Wednesday, 22 October 2014

CHRISTMAS GIFTS ~ CHILLI OIL

Good Morning to you,


We are heading towards the end of October and my thoughts are drifting towards Christmas.

Oh dear, do you feel it is too soon to talk about Christmas?

I am sorry if you do, but this is the time, when I usually gather the ingredients to make my Christmas cake and Christmas pudding, but this year, we are going to have a pared down Christmas, as our family are not able to be with us, to celebrate.

Please don't think that I am not excited about Christmas, because I am, I love Christmas, and all it entails.

So instead of thinking about Christmas cake and pudding, I need to start thinking about making home made gifts, so I thought in the coming weeks I would share some of my ideas with you.

I love flavoured oils and the one I am going to make today is,


Chilli Oil.  Making home made gifts is such a pleasure, but it is the time element which is important, as the last thing you want is to run out of time and have just a few weeks to make gifts.  Planning in advance makes life a little simpler..... yes, honestly, you did read correctly, I did say, planning.... as you know, planning is not my strongest point.

First, I go out and about to find some nice bottles for the chilli oil. 


Once I have found
the bottle I like, 
I then choose a tag,
a length of
red ribbon 

and


a gorgeous Christmas bag,
yes 
it has to be gorgeous.

When the bottles have been filled with chilli oil, 
 I then decorate the bottles with ribbon 
and 
a tag.
I also include
 instructions for storing the oil. 

I also add
a
Christmas tree decoration.

I love Christmas tree decorations
and each year I buy a new one for the tree.


If I can find something a little different
so much the better.

Do you like these Christmas tree decorations
which were bought in India?

I think this makes a lovely Christmas present
for a friend.

So now, it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to, takes me back to my youth,


the Beatles White Album.  Now, here's the thing, I could not photograph the front of the album, because of course the album is white with just The BEATLES, highlighted on the album cover, but not enough so that you could see it in the photograph.  So I decided to photograph the list of songs instead.

There are so many Beatles songs to love, but my absolute favourite, is,

 'I Will',
 I love, love, love it. 

Also listen to
 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'
 and
 'Blackbird'

Once you have listened to these songs, I just know you will be listening to your own favourite Beatles songs.

So whilst I am listening to 'Revolution', I will organise my ingredients.

INGREDIENTS 
TO 
MAKE
CHILLI OIL

Olive Oil
(enough to fill your chosen bottles)
pinch of chilli flakes
6 small dried red chillies

HOW 
TO 
MAKE
CHILLI OIL


Decide on the bottle
you wish to use

and


sterilize 
the bottle or bottles.


Place the olive oil
in a pan
and
gently heat to
80C.


Add the 
dried chilli flakes

and


the
dried chillies.

Stir,
then
leave to cool.


Using a funnel,
pour the olive oil
with the chillies
and
chilli flakes
into the bottle.

You might need a spoon to remove the
chilli flakes from the pan.


Pop the lid on
and
store in a dark, cool place
for at least three weeks.
The longer you leave the oil,
the more intense the flavour.

Once a week, give the olive oil
a little shake.

I also make oregano oil
using 
dried oregano.

Also lemon oil
and
rosemary oil.


Just a thought, you need to know that the chilli oil will turn a shade of red, the longer it is left to mature. So please don't think that something dreadful is happening to the chilli oil.

I have added 6 very small, red, dried chillies to my oil, because I know this is the perfect flavour for me, but if you feel this is too many chillies, then reduce the amount to suit your taste.

Do you have friends in mind who, you know, would love to receive a gift of chilli oil..... I know I do.

Now I am not a connoisseur of chillies, in fact, I really know very little about them, but if you are interested in learning more, pop over and visit MJ's Kitchen who knows everything there is to know about chillies.... and you will also find a lovely recipe for Tarragon, Lemon Quick Bread.

Take care and I will see you on Sunday.









Sunday, 19 October 2014

APPLE AND ALMOND TART WITH A TOUCH OF CINNAMON

Good Afternoon to you,


I do love a good book.  

When the house is quiet, I love to stretch out on the settee, pick up a good book and immerse myself for a couple of hours... and if time allows, even longer. Although I have to admit, these days, those times are rare.

 I tend to read more in the summer, when the garden is growing and all the hard work is done, and with the evenings staying light until 10 o'clock at night, sitting in the evening sun is such a lovely way to spend an hour or two.... but autumn has arrived and I will have to wait until next summer before I can enjoy that pleasure again.

I think I have mentioned before, that I love old books, and I have been buying them since I was a teenager.  I was recently in Gosforth, when I came across a 1930's edition of The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.  Now I know a little about the story, but I have never read the book, so I am very excited to read this little 4" x 6" book, with its very fine pages. When the book was sold in the 1930's it cost 2s 6d, which I know was a lot of money, at that time.

