The Crazy Kitchen: 2014

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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Chicken & Chorizo Risotto

Most people enjoy going on holiday for a break from the usual routine, which normally involves the cooking. I, on the other hand, enjoy going on a self catering holiday to do more cooking than I might do at home. I love cooking, but at home it can become a bit of a chore when there are time constraints, work to be done, and kids pestering as they're hungry. On holiday it's a lot more relaxing, and even when cooking in the middle of a weekday it's ok to enjoy a glass of wine whilst making lunch.

This past weekend we took a break away in a cottage in the middle of the Welsh countryside to get away from the craziness of pre-Christmas. All the presents had been bought and wrapped and all the food that could be bought and prepped in advance had been. I planned a menu beforehand and took receipt of an online grocery order to make sure we had enough food to see us through the weekend.

cottage in wales

The kids enjoyed exploring the grounds, as well as playing some good old fashioned board games, whilst I spent some enjoyable quality time in the kitchen, which you would in a lovely kitchen like this, with amazing views.

 photo kitchen1_zps49dfbbc2.jpg  photo kitchen2_zps23bc77b1.jpg

 photo samjumping_zpsde5e71ea.jpg  photo hannainstream_zps3e3017a1.jpg  photo jackwithfox_zpsd8e03cf9.jpg

I decided to make a risotto for a late lunch on Saturday afternoon, which we enjoyed before sitting down to watch Free Willy - got to love all the old movies on over Christmas! This recipe would also be a great way to use up some of that leftover turkey - just add it towards the end of cooking time instead of the chicken.

Chicken & Chorizo Risotto
Chicken & Chorizo Risotto - serves 4/5

large knob of butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
100g Chorizo, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
500g chicken breast, cut into strips
100g baby chestnut mushrooms, sliced
350g arborio rice
150ml Lindeman's Bin 65 Chardonnay
1 litre chicken stock
salt & pepper to season
  • Heat the butter in a large pan
  • Add the onion and fry over a medium heat until softened
  • Add in the garlic and paprika and fry for a couple of minutes
  • Add the chorizo and red pepper and fry for a couple of minutes more before adding the chicken breast and stirring well
  • Add the mushrooms and rice and then stir in the wine
  • Once the wine has been absorbed add the stock a little at a time, adding more when it has been absorbed
  • Cook until all the stock has been added and the rice is tender
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Serve with some thin slices or grated cheese
Chicken & Chorizo Risotto Chicken & Chorizo Risotto

This post has been commissioned by Lindeman's

Monday, 22 December 2014

BEKO Freezer Guard (and a Beef Chilli)

At this time of the year freezer space is at a premium in this house as I like to prepare as much as I can for our Christmas dinner in advance. To make room for the part baked roasties, pigs in blankets, home made ice creams and more I first need to get rid of the bits and bobs that are lurking in the drawers. We do have an extra fridge freezer in the garage that works perfectly fine for most of the year, but a couple of years ago it was extremely cold during December and the freezer decided that it was going to defrost itself, along with all of my Christmas meat! I'm now wary of using it in the winter just in case the contents defrost and then refreeze without me knowing.

Beko now have a solution for the problem caused by freezers being in unheated rooms such as garages or outbuildings. Their Freezer Guard technology overcomes the issue of freezers that stop working when the outside temperature drops below zero, and there is a range of freezers and fridge freezers that will work at temperatures as low as -15C.

If you have space in your freezer this Christmas you might want to make room for a few extra meals ready for when days are hectic and you don't feel like cooking a meal from scratch. For the past week we've been eating a fair bit of sausage chilli from the freezer as I made 30 portions last weekend for Sam's football team and the opposition, but due to the weather the match was cancelled. Thankfully the whole family love it and I've been serving it in various ways, and it certainly makes mealtimes much easier.

At the weekend I cooked up a batch of beef chilli ready for the busy week ahead, and portioned them out with some boiled basmati rice. Cass shares some of her top tips for getting started with your batch cooking.

