Friday, 30 June 2017

A catch up and my Michel Roux Jr experience - it has been a while!

I cannot quite believe how long it has been since I’ve posted on here (I’m also pretty sure I say that quite a lot as I end up posting a series of recipes and then not doing it for months for one reason or another). So anyway, life got in the way again! A lot has been going on since my last post, namely the fact Adam and I went to Italy on one of the best trips I have ever had – The Amalfi Coast; culture, language, unlimited pasta and wine, all coupled with the iconic 1950’s glamour that is still ever present as you wander the tiny streets of Amalfi or Capri. We also met some pretty awesome people - the most genuine and friendly people who made you feel like you had known them years rather than hours. It is the closest thing for me to heaven on earth and there is no way that’s going to be my only trip there. It is a food lover’s dream with the freshest seafood, a mind boggling selection of local wines and the best Limoncello you will EVER taste; in each restaurant they have recipes for Limoncello that have been handed down through the years and each recipe is slightly different (trust me, I tried most of them!)

So anyway, basking in the afterglow (I’m calling it afterglow, it was probably just the fact I had gotten fatter whilst I was away and I looked fuller in the face), we decided it was time we started looking at new houses and have found a place and sold ours. With the stress of selling and the constant stream of viewings at 6pm most weeknights I’ve not had much of a chance to cook very much. Fortunately now that we only have to play the waiting game until the house is ready I’ll be very much up and running again in my kitchen; glass of wine in hand, music on and several recipe books strewn over the kitchen table.

So this post isn’t a recipe but I did want to be sure to share a recent cooking experience I had with someone called Michel Roux Jr (maybe you’ve heard of him? You know, the 2 Michelin Star chef?). So I tootled off to London for a day cookery experience with 10 other people and the wonderful Michel. What a gent he was; so welcoming and knowledgeable – he made each of us feel like it was a pleasure for him to host us and teach us and I could not have wished for a better day cooking with my culinary hero.

We started the day by making crème caramel to leave the custard time to set and cool in the fridge. Following the demonstration by Michel we were told to go back to our stations and copy the recipe (by this point all 11 of us were still just quiet bags of nerves so it was a very concentrated quiet affair to start off with). Fortunately there were no issues with burned caramel and no curdled custard so feeling pretty proud of ourselves we went back to the dining room to enjoy a bowl of pea & mint soup and a glass (or 3!) of champagne. We dutifully left the table and took our champagne upstairs to make the starter of Croque Monsieur – “you travelled all the way to London to cook with Michel Roux Jr and you made a ham & cheese toastie?!” I hear you cry – but this was no ordinary Croque Monsieur, it was made with garlic sourdough bread, smoked duck and comté cheese and we served it with charred asparagus and balsamic caramelised shallots. Not exactly your average Costa Coffee toastie…

After having dressed the plates as “chef-ily” as we could, we went back downstairs to eat our creations with Michel and enjoy another couple of glasses of wine before heading back upstairs to cook our main course of pan roasted guinea fowl with roasted cauliflower purée, courgette ribbons and a black truffle sauce.

Once again, the food was to die for (even if I do say so myself) and I quickly realised as the smell of garlic and thyme butter wafted through the kitchen stations that this, second only to my wedding day, was absolutely the best day of my life. Michel made the purée for all of us to use and we pan roasted the guinea fowl first before using the same pan to create the truffle sauce. We had to wait a while for the sauce to reduce so I made sure to grab a selfie with Michel whilst my sauce reduced. We blanched the courgette after slicing it into strips using a mandolin (3 glasses of champagne and 2 glasses of wine in, I was convinced I was losing a finger on that thing…). Limbs in tact we blanched the courgette ribbons and popped them into ice water until we were ready to serve them. Again, we plated up using our best plate dressing techniques and I got told by Michel that my cauliflower swirls were good; “very Ying & Yang” *beams*

So after yet more wine and food the only thing left for us to do was turn out the crème caramel, and watch Michel make some Palmiers to go with the dessert. We had some group and individual photos and he signed books for us before we all left for the day. Hearts and tummies full to bursting. As days go, it was as close to perfect as it could have been.

