Baked Scotch eggs

Last Thursday night I went to, despite being full of cold, the amazing Urban Night Feast. Which is a three night festival bringing some of the best street vendors and chefs in the North East together under one roof, so the foodies of the region can try some of the amazing food they offer.

There were curries, fish and beer amongst the mixture of different foods to try.

My partner tried some fresh winkles from Latimer Seafood and we both sampled some of the perfectly cooked pulled pork on a pile of nachos with a garlic and chilli sauce from El Kantina.

The thing that really surprised me though was the Scotch eggs from The Broad Chare. Put off by the bright orange, supermarket Scotch eggs I wasn’t too excited about trying them, but from first glance I knew these were different, I knew they would taste great.

The yolk was still a tiny bit runny and had a gorgeous coloured yolk, the sausage meat looked so fresh and the non-garish orange crust around the edge looked perfect.

It tasted so wonderful, the meat was slightly spicy and rich, the egg was perfect and the crispy crust topped it all off.

scotcheg

 

So, from there I decided I would try and create my own Scotch egg. I baked mine as I don’t have a deep fat fryer (and to cut down on the fat). I also gave mine a spring onion crust.

Ingredients (to make two)

  • 2 eggs
  • 4 sausages (or sausage meat)
  • Dried oregano
  • 2 spring onions, very finely chopped
  • 1 egg for whisking
  • A pile of breadcrumbs (I didn’t measure, just use your eye, you can add more easily)
  • A pile of seasoned flour
  • Oil

So what I did was first boil the eggs. I put them in a pan of cold water and brought them up to the boil, then let simmer for five minutes. Whilst this was happening I put the seasoned flour, breadcrumbs (with the finely chopped spring onion) and beaten eggs in three different bowls. I then took the sausage out of their skins, mixed them with dried oregano then floured my surface and my hands (do this, you don’t want sticky sausage hands!) and rolled them out and placed on to cling film. (Using cling film makes wrapping the egg easier).

Once the eggs had boiled for five minutes I put them in cold water, let them cool for a few minutes, then peeled them. Then I dipped the egg into the flour, and wrapped the sausage meat around the egg. Then dipped the sausage ball, yes try form a ball rather than the egg shape, into the flour, then the egg and finely the breadcrumbs.

Put a little oil on your baking tray and over the Scotch egg and bake for 20-30 minutes.

You won’t get a runny egg with this recipe, sorry, because it is baked. If you want runny egg then deep fry.

 

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Mine weren’t as good as The Broad Chare’s little beauties, but I wasn’t expecting them to be. I am just happy they turned out the way they did, and tasted lovely!

More information about the Urban Night Feast can be found here: http://www.urbannightfeast.co.uk/

Gusto, Newcastle

I like to make a lot of last minute decisions when it comes to food. I start the week with my list in my hand and a day by day plan of what meals we are cooking and eating that week. By Wednesday I am already changing my mind and I will definitely be suggesting going out for a meal or ordering in by Friday.

Last Friday was no different, and we ended up at Gusto on the Quayside at 7pm, with a waitress finding us a table when it was very busy.

Luckily, she found us a table, a great table in fact. Up the spirally stairs we were sat at a rounded spacious table with a long leather seat.

It’s beautiful inside. Lights hanging from the ceiling brightened up the dark walls covered in many photographs, olive trees glittered with fairy lights brought some glamour to the restaurant and the large windows gave diners an iconic view of the millennium bridge.

The menu makes it very difficult to pick what to have, there’s the classics like spaghetti Bolognese, pepperoni pizza and a good choice of steaks. Then there’s some more different, exciting dishes such as pizza topped with things such as Peking duck and spring onions, or sprouting broccoli Gorgonzola and egg and whole lobsters, grilled with fries and your choice of sauce.

Struggling between two dishes I finally decided on the gnocchi, whilst my partner, very tempted by the burger, as usual, went for the saffron risotto, and we started with dough petals to share to start.

There were four dough petals on the plate, but they were a good size and a great way to start the meal. Soft doughy centres and a crispy salty coating dipped in garlic butter, there were more-ish and delicious.

Our seats gave us a good view of everyone else’s dishes arriving, and they all looked delicious and fresh, and I was just starting to get very envious, ours arrived looking just as nice.