BEKO Freezer Guard (and a Beef Chilli)

Beef Chilli - serves 4-6

tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
700g lean minced beef
1-2 tsp chilli powder (depending on taste)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 green pepper, diced
1 courgette, diced
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 can of kidney beans, drained
2 tbsp tomato puree
  • Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat
  • Add the onion and fry gently until starting to brown
  • Stir in the garlic and then the mince & spices
  • Fry the mince for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until browned
  • Add in the pepper & courgettes and cook for 2 minutes 
  • Stir in the tomatoes, kidney beans & tomato puree
  • Mix well and bring to the boil
  • Turn the heat down & simmer with the lid on for around 30 minutes

BEKO Freezer Guard (and a Beef Chilli)BEKO Freezer Guard (and a Beef Chilli) BEKO Freezer Guard (and a Beef Chilli)

This post has been commissioned by BEKO

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Mincemeat & Salted Caramel Palmiers with Mincemeat Semifreddo

These palmiers are really easy to make, and a really delicious alternative to a traditional mince pie. If you're having guests around for a mulled wine these would be great to serve alongside, or with the addition on a scoop of semifreddo they would make a tasty dinner party dessert to wow your guests. The semifreddo is lighter than an ice cream, almost the texture of a mousse, with all the flavours of Christmas, and you don't need an ice cream machine to make it.
   Mincemeat & Salted Caramel Palmiers with Mincemeat Semifreddo

Mincemeat & Salted Caramel Palmiers 

500g puff pastry
400g mincemeat
100g almonds, chopped
salted caramel sauce (or caramel sauce with a pinch of sea salt flakes)
  • Roll out the pastry into a large rectangle
  • Spread the mincemeat over the pastry & top with the chopped almonds
  • Roll up each on the long sides towards the middle until they meet
  • Cut slices approx 1cm wide and place onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper
  • Press down with the palm of your hand
  • Bake in a preheated 200C oven for 12-14 minutes
  • Leave on the baking paper to cool down & drizzle with salted caramel sauce
 photo palmiers4_zps4b5b3da1.jpg

Mincemeat Semifreddo

600ml double cream
grated zest of 1 orange
1 vanilla pod, split
300g mincemeat
4 eggs separated
50g caster sugar

  • Heat the cream gently in a pan with the orange zest and vanilla pod
  • Remove from heat and stir in the mincemeat
  • Allow to cool and remove the vanilla pod
  • Whisk the egg whites until stiff
  • Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and creamy 
  • Fold the cream mixture into the egg yolks and then fold in the egg whites, until well combined
  • Add to a freezable container and place in the freezer for 1-2 hours until semi solid and then stir gently to distribute the mincemeat
  • Freeze for a few hours more before serving
  • Remove from the freezer around 15 minutes before serving
Mincemeat & Salted Caramel Palmiers with Mincemeat Semifreddo Mincemeat & Salted Caramel Palmiers with Mincemeat Semifreddo

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Family Time with IKEA

When I was growing up I always remember having mealtimes together as a family, sitting around the dining table. When I visit my parents now I still feel the urge to sit in 'my place' at the table (back to the wall, in between my Mum (nearest the kitchen) & my brother). Sunday nights were a really special time though, as we didn't sit at the dining table and instead the pouffe was pulled out ready for the tray laden with buttered crumpets, English muffins, salt & vinegar chipsticks and a pot of tea and iced fondant fancies from M&S, whilst watching 'That's Life'.

We sometimes do the same now, but probably not as often as we should, as life, friends, homework & sport sometimes get in the way of us all eating at the same time. We should make more of an effort though really, as when we do all sit around the coffee table eating a pizza on a Saturday night or crumpets on a Sunday it gets everyone chatting and laughing together.

We spent our Sunday teatime this week watching Saturday night's episode of the X Factor whilst eating a selection of treats provided by IKEA.

Family Time with IKEA

We ate crispbreads with cream cheese, ham, cheese, apple slices, grapes, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, buttered crumpets, crisps, cinnamon swirls and chocolate muffins. The muffins were topped with a chocolate and butterscotch icing, which was made by beating IKEA's delicious chocolate spread with butterscotch pieces and cream cheese together. The freshly baked chocolate muffins were made using a unique idea - a carton of muffin mix to which cold water is added, shaken and then poured into muffin cases - just genius!

