book review, cookalong, Cookbooks, Cookery Classes, Food, Recipes

Cookbook Cookalong No. 7 – Chinese Takeaway Cookbook

Let me start by saying that I’m not the world’s greatest fan of Chinese takeaways – gloopy sauces and MSG just don’t do it for me! But a few weeks ago this book seemed to all over social media so of course I had to order it (easily lead, me, never! 🤣) and I thought it would be perfect for my Friday Facebook Cookalong

Cover - Chinese Takeaway Cookbook

The first recipe I tried (pre the cookalong) was Drunken King Prawns with Mixed Vegetables (p. 76) . I had to make a few substitutions with the vegetables but all the other ingredients were pantry staples. The finished dish looked great and tasted ok but I just felt it lacked a certain wow factor.

I couldn’t judge a book on one recipe so I decided to wait til after the cookalong to give my verdict.

So what did I cook:

The dish that topped my facebook poll was Shredded Crispy Chilli Beef (p.91) – a dish I have to admit I had neither ordered or made. It’s not a cheap dish to make as you need fillet steak – I used Island Farm Foods steaks from my freezer.
Earlier in the day I watched Kowlyn making this dish online- thankfully because he alters the method from the printed recipe – but even still coating and frying the beef got very messy . And from feedback from those of you that cooked along , I know I wasn’t alone in this mess.

To be honest I’m not sure it was worth the effort and it definitely didn’t do justice to a beautiful piece of meat.
If I was to repeat this dish I would make the delicious sauce and simply stir fry the beef in it .

Crispy shredded chilli beef
Crispy Shredded Chili Beef

Next up was Chinese Broccoli in Garlic Sauce (p.115) – now this was a gamechanger ! I’m not a big fan of cooked broccoli but this was crunchy and full of flavour and I’ll definitely be making it again 😉

I used tender-stem broccoli and added in a few lonely green beans from my vegetable drawer.
If you want try this dish for yourself here’s what to do : fry 2 garlic cloves in oil for 15 mins, add the broccoli steams and a sliced onion , cook for 2 mins, then add in broccoli leaves for another minute. Then you add 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine, 2 tbsp oyster sauce, 1/2 tbsp each of dark and light soy sauces, 120 ml vegetable stock (I forgot to add this but I didn’t miss it),1/4 tsp each of salt and white pepper and 1/2 tsp sugar. Bring this to the boil and then thicken the sauce with 1 tbsp cornflour. Drizzle with sesame oil to serve. Enjoy😉

Broccoli in Garlic Sauce

The Egg Fried Rice (p. 129) was also worth doing – I would never have thought of adding oyster sauce to fried rice

Egg Fried Rice

My verdict:

Overall I like this book and there are a few more dishes I want to try. The book is well laid out and I loved all the information about techniques and customs in the introduction. There are timings with every recipe and almost all have pictures.

Do you need to buy it? I’d check out Kwoklyn’s website first as a lot of the dishes are included there – and there’s a free ebook at the moment 😉

All dishes

If you missed my Chinese Takeaway Cookbook Cookalong you can catch up here

Happy Cooking!

Yvonne xx

If you’d like to join the weekly Hey Pesto! cookalong or attend one of my online cookery classes then please click here  for details. 
Special thanks as always to Jeff Harvey for the great food photography

Cookery Classes, Food, radio, Recipes

Start your day the romantic way

We’re all in need of a little spoiling at the moment so for Valentine’s Day why not make an extra special breakfast treat for someone, or indeed for yourself

You might have heard me talking about romantic cooking with Will Faulkner on Midlands 103 during the week. Well as promised, here’s how you can make a delicious romantic breakfast of heart shaped French toast stuffed with chocolate sauce …..

heart toast with white chocolate

To make things easier on yourself I recommend that you make the chocolate spread in advance. Trust me, it’s much better than any well known brand 😉

What you need:

  • 125g cream
  • 35g sugar
  • 75g dark chocolate, chopped or in callets
  • 100g bar hazelnut chocolate, chopped

What you do:

  • To make the spread, heat the cream and the sugar together in a small saucepan. Careful, don’t allow it to boil.
  • Place both chocolates in a bowl and pour the warm cream over it.
  • Whisk until you have a smooth chocolately mix. Allow to cool.

Once your chocolate spread has cooled you’re ready to make the french toast and assemble your dish. You will need:

  • 4 slices bread – preferably brioche
  • 1 egg
  • 75 ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. caster sugar
  • 25 g butter
  • Icing sugar
  • Toasted hazelnuts and raspberries to serve

What you do:

  • Whisk the egg, milk, vanilla and sugar together in a wide bowl.
  • Using a heart shaped cutter , cut out the centre of each slice of bread.
    Spread chocolate on two of the slices and then top each with the other pieces ie you will have two sandwiches!
  • Press the edges together to prevent the spread leaking out
  • Dip each of the sandwiches into the egg mixture and allow to sit for a minute on each side to soak up mix.
  • Heat the butter in large frying pan, add the sandwiches and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  • Transfer to your serving plate (s), add raspberries and chopped hazelnuts and sprinkle with icing sugar .

