Sunday, 28 December 2014

Baked Ham & Cheese Bread (no yeast)

I have eaten so much meat over Christmas and in the last few days, dinner tonight is a-la-simple-and-almost-meat-free.  I didn't say it was healthy - I just cannot face another big chunk of meat ... read, white or any other colour in between right now.

Thought I would whip up a ham & cheese bread (with no yeast of course - as I really have no patience in kneading bread or waiting for the yeast to activate and make it rise).  The result ... yes a much heavier bread than normal, but what the hell, when you are enjoying it with melted White Wine & Garlic Camembert Cheese for dinner!

So I have used cheddar cheese and some smokey ham, but you could use a great Serrano Ham or even a salami diced small - anything with a punch of flavour!  Chives and thyme also work really well in this recipe - so open the fridge and see what is desperately needing to be 'removed' after the Festive Season.

Baked Ham & Cheese Bread

Serves 4 - 6

425g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g + 10g mature cheddar cheese, grated
6 - 8 slices smoked ham
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
Few grinds of black pepper
200ml cold water

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and cheese in a bowl with a wooden spoon.  Roll all ham slices into a single tube and cut thin strips.  Add ham to the bowl.  Snip spring onions finely and add as well. Season with paprika, mustard powder, salt and pepper and mix through.

Add water and stir with a wooden spoon until all is mixed well. Smooge a little with your hands and then make a big round ball with the dough.  Flatten the ball a little to allow for even cooking and place on a greased baking tray.  Cut 3 slits into the top of the bread to allow it to breath whilst baking. Sprinkle with remaining 10g of cheese.

Bake for 35 - 38 minutes at 200'C or until a skewer removes clean.  Wrap warm bread in a clean kitchen towel and wait to serve.

~ Michelle ~


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Slow Roasted Tuscan 'Spoon' Lamb

So this year for the Christmas I am preparing something that is not a turkey or gammon effort, instead, Lamb is my key focus point for the festive table.  'Others' will be donning the table with traditional bird and pork offerings, but I so need a change, and I have found it in a wonderful leg of lamb.  

Cooking a block of meat for 4-hours might seem a little excessive, but the results are nothing less than spectacular.  This lamb is so tender you can literally pull it off the bone with 2 spoons ... hence it's name.  

Serve it with some season or festive veg, you will not be disappointed ... I promise.  

Slow Roasted Tuscan Spoon Lamb

Serves 4 - 6

1,2 kg leg of Lamb on the bone
Olive oil
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp cracked pepper
500 ml white wine (If its not good enough to drink, it's not good enough to cook with!)
1 cup water
2 whole heads of garlic, unpeeled, cup in half
15 stems fresh Thyme
15 stems fresh Rosemary
6 Anchovy fillets (optional)

Generously rub oil into the lamb on all sides.  Add salt and pepper and lightly rub.  Add oil in a pot with a tight fighting lid (Dutch Oven), brown lamb very well (almost burnt) on all sides. Remove meat and set aside.

Add wine, water and scrape grizzle off the bottom of the pot.  Add garlic, herbs, anchovies and place the Lamb on top. Cover with lid and cook for 4-hours exactly at 150'C.  Remove meat from pot and wrap in aluminium foil and stand for 15 min.

Strain liquid and squash garlic through a sieve. Reduce sauce to thicken ... or add a little flour or Mazina to help do so - pending how thick you like your sauce.  Place meat on a plate with season vegetables and drizzle with sauce.

To serve, you only need 2 spoons on the table to pull the meat ever so gently off the bone family style.

~ Michelle ~

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Peanut Butter, Coffee, Chocolate Brownies

Just in case you have not eaten enough sweet morsels over this holiday season, here is another that is just delish and something you have to try.  This recipe came about from sheer desperation. It was one of those moments when I was craving something sweetish and the pantry shelves just stared back at me with nothing ready-made on option.

It was time to get back to basics and raid the shelves for two of my favourites ... peanut butter and Nutella.  Pull a few staples from the fridge and presto ... a delish dessert baked in the oven in less than 10 minutes.

What I really like about these brownies is they are not too sweet as the peanut butter and coffee cuts through the hazelnut chocolate spread, so a really good balance.

To serve, I spread a little extra Nutella on the top of the cooled brownie and for the saucy base, I whipped up one of those instant pudding mixes - caramel to be exact.  For a little festive snow, dust some icing sugar and serve.

Peanut Butter, Coffee & Chocolate Brownies

Serves 4

60ml Nutella chocolate spread
60ml smooth peanut butter
1 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1.2 tsp instant coffee
5 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat to 170'C (350'F).  Add Nutella, peanut butter and egg to a bowl and mix by hand with a spatula to combine all well.

Add vanilla essence and coffee to a small ramkin and stir until the coffee has dissolved.  Add coffee liquid, flour and baking powder to the chocolate mix and stir thoroughly by hand until all is mixed well.

Add mixture to a small square oven dish, lined with baking paper.   Spread mix smooth over the top with the back of a spoon.  Bake for 11 minutes, or until a skewer removes clean and allow to cool before slicing.

Enjoy ...
~ Michelle ~

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Chicken,Bacon & Mushroom Stew

Lately, I am trying to cook things that are easy and that I can freeze for heat-and-eats during the week.  After working a 15-hour day Monday to Friday, the last thing I want to do is come home and start a dinner from scratch.  This is one of those perfect recipes, that can be made in bulk and frozen. I take it one step further and also cook a huge pot of rice, portion it into sandwich bags and pop them in the freezer as well. Mid week dinners are easy in our home!

