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This week I’m not going to be blogging very much myself, so I’ve arranged for a couple of guest blogs this week from my friends!! Indra is a good friend of mine, and writes The Blog of an Amateur Gardener, and would like to share her recipe for revenge on the dandelion!!!

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Ok, so guest blogging! Well, I’m Indra and I’m a gardener, and I did some baking and this crossed over our blogs, so here I am! *waves*

So, what have I been doing? Well, I have been eating dandelions, of course! Yes, people those annoying weeds are edible!
You can eat the leaves, however this is not the time of the year to be nomming down on them, they are terribly bitter at the moment. However, you can eat the flowers. They can be pulled apart and sprinkled on salads, or you can make fritters from them. But how do I do this Indra? Well, you follow this recipe, of course šŸ˜€
Remember to try and pick your dandelions from areas away from pollution and dog wee!
If you would like to read more of my garden related rambellings you can read my blog atĀ http://amateurgardenerblog.wordpress.com/

Dandelion Fritters

Ingredients :

  • 55g /2oz flour (gluten free can be made from a mix of cornflour, gram flour and rice flour, using a 1:1:1 ratio)
  • dandelion flowers
  • 1 egg beaten
  • pinch of salt
  • water
  • butter/marg, for frying

Method :

  1. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl and stir in the beaten egg to form a stiff thick dough like batter.
  2. Slowly add the water a little at a time, stirring well each time, until it goes to a thin batter
  3. Heat butter/marg in frying pan.
  4. Dip the flowers into the batter, and fry in pan until golden brown.
  5. Serve.

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I’d like to just thank Indra again for contributing again, and remind you that you can find a link to her blog on the blog roll on the right hand side of this page!!

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I’d wager that a lot of people around the country, in particular those in the midlands and the south had never heard of parched peas until Johnnie Mountain cooked them on Great British Menu, with his rabbit pudding and gravy. Parched peas a practically a delicacy in the north west, and I have great memories of eating them at bonfire night celebrations, and in Garstang Victorian Christmas Festival when I was younger, and my dad helped a friend with a fairground organ.

It’s a nostalgic flavour, and the smell of my kitchen at the moment is brilliant! If you were to visit Preston, you would find a stall on the Flag Market selling baked potatoes, and Ā parched peas, sometimes the queue can be as long as 10 minutes, yet nobody is ever put off!

Parched Peas

Ingredients :

  • dried parching peas (also known as Maple or Black peas)
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • salt
  • vinegar
  • butter

Method :

  1. Soak the peas overnight in a bowl of cold water, with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.
  2. The following day, drain the peas, and rinse them under some running water.
  3. Transfer the peas to a large pan, and cover with enough with cold water, bring up to the boil, and boil for 20minutes, then reduce to a simmer, for at least an hour, until the peas go soft.
  4. Drain the peas, and bake in the oven for 5mins at 20 degrees centigrade, until some of the peas have split open.
  5. Serve in a white mug, with a knob of butter, and PLENTY of salt and vinegar.

Seriously, parched peas are not a dish for those worried about their sodium intake

To continue the retro feel, I used the chintziest bowl in the world

To continue the retro feel, I used the chintziest bowl in the world

Yes, more politics… I promise I’ll stop, sometime… but this time there’s hardly a tone of seriousness about this blog post! After watching the election coverage the other night, I have been inspired by some of the frivolous independent parties, and before I continue with my plans, I’d like to give some kudos to some of my favourites.

Obviously when you mention frivolous parties, the first to come to mind is The Monster Raving Loony Party who have always been brilliant, with manifesto pledges such as “introduce a 99p coin to save on change”.

One of my favourites during this election, was Mad Cap’n Tom, whose strongest policy was a pledge to “Fix broken Britain”… “A free roll o’ duct tape, sent t’all homes”.

And an extra special mention goes to Derek Jackson from The Landless Peasant Party, who I’m not quite sure if they’re frivolous or not, or at least if that was the intention… but he held his fist in a defiant gesture throughout the announcement of the result, and Gordon Brown’s five minute speech.

