Food. Travel. Recipes.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies! A Christmassy Nigella recipe...

These are a perfect Christmassy cookie (or an all year round cookie, they are equally as yummy no matter what time of year you eat them!), it is taken from Nigella Lawson's Christmas cookery book. I haven't always managed to make great cookies, they sometimes go too flat, or merge together and generally end up a bit of a mess! However, these didn't! I'm pretty certain it's the way you make them into small ish dough balls and spread them apart on the baking tray (see further below!) I took a couple round for my grandparents to try and now they mention them every time I see them!

Makes 8-10 (or even more, depending on the size you make them!) (Nigella makes small ones and says that this recipes will make 30)

150g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
75g rolled oats (not instant)
125g soft butter
75g dark brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g dried cranberries
50g pecans, roughly chopped (I left this part out as I think they are better without the nuts but add them by all means!)
150g white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

Measure out the flour, baking powder, salt and rolled oats and combine together in a bowl.

Mix the butter and sugars together in a bowl and mix well until creamy. An electric mixer helps here if you're able to get hold of one but a bit of elbow grease will go a long way!

Beat the flour, baking powder, salt and oat mixture into the butter mixture.

Then fold in the cranberries, optional chopped pecans and white choc chips.

Roll tablespoons of dough into balls with your hands* then place them onto the baking tray and squish the dough balls down with a fork.

*This is the first time I've tried doing it this way and it is the best way. I have tried so many cookie recipes and completely failed when they've cooked as they normally turn out flat and join together! Nigella's way of cooking them is definitely the easiest way to get nice looking cookies. Also spread them out on a baking tray, I ended up using two trays for fear of siamese cookies!!

Cook for 15 minutes. They are ready when coloured nicely! Leave to cool slightly then peel off the tray and leave to cool and harden fully on a wire rack.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Party Food! Halloumi Cheese - 2 ways

I've been wanting to write about certain party food recipes for quite a while and I thought I would stick one in before New Year's Eve. Perhaps wanting to post about all of the party snacks I've made before NYE was a little ambitious, but I get so excited cooking for friends and I enjoy writing about it too. However, the other posts will have to wait for next week! For now, I want to share with you the following recipes which are two simple recipes to make the amazingly moreish Halloumi cheese even more moreish! They are both taken from Nigella Lawson's cookery book Nigella Express. Her books are becoming a permanent fixture in my cooking and blogging, I love her creativity in recipes and the exciting ingredients she uses. The following recipes really bring to life this salty delicious cheese. It is wonderful when you simply grill it, but these recipes give it another life, completely different tastes and flavours!

Halloumi Bites (yum, yum)

This recipes turns the Halloumi super juicy and flavoursome.


80ml garlic oil (or a crushed garlic clove works well)
1 x 15ml lime juice
3 x 15ml tablespoons chopped parsley
Generous sprinkle of black pepper
3 x 250g blocks halloumi cheese (You must buy the full fat version, the low fat one is just plain shoddy in comparison!) (You will have to drain the Halloumi and chopped into cubes, or whichever shapes you like but small cubes or thin long slices are best)

Combine the oil, lime juice, pepper and parsley into a small jug.

Heat a heavy based non-stick frying pan and quickly fry the Halloumi on its own, no oil or anything.

Once fried, browned and lovely looking, turn down to simmer and pour the mixture over the Halloumi (this is slightly different to Nigella's direction but it is what I prefer). Coat well. Then decant to a bowl.

Halloumi grilled with flame roasted peppers

Grilling the cheese makes it crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the peppers give it a lovely vinegary taste as well. My favourite Halloumi recipe.


1 x 250g block Halloumi cheese. (Again, cut into small cubes or long slices)
1 x 220g jar flame roasted peppers (very easy to get hold of in supermarkets) (Sliced)
1 x 15ml tablespoon garlic oil

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Line a baking tin with baking parchment. Place the chopped Halloumi in the tin along with the sliced tinned peppers.

Drizzle the garlic oil over.

Cook for 15-20 minutes. The cheese should have browned by this point and will be ready to serve.

Enjoy the Halloumi and also enjoy people's reactions to how damn delicious this cheese is!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

What I've been loving this Christmas...