I like to use chicken thighs for this recipe cause they a soft and juicy.  You could take a whole chicken and portion it into 8 pieces if you prefer.  Any flavoursome mushrooms can be used - just not white button ones - they have no flavour and are chewy.  Pancetta can also be used if you prefer to that of smoky bacon, just make sure you use nice thick chunky cubes.

Chicken, Bacon & Mushroom Stew

Serves 4

1.5kg chicken thighs, skin removed
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp olive oil
200g thick smoky bacon, cubed
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
200g brown chestnut mushrooms, quartered
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup white dry white wine
1/2 cup cream
1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp dried tarragon
Salt & pepper to taste

Place flour in a plastic bag and season with salt & pepper.  Add chicken pieces.  Tie the bag tight and shake wildly so flour coats the chicken evenly, then set aside.  Add half the oil to a deep pan and heat on medium.  Add chicken and brown evenly on all sides, then remove and set aside.

Add remaining oil to the pan and saute, bacon, onion, garlic and mushrooms until brown.  Remove from pan and set aside. Add stock and wine to the pan and scrape all drizzle off the bottom.  Return chicken and cook covered for 25 minutes.

Add the bacon, onion, mushroom mix, cream, parsley, tarragon, salt and pepper and simmer uncovered for 8 minutes until reduced and thickened.

~ Michelle ~


Saturday, 29 November 2014

Roasted Mint Shoulder of Lamb with Potatoes

Roasting a big piece of meat has never been as easy as this and with only 7 ingredients - one of them being the meat and the second potatoes!  Life to too short to have tough, overcooked lamb, this not one of those times.

This #Eatloveplaywithfood recipe has been inspired by my favourite Australian Chef, Donna Hay, who makes cooking look as easy as it is to breath. I generally shy away from a "big-meat' cook as I don't do them very well ... until now.

Instead of using a led of lamb, which can be quite expensive this time of year with the holiday season upon us, I have used a de-boned shoulder of lamb.  This some-what cheaper cut came out perfectly. Also what I like, is there is no need for a 'one-on-one; appointment with your local butcher, as you will be able to find it already de-boned and lightly tied straight off the shelf of your local supermarket.

For two us, I work on 800g,  but quite frankly go big or go home - as any left-overs are fantastic for sandwiches the following day.  Cooking times need to be adjusted pending size but you can safely work on 30 minutes at 200'C (400'F) for every 500g of meat.

Roasted Mint Shoulder of Lamb with Potatoes

Serves 2

4 big potatoes, quartered
Olive oil
4 stalks fresh rosemary
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
800g shoulder of lamb, de-boned and rolled
1/4 cup mint sauce

Preheat oven to 200'C (400'F). Place potatoes in a deep baking tray, sprinkle with a little oil and salt and toss coating evenly.  Place a rack on top of the tray.  In the centre place the rosemary in a single layer.  Add smashed garlic on top.  Place lamb on top of the rosemary and garlic.  Lightly salt and pepper to taste.  Cook 30 minutes for every 500g of meat.

For the last 15 minutes of the cooking time, remove the lamb from the oven.  Baste generously with the mint sauce and pop back into the oven for the last 15 minutes.  When done remove and wrap in foil for 5 minutes to draw.

The potatoes will be cooked and delicious as well as the juices of the meat have dripped over them during cooking.

~ Michelle ~  Eatloveplaywithfood

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Luxury Spicy Paella

Paella is a delicious marriage of seafood, meat, spices and vegetables and is arguably the best-known Spanish dish outside Spain. 

What better way to warm up than with this easy to make and fantastic family dinner that goes a long way.  What I enjoy the most is that you can make it as humble or luxurious as you like.  With the holiday season approaching, I enjoy a few special additions like Saffron and huge crab claws - not my usual throughout the year, believe me.

The three best known paella are Valencian paella, seafood paella and mixed paella, but there are several others as well.  Valencian paella is believed to be the original recipe and consists of rice, green veg, meat ... either chicken or rabbit, snails, beans and saffron, rosemary and lemon.  Seafood paella simply replaces the meat with seafood and omits the beans and green veg.  Mixed paella (my favourite)  is a free-style combination of all, which this recipe certainly is.

Luxury Spicy Paella

Serves 4

250g spicy sausage, cut into big slices
3 tbsp olive oil
4 - 5 chicken legs, large chunks off the bone
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large red onion, chopped
1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
1 green pepper, cut into strips
250g rice/paella rice
750ml chicken stock, home-made is best
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
A good pinch of Saffron
10 ripe small Rosa tomatoes,halved
200g prawns, out of shell in big chunks
1 tin smoked mussels, with sauce
4 crab claws
100g frozen peas
100ml cream

Heat a big flat wide casserole dish.
Fry sausage until brown all over, remove and put aside.
Add oil and fry chicken until golden, remove and put aside.
Add garlic, onions, peppers, and fry until golden.
Stir in rice and cook until pale gold in colour.
Pour in half stock, cayenne pepper, salt, saffron and tomatoes and bring to the boil.
Add sausage, chicken, prawns, mussels and crab claws.
Cover and cook for 30 min carefully, stirring regularly adding more stock if necessary.
3 min before cooking time, remove lid, add peas and cream and stir well, adjust seasoning.
Allow to stand for 5min and serve

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Chicken Thighs with Honey

And just when you thought you have done it all when it comes to cooking chicken, along comes another GREAT recipe to try, and this is no exception!

This is not your typical sweet and sour recipe that offers death-by-sour and tastes like a sauce out of a bottle from your local supermarket.  It is well balanced with low acidity and sweetness, allowing the natural flavours of the chicken to come out, so I don't even call it a sweet and sour chicken, which it is in essence.

