Sunday, 28 August 2011

Courgette & Lancashire Cheese Crumble

This recipe was given to me by an ex-colleague, Lucy Keating, she'd taken it from a Nigel Slater book.  Being from Yorkshire, I have also made the recipe with Wensleydale instead of Lancashire, which works too.

Serves 4

1 onion
40g butter
few sprigs of rosemary
4 small potatoes
450g courgettes
150ml vegetable stock
45g Lancashire cheese

Topping: Blitz together: 100g white bread, 80g walnut pieces, rosemary, 60g Lancashire cheese.  This is the crumble topping.

Oven 180oC (Gas 4)

Roughly chop the onion and cook it slowly with the butter in an ovenproof pan (like a Le Creusset, with lid) until soft.
Pick a tbsp of rosemary needles off the stalks, chop them finely and stir them into the onions.
Cut the onions into larg discs (keep the skin ON) and stir them into the onions.  Cover with a lid for 10mins, stir after 7-8mins.
Chop the courgettes into discs, add to the pan
Salt & pepper everything in the pan, cover and cook for a few more minutes.
Add the stock and let it bubble and steam for a few minutes.

Remove from the heat, remove the lid and crumble over the 45g of Lancashire and then tip the crumble topping over.

Bake for 35-40mins until the top is crisp

Summer herb, feta & courgette risotto

This is a Waitrose recipe card  recipe...

Serves 4
Preparation time: 25mins
Cooking time: 25mins

2tbsp olive oil
500g courgettes, halved & thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
350g risotto rice (aborio)
1.2 litres vegetable stock
25g fresh basil chopped
20g fresh mint chopped
100g feta, cubed

Heat oil in a big pan, add sliced courgettes and fry for 5mins until golden on both sides.
Add garlic and seasoning and cook for another minute.
Stir in the rice and cook for a minute.
Bring the stock to the boil and gradually add to the pan, a ladle at a time until it's absorbed.
Keep adding the stock and stirring until the rice is creamy and tender (15-20mins).
Off the heat, stir in the fresh herbs and feta.
Leave for 3 mins to rest before serving.

Courgette Carbonara

Thanks to my friend Kate who gave me this recipe, after she cooked it for me a few years ago.

Serves 4

  • 6 medium courgettes (cut lengthways, then into quarters, remove the middles (the seedy bit) and then into 3.5cm batons (same length as penne pasta).
  • 500g penne pasta
  • 4 eggs
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 heaped tbsp grated parmesan
  • 12 thick slices of streaky bacon (chopped into pieces) or lardons
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Small bunch thyme chopped
Get the pasta water boiling & cook the pasta.

Make up a sauce of egg yolks, cream, 1tbsp parmesan, seasonings & leave for now.

In a big frying pan: heat the oil, add the bacon/lardons, courgettes, a good pinch of black pepper and thyme and cook until the courgettes start to colour golden.

When draining the pasta keep some of the pasta water aside (1/2 pint max).

Working quickly:remove the frying pan from the heat, add the cooked pasta and the sauce plus a ladle of the pasta water (if it's looking too thick you might need to add another ladle (or half-ladle).  Stir well until the heat from the pan has cooked the sauce through thoroughly and the sauce is creamy and glossy.

Sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan and serve.

Courgette & Tomato Gratin

This came from a Waitrose recipe card I picked up (2009), it's incredibly easy to make and can be eaten as a main dish or as an accompaniment.

Serves 4
Preparation time: 10mins, Cooking time: 30mins

500g courgettes, thinly sliced
2tbsp green basil pesto
400g sliced tomatoes
4 tbsp breadcrumbs
25g Farmhouse Cheddar (grated)
1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
Large pinch cayenne pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Oven 200oC (Gas 7)

Mix together the courgettes and pesto (until the courgette is lightly coated), arrange the courgette & tomatoes layered in an ovenproof dish.

Mix the breadcrumbs, cayenne, garlic and cheese and sprinkle over the top.

Bake in the oven for 30minutes until the top is golden brown.

Serve as a main dish (with crusty bread)

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

2nd Clandestine Cake Club Meeting: Newcastle, Wed 24th Aug, 6-8pm

Cake theme: the cake you always dream about...

Where are we today?
Central Bar, Gateshead
Tonight there were no cake nightmares here, just plates & stands full of dreamy cake...

I was half expecting August to be a quiet CCC month, but oh no the cakes just came and came, 'a bakers dozen' to be exact!

Our venue was the sleek looking Central Bar (@The_Central_Bar) in Gateshead (Newcastle South, for CCC Newcastle members), and we were given free rein of a room on the top floor with a fabulous balcony/roof terrace. Dave Campbell and his team looked after us with teas & coffees, and the facilities were perfect for our needs, a secret little room, hidden in the top of the building, with a secret entrance for our cake bakers.

