I leave you with my vanilla cake recipe and a few photos of said feast.

Happy birthday Rufus!

Strawberry Rufus Cake

This is a simple sponge cake, super easy to make and goes perfectly with a cup of tea, or a glass of Prosecco.

Ingredients

  • 175g (6oz) softened butter.
  • 175g (6oz) caster sugar.
  • 3 large eggs.
  • 175g (6oz) self-raising flour, sifted.
  • 1tsp baking powder.
  • 1tsp vanilla extract.
  • pinch of salt.

For the Filling

  • Small tub of double cream
  • 2 tablespoons of icing sugar
  • Couple of drops of vanilla extract
  • Strawberry Jam
  • Tub of strawberries

Method

Cream the sugar and butter together until light and pale. In a separate bowl sift the flour and mix in the baking powder and salt. Beat an egg into the butter sugar mixture, then gently fold in a third of the flour mixture. Repeat until you have mixed in all the flour and eggs.

Take two 8inch cake tins and line them with parchment paper. Pour in the cake mixture and put in a 180C oven for 20 mins or until the cake is lightly browned and pulling away from the edges of the tin.

Leave to cool while you whip together the cream and icing sugar and vanilla, until the cream is thick and spreadable.

When the cakes are cool take them out of their tins and spread the strawberry jam onto the top of one cake, then add a layer of cream and a layer of strawberry pieces. Place the second cake on top and add another layer of cream and strawberries.

Lovely x


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Makings Of You

Weekday meals are sometimes, not always, a total argh! I sometimes find myself thinking about what on earth I am going to feed these kids for supper as I am throwing them out of the car at the school gates and driving to wherever my work has taken me that day. I have pretty much given up asking Rufus or Tilda in the car on the way to school as their stock answers are “Sushi!” (Tilda) or “Duck and pancakes” (Ru). Now far be it for me to quash the culinary musings of my 6 and 9 year olds but even I am not up to making Sushi and Pekinging a duck after 4pm on a Wednesday.

Hence my recipe Chicken in a Pot. Oh yes its the antithesis of the children’s demands yet just as delicious and also means I just chuck everything in a pot and leave to simmer while I run around the flat, dealing with the usual end of the day dramas and chaos. Feel free to call it something a bit more glam like, Chicken a la Pot de Stock.

Chicken in a Pot

This is a staple in my house. It’s perfect on a week day when I have rushed home from work having picked up the kids. It is my favourite kind of cooking, throw everything into a stockpot and leave alone for an hour or so.

Ingredients

 As you can see, this is more of a guide then a recipe

  • 1 whole free range chicken
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • A selection of chopped veg, carrots, onions, kale, or greens, tomatoes Pretty much whatever you wish to add that is handy in your veg box
  • A few cloves of garlic, peeled, left whole
  • A sprinkle of spices, I used sumac, mustard powder, chilli powder
  • A teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • A big pinch of Maldon sea salt
  • Chicken stock (enough to cover the chicken just over halfway)

Place all the ingredients in a stockpot, place on a medium high heat until the stock begins to gently boil. Lower the heat to low and put on the lid. Leave for half an hour then turn the chicken over and give the veg a little stir. The chicken should be cooked within an hour.

Place a fork between the leg and the body of the chicken and if you can pull the flesh off easily then the bird is cooked. Turn off the heat and leave to rest for 15 minutes

You can fork the chicken apart and serve this with a ton of buttery mash or some rice.


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Ain’t Nobody

It’s been a while since I have sat at this keyboard. A symptom of what is going on in my life at the moment.  I have recently been diagnosed with MS which completely came from nowhere. One day I was fine – the next day my legs were a bit weird. Within a week I was having trouble walking!

Now there is never, ever a good time to be diagnosed with MS and I was in the middle of designing and installing flowers for two pretty big weddings. Luckily for me, I have a boyfriend who fought for me to be seen and treated as soon as humanely possible and at the moment I am pretty much symptom free. The weddings went really well and as long as I didn’t have to sprint anywhere, no one would have known.

When something like this happens, it takes ages to come to terms with not only the diagnosis but also the realisation or the fear, that suddenly people will treat me differently. I thought that if people knew, then I would no longer be hired. As a self employed mother of three, that is a pretty scary thought.

After much soul searching I just thought fuck it! I am not the first person to be diagnosed with this. I am pretty much ok, just residual numbness in my feet and somedays my legs feel weird but right now, I am ok. Its nothing to be ashamed of and I refuse to allow it to define me.