I love to cook with chicken thighs, they punch flavour and are juicy, but you can also use legs if you prefer. I also tend to remove the skin, as we are pretty much trying to keep an eye on the waistline. Besides, the saying goes, "you are what you eat" and I don't feel like being skin right now.

Easy to prepare, this recipe is ideal for a quick mid-week dinner with a side salad.

Chicken Thighs with Honey

Serves 2 

500g chicken thighs, no skin
2 cloves garlic, small chop
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp butter

Preheat over to 220'C.  Pat chicken dry with kitchen towel and then toss with garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan saute onions for 5 min in a little oil to caramelise.  Add wine, bay leaf, cinnamon and a pinch of salt and cook for a 15 min until onions are most and liquid has evaporated.  Remove the bay leaf and cinnamon stick.  Mix in the honey and butter and stir through.

Place chicken in an oven proof dish and spoon onion mixture over it making sure all is covered well. Bake for about 25 min or until no longer pink and onions have beautifully caramelised.

Enjoy as always ...
~   Michelle ~

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Italian Tangerine Tart

Mandarin, Satsuma, Tangerine or Naartjie, call it what you like, this is a super-easy versatile fruit tart that is gooey and sticky and is just awesome!

As a South African I call this fruit I am using a naartjie which is a word used in South African English that originated from the Tamil word nartei meaning citrus.  It is also known as Citrus unshiu (a seedless and easy-peeling citrus) commonly referred to as a hardy mandarin, satsuma mandarin, satsuma orange, Christmas orange or a tangerine.

This is a fantastic easy dessert to make, especially if you are dealing with a crowd.  It can be made the night before and any fruit can be used... plumbs, nectarines and even apricots work really well. Just make sure you use a fleshy fruit - so no to apples - and one with no seeds in them.  It works well in individual ramekins as well - just adjust your cooking time.  

This recipes calls for a little alcohol which draws the wonderful juices out of the fruit.  I like to use a Tennessee Honey Whiskey as I love its smokey flavour.  Feel free to use a sweet sherry or a fruit liquor, both work just as well.  

Italian Tangerine Tart

Serves 6

400g tangerines, peeled & segmented
2 Tbsp custard powder
1 Tbsp Tennessee Honey Whiskey
1 3/4 cups sugar
125g butter (room temperature)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 170'c and butter a pie dish .

In a large bowl mix tangerines, custard powder, whiskey and 3/4 cups of the sugar and stir well. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes for the sugar and alcohol to draw.

In a separate bowl cream the butter and remaining sugar until fluffy.  In another bowl combine flour, cinnamon, salt & baking powder.  With the mixer on slow, slowly add the dry ingredients until small breadcrumbs have been formed. Add a tablespoon of cold water and beat for another 30 seconds to form larger, moist breadcrumbs.

Set aside 1 cup of the breadcrumbs.  Tip the remaining crumbs into the pie dish and lightly pat the dough evenly on the bottom and a little way up the side.  You are looking at about 1cm thick. Arrange the fruit in a circular pattern on top of the base and drizzle any fruit liquid that has drawn back over the fruit.  Sprinkle remaining crumbs evenly over the top.  Bake for 55 minutes until the fruit is cooked and bubbling.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Roasted Butternut & Apple Soup

The big surprise with this delicious soup is it is actually a detox soup piled with loads of healthy ingredients and can be enjoyed hot or cold.

Who doesn't love a hearty butternut or pumpkin soup when the rain sets it and temps start dropping. The secret in this recipe - besides the apples - is the butternut that is roasted in the oven.  This allows for it to caramelise which really brings out that lovely sweet flavour.

When choosing your apples, stay away from Grammy Smith as they are really tart and although we want a little acidity to cut through the sweetness of the butternut, they can be too strong.  I like to use Gala or even Honeycrisp apples which offer a milder flavour.

The chilli here is optional, but to be honest with you, it does do wonders and again, cuts through that overall sweetness of the soup... and is beneficial for detox.

Enjoy with a little country farm-style bread
~  Michelle ~

Roasted Butternut & Apple Soup

1.4kg butternut squash
1 large onion, quartered
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large sweet apples (Gala/Honeycrisp) inch cubed, skin on
225g shiitake mushrooms, halved
1 cup celery, chopped
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups apple juice
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chilli (optional)

Preheat oven to 220'c.  In a large bowl mix butternut, onion and 1/2 of the oil.  Toss well and bake on a baking tray for approx 40 min until squash is tender.  Meanwhile mix apples, mushrooms and remaining oil on a second tray and bake for 15 min until apples are tender.

In a large pot add celery, roasted veg from the two baking trays, chicken stock, apple juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and simmer for 30 min.  Allow to cool.  In batches blend until smooth in a foo processor.

Finally, simmer for a further 5 min and adjust the consistency if needs be with a little more apple juice.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Pan-Fried Pepper Rump Steak

I believe that the best steaks are served at home, and this is no exception as it is super tender and has an awesome brandy and cream sauce.  

Being a South African, for us it is all about the meat - and pretty much 5 times a week of it!  It might be raining and really cold outside, but that is no excuse for a great steak tonight!  All we need to do is say goodbye to the gas BBQ charred option, and hello to a pan-fry creamy sauce one.  No problem!
This is one of my favourite fast-too dinners where the focus is on a great rump steak. In the British and Commonwealth English, 'rump steak' is commonly called a 'sirloin' in American English. However British 'sirloin' is called 'porterhouse' by Americans.  All very complicated, but I am sure you will figure it out.  You can also use a rib-eye if you like, just cut back on the cooking time by a minute each side.

This recipe is made for one serving of 300g - suitable for one person if you love steak as much as we do.  I served it traditionally with an oven-baked African (Sweet) potato.

