A foray into caramel

I have been making chocolates in varying forms for a few months now, both from scratch vegan chocolate and just melting a good old bar of cooking chocolate (mainly milk and white as they are harder to replicate).
I have layered them in moulds but until today I had never filled them with anything (other than flavouring the chocolate with mint etc) so why did I suddenly decide to make caramels you ask yourself? Well I just wanted to give it a go to be honest, I searched the net quickly to confirm my idea of using premade caramel sauce was a thing and off I trotted to the shops. Now in retrospect I would have bought caramel sauce in a squeeze bottle or similar not a can (hind sight is 20\20 as they say) so feel free to substitute with your favourite or even make your own and use a piping bag (various vegan options also available).
I recommend using deep moulds for a decent sized result as the thinner the mould the less room you have to play with. As you can see in the pictures the caramel can escape!
Ingredients
150g of the chocolate of your choice (here is a very easy vegan version if you want to try it Trinity’s conscious kitchen) if you want milk then I suggest a good quality cooking chocolate purely because it tempers more easily.
1 bottle/can premade caramel sauce the choice is yours. If you want to make your own one of the many recipes out there will yield more than enough to fill your chocolate and there might even be leftovers!
Handmade Milk and dark chocolate caramels
If you have any questions please do get in touch I would love to hear from you!

Veggie Italian Bread Soup

“Are you consciously giving up meat?” My father asked over lunch as I was telling him about my latest vegetarian creation – I explained that as I prep my 4 days worth of lunches for work days I was not overly keen on prepping things with meat in, partly due to food hygiene (although im sure it would be fine) and because I simply dont need that much protein. I put the veggies image up on my Instagram and was requested to publish the recipe. I have previously made and posted an Italian Bread soup recipe on the blog with meat in it so this one is for everyone let me know what you think in the comments below.
Ingredients

  • 2 stale bread rolls (the harder the better) broken into chunks
  • One red or yellow bell pepper (not green) sliced finely
  • One medium size red onion sliced finely
  • 4 sticks Cavolo Nero (sub with kale or Savoy cabbage if not available) chopped
  • 100g ripe cherry tomatoes
  • 200g tomato passata
  • 1 tbsp italian herbs
  • Seasonal greens or similar pale cabbage chopped
  • 400g roasted butternut squash and sweet potato mix
  • 750ml of hot stock (variety tailored to your needs)
  • 2 tbsp oil

Method

  • Heat the oil and fry the onions so they are soft but not too golden
  • Add the rest of the vegetables apart from the cherry tomatoes and saute them until soft then add the herbs
  • Add the stale bread and incorporated so that its coated in the flavours
  • Add the passata and the stock and mix (if the bread soaks up the liquid too fast add some extra boiling water
  • Add the cherry tomatoes
  • Leave to simmer for at least 45 minutes on low (or use a crockpot/slow cooker and put on low for a couple of hours, or even if you prefer place in ovenproof casserole dish and cook in oven for 1.5 hours on 150c/300f/gas mark 2

 
This soup ages well in the fridge as the flavours mature so perfect for lunch preps as it will only get better. Feel free to play with the vegetables – I have largely chosen seasonal vegetables simply for the quality.

How to train a squash…

Now I do not profess to know much about gardening but I do understand the principle of training a squash. As I was checking on them yesterday I was delighted to see many long tendrils and vines with fruit on them. To train them is simple, as you can see in the picture, a few bamboo canes or whatever happens to be handy then guide the vines and tendrils around the poles, mounting the poles safely in the ground for stablity.
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The Veg Garden 2017

Just a few shots from the garden – its starting to grow into something really special…. as you can see there are courgettes, potatoes, 2 kinds of kale, some red cabbage and purple Brussels sprouts and a couple of other things we are hoping for a bumper crop this year.
 

It is exciting to see so many flowers on the squash plants, although i’m not sure if all of them will actually turn into fruit, having spoken to a friend – she said its not always guaranteed if you use supermarket produce seeds. Nonetheless it is going to be an exciting summer watching them grow and picking the results.
 
 

