This time last week…

February 4th, 2016

We arrived into Iceland at 6.30am last Wednesday on our way back from snowy Washington DC. First thing we did was visit the Blue Lagoon which is a huge geothermal pool. When asking advise on what to do in Iceland every single person we spoke to said the Blue Lagoon was a must see. We decided the best time to go was as soon as we landed because the lagoon is pretty close to the airport and we would be driving right past it. This also meant we were there during sunrise which was nice. It started snowing while we were in the water as well which I loved. It so warm and beautiful. I would really recommend a visit if you are going to Iceland. Although I would book in advance to guarantee a place. Keith and I were a walk in booking as we weren’t 100% sure of our schedule and didn’t want to book for the wrong time. If we hadn’t arrived at opening then I don’t think we would have got in as it was really busy with long queues when we left.

It was the best start to our quick 3 day stopover!

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All photos from my Instagram.

Recent work

June 10th, 2014

A few months ago I did some more testing with Steffi, this time with a few savoury dishes. As with all Steffi’s recipes all of these dishes were amazing and very tasty. All recipes have been written by Steffi Dellner and will be listed at the end of the post.

First up was pot roast pheasant with fennel and chorizo. This was such a delicious dish and I loved the subtle fennel and butter beans flavours.

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Next Steffi cooked up an amazing paprika roast chicken and served it with red pepper, olive and apricot couscous.

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The final dish was created with Easter in mind and is a lovely nod towards the traditional roast Lamb often eaten at Easter. Unfortunately I have been so slow in posting these images that I’ve missed sharing this in time for Easter but I think this would still be a wonderful meal to serve all year round. Lamb shoulder braised in Almond milk served with cannellini beans, fennel and baby carrots.

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Pot Roast Pheasant with Fennel and Chorizo 

Serves 2-3

You will need:
2 medium onions, sliced
2 large fennel bulbs, sliced chunkily
3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 pheasant
150g chorizo, sliced
100ml sweet and dark sherry, preferably Pedro Ximenez

500ml fresh chicken stock, from the chiller cabinet
1 tin butter beans or cannellini beans
a few sprigs of thyme
crusty bread, to serve, optional

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 160C.  Add a little oil to a frying pan and cook the onions and fennel slices until softened and beginning to go golden.  Add the garlic slices and continue to fry until just soft.  Remove and place in a large casserole dish or pot.

2. Add another splash of oil to your frying pan and heat until really hot.  Season the pheasant and brown on all sides, this should take no more than 5 mins.  Nestle the pheasant in the casserole dish, sitting on top of the fennel and onion.

3. Fry off the chorizo slices until browned and crispy.  Add these to the casserole dish as well.  Deglaze the frying pan by pouring in the sherry, simmering for about 5-7 mins, stirring and scraping the pan as you go until slightly reduced and sweet-smelling.

4. Meanwhile, add the stock to the casserole dish and bring to a gentle simmer.  Add the reduced sherry, beans and thyme sprigs.  Cover and place in the oven for 1 hr 30 mins until the birds are cooked through and the sauce is thick and glossy.  Serve with some crusty bread for dipping and mopping, if you like.

 

Paprika Roast Chicken with Red Pepper, Olive and Apricot Couscous
Serves 4

You will need:
200g dried apricots
75g butter, softened
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp smoked paprika
handful parsley, optional
1 whole chicken, approx 1.5kg
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 lemons, juice and zest
300g couscous
100g green olives
3 long red peppers, cut into chunks
Rocket, to serve, optional

Method:
1.  Preheat the oven to 190C.  Finely chop about 75g of the apricots and mash into the butter along with the garlic, 1 tsp paprika, seasoning and, if you like, some roughly chopped parsley.  Loosen the skin covering the chicken breasts and generously dot the butter underneath, smoothing down as you go.

2. Place the rest of the butter into the cavity of the chicken, along with the juiced out lemon halves.  Scatter most of the apricots, half of the olives and all of the red pepper chunks into a large roasting tin. Mix together 1 tbsp of oil with the lemon zest, juice, 1 tsp paprika and some seasoning.  Use half to toss through the vegetables and the remainder to rub or brush this liberally all over the chicken.  Sit the bird in the roasting tray, tucking in as many stray bits of vegetable and fruit underneath as possible. Roast in the oven for approx 1 hr 20 mins, until cooked through and tender.

