Sunday, 30 November 2008

Roast Marinated Peppers

I had some bell peppers in my fridge that I hadn't got round to using. Not wanting to waste such lovely yummy peppers, I decided to 'save' them for a bit!
According to what I've read they should keep for up to 2 weeks. I will use them this week though. The most important thing is that the jar you use MUST be cleaned properly - see here
So, you need never waste a pepper again!
You will need:
1 clean Kilner jar
4 bell peppers
Extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves - peeled and sliced
1 garlic clove - chopped finely
3 bay leaves
a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme - leaves only
salt and freshly ground black pepper
How to do it:
Preheat your oven to 200c/400f/Gas 6
Keep the peppers whole and pierce them a couple of times. Rub the peppers all over with a little oil and a little bit of salt.
Put them on a baking tray for about 25 minutes, or until they start to blacken on the outside. Now remove them from the oven. I used a cooks blow torch on any parts of the peppers that hadn't gone black enough for my liking!
Now put them into a plastic bag for about 15 minutes, by which time they would have cooled enough to handle. Now, cut each pepper in half and remove the seeds and their stalks.
The skins should now peel off easily. It really doesn't matter about a few bits of black skin being left on, I think they look better that way.
Slice the peppers however you fancy, I did each half of pepper into three slices.
Toss them in more oil, salt, pepper, thyme leaves and the chopped garlic.
Now spoon them into the Kilner jar adding a couple of slices of garlic and a bay leave now and then. Fill the jar to just below the rim with extra virgin olive oil.
Seal the jar and they should keep for a week or so. Don't put them in the fridge though, or the oil will solidify and look horrid!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Food Presentation - I Must Try Harder!

First of all I'm sorry I haven't posted much lately and have fallen behind in leaving comments. I am a stressed woman since the TV thing!

I can't say much about this television programme, but I want to say a big thank you to my Niece Sarah and her chef boyfriend Ant who has taught me how to make a red wine jus. It was like 'cook along live' via text messages and phone calls the other night but I did it thanks to Ant!

Also to Zen Chef over at Chefs Gone Wild for giving me help the other day with posh vegetables!

And to James over at The Cotswold Food Year for how to make some fancy potatoes. I won't give the name of the potato dish, as it's top secret info at the moment. I can't be having other contestants from the show knowing what I'm going to make!!

I am trying to come up with a dessert (I don't do desserts) for the TV thing. Now as I said, I can't say much about it apart from the filming starts this Thursday with a celebrity chef, who is giving me and the other three people in the team for Shropshire cooking lessons!

As you know my presentation of food is one of my biggest problems! I just can't be 'posh'. This was my attempt at posh yesterday. I wont be making this though, it was an experiment!

I've decided it must taste quite horrid. Paul the husband and taster, thought it was really nice (but he would do as he loves chocolate) he just thought I'd gone slightly overboard with the amount of booze I'd put in!

It wasn't too fancy in the fact that all it consists of is an oaty biscuit base with Grand Marnier flavoured ganache on top, dusted with cocoa powder!

I can think of quite a few desserts to make, but the problem I have is, I will have 1 hour and 45 minutes from start to finish. So for me, everything I think of would either be way to quick or would take too long - I am a bit stuck. I really wanted to make a tiny cheesecake, but again even the no bake ones need time to chill. I will keep trying!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Update on the TV thing.....

I'll write more as soon as I know more myself - but I do seem to be going on TV!!!
I just wanted to say thank you again to everyone for your kind words.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Chicken Vindaloo - Perfected!

Okay, as you know we do like a nice curry now and then!
I'm always trying different types of curry and messing about with recipes until now, at last, I have perfected Chicken Vindaloo!
**For an ordinary chicken curry, leave out the white wine vinegar.
 
To serve 2 you will need:
3 skinless chicken breast fillets - cut into cubes
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves - finely chopped
2 largish onions - finely chopped
1 red chili pepper medium heat - seeds in - finely chopped
2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
2 teaspoons of chilli powder

1 tablespoons of tomato puree
1 x 400g can of good quality chopped tomatoes - including the juice
**1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
freshly ground salt and black pepper to taste
a few freshly chopped coriander leaves

For the Spice Paste Mixture:
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 cardamon pods
4 cloves
2.5cm (1 inch) cinnamon stick
6 black peppercorns

After you've ground the above you will also need:
1 green chilli (medium heat) - chopped leaving the seeds in
2.5cm (1 inch) of fresh root ginger - chopped
4 garlic cloves - peeled
3 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice

How to do it:
Start by making the spice paste.



Grind the cumin seeds, cardamon pods, cloves, cinnamon stick and the peppercorns with a pestle and mortar. You want a nice fine powder so it will take a few bashings too to get there!
The only big bits left at this stage should be the
cardamon pod shells/skins or whatever they're called.

