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What to Cook for Christmas: Desserts

The traditional British Christmas dessert is, of course, Christmas pudding, but not everyone likes fruitcake. Here are a few alternatives that everyone will love, just click on the titles to take you to the original post.

Mary Berry’s Chocolate Yule Log:

An impressive looking dessert, perfect for chocolate lovers. It was easier to make than you’d think too!

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The Ultimate Baked Cheesecake:

I’ve been perfecting this recipe, and now it’s very popular. It’s what I’ll be eating on Christmas day.

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Vanilla Ice Cream:

This rich creamy ice cream is a great on its own or served as an accompaniment to other desserts.

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Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding:

A lovely gooey pudding perfect for winter.

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What to Cook for Christmas: Meat and Poultry

Christmas is coming! Now is the time to think about the main event. Turkey is not the only option for Christmas dinner, and to be perfectly honest I’m not the bird’s biggest fan. Here are some other options for your table this Christmas.

Goose:

This is the traditional British festive bird, and a favourite of mine for Christmas dinner. There isn’t as much meat as on a turkey, but it’s great if you’re just cooking for immediate family as it serves around 8 people. Advantages of cooking goose are that you can use the excess fat for your Goose Fat Roasted Potatoes and as it’s a flatter bird you can get more in the oven. Check out my Roast Goose recipe from a couple of years ago.

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Lamb:

Lamb is a great meat to cook as it’s generally tender and stays quite moist. If you like lean meat Roast Leg of Lamb is great. If you need to save space in your oven you can cook your potatoes and/or veggies in the same roasting dish. For a super low-maintenance dinner try my Slow Cooker Roasted Lamb recipe.

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Beef:

Whether there are two or twenty of you for Christmas dinner, beef is a great meat to scale recipes up and down. You can use special cuts or recipes to make it a bit different from Sunday dinner, such as Steak en Croute or Beef Wellington. If there’s just a couple of you try my Boneless Rib of Beef recipe.

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Pork:

Pork is a really great meat for those on a budget. Roast Shoulder of Pork is affordable and tastes great, plus everyone loves crackling. To save space in your oven why not try the slow cooker version of my Braised Pork recipe, which can be made with pork leg or shoulder.

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 I hope these ideas and recipes inspire and help you this Christmas.

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The Ultimate Baked Cheesecake

I love cheesecake, so making my own was a bit of a no-brainer. It’s taken me over a year to develop and perfect this recipe, and the work has certainly paid off. Everyone who has tried it loves it. Be warned, your friends might not invite you around to their houses any more unless you bring cheesecake!

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The secret to a good cheesecake is a really good cream cheese. When I first started to make this recipe I used Philadelphia, but last year they changed the recipe, and it just doesn’t cut it any more. After a lot of searching I found a great substitute, in Lidl! Lidl’s full fat cream cheese is perfect, and a perfect price, at 50p a pack, making this dessert really great for those on a budget.

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If you want a great Christmas dessert this is the one for you! It’s made the day before so time and oven-space are freed up on the big day.

Using fresh ingredients this dessert should be fine kept in the fridge for about 4 days, though in my house is never makes it passed the second day!

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Ingredients:

Gingersnaps – 175g (crumbed/blitzed)

Butter – 60g (melted), plus a little for greasing tin

Sugar – 1 tablespoon

Cream cheese – 600g  (3 packs)

Whole eggs – 2 large

Egg yolk – 1

Sugar – 175g

Cornflour – 1 tablespoon

Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon

Sour cream – 250ml

Equipment: Electric mixer (I used my Kenwood Chef)/electric whisk, food processor, small saucepan, 23cm springform tin, baking parchment, small saucepan, spatula.

Method:

  1. Line the bottom of the springform tin and grease.
  2. Melt the butter in the small saucepan over a low heat. Add the blitzed biscuits and tablespoon of sugar, and combine well. Decant into cake tin and press down evenly to form the base. Bake in a preheated oven (fan 150°C/170°C/gas mark 3) for 10 minutes until it starts to brown. Remove from oven and make sure it’s completely cold before you add the topping, unless you want a soggy bottom.
  3. Using the K-beater, beat the cream cheese on a medium-low speed until it’s creamy.
  4. Gradually add sugar, vanilla extract and cornflour, mix well for a few minutes until the texture lightens.
  5. Switch from K-beater to whisk. Add the eggs and yolk one at a time, then add the sour cream.
  6. Whisk the mixture well, it should be smooth and airy. Meanwhile, grease the sides of the springform tin and preheat oven at fan 180°C/200°C/ gas mark 6.
  7. Pour into the springform tin, place it on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 15 minutes.
  8. Reduce oven temp to fan 100°C/110°C/ gas mark ¼, and bake for about 25 minutes. The filling should have a slight wobble to it.
  9. Turn off the oven. Leave the door shut for 20 minutes, then open it slightly and leave the cheesecake inside for another hour and a half. The top may crack (mine do about 60% of the time), but this doesn’t effect the flavour in any way.
  10. Remove from oven and let it cool before putting it in the fridge covered with foil. It needs to set in the fridge for at least 8 hours.
  11. Remove from tin and serve.
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Blue Cheese Beef

This is another low-carb diet recipe. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m currently sticking to a low-carb (under 100g a day) and calorie controlled diet after getting to my heaviest ever while finishing up my PhD. This diet has been working really well for me and I’ve lost a stone in under 3 months (averaging at just over a lb a week). With this diet I’m going for slow-and-steady, rather than crash dieting, as I believe it gives more sustainable results and encourages better eating habits in the long run. I do have a day off a week to stop myself going stir crazy.

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This recipe serves 2-3 people and was great served with wholegrain rice.

