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)!

Monday, 31 January 2011

'There's no place like home'

This weekend we strayed from the usual routine at home, and visited friends in Redhill. After a few hours singing ‘Tommy Thumb’ and ‘the wheels on the bus’ we arrived at our destination. It was well-worth the journey to meet our friends' 18 month old son, and to see their sprawling period property that they moved into shortly after his arrival (jealous, moi)?

On Saturday we went to Godstone Farm – the one that was affected by E.coli a couple of years ago. The boys loved wandering around chatting with the animals (Little M was particularly taken by the huge amount of tractors and diggers onsite). The highlight of the trip for the adults was a cosy hot chocolate in the play barn where the children ran off some steam. I was a little on-edge about all of the posters reminding us to wash our hands, and the notice that said to assume that all of the larger animals have E.coli. I guess it was an exercise in learning to not continually wrap Little M up in cotton wool (although it might have been warmer)! Back home, we had some delicious lamb shanks cooked with chickpeas and harissa, followed by ginger bread and butter pudding (a la Nigella, but not cooked by me for a change). We attempted to watch The Social Network on DVD, but embarrassingly Master M and I fell asleep midway through. We do like our early nights.

Sunday was spent driving home, with a stop at Heathrow to watch the planes take-off and land from the top of the car park. Little M loved this and aeroplanes are now his new favourite topic of conversation. All-in-all we had a thoroughly good weekend - great company and food. I think we had both forgotten how nice it is to get away for a few days.

The really great thing about going away for the weekend is coming home. Once in the door I made a batch of Buttermilk Scones, which we had with some of the Jumbleberry Jam I made at Christmas. The scones are so easy to make – flour, cream of tartar, butter, vegetable shortening, buttermilk, caster sugar and bicarbonate of soda; all mixed together, rolled out, cut into discs and egg-washed. The scones are then popped onto a greased baking sheet and baked for 12 minutes. The result is a nice light scone with a lovely bronzed topping. They taste plain yet tangy but the slight sourness really works well against the homemade jam. We all couldn’t resist going back for more.

Looking forward to a trip to the cinema tonight to see a chick flick – perfect start to the week. Happy Monday everyone.

Goddess Mx

PS - didn't get the 'Britain's Best Dish' gig. Their loss not mine! Happy that the pressure is off in a way as now I can get back to what I like to do best - work my way through 'Kitchen'. What shall I make next??

Thursday, 27 January 2011

"Better the devil you know..."

"... than the devil you don’t", or so the saying goes, meaning that sometimes it is best dealing with someone or something you know (but find difficult) than with the unknown. Is this true? The other school of thought is ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ which can open doors for you aplenty. Which one sways you? Do you thrive on change and live on the edge or are you more of a home-comforts kind of person who likes the here-and-now and would happily stay there?

Last night I made Devil’s Food Cake for a colleague who is turning forty this weekend. The ingredients of the cake are made in three different bowls. Firstly, cocoa was mixed with boiling water and muscovado sugar, mixed and set-aside. Secondly, butter and caster sugar were mixed in another bowl with some vanilla extract. Thirdly, the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda were mixed in a further bowl. All of the ingredients were then gradually mixed alternately with eggs. The batter was poured into two lined, buttered sandwich tins and baked in the oven according to Nigella’s recipe.

Once in the oven the frosting was made by melting butter with muscovado sugar and boiling water, adding chunks of dark chocolate and then mixing until melted. This mixture was then left for an hour to become spreadable. I never thought it would - it seemed quite oily and like it would just slide off the cake. However, it worked its magic and the overall result was a devilishly good chocolate cake, filled and covered with the dense topping. This takes rich cake to a whole new level!

I attempted to decorate the cake with smarties, in a 4-0 fashion, but gave up and went for a more random approach. It was also adorned with 40 candles which I felt added a certain special something (dontchathink)?

Goddess Mx

Monday, 24 January 2011

An ambulance, a new bed and an audition

Well, my weekend has kept me on my toes, that's for sure.