Another reason why I have been so tardy in updating my lovely blog is that for the last few months my staple diet has been pretty much mackerel and rocket! I could fill a book with all the different ways to cook and prepare mackerel. I figure that maybe the few readers that I have may soon get fed up with yet another mackerel recipe! Apparently oily fish is the way forward when you have a neurological disease. Rufus the 6 year old is the only one who seems to join me in my latest food obsession. His favourite breakfast is smoked mackerel with a scotch egg, from Lidl of course.

I promise not to leave it so long between posts and for now I leave you with my recipe for Banoffi Pie. I made this because the kids were complaining that I never make puddings any more. I told them I was trying to be healthy because well you know, I have MS!

“Well you don’t have to eat it mum” said Lola. Bloody hell the sympathy vote lasted about 3 days in my house.

I found Mary Berry’s recipe online and she makes the base from ginger biscuits. Sorry Mary but no, just no. It has to be digestives. She also put the bananas on top of the cream. I put mine underneath.  Please feel free to put your bananas wherever you see fit,

I leave you a few photos of a not at all low fat lasagne and even more unhealthy Nachos, which are becoming a Saturday night staple in my house.

Banoffi Pie

This is based on Mary Berry’s recipe. Its incredibly indulgent, not for the faint hearted.

FOR THE BASE

  • 65g (2 ½ oz) butter
  • 175g (6 oz) digestive biscuits, crushed

FOR THE FILLING

  • 100g (4 oz) butter
  • 100g (4 oz) light muscovado sugar
  • 2 x 397g (14 oz) cans condensed milk

FOR THE TOPPING

  • 300ml (1/2 pint) double cream
  • 1 large banana
  • a little lemon juice
  • a little grated milk or plain chocolate

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. FOR THE BASE: melt the butter in a small pan, remove from the heat and stir in the crushed biscuits. Mix well, then spread the mixture over the base and sides of a 23cm (9 inch) loose-bottomed fluted flan tin, pressing the mixture with a metal spoon to make it firm.
  2. FOR THE FILLING: measure the butter and light muscovado sugar into a roomy non-stick pan. Heat gently until the sugar had dissolved, add the condensed milk and stir with a flat ended wooden spatula, stirring continuously and evenly for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is a golden toffee colour and thick – watch like a hawk as it burns easily. Turn into the prepared crumb crust case and leave to cool and set.
  3. FOR THE TOPPING: slice the bananas and coat with a little lemon juice to stop them from discolouring. Layer them over the cold toffee. Whip the double cream until it just holds its shape and spread evenly over the bananas and cold toffee mixture, dust the whole pie with grated chocolate. Lift on to a flat plate and remove the ring. Serve very chilled.

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Made In The UK

I have turned back the clock in my house this week. I feel it is apt since this country seems to be going backwards…..Anyway.

It is officially 1976 in my house and I am revelling in such classics as Chicken Kiev and Crumble.

I have never made a Kiev before but then watched Tom Kerridge make his version and I was inspired. My love affair with Lidl is, as always burning brightly and all the ingredients were brought for under £6.

To prep the chicken breast fillets cut a pocket into the thick end of the fillets then fill a disposable piping bag with garlic and parsley butter and inject the butter into pocket.

Place breadcrumbs and 2 whisked eggs into two bowls. Dip the fillets into the egg then breadcrumbs and repeat so each fillet has a really good coating. Put the fillets in the fridge for at least 20 mins then gently fry in butter so they are golden brown on each side. I finished off the cooking in the oven set at 180C for 10 mins. Serve with steamed broccoli and a glass of Liebfraumilch!

I leave you with my crumble recipe and a few photos including one of the kids happy to be delivering said crumble to their uncle.

 

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Plum and Mango Crumble

Ok so this is not your usual combination for an autumn crumble but bear with me. Its good! Its surprisingly good, I wish I had added some gratings of fresh coconut to the crumble mixture and next time I will. I had promised the kids a crumble but there were no cooking apples in the grocery so instead picked up plums and a mango and a lime. I served it with fresh cream which I felt would suit better then a vanilla custard. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • A punnet of plums (not too ripe they need to hold their shape)
  • A lime
  • A mango (again not a super ripe one)
  • knob of butter
  • 100g rolled oats
  • 50g of butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • pinch of salt

Method

Turn the oven on to 180C and then take a saucepan and gently melt the knob of butter in it. Chop in half and de stone the plums, peel and chop up the mango. Don’t chop the mango too small. Add to the gently simmering butter. Then zest and squeeze the lime in. Cook for about 10 mins until the fruit is shiny and beginning to colour a little.  Set aside.