3.   Towards the end of the cooking time, cook the couscous according to packet instructions.  I like to tip it into a large bowl, pour over boiling water, covering by at about 2 cm.  Tightly cover with cling then leave for about 10 mins.  The water should have been absorbed and the couscous soft.  Fork the remaining oil through the couscous along with some seasoning.

4. Once the chicken is cooked, place on a chopping board to rest.  Tip the fruit and veg into the couscous along with the rest of the olives and apricots, as well as a little of the juices from the roasting tin.  Fork through to distribute then season to taste- adding a little more oil or lemon juice if necessary.  Serve with the chicken and a rocket salad.

 

Almond milk Braised Shoulder of Lamb with Cannellini Beans, Fennel and Baby Carrots

You will need:
1/2 shoulder of lamb, approx 1kg/2 lb 3 oz
3 fat garlic cloves, cut into slivers
2 green chillis, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley stalks
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly bashed
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
300ml/10 fl oz almond milk (unsweetened)
1 tin cannellini beans, drained
baby carrots, to serve
flaked almonds and chopped parsley leaves, to serve

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C/160 fan/gas 4.  Using a small knife, make little incisions all over the meat and insert the slivers of garlic.  Mix together the parsley stalks, cumin seeds, lemon juice and zest, smoked paprika, olive oil and 1 tsp of salt (preferably sea salt) in a small bowl to form a thick paste.  Rub this all over the lamb.

2. Place the onion and fennel in a roasting tray, season and pour over the almond milk.  Sit the lamb snugly in the tray.  Cover with tin foil and roast for 1 hour, basting a few times, then remove from the oven and tip in the beans.  Continue to roast for a further 30 minutes, uncovered, until tender.  Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes then scatter with chopped parsley and flaked almonds.  Serve with steamed baby carrots, still slightly crunch and, if you like, some of the beans, fennel and milk whizzed into a thick sauce.

 

To see more work with Steffi click here and here.

Pistachio, Pomegranate and Clementine (Valentine) Cheesecake

February 16th, 2014

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Keith and I don’t really celebrate Valentines day, we don’t swap gifts and cards or go out for a fancy meal, but what we do do is make a cheesecake for each other (although this years cheesecake making has had to be put on hold as we are in the process of moving house!) So as Valentine’s day was last week here is the perfect cheesecake recipe to share with your loved ones. This is an incredible recipe and will not fail to wow, I was amazed when I first saw this beauty and completely over excited about the perfect little heart pattern. This recipe is another collaboration with the wonderful Steffi Dellner who is one very talented lady! The cheesecake would also work for none Valentine themed events so if your not feeling the love, then omit the hearts and just serve with the coulis on the side, it will still taste amazing and look stunning.

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Pomegranate is such a beautiful fruit, I love the little jewel like seeds and the rich burst of colour the juice gives. I always always think of it as a special fruit so was a perfect fit for Valentines. The bright red pop of the pomegranate coulis look so gorgeous agains the soft cream pink of the cheesecake and as you look closer the perfect little flecks of green from the pistachio in the crust really make this cheesecake feel luxurious. It took a lot of restraint to not eat it all as soon as I saw it!

Steffi’s recipe as follows -

Pistachio, Pomegranate and Clementine Cheesecake

You will need:
200g digestive biscuits, blitzed to a fine crumb
100g unsalted butter, melted
75g shelled pistachios, finely chopped
2 pomegranates, juice only (try my stain-free method in step 2)
2 tsp cornflour dissolved in 4 tsp water
100g icing sugar, plus extra to taste
4 gelatin leaves
300ml double cream
300g cream cheese, room temperature
zest and juice of 2 clementines

20cm loose bottomed cake tin
One plastic pipette

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Method:

 1. Mix the biscuits, butter and pistachios until well combined.  Pack firmly into a loose-bottomed cake tin, spreading out with the back of a spoon so that it is evenly distributed and coming slightly up the sides of the tin.  Chill until needed.

2. To extract the juice from the pomegranates, split one open then place in a large bowl of water.  Working under the water, separate the seeds from the hard skin.  Any bits of white pith should float to the top, making them easy for you to discard.  Drain the seeds and sort through to remove any extra bits of pith.  Repeat with the second pomegranate then place the seeds in the bowl of a mixer and blitz briefly.  Strain the juice  into a saucepan.  Add the cornflour in water and sift in a few tbsp of icing sugar, to taste.  Gently heat until you have a thick, but still drizzle-able coulis. Allow to cool completely.