Little M was suffering with a cold last week - the umpteenth this year. On Friday he developed a rash, so, to be on the safe side, I made an appointment with our GP to check it out before the weekend was on us. He did all the usual checks which were fine, but when looking at the rash he seemed more concerned and mentioned 'suspected meningitis', words that no parent wants to ever hear. At this point I felt all of the colour drain out of my face. Before we knew what was happening, Little M was overjoyed during the journey to hospital shouting 'ambulance, nee-naw'. I'm glad he enjoyed the ride! To cut a long story short, we spent the rest of the night in hospital so that Little M could provide urine samples and have blood taken. Let me tell you it's not easy to get blood out of a tubby toddler. After a long and anxious night, we were told it was viral, and that we could go home. Phew!

The following day, at lunch time, I tried to put Little M in the cot for a nap, listening outside his bedroom door as I normally do. Seconds later I heard the little pitter-patter of his feet running towards the door. So he had climbed out of the cot. When asked to show us how he had done it, he proudly obliged prompting Master M to build Little M's 'big boy bed'. It was a bit of a toss-up between keeping him in the cot a while longer and risking him abseiling down the side; or going for the bed option with the worry of him roaming around at his leisure upstairs. We went for the latter. I spent the rest of the day in a frenzy racking my brains on how to make sure everything was as toddler-proof as could be. Master M was out on Saturday night, so I didn't sleep too well listening out for little feet, but gladly, Little M only fell out the bed once and it didn't wake him. He just carried on sleeping on the floor. Bless. I think he loves his new bed.

On Sunday I had my big audition for Britain's Best Dish so we all traipsed off to York for the day. The audition was a bit long-winded - lots of waiting around - but basically consisted of a screen test, a chat with the programme producers and then another conversation with the ITV food team. The last two bits were absolutely fine, but the first bit was awful! I had to pitch to camera about my dish in quite a gimmicky fashion which I suppose is what telly is all about. The producers gave me some ideas of how I can make my dish more special, and I should hear more this week. It was a good experience, if nothing else comes of it.

Fast-forward to today and I have been off work sick for a couple of days. I've just been to the docs who have confirmed it is a throat infection so I am currently on the sofa under my duvet, drugged up on penicillin and linctus. Think Little M may have given me his poison!

Apart from my Britain's Best Dish pudding, the only thing I have made in between all the commotion is Anchovy, Egg and Pepper Salad. The saltiness of the anchovies complemented the creaminess of the eggs and sweetness of the peppers. I had this as a dinner for one and would quite happily have it again either as a solo supper, or for the rest of the family.

More cooking soon.

Goddess Mx

PS - happy birthday Robert Burns, and to those of you celebrating, enjoy your haggis, neeps and tatties.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

'Caravan of Love'

What could be more appealing on a Tuesday night than Slut’s Spaghetti? The title of this dish is the English translation of Spaghetti alla puttanesca, and was invented by Sandro Petti, co-owner of a famous Italian restaurant in the 1950s. One evening Sandro was low on ingredients to cook for friends, so they insisted he “Facci una puttanata qualsiasi", or “make any kind of garbage” which he did (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghetti_alla_puttanesca). Nigella doesn’t mince her words and breaks this down in ‘Kitchen’ to say that it is a pasta dish that might be made by a lady who can’t be bothered to shop for her ingredients fresh, so uses jarred goods from the pantry. Sounds good to me!

The method for the pasta sauce is as follows: heat olive oil, add chopped anchovies, crushed garlic, tomatoes, chilli flakes, olives, capers, season and leave to simmer for 10 minutes while the pasta cooks. Once the spaghetti is al dente, combine, plate up and sprinkle with chopped parsley. All that was left to do was slurp greedily (is it possible to eat spaghetti without making a mess)?

