The 'Best' Chocolate Chip Cookies

Crisp edge, soft chewy middle, loaded with chocolate chips, these really are the best chocolate chip cookies!

I don’t make the claim in the title lightly. I’ve made a lot of chocolate chip cookies in my time. Different recipes, all claiming to be great. I found this recipe on Pinterest, it’s from the New York Times. They claimed it was the best, and by jove, I fully agree! (I’ve changed it a smidge to suit me, but nothing drastic)

However, this does depend on what you’re looking for in your cookie. Are you looking for a lovely, crunchy edge? A buttery, chewy middle? A wealth of chocolate chips? Yes? Then these are the cookies for you! I like to think of them as the classic American chocolate chip cookie (American friends, please don’t shoot me down in flames here). Whatever you’re looking for, regardless of what you like, these are a good cookie. Make them, and tell me what you think.

Ingredients

140g unsalted butter, softened
140g soft light brown sugar
110g granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
240g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
200g chocolate chips (or whatever you fancy; smarties, M&M’s, cranberries & white choc chips)

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | thehecticcook.com

1. Cream the butter and sugar together. I used my mixer for this, but you could do it with a hand-mixer, or even by hand. Creaming isn’t as important for biscuits as it is for cake. Really just give them a good old mix.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | thehecticcook.com

2. Next beat in the egg and the vanilla extract.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | thehecticcook.com

3. Sift the dry ingredients (flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt) into the bowl, then add the chocolate chips and give it a good mix.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | thehecticcook.com

If you’re doing this by hand-mixer or by hand, you’re probably as well getting stuck in with your hands as the mixture becomes quite stiff.

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4. I tend to spoon this out of the bowl onto clingfilm and roll it into a sausage (you need a fairly big piece of clingfilm to do this), before popping it into the fridge for at least a couple of hours. The dough will keep quite nicely in the fridge for days. Or you can even freeze the dough.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | thehecticcook.com

You need to refrigerate the dough before baking it, otherwise the cookies will spread too much.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | thehecticcook.com

5. When you’re ready to bake the dough, preheat your oven to 170°C (fan)/325°F/Gas 3. Take the dough out of the fridge and cut it into slices.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | thehecticcook.com

6. Roll each slice into a nice little ball, and lay on greaseproof paper on a baking tray. Space them nicely apart as they will spread a fair bit (even after refrigeration) once in the oven.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | thehecticcook.com

7. Pop them into the oven for about 10-12 minutes. Keep an eye, as they don’t take long and you want to get them out just as the edges are starting to brown. I’m still getting used to my oven, and would say that mine are slightly overcooked (oops!).

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | thehecticcook.com

I got 38 cookies out of this mix (excuse the hand of an overeager 3 year old!). My cookies slightly vary in size – obviously because I’m catering for adults and children alike (ahem).  These will keep in an airtight container for at least a week – if not longer, they’ll just get a bit harder.

I hope you find these as ridiculously good as I do. Now all I’ve got to do is not eat them all….

Happy cooking!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:14]

The ‘Best’ Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don’t make the claim in the title lightly. I’ve made a lot of chocolate chip cookies in my time. Different recipes, all claiming to be great. I found this recipe on Pinterest, it’s from the New York Times. They claimed it was the best, and by jove, I fully agree!

However, this does depend on what you’re looking for in your cookie. Are you looking for a lovely, crunchy edge? A buttery, chewy middle? A wealth of chocolate chips? Yes? Then these are the cookies for you! I like to think of them as the classic American chocolate chip cookie (American friends, please don’t shoot me down in flames here). But regardless of all of that, these are a good cookie. Make them, and tell me what you think!

Ingredients

image140g unsalted butter, softened
140g soft light brown sugar
110g granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
240g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
200g chocolate chips (or whatever you fancy; smarties, M&M’s, cranberries & white choc chips)

Cream the butter and sugar together. I used my mixer for this, but you could do it with a hand-mixer, or even by hand. Creaming isn’t as important for biscuits as it is for cake. Really just give them a good old mix.

