Happy Birthday, Me!

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I have just finished a week of celebrating my 25th birthday, and am justifiably exhausted!

It all began last weekend with my family. I made a rather cheeky request this year that my father cook a 3 course meal for all the family! This wasn’t just so my mum could have a break so soon after Christmas, but also to give my Dad a chance to do what the rest of us indulge in so frequently… Showing off!

First, there was a simply spectacular starter! The stuffed pepper re-awakened!!!

Pepper Trio

Cod fillet, chorizo, lemon zest, tomato pesto and toasted pine nuts, all baked to perfection inside a sweet red pepper! My mum actually helped him out in the invention of this beauty… I’d say it’s the third best thing they’ve created as husband and wife!

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Successfully (and rapidly) polished off.

This was followed some time later by a devilishly delicious dessert…

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A classic of my mother’s- Pear poached in port and spiced with vanilla and cinnamon, served with clotted cream

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Ooooohh…

But what I really want to talk about is the main course. The truly irresistable

Daddy Duck

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Merry Fudge-mas!

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This Christmas, I wanted to take on a new challenge to show the people I love how much they mean to me at this special time of year. Fudge, I decided, was something I had never done before AND something I could get experimental with when it came to choosing flavours!

After a little research and ensuring I had the correct equipment (mainly a food thermometer capable of exceeding temperatures of 150c) I finally managed to limit myself to the following 3 festive fudges:

Traditional Vanilla
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Chilli Chocolate
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Bailey’s Coffee
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before portioning them into bags and decorating to sit on Christmas Tree branches, or posting off to loved ones!

It was an intimidating quest, but once you get into it it’s not too hard… You should have a go!

So! Here’s how it’s done.

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The Best of British

Recently, a selection of Spanish friends challenged me to cook a British meal that was “actually good and not boring”. Immediately, I was up to the challenge! But I must admit to being stuck. What’s the British classic that stands out as a beauty?

Like any modern woman with a question that can be resolved with a public vote, I turned to Facebook. There were oodles of suggestions each more British than the last- Roast Dinner, Pie & Mash, Fish and Chips… But one stood out to me as deliciously challenging and I couldn’t resist. I opted for Beef Wellington.

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Now, first and foremost the theme of this dinner was British, and nothing but! So after deciding on Beef Wellington, I thought very carefully about what ingredients are to be used, where they are to be sourced, and what sides and beverages are to be selected.

For the ingredients, my local farm shop sorted me out nicely.
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As someone that had never cooked or eaten a Beef Wellington before, I was incredibly nervous about this dish. I had no idea about cooking times or temps, so I used this Gordon Ramsay Recipe as a guide. You will see it calls for smoked pancetta to be wrapped around the beef… Which sounds absolutely amazing and something I will do in the future, but was unfortunately something I knew I would lose British points for. I still wanted that smoky bite to it though, so was very happy to find Smoked Garlic in my farm shop! Just what I needed for the job!

Among other items, Smith’s Farm Shop is also where I bought our starter- the royally delicious Brixworth Pâté, local to my home town of Northamptonshire and so perfect it’s rumoured the Queen of England herself has it ordered in to Buckingham Palace by the kilo!

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For the sauce? I wracked my brains to come up with something. A red wine or brandy sauce would be good, but wouldn’t work with my accompaniments. A white wine sauce? Also good, but name me one decent British white wine. Finally it came to me… A bizarr invention that might just be crazy enough to work…

Gin Stilton Sauce
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Finally, the drinks. It can only be Real Ale! I had great fun introducing people to their first sips of a variety of top ones! Noted favourites included Hob Goblin and Well’s Banana Bread. The Scottish Innis & Gunn was used to get the Spanish pallets adjusted and ready for the taste of ale and seemed to do the job very nicely as there was no holding back the beer from this point!
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The final point I’ll mention is the cut of beef to be used. Any Beef Wellington recipe will tell you to use fillet, which sounds like a delicious and tender treat… But go into Waitrose and ask for a piece of fillet steak big enough to feed 4 people in a Beef Wellington, and you will be quoted in the region of £30-£40. After 5 minutes of jumping from one foot to the other in a little panic as to which is the best alternative cut that will cook nicely, have a good flavour and remain tender, the kindly butcher eventually guided me to a silver side joint, bigger than the fillet cut I had just been shown and more than half the price. Better! So, if you follow this recipe, keep in mind that it’s with this particular cut of beef and I took very delicate measures with the cooking times as a result!
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So, now we know the facts, let’s press on!

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