Your romantic breakfast is now ready to present to the object of your affections….. Enjoy 😘

cutting the toast

Happy Romantic Cooking!

Yvonne xx

If you’d like to join the weekly Hey Pesto! cookalong or attend one of my online cookery classes then please click here  for details. 

Special thanks to Jeff Harvey for the great food photography📷

Cooking, entertaining, radio, Recipes

When Valentines and Pancakes collide

This year Shrove Tuesday is only two days after Valentine’s Day so when the lovely Sinead in Midlands 103 asked would I do some romantic dishes I thought what better than to combine the two in a delicious heart shaped pancake stack ❤

Lemon & blueberry pancake stack aerial view

To make this plate of deliciousness you need lemon curd and it’s so easy to make, trust me.
I use Darina’s recipe and it hasn’t let me down since I first made it in Ballymaloe

Lemon Curd

What you need:

  • 50g butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, beaten together

What you do:

  • In a bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, melt the butter and add the sugar, lemon zest and juice.
  • Whisk in the eggs and continue to whisk until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.
  • Take off heat and allow to cool – it will thicken further.
  • You can keep any leftover curd in the fridge for a week though I doubt if it will last that long 😊

Now you can start to make your pancakes – these are American style and are thicker than our traditional pancakes. Try and make them heart shaped if you can – I used a mould that I bought in Dunnes Stores last year – it was designed for frying eggs but if you know me you’ll know that that’s never going to happen in my kitchen!

Blueberry Pancakes

What you need:

  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bread soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 250 ml buttermilk
  • 1 pink lady apple, grated
  • 100g bluberries and extra for serving …
  • butter or oil for frying

What you do:

  • Mix the flour, bread soda and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, then gradually whisk in the eggs and the buttermilk.
  • Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the grated apples and the blueberries
  • Melt a little butter in a non-stick pan or wipe with sunflower oil.
  • When hot, add small ladles of batter to the pan to make small pancakes (use a mould if you have one)   Cook for 2-3 mins until bubbles appear and the bottoms are set. Flip and cook for a few mins more. 
  • Transfer to a plate and keep warm while you cook the rest of the batter.

To assemble the stack, start with a pancake, cover it with lemon curd and repeat !
Serve with lots of fresh blueberries

pancake stack side view

Don’t forget it’s a sharing stack….

cut pancakes

Happy Cooking!

Yvonne xx

If you’d like to join the weekly Hey Pesto! cookalong or attend one of my online cookery classes then please click here  for details. 

📷Special thanks to Jeff Harvey for the great food photography

book review, cookalong, Cookbooks, Cookery Classes, Healthy Eating

Cookbook Cookalong No. 5 – Persiana

My good friend Derick or @ChefyD as he’s better known is responsible for introducing me to this book . He invited me to a party (anyone remember parties?) way back in 2015 but forgot to mention I’d be working for my supper! He had found this new cookbook he wanted to try so we set to picking out dishes . We had great fun ( he didn’t shout at me that much 🤣) making Cacik ( a delicious cucumber dip) , marinated feta, tomato and pepper dip and lots more – I think we did about 10 recipes in total and they were all delicious. A favourite was born.

Persiana book cover

Since then I have used this book on a regular basis in my kitchen – adapting some of the recipes to suit buffet lunches etc.

I have bought Sabrina’s subsequent books but I have to admit I don’t love them as much and I always go back to Persiana.

So what did I cook for the cookalong ? Firstly it was tough to find dishes I hadn’t tried and then I was delighted that the Bandari Monkfish Tails (p 147) topped the poll (and so was Jason my fishmonger😉) . Despite the list of ingredients this is very simple to make – I blitzed all the marinade ingredients together and then marinated the monkfish for 40 mins.

I started the dish in the pan as per instructions but I finished mine off in the oven.

Monkfish tails
Brandari Monkfish Tails
Cutting the fish
The colours were so vibrant and inviting, I couldn’t wait to taste it

The book recommends serving the monkfish with a Shirazi Salad (p 178) and I would too!
Again the colours and the flavours were so vibrant – perfect for a miserable February evening

shirazi salad bowl
Shirazi Salad

I wanted to serve freekeh with the fish but couldn’t find a suitable recipe for it in the book so I made a pilaf with red pepper and pomegranate. Have to say I was very pleased with how it worked out 😊

freekeh pilaf with pomegranate in blue bowl
Freekeh Pilaf

My verdict : Do you have to ask ?? Everyone should have this book in their library !

And I have to thank @ChefyD for both introducing me to the book and for gifting me his original copy xx

You can catch up on the Cookbook Cookalong here

Happy Cooking!

