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Saturday, 31 March 2012

Pork Fillet with Honey and Mustard Glaze

In keeping with my Food Bloggers Diet, I am trying hard to keep to a healthy diet.  I had to try extra hard today because tomorrow, I am going out for afternoon tea for my friend's birthday.  That is sure to include scones and cakes and it would be rude not to eat them!

My diet guru of choice is Rosemary Conley, mainly because her diets actually include proper recipes and only occasionally include artificial sweeteners and I just avoid those recipes.  I picked up a copy of the Rosemary Conley magazine in the supermarket and it featured this pork recipe.  As it will be copyright I can't give you the full details, however here are the basics.

The pork fillet is seared in a hot pan, then you add honey and Dijon mustard to the pan and cook for a few minutes, then put in the oven and baste the pork with the glaze until it is cooked about 10-15 minutes.  You can then add a little stock to make a sauce or just serve with the glaze.  Easy, peasy and very delicious indeed!  I served the pork with mashed potatoes with only a little milk added (no butter) and broccoli.

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Friday, 30 March 2012

Sweet Heat Round-up: Tapas

Another month of Sweet Heat Challenge is over and it 's time for the round up.  I enjoyed seeing the different Tapas recipes and so many of them reminded me of places where I'd eaten similar dishes.  I hope you enjoy them too.

Fiona, at London Unattached, made 'Gambas pil pil' as part of a Tapas menu for a special dinner.  This takes me back to last family holiday I went on with my parents to Spain, where we had Gambas cooked in salt on a griddle, I can't hear the word Gambas without being taken back there!
At 41 Feasts, Nicola is offering round the nibbles with our drinks.  Wow!  I'd love to try these Sticky spicy almonds

Francesca from Checky's Kitchen made Calamari Fritos con Allioli (Crisp Deep-fried Squid with Garlic Mayonnaise)  This glorious dish reminds me of California where we ate deep fried squid in Cambria with our friends.

This was my own entry of Pepper and Tomato Salsa which is covering the meatballs.

TangoLikeRaindrop went for the classic Patatas Bravas after being inspired by lunch at a local eatery, doesn't that look good?

Over at A Village Pantry, Sheelagh went for something less traditional by making a Mexican Tortilla Lasagne  I'll certainly be bookmarking that recipe.

Sweet Heat Challenge owner, Lyndsey from Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops chose Patatas Bravas for her entry which she served as part of a Tapas Feast of  chorizo with Red Wine; Mini Lamb Meatballs with Romesco Sauce; Prawns with Sherry & Garlic; Baked Mozzarella Mushrooms; Spiced Almonds and Marinated Olives

and last but not least Corina at Searching for Spice has prepared a dish of Pinchos Morunos or Spanish Pork Skewers, a dish bursting with chilli and other spices.

Many thanks to all the entrants to the Sweet Heat Challenge #6, it's been fun hosting.  If you want to join in next month make sure to check Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops on the 1st of April for Sweet Heat #7. 

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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Two Greedy Italians - DVD Giveaway

The DVD of the first series of Two Greedy Italians is being released on April 2nd ahead of the BBC's screening of the much-anticipated second series in mid-April, you can buy it on Amazon for £11.99 or win it here on my blog!

I really loved watching Antiono Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo travel through Italy talking about their past, cooking and eating the regional dishes.  There was something very appealing about the differences in their experiences  the humour, they share and the slightly more serious reflections that this trip back to Italy evokes.  If you didn't see it when it was on TV you really you missed a real treat.  But now you have the opportunity to watch again on DVD.

 I think my favourite episode is the second one, when they visit the Amalfi Coast where Gennaro grew up.  Here we meet really interesting people who make the most frugal of  the dishes, made from almost nothing, reflecting the former poverty of the area.

There are two DVDs and 237 minutes of beautiful scenery, stories of the past and glorious italian food.

The DVD also contains four recipe cards with dishes from the series so you can cook along at home.