In a bowl add the oats, butter, flour and salt and sugar then rub together with your fingertips until the butter is dispersed through the mix.

In a heatproof bowl add the fruit and then top with the crumble mix.

Place in the oven and cook for about 20mins until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.

Serve with fresh cream or ice cream.

 


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Greece Is The Word

I took a week off this summer to regroup with a couple of girlfriends.  We decided to fly to Greece and do as little as humanely possible. Four days into our peaceful break the UK imploded with the outcome of Brexit. We ran to a cashpoint to take out Euros before the pound dropped to unrecognisable levels. So needless to say the relaxing holiday wasn’t quite as chilled as we wished for.

It was my first visit to Greece. What a beautiful place with such lovely, kind and helpful people. Kefalonia  is a stunning island about 20km long and half that width. The sea was warm and the sun was hot. I ate tons of fish, mostly grilled sardines served with tomatoes and cucumber and a lovely creamy tsatziki. I also discovered the greek dish Horta. Its simple blanched spinach like greens, dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice. Its so fresh and delicious that you can almost feel the vitamin boost

My one regret is that I did not eat an authentic moussaka. I did my research though and decided I would make on as soon as I came home. The secret is to fry off your vegetables in olive oil before you assemble the dish. This is time consuming but a process that must happen for the best tasting pie.

I leave you with the recipe and a few photos.

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Mousakka

My daily diet in Greece pretty much consisted of grilled sardines and greek salad. I wanted to try a mousakka but it just seemed too hot to contemplate such a warm filling meal.

However on my return it was one of the first things I made for my family and hungry neighbours eager to cash in on my enthusiasm for all things Greek.

After a little bit of research, I took the best bits of many recipes and created the recipe below. This recipe is time consuming as frying all the veg in batches takes a while. Believe me it is worth the effort.

Ingredients

  • 150-175ml  olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 900g lean minced lamb
  • 50ml white wine or water
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 cinammon stick
  • handful fresh oragano leaves, chopped. Or a big dash of dried oragano
  • 3 large aubergines
  • 3 courgettes
  • 4 or 5 maris piper potatoes
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

For the cheese sauce

  • 75g butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • 600ml milk
  • 50g kefalotiri cheese, finely grated. If you can’t find this cheese use pecorino or parmasen cheese.
  • 2 medium free-range eggs beaten

 Method

  1. Preheat the oven at 200C/400F/Gas 6.

  2. For the lamb sauce, heat two teaspoons of the oil in a pan. Add the onions and garlic and fry until just beginning to brown. Add the minced lamb and fry over a high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the wine, tomatoes and oregano and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes while you make everything else.

  3. Now begin your mini marathon of frying. Take your courgette, aubergine and potatoes and without peeling them, slice them lengthwise into 3/4mm slices. Season them both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan until it is jumping hot, add a large dash of the oil and fry the veg in batches, making sure they are well cooked and brown on each side. Place the cooked layers on a plate covered in kitchen roll to soak up the extra oil.

  4. Take a large deep oven proof dish and begin by adding a layer of aubergine, then courgette, then potato and repeat until all of the veg are happy in the dish, make sure you give a little dust of salt a pepper to each layer.

  5. For the topping, melt the butter in a non-stick pan, add the flour and cinnamon stick and cook over a medium heat for one minute to cook out the flour. Gradually beat in the milk, bring to the boil, stirring, and leave to simmer very gently for 10 minutes, giving it a stir every now and then. Remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the cheese and some salt and pepper to taste. Cool slightly and then beat in the eggs.

  6. Now to assemble the final elements. Pour the cooked lamb sauce over the layered veg and then add the cheese sauce on top bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden-brown and bubbling.

    Serve with a greek salad of fresh tomatoes and cucumber with the best feta you can find.


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Sour-dough Starter

I have been wanting to make a sourdough starter for years. I thought that it would be complicated and time consuming. How wrong was I! After a bit of research, I began the process of making a wild yeast starter. Now the first couple of attempts went in the bin as nothing seemed to be happening. Then I decided to not be so impatient and within a week, I made my first batch of sourdough which became pizza for the kids supper.

