Hello and Welcome!

Hello and welcome to my blog.

This is my very first one, so bear with me and enjoy reading about my adventures cooking all of the recipes from Nigella Lawson's new book 'Kitchen'.

From time-to-time I may post about things other than cooking, after all, Nigella does sell a lifestyle that most women would like have a slice of, so I would like to share a bit of mine - not quite as glamorous but fun none-the-less (may I add that most of my ideas and thoughts revolve around food anyway)!

Just to set the scene a little, I am based in Yorkshire, live with my husband and gorgeous toddler who is rapidly approaching his second year. I work in the events industry and love music, books, fashion, culture and of course... food.


Goddess Mx (meant in the loosest possible sense, believe me)!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Confectionary Queen

It has been a few days since I last blogged (and yes I am now addicted)!

In a jolly mood on Christmas Eve, I made some Puddini Bonbons with the following sweet treats:
cooled christmas pudding
melted dark chocolate
icing sugar
golden syrup

This mixture was then rolled (quite messily) into little squidgy balls and chilled on a lined baking tray in the fridge. Next bit was the icing stage which consisted of melting (and eating at the same time) white chocolate dribbled on each bonbon, and then quite literally adorning with a cherry on the top - well, a slither of red glace cherry, and two of green to mimic holly. Pretty personified.

The sweets were then placed into adorable gold petit four cases, and popped into christmas gift boxes - the perfect stocking gifts for all staying at our abode.

Thinking I was confectionary queen, I then went on to make Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, or fake Reese Peanut Butter Cups. Now, these things looked like they were made at Little M's nursery and I was too embarassed to get them out to serve to our christmas guests. Didn't stop me sneaking into the kitchen though to chomp on them as they tasted just as good as the real thing. The base was made of smooth peanut butter, icing sugar and butter, and the topping a mixture of melted mixed milk/dark chocolate.

I have got it really lucky in my house over the christmas period as my huz is in charge of the kitchen, just the way he likes it so who am I to interfere? My addition to the christmas day feast was Redder than Red Cranberry Sauce - cranberries, caster sugar, cherry brandy and water. So simple yet so good. No excuse whatsover to buy it again.

I decided that because I was taking a step back from christmas day cooking, the Chrimbo Eve feast would be my doing - Ginger-Glazed Ham and Macaroni Cheese (didn't get a photo of the ham unfortunately). We normally don't bother with cooking on CE and opt for a takeaway but this will be my new thing as again, simplicity at its best. All I needed to do was bung my ham joint in a pot with ginger ale and gently boil for 3.5 hours, glaze with ginger conserve, mustard, brown sugar and ground cloves and bang in the oven for 20 minutes. As for the pasta, I par-boiled some macaroni, made a cheese sauce with flour, butter, milk, emmental, cheddar, parmesan and condensed milk, and oven-cooked to perfection. For dessert we had shop-bought vanilla ice-cream (good quality) with my (here's one I did earlier) golden sultanas soaked in Grand Marnier. Yummy sups.

As usual the whole christmas thing has gone in a haze. We have had a houseful of family which has been lovely, and it really was the best yet with Little M. His phrase of Christmas Day was 'more presents'. Very cute. One of his favourite gifts was a 'bag for life' from the Early Learning Centre with plastic food in it which he proceeded to distribute to all in his vicinity, whilst naming each item.

Looking forward to eating and drinking less tomorrow (said that yesterday too) and a brisk walk with my boys. We managed a walk to Roundhay Park on Christmas Day, and a saunter around Bolton Abbey on Boxing Day with a bit of sledging thrown in, but I, and my bulging tummy, are pleading for a bit of physical activity. Maybe so I have the excuse to keep eating, drinking and being merry.

Goddess Mx

PS - other highlights of our lovely christmas were a surprise visit from my mum, our new SLR camera, and gorgeous smelly cheeses, wines and fois gras on boxing day, courtesy of my sister-in-law's French fella who enjoyed (we hope) his first British Christmas at ours.

Goddess Mx

Monday, 20 December 2010

Jewish Penicillin

Everyone knows that Chicken Soup does the trick when you are under the weather - I have fond memories of Heinz CS after doses of the flu, tummy bugs and other ailments, courtesy of my mum.

I used to pride myself on never really getting ill, but now with a toddler-in-tow, I seem to always have the cold. So, I thought I would give Nigella's chicken soup a whirl. According to the website Jewish Penicillin, Dr. Stephen Rennard, a specialist in pulmonary medicine, tested the theory and concluded that chicken soup "actually has a mild medicinal effect, inhibiting inflammation of the cells in the nasal passage, reducing the symptoms of a cold". Anything is worth a try.

To make the soup, I popped into a pot the following magic ingredients:
1 small chicken
1 carrot, peeled and halved
1 tbsp maldon salt
1 onion, halved with skin still on
1 cinnamon stick
3 litres of water
Juice of one orange

I then simmered for around 3 hours, longer than the 2 hours suggested, but I couldn't get all of the water in at once as I need a bigger pot (massive lilac Le Creuset to be precise)! I then strained the broth into another pot and chilled overnight. A day after I scooped the fat off the top of the liquid, heated up, and added a handful of beansprouts, some chopped spring onions, red chilli and coriander to the mix, and devoured. It was really simple and I did feel like it was doing something to my cold immediately (although could this be a kind-of placebo effect)? I have since drank the broth on its own from a mug, which is also nice. Perfect food this week when temperatures have reached -9.5c.