~ Michelle ~

Pan-Fried Pepper Rump Steak

300g Rump Steak, 1/2 inch thick
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
5 Tbsp good brandy
125ml lite cream

Pre-heat the oven to 180'C.  Generously smear mustard on both sides of the steak along with salt & pepper.  Allow seasoned steak to rest and draw at room temperature for 15 min.

Heat oil in an oven proof skillet and sear steak on each side for a max of 2 - 3 min, pending how you like your it.   Add brandy a cook alcohol off for a further 1 min.  Add the cream and whirl in the pan around the steak for a few seconds.

Place the skillet in the pre heated oven and cook for a further 2 min (no longer).  Remove from the oven and cover with aluminium foil and allow to rest for 5 min.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Caramelized Mixed Bell Pepper Bruschetta

These crunchy, sweet and tart open bruschetta are delicious anytime as a snack or casual hors d'oeuvre along with some cocktails.

If you cannot find Italian ham, feel free to use a Spanish Serrano ham or similar.  The key is it needs to have a smokey flavour and above all ... be cut extremely thin, almost see-through.  I just love the way the sweetness of the peppers work with the sharpness in the Parmesan, along with the smokey flavour that lingers on the palette.

Garlic or less garlic is the question?  Smearing hot toasted bread with fresh garlic carries a HUGE punch of flavour.  If you are not too keen on garlic, then go easy on the smear.  Believe me, the lightest of garlic rub allows you to taste its distinctive flavour.

This is one of my all-time go-to favourites!

~ Michelle ~

Caramelized Mixed Bell Pepper Bruschetta

Serves 2 - 4

2 Tbsp good olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp fresh basil, finely slithered
Salt & pepper to taste
1 baguette
2 cloves garlic peeled and halved
8 slices smoked Italian ham
Parmesan, shaved
Dill for garnish

Heat olive oil in a saute pan on a medium heat.  Add peppers and onion, and cook until soft.  This should take about 8 - 10 minutes.  Sprinkle peppers with sugar and cook for a further 2 minutes to caramelize.  Stir in basil and season generously with salt & pepper.

Slice baguette into 1 inch thick slices on the diagonal and brush lightly with some olive oil.  Place evenly on a baking tray and bake in a 180'c oven for 5 minutes until  lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and whilst still hot, rub one side of the toasted bread with garlic.

Now to dress ... top each slice of bread with a piece of ham, warm pepper mix and a generous amount of shaved Parmesan.  Drizzle the top with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a little fresh dill.  Serve immediately.


Friday, 31 October 2014

Salmon Vodka Tagliatelle

This is a perfect Friday easy meal.  Pasta off the pantry shelf, smoked salmon off-cuts and few other bits and pieces = gourmet food made at home!

There are so many variant recipes for this tasty dish with a wide range of pastas being used.  I love tagliatelle as it has a porous and rough texture which really sucks up the creamy sauce and richness of the egg yolk.  Tagliatelle is basically egg pasta - ratio 1 egg to 100g flour if you keen to make your own - and is a long flat pasta and a similar shape to that of fettuccine.  

Pasta offers great health benefits including providing glucose, a crucial fuel for the brain and muscles. It is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates which provide a slow release of energy.  Unlike simple sugars that offer a quick, and fleeting boost of energy, pasta helps sustain energy.

I generally work a 150g - 200g portion per person, which I find is more than enough, with no leftovers.

Salmon Vodka Tagliatelle 

Serves 2

  • 400 g Tagliatelle
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • ½ white onion, grated
  • 1 Tbsp good tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • 1 Tbsp good tomato sauce 
  • 1 cup single cream 
  • 180g smoked salmon, cut into strips 
  • Salt & pepper 
  • 1 egg yolk 
  • 2 Tbsp chives, thinly sliced
In a pot of salted water add a dash of olive oil and cook the pasta as per instructions on the packet.

In a large pan melt the butter and then add the onion and cook on medium until they have softened. Add the vodka and cook for a further 1 minute to burn off the alcohol.  Now add the tomato sauce and cream and simmer, still on a medium heat for 5 min.  Lastly, stir in the salmon slithers and season with a little salt and loads of fresh cracked black pepper.  Remove sauce from the heat.

When the pasta is ready, drain and ADD TO THE PAN - not the other way around.  Still off the heat, add the egg yolk and stir through to coat the pasta.

Return the pan and pasta to the stove and warm through on a low heat.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Butternut, Chicken & Tarragon Tart

A tart, quiche call it what you like, is seriously the easiest thing to whip up midweek for dinner. The additional bonus is ... you get to use fridge leftovers!

Seriously, yes I am sorry to bring you ANOTHER quiche recipe, although I have labelled this one a tart - which is a red herring, hoping you wouldn't notice.  Officially classified as a quiche, the 3 : 1 formula applies - that is 3 eggs to 1 cup dairy or in this case a little more dairy to make it luxe.

I always use a store-bought roasted chicken, as I don't see the point in doing it yourself midweek when the stores do a fantastic rotisserie effort for you.  You can use any leftover veg in your fridge, just think about the flavours.  Some veg are more bland than others and need a little pop of something - in this case Piri Piri as we call it in South Africa - AKA HOT CHILLI POWDER to everyone else.  

Butternut, Chicken & Tarragon Tart

Serves 4 - 6

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1/2 cup butter melted
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

  • 100 butternut, small dice
  • 200g goat's cheese feta
  • 200g chicken, store-bought cooked and diced
  • 3 eggs
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 1 tsp English mustard powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 tsp dried French Tarragon
  • Pinch Piri piri / Chilli powder

Heat oven to 160'C.

