Monday, 30 May 2016

We're Jamming...


In keeping with the rhubarb theme of the last post, rhubarb is very much the dominant fruit in the house at the moment. Having picked a load of the stalks to make jam, the rhubarb patch still looked untouched...so I set about making another batch...then another batch...

Five kilos of rhubarb later and there was still loads! So what to do with all the jam? Well I am busy raising funds for a fantastic local charity called LoveOliver so the jam is now for sale. After a scour of the internet to check the going price for a good quality jam I have settled for £4 a jar. A bargain!

At the moment I have rhubarb and ginger (a classic), rhubarb and rose (apparently hard to find) and my own "new kid on the block" recipe; rhubarb, strawberry and vanilla. 



I was a bit skeptical about rhubarb and rose but I have to say for now it's a clear winner. Subtle with a hint of rose I've enjoyed it in porridge and on homemade pancakes.

So if you'd like to sponsor me in return for a jar of jam I am only too happy to oblige. The first event is on the 11th June; my first attempt at a triathlon (eek). I will also be cycling 75 miles of the Fife Coastal path from the Forth road bridge to Tay bridge in July (double-eek). 

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/nicolamoriarty
 

 
 

Friday, 20 May 2016

Rich Rhubarb

If you are ever thinking about growing your own fruit and veg and are worried about it, then rhubarb is the fruit for you. It must be one of the easiest and hardiest of plants. No tending, no watering, pretty much neglected and yet year after it year it thrives and produces a massive yield of fruit.

That is, of course if you like rhubarb (and I do). I have childhood memories of a wee paper poke of sugar and a stick of rhubarb to dip in, not sure I would do that with my own kids (or if they would appreciate quite as much as I did as a kid!).

Anyway what to do with the first pick of the rhubarb? A nice jam or a yummy crumble? Or something new? I have a great recipe for banana loaf so thought with a wee bit of tweaking I would try and conjure up a recipe for a rhubarb and custard loaf (cause rhubarb and custard, in my opinion, are a match made in heaven).

Step 1 - pick the rhubarb:



Step 2 - prepare the rhubarb

Now I know it's traditional to stew the rhubarb on the stove, but I find that method gives you a bit of a brown mush. I prefer to cut the rhubarb into bite size chunks, layer it in a roasting dish, sprinkle with brown sugar and roast in the oven for about 25min or until it is soft (but not mushy). This gives a lovely texture and keeps some of the lovely colour.



Step 3 - Conjure up the recipe, and here it is...


Rhubarb and Custard Loaf

Wheat Free Yes Gluten Free Yes
Makes one large loaf

Ingredients 
170g butter, softened
170g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
170g GF SR Flour, sifted (I like Doves)
1 small pot vanilla custard
250g roasted rhubarb (see above)


Method 

1. Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract
2. Gradually add the eggs
3. Fold in the flour
4. Add a layer of mixture to a greased loaf tin. Dot some of the rhubarb on and add small spoonfulls of custard. Add more mixture and repeat.



5. On the top add more rhubarb and custard.



6. Bake in the oven at 160 degrees C for around 45min or until cooked (check with a skewer in the middle)
7. Put on a cooling tray to cool
8. Enjoy either cold or warm with more custard!



Friday, 6 May 2016

CDWM Hosting Highlights

Round 2 of CDWM and after a few months planning in the bag; our turn to host.

The menu...

Perfecting a menu for probably our most critical ever guests took meticulous planning and preparation. With much devouring of my humongous cookbook collection, scouring my favourite cookery website BBC Good Food and adding my own ideas and inventions meant I was quite happy with the menu...until I tried out the main course the weekend before the big date and found I wasn't quite so happy...in fact I didn't like it at all! Back to the drawing board for that.

Tada! The final menu revealed...

video

Shopping

We are blessed with some amazing local shops on our doorstep, and this week would be no different from any other week (except this time I took photos along the way). First stop the butchers!


Then Dougie the fishmonger in nearby Inverkeithing...

