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, 28 February 2011

A birthday bonanza

I feel like I have been in a bit of a whirlwind lately with job-hunting and my son's second birthday. Blogging has gone out of the window a bit, but I have managed to cook up a few recipes from 'Kitchen' and feel it would be rude not to share my experiences!

I decided to make Nigella's traditional cheesecake so that there was a little something sweet in the house (the alternative was Annabel Karmel's magimix yoghurt cake that I made for my boy). I was slightly apprehensive about this after the banoffee cheeseake I made from Kitchen last year which I overbaked, so kept a close eye on it during the baking process. The base for this dessert was pastry rather than your usual biscuit base. A pleasant change. The filling comprised of curd cheese, double cream, seperated eggs, lemon juice and sugar. I made the mistake of using a tin the right size in width/length, but too shallow by a couple of centimetres resulting in me throwing half of the filling away (what a waste)! I got the consistency of the filling just right, but due to the tin mix-up, the balance was wrong and there was too much base to topping. I liked the flavours, but as I have a sweet-tooth, I think I am more of a biscuit-base kind of gal. If you want to read some amusing lyrics about a love of cheesecake, look no further than King Missile's 'Cheesecake Truck'.

For an accompaniment to lunch time quiche (shop-bought) I made tabbouleh. I had been meaning to make this for a while after sampling some of my sister-in-law's delicious Morrocan version. The dish was made with cold cooked bulgar wheat; oodles of parsley, mint and dill; olive oil; garlic oil; pomegranate seeds; tomatoes; lemon zest and juice. A lovely fresh dish, and beautiful too.

I have had a rising urge to cook something spicy lately, so a trip to our local continental supermarket was called for to pick up some seeds: fennel, black cumin, green cumin and black mustard. My mum bought us a fab new authentic indian spice container which I joyously filled with my new purchases and other colourful powders. The seeds, some hot chilli powder and turmeric were sprinkled over diced potatoes, olive oil and unpeeled garlic cloves to produce some fabulous roasties to be eaten with a lemony roast chicken. The final touch was some lime-doused raw red onion for added crunch. The perfect end to a brilliant weekend with family and friends to celebrate Little M's birthday.

Goddess Mx

Monday, 21 February 2011

A happy snowman and some cosy stew

On Saturday we awoke to snow which I hadn't seen coming. Little M and I built a lovely friendly snowman with stones for eyes, a plum nose, some food packaging for a mouth and a planter for a hat. To keep him warm we donated one of mummy's old scarves.

As an antidote to the colder weather, a stew was in order - chorizo and chickpea to be precise. Vermicelli was warmed in olive oil, followed by bulgar wheat, some warming cinnamon, salt, water and bay leaves before being left to simmer until the liquid had been absorbed. In another pan chorizo pieces were fried for a few minutes before being watered with amontillado sherry, snipped apricots, chickpeas and canned cherry tomatoes. Once done, I piled bulgar wheat into two welcoming bowls, topped with the stew and sprinkled some coriander on for some added magic. Absolutely delicious and I would recommend the tomatoes to everyone. They are not much more costly than your standard tinned toms and are definitely tastier.

On Sunday the snow had gone but the snowman was still there, grinning away.

Goddess Mx

Friday, 18 February 2011

Perfect Day

What would your perfect day look like?

I would be on holiday in Cornwall, in a beach chalet. I would wake up at sunrise in a bed adorned with Egyptian cotton sheets with Master M snoring gently beside me. There would be a gentle breeze blowing into the room, soft sunlight and a saltiness in the air. In the background I would hear Little M chatting away happily to himself in a room next door.

I would tiptoe out of bed and sneak outside to sit on the sandy beach and read for a while, followed by some yoga or meditation of some sort.

I would make some breakfast smoothies and croissants, wake up the boys, and we would all sit together in bed eating, laughing and looking forward to the day ahead.

We would leisurely get ready and go for a long walk along the beach to a wood where we would find a clearing to relax in for a couple of hours. We would eat a delicious picnic lunch. We would sleep under the sky.

In the afternoon we would browse around the local seaside shops, buying silly presents and postcards for our family. We would spend the rest of the afternoon building sandcastles, paddling in the sea and looking for crabs along the beach.

In the evening we would cosy up around a barbecue of delicious seafood, listen to some live folk music and meet new friends for an evening of good conversation and more laughter.

Bedtime would beckon early and we would all reminisce on what was the perfect day.

Today was far for perfect as I was made redundant. I knew it was coming but I feel pretty crushed. I know worse things can happen but it has rocked the world as I know it. I know things will be better soon, and 'when one door closes, another door opens'...

When I feel sad, cooking sorts me out so off I trotted to the kitchen, Little M on my hip, to make meat pilaff. I browned off some onion in vegetable oil and added coriander and cumin seeds along with dried thyme. To this I added basmati rice, chicken stock and left to simmer for 15 minutes. Cooked turkey was my choice of shredded meat to be added to the pot, followed by pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, coriander, parsley and seasoning (I figured the 'super foods' pomegranate and turkey would sort me out)! I then decanted to two bowls and we ate heartily. Very comforting food on a far-from-perfect day.