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Next beat in the egg and the vanilla essence.

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Sift the dry ingredients (flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt) into the bowl, then add the chocolate chips and give it a good mix.

image

If you’re doing this by hand-mixer or by hand, you’re probably as well getting stuck in with your hands as the mixture becomes quite stiff.

image

I tend to spoon this out of the bowl onto clingfilm and roll it into a sausage (you need a fairly big piece of clingfilm to do this), before popping it into the fridge for at least a couple of hours. The dough will keep quite nicely in the fridge for days. Or you can even freeze the dough.

image

You need to refrigerate the dough before baking it, otherwise the cookies will spread too much.

image

When you’re ready to bake the dough, preheat your oven to 170C (fan). Take the dough out of the fridge and cut it into slices.

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Roll each slice into a nice little ball, and lay on baking parchment/paper on a baking tray. Space them nicely apart as they will spread a fair bit (even after refrigeration) once in the oven.

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Pop them into the oven for about 10-12 minutes. Keep an eye, as they don’t take long and you want to get them out just as the edges are starting to brown. I’m still getting used to my oven, and would say that mine are slightly overcooked (oops!).

image

I got 38 cookies out of this mix (excuse the hand of an overeager 3 year old!). My cookies slightly vary in size – obviously because I’m catering for adults and children alike (ahem).  These will keep in an airtight container for at least a week – if not longer, they’ll just get a bit harder.

I hope you find these as ridiculously good as I do. Now all I’ve got to do is not eat them all….

Happy cooking!

Winter Vegetable Soup

It’s a cold, snowy Saturday, so a pot of soup on the stove seemed appropriate. I love soup. It’s filling, usually pretty healthy, and once it’s made, really quick to heat and consume. I really struggle at lunchtime to find time to make myself anything, so having some soup in the fridge is a bit of a lifesaver (or more a waist-saver, as otherwise I’ll reach for anything, usually crap).

This soup recipe comes from my own lovely mum. She used to make this for my dad, to take with him when he went fishing. Hence, it became known as ‘Fishing Soup’, despite there being no fish involved (in either the soup or my Dad’s efforts!). You can play about with the veg you add, whatever you have/like will do. This is our version.

Ingredients

image 2 tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, diced
1/4 turnip, diced
3 medium potatoes, diced
‘some’ frozen peas (whatever quantity you think you’ll like in your soup)
2 tsp garlic (frozen or paste) / 2 garlic cloves, crushed
about 8 mushrooms, sliced
1/2 a courgette, diced
2 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 tsp mixed herbs
800ml beef or veg stock
1 tin of Heinz tomato soup

I used a ready-made pack of diced carrot/turnip I’d previously frozen – these are great for soups and I use them all the time. I read somewhere that you should blanch fresh veg before you freeze it. This is way too much work for me, so I don’t  bother. I really only use veg like this for soups/stews, so it hasn’t proven a problem. There looks to be a lot of ingredients there, but I didn’t have any mixed herbs – which is made up of basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme and marjoram – so I added a smidge of each herb instead (except marjoram which I’ve never used, and in all honesty am not even sure what it is??).

Heat the oil, add the onion and soften, then add the garlic for a couple of minutes. Add all of the veg, except the peas.

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I had to give the carrot/turnip mix a good bashing to separate. Cook this over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add the puree, stock and herbs.

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Simmer this with the lid on for about 30 minutes until all of the veg is soft. Add the peas, and then the tomato soup – I realise it might seem a bit odd, adding soup to soup, but this gives it a creaminess which is lovely. Have a taste and season as required (mine only needed a wee bit of salt and pepper).

And serve.

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I didn’t feed this to the kiddiwinkles, as I couldn’t face lunch taking an hour whilst they picked out all the mushrooms, onion and courgette. They normally get blended soup. But the Husband and I enjoyed it 🙂

Happy cooking!

Smoked Haddock Kedgeree (Method 1)

I’ve come across two methods for making kedgeree in my time – both are good, but give slightly different results. I actually tend to use ‘method 2’, which I will blog in time (nothing like a bit of suspense building huh?), but tonight I used ‘method 1’, which I would say is slightly easier, and gives a drier kedgeree result.