Eventually, he put his hand down

Eventually, he put his hand down

But now… the time has come, the time has come for me to reveal the name of my political party which will run in the local election next year in my area. Brace yourselves, I think you’re going to like it…

THE DINNER PARTY

THE DINNER PARTY

Yes, what else could I call my political party? I had considered The Birthday Party and The Surprise Party, but when I thought of “The Dinner Party” I knew I had found the name, and nothing could change my mind. Although, slightly more important than the name of the party, is my manifesto. Please bare in mind, that as a new party, I am still working on the manifesto, but here are the key pledges.

  1. McDonald’s to be abolished. The Dinner Party’s stance on McDonald’s can be summed up in three words, “Absolutely terrible filth”, and feel it our duty to have the curse upon the UK abolished, and can only hope that all over governments worldwide see that this is an important step towards a brighter future.
  2. 40% taxation on all microwave convenience foods. Once again, The Dinner Party’s stance on microwave meals is very similar towards our stance on McDonald’s, in the fact there is no need, and no excuse for microwave meals. People may say they don’t have time to cook, yet there are many recipes that can be made in the same amount of time it takes to heat up a Weight Watchers Chicken Korma with Pilau Rice.
  3. Come Dine With Me to revisit the city of Preston. Many fans of hit reality TV series, “Come Dine With Me”, agree that the Preston episode was one of the best, with characters such as Dawn Barry, who was constantly drunk, sick and at her own dinner party, fell asleep and left her guests to finish the cooking.
  4. Egg cartons to come with cooking instructions. Sadly it seems that even though the good saint, Delia Smith tried her best to educate people on the basics of cookery, people still don’t know how to boil an egg, we call for instructions printed on the inside of the lid of cartons of eggs, explaining all different cooking methods, including both stages of hard boiled (gooey and solid).

The Dinner Party has a recipe to make Britain great, again!!

If you would like to stand in your local election as a candidate for The Dinner Party, please leave a comment below, and remember, that it is entirely free to stand in local elections, there are no financial obligations, however any leaflets printed, will have to be paid for by the candidate, as I cannot subsidise you, when I have to buy some vanilla pods tomorrow.

Friday, Pie-Day!

Well, after staying up till the small hours, following the election coverage, I’ve been shattered all day, yet, because I’m so nice, I’ve pushed myself to cook something tasty and then blog about it for you all. I’m generous like that. Yes, I’ll work myself into an early grave just so I can get another blog out. Such is my addiction to writing this blog!

I spent ages mooching around Preston today, looking in the market, at all the stalls, had a couple of oysters at one of the stalls, that was lovely. I gave in, went to the library to look through some cookbooks to try and inspire me, went out with no inspiration, and inspiration finally struck when I was stood at a greengrocers, next to a butchers. The two things I saw at the same time, leek and chicken. So it was decided, Chicken and Leek Pie should be my tea tonight!

I know people will complain, just like when I made the Cheese and Onion Pie, but I didn’t make the pastry from scratch. I’m far too tired to much about with all that effort. I just got shortcrust pastry mince from the weigh and save shop in Preston. Nice guy, but tried to get me to buy carrot cake mix. I know it’s kinda hypocritical from someone using instant pastry mix, but I’ll not buy instant cake mix to which I only have to add water. He said that if I made it, I would just have to invite a girl round for the carrot cake, and she’d be mine… so if any girls fancy some carrot cake, leave a comment! šŸ˜‰

Chicken and Leek Pie

Ingredients :

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 pint of milk
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • bay leaf
  • sprigs of thyme
  • sprigs of marjoram
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 20g butter
  • 20g plain flour
  • shortcrust pastry (either home made, ready made, or instant pastry mix)
  • 1 egg

Method :