If you ever get chance to go to this cookery experience, grab the opportunity. It will honestly be one of the best days of your life. I promise you that.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @aswarmastoast

R x

Friday, 27 January 2017

Spicy king prawn and tomato Courgetti - a quick and easy but tasty Friday night dinner!

So we got a spiralizer for Christmas and ever since (New Year, New me and all that jazz!) I have been constantly on the look out for great spiralizer recipes. So tonight I had my lovely friend Nikki over for dinner (she's doing Dry January - how, I'm not quite sure! I found it difficult to do Sober For October last year and that was for a good cause, not just self preservation!) so I was on the white wine and she was on the non-alcoholic beer. I wanted to make something fresh and tasty as I wasn't 100% sure what time she would be arriving at my house, so I picked this recipe out of thin air whilst wandering around Sainsbury's Local earlier. My husband went out to see one of his friends who is about to become a Dad for the second time so I guess it was one of his last "hurrah's" - so I decided I was going to cook something healthy for me and my lovely friend that meant I could have some wine and not feel guilty about it due to the fact I was going to be eating Courgetti as opposed to Spaghetti.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty darned good - and the bonus is that Courgetti takes about 4 minutes to cook whereas Spaghetti takes about 10 minutes when the water has boiled!

This leaves more time for catching up and fun times which is just what you want on a Friday night after a hard week at work!

I also decided to treat myself to a new camera today so I wanted to test it out on the food I was about to cook in the hope that photos of my food taken with a professional camera would gain a larger audience than those taken with my iPhone!

So here it goes, Spicy tomato and king prawn Courgetti! (Btw; it's best to make the tomato sauce about an hour before you want to serve the dish to let the spice and flavours all come together but it's not essential)

What you'll need:
180g pack raw king prawns
1 x small red onion, diced
2 tsp garlic purée
7 x plum tomatoes, halved
200 ml white wine
1 x 400g peeled plum tomatoes
2 tsp dried oregano
3 tsp hot chilli powder (adjust this to how spicy you personally like it)
Salt and pepper to season
2 x courgettes, spiralized

How to make it:

  1. Spiralize the courgettes into approx 3 x 3mm spirals, set aside
  2. Heat the oil on medium heat in a casserole/skillet (I like to use a Le Creuset casserole pan)
  3. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent (approx. 4 mins - but make sure they don't stick to the pan)
  4. Add the halved plum tomatoes and cook for 2 mins before adding the white wine. Bring to the boil and then add the tin of plum tomatoes
  1. Add the oregano, chilli powder, salt and pepper; bring to the boil and them simmer for a couple of minutes
  2. If time allows, turn off the heat and leave for about an hour to let the flavours mix
  3. When you're nearly ready to serve, put some plates to warm in an oven (we're lucky in that out microwave doubles as an oven so we can heat the plates in there)
  4. When the plates are warm, turn the heat back on the tomato sauce and add the Courgetti. Cook for about 1 minute until they are warmed through and then add the raw prawns
  5. Cook all of the mix for about 4 minutes, stirring continuously, until the prawns are cooked through,
  6. Serve immediately with some grates Parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper (and some fresh bread if you're feeling really naughty!)

I drank the Sainsbury's TTD Limoux Chardonnay with this dish and loved it as it was really refreshing.

Any comments welcome (including tips on photography! please!) - check out my Twitter/Instagram/Facebook and just search for aswarmastoast if you like what you've read.


R x 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Chicken Tagine (without the actual tagine equipment!)

I can't believe it has been so long since I posted on my blog! So Christmas sort of got in the way and then so did New Year and then so did my new job which I only started last Monday so in all that time, although I have cooked a LOT of food, I haven't actually found the time to blog about any of it.

Well tonight I am - and I'm making a chicken tagine. I watched Rick Stein's Long Weekends programme last night and he was in Thessaloniki (somewhere I have actually been before in my limited travel of the world) and he was cooking some dishes that reminded me of dishes like tagines due to the spices he and the restaurants he went to were using. I haven't made a tagine for ages and considering we had lamb on Sunday I thought I'd try one with chicken tonight instead.