The fluffy gnocchi with its perfect texture was coated in a tangy fresh pesto, bright green in colour and accompanied with peppery rocket and bright red cherry tomatoes that exploded with flavour in my mouth. The star of the dish was the slow cooked belly pork, soft and full of flavour it worked very well with the rest of the dish.

My partners risotto was just as good. The rice was cooked perfectly, fantastically bright in colour it had a milky taste with a very slight hint of bitterness from the saffron. The asparagus still had a bite and the crayfish had a beautiful freshness, giving a lightness to the rice.

Gusto also do a brilliant range of cocktails and cocktail classes with a few different packages to choose from.

But staying away from the cocktails that nights, along with two soft drinks our bill came to a very reasonable £27.95, not bad for a last minute decision.ImageImageImage

Pecan pie

Wow, I can’t believe it is February already! I have been so busy, I’ve barely had time to blog! Luckily I have been able to keep up the cooking, especially slow cooking. It has always been a favourite of mine, but I’ve been slow cooking a lot more, especially this past week. It does mean I am eating at 9pm, but it has been worth it.

I have also been keeping my promise to bake something every week. Amongst an olive and garlic foccia, corned beef pie and scones sprouted a truly amazing pecan pie.

I found the recipe in my Great British Bake Off cookbook, which is full to the brim of delicious looking things I want to make. This recipe seemed fairly easy, and didn’t need a list of ingredients as long as my arm. So I want to share this recipe with you, as I just cannot!

pecan1

pecan

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 200g of plain flour
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp of caster sugar
  • 120g of unsalted butter, chilled and diced
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of icy water (I found I need a little more)

This recipe is pretty simple as it can be all put in the food processor and blitzed up. Put the flour, salt and sugar in first and pulse it a few times to mix it all up then add the butter and process until the texture is like breadcrumbs. Then add the egg yolk and water and blitz until it all comes together, adding more water if it is dry. Make a ball then wrap in cling film and chill for 15 minutes in the fridge.

Next you need to blind bake the pastry case. To do this first pre-heat your oven to 190 degrees and grease your pie tin (about 23cm deep). Place the pastry in the tin, then cover with grease-proof paper. A good tip is to crumple the paper first, it makes it easier to cover the pastry. Then fill with baking beans (rice works just as well) and bake for 12-15 minutes. Then remove the paper and beans and bake for a further five minutes.

Once it is done, remove and turn your oven down to 180 degrees and make your yummy filling.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 100g of unsalted butter, diced
  • 125g of muscovado sugar
  • 85g of maple syrup
  • 85g of golden syrup
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 300g of pecans (this is the books recommendation, I used half this amount and found it perfect, if you like it very nutty add this amount)

So for the filling put the butter, sugar, maple syrup and golden syrup in a large pan and melt gently over a low heat, giving it an occasional stir. Then bring the mixture to the boil, and don’t stop stirring, let it continue to boil for a minute, you will feel it get thicker. Then remove it from the heat and leave to one side to cool down till it is warm. This can take a while, as you have just boiled sugar! Next, beat the vanilla into the eggs then add this to the mixture. Save a few pecans for decoration, and roughly chop the rest, also add this to the mixture and give it a good stir before pouring it into the case.

Bake this for 30-35 minutes until the filling is firm. Don’t worry if it looks quite dark in colour, this is normal, and in my opinion a lot more flavoursome. Let it cool completely and tuck in!

pecan2

Roast pork with perfect crackling

I did a lot of research to ensure I created the perfect crackling, but I made the right choice. It was crunchy, but didn’t break teeth, it was salty and just full of flavour.

To create this perfect pork start by cutting 1cm slits in the fat, but don’t cut through the meat. Then dab with kitchen roll. This gets rid of any moisture, helping it dry out. Next, rub with a touch of olive oil, making sure you get into all the cracks, and sprinkle with a good dose of salt.

Then put your oven on it’s hottest temperature then whack the pork in for 20-30 minutes. This creates the crackling and seals the crunch. Then turn down your oven to 170 degrees to slowly roast the meat. My pork was about 800g in weight, and I let it cook for a further two hours. You will need to adjust the time to the size of your shoulder. Actually, how you cook it is up to you.

You could turn the heat down lower and cook for longer. It is the initial hit of high heat with creates that crackling.

mmmm..

How do you create the perfect crackling? Let me know. :)

London: my culinary adventure.

Just a few months ago, in July, I was sat at my laptop browsing Twitter, as per usual, and I came across the chance to vote for the best restaurants and food producers in England with The Observer Food Monthly awards. I jumped at this chance and at the end I entered my own recipe, pulled pork.

