Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Seafood Tagliatelle

Feeling in a somewhat fishy mood following the crayfish dish I decided to go the whole hog and knock up seafood tagliatelle. Anyone who knows me will tell you that fish and I don’t usually share the same space. I don’t know why, I just don’t like the taste of fish, perhaps it’s because I’m a Pisces and it’s almost cannibalism, well it would be if you believed in that nonsense. Anyyyy-wayyyy, the dish.

It’s pretty basic recipe but brings out the flavour of the seafood, which wasn't too fishy, very well and the best thing is, its really simple to make. The seafood itself was a supermarket medley of Prawns, mussels and squid

Serves 4

1 Shallot Finely Chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic finely Chopped
2 Packets of Sainsburys seafood mix
2 Handfuls of soya beans or peas or skinned broad beans
Good glug of dry white wine (about 150ml)
Couple of handful of flat leaf parsley roughly chopped
Lemon Juice
Enough Tagliatelle for four people

Put a large pan of water on to boil

In a large frying pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil then gently fry the shallot and garlic.

Add the seafood and beans then sauté for a couple of mins

Pour in the wine bring to boil and simmer for until the sauce thickens
Seasoning to taste as you go

The important bit here is timing your seafood with your pasta, if the pasta isn’t cooked yet, turn off the heat on the sauce. When the pasta is cooked add a little pasta water to the sauce, drain the pasta and add to the pan with the sauce and stir through until all the pasta is coasted

Chuck in your parsley and stir through, serve in pasts bowls add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and its ready.

Serve with lemon wedges for extra zing

Monday, 28 March 2011

Crayfish Salad

I'd had crayfish once before in a restaurant somewhere or another (obviously made an impression on me) and was really surprised by the meaty taste. Apparently it's akin to lobster.
I've looked for ages around the supermarkets of the Potteries with no joy, until last week.For a paltry £2.99 (2 for £5 if you're feeling flush) from Sainsbury's you can get a packet of the tails.

Having read up a bit, it appears our indigenous British Crayfish is under threat from a much more powerful and disease carrying American invader, so you'd think we'd be pushing more people to eat it.

If I'm honest they weren't exactly fresh and had a much stronger fishiser taste than the ones I'd had before. Still it wasn't red meat and it was water dwelling creature that wasn't a prawn. I'm varying my diet, so go me!

Right then, the recipe is loosely based on or blatantly plagiarised depending on your view, from a basic prawn cocktail, either way it was rammed to the gills (or whatever crayfish have) with complementing flavours.

Serves 3 as a starter (was meant to be 2 but Chris came round so I padded it out)

1 Packet of cooked Crayfish tails
Handfull of lettuce or leaves from a bag per person
1 Ripe Avacado skinned and sliced
2 Medium sized tomatoes de-seeded and diced
Pinch of Paprika for dusting at the end

6 Tablespoons of Mayonaise
1 Tablespoon of Ketchup
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco
Lemon Juice
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper

I don't think you can find an easier dish to make than this, but easy as it  may be, you have to trust your taste buds
To make the sauce, bring all the ingredients together except the salt and lemon juice. Once mixed well, add lemon juice and salt to your own tastes.
It really is up to you, I tend to add more tabasco and cayenne because I like the extra kick, you may want more lemon or more ketchup. Give it a go mix , taste , mix, taste ... I think you get the idea

 Arrange your salad or leaves in bowl, layer on top the slices of avocado followed by the crayfish, drizzle the sauce over your dish until you're satisfied each person has enough.

Then for the finishing touch dust over with  some Paprika and your done. Turn on your lava lamp, dust of your flares and serve with buttered brown bread for that 70's feel.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Cheese and Marmite Scones

Many thanks to the Marmite Facebook page for pointing out these brilliant little flavour bombs from Lesley Waters Recipe

This took very little effort and the results were amazing. I like a cheese scone as much as the next man but the addition of the Marmite added a delicious savoury twang, yessss, twang, that's the word I'm looking for.
If you're wondering what that weird marbled stuff is it's Irish Porter Cheese 

This makes around 10 or so scones depending upon the size of your cutter.

Now I just need to work out how to keep them upright in the oven, Lisa reckons flouring the cutter will work


  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 140g wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50g cold butter , cut into small cubes
  • 85g mature cheddar , grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp Marmite
  • 2 tbsp Greek or natural yogurt
  • 3 tbsp milk , plus extra to glaze 
Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Mix the flours and baking powder in a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt, if you like. Add the butter and rub with your fingertips until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (or use a food processor). Stir in ½ of the cheese and make a well in the centre.