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Ingredients

400g smoked haddock
350g rice
3 tbsp curry paste
1 chopped onion
olive oil
frozen peas
2 eggs, hard boiled
salt & pepper

Briefly about the ingredients. I’m a Scottish lass. I grew up in a fishing town on the east coast. So fish was never hard to come by, and always lovely and fresh. However, we now live in Oxfordshire, about as far from the sea as you could get, and getting fresh fish is nigh on impossible. So I have to rely on the supermarkets, where it is usually pretty pricey and not necessarily that good quality (unless my Mum brings me some when she visits – she’s been known to carry it vacuum packed on ice packs down on the train. She’s a good Mum!). Hence why I’ve used frozen smoked haddock fillets here (they’re a bit cheaper, although truth be told the flavour just isn’t as good, so next time I’m buying fresh). So I would recommend fresh fish if you can. And it has to be smoked.

I used 350g rice – for the Husband, me and the 4 kiddiwinkles. This actually left a full adult portion, but as the Husband absolutely loves kedgeree, he’ll eat this for lunch tomorrow, and it keeps me in the good books. I used korma curry paste as I was making this for the kids, but a medium paste would give a bit more spice. You can also use curry powder if you’d prefer – you’d need about 2 tbsp.

So, onto the method.

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Firstly, cook your rice. I read how to cook rice perfectly in an Indian recipe book once, and it’s now my trusted method. It honestly gives you lovely fluffy rice every time, so bear with me. Soak the rice before you cook it, for as long as you can really, but at least about 15 minutes. This makes the cooking time really short. Drain, then add it to a pan of salted boiling water and let it bubble away. You’ve really got to stay on top of it. After a few minutes (literally just a few minutes, probably about 4), test it. You want it to be ‘almost cooked’, just with some bite left.

imageYou wouldn’t class it as cooked at this point, but that’s when you need to remove it from the heat, sieve it and pour it back into the pan. Pop a lid on and leave it. When you return to it after a few minutes it will have finished cooking and you can fluff it with a fork. Hopefully perfect rice!

In a large pan add your chopped onion to about a tablespoon of olive oil. Now I only used half an onion this time, because remember, my children ‘….don’t like onion…’. Still Henry managed to find onion at 20 yards and spent most of dinner time picking it out, one piece at a time.

Cook the onion until it’s soft and starting to brown. Undercooked onion does my head in.

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Add your curry paste or powder to this and let it cook for a few minutes. Whilst this is all going on, place your fish in a pan with water and bring to the boil.

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Simmer for about 10 minutes until the fish is cooked through, then drain and add to your onion/curry mix. Throw in the peas (if you like peas in your kedgeree) and give it a good mix before adding the rice and mixing through again. You can then add your boiled egg however you want it – or not in my case. Eugh!

Et voila! Kedgeree. This is how it looks in the HC house:

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I will add at this point that it went down with varying popularity with my children. One cleared her plate; one ate about half; one just pushed it about her plate a bit; and Henry ate a little bit around trying to pick out all the onion. With six mouths to feed I’m not about to cook separate meals, but also want us eating a varied menu (the Husband and I need something to look forward to!). So sometimes plates get cleared, and sometimes they don’t. But believe me – missing a meal is not really a problem for my children 😀

Happy cooking!

Quick and Easy Gammon Pasta Bake

Henry has swimming on a Tuesday, so I tend to give the kids their dinner earlier than usual in order to shove him out the door on time (sometimes literally). I was a bit pushed for time tonight as I’d booked a Sainsbury’s delivery right about the time I needed to cook dinner (PPP = piss poor planning). However, with the help of the new cooker, I was able to get this out and on the table in under 30 minutes (and I don’t say this lightly, as I’m always pretty cynical when those tv chef-types say you can cook a meal in ridiculously quick times).