Just a month ago in September I received a call to say I had won. I had won reader’s recipe. My recipe had been tried and tested by people such as Angela Hartnett, Gizzi Erskine and Jay Rayner (just to name a few!) and I had won. I couldn’t believe it. (I still can’t)

This month, just one day after I turned 24, I went to these awards, and it was amazing. And here’s why.

The awards where being held in London, so me and my boyfriend Stu, booked a one nights stay. We did all the touristy things. the London eye, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Big Ben, etc.

Tyre and spring onion head

London Bridge

M ‘n’ M world

Crown brush

Oh, I could show you so much more. But it is time to get to the good bit…the food.

We walked around Covent Garden, it was excellent for freshly made food. There was a massive dish of paella being cooked in front of a big crowd, a home-made pie store and a market full of tasty dishes such as freshly cooked sausages, pasties, noodles and fresh juices. But I was tempted by the Salt Marsh lamb, which was being cooked to order. Served in a soft ciabatta roll with salad and topped with beautiful, chunky caramelized onions and a dash of mint sauce it was heaven in my mouth.

The lamb was soft and full of intense flavours, working well against the minty sauce and sweet sticky onions.

For dessert we found a cute cupcake shop called Candy Cakes, which sold bright fun cakes. I choose one with a lovely chunk of fudge on the top. It was delicious!

Next came the awards. Before we even got inside we saw Tom Kitchin (who we spoke to later on) and spotted Nigel Slater walk past.

The night was all about the food and drink, we sped through the awards, but they of course where still very important. Some of the winners include The Seahorse in Darmouth for best restaurant, Martha Payne, who won an award for her blog Never Seconds, the school dinners blog which has raised £120,000 for charity, and Raymond Blanc who received the outstanding contrubation award. All the winners can be seen here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/observer-food-monthly-awards

Stu sat next to Nigel Slater, Raymond Blanc was only a stone throw away and I got a hug off Gizzi Erskine and Jay Rayner, it was so surreal. And I am pleased to say that Jay Rayner pronounced my name correctly!

On stage!

So, next came the food. Before the ceremony there was canapés and champagne. Afterwards came a feast like no other. My pulled pork was going around, and people like (here comes more foodie heroes spotting) Valentine Warner, Masterchef winner, Shelina Permalloo and all the winners of the night sampled it.

Me and my mini pulled pork slider!

The food didn’t disappoint! Not that I thought it would. We started with a flat bread topped with the best pork I have ever eaten, salad, a delicious sauce, sunflower seeds and a pinch of chilli flakes. Wow, just wow. It was fantastic!

Wow!

We were amazed by the Everybody Love Jhal Muri Express, which sold Jhal Muri, a puffed rice mixed with all sorts. It had a strong citrus-y flavour which ended with a big spicy kick. There were soft bits, crunchy bits and specks of coriander all served in a cone. It tasted so fresh, healthy and like nothing I have ever tasted. Wonderful stuff from a terrific guy.

To cool our mouths down the next stop was Sorbitium, which offers delicious hand made ice creams and sorbets. I went for salted caramel, which was strong in flavour, the strong salt combined with the sweetness made it taste like whisky! Stu chose lemon curd with spiced biscuits, which was so refreshing and exciting with the occasional chewy piece of biscuit throughout.

Sadly by the time we reached the last vendor, Yum Bun, there was nothing left. But the buzz around the room proved it was just as tasty as the rest.

The cocktails where also flowing. The winners cocktail, You Me @ Six, created by Pete Nielsen, was just how a cocktail should be. It was strong, bitter and had a citrus tang. This recipe can also be found on the Observer website.

I also managed to get some photographs with the gorgeous Gizzi Erskine and Nigel Slater!

Gizzi!

Nigel!

And then to top it all off, I got the best goodie bag on earth! And that isn’t an over-statement. See for yourself!

The next day (sorry guys that isn’t the end of my culinary adventure) we went to one of Jamie Oliver restaurants,  Jamie’s Kitchen. It was simple and trendy inside. Red chairs, white bricks walls and funky lamp shades all set the room alive.