Whisk the remaining ingredients together and pour into the well. With a cutlery knife, bring the mixture together to make a soft, but not sticky dough. Add a little more milk if the dough is too dry.

Turn onto a floured surface, then roll out to about 2cm thick. Stamp out 4 scones using a round cutter, then gather the trimmings and repeat until all the dough has been used. Put on a baking sheet, brush with milk and scatter over remaining cheese. Bake for 10-12 mins until golden. Cool on a wire rack. 

Server with whatever you like, although beer does go especially well 

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Irish Porter Cheese

Courtesy of a trip to Tescos I found this unusual cheese.

Irish porter cheese is made by blending traditional Cheddar cheese with Irish Porter Beer.
The cheddar is delightufly tangy which goes very well indeed with the darker beery taste of the porter

It looks impressive too with the stunning marbled effect the porter beer lends to the cheese.

If you like your cheddar mature then I think you'll love this

It's all a bit Wallace and Gromit

A grand day out and some cracking cheese made Saturday a most enjoyable day.

Spurred on by the reappearance of the big orangey thing in the sky we decided to go out for the day. One of the great things about Stoke On Trent is, that it’s fairly near to lots of other places that aren’t Stoke. So with a hankering for the great outdoors the three of us (Lisa, me and Freddie the dog) headed west to Wales and in particular Llandudno. Obviously there was a food twist to our trip out in the shape of farm shop selling welsh produce, in particular Lamb

The Journey was enlivened by a detour courtesy of TomTom through Towyn where we experience the local tradition of two spherically challenged women wandering down the main road in their pyjamas.

Despite the best efforts of the roadworks on the A55 we made good time and within a couple of hours we found ourselves on  beachcombing for rocks and Sea Glass (No I didn’t know either)

Llandudno if you’ve never been, is a quaint little place full of Victorian sea front properties, a pebble beach and sea so clear it wouldn’t be out of place in the Med.
Lunch was provided by the contents of the ever trusty cool box whilst sheltering from the wind in the car

After a morning wandering up and down the beach we headed in land in search of some serious countryside. This was abandoned when TomTom, which was supposed to be guiding us to a place of local interest, started directing me up a track with grass growing in the middle. So we cut our losses and drove to the always reliable Betwsycoed.

Again for the uneducated, Betwsycoed is a beautiful little town at the edge of Snowdonia. There are more walking equipment and Woollen  Mill shops on the high street than is healthy, it has crystal clear river running along side it and is surrounded by some breathtaking mountains, forests, hills and more idyllic things than you can shake a .whole bundle of sticks at.

It felt so good to be outside and enjoying the fresh air and made a great change from the usual weekend.

At last the real reason for the day out (not really Lisa, honest) Min-Y-Morfa Farm Shop. Located just off the A55, the shop was packed full of locally produced goodies. As well as the expected Beef, Lamb Chicken and Veg etc…. they had good array of cheeses and fair amount of wild venison. I opted for a shoulder of Lamb and some wonderful Little Black Bomber Cheddar from the Snowdonia Cheese Company oh and a bag of spuds.

The Lamb was OK, that taste was fairly rich but I have had better and there was little meat on it. For £10 I expected to make more than 5 portions

The cheese though was brilliant and would definitely have it again

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Pork and Comte Escallops

Having got a shed load of breadcrumbs left over from yesterday’s successful haggis adventure I wanted to make sure they didn’t go to waste. As I was in a retro frame of mind  a frozen food classic hoved into view and that noteworthy classic is the “cheese hamwich”. This (in case you missed out) was a ready made, chuck in the oven, midweek meal, it consisted of processed ham (hmmm nice) with layer of cheese flavoured stuff on top all coated in breadcrumbs. As with most oven ready feasts in my youth I thought they were great.
Now older, wiser and wrinklier I’ve adapted the pre-packaged gunk into something passable for an evening meal.
So I popped into Sainsbury’s looking for a flavoursome cheese that would slice easily and melt to gooey goodness when cooked. I opted for some French Comte, I’d never even heard of it before so it was a bit of a gamble and fortunately it paid off as the cheese has strong-ish taste without overpowering the pork

It’s important not to over cook the pork as it can become tough and chewy. If you can’t get pork loin, chops or other steaks are OK but not as tender.

2 Pork Loin steaks
2 Slices of French Comte Cheese
2 Eggs Beaten
Seasoned plain flour

Trim the fat from your pork and place between two sheets of clingfilm.
Using a meat mallet or in my case a rolling ping, gently bat it out so it becomes about 3mm thick and repeat for your other pieces of pork
Top each piece of pork with a slice of the Comte cheese.