What You Need
Ingredients
Plain flour
Water

Equipment
500ml glass or plastic container (not metal)
Measuring cups
Mixing spoon
Cling film or a food bag

Instructions
Making sourdough starter takes about 5 days. Each day you “feed” the starter with equal amounts of fresh flour and water. As the wild yeast grows stronger, the starter will become more frothy and sour-smelling. On average, this process takes about 5 days, but it can take longer depending on the conditions in your kitchen. As long as you see bubbles and sings of yeast activity, continue feeding it regularly. If you see zero signs of bubbles after three days, take a look at the Troubleshooting section below.

Day 1: Make the Initial Starter

1 cup of plain flour
1 cup of water

Combine them in the container. Stir vigorously into a smooth batter. It will look like a sticky, thick dough. Scrape down the sides and loosely cover the container with cling film.

Put the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature, the same temperature that you would use to proof dough and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 2: Feed the Starter

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup plus a tablespoon plain flour

Take down your starter and give it a look. You may see a few small bubbles here and there. This is good! The bubbles mean that wild yeast have started making themselves at home in your starter. They will eat the sugars in the the flour and release carbon dioxide (the bubbles) and alcohol. They will also increase the acidity of the mixture, which helps fend off any bad bacterias. At this point, the starter should smell fresh, mildly sweet, and yeasty.

If you don’t see any bubbles yet, don’t panic like I did — depending on the conditions in your kitchen, the average room temperature, and other factors, your starter might just be slow to get going.

Combine the flour and water in with the starter. Leave again for 24 hours loosely covered.

Day 3: Feed the Starter

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup flour

Check your starter. By now, the surface of your starter should look dotted with bubbles and your starter should look visibly larger in volume. If you stir the starter, it will still feel thick and batter-like, but you’ll hear bubbles popping. It should also start smelling a little sour and musty.

Again, if your starter doesn’t look quite like mine in the photo, don’t worry. Give it a few more days. The photo I have taken is of my third attempt so please don’t panic it does work.

Add the flour and water for today. Stir vigorously until combined into a smooth batter and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 4: Feed the Starter

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup flour

Check your starter. By now, the starter should be looking very bubbly with large and small bubbles, and it will have doubled in volume. If you stir the starter, it will feel looser than yesterday and honeycombed with bubbles. It should also be smelling quite sour and pungent. You can taste a little too! It should taste sour and somewhat vinegary.

When I made my starter here, I didn’t notice much visual change from Day 3 to Day 4, but could tell things had progress by the looseness of the starter and the sourness of the aroma.

Combine the flour and water with the starter. Let sit for 24 hours.

Day 5: Starter is Ready to Use

Check your starter. It should have doubled in bulk since yesterday. By now, the starter should also be looking very bubbly — even frothy. If you stir the starter, it will feel looser than yesterday and be completely webbed with bubbles. It should also be smelling quite sour and pungent. You can taste a little too! It should taste even more sour and vinegary.

If everything is looking, smelling, and tasting good, you can consider your starter ripe and ready to use! If your starter is lagging behind a bit, continue on with the Day 5 and Beyond instructions.

Day 5 and Beyond: Maintaining Your Starter
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup flour

Once your starter is ripe (or even if it’s not quite ripe yet), you no longer need to bulk it up. To maintain the starter, discard (or use) about half of the starter and then “feed” it with new flour and water: weigh the flour and water, and combine them in the container with the starter. Stir vigorously until combined into a smooth batter.

If you’re using the starter within the next few days, leave it out on the counter and continue discarding half and “feeding” it daily. If it will be longer before you use your starter, cover it tightly and place it in the fridge. Remember to take it out and feed it at least once a week — I also usually let the starter sit out overnight to give the yeast time to recuperate before putting it back in the fridge.

How to Reduce the Amount of Starter:

Maybe you don’t need all the starter we’ve made here on an ongoing basis. That’s fine! Discard half the starter as usual, but feed it with half the amount of flour and water. Continue until you have whatever amount of starter works for your baking habits.

How to Take a Long Break from Your Starter:

If you’re taking a break from baking, but want to keep your starter, you can do two things:

Make a Thick Starter: Feed your starter double the amount of flour to make a thicker dough-like starter. This thicker batter will maintain the yeast better over long periods of inactivity in the fridge.
Dry the Starter: Smear your starter on a Silpat sheet and let it dry. Once completely dry, break it into flakes and store it in an airtight container. Dried sourdough can be stored for months. To re-start it, dissolve a 1/4 cup of the flakes in 4 ounces of water, and stir in 4 ounces of flour. Continue feeding the starter until it is active again.