Add crust ingredients into a food processor and whizz for 30 seconds until pea-like crumbs are formed.  Grease a pie dish before adding the crumble.  Using the back of a spoon, press crumble in the base and up the sides firmly.  Bake as is for 10 minutes and allow to cool before adding any filling.

Microwave diced butternut for 2 minutes to get cooking process started.  Crumble feta onto cooled base, adding chicken thereafter and finally butternut.

To make custard simply mix eggs, cream cheese, mustard, milk, cream, tarragon and piri piri.  Pour over the filling in the base and bake 42 min until golden brown.  Allow to cool to room temp before serving.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

This is my kind of cake, not only is it delicious and moist, but it only has 3 ingredients.

Catching up on my Master Chef Australia series, food critic Matt Preston whipped up this little beast in a contestant Master Class.  I could not believe how it turned out and had to give it a try.

The results ... nothing but delicious, light and moist.  Not you're usual textured chocolate cake for the obvious reasons, no flour and all the typical ingredients - but more like a mousse.

The secret here is fold, fold and fold.  You need to keep the folding light as not to let all the air out of the eggs.  However, it needs to be folded well so all the Nutella is mixed, otherwise it will weigh and cook to the bottom of the cake.

Happy scoffing

~ Michelle ~ 

(serves 4 - 6)

4 eggs
240g Nutella
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 175’C
Soften Nutella over a double boiler
Beat eggs for 6 min on high in an electric mixer
Add vanilla and a ½ of Nutella to the egg and carefully fold together
Add remaining Nutella and fold, fold and fold
Make sure you take the chocolate off the bottom of the bowl and fold it in
Place in a greased baking tin
Bake for 25 min in the middle of the oven

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Mint Lamb Kofta

Inspired from one of my Greek cookery books and a little Jamie Olivier, here is an awesome quick and delicious meal for the whole family.

Koftas are sometimes made with fish or vegetables, rather than red meat, especially in India, and can be grilled, fried, steamed, poached, baked or marinated and served with a rich spicy sauce.

I personally like to saute them with a little oil in a griddle on the hob.  

I have added two 'secret ingredients' to this recipe, one being mint sauce, which fuses beautifully with the sweet lamb and the second, is some smokey paprika, which adds a punch of flavour.

I serve it up in some wholewheat pita popped in the toaster, slit in the middle and smeared with smooth cream cheese.  Add a bunch of rocket and spring onion in the bottom, then the kofta and another big dollop of cream cheese and there you have it!

(serves 4)

800g lamb mince
2 tsp smoked paprika
4 tsp mint sauce (store-bought)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp chilli oil
Olive oil
1 garlic clove, bruised
60g shelled pistachios
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tbsp runny honey

Using your hands, in a bowl mix mince, paprika, mint sauce, salt, pepper and chilli oil
Divide into 10 portions, using wet hands roll each portion into a fat finger
Add some oil and bruised garlic to a frying pan and allow the garlic flavour to draw for 1 min
Remove garlic
Add kofta fingers to the oil and saute on all sides until nice and brown
When done, drain excess fat
Crush pistachios in a pestle and mortar
Toss nuts, thyme and honey over kofta and swirl around the pan a few times to coat off the heat

Serve in some pita or alongside a traditional Greek salad.

~   Michelle ~

Friday, 24 October 2014

Baked Milk Tart

So when I feel home sick, this is my GO-TO recipe.  It is a traditional South African Milk Tart that can be served hot or cold. It is in essence a milk and custard tart, with loads of cinnamon and is light and fluffy and just stunning!

2 cups flour
125g butter
2 tbsp castor sugar
1 tbsp oil
1 egg
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Preheat over to 200'c
Add all ingredients into a food processor and whizz until a ball is formed
Grease a tart dish  and evenly press the pastry along the bottom and up the sides of the dish
Bake for 15 minutes
Allow to cool

1 Tbsp + 3 cups milk
2 Tbsp castor sugar
1 Tbsp heaped flour
1 Tbsp mazina
1 Tbsp custard powder
1 Tbsp butter, melted
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs, separated
3 cups milk

Mix 1 Tbsp milk with sugar, flour, mazina, custard, butter, salt and vanilla essence to make a paste
Beat egg yolks until fluffy
Beat egg whites until stiff
Heat 3 cups milk in a pot on the stove until almost boiling
Add paste and continually stir to avoid lumps on a medium heat
Stir in egg yolks and stir until custard thickens
Off the heat, add egg whites and stir until smooth
Pour mixture into cooled pastry base
Bake in over at 200'c for 25 minutes
Remove and allow to cool
Sprinkle with a little cinnamon on top

   ~ Michelle ~

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Caramelized Bell Pepper Steak

It's all about meat tonight!  I don't think there it too much that can beat a great piece of grilled steak. It is something we enjoy at least once a week, and tonight is the night.

I tend to use rib-eye, also known as Scotch Fillet or Cowboy Cut as it is both flavourful and tender and perfect for the griddle pan or BBQ.  It is also a really great piece of meat to slow oven roast.

This marinade sounds rather strange as it has fish sauce it in, however it is just one of those things that works. Do remember that Soy sauce is salty, so I tend not to add extra salt when grilling.

Caramelizing the bell peppers is so easy and much better than buying store-bought as you can add more or less sugar (or sweetener powder if you prefer) and even a punch of fresh chilli to give it some kick.

Suitable for 2 meat lovers.