I am not going to give a full review of the food. But the menu was full to the brim of all things Jamie. Simple dishes, with his own twist. I was tempted by the sausage papperdelle. Bits of slow braised fennel sausage mixed in a tangy tomato sauce tossed with funky shaped pasta and topped with Parmesan and crunchy herby breadcrumbs. It was those breadcrumbs that brought the dish alive. The sausage was soft and flavoursome, the pasta was cooked perfectly, but the crunchy breadcrumbs brought a new flavour and texture to the dish.

Stu chose the burger. The prime juicy British chuck and flank steak burger was the best burger he has ever tasted. Now that is a compliment. Stu has tried many burgers, from all sorts of places, and this topped them all. It was served in a seeded bun with sweet and sticky onions, tomato, pickles and chillies. Perfect.

We also ordered some of Jamie’s famous polenta chips on the side, which where unlike any chips I have ever had. The cubes of crunchy potato had a soft centre and were covered in Parmesan cheese with a touch of rosemary. They were very strong in flavour, and had the perfect texture for chips.

To end the meal we also spotted Gennaro Contaldo, the guy who taught Jamie everything he knows, and also one half of the Greedy Italians the crazy duo who cook Italian food, the traditional way.

My adventure finished at Borough Market. I have been dreaming of going there for a very long time, and it didn’t disappoint.  It was huge, every corner and walkway was full of fresh seafood, home-made cheeses, colourful vegetables and meat of all kinds. I managed to pick up a pheasant, which I am very excited about cooking, and Stu got an ale to add to his collection.

Heading back to London, possibly for the awards, is something we hope to do again. The range of food in London is too big to discover in two days!

Chive-y flatbreads

I was itching to make flat-bread for ages, so I was really excited when I finally got round to it.

I added chives to mine as chives are strong in flavour, and would work perfectly with the garlic oil I topped them off with.

You will be surprised at how simple they are to make, all you need for the basic flat-bread is four everyday ingredients which are:

  • 250g of plain flour
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 150ml of warm water
  • A bunch of chives, very finely chopped

So the first thing to do is to sieve the flour into a bowl then add the salt and give a little mix. Then add the chives, oil and water and mix until a dough is formed.

Put this onto a floured surface and kneed for about five minutes until the dough is smooth. Then cover with the bowl, upturned, for about 15 minutes.

Then cut the dough into 8 even pieces, and roll out on a floured surface, and leave for a further 5 minutes.

Then heat a frying pan, with no oil, on a high heat, then turn down a little and add one of the flat-breads  Cook for about two minutes on one side, bubbles may appear, then you know it needs turning. Just cook for a further 30 seconds on the other side.

To keep them soft while you cook the rest wrap in a clean towel.

To make a garlic oil just fry some finely chopped garlic in some oil, then spoon onto the flat-breads.

 

Chicken and peanut stir-fry

I have went a little bit stir-fry mad this past week. But I did just buy a wok, so it isn’t a surprise, as anything new for the kitchen gets me unnaturally excited.

I was inspired by the lovely Ching-He Huang for this recipe, and it turned out to be the best stir-fry I have ever made. Spending ages in the kitchen is something I love, but sometimes time is short and this recipe is so quick, simple and cheap to make. This recipe serves two.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large chicken breast
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp of cornflour
  • Sunflower or vegetable oil, around 300ml or enough to deep fry
  • 4 spring onions
  • 3 tbsp of chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp of dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp of hot sweet chilli sauce
  • A sprinkling of roasted peanuts (cashew nuts would be lovely too)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Rice, to serve

First off you need to slice or dice your chicken into evenly sized pieces, then mix the cornflour and egg together with a little salt until there is no lumps. Heat the oil in your wok, then dip the chicken in the batter and gently place in the hot oil and cook for about five minutes until it is cooked through and crispy on all sides.

Once the chicken is cooked, take it out of the pan and leave to one side on kitchen paper. Then take out the oil, leaving around one tablespoon left. Let the pan cool slightly then add the spring onion and fry for about two minutes, then re-add the chicken, cook for a further minute. Next, add the soy sauce, chili sauce and stock and cook for around two minutes, then add the nuts, season, mix and serve with the rice.

Moroccan broad bean soup

Another easy recipe, and healthy too. With a hint of spice it is lovely for those cold nights that are slowly creeping upon us!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp of ground cumin
  • 500ml of vegetable stock
  • 1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 400g of chickpeas
  • 100g of broad beans (about 6 pods)
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Parsley, finely chopped
  • Black pepper

So first off, gently fry the onions and cook until soft, but not browned. Then add the garlic, fry for one minute, add the cumin and cook for a further minute.