Family Time with IKEA Family Time with IKEA Family Time with IKEA Family Time with IKEA  photo IKEA6_zps7a96f752.jpg

We enjoyed lots of laughs, particularly when the kids tried to throw grapes into Dad's mouth!

Family Time with IKEA

How do you make your mealtimes special?

Thanks to IKEA for providing treats for our family time

Monday, 15 December 2014

Kitchen Accessories at BHS

After a few months of work (on and off) The Crazy Kitchen makeover is almost complete. I am now the proud owner of new glossy cream cupboard doors to replace my eleven year old beech ones, plus a few extra wall cabinets. The walls have been painted and the graphite grey subway style tiles have been laid. All I'm waiting for is my new oven & hob to be fitted, which will be after Christmas now.

When you have a newly fitted kitchen it's nice to dress it up a little with some new kitchen utensils and accessories, which I've done with the help of BHS.

With these Kellogg's metal canisters I no longer mind if the kids leave the cereal out in the morning, and they're large enough to take 1kg of bran flakes.

Kitchen Accessories at BHS

The tins come in two different sizes. These are the large ones which are priced at £10.50 each.

This set of three glass candy jars look great on the worktop filled with sweets, marshmallows & nuts and are reduced to only £7.99 for the 3!

Kitchen Accessories at BHS

I've been putting off the job of cleaning out the cutlery drawer for a while but the arrival of this grey wicker cutlery basket gave me the kick up the backside that I needed. The basket fitted the drawer perfectly and we now have a very organised drawer.

Kitchen Accessories at BHS Kitchen Accessories at BHS

The final item that I received was a very handy 3 tier Breville electric steamer. I have a stainless steel stove top steamer at the moment but once I get the new induction hob fitted it will no longer work, so instead of cluttering my shelves with more pans I thought I would add to my small appliance collection with this helping hand. I've so far only cooked rice in it, which turned out perfectly and was completely fuss free.

Kitchen Accessories at BHS

What accessories would you choose to adorn your kitchen?

I received these items or the purpose of this post

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Festive Menu at Brewers Fayre

We don't often eat out as it can be quite expensive catering for a teen with hollow legs, as well as a pre-teen that doesn't always want to go for the kids menu, so we jumped at the chance when asked if we wanted to try out the festive menu at our local Brewers Fayre.

Myself and the husband opted for the three course festive menu, priced at £13.99 on evenings and weekends. The kids festive menu was a bit limited with only turkey as a main course option so the two youngest chose three courses from the regular kids menu, priced at £4.99, and Sam chose a starter and main course from the main menu.

Festive Menu at Brewers Fayre

Our friendly waiter brought over crackers, party poppers, streamers, blowers and balloon rockets to get us in the festive party mood whilst waiting the short time until our starters were delivered.

For starters I chose breaded mushrooms and the husband chose prawn cocktail, both of which were really nice, although it would have been nice to see a cranberry dip for the mushrooms rather than a bbq sauce.

Whilst waiting for our main courses much hilarity was caused by the balloon rockets flying around as guests on nearby tables got into the party spirit too.

For main course I chose the festive beef burger, which was a delicious 6oz burger topped with cranberry sauce and brie, accompanied by coleslaw and potato dippers. My only criticism of this was the bun, which didn't seem very fresh and had the appearance that it had previously been frozen.

The husband had the traditional Christmas turkey dinner, served with roast potatoes, chipolata, root vegetable mash, sprouts, stuffing, yorkshire pudding and gravy, which he said was really good.

After the burger I was completely stuffed and gave my dessert of chocolate brownie to Sam, but sampled the very nice Christmas pudding and custard that the husband ordered.

Festive Menu at Brewers Fayre

All in all we had an extremely positive experience at Brewers Fayre, with good food and a very welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Our total bill came to just over £50 for a 3 course meal for 2 adults and 2 children, a 2 course meal for 1 adult, plus drinks, which is great value for money for a family of 5.

Whilst there I spotted a great looking offer of 2 starters for £2.50, 2 main courses for £10 and 2 desserts for £2.50, which is available weekdays, so I think we may be back to sample that very soon.