I have a couple of other tricks up my sleeve for the weekend aided by Dr Nigella so will be back soon.

Later peeps.

Goddess Mx

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Precious Paella

Around six months after Master M and I got together at university, we had an insane moment when we decided that even though we were totally skint students, it would be an ace idea to go on holiday to Tenerife. It was a brilliant holiday that holds dear memories for me. We slept all day, went out all night and drank cocktails that were too strong. Twenty years old and not a worry in the world. One of the bits I remember most about the holiday was a special meal we went for towards the end, when we pushed the boat out and ordered an extra nice bottle of wine and a seafood paella. I have mentioned before that I am not great eating food with bones, and nor am I fantastic with deshelling shellfish (although I am miles better now than ever before). I was horrified when our paella arrived topped with shellfish above the normal size, reaching out over the plate at me. At the time we had a laugh about it and went on to enjoy the treat. After the holiday, Master M took a shining to calling me 'precious paella' (don't know why) and this stuck for many years! So it was with a smile on my face that I decided to make Nigella's pantry paella.

The idea with pantry paella is that you are supposed to use odds and ends that you have lying around your kitchen. I had some of the ingredients but bought others, including pork to cook and leave to cool, as if I was using it as 'leftovers'. Amusing. I heated some oloroso sherry (or cream sherry to you and I) together with some saffron threads and left to cool. I then fried off some sliced spring onions and garlic in olive oil. Next I added arborio rice, a bag of frozen mixed seafood, peas and the pork. Chicken stock and the cooled sherry mixture were poured into the wok and the whole concoction was left to simmer for twenty minutes. The dish was garnished with lemon wedges and coriander, with a little sea salt. I had never made a paella previously, but the ease at which I made this surprised me. I did think the end result was more like risotto than paella, but next time I would leave it to dry out a little more. It did taste delicious nevertheless. Like holiday dinner at a nice harbour somewhere.

Today we visited some friends that we don't get to see enough of, so at Master M's suggestion, I made up some choc chip cookies. These were easy to make too - melted butter mixed with a combo of soft light brown sugar/caster sugar, vanilla extract, egg, flour, bicarbonate of soda and milk chocolate chips. I used an icecream scoop to produce blobs of the dough onto a greased baking tray and baked. The result was a yummy smelling house, and a tin of yummies to take over to friends to be consumed with a nice cuppa. And more for later!

I was honoured to receive a Stylish Blogger Award from Yummy Chunklet - check out her blog, it is full of fabulous food and I am hooked on reading it.

There are four rules to taking part - thank and link to the blogger who nominated you; share seven things about yourself; award 15 new bloggers, and tell them you have done it. I will be passing the baton to:


I have enjoyed reading lots of Stylish Blogger Awards on other blogs and am pleased to take part. The tricky part was thinking about what to write! Here is my best shot:

1. My maiden name was Livingstone and I grew up in a town called Livingston.

2. As a child I was an avid fan of all Australian soaps, especially Neighbours. So it was to my delight that my friend's dad was UK agent to the actors/actresses from Neighbours, as it meant that the likes of Jason Donovan and Natalie Imbruglia were often in our street.

3. I love music, but my all-time favourite band has to be The Levellers. I have seen this epic band so many times that I have lost count. One night when I was watching TV, my sister called to say that she, my two brothers and dad were backstage with the Levs as they had supported my brother's friend's band The Complete Stone Roses. The phone was passed to me so that I could have a chat with the band. I can't remember what I said but I think it was along the lines of 'I really loooove your music' (how corny)?

4. When I was twelve I ran away to Inverness, a three hour journey from home with only a pound in my purse for school lunch. My friend had genuine reasons to flee home, but I just went along for the ride. I liked a bit of excitement and apologise now for being a source of constant worry for my lovely parents (can I just add that we were delivered home by midnight on the same day we left).

5. My family are like the Von Trapps. They can all sing, my mum plays the violin and my brothers are keen guitarists. My brother Martin Livingstone has put his whole heart and soul into promoting his brilliant music - please take a look (sorry for the plug)! I play the saxophone (this has lapsed for quite some time) but sing badly.

6. I am a slave to advertising and have to try the latest fad. I get anxious if I have not yet tried a new chocolate bar, e.g Aero have an 'bubbly lamb' which I am itching to sample!

7. I would say I am an average looking gal, but I have modelled once. When I was seventeen and working at the local golf club, an entrepreneurial colleague asked me if I would model pyjamas that she had designed to be sold at upmarket department store Jenners in Edinburgh. I don't think I have ever been as flattered in my life. I very much enjoyed working with a gorgeous male model, and there was a life-size cardboard cut-out of me in Jenners for quite sometime, although the brand never took off (hopefully nothing to do with me)!

Until next time.

