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Sunday, April 29, 2012

BIRTHDAY CAKE DISASTER



My baking took on a whole new level of disaster this week. Fuelled by a new confidence because I have had several successes with bread making, I’ve been told this is quite hard to achieve by hand – which just gave me an even bigger boost.

I decided that with my husbands Birthday today, 29th April, I would make him a cake. My original plan was to make him a Newcastle United themed, cake as it is his favourite football (soccer) team. This idea was short lived, all things considered not a bad thing. I couldn’t find any black food colouring. Since black and white are the main colours, I couldn’t do it.

So I needed a change of plan and decided, on the Washington Capitals, his favourite Ice Hockey team, well ours I love Ice Hockey too.

I had all the bits I could foresee needing, red food colouring, fondant, vanilla essence and icing sugar, I had also bought these sugar gel pen things, although in hindsight and at the suggestion of a friend butter icing would probably have been less tacky looking.

So the fun began, with an idea of how I wanted this cake to look like:

  • Chocolate cake (admittedly Betty Crocker, Devils food cake mix)
  • Homemade Vanilla butter frosting, liberally spread between cake layers
  • Bright red fondant LIKE THIS BRIGHT RED
  • White fondant disc with the Capitals eagle in the middle of it, also in white but with red bits on the wings and a red outline.
  • White fondant lettering, because it was going to be on the red fondant, spelling HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUSBAND


In my mind this was going to look amazing, but in reality this is NOT what happened. So I started by making the disc and eagle. It was my first attempt at anything like this so I felt quite proud, although not perfect, I was genuinely quite pleased with my effort.

On Thursday the ‘mess’ began. I made the cake, easy enough out of a packet, Glen says it’s not cheating, because I still have to mix and bake it! I’m going to live in denial and agree with him, because it makes me feel better.

Whilst the cake was baking, I coloured the fondant – PINK – so I added more red and got – PINK – by this stage I had added as much colour as the bottle advised – apart from red hands because my gloves had split and I hadn’t noticed, I could only get PINK - so I decided, that if he was to enquire about the colour, I’d tell him he ought to go see a doctor about possible colour-blindness.

By this time the cake was baked and cooling, so I made my vanilla butter frosting. Butter went into the mixing bowl and using a mixer I beat the butter into a smooth silky texture, then added my icing sugar – confectioners sugar – a smart person would have carefully folded in the powder, instead with a huge amount of gusto, I stuck my mixer straight into the middle and whacked it onto full speed, next thing I know the air is thick with a fine white powder. Once the ‘smog’ had cleared, settling all over me and my counter top, which was dark blue and at this point grey, I had to clean up before I could continue.

So with the mess all cleaned up I started again, by adding more icing sugar to the mixing bowl, this time carefully folding in the sugar, before using the mixer. With my little mishap, the cake had cooled completely (for a change, I normally get bored waiting and frost before it’s cooled, then the butter melts and soaks into the cake, also not very bright.) I smothered the cake with the frosting and then place the second one on top, to make two layers, then carefully spread more of the frosting into the gaps and over the top and sides, to make a kind of ‘glue’ for the fondant.

By this time I was on the phone to my mother, I needed advice as to the best way to get the fondant to fit snugly to the cake. With my mother on hand (although she did give me some good advice, love her for that,) fat lot of use she turned out to be. I began the rolling process, she said to use a light sprinkling of flour on a clean surface to stop it from sticking and also a little on my rolling pin, by this point she was already laughing at me because it was sticking to my surface rolling pin and hands, she said “Use more flour and put some on your hands,” which was fine for like three seconds and it started sticking again, so more flour, at this point it was working, until the fondant got thinner and then split.

I’d worked it so much by this point that it was much too soft and sticky – that’s when it started sticking to everything in sight and my mothers hysterical laughter just got louder and louder, just as well she’s not incontinent I think she may have had an accident otherwise!

It was a hopeless situation and I ended up in tears, I was desperate to do something nice for my husband’s birthday and it was all going horribly wrong and I was miserable. I tried using icing sugar to stiffen the fondant a little, but that didn’t work so I threw it out in the end and started again, with white fondant.