Since the massive refurbishment and rennovation of the bar, many cake bakers "knew of it" but hadn't been in.  They were very pleased with the choice.  Thank you Kate (@cakepoppins) for putting in a good word for us.  The pub (downstairs) also sells a wide range of real ale, which I'm into, so I know I'll be venturing back for beer very soon.

After the July meet up I knew that 4 slices really was my limit, and I had to face hard facts, I wouldn't be able to have a piece of every cake, or could I?...

Cakes arrived in all shapes, sizes, colours and finishes and were set out on the bar, the cake register was taken, photos taken and the eating commenced!

The cakery consisted of:
  • Pina Colada cake
  • Gateau Diane
  • Raspberry Rhubarb and Custard Cake
  • Zuccotto Cake
  • Orange, Almond cake with dark chocolate ganache
  • Sachertorte
  • Sweet & Salty Chocolate cake
  • Gin and Tonic Cake
  • Sugar Plum Fairy Cake
  • Cherry Coke Cake
  • Carrot Cake
  • Lemon and Lime cake with a Ginger cream cheese topping
  • Bonus cake: strawberry & cream sandwich cake
Unfortunately our Beetroot & Chocolate cake had to cancel, but was swiftly (& unexpectedly) replaced with a strawberry & cream sandwich cake.

No I didn't manage to eat a slice of every cake, but there was 'tactical' cake consuming* going on, which meant you could taste every cake without having 13 slices.  I didn't have 13 slices of cake, but those I did eat were absolutely gorgeous and this 'fix' will keep me going until next month.

The cakes I ate:

Sweet & Salty chocolate cake, it sounds so wrong, but tasted so RIGHT. This was a rich moist chocolate cake with, covered in ganache and a hint of saltiness that really worked.

Gin & Tonic cake, a layered cake that looked spectacular (decorated in authentic cocktail tat) and had that unmistakable fizz of a nice fresh G&T

Pina Colada cake (yes, I was hitting the cocktails), I was expecting something really sweet, but this was not the case with this little diva, it was divine; fresh, light and moreish.

Almond, orange cake with dark chocolate ganache was loaded with flavour; the orange zest woke up your tastebuds with every bite and married perfectly with the moist almondy cake. The chocolate ganache finished it off perfectly.

Strawberry & cream victoria sponge might sound tame, but this was moist, light and the strawberries packed a real punch!

We were a sociable, chatty and cake hungry bunch, by 7.15pm we'd had a good share, but there was still plenty left.

The array of cakes, flavours, colours, sizes and textures was absolutely amazing (photos of individual cakes on flickr).
I thought I was in cake heaven last month, but this month was 'the icing on the cake.
Everyone seemed to take home plenty and a great time was had by everyone :)

*Tactical cake consuming: cake baker and friend choose a different selection of cakes then share a fork or 2 of each others.  Thus enabling the cake consumer to taste twice as many cakes at one sitting without the fullness of actually eating a slice of every cake - thank you Alison for inventing this.

Thanks to....

Half Moon Lane, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, NE8 2AN 

All of tonight's cake bakers (in no particular order): Clare, Kate, Hayley, Sarah, Liz, Val, Ros, Emily, Julia, Alison, Catherine, Suzanne and me.
All of tonight's cake bakers friends: we need you to help eat cakes :)

Jamie & Clare for helping me set up, everyone for tidying up & Catherine who stayed to the end.

And Lynn for setting up the original Clandestine Cake Club - the place to go to find out about the next CCC Newcastle Event!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The importance of regulation tissues: for every eventuality

I went camping at the weekend, Thursday evening until Sunday, to Seahouses. Springhill Farm if you're interested, about 1.5 miles from Seahouses town.

Some friends had also booked into the site and we congregated around their tents and campfire each night, talking, joking, drinking and stinking of bonfire smoke.

On Friday night I decided that I was too smokey to go to bed and decided to take a shower, so I went back to my tent, gathered my toilet bag and headed to the showers...

About 5 minutes into the shower something happened. I realised I hadn't brought a towel with me.

What would I do?
I decided to finish my shower and come up with a plan...

What if I sneaked out of the shower cubicle, grabbed some paper towels and dried myself? No, someone might come in and catch me in the buff.

I could just telephone Carl, get him to bring it...No, I realised that I'd left my phone in the tent.

What if I waited for one of the group to use the toilet? I could be waiting all night - best not.

So I thought long and hard and decided that there was only one thing to do, get my trusty packet of regulation tissues* and dry myself with them until I ran out, and after that I would panic.

As soon as the shower stopped I squeezed the water out of my hair and clipped it up, took 2 tissues and patted myself dry until the tissues was sodden, and another 2.

Amazingly I was dry enough to get dressed and return to the campfire. When I got there I recounted my tale of horror, which was met with screams of laughter from of my fellow camping companions - like all good friends would.

*Regulation tissues should be taken everywhere in case of minor mishaps, shortage of toilet roll, sneezing incidents and as proved today, if you forget to take your towel when you go for a shower at a campsite.