My blogging has been awful during this month and I had so much planned to write about! I had a list of food that I've made going as far back as a month or more to blog! It just seems that this whole month has been completely manic, not really managing to have a rest and then when I was relaxing, I didn't feel like writing a post. However, I am still planning to cover a lot of what I've cooked this week before New Years, especially party food recipes as it seems more appropriate to cover around this time. Then when New Year hits, I plan to post about some slightly healthier meals!

I thought as Christmas has just passed, I would share with anyone who is interested a few things I have been loving this month and some things that have really got me into a Christmassy festive spirit!

We have a lovely (fake) tree that I helped to decorate. I really love the decorations we have and like that they are mostly ornamental style and larger baubles. I think it makes the tree look kind of stylish! The rest of the decorations in the house I can't take credit for, that's my mum's interior style touch! She loves buying decorations and there always seems to be a place for everything, so many corners of our house are filled with festive objects!

Something else that has made me feel Christmassy are festive candles! I love candles all year round and have a few in my room however at Christmas all these new fragrances come out and make everywhere smell like it's been infused with a large dose of vanilla, cinnamon, spice and almonds.

I also have to mention my Mum's table setting for Christmas day, it was so fun, a mismatch of different Christmassy prints and colours that in my opinion, looked pretty damn stylish!

I also have been loving Christmas style cakes. Both of which are shown below and are not ones that I have made! The first is my Mum's try at Nigella's spruced up vanilla cake, and it came out unbelievably well. It does have a mould but it is still something that looks tricky and so Christmassy! The second is a gingerbread house made by one of my work colleagues. He made it for a party he had at his house and I didn't go, however he sent me a picture of this creation and I was properly bowled over by how good it was! I did persistently ask him to bring it into work as I wanted to see it in real life! He eventually he did and unfortunately it was pretty much devoured and destroyed by everyone (including me...), but even after a week, it tasted lovely and looked like a work of art!

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

My Mum's adapted Christmas cranberry rice!

I have neglected blogging for a couple of weeks now and this was when I wanted to go Christmas mad! I have so many recipes and meals that I have made the past few weeks but really haven't had the energy to post and today of all days, when I'm tired and full of cold, I've decided to post. It's only a week until Christmas and I'm so excited (I was excited mid September...) and the best part about Christmas for me (apart from being with family, friends etc...) is food! There's nothing better than eating your body weight in chocolate, turkey, roast potatoes, delicious puddings and bread sauce!

I've decided to start with this recipe as it is such an amazing Christmassy recipe. The cranberries give it a lovely sweetness whilst the parsley and onions make it taste like stuffing! It's a great accompaniment to some leftover turkey on Boxing Day. This recipe is my Mum's adaptation of a Nigella Lawson stuffing recipe in the cookery book Feast. It originally contained dried sour cherries but my Mum put cranberries in the recipe instead and it turned into a wonderful Christmassy side dish!

Serves 4


60g butter
2 onions, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
200g basmati rice (or enough for how many you are cooking for)
80g dried cranberries
500ml water
4 tablespoons chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a wide saucepan. Add the finely sliced garlic and onions to the melted butter and fry gently until the onions brown.

Add the rice and dried cranberries and stir well so the rice is coated in the buttery mixture.

Add the water and a sprinkling of salt and bring to the boil. Pop the lid on and cook at a very low heat for 15 minutes.

The rice will be cooked when the water has all been more or less absorbed. Then add the parsley and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Ta-da! Enjoy this Christmassy cranberry rice with some nice roast chicken or turkey!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Tuscan sea salt bread with rosemary and extra virgin olive oil (Gino D'Acampo)

So, this is the last non Christmassy post I'll do, the rest of December I plan to dedicate my posts to the magical holiday season! So everything will be Christmassy, party centred, chocolatey and altogether festive! For now however , I hope you enjoy this Tuscan style sea salt bread with rosemary recipe!

I did make this flat bread style recipe quite a while ago but I made it as an accompaniment to my previous post of homemade pesto with sun dried tomato and parma ham wrapped chicken. However, I wanted to do it as a separate post as I don't like to bombard people with too much in one post! (Cue this post now being super long!)

