Home for Easter

So I’m back at my parents’ house for Easter and as usual, being back in a non-student house is always a bit of a readjustment.

The cupboards aren’t stocked with Sainsbury’s basics, the toilet paper is plush, the heating can be turned on, there are lots of different condiments and sauces littered about the kitchen and… everything is CLEAN! CLEAN!

Ok, so it may be a bit messy due to the boiler exploding a few weeks ago but the state of the kitchen is heavenly compared to the student ones that I’ve gotten used to.

And with all this comes the added indulgence of proper, mummy-made home cooking. Yesterday my mum and I made a huge amount of onion and potato bhajis for her to take into work and oh my gods have I missed deep fried food. Well, I’ve missed it but I’m only eating small amounts at a time because I’m now seriously past my teens, have a shitty metabolism and am seriously afraid of developing a myriad of cardiovascular conditions.

…..Anyway, hopefully I’ll be able to reproduce these by myself one day, though  never to the same exorbitant quantities.

onion bhagi on the left, potato bhagi on the right


Tarn Thai – Restaurant of Dreams

I’ve not had the time or inclination to cook anything blogworthy of late, so I thought I would review a restaurant instead. Tarn Thai is one of my favourite restaurants in Nottingham. I go there almost every term with my Pharmacy friends and we never get tired of it! 😀

The decor is an inspiring spectacular splendor unlike any other. There are golden dragons, water features as well as other cool, obsure ornaments and hangings that make you feel like you’re intruding on a secret dining room of a lavish oriental palace. I really wish that I had some pictures to wow you all with. I promise to update with some when I inevitably revisit this restaurant of dreams!

I recommend that you visit at lunchtime and chose the Set meal meal option for £7.95. For this tiny price you can order a starter, a main, and get some tea or coffee after your meal.

And now the food. The food, like the decor is gorgeously presented. There are carrots carved into flower shapes with almost everything you order and even the rice is moulded into heart or flower shapes before serving.

My favourite choice of starter changes from time to time, at the moment it’s the See Kroong Moo Ob. These are sweet and delicious tender ribs. Most of the time it’s cooked so well that the meat just slides off the bone. Below is a picture of this starter, courtesy of my lovely friend Kim who has more yummy photos you can foodgasm over. Just go here!

See Kroong Moo Ob

Now comes the main. The Gaeng Phed Ped Yang is a red curry with succulent strips of duck with chunks pineapple, tomatoes… and the next ingredient tips the scale to rocket this dish into pure awesomeness….. lychees! Lychees! Delicious, juicy, sweet and refreshing lychees! I love lychees. As far as I’m concerned this is the best main you could possibly go for. I’ve tried my friends’ mains and even ordered something different for myself once, but went straight back to this duck curry. The picture is again thanks to the lovely Kim. Oh and don’t worry, rice is included in a lovely form on a separate plate! 😀

Gaeng Phed Ped Yang

Other recommendations:

  • Starter – Tord Man Pla (thai style fishcakes)
  • Starter – Gai Hor Bai Teuy (marinated chicken in pandan leaves)
  • Main – Gaeng Kiew Waaan Gai (green chicken curry)

The only thing that the restaurant could improve on is the wait staff. It’s not that they’re incompetent or rude, they’re actually very friendly and polite. However, they’re not very helpful if you have no idea what to order or easy to attract when you want to ask a question.

But I suppose if you go by my word then you’ll know exactly what dishes to order and should have no problems… I hope! 😀

Decadent Prawn Macaroni and Cheese

Firstly, I have most awesome news – we have a new oven! It’s all shiny and clean and lights up! And it shall be worshipped for the rest of my tenancy 😀

New oven!

So obviously as soon as it was fitted I leapt for the chance to cook some macaroni and cheese – which I’d been craving all week.

And this version is truly decadent, with a little bit of stilton to give a little kick to the cheese sauce.

Decadent Mac n Cheese

1. Firstly you need to cook about 300-400g macaroni, depending on how pasta heavy you like your meals to be.

While that’s cooking you can prepare the sauce and other fillings

For the prawn and onion filling:

  • 2 red onions
  • 200g prawns
  • 1 tsp ginger and garlic paste
  • pinch of pepper

2. Fry the onions in a frying pan until slightly browned and add the prawns and cook through.

3. Add the garlic, ginger and pepper and mix thoroughly.

4. Take off the heat and set aside.

For the decadent cheese sauce:

  • 30g butter
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 50ml milk
  • 150ml cream
  • 200g mature cheddar
  • 80g stilton
  • 1 tsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 2 tbsp salad cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp mustard
  • basil
  • breadcrumbs

5. Heat up a large saucepan and melt the butter on a low heat. Add flour and mix quickly to form a paste.

6. Add the milk and cream in slowly and mix thoroughly to get rid of any lumps.

7. Add the 80g stilton and 100g mature cheddar, followed by the ginger, garlic, basil, salad cream and mustard and keep stirring. If you want a thicker or thinner sauce, add more milk or cheese accordingly.