I was going to paint the fondant, once it was on the cake, using a brush and the food colouring. Honestly though by the time I had finally managed to cut out the fondant, although easier, I still had issues rolling it out. In the end I didn’t paint it.

I’d lost my enthusiasm, I won’t be beaten but I’m clearly not in the right frame of mind to be taking on such a challenge of this magnitude, I possibly need some more specialised kit, to help me in my endeavour, perhaps a non-stick rubber mat, for starters? That will have to wait though until we are in our new home with a bigger kitchen.

Ultimately it wasn’t a bad start but it wasn’t brilliant either, and the end result,  certainly wasn’t what I had in mind.     

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A slight change to the plan!


I am going to have to change my blog slightly, maybe it’s time to get a little risqué? Or not! I’ve done risqué, and whilst I am most definitely open to other peoples opinions and possibly even a little friendly debate about whatever my blog may have been about, I am not equipped to deal with hurtful defamatory statements, they make me cry! So I am still sticking with “safe” for now.

I am going to carry on blogging about food, but to be honest I am ready to venture out slightly. I don’t want to start a different blog for each topic, I suspect I’d end up with hundreds. My mind is so scatty at the moment! I still want to blog about my previous recipes, I’ve still got lots to go until I have caught up, but my life is changing now and I’ve got so much “material” to work with. Not to mention so many plans, ideas and ultimate dreams.

But lets start small and work big, and see how it goes. First things first – my weight loss plan – ideally a get thin quick plan would be perfect, alas anything worth doing is worth doing right. I’m secretly hoping that lying down the truth of how much I weigh on my blog will give me that extra push I need to lose the weight. I am going on the basis of “name and shame” here.

So my first port of call is to stand on the scales and weigh myself, possibly have a good cry and then post on here. I’m hoping that my thyroid levels are too low, I’ll find out tomorrow morning, daft thing to hope for I know but it would mean upping my dosage of Thyroxin and the “extra baggage” should plummet quite quickly. This however is probably too good to be true, or too easy.

I’m going to try and blog twice a day, or at the very least alternate between my previously tried recipes and my new diet – I have found a few recipe books which also have a few exercises in them that shouldn’t cause to much stress on my knees, so maybe I will pull my finger out and try a couple of them too – who knows?

I don’t think I am F.A.T, just so we are clear on that fact, but I am frumpy, love handles that I don’t really like, regardless of what my husband says. 10kgs is my ultimate goal, any extra is an added bonus. The way I intend to do this is a once weekly weigh in and a food diary, including the recipes I have used.

Wish me luck because my un-weight loss every week, will be a little embarrassing not to mention disheartening, which is why I am making my husband do this as well so that I can prove that whilst I am failing, it does work.    

Friday, April 20, 2012

Greek Chicken


I really enjoyed this, fresh and light with a little heat, but not too much. I would class this as an appetiser though, great finger food to share with friends, you could serve it as a main though, with baked potato instead of pita bread or a green salad maybe, or both? However you decide to eat this I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!



Greek Chicken

500 grams cooked diced chicken
pita breads
1 scallion/spring onion to garnish

MARINADE

150 grams plain yogurt
150 grams light sour cream
8 scallions or spring onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh cilantro/coriander
1 tbsp parsley chopped
1½ tsp ground coriander
1½ tsp cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a large bowl, stir together the yogurt, light sour cream, scallions/spring onions, cilantro/coriander (fresh), parsley, ground coriander, cumin and salt and black pepper to taste.

2. Toss the chicken pieces in the marinade.

3. Toast the pita breads. Garnish the chicken with scallions and serve with pita breads.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An hour out of my life!


I have what’s known as hypothyroidism, which basically means that my thyroid gland isn’t producing enough of the thyroid hormone. Mildly annoying condition, I have to remember to take tablets in the morning everyday, if I don’t, I become symptomatic quite quickly, and it takes a long time for my hormone levels to return to normal. I have been very good though, and I remember most days to take my tablets (I have to) but I have noticed recently that I have been symptomatic regardless of taking my pills. Moody, slight weight gain, feeling slightly depressed, lethargic, lack of sleep when I do go to bed, dry itchy skin. Thankfully I haven’t noticed my hair falling out, mind you I haven’t really brushed my hair in about six years…. Mainly due to the fact that my hair was coming out in big clumps, that’s what prompted me to go to the Doctor in the first place.

