Tag Archives: Famous Chefs

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’.

MADAM!

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…

WHAT HAVE I LEARNT:

  • 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.

But I’m nothing like Gwyneth Paltrow?

25 Nov

As much as I would like to dislike the woman I have a sneaking admiration for Gwyneth Paltrow. Probably the reasons I want to dislike her are precisely the reasons why I actually do like her – the smug lifestyle advice, the casual, smart dressing that no other mother can pull off, the hair, the hair, the hair. I’d like to absorb it all please.

But obviously I can’t and I won’t because Paltrow is probably perfect and can cook bloody well (if slightly sanctimoniously) and I obviously can’t. However, I’ll drop into Gwynnie’s world now and again for snippets of advice and was quite taken with her idea of a week long detox now and again. Of course the chummy ‘I’ll be there with you as I too need to lose a few pounds’ didn’t wash but the abstinence from gluten, dairy, caffeine, booze and sugar struck a chord. Now (just) the wrong side of 40 I do find my digestive system doesn’t seem to work quite as well as it used to – sometimes I only need to look at something edible and I blow up like a balloon and I know I drink and eat far too much.

So a couple of weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and give myself a break, a boost, a detox, a bloody hard week, whatever you want to call it. Perversely I was rather looking forward to it.

I have absolutely no will power usually, I am one of those cupboard rummagers who will eat anything if it’s in the house, but can just about set my mind to something for about 5-7 days. Yes, a week long project is probably my limit – I’ve tried the Juice Diet and WeightWatchers and DietChef and yes a week is usually enough. (I’ll never be thin).

photo 2I wrote a little message in the kitchen to remind myself not to go heating up any croissants and I was on my way…

Following Gwyneth’s Detox plan and recipes to the letter I bought all the stuff needed and settled in for a week of vegetable soups, smoothies, salad and herbal teas. Waking up without a cup of strong and milky was hard but the warm lemon water upon rising is rather lovely really and I was happy to not feel full and bloated all the time from the amount of bread I consume. And I got a lot of warm satisfaction from not eating my son’s left over fish fingers and mini rolls as I smugly fed them to the dog instead of losing them down my throat as usual.

I did however probably alienate all friends and family – not from being grumpy, it didn’t affect me emotionally at all – but from the amount of onions, garlic and miso I was ingesting and then sweating out again. A couple of meals included a teriyaki chicken dish. Here is mine:

photo 1

Of course I messed it up royally – it looks nothing like Gwyneth’s example – but after three days of leaves in hot water I was glad of something solid no matter how dry it was. The charcoal taste was actually a welcome change.

I stuck at it religiously for five and a half days, you are meant to do seven but who (apart from Gwyneth herself) can deny themselves a bottle of Pinot Grigio whilst watching The X-Factor? Not me Paltrow, not me. It’s like Saturday night medicine to help the awful singing go down.

I have to admit that I felt a bit lighter and brighter whilst eating this way, and dare I say it a few good moods seemed to appear out of nowhere when normally it takes a trip to Disneyland to make me smile spontaneously.

There are lessons to be learnt here (for me anyway) and a few cleaner days are certainly in order. Probably in January and certainly after I’ve finished this new lime marmalade that is absolutely scrummy and best eaten with a spoon straight from the fridge with a hot croissant.

I might be back on it come the new year, I’m hoping I get the hair next time?

and I was on my way…

Following Gwyneth’s Detox plan and recipes to the letter I bought all the stuff needed and settled in for a week of vegetable soups, smoothies, salad and herbal teas. Waking up without a cup of strong and milky was hard but the warm lemon water upon rising is rather lovely really and I was happy to not feel full and bloated all the time from the amount of bread I consume. And I got a lot of warm satisfaction from not eating my son’s left over fish fingers and mini rolls as I smugly fed them to the dog instead of losing them down my throat as usual.

I did however probably alienate all friends and family – not from being grumpy, it didn’t affect me emotionally at all – but from the amount of onions, garlic and miso I was ingesting and then sweating out again.

A couple of meals included a teriyaki
chicken dish. Here is mine:

photo 1Of course I messed it up royally – it looks nothing like Gwyneth’s example – but after three days of leaves in hot water I was glad of something solid no matter how dry it was. The charcoal taste was actually a welcome change.

