Chef Skills: Eggs Benedict, How to Hollandaise and poached eggs

making me hungry

Considering it was one of my new years resolutions I have done really badly. My chef skills series was suppose to document my attempts at trying and practising professional kitchen techniques but I have so easily stumbled back into my usual healthy, big bowl based veg meals which although pack a punch of flavour don’t teach me anything new. I am quite use to creating these meals and know how to season and spice correctly but for me they don’t have the precision that I want to advance my cooking with. So to get back on the horse I thought I would attempt a relatively easy task with ingredients I already had, a classic hollandaise sauce, atop a poached egg, i.e. Eggs Benedict. And boy was it the best brunch I’ve made in a while (other then my classic eggy bread nom nom)

Brilliant Brunch to kick start your day, eggs benedict with salmon

Ingredients Serves 2

2 or 4 Eggs , 1 tbsp White wine vinegar, 2 English Muffins

For the hollandaise

2 Egg yolks

1/2 tsp White wine vinegar

100g Butter

A splash of water

A pinch of salt

Juice of half a lemon

how to hollandaise

To make the Hollandaise

1. Gently heat the butter in a pan till melted. Scoop any white solids off the top and discard. Keep warm

2. Whisk the egg yolks, vinegar, salt and water till combined in a heat proof bowl and set over a pot of simmering water.

3. Gently whisk the egg mixture over the heat till it starts to thicken and becomes paler in colour

4. Take off the bowl off the heat and slowly whisk in the still warm butter. The most important thing here is to do this very slowly, like when making mayonnaise, add the butter in a little at a time and wait till combined before adding more butter.

5. Add the lemon juice in a little at a time to taste. I don’t like it too lemony but others like alot. Keep the sauce warm till your ready to plate.


Eggs benedict and salmonTo poach an egg.

There is no mystery with a poached egg, just a little bit of practice and then sometimes there are just eggs which are evil and won’t behave

1. Use your biggest pan and fill with at least 1.5 litres of boiling water and add the vinegar.

2. Once the pan is boiling, stir it in a clockwise direction (this will bring the water to just under boiling and allow the egg to wrap around it self.

3. Once you’ve got a whirlpool going, slowly slip an egg into the centre of it. ( I first break the egg into a little bowl to slip it into and always use eggs that have come to room temperature)

4. Allow the egg to cook for 2-3 minutes, the white will curl around the yolk to form a circular egg.

5. Lift out of the water with a slotted spoon and rest for a minute before putting it on toasted muffin slathered in your home made hollandaise. mmm tasty. Repeat with your remaining eggs.

Eggs benedict salmon brunch


ooooooooo yolky eggs benedict

The only problem with poached eggs is that you have to do them one at a time which renders them a bit cold if your trying to serve them all in one go. I would recommend maybe trying to keep them warm in a very low temp oven till your ready to serve but be careful about over cooking them. A poached egg is nothing without a gooey centre. I added some cooked salmon to one half of my muffin for a bit of decadence and a sprinkling of dill or parsley goes very well in the sauce as well as on the egg and any fish you might use. Don’t forget to season your egg before you put the sauce on, it makes all the difference.

Lorna

x xxx

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Keep Calm & Eat Pesto

Keep calm and eat lettuce pesto

I have always loved pesto ever since my teens when one day my sister cooked us up a batch of pasta with lashings of pesto mixed
into it. Both store bought but the flavour and almost immediate satisfaction that filled our bellies after just 15 minutes cooking time has always left the classic pesto and pasta combination as a staple in my household. I have always enjoyed the taste of store bought pesto but nothing can beat a fresh pesto made from scratch. It’s flavour is always lighter and fresher tasting, pairing brilliantly with more then just a simple pasta dish. I often make pesto for the start of the week as a go to dressing for quick meals when I’m busy. It can be a little expensive to make your own pesto as you need quite alot of fresh herbs but there is a solution. I use lettuce to bulk the pesto out yet it doesn’t detract from the flavour as I still uses the herbs plus all the other classic ingredients. It is the perfect way to use up salad leaves which are often one of the most thrown away items in British households and you know how I hate waste!