We were provided with a voucher to try out the festive menu

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Mince Pies Two Ways

Years ago my Mum worked as a tea lady for a large company (before she was replaced by vending machines), and at Christmas she would make around 200 mince pies to give out to the staff on her floor with their morning cuppa. A couple of decades on and she still makes more than enough mince pies, but now we receive the benefit of her mass baking session, meaning that I very rarely make any of my own. When I do I usually make them one of two ways; either with a custard inside a shortcrust pastry case or in a puff pastry case (my personal preference).

The first batch I made this season were for Great British Chefs, using A2 milk in the custard. Since I first started using A2 milk a few months ago in my baked mini doughnuts with rhubarb & custard sauce and apple and custard tarts it has become Jack's favourite milk to drink, and he loves it when I have some 'special blue milk' in the fridge. You can find the full recipe for these Mincemeat & Custard Pies  here.

mincemeat & custard pies mincemeat & custard pies mincemeat & custard pies mincemeat & custard pies

For my second batch of mince pies I used ready made puff pastry, which is great for having in the fridge over Christmas ready for when guests arrive - they will be very impressed when you nip into the kitchen & return less than 30 minutes later with a plate of warm and crispy mince pies.

puff pastry mince pies

Puff pastry mince pies - makes 12

1 pack of ready made puff pastry
mincemeat (shop bought or recipes here and here)
demerara sugar
icing sugar
  • Roll the puff pastry out to about 3mm thick
  • Using pastry cutters, cut 12 discs large enough to line your 12 hole bun tin & 12 smaller discs for the lids
  • Place the bases in the tin & top with a spoonful of mincemeat
  • Brush with a little milk around the edge of the pastry & place on the lid and seal
  • Sprinkle with a little demerara sugar before baking in a preheated 180C oven for 20 minutes, until golden, puffed up & crispy
  • Dust with a little icing sugar before serving
puff pastry mince pies

Easy peasy, and never be without mince pies again. Oh, and don't go throwing those scrappy bits of puff pastry away - just trim them into bitesized pieces, brush with milk, scatter with sugar and cinnamon and bake in the oven - delicious dipped in chocolate sauce.

cinnamon puff pastry scraps

recipe for mincemeat & custard pies commissioned by Great British Chefs

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas Cake for Cheese

We've just finished our first Christmas cake, and when I say we've finished it I don't mean we've finished making it or finished decorating it, I mean we've actually just finished eating it. Yep, and we are only just over a week into December. Fear not as we have another two, one is currently being fed with dark rum on a weekly basis and the other is this one, which I made purely to eat with cheese.

Christmas Cake for Cheese

Christmas Cake for Cheese

I believe that eating fruit cake with cheese stems from Yorkshire, where they eat it with Wensleydale. I enjoyed mine with a slice of Wensleydale with apricots - I would have preferred plain Wensleydale but it was either apricots or nothing when my online shop was delivered. One of the very few times I drink red wine is around this time of year with cheese (the other is when I enjoy Sangria during the summer), and this cake, cheese and a glass of Lindeman's Bin 50 Shiraz was a perfect pairing on a cold wintry night.

It's a very simple recipe that takes very little preparation and can be made in one pan.

Christmas Cake for Cheese

150g dates, chopped
125g raisins
125g currants
125g sultanas
115g butter
115g soft dark brown sugar
1 tbsp black treacle
100ml Lindeman's Shiraz
2 eggs
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
50g almonds, roughly chopped
150g self raising flour
  • Add the dried fruit to a large saucepan with the butter, sugar & black treacle
  • Stir over a low heat until the butter has melted & sugar has dissolved
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the wine
  • Allow to cool before beating on the eggs
  • Stir in the nuts and flour until well combined
  • Pour the batter into a greased & lined loaf pan
  • Bake in a preheated 140C oven for approx 1.5 hours, until a skewer inserted comes out clean
Christmas Cake for Cheese

Fruit cake and cheese? Go on, I dare you to try....

This post has been commissioned by Lindeman's

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Mincemeat Pancakes with Salted Caramel Sauce

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas now that we're into December, although we haven't got our tree up yet as it still feels too early (or actually I can't be bothered with the task of building it just yet).