8. Turn off the hob and mix the macaroni, red onion and prawn mixture into the saucepan. Ensure everything is coated in the cheese sauce.

9. Pour into a large baking dish and top with the remaining cheddar and a couple of handfuls of breadcrumbs to create a crispy topping.

Lots of macaroni

10. Bake at 180 degrees for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crispy.

I couldn't do without the crispy breadcrumb topping

Now you have enough decadent macaroni cheese for 4 greedy portions 😀 I hope you enjoy this seafood version as much as I did.

Pancake Day and Plum Syrup

So pancake day has come and gone and it was such a busy day. I went to two different houses (a mini pancake crawl), and ate many different pancakes.

The variety of fillings was endless, but here’s a list of the ones I can remember.

  • Chocolate syrup
  • Toffee syrup
  • Ice-cream
  • Bananas
  • Mango puree
  • White chocolate stars
  • Cheese
  • Jalapeno sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Lea & Perrins
  • Nutella
  • Lemons
  • Oranges

It was pancake day heaven and by the end of the night it was all I could do to waddle to the closest bus stop for home and rest up my fit to burst belly.

But now I’ve firmly decided, as I do every year, that pancakes must be eaten more often and definitely accompanied by the plum syrup I made.

Now I’ve got to say that I didn’t really keep precise track of what I did exactly to make this syrup and it was definately a cooking by taste rather than recipe achievement. But here’s a rough account of all the ingredients.

  • 4 plums (cut into small pieces, skin on)
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 inch square piece of gelatine leaf

1. Firstly you’ll want to chop the plums into small pieces, don’t bother to peel off the skin.

2. Put the plum chunks into a pan with about 400ml of water and simmer gently for around 15 minutes.

Simmer the Plum pieces

3. Add the sugar and simmer for another 15 minutes or so. Then have a taste of the liquid mixture – but please, please don’t singe your tongue while doing this. Be smart people! Add more sugar if it doesn’t taste sweet enough, or if the plum taste isn’t strong enough, simmer for longer or add more plum chunks.

4. If it does taste sweet and plummy enough you can go ahead and take the pan off the heat for the next step.

5. Pour the mixture into a measuring jug or bowl, then get a sieve and place it over the saucepan and pour the mixture through the sieve back into the pan

6. Now you’ll get a collection of soft plum flesh in the sieve and you’ll want to use a spoon to stir this, still on the sieve, and try to strain as much of the plum juice out as possible. Don’t force the flesh through the sieve though – you want a syrup, not a puree in the saucepan.

You can now store the plum whatever plum flesh is left in the sieve and use it as a jam, you can even add some sugar or butter to it if you like.

Tomorrow's Jam

7. Bring the sieve liquid to the boil and reduce until thicker. I reduced mine until a thin coat formed on the back of the spoon and then added a square inch of gelatine leaf to the mixture to make it slightly thicker quicker.

And there you have it – plum syrup and a little side effect of jam! 😀

The BOOMsplosion

Hello everybody! I still live! Though I haven’t posted anything up for a while for two very good reasons:

1. My uni schedule is getting a bit more hectic and unpredictable; machines and people not doing as they’re told.

2. My oven door blew up.

What’s that you say? More details on the boomsplosion? Very well…

It was my birthday a week ago and on the weekend I was going to host a party with all sorts of homemade goodies that I was then going to blog about. So there I was, baking hat on and one batch of brownie batter all prepared, oven preheated and all. So I reach down to open the oven door and…. BOOM!

There’s a shattering of glass as the oven’s outside pane of glass breaks and I just stand there, like a moron, catatonic for about 10 seconds before I apparently let out a loud ‘BAAAAAAAH’ noise.

Interestingly, one of my housemates hears this wail and assumes that there as there are no further noises – all is right with the world. It’s good to know that had I been impaled by a large shard of glass that day, no-one would have been around to see my look of exasperation at dying such a ridonkulous death.

But it’s ok, she made up for not checking to see if I was alive by helping to clean the debris while I just kind of milled around in a startled rage.

I was too in shock at the possible cost of replacing the oven to get a good picture of this inconveniently timed disaster. But here’s a really bad blurry one to give you a general idea.