I haven't had a chance to try out the recipes yet because I wanted to let you know as soon as possible that I have two DVDs to giveway.

Giveaway runs until 2nd April.
Open only to residents of the UK.
Complete the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.
If you don't win, remember it is available to pre-order on Amazon now!

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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Baked Potato with Roasted Tomatoes

I thought I'd share this simple recipe which I made for my lunch yesterday.
It's a simple baked potato (done in the microwave but finished off in the oven for crispy skin)topped first with a dessertspoon of low fat greek yogurt and then baby plum tomatoes which I roasted in the oven while the potato finished off.  They were roasted with just a couple of sprays of olive oil spray.  A few grinds of black pepper and lunch was ready.  It was blindingly good for something so simple.

As this is another use for left over yogurt I'm entering it for Kate's No Waste Food Challenge.

I'm also featuring my Food Blogger's Diet badge for the first time.  This isn't a diet and it isn't challenge, it's just me cooking healthy, lower fat, lower calorie food.

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Monday, 26 March 2012

The Food Blogger's Diet and a Giveaway

When you love food, love to cook and also love to eat, it's easy to put on a few pounds. It's even harder for Food Bloggers we love to share what we cook with others and we are also tempted by all those challenges we take part in.  

As Spring is definitely here, I have decided that it is time to do something about those extra inches so I will be bringing you recipes and food ideas that are lower in calories, lower in fat and suitable to eat when trying to reduce your weight.  This won't be 'a diet' and I won't be boring you with details of how I'm getting on, but I will be sharing the recipes.

I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to try Popchips and to offer a hamper containing a selection of 24 packs as a Giveaway to one lucky winner. These snacks are 'popped' using heat and pressure rather than fried or baked, which means that they have less than half the fat and fewer calories than the usual type of crisps. There are less than 100 calories for more than 17 crisps in each 23g bag which sells for 69p.  There are five different flavours: original; barbeque; sour cream and chives; salt and pepper; sea salt and vinegar.

So what are they like?  As you can see in the photo at the top, they look pretty much like the usual puffed potato snacks, however they are not greasy and there are no artifical flavours.  You can buy Popchips at Waitrose and online from  and  I do think they are quite expensive for what they are, but I did enjoy the Popchips, particularly the Original flavour and compared to some other low calorie snacks they definitely have a more natural taste.  Enter my giveaway to try them for yourself.

This Giveaway is open to UK residents only

More information about Popchips is available on their website 
become a fan on facebook or follow on  twitter.


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Sunday, 25 March 2012

Fruity Yogurt Pots

Time to use up some leftovers and fortunately I can also fit this into The No Waste Food Challenge run by Kate over at Turquoise Lemons.  The theme for March is to use up left over Yogurt.

The fruit mixture is a pineapple and a punnet of strawberries, mixed with some preserved ginger and a bit of the ginger syrup,  I also finished off Sarah's Zesty Honey, the one with the ginger in it to add some extra sweetness as strawberries are not too great at this time of year.  

I made this fruit salad on Friday, it was dessert for four on Friday and four on Saturday with some cream, but there was still some left and lots of gingery, fruity juice had collected at the bottom.  The fruit was looking a little less pretty but was well macerated.

Raking about at the back of the cupboard, I found my sealed bag of leftover sponge fingers and, of course, some leftover yogurt.

I often use my ramekin dishes for little trifle-like desserts, it keeps them contained and always makes left overs look better!

Fruity Yogurt Pots (serves 1)
1 ramekin dish
2 sponge fingers per person
3 dessertspoons of fruit (fresh fruit, tinned fruit, fruit salad)
2 dessertspoons of natural yogurt (I used low fat Greek yogurt)
Sprinkles (optional)

1. Break up the sponge fingers and put into the ramekin.
2. Pour over some of the juice from the fruit salad (if you don't have any juice you can use some orange juice or if you are feeling naughty, the alcohol of your choice!)
3.  Add the fruit.
4. Top with the yogurt and sprinkles if using.