Would be interested to hear about what others eat when feeling below-par.

Goddess Mx

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Secret Santa with the Yummy Mummies and Tots

In Spring 2009, obviously I was on a high (if in a somewhat sleepy, hazy state) after the birth of Little M, but it was also the season I met some lovely ladies - my yummy mummy friends. I left it too late when pregnant to book onto the antenatal NCT classes that everyone swears by - if only for the great group of friends that you will probably meet - but met my group at a postnatal NCT coffee morning, when the wee man was four weeks old.

For around 6 months we all religiously met, sometimes to gush about our new offspring, other times to weep due to lack of sleep, and there were also incidences of just turning up to be there to breastfeed for a couple of hours non-stop, safe in the knowledge that there were other women out there who were going through exactly the same thing as you at that time in your life.

Fast-forward to today for our (second) annual secret santa party. This time last year our little ones were crawling around or cruising along the furniture, in contrast to today which was just chaos! They are all now fully-fledged toddlers - chatty, cute as a button, and can tantrum like the best f them. Us mums are much more confident, self-assured and are now capable of having conversations about stuff other than what colour baby poo should be and other mothering delights! I hope that the babies (as we will always call them) and the mummies will be lifelong friends as we have all come a long way together.

Food at the party was star-shaped sandwiches - houmous sarnies were a firm favourite - on milk roll bread, lots of crudites, dips and cheese twists. We also had mince pies, toddler-sized cakes (in petit four cases), gingerbread men and truffles that one of the girls makes every time we get together (they are dreamy).

I opted to make Double Blue Crostini to take to the party, but not as you know it. Instead of using bread, tortilla chips are used. You can either spread the filling on the chips or just use it as a dip. The dip was made up of Saint Agur, cream cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, white pepper and chives. Much nicer than a shop-bought dip and oh-so-easy! I am going to try the chilli cheese variation for christmas canapes, maybe for christmas eve.

Am currently boiling up some chicken soup which will hopefully soothe my weary soul, but more about that tomorrow. It is taking an age!

Goddess Mx

Friday, 17 December 2010

My Big Fat Greek Christmas

First of all, Chilli Jam update... I reheated the jam for a good ten minutes (boiling) and then tested on chilled saucers and could tell straight away that it had worked, so success!

Today I made Marinated Feta. When you think of Christmas, Aegean cheese is not the first thing that springs to mind. However, just like the Festive Salt, this dish LOOKS like Christmas - red crushed chillis (as with the salt), dried mint, and dried oregano were sprinkled over the crumbly cubes of feta, distributed among two jars, and each doused with olive oil. Need to wait a week now to try so maybe on Chrimbo eve we can all make like we are Shirley Valentine and eat Greek Salads, although it seems a bit wrong in this climate at the moment. I do think it will make a mean addition to the Boxing Day 'Cold Cuts and Salads' table.

You may have noticed that I have slacked off somewhat on the old 'one recipe a day'. As with 'Julie and Julia' I think to do this realistically, something in your life would have to give - sanity, relationship, career, the list goes on. I must admit, I think it was becoming a bit of a chore for me to HAVE to cook everyday and was beginning to take the fun out of it, so I am just going to plod along now. I may make a long list of stuff one week, and then nothing the next. The main thing is to enjoy, which I am keen to keep doing.

Happy Friday.

Goddess Mx

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Not rolicking enough

All excited last night about my new jam funnel (oh dear) I got ready in my kitchen to make Chilli Jam. Jam sugar - check, cider vinegar - check, red chillis and peppers - check - and off I went.

I did the same as with the Jumbleberry Jam, erm maybe except from testing on frozen saucers (the jam is actually more of a jelly so I didn't think I needed to). There was an 'oh sh*t' moment when as I was leaving it at a rolicking boil (as per the recipe), the frothy mixture rose at an astonishing pace to the top of the pot and boiled over onto the hob. I shrieked and jumped back, not wanting to be scalded, and then continued to let it boil, a little less ferociously.

The result is that the jam hasn't set! It is more of a syrup. I have two choices: bottle it and rename 'chilli sauce' or try and salvage it by decanting from the jars back into a pot and reheating, this time testing as I go.

Not so smug anymore. This might be my last preserve of the season!

Goddess Mx

Monday, 13 December 2010

Burning the candle at both ends...

What another action-packed weekend. Had a fab time on Thursday night with some friends at the first christmas-do of the season - lots of wine-drinking and a bit of dancing to boot (I am not a huge fan of dancing but felt I should join in to avoid the 'bah-humbug' approach). Got to bed at 2ish and little M decided it would be a good idea to wake up at 4.40am - I know! Amazingly I got off hangover-free and was just a bit on the tired side, so we managed the usual Friday activities including some painting with string - my son is going to be a top abstract artist, mark my words.

I managed to make some festive salt on Saturday which makes me happy every time I look at it with its little red baubles (or pink peppercorns), sparkles (star anise) and poinsetta (crushed red chillies). Looking forward to trying this over some roast chicken or steak - probably both.