Lettuce pesto ingredientsIngredients to make a small jar: 1 good handful of fresh herbs,2 good handfuls of salad leaves, 2 large handful of nuts or seeds, A small lump of hard cheese, 2 garlic cloves, 2tbsp of olive oil plus extra for jar. sprinkle of salt and pepper.

1. I have given these vague ingredients as you can pretty much choose whatever combination of items you want. A classic pesto is basil, pine nuts and parmesan but you can adapt it with anything. Here are some ideas

Mint/parsley, almonds, mature chedder

Coriander, cashews, manchego , abit of chilli and ginger

Dill, sunflower seeds, pecorino

Lovely ingredients for lovely lettuce pesto A spoonful of lettuce pesto helps the leftovers go down2. Whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor, slowly adding the olive oil as you go, till you get a think paste that isn’t too wet.

3. Add to a jar, press down with a spoon and cover with a layer of olive oil. It should keep for 1 week, topping up with oil to cover if you use a little at a time. (My oil looks horrible in this photo, it has no colour weirdly. That’s what you get for cheap olive oil)

Lettuce Pesto Ready to Go

You can add pesto to loads of different dishes other then pasta, here is a few and please feel free to add your own uses in the comments.

Dolloped on pizza either as a replacement to a tomato sauce or as an addition blobbed on randomly

Mixed into potato salad

On top of a baked potato

A sandwich filling with some fresh salad veggies (tomato, pesto and mozzarella sounds good)

A salad dressing, mixed with some more  oilve oil and a little lemon juice or vinegar

A crust or rub for fish or meats

Basically anything

Lorna

x xxx

Kohlrabi, celery and potato Gratin

Kohlrabi, celery and potato

This is a really quick recipe for a gratin because who doesn’t like food smothered in cream! I had a Kohlrabi in my veg box and having never cooked it looked to the internet for some inspiration. I found a several gratins with varying ingredients so I settled on a mix of Kohlrabi, celery and potato. It’s another great dish that can be prepared ahead of time, kept in the fridge and whacked into the oven when you get home. Kohlrabi has a slightly sweet appley taste but has a root vegetable like texture so it lends well to savoury dishes but it would be interesting to see if you can make it work in a sweet recipe. Any ideas people?

sliced veggies for gratin

Ingredients Serves 2: 1 smalll kohlrabi, 2/3 medium potatoes, 2 celery sticks, 1 garlic clove, 150ml of  double cream, 150ml veg stock, a small handful of fresh rosemary or 1 heaped tsp  of dried rosemary

1. Peel the kohlrabi and potatoes, slice in to thin slices (having a mandolin works well here) Dice the celery into thin slices also. Slice the garlic and chop up the rosemary.

2. Heat the veg stock up gently in a pan and add the milk to mix together (DO NOT BOIL) add the garlic and rosemary and allow to infuse for 5 mins on a low heat.Tasty Ingredients for Kohlrabi Gratin

3. Layer the kohlrabi, potato and celery in a baking dish and slowly add the liquid, and continue to layer until your dish is full. You don’t want the liquid to be full right to the top, at least 1cm from the top is good. I prefer to finish with a layer of potato on top as it browns nicely.

4. Pop in the oven for 40 mins at Gas Mark 5. A good grind of black pepper on top never goes a miss. Serve with a crisp salad to offset the gorge on creamy goodness.

Kohlrabi Gratin

There we have it! Has any one got a brilliant recipe for kohlrabi, would love to hear?

Lorna

x xxx

p.s. Sorry about the lack of finished photos, as always I ate it before I had a chance to photo it, nom nom

Vegan Lasagne

Vegan Lasagne looks so tasty up close even better in your mouth

I’m becoming more and more interested in both vegetarian and vegan food at the moment. The ethical and environmental reasons behind switching to a non meat/ animal product diet are vast and I really do support them. But on a wholly selfish note, eating more fruits, veg, nuts and grains improves your health and wellbeing considerable and even more so when you avoid processed foods that contain chemicals and toxins. A switch to a veggie/vegan or even a mostly veggie diet can be hard but as I have said in several other veggie recipes, you can use a much loved ‘meat’ recipe and turn it into a veggie delight and ‘trick’ yourself. A perfect example of this is my veggie lasagne, a simplified version of a recipe from Emily @ This Rawsome Vegan Life which uses fewer ingredients. Some of the wonderful but unusual ingredients Emily suggests may be harder to find for those those of us who may not follow a strict vegan diet .