  1. Place the chicken thighs in a pan, with the onion, bay leaf, thyme, and marjoram. Cover with a pint of milk, and simmer for an hour on the lowest light possible (to avoid the milk catching) with a lid on.
  2. Whilst the chicken thighs are poaching, slice and sweat the leeks in a little oil and butter. Season with salt and lots of black pepper. Once sweated, drain from the oil and butter, and transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Remove the chicken thighs from the poaching milk, and shred, discarding the skin.
  4. Strain the herbs and onion from the poaching milk into a jug, skim as much of the fat which will settle at the top as possible.
  5. Make a roux, by gently melting the butter, and then adding the flour, beating vigorously to cook out the flour.
  6. Gradually add the poaching milk to the roux, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Check for seasoning, chicken and leek go well with a good bit of black pepper. Add some more marjoram.
  7. Line a pie dish with the shortcrust pastry, and add the chicken and leek filling. Then pour over the white sauce.
  8. Add a pastry lid, slash so that the steam can escape.
  9. Whisk an egg , and then use to glaze the pastry.
  10. Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes at 200 degrees celsius/gas mark 4.

I’m having mine with chips, if I was feeling less tired, I’d probably make some mash and serve it with some asparagus… infact, when I made the cheese and onion pie, I was tired then, too! Hmm, I keep doing this to myself.

Wow, after all the hype, scandals, name calling and televised debates, it’s finally Election Day, or as I like to know it, National Not Voting Conservative Day (yeah, I’m a bleeding-heart, liberal!), most of us have been out to make our votes, even though Rupert Murdoch (boooo, hissss) has already told us how to vote, through owning far too many media companies than one man should be allowed. Knowing my luck he owns WordPress, and I’ll come to my blog in a short while, and find it heavily censored, but enough about politics, lets talk about food.

During the American election coverage (ok, I promise I’ll stop talking about politics soon), me and a couple of friends stayed up all night to follow it, with pizza and booze, and for the UK General Election, I thought I would go one better, and make food from scratch for it… well, yeah, I’m still having a shop bought pizza, but I’m terrible at making pizza, so there! But cookies, I’ve not made cookies in ages, and I decided that’s what I should make.

I instantly thought, “Smarties Cookies”, it’s one of my favourite things about getting a meal deal at Subway, the Smarties Cookies!! So tasty, and chewy and best when slightly warm. So off I popped to the village shop, they sell Smarties, surely, I’ve seen them there before… heh, I wish. The one day when I want a few tubes of Smarties… they don’t have any.

But no!, Lady Luck was on my side, as I saw in the corner of my eye, a choir of angels began to sing, as I spotted a big family pack of M&M’s! Hooray! All was not lost, and I can tell you, I walked home with a spring in my step after being rescued by Mars Inc.

Election Day Cookies, in the blue cookie, Conservatives, in the red cookie, Labour, and in the orange cookie, Liberal Democrats

Election Day Cookies, in the blue cookie, Conservatives, in the red cookie, Labour, and in the orange cookie, Liberal Democrats

Election Day M&M Cookies

Ingredients :

  • 345g plain flour
  • 300g granulated sugar
  • 250g butter (softened)
  • 185g bag of Chocolate M&M’s
  • 1 large egg
  • 1tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2tsp of baking powder

Method :

  1. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder into a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar together until it goes pale.
  3. Once pale, beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
  4. Gradually beat the dry ingredients in to the butter and egg mixture, until it forms a stiff dough.
  5. Stir the M&M’s into the cookie dough.
  6. Roll into small balls, and place on a baking tray with baking parchment, leaving enough room for them to expand (and they will!)
  7. Bake at 20o degrees centigrade for 10 minutes (or until golden), reduce the heat accordingly for fan assisted ovens.
  8. When taken out of the oven, give the tray with the cookies on it a gentle slam onto a hard surface, to knock the air out, and make the M&M’s more pronounced
  9. Leave on trays to stiffen slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  10. Make sure you try at least one whilst still warm, as this is when all cookies are at their best (although they’re just as good cold!)
About to take the first bite

About to take the first bite

Yummy

Yummy

Met with approval!

Met with approval!

BLOG UPDATE!! Friends have accused me of bias towards the big three parties, and insisted that I created a cookie which represented the fascist BNP… so here, I give you… “THE BNP BISCUIT!!”