Get three bowls and in each one put separately, the flour, egg and breadcrumbs.
First coat your pork/cheese thing in the flour, tapping slightly to remove the excess
The dip in the egg and again coat fully.
Now place into the breadcrumbs and coat thoroughly
Place back in the egg and cover again
Then back into the breadcrumbs to finish the prep of your escallops

(The repetition of egg and breadcrumbs is optional; I like it as it gives a much nicer crust and crunch)

Repeat for all your pieces and place in the fridge for 30 mins.

Heat a non stick frying pan and add a large knob of butter plus a glug of olive oil.
Put each escalope gently into the pan meat side down, fry gently for 3 mins or until golden brown. Very gently, using a Platte knife if you have one, turn the escallops over and fry again for 3 mins.

When both sides are golden remove from the pan and place on a sheet of kitchen paper whilst you put your accompaniments on the plate

Breaded Haggis with spiced plum sauce and apple salad

Totally inspired by Masterchef and Tom Kitchen on this one. I’d got vague memories of haggis from childhood. I think I’d only had it once and that was on Burns’ Night at Cubs. I seem to remember I was surprised by the taste which I actually quite liked, despite that I never tried it again until now. Much like a lot of dishes from this island Haggis now seems to be undergoing a renaissance and as such it’s been brought up to date by a lot of our skilled kitchen artisans.

If you’re not familiar with haggis it’s quite spicy not so much in the heat but more in the fragrance, the best way of describing it I think is it’s quite peppery. To cut through this I needed something sharp and sweet, this led me to the sauce and the salad. The plum sauce is very Chinese in its essence with the Star Anise and Cinnamon additions. The Salad gives a nice fresh balance to the dish with the apple adding a little extra sweetness. I used a very light dressing for the salad as I didn’t want to detract too much from the plum sauce

If you’re put off by thought of what haggis is made from, don’t be, you eat sausages don’t you?

The recipe below is not exact as I’ve only cooked it once so have yet to measure and weigh etc …

Serves Two as a starter


Breaded Haggis
Some Haggis … about the size of a snooker ball or slightly larger x2
Breadcrumbs … I used the Japanese breadcrumbs for extra crunch
1 egg Beaten
2 Tablespoons of plain flour

4 Plums skinned and quartered
3 Tablespoons of Caster Sugar
1 Star Anise
½ Cinnamon Stick
150 ml water
Splash of white wine vinegar

1 Carrot cut into very thin batons
½ Apple cut into very thin batons
Salad Leaves
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tablespoons of Olive oil
Tiny splash of white wine vinegar

Open your haggis, take a small hand full and shape into a burger like shape. I found it quite tricky to keep it in one lump as haggis is quite dry, therefore you may want to wet it somewhat with water or even egg.
Once you made your two shapes your ready to bread up. Get three bowls and in each one put separately, the flour, egg and breadcrumbs.
First coat your haggis shape in the flour, tapping slightly to remove the excess
The dip in the egg and again coat fully.
Now place into the breadcrumbs and coat thoroughly
Place back in the egg and cover again
Then back into the breadcrumbs to finish this stage

(The repetition of egg and breadcrumbs is optional; I like it as it gives a much nicer crust and crunch)

Put your breaded haggis in the fridge for 30 mins
Heat the oven to 180 degrees

For the sauce put all the ingredients in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil then simmer. At this point is a taste trial for you, obviously the plums need to turn to a mush, how sweet you like it effects the amount of sugar and how rich you like the sauce defines how much you should reduce the sauce by. When you’re happy with it, remove the cinnamon and star anise then blend until smooth.

Heat a non stick frying pan and add a knob of butter and a glug of olive oil.
Gently place your haggises in the pan and fry until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the crust is solid, gently turn over brown the other side. Then place in the oven for 15 mins. Again you’ll need to check if its cooked, so either with a skewer or small sharp knife, test the temperature of the centre of the haggis, it should be piping hot

For the Salad dressing whisk the lemon, oil and vinegar together with some seasoning until you’re happy with it

Put your leaves in a bowl and the carrot and apple, toss together add the dressing and toss again

Place your salad on the plate, followed by the Haggis and the Sauce and your ready to go.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Recipe: Coconut Prawns with Basmati Rice

This dish has two of the boxes ticked on my "Is it a Good Curry" checklist

1: Lisa, who doesn’t really like the majority of Indian curries (i.e. earthy flavours) will eat it and I think she actually quite enjoys it, although she does pick out the curry leaves