So I was in the doctors yesterday, I am due to have a blood test, you have to have your bloods tested at least once every 12 months, just to make sure that your levels are right. “So” says the doctor “Have you noticed any changes since your last visit Mrs. Dodds?” hmmm I think briefly which symptoms was it again? “Well now that you mention it, I have gained a little weight, been feeling the cold more than usual, I have been feeling ever so low lately, (I refuse to use the word depressed) I am lethargic, and having trouble sleeping, but the worst thing is I am ravenous all of the time.” There’s one of those awkward moments when the doctor is a little quite, you can almost see the cogs working in his brain and all of a sudden he blurts out “Do you ever feel suicidal?” I was a little shocked at this question, of course I have not had thoughts about killing myself, I have too much to live for.

My simple thyroid blood test, which I am having tomorrow, has now gone up to a full work up, simply because I mentioned a few symptoms, so my liver is being tested, kidney function, I am being test for diabetes and of course my thyroid levels, it has been suggested that I take 75mg one day and 100mg the next of thyroxin, to try and treat my symptoms… Suggested? Do I or don’t I in that case, is taking more thyroxin going to cause a spurt of weight loss? Am I going to be able to sleep? And am I going to feel less tired and less moody? If the answers are yes, then maybe this is a good thing.

The most distressing thing the doctor said to me though was “Mrs. Dodds, I really think you should lay off the coffee”  WHAT!!!!!! No coffee, I am constantly tired and live off caffeine and he says I should stop drinking coffee. I am currently sat here drinking Green Tea, probably also not a very good thing, it certainly doesn’t taste good! He said I should drink milk (this is not a good thing when you trying to lose weight, so that’s out) or water. I don’t think my life could BE any worse, (a little melodramatics never hurt anyone.) So in conclusion, I am on a diet of rabbit food, literally, and I am only supposed to be drinking water. How dreadfully drab.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Green Veggies Pasta and Blue Cheese


This is another recipe, where the original was made with ricotta, sometimes though as I have already mentioned, it’s just not for us and this was one of those occasions, so I bought a cheap brand of cream cheese and used that instead and I also didn’t include the coriander, also not a fan of that soapy taste. My added extras to this recipe were the runner beans, asparagus and mushrooms. A perfectly simple but tasty, busy week night meal!

Green Veggies Pasta and Blue Cheese

I added extra green vegetables, runner beans, asparagus, and mushrooms which I sautéed with the scallions/spring onions

4-6 scallions
100 grams mushrooms
400 grams spinach tagliatelle (or other mixed green vegetables, totalling 400 grams)
150 grams cream cheese
150 grams blue cheese
150 grams crème fraîche
1 tbsp coriander
coarse sea salt and pepper
few sprigs of corriander/cilantro (optional, I don't add it because we don't like it)


1. Trim the spring onions/scallions and finely chop them.

2. Cook the tagliatelle in a large pan of boiling salted water, until al dente. Whilst at the same time cooking the other veggies until al dente.

3. While the pasta and veggies are cooking, in a bowl mix together the cream cheese, blue cheese and the crème fraîche.

4. Drain the pasta thoroughly and turn into a heated serving dish. Immediately add the cheese mixture, spring onion/scallions and other veggies, toss to coat. Garnish with coriander sprigs (if you wish to).



Servings: 4




Sunday, April 15, 2012

Finally a Baking Success!



bread dough
I keep saying how utterly rubbish I am at baking, and I will not begin to assume that I am out of the woods so to speak in the baking department. That said in the last week I have managed to successfully make a dozen hot cross buns and the pastry and I have made pizza dough, and a loaf of bread.

