Forever Summer with Nigella Lawson

Forever Summer? Now wouldn’t that just be the ticket? As I look out of my kitchen window at a cold, wet and rainy landscape I can’t help thinking we have been just a little bit short-changed here in the UK when it comes to summer.  I was lucky enough to escape to Ibiza for a week in August which was wonderful, even though we were blessed with rain and thunderstorms when we were there. But it wouldn’t be a British Bank Holiday if it wasn’t raining would it?

When I came back from Ibiza I was determined to hold on to the concept of summer.  I am definitely a Spring and Summer person. I have much more energy and get up and go when the sun is out. To me, summer is a time when I can open up the patio doors, sit out with a drink and my cross stitch and to relax.  Being a teacher in my day, this relaxation is very important to me in the school holidays when I’m not rushing around after my teenagers.  To me, summer is also a time when you can eat simple but delicious food or even get the BBQ out. Though to be honest we have only had about 3 BBQs this year. The last one was nearly cancelled as the heavens opened when my husband pulled the BBQ out and got it set up!

Another thing I tend to do when I have more time is to cook from recipe books I’ve bought but not had time to do anything with. I love Nigella and use her recipes a lot but there’s one book on my shelf of hers that I’ve hardly used.  To be honest it’s my brother’s book which I’m borrowing off him. He lives in Canada but he’d left two of his Nigella books at my mum’s house! So Paul if you’re reading this I hope you don’t mind, I’m looking after them for you and making good use of them!  One of the books is Nigella’s “Forever Summer” and upon reading it you are immediately transported into a world of dinners and BBQs on a terrace, with the blazing sun pouring down as you chat and sip on a delicious cocktail.  Instead I’m thinking it’s more like bangers and mash weather than bangers on the BBQ here.

But it is a shame that the UK climate and all our wishes of a gorgeous hot summer were dampened down this year. I’m determined to still enjoy some yummy food though.  Over the last few days I have enjoyed testing out a couple of the recipes from Forever Summer in the vain hope that we might get some better weather to take us into September.

Last weekend we had a quiet Bank Holiday weekend at home and when it is like this you want to enjoy good food and great company of family and friends.  For Sunday I attempted some Mint Chocolate Mousse which is one of the delicious dessert recipes in Forever Summer.  Nigella says it “tastes best when made with the best quality mint chocolate”. I tend to use Lindt Mint Chocolate Intense bars as they have mint pieces and oil in it rather than a soft fondant. But when I was out meeting my friend for coffee we went to a local farm shop which didn’t sell any mint chocolate bars. There were some other gorgeous ones to choose from but I had my heart set on a mint mousse.  In the end I bought good quality chocolate buttons and added some peppermint extract that I already had at home.

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I bought two large packets of Montzenuma organic dark chocolate buttons from a local farm shop. They were absolutely gorgeous. To make them minty flavour I added a couple of drops of natural peppermint extract bought from Lakeland.

I was a bit nervous about making chocolate mousse as it involves separating eggs which I always muck up. Then I had to whisk egg whites.  I managed though and the mousse turned out much better than expected.  Shared out equally and spooned into rather retro looking sundae dishes, this pudding turned out to be a lovely decadent treat.

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The chocolate mousse made five large dishes full. Served in my late mother-in-law’s sundae dishes which was a great excuse to get them out of the cupboard! The mousse was filling, creamy and rich.

For Bank Holiday Monday I wanted to create a Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake.  The picture in the book showed a mouthwatering sandwich cake.  Each layer had the sponge cake and was then topped with a layer of chewy meringue and finished off with a sprinkling of flaked almonds.  Well, it serves me right for not reading the recipe right.  I did separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl.  But that’s where it ended.  Instead of keeping the meringue separate, I wasn’t concentrating and threw the egg whites in with the rest of the sponge.  That wasn’t meant to happen! So in the end I was left with a flatter version of a Victoria Sponge!  I didn’t have any flaked almonds in either, so I sprinkled on some icing sugar hoping that it might make the cake half decent!  We were far too full up after our gammon. and pineapple so the cake went in the fridge to eat during the week.  It tasted ok and a small slice was very welcome when I got in from work absolutely exhausted after a long day.

