Tuesday, 26 July 2011

52 Recipe Challenge - Week 4.

This week I ended up tried a couple of recipes although I didn't manage to blog about them as I got over excited about the free music festival happening in my city.... I have a bit of a soft spot for live music which got in the way of my blogging. I tried part of a recipe from another blog I enjoyed reading called Domestic Sluttery, this is the link to that recipe.  I haven't included my attempts to make that recipe as I interpreted part of it and ignored the other half... I didn't attempt to spatchcock a chicken I just made Jalepeno  butter and put it on some chicken thighs. This made a lot of mess and didn’t look very appetising but tasted quite good.

The recipe I decided to blog about this week was another spicy one from a Spice Box I received as part of a Christmas gift earlier in the year. This recipe is one for Aloo Gobi a spicy potatoes and cauliflower dish which I haven’t tried before as the chocolate thief doesn’t like cauliflower.

To Make this recipe you need:
1 Small Cauliflower
3 or 4 Medium Potatoes
1 Onion
1 ½ teaspoons of Mustard Seeds
1 ½ spoons of Cumin Seeds
1 teaspoon of ground Corriander
1 teaspoon of Tumeric
½ a teaspoon of Garam Masala
½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
2 Long Chillis
200ml Water

When I started this recipe the first thing I did was start to chop up the Cauliflower into florets as advised in the Spice Box recipe before putting it to one side. Then I put the Mustard and Cumin seeds in my pan and started to cook them.

Whilst they were cooking I sliced up the onion. When the Mustard and Cumin seeds started to pop and jump I added  the recommended glug of oil and the onions and started to fry them off.

As the onion fried I cut up the potato, the recipe said to peel the potato first but I didn’t because I was tired and I don’t mind potato skins.

Once this was done and the onion had turned golden brown I added the spices, chilli’s, cauliflower and potatoes to the pan.  I stirred the cauliflowers and potatoes in the spice mix so they were covered in the spices before adding the water.After I poured in the water I turned up the heat to boil the water; however, there didn’t seem to be enough water so I added enough to cover the potatoes and most of the cauliflower.

Next I brought it to the boil, put the lid on the pan and let it simmer for about half an hour and then let it simmer with the lid off for another then minutes. The recipe I have for Aloo Gobi didn’t say how long I should cook it for so I turned it off when the mix potatoes had become mushy and the cauliflower had broken up into pieces.When I went to try it I worked out that I had made loads.

It tasted like a spicy, slightly mushy mash potato.

Not a standalone dish but it will go great with other curries!  Now, who's got a good Naan bread recipe?

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Recent Reading

When I'm not making something tasty in the kitchen or heading out to see something exciting, I can often be found playing on the internet curled up with a good book.

For my birthday I received a number of lovely books which enchanted me in their different ways.  I've already shared with you the joys of the Bristol Community Cookbook but here are a few other treasures I've enjoyed of late.

These are the Walking Dead Graphic novels I got hooked on after opening them... I used to like reading the odd comic as a teenager but I've always prefered novels and thought that graphic novels were just comics with literary aspirations. I was wrong, these are amazing! Some of the plot points can seem a bit obvious whilst others seem like a shot in the darkness, shocking and confusing.  I found these after watching the TV show based on them and there are similarities in the first book but they aren't exactly the same, so don't let that put you off  reading them if you've watched the show.

Another book good book I recieved was from my lovely friend who bought me the Bristol Community Cook Book.
The Adventuress is an early work by Audry Niffenegger, of the Time Travellers Wife fame.  It is a story full of quirky characters, amusing and sometimes sad happenings.  The book is a gorgeous hard back book with a velvet spine and illustrations to carry the story along when words will not do. It is a modern day fairytale for the young at heart.