On Saturday I was all set for another night out for a friend's birthday, but little M had a dose of projectile vomiting and just wanted to cuddle mummy so we had a low-key day instead. I did manage to make a lovely soup - Dr Lawson's Cuban Bean Soup so quite apt! I used chorizo, spring onions, black beans, chicken stock and coriander and it really did restore and revive me.

Am really quite excited about a blogging event that I have heard about:

For more information on this, please go to http://blog.maisoncupcake.com/forever-nigella/

I will certainly be taking part, probably quite a few times.

Goddess Mx

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Jammy Dodger

Sometimes I think I am a 'jammy git' - in other words, a bit of a fluke who lands on my feet, despite not trying too hard. I should give myself more credit though as I have managed to make some lovely Jumbleberry Jam, which I am incredibly proud of! The most tricky bit of the whole thing was finding jam jars at a decent price, so I have ended up buying a selection from different places, which I will now have to fill with more lovely preserves. I conclude that the cheapest place to buy jars is Hobbycraft where standard jam jars are only about a quid each - bargain.

So, off I ventured to make my jam. I couldn't believe quite how easy it was - throwing together some mixed summer berries (frozen), and an equal amount of jam sugar, bringing to a boil and simmering for 15 minutes, before testing a scrummy blob on a chilled saucer (I had to repeat this process three times) to see if set - you know it is done if it starts to wrinkle. Next I poured the sticky goo into jars, left to cool, lidded and tied with pretty polka-dot ribbon.

Truly in the mood for preparing jarred goods, and with many jars left to use, I made some steeped christmas fruits (golden sultanas drenched in Grand Marnier) which will create part of my posh rum and raisin ice-cream. Whilst at it I made a jar of vanilla sugar - split and cut vanilla pod in granulated sugar. This will be used for vanilla coffee among other sweet treats.

Looking forward to a night out at Harewood House tonight with some girlfriends - christmas fair and a slap-up meal. If I have time before heading out, I will make some festive salt.

Goddess Mx

Sunday, 28 November 2010

'Tis the season to go to black-tie dos...

Has been a busy week indeed gearing up towards an Awards ceremony our team has been organising at work. When Friday arrived I was eager to collapse in an undignified heap (or just have a weekend zoned out in front of the TV), but of course that cannot happen, so instead we have had an action-packed time, which was probably a good thing to take my mind off of the week ahead!

I had a big old cooking session on Friday afternoon when I whipped up a delicious Minestrone to fight off the coming snow (I served it with Parmesan which I will do more often with soup). I went on to make a cheeky Jumbo Chilli Sauce for my mother-in-law to have with a prawn salad when she stopped in to look after Little M to allow us a night-out at a lawyers' black-tie dinner. It was a really easy sauce to whip up - roasted red peppers, loads of coriander, oil and garlic and it keeps in the fridge for a week - no photo as Blogger keeps rotating it sideways so not uploading it! The do was fun and we won £160 worth of spa vouchers for Rudding Park in Harrogate - nice.

On Saturday we had Parsley Pesto for our X Factor TV dinner. I think I have said before, but pasta and pesto is one of my favourite meals so this is a nice twist. We also had a lovely time with a friend who moved out of Leeds a couple of years ago. One of those 'pick-up-where you left off' friendships. I was a bit embarassed that we were all in bed by 10pm on a Saturday night though. That's what happens when you are up after 1am on a Friday. Can't stand the pace anymore...

I also made a Venetian Carrot Cake, mostly to treat MIL who is gluten-intolerant. I am liking these flour-free cakes more than the real deal. The ground almonds mean that the cake lasts longer too so there is no pressure to eat it all day long just to avoid throwing any away (which in my view is not allowed).

Fast-forward to today, and my work event has passed, much to my relief. It was a success, and we managed to get home from London, despite snow blanketing most of the country. It is wonderful how people come together in what seems like a crisis (it's only a bit of snow for goodness sake)! Panic-buying, 'snow days' and cars abandoned all over the place.

This week I have lived almost entirely on panini, chips and the like so it is little wonder that my tummy feels somewhat neglected. I would love a detox week in Thailand but that just aint going to happen. With tummy ache, and a toddler who refuses to wear a hat, scarf and gloves in Russian-like weather, I ventured out of the house with the buggy to get some basic supplies. I had to walk backwards to our local shops, dragging the McLaren all the way! The only thing that would do to eat on our return was a cosy bowl of cous-cous (Standby Starch) - flavoured with thyme, cumin anc chicken stock. Really reassuring food.

I had dinner early with Little M and we feasted on Pancetta, Pepper and Parsley Pasta which looked so pretty (although maybe not on camera)! This meal has just the right balance of salt (pancetta), lemon and chilli to tick all of the boxes. It was also quite a fitting meal, as it looks like christmas on a plate - fantastic red and green - which brings me onto an announcement...
I am switching from Nigella's 'Kitchen' to 'Nigella Christmas' as we are now in Advent. A bit of a diversion from the original plan, but necessary methinks!

Seasons Greetings to all.

Goddess Mx

PS - I also made an appetising tomatoey Cous-Cous with Salmon dish which I had forgotten about, as follows (my brain can't keep up with the cooking):

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Karen BA (Hons) MSc Queen of Preserving

I started off with something easy for dinner - lovely scorched Halloumi with Beetroot and Lime. The Beetroot was whizzed up in our sexy new red Magimix food processor. The things I get excited about now are shameful really.