Next, add the stock, tomatoes and chick peas and simmer for six minutes. Then add the broad beans, a touch of black pepper and lemon juice and cook for a further five minutes.

To serve this soup add a sprinkling of lemon zest and parsley, and eat with some chunky bread.

 

Pistachio pesto

Pesto is a wonderful thing, not only does it tastes amazing! It can also be put in so many dishes to liven them up. Making your own is simple, quick and sometimes cheap. I used pistachios because I think they are lovely in pesto, are my favourite nut of all time and are much cheaper than pine nuts, which is the traditional nut for pesto.

This recipe is enough for four, but you can double it or halve it as many times as you want.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • 3 handfuls of basil leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • A handful of unsalted pistachios, taken out of their shells
  • A good whack of Parmesan cheese, grated (add as much as you like depending on your taste)
  • Extra virgin Olive oil (again, it is up to you, if you like a drier pesto then don’t add too much, but pesto should be a little oily)
  • A squeeze of lemon
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper

So like I said, it is very easy to make. Peel your garlic, give it a quick chop then add it to a pestle and mortar along with crushed pistachios (or you could crush them in the mortar), basil and a drop of olive oil, for now. Bash this up to a paste, then add the cheese, salt, black pepper, lemon juice and more oil, bash it up some more, and taste. You must taste, as it may end up being very under-seasoned or it may need more garlic or lemon juice, so make sure you taste, adjust and taste again until your happy.

I used my pesto with pasta, chicken and roast tomatoes.

You could also spread it on fish and bake in the oven, mix it in with spaghetti for a tasty but quick supper or spread it on a sandwich!

Let me know how you make your pesto exciting!

baked cauliflower cannelloni

This recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver, I changed a few things to suit my and my boyfriend tastes. Before you add the cheese it is a pretty healthy plate of food, and a great way to hide vegetables. However, the cauliflower is cooked, well, a lot, so I can’t imagine there would be much vitamins left in them. Cauliflower is cheap though, but if you like you could stuff the cannelloni tube with mince.

Ingredients:

  • One whole cauliflower, washed and florets chopped off
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • A small bunch of rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp of dried chili flakes
  • 250ml of passata
  • A splash of red wine vinegar
  • 250ml of creme fraiche
  • 100g of Parmesan cheese
  • 8 cannelloni tubes (or as many as you can fit in your dish)
  • A small bunch of basil leaves
  • 100g of mozzarella cheese
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • A few leaves of rocket (plus more to serve if you’re having salad with it)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil

Start off by preheating your oven to 190 degrees, and bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the cauliflower to the water and boil for around five minutes, then drain, but keep the water for now.

Next, grab a saucepan and add a glug of olive oil along with the garlic, finely chopped, and fry for a few seconds before adding the rosemary and chilies, fry for a few more seconds. Then add your cauliflower to the pan along with 4 tbsp of the water, but don’t throw the rest away just yet! Stir the mixture making sure you get all the lovely flavours coating the cauliflower, place a lid on top and then cook for around 20 minutes until the cauliflower is overdone, but not too mushy! Also, make sure you remove the lid for the last five minutes, as this helps the liquid evaporate.

Once cooked, season then mash up the cauliflower, lay it out on a tray, then let it cool.

Whilst you wait for it to cool mix the passata and red wine vinegar together and pour this into the bottom of your baking dish. To make a quick and easy white cheese sauce Jamie recommends adding half of the Parmesan grated into the creme fraiche, add salt, pepper, a little of the cooking water and mix well. I found that even though it tastes lovely and isn’t too heavy the appearance wasn’t pleasant. It looked as though it had curdled and resembled cottage cheese after baking.

Once the cauliflower has cooled it is time to fill the cannelloni tubes. You could use a piping bag, but I just used a spoon and pushed it down it with the end. Now, you should be generous here to get full flavour, and to make sure you don’t waste a thing. Once you have filled them all place them on top of the passata in a neat line. Then lay the basil and rocket leaves on top before layering on the creme fraiche, the rest of the Parmesan and teared mozzarella.

For the final touch decorate with the tomatoes and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

Tip: The great thing about this recipe is it can be changed to suit many peoples’ tastes. You could add broccoli or carrot with cauliflower, or replace it all together. You could add fresh chilies, or remove them all together too. Try experimenting with different cheeses too, as long as it melts it should taste good.