Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Spice it up! - recipe - book review

Those of you who know me well will know I'm recovering from an operation at home at the present time. I have quite a lot of time on my hands as a result, but my mobility is restricted somewhat (no pitying glances  pleeease).  Anyway, to try to keep busy I've been reviewing some cookery books, and the kind people from Octopus Books are helping my recovery along great guns by keeping my mind somewhat occupied and last week they sent me Levi Roots latest book...called 'Spice it up' !' to review.

You may remember Levi Roots from Dragons Den when he successfully presented his Reggae Reggae Sauce to the Dragons, and managed to acquire some financial support from them? Well he's gone from strength to strength since then with his food based products sold in most major supermarkets, a string of cookery books and his own restaurant in London.

Really to do any cookery book review justice you have to cook one or even two (or more) recipes from just have to, even if it means taking on a willing assistant in the kitchen to help, enter Tom :-))!

So this week Tom and I cooked two recipes from the book (I have a third in mind  a cod, coconut and rice recipe, but I can't push it with the fish thing too far and too soon in this household) we made two dishes, Soy, Chilli and Star Anise Spiced Mackerel Fillets and Pasta with Thyme and Chilli Roasted Tomatoes. Well, when I say 'we', I perched on my perching stool in the kitchen and gave out instructions, and Tom did the physical stuff. But it really wasn't hard at all, it was quite easy and we made a great team. Here are some pictures of our efforts:

Soy, Chilli and Star Anise Spiced Mackerel Fillets
Pasta with Thyme and Chilli Roasted Tomatoes
These dishes were really good and we thoroughly enjoyed them, the pasta dish had a real kick and the mackerel was a combination of really fresh tasty and fragrant flavours that really complimented the fresh fish.

'Spice it up' is the fourth recipe book by Levi Roots (Caribbean Food Made Easy; Levi Roots Food For Friends; and Levi Roots Reggae Reggae Cookbook are the other three). This book is filled with photographs of most of the recipes and of Levi Roots himself at work, in the kitchen and at play. The recipes are not at all technically challenging, and with a few additions to your store cupboard basics you could quite easily put a good number of these dishes together and impress friends and family with tasty Caribbean style food.

The book is divided into different sections, such as fish, chicken rice, pasta, rice, vegetables, sugar, honey and chocolate, citrus fruits coffee and tea, rum. The recipes cover everything from breakfast dishes (such as Mexican Huevos Rancheros)  to cakes, desserts and alcoholic drinks (mostly rum based!).

A significant number of the recipes in this book would suit vegetarians.

There is an interesting spice glossary at the back, where Levi describes each of the main spices and its use and in some instances the relevance to his upbringing. If you are not very familiar with a range of spices this will help you.

Here are the spices used for the tomatoes for the pasta dish above.

My thanks go to Tom for his help in the kitchen and for help making some lovely meals.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Apple pie with a Cheddar crust - recipe

This is a bloggers recipe challenge (no 5) I happened across from Dom on his Belleau Kitchen blog, the challenge for this month (June) is to pick a random recipe from your most recently gifted cook book and cook that recipe...
Didn't take long to find the book from the kitchen shelf easy enough, but I gave hubby the job of randomly selecting the recipe...I would have cheated otherwise, I tried to do it and started cheating straight away...I'm a cheating failure and far too choosey a cook clearly!

My last properly gifted cookbook was a Christmas present from my mother, The Great British Book Of Baking. Strangely I haven't been that inspired to make too many recipes from that book, (have tried about 3 or 4 so far) why, I'm not really sure? I tend to skim a lot of recipe books and decide I may like the look of a lot of the recipes, but I think they are either too challenging, or I haven't got all the ingredients to hand and I'm not tempted enough to go out and buy them. I tend to get most inspired by other bloggers recipes more recently.

So, back to the challenge, a short flick of  the pages later we have...taa daaa....Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust!

Hmmm...have made lots of apple pies in the past but never one with a Cheddar crust before...from knowledge this is something of a Yorkshire tradition of serving apple pie with cheese. This recipe uses eating apples not the usual cooking apples (Bramleys). Here's how it goes.
300g plain flour
pinch salt
150g mature Cheddar cheese (chilled & grated)
150g unsalted butter (chilled and diced)
50ml cold water
1kg eating apples
3 tablespoons caster sugar
grated zest of half an unwaxed lemon
25g butter meted
caster sugar for sprinkling

Put the flour, salt and grated cheese in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix. Then add the diced cold butter and mix until fine breadcrumb stage. Add the cold water until the pastry comes together in the bowl. Flatten the dough and wrap in cling film and then chill for about 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and put a baking tray in the oven to heat.

Peel and core the apples and chop into slices, I put mine in some cold water with a few splashes of lemon juice as I was preparing them. Drain the apples and mix them with the lemon zest, the caster sugar and the melted butter in a bowl.


Grease your pie dish and then roll out about a third of the pastry to cover the bottom of the dish.

