Yoghurty Prawns on Toast

Last weekend I had some cooked prawns that needed using up, and also had nothing much in the house for lunch. Something to do with prawns for lunch it was, then! I was feeling quite lazy and was already pretty hungry so was wondering what I could do that would be quick and tasty without using many ingredients.

I took inspiration from something my mum often makes as a starter – prawns with creme fraiche and lemon served on crunchy lettuce leaves. I had also seen a recipe for something similar in my Jamie Oliver book, I think he uses sour cream, but served on a brioche. As I am a big natural yoghurt fan, I of course had some in the fridge, and so decided to mix the prawns with these. You might be forgiven for thinking, prawns and yoghurt… really?! But believe me, it really works! I thought this would be healthier than creme fraiche or sour cream but should still keep the zingy flavour. I chucked in some other bits and pieces and plonked the whole lot on top of a piece of toast. It turned out to be one of the nicest lunches I’ve had in a long time! There’s definitely something to be said for improvising with the sparse contents of your fridge and cupboard now and then! Especially if those contents include natural yoghurt, it’s so versatile! ­čÖé

To serve two;

  • 200g prawns
  • Around 4-5 tbsps natural yoghurt
  • juice and zest of one lemon (maybe a bit less if you don’t like things too zingy, I personally love lemonyness!)
  • Around a quarter of a red onion, finely chopped
  • Handful of freshly chopped dill
  • Toast to serve

I mixed the prawns in with the yoghurt, lemon juice and zest and the dill which was helpfully hanging around the back of the fridge. At the last minute I chucked in a little red onion too in order to replace the satisfying crunch that is usually provided by my mum’s lettuce.

Homebaked bread

After catching up on the Great British Bake Off while nursing a red wine hangover on the sofa this weekend, the OH and I felt inspired to get baking. Which as it turns out, is an excellent distraction from that dull thudding headache and sense of despair! As you may have seen from my previous post, we made spiced blueberry buns but we also decided to try our hands at baking some bread.

We are both bread novices so were looking for something relatively straightforward to start off with. I decided to give Paul Hollywood’s easy white bread recipe from BBC Food a go.

This calls for;

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 40g soft butter
  • 12g fast-action dried yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Around 300ml tepid water
  • A little olive oil

Combine the flour and butter in a bowl then add the yeast at one side and salt at the other (you don’t want to mix the salt directly with the yeast as it will kill it). Mix ingredients together. Add around half of the water and mix with your hands. Continue to add the water a little at a time while combining the mixture with your hands. We found we didn’t quite need all the water. Once the mixture resembles a soft dough, rub a little oil on a clean surface and turn the dough out. Knead the bread (see the BBC recipe from the link above for a good description of the technique!)

Note, these are not my manly hands

Clean and lightly oil your bowl then put your dough back in. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove. The dough should have doubled in size after around an hour.

Work the dough again to knock out any air then shape into a loaf. Place the loaf on lined baking tray and cover with your tea towel again to prove further. Once it has risen again, sprinkle with flour and use a knife to create a pattern on top. Place the loaf in the oven at 220c. The recipe gave the top tip of putting another roasting tin in the bottom of the oven and filling it with cold water just as you close the door – ┬áthis creates steam which helps the loaf develop a crisp and shiny crust.

Bake for around 30 minutes until golden.

I was very impressed with how it turned out, if I do say so myself! I’d actually planned to add a little rosemary to the loaf but was so concentrated on all that kneading and proving I completely forgot. Now that I know how to make a basic loaf though, I’m looking forward to being able to customise it in all sorts of ways!

We ate ours with some homemade summer vegetable broth for a really wholesome nourishing tea, just what the doctor ordered!

Blueberry buns spiced with orange & cardamom

This rather rainy, grey, miserable bank holiday weekend called for a little baking and so I decided to make these buns from the Swedish section of my Jamie Oliver cookbook. They turned out really well and were really deliciously tasty enjoyed with a fresh pot of coffee! ­čÖé I love anything with berries in anyway, and these were lovely; not too sweet and with a really tasty unusual kick from the┬áorange┬ázest and cardamom seeds.