Vegan lasagne 'pasta' 'mince' 'bechamel'

Ingredients, Serves 2

For the ‘Pasta’

1 Medium Courgette

For the ‘Mince’

1/2 a head of broccoli, 1 can of chopped tomatoes, 2 tbsp dried basil, sprinkle of pepper

For the ‘Béchamel sauce’

1 Cup of sunflower seeds (or any other nuts or seeds), 2 tbsp Tahini, 2 Garlic cloves, 1 tbsp lemon juice, water to loosen

Vegan Lasagne for one

1. Blend all the ‘béchamel’ ingredients together, in the vegan community they call this nut cheese. Blend to a rough paste adding a little water to loosen, you don’t want it too sloppy more like a rough pate.

2. Chop the broccoli into tiny pieces so the little buds are basically little green grains, this will be your ‘mince’ In a bowl mix the broccoli with the chopped tomatoes, basil and pepper

3. Slice the courgette length ways, using a mandolin is best, cut off the ends if you want them to sit flush against your baking dish.

4. Layer! Courgette, ‘Mince’, Courgette, nut cheese, repeat till your baking dish is full

5. Bake for 30 mins on gas mark 5 or enjoy raw!

Vegan Lasgne with courgette pasta, broccoli mince and nut cheese crunchy topping

Pretty simple recipe really for a quick and delicious dish. It definitely matches a ‘regular’ lasagne on flavour and I was so pleased by the textures as well as taste. The top with nut cheese came out really golden and crunchy making it even more appetising. I used the left overs to make myself a single serving for my lunch, the photos are of this meal and I made it a circular little stack by cutting slices rather then lengths of courgette. This is a great recipe to experiment with too, you could swap the sunflower seeds for any other seeds or nuts and the broccoli with maybe cauliflower or minced carrot and onion. The choice is yours, just make it a healthy one ;)

Do you have any favourite meaty meals you’d like me to turn veggie? just ask

Lorna

x xxx

Look Local: Jacob’s Chop House

This Friday a new restaurant/bar is opening in Oxford, Jacob’s Chop House. A new venture for the owners of Jacobs Inn and Jacob & field’s Deli, both in Oxford and both successful small businesses. By the looks of the food and drinks on offer the  Chop House is set to be a tasty success as well. I would love the opportunity to go down for the opening and try some tasty  meats but alas a trip to Oxford is not on the books at the moment :( Since this isn’t a review post the reason I would like to share with you this particular place is that the co-owner Johnny commissioned me to make the aprons for all the staff starting there this week. For me this was a really special moment to do my first custom order other then for friends and family and was able to get my products in a public arena. Although I am very proud, this isn’t a post about blowing my own trumpet, I wanted to share the order with you as I think It is a really important step for my business, their business and the implications it has for all independent businesses.Jacob's Aprons

I believe strongly in the power of small business over huge corporations and love the fact that with the purchase of my aprons, two businesses have cut these huge multi nationals out of the loop. This has allowed one independent maker (i.e. Me) to produce an ethical product and service for another independent business (i.e. Jacob’s). For the handmade and independent business movement it is our ability to stand alone in the economy without major funding and questionable policies that will see more small companies thrive and more people gain a job, that is both worthwhile and pays well. Supporting each other is just as important as promoting your own products and services because the more consumers who shop in a more conscious way the more space there is for the little guy or gal to succeed.

jacob's menuJacob's menu pt 1For small businesses it’s all about being seen. Why would I not want to promote another independent business. The Chop House are offering grilled British meats, fish and veggies with some tasty beers and wines to wash it all down. Though I’ve not been, their pub offers meats that are reared on site and their own homemade chorizo and their deli provides local and seasonal fresh produce all year round. What is not to like! I wish the team all the best of look in the future and look forward to when I can finally make it to oxford and sample their wares myself.