Around 9ish (so an hour before my usual bedtime) I thought I would just 'whip up' some Pumpkin Chutney. It took me about 45 minutes alone just peeling, deseeding and chopping the pumpkin into miniscule cubes, peeling off a bit of my thumb in the process (ouch). Then came the fun bit. Mixing it up with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and all manner of other yummy stuff like red onion and white wine vinegar, and left to simmer for an hour, filling our house with a lovely aroma of christmassy joy.

So now I can say I have started my christmas shopping (or cooking) finally - hip, hip hoorah! 'Holidays are coming'...

Goddess Mx

Sunday, 21 November 2010

A Sombre Weekend

On Saturday night I cooked pasta with salami, which does what it says on the tin, nothing exciting really, except perhaps from the addition of cannelini beans. Verdict on this dish is that the beans were surplus to requirement.

It has been a bit of a wierd weekend on the whole. For me the whole thing has been overshadowed by news that a guy we met on holiday died on Saturday. He was only a bit older than us. We don't know the whole story, but he is survived by his fiance, 7-year old son, 1 year old daughter, and a new baby on the way. Why, oh why, is life so unfair? A former colleague of mine at work is also gravely ill, who I had thought was relatively young in her early sixties. Life is so very precious. It certainly puts into perspective all the minor work worries and all the other daily grinds of life.

I like this poem, by Jenny Joseph, entitled 'Warning' which sums up the way I am feeling at the moment:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

I may not be wearing purple very much at the moment, but am very pleased with my purchase of a long black velvet dress which I am going to wear to a couple of posh dos over the festive period:

I am off to grab life with both hands, and to enjoy every minute.

Goddess Mx

Friday, 19 November 2010

Feeling hot, hot, hot

Something good shall come out of another that is bad. We were supposed to be visiting friends this weekend but got the call yesterday to let us know that their little boy has chicken pox. Now there was a dilemma: go and expose him so that he has then had it; or stay at home and let Little M get it when nature takes its toll. We decided to stay. So the good bit that has come from the bad is that I get to do some more cooking, starting tonight with my Korean Calamari.

I am eating alone again - becoming a bit of a habit, which I don't actually mind - and am managing to stay away from the annual Children in Need on telly, which is actually a lot of nonsense (but for a good cause, of course). I have been meaning to make this dish for a few weeks, but haven't been able to get Baby Squid, so this morning, Little M and I jumped in the car and drove down into the misty city of Leeds to the market to get some. You can imagine my embarassment at the squid costing only 37p. I know it is not exactly a delicacy but I wouldn't have it every week. Well maybe now I shall at that price.

The squid was soaked in mirin, whilst I made the sauce of gochujang (or Hot Pepper Paste), soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. I fried off some baby corn and spring onions, fried the squid, added the sauce and served the whole glorious concoction with fluffy sushi rice. Can I just say that I have been suffering with a really energy-zapping head cold this week, and I think that this meal has just blown it right out of the water. It is a bit cheeky in terms of heat, to say the least.

Looking forward to a lazy(ish) day tomorrow and am going to make it my mission to find golden sultanas and 250ml jars to make some pumpkin chutney.

Goddess Mx

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

A Bread and Cheese Dinner

Last night I had an indulgent 'bread and cheese' dinner. There is something immensely satisfying about a crusty piece of torn-off baguette with a great big hunk of cheese, so a Blue Cheese Dressing drizzled over some juicy baby toms with some accompanying bread was lovely - the photo doesn't do it justice at all (looks a bit like scrambled egg). The dressing is made up of stilton, worcester sauce, yoghurt and milk, and I consumed the leftovers for lunch today.

Now this one is definitely a bit of a joke. I did mention that I was looking for quick-fixes for my recipes this week so Elderflower Spritzer is probably the easiest thing to make in the book. Elderflower Cordial plus sparkling water. Not rocket-science but nice and refreshing none-the-less. I am looking forward to making Elderflower Gimlet which includes Lime Cordial and Vodka or Gin - now we are talking!

I fear that I am not going to get to cook tonight. Master M is cooking - I think he misses it, and the opportunity to choose what he is eating. So, I might slip behind this week. My fault for applauding myself yesterday - too cocky!

Goddess Mx

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Quesadillias are a piece of Cake, so I made one of those too

This weekend we are going away for the weekend, so I realised I would have to up my game somewhat and cook at least a couple of dishes a day a few times this week to compensate for a no-cooking weekend. So, I referred to the 'Express' Index of 'Kitchen' to find some speedy ideas. The Avocado Quesadillas jumped off the page at me, shouting 'eat me'! I love dishes that only comprise of a few ingredients and this consisted of tortilla wraps (which I had in the freezer), avocado, manchego (gorgeously nutty) cheese and jalapeno peppers (which I had in stock). The ritual of making these is fun, and I enjoyed griddling them for the stripey effect. I happily tucked into my plate of triangles at the table, alone. I love sitting down properly at the table to eat which I plan to do more often. Next time I might even clear the post, pile of washing, Little M's artwork or whatever else may be on our kitchen table, to lay it properly, as Nigel Slater said you should.

Pudding was Lemon Polenta Cake which I was dubious about, as it is labelled gluten-free, but what a pleasant surprise! Instant polenta is used with ground almonds as a flour substitute, and boy does it work. I ate a piece standing up Nigella-style in the kitchen, just to sample of course, before bringing it into work this morning for a meeting. It is amazing the productivity cake can bring out of people.