Next up was some good old telly – One Born Every Minute which never fails to make me cry (and start planning the birth plan of my next not-conceived-yet baby); and Big Gypsy Weddings which fascinated me no end, and got me thinking again about my dream to have my own vintage chintzy caravan in the garden. Let’s call it my special ‘summer house’ to escape to for chocolate eating, reading and general ‘I love me’ stuff.

Goddess Mx

PS - might not do much more cooking for the rest of the week from 'Kitchen', as I have been called for an audition on Sunday for ITV's Britain's Best Dish - need to practice! Making a pudding and will keep you posted :)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Music I want my Son to Listen to (whilst eating Speedy Seafood Supper)!

This post is inspired by ghostwritermummy who, like me, loves the fabulous Ben Folds. To enter your link read her post on Daniel Johnston.

I love music. It makes me happy when I am sad, soothes me when I am tired, celebrates with me when I am on a high, and provides a constant soundtrack to my life. As I type this, the Black Eyed Peas track 'I've Got a Feeling' is playing on the radio which never fails to make me smile. I like to say I have good taste in music across a broad spectrum of genres. However, my guilty secret is now out that I enjoy a bit of Alexandra Burke or Cheryl Cole when I am doing some cleaning around the house, the volume cranked up high. In particular, songs that have impacted on me, or hold dear memories are:

Levellers – 'One Way' (reminds me of my first music festival – T in the Park - back in the early nineties where I bounced along to bands like the Manic Street Preachers and Rage Against the Machine);

The Smiths – 'There is a Light that Never Goes Out' (very romantic albeit a bit morbid lyrically, and reminds me of dancing around our tiny flat when we first moved to Leeds with friends);

Fleetwood Mac – 'Go Your Own Way'; Cat Stevens – 'Matthew and Son' (again reminds me of parties in the flat, and happy times with friends who we have now lost touch with);

Orson – 'No Tomorrow' (reminds me of a job I had working with substance misusers, one of the best and most rewarding I have ever had);

Radiohead – 'Anyone can Play Guitar' (memories of when I first realised that I wanted to work in the arts/events industry);

Desree – 'Kissing You' (memories of Master M and I when we first got together, and our ‘first dance’ song);

Wes – 'Alane' (memories of a holiday in Western France as footloose and fancy-free young lass);

Morrissey – 'First of the Gang to Die' (saw him three times in the year he released ‘You are the Quarry’ – mucho respect. The most rowdy gigs I have ever been to);

Teenage Fanclub – 'Radio' (the first band I have ever truly loved. This is my most played track ever. I used to listen to it up-loud lying on the sofa with headphones on. One of the best bands ever, in the same genre as the fabulous Belle and Sebastian; Camera Obscura and BMX Bandits);

Ben Folds Five – 'Song for the Dumped' (memories of teenage angst, and a soul-searching night with Master M at their gig);

I would be delighted if Little M liked any of the above-mentioned, and really can’t wait to find out what he is into, whether it is classical music, heavy metal, reggae or hard-house! The only indication I have so far is that he liked me listening to The Script album when I was pregnant (could feel him ‘dancing’) and has a penchant for ‘Away in a Manger’ several times a day which has now been prohibited until next Advent.

I also hope he likes seafood! I made a glorious seafood supper last night consisting of a bag of frozen seafood added to spring onions heated in garlic oil, saffron-infused boiling water, vermouth, tomatoes, tarragon and seasoning. This genius soup was devoured alongside some doughy granary bread. I recommend that everyone tries this, while listening to any of the music above for a night of happiness to brighten up a dreary January evening.

Goddess Mx

Monday, 17 January 2011

Pasta galore, clams and South Indian curry

On Thursday night we had pasta yet again - papardelle with blue cheese, pinenuts and butternut squash. I would never have thought to use squash with pasta but it worked well. The recipe also uses sage which I have only ever used in casseroles but it added a punch that I liked. The meal was really good but I am feeling a bit stodged out again. Think I will have to take a pasta rain-check this week.

