Summer Eating 1

As summer is upon us and I am quite enjoying the season (despite the recent bouts of rain), I thought I would create a series of my favourite summer recipes. Summer is the time when the freshest ingredients are at their best and when simple cooking without much fuss (always my favourite way) should be the order of the day. Please enjoy the recipes below with healthy doses of cold white wine, rose, or beer, whatever rocks your boat and wets your whistle.

Greek Style Fish and Potatoes, serves 2

Ingredients

2 fresh, skinless white fish fillets (I use haddock)

1 red onion (I used white in the picture below, but red is best as it is sweeter)

3 baking potatoes

110g of Pomodorino tomatoes

2 garlic cloves, minced

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons of dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)

4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Heat the oven to 180C. Marinate the fish fillets with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of oregano and salt and pepper to taste. In the meantime, peel and cube the potatoes, halve the tomatoes and roughly chop the onion. Mix the vegetables with the garlic, 1 tablespoon of oregano, lemon juice and zest, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place vegetables in a deep baking tray. Roast for 15 mins, turn everything over and bake for 15 mins more. Top with the fish fillets and bake for 10 minutes more or until the fish is perfectly cooked. Perfect with a chilled glass of white wine, candle light and good company.

Greek Fish and Potatoes

Zucchini (Courgette) Pasta, serves 3

Ingredients

250 of dried penne pasta

2 zucchini (courgettes), grated

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 red chilli, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

60 grams of grated parmesan or grana padano cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Gently fry the garlic and chilli in the olive oil and add the zucchini, cooking until a little soft. Mix the zucchini mixture with the pasta and cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with additional black pepper if desired. Simple and delicious.

Courgette Pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Favourite Summer Salads

As of last Wednesday (the longest day) summer is officially here. It is a very warm summer here in the UK, a rare thing, so we have been making a delicious range of salads at home to keep us cool. Salads traditionally got a bad rep as either a side dish or really bland on their own, but I think we have recently come a long way with this –  there is an array of delicious salad recipes out there for every taste.

My favourite salad ever comes from the The Hairy Dieters Fast Food book. It is an amazing book full of healthy, fast recipes if you are counting calories (even if you are not, there is some great stuff in there). By far one the best recipes in the book is for Bang Bang Chicken Salad. I wouldn’t exactly call it “fast food” as it takes some time to chop the vegetables and make the dressing (unless you are a professional chef), but the result is really tasty and totally worth it. We have made it many times and it never disappoints. This time though, we spiralised the courgette to save a little bit of time chopping. Please see our version of the recipe below. Leftovers make an excellent lunch.

Bang Bang Chicken Salad, serves 4

Ingredients

460g skinless chicken breasts

1 1/2 teaspoons of Chinese five spice powder

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

For the peanut sauce

1 teaspoon of vegetable oil

1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon of pureed ginger

1 teaspoon of sriracha sauce

200ml of hot chicken stock (dissolve 1 chicken stock cube into 200ml of boiled water)

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

1 teaspoon of runny honey

1 tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter

A few drops of sesame oil

Salad

2 heads of sweet gem lettuce

1 carrot, cut into matchsticks (or spiralised)

1 courgette, cut into matchsticks (or spiralised)

Bunch of spring onions, chopped

2 red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced

Small bunch of coriander, leaves only

Unsalted, roasted cashews (optional, but give the salad a lovely crunch and texture)

Method

Cut the chicken into thin slices and put them in a bowl. Sprinkle over the Chinese five spice powder and salt and pepper and rub into the chicken.

Add the oil to a frying pan and place it over the heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and fry it until cooked through. Pour over the soy sauce and cook for a further minute. Remove the chicken from the pan and put it on a plate to cool down a little.

Now make the peanut sauce. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and add the shallot or onion, garlic and ginger. Stir fry for a couple of minutes, then add all the remaining sauce ingredients. Simmer until the sauce is slightly syrupy and well combined, then cool while you make the salad.

Arrange the lettuce, carrot, courgette and spring onions on a large platter. Add the chicken, sprinkle with the chillies and some coriander leaves. We like serving the sauce separately, so those eating can add as much or as little as they like.

Below are some photos of our efforts. We didn’t add roasted cashews this time as we didn’t have any in, but they do add a lovely crunch. I hope that you enjoy this salad as much as we do at my house!