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Here is my bungled attempt at the Strawberry Meringue and Cream Cake in Nigella’s Forever Summer book. As you can see it looks as flat as a biscuit and no sight of any meringues!

For our Bank Holiday dinner I cooked a gammon joint.  I usually boil gammon in a large pot on my hob so it takes all the salt out of it.  This time I tried it in my slow cooker which didn’t turn out too well.  It was still very salty and the meat instead of coming out in slices, fell apart like pulled pork!  I attempted to make the accompanying pineapple salsa.  None of my family liked it though, which was disappointing.

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We tried some Gammon with Pineapple last weekend for the Monday Bank Holiday. It didn’t turn out how it should have done as I tried cooking it in my slow cooker. The pineapple salsa wasn’t my cup of tea either!

For me, summer conjures up beautiful coloured and tasty salads.  One of my favourite salads is a well made Greek Salad so I was keen to try the version in Nigella’s book.  Her version includes fennel though which I can’t stand as I don’t like anything with an aniseed flavour.  I left it out.  This version also includes some finely sliced red onion which was marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar and sprinkled with black pepper.  The salad was absolutely delicious, the feta cheese and olives were just delicious, a mixture of creaminess and saltiness in the same dish.

Nigella's Ultimate Greek Salad, was delicious as a side with roast chicken and roasted Mediterranean vegetables.
Nigella’s Ultimate Greek Salad, was delicious as a side with roast chicken and roasted Mediterranean vegetables.

I have really enjoyed cooking from Forever Summer over the past few days. There are a lot of recipes in the book which my family won’t touch with a bargepole but I’m keen to dip in and out of it.  Let’s hope we have a decent summer next year!

Love Sam xx

 

Cheese? Yes Please! Cooking with Pilgrim’s Choice Cheddar.

A couple of weeks back I was contacted by Pilgrim’s Choice to see if I would be interested in trying out some of their cheeses and to use them in my baking and cooking.  I was only too happy to agree as we love eating and cooking with cheese in our house.

So I was sent a voucher for two large packs of cheese which I took along to my local Sainsbury’s when I was doing my weekly shop and chose two sorts of cheddar. To be honest this was the only variety of Pilgrim’s Choice cheese available in my nearest Sainsburys but this was perfect to fit around what I would be able to cook and use with my family.  It was great to think about how I could use the cheese.  I tried to think of as many different ways of using it as possible.  Also, I love to see how far I can make products go using a minimum of waste or money.  Many thanks to Pilgrim’s Choice for giving me the opportunity to try out their cheese.  I know there are many more varieties to taste which I do hope to try out in the future!

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Although I was keen to get started, it wasn’t until the following weekend that I actually got started on my “Cheesy Challenge”.  I was very busy at work and it was very tempting to hack into the cheese and just use it for sandwiches.  Though you can’t beat a gorgeous mature cheddar and pickle sandwich! But that wasn’t the point, I had to think and be creative.  My friends on Facebook and Twitter came up with some great suggestions and my mouth started watering, especially at the thought of baking cheese scones!

Here is what I did get round to cooking with my delicious Pilgrim’s Choice cheese:

One Sunday lunch we had a large bacon, leek and cheese quiche served with the mature Pilgrim’s Choice cheddar.  This had new potatoes and salad with it.  The following day we sneaked the leftovers for lunch. I adapted Holly Bell’s “Man Quiche” recipe from her fabulous book “Recipes From A Normal Mum”,

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To make a Bacon, Leek and Cheddar version of Holly Bell’s Man Quiche I grated some Pilgrim’s Choice mature cheddar and added it to the quiche filling. This went really well with the leeks, bacon, tarragon and double cream.
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The uncooked “Man Quiche” about to go into the oven to be baked.
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The cooked Man Quiche.