Cuban Black Beans

After much planning my Dad and his partner finally headed off to Cuba last month. Months of arranging visas and planning which jazz clubs they would visit – as my Dad is now retired he does have more time to spend on these things. Part of me envied him – after resisting offers from my mother to take me to Cuba (as she so desperately wanted to go)  my Dad had ‘beaten me to it’ – you could call it payback for the month I took off travelling across Europe much to his silent jealousy. Just to be clear this not a rivalry situation – just some unfortunate past regrets on my Dads part.
Under no illusions that the communication channels would be somewhat stunted by the lack of WiFi and mobile signal (although it must have been bliss at least for a while) my Dad kept my sister and I updated as much as he could, although really complaining about the weather was not something we were too interested in, they seemed to have a pretty good time, although the beach was somewhat boring for them they moved on to the rest of their holiday with much to explore.
They experienced the local food as much as they could and as with all parents he came back with a new obsession. Black beans were his new thing – I lectured him about being careful when using them (they come predominantly dried in the UK and soaking them for at least 8 hours is important as bean poisoning is no joke) he described a thick soup which they poured over white rice but he wasn’t sure of the recipe. I quickly googled it as to be honest this was not an area I have experience in. Two minutes later a recipe for Cuban bean soup was winging its way by email to him and he was delighted to discover the use of chunky ham or bacon was part of the recipe. I left him to try the recipe himself and he brought over some of the dried beans for us to cook ourselves.
A couple of weekends down the line and truth be told I haven’t tried to make them (partly because of a previous black bean incident), I am having coffee with my dad when he brings me a tub of frozen Cuban black beans which he has previously cooked; he explained that I would need to water it down as it was very thick – fair enough.
That evening and I did as suggested, I also added some frozen mixed vegetables and frozen spinach. The rice was a bit stickier than I had planned but that was due to rinsing it as much as I could have done but frankly that doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. I found mixing the rice and beans together distributed the flavours nicely but I am not here to tell you how to eat. I added some smoked chorizo and streaky bacon which I had pre-cooked to a delicious crispy texture. As dad only gave me a portion of his version I could understand the principle of the recipe but not knowing the original thickness I couldn’t tell you if my version was any less authentic.
If you want to check out the original recipe the link is below. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Simply Recipes Black Bean Soup

Homemade Fish Pie

Fish pie is one of my favourite comfort foods, the creamy soft texture of the mashed potatoes and the flaky pieces of fish remind me of happy childhood meal times.It is my no means a low-calorie dish but one I thoroughly recommend trying if you would like to eat more fish. There are several varieties of fish which work well with this dish and it is another dish that lends itself well to budgeting, I would recommend spending as much as you can afford and if possible responsibly sourced. Any firm white fish together with a smoked version (but not monk fish partly because it is expensive and partly because I don’t think its an appropriate dish to use it in) you can also use salmon but I wouldn’t bother using the smoked fish in that case.Ingredients1 medium size fillet of white fish – cod/haddock/pollack1 medium size fillet of smoked fish – similar to above1 pint of whole milk750g of potatoes (not Estima variety)1/2 bag of fresh spinach or 4 blocks of frozen250g of frozen mixed vegetables75g of grated mature cheddar cheese1 tbsp of plain flour28g of butter1 medium sized pie dishMethod1. Peel the potatoes and place in large saucepan to boil.2. Place the fish flat in a large pan and cover with the milk, simmer on a low-medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes.3. Place all the vegetables in the pie dish whilst the fish and potatoes are cooking and preheat your oven to 400f/200c/gas mark 54. Once the fish is cooked strain the milk into a heat proof jug and add the fish to the pie dish.5. To make the cheese sauce melt the butter in a pan on a low heat and whisk in the flour once its melted.6. Slowly add the warm milk whisking constantly.7. When you have used 3/4 of the milk add the grated cheese and continue to whisk.8. Add the last of the milk and whisk for another minute or so.9. Pour the sauce over the fish and vegetables.10. Layer the mashed potato on top and add extra grated cheese if desired.11. Place in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown on top.Serves 4I hope you enjoy the recipe, let me know if you have your own version of this recipe in the comments!
Source: Homemade Fish Pie

Chicken stuffed with garlic & herb cheese wrapped in bacon

This dish can be made to any budget, it is of course on the luxurious side but if you shop around for the ingredients you can certainly be frugal.I have taught this dish to several of my inexperienced (in the kitchen) friends – they were looking for something to impress their new/future partners and it has not yet failed to impress.You could make this dish vegetarian or vegan, it’s something I have yet to explore but I would suggest using sliced and pre-roasted aubergine instead of the chicken and wrap with either substitute bacon or some thinly sliced zucchini.Ingredients1 Chicken breast per person2 slices of smoked streaky bacon or pancetta per breast1/2 a French cheese roule (the garlic and herb soft cheese, you could also use Philidelphia if required)To serveSauteed potatoes/Mashed potatoes or riceMixed greens sauteed in butter and garlicMethodPreheat oven to 375f/180c/gas mark 51. Lay chicken breasts flat on a large chopping board and cover with clingfilm and beat with a rolling pin until roughly 3/4 of an inch thick.2. Place bacon/pancetta on a large baking tray side by side in pairs and lay chicken on top.3. Using a large spoon smear the cheese along the breast ensuring that it is evenly distributed.4. Using the bacon as a guide roll the chicken up and pin with a cocktail stick. Repeat for all.5. Roast in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbling around the edges and the bacon is crisp.Serve with suggested accompanimentsIf you do try this recipe let me know in the comments, it is one of my favourite dishes and a great weeknight treat.
Source: Chicken stuffed with garlic & herb cheese wrapped in bacon