I read the first page and the paragraph opened with the words,

Outside Dorlcote Mill

'A wide plain, where the broadening Floss 
hurries on between its green banks to the sea, 
and the loving tide, rushing to meet it, checks its 
passage with an impetuous embrace.'

If this is the beginning, I cannot wait to read the rest of the book.  I will have to be very careful, because as I said, the paper is very fine, and so I don't lose my page, I will place a ribbon in the book.  I use ribbons as page markers, as it is much easier to see which page I am up to. Ribbons also show me how many unfinished books I have, as I see ribbons draped from all my unread books.  I have checked, and I have four books on the go, but they will have to wait patiently in line to be read, until I have finished The Mill on the Floss.

The book is about life in the little town of St Ogg's in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire over 150 years ago. Much of the story is drawn from memories of the authors own childhood.

I wonder, did you know,  George Eliot was a woman. Her real name was Mary Ann Evans and she used the pen name of George Eliot, in a time when women writers were known for their romantic novels. Mary Ann wanted her novels to be taken seriously and so she wrote using her pen name, George Eliot. 

Mary Ann (or Marian) was born at Arbury Farm, Chilvers near Nuneaton, Warwickshire on 22nd November, 1819. Mary Ann wrote many books during her lifetime, including Silas Marner and Middlemarch.

So I am hoping I can make time between now and December to read The Mill on the Floss..... I really do hope I do, as I have a feeling, I will not want to pick up the book and read only a few chapters.... I feel it is going to be a pick up and push right to the end type of read.

So whilst my book is waiting to be read, with the ribbon already placed inside the book, I will tell you what I am making today.


Do you like almond flavour?

You can probably guess, I do. So it will come as no surprise, when I tell you, I am making a tart with almonds. Actually it is an apple and almond tart with a touch of cinnamon.

So it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to is,


the wonderful Tony Bennett. The sleeve notes, written by Ralph Sharon, say that this show, held at Carnegie Hall, was sold out two weeks in advance. 

He wrote, 'Tony left the wings and made his way toward centre stage amid tremendous applause, and from that moment it was evident to the audience at Carnegie Hall that this would be the greatest night in Tony Bennett's career'.

The album is wonderful, listen and enjoy, 'Just in Time', 'Stranger in Paradise' and 'April in Paris'.

So whilst I am organising my ingredients, I am singing along with 'I Left My Heart, in San Francisco' (incidentally, this is a city I have always wanted to visit).

INGREDIENTS
TO MAKE
APPLE AND ALMOND TART

PASTRY

75g unsalted butter
175g plain flour
25 ground ground almonds
25g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon of cold water

FILLING

800g Bramley cooking apples

TOPPING

125g plain flour
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
60g unsalted butter
50g dark brown sugar
60g flaked almonds

Oven temperature:  180C
23cm loose bottom tart tin

HOW TO MAKE
APPLE AND ALMOND TART

Make the pastry
and 
chill in the fridge for half an hour.

Roll out the pastry
and
carefully
line a 23cm loose bottom tart tin.
Trim the edges.

You might find that the pastry crumbles
a little when placing in the tart tin,
 but don't worry
as you can patch up the
holes with pieces of left over pastry.

Chill in the fridge while you
are making the topping
and cutting the apples.


Place the flour in a bowl
and


add
the
cinnamon
and mix together.


Add the
butter
and
rub into the flour and cinnamon
until the ingredients
look like bread crumbs.


Add the sugar

and


the
almonds.


Mix the ingredients together.

Set aside for the moment.

Place a baking tray in the oven
to heat up
(large enough for your tart tin to sit on)


Peel and core
the apples,
then
thinly slice.


Remove the pastry case
from the fridge
and
arrange the apple slices
in the pastry case.


Cover the apples
with the almond topping.

Don't worry if the tart looks a little
too full
as the apples will reduce slightly
when cooked.

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes
or until the apples are
tender
and the topping is browned.

I use a cake prodder to 
check to see if the apples are cooked.


I thought I would
tempt you
with a
 close up
of
the apple and almond tart.


As you can see,
I was tempted
and
yes
the tart was very much enjoyed.

I have listed the ingredients for the pastry, but I did not go through the picture process, as we have made pastry many times.

You will have noticed that I did not blind bake my pastry case.  The reason is my good friend told me about this method.  I was a little sceptical at first, because using apples, I felt the base, when baked, would be a little soggy, but I am pleased to say, it wasn't.  I am going to use a heated baking tray, the next time I make a quiche, as I am sure it will be just as successful..... you don't know until you try.

I just wanted to say, I am sorry the pastry looks a little darker than it really is, but we are now into autumn lighting, and I always find it much harder to take good photographs at this time of year.

Oh yes, just before I go, as you know, I love dancing, so I am, an unshamedly, Strictly Come Dancing fan.... and guess who is singing this evening, in the results show..... yes, Tony Bennett....now that I am really looking forward to.