I love using cheese as part of a snacky lunch on a cold winter’s day.  I was on my own one Saturday lunchtime and wanted something comforting, yet filling. I had some leeks still to use up after the quiche and knew they went well with cheese so thought I’d try and put them in my cheese on toast lunch.

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I softened some leeks using some Frylight spray in a small saucepan.
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I grated some Lighter Pilgrim’s choice cheese and added it to a beaten egg in a mixing bowl.
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The cheese and leek mixture was spooned onto a couple of pieces of toast and put under the grill to melt.
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The Cheese and leeks on toast was absolutely delicious and kept me warm. It was very filling and I really enjoyed my Saturday lunch.

I was absolutely rubbish at my Home Economics classes at secondary school, such a long time ago back in the 1980s!  But one dish I remember cooking was a very economical Cheese and Potato Pie.  You mixed cooked mashed potato with grated cheese and put it in a dish on top of a layer of baked beans.  This was then put in the oven and cooked until crispy.  I loved this meal and made it a lot when I was single and also as a student as it was so cheap to cook.  I decided to cook it one Wednesday evening as it had been a busy day at work and I didn’t have much left in the fridge.  I cooked it with some gorgeous bacon from the local farm shop and my children absolutely loved it.  My daughter asked me why I didn’t cook the Cheese and Potato Pie more often.  I don’t know why but I need to cook it more often, there were clean plates all round!

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Cooked creamy mashed potato to which I added grated Pilgrim’s Choice lighter cheddar.
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A layer of baked beans was added to the bottom of the pie dish.
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Grated cheese being added to the mashed potato.
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The Cheese and Potato Pie was baked in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the top became all crunchy and crispy.
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The cheese and potato pie served with a couple of rashers of crispy bacon.

My final bake with the Pilgrim’s Choice Mature Cheddar was by making these absolutely massive Cheese Scones. The recipe I used was adapted from one of Paul Hollywood‘s recipes.  It should have been a Cheese and Chive Scone recipe but I added paprika instead of chives and made the scones twice as big as they should have been.  They contained a chopped red onion too and gave the scones a delicious sweet taste to them.  I baked them last Tuesday during half term week for us to have instead of a piece of bread or a roll with some soup at lunchtime.  I discovered that they tasted much better warm, slathered with butter and were at their best when they were totally fresh.  My daughter and I loved them but my son wasn’t so keen on them.

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My enormous Cheddar Cheese and Onion scones based on a Paul Hollywood recipe.
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Cut in half and waiting for some butter to go on top of them. Just delicious!

I was very impressed with the two large packs of Pilgrim’s Choice cheese I used.  The packs were resealable and kept well in my fridge.  I know I will buy more in the future as the large packs were tremendous value and were perfect for my family and our needs.

Happy Cooking!

Love Sam xx

Gordon Rhodes’ Spice Rubs, Crumbs, Stuffings and Sauces.

Last year I discovered the company Gordon Rhodes and their delicious range of spice rubs, crumbs, cooking sauces and stuffings when at the BBC Good Food Show in Harrogate.  I remember buying three of their cooking sauces: a chilli con carne one, another one for pulled pork and a curry one.  All turned into mouthwatering one-pot meals which my family loved.  I enjoyed them so much that I had to buy more and was so pleased to find a couple of my local farm shops stock their products.

Last Christmas I tried out Gordon Rhodes’ bread sauce mix and some stuffing. It was a quiet Christmas with just the four of us and I didn’t want to be making everything from scratch. I felt as if these products helped me to cut corners without compromising on quality and taste.

