Thursday, 28 January 2010

Sweets for my sweet....

If you grow fruit and vegetables like I do, the kitchen gadget you must love the most has to be a freezer. This week I was burrowing through the frozen bags of bread and herbs and found a plastic bag of frozen blackberries and raspberries from the autumn...result!

They had over frozen a bit and had shrunk to the size of large pea. My other half has dutifully put up with stir fries and low fat pizzas, steamed fish and a definite lack of fish and chips over the last few weeks. So I decided to bake him some muffins for when he got home....

Winter fruit and white chocolate muffins......(makes 12 big ones and 12 mini muffins)

700g self raising flour
400g demerara sugar
1 heaped tbsp baking powder
1 heaped tbsp bicarbonate of soda
150g white chocolate
150g winter fruits (I used raspberries and blackberries)
250ml vegetable oil
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 200'c. Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs and oil.

Add to the dry mix with the fruit and slowly and carefully mix together. Do not beat. As soon as it becomes mixed...stop.

Spray your muffin tins with spray oil or line with muffin cases. Pop a big spoonful of the mix in each case.

Bake in the oven for 20minutes. The white chocolate will go all caramelly and delicious.

Eat warm. The best thing about this muffin mix is you can pop it in the fridge and use it when you want (within a couple of days). So it is perfect to make on a Saturday and bake earlier for a Sunday breakfast...

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

A load of pollacks....

I've never been very daring at the fish counter. Stop. Before you say "but you come from an island" actually we never ate fish at home. In fact the first time I was forced to eat fish was at a very posh meal I had to go to when I was eighteen. I remember looking down at the starter of avocado and prawn mousse and I thought What. The. Hell. Is. That?

I focused my mind and swallowed each mouthful one teaspoon at a time until the person sitting opposite me whispered "You hated that didn't you?"

I vowed then I would have to train myself to like prawns so if I ever was in a situation like that again I would get through it (minus the grimace!)

Now I love prawns and avocados and I've added a few other fish dishes into my diet. In fact apart from shellfish I think there are very few I don't like.

Pollacky Pasta Sauce.....(serves 2)

2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 small onion
2 sticks celery
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp mixed dried herbs
1 handful fresh basil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
200g chopped pollack
100g chopped fresh fish (I used smoked haddock and salmon)

Finely chop the onion, garlic and celery and cook over a low heat. When the have softened add all other ingredients apart from the fish and basil. Leave to boil on the low heat for 20 to 30 minutes stirring occasionally.

Add the fish and stir into the sauce carefully. Leave to simmer for a further 10 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Stir through the basil.

Serve with pasta with some grated Parmesan over the top if you wish.

I made twice as much sauce so I had some extra to freeze and use for pasta another day.

PS. Pollack is great for a sauce like this because it holds its shape so well so you get nice big steamed chunks instead of it falling apart.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Sunday bread

There's something hypnotic about Sundays for me. As soon as I hear the Archers theme tune I'm transported back fifteen years, sitting at the kitchen table at home, mum making roast, me doing homework. It's immensely comforting that every Sunday I'm taken back to Scilly, to my family and to my home. Sunday is such a special day. It's about spending time with your loved ones. I like to focus my favourite foods around Sundays; roasts, pub lunches, heartwarming puddings and most importantly Sunday breakfast. Sunday is a no cereal or toast day. It's a day where you put thought into what you eat. This morning it's all about a slice of warm bread straight from the oven (and one of yesterday's skinny banana muffins!)

Two types of bread: Chocolate and Hazelnut Loaf and Fennel and Sultana Fougasse.....

Now this recipes makes 4 small loves of bread. I planned to halve the recipe, then decided not to, then forgot and split the dough in half, so it made two enormous loaves. Hopefully the pictures won't put you off!

1 kg strong white bread flour
1 dtsp salt
1 dtsp caster sugar
10g dried yeast (I know this is annoying because most sachets are 7g...sorry!)
about 500ml of tepid water

(for flavours)
2oz chocolate
2tbsp chopped toasted hazelnuts
1 dtsp fennel seeds
1 small handful sultanas.

Put the dry ingredients into a bowl

Add half of the tepid water and bring it together with a metal spoon. Keep adding a bit more at a time until it comes together in a ball. (If you need more water as I do sometimes just add a bit more).

Shake some flour on the work surface but not too much you can always add more and you don't want to dry out the dough.