So take care and I will see you on Wednesday.



Wednesday, 15 October 2014

SALTED ALMONDS WITH A CHILLI KICK

Good Morning to you,

I really should follow my own advice.

Shall I tell you why.


I have mentioned before, that even though I have been cooking for over 40 years, I still make mistakes. Actually, I think I should be honest and say I sometimes make 'silly' mistakes.  Usually it is because my mind wanders and I start thinking about something else, other than what I am cooking.

I have also mentioned, that it is wise to follow a  recipe when making it for the first time, so that you get a feel for the recipe and then the next time, tweak it to suit your own taste buds.

So, today, why did I not follow my own advice.

I have made salted almonds so many times, but using blanched almonds.  So why did I use almonds with their skins intact  this time, instead of the normal blanched almonds.

.... well the truth is, I had a couple of bags of almonds in my store cupboard and I really did not want to pop out to the shop to buy blanched almonds...... and I thought using the same recipe, the store cupboard almonds would be fine.  Well I now wish,  I had made the effort and popped to the shop, because it would have saved me so much time in the long run.

My first attempt at using  almonds with their skins on, was a bit of a disaster.  I cooked them for far too long and by the time I realised this, it is was much too late. The almonds were overcooked.

.... but I would not be defeated.  I began again. I focused and I am pleased to tell you, the end result, was a resounding success.

Will I make salted almonds this way again..... absolutely. Have I learnt from my mistake..... I certainly hope so, afterall, that is what life is all about, learning from our mistakes.

So I am not going to weep and wail anymore, 


instead, along with George, later today, I am going to enjoy a few of these salted almonds.

So it's on with the pinnie, and the music I am listening to today, is one of Natasha's favourite albums,


Tapestry by Carole King.  Natasha said that when she was a little girl, she heard me play this album so many times, that it became one of her favourite albums.

I do love this album and it is hard to choose just a few tracks, I would love to list them all.  I seem to remember  that I have said that quite a few times recently. So what to choose.... I think you will love, 'So Far Away', 'It's Too Late' and 'You've Got a Friend'.

So while I am listening to 'I Feel the Earth Move' I will organise my ingredients.

INGREDIENTS
TO 
MAKE
SALTED ALMONDS 
WITH A 
CHILLI KICK

300g almonds with skins
1 tablespoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 - 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper


HOW 
TO
MAKE
SALTED ALMONDS
 WITH A 
CHILLI KICK


Place the sea salt

and


the cayenne pepper
into a mixing bowl
and stir 
the ingredients together.

If you like a lot of heat,
then add more cayenne pepper,
but for us 1/2 a teaspoon is
perfect.


Using a wide saucepan,
melt 
the unsalted butter
along
with
the


olive oil.

When the butter has melted,
stir the olive oil 
and
butter together.

Then,


add the
almonds

and

cook for 2-3 minutes
making sure to
move the almonds
around the pan at all times
as they will catch
very easily.


Using a slotted spoon,
spoon the almonds into the bowl
containing
 the
 salt and cayenne pepper.


Toss everything together,
making sure all the almonds are coated.

Leave to cool,


then
enjoy.

Personally,
I love salted almonds
with a 
little
G&T.

If you would prefer to use blanched almonds, then cook them for 5 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

Do you see the beautiful glass dish I have used.... well I bought it a couple of months ago.  I was admiring the dish and was ready to walk to the counter to buy it, when an elderly gentleman who was standing beside me,  asked me how much I was paying for it.  I told him 50p, which I thought was a terrific bargain.  He smiled and said I was really paying too much, as he said 50p was ten shillings in old money..... he continued to say,  if I had been around in the 1940's I would have been able to buy the glass dish for sixpence.

..... now that would have been a bargain.

Take care and I will see you on Sunday.








Sunday, 12 October 2014

GNOCCHI WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Good Morning to you,


I have  a little secret to tell you about myself.... I love people watching.  


I love it, when I have arranged to meet a friend for coffee and I arrive first, as it is then, that I get the chance to indulge my love of people watching, and that is exactly what I was doing yesterday, if only for a few minutes.... but sometimes, that is all it takes.


I was sitting on a bench, waiting for George to finish doing what he needed to do.... and whilst sitting, I noticed a couple, who I would say were in their late 60's.

They arrived, with the lady striding out in front of her husband, who in turn was gently meandering along the path behind her.  They arrived at the lift door, which would take them to the upper floor of the complex and the lady waited for her husband to catch up. When he did, he pressed the first lift button.... but there were two lifts and two buttons.  The husband had decided which lift they would take, but the wife was not so sure, so she pressed the button, which her husband had already pressed, then moved along to the second lift and pressed that button as well.  She then proceeded to move backwards and forwards, between the two lifts, like a caged lion, waiting to pounce on the first lift which opened its door. Not content with pacing backwards and forwards, she started looking up, to see which lift would arrive first. Her husband was not as concerned, for he just stood in the same position and waited for whichever lift to arrive.  He looked at his wife and said something, which I could not over hear (and of course I shouldn't, because as Phyllis would say, that would be 'ear wigging'), she then said something back to her husband, without breaking her stride between the two lifts.