I would like to sit here and claim all the credit for my success how ever in truth it’s in part down to my wonderful Mother and Delia Smith, the recipe was Delia’s, the trick behind my success was my Mothers.



bread freshly baked
warm bread with jam


hot crossed bun dough
hot cross buns
I shall impart the secret of my success on you all now. The recipe required a teaspoon of yeast and a teaspoon of sugar, and however much warm water it was, all of which I carefully measured out, the recipe said to sieve the yeast, flour, salt and sugar together, well I didn’t do that, I sifted the flour and the salt, but I put the yeast, sugar and a little of the water into a separate little bowl, gave it a good stir and let the yeast activate. Once this had occurred that’s when I made a well in the flour, added the activated yeast first and then the rest of the warm water, gave it a good stir with the wooden spoon first and then kneaded it for about three minutes, before placing it in a bowl, covered it with cling film and then placed it on the radiator for 2 hours to rise. Then I turned out my risen dough, kneaded it on a floured surface for a few seconds, made a oblong shape, folded one end into the middle, then folded the other end over the top. Then I placed my dough into the baking tin I was using, covered it once again with cling film, and returned it to the radiator to rise a second time, once it had risen to just above my baking tin, and filled in to the ends (which actually happens first) I placed it in the over to bake!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Corned Beef Casserole


Personally, I am not a huge fan of corned beef, but my husband enjoys it, and I do try to cook things that he enjoys once or twice a month – I also look for different ways in which to cook it, corned beef hash, and sandwiches are the more popular ways of using this ingredient – but I wanted to try something different in to hope that maybe I might enjoy corned beef, for a change…. To be fair it wasn’t too bad.

Corned Beef Casserole

5 cups uncooked egg noodles
2 cans Sauerkraut
2 cans condensed chicken soup
¾ cup milk
½ cup chopped onion
3 tbsp mustard
1 tin corned beef, chopped
2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded
2 slices bread, made into breadcrumbs
2 tbsp butter melted

1. Cook the noodles according to package directions. While the noodles are cooking,  mix together the sauerkraut, soup, milk onion and mustard.

2. Drain noodles and stir into the sauerkraut mixture. Transfer to a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with corned beef and cheese.

3. Toss the breadcrumbs with butter; sprinkle over the top.

4. Bake uncovered, at 350°F/180°C for 40-45 minutes or until casserole is bubbly.

Servings: 5




Friday, April 13, 2012

When it all goes to pot

One thing I have learnt over the last few years, is that despite my best intentions sometimes it just all goes wrong. Last night for example I had planned to do Nigella Lawson's meatloaf, I thought I had everything I needed, first thing I noticed, I didn't have was bacon... Oops but not a complete disaster, I had a chunk, slab, which ever way you want to put it, in the freezer, so I removed it and then cut, into slices of bacon, badly I might add. Next I discovered that I had run out of onions, but I had shallots, so I cut up three of them and sautéed them, I had also put three eggs in a saucepan for boiled egg, with water obviously. Once the eggs were done I then ran them under cold water and once cool I tried to peel them, the only problem with that is that I am really rubbish at peeling boiled eggs and two of them ended up with huge chunks missing. Oh well, they were going to go in the middle of the meatloaf so beauty wasn't going to be too much of an issue. Now was the time for me to set up the meatloaf or start anyway, I had forgotten to prep the breadcrumbs but all thing considered I am glad hadn't, because they would have been wasted. I went into the fridge to get my beef out and discovered that although I had taken it out of the freezer the night before it was still frozen. So I had no bacon, but fixed that problem, no onions but fixed that, and my eggs well it was an unfortunate issue but hardly the end of the world. Frozen meat though? That I couldn't fix........ So no meatloaf last night, in that end we had a tortellini pasta bake! Simple to make and took a few minutes to prep. Nice? Yes, but it wasn't meatloaf!!!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pasta & Veggies With Garlic Cream


I like this recipe, it’s quite light tasting yet filling. All the added vegetables make me feel less guilty about the ‘bad’ bits. It takes about 20 minutes to make – provided you don’t dilly dally in the kitchen, like I do, I still manage to drag a 20 minute recipe out into about an hours work…. But to be honest I enjoy being in the kitchen singing along to my iPod, not entirely sure my husband enjoys my ‘kitchen antics’ as much as I do though, or the windows for that matter. Anyway that’s what I love about this recipe, minimum time and effort to make un-yet you emerge from the kitchen with restaurant quality pasta.