Ingredients:

Fillet steak – 1lb/450g (cut into bite-sized strips)

Mushrooms – 250g (sliced)

Garlic – 4 cloves (crushed)

Olive oil – 1 tablespoon

Saint Agur (semi-soft blue cheese) – 100g

Worcestershire sauce – 2 tablespoons

Seasoning – pepper

Method:

  1. In a frying pan, over a medium heat, cook the mushrooms and garlic with the oil. Add a little water if it gets too dry.
  2. When the mushrooms are soft turn up the heat and add the sliced beef, seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce.
  3. When the meat is browned all over, add the cheese and a little water if the pan looks dry.
  4. Stir until the cheese is melted and you have a creamy sauce.
  5. Serve.
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Garlic, Soy & Honey Pork Shoulder Steaks

The most popular recipe on my blog has to be my Garlic, Soy & Honey Slow Cooked Pork Belly Slices. It’s a great full-flavoured sticky and spicy recipe that is bound to be a hit with any pork fan. It’s only downside is it does take quite a while to cook. This version allows you to have the same flavours in a fraction of the cooking-time.

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The basic recipe is the same, all that needs to be adjusted is the cooking time and that it is cooked uncovered.

Ingredients:

Pork shoulder steaks – about 2 per person depending on thickness

Chinese five spice – 2-3 teaspoons

Chilli flakes – 1-2 teaspoons

Garlic – 1 clove per steak (finely chopped)

Soy sauce – a few tabelspoons

Honey – a few tablespoons

Equipment: Knife, chopping board, baking tray, tongs.

Method:

  1. Place the pork shoulder steaks in the baking tray and season with the five spice and chilli flakes.
  2. Add the garlic, soy, and honey and make sure the meat is well coated in the mixture.
  3. Cover and leave to marinade for as long as you can.
  4. Cook in a preheated oven at 160°C/Fan 140°C/Gas 3 for 20-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steaks. Turn halfway through cooking time.
  5. Turn the oven up to 210°C/Fan 190°C/Gas 7. If there is a lot of excess liquid pour some off into a mug, leaving it about 1cm deep. You can keep the sauce warm or thicken it in a pan, bringing it to the boil with a little cornflour. It’s great poured over the cooked steaks or some rice.
  6. Drizzle with another tablespoon of honey if you want them extra sticky. Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
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Garlic, Ginger & Chilli Pork Fillet

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently on a low-carb, low-calorie diet. Pork fillet is a great cut of meat for such a diet as it’s super lean and reasonably priced. It is, however, fairly bland so it’s a good idea to marinade it.

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Ingredients:

Pork fillet – 1lb/450g (cut in half)

Garlic – 4 cloves (crushed)

Root ginger – c. 1 inch (peeled and sliced into matchsticks)

Vinegar (cider vinegar is great with pork but ordinary is fine) – 2 tablespoons

Chilli flakes – a couple of teaspoons (depending on how hot you like it)

Honey – 1 tablespoon

Soy sauce – 1 tablespoon

Method:

  1. In an oven-proof dish marinate the pork with all the ingredients but the soy sauce for as long as possible, turning every so often.
  2. Thirty to sixty minutes before cooking remove the pork from the fridge, add the soy sauce and coat well, cover with foil.
  3. Cook in a preheated oven at 200°C/Fan 180°/Gas 6 for approx. 30 minutes, or until cooked through. 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, remove the foil and baste.
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Getting Back to Blogging and Low-Carb Dieting

I haven’t blogged regularly for a shamefully long time. I’ve had lots of things going on in ‘real life’ and the popularity of my blog meaning that it has more or less taken care of itself has allowed me to get away with this neglect. Things have settled down a bit now and in the past month I’ve been cooking and making more new recipes, providing lots of material for the blog.

While I may not have been blogging for a while, that hasn’t stopped me eating, sometimes too much and the wrong things, so once again I’m on a diet! I’ve previously tried the Dukan Diet and Slimming World but neither has been quite the right fit for me. I found the Dukan too restrictive and a bit complicated, and I hated the oat bran! The weight loss was really good though. Slimming World let me sneak in too many starchy carbs, while I’d lose half my syns on a small glass of orange juice and as soon as I ate anything that was ready-prepared my syns shot up too! My weight loss was quite good on Slimming World but I found keeping on top how many syns I was having without the help of an app (only Slimming World members can access syns catalogue on their free app) a bit difficult, and I’m not really a diet club meeting type of person. There are lots of great free dieting and nutrition apps out there though, so I decided to come up with my own calorie and carb-controlled diet.

As a petite and not terribly active person I’ve decided to stick to about 1,200 cals a day and under 100g of carbs. The apps are great as I can easily see what I’ve eaten and many include exercise calculators too, so if I’m more active I can consume more calories. It seems to be going quite well so far, I’ve lost 7lbs in less than 4 weeks!

One hundred grams of carbs may not sound like a lot but I’m able to have a glass of fruit juice, 2 slices of wholemeal bread, and a decent-sized baked potato (c. 200g) or portion of rice a day (half a microwavable pouch), with a few grams to spare. Most vegetables are also really low in carbs with only a few grams per 100g so you can fill up on them. Expect a lot of meat-tastic recipes over the next few months, such as Quick Blue Cheese Beef, Slow Cooker Ribs, and Garlic, Ginger & Chilli Pork Fillet (pictured).

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I’ve been having one day off the diet a week. I do try not to go crazy on the carbs, chain-eating pizza probably would undo the work done the previous 6 days, but I’ve not been denying myself and I’ve been baking a few tasty treats, including some awesome Chocolate Brownies (pictured). I’ve also perfected my Ultimate Baked Cheesecake (recipes to follow).

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I hope you’ll all enjoy my new posts, and I promise to try and publish at lease one a week, as well as keeping you updated on the progress of my diet.

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