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.

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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