 Pasta & Veggies With Garlic Cream

115 grams cream cheese
150 ml heavy cream
115 grams peas
1 handful baby spinach
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
450 grams penne pasta
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

TOPPING

6 Tbsp evoo
175 grams back bacon lardons
100g mushrooms
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 leeks thinly sliced
½ tsp thyme chopped
1 tsp Rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
85 grams breadcrumbs
grated lemon zest

1. First, bring a deep pot of salted water to the boil.

2. Next make the topping, heat one tbsp evoo in a skillet, and dry fry the bacon until crispy, then add the spring onions and the mushrooms cook until they are soft. Lastly add the leeks and thyme, and cook for 2 minutes. Heat the rest of the oil in a separate skillet, add the rosemary, garlic and breadcrumbs, and toast them until they are golden brown and crispy, constantly turning them over, so they don’t burn. Once the breadcrumbs are toasted, stir in the lemon zest and bacon mixture.

3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente - for fresh pasta it will only take a few minutes. Whilst the pasta is cooking, in a saucepan, melt the cream cheese and add the heavy cream, stirring continuously until the mixture is smooth, then add the peas and spinach leaves, and cook for 3 minutes. Gently stir in tomatoes and season to taste. Drain then add to the sauce. Serve into four warm bowls and top with the bacon crumbs.




Sunday, April 8, 2012

For a change, not about food, no recipe, no pictures just a little honesty


In each of my blogs, I pretty much for the most part harp on about a recipe that I have tried and tested, I suppose in one way, the point I am trying to make is that I am a very inexperienced cook, and that if I can do it, anyone can. I keep saying it, and I recently blogged about, my latest, editions to my cookbook collection, and how you can learn so much about cooking by reading books, I am definitely a self taught cook through reading, I have read all of mine, just about 90 last count, but I have also borrowed books from friends and the library. This said I am considering, at my husbands suggestion, enrolling in some cookery classes when we get settled in England, something about baking still just doesn’t happen for me, and despite all my reading and practicing, I just can’t seem to figure out what I am doing wrong. I need someone to teach me I think, physically show me where I am going wrong and then put me on the right track. I did manage to make hot crossed buns yesterday, how I pulled it off I have no idea, it took me hours and a lot of patience, but I got there in the end!

To be honest I have no idea really where this blog is going, I normally have everything written out by hand first, and then start to type up my blog in word and eventually it works it’s way over here, and gets posted after some tinkering. I still haven’t figured out how to add loads of pictures yet, or how to make it look the way I would like it to, so I tend to fiddle until it looks acceptable and leave it, patience isn’t one of my strong points, I am very much, a want it, do it now sort of woman, I hate dawdlers, if you’re going to do something, do it. Don’t, dilly dally. Well that’s me anyway, and thinking about it, it’s probably why my baking leaves a lot to be desired.

My husband has 15 working days left or so, and then the fun/stress begins, searching for a home and work, I feel somehow like I have slowed down slightly, maybe it’s my way of getting ready, saving energy for the massive upheaval that’s about to come towards us, how do you explain that? Excited, trepidation perhaps? We have a plan, some of it a little bit of a pipe dream maybe, but we all need dreams. Where does that leave me in the meantime though? I feel lazy, I can’t be bothered with anything, I have little motivation to do anything, work is a pain, I hate going, I think Glen is struggling more and more to get me out of bed in the morning and it was a fight before I hated going. The morning routine normally goes something along the lines of, husband gets up, goes down stairs, 30 minutes later comes upstairs, drags me out of bed by my feet, goes back downstairs and waits for me to finish in the shower, eventually when I am finished in the bathroom and there is no hot water left, he comes back upstairs to normally find me sat on the end of the bed staring into my sock/underwear drawer…… Lately, he has found me curled up at the bottom of the bed trying to catch a few extra Zzzzzz’s. I’m a stay in bed till noon type of gal, then lounge around till 1500, do my chores cook dinner and then relax, reading, writing and watching a little T.V maybe, till 3 or 4am, ideally. However, alas, this is not the life I meant to lead, otherwise I would have won the lottery, instead I have to work, which means getting up at 7am, if I am lucky enough not to be dragged out of bed before then, get home at around 1645, and with my attitude of late, do nothing because I can’t be bothered!