I halved the original recipe in order to make 4 rather than 8 buns and altered it slightly depending on what we had in the house;

  • Half a standard 7g packet of yeast
  • 187g of warm milk
  • Around 10 cardamom pods
  • 1 medium-large egg
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 25 g melted butter plus 7.5g unsalted butter
  • 400g plain flour

For the filling;

  • 200g blueberries
  • 37g caster sugar
  • 1 orange (we used 2 clementines which needed using)

Combine the yeast with the warmed milk and set to one side. Lightly bash the cardamom pods to release the seeds, discard the husks and crush the seeds into a fine powder.

Beat the egg with a pinch of salt in a bowl then add the cardamom, sugar, melted butter, 500g of the flour and the milk and yeast mixture, whisking constantly. This should result in a thick gluey-like mixture. Mix in the┬áremaining┬á300g of flour until you have a dough. Use floured hands to bring the mixture together (this was very messy and sticky – I needed quite a bit of flour on my hands!) then sprinkle the top with flour and cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to prove for around an hour.

While the dough is proving, and once you’ve finally cleaned all the clinging-on dough off your hands and cleaned the flour off the worktop!, you can make the mixture for inside the buns. Add the blueberries and caster sugar to a bowl, zest the orange and add most of this to the mixture, along with around half a clementine’s worth of juice. Mash the mixture together.

Once the dough has doubled in size, dust a clean surface with flour and pull and stretch the dough out into a sort of rectangle shape. Spoon around half of the blueberries into the middle of the dough and spread around.

Pull the sides of the dough up and into the middle like an envelope, and keep turning and pushing the dough together. Divide the dough into four portions, and stretch each one out into a sort of sausage shape then twist into a rough knot. Place the buns on a greaseproof paper covered baking tray with dollops of butter and demerara sugar spread around it. Make a little hollow in the top of each bun with your fingers and add some more blueberries, pushing them down into the middle. Then spoon over the blueberry juice as well as the remaining orange zest and some extra demerara sugar. Leave to rest for around 10-15 minutes while the oven comes up to temperature than bake for 20-25 minutes at 180c.

Absolutely delicious eaten warm straight out of the oven after the aroma of the orange and blueberries has filled your kitchen for the last half hour! We also found that our remaining two buns made an exceedingly good breakfast eaten cold the next day!! I think this is a recipe I’ll definitely be making again ­čÖé

Steak, chips & guilt-free peppercorn sauce!

Steak is one of our all time┬áfavourite┬ámeals, we love having it when we’re out for dinner, but it’s also a relatively quick and fuss-free meal to make at home for a weekend treat. I love a really juicy medium-rare steak with salty crisp chips, a rich creamy peppercorn sauce and large glass of red wine…. mmmm! Of course it’s not the healthiest of meals! In order to make the meal a little less naughty, I have devised my own much less wicked peppercorn sauce, and it’s still actually pretty good! If you have this at home with oven chips, it also brings the fat count down a little!!

This is what you’ll need for the peppercorn sauce, although I’m afraid as is the case with most of my sauces and dressings, I don’t really┬ámeasure┬áthings out, just throw in what looks to be roughly the right amount of each ingredient then continue to adjust to taste!;

  • Semi-skimmed milk
  • Around a tbsp of peppercorns – some left whole, some crushed
  • Around a tbsp of gravy granules
  • A little cornflour mixed with cold water
  • salt & ground pepper to season

Gently warm the milk in a sauce pan while grinding your peppercorns

Mixture of whole and crushed peppercorns

Add the gravy granules and peppercorns and whisk well

Mix the corn flour and water together then add to the pan, continuing to whisk all the while to make sure the sauce is smooth and you don’t get any lumps! Add salt and pepper to taste and continue to gently simmer and keep stirring for around 5 minutes then serve straight away.

Griddle your steaks for the correct amount of time depending on cut, thickness and your preference of how well cooked you like it. Make sure the steaks are at room┬átemperature┬ábefore cooking, always oil the pan rather than the steaks and allow time to rest the meat after cooking before serving. I like to serve mine with a simple green salad with a liberal drizzling of homemade mustard┬ávinaigrette. You’ll also see that I enjoy a rather obscene amount of peppercorn sauce on my plate… all the more reason to concoct this somewhat less indulgent version otherwise I’d be the size of a house!!!

Whisky & Ginger or Rum & Raisin?

We have a lovely old fashioned sweet shop in Chorlton, and I have recently discovered how amaaazing their fudge is. It’s almost like a cross between traditional fudge and that lovely Scottish delicacy I’m so fond of, tablet. Tablet is slightly more brittle than your usual fudge and has a more grainy sugary texture. Very sweet and sickly but oh so yummy!