3.  Meanwhile, soak the gelatin leaves in a small bowl of water for 5 min.  Pour the cream into a pan and bring to a simmer then remove from the heat.  Squeeze any excess water out of the gelatin leaves and add to the warm cream, stirring until dissolved.  Allow to cool slightly.  Beat 100g of icing sugar into the cream cheese along with the clementine zest and juice.  Add the gelatin cream along with 3tbsp of the pomegranate coulis and beat until smooth.

4.  Pour the cream cheese mixture into the biscuit base. You are now ready to decorate- hope you have a steady hand! Starting in the very centre of the cake, use the pipette to dot tiny circles in a spiral motion all the way around the cake.  I let my dots get bigger as I worked my way around.  Finally, starting in the middle again, use a toothpick to pull through the dots in continuous line- try not to lift your hand up if you can help it!  You should end up with a spiral of little hearts.

5.  Cover the tin with cling (be careful not to touch the top of the cake!) and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight, until set.

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Swedish Lucia Saffron Buns with Seffi Dellner

February 3rd, 2014

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Last year I had the opportunity to work with the very talented Steffi Dellner. I had been hoping to meet a food stylist that I would be able to start testing with and was very excited to meet Steffi who currently works at BBC Good Food Magazine. When we first met we started organising a collaboration of skills and I am very excited to share with you the first instalment of our collaboration. All photographs are taken by me and  the recipe is Steffi’s. You can see her full blog post about these buns HERE.

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Once the dough had risen I helped to roll the buns into the swirled shaped and it was so nice to see the beautiful flex’s of golden saffron.

Saffron Buns (also called Lucia Buns)
Makes about 30-35 buns

You will need:
200g unsalted butter
500ml full fat milk
3g saffron strands
1 sugar cube
50g fresh yeast
pinch of salt
125g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten + 1 egg, beaten
1 kg plain flour + extra for kneading
handful of raisins or sultanas

Method:

1.  Melt the butter over a medium heat in a large saucepan.  Add the milk and heat to body temperature (you can test this by sticking your finger into the pan- it should not feel hot or cold, just wet!).

2.  Bash the saffron in a pestle and mortar with the sugar cube.  The cube will act as an abrasive and break up the strands into a rough powder. Add this to the butter and milk.

3.  Crumble the yeast into a large bowl and add the salt, sugar and about 3 tbsp lukewarm water.  Mix to dissolve the yeast.  Pour the saffron, milk and butter mixture into the bowl and whisk together before adding the 2 beaten eggs.

4.  Add enough of the flour, about 900g-1kg to form a dough, mixing with a substantial wooden spoon initially, then using your hands to bring the dough together.  Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until you have an elastic dough.  Clean out your bowl and return the dough to it, cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warmish place for 1- 1.5 hours, until doubled in size.

5.  Heat the oven to 220C.  Line to baking sheets with parchment or lightly grease with a flavourless oil.  Tip the dough out onto your floured work surface.  Knead briefly to knock out some air, then divide the dough into 2 parts.  Divide each of these into 4 and then into 4 again- so you end up with 32 pieces of dough, although you may find that you want to divide some bigger pieces into two buns, depending on how accurate you are with your dough-dividing!

6.  Roll each piece into a long, thin sausage.  Place the sausage in front of you, vertically.  Roll the top end down to the right.  Roll the bottom end upwards to the left.  You should end up with an ‘S’ shape.  Stick a raisin into the middle of each end and place on your baking sheet.  Continue with the remaining dough.   Leave each baking sheet to prove for about 30 minutes before brushing lightly with the remaining beaten egg.

7.  Bake in the hot oven for 10-12 minutes, until golden and baked through.  Leave to cool under a tea towel- this will stop them from drying out.  Enjoy with a mug of mulled wine or freeze for later.

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Thankfulness

January 18th, 2014

A couple of blogs I follow write a weekly recap post on points to be thankful for from the past week and things learnt. This is something I always find really interesting and I have decided that I too will try and do a weekly recap of the things that I have learnt and been thankful for.

This week I have been thankful for old friends and living in the same city again!

For free food from work and sharing it with others.

For the generosity of strangers and the gift of a sofa!

For the new KXC CD which I have been able to give to family.

I have been inspired to be a lot more creative recently and I have started to pin a lot more more to this Pinterest board

I have loved following Maryanne Moodie’s Instagram feed, her weaving is amazing!

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