30 Nov 2008

Coffee Anyone?

I mentioned we had a new coffee machine earlier this year. Our old coffee machine died and we decided to do some research for a few weeks and investigate our options.

There are some amazing forums for coffee lovers where you can get advice overload! They are a very useful source of information, especially if you are about to make a leap up the coffee machine ladder.

We learnt very fast from the forums, the coffee grinder is the most important piece of equipment, and we purchased a Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder. My husband really, really wanted to be the proud owner of a Rancilio Silvio coffee machine but as I explained to him, the machine has to be moved to the front of the work surface to be used and the Rancillio weighs approximately 14kg. We eventually decided to buy a Gaggia Classic coffee machine weighing in at 8kg.

A jug is needed to foam the milk, a Gaggia thermometer for checking the milk and last but not least, top quality freshly roasted coffee beans which we purchase from Hasbean .

You can see by the foam on the milk that we are getting better, but not yet to Barista standard!

We are very happy with our choices and occasionally go to our local coffee shop, which happily for us has been voted the UK's best coffee house! Here you get treated to excellent coffee, topped with latte art.

This week I went to the Good Food Show in Birmingham, and out of curiosity, asked for a demo on a top of the range fully automatic coffee machine. I can only say how disappointed I was, the milk was made up of huge bubbles and the coffee was dire. To make a good cup of coffee, passion and enthusiasm is needed, pressing a button simply just won't do!

23 Nov 2008


This cake could easily be made now, and frozen without it's icing, ready for Christmas. It is full of all things Christmassy, dried cranberries, apricots, ground almonds and orange. Making a Christmas cake isn't for everyone and we all know it's quite a time consuming task.

I decorated the cake with glace icing and then simply brushed the bay leaves and green grapes with egg white, dusted them with caster sugar and left them to dry. Even if you don't make the cake, frosted grapes are delicious!

I nearly forgot to say, if you do make this cake, don't put the mixture into a paper cake liner as I did, otherwise you will end up with cake liner marks on your cake and it really isn't a good look for a special occasion cake.

You can either make this cake in a 2lb loaf tin or halve the mixture and use two 1lb loaf tins. Either way, they need to be greased and lined.

For the cake:

175g butter, 175g caster sugar, 4 eggs, 300g self-raising flour, 100g dried cranberries, 200g chopped ready-to-eat apricots, 50g ground almonds, grated zest 1 orange.

1. Heat the oven to Gas 3, 160°C, 325°F.
2. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs adding a little of the flour if the mixture curdles. Stir in the flour with the cranberries, apricots, almonds and orange zest.
4. Dollop into the tin, smooth the top and bake for approximately 1½ hours(the 1lb loaf tins will take less time to cook), until golden, risen and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin.

For the decoration:

1 orange, 100g caster sugar, 4-5 green grapes, 6 bay leaves, 2 tablespoons orange juice. Or alternatively, you can use a glace icing.

1. Put 2 tablespoons of orange juice and 2 tablespoons of the sugar into a small pan, boil for 2 minutes until syrupy. Add the remaining sugar, stir well then drizzle over the cake.
2. Decorate with the frosted grapes, bay leaves and curls of orange peel (this can be made by using a potato peeler and paring off one long strip of orange rind, cut the strip of orange rind into 3 or 4 strips and wind up tightly).

16 Nov 2008


'You Challenge Gordon Ramsay' is a new series in Olive Magazine where a reader challenges Gordon Ramsay to see if their recipe against his, in a blind test by three members of the Olive Magazine reader panel, matches up to Gordon's. Of course Gordon won, but only by one point!

The lemon tart has melted dark chocolate brushed over the cooked pastry case and this is then allowed to cool before adding the lemon filling. I chose not to use the chocolate because I wasn't too sure about messing about with a classic recipe. The purpose of the chocolate, although not written about in the recipe, is I presume to keep the pastry base from going soft. Next time I make the tart though, it will definitely be with the chocolate base!

The pastry can be made in the food processor, a quick whizz and it's done. The pastry is quite sticky and I decided to roll the pastry out between two sheets of cling film to make life easier.

If you decide to have a go at making this tart try not to over cook the filling, but leave it at the wobble stage in the centre.

