book review, cookalong, Cookbooks, Cookery Classes, Cooking, entertaining, family meals, Food, Healthy Eating, Recipes

Cookbook Cookalong No. 11 – Simple

Let me start by confessing that I’m a big fan of Ottolenghi – I use a lot of his recipes in my kitchen. I borrowed Jerusalem from a friend a few years ago ( I gave it back, honestly!) and tried lots of recipes from it. As a result Lamb shawarma became a favourite on my buffet menu along with a version of his chicken with freekeh .

I bought Simple about 2 years ago but had only cooked one dish from it before this week – I think because the ingredient lists were shorter than his norm I kind of treated it as ‘Ottolenghi Light’ adn pushed it to the back of the shelf. Having rescued it for this week’s cookalong I’m going to try a few more recipes from it

Simple Book cover

So what did I cook:

The dish that topped my Facebook poll was Bridget Jones’ pan-fried salmon with pine nut salsa (p.246) . Apparently this dish was introduced after it was in Bridget Jones’ Baby – the salmon was delicious – the timings were spot on and the salsa was almost perfect. Almost. I’m not against dried fruit in savoury dishes – I grew up with sultanas in curries. I just don’t think the currants added anything to this dish and next time I make it they will not be included. Also I’m going to take on board a suggestion from Sinead and use black olives instead of green for colour.

salmon with salsa
Salmon with Pine Nut Salsa
Pine nut salsa
Salsa

I also made the Cauliflower ‘tabbouleh’ (p.46). I love tabbouleh but am still on the fence about the use of cauliflower as a grain substitute so I was interested to see how this dish would work. And even with the allspice, it did😊 . I can see this becoming a regular here over the summer months – with lots of fresh herbs from my garden ( if I win the slug battle 🤞 ). It will complement the barbeque perfectly.

Cauliflower Tabbouleh

My verdict:

I feel like I should apologise to this book for ignoring it for so long (what do you mean – of course books have feelings). This week I also tried the roasted asparagus with almonds, capers and dill – yum! Next on my list is the ciabatta fritatta. However if you are buying your first Ottolenghi book I’d say have a look at Jerusalem or Plenty . Also check out Ottolenghi’s recipes and articles online. You’ll find the salmon recipe here and the cauliflower one here (along with a few more interesting ideas)

Dinner is served

If you missed my Simple Cookalong you can catch up here


The Friday Cookbook Cookalong happens every Friday at 6.30 pm on my facebook page – why not drop by and say hello – we’re a friendly bunch 😊

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 📷

book review, cookalong, Cookbooks, Cookery Classes, Cooking, entertaining, family meals, Food, Recipes

Cookbook Cookalong No. 10 – Mexican Food Made Simple

Can you believe it’s been a year since life as we knew it stopped? Little did I think that when I started the Hey Pesto Cookalong Group last year that we would still be sharing our kitchens virtually 12 months later. We’re almost at 500 members ( come on we only need 8 more to get there!) and thanks again to those of you that interact regularly and keep me on my toes

This week’s cookbook choice was Thomasina Miers’ ‘Mexican Food Made Simple’ – a book that has been in my collection since July 2011 – if I remember correctly I bought it on a recommendation from my great friend and fellow cook Georgie. There are a few food splattered pages and lots of scribbled notes which attest to the fact it has been well used over the years.
Don’t expect recipes for fajitas like ‘marinate chicken in spice mix and fry’ , her recipes are a lot more involved than that but she does explain things very well – salsas, making your tortillas, how to fold a burrito etc are explained with step by step instructions with pictures 😊

book cover

In advance of the cookalong, I did an online shop with Picado Mexican and huge thanks are due to Lily for ensuring my order arrived in time. I have lots of lovely new ingredients to play with 😉

If you decide to try recipes from this week’s book then may I recommend you stock up on authentic Mexican ingredients from Lily & Alan’s online shop.
If you’re in Tullamore you will also find some ingredients at Bia Cantina‘s stall in Tullamore Food Fayre – Conor sells ready tortilla dough for you to roll out and cook at home and if you follow my insta stories you’ll know that I’m a fan of his homemade crisps

So what did I cook:

The dish that topped my Facebook poll was Steak Burritos (p.117) . I love dishes like this with lotTs of salsas and side ‘bits and bobs’ so I was happy with the group choice. The recipe looks for skirt steak which I was unable to get so I opted for striploin from my local farmshop instead. In hindsight rather than cutting this into thin slices and marinating it I might have been better to leave the steaks whole and slice them after cooking as I felt I didn’t get enough flavour from the pieces.