So here it is; a simple chicken tagine that doesn't take 8 hours to marinate but will probably need around 1 and a half hours to prep and cook instead.

What you'll need:
2  tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp coconut cream
1 x tbsp chilli paste (harissa would be good but you can adjust to your spice preference and pick a hotter or milder paste)
6 boneless chicken thighs
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinammon
(a few chilli flakes if you'd like - this is optional and depends, again, on how spicy you like your food)
500ml chicken stock
400g tin chopped tomatoes
130g tin of chickpeas
100g raisins
200g couscous (to serve)

How to make it:
1. Combine the tomato puree, coconut cream, peanut butter and chilli paste. Put the chicken thighs in a bowl and then rub the marinade over them. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. Heat a bit of oil in a casserole dish and add the onion. Cook the onion until soft and then add the chicken to the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the spices and stir them in.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes, chicken stock and raisins and then simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

4. Add the chickpeas and cook for a further 15 minutes
5. Serve straightaway on a bed of couscous.

And that's it! Enjoy! (and I promise I won't be such a stranger from now on!)

Check me out on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram - just search for aswarmastoast

R x

Monday, 24 October 2016

Chocolate and hazelnut brownie traybake

We were invited to our friends’ house for Sunday lunch yesterday and I volunteered to make a dessert; what I didn’t expect was to have such a late night on Friday that Saturday was essentially a write off apart from ordering Papa John’s Pizza at 2pm. So yesterday morning I woke up and suddenly panicked that I had not prepared to make anything. I scanned my baking cupboards and had a brainwave; chocolate brownies – tasty and quick, they would be ideal served with some ice cream.
What I love about brownies is that you can add almost anything to the mixture; I added rum and toasted hazelnuts but why not try some kirsch soaked cherries, some white chocolate chips or peanut butter? The world is your brownie oyster…or some such equivalent saying...

So here it is; chocolate and hazelnut brownie traybake!

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 27 mins

What you’ll need
400g caster sugar
225g salted butter, melted
60g cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
225g plan flour, sifted
Half a teaspoon baking powder
Half a teaspoon salt
60g blanched hazelnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted
100ml dark rum (50ml added to cake mix, 50ml to brush over the cake once cooked)

How to make it
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease a rectangular 23x33cm traybake tin (or a shallow roasting tin will work just as well)

Mix all the ingredients together in the order given.

Tip the mixure into the tray and spread evenly before popping the tray in the oven for 27 minutes.

Leave to cool for about 5 minutes before using a skewer to make a few holes in the top of the cake. Brush the rum over the top of the cake and allow to soak in.

Leave the brownies to cool before cutting them into (roughly) 24 pieces.

Follow me on Twitter @aswarmastoastuk and on Instagram or like my As Warm As Toast page on Facebook.


R x

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Super easy "T-25" salmon!

So if you are familiar with Shaun-T you'll be familiar with his workouts called T-25. Essentially, they are a series of workouts increasing in difficulty as the weeks progress and they all last for just 25 minutes. I love them; mainly for the reason I can get dressed, warm up, workout, cool down and shower in about 45 minutes flat. This is great for me when I cook from scratch pretty much every night because it means I still have that time in the kitchen, we're not eating dinner too late but I still get my downtime in front of the tv in the evening.

The reason I named this recipe after those workouts is because it can be cooked in the time it takes to do all of the above activities - 45 minutes.

It's healthy and filling and so easy I cant even tell you...basically, the most challenging part of the whole recipe is wrapping up the salmon to cook it in an "en papillote" style

Serves 2

What you'll need:
2 salmon fillets
8 asparagus spears with the ends chopped off
8 cherry tomatoes
10 new potatoes, cut in half
Olive/rapeseed oil - enough to drizzle over the potatoes and the salmon
4 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp ginger puree
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
Salt and pepper to season
2 tbsp hot paprika
(You can adjust the chilli flakes and the sweet chilli sauce to whatever level of spice you like)

How to make it:
Pre-heat the oven to 180. Add the potatoes to a roasting tin and drizzle with some of the oil. Season with the paprika and some salt and pepper. Pop them in the oven for 20 minutes.