For a bit of an easier salad on a hot summer day, we love a Halloumi and Olive salad. I like to serve it with a big dollop of hummus and fresh pitta bread on the side. See my recipe below.

Halloumi and Olive Salad, serves 2

Ingredients

250g pack of Cypriot Halloumi cheese

1 head of sweet gem lettuce

3 spring onions

110g of baby plum tomatoes

1/2 a cucumber

A handful of green olives

Store-bought balsamic dressing (or you can make your own dressing with a little bit of garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and salt and pepper – very yummy)

Around 1/2 a tub of store-bought hummus (if you have home-made, even better)

Fresh pitta bread to serve

Method

First, make the salad. Chop the lettuce, slice the the spring onions and tomatoes. Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, then roughly chop. Mix all salad ingredients and add the olives. Set aside.

Grill the halloumi on a griddle pan brushed with olive oil. Once done, distribute salad onto 2 plates, put the halloumi on the top and a dollop of hummus on the side. Serve immediately with balsamic dressing and warm pitta breads.

Please see a photo of this delicious creation below – just delightful!

Halloumi and Olive Salad

Happy summer eating!

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Peanut Butter Cookies

I love anything with Peanut Butter. It is a wonderful ingredient, perfect in sweet dishes and in my favourite chocolate treat (Reese’s peanut butter cups!) as well as in savoury dishes, such as a good satay sauce.

My thought this weekend was to make some delicious Peanut Butter cookies, great with a hot drink. I like to make mine a bit soft in the centre, so I bake them just a little less than the recipe suggests (about 9 to 10 minutes). I spent part of my childhood in the great US of A, and I find it a little easier to bake using American cup measurements.

Here is the recipe:

1 1/4 cups of sifted plain flour

1/2 cup of white sugar, plus a little extra for dipping the cookies prior to baking

1/2 cup of brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon of baking soda

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup of butter

1/2 cup of crunchy peanut butter

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 190C and grease a baking sheet.

Mix the flour, baking soda and salt together, set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars; add the peanut butter, egg and vanilla extract.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until a dough forms. Roll dough into balls about the size of a walnut and dip the balls in white sugar.

Press the balls onto the baking sheet until slightly flat with about 1.5 inches of space between them and create a criss-cross pattern with a fork. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes. Allow them to cool slightly and carefully transfer them to a wire rack.

You can dip the cookies in melted chocolate for an indulgent treat if desired.

Enjoy!

Cookies 1Cookies 2

Cookies 3

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An Afternoon at The Boiler Shop Steamer

Bank Holidays are just the perfect time to eat, drink and be merry. This May Bank Holiday weekend, I visited The Boiler Shop Steamer in Newcastle. It is a food and drink event which brings a variety street food from around the region under one roof. It happens on the first Friday and Saturday of each month in the Boiler Shop, the birthplace of Robert Stephenson’s Rocket. Live music is available in the evening, however, I prefer to go at around lunchtime, when there are less crowds and the event is free (there is a £5 entry charge after 2pm). This weekend featured traders offering tasty dishes from around the globe; Pizzette, offering kick-ass home-made pizza, The Fat Hippo, offering delicious burgers with a variety of creative toppings (like bacon jam), Electric East, offering an eclectic mix of Eastern food, Tokyo Kitchen, offering Japanese food at its best (an out of this world Chicken Katsu curry!), and drink traders such as Wylam Brewery, offering regional beers, and Ouseburn Coffee Co., selling aromatic coffee (and some great looking coffee martinis!). I am sure I have missed some of the traders that were there, the great thing about the event is that are always a variety of traders selling high quality, totally awesome food – a testament to the exciting culinary landscape in Newcastle. But enough about the event, here are the dishes that I tried with my partner in their scintillating glory:

Pizzette

I said it before, I’ll say it again. Awesome pizza. I woke up looking forward to this, it really hit the spot! Although Pizzette offered pizzas with a variety of gourmet toppings, I don’t complicate things with pizza, I often prefer a fresh, simple Margherita.

Boilershop 1      Boilershop 5
Tokyo Kitchen

My partner had an absolutely delicious Chicken Katsu Curry. The crispy breaded chicken was tender and flavourful and the creamy curry sauce had just the right amount of spice and kick.