On Friday night I made clams with chorizo. Am enjoying a weekly outing to the market to get some fish or seafood, although this was a pricey meal for this late in January when payday is calling. The clams were plunged in ice-cold water and I chucked away any that didn't close. Sliced chorizo was fried off for a few minutes in our huge new Le Creuset pot until it gave off it's bronze oil, and then placed in a foil packet whilse the clams were steamed in sherry. I then reintroduced the chorizo, choppped in some fresh chives and clattered the results into bowls, accompanied by some crusty bread to sponge up the sauce. Lovely.

We went out on Saturday night to see some friends who were hosting an Italian meal. I immediately started planning in my head the Frangelico Tirimasu dish from 'Kitchen' but was pipped to the post by another guest who was coming who was bringing Tarte au Citron. As a starter we had delicious anti pasti followed by, yes, you have guessed it more pasta - spaghetti bolognese! It was worth it though - slow cooked all afternoon. I usually just whip up a bolognese in 20 minutes or so but as my friend V proved, it paid to cook it slowly.

After four lots of pasta last week, I was adamant about walking my 8-10000 steps a day so headed out for a half-hour brisk walk, pedometer clamped on. Thirty minutes later I had only done a measley 4000 - how on earth do normal working mums manage to do anywhere near 8000 steps a day! On top of the 4000, I did another 2200 just doing everyday stuff. The Waitrose reckons that you should do 16000 for maximum fitness - how anyone would fit in a couple of hours walking every day is beyond me!

Crying out for some vegetables, I made South Indian vegetable curry on Sunday night. I heated up some garlic oil, fried off some onions (half-moon slices), green peppers, ginger; added ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and ginger; tamarind paste; then added broccoli and cauliflower florets to bubble for around ten minutes. More veg - fine green beans and baby corn - were then added for a further five minutes, followed by sugar snap peas. The curry was served with noodles (a nice change from rice) and sprinkled with chopped dill, instead of the usual coriander.

Looking forward to making more puddings this week as last week was a bit of a main meal-fest.

Another project for the week is a little think about starting a herb garden - reckon I spend a fortune on shop-bought stuff. I think I am going to start with mint and rosemary as they flower, so are bee-friendly too - bonus!

Goddess Mx

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The world's most expensive spice

Last year, my sister-in-law and her fiancee came to stay and gifted us an original tagine dish from Morocco, along with loads of spices - cumin, coriander, turmeric and some saffron threads. They gave us a great lesson on how to cook a Tagine the proper way (J is originally from Morocco so somewhat an expert!) and I think it is a brilliant dish to cook up for friends, or a dinner party as some may call it (I personally don't like this term, don't know why)! I like meals when you can stick a big pot in the middle of a table and all can just dig-in. When we were students in Leicester, I can't count the number of fondue nights we had sitting chatting and grazing all night around a cosy, candlelit table - happy days...

... anyway, I digress! Last night Master M inspired me to make a risotto with saffron that K and J had given us last year. I have often wondered what uses saffron has and have since discovered that it is the world's most expensive spice - see What's Cooking America. This website also claims that 'saffron is especially good when used in cooking seafood dishes such as bouillabaisse and paella. It is also used in risotto and other rice dishes'.

Nigella's Kitchen boasts a Saffron Risotto which was a joy to make (glass of wine in hand). I used fresh chicken stock and simmered with a tsp of saffron threads in one pot; in another I melted butter, olive oil, added risotto rice, marsala and ladled the stock in gradually for around 20 minutes until the rice was al dente. The final step was to add a bit more butter, some seasoning, parmesan and then I piled into pasta bowls (with a final dusting of parmesan). A very satisfying meal I must say. It seemed quite plain to begin with (I am used to Master M's divine prawn and pea risotto), but it really worked and felt like a bit of a mid-week treat.

Have a nice day all.

Goddess Mx

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Thanking our lucky stars

Us Brits are terrible at complaining about stuff, and the weather probably tops the bill - either too hot/cold/wet/snowy. When you look at what is going on in Australia it all pales into significance. Today in Leeds the ground is wet but the temperature is rising and the sun is smiling in the sky. Let us be thankful for what we have and spare a thought for those struggling down-under.