This recipe really surprised me. I've only ever tried making my own bread once, which was a relatively easy Nigel Slater recipe. I've never tried flat style bread or any other bread recipes (apart from banana bread ... if that counts!) This is taken from Gino D'Acampo's Fantastico cookery book, a book that I've been using a ridiculous amount and one which I have shared a LOT on here. I absolutely adore his style of cooking, it's fresh, simple and not too difficult despite some recipes perhaps looking like they are harder than they actually are.

The only downside to this recipe is it is quite time consuming (I did knead the bread for a whole 10 minutes, which is slightly insane but I wanted to put the time and effort in so it turned out well as I'm usually so quick and slapdash!), there's lots of waiting, kneading and different stages so I would only recommend trying this if you have a couple of hours spare (yes a couple of hours!) but it was worth it as it was delicious!

Serves 4-6 people as an accompaniment to a main course.


450g strong plain white flour
1 teaspoon fast-action dried yeast
130ml extra virgin Olive oil, plus extra for greasing
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, stripped from stalks (and I know I can be lazy and revert to dried herbs sometimes, but you really must use fresh rosemary here!)
Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Firstly, mix together the flour and yeast in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in 300ml of warm water with 6 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix well to make a soft dough.

Take the dough out of the bowl and onto a floured surface. Now here is the first mega time consuming part but also the part that'll make your bread amazing! Knead for 10 minutes! If you're like me and can't seem to stand still for 10 minutes, call someone and get them on speakerphone or play some music really loudly and sing along. So it's less like you're actually standing there kneading bread! You will really notice the different after the 10 minutes, the bread becomes so much smoother and easier to handle.

Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave in a warm place for 1 hour until it has doubled in size.

Once it has grown, turn onto a floured surface and knead the dough for a couple of minutes, then roll into a large rectangle, around 2cm thick. I did it so it would cover a large rectangular baking tray.

Transfer the dough onto an oiled baking tray. (I just poured a bit of olive oil over the tray and moved it about so the oil covered the surface) Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise (AGAIN!) for about 25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Remove the cling film and prick the risen dough with a fork so it has a nice look about it and has some breathing holes! Brush the dough with half of the remaining oil, sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt.

Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until it looks gorgeous, golden and brown. Remove from the baking tray and transfer to a wire rack. As it cools, brush with the remaining oil to soften the crust.

Serve with a yummy Italian style dinner for friends!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

How to: homemade pesto (with wholewheat fusilli served with parma ham and sun dried tomato wrapped chicken breast)

So, another edition of my attempts of a 'how to' post , this isn't me trying to sound like an expert, just my tried and tested methods that I'd like to share. I've been wanting to make my own pesto for so long and it is a simple method and I'm sure people reading who have made it themselves would agree. Although saying that, for most people (myself include) grabbing a tin of pesto is much easier just making your own is more satisfying!


Makes enough for a pasta dish for 3 people.

100ml olive oil
1 packet pine nuts, roughly 50g
1 pack of fresh basil
80g Parmesan cheese, grated (basically a good handful)
Lemon juice, 1 tablespoon
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

The simplest way is to literally chuck everything into a food processor and whizz to desired consistency.

I did it in stages however, processing the drier ingredients first. So put the oil into the processor with the pine nuts and whizz.

Then add the basil leaves, parmesan, lemon juice and crushed garlic clove with a drizzle of olive oil over the top. Whizz up these ingredients and hey presto, you're done!

I served this with parma ham and sun dried tomato wrapped chicken breast. I'm slightly obsessed with sun dried tomatoes at the moment and how gorgeous they taste, all oily, bursting with flavour and it just reminds me of Italy!

If you want to try this as well, you will need the following ingredients:

Serves 3

A packet of mini chicken breast fillets
A jar of sun dried tomatoes (enough for the chicken and some to nibble on!)
A packet of parma ham
Olive oil

Lay a slice of parma ham on a chopping board. Place the mini chicken breast in the middle with one or two sun dried tomatoes on the top, then wrap up with the parma ham!

Arrange on a baking tray and pop in the oven at 200C for 35-40 minutes.