And remember, support your local independent businesses where ever you are

Lorna

x xxx

p.s. Photos courtesy of Jacob’s Chop House restaurant

Chef Skills: Homemade Pasta

pumpkin ravioliAs part of my new years resolution I wanted to learn more technical kitchen skills and hone my knowledge of the essentials that make a great chef. My first attempt is to practice making pasta. H got me a beautiful pasta maker for Christmas so seemed like the perfect place to start plus I love pasta! I did my first attempt New Years Eve with a classic tagliatelle carbonara and it went really well. It could definitely be improved though as it took me a while to get the right consistency and I think it was a little bit to thick but the flavour was perfect.

pasta mix at the start

The ingredients are simple and I normally do measuring by eye but to serve 4 you need 2 cups of flour, 3 medium eggs or 2 large, tsp of olive oil. Mix ingredients in a bowl until combined but it will probably be crumbly at first. Turn out on to a floured surface and need for about 5 minutes. I think my initial problem was that I didn’t kneed it for long enough time. After kneeding, rest in the fridge while wrapped up for 30-45 minutes. I like to cut the dough in to pieces and work one piece at a time so as not to dry out and keep the rest wrapped up.

pasta doughRoll the pasta through the press starting with the largest setting normally marked as 1, keep rolling the pasta through the maker tightening the gap until you reach the desired thickness. Do not try and force the pasta through by notching up the number but do it one at a time as you may break the pasta maker. If you are making something other then flat sheets like ravioli or lasagne you will need to pass the pasta through another attachment, I am lucky to have both tagliatelle and fettuccini (although it says fettuccini it’s more like spaghetti)  I found oiling and occasionally flouring the machine made the pasta pass through much easier. You then need to dry the pasta out a little by hanging it on a flour dusted drying rack, which for most people will be an improvised piece of housewares. Mine consisted of balancing a floured rolling pin on some kitchen canisters.

pasta maker

As the pasta is fresh it will take not much time to cook, 6-8 minutes seems about right, just taste it after 6 minutes and see. It has a softer texture to al dente dried pasta but it still has bite. Pasta is such a versatile dish you can add any flavours to it. My second attempt I went for ravioli as I really wanted to try it out and I was pretty pleased with the taste, texture and shape. I had a few problems again but the dough was much easier to work with this time. For Ravioli you want to pass the dough through the machine to the desired thickness. You want to add a small spoonful of your filling in the centre of your sheets, depending on how long your sheet is spread them out. Place another sheet over the top and wetting the edges so they stick. You need to press the pasta down around the filling to make sure there are no pockets of air otherwise they will explode (some of mine did) You then want to cut out your pasta shapes either using a knife or a cutter. I used a round cookie cutter. Cook as the instructions above.

Nom nom nom pumpkin ravioliI created pumpkin and garlic ravioli with a beurre noisette and toasted pumpkin seeds and I loved the taste. Definitely will be having that meal again and experiment with some different flavours

Lorna

x xxx

Compost DIY

compost binI am always looking at more ways in which I can reduce the waste coming out of the home so that the fullest bin is the recycling ones and the black bin is never full. Depending on your local council,l recycling can be easy but a lot of councils including our own no longer do green recycling so we have to get rid of it in another way (or pay for the privilege). If you have a garden the best way to get rid of your organic waste is to compost it and reuse it on your own garden once its matured. The process is slow but it means you can give back to the earth Lion King style as the circle of life. Here is a little guard to how and what to compost.

I was wrongly informed once that a compost bin needs lots of air and holes in the side, this does not work in my opinion. You need a bin of some kind which is well insulated especially in the winter and has a lid on the top. You can buy one, make your own or sometimes you can get one free from your local council. I like the standard black ones with a lid on the top and a small door at the bottom to get the finished compost out. As they are black they absorb the suns rays and keep it warm which is key to producing compost quickly.  The compost bin should be in a sunny or partial shaded spot so it gets the most sun and kept warm. It should be placed on open soil or turf and away from water courses or standing water

whats in my bin, with an added dose of beer dregsNow for the fun part, what to put in. There are a two basic rules to follow if you want to create the best compost and get rid of your organic waste in a sensible way without adding to the landfills.