I was reflecting on my cooking, and looking at my blog posts since the start of this and am quite blatantly proud of myself on the number of dishes I have produced in the past six weeks. A firm pat on the back to me, from me. I think the person who has got the most out of doing this is ME - I have learned to cook properly, experiment with new ingredients, dedicate myself to a project whole-heartedly just because I want to, and look forward to trying new things soon, e.g. learning a language, doing a photography course, learning to knit more than a few rows, start a book club... and the list goes on.

Goddess Mx

Monday, 15 November 2010

Easy like Sunday morning

Sunday is my second-best day of the week. Naturally, Saturday is better as you have that wonderful feeling of another day ahead before you have to jump on that old treadmill of the working-week. We had an easy morning yesterday, as it should be on a Sunday, pottering around the house before heading out to church, and then a treat at the Waitrose coffee shop - fruit smoothies balanced out with cake for mummy and daddy, and a yummy fruit salad for Little M.

The rest of the day was non-eventful, just as I like it, so it made sense that dinner should follow-suit. Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes is a straight-forward, no-messing kind-of dish - chicken thighs, chorizo (£7 worth for two of us!), red onion, new potatoes, oregano and olive oil in a shallow tray, cooked in a hot oven for an hour, and enjoyed. We did enjoy it but I did get the feeling that it wasn't that great for me - very salty. I had high expectations of this that didn't match up, but then you can't win 'em all can you?

I bought some pumpkin yesterday whilst they are still in season, and with it I intend to make some chutney. Need to find some jars, and some pretty christmas stickers to label them with. This is where my dometic goddess skills really need to up their game! If I can pull this off, I will be feeling very smug.

Goddess Mx

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Japanese Prawns and a Giddy Geisha

Picture the scene... Me adorned in a beautiful silk kimono, hair in an impressive up-do, immaculate make-up, gracefully pottering around my gleaming kitchen making a Japanese feast.

Cut to the reality. Me looking pasty and make-up free with one-day old hair slapped back in a messy knot, wearing a pink White Company dressing gown stained with porridge and all sorts, courtesy of Little M. Stumbling into the kitchen, I did manage to cook some divine Japanese Prawns, all within five minutes. These babies were cooked in a sauce made up of Mirin, Sake, Wasabi and spring onions, toppled onto a plate piled high of lettuce and coriander. Feeling pleased with myself on a relatively healthy dinner, I poured myself a Giddy Geisha - a shot of sake with tonic water and a dash of elderflower cordial. Naughty but nice.


Goddess Mx

Saturday, 13 November 2010

South-East Asian cuisine rules on a Friday night

Having accidentally omitted the year-out travelling at the end of uni, we have done a good job packing in a few countries over the years including the majority of Europe, Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, New York and the glorious India. I have loved every one of those countries for different reasons, and obviously food plays a significant part in the experience. However, if food was the deciding factor, Thailand would win every time for me. The cuisine is delicious, healthy, fresh and oh so pretty - intricatly floral-carved fruit anyone? Yes please.

We have a (sort of) strict fish-on-a-friday rule, so it sometimes feels quite limiting when choosing what to eat. Last night we had Salmon and Sushi Rice with a hot, sweet 'n sour Asian sauce. Not strictly South-East Asian, more Pan-Asian food with touches of japanese, Vietnamese and Thai flavours. I griddled the salmon, much to Master M's distaste as he cannot stand the smell of fish in the the house. I agree, but to be honest, pan-fried salmon is so scrumptious that I will put up with a smelly house for the satisfaction it gives. Sushi rice is another of my new cupboard must-haves. It is like a cross between normal rice and sticky, but you can eat it quite happily with a fork, although I do like getting my hands involved with a good sticky-rice. The sauce was excellent - garlic, red chillies (hot), ginger, fish sauce (sour), sake, mirin and lime juice. We devoured it.

Next up was Orange and Blueberry Trifle (should have been Blackberry, but they are out of season). Easy-peasy pud to make - marmalade sponge drenched in Cointreau and freshly squeezed orange juice, piled with whipped double cream, and decorated with jewels (blueberries). It was nice, but I don't think it is as good as an old-skool trifle with custard - call me old fashioned.

We didn't watch Mad Men last night, but finished the first season of Downton Abbey which I have loved. Nice surprise that they are doing another series. On that note, cannot wait for the next lot of Sherlock Holmes which I thought was genius.

Off to Tokyo this evening, so I better get my Kimono on before I skip into the kitchen for tonight's treat!

Goddess Mx

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Hibernation Food - Italian is the biz

The last couple of days I have been feeling sleepy, like I want to curl up into a little cave with my boys and stay there until the (warm) sun comes out again. So, the food that I always crave when in this mood is Italian as it seems to satisfy, and I think adds that extra layer of fat that we all need at this time of year. A couple of days ago I made Panzanella, which wrongly is a dish popular in Tuscany within the Summer months! It is like an oily-bread salad, which I must admit put me off before making it - soggy bread salad? Well, it works, let me tell you. If you are looking for a partner for pasta and pesto, this is just the ticket. You cube some dry italian bread (I did Ciabatta) and mix it with basil, tomatoes, red onion, red wine vinegar and lots of extra-virgin olive oil and then you are ready to munch.