Boilershop 3      Boilershop 4

Electric East

My partner and I shared an Indonesian Lamb Rendang. Oh my god. The lamb was tender and juicy and the sauce silky and savoury, with just the right amount of richness. The fresh pineapple salsa and coriander balanced the sauce beautifully and was the perfect match for the tender lamb. Incredible. We will be visiting the restaurant soon!

Boilershop 8      Boilershop 9

Di Meo’s Ice Cream

OK, so this one was just for me. I am a kid at heart, and couldn’t leave without satisfying my sweet tooth. So I opted for Di Meo’s Nutella Ice Cream on a cone. Decadent, creamy, chocolatey goodness!

Boilershop 6

I am looking forward to the next Steamer event next month, where I hope to try some more new and exciting dishes. The coffee martinis from Ouseburn Coffee Co. looked delicious, so I will be having one of those on my next visit. This was definitely a cool stopover to begin a wonderful Bank Holiday weekend, although I think a trip to the gym is in order!

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Weekend Cooking

Ah, weekends. Weekends are always my time for relaxed cooking for the enjoyment of family and friends. This weekend I made easy but flavourful dishes that took barely any time to make and that would allow me to linger at the table with good wine and good company.

The first dish I made with the help of my partner was coleslaw. I swear I am not buying coleslaw from the supermarket anymore. This coleslaw was so much more tasty and crunchy than the store-bought stuff, I am never going back! The recipe is as follows:

1/2 head of white cabbage

1 large carrot or 2 small carrots

1 medium red onion

4 tablespoons of full-fat mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the onion and slice the cabbage into thin strips. Grate the carrot and mix all the vegetables together in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Coleslaw Ingredients       Coleslaw

The second dish I made was one of Ina Garten’s recipes, Summer Garden Pasta. It’s getting warmer and tomatoes and basil are reaching their peak season. This is one of my favourite dishes to make in the warmer weather and one that is so easy to put together but is incredibly delicious. It just takes some time to marinate the tomatoes and basil, but it is so worth it, trust me. The recipe I used, enough for about 3 people, is as follows:

1 punnet of baby plum tomatoes

40 grams of fresh basil

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

About 150 grams of capellini (angel hair) pasta

Pinch of chilli flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

55 grams of grated grana padano or parmesan cheese

Cut the baby plum tomatoes in half and place in a bowl. Chop the basil and the garlic and add to the tomatoes. Add the olive oil, chilli flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the bowl in cling film and refrigerate for 4 hours. After 4 hours, cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Mix the cooked pasta with the tomato mixture and cheese. Serve immediately with extra ground pepper if desired. Delicious!

 Tomatoes and Basil        Pasta

Lastly, on Sunday afternoon I decided to make my twice-baked potatoes. They are one of my favourite ways to eat potatoes, so delightfully cheesy! My recipe, to serve between 3 and 4 people is:

2 large baking potatoes

2 spring onions

1 tablespoon of butter

3/4 cup of grated cheddar cheese

A little milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Bake or microwave the potatoes until cooked. Allow to cool and cut in half. Scoop out some of the potato, leaving the skin intact. Mash the potato in a bowl, add the butter, a little milk, 1/2 cup of the cheese, the spring onions and salt and pepper to taste. Place the potato skins in an oven tray and place the potato mixture in the skins. Sprinkle each with the remainder 1/4 cup of cheese and bake in an 180 degree celsius oven until golden (around 15 minutes).

I served the potatoes with delicious barbecue pulled pork and the coleslaw I had made the day before. A great meal, and a lovely way to end a relaxing weekend!

Twice Baked Potatoes 1         Twice Baked Potatoes 2

Pulled Pork Meal

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Pulled Pork and Other Musings

Pulled pork is probably my favourite food of the moment. Its succulence and flavour are really hard to beat. Back in Puerto Rico, my home country, roast pork (lechón) is the national dish. Throughout the island, you can find “lechoneras” serving our famous lechón with the traditional rice and pigeon peas and boiled root vegetables. Going to these joints is a truly a feast for the eyes and stomach! As an homage to this beautiful meat, this weekend I have made my favourite pulled pork with beans. In this recipe, I have used Adobo Goya, an all purpose seasoning that is widely used in Latin America. If you can’t find this, I provide a recipe for the seasoning below for you to make at home. It is worth keeping it in a jar and using it to season meats, fish, stews, anything savoury!