Having quite a lot of dull tasks to complete this weekend, we decided a little trip to the sweet shop for some treats to help us along would be a good idea. They had so many delicious sounding flavours but we eventually narrowed the options down to whisky & ginger (two of my all time favourite things!) and rum & raisin (such a good combination!). Unfortunately we could not decide between the two and so had no choice but to buy some of each! ­čÖé

While both were indeed delicious, I liked the ginger & whisky fudge the best. It had a stronger flavour and had actual little pieces of ginger in it, mmm! Both fudges were ridiculously sweet and rich and melted in the mouth. Oh so good!

We also threw in some traditional rosy apples for good measure!

(I must admit I do feel ever so┬áslightly┬ásick now… should probably step away from the fudge for a while…)

Bacon & Cannellini Bean Stew

This is an adaptation of a recipe that my friend Laura first made for me when I was visiting her when she lived in Venice a few years ago. Yes, I know, lucky thing! We had so much delicious food in that long weekend, I practically┬ásalivate┬ájust thinking about it… I may have to post a retrospective blog on the tasty delights of the trip at somepoint!

Anyway, this wasn’t as tasty as when she first made it for me. Partly because I wasn’t eating it in her small but charming Italian kitchen, partly because I didn’t have any pancetta and so had to substitute for bacon, and partly I imagine because it wasn’t made using lovely fresh Italian produce!

Still, it makes for a satisfying and yummy mid week meal with the added bonus of only using one pot! Which is always a good thing in my book!

This is what you’ll need to make enough for two;

  • A couple of rashers of streaky bacon (or pancetta if you have some!)
  • 1 tin of cannellini beans
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 small to medium carrots or 1 bigger one
  • 1 stalk celery
  • half a red pepper
  • half an orange pepper
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • squeeze of tomato puree
  • black pepper
  • pinch of oregano
  • Little splash Lea & Perrins

Heat some oil in a pan and fry the chopped onion and crushed garlic. Toss in the roughly chopped bacon. Cook for a few minutes then add the chopped carrots, celery and peppers. Add the tinned tomatoes. You could also add a glug of red wine at this stage if you had any on the go. Simmer for around 5 minutes then add the rinsed beans, a good squeeze of tomato puree, a pinch of oregano and a small splash of Lea & Perrins and season. Turn the hob right down and cover the pan, simmer on a low heat for 10-15 minutes.

This would ideally be served with a good hunk of crusty bead to mop up the juices, however we are trying to be good at the moment so just had it as is!

Sunshine, cycling and brambles

On arriving home from work this evening, we decided to make the most of what was suddenly turning into a rather beautiful evening and head out for a bike ride. Cycling along with the dappled evening sunshine coming through the trees, warming my skin and raising my spirits, was bliss after a hectic yet dreary day in the office. Particularly as I had started the day shivering into my jacket standing on a tram platform in the sort of incessant drizzly rain that completely soaks you through and saps your spirit in a way no other rain quite does. I think the key to this terrible summer is to really open your eyes and be ready to jump at every opportunity the weather brightens, the day’s are so crazily changeable at the moment that the most horrendous of days can quite suddenly turn into a lovely evening, and vice versa!

As we whizzed along I savoured the feel of the breeze in my hair and on my legs as the skirt of my dress swished around. We continued along our route for a while before passing by a woman with a discarded bicycle at her feet rummaging around in the bushes. We slowed down to stop and I realised there were clumps of brambles, juicy and ripe for the picking. I got quite excited! I adore brambles! Is there a better ingredient out there for a crumble?! They’re also great in cocktails! ­čśë However, we had nothing, absolutely no receptacle what-so-ever, in which to take home our forages. I shall have to return, and be more prepared in future!

The picture’s not great as it was taken on a phone, the sky was actually a lovely pale blue with wisps of fluffy clouds, but unfortunately this got rather over exposed!

Chorlton’s Turkish Delight

Having developed a bit of an obsession with Turkish food since our trip to Istanbul in June, we decided to head to the Turkish restaurant in Chorlton, Turkish Delight. We’d actually been meaning to go here for a while, since before our trip, but had never quite got round to it. The problem with living in Chorlton is there are just so many yummy places to go and eat, we’re spoilt for choice on our doorstep!