Last night I made Salmoriglio sauce which we had with our regular rapid roastini, and some poached chicken - very nice indeed. Master M wowed me with compliments with this one, and I had actually swayed from the recipe, using dried Herbs de Provence instead of fresh oregano (I have never seen this before), and fresh basil rather than parsley. It was just a delicious Sicilian herby lemon sauce really which worked a treat.

Little M is napping now then we are off for a playdate. I made us both a vegetable salad today for lunch (steamed cauliflower, french beans, sweetcorn, with tomatoes, lettuce and boiled egg), in an effort to get him to love warm winter salads as much as I do. I thought it would work as I used a raspberry vinegar to sweeten it all. The wee one just nibbled a few bits of cauliflower, but all credit to him for trying.

Trifle tonight, and I would like to make a start on the Mad Men series, as a friend has let us borrow the first box set. Speak after the first DVD-a-thon.

Goddess Mx

Monday, 8 November 2010

We Love Karen 32

No blogging again this weekend and again I have been cook, cook, cooking! This blog is self-indulgently entitled 'We Love Karen 32' as that is what was iced on my rather fabulous birthday cake! I pulled into our driveway on Thursday night to my mum and dad standing by the door and had that moment where everything goes all out of context before I realised that they must have come to surprise me for my birthday. Lovely. I had only earlier been making a mental note to get a date sorted with them to come down from Scotland knowing that if I didn't do it soon, it wouldn't happen before christmas. They came armed with goodies (including the cake) for all of us, including presents for Little M and the obligatory tin of shortbread for Master M.

Just because you have guests doesn't been you can become a slacker in the kitchen! Quite the contrary, it egged me on even more to become a bit more of a mother hen and make sure everyone was well-fed. So the twisted lasagne was born (or Mexican as Nigella prefers to pen). Instead of meat, sweetcorn and blackbeans were the filling of choice, and tortilla wraps instead of lasagne pasta sheets. Much less of a faff.

To accompany the lasagne I made Avocado Salsa which I had made previously with fajitas, but this time jalapenos peppers were added which gave a welcome kick. My dad didn't join in - he is a bit of a snacker rather than an eater of proper meals! - but my mum and Master M had some. The latter of whom dislikes sweetcorn so I was chuffed he made the effort. My mum said it was 'mmmmm' which made me happy, and Master M didn't say much which I took to believe it wasn't really his thing.

On bonfire night we took Little M to a small firework display at our local boozer. He was really tired so didn't actually see any fireworks but did enjoy the fire. So, off we trudged home and I put the little chap to bed, after watching some homemade displays out of our guest bedroom window. Then, as a winter warmer, I made tomato curry with 1kg of cherry toms, and peas, among other ingredients/spices. Dad joined in on this one and all seemed to enjoy it but we all concluded that it wasn't really a curry. Just a nice kinda tomatoey dish.

With the curry, we had coconut rice which was great. Into the olive-oiled basmati, I tipped in some spring onion and 1 litre of coconut milk/boiled water. This simmered down, 15 minutes later resulting in pot of yumminess. I would definitely make this again as it livens up what can be an often predictable side.

On Saturday morning we headed into town early so that I could look for some must-have leg-lengthening boots that I had found in Grazia - they are from Primark and I really had to beat that hellish mid-Saturday scrum. They didn't have the boots so will have to try again another time. I also introduced my mum to the delights of the Cath Kidston shop as she was a CK virgin. Think she liked. I bought a chintzy iphone cover which I never thought I would do, as I kind-of went off Ms Kidston when she sold-out. It was much more interesting when she just did ironing board covers and book bags. My mum and dad also bought me some gorgeous art-deco style cake forks which of course I later in the weekend used to eat the birthday cake.

After Little M's usual swimming lesson, a rest for all, and a stroll around the local park, I cooked us all Chicken with Greek Herb Sauce (or Tsatsiki) and rapid roastini (for the benefit of my folks, naturally, who had yet to try it)! I think we all agreed that it was delicious. The sauce especially went down a treat. Shop-bought Tsatsiki can taste a bit too artificial but this was really fresh and well herby!

Following the main, we had Lemon Meringue Fool which is dead easy to make - lemon curd, double cream, limoncello whipped up with some meringue broken-up and tossed in. Heavenly. I used my martini glasses as dessert dishes which looked cool. Will do this again.

All good things come to an end and my brilliant parents finally had to go home on Sunday, my birthday. But not before making my day special along with my boys. We had a nice cooked 'Master M Special' breakfast and then bundled into our cars to go to Lotherton Hall for a kick around in the leaves and a wanter around the bird park. A really nice memorable day. At home, Master M made us dinner and pudding, then my creation of the day was a post-dinner shot - Baby Guiness which is Kahlua topped with a smidgen of Baileys. A nice end to an even nicer weekend.

Goddess Mx

PS - One of my presents was Take That tickets - woo hoo!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Haunted House, 'Starry Eyed' and Spring Chicken

Can not believe it is already Thursday. What a week it has been...

