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)!

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