..... and then the lift arrived.... no it was not the second lift, but the first lift, which the lady's husband had pressed the button for.

The husband smiled and waited for his wife to enter the lift, but she looked so agitated, I can only imagine it was because the lift she had thought would arrive first, didn't. She had spent all that energy pacing backwards and forwards,  between the lifts, that she must have felt exhausted. I can't help but wonder what the conversation was, when the lift doors closed.

I smiled to myself, because it put  me in mind of when George and I go shopping.  No, I am not like the agitated  lady I mentioned, but George does have a little idiosyncrasy, which I will tell you about another time.... and when I tell you, I just know you will smile.

.... but for the moment, I need to get on with the cooking, and today is the second part of the potato gnocchi recipe which I shared with you on Wednesday.


On Wednesday we made the potato gnocchi and today we are going to make the tomato sauce, then layer the gnocchi with mozzarella cheese and the tomato sauce.

So it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to is,


my 1971 album by 'Bread'. Honestly, who did not love this group in the 1970's.

...... and I really do have to share, with you, the artwork from the back of the album, which I have always loved.


....isn't it lovely.  Although you cannot see it clearly in this photograph, the picture is made up of a series of little dots.... something akin to potato stamping.... although, I should imagine, it was someone very artistic who produced this picture and they would be horrified to hear me liken their fabulous picture to potato stamping.

Enjoy listening to 'Baby I'm - A Want You' , 'Everything I Own' or how about 'Diary'.

I bought this album before Natasha and Danielle were born, so as you can tell it is a little old and a little battered from all the moving around.... but the sound of the record is still so good.

So whilst I am listening to 'Daughter', I will organise my ingredients.

INGREDIENTS
TO MAKE
POTATO GNOCCHI
WITH
TOMATO SAUCE

1 large red onion
6 sun dried tomatoes
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
500g passata 
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 pint of water or chicken stock
sea salt
black pepper

THE FINAL STAGE

LAYERING THE POTATO GNOCCHI
WITH
TOMATO SAUCE

250g Buffalo Mozzarella
50g of Parmesan Cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

You will need

1 deep pie tin


Finely dice the onion


Add the olive oil to a medium sized
saucepan
and
add the onions.

Cook until the onions are translucent.


Grate the garlic
and 
add to the onions.


Remove the dried
oregano leaves
from the stem
and add to the onions and garlic.

Cook for a minute or so.


Add the passata.


Snip the sun dried tomatoes
into slices
and 
add to the saucepan.


Add the sugar
and


the water or chicken stock
(whichever you decide to use)


and
add a pinch of sea salt
and freshly ground black pepper.

Stir.

Bring the tomato sauce to the boil,
reduce the heat
 and simmer
for roughly 20 minutes.


or
until
the sauce is nice and thick.

THE FINAL STAGE
FOR
GNOCCHI WITH TOMATO SAUCE


Layer a third of the tomato sauce
in the base of the dish.


Place a third of the potato gnocchi on
top of the tomato sauce.


Place a third of the mozzarella
on top of the gnocchi.
(I tend to pull the mozzarella apart)


Keep layering the tomato sauce,
the gnocchi
and the
mozzarella cheese.

Finally, 
grate some Parmesan cheese on the top.

Place in a pre-heated oven 
for
roughly 30 minutes
or until


the mozzarella cheese has melted
and
the tomato sauce is nice and bubbly.


Whilst the gnocchi with tomato sauce
is cooking,
spend a few minutes
deciding which plate to 
use.

I decided to use my Italian Spode plate.

Yes, 
colourful food 
does look lovely on white plates,
but just occasionally,
it is nice to ring the changes.....
and I have always loved 
blue and white Spode.


So today that is what I have
decided to use.
Doesn't the red tomato sauce
look beautiful 
set against
my Italian Spode plate.

Please do not be deceived by this dish being shared in two parts. Normally, I cook the tomato sauce whilst I am making the gnocchi, which of course I did here, but because I take, step by step photographs of each dish I make, it might seem like this dish is a lot of work.  Honestly it isn't, as once the tomato sauce is organised, the gnocchi does not take very long to make.

I would love you to try making your own gnocchi, as once you have tried it, you will never buy the pre-packed gnocchi ever again.

I am not against pre-packed food, as it has it's place, but making your own food, using the fashionable term 'from scratch' is so much more satisfying.

So take care and I will see you on Wednesday.

This week I will be joining,














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