So tonight, for the kids, I made a pretty easy gammon pasta bake. It’s not exactly cordon bleu, but this blog is about what we’re actually eating. I know everyone has their own ‘quick and easy’ meals. This is one of ours.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 chopped onion (or frozen in my case)
1 tsp chopped garlic (again frozen)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp basil (and again I used frozen, fancy that!)
1/2 tsp sugar
salt & pepper
1 smoked gammon steak
240g pasta (this feeds my 4 kids with some spare to keep the Husband happy)
frozen peas
grated cheddar cheese

The sauce is pretty much the pizza sauce I made the other day, just with less cooking to keep it ‘saucy’ (are you keeping up with my technical terms?).

  1. Heat the oil in a small pan, add the onion and cook til softened, then add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes, basil, sugar and season, then put a lid on the pan and let simmer for about 5 minutes (really just whilst the pasta cooks). 


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2. Once it’s cooked, I tend to blitz it with my hand blender as I’m serving it to the kids and they, (whingey voice) “don’t like onions…”. But you could happily leave it as it is.

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3. Boil your pasta until cooked (Italians would hate me, I cook my pasta until it is totally dead. And buried). As you take it off the heat add your frozen peas – this is enough time to cook them without them going that horrible faded green way. Drain your pasta, return it to the pan and add your sauce. I only used half the sauce in this instance, so I’ve boxed the remainder up to freeze, ready to use the next time.

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As an aside, I bought 50 of those tupperware tubs you get from takeaway shops, just from Amazon, as they’re perfect for freezing leftovers in. We own a huge chest freezer, big enough to put a body in(!), and it’s full of stuff like this. I love my chest freezer, and with a big family, it’s a godsend. You don’t necessarily need one as big as ours, but a standard chest freezer can be really useful if you have the spare room.

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4. Whilst my pasta and sauce were cooking, I shoved the gammon steak under the grill to cook. It only needs about 5 minutes each side. I then trimmed off the fat and diced it up. Add that to your pasta/sauce mix. Tip it into a dish, sprinkle with as much cheese as you like, and grill until it’s nicely golden and bubbling.

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In all honesty, the girls didn’t really eat the gammon. Kids are funny with meat (well mine are) and I think it was a bit chewy for them. Henry ate it. But left the peas. You can never win!

Quick & Easy Gammon Pasta Bake - A really simple dish that can be thrown together in 30 minutes, and will satisfy hungry bellies | thehecticcook.com

And the Husband and I? We had a take away 😉

And wine – well it is Tuesday.

Happy cooking!

Warming Winter Chicken Casserole

Our Sunday meal this week was a chicken casserole. I love casseroles because pretty much anything goes. Chuck together some meat, veggies, stock and flavouring, and it should result in a tasty casserole. My casseroles are often made up as I go along. Unless I’m following a recipe, chances are they’ll be different every time. Again, it usually depends what’s in my cupboard and what I need to use up.

This time I cooked it in the oven – I’d left it too late to slow cook, and with chicken it doesn’t really matter. But I love my slow cooker, and any other meat (e.g. beef, lamb) which you’d want really tender, I tend to slow cook. It’s a lot cheaper than running your oven for several hours – apparently running a slow cooker is like leaving a light bulb on?!

Ingredients

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450g chicken breast
450g chicken thighs
3 rashers of smoked back bacon
a chopped onion
whatever veg you like (I used carrot, mushroom and sweetcorn)
100g pearl barley
800ml chicken stock
1 tsp sage
1 tsp dried garlic / 2 garlic cloves
0.5 tsp rosemary
0.5 tsp thyme
salt & pepper

When cooking, it’s useful to think of what flavour combinations go together. In this instance, chicken and bacon is an obvious one. When it comes to adding flavour, think of what you’d normally associate with chicken. For example, I used sage – think of the sage and onion stuffing you’d have with your roast chicken. I also used rosemary and thyme (these go well together anyway) but not as much as the sage, because they’re quite strong flavours. I tend to smell herbs before I add them, to get an idea of how much I want to use. What do you want the overriding flavour to be? Does that makes sense??