Now blend the powder with the other paste ingredients in a food processor.
So in the processor you will have the spice powder the green chili, ginger, garlic,and the lemon juice.
Make this into a fine paste.

When all that's done put the mixture into a small bowl and add the chicken giving it a good stir to coat the chicken pieces well.
Cover with cling film and set aside in the refrigerator for a good 2 hours - better still overnight.

When you are ready to cook, heat the oil in a large frying pan and onions and the red chilli. Cook, stirring now and again until the onions are nice and golden but not burnt!
Now add the garlic and saute for another minute or so.


Add the turmeric, chili powder, tomato puree, tin of tomatoes and the white wine vinegar.
**Take care not to add anymore than 1 and a half to 2 tablespoons of wine vinegar or the dish will be horrid.


Add the marinated chicken along with the marinade and give it all a good stir.

Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the chicken has cooked through and the sauce has thickened - it will take about 40 minutes. Whatever, check on it now and again as you may need to add a little water if it's getting too thick.

Make sure the chicken is cooked through and serve wit h rice and top with the coriander leaves if you feel like you need to! 

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Scallops with Crispy Pancetta with a Lemon Butter Sauce

Okay - I have a story to tell........
A while back I replied to an advert looking for people interested in being on a new television cooking show.

Now, when I first saw the ad, there was no way I was going to apply. For one thing I didn't think I stood a chance of getting on it. Anyway, after a few weeks I saw the advert again in a cooking magazine. In a moment of madness, I sent my name and email address in reply to the advert.

Well, can you imagine my shock when I answered the phone one day and the woman said she was from the television? I answered all her questions and afterwards, she said she liked me because I talk a lot.
Anyone that knows me will say it's true - I can talk for England!

Anyway, the woman said they had hundreds of people interested, but that they might be in touch with me again.

A few weeks later, I got another phone call, this time they wanted me to send a video of me showing them around my kitchen. I had to pick out a few strange ingredients from my cupboards and even show the inside my fridge - Oh my! Well, one Sunday I got Paul on the case and I did this short film.

Anyone remotely interested in watching it can see it here it's about 4 minutes long and for some reason the quality is quite bad. I can't believe I'm letting everyone see it, but hey ho.
I must say 'erm' in it about 20 times at least - how embarrassing!!

We did the film once and once only as I said it wouldn't get any better, I'd still say 'erm'. It's hard (for me anyway) to be talking to a camera as you do feel a bit silly to say the least!




Well, with that done a week later I got another call, amazingly, they weren't put off by my many 'erm-ings'!

This time they said they wanted to come round, yes here to my house to film me actually cooking something!
Well, on Friday just gone they did just that.
Because of their time being short, I had to have the salad part already on the plate and also the pancetta.
I then had to cook the scallops and the lemon butter sauce in front of a camera man and another man. They were really nice and didn't make me feel uncomfortable at all. After the first bit where I had to say my name, age, where I work and live, I was fine. I totally forgot the camera was there and went back into true 'Jan can talk for England' mode!.......Oh dear, I shouldn't think I'll be hearing anymore from them once they see that recording.

Anyway, I made a starter of pan fried scallops with crispy pancetta with a lemon butter sauce. I had only ONE go a taking a picture of it though, as they asked me to taste it there and then - yes in front of the camera!!!!
I found myself saying 'Noooo, I must first take a picture to put on my blog'! Both the blokes probably just think I'm a bit mental, but they said 'Yes go for it'.........
So, I quickly ran to get my camera only to realise they were still filming all this!! See why I'm, thinking I have no chance of getting on this programme?!

Anyway, enough chat - on with the recipe!


  • I dressed a few salad leaves in a little extra virgin olive oil, lemon and black pepper
  • I made a few candied lemon slices just for show (from Gordon Ramsay's 3 star chef book **Please note anyone in the UK that WH Smiths were selling this book for just £12.50 a few weeks ago, although I'm not sure if they still are or not)
  • The pancetta slices were just pan fried
  • The scallops were pan fried in a little butter and Olive oil
The Lemon Butter Sauce:
Makes 350ml, although only a tiny bit is needed for each starter:
  • 30g finely chopped shallots
  • 30ml white wine vinegar
  • 30ml of water
  • 45ml of dry white wine
  • 15ml double (heavy) cream
  • 120g unsalted butter - cut into cubes and kept cold in the fridge until needed
  • Juice from half a lemon and the zest from a whole lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
How to do it:
Put the shallots into a pan with the win, white wine vinegar and water. Reduce to a quarter of the original amount liquid wise. This is important or your sauce will taste of vinegar.
Add the cream and boil for a minute.
Now, whisk in the butter cubes a few at a time, keep whisking whilst taking the sauce on and off the heat and keep adding a bit more butter.
The sauce should look smooth and shiny but with no sign of an oily film.
Now whisk in the lemon juice and zest and season to taste with a teeny bit of salt, black pepper and the cayenne pepper.
Serve immediately

Friday, 14 November 2008

Chicken and Cashews

Chicken with cashew nuts, but far better than it is in many Chinese take-aways here in the UK.
If you've never cooked Chinese before, then you should have a go at this as it really is very easy.
Just prepare everything before you start cooking and it'll be a doddle!