The charred spring onions on the other hand, were very more-ish , I recommend cooking twice as many as you think you’ll need!

beef in bowl
Steak Bowl

This dish is the sum of a number of parts- the beef, the tortillas, the beans, the rice, the salsa and the add-ons such as the avocado, creme fraiche and cheese. Ideally I would make everything up , leaving the beef til last, and lay all the dishes out to let everyone help themselves – this is my favourite way of family dining.

I made the Green Rice (p.64), in honour of St. Patrick’s Day, as you do! I’ve made this dish before and love the fresh herb flavours. There’s also a recipe for a delicious red version which uses tomatoes, peas and carrots.

Rice for ST Patrick’s Day!

I cheated on the black beans – I opened a tin, heated them and seasoned with lime juice😉

I did attempt to make my own tortillas (p. 100) but they fell apart. I checked with Conor in the Market this morning and he said my mistake was to roll the dough – he recommends flattening with the base of a pan. I’ll try this and report back.

salsa
Roast Chipotle Salsa

The star of the show for me was the Roast Chipotle Salsa (p. 29) . This was a flavour sensation that I will certainly be making again. You dry roast a quartered red onion, 2 garlic cloves and 4 plum tomatoes in a pan until the tomamotes are blistered and soft . The onions and garlic will roast quicker so remove them from the pan as soon as they are done. Blitz them all together with a chipotles en adobo , lime juice, coriander and salt. Voilá.
There is a recipe in the book for chipotles en adobo but I bought a tin of same – and now I have the perfect excuse to make the salsa again 🤗

To round off any Mexican evening there has to be Margaritas ( despite everyone’s Tequila horror stories!) There is a section in the book on how to make the perfect margarita with a few variations. I made a chili infused sugar syrup and added some to two part tequila to one part cointreau and juice of 1 lime – all topped up with limonata. More diluted than those in the book but hey, I have my tequila story too, but that’s for another time.

Plated burrito
The whole enchilada, so to speak 😉

My verdict:

I like this book and it has a place in my library. If you want to explore Mexican Cooking then I definitely recommend that you buy it too. Otherwise if you’d rather try a few more of her recipes (and the steak burrito) before committing check out this article and her blog .

If you missed my Mexican Food Made Simple you can catch up here
The Friday Cookbook Cookalong happens every Friday at 6.30 pm on my facebook page – why not drop by and say hello – we’re a friendly bunch 😊

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 📷

book review, cookalong, Cookbooks, Cookery Classes, Cooking, desserts, entertaining, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian

Cookbook Cookalong No. 9 – Naturally Vegetarian

One of the positives of the last year is the number of lovely people I have ‘met’ since I started doing my Friday Cookalongs to pass the time during Lockdown . The Hey Pesto Cookalong Group has members who check in regularly from Italy, Scotland, England, Spain, Canada and of course Ireland – they’re like my cooking family
Since I introduced the Cookbook Cookalong in January I’ve been cooking from books in my own library. But I’m always open to suggestions and when Jess, our Canadian ‘ambassador’ was so enthusiastic about ‘Naturally Vegetarian’ I decided to order it .
This may sound over the top but from the minute it arrived I feel in love with the book – the feel, the weight, the layout and most of all the photography – the fact that I have similar serving dishes had nothing to do with it honestly!
I had never heard of the author, Valentina Sofrini, before but on researching her I discovered she is an Italian food photographer who after a move to New York decided to cook the food that she grew up with but with vegetarian emphasis. She returned to Italy to write about a year of seasonal , plant based cooking on her family farm in Gradara. The book is divided into sections on basic recipes, how to make pasta, seasonal menus and traditional pantry items and preserves. I could feel myself being transported to Italy as I read through it ( if only!)

book cover with dishes in foreground

So what did I cook:

The dish that topped my Facebook poll was Fennel Gratin with Saffron & Nuts (p.124) which includes Crumb Topping alla Romagnola (one of the basic recipes p49)

Now I can take or leave fennel – I like it with fish or in a remoulade but I wouldn’t have listed it in my top vegetables. Until last night that is – this gratin is a gamechanger! When I was making the crumb topping I thought it was too garlicky and might over power the dish but it didn’t . The addition of saffron is one I would never have thought of – I normally reserve it for Spanish dishes and I’d never heard of the powdered version .