2: Chris, who is a connoisseur of balti house offerings, also rates it

It also requires quite a diverse store cupboard so you may have to hunt around for some of the seeds, leaves etc … I usually get mine online from the Asian Cookshop

As for the dish itself, it is wonderfully fragrant, the fennel seeds and cardamom give it a constant background note rather than a full on flavour, I’d have this every week if I could

 4 tbsp Ground Nut Oil
 2 tsp mustard seeds
 2 tsp black onion seeds
 4 green cardamom pods, seeds only
 1 tsp fennel seeds
 2 Red Birds eye chillies, chopped seeds removed
 1 cloves garlic, chopped
 1 cm ginger, chopped
 10 curry leaves
 2 shallots, chopped
 2 tsp turmeric
 4 tbsp water
 1 x 400 ml tin coconut milk
 Packet of Prawns either cooked or uncooked
 Steamed or boiled rice, to serve
 Coriander leaves, to garnish
1lb of rice

Heat a wok and add the ground nut oil. Throw in the mustard and onion seeds and let them splutter before adding the cardamom and fennel seeds. Add the green chilies, garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute, stirring.

Add the curry leaves and sauté for a minute. Add the chopped shallots and cook for a further minute, before adding the turmeric. Stir well and add then add the water.

Pour in the coconut milk and simmer for 5 -10 minutes or until to thicken. Taste for seasoning and if its not seasoned enough for you

Now, you’re supposed to cook the raw prawns for about 2 Mins, I cook a little longer but on as lower heat as you can get. This, I think, helps the prawns take on more of the flavour of the sauce and at its best, try and use the raw prawns as they seem to have a greater capacity for taking on flavour. So in essence, the time for cooking is a guideline and you should use your own preference for thickness of sauce and texture of the prawns.

Serve with rice and garnish with a little coriander

I’ve not described the rice method here, everyone has there own preferred method for boiling or steaming rice and I have mine

Staffordshire’s 2nd best Brassiere – 99 Station Street, Burton Upon Trent

This nearly ultimate accolade was awarded by that renowned culinary digest “Taste of Staffordshire”, no me neither! 
The aforementioned website does actually have a Foodie feel to it, in that it recommends restaurants and other purveyors of top notch grub as well as local delis etc .. add to that, the facts that Taste of Staffordshire’s Patron is no less than Sarah Willingham (you know, her from Raymond Blanc’s the restaurant, the one that looks a bit like Karen Brady if you squint) and it was my Birthday, we couldn’t not eat at 99 Station Street really could we?

So as this was a special occasion and to prevent major stress incidents with Lisa in the Kitchen we opted to don our finest and let someone else do the cooking. If I’m honest I wish I hadn’t

My first restaurant review and it’s full of negativity, well no actually there were some positives

Location : Hard to find, especially as I’d lost the Sat Nav and its situated in what appears to be a converted terrace house. However the location gave it a unique style so that if felt warm, comforting and enveloped you with an overall quality rustic feeling.

Service : Spot on, could not fault it, the waitresses were friendly , extremely helpful and possessed an in depth knowledge of the food and wine available.

Food : Here’s where the disappointment starts


Seared pigeon breast carved onto an onion puff pastry tartlet with chive sour cream and herb rapeseed oil

Verdict: I’d never had Pigeon before and was pleasantly surprised with the taste not too gamey and seasoned well, such a shame it was over cooked and very tough. The little tartlet was nice though and the dressing was also good


Roast rack of Stockley Park lamb with sautéed spinach, rosemary roasted
fondant potato and red wine reduction sauce

Verdict: The Lamb was way too fatty, hardly any meat on the cutlets. OK Lamb is fatty but if your going to serve it make sure the fat is cooked well. Well cooked fat but perfect meat is difficult to achieve and on this occasion they failed. The spinach wasn’t washed properly so it was gritty. The wine reduction was amazing. The Fondant potato was undercooked and almost raw in the middle. The accompanying veg whilst cooked well, was a little uninspiring.

            Caramelised Cambridge cream (crème Brule) with sugar biscuits

Verdict: Hard for me to judge as I’d never had this before. That said the initial few tastes were very creamy but I found about halfway through I was struggling and needed the biscuits, which were by the way were excellent, to add some texture and help me finish the dish

Cost: Meal for two including 3 course each and bottle of red wine the bill came to £77.

Overall: It would have been value for money compared to the average restaurant if it wasn’t for the quality of the food which let the whole side down. I’m sure the good people at Taste of Staffordshire knew what they were doing when they handed out the awards and the night we went was a bad day at the office. That said, based on my experience I wouldn’t want to try the 3rd best Brassiere in Staffordshire