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Thursday, 22 March 2012

Chocolate and Gooseberry Sponge

I'm feeling a bit embarrassed by my entry for We should Cocoa this month.  I've just been to visit A little bit of heaven on a plate and seen the glorious entry that Sue has made and mine looks a bit pedestrian by comparison!

You see the challenge this month is to make something that includes chocolate and green, I found that even more difficult than the savoury and chocolate challenge of last month.  However, I came up with a solution of sorts.  

I had about 6 tablespoons of cooked gooseberries left over from the Irish Gooseberry Scones so I simply put them in an ovenproof bowl and added the following chocolate sponge:

50g soft butter
50g caster sugar
1 egg
25g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
1 level tsp baking powder
50g dark chocolate, chopped roughly

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and beat until combined, put on top of your cooked gooseberries and drop the pieces of chocolate into the batter. Bake in the oven at 180C for about 30-40 minute until the sponge is well risen and the fruit is bubbling.

This is quite a high proportion of baking powder to dry ingredients (it was a mistake) but it made for a very light and airy sponge which wasn't too sweet.  It would easily serve 3-4 people, if you have more fruit then double up the ingredients and use about 500g fruit.

and just to show that it is green(ish), here is a side shot of the gooseberries with the uncooked chocolate sponge mix on top.  Not my most elegant of recipes, but I didn't see anyone refuse to eat it!

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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Chicken Marsala - A Random Recipe

The Random Recipe challenge at Belleau Kitchen had a helping hand from Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog this month. Dom asked her to count her cookbooks and then randomly select a number... she chose to ignore this and went for her lucky number 17...  so that is what we all have to do this month. Simply count our cookbooks from left to right and stop at number 17... and then select a recipe randomly from this book.

 Book no. 17 on my shelf is this Betty Crocker Cookbook which I brought back from the US. I opened the book with some trepidation hoping that I wouldn't get a recipe with difficult to source ingredients, but fortunately it opened in the chicken section and this recipe for Chicken Marsala.

Chicken Marsala (serves 4)
from Betty Crocker Cookbook (Tenth Edition)

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup of plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup dry Marsala wine or chicken stock

1.  Between sheets of clingfilm, flatten each chicken breast to 1/4 inch thickness.  In a shallow dish, mix the flour, salt and pepper.  Coat chicken with flour mixture, shake off excess flour.
2. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Cook garlic, mushrooms and parsley in oil for 5 minutes stirring frequently.
3. Add chicken to pan.  Cook about 8 minutes, turning once, until brown.  Add wine.  Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the centre.

The recipe suggests serving this with pasta, but I served it with mashed potatoes and cabbage and it was very good.  I did use rather more mushrooms than in the recipe and didn't have any Marsala so used white wine instead.  I felt it needed a bit more seasoning but my husband thought it was fine just as it was.  The bonus is that this is a low fat recipe!

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Sunday, 18 March 2012

Lemon Meringue Pie

I wasn't really planning on posting this Lemon Meringue Pie so soon, but I posted this pic on Facebook and Twitter and there was such a positive reaction that I thought I had better get on with it!

I don't often make Lemon Meringue Pie because it always seems a bit of a fiddle, blind baking the pastry, making the lemon filling and then, the easy bit, whipping up the Meringue topping.  However, it is a favourite of my MIL and as it was Mother's Day, I thought I would treat her. 

I'm also entering this for Alpha Bakes, I'm pushing it a bit as the letter this month is 'M',  Lemon Meringue Pie.   Alphabakes is co-hosted by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline from Caroline Makes. This month Caroline is in charge of the challenge and you can find out how to join in HERE

Lemon Meringue Pie

Pastry base
225g plain flour
150g butter, diced
25g caster sugar
1 egg yolk

Sift the flour into a blowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the caster sugar, then mix to a dough with the egg yolk and a little cold water if necessary.  Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.  Roll out on a lightly dusted work surface and use to line a 9 inch loose-bottomoned flan tin.