Image ID: 1244485, Take a Shower
Uploaded by vierdrie,

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Perfect specimens

I find a perfect looking vegetable growing on the allotment and I feel the need to take a photo.
Today I found a perfect looking turnip (or swede - depending on where you're from) and a perfect red cabbage.
I have picked the swede, but I'll leave the cabbage until September or October.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

New earrings...

Or should I say, cup of tea-earrings?

Bought these cute little tea cup earrings from Accessorize, £6.50 and absolutely love em. They're my cup of tea.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Tonight I met a Russian Man...

Before dinner we (me & Mr Lisa) had pre-dinner drinks in Tilleys bar. We were having them at the bar when I bloke came in, ordered his own drink, and spoke to us.

He was about 55, crinkly eyes, grey hair, goatee with a slightly waxed moustache.  He wore a black 3/4 length leather coat, had a red star sewn onto his lapel, a red star tattooed on his cheek, and only 1 eyebrow, the other was shaved and replaced with another tattoo. He had a dark beret, like Citizen Smith, a dickie bow and a suit.

He said he was Russian, so I said "strasveetye" which is Russian for "hello" to which he spouted a load more Russian back, some words I recognised included "hello, goodbye, good, I love you"

He said he was from St Petersburg and here to kill someone. To which we didn't quite know what to say. He said he spoke 8 different languages and then asked Mr Lisa about his knowledge of languages, as he looked to be "an intelligent man" I think his lack of language skills didn't impress him, and he didn't seem bothered that Mr Lisa's knowledge was of "maths & engineering."

He then decided to leave us to chat, but before he left he asked me to "stroke his leg" and gestured towards his knee/ankle, he assured me he wasn't being funny, so I stroked down and felt a knife or dagger tucked under his trousers and in his boot, sock or shoe.

I stood up, looked at him, tapped my nose and he grinned. We both shook his hand and then he left us, walked over to some seats and sat down and chatted to some other people.

Mr Lisa wasn't convinced he was Russian, he thought there was a hint of a "Scouse" accent coming through.

I thought he was an actor, in character getting ready for a performance at the local theatre, but it can't have been for the Tyne Theatre because they've got The Pitman Paintings on all this week.

So maybe he really was a Russian assassin after all...

New handbag purchase: Accessorize

Bought from: Accessorize
On: Thursday 11th August
Price: £35
A "Cathy Kidston" style oilcloth print messenger bag, plenty of pocketage and ideal for work.

Monday, 8 August 2011

New shoes...

Size 8, wide fit M&S shoes, burgundy, petrol & purple in colour, a comfy 1.5inch wedge heel and £39.50

Saturday, 6 August 2011

When cakes go wrong

Today I baked a shit cake. 

It was supposed to be a raspberry, rhubarb and custard cake.  I thought I'd be clever and have a thin layer of custard on top of the fresh raspberries and roasted rhubarb.  This was probably the reason why it failed.

The sides cooked nicely, and the crumble topping worked a treat, but in the middle the cake mixture hadn't set and was still raw and gooey.

As you can see, it still didn't stop me having some, but it wouldn't appeal to other people, they'd probably think I'd spewed into a sponge flan case.

A simpler version, version2 is currently underway. Blog post to follow.

Raspberry, rhubarb & custard cake, version2

This is version2 of rhubarb, raspberry & custard cake.  The top looks a bit messy because I decided that I wanted the top sponge upside down.
This time I made 2 plain sponge cakes, on 1 I slapped a load of frozen summer raspberries (allotment produce) and on the other I slapped a load of roasted rhubard (frozen allotment produce).
The fruit stayed at the top of the cake, and there was a cake layer at the bottom.  When cooked & cooled I just stacked them, rhubarb one on the raspberry one, but I decided I wanted the chit to be together in the middle, so turned the rhubarb one over.
I spread a thin layer of custard between the layers before stacking them.  I had some on top, but decided it didn't look very nice so scraped it off and sprinkled icing sugar over it instead.
Tastes very nice, fruit is sweet, juicy and moist and there's a nice hint of vanilla custard, not too overpowering.  It doesn't look like sick either, which is always good too.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Last night I dreamt about Muse...

They did a secret gig, and I had tickets.  The band played amongst the audience and the lovely Matt Bellamy also flirted with the ladies.

They also announced plans for another secret gig in Southampton.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Last night I dreamt Gary threw Sal....

Had a dream that Gary (some bloke) came round to some 'get together' in the upstairs room at The 3 Horseshoes.

Gary was angry when he arrived, Gary & Sal (another bloke) seemed to be 'having words' but Gary was having none of it, & it was clear that something else was kicking off.

Gary then literally picked up Sal & threw him backwards, Sal smashed straight through a floor-ceiling window of frosted glass, and out onto the cobbled street in front.

He fell out of the 1st floor & landed on his back, I screamed & tried to call an ambulance, it took me 3 attempts because I was so shocked.

At 1 point Sal came-to and tried to stand, but I wouldn't let him in case he'd damaged his neck or back.

The ambulance arrived, and I turned over to have another dream.