The mistake I made about kneading in the past is that I bashed the dough really hard, treating it like a punch bag. When I went on a bread making course the leader said you should think about dough as something very delicate and you have to treat it with respect and care. So start to kneed it carefully and slowly for 15 minutes. I always watch the time, otherwise I convince myself after 3 minutes that I've definitely done 15!

You should see a big difference in the dough by now. It should be shiny and softer.

Pop it back in your mixing bowl and leave it somewhere for 1 hour. It should double in size.

Then take it out of the bowl and back on your floured surface. Very carefully give it two or three kneads to knock out a bit of air. Now add your flavours. Split the dough into four pieces (not two idiot!). On a work surface chop up the chocolate and sprinkle the nuts over it. Place your dough over the top and work the chocolate and nuts into it. Fold it into a circular shape and pop onto a lined baking tray.

Take another piece of dough and work in the fennel seeds and sultanas. Note: I didn't actually do this, but next time I would crush the fennel seeds a little to bring out more of the flavour. Then foll out the dough so it is much flatter. Make a slit down the middle and then two more either side of the main slit on a diagonal. (This is only to make it pretty make it into a loaf if you wish)

Place it on a baking tray. (The other two bits of dough you can do what you want with....maybe keep them as white bread, or add cumin seeds and dried onion flakes for a savoury bread?) Whatever you chose place them on a lined baking tray and leave somewhere warm for another hour.

Glaze the chocolate loaf with egg and the fougasse with olive oil to give it shine.

Pop the oven to 230'c so it is really hot. Pop the loves in the oven for 10 minutes then turn the oven down to 180'c for another 15 minutes. This will give the bread a really crispy crunch.

Here is the massive fougasse! This is fantastic with a chunk of Cornish yarg or even a thick spread of butter but I just had it on its own!

Here's the chocolate and nut bread. If I was allowed this, I would mash a banana and spread it on top.
Ps this bread freezes really well, so the fougasse I have chopped up into small piece to eat with soup this week.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Muffin top....

Skinny Banana Muffins....(Makes 12)

310g Self raising flour
a pinch of bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
170g demerara sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
50ml sunflower oil
150ml skimmed milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 mashed bananas

My other half declared earlier "I think the bananas might be about to turn". About to? I think they are doing circles. I would normally make banana and chocolate crumble cake or banana loaf with them but the enormously chubby love handles say I've made them once too often.

So I decided to go for a low fat version. With my rough calculations I think these are about 180 cals each...trouble is, when I took them out of the oven they smelt so amazingly good, I ate two!

Sieve all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the vanilla and give it a good mix.

In another bowl mix the egg, milk and oil and mix into a rough batter (this is more of a fold actually with a metal spoon.)

Use spray oil on a muffin tray and put a heaped spoon of the mix in each hole.

Bake for twenty five minutes....then try and stop yourself eating them! (I've had to pop mine in the freezer!)

PS I've lost 11lbs in two weeks, so it's working!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Sweet little thing...

Every year my work holds a Present Aid sale where listeners donate unwanted Christmas Presents and we sell them for charity. I've just come home from manning one of the stalls. It's amazing how generous people but also what people don't want. I've bought home a food processor, a casserole dish, 2 pots of body butter and some kind of stomach exerciser thing!

Remember the stewed plums I made earlier this week. Today I ate them with some yoghurt and it was delicious.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Butchers stew........

I went to the butchers at Callenick after work to try and get some inspiration for dinner. There were two ruby red beef steaks sitting on the marble slab and I realised how few stews I have made this winter. Stews are a dieters friend so I made this boozy little number...

Beef and Rattler Stew.....(Serves 4 or one girl and one hungry man!)

500g stewing steak
3 celery sticks
4 carrots
2 small red onions
2 cloves garlic
5oz mini chestnut mushrooms
3/4 pt beef stock
A few splashes of worcestershire sauce
3/4 pint Rattler cider
1 heaped tbsp plain flour

Trim off all the extra fat from the beef. Chop into pieces the size of 50p pieces. The beef I bought was so amazingly tender, it was like slicing butter. Spray a pan with olive oil and add the chopped celery, onions and garlic. Lower the heat and soften the vegetables. Turn the heat up and add the beef. Brown it.