Yvonne xx

If you’d like to join the weekly Hey Pesto! cookalong or attend one of my online cookery classes then please click here  for details. 
📷Special thanks to Jeff Harvey for the great food photography
book review, cookalong, Cookbooks

Cookbook Cookalong No. 3 – Cook Now Eat Later

What can you say about the institution that is Mary Berry ? She always reminds me of my late grandmother – I think it’s the white hair and the aga – but whatever it is you just know that you can trust her and that she’ll hep you in the kitchen. I mean look what happened when she left the bake-off , we were all devastated!

I also feel a certain affinity with her as she once travelled around demonstrating electric ovens . Wonder when I’ll ever get back to doing that ?

Book cover

This book is no exception and it lays out very clearly all you need to prepare and cook ahead. Each recipe has a side bar detailing what you can prep ahead, how to freeze ( if applicable) and how to cook in the aga ( which could be adapted to a slow cooker).
The recipes are comforting – just what we expect Mary to cook for us 🤗
What did I cook ? The Italian Chicken with Olives and Tomato topped the facebook group poll so that was what I cooked , And I have to say I was much more impressed with the finished dish than I thought I would be !
I was unable to get olives stuffed with anchovies so I used pimiento stuffed olives (I left them whole) and added in some chopped anchovies. These definitely added to the flavour and I’ll be adding them to more dishes in future.

Chicken with olives and tomato
Italian Chicken
Roast green beans
roast green beans with Parmesan crust

I served the chicken with green beans and potato wedges. Rather than boiling or steaming the beans I roasted them with lemony Parmesan breadcrumbs and they were delicious. I used a mix of white and purple potatoes both for taste and colour .

purple and white potatoes
purple & white potatoes

Altogether it was a great meal 😍

The one dish that I had hoped would top the poll was the stir-fried vegetable lasagne – I’m going to have to satisfy my curiosity and make it for myself!
I love Mary Berry’s desserts and my favourites from this book are the Raspberry Frangipane Tarts (p. 208) and Divine Lemon Pots (p 219) . I’ve been using the lemon pots on my catering menu for years and they always go down well.

You can find lots of the recipes on her website

My verdict : There are some lovely recipes in this book – most of them comforting and familiar but I don’t think it’s an essential for your library .

If you missed the cookalong you can catch up here

Happy Cooking!

Yvonne xx

If you’d like to join the weekly Hey Pesto! cookalong or attend one of my online cookery classes then please click here  for details. 

📷Special thanks to Jeff Harvey for the great food photography

book review, cookalong, Cookbooks, Healthy Eating

Cookbook Cookalong No. 4 – A Change of Appetite

There used to be an ad with the tagline ‘there’s both eating and drinking in it’ ( I think it was for soup) . That’s how I feel about Diana Henry’s books – they’re a collection of food stories rather than just recipes.
I have four of her books in my library – and another on my wishlist. It was hard to choose just one but I felt the subtitle of ‘where healthy meets delicious’ suited where we all are at the moment.

In the introduction, Diana outlines her attitude to healthy eating and I felt like I had found a kindred spirit – The phrase ‘deprivation is not on the menu’ is my new mantra . She also says that the main thing you can do for good health is to eat proper home cooked food, limit anything processed, keep an eye on refined carbs, switch to wholegrain for at least some meals and up your vegetable intake. You won’t get any arguments from me.

So what did I cook? I’m very interested to learn more about Japanese cooking so I picked two dishes from her Spring section ( the book is divided into 4 seasons) – teriyaki salmon (p.60) and Japanese ginger and garlic chicken (p.63) both with interesting sides .

My store cupboard didn’t stretch to all the ingredients and shopping outside my local area isn’t on the cards so I made a few substitutions – red miso instead of brown , ordinary pickled ginger instead of pink and ponzu instead of mirin . I’m also intrigued to try shisho leaves and will be keeping an eye out for them – but on the day I used mint leaves as recommended. The recipe uses chicken thighs but I used chicken fillets as I had some in the fridge .

Japanese chicken
Japanese ginger and garlic chicken with smashed cucumber

I loved everything about the two dishes, even with the substitutions. The recommended sides – smashed cucumber with the chicken and pickled vegetables with the salmon – were also delicious. Clean eating at it’s best!

teriyaki salmon with pickled vegetables

Diana Henry is the food writer for the Telegraph – and the chicken recipe is here but it is now a subscription website. You’ll find the recipe for the salmon is here .

I recommend following her on instagram @dianahenryfood where she posts delicious daily recipes.

My verdict : I’ll be trying lots more from this book and I think you should have it on your bookshelf – even if there aren’t pictures for every recipe 😊

If you missed the cookalong you can catch up here

Happy Cooking!

Yvonne xx

If you’d like to join the weekly Hey Pesto! cookalong or attend one of my online cookery classes then please click here  for details. 

📷Special thanks to Jeff Harvey for the great food photography