If it’s true what they say about “Admitting you have a problem,” maybe I am now on the way to recovering, my get up and go, but I doubt it.  

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Salmon Pasta Dinner


To be honest, I was a little worried about this recipe, although we have adopted the – don’t know until you try, attitude, I am always a little dubious of Ricotta recipes, ricotta is another one of those ingredients I am not sure whether I like or not, it’s an Italian cheese made from the whey the gets left over after making hard cheeses, it’s slightly acidic and has a slight lemony aroma, it’s mostly used in pasta dishes and desserts. I have made a few recipes with it – but something never seemed quite right about it, until now. If you’re like me and still not convinced I find cream cheeses – such as Philadelphia a good substitute, any other cheap brand would work just as well though. Please don’t forget that just because it’s written do it this way doesn’t mean, you must – generations of people have been “altering” traditional recipes, it’s how we evolve and grow. Besides new recipes have to come somewhere – and inspiration usually has to start somewhere too………!



 Tortellini with Salmon-Ricotta Sauce

1 package Cheese tortellini
2 Spring onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ leek, thinly sliced
2 portions frozen spinach, thawed and drained
100g mushrooms
1 tsp butter
1 tsp corn flour/corn starch
1 cup fat-free (skimmed) milk
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
200g salmon, boneless and skinless
2 tbsp dill
1½ tsp grated lemon peel
1½ tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
¼ tsp salt

1. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large pan sauté onions, mushrooms, leek and garlic in butter until tender. In a separate pan, poach the salmon until it easily flakes with a fork. Combine the corn flour/corn starch and milk until smooth. Gradually stir into the pan bring to a boil, cook and stir for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.

2. Stir in mozzarella cheese until melted, stir in the ricotta, poached salmon, dill, lemon peel, lemon juice and salt.

3. Drain tortellini, add to ricotta sauce. Cook and stir until heat through.




Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Penne & Sausage Casseroles


The first time I made this recipe, I used English sausage meat, it’s not the same as the stuff you can get in America, it’s a lot smoother, like a really dense paste and sticky. The fact it is sticky makes it difficult to work with unless you are making sausage rolls or pork pies. I would suggest using pork sausages instead and squeezing out the meat from their skins for this one – or bratwurst, but the fresh ones, unless of course you are in the States.

Penne & Sausage Casseroles

1 cup uncooked penne pasta
100 grams Sausage meat
100 grams mushrooms, sliced
½ onion finely chopped
1  tbsp evoo
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp oregano
250ml dry red wine
500ml tomato sauce of choice
1 beef stock cube
100 grams mozzarella cheese coarsely shredded

1. Cook the pasta until al dente. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook sausage meat over a medium heat until no longer pink; drain and set aside.

2. In the same skillet, sauté the mushrooms and onion in oil until tender. Add the Garlic and oregano; cook for a minute. Stir in ¾ of the wine. Bring to a boil; then cook until liquid is reduced by half, stir in the tomato sauce, stock cube, sausage meat and the remaining wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Drain the pasta, Grease four ramekins, spread sauce in each, divide the pasta between each, top with mozzarella, repeat in layers.

4. Cover and bake at 350°F/180°C for 25 minutes, uncover and bake 5-10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.




Tuesday, April 3, 2012

CHOWDER.......... One of our favourites

A cornucopia, of flavours and textures make this spectacular dish – I love the way the potatoes come together perfectly with the sweetness of the onion and the salty bacon to compliment the shrimp and salmon. Topped off with the cream, it makes a delightful, soupy dish – Serve with garlic bread and jobs done!



Salmon and Shrimp Chowder
2 lbs potatoes
1 large onion
1.5 litres Chicken broth
300g Salmon cut into 1" pieces
200g Cooked Shrimp
250g Cooked diced bacon
470ml whole milk
240ml single cream
1 tbsp butter
½ teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste


1. In a large pot, combine the potatoes, onion and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 10-15minutes or until tender.