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Add a tablespoon of oil to your pan and soften your onion (again I used frozen onion for this). Then add your chicken (chopped into bite size pieces) and cook it long enough to seal it (i.e. till it’s mostly turned white but not cooked through). I used both breast and thigh here because the kids prefer the texture of chicken breast, but thigh adds a lovely meatier flavour.  Add your bacon and let it cook for a few minutes.

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Add your veg (whatever you fancy really – I’m a big carrot and mushroom fan) and the pearl barley (this thickens the casserole without the need for any thickening agents (i.e. flour) so can be useful if you’re following certain diets!), then add your herbs, seasoning and stock. It’ll look like a lot of stock but you’ll need it because the barley will sook it right up. You can always add more stock if your casserole looks like it’s getting a bit dry. And don’t be scared of seasoning. Unseasoned food is flavourless food.

Chuck this in the oven at about 150C for about 2 hours. You’re really just waiting for the meat to cook, and the veg and barley to soften.  Take it out at least once halfway through to give it a right good stir. It’s maybe not the most glamourous looking of dishes, but it really is a lovely, warming winter meal.

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I served it with creamy mash, roasted veg and steamed cabbage. This was a pretty big casserole and did us two nights, so would normally serve at least 6 adults.

As a quick aside, do you know what possibly the single most important part of cooking is? Tasting your food. That might seem obvious, but a lot of folk don’t. And if you don’t taste your food, how do you know it’s even edible? Is it too salty? Not seasoned enough? Have you totally missed an ingredient? Before dishing up anything, make sure you taste it.

Right, my girls appear to be reverting to their early days and think it’s a good idea to get me out of bed several times a night. So I’m off for a sleep.

Tired Pic

Happy cooking.

'Skinny' Veggie Lasagne

This Skinny Veggie Lasagne is a healthier vegetarian take on the Italian classic, that totally delivers on taste.

The new cooker is awesome! It does this amazing thing, that when you turn the heat up, it gets hotter! And when you turn the heat down, guess what? It cools down!! Like, immediately – no waiting half an hour for it to return to a temperature cooler than the sun! Amazing. I’m one very happy camper.

So tonight we had another ‘adult’ meal, and I made veggie lasagne (the kids had mac’n’cheese). The ‘skinny’ in the title is slightly misleading. By ‘skinny’, I mean relatively, when compared to normal lasagne. I probably wouldn’t go so far as to class this as diet food – but it’s definitely not as bad for you as the meaty, cheesy originator of the name. I try to include one veggie meal in the weekly menu – it definitely helps to reduce the weekly budget a bit, and hopefully we’re doing our bit for the planet as well?

Ingredients

Sauce

your choice of veg
Quorn mince (I used this to bulk this dish as I was feeding the Husband, but it’s really nice with just veg)
tinned tomatoes (or passata)
Oxo cube (if you’re a genuine veggie, this could be substituted with a veg stock cube)
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika (an amazing spice I add to a LOT of meals. If you haven’t got it, it’s totally worth buying)
1 tsp garlic paste / 1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp chilli flakes (or depending on taste)
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

Note:

There’s a fair few ingredients in that there photo. But it’s mostly veg. It’s totally up to you what you put into your sauce, which is just a bolognese really. On this occasion I had some veg to use up (see the little bowls), plus I chucked in the leftover pizza sauce from the other day (the white lidded tupperware). I’m a great believer in ‘chucking stuff in’. Any leftovers, if you can use them, fantastic. I hate waste. I didn’t have any chopped tomatoes so I had to use passata. Again, use what you’ve got. This is why I love cooking, you don’t need to have every little ingredient in a recipe. You can often change to suit what’s in your cupboard.

1. Preheat your oven to 190°C (fan). Cut the veg up into small cubes and place in a roasting dish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Pop in the oven.

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

Note:

Today I had carrot, parsnip, aubergine, courgettes, onion, sweet red pepper, mushrooms, green beans and butternut squash (which I buy ready prepared – I honestly can’t be arsed peeling and cubing a squash). I kept the beans, mushrooms and pepper out for the first ten minutes, as they take less time to cook.