Goddess Mx

Sunday, 6 February 2011

A girlie night in and a very chocolately cake

Last night Master M was out on the town, so I had the pleasure of my own company and Take That's Circus DVD. All I needed to add was a nice cosy dinner and some good red wine. Dinner was smoked haddock, an egg, tomato, parsley and frozen peas poached in milk (in a buttered dish) and sprinkled with oodles of pepper. I bought some nice white slice-your-own white bread to accompany my meal and buttered generously. I did find that I had to decant the fish, egg and tomato into another dish as the 'fishy milk' put me off a bit.

Today my mother-in-law came for a visit and we had lunch at Pizza Express, followed by some research at the Early Learning Centre on kitchens for Little M. I am a teensy bit smug about this as I have been trying to persuade Master M for quite a while that we should buy a tea-set/kettle/toaster/kitchen and now he is finally coming around to the concept. The thing is, once the idea is there, my hubby really throws himself into finding the best on the market. Maybe we have a little cook/chef in the making with our son...

We had some lovely flourless chocolate lime cake at home which was made up of melted dark chocolate mixed with caster sugar, unsalted butter, a lot of eggs, ground almonds, cocoa powder and lime (zest/juice). The cake was then baked for 35 minutes and was dusted with icing sugar. We then all devoured a slice each leaving enough for MIL to take some away and to stash in a tin for a treat tomorrow and the next day. Waste not want not...

Feeling weary about the week ahead due to some work uncertainties, but will continue to cheer myself up with my family and cooking away the blues in my kitchen!

Goddess Mx

Saturday, 5 February 2011

A world made of chocolate

I often wonder what it would be like if the world was made of chocolate. I am not kidding, that is how much I adore the stuff. I love the Lynx advert when the guy walking down the road is made of chocolate. Now that is the kind of man I like - I don't wonder why he is eaten in the cinema, gets his bum bitten on the bus and has his arm ripped off. Hansel and Gretel was also one of my favourite books, probably because it gave me an excuse to daydream about a house made of sweets and chocolate.

It was no contest when Maison Cupcake challenged us with the latest Forever Nigella to 'Seduce with Chocolate'. Chocolate brownie bowls are not brownies as you know them. They are not gooey but more sponge-like so that they can hold whichever filling you wish to load them with. In Kitchen, Nigella strongly advocates using a special 6-Cavity Dessert Shell Pan. She does also say that you can use Yorkshire pudding tins instead, which I did (I do live in Leeds after all). My brownie bowls were actually saucers which I prefer as I was able to fill more ice-cream into mine!

I added horlicks, cocoa powder and boiling water to melted butter mixed with sugar. To the mix I poured in some yoghurt, flour, bicarbonate of soda, egg and vanilla and whisked up. The mixture was then poured into a couple of Yorkshire tins and oven-baked for just over ten minutes, pressing down on them with a teacup to get the 'saucer' effect, and voila, perfect little holders for a never-ending list of fillings. My choice du jour was good quality vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce.

The great thing about these puddings is that they can seduce just about anyone with chocolate because the bowls are not rich so you can really go to town with the topping. Master M reckoned they would be good with poached pear or stewed apple, and even suggested a Black Forest brownie bowl (eighties chic)! Nigella's dried cherries soaked in cherry brandy (from her Christmas book) would work a treat for this. I like 'death by chocolate' so would go for choc ice-cream, sauce, sprinkles and might even add a cheeky flake.

One last fab thing about these bowls is that you can make up a batch and freeze them to seduce yourself whenever you have the urge. Now if you will excuse me, I have a date with a brownie saucer...

Goddess Mx

Thursday, 3 February 2011

A little slice of Carribean magic

I first tried jerk chicken with rice and peas at Leeds West Indian Carnival a couple of years ago. I liked the rice but struggled with the chicken, probably because I am a bit of a baby with bones. I do however love the concept, especially all of the different flavourings, and who can argue with chicken dowsed in rum?? Last night I made Nigella's version and was glad I did.

Nigella suggests using chicken breasts with the peg bone still in, but I couldn't source these so just went for the regular bone-free option. These are marinaded in a long list of spices and other ingredients which I whizzed up in the food processor, namely:

dried thyme
cayenne pepper
ground ginger
ground nutmeg
ground cinnamon
garlic cloves
root ginger
muscovado sugar
dark rum
lime juice
soy sauce
cider vinegar
whole (yup hot!) red chillies

The chicken was then cooked in the oven for an hour in total until it looks worryingly charcoaled on the outside.

For the accompanying rice and peas, I fried off some chopped onion in vegetable oil, added chopped red chilli, garlic, long grain rice, coconut milk, stock, kidney beans and let simmer for 15 minutes. To serve I added some thyme and seasoned a little with salt.

All-in-all a pretty decent dinner for a Wednesday, but very spicy so is not for those who can't handle a bit of heat. The chicken wasn't tender inside but I'm not sure it is intended to be. All that was missing was a can of Red Stripe, some live louder-than-loud music, dancing and a procession of colours.

Looking forward to this year's event. It is second only to the Notting Hill Carnival which to me says it is pretty special, and something that we Yorkshire folks should be shouting about!

Goddess Mx