      

Then a dash up the town to get the wine and local Bruary beers...




...and finally I had to brave the supermarket for cream, no photos required (it was a whopping 2 litres!).













The preparations...

Now the fun begins. First stop, desert. The hazelnut brownie part is easy to make, coulis is pretty straightforward, ice-cream you bung in the ice-cream maker but the chocolate melting dome, well that's a whole new ball game! I had practised these with milk-chocolate and had no idea that dark chocolate is a nightmare to temper properly. Armed with my chocolate thermometer that Santa brought me I thought it would be a dawdle. Dawdle it wasn't! Using my technique that I conjured up whilst a contestant on Britain's Best Dish (yes I do claim to be the first person to using water balloons to make domes!) I followed the instructions, had the balloons good to go, then runny chocolate wasn't sticking to the balloons. About two hours later (and very little patience left) I had six shiny domes prepared.

Onto the preparation for the starter and this was easy as it's a tasty recipe on my regular repertoire, and one we had on Christmas day. The pastry was made with spelt flour as it makes a lovely pastry (one for CDWM and one for lunch on Sunday).

    
Looking rather tired at this point as it was getting late! Time for bed and finish prep on the big day.

Setting the scene...


The meal...

Starter was a great hit...


  


...main was a near disaster as the oven decided to pack in (next door neighbor to the rescue) but all was good and the beef was cooked to perfection (phew!).

    


Plating the desert was exciting (bit of a Masterchef moment)
  
  

The grand finale took place as everyone poured over the hot chocolate sauce or hot toffee sauce (or both) and watched as the chocolate dome melted to reveal the brownie and ice-cream.

All that was left was to serve up fresh coffee and homemade chocolates then over to Mr CDWM to crack open his whisky collection. 


This is always a good sign at a dinner party...


 Chuffed at the meal, scoring done and in sealed envelopes, next stop round three at the Coopers...

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Come Dine With Me Comeback


What better way to make a comeback on this blog than with a CMWM special! Not the televised version (been there done the whole TV cookery show thing  with Britain's Best Dish), but with a couples version of our own...three couples, three houses, three meals to enjoy.

The first meal of the competition took place in Linlithgow, courtesy of the Storrars. Now I've seen plenty photos on Facebook of their culinary creations, so knew they would be going all out to impress...and impress they did. Let me take you through the evening...

Meet and Greet 

The evening commenced at 8pm with some drinks in the lounge. We had two options; raspberry or rhubarb and ginger. As you can see, the company was very quiet and reserved at this stage (not!)...



Now onto dinner...

The starter - baked figs stuffed with mozarella and wrapped in Parma ham. 

One word sums this up, YUM!

The posh interlude - sorbet

The ante was well and truly upped when we were served a citrus sorbet in between courses. This served as a lovely palate cleanser.

The main - Chinese spiced duck with greens and a plum sauce

By this time in the evening I was salivating with all the aromas coming from the kitchen. We were lucky that it was open-plan and we could see our duck being cooked. As you can see the chef was taking this part of the event very serious!



Once dished up it looked (and tasted) fab...

Desert - chocolate mousse

I class myself as a bit of a chocolate mousse connoisseur, and anyone who knew me around the time that I went on Britain's Best Dish will likely also be known as a chocolate mousse connoisseur, as chocolate mousse was made again, and again, and again until I had it perfected!

Mousse should be fluffy, light, perfectly mixed (and for me on the milky chocolate spectrum) and this one did not disappoint. It even had a little crumble of flake on the top.


Cheese, chocolate and chilli

Just when we thought the meal was complete, out came the cheeseboard and biscuits (with gluten free ones just for me). The cheese was a lovely selection and greed took over at this point. Totally not required, but enjoyed all the same! I even enjoyed a wee glass of port, something I've not really liked before now (but always tried to drink on its own, now I know why it's the perfect accompaniment to cheese).




Now if the meal had finished at that point, well massive thumbs up! However things were about to take a turn for the worse with the chilli-chocolate game. Chocolate I like, chilli...well the photo sums it up...