 I follow Gordon Rhodes on Twitter and often tweet about how I enjoy using their products in my cooking.  They had asked their followers to post photos of a dish they had created using one of their products as an ingredient in a Christmas leftover dish.  They would choose which dish they liked best and the winner would get a hamper of their complete range of products. What a fantastic prize that would be. Two days after Christmas and we had my sister in law to visit.  I didn’t want to just serve her  slices of leftover turkey and ham so I thought of a way I could turn my leftovers into something a bit more special.  I love baking pies and had some leftover shortcrust pastry in the freezer, some turkey and ham, some veg, the Gordon Rhodes stuffing and bread sauce that was leftover.  I had the idea that the bread sauce would act as a thickener for a sauce in the pie along with a bit of stock.

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Here is a picture of my Leftover Turkey and Ham Pie.
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Here is the remains of the Turkey and Ham Pie, showing the Gordon Rhodes’ bread sauce which had turned into a delicious, creamy sauce for the pie.

I was over the moon when Gordon Rhodes said that they liked my idea of using the bread sauce as a thickener in the pie and that I had won the hamper!  I couldn’t believe it as I knew how much fun I would have creating dishes I had not made before with the products I had not seen before in their range.

A few days later my wonderful parcel arrived.  It came beautifully packaged in a cardboard hamper which I’ve kept in my cupboard to use again.

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My fantastic hamper containing the entire range of Gordon Rhodes products: 5 cooking sauces, a bread sauce, five different stuffings, two of which are gluten free and their entire range of herb and spice rubs and crumb coats.
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The handwritten note inside my hamper. Thankyou and yes we most definitely did enjoy our prize!
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My hamper also contained some very useful recipe leaflets and a brochure showing the entire range. There are also some more recipe suggestion on Gordon Rhodes’ website.
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I love Southern Fried Chicken and was really excited to try and create my own, healthier version baked in the oven instead of deep fried with this Cajun spice mix.
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The other two spice mixes I’d not tried before was the Easy Crumb Easy Go Garlic and Herb mix and the Hazy Lazy Summer Citrus and Herb Sprinkle. They would both go down well coating on chicken for my family.
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I have really enjoyed using Gordon Rhodes’ sauces. They help me out no end, especially during the winter months if I am out teaching all day. I put one of the sauces on with the meat and vegetables in my slow cooker in the morning and when I come home I am greeted with a mouthwatering dish like this. My family love it when I make chicken curry.
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I made “Inside Out Chicken Kiev” which was one of the recipe suggestions on one of the leaflets in the hamper. I coated chicken breasts with olive oil and then dipped the breasts in some of the garlic and herb coating.
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The “Inside Out Chicken Kiev” was a massive hit with my family. Even my fussy eater son cleaned his plate!
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My prize hamper has helped me out over several Sunday roasts recently. For two weeks running we had a beautiful roast chicken served with one half of the bread sauce mix and one of the stuffing mixes. The following week we had the remainder of the bread sauce and another packet of stuffing. The stuffing worked well either stuffed in the bird’s cavity or served separately in another dish.
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Hugely popular in our house at the moment- pulled pork. I love cooking it in my slow cooker and serving it with either bread rolls, coleslaw and pickles or with jacket potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Either way there are clean plates in our house.
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Pulled Pork, one of my favourite foods at the moment. It can have honey added to the mix. I don’t bother, I just leave it as it is.
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We love chilli con carne in our house. It gets served with boiled rice but recently I have started serving it in baked tortilla baskets sprinkled with grated cheese, salsa and a dollop of creme fraiche on top. The Gordon Rhodes sauce is another perfect mix to pop in the slow cooker on a busy morning.
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Here is the eagerly awaited Southern Fried Chicken which tasted fabulous with wedges and veg.
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The Southern/ Cajun spice mix also turned out to make gorgeous spicy potato wedges one night.

About a month later after getting my prize I still have one packet of stuffing and three of the spice mixes yet to try out.  It will be interesting to see what I can come up with.

Happy Cooking.

Love Sam xx