The last of the books which has caught my imagination recently has been: Abraham Licoln Vampire Hunter.
This book is from the pen of the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame Smith. This book acts in a smilar manner to older vampire tales like Dracula trying to set up the truth of the account before spinning a wild tale but the actual story is more about the life of Abraham Lincoln than vampires. It took me longer to get into this book than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, maybe it's because Seth is getting more mature and sticking to one type of undead foe and no other tricks like ninjas were employed.  However, it could have been because of the historical build up due to the protagonists importance in American history, something I've never given a lot of thought to being not being American.... This isn't a book for historical purists or people looking for a serious read, this has pictures of an axe wielding Abe and vampires in period dress.  The book adds extra drama to an already dramatic life and it becomes gripping as you read of Lincoln's rise to power and turmoil in office. It's definately up there with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

I'm currently reading Mythology by Edith Hamilton.  What are you reading?  What have you read recently?

Monday, 18 July 2011

52 Recipe Challenge - Week 3.

This week was a week of birthdays, the first birthday of my two cats Frankenstein and Tuxedo.

As well as my sister’s birthday, although I won’t say how old she was that would be rude.... because it was her birthday and she had invited me around to hers, so I decided to bake something I thought she would like to eat as my recipe this week. That is why I decided to try to make apple and cinnamon muffins as she is a great lover of the cheesecake shop’s apple cake. This recipe is from the Bristol Community Cake Book which I received for my birthday and wanted an excuse to use and this occasion seemed perfect!

To Make these muffins you need:

1 Apple
Milk 1/2 pint or 1 cup
Vegtable/ sunflower oil 80ml or 1/3 cup
1 Egg
Brown sugar 90g or 1/3 cup
Self Raising Flour 120g or 1 cup
Baking powder 1 teaspoon
Oats 90g or 1 cup
Raisins 150g or 1 cup
Nutmeg 1 teaspoon
Cinammon 1 teaspoon

To start off with I preheated the oven to gas mark 6 (or 200c on an electric oven), made a cup of tea and lined my muffin tin.

  Then after a few swigs of my tea I got all the ingredients and equipment out that I needed and glanced over the recipe which seemed simple enough.

The recipe called for 1 apple but I had two apples which had some bruising on them which I decided was the equivelant of one once the bruised areas were removed.The first thing I did was start to peel the apples and whilst doing this I read the recipe more and realised that it was measured in cups not grams or ounces and that I don’t have measuring cups...

So I nipped away for a minute to find conversions on the internet and for the flour, oats, milk, sugar, raisins and oil. After that was sorted I finished peeling and chopping the apples.

Next I measured the flour, oats, raisins, baking powder and sugar before putting them in a bowl and adding the apple so that it was covered in flour.

In another bowl I added the milk, oil and egg, the recipe didn’t say to do anything with them but I thought it best to give them a little whisk.

Once I had done that I put the flour and apple mix into the bowl with the egg and milk mix and stirred them together. It was at this point I started to worry that I had measured the cups wrong as the mix was a lot runnier than my normal cake and muffin mixes. I looked the recipe over again and remembered that I hadn’t added the nutmeg and cinnamon so I did that and although it didn’t make the mix any less runny it made me panic a little less.

After mixing all the ingredients together I spooned the mix into muffin and bun cases and put in the oven for 20 minutes until they were cooked.

Then quickly popped them in a tin for the journey to Nottingham.

The muffins recipe for the muffins was a good one and if you had measuring cups I'm sure would be very simple but I think I’m not quite there with the cup measuring system yet and they didn't really rise as well as I'd have liked them too.  Despite this they tasted very nice and you can pretend your being healthy eating them however; they're not going to be a competitor to the Cheese Cake Shop's much beloved Apple Cake anytime soon!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Five Great Things

 The other week was a rather lovely one filled with great things.

It started with a swelteringly hot Monday and great thing number 1:
A surprise packet through the door from a good friend north of the border a lovely birthday card and a gorgeous badge!

I dare you to say this badge doesn’t make you smile!

Great thing number 2:
The Flaming Lips Eden Session I went to on 30/06/2011
Now it’s no secret that I like The Flaming Lips. I love them! I’ve enjoyed their music for the best part of a decade, my first album of theirs which I purchased was the slightly experimental Clouds Taste Metallic and then I found out about their more accessible, some might say commercial, (the chocolate thief would say enjoyable) music.