I was chuffed yesterday arriving home to see that Master M had bought some ingredients for me to make Pasta with Spinach, Feta and Pinenuts. While the pasta was cooking, I heated up some garlic oil and added some sliced onion to cook on a slow-heat for 10 minutes before adding a touch of mixed spice. I then added some toasted pinenuts, spinach, feta, salt and pepper, tossed together et voila - a delightful cosy meal a deux. I always feel good once I have had some spinach. Popeye eat your heart out!

To top the day off, my lovely huz made me a Green and Blacks hot chocolate with a shot of Kahlua which means I have fallen off the wagon, 11 days into January. Predictable! Heavenly and worth it though.

Goddess Mx

PS - next dish won't be pasta as have made it twice in one week now. Carbelicious.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Pasta like you would have on holiday

No matter which way I look, I am surrounded by talk of holidays - our friends have just come back from sunny Sydney, a friend's family are off to Barbados and various other friends are booking at least a week in the sun to look forward to. We went on our first family holiday to Menorca last year and paid above the odds for a package deal. I think we made the right decision as we needed to build confidence in travelling with a toddler and booking last minute has its own stresses, but this year we have opted for a late deal. I am reading 'Eat, Pray, Love' at the moment by Elizabeth Gilbert, and this is as close as I am going to get in terms of holidaying for now, so I have let my mind take me to Italy, India and Indonesia quite happily.

So where is all this talk of foreign shores leading? Calamari of course! I may have mentioned before that calamari reminds me of holidays - Greece in particular, sitting in a beach cafe in my bikini with a bowl of fried calamari rings with garlic and lemon. In Samos (Greece) I have also had a delicious dish of stuffed whole squid which was heavenly which would be interesting to re-create. Now, Leeds Market is brilliant and I can easily by ready to eat baby squid (with tentacles) for around £1 to feed two which I think is a bargain. Nigella suggests buying pasta to replicate the calamari rings that the squid are cut into, and I went for some expensive large tubes which look nothing like the seafood rings but was nice anyhow. The pasta is cooked as normal and the sauce comprises olive oil, vermouth, butter, red chilli, spring onions and parsley. The rings are fried off first for a couple of minutes and then left to simmer in the sauce for a bit. As the pasta shapes were so big therefore meaning the cooking time took longer, I overcooked the squid but it was still tasty and the texture was fine.

Exciting news that I promised on my last blog is that I have applied for Britain's Best Dish on ITV and have a couple of recipes up my sleeve which I hope the programme producers will like. My only worry is that they are simple recipes, not like last year's dishes on the programme so I hope this doesn't go against me. They are my own recipes (crikey!) and the flavours are great. Should hear this week whether I will be called for an audition - fingers crossed!

Goddess Mx

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Light at the end of the post-christmas blues

Well, today was the day that I packed away the rest of our christmas decorations. Yes, I know that I am probably later than most other peeps, and our lovely christmas tree did come down on 6th January. But who says it should have? Well, from a religious point-of-view the 6th is The Epiphany, the revelation of Jesus. To me that would say that the tree should stay up a bit longer, and adorn even more lights, but no, my living room is going to become as grey and January-ish as the rest of my life at the moment.

So, let's do a little trot back down memory lane, December-stylie, remembering some of my glorious christmas fodder. I am also going to submit this post as part of the Forever Nigella blogging event - http://blog.maisoncupcake.com/forever-nigella/.

There was the jumbleberry jam (from Nigella Kitchen), which was a raging success. I am still enjoying it now on toast with comforting tea, and the berries make me feel like I am kind-of being healthy (no need to mention all the jam sugar). I also gifted some of the jam to some friends who were pleased recipients.