The entertainment

The hosts, however did manage to pull the evening back by their after dinner entertainment, the table converted into a pool table (I soooooooooo want one of these!).


The whisky stash was unleashed, although I stuck to the red wine. A drink too may for the host perhaps?



Great night, great company, great food.


The scoring

Scores were taken and put in a sealed envelope. The score? Well you will have to wait for blog three.

A huge thank you to the hosts Brian and Sarah, I've never eaten (so much cheese) or laughed so much in a long time. Next time will be at ours and from the cook's perspective...watch this space


Friday, 23 January 2015

Breakfast Beaters


Breakfast can sometimes be a bit of a mixed affair in our house; Master Cook and Little Cook both love their breakfast and will scoff down plenty and I understand the benefits of it, so although I am not one to feel particularly hungry in the morning I never miss breakfast which usually consists of a small bowl of porridge with some honey and fruit.

The two young athletes in the house are at total ends of the spectrum. One will always munch through breakfast and on competition day will sit down to a big hot steaming bowl of porridge. On the other hand the other (who can eat like a horse the rest of the day) just struggles. Over the years we have battled over breakfast and the need to eat cereal and last year I came to the conclusion it just wasn't worth it. My quest then started to look for something quick and easy and I have come up with a few alternatives which he enjoys.

Peanut butter on toast with a smoothie on the side

This is a firm favourite on schools days and the staple breakfast through the week. I invested in an Active Blend smoothie maker and it is amazing! The best bit is the smoothie is made inside the sports bottle so there are no extra parts to wash. If you fill the bottle up it makes three glasses of smoothie, so the boys have one each for breakfast and I take the third into work with me if I am running at lunchtime and I have it about an hour before I run. It tends to separate over the course of the morning but so long as it is kept in the fridge a good shake just revitalises it.

There are thousands of recipes on the internet, berry ones are a firm favourite in our house and the most made one is probably frozen raspberries, milk, vanilla yoghurt and cranberry juice all whizzed together. No measuring required so no two taste the same!

Scrambled eggs on toast with layered fruit and yoghurt

There must be very few who don't like some scrambled eggs on toast (obviously with a wee drop melted cheese through it) and it is quick and easy to make. I usually add a side dish to this and take a glass with some fruit compote on the bottom (this is made with any fruit we have that is overipe and kept in a tub in the fridge). Add to this a good dollop of vanilla yoghurt then sprinkle on top some granola. Easy peasy and very tasty.


Breakfast muffins

These are the new kid on the block and yet to be tried out on the rest of the family (although I have scoffed two of these already this morning and they are delicious). Master Cook is a sprints coach at a local club and coaches athletes from around age 15-17. Having spoken to them and their parents it seems quite a common occurrence that teenagers will skip breakfast or will grab a cereal (breakfast) bar and a drink. Breakfast bars just don't cut the mustard with me, we sometimes use them as a snack during competitions but certainly not a substitute to breakfast. It got me thinking that perhaps they can be enticed with an alternative which could be grabbed in the morning or taken to school (or pop in a rucksack when competing). I had a quick look on the BBC Good Food website (probably my favourite website ever) and quickly found a recipe for grab and go breakfast muffins:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/breakfast-muffins




I used wholemeal spelt flour instead of wholemeal wheat flour but for true gluten free I am sure a gluten free mix would work just as well. I also didn't have rapeseed oil so just substituted olive oil.

It says on the recipe they will keep in a container for three days however I think they will be scoffed quicker than that. I would be tempted to prepare the mixture the night before and keep the wet mix in the fridge and the dry mix covered in a bowl. In the morning it's just a case of mixing both together, popping the mixture into the cases and into the oven leaving them to cook while I have time to shower. 

This is maybe a recipe to test drive on the Pitreavie athletes at the National Relay Championships tomorrow. You never know it might just make them all that wee bit faster (just don't tell them no sugar is involved!).