Once it has a lovely brown colour, add the stock, cider, worcestershire sauce and carrots and boil for 2 minutes. Sieve in the flour and give it a good stir. Now you can either pop it in a casserole dish in a 150'c oven for one hour or place a baking tray on top of the saucepan and pop it in the oven. I don't have a casserole dish so had to make do.

After an hour take out of the oven and serve with brown rice and cabbage. Yum.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Plum pudding....

Cornwall feels a bit like Narnia this morning. The white witch has been defeated and the snow is beginning to melt. Shoots of grass have started peering out of the blanket of snow like a sleepy teenager fighting dawn. Crocus' have even nervously started to glimpse at the winter sunshine wondering whether it is safe to come out yet.

It's a bit like my insomnia. I feel like I am finally starting to see the sunshine again after two long years of frosty sleepless nights. The acupuncture has been amazing leaving me with just one restless night a week. And it's had a massive impact on my decision to lose three stone this year. I'm moving more. Eating less. Appreciating food more.

Baked Plums with Custard Marscapone (although I have them with low fat vanilla yogurt!) Serves 2

4 plums
2 heaped tbsp brown sugar
125g marscapone
1 egg (separated)
1 vanilla pod
1 tbsp caster sugar

Pre heat the oven to 180'c. Slice the plums and remove the stones....(why is this so difficult? Plums seem desperate to cling on to their stones!)

Place in a baking tray and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Take the egg yolk and in a small dish whisk with sugar until light yellow. In another bowl whisk the egg white until firm. In ANOTHER bowl (sorry washing up haters) put the marscapone. Mix in the seeds of the vanilla pod and egg the egg yolk. Mix together. Add half the egg white and fold in with a metal spoon. (Throw the other half away). Take the plums out of the oven and serve with the marscapone custard.
I still had loads of plums left so I popped them in a saucepan with 4 tbsp water and 1 tbsp sugar. Bring to the boil and pop in a bowl in the fridge. Serve with yogurt or any left over marscapone.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

A winter salad to alleviate the snow blues....

We've been up since dawn, noses pressed against the window, hoping it will snow like this again....

Remember you can see loads of Cornwall in the snow pictures here including an aerial video of snowy Cornwall.

Although we should be eating hearty stews and shepherds pies I wanted a salad last night. A warm, comforting salad as crisp as the ice underfoot. Next winter I'm going to try and have a steady stream of salad from the garden.

Chicken and Ratatouille Salad (serves 2)

1 bag of mixed salad leaves
1 handful basil leaves
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 handful cherry tomatoes
1 red onion
2 courgettes
2 handfuls penne pasta
1 handful green olives
2 chicken breasts
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
1 pinch sugar
salt and pepper

Put the mixed salad leaves in a bowl. Chop the onion, courgettes, peppers and tomatoes and place in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in a 180'c oven for 20 minutes or until slightly charred. (I cheated because I had a glut in the summer and had roasted a frozen loads of vegetables, so I just popped them in the oven to defrost them)

Rip up the basil and chop the olives roughly and add them to the salad leaves.
Pop the penne pasta in boiling water and boil for 5 minutes or until soft.
Roll the chicken breasts with a rolling pin to make them thinner and cook them on a griddle for 7 minutes on each side.

Slice the chicken into strips. In a bowl mix 2 parts olive oil to 2 parts balsamic vinegar and mix. Add the sugar and salt and pepper.
Add the roasted vegetables and warm pasta to the leaves and with your hands mix in the dressing. Place a good sized pile on each plate and top with the chicken and a few more basil leaves.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Homeward bound....

I've read a lot on other people's blogs about the excitement of sitting around the radio waiting to hear whether their school has been closed. This week I've been on the other side. I'm the one taking the hundreds of calls and emails, writing the lists, making sure they are correct....while producing a breakfast programme at the same time.

I've felt a bit like these ponies battling the snow in Davidstow. (All these photos are from here)

The moment when you pick up the phone to find out the Met Office has issued a severe weather warning of heavy snow about to know it's just can't see it yet.....Then it comes. Disruption. Everything comes to a halt. Every light flashes on your phone screen.

Then the programme finishes. I stand outside the gates of the radio station and watch everyone playing on what is normally a busy roundabout. Sledging down the banks. One boy threw a snowball at a policeman. The policeman just laughed. A two year old wobbled along the road, wrapped up in twenty layers, and threw a tiny snowball at me as I leant against the wall....