1 tsp fish sauce
3 tsp Soy sauce
1 tsp brown sauce / or HP Sauce
2 x 250g thick Rib-Eye steak
Olive oil
1/2 red pepper, seeded and sliced length ways
1/2 yellow pepper, seeded and sliced length ways 
1/2 white onion, sliced length ways
1 Tbsp sugar
Salt & pepper to taste
30ml Brandy
Knob of butter
Parmesan, shaved for garnish

Mix fish sauce, soy and brown sauce in a shallow dish and add steaks
Marinade for at least 30 min at room temperature turning a few times

Pre-heat oven at 180'C
Heat 2 Tbsp oil on medium heat in a pan
Add peppers and onion and cook for about 8 min until soft
Add sugar and cook for a further 5 min to caramelize
Season with a little salt & pepper

Heat a little oil in an oven proof skillet and sear steak on each side for 3 min (no more)
Add brandy a cook alcohol off for 1 min
Place skillet in the oven and grill for a further 2 min - 3 min (pending how you like it)
Remove from oven and add a dollop of butter on each steak
Cover skillet with aluminium foil and allow to rest for 5 min
Serve with roasted peppers and shaved Parmesan 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Classic Quiche Lorraine

It's Sunday ... keeping it classic and French and what better way to celebrate than with a good old Quiche Lorraine?

This quiche is a savoury flan that originated in the area of Lorraine in France.  It's a good basic recipe that works really well with a light salad on the side.

The pastry is really easy to make - and making our own makes all the difference - trust me! It is blind baked which means it can be stored for up to a week in a airtight container.  It is best freshly made but can be frozen as well.  Not suitable to microwave ... pastry goes all soggy and horrid.

Suitable for 4 foodie lovers

1 3/4 cups flour
155g butter
1 egg yolk
2 tsp lemon juice
A little water if necessary

1 onion, finely chopped
200g smokey bacon, chopped
3 eggs
300ml cream
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp dried tarragon
1 tsp English mustard powder
3/4 cup tasty strong cheddar cheese
1/4 fresh chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 180'c
Add flour, butter, egg yolk and lemon juice to a food processor
Whizz to combine, adding a little extra water if it looks too powdery
Remove from processor, roll in a ball and cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 min
After 30 min, roll pastry on a floured surface a little larger than your flan dish
Using the rolling pin, carefully lift and place over dish, do not stretch the pastry
Roll over the top with rolling pin to cut pastry
Line with some baking paper and add rice or beans to cover
Bind bake for 10 min
Remove from oven as well as baking paper and cool

For the filling
Cook onion  and bacon in a frying pan until soft and brown
In a separate bowl mix eggs, cream , milk, mustard, tarragon and parsley with a whisk
Pour into pastry shell and cook for 35 min
Stand for 5 min before serving

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Creamy Cauliflower Smoked Bacon Soup

Fall is here .. temps have dropped overnight and a cold wind is howling.  Dinner tonight ... hearty soup with a farm-style Country Loaf and a little salted butter - YUM!

Many of you might think cauliflower is boring and pretty tasteless.  Right?  Well not in this recipe. The volume is turned up with some smokey bacon and smoked paprika.

Here are a few interesting facts on cauliflower:

  • They came into being back in the 16th century and were considered 'honourable' in the garden because of their delicacy.
  • They are available in 4 colours ... white (most common), orange (high in vitamin A and found in Canada), green (available in US and Europe and is also known as broccoflower) and finally purple (which carries an antioxidant that is also found in red cabbage and red wine).
  • They are good for you as they are low in fat, low in carbs but high in dietary fibre.
I have a policy when making soup ... make enough to freeze a whole lot. 
This recipe makes about 4 litres in total


300g smokey bacon, diced
2 large yellow onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups leeks, chopped white and green parts
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 big head of cauliflower, chopped
6 cups chicken stock (pref homemade)
Bunch of fresh thyme
2 cups cream
Salt & pepper to taste

Crisp bacon in a little oil on medium heat in a Dutch oven (pot with tight fitting lid)
Remove bacon and drain on kitchen towel
Add onions, garlic, leeks and paprika to the same pot and sweat for a few minutes in the bacon fat
Once soft, add cauliflower and turn heat up
Once cauliflower has softened add stock and thyme and bring to the boil
Lower heat and simmer for 45 min
Remove thyme stems and carefully add to a blender and whizz until smooth
Return to pot, add cream, salt & pepper and heat through

Serve with a little reserved crispy bacon on top

Friday, 10 October 2014

Green Tea Salmon

Salmon has to be one of THE most delicious and popular fresh water fish around.  Did you know it is classified as an 'oily fish' which makes it a healthy choice due to its high protein and omega 3-fatty acids - not forgetting high levels of vitamin D?

This is a really simple and easy recipe.  It is all about soft flavours that come from the green tea meeting the lovely smoky taste of the paprika.  This is a definite winner at any dinner party.

I usually work on 200g per person as the fish is rich, especially if you serve it with some oriental noodles or lemon and coconut milk rice on the side.

Suitable for 4 foodie lovers

400g salmon fillet, skin on
Olive oil
2 lemon green tea, tea bags
1 pinch smoked paprika (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Remove salmon from packing and pat dry with some kitchen  town
Cut open tea bags and mix tea with paprika, salt and pepper and mix well
Drizzle a little oil over the fish to coat
Add 1 tsp of herb mix to each fillet, flesh side and lightly rub to coat
Stand salmon at room temperature for at least 1/2 hour to draw
Pre heat oven to 180'c
Heat a skillet on the stove to hot
Add fish, meat side down and cook for 1 minute
Carefully flip and cook on the other side for 1 min
Pop into the pre heated oven and cook for a further 3 - 4 minutes - no longer!
Remove from oven, cover with aluminium foil and stand for 5 min before serving

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Chunky Avocado Dip

Guacamole originated in Mexico and is basically an avocado-based dip.  It is perfect when you are needing to cater for vegetarians and it works well when served with a few corn chips on the side.

Here are 4 tips to remember when making this party favourite.