Troubleshooting Your Sourdough Starter
No signs of bubbles or yeast activity after several days: Add a pinch of sugar next time you feed your starter — this can help kickstart yeast activity. Also, make sure your starter is being kept somewhere warm and stir vigorously when you stir in the fresh flour and water. If it starts to smell spoiled, discard it and start again.
Still no signs of activity! Something’s not going right. Discard your starter and begin again with a clean container. Use filtered water if at all possible. If it’s very warm in your kitchen, also be sure that the starter is not too hot — if you’re sweating, your yeast is also not so happy. Try to keep the starter around 70°F to 75°F.
There’s a thin layer of liquid on the top: This often happens if your water to flour ratio is off (too much water) or if your starter has gone too long between feedings. Just pour off this layer off and feed your starter as normal. Be sure you’re adding the right amount of flour and water (slightly more flour than water by volume) — weigh your ingredients if at all possible.
The top of my starter looks moldy or is tinged red: I’ve read in several places that it’s ok to scrape this layer off (or pour it off, if it’s liquidy), but personally, I’d discard the starter and start again. If you can’t bear to discard an old starter, try to scoop about 1/4 cup from the bottom of the container and use this to seed a new batch of flour and water.

Good Luck!

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Oops There It Is

Wow it’s been ages since I put fingers to keyboard. I have had my flower hat on for a few months. Which has been lovely.  I made a wedding in November which was (if I say so myself) really pretty. I designed centrepieces filled with white hydrangeas and tulips. The location of the wedding was a stunning Palladian mansion in the surrey countryside Botleys Mansion . The brides mother told me they wanted to hire me to cook the wedding breakfast too!  Even I realised that may be a little too much for me to take on.

Enough about flowers, let’s get on with the food. My daughter Lola turned 11 last week and as tradition goes, she requested her birthday celebration menu. She has been talking about her American roots lately probably because her new US passport arrived a few weeks ago. “I want fried chicken and mac ‘n cheese please”. Yep no problem. She also showed me a photo of a cake that she wanted. As far as I could tell it was a cake surrounded by Kit Kats, and then topped with skittles. I told her I would replicate but not with skittles, I would use M&Ms instead.

I made my ‘go to’ chocolate cake mix, to make a 3 layer sponge then a simple butter icing flavoured with a little cocoa, slathered the whole cake in icing, including the sides, then stuck Kit Kats around the edge and filled the top with said M&Ms and finished it off with a bit of ribbon. I thought it looked pretty good. Lola was pleased.

I leave you with a few pics from my weddings sandwiched between cake and fried chicken pics and a recipe for my delicious always juicy southern fried chicken.

Wedding photography by Faye Cornhill and John Sanders.

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Southern Fried Chicken

This recipe is my ‘go to’ for birthdays and picnics. The chicken is always juicy even when wrapped up and eaten room temperature on a sunny day. I usually serve it with a crisp red and white coleslaw with a squeeze of lime and some fresh red chilli.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

For the marinade

  • 10-12 pieces of chicken (thighs and drumsticks)
  • 3 x 75ml pots of buttermilk
  • pinch of salt

For the crispy coating

  • 200g plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • splash of water

Spices to add to flour

I leave the quantities of each spice up to you. I would suggest a couple of teaspoons of each.

  • Mustard powder
  • Garlic salt
  • Celery salt
  • Hot chili powder
  • Thyme leaves
  • Smoked paprika
  • Maldon sea salt
  • Ground black pepper

Sunflower oil for frying

Method

First take your chicken thighs and trim off any extra fat so the thigh is neatly covered with skin. Place the thighs and drumsticks in a bowl and cover with the butter milk and a pinch of salt. Place in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, better still overnight.

When you are ready to cook the chicken. Turn on the oven to 170C. Take a large deep cast iron saucepan and fill a third of the way with your oil place over a medium high heat.

In the meantime start coating your chicken. Take the chicken out of the fridge and with your fingers scrape off the excess buttermilk. Lay the chicken on a tray and then take 2 large bowls and in one bowl add the flour and spices, mix thoroughly. In the other bowl mix together the egg and water.

Using only one hand (or you will turn into a flour egg monster) pick up a piece of chicken, dip in the flour making sure the chicken is thoroughly coated, shaking off the excess, then dip in the egg, shaking off the excess then dip back into the flour. Place on a tray and repeat until all the chicken pieces are coated.

Take a piece of flour egg mixture which is stuck to your fingers no doubt and place it in the oil, if it sizzles gently then your oil is ready to use. If it sinks to the bottom, wait until it rises to the top of the oil and sizzles as this means the oil is not hot enough and you will get oily chicken, which is not good. Also if the batter sizzles violently across the top of the oil this means your fat is too hot so turn down the heat a little and wait for a few minutes.