We missed the last tour and the didn’t have any holidays planned so when we found out they were playing down at the Eden Project in Cornwall it seemed an amazing idea to buy tickets, it was!

The tickets allowed access to the Eden Project on the day of the gig and the day after and they essentially put on a mini festival during the course of the day with music on the Biotik stage in the mediteranean Biome and another smaller stage throughout the day.

Then after the Eden Project closed to visitors OK GO took to stage as the first of two supports, they played their spiky pop rock and I kept trying to remember which of those songs they did the treadmill video to as they nearly all sounded the same.   

Except for the song they did with all of them playing hand bells, that was some thing different, an act of extreme coordination if nothing else.

The next band to play was The GO! Team who worked a lot harder to try and get the audience to dance and participate to mixed success.  Their act was more varied and more active than that of OK GO but their music is more pop and r'n'b based in my opinion and they tried hard to ensure that people responded as well to their new material as well as their hits like Ladyflash.

There was an hours break between The Go! Team and The Flaming Lips performances but thankfully the Eden Project had put on food so we could get something to eat. After a quick chilli break we headed to the stage and managed to get 5 people from the front.  Result!  Last time we saw them we were miles away on a balcony in the Manchester Apollo far from all the fun in the standing area.  The band then proceeded to tease us by soundchecking in font of us and then giving a warning about strobe lights before the show started. 

They then entered in style through a massive screen.

Then Wayne got into his bubble and pushed it like a butterfly in a cocoon as it filled up.

Once the bubble was fully inflated he rolled out on to the crowd and we pushed him  around like waves rolling driftwood.

Then they kicked out ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ and let lose the giant balloons. The set was great peppered with old classics like ‘ She Don’t Use Jelly’ and their protest song ‘The Yeah Yeah Yeah song’ as well as new tracks from their latest Embryonic album which work best live when you can dance along to the beat.

The Flaming Lips can’t be accused of not putting on a show they did the normal tricks of encouraging the audience to sing along to songs as well as using their own brand of entertainment complete with confetti cannons and massive lazer hands.

What’s not to love?
Then the went and rounded the show off in the encore with a shower of confetti and one fo my favourite songs of all time ‘Do You Realize’. If you get a chance to see them live my advice is... do it!

Great thing number 3:
Street art in Sheffield.

I think this is by an artist called Phlem; however, I approve whoever did this!

Great thing number 4:
The Sheffield Steel Roller Girls Bout on 02/07/2011
I have recently discovered Roller Derby, it’s a sport I had heard of and read articles about in the past and then after watching Whip It a film about the sport I thought it’s time to go and see my local roller derby team The Sheffield Steel Roller Girls play.  I saw them first at the Royal Shredding where they played Leeds Roller Dolls and where they lost 86 – 109 Despite them losing I was hooked on this fast paced and complicated game.

So I jumped at the chance when a fellow fan asked me to go to their next Sheffield bout Blocky Balboa!
This time we took the suicide seats near the track and watched as Sheffield had a difficult first half as their jammers struggled to break through the strong defences of the Royal Winsor Roller Girls. The second half was a different story, the Sheffield Steel girls started off strong and looked like they would smash their way to the lead but the Royal Winsor girls had different ideas and fought back.  It was a close one right up to the last five minutes when the Royal Winsor roller girls took the lead and wouldn’t give it back no matter how hard Sheffield tried.

This time the score was closer at 83 – 95 to Royal Winsor but it was still a great bout so great thing number 4!

Great thing number 5:
Dylan Moran at Sheffield City Hall 2nd July.
Dylan Moran is a great comedian he doesn’t need a silly hair cut or to laugh at his own jokes to get attention like some comedians I have seen on television... If you enjoyed him playing Bernard Black in Black Books you will probably like his live performances. He provides doodles for the backdrops for his shows, drinks red wine and he sticks with his own rambling jokes and observations.