  1. Start ripe - you need ripe avocado.  When buying, always make sure that the 'button' or brown stem piece is still in the avo as this acts as a seal against letting air into it.  Also when the bulbous end gives way to firm pressure, then it is ready to use.
  2. Go chunky - apart from being preferred to that of  baby food, it looks like the real deal being home-made.
  3. Punch flavour - start with a good base and then add what takes your fancy ... 
  4. Stay green - you cannot stop guacamole from turning brown but you can slow it down.  Always add lemon or lime juice as soon as you have removed the flesh from its shell.  Also keep it cold until the very end when serving.

Suitable for 4 foodies lovers

2 ripe avocados
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
8 dashes hot sauce
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 med garlic glove, minced
2 tbsp dill, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped

Cut avos in half.
Remove pip and take flesh out of the skin.
Immediately add lemon juice, hot sauce, mustard, onion, garlic, dill, salt and pepper.
Using a sharp pairing knife, slice through avo making chunks.
Add tomatoes and mix well.
Adjust seasoning.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Creamed Zucchini Soup

The weather has really turned today in the UK and I am nursing my hubby who has a little 'man flu". What better time to whip up a little hearty soup, served with a country fresh loaf to get rid of the sniffles.

Zucchini is one of those vegetables that never seems to make it to centre stage ... until now.  This soup is really great hot or cold and is low in calories approx. 15 calories per 100g,  It also has healthy levels of folate for us ladies, potassium and vitamin A. 

Zucchini or courgette, is a summer squash and in a culinary context is treated as a vegetable and is usually presented in a savoury dish or accompaniment, however botanically, it is a fruit.

The piece de resistance to this soup is the floating fresh herb crostini.  You do need to use fresh herbs and just before serving, float the crostini on top of the soup. Any herbs can be used,  I really like parsley, tarragon and chives.  

This is suitable for 4 foodie lovers

1 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 zucchini, sliced
4 cups chicken stock (home-made pref.)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp butter
4 tbsp cream

Heat oil in a pot over high heat

Add onions, garlic and saute for 4 min
Add zucchini, stock. salt and paprika and bring to the boil
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25 min until zucchini is very tender
Stand for 5 minutes
Whizz in a blender until smooth
Add butter and cream and stir through
Keep warm until serving

Bread and herbs:
8 slices french bread (inch thick sliced)
Cooking spray
1 clove garlic, halved
1/2 cup fresh parsley, rough chop
1/1/2 tbsp fresh tarragon, rough chop
1/1/2 tbsp chives, chopped
2 tsp Parmesan, grated
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Pinch salt
Pinch pepper

Preheat oven to 200'C
Place bread, single layer on a baking sheet
Coat bread with cooking spray and bake for 5 min
Rub bread with pieces of cut garlic
Mix parsley, tarragon, chives and Parmesan with 1 tsp oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper

Spread herb mix over slices of bread and float on top of each bowl of soup.  Serve immediately

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Welsh Rarebit Breakfast in Bed

Here is a Sunday night 'I don't feel like cooking' option.  Ever heard of breakfast for dinner? Sounds interesting?   How about some eggs, cold cuts, cheese and some lightly toasted bread?

Gourmet Welsh Rarebit is on the room service menu for tonight.  This is an old classic form Jamie Oliver, with a few tweaks over the years.

Suitable for 2 foodie lovers

4 slices of your favourite bread, toasted
2 tbsp herb cream cheese
4 slices cold cut meat (country ham/salami/Parma ham)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp paprika (smoked is best)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup strong cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 spring onion, finely chopped
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Pre heat broiler (aka oven grill)
Toast bread in a toaster to your liking and allow to cool
Spread 2 slices of toast on one side with cream cheese
Add cold cut meat to each slice and add another toasted bread on top to make 2 sandwiches
Place on a lightly greased baking tray
In a bowl whisk with a fork eggs, paprika, salt, pepper, cheese, spring onion and balsamic vinegar
Spoon egg mix evenly over toast
Place under broiler in the middle of the oven and bake for 5 min until golden brown
Remove from oven, garnish and serve immediately

Enjoy the last day of weekend
          ~ Michelle ~ 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Homemade Beef Burgers

Enough of the fancy food, let's get back to the good old basics, and what could be more basic than the humble REAL homemade hamburger!

What makes this a REAL homemade burger you ask?
I don't use bought beef mince or store-bought ready-made patties, as I have no idea what has been added to the mix.  I literally make my own from a solid piece of sirloin, and add a little bacon for the fatty portion.

It sounds complicated but it is so easy as I whizz everything up in a food processor - no fuss, no mess!  Two important points to remember when making the BEST homemade burgers:

  1. You need to season well - think of it as an input, output system. If you don't put it in, you aren't gonna get that burst of flavour out.
  2. Do not over process the meat and handle it as little as possible.  You don't want the proteins to start breaking down as they will become tough.
What you place on the buns is up to you.  I like to keep it simple.  Lettuce, onion and of course cheese (life is not life without cheese) with a little red onion chutney. 

This is suitable for 2 very hungry foodie lovers (go big or go home)

500g sirloin steak
100g bacon bits
1 egg
3 Tbsp steak sauce or HP or brown sauce
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp onion flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 big burger buns

Add everything - apart from the buns - in a food processor
PULSE 5 times, give or take until the meat is just cut up.  Do not make porridge ...
Divide mix into 2 portions and lightly tap into 2 burger rounds
Remember, don't squeeze or squash them - work lightly like you are handling cracked eggs!
Grill, BBQ or dry-fry to your liking to a medium state
Remove and wrap in foil and stand for 5 min before dressing the buns

Yum .. enjoy and remember to eatloveplaywithfood
          ~Michelle ~

Friday, 26 September 2014

Jack Daniel's, Apricot & Cinnamon Cake

There is no better smell than something being baked with cinnamon in your kitchen.  It's a warm and comforting familiarity that makes a house a real home.