My friend from work, who has previously lived in Turkey, and who taught me some little snippets of Turkish before our holiday, as well giving me a list of all her favourite things to eat to take with me, suggested we go here for a meal with her Turkish husband. It sounded like a good plan to me!

The┬árestaurant┬áhas a takeaway on the front straight off the pavement and it had actually taken me a while to realise there was a restaurant there too. We sat down at our table and the waitress and our friends soon started chatting away in Turkish, a more authentic experience then! ­čÖé I was pleased to discover we could order Efes beer!

We chose the mixed meze to share for starters. This consisted of little pots of┬áhummus, ispanak tarator (spinach, yoghurt and garlic, this was my favourite!), taramasalata and havuc tarator (carrots, yoghurt and garlic) to scoop up and devour with slivers of warm pitta bread. We were also treated to glistening black olives, a salad with┬átabule, delicious green beans in a tomtoey sauce and some other beans (sort of like cannellini beans? I’m not sure what they were) also in a tasty tomato sauce. There were also cheese borek and some tasty little meatballs.

Faced with the menu of many delights, we also couldn’t help but order the iman baylidi, which I was very happy about as I adore aubergiene – people in this country really don’t appreciate or eat it enough!! Our Turkish friends also insisted we must order the sucuk – spicy Turkish sausage. This was also delicious! We remembered we sometimes had it on our Turkish breakfast on our lovely hotel rooftop in Istanbul…surrounded by fragrant flowers and overlooking the bosphrous… sigh….

Then it was onto the main courses. We both ordered the Iskender kebab – described as a special selection of charcoal grilled meats served on pitta bread with tomato sauce and yoghurt. When it arrived it looked very different to the kebabs we had become accustomed to in Istanbul! I missed the big puffed up naan-like breads we had with our kebabs there, and also would have liked a little more of the chargrilled tomatoes and peppers we got there – I must confess to having gotten a little meated-out with the below plate of food! The other thing that was different was there was none of the tasty bulgur wheat we had also got used to. I’m not sure where the tomato sauce went. The meat itself had a lovely chargrilled flavour however. I wonder if perhaps they are catering for the English market and┬áperceive┬áthat the Brits are only really interested in the meat?! Our all time favourite kebab is still from the tiny street side joint, Aya Sofya Kebap on┬áK├╝├ž├╝k Aya Sofya Sokak in Istanbul, just round the corner from our hotel. Our kebabs from there feature in this post. If you ever find yourself in Istanbul, I highly recommend!!

My friend ordered the Adana kebab.

We were all very full after our Turkish feast, but I was not to be defeated, desserts were to be squuueeeezed in! We ordered kadayif – pistachios encased in shreds of pastry, and walnut baklava. Sticky, sweet and immensely┬ásatisfying!

Galia Melon & Prosciutto

A very tasty weekend lunch….

Ahhh I love weekends ­čÖé

Ginger & Lime Chicken with Sweet Potato Mash

This has been one of our favourites for a while now but for some reason I hadn’t made it in ages. I decided to make it for tea last night after spotting a solitary sweet potato that I’d forgotten about lolling around the bottom of the cupboard yesterday morning!

Ginger and lime are two of my all-time favourite ingredients, in fact, without wanting to sound dramatic, I’m not sure I could cook without them! So the flavours in this is a winner for me! ­čÖé

This is what you need;

(serves two)

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • the juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • a good chunk of ginger
  • sugar snap peas and carrots, or whatever other veg you fancy on the side

Zest then juice your lime. Put half of the lime zest to one side for later and mix the rest with all of the lime juice and the honey. Grate around half of the ginger into the sauce also.

Bash your chicken breasts to flatten them out a bit then slash each one a couple of times. Spoon half of the sauce over and allow to marinade while the grill comes up to temperature. Grill the chicken, turning halfway through cooking and pouring the remaining sauce over the other half of the chicken.

Meanwhile, dice and cook your sweet potato until soft enough to mash. Set to one side. Slice your remaining ginger into small thin ‘matchstick’ like slices and add to a frying pan of very hot oil. Cook for a few minutes until just beginning to char. You can now mash the sweet potato with the tasty gingery oil from the pan as well as the lime zest you put to one side earlier. Arrange your chargrilled ginger matchsticks on top of the sweet potato. Deliciously lime-y and ginger-y! ­čÖé