I think I have already mentioned that I am planning a big work event at the end of this month. Well, a colleague and I were in London for a meeting, and then had a manic time running around looking at venues for a future conference. Now let me just say that I have really missed London having not been there for a couple of years, but I just don't think I can keep up with the pace of it now. It was refreshing after dashing around to come out of the tube to the sun setting over Battersea power station which you can see in my photograph. I really do enjoy the versatility of London. Even all of the random things that happened during the visit including the Twem from X Factor lookalikes on the tube, one of whom was wearing a blue Croc on one foot, and a brown suede brogue on the other. Only in London.

After we got away from the hubub of the City, we caught a train to Egham and a taxi to Beaumont Estate in Windsor. What a funny little place (it is actually quite sprawling actually). After checking in, we were directed up in the lift to the second floor where we could not for the life of us find our bedrooms, only a corridor which could have come directly from the film The Shining. Back to the lift we hot-trotted only to be met by a spooky boy of about sixteen who said he had come to help us - a pale lad dressed in what looked like school uniform. He led us up many, many stairs to an even scarier annexe where our bedrooms awaited. Now, I am no scaredy cat but I was too spooked to sleep on my own, so my friend and I shared her bed and sat in bed drinking wine under the duvet for the rest of the evening (so not so bad). We have since discovered that the venue is an old boys catholic boarding school, which does boast a couple of ghost stories including a little boy who sits on the steps of their chapel; and a janitor discovering that a corridor full of Henry VIII portraits that had been taken down off the wall, turned upside-down and left on the floor, all when no-one else had been in the building. We did find out though that the boy was real, not the ghost that we had originally thought.

On Tuesday night back to lovely Leeds to see Ellie Goulding at the O2 Academy (Master M's birthday present from moi). I am not the biggest Ellie fan. I would put her in that category of whiney, screechy female solo artists that isn't really my bag. However, on Tuesday she surpassed herself in my opinion. What a talented lady. Her band was massive. I don't think I have ever seen that much percussion on a stage in Leeds, and she proved her musical skills singing her heart out, banging the drums and strumming her geeeetar, so RESPECT. I rate her acoustic stuff more than the music she has released so far though, and am not impressed that she is re-releasing her debut album.

With all of the shenanigans of the week, I didn't get around to cooking until Wednesday, so I will be cooking in my sleep all weekend. I did make spring chicken last night which I know is a bit random in the run-up to christmas, but it was super-tasty. The jist of it is chicken thighs, oil, pancetta, peas, cider, leeks, garlic, celery, tarragon, little gem, and erm... "done" (as Gordon Ramsay would say, not that I like to quote him). Would recommend. Apologies for the steamy photo!

Will be cooking a twisted lasagne tonight if I can find black beans.

Goddess Mx

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Key (S)Lime Pie

Had a great time at the kid's Halloween party. My friend who hosted is one of those mums I always dreamt I would be - super organised and brave enough to invite a bucketload of toddlers over for a party in her house. I never seem to find the time or the inclination. Having said that, I probably had more fun at her house today for a mid-afternoon bash than I would do a grown-up party with drinks and nibbles. Must get out more! We played ghost-skittles, decorated pumpkin faces and had scrummy pumpkin soup and lots of other halloween-themed food like ghost rice crispy cakes, beetle grapes and pastry witch fingers. Someone commented on my cool spider fascinator. I am so stylish obviously! On the way home Little M was astonished at the darkness. 'Dark' is one of his favourite words, but I don't think he has actually been outside in it for quite a while. He never ceases to amaze me.

Anyway, back at the ranch I cooked sole (or 'soul' for the purposes of halloween), coated in instant polenta. This was served with a rather cheeky Tartare sauce made up of creme fraiche, gherkins, baby capers, jalapeno peppers and lemon juice/zest. I loved the whole thing. One of the best dishes of the challenge yet and my expectations were not high to begin with. Maybe that is how I should play things in future so that I will be pleasantly surprised.

For dessert we had Chocolate Key Lime Pie which tasted good, but the presentation left a lot to be desired. Basically I reckon I have the wrong kind of pie dish. I used a ceramic one, but think I need to invest in a tin dish which is deeper and larger. The biscuit base was nice but didn't really set in the fridge. The choc chips were a nice twist in the base, and the filling was zesty and refreshing. There is an abundance of it left in the fridge which I hope will be eaten while I am away over the next couple of days in London - a work visit, but still looking forward to it as the last time I was in the capital I was 9 months pregnant so way too long ago.

Due to being away, I am going to be doing a lot of cooking when I come back. This week I am one dish down as I was unable to source baby squid anywhere. A challenge for next week.


Goddess Mx

Spooky Scallops

Well, this is the weekend of Halloween and is it just me, or is the UK going mad over it or what? Everywhere you look there seems to be someone walking down the street with a pumpkin, and the supermarkets are going crazy with in-your-face merchandise. Little M has a spider outfit for the 'cuteness' factor, plus the fact that we have a party this afternoon. I have bought a children's spider hairband so that we co-ordinate - sad huh? Was going to make something to take but have opted for spider cupcakes from the patisserie counter at Waitrose.

I was going to theme my cooking this weekend to relate to the festivities, but as it happens, I seem to be using green food which is kinda scarey in a way (I remember at school having our milk in little bottles dyed with purple food colouring). First on the menu last night we had Scallops with Thai-Scented Pea Puree which was nice. I cautiously cooked the scallops as I didn't want to over/underdo the little luscious coins. They were good, but I think I could do with some practice. As you can see from the photo, it definitely looks like home fodder, especially as there was a ton of puree! I did follow the quantities in the recipe so if Nigella says!