1. Add anything that was once living- but avoid cooked foods, meat and dairy as they can attract vermin

2. Make your pile a mix-  you should use roughly equal parts brown and green mix

Green mix are used as activators to give life to the compost and break the mix down quickly, these include: grass clippings, leaves, young weeds, vegetable peelings, tea bags, coffee grounds, animal manure

Brown mix creates the bulk of the compost but breaks down slower then green, its best shredded and broken into smaller pieces before being added, it includes: untreated woods, hardy weeds,  newspaper, brown paper and cardboard

A few added tips I found is to keep the compost moist but not sopping. My favourite way to add moisture is with the dregs of a beer barrels which I have lots of access to :) The nutrients in beer add to the compost and get it going again, it definitely improves the quality of your heap. Crushed egg shells are another good additive, rich in nutrients and hair & nail clippings are gross but great for it. No point in adding anything to your bin if you could add it to your compost instead. one last hint is that once your bin gets noticeable full (our compost bin was there when we moved in and was already pretty full of garden waste) don’t worry that you won’t be able to fit any more in. Our compost bin is full every time we put a bag of waste in (about once a week) but there is always room the next time we put it in so you can see that the waste is slowly degrading into the heap so keep topping it up.  Compost takes a long time to make but if your in it for the long haul it will result in a wonderful mulch for your garden and the perfect way to get rid of your organic waste.

Lorna

x xxx

p.s. One last tip, stir the mixture up with a stick every once in a while it aerates it which gets it going again

Thrifty & Nifty Food: Slow cooker Risotto

Slow cooker to the rescueMany a food purist might say you can’t do a risotto in a slow cooker but they would be wrong. If your strapped for time, have a bundle of things to do and still have to make dinner; the slow cooker can be a life saver. Most recipes I do require little more then putting everything in and letting it go. This risotto recipe does require a little more prep but a lot less then if you did risotto the traditional way. The prep took me just 10 minutes and though the cooking time is longer (1 hour and a half) it is a better option when your busy especially if you did the prep earlier on in the day. This recipe is for a mushroom risotto but all flavours are possible.  Ingredients serves 2: 1 cup of risotto rice, a medium onion diced, 1 or 2 garlic cloves diced, 6 medium mushrooms sliced , 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar, 500ml veg or chicken stock, olive oil

1. I used one frying pan to do the prep (cuts down on washing up) Sauté the onion and garlic till translucent. Meanwhile coat the inside of the slow cooker with olive oil and set on a high heat

2. Once the onions and garlic are done add to the slow cooker, turn the heat up on the pan and add the rice so it takes on the flavours of the pan, just like a regular risotto, add the vinegar and let it bubble till all is absorbed. Add the rice to the slow cooker

3. Add the stock to the slow cooker and add any dried herbs you might want. Stir once to make sure no rice has stuck to the bottom and then leave for between 1 and 2 hours till most of the liquid has been soaked up

Slow cooker risotto4. When there is still a little liquid left to be absorbed turn the slow cooker off as the rice will continue to cook and doesn’t need any more heat (or electricity wasted on it) Sauté the mushrooms in butter and olive oil till soft then mix through the risotto

5. Serve in bowls with fresh herbs and a light side salad, this is comfort food at its best

The risotto definitely doesn’t have the same bite as when done from scratch in a pan and has a softer sticker texture but it tastes just as good and really warms you up on those cold nights. I also wanted to highlight that I love using the slow cooker because it hardly uses any electricity so its good for the environment and your pocket :D I have a electricity monitor from British Gas and it uses only 2p an hour which is way better then using the oven for meals(a whopping 30p) but unfortunately can’t compare it to the stove top as we have a gas one. I still imagine the slow cooker is cheaper then using gas.

Please share your own slow cooker recipes that you love for winter

Lorna

x xxx

p.s. sorry there is no final picture of the end result, this happens a lot with food posts I plan to do, I end up forgetting to take the last picture because I wanna get the food in my belly asap and only remember after I’ve finished, DOH!