Put the apple mixture on top of the pastry and then roll out the pie top. Brush the pastry rim with cold water before putting the top on, then crimp the edges of the pie to seal it. Decorate the top of your pie if you like...with hearts in this case...'the way to a man's heart and all that good stuff'! Cut a couple of steam holes in the lid and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Bake on the hot baking tray for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and bake for a further 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with more caster sugar.

Serve with custard, cream or ice cream...or all three if your eating this over a few days as we did (this pie serves 6).
Now what to do with the leftover pastry? Cheesy jam tarts maybe? OR, how about a few cheese straws? 

Simply roll out the leftover pastry cut into strips and twist each one, put on a baking tray for about 10 or 12 minutes in a 180C/350F/Gas 4 oven and once baked remove and dust with paprika, sea salt and ground black pepper. 

To make them extra cheesy just kneed a few grams or so of grated Parmesan into the leftover pastry dough, or sprinkle with Parmesan prior to baking. Very nice, these cheesy straws were an added bonus and just as nice as the pie in fact!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

'Killer cake' by the very lovely Charlotte ( - recipe

Well I'm beyond excited, because the very lovely Charlotte of  LIPGLOSSIPING has kindly agreed to do a guest post for me about a cake she made recently...yes a guest post for yes...meeee on my very own little  blog!!!

Those of you that don't know who Charlotte is, you are probably missing a trick or two, as she's pretty, very pretty in fact, and world renowned in the online make up blogging community. I have followed her site and noted her words of wisdom for ages now, (yes my other vice is beauty stuff) she knows everything there is to know about make up, beauty products, beauty offers,suppliers, websites and the like.

She's so 'famous' she is often mentioned in the beauty press and has won quite a few awards for her blogging and she is pictured with one of them, the Johnson and Johnson Best Beauty Blogger Award for 2011...winning awards like this is no mean feat bearing in mind how many thousands of beauty bloggers are out there!

Charlotte is a talented blogger, and a fantastic writer, her photography is amazing (certainly puts my very poor efforts to shame) and she can bake a mean biscuit, cake or muffin, some of her recipes are replicated on her site...Charlotte is a busy working mum, she's knowledgeable, she's gorgeous and she can make her own hobnobs!

And...she's very kindly taken time to write a guest post for this blog...and here it I'm away in hospital when you read this, I'll hand over to Charlotte...and thank you so much Charlotte for your 'killer cake' contribution. x

It was my daughter's birthday a few weekends ago and although I love baking, I don't like the intricacies that can come with it. I'm an impatient baker and having to take 'lots of care' isn't my cup of tea. I'm also terrible at any kind of decoration, I can't even make pastry leaves for the tops of my pies.
Yet I made this with no trouble at all...

And better still, it was amazing! 
The credit for the original recipe must go to Lindy's Cakes but I've made a couple of alterations that worked well for me!

You will need an 8" round, deep cake tin
110g margarine
110g butter
225g dark chocolate (I use the cheap stuff and am happy with the taste)
1 tablespoon of instant coffee (to intensify the flavour of the chocolate)
450g soft brown sugar
150ml water
4 large eggs
50ml vegetable oil (this keeps the dense cake moist)
100ml sour cream
125g self raising flour
125g plain flour
50g cocoa powder (I used Green & Blacks to make up for the cheap chocolate!)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celsius (fan oven)
2. Grease and flour your cake tin (I hate parchment paper with a vengeance)
3. Add the butter, chocolate, coffee, sugar and water to a pan. Heat it slowly until melted and then set aside to cool.
4. Add the eggs, oil and sour cream to the cooled chocolate mix and stir well.
5. Sift all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.
6. Pour the chocolate mixture into well and mix until thoroughly combined.
7. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 1 hour 30mins. Do the skewer test to ensure it comes out clean! If not, return to the oven for an additional 10/15 minutes before checking again.

That's the cake baked... now what? Turn it out of the tin and leave to cool fully.

My oven rises cakes very unevenly, so I grab a chocolate finger biscuit as a height guide for the finished piece and saw my cake horizontally about a cm below the height of a chocolate finger. Don't worry about absolute accuracy, your ganache can be built up in places if it looks a bit wonky! Eat leftover top with fingers whilst still standing with knife in hand.
The Ganache
Mine is nearly always salted with a good tsp of fleur de sel but for simplicity, this plain version is lovely too!
225g broken chocolate
180ml double cream
2tbsp butter
Gently heat all the ingredients in a small pan until melted and combined. Set aside to cool for 30 minutes before popping in the freezer for another 20 minutes. You want a spreadable consistency, so keep checking on it!
Spread the chocolate ganache over the entire cake, it doesn't have to be perfectly neat.

The Decoration
3 packs of Cadbury Chocolate Fingers (I used the dark Bourneville ones and needed 2.5 packs)
100g bar of milk chocolate (the flaked milk choc top contrasts nicely with the dark chocolate edging)
selection of 'posh' looking chocs.
1. Surround the cake with the chocolate fingers, gently pressing them into the ganache.
2. Grate the bar of chocolate for the top... I used a vegetable peeler as a grater made it too 'dusty'. Sprinkle flakes over the top of the cake until the ganache is covered.
3. Place your chocolate box chocs on top and step back to admire your masterpiece!