I stuck at it religiously for five and a half days, you are meant to do seven but who (apart from Gwyneth herself) can deny themselves a bottle of Pinot Grigio whilst watching The X-Factor? Not me Paltrow, not me. It’s like Saturday night medicine to help the awful singing go down.

I have to admit that I felt a bit lighter and brighter whilst eating this way, and dare I say it a few good moods seemed to appear out of nowhere when normally it takes a trip to Disneyland to make me smile spontaneously.

There are lessons to be learnt here (for me anyway) and a few cleaner days are certainly in order. Probably in January and certainly after I’ve finished this new lime marmalade that is absolutely scrummy and best eaten with a spoon straight from the fridge with a hot croissant.

If you want to give the Goop Detox a go – it’s here – it’s apparently their most popular post. Let me know how you get on, I might be back on it come the new year, I’m hoping I get the hair next time?

Let Them Eat Waste? What’s The Pig Idea?

20 Nov

Here’s a good idea – cut down on food waste by feeding it to pigs.
Sadly I waste a lot of food, not because I am just a bad shopper (although I can be) but because I’m a terrible cook. And I hate it. I can’t bear throwing anything away.

Just imagine how much food is wasted not just by us in our homes but by restaurants, companies and shops? It’s not good when you consider how expensive food is these days and how supplies are running low globally.

The Pig Idea is a movement calling for pigs to be fed on surplus food rather than new commercially produced crops that humans could eat and that put pressure on the environment. They’ve reared 8 pigs in London on food waste from local restaurants and companies such as brewers grains, whey and unwanted fruit and veg to prove the EU ban feeding catering waste to pigs is a bit silly. It might sound nasty to us but not to the pigs!

Of course it is better for us humans to eat as much surplus food as we can but feeding it livestock such as pigs and chickens is the next best option rather than turning it into waste.

If you are in London tomorrow (Thurs 21st) there is a big (pig) event taking place in Trafalgar Square from midday to raise awareness of food

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waste and how it’s best used as livestock feed. Big name chefs and celebrities (including my favourite Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) will be there to show of their cooking and plenty of piggy activites for the kids.

Let Them Eat Waste!
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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’.
Gosh!
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.

Alice CAN Cook Christmas

27 Dec

So the Big Day is over, I hope yours was wonderful and you are still

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feeling the benefits of some good food and drink and playing with your toys.
I feel as if I am 90% cheese and 10% chocolate currently, and running solely on Cava.

But I am also buoyed up slightly by a rather successful Christmas Lunch, cooked by my own festive hands.
It was rather a no-frills affair, without any celebrity chef intervention and not completely perfect but even my husband had to admit it was pretty good!

I got up early (earlier than my son) to peel some veg and get the bird out of the fridge – we had gone for an 8kg Kelly

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Bronze from the local farm which had been prepared so the giblets had already been taken out and bagged up thankfully (we boiled them up for the dog).

After hearing a lot about being able to leave a cooked turkey for an hour after taking out of the oven I decided to get it done and worry about the rest of the stuff later so it went into the oven early – I was still only on my first Bucks Fizz!

Here it is going in – note the butter under the skin – I understand this is a way of keeping the breast from going dry. I wasn’t sure how to do it so just hacked away until I made a couple of holes and stuffed some in. I also put a cut lemon and a whole onion in the cavity, and some salt and pepper over the back. I know myself well enough to just keep it simple… no more Nigella bucket birds for me!
Xmas2I read the instructions after it had gone in (I know I know) and they suggested that you should put the bird in UPSIDE DOWN for a bit first. Erm, too late for that. I hoped the foil and butter would keep it moist instead.

Three hours later I took it out, replaced it with some hot goose fat and par-boiled reindeer potatoes and went to the pub.
After a refreshing glass of wine I left son and husband there for a bit and came back to get the vegetables on (I’d bought as much ready prepared as I could) and make some gravy and bread sauce. I’d also cleverly stirred some chestnut puree into a stuffing mix to give the sage and onion a seasonal edge.

Yes I was mildly drunk but I felt calm and in control, the carols were on the radio and I took a few deep breaths. Maybe the trick to this cooking lark is to keep it simple and relax? Who knows…

As it all started reaching a cooking crescendo I unwrapped the bird for carving. And here it is:
xmas3Yes I know it’s a bit scorched and a hole seems to have appeared in the side (see that lemon?) but it was still rather juicy! I know the skin isn’t crispy but I think that is because I used foil?