Thrifty & Nifty Food: Veggie Burgers

One of the main ways me and H save on our food shop is that we hardly buy any meat. Its expensive and not essential to healthy living so we don’t buy it unless its on offer or a special occasion. I know some people find it hard to give up meat especially if it is what you are use to cooking and eating so a great way  to make the switch is to recreate meaty meals with a veggie alternative and make meat free Mondays a possibility for more people. One of my fav alternatives is super tasty veggie burgers.  The recipe below I’ve used carrots but you can use any root vegetable to make veggie burgers. My other favourite is beetroot burgers which have an earthier flavour and I want to try celeriac as well.

veggie burger mix

Ingredients to make 4 burgers: 3 large carrots, 1 small onion, 1 garlic clove, 3 tbsp of flour, 1 medium egg, herbs and spices of your choice.  Grate the carrot and onion into a bowl, adding thinly diced garlic and your choice of herbs and spices. Mix the ingredients so they are well distributed. Add the egg to the mix and combined well. Let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. It’s important to let it rest or the mixture will not stick together later. Sprinkle the flour in and mix again. Form the mixture into patties by rolling equal sized balls and then flattening them with the palm of your hand about 2 cm is a good depth. Sprinkle a touch of flour on each side. Add oil to a frying pan over a medium heat, once hot fry the patties on each side for 3-5 minutes until golden.

carrot burgers

I like to serve mine in burger baps with salad and homemade chips, just like a classic burger meal. A pint of beer never goes a miss or if your being good a tall glass of lemonade with fresh lemons and mints. My creation this time came with roast potatoes, sweetcorn and cherry tomatoes plus some herby dressing on the side. Apologies for the naff photos, Its still dark at 4pm so terrible kitchen lighting overhead never makes for pleasant photography.

Lorna

x xxx

Thrifty & Nifty Food: Bonus Free Stuff

Turn Scraps into More FoodThis is a quick bonus post as part of my thrifty and nifty food series. I love it when something I buy has more then one use and I will actually choose a lot of products for their dual use, a couch because it’s also a sofa bed for example. I apply this principle to food always as it’s great to get something for free and I hate waste. So I’ve made a little list of food items that I’ve  found have something ‘free’ with them or have another use then you might think. Please add you own discovers in the comments!

Things you use to throw away

  • Cauliflower leaves- brilliant roasted, strip the leaves from the stalks and toss with oil and other vegetables and roast in the oven, they come out lovely and crispy
  • Banana Skins- These do wonders for plants (psss its the potassium) although you should always try compost, banana skins  can be chucked straight on struggling plant. place it around it’s trunk and as it degrades it will release all of its lovely nutrients
  • Vegetable Peelings- Most of us cut off the outer layer of our root vegetables and chuck them hopefully in the compost but you can use them to make stock. They also make great crisps deep fried in a pan or electric fryer, they taste great and are a good way of using up the tougher outer skins
  • Broccoli stalks- Cut off a layer from the main stalk as it can be a bit tough and then dice the rest of the stock and use in soups or pies as a normal piece of veg.

free kitchen things

Double Use

  • Pumpkins and Squash seeds- Wash the seeds and get all the pulp off them, bake in a warm own for 10 mins until golden brown, toast with chilli flakes and salt for a tasty health snack. Make sure to spread them out on a baking tray so they all cook evenly
  • Marmite- When you can eck out any more marmite for your toast and next time you make a meaty stock fill the jar with hot water, swish around with the lid on and you’ll get all that tasty flavour for your stock.
  • Vinegars and Oils- If you ever get jars of food marinated in vinegar reserve the liquid for salad dressings and any marinating Oil is great for cooking as it’s already got lots of flavour in it.

Free items

  • Spring onions- I have never bought elastic bands because I always get two every time I buy spring onions.
  • Produce Netting- Citruses, onions and garlic always come in those horrible plastic netting bags, collect a few and stuff them into  one small one to create a free pan scourer
  • Jars and bottles- A classic bit of recycling, use your old jars to make preserves and your bottles to make presents like flavoured alcoholic drinks or chilli and garlic oil, my favourite.

Please add your free finds in the comments

Lorna

x xxx