Lay a sheet of tin foil down and cover this with a piece of greaseproof paper on top of this. Place one salmon in the middle of the greaseproof paper and drizzle with a little oil. Season the salmon with salt, pepper and half the chilli flakes, ginger puree, and sweet chilli sauce. Arrange the asparagus and tomatoes around the salmon fillet. Wrap the salmon up like a parcel; if you take the two ends of the tin foil and bring the long sides of the foil together you can easily wrap the fish up into little canoe shaped parcels (I think the below picture will probably be easier to follow than my convoluted instructions!). Repeat with the other salmon fillet.

Pop the salmon in the same tin as the potatoes and cook for 25 minutes.

Serve with sugarsnap peas, broccoli and the roasted potatoes.


R x

Monday, 17 October 2016

Autumnal spiced roasted carrot and sweet potato soup

My dad always says that Autumn is his favourite month; he loves the changing colours and the chilly crisp mornings. I love Autumn as well – my reasons are the same as my Dad’s (I am the girl with a scarf obsession so what better excuse is there than a season of frosty mornings to buy more scarves?!) but I also love nothing better than the feeling homemade soup gives you after a long walk with hubby and pooch – it is one of the best comfort foods and is so so easy to make. All you need to do is cook some veg and blend it all up in a liquidiser. What could be simpler?!

Picture the scene; you come home with mud all over your walking boots from powering over 10 miles of The Peak District, face numb from the cold, legs stiff from all the uphill walking; you pop the cork on a bottle of red wine, set this soup to cook, have a hot shower and then come back downstairs in your comfiest trackies to enjoy a bowl of soup in front of your favourite box set (box set of choice at the moment Chez Joesbury is Bones by the way). Sunday evening heaven.
Sounds good, right? So here’s the soup recipe – the cold, muddy walk is optional, the hot shower and the wine, however, are a must!

What you’ll need:
3 medium – large sized carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1l chicken stock (made from 1 vegetable stock cube and one chicken stock cube)
2 small red onions, sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp hot paprika
2tsp coriander (dried or fresh is fine)
1 tsp turmeric
1tsp garam masala
3 tbsp oil (sunflower/rapeseed/olive oil are all fine)
Salt and pepper to season
Crème fraiche to serve

How to make it:
Pre-heat your oven to 200°C and place the carrots and sweet potatoes into a roasting tin. Drizzle 2tbsp of your chosen oil over the vegetables and then season the vegetables with the herbs and spices. Mix the veg around to coat them well with the seasoning, and then pop the tray in the oven for about 30mins (give the veg a shake half way through so they don’t stick to the tray)
Whilst the vegetables are cooking, heat the remaining 1tbsp oil in a large saucepan and add the onions and garlic. Cook on a medium heat, stirring regularly, until the onion becomes translucent – this should take around 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer away for about another 10 minutes.
When the vegetables are done roasting, get them out of the oven and let them rest for a couple of minutes before tipping them carefully into the stock and onion saucepan. Give the whole lot a good stir and simmer for a further 2 – 3 mins before tipping the contents of the saucepan into a liquidiser. Blend until smooth (you can also do this with a hand blender if you don’t have a liquidiser) and season to taste. Adjust the seasoning as preferred and serve with a swirl of crème fraiche, some chopped coriander and freshly ground black pepper…oh and some nice crusty bread of course!

Check me out on Instagram and Twitter for more snippets into my love of food and my life in general.

R x

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Toffee apple muffins with a rum buttercream icing

We were given some Discovery apples by my uncle when we visited the farm a couple of weeks ago and I was told they were good for cooking with and also as eating apples. We went to the Lake District for a few days this week and took a couple of apples on our walks - they were lovely. I had about 6 apples left and got thinking about what I could make with them, trying to steer clear of the usual apple pie/apple crumble recipes.

I had the idea of making muffins filled with caramel sauce (toffee apple) so started planning that recipe but wondered what I could do to make them a bit more special...boozy icing?!