I made some mincemeat a few weeks ago, but other than making just one batch of mince pies and some mini mincemeat loaves the majority of it has been sitting in the cupboard waiting for my festive baking to kick into gear.

I decided to make a batch of mincemeat pancakes for an after school snack, and topped them with a drizzle of homemade salted caramel sauce (recipe here). I'm currently on my pre Christmas diet so only tasted a small spoonful of pancake and sauce but I could have quite easily eaten the whole lot, cleared the bowls away and the kids would've been none the wiser when they walked in and found me in a sugar daze. I was very disciplined though and saved the rest for the husband and kids, but I think I'll be making these again on Christmas morning when I no longer have to worry about my diet!

Mincemeat Pancakes with Salted Caramel Sauce

Mincemeat Pancakes - makes approx 6

125ml semi skimmed milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
75g mincemeat (shop bought or use my recipe here or here)
100g self raising flour
oil for frying
  • Mix the milk & lemon juice together
  • Whisk in the egg & then stir in the mincemeat
  • Add the flour and stir until just combined
  • Heat a little oil in a pan and spoon a tablespoonful of batter into the pan (make 2 or 3 at a time if you have room)
  • Allow to cook until it begins to puff up & is golden brown 
  • Flip over and cook for a few minutes on the other side

Mincemeat Pancakes with Salted Caramel Sauce

Using up the Christmas leftovers - Turkey Cottage Pie

Forgive me for talking about 'after Christmas' when we are barely into December, but I'm going to anyway, because we all need ideas for using up the leftover turkey.

I was provided with a Bernard Matthews Golden Norfolk turkey to cook and make a dish with the leftovers.

 photo goldenturkey_zps8a92fb2e.jpg

In the past I've made turkey spring rolls, curry, soup and lots of lots of sandwiches to use up the leftovers, but in the new year when I can't look at another buffet I crave a good home cooked comfort meal. This turkey cottage pie is exactly that; a warming, satisfying dish topped with buttery mash.

Turkey Cottage Pie Turkey Cottage Pie

Turkey Cottage Pie

tbsp olive oil
large onion, chopped
clove of garlic, crushed
2 carrots, peeled & diced
400ml turkey stock (reserved from roasting the turkey)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
tbsp dried rosemary
1 courgette, diced
leftover turkey
tbsp cornflour
approx 1kg mashed potato
  • Heat the oil in a pan & fry the onion until starting to brown
  • Add the garlic & carrots & fry for a minute longer
  • Add the stock, worcestershire sauce and rosemary
  • Stir well & place the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Add the courgette & turkey and simmer for a few minutes longer
  • Mix the cornflour with a little water and add to the pan, stirring well
  • Transfer to an ovenproof dish and top with mash
  • Place in a preheated 180C oven until the mash is golden brown
Turkey Cottage Pie

It definitely made a nice change to the usual turkey curry.

I was recently invited to a 'Bootiful Ideas' event hosted by Bernard Matthews at the fab Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, London. During the event we were given some food styling tips by stylist Olia Hercules, had chance to meet other bloggers and sample some existing products as well as give our views on some potential new ones - fingers crossed that my favourite makes it to the shelves!

It's always nice to attend blogger events and meet new bloggers, especially when the kids are invited too, and this time I got to spend a day with my budding food stylist Hanna.

 photo bernardmatthewsday_zps41b042ea.jpg

We even got to take a few samples home and Jack was treated to a 'Turkey Munchkin'.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Goats Cheese, Cranberry & Walnut Tart

If you're looking for ideas for your Christmas buffet table then this tart is sure you impress your guests, especially as they say that you can tell a lot about a woman by her buffet.

This tart includes three ingredients that signify Christmas to me - cranberries, cheese & nuts, and can be eaten warm or cold, and is perfect for that Christmas party.

Goats Cheese, Walnut & Cranberry Tart Goats Cheese, Walnut & Cranberry Tart Goats Cheese, Walnut & Cranberry Tart Goats Cheese, Walnut & Cranberry Tart

You can find the full recipe on the Great British Chefs website here.

This recipe has been commissioned by Great British Chefs


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