Fry off your chicken pieces in batches of 3 for a few minutes until the batter is crispy and golden brown, remove and place on kitchen towel then into a roasting dish. When you have fried off all the chicken place in the oven for 20 mins until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve hot or room temperature. Delicious!


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High Hopes

I always tell people when asked what I do for a living, food and flowers. Well in the last few weeks its been flowers and food. I’ve designed a lots of weddings this summer and its always a joy to be surrounded by a sea of flowers waiting to be turned into loveliness.

My kids have been spoilt rotten this summer (although they would beg to differ). We have eaten out a lot mainly because I have been crazy with work. My new favourite place is Salvation In Noodles in Dalston, Delicious Pho and the best fried chicken ever.

I have been experimenting with my own versions of Pho. The stock is the bit which matters the most. I found the best flavour came from pork belly. I make twice cooked pork almost weekly. I poach the pork in water with chunks of ginger and a whole garlic bulb sliced in half widthways. I simmer the pork for about 2 hours and leave it to cool in the stock. I save the liquor and use it for soups and stews.  This week it was the  base for a noodle soup with rocket and topped with a couple of seared salmon steaks, divine.

When I was living in my old house, after a baking commission I ended up with a surplus of muffins. Now thats a phrase I never thought I would use. Anyway, I gave them to the bin men one morning. The following week, I had a banana chocolate loaf spare (as you do) and gave that to them. The following Tuesday night I started panicking. I have nothing to give them! They are going to be so disappointed. I quickly whipped up a bunch of muffins and so began the tradition of baking for the bin men.

I began testing new recipes on them, they would give me their feedback the following week. Nah that one wasnt as good as the one with chocolate etc etc. I remember practicing making daisies out of fondant for Lola’s birthday cupcakes. I gave them my first batch and quickly scrambled to get the kids in the car for school. I passed them on my way, they had pulled the truck over and they were all eating these dainty fairy cakes in the front cab.

Well now a few years later I have some new ‘bin men’. My bloke’s singing colleagues, a bass, a baritone and a tenor. After baking some Stollen for them last year, I now bake for them pretty much weekly. Apparently their conductor Javier said my empanadas were the best he ever tasted! Hmm I think that cannot be true but I shall take the compliment.

I leave you for my recipe for empanadas, well you can bake them and see for yourself. I usually make these with tuna, but I thought as they were travelling on a bus to Brussels I should use chorizo instead. This is a really simple bake, simple pastry and 15 minutes of stirring some ingredients over heat.

Oh I also leave you with a couple of pics, one of which is my adopted for a while dog Spencer. Lola insisted I post a picture of him.

Have a great week.

flowerssept Salmonlunch Spencer

Chorizo and Olive Empanadas

These little pastry parcels can be eaten warm or cold. Traditionally these are made with Tuna,

Ingredients

400g plain all purpose flour

75g butter, softened

2 eggs

60ml water, if you have some to hand you can use sherry instead

Pinch of salt

1 egg, beaten to glaze the pastry

Filling

50g chorizo, cut into small chunks

1 small red onion, finely chopped

Handful of black or green olives, or both, deseeded

25g lardons, or bacon

3 medium tomatoes, de seeded and roughly chopped

Squirt of tomato ketchup

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

Big splash of olive oil

Pinch of chilli flakes

Pinch of smoked paprika

Pinch of black pepper

Method

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub the butter in with your finger tips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the combined eggs and water and stir with a fork until the mixture comes together. Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and gather the dough together into a ball. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 30mins.In

In a deep frying pan, Heat the olive oil and add the onions, and garlic, lardons and chorizo. Cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent and the bacon and chorizo are leaching their oil. Add the rest of the ingredients, cover the frying pan with foil and simmer gently for 20 minutes. If there seems to be too much liquid, then when you take the foil off let it simmer for a bit longer. Remember you are filling pastry so you don’t want a runny filling. Turn off the heat and start making the pastry shells.

Turn on the oven to 180C. Take a large cookie cutter, or use a collins glass, or mug. You want to make a circle around 8-10 cms width. Roll the pastry out to 3 mil thick. And cut out circles. Place a heaped teaspoon of the filling into the centre of the circle and brush the beaten egg around the edges, fold one edge of the pastry over to the other side, so you have a semi circle, press the edges together and glaze the top of the pastry place on a baking sheet. Repeat and place in the oven. This recipe should make around 10 empanadas.


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