To serve 2 greedy people or 4 not quite as greedy, you will need:
a small amount of vegetable oil - for frying
2 large boneless chicken breasts - cut into bite sized pieces
a good handful of cashew nuts
1 green bell pepper - cut into bite sized pieces
1 red bell pepper - cut into bite sized pieces
6 thin slices of ginger - grated or chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic - chopped
1 large onion - cut into bite sized pieces

For the Marinade:
2 teaspoons of corn starch
1 teaspoon Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine) if you can't get it you could use dry pale sherry
2 teaspoons of light soy sauce

For the Sauce:
3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
1 and a half tablespoons of dark soy sauce
1/2 a tablespoon of light soy sauce
1 tablespoon of water
a good pinch of white pepper
2 teaspoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine - as above)
1 teaspoon of vegetable oil

How to do it:
Put the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl along with the chicken pieces. Leave for about 30 minutes.
Mix all the ingredients of the sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

When you're ready to cook, remove the chicken and pat it dry using kitchen paper.
Heat up the oil in your wok and stir-fry the chicken until it is almost cooked. Remove and set aside.

Wipe out the wok add a bit more oil and heat it up again. Once heated stir-fry the bell peppers and onions
for a minute or so and then add the garlic and ginger.
Stir-fry for a couple of minutes and then put the chicken back into the wok. Cook, stirring all the while and put in the cashew nuts.
Cook for a about 30 seconds.
Give the sauce another mix as the sugar would have gone to the bottom,
before adding it to the wok.
Stir continuously until the chicken is cooked through and is well coated with

the sauce.
Add a tiny amount of salt to taste, if you think it needs it, then serve immediately.
I served mine with egg fried rice.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Pain au Chocolat Pudding - Easy and Very Chocolatly

After spying this with my little eye in the 'Delicious Magazine' ......can you tell I'm a fan of that mag?! I felt the need to make it. Not because I like chocolate,
I actually don't. But as I've said before I do need to get into being able to make desserts, which Paul thinks is a great idea.
Also, Marks and Spencer sell their version of this dessert and it sells really well - especially when they advertise it on the TV.

I personally could only eat a spoonful of this, but saying that I can see that if you like chocolate - go no further and just make this dessert because you'll love it!

Just double the amount of everything to easily serve 6

To serve 2 to 3 you will need:
  • 2 Pain au Chocolat
  • Butter for greasing
  • 150ml milk
  • 150ml double cream (heavy cream)
  • 1/2 a vanilla pod - split length ways
  • 2 eggs - yolks only. Free range of course
  • 65g golden caster sugar
  • 50g plain chocolate 70% cocoa solids - grated
  • a little icing sugar for dusting

How to do it:

  • Cut the pain au chocolat into thick slices and place into a suitably sized greased dish to hold the slices nicely - leave no big gaps

  • Put the milk, cream and vanilla pod into a saucepan and over a gentle heat for about 5 minutes, until almost boiling
  • Then remove from heat

Preheat your oven to 180c/Fan160c/Gas 4

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until creamy
  • Strain the milk into the egg mixture, making sure you give it a good whisk
  • Now whisk in 3 quarters of the grated chocolate
  • Pour the mixture over the pain au chocolat and leave for about 10 minutes for the mixture to soak into the pain au chocolat
  • After 10 minutes you can now sprinkle over the remaining chocolate
  • Put the baking dish in a large tin and pour boiling water in the tin to come halfway up the sides of the dish with the pain au chocolat in.
  • Bake for about 40 - 45 minutes until the custard is softly set
  • Lift the dish out of the tin with the water in and set aside until just warm
  • When you are ready to serve, sprinkle with a little icing sugar
  • Serve with with cream

When it comes out of the oven you will need to let it cool until just warm before serving.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Jan's Tomato, Onion & Pepper Sauce with Cajun Spices


While I was doing my food shopping I saw a jar of 'Discovery Creole Sauce' - tomato, onion and pepper sauce with Cajun spices.  I thought it sounded interesting.But I wondered if I could make this sauce myself. 
I bought the jar of sauce so I had the ingredients to read from the back of the jar and set about making this sauce.