No time like the night before a party for the oven to explode

Anyway, after cleaning up and boarding up the shattered remains of this oven, I had a pretty awesome party the next day. My wonderful friends all chipped in and made lots of cakes, pies, flapjacks, jelly and soup. People were fed and drunk into a state of contentment.

And here’s a clever pie that my friends James and Emily made.

Apple. Pie. Geddit? 🙂

Ok, so James got a little too excited about the whippy cream and wasn’t as artistic as he could have been, but very clever nonetheless 😀

Brie and Cranberry Parcels

I love cheese. I really, really love cheese. Seriously, when I’m rich enough I’m going to have at least half a shelf in my fridgedevoted to different cheeses. Sadly that day is still a bit too far away.

I also love filo and cranberry sauce and so these Brie and Cranberry Parcels are one of my most favourite appetisers.

Very tasty party food

I had a variation on these when I went to a steakhouse and finally got round to making my own for my friend when she came round for her Birthday dinner. Now I know that traditionally Cranberry is a Christmassy item but why be restrained by that?

Making these parcels is really easy if a little time-consuming. Fist get your sheets of filo and make sure they’re fully defrosted. Line up the sheets into a neat pile so you can cut them all easily. You’ll want to make two long cuts to get three long strips out of each sheet of filo and then cut down the middle of these strips to make 6 cut out sections.

Almost everything you need

You then need to cut a small piece of Brie, a teaspoon of Cranberry sauce and arrange this on one end of the pastry strip. My pictures below should guide you through the steps of folding and sealing the pastry envelope of goodness but if you need a  proper guide on the techniques involved go here.

1. Fold the end of the filo so it partially overlaps the filling

2. Fold in the sides of the filo sheet all the way to the top

3. Fold the top corner into the middle to make a triangle point and finish rolling

4. Butter the triangle point and the top of the parcel using a pastry brush

And there you have it… Brie and Cranberry Party Parcels 😀

Peppermint Cream Chocolate Cupcakes

Recently I was invited round to a friend’s for a girly night and decided to make some cupcakes to take round.

I turned to the  ‘Cupcakes’ book by Carol Pastor that was given to me. The recipe I chose was for ‘Chocolate Mint-filled cupcakes’. But I changed a couple of things around because this was one of those times when trying to follow recipe doesn’t go as planned Firstly, I couldn’t find any caster sugar so used brown sugar instead. The next problem I had was despite following the instructions I produced far too much peppermint cream for piping inside the cupcakes, so rather than producing a separate chocolate frosting as suggested, I added some cocoa powder to make a peppermint cocoa topping.

Don’t worry, despite the overuse of this cream the cupcake is not overwhelmed by peppermint!

Phwarr, that filling looks so gorgeous

For the peppermint cream I mixed 300ml whipping cream with around 1 1/2 teaspoons of peppermint extract and 2tbsps of icing sugar. Whisk this until almost firm peaks are form. Fill a piping bag with this cream insert a round  tip nossel into the bottom of the cupcakes and squeeze in the cream gently. You should feel the cupcake almost inflate as the cream is piped in but be carefully not to overpipe! You may get one or two slight leaks of cream from the top of the cupcakes if you’ve piped in too much.

So here’s a hopefully simplified and adapted recipe The Kitchen Belle way…

For the Cake

  • 150g butter
  • 300g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 250ml milk
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C and grease cupcake tin or prepare cupcake liners.
  2. Beat together butter and sugar until creamy.
  3. Add eggs, milk, peppermint and beat some more.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix in.
  5. Fill the cases/tin with cake mixture and bake for around 15 minutes. My cupcakes were rather large as they went straight into the tin moulds and took around 20 minutes.
  6. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

They're already bursting out and longing to be eaten! 😀

For the White cream

  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  1. Whip cream till it starts to thicken slightly then add sugar and extract and whip till almost stiff.
  2. Spoon into a piping bag with a plain round nozzle.
  3. Stick the nozzle into the bottom of the cake and pipe in, take note of the instructions earlier so you don’t explode your cupcakes with too much filling. Oh and remember to take the cupcake liners off first if you did use them for baking!

For the Cocoa Cream

  • Remaining cream
  • 2  tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp icing sugar
  1. Mix the cocoa and sugar into the remaining cream (adding less or more according to taste and depending on how much cream you have left) and rewhip if the cream starts to lose its shape.
  2. Pipe onto the top of the cupcakes in whatever design you like – probably one better than mine! 🙂

My icing skills need a lot of work

The great thing about these cupcakes is that the cool peppermint flavour is very refreshing, so you feel like you can have more than one a day without feeling overwhelmed by sweetness… though maybe having a few cupcakes a day isn’t really a good thing.