On this tour he covered such varied subjects as the North South divide, England, Scotland and Ireland, Religion, politics and gender amongst other things.   One of my favourite jokes of his from this tour was when he said women could take over the world if we could just get on with each other, he may or may not have a point there... 

So those are my five great things from the other week, I may add another five rather good things shortly...  What five great things have you come across recently?  Are there any things you really like and think ore people should also enjoy? Please feel free to join my rave about great things!

Monday, 11 July 2011

52 Recipe Challenge - Week 2.

This week I decided to try something a bit more practical and something savoury.  The recipe I tried this week was a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall one I found on the Channel 4 food website which intrigued me, butternut and nut butter soup. Recently I have mainly been eating soup for my lunch at work but have got stuck into a rut of the same old leek and potato or carrot and coriander soups so I decided to loo for inspiration.  Now, I’m not a stranger to squash it’s good in curries and even better roasted with garlic and cheese so the idea of finding a new use for this vegetable seemed like a good one.

The recipe I’m going to put down isn’t exactly faithful to the original as I don’t like nuts and one of the main ingredients was peanut butter, so I decided to experiment and use hummus instead...

To make this soup you need:

A  Butternut Squash
A large onion or two small ones
A knob of butter (about two knife scrapings)
Two cloves of garlic one chopped, one crushed
A bit of ginger
Some chilli
1 ltr boiling water
2 vegetable stock cubes
A tub of hummus
Lime juice

In the original recipe they include things to top your soup with  such as yogurt; however, I didn’t have any in my fridge to I left this out.

To start off I chopped the squash in half and peeled it.  (I don’t like peeling squash as it isn’t as easy as peeling potatoes or carrots... but it was part of the recipe so it had to be done!)

After peeling the squash I chopped it into smaller pieces and put them in a bowl to one side.

Next I chopped up the two small onions as I only had small onions, once cut up I put a  knob of butter in my saucepan and when that was melted added the onions. I cooked the onions until they went soft.

  In the original recipe it says use fresh chilli, garlic and ginger but I cheated and used lazy garlic, ginger and idle chilli. When making this soup I added a teaspoon of lazy pre-chopped garlic. I mashed another teaspoon of lazy garlic in my garlic crusher, then I added a teaspoon of lazy ginger and a teaspoon of idle chilli and stirred the lot together.

After that had cooked for a few minutes I added the squash, a sprinkle of salt and pepper then put the kettle on to boil. 

Whilst the kettle was boiling I mixed the squash with the onion and spice mix, once the kettle had boiled I mixed my vegetable stock cubes in the boiling water then added it to the rest of the soup. 
  After doing this I turned the heat up and got the soup to boil and then turned it down to simmer and put the lid on so that it covered most of the pan but let some of the steam escape. 

I then left it for about 20 – 30 minutes whilst I washed some pots and started on cutting things up for my tea. When my tea was bubbling away next to my soup I checked on my soup and decided it was time to stop simmering and start blending.  Initially I started trying to ladle the soup from the pan into the blender attachment but then decided against it and poured it all in over the sink incase of spillages.

I then whizzed it in my blender for a few seconds and put it back in the pan.

My next step was to try to combine the hummus and the soup.  I got the hummus out of the fridge and put it in a bowl and tried stirring it with a bit of soup as was the original recipe advised doing with peanut butter, I wasn’t sure if this was quite successful but put it in the pan with the soup anyway.  I tried stirring it lots but it didn’t mix so I put it all back in the blender and it combined.
Once again I transferred the soup from the blender to the pan and heated it through on a low heat, once it looked all bubbly and hot I turned the heat off and added a splash of lime juice, lots of dried coriander, some salt, pepper and chilli to season.

This Suash and Hummus soup tasted different to all the other soups I have made.  Maybe it was because of the experimenting with the hummus or the lack of potatoes as most of my other soups contain potatoes... but it was rich and tasty with a mix of sweet and savoury notes.  The only down side is I may have over done the chilli seasoning a tad as it made my mouth tingle afterwards.  Must remember: chilli is not a seasoning!

Have you tried any new recipes recently? Or do you have any good squash recipes you’d like to share with me?