The end result was all very nice I must say. Now whether or not the jar of sauce tastes like the one I came up with I do not know! One day soon I'll have to give the jar a go and find out.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Cheesy Jacket Potatoes with Smoked Bacon Bits

Yesterday, it was bonfire night here in the UK and we watched the fireworks.
Ha ha we didn't buy any fireworks, we just watched everyone else's........
What cheapskates we are!
I say it's the law to have jacket potatoes on bonfire night, so we did.
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas6

You will need:
  • Nice big potatoes - however many you fancy
  • Grated Extra Matured Cheddar cheese - amount depending on how many potatoes you are cooking
  • Fried bacon - I used sliced, smoked back bacon cut into pieces
  • Salt and butter to your taste
How to do it:
Wash the potatoes and then dry them. Now rub the skins with a little olive oil and rub on a little crushed sea salt.

Prick the skin of the potatoes here and there with a sharp knife a few times all over.

Bake directly on the bars of a preheated oven for at about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
**The actual time will of course, will depend on the size of your potatoes and the variety.


The potatoes are done when you can very easily insert a knife into them. The skin should be nice and crisp. There is nothing worse than a baked potato that's not cooked through so make sure it is.

Now, cut each one in half and scoop out the potato from the skin using a spoon, and put into a bowl. Add a nice lot of of butter and some salt - to your taste and give it a good mash with a fork.

You don't have to add salt but it just won't taste the same. Once you are happy with the seasoning and amount of butter, mix in some grated Extra Matured Cheddar.

Add the cooked bacon and mix. Put the mixture back into the skins and top with more grated cheese. Place the filled skins on a baking tray and return to the oven until they are piping hot and the cheese has melted.
Be sure to serve straight away.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Double Chocolate Mousse with Pistachio and Chili


I saw a recipe for chocolate mouse with chili in Gino D'Acampo's book Fantastico and had to make it.

You may be thinking I've gone mad, suddenly doing all these desserts when I don't even like desserts too much!




But I do 'need' to know how to make desserts, so I gave these a go.

If you are into chocolate you will LOVE these! Paul thinks they are lovely.
I personally, could only eat a teeny bit as it is soooo chocolaty! I did love the chili and the orange taste from the Grand Marnier though.
I wasn't sure if I should serve them in a tumbler glass or a small dessert bowl. Or even a shot glass with teeny spoons, so I used all three options.



The shot glass is enough of a taste, for me, anyway.

What you need:
150g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
100g good-quality white chocolate, chopped
3 medium eggs, separated
2 tablespoons caster sugar
8 tablespoons pistachio nuts, crushed, reserving a few to decorate
1 small red chili (medium–hot), deseeded and finely sliced
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
250ml double cream, softly whipped
How to do it:
Melt all the chocolate together in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, ensuring that the base of the bowl does not touch the water.
Set aside to cool, but not to harden.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until thick and pale.

Whisk the egg whites in a second large dry, clean bowl until stiff.

Use a metal spoon to fold the chocolate into the egg yolk mixture.

Add the pistachios, chili and Grand Marnier. Mix well and fold in the whipped cream.

Lastly, gently fold in the egg whites, mixing the ingredients together.Pour the mixture into four dessert glasses (each about 250ml), cover with clingfilm and chill for 3 hours until set.

Just before serving, remove the clingfilm and decorate with crushed pistachio nuts.


Saturday, 1 November 2008

Sausage Rolls with Wholegrain Mustard

I made some sausage rolls yesterday, but fancied putting wholegrain mustard in them. They turned out rather nice I must say.

What you need:

1 x 500g pack of ready made puff pastry

450g of good quality sausages - skin removed
Approx. 4 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 egg - beaten, to glaze

How to do it:
Preheat oven to 220C/200ÂșC for fan assisted /425F or Gas Mark 7

Cut the pastry in half so it's an easier size to manage. Roll out one half to make an oblong about 0.5mm thick and cut that in half.

Repeat with the other half of the pastry so you now have 4 oblong pieces of pastry. Spread the centre of each pastry piece with some mustard, leaving a border on each long side.

Divide the sausage meat into four and place one quarter slightly off centre down the length of one of the pastry oblongs, over the mustard and make into a roll.

Brush one border with beaten egg and fold over the pastry to cover the sausagemeat and form a side seal along the edge of the roll.

With a sharp knife tidy the edges, cut the roll into equal sized sausage rolls. They can be however long or short if you want cocktail size rolls.


Brush the tops with beaten egg. Make 2-3 slashes in the top of each sausage roll.
Now place the sausage rolls on a baking sheet and bake for approx. 15 minutes until pastry is risen and golden brown, serve either hot or cold.

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