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Meatball Madness

14 Mar

I was surprised recently to learn that ‘eating clean’ wasn’t just about green juice and limp leaves. After discovering this rather cool little website called The Kitchen Shed I’ve been educated that you can eat cleanly (if you so desire to) and still enjoy meals that seem to be rather at odds with such a notion. Such as Cheese Stuffed Meatballs – no really. Look!

As a big fan of both CHEESE and MEATBALLS (and of course TRYING TO BE HEALTHY) I had to give them a go. Look, this is basically turkey mince, bound with a little pesto and rolled into meatballs into which you press a little square of feta cheese. Easy, even for me.

FullSizeRenderI cooked these in the slow cooker with some homemade pasta sauce, I optimistically dusted with a little flour so they would hopefully keep their shape. I don’t know if flour is ‘eating clean’ I just wanted my little meatballs to stay that way.

11I’m very happy to report that – whilst a little dry – they remained as meatballish as possible (with only a small amount of mushiness).

112Don’t get hung up on the presentation I know it looks like dog food. But they tasted pretty good and the cheesy inside was a nice little surprise.

IMG_5206This is eating clean I can get on board with. No leaves in sight.


Screwing up with a Spiralizer

10 Jun

If you’ve even got a passing interest in food you’ll have heard of Spiralizing! I’ve been dancing around this new trend for a while now and even invested in my own contraption a few months ago. It has sat dusty and unused in the kitchen and became the cause of many rows over the use of space.

Anyway… I saw the Champions of Spiral Foodstuffs – the Hemsley sisters – on the telly this week and after their demo on how easy it was to replace spaghetti with courgettes (and how no one would even notice the difference) I decided to dust it off and give it a go myself…

Regular readers will know I’m a slave to the bloat and while I love the wheaty pasta stuff it doesn’t love me back so I was keen to see if I could indeed replace it with what is now called ‘Courgetti’ – so ubiquitous is this word now it even comes up on predictive text on your iPhone, try it.

And so taking care not to slice my fingers off with the blades – me and my mandolin fell out a long while back – I duly pressed my well endowed courgette into the vice like machine and off we went:

c1Look – it works. Actual spirals of food. I was rather amused and excited by the whole process! Like a much easier to work mangle and just as satisfying.

The sisters suggest you clip the stuff with scissors to make it easier to eat – remember the strands are much longer than the actual courgette itself (physics and maths note to self).

You also can’t help but smirk:
C6Apparently the rod that is left behind is called the ‘Chef’s Bonus’.


Enough of that. Now the recipes tell you to just stir it all through a hot sauce – which is enough to cook and soften it – but of course I had to do something else. And so just to make sure it was edible I put the strands into some boiling water for a minute or so. Look at the fresh, steaming loveliness:

c4I had a jar of pesto already (and while you should probably make your own I’m not quite cut out for that yet so don’t judge me) but thought I could at least add some toasted pine nuts. Maybe I could just about stretch to sorting that out?

But while I was taking the very photo above they managed to burn – wow those little sods don’t need long in a hot pan do they?Still, what’s a burnt pine kernel when you have COURGETTI?

Well they did manage to dye everything a rather nasty shade of brown and so my bright and lovely spirals turned into a seaweedy mush when added to the hot pan of black nuts and shop bought pesto:
c5Also the addition of a pan of boiling water to the process created this kind of slime lake in the bowl. I really never learn do I?

But this is not the Spiralizer’s fault at all, I claim all mistakes for my own. It’s rather a nifty little machine and I shall certainly be making more vegetable based pasta substitutes, and crispy curly sweet potato fries, and apple spirals for my son, and all the other stuff that will make me into a kitchen goddess.

Well hope springs and spirals eternal…


  • One courgette is enough for one person
  • Don’t take photos while you are toasting pine nuts
  • You don’t need to boil courgette spirals
  • Remember to follow the bloody recipe or recommendations (every time folks, every time, I’m hopeless)
  • Don’t be scared of the Spiralizer
  • Make some space in the kitchen
  • Rude vegetables are still funny

Davina’s Sugar Free Chicken Sinks

22 Apr

Regular readers will know I like to dip in and out of various eating plans with varying degrees of success quite often – basically if there is a bandwagon rolling by I will almost certainly jump on it (Remember Gwyneth Paltrow’s Detox Week? I do!)

I’ve been aware that we all need to cut back on sugar for ooooh years now and so happily snapped up Davina McCall’s new tome ‘5 Weeks to Sugar Free’ thinking it would help me do just that.
I don’t really have a sweet tooth – I’d much rather snack on crisps and nuts than chocolate and doughnuts – but still know there is plenty of hidden sweet stuff in the ready meals I have to eat regularly (because I would starve if I had to rely on my own cooking every day).

The recipes looked quite easy and because I already had some chicken and some yogurt thought a good place to start would be the Yogurt-Marinated Chicken (no flies on me). It really is quite simple, just add things like lemon juice, ginger, garlic, curry powder and onions to yogurt and marinade pieces of chicken in the mix overnight before baking in the oven.

How simple is that? Almost as simple as my meat and veg tray bake signature dish!

Anyway, me being me thought I would add something else to it – just to muddy the waters – and because I had one going a bit soft popped a red pepper in too. So I assume it was this that turned my expected crispy coated dish into a sunken mess?

Look at this, where has all this water come from? And why has it all congealed into one lump?

YogchickenThis is what it is meant to look like, sorry Davina:

FullSizeRenderWhat I managed to rescue from the chicken swimming pool actually tasted ok, but I couldn’t help thinking it lacked something in the presentation?

Still – sugar free – go me! I must try something else one day.