I could enthuse longer but you’ll just have to try it for yourselves – trim and cut 4 fennel bulbs into wedges ( the recipe says 6 from each bulb but I did quarters – Italian fennel must be bigger!) Steam them for 10 mins and then allow to cool ( I skipped this bit) . Mix a pinch of saffron with 60 ml of olive oil and add in salt, pepper and nutmeg. Toss the fennel with this and the flavoured breadcrumbs, sprinkle over dried marjoram (just realised I forgot this bit , well i didn’t actually have any) , and 40g ground almonds . Bake for 15-20 mins at 200C until top is golden .
PS I used her hint and added grated parmesan 😉

fennel gratin in veg dish
Fennel Gratin

I know the book is Vegetarian and the gratin would stand up as a dish on its own but in my mind fennel should be served with fish and when Jason, my wonderful fishmonger suggested seabass, I was sold . I pan-fried the fillets and served them with a lemony caper butter . It was a match made in heaven with baby potatoes as the bridesmaid!

seabass and fennel on plate
Dinner is served

About an hour before the Cookalong as Jeff was setting up teh cameras I decided we needed to try Chocolate Cake with Pears (p. 92 ) and am I glad I did 🤗 Even though I cheated and used tinned pears (time was of the essence!) this was a big hit – the caramelising them in brown sugar and rum helped. The recipe uses coconut oil, spelt flour, potato starch (I susbtituted cornflour) and yogurt among other ingredients . I may have had two mixers going before we went live but did I mention it was worth it ?

chocolate cake - cutting slice
Chocolate Cake with Pears

My verdict:

Do you have to ask ? Even if I never cooked from it I fell in love this book and I will definitely be trying more recipes from it . If you like Italian flavours, vegetarian dishes, eating in season and food photography then might I suggest you add this book to your library

Cheers

PS It’s only €9.99 in Easons. at the moment …

If you missed my Naturally Vegetarian Cookalong you can catch up here
The Friday Cookbook Cookalong happens every Friday at 6.30 pm on my facebook page – why not drop by and say hello – we’re a friendly bunch 😊

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 📷

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

Cookbook Cookalong No. 8 – Fast, Fresh and Easy Food

Lorraine Pascale appeared on the food scene about 10 years ago as a change to her modelling career. I loved her TV programs and the accompanying books. Her paella recipe is my go to and her lamb shanks slow cooked in Rioja are firm favourite with the Chief Taster. I have tried other recipes from her books and none have disappointed.

I thought one of her books ( of which I have 5 in my library ) would be perfect for my Friday Facebook Cookalong – so I picked Fast, Fresh and Easy Food as I realised I hadn’t actually tried any of the recipes in it.

So what did I cook:

The dish that topped my Facebook poll was Baked jerk chicken with pineapple salsa, coconut rice and beans (p. 98) . Jerk chicken has been on my to try list for a while so this choice suited me plus I wanted to pretend I was relaxing in the Caribbean sun 😎

The book says that the dish takes 40 minutes from start to finish – I talk too much during the cookalong to test this timing but still we did it in an hour!

plated meal - chicken, rice and beans
Dinner is served


To be honest I started to worry about the way the dish was going not long after we started but hey, that’s the gamble I take with the cookbook cookalong 🙄

plate of chicken drumsticks
Jerk Chicken

The chicken turned out okay but I found that the overriding taste was that of allspice. Now I know this is a main constituent of the dish but next time I’ll add scotch bonnet chili rather than the tabasco used in this recipe and I’ll marinate the chicken in advance.

pineapple salsa
Pineapple salsa

I was very sceptical about the cherry tomatoes in the pineapple salsa and I’m still not convinced 😉
Instead may I recommend the pineapple salsa I’ve been using for years :

  • What you need:
  • 1 fresh pineapple, cored & finely diced
  • 1 red chili, deseeded & finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped coriander or mint
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Salt, Tabasco
  • What you do:
  • Mix pineapple, chili, red onion, herbs, lime zest & juice. Add salt & Tabasco to taste.
  • Allow to stand for about 30 mins to allow flavours to develop.
rice and beans
Coconut Rice and Beans

Now it comes to my most disappointing part of the dish – the rice and beans. I ended up adding a lot more liquid than in the recipe to cook the stated amount of rice. I added the lime to try and improve it and as a personal preference I added black beans instead of kidney beans.

My verdict:

Overall I found this dish very disappointing – espevailly as I said, I’ve never had any issues with her other recipes. Hopefully it was just a one off – if I try any more from this book I’ll report back . Thanks to those of you who tried the dish and confirmed my suspicion that the dish would benefit from marinating.

In the book’s favour, it is well laid out a with timings and a picture for every recipe, but if you want to buy one of Lorraine Pascale’s books I would recommend ‘Home Cooking Made Easy‘ over this one.