This all takes about 25-30 minutes to roast. Take them out a couple of times and give them a good shake before they’re done.

At this point my camera roll is interrupted by this:

thehecticcook.com

The joys of children.

2. Once your veg is roasted, heat the remaining oil in a pan and add your Quorn mince (if using). I used the whole bag of Quorn mince, but I only used half the resulting sauce (I’ve frozen it for next time). Start it cooking then add all of the remaining sauce ingredients plus some water to make it ‘saucy’ (technical term).

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

This is what mine looked like. I then let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Unlike with meaty mince, you don’t need to simmer Quorn forever (it’s pretty soft already), and all the ingredients here were cooked, so it didn’t take long.

Remaining Ingredients

8 tbsp creme fraiche (I used the 3% fat one, which is yum, but use whatever kind you like)
30g parmesan, grated
lasagne sheets

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

3. Layer up, starting with the sauce, then lasagne, then sauce, lasagne etc. I used 4 layers of lasagne. Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

After the last layer of lasagne I spread over the creme fraiche and sprinkled with the parmesan.

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

4. Chuck it in the oven, temperature lowered slightly to 180°C (fan), for about 30 minutes, or until the top is lovely and browned.

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

Because I was serving the Husband a veggie dish, I always feel I’ve got to compensate with something else (food wise I’m talking). So I made some garlic bread using the same pizza base dough recipe from the other day (in the breadmaker), slathered it in a mixture of butter, garlic, parsley and salt (the parsley really only adds the green bits) then sprinkled over some of the cheese leftover from the pizza. Et voila.

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

And wine was consumed. Obviously. It was Saturday night after all, and we have kids, so this is about as rock’n’roll as we get.

Happy cooking!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:39]

‘Skinny’ Veggie Lasagne

The new cooker is awesome! It does this amazing thing, that when you turn the heat up, it gets hotter! And when you turn the heat down, guess what? It cools down!! Like, immediately – no waiting half an hour for it to return to a temperature cooler than the sun! Amazing. I’m one very happy camper.

So tonight we had another ‘adult’ meal, and I made veggie lasagne (the kids had mac’n’cheese). The ‘skinny’ in the title is slightly misleading. By ‘skinny’, I mean relatively, when compared to normal lasagne. I probably wouldn’t go so far as to class this as diet food – but it’s definitely not as bad for you as the meaty, cheesy originator of the name. I try to include one veggie meal in the weekly menu – it definitely helps to reduce the weekly budget a bit, and hopefully we’re doing our bit for the planet as well?

image

There’s a fair few ingredients in that there photo. But it’s mostly veg. It’s totally up to you what you put into your sauce, which is just a bolognese really. On this occasion I had some veg to use up (see the little bowls), plus I chucked in the leftover pizza sauce from the other day (the white lidded tupperware). I’m a great believer in ‘chucking stuff in’. Any leftovers, if you can use them, fantastic. I hate waste.

I didn’t have any chopped tomatoes so I had to use passata. Again, use what you’ve got. This is why I love cooking, you don’t need to have every little ingredient in a recipe. You can often change to suit what’s in your cupboard.

Sauce

your choice of veg
Quorn mince (I used this to bulk this dish as I was feeding the Husband, but it’s really nice with just veg)
tinned tomatoes (or passata)
Oxo cube (if you’re a genuine veggie, this could be substituted with a veg stock cube)
0.5 tsp sweet smoked paprika (an amazing spice I add to a LOT of meals. If you haven’t got it, it’s totally worth buying!)
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp oregano
0.25 tsp chilli flakes (or depending on taste)
olive oil
salt & pepper

Today I had carrot, parsnip, aubergine, courgettes, onion, sweet red pepper, mushrooms, green beans and butternut squash (which I buy ready prepared – I honestly can’t be arsed peeling and cubing a squash). I cut them all up into small cubes and placed in a roasting dish with about one tablespoon of olive oil.

image

I kept the beans, mushrooms and pepper out for the first ten minutes, as they take less time to cook. This all takes about 25-30 minutes to roast. Take them out a couple of times and give them a good shake before they’re done. At this point my camera roll is interrupted by this:

image

The joys of children.