This particular cake is one of our favourites, which we usually enjoy over the Festive Season as it is made with Jack Daniels' Whiskey, Cinnamon and Apricots - comfort at its best!

You don't have to use whiskey and can easily substitute it with some orange or apple juice.

Also feel free to adjust the icing consistency according to your preference.  If it is too runny for you, add more icing sugar a little at a time to get the right texture for you.

I have also used this recipe for cupcakes - same everything, just keep an eye on your cooking time.  Cut it down by more than half. Remember the golden rule ... if you can smell them, they are done!

200g dried apricots, roughly chopped
225g flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
200g brown sugar
3 large eggs
100ml olive oil (make it a good one)
100ml natural yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp Jack Daniel's Whiskey

Place apricots in a bowl and cover with boiling water, allow to rest for 20 min
Heat oven to 180'C
Grease a 20cm round cake tin with a loose bottom
Mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl
In a jug mix eggs, olive oil, yogurt, vanilla and whiskey
Pour wet ingredients into dry ones and mix until smooth.  Do not over mix
Drain apricots and stir into cake mix
Pour into baking tin
Bake for 50 min or until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.

140g cream cheese
80g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
1 tsp Jack Daniel's Whiskey

Mix all ingredients together with an electric hand whisk until smooth.
Spread generously over top of cake and sprinkle with some cinnamon.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Banana, Walnut & Ginger Muffins

I have tried so many muffin recipes and have never really found one I have liked up until now.  I have specifically been looking for a moist, fairly loose bake but with a high volume of health and flavour.

We are keeping an eye on what we eat and these have proved to be a great option for breakfast.   They are awesome served with some fresh assorted berries and a drizzle of honey.  If your waste-line is not a problem ...  a thick slice of Camembert cheese works well before you drizzle the honey.

IF YOU CAN ... try and use unprocessed wheat bran, which is the outer layer of the wheat kernel removed during milling.  It is also known as "miller's bran" and can be found in the baking section of your local store.  Try not to substitute bran cereal in this recipe if you can!  Bottom line, it is so much better for you and your digestive system.

2 eggs
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 medium bananas, mashed
1 cup low fat Greek yoghurt
1 cup unprocessed wheat bran
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup walnuts, rough chop

Preheat over to 200'C (400'F)
Whisk eggs and sugar in a medium bowl
Add bananas, yoghurt, wheat bran, oil, vanilla and mix
In a large separate bowl mix whole-wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt
Make a well in dry ingredients and add wet ingredients, stirring with a rubber spatula to combine
Stir in walnuts
Scoop batter into a prepared muffin cups - make them full
Sprinkle with more walnuts if you like (optional)
Bake for 17 min
Check they are cooked by inserting a sharp knife - they are done when knife comes out clean
Allow to cool for 5 min before removing them from muffin pan

Friday, 19 September 2014

Caesar Salad

Who doesn't love a good chicken salad? Although rather plain, the secret is all in the dressing with the key ingredient being the anchovy and good olive oil.

Did you know that anchovies are usually classified as an oily fish? Always use salted anchovies that are in oil rather, to get maximum flavour rather than those that are pickled in vinegar -  which is more common in Spanish dishes - and are mild in flavour.

Now talking olive oil ... you have 2 choices.  

  1. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil - which comes from the virgin oil production only and is of the higher quality giving you a superior taste with some fruitiness to it.   
  2. Virgin Olive Oil - comes from virgin oil production as well but with has slightly lower quantities of free acidity but also offers a good taste
Suitable for 2 foodie lovers ...

6 chicken legs
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pkt bacon, smoked
Fresh rosemary
Cos (Romaine) lettuce
Croutons (store-bought)
Parmesan, shaved

Turn oven on to 200'C
Rub chicken legs with salt, pepper and your favourite spice
Place on a baking sheet
Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic
Drape bacon strips over the legs (this allows the bacon fat to drip into the legs and keeps them moist)
Place rosemary on top and drizzle again with some olive oil
Bake one shelf up from the middle for 20 min or until chicken is tender and bacon is crispy.
Pull lettuce roughly apart and place in a bowl with lots of croutons
Tear bacon strips and pieces of chicken (keep them chunky) and add on top of the salad. 

Dressing made in a bottle: 
Mix 1/2 clove minced garlic, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, 1 tbsp natural yoghurt and 4 anchovies minced (essential) with a 3:1 ratio olive oil to fresh lemon juice in a bottle. Add lid and shake it up like you have never shaken anything before.  

Add dressing to the salad, mix through WITH YOUR HANDS to coat well 
Add shaved Parmesan on top and serve immediately

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Smoked Salmon & Blank Ink Pasta

This sounds far more glamorous that what it actually is.  It is all about simple, fresh ingredients and if you don't have black ink pasta, normal pasta is just as good.  The liquorice pasta colour is a great contrast to the salmon but carries little flavour actually.  

250g pasta of your choice
8 Tbsp milk
2 tsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
200g light Philadelphia cheese
180g smoked salmon, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
Splash of hot sauce / Tabasco sauce

Cook pasta as per instructions on the packet
Warm milk in a saucepan on medium heat
Add dill, mustard and cheese and stir until melted
Stir in slithers of salmon, lemon juice, salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste
Strain pasta and whilst still hot, pour sauce over and toss to coat

Serve with fresh dill and shaved Parmesan cheese
Bon appetite! and enjoy the Sunday evening movie ... wherever you are!

          ~ Michelle ~