Bake blind, covering the base with baking paper or foil and fill with baking beans.  Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 20 minutes, remove the beans and paper and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until lightly coloured.

Lemon filling
2 large lemons
40g cornflour
300ml water
2 egg yolks
75g caster sugar

Grate the rind and squeeze the juice from the lemons and put in a bowl with the cornflour.  Add two tbsp from the water and blend to form a paste.  Boil the rest of the water and pour onto the cornflour mixture.  Put the mixture into a pan and bring to the boil stirring all the time, simmer for about 3 minutes until it is thick.

Remove from the heat and add the egg yolks and sugar, then return to the stove and heat through for a minute.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool for a minute.  Then spoon into the baked pastry case.

Meringue topping
3 egg whites
125g caster sugar

Heat the oven  to 160C
Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, add the sugar a teaspoon at a time, whisking in well after each spoonful.  Spoon over the lemon filling spreading right up to the edge of the pastry.  Bake for 30 minutes until the meringue is pale golden brown.


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Saturday, 17 March 2012

Serious Dark Fix - Extra Thick Chocolate Egg

Do you like dark chocolate?  Because if you do, you just have to have this Hotel Chocolat Serious Dark Fix Extra Thick Egg Creation on your wish list for Easter!

How could you or your partner resist this amazing 'hat box' packaging?  So luxurious and tempting, just waiting for you to pull the ribbon and uncover the contents.

Lid off and the golden egg is revealed, nestling on it's own little moulded throne, are you excited yet?

The 'Menu' reveals that this is not just a dark chocolate egg, oh no, it also contains some delicious choccies.

Each chocolate egg 'shell' holds one each of the following chocolates:  
Black Cherry Truffle: I love black cherries and this chocolate doens't disappoint, not too sweet with enough tang to cut through the white chocolate interior.
Raspberry Liqueur Truffle: definitely something alcoholic, but not a huge raspberry hit.
Salted Soft Caramels (Dark):  I'm a sucker for a salted caramel and the dark chocolate works well with the sweet and salty caramel.
Chilli Pralines  (Dark): This was the first chocolate I tried as I love chilli and chocolate, but I was a wee bit disappointed there wasn't much in the way of chilli bite, I suppose they don't want to frighten off those unused to chilli in their chocolate, but I would have liked a bit more.
Espresso Truffle (Dark):  My husband pronounced that this definitely tasted like Espresso!
Rum Truffle (Milk):  The rum takes a moment to hit, but there is enough there to give that lovely warm sweet taste.

No pathetic thin chocolate egg shell, but a thick and luscious one, it's not quite as thick as the edge all the way through (thank goodness, or you would never break it!) but a lot thicker than most chocolate eggs.

I have to say I was very excited when the postie drew up in his van this morning and I saw him emerge with an egg sized cardboard box.  I've reviewed a few Hotel Chocolat chocolates, but this has to be my favourite, not only is the egg thick and delicious, the chocolates varied and plentiful, but you get that fabulous box which, to a crafter, just calls out to be altered into something that will last forever!

Don't worry if there is no Hotel Chocolat shop near you, you can buy online and I can certainly vouch for the eggs arriving beautifully packaged and totally intact.  If you are not a fan of dark chocolate there are lots of other delicious eggs and novelty Easter chocolates to choose from.

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Thursday, 15 March 2012

Gluten Free Irish Scones

According to Wikipeida: the scone is a small British quick bread, traditionally hailing from both Scotland and the South West England. They are usually made of wheat, barley or oatmeal, with baking powder as a leavening agent.  But let's face it, the scone or it's close cousin, is everywhere!

I am quite sure that if we were making them in Scotland, then they were making them in Ireland at the same time.  But that is not why these particular scones are Irish, it's because the lovely Kelly at Food Matters asked me to try out a few products from artisan food producers in Ireland for St Patricks Day.