When the tart had cooled I dusted it with icing sugar and then my husband ran an industrial blowtorch over the surface to give a brulee effect! You don't think I'm going to use that thing, do you?!!! If you scan down to the end of this posting you will see him having some brulee fun.

The filling had lots of lemon flavour and not too sweet, the pastry was very similar to shortbread. I'll definitely be making this again - but not this side of Christmas!

OLIVE MAGAZINE - October 2008 Page 61 The tart serves 8.

9 Nov 2008


My husband reminded me last night, British Sausage Week is from Monday 3rd November to Sunday,9th November.

Fortunately, quite a few of the butchers shops here are members of The Guild Q Butchers, they enter lots of competitions and seem to do really well. For instance, my local butcher is a gold medal winner for his pork sausage, year after year.

Whilst in Beckenham visiting family, we went to Villagers Sausages where every sausage imaginable can be bought. They have a very interesting website with press related articles, history and also lots of recipes, not forgetting that you can also order online.

The recipe I chose for British Sausage Week comes from the very talented cookery writer Annie Bell.

You will see from the photograph that my sausages are shall we say 'very well done'. I am a very fussy sausage eater, they have to be top quality and this is how I enjoy eating mine.

If you don't like your sausages as well cooked as mine, then by all means just show them the pan and brown the sausages lightly.

Only a small amount of red wine is used in this recipe, and unless you have got a bottle of red already opened, this can sometimes be a problem to the home cook. Maybe you have already come across Gourmet Classic seasoned cooking wines, these can be bought both in red and white. They have a screw top and can be kept in the store cupboard for up to three months after opening. I've seen these in both Waitrose and Sainsbury's.


ISBN 9781856268189 - Page 129

Serves: 4 people

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 600g chipolatas, 300g peeled shallots, 1 tablespoon plain flour, 200ml red wine, 300ml chicken stock, 1 bay leaf, black pepper, 500g peeled and thinly sliced medium main crop potatoes.

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan180°C/Gas 6. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and brown the sausages on both sides, doing this in two batches so as not to overcrowd the pan (I chose to grill mine).
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 30 x 20cm roasting dish over a medium heat, add the shallots and fry until slightly golden. Sprinkle over the flour and stir, then pour over the red wine and chicken stock. Add the sausages, bay leaf and a little seasoning, then bring to the boil.
3. Toss the potato slices in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of oil (I microwaved my sliced potatoes to start the cooking process first) and lay them on top of the sausages. Season and bake for 40 minutes until the potatoes are lovely and crisp.


1 Nov 2008


This is one of our favourite lamb curries, it's ridiculously simple to make and perfect for a Friday or Saturday evening meal.

The star ingredient in the sauce is Patak's Korma Curry Paste with coconut and coriander. You can read about Patak's on their very informative site here where they list the ingredients, nutritional information and lots of other useful details about their products.

A couple of comments regarding the ingredients list, I always dry fry coriander seeds and then grind them in the pestle and mortar. Any remaining fresh ginger can be successfully frozen, and then grated into any future recipes directly from the freezer, (there is no need to remove the brown outer layer of the ginger).

I have slightly adapted the amount of sauce from the original recipe, we prefer plenty of sauce to go with our rice and naan bread.

This recipe freezes well and if you only need enough for two, the other half can be frozen for a rainy day.


ISBN 1740452259 - Page 146

Serves 4

500g minced lamb, 1 onion (finely chopped), 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, 1 finely chopped small chilli, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 50g ground almonds, 2 tablespoons chopped coriander to garnish.

For the sauce: 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 finely chopped onion, 4½ tablespoons Korma curry paste, 1½ cans chopped tomatoes (600g), 180g thick natural yoghurt, 1½ teaspoons lemon juice.

1. Combine the lamb, onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, garam masala, ground coriander, ground almonds in a bowl. Shape into walnut size balls with your hands.
2. Heat a large non-stick frying pan and cook the koftas in batches until brown on both sides - they will not need to be cooked all through.
3. To make the sauce: heat the oil in a saucepan over low heat. Add the onion and cook for 8 minutes, or until soft and golden. Add the curry paste and cook until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the yoghurt (1 tablespoon at a time) and the lemon juice, stirring until combined.
4. Place the koftas in the tomato sauce. Cook, covered, over low heat for 20 minutes. Serve over steamed rice and garnish with the coriander.