Homecooked! A New, Young Book

21 Oct

Look at this lovely new book I’ve been sent! It’s called Homecooked by Donal Skehan, and is apparently ‘as seen on TV’.
Because look at him, look at Donal, does he look old enough to have a cook book out? I’m surely old enough to be his mother?
Well yes he obviously is because it’s actually rather good – and no it’s not filled with space food, or popping candy or whatever it is the youngsters are eating these days. It’s actually full of rather traditional and dare I say it quite old fashioned dishes such as roast pork, fish & chips and creme brûlée. But there are some lovely twists on the traditional and various influences from around the world. There is also a fantastic ‘Fast & Healthy’ section, (which you know I might need now I am advancing in years).

As soon as I can get over my jealousy at this young over achiever already being a far better cook than I will ever be I shall be looking forward to trying a few of these recipes out. I feel a Celebrity Cook Challenge coming on…

20131021-172604.jpg‘Homecooked’ by Donal Skehan is out now.

Cheese Stake That Vampire

16 Sep

I’m a bit of a fan girl, if I love a film or TV show I’ll happily buy into the whole thing. I have a Game of Thrones mug (Lannister House of course), Breaking Bad t-shirts and once dressed up as Harry Potter to get into a midnight bookstore opening. So I was very happy to be sent the True Blood: Drinks & Bites Cookbook.
It will go marvellously well with my Merlotte’s Bar & Grill Waitress t-shirt and ‘I Want To Do Bad Things With You’ shopping bag (don’t judge me).
Vamp2 Continue reading

Foiled By Oil: Jamie’s Cauliflower Fritters

23 May

Thanks to everyone who voted in the inaugural Celebrity Can’t Cook Challenge. You may remember Gordon Ramsay’s Lancashire Hotpot was pitted against Jamie Oliver’s Curried Cauliflower Fritters – and lost.

So ladies and gentlemen I give you the results….

I was going to make these a night my husband was away but then realised I was a bit scared. I have never deep fried anything before and thought that if I was going to be boiling up vats of hot fat it would probably be a good idea to have someone else around. And I was right…

I mixed up the beer batter that involved adding some seeds and spices to give it a curry flavour. So far so good:
Continue reading

Celebrity Can’t Cook Challenge, Jamie vs Gordon: You Decide!

27 Apr

And the winner is…. Jamie’s Cauliflower Fritters with 57% of the vote. Thanks to everyone who voted, it looks like I’m going to be playing with a pan of hot fat this week. You are harsh.
Wish me luck!

Finally, an election you can believe in…

From now on (well until I burn the kitchen down) I shall regularly be asking you to vote on which tricky dish I should attempt next in my new Celebrity Can’t Cook Challenge.
Yes, I plan to pit the worlds greatest chefs against each other. Using me as the medium.

As a self-confessed terrible cook I am going to pick recipes from famous books (I have loads) and attempt to recreate them. Alice style.
BUT you will get to vote on which recipe I choose.
First up is:
Gordon Ramsay’s Lancashire Hotpot – from Great British Pub Food
Jamie Oliver’s Curried Cauliflower Fritters – from Jamie At Home

I know, it’s exciting right?

Continue reading

I’m A Proper Turkey

15 Dec

It’s Christmas! And look it’s even snowing…

But you know what that means? An orgy of cooking, baking and eating. And I intend to throw myself into that orgy fully.
So over the next couple of weeks expect posts about ruined roulades, stupid stollen and buggered up beef joints.

Look – I even own this:
How to cook Christmas written by the goddess herself Nigella. I have tried two recipes from this book, firstly the Macaroni Cheese that involved two types of cheese and evaporated milk, it was a total disaster. Curdled and salty and certainly not worth the million calories it contained.

And then three years ago I actually attempted her turkey! You take your bird and put it in a bucket of water outside for a few days before Christmas. Obviously not just plain water, water full of salt, peppercorns, bouquet garni, oranges, bay leaves and all manner of spices. I didn’t have everything that was required so I put in some herbal tea bags, not that I think it mattered.

The problems arose when I tried to take the monster out of the bucket after it had swelled to nearly twice it’s size and was now the weight of a small truck. Hoisting it out a leg broke off and it skittered across the floor leaving a trail of salty slime which of course I slipped over on as I went to chase it across the kitchen. I cried for a bit, and then cried a bit more the next day when the turkey didn’t taste any different from normal.

Husband now cooks the main Christmas lunch to ensure we actually have something to eat on the big day. I am both happy and sad about this.

BUT I don’t just need to roast the turkey to get in the spirit of the season there are plenty of other things I can get to grips with…

So are you scared Santa? You should be – it might be one of my mince pies left out for you to eat on Christmas Eve!

Cooking the cookery books…

7 Aug

Look, these are cook books from my actual kitchen. I own these, I read them, I use them. I buy the ingredients they list and follow the instructions as written (usually). See how mucky they are? That is real sweat, oil, flour, sauce and water-damage from my own work surfaces.

However, the beautiful pictures of the finished dishes are lost to me, as if a special secret ingredient or instruction is hidden within the pages for only real cooks to find. My own interpretation is always wide of the mark.

See how varied my selection, Chinese food, comfort food, healthy food, Great British pub food, Italian food, even baby food. I’ve tried something from all of them.

See the amount of celebrity chefs represented? I’ve met a few of them… I asked Gordon Ramsay for his autograph, I asked Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall what he fed his dog, I asked Gillian McKeith where she got her dress from and when Rick Stein was in town I sent my husband along to get his take on Eastern cooking while I sat at home and drank wine. Missed opportunities all!

But you see these books? Each one represents a hopeful possibility of something going right, any one of them could contain a recipe that works, the recipe that goes well and becomes that elusive success.

I keep them, I love them, hope springs eternal…


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