The Crazy Kitchen: April 2014

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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Middle Eastern Beef & Shallots

I've been doing the Paleo diet for 3 weeks now (give or take the odd bit of wine at weekends & a nibble of chocolate here & there) and have so far lost 6lbs, which I'm pretty pleased with. Although I have mostly been eating different meals to the rest of the family I have been trying to make many of the family meals Paleo friendly, and just add pasta, rice or potatoes for everyone else.

After trying a Middle Eastern dish recently I bought some Baharat spice and made a very simple beef dish, slowly roasted in the oven, with a sauce that's naturally thick and needs no flour to thicken. The husband had his with rice but I served mine on some sautéed chard