My steeped christmas fruits (from Nigella Christmas) were well-worth the wait as the plump Grand Marnier-drenched golden sultanas made a scrumptious marriage with some good quality vanilla ice cream - posh rum n raisin at its best, and a lush pudding on christmas eve for the family. I also made vanilla sugar which was a nice treat in my coffee, and will be for months to come.

The festive salt (from Nigella Christmas) was dished up with our boxing day feast and used sparingly, and today we used it on our roast chicken, although I can't say I really tasted it - don't think it helped that I bought a cheap chicken (skinto). Looks pretty and christmassy though and makes me feel like a domestic goddess if my salt is in a special jar.

Winter isn't the same without some cosy soups to curl up with, and Dr Lawson's Cuban Cure Soup (from Nigella Christmas) was no exception. A robust soup with chorizo and black beans, this warmed the cockles no end. I think I am going to make more soups this year, but wholesome ones to get excited about. No pic here I am afraid.

My chilli jam (from Nigella Christmas) was a failure then I triumph all at once, due to reheating it a day later to help it set. Not been able to sample it yet as I am waiting for it to mature at the end of this month. Grrr... Another thing (along with pay day) to work towards. C'mon!

My marinated feta (from Nigella Christmas) was great, but am dissapointed that it has set in a conjealed murky oily mess in the jar (refrigerated). At least I tried it. This always happens to anchovies for me too. Anyone relate and how can you stop it happening?

Double blue crostinis (from Nigella Christmas) were a nice little bring-along I took to a party for the toddlers. The mummies seemed to like and I surprised myself with how easy it was to make a yummy dip. You can't go wrong with blue cheese. Well maybe if your friend announces at the party that she is preggers. Oh well!

I had a little pre-detox before christmas - for all of half a day - eating homemade chicken broth (from Nigella Christmas). Really bland but kind-of in a good way and it blew my cold out of town, which I had been carrying for months on end beforehand.

I knew at the start of December that I had to make Nige's puddini bonbons (from Nigella Christmas) and I am glad I did. They brought instant christmas cheer (when I was eating the mixture whilst making) and gorgeous little gifts but note to self to make them smaller next time to fit more in gift boxes.

The making of Peanut Butter Cups (from Nigella Christmas) was a lesson in 'don't judge a book by its cover'. They looked ghastly but tasted immense. Peanut butter and chocolate are meant to be and I have been addicted to the former since.

My solitary addition to christmas dinner was redder than red cranberry sauce (from Nigella Christmas), with cherry brandy. I really enjoyed it but think it is sweeter than your standard stuff. I would advocate never buying this again though as it is no trouble at all to make.

This year marked the beginning of christmas eve eating. We had previously been fans of takeaways but it was nice to get family around the table to eat Ginger-glazed ham and Macaroni (you guessed it, from Nigella Christmas). I will now be making a christmas ham every year whether it is cooked in ginger ale, coca cola or pineapple juice, this is a must-have of the festive season. Unfortunately I am missing a photo of the magnificent ham.

Nigella I salute you - I feel like you were almost with us this christmas, what with all of the delights you have inspired me to cook. Who needs Jamie Oliver? One thing that seemed to be all the rage this time with Jamie and all of the celebrity chefs was leaving your turkey to rest for hours after cooking. Seems bonkers but it really works and makes for juicy, tender turkey. Who knows what they will come up with next year. I do hope Heston's christmas pud with the candied orange in the centre comes back. Well worth the media frenzy and £15, but perhaps not worth the crazy ebay bidding on them when Waitrose ran out. Maybe I will try making my own - Nigella's of course? New project!

Happy 2011 to all - cooking and doing whatever else makes you happy. I know that's what I will be doing.

Goddess Mx

PS - my hubby also cooked some Nigella stuff this christmas and I am trying to persuade him to do a guest post. Watch this space!

PPS - normal blogging will resume tomorrow as I am aware this is a review of previous cooking, therefore posts. I cooked a FIERCE meal on Friday which I am excited about sharing and maybe somethine else cooking related to chat about which is potentially quite exciting!