"Racially Pure" cookie

"Racially Pure" cookie

NOT met with approval

NOT met with approval*

*actually, it’s still a nice cookie, but for the purposes of political commentary, a cookie representing the fascist BNP could never be met with approval, could it?

In the next blog, I promise there won’t be as much politics!! I swear!

Anybody who knows me, will know that I look up to Heston Blumenthal something silly. If I was a woman, I would probably stalk him, asking him to marry me every day, eventually earning me a restraining order, stopping me from living out my dream of visiting his restaurant… so I’m not going to do that. But here are 6 reasons why I love Heston Blumenthal!

1) Heston can cure peoples MSG fear

Yes, it’s recently come to Heston’s attention that hospital food is bloody awful, and after his success in improving the sub-hospital quality food of Little Chef. But he’s not just curing the hospitals dreadful food, he’s cured the nations fear of monosodium glutamate! Yes, MSG, that little flavour enhancer, everyone freaks out when they see it… but if you have an article talking about the 5th taste, “umami”, and never at any point mention “MSG”, everyone worships him.

2) He has the patience of a saint

During Heston’s time trying to improve the quality of Little Chef’s dreadful menu, he constantly had to deal with one of the worst people in the world, Ian Pegler. Unfortunately (yeah right) Ian has left his position with Little Chef. Ian was an annoying jobsworth jerk. Heston wanted figures, he wouldn’t give them him. Ian wanted 3 Michelin Star quality food, at Little Chef Prices (which although ain’t that cheap, still not going to afford him 3 star standards!!) and constantly saying “blue sky thinking”, “I want blue sky thinking, Heston”… he wanted a punch in the mouth, that’s what!

Heston Blumenthal doing .... ermm... something

Heston Blumenthal doing .... ermm... something

3) He’s all about the retro

If Heston was at the height of his career about 10 years ago, he would have been on those BBC2 programmes, “I Love the 60’s”, etc. He is the king of retro! If you watch his Channel 4 series, Heston’s Feasts, this years series has been more about retro foods than ever! Even to the point of creating his own Pot Noodle!! If you are lucky enough to get a seat at his Bray restaurant, The Fat Duck, you will be sent in the post an atomizer (for want of a better word) with the essence of sweetshop in it, you are given a web address, and then you put together your ideal sweetshop bag of sweets. As you leave the restaurant, you visit Heston’s Sweet Shop, and you are greeted by the smell of a sweetshop, and you get your bag of sweets you chose online!

4) He will cook meat for three days

In short, meat is brilliant, it deserves respect. 3 days at a ridiculously low heat shows respect for meat.

5) SCIENCE!!!

I absolutely love science, I do. I’m fascinated by chemistry and physics, biology, not so much, but all the best scientists specialise! This is why I love molecular gastronomy, the science element. Using centrifuges, usually seen in hospitals with vials of blood, to separate food into it’s component parts. Using whisked egg whites with bubbles blown from flammable gas to flambĆ© a dessert… the man is a lunatic… and yes, there may be many other chefs out there using similar techniques… but do any of those look like a mad scientist, quite the same amount as Heston? No. No they don’t!

6) His cookbook also doubles as a weapon

I don’t approve of violence, but when I save up enough money to buy The Big Fat Duck Cookbook, it will always be next to my bed… not just because it will be compelling reading, not just because it’s over 500 pages, and will take at least a fortnight to read cover to cover (which I will invariably do!)… it weighs 6.3kg!! And I want to be able to say before I die, that Heston Blumenthal saved my life, because if a stranger creeps in my bedroom at night to steal my ukuleles (which they all want to do!), a 6.3kg book will make a brilliant blunt weapon… but only in self defence… well, I say self defence. If I know Olly Smith is going to be appearing somewhere close to me, perhaps masquerading as Lord Flashheart at a Blackadder convention, I’ll find him, and test my theory that The Big Fat Duck Cookbook is a brilliant weapon, and you’ll be the first to know.