2. Add the salmon and bacon, cook over a medium heat until fish flakes easily with a fork.

3. Reduce heat; stir in the milk, cream, shrimp, butter, salt and pepper; heat through, (DO NOT BOIL) thicken if desired. Serve with garlic bread.




Sunday, April 1, 2012

Obsession Or Hobby?



As I have mentioned before I am a bit of a cookbook fiend, my books are slowly but surely taking over the bookshelf – I am going to have to buy a few more – cookbooks and bookshelves. I’ll admit that whilst I have seen much more impressive collections than mine. Mine is probably going to be a life long hobby. A few years ago my collection was compiled of books, mostly hand me downs, which my mother and Grandmother gave me, I was only able to save a few when I left my ex, but a lot got left with him. During that time, cooking was plain, boring and an utter chore. Stick a 20 in my hand then and I would go out and buy myself a new pair of shoes or a handbag to cheer myself up. A pointless exercise, although at the time I didn’t see it that way, also a complete waste of my money, because most of the time I wear the same shoes and I use the same handbag. Now that I cook a wide range of different foods, and I am learning all the time, my money is better spent on a new cookbook!

Each of my books is a calculated resource, and bought for a reason. Most of my books have lots of information about food, how to prepare it, tips and tricks of the trade, so to speak. I find that the wider the range of books you have the wealth of cooking knowledge I bring to my table. It’s a shame (sort of) that you can’t have one book which explains it ALL. However my growing collection of books is starting to cover a lot of the basics. Unfortunately one book covering everything would get rather tedious I think, especially as my collection consists of 87 books including my magazine folders, which to be honest are mostly recipes. It covers four shelves on our bookshelf, that’s one really BIG book if you put it all together, an impossible silly task.

If like me you like a book with lots of information, it’s worth looking around – one author is likely to cover lots of stuff, over the space of four or five books perhaps, and give you information you can glean from all of them. Two different authors are going to give you, similar sorts of information and possibly two different opinions and you can get lots of hints, tips and tricks from them both to suit you, but an army of cooks, their opinions, ideas, you end up with an extensive wealth of invaluable knowledge. Whilst I prefer books with “added text,” many people don’t, even those books which have just recipes in them can teach you about techniques, if you take the time to read them properly, what a boring prospect reading a recipe, however I do find that the method is just as useful as a massive piece of text, at times.

One of my books explained that my “baking issues” may be, because my hands were too warm, which is true. What I didn’t know was why, it just gave a quick list as to what could be going wrong, but didn’t explain why. A recent Delia purchase explained why. She said that “If the fat becomes too oily because the rubbing takes longer and everything is too warm, what happens is it coats more of the flour than it should. This means the flour is unable to absorb enough water and the pastry will crumble and be difficult to roll out.” (Delia’s how to cook) This is just one example – Heston Blumenthal, went on to explain how certain flavours cut into each other, also a concept I was aware of but didn’t understand. He explained it over the space of about 30 pages, all of which I found rather informative.

I could go on for hours about what chefs like Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Tara Ramsey and Anthony Worrall Thompson have taught me, to name but a few, but I’d be here for hours. What I will say though is that each book serves a purpose, if you know that Rick Stein for example cooks mostly with fish, and you want a book with fish recipes, one of Rick Stein’s might be a good book to go for. A little research and a quick flick through of the book in the store will help you choose the right books for you. Don’t forget that even though you might not buy off the Amazon website, they do have customer reviews, read the good and the bad to make an informed decision – I recently almost bought a book, because of the good reviews alone, then read the bad reviews as well, three of the bad reviews made me change my mind about the book, you have to judge by what’s written as to whether the book will serve your purposes, this particular book, all the good reviews said how easy it was to understand etc. the bad reviews said that it used simple ingredients and seemed as though it was geared towards dimwits, I wanted a baking book that was simple to use, but I needed some extensive information. In the end I opted for the Delia one, it’s an excellent book and I am not sorry I bought it!