If you missed my Fast, Fresh and 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 📷

PS I found padron peppers in my local Polish shop last and I cooked this as part of the cookalong – they saved the day ☺

pardron pepperes
Padron Peppers

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📷

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, Cookery Classes, Cooking, Recipes

Cookbook Cookalong No 2 – Half Baked Harvest

I’ve been following the Half Baked Harvest account on Instagram for a number of years – Tieghan’s food photography makes me hungry and her breakfast quesadilla has become a firm favourite here.

Half Baked Harvest Book

I bought the book about 2 years ago but until last week had only tried one recipe from it. I keep taking the book out to look through it and marking recipes to try so last week I put it to the test in my Friday Cookalong .

The book is subtitled ‘Recipes from My Barn in the Mountains’ and it’s bursting with dishes that Tieghan cooks for her family in Colorado and I wouldn’t mind being invited to join them. I love the story that she took over the cooking because she couldn’t cope with the chaos in the family kitchen!

selection of dishes prepped
Selection of Dishes

So what did I cook ? I started with the Gyros with Roasted Garlic Tzatziki and Feta Fries (p. 134) This is a Greek dish with lots of garlic and fresh oregano and I think that’s where I missed out – the oregano in my garden was frostbitten and I couldn’t get any fresh in the supermarket. The dried version just didn’t seem to cut it. The tzatziki was delicious – roasting the garlic certainly added extra flavour.

chicken gyros with roast garlic tzatziki
Gyros with Roasted Garlic Tzatziki

I was so looking forward to the feta fries – I mean what’s not to like about chips and cheese – but I have to admit being slightly disappointed with them 😆. Thankfully one of the ‘cook-a-longers’ tried them and loved them so I will definitely give them another try.

feta fries
Feta Fries

The second dish I tried was Seafood Bánh Mí (p.175) and I fell in love . The Bánh Mí is Vietnamese street food – a layered sandwich in a baguette – a legacy of French colonialism. The recipe includes Chimichurri and if I was to be pedantic I would say that this is an Argentinian rather than Vietnamese dressing. The traditional accompaniment would be something like sriracha sauce (a paste of chili peppers) .

I’m not complaining though – I’m all for fusion food!

banh mi side view
Prawn Bánh Mí

I used prawns instead of white fish and marinated them for a shorter time, then fried them off for a few minutes. I also added jalapenos and pickled radishes to my layered sandwich. The biggest game changer was the curry butter (traditionally the base layer is pate) – the hot prawns made it melt into absolute deliciousness (ok I’ll stop now😋)

banh mi front view
Prawn Bánh Mí

I made another version over the weekend with griddled chicken – and curry butter
Then I used the curry butter to cook chicken, salmon….. It’s become a kitchen staple and it’s so simple – you mix a few tablespoons of curry paste into softened butter and store it in your fridge . Trust me you need this in your life !

My verdict – I will use this book occasionally but it won’t make the favourites shelf 🤔

Instead of buying the book I recommend that you follow the Half Baked Harvest blog for lots of inspiration and recipes from Tieghan’s Barn in the Mountains.

If you missed the cookalong you can watch it back 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. 
Baking, Cookery Classes, Cooking, entertaining, radio, Recipes

Trick or Treat


We can’t do Trick or Treat as normal this year so let’s try and make Halloween at Home special . I know I promised on Midlands 103 this morning that I would post the recipes that we discussed so here’s a rather quick post to give you some inspiration

You’ll also find recipes for a Graveyard Cake and Sammy the Spider on my blog.

halloween treats selection

Halloween Toffee Apples

Makes   4

What you need:

  • 4 apples
  • 4 lollipop sticks or skewers
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • Black food colouring

What to do:

  • Put the sticks into the stalk end of the apples. Put the apples on a baking tray or plate lined with baking parchment
  • Put the sugar into a large saucepan with the lemon juice and 50 ml water. Bring to a simmer and let the sugar dissolve – don’t stir it!
  • Carefully add the golden syrup and let the mixture bubble until it looks like toffee. To test if it’s done take out a little on a spoon and drop it into a cup of cold water – it should harden straight away. If it doesn’t continue to boil for another few minutes and test it again.
  • Add a few drops of food colouring and take the pan off the heat.
  • Dip the apple into the toffee, you may have to tip the pan to cover all the skin. (BE CAREFUL) Let any excess toffee drip off and put on the baking parchment to harden
  • Repeat with the other apples.