Like I say, I love Heston Blumenthal

Well then, my thoughts on Iron Chef UK… where do I start?

Let’s go back to the very beginning, Iron Chef was a Japanese cookery programme, which started in 1993, and the general jist was an accomplished chef challenges one of the “Iron Chefs” in a cook off, all based around one ingredient. With both the Iron Chef and challenger being both talented cooks, there would be some extremely flamboyant dishes created, in order to win points with the judges.

Later on, the format was picked up by Food Network who created Iron Chef USA. Now, usually I cannot stand American cookery programmes (don’t even get me started on Ina Garten, seriously, measuring everything in cups and sticks of butter, always cooking a dinner party, and her gaggle of gay friends will always be on hand to do a lovely bouquet of flowers and set the table, christs sake!), but this is a brilliant American programme, there’s no talking to camera from the chefs, just heads down, working to create wonderful elaborate dishes, the commentator and floor reporter are charming, stand back and let the food do the talking, and it’s great entertainment…

And then some idiot allowed Channel Four to buy rights to the format… brilliant work(!)

Ok, so I sound negative, but the UK format is flawed in so many ways, mainly Olly Smith, but I’ll come back to him later!

We have four brilliant Iron Chefs, in the forms of Tom Aikens, Martin Blunos, Sanjay Dwivedi and Judy Joo… all four of whom are fantastic cooks (I particularly enjoy Tom’s style of cooking, and his personality when he talks to the camera or Olly F&Ā£”&(“*Ā£*”E$**””)%*Ā£”*!ING Smith shines through, and you can see he is a charismatic and charming individual! But one of the flaws is that instead of having the Iron Chef battling against another highly skilled chef, you have an unfair battle of one Iron Chef, against four talented cooks/chefs, but those who are nowhere near the standard of the Iron Chefs.

There is none of the over the top flair shown by either Iron Chefs or challengers, in comparison to Iron Chef USA, there are some dishes which look delicious, but nothing with wow factor. But it’s just not entertaining seeing the same four challengers every day, out of their depth cooking things I could easily knock up in my own kitchen. That’s not what I watch Iron Chef for, I watch Iron Chef in the same way I watch Heston Blumenthal programme, to see food I could never dream of recreating in my own kitchen! And then at the end of each day the best challenger gets a gold star. A GOLD STAR?!, I ask you, the last time I saw anyone give someone a gold star, I was in junior school, and it was when someone had done really well at a difficult sum!

But I can live with this part of the format being flawed, the biggest issue for me, is this man…

Olly Smith, Shiny Haired Aryan Buffoon

Olly Smith, Shiny Haired Aryan Buffoon

Yes, this slick haired idiot is the sole reason that Iron Chef UK will never live up to the quality of viewing, that Iron Chef USA is. This moon faced beaming individual, with the personality of a mosquito that keeps landing on you and won’t shut up is the worst thing about this programme.

Olly hit his stride at driving me mental, when I was ready to put a golf club through the TV to get rid of his voice during BattleĀ Mackerel, when at every point he opened his mouth he made a pirate based pun. I know whenever I think of pirates, the first thought to pop into my head is “oh! mackerel!”. Infact, I’m pretty certain that in Pirates of the Caribbean, Jonny Depp’s character mostly sat about eating mackerel(!)

If maybe it was Battle Rum, I could understand pirate references, but MACKEREL?!?

Honestly(!). Olly’s over the top enthusiasm would be enough to make a tellytubby reach for a machine gun, just to shut him up!

So, what do I think of Iron Chef UK? Well, if in Series 2 (if it gets recommissioned), I’d much prefer for the format to be more similar to the Iron Chef USA format, and if Oily Smith could be left on a remote island with no contact to the outside world during filming of the next series, that’d be brilliant.

Of course, I’ll continue to watch Iron Chef UK, I love nothing more than shouting at my TV screen at that jolly wine slurping long tongued babbling gimp, Olly Smith.

You can catch Iron Chef UK on Channel 4, weekdays at 5pm, or on C4+1 at 6pm