I had steamed most of the veg – apart from the whole baby carrots – which sadly meant the whole baby cauliflowers were raw and rock hard, but as we pointed out you could eat them raw and at least they were hot. So… all was not lost. Everything else was just sort of perfect.
xmas4I didn’t wrap those ‘pigs in blankets’ myself.
And I know you can’t see the gravy and bread sauce but that is because I served it on the table in jugs/bowls decorated in holly. How festive

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is that?
The gravy was good too, despite being as black as pitch, I used something called ‘Browning’ I had never tried before – half a bottle of the stuff – so it kind of ‘blackened’ rather than ‘browned’ but still.

After eating this we never managed to get through the Heston Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding – in fact it is still in my cupboard. Might keep it for next year now.

We enjoyed ours, I hope you enjoyed yours.
Merry Christmas xxx

I’m Making Christmas Lunch Folks…

20 Dec

Total Result! My husband has agreed to me doing Christmas Lunch this year.
Which means… I’ll be able to spend time in the kitchen with some wine and carols on the radio, instead of building Lego castles in the front room as I normally do!
Oh and of course, cooking… I’m quite looking forward to it, the family however might not be.

I can actually put together quite a good roast now and again – see here for evidence – I just need to relax, go with the flow and remember that everything stays warm for ages, it doesn’t always need to cook together exactly at the same time, which is what I try to plan for but of course never have enough hob or oven space for that to happen. Apparently you can leave a cooked turkey for up to an hour before serving?

Of course I will be getting some help in the form of pre-made bread sauce, pre-scored sprouts and I managed to secure one of those Heston Hidden Orange puddings this year. Maybe one year I’ll attempt to make my own Christmas pud but I just don’t want to ruin the big day for everyone.
pud
I have had experience of Christmas cooking before, my Nigella Turkey ended up on the floor but my Mary Berry cupcakes were a triumph. Who knows what will happen this year, I will of course keep you updated.

And to finish here’s a picture of my Christmas tree just to make this post more festive.
As you can see from the decorations we have a small child in the house…
treeMERRY CHRISTMAS COOKERS! X

Sophie Dahl’s Surfeit of Fruit Mash

4 Jul

I always seem to have loads of fruit left over from my Fruit & Veg Boxes.

This week saw a surfeit of plums and peaches slowly going off in the fruit bowl. Annoyed at having to throw away another lot of stuff I decided to act like a cook and make something out of them.
You know I have trouble with puddings but how hard could a compote be? Whip one up and then whip it into some natural yogurt… an easy and healthy tea for the whole family right?

I found a recipe online written by Sophie Dahl for an easy plum compote. (Isn’t she a model?)
Anyway, she stated that you just needed to add the fruit to some boiling water (stones removed) and caster sugar, throwing in some cinnamon sticks and star anise. Seemed easy enough.

I took the stones out of my soft fruit and cut into chunks. I also tried to peel them – surely skin doesn’t feature in a compote but no one mentioned it so I left some on the peaches because they weren’t giving theirs up without a fight. I hoped to be able to skim the skin off later.

I put it

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all together – sadly I had no star anise and only ground cinnamon but thought that would do. Also I ran out of the required amount of caster sugar so added in some agave syrup telling myself that was healthier anyway.

Here it is simmering away:
That attractive scum is the powdered cinnamon, well I think it is. Best look away, I’m not sure.

It never really changed from this. At all. Even after fifteen minutes of simmering.
So I siphoned off the juicy water (which I started to drink, but then thought better of it as it was basically liquid sugar), put the still virtually whole fruit into a dish and then used a potato masher on it. Sophie Dahl didn’t mention a potato masher but I created this:
So you know, I think her recipe is lacking because of it?

This sweet mush was stirred into a yogurt and tasted rather nice. My husband asked where the crunchy base was but I explained it was a more fluid dessert. The mashed potato of the pudding world.
My son wasn’t sure but tucked in after I assured him it was ‘just like nursery afters’.

Oddly there seems to be no skin at all, does it disappear? Did it boil away? Sophie didn’t mention anything about that either.

I still have loads left though, no one wanted seconds.
In fact I now have a surfeit of Surfeit Compote.

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!
THIS POLL IS NOW CLOSED.

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
vs
Jamie Oliver’s Curried Cauliflower Fritters – from Jamie At Home

I know, it’s exciting right?

Continue reading

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