I am fortunate that I can eat pretty much everything with no ill effects (other than my expanding waistline!) however, I know quite a few people who are intolerant to wheat and gluten.  So I was interested to see how 'Helen's Brilliant Scone Mix' turned out. 
The mixes come from Virginia Health Ltd in County Cork, a family company supplying milled seeds such as flaxseed, hemp seeds, sunflowerseeds, pumpkinseeds and protein powders direct from the farm to your table for everyday use.   Helen O'Dowd, the founding director,  is a busy mum, nutritionist and food scientist. As well as the seeds Helen's Healing Foods features two  gluten free bread mixes and the scone mix.  I was also given the sandwich loaf mix to make, but unfortunately I read the instructions wrong and made a bit of a disaster!  Nothing to do with the mix,  totally my error.

The scone mix is very easy to make up you just add an egg, 28g melted butter or vegetable oil and 200ml buttermilk or whole milk or soya milk  and mix together with the dry ingredients in the pack.  It is a much wetter mixture than the usual scone mix so you spoon the batter onto your baking tray rather than cut out the scones with a cutter.

I put the scones in the oven with some trepidation, but they rose beautifully and were light and tasted good.  Not quite the usual scone taste but my MIL approved and pronounced them 'frush' which means they crumble but are not dry! 

I was also provided with a jar of Sarah's Zesty Honey with Ginger  from Mileeven Fine Foods in Kilkenny and a little bottle of Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey. 

I wasn't quite sure about flavoured honey, but tried it out on one of the scones and it was quite good.  I don't really think honey needs any extra flavour but it was a bit of a novelty.  Anyway I thought I'd see what it was like in cooking and see if I could make a dessert from the ingredients I'd been provided with.

I had a few gooseberries left in the freezer from last summer, so added a tablespoon of the ginger honey to them and put them in the oven on a low heat for about 40 minutes until the gooseberries had softened and cooked through and the honey melted into them to make a sweet, gingery sauce.

I whipped up some cream and added a tablespoon of the Irish Whiskey (I had a little chef's taste of the Whiskey and approved, not as good as Scottish Malt Whisky of course ;-) and a teaspoon of the honey and folded them through.  Then I split open the scone, piled on the cream, a few of the gooseberries and a drizzle of the honey syrup.

It worked brilliantly, and I would certainly use the ginger honey in cooking, it suggests on the jar that it would be good in stir fries and I can imagine that it would be.

This month's Tea Time Treats has Scones as the theme, so I'm entering my Honey Gooseberry Scones as an indulgent tea time treat!  It's hosted this month by Karen at  Lavender and Lovage  the challenge is hosted alternately by What Kate Baked why not join in?

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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Galloway Irish Stew

It's St Patrick's day on 17th March and I'm celebrating this Irish festival, with some Irish dishes and products from Ireland.

So why Galloway Irish?  My farm kitchen is in the south west of Scotland although not in the Rhins of Galloway which is at the most southwestern corner.  Because Stranraer is the shortest sea route between Scotland and Ireland, many Irish people came to the Wigtownshire area during the Irish potato famine.

Over a period of time the dialect spoken in the area took on a distinct Irish influence and became known as  Galloway Irish. You can hear the accent on this BBC recording 

There is no such thing as Galloway Irish Stew, I just made that up!  This stew contains lamb, potoatoes and carrots, familiar ingredients for an Irish Stew, the difference is the cut of lamb.  I used a lovely leg of lamb rather than the cheaper, middle neck or scrag-end.

Galloway Irish Stew
1.1kg leg of lamb
2 onions, cut into chunks
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
4 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
3 sticks of celery, sliced
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 pint lamb stock
salt & pepper
As many peeled potatoes, cut in large chunks, as you can fit in the pot!

Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole, brown the meat, then remove to a plate. Turn the heat down and add the onions, carrots, parsnips and celery and saute for about 10 minutes.  

Put the lamb back in on top of the vegetables and pile in the potato chunks round about it.  Add the tomato puree to the vegetable stock  and pour over the meat and vegetables, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cover the pan and cook at 160C for 2 hours until the meat falls away from the bone.  

More Irish goodies coming soon.

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