Right, must go and party but more later on Key Lime Pie (more green food) which is chilling in the fridge.


Goddess Mx

Friday, 29 October 2010

Classy Ladies

Nuff said - (nasty) Asti + Guiness = 2 happy ladies

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Walking on Sunshine

Well, yesterday was a sunny old day, and not as cold as normal either. A few little nice things have happened this week which have added a little sparkle in my life. The biggest sparkler was all was the news that a large high-street jeweller - who I have been battling with for the past couple of months - have finally agreed to replace a diamond that had fallen out of my eternity ring which I have only had since Little M was born. They were adamant that it was 'accidental damage' but surely eternity means more than a couple of years eh? Another act of kindness was a colleague at work whose brother got me a signed backstage pass from a James gig he went to in the US. It is pinned up on my noticeboard at work to make me smile, along with other things that make me happy: a 'You are my sunshine' postcard; a photo that my brother had taken of Loch Lomond; and a laminated 'first runner-up' award that I was given for a tongue-in-cheek bake-a-cake competition at work (for chocolate marble cake).

To celebrate all things sunny I made Sunshine Soup. A very humble soup consisting of blistered (in the oven) garlicky, oily yellow and orange peppers, sweetcorn, vegetable stock and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Happy days. Hope the sun is shining for you.

Goddess Mx

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A Cosy Dinner for Two

On the menu last night was Redcurrant and Mint Lamb Cutlets, followed by leftover Pandowdy. Easy peasy and a nice dinner to make for friends. The lamb is just panfried as it is in garlic oil. After the lamb was removed from the pan, I chucked in my clementine juice, sherry vinegar, salt/pepper, redcurrant jelly and worcestershire sauce and whisked together with the gorgeous lamb juices. I then served up all of this with a tangle of rocket leaves and the newly brilliant (to us) rapid roastini (or shallow-fried gnocchi).

I feel like I now have more knowledge of the basics that you should have in your kitchen cupboard, so might post this soon. At the top of this list though is garlic oil which I have used every day since the start of the project - well, in the savoury dishes anyway. What is the point in crushing some garlic into standard olive oil when you can buy it already done? Another essential is worcestershire sauce (for a bit of zing), followed by spring onions which can easily be snipped into a dish rather than chopping an onion which brings on floods of tears.

Goddess Mx

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Pear Pandowdy

I am writing this blog with a Texan-drawl just to set the scene for anyone reading. This is my kind of pie as the ramshackle appearance is part of its charm - and that is what I like. Home cooking should look like this, and it makes eating all the more enjoyable. I get a bit bored rolling out pastry for hours on end, trying to make sure it doesn't break, so this was the perfect amount of time mixing and rolling only one piece - the lid to a pot (or griddle) of perfection!

I have done a little research but can't really find an origin for the Pandowdy, but have decided that it should be America. In Louisiana to be precise. And to be even more exact, the little town that True Blood is filmed in. That is the image in my mind so that is where it shall be from!

The pandowdy differs from other pies as it just has a crust on the top only. I thought it was lovely. Having had maybe one too many puddings of late, I was actually thinking that eating this would be a chore but it was delicate, consisting mainly of pears rather than apples, although I did throw a couple of apples in. The pears were lovely and grainy, not too sharp, and the pastry nice and plain to balance everything off. We have half left so enough for more tonight. Lush.

Off to face the rest of the day bravely. Had my first session this morning with a chiropractor who told me I have a knot the size of a golfball in my right shoulder. He has corrected my spine, and my neck - with two very loud cracks - and has warned me that I will feel very uncomfortable later today and that I will need to apply icepacks tonight. Hope I have lots of frozen peas in the freezer.

(A sore) Goddess Mx

Monday, 25 October 2010

Pudding, brunch to-die-for, and a nice wintery salad

I am dismayed to begin this post with news of the fact that I do not have a photo of the lovely puffed-up delight that was my Choc Chip Bread Pudding. It was really a Bread and Butter Pudding but let's not get pedantic. It really did look a treat, like a swollen puddilicious crown. I did photograph the dish in its splendour but unfortunately we were broken into over the weekend and the scoundrels took my iphone so the proof (of the pudding) is gone. You will have to take my word for it that it looked lovely, and was equally as tasty.

On Saturday I made a brunch dish which was a nice change - Cinnamon Plums with French Toast. I enjoyed making the compote which comprised of sugar, cranberry juice, plums and cinnamon sticks. The scent really reminded me of childhood, although I am not sure which part. I love smells that transport you back in time. Very powerful.

On Sunday my mother-in-law came for lunch and we made Butternut Squash Salad. I do like a salad but it is difficult to come up with ideas in the winter for warmed versions so this was welcomed with open arms. The squash was cubed and roasted in oil, turmeric and ginger, and then tossed in rocket, pine nuts and golden sultanas. Very good indeed and MIL approved. With happy tummies we all ventured into the City to buy new shoes for Little M: the flashy ones that light-up as you walk; and his first pair of wellies. I don't know who was more excited - Little M or us grown-ups living vicariously through him.

Going to have a go at the Apple and Pear Pandowdy soon, along with some other delights. I bought some cocktail ingredients too to mix things up again.

Goddess Mx