I've had to stay in Truro for the last three nights. But it has been so much fun walking into work together in the early hours of the morning, crunching through the snow, with only a few slippery cars for company. But now I'm home....

Ready to take it all again on Sunday.....this is what the other half got up to in the snow. Strange boy.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Award Wednesday!

I'm so excited about receiving a blogging award from Cooking at Marystow.

I'm so excited. Especially when it's so cold and snowy down here.

I'm staying in Truro tonight for a second night so I can get into work for 4am tomorrow!
If you want to take part in this blogging award you can! Just follow the instructions.
1. Copy the award image into a post.
2. Then list 10 things that make you happy
3. Tag 10 bloggers who brighten your day
4. Put in a link to their blogs
5. Notify the award receivers
6. Award recipients must link back to sender's blog
Ten things that make me happy...(in no order)
1. My lovely family
2. Standing on the top of Samson Hill on Bryher, breathing in a massive gulp of fresh air fresh of the Atlantic
3. Crumpets and poached eggs
4. School friends that know you better than you do
5. A good night sleep
6. My job and my work friends
7. Fancy hotels with jacuzzi bubbles
8. A kiss from my other half
9. A hedgehog ice cream with my toes in the sand
10. Planning a holiday and imagining myself 2 stone thinner!
Ten blogs that brighten my day....

Monday, 4 January 2010

Skinny dipping....

I know that most people dread going back to work after Christmas but I've got a secret. Sssssshhhh.... I'm glad to be back. I like the routine of getting up at the same time, coming home at the same time. I like seeing my work friends again....

And in the same way I like getting back to normal foodwise. I like fruit and yoghurts instead of biscuits and chocolate coins. But before I tell you about my new healthy eating regime, here's what I did on Sunday.....

On Scilly we don't have any real woodland so I'm fascinated by them. Intrigued by the creepiness and the way the plants engulf everything around them.

We went to Tehidy Woods on the North Coast......

It was such a lovely day. Despite that we only saw one other couple...

I got completely disorientated. Luckily my other half has inbuilt GPS!

Then we jumped back in the car and drove 5 minutes up the road to the coast....this looks up to Perranporth and Padstow.

Anyway back to the healthy eating. I'm sure many of you are trying to think of ways to cut down on calories so over the next few weeks I'm just going to be blogging low fat, low calorie meals.
But I promise you one thing, they will be yummy! So it's goodbye Christmas sandwiches (farewell festive ham) and hello poached eggs and marmite on crumpets....

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Promise I made, starting to fade....

New Year is all about promises. Promises to eat more healthily, be nicer to your family, save money, read more books. But it's also about broken promises. Eating Eggs Benedict for breakfast when it was supposed to be blueberries. Sulking with your boyfriend because he just washing the whites with our Christmas red tablecloth.

I also promised to blog about the food I made for our new years eve party. But I drank several bottles of wine and didn't take any photos.

So I will just give you the recipe for the Stilton and Leek Tart. Imagine crispy, buttery pastry with gooey, green creamy leeks spill over the top.'s what the party looked like.

Stilton and Leek Tart (serves about 8 people)

1x340g block shortcrust pastry

Spray oil

3 leeks

2 onions

a knob of butter

1/2 pt double cream

3 eggs

50z Stilton

2oz Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200'c. Roll out the pastry into a large circle. Spray a large flan tin with oil and place the pastry over the top. Push the pastry into the fold, letting some over hang. Roll your rolling pin over the top and it will cut off most of the overhanging pastry leaving you with a neat edge. Get a fork and prick the pastry base. Place a piece of grease proof paper over the top and fill with baking beans or lentils. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes so it cooks through. Then remove the paper and lentils (carefully...mine went everywhere) and pop back in the oven for 5 minutes to brown a little.

Melt the butter in a large pan and add the finely sliced leeks and onions. Over a medium heat fry them for 15 minutes or so, every now and again giving them a stir so they don't catch. Leave the cool somewhere.

In a bowl whisk the eggs and the cream, 3oz of the Stilton and 1oz of the Parmesan. Add to the leeks and mix through. Pour into the pastry case and bake for 30 minutes or until the top has browned and it looks as if the egg mix has set.

Serve warm, cold or at room temperature with pickles, chutneys and salad. (Do not do as I did and serve it with several bottles of wine.)