Blog Photos 003

In my recipe, I also use a delicious pork shoulder joint with sea salt and black pepper from Sainsbury’s, you can find it here:

http://www.sainsburys.co.uk/shop/gb/groceries/pork/sainsburys-pork-shoulder-joint–sea-salt—black-pepper-600g

Pulled Pork and Beans

1 Sainsbury’s Pork Shoulder Joint with Sea Salt and Black Pepper, 600 grams

1 tin of borlotti beans, 410 grams (drained)

1 tin of organic chopped tomatoes, 400 grams

1 clove of garlic, chopped

1 red onion, sliced

1 red pepper, sliced

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

2 teaspoons of Adobo Goya (if unavailable, please see recipe below)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Place the pork shoulder joint in a sheet of aluminium foil and make it into a parcel shape. Place in a baking pan and into an 160 degree Celsius heated oven for 2 hours and 20 minutes. Let the joint cool in the foil and then remove from the foil and shred the meat with two forks. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onions and peppers. Fry for a few minutes and add the garlic and dried oregano. Add the pork, fry for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes and beans. Add the the adobo, stir and place a lid on the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes. No salt is needed, as the joint is seasoned and the adobo seasoning contains salt. This recipe serves 4 people.

I like to serve my pork with arepas, which are corn cakes from Venezuela, grated cheese, salad, mexican rice and hot sauce! Enjoy with wine and good company. Happy eating 🙂

Blog Photos 004 Blog Photos 008 Blog Photos 007

Adobo Seasoning

1 tablespoon of garlic powder

1 tablespoon of onion powder

1 tablespoon of dried oregano

1/2 tablespoon of cumin

1/2 tablespoon of salt

1/2 tablespoon of black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients and shake well in a glass jar. Makes 4 1/2 tablespoons.

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Going Bananas

So yesterday I had a bunch of bananas in my kitchen displaying that golden brown colour before they inevitably go in the bin and gave myself the task of making Banana Bread and Banana Curd. The latter is utterly delicious on toast. I first purchased a jar at my local monthly farmer’s market and have been in love ever since.

As for the Banana Bread, I admit I am not the world’s best baker. Baking, I feel, is a precise science. Too much flour, too much butter and the like can easily ruin a promising treat. Despite my fears, I baked my bread full speed ahead, following this recipe:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/fairtradebananabread_72082

I am used to using American measurements (cups instead of grams), but I recently got some kitchen scales to avoid a baking disaster. I used walnuts instead of the dried fruit specified in the recipe, as I love their flavour and texture. Pecans are great too and I have used them to make this bread several times in the past.

I have used this recipe a few times, and it is ok, although it would be better if it highlighted what to mix together first, especially if you don’t want to use a mixer (I usually cream the butter with the sugar first and foremost).

The results were somewhat disappointing. Although edible and not lacking in flavour, the bread seems a little dense (I suspect too much flour), so I will be trying a different recipe the next time around for better results. I have seen recipes using vegetable oil instead of butter and suspect these make a light and moist banana bread.

I have made Banana Curd only once before. The last time I made it, the bananas I used were not ripe enough to give that distinct banana flavour and the eggs used in the following recipe curdled a little on me (disaster)!:

http://www.food.com/recipe/banana-curd-152882

Undeterred, I gave it another shot. I was as proud as punch as the banana, sugar, butter and lemon mixture cooked slowly on the stove and the smell permeated throughout my flat. Then came the tricky part: mixing spoonfuls of the hot mixture into the eggs. I spooned the hot banana mixture into the eggs bit by bit (and praying this lovely fragrant mixture would not curdle).

All seemed ok until I added the remainder of the mixture to the eggs and they curdled just a tad, although a lot less than the last time I made this. I did manage to remove the small amount of curdled bits that appeared and jar the curd. Had some this morning and it was utterly delicious, with a deep banana flavour and a lemony tang. Will definately be trying this again, hopefully without curdling it at all (third time lucky)!

I guess going bananas for a day was a moderate success 🙂

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