Sausage & Sweet Potato Pie

A pie requirement was needing to be fulfilled earlier this week and I decided it would be a savoury one. I already knew where to find the recipe I reached for my copy of ‘Nigel Slater’s Real Food’ – I scanned an eye down the recipe – I already had some puff pastry in the fridge so no need for the short pastry part of the recipe. I had some excellent sausages which I removed the skins and some sweet potato which instead of the normal white ones.I am going to give you my version of the recipe, feel free to check out the original. I believe recipes are there for interpretation so if there is something you think would work better then try it! Let me know in the comments its great to have feedback.Ingredients1 x sheet of Pre-rolled Puff Pastry 1 tbsp coconut oil500g Sweet Potato Sliced 1 Medium sized brown onion sliced finely6 x Good herby sausages from the butchers (Skinned) or 400g Sausage Meat1 x Small Courgette250g of Butternut Squash Sliced1 x Chicken or vegetable stock pot + 400ml boiling water (or roughly 500ml bouillon stock)1 egg beaten1 9” Pie dishMethod Pre-heat the oven to 180c/375f1. In a large heavy based pan melt the coconut oil over a medium heat.2. Add the onions and sauté until soft, once they are golden add the sausage meat and brown lightly.3. Add the sweet potatoes and butternut squash and the stock pot/bouillon, if you are using a stock pot add to the pan and warm in pan before adding boiling water.4. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until tender, you will want the liquid to reduce and thicken slightly if it doesn’t add half a teaspoon of cornflour to thicken.5. Add mixture to pie dish and lay pastry on top – cutting the pastry to fit the dish (you can freeze the excess pastry or turn into sweet or savoury twists.6. Using a fork make several air holes across the top and brush the beaten egg all over.7. Place the pie in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown and the filling is piping hot.Allow the pie to cool slightly before serving with fresh greens.I hope you have enjoyed this recipe, let me know your thoughts.
Source: Sausage & Sweet Potato Pie

An Edible Garden 2017

I am fortunate enough to have a communal garden. When I moved into my flat there was only grass and no one was doing anything with it, we talked about guerrilla gardening for a while. Then my friend surprised me on my birthday with two vegetable patches. Ever since they have been growing and maturing into something quite amazing, its now in its third year and we have planted some new things this year such as garlic, purple potatoes and shallots and we are hoping they will do well. Its a first attempt so it’s exciting to see how things are doing. Having all these vegetables will be great and give me an opportunity to cook with fabulously fresh ingredients. There is something very satisfying about using something from the garden rather than going to the shops to buy it.Yes it forces you to eat more seasonally but that in my opinion can only be a good thing. It would be nice to think that we could build the garden so that we dont have to buy veg anymore but that will take time and patience – it is great that we have this much already! As you can see the ‘perpetual spinach’ or ‘rainbow chard’ is thriving I have taken some of the leaves today so it can continue to grow, the same with the ‘purple sprouting’ below. If you let these plants ‘go over’ you increase your chances of them returning next year, as the seeds drop into the ground and hopefully germinate etc. Some advise against doing this but we have found this to be the most effective strategy with the garden, some would call this lazy but i’d say its a time management issue. The results are often a stunning array of flowers then the plants die down over the winter.An edible garden is one of nature’s most sacred gifts, if you are lucky enough to have a space to use then please do…For those who do not have an open space, do you have a window box space? Do not see a window box as a restriction – you can grow plenty in them. If you are not sure where to start there is a plethora of different blogs and websites to help you.It changes your relationship with food when you can see it from seed to plate, I am a firm believer of understanding the processes, I understand the process of animals turning into meat, I prefer to eat free range and well looked after meats and delicious fresh vegetables – I could not become vegan as I simply couldnt give up certain things but I accept other peoples opinions and beliefs.So I hope to be coming back to you with a wealth of recipes for my homegrown produce :-)If you are growing anything unusual let me know in the comments I would love to hear more!
Source: An Edible Garden 2017

Homemade Pot Noodle – part 2

In my last post I talked about making my own pot noodles, well I’ve now had a few goes and I think I am getting the hang of it, having tested out a couple of different noodles I continue to try different flavour combinations, some good, some bad. It is by far the easiest thing to do, set your ingredients up and just layer them in a Mason or Kilner jar in fact I use a wide mouthed soup flask. One thing I havent tried is coconut milk or extra soy sauce, partly because I haven’t got round to planning the ingredients to go with them. If you have any suggestions please let me know 🙂 Ingredients1 Tbsp Sauce – Miso/Tom Yum/Umami/any soup type base1 Handful Fresh or frozen vegetables – up to you but do think practically as the veg will not cook in the boiling water, it should however have thawed enough just to warm through. Greens of all kinds work really well as they require little to know cooking and are packed full of good stuff.1 Handful of chopped cooked chicken/pork/sausage/beef – this is totally optional just remember it must be cooked as the boiling water will not cook it for you.1 Serving of Straight to wok/udon/ribbon rice noodles.1 1ltr Mason jar/Kilner Jar or other such heat proof container.Method1. Layer your sauce right at the bottom that way it wont make the noodles soggy.2. Next layer up your vegetables – if you are adding meat be sure to put that layer in between the veg as it keeps it away from the sauce and the noodles.3. Add the noodles on top. Store in the fridge until required (they will keep for up to a week but to be honest they are so quick you could make it fresh everyday like I do.4. When ready add freshly boiled water to the container mixing thoroughly and allow to stand for a minute or two, stir again and enjoy. I’ve added a soft boiled egg to this one to give it the authentic ramen feel.I hope you enjoy my post, if you have any questions please do get in contact or comment below!
Source: Homemade Pot Noodle – part 2