Spooky Forest

What you need:

  • For the mousse:
    • 150g marshmallows
    • 50g butter
    • 250g dark chocolate
    • 60ml boiled water
    • 250 ml cream
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • Good splash Cointreau (adults only!)
    • Zest of 1 orange
  • Trees:
    • White chocolate, melted
    • Googly eyes
  • Soil:
    • Blitzed Oreo cookies

What to do:

  • To make the mousse:
    • Put marshmallows, butter and chocolate and water in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted. Add in orange zest.
    • Whip the cream and add vanilla extract and Cointreau
    • Take chocolate mix off heat. Fold cream into chocolate until smooth.
    • Pour into glasses
    • Leave to set in fridge
  • For the trees:
    • Trace some scary trees onto baking parchment (you’ll find lots of templates online). Then melt some white chocolate and pipe/brush onto the shape
    • Attach eyes and leave to set
  • To Assemble
    • Top the mousse with the crushed cookies
    • Then carefully peel the trees of the parchment and stick into the mousse
    • Decorate with mini pumpkins etc.

Marshmallow Zombies

What you need:

  • Marshmallows
  • White chocolate, melted
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Icing pens
  • Googly eyes

What you do:

  • Put each marshmallow on a lollipop stick and dip into white chocolate
  • Allow chocolate to set – standing in a glass is the easiest
  • Then decorate the marshmallow with eyes and drawing on a mouth

Happy Cooking & A Very Spooky Halloween!

Yvonne xx

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Every goal deserves a (crispy) reward, right?

I love figures. I know you might think it strange , but I see a spreadsheet as a thing of beauty. Neat , organized columns of figures, with built in checks to make sure there are no errors.
So why then does the thought of doing my accounts fill me with fear and dread? Every October it’s the same routine – panic and chaos to get the previous years receipts and invoices in order to give to my accountant.

You’d imagine with all the enforced spare time this year that I would have done it months ago, but no, it took a reminder letter to galvanize me into action. Even the Chief Taster knows better than to ask how the codeword A is progressing !
But in the spirit of Organized October, and building on Grainne’s foundation folder – yes even friends try to help me over this fear – I delivered the files (well the bulk of) to my accountant’s office on Thursday.

Cause for celebration right? Cue Crispy Roast Duck for dinner…

Crispy duck is big favourite in this house but last few times I cooked it I only did the legs and served the meat with pancakes and plum sauce. Last week I spotted full ducks in the freezer section in Lidl so I thought I’d experiment with cooking it in my slow cooker .

So once the duck was defrosted (overnight in the fridge) and the giblets removed, I stuffed the cavity with lemon, garlic, dried limes and star anise

Duck Cavity stuffed with lemon and garlic

I didn’t want the duck to be sitting in it’s own fat as it cooked so I put some vegetables in the base of the slow cooker to act as a trivet

vegetable trivet in slow cooker

To add more flavour, I rubbed a mix of cumin, coriander and seasalt into the skin.

spice rub on duck skin

Then I put the lid on the pot and left the cooker on high for 4 hours and then turned it down low for another 3 hours.

The Chief Taster arrived in to the most tantalizing, delicious cooking smells and suggested we walk down to find a suitable wine. I delivered my files to the accountant on the way and then a Beaujolais Villages was chosen (Yes I know, I should really have insisted on bubbles to mark my achievement!!) 😉

duck cooking in slow cooker

Post walk I transferred the duck to a very hot oven (220 C) for about 30 minutes to crisp up the skin. Plus remember the vegetable trivet – the vegetables had cooked beautifully in the duck fat – so I put them in the oven too!

Duck coming out of oven

In the meantime I made a quick plum sauce, by simmering the following together over a low heat, for 30 minutes :

  • 1 punnet of plums, quartered and stones removed.
  • 1 star anise
  • Good glug of Chinese cooking wine
plum sauce simmering

Dinner was almost ready – all it needed was a big bowl of delicious vegetable egg fried rice flavoured with some oyster sauce and finished with sesame oil.

dinner is served - rice, sauce and duck

Result? It’s made it to the favourite recipe folder and I’m in the running for girlfriend of the year!!!

Just in case you think we’re total gluttons there was lots of meat left on the duck and it’s gone into the freezer to be used at a later date.

Just a thought, in these strange times when we don’t know what will happen over the next few months – this dish would be perfect for a Christmas dinner for 2-3 people 🤶

STAY SAFE AND HAPPY COOKING!

PS I don’t like to brag but I also put all my summer clothes away in the attic this week – neatly sorted of course! Now onto my next organizing project…..

PS 2 Grainne, if you’re reading this, can you please come back and sort my accounts for 2020?