When it comes to the icing, feel free to make the icing to taste; I took these to our friends' house as a dessert and the reaction was "ooh these are much rum did you put in the icing?!" - so perhaps if you don't like such a knock-your-socks-off booze hit go easy on the rum!

This recipe looks very long and has a few steps to it but it's really not difficult so please don't be put off by the length of it!

So, here it is - a little taste of autumn:

Toffee apple muffins with a rum buttercream icing
Serves 12
Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour 30mins (that includes making the caramel, icing, and baking the muffins)

What you'll need:-

12 x muffin cases (I like the tulip cases)
12 hole deep bun tray
Piping bags x 2 (one should have a star nozzle for piping the icing)
Wire cooling rack
Sugar thermometer

For the muffin mix:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • Half a teaspoon of salt
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 225mil semi-skimmed milk
  • 110g apple (peeled, cored and chopped) - I used Discovery apples but any cooking apple will be fine
  • 2 teaspoons cinammon (optional)
For the caramel sauce:
  • 170g salted butter
  • 340g dark muscavado sugar
  • 170g golden syrup
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons salt
For the rum buttercream icing:
  • 340g unsalted butter
  • Half a teaspoon cinammon
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1.5kg icing sugar 
  • A few pieces of dark chocolate, roughly chopped, to decorate (optional)
How to make it:-

Pre-heat the oven to 180C (fan) or 200C (conventional oven). Begin by creaming the caster sugar and butter for the muffins in a bowl. Next, sieve together the plain flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternate adding the flour mix and milk a couple of tablespoons at a time to the butter and sugar mix. until combined. Stir in the cinammon and then fold in the apples.

Line your bun tray with the muffin cases (if you don't have any muffin cases at home you can always lightly grease the bun tray so the cakes don't stick but using cases is so much less faff!). Fill the cases with the muffin mix - roughly one and a half dessert spoonfuls of mix per case should do the trick - and pop the tray in the oven for 20-25 mins (I put mine in for 23 mins but please test the cakes before taking them out by inserting a cocktail stick into the middle of one of the muffins; if the stick comes out clean, the muffins are done)

Leave these to cool in the tin for a few mins before transferring them to a wire cooling rack.

Whilst your muffins are cooling you can now give your full attention to the caramel filling. Start by adding the butter, sugar, golden syrup and condensed milk to a large saucepan and bring gently to the boil over a moderate heat. Keep stirring the mixture to combine it fully. When the mixture has boiled stir in the whipping cream and then place the sugar thermometer in the saucepan. Leave the mixture to bubble away gently until it reaches a temperature of around 110C - stir the mix every now and then but don't mess with it too much! It will take a while to reach temperature but don't panic or turn the heat up; just be patient with it! In about 20 mins you'll have the temperature you need and then turn the heat off, stir in the vanilla and salt, and leave the mixture to cool for about 30 minutes.

Whilst the caramel is bubbling away you can make the buttercream icing. Mix the butter with one tablespoon of the rum to break the butter up a bit. Then add the icing sugar a bit at a time so you don't end up with a thick fog of icing sugar everywhere (I have never ever found a trick that stops icing sugar from going everywhere so it's just about damage limitation in my kitchen!). Add the rest of the rum and the cinammon, and combine. 

When the caramel has cooled enough, it's ready to be piped into the muffins. First of all you'll have to make a hole in the muffins - you can use a piping nozzle for this or a straw even (it basically just needs to be something to create a hole big enough to pipe in to). Next, spoon the caramel into the piping bag and snip the tip of the bag off. Pipe the caramel gently into the muffins. It's really fulfilling to see the muffins expand with the lovely caramel and the tops will crack slightly when they are full - this is your signal to stop piping.

Spoon the rum buttercream into a separate piping bag with a star nozzle attached to the end. Pipe the icing over the muffin and if you want, you can add a flourish of grated or roughly chopped dark chocolate.

Relax, pop the kettle on, and enjoy a well earned rest...and a muffin of course!

If you like this recipe, follow me on Instagram aswarmastoast and Twitter @AsWarmAsToastUK or subscribe to my blog.


R x