Once your veg is roasted, heat about one teaspoon of oil in a pan and add your Quorn mince (if using). I used the whole bag of Quorn mince, but I only used half the resulting sauce (I’ve frozen it for next time). Start it cooking then add all of the remaining sauce ingredients plus some water to make it ‘saucy’ (a technical term I’ll have you know).

image

This is what mine looked like. I then let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Unlike with meaty mince, you don’t need to simmer Quorn forever (it’s pretty soft already), and all the ingredients here were cooked, so it didn’t take long.

Remaining Ingredients

8 tbsp creme fraiche (I used the 3% fat one, which is yum, but use whatever kind you like)
30g grated parmesan
lasagne sheets

image  image

Layer up, starting with the sauce, then lasagne, then sauce, lasagne etc. I used 4 layers of lasagne. After the last layer of lasagne I spread over the creme fraiche and sprinkled with the parmesan.

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Chuck it in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is lovely and browned.

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Because I was serving the Husband a veggie dish, I always feel I’ve got to compensate with something else (food wise I’m talking!). So I made some garlic bread using the same pizza base dough recipe from the other day (in the breadmaker), slathered it in a mixture of butter, garlic, parsley and salt (the parsley really only adds the green bits) then sprinkled over some of the cheese leftover from the pizza. Et voila.

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And wine was consumed. Obviously. It was Saturday night after all, and we have kids, so this is about as rock’n’roll as we get.

Happy cooking.

Homemade Pizza

Something very exciting happened yesterday. Well exciting in my world at least. We became the proud owners of this:

(I’m not sure why I say ‘we’ as the closest the Husband gets to using a cooker nowadays is to boil an egg)

Our old cooker wasn’t just bad, it was in it’s own league of terrible-ness. We live in military housing (the Husband is in the RAF) and for almost seven years now I’ve put up with the issued cooker. For those who haven’t experienced these phenomena, they have a life of their own. They heat up if they want to. Never cool down. And the oven is tiny. I’d had enough.

So I now have an induction hob to play with. I’m ridiculously excited! And I do realise how sad this makes me. So what have I been cooking up then? Well, not a lot actually, as we went out for dinner last night! However, today I had my brother and his family over for dinner before they head back to Sweden, and I made pizza.

Now, I love pizza. And there is nothing easier than chucking a store bought pizza in the oven. Many are excellent (has anyone tried Asda’s fresh pizza – they are a-maz-ing!). But a while back I thought I’d give making my own a try. Admittedly, they’re more work, but they are sooooooo good.

I have a confession though, for the base I use my breadmaker. This is another favourite piece of kitchen equipment (I have a few, so bear with me). I absolutely love my breadmaker, and use it to make everything from the daily loaf, to naan bread, garlic bread, sweet breads, anything ending in ‘bread’. I’ve tried making bread by hand, but it’s never as light as when I use the breadmaker. So I just don’t bother any more. If you’re a keen cook, and don’t already have a breadmaker, I’d highly recommend one.

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This was what it produced (the dough just keeps on rising the longer you leave it, and I’d left it a while before I was ready to make my bases). I was making pizza for 3 adults and 6 children (Henry had a wee pal from school staying) so I made 1.5 times the recipe:

Pizza Base

280ml water
30ml / 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
450g white bread flour
7.5ml / 1.5tsp salt
2.5ml / 0.5tsp granulated sugar
5ml / 1tsp easy-blend dried yeast

Put all your ingredients into the breadmaker in the order above (unless your machine says to add the yeast first), placing the salt and sugar in separate corners and the yeast in an indent in the middle (keep them away from the yeast as they affect it’s ability to work). Then set it to the dough setting and let it work it’s magic. If you don’t have a breadmaker, you can make the dough by hand, or buy dough bases ready made.

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Cut your dough into however many portions you want – the beauty of making your own is that you can have individual pizzas (if you all like different toppings) or a couple of hu-uge pizzas. Then roll out – I tend to roll with a rolling pin at first, then use my hands to stretch as much as possible (ok, so I go for the whole throwing it round my head a bit – I’ve yet to chuck one across the kitchen).  Then it’s time to top those bad boys!

I make my own pizza sauce – it’s really easy:

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Pizza Sauce

Tin of chopped tomatoes
Chopped onion
Garlic
Basil
1/2tsp sugar
Splash of olive oil
Salt & Pepper

I use frozen chopped onion a LOT. I hate chopping onions. Gently heat your onion in the oil until softening (is it just me, or does this always take longer than recipe books say?) then add the garlic for a couple of minutes. Add in the tomatoes, about a teaspoon of basil (again I love the frozen kind, just so easy but with more taste than dried), the sugar and season. Let it simmer away for a good while (at least 20 minutes) to cook off a lot of the moisture in the tomatoes. Then blitz.

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Tonight, I made cheese pizzas for the girls (I like to use the grated cheddar/mozzarella mix you can buy as it has more flavour than just mozzarella on its own – as well as a ball of mozzarella. I never said this was health food), a big meat feast and a veggie for the adults, and the boys got to do their own (letting the girls loose topping pizzas would be like….. actually I’m at a loss for an accurate analogy. It would be bad. Very bad). And these were the results:

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Happy cooking!

Poached Salmon in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

So firstly, wow! I was honestly not expecting the support my first post has received. You guys rock! Thank you! Slightly feeling the pressure now to deliver though, eek! But let’s crack on and see what happens huh?


My first recipe isn’t really an everyday meal. We were entertaining this evening – my brother and his wife are visiting from Sweden, so they were here for dinner. Hence why tonight’s meal we’d tend to class as ‘posh grub’. But I’ll be writing about what we’re really eating, so I’m going to start with this. And it’s such an easy, yet bloody tasty recipe, it’s not a bad  place to start.

Poached salmon in a creamy tomato sauce.
Poached salmon in a creamy tomato sauce.

Its funny, but I actually first found this recipe years ago when I was looking for a fish recipe to make for my sister-in-law Johanna (she’s a ‘kind of veggie’, as my Mum once famously told us, “It’s not for ethical reasons, she just doesn’t like the feel of meat in her mouth….”. Moving swiftly on…).

So here I was making it for her again. This is a good example of where I slightly change a recipe to fit the ingredients in my cupboard, and the time I have spare.

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Ingredients:

Poached Salmon

250ml white wine (obviously test first)

100ml white wine vinegar

400ml veg stock

1 tsp dried sage

4 salmon fillets

Tomato Sauce

2 garlic cloves, crushed/ 2 tsp frozen garlic

200ml double cream

30 cherry tomatoes, halved/ tin of cherry tomatoes

The original recipe calls for sage leaves, garlic cloves and cherry tomatoes. But I rarely buy fresh herbs to be honest, and find most can be substituted for dried. And I rarely buy real garlic now. I’m lazy, I’ll freely admit this, and the chopped frozen kind you can buy is way too handy. Lastly, either halve 30 cherry tomatoes or throw in a tin? No contest – I told you I’m lazy!

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Throw the poaching ingredients in a pan. I had to remove the skin from the salmon – finding skinless salmon fillets is not an easy task! By the time I came to poach it, I might have had a glass of wine, and was trying to hold a conversation, so I missed the part in the recipe where it says to simmer the liquid until reduced by half. It would seem it’s not necessarily important! Indeed, you could just poach the salmon in veg stock until cooked through and it would be fine – you wouldn’t get the slight tang of the wine/vinegar mix against the cream sauce, but it would still work. Poach the salmon for about 8 minutes, until it’s cooked through. Or until the rest of your meal is cooked, it really doesn’t matter if it gets a bit longer.

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For the sauce, throw all 3 ingredients into a pan and gently heat. That’s it! I served it with roasted veg. Don’t be put off by the cream sauce – the garlic and tomatoes make it totally lush. You don’t need much. With those ingredients I had some sauce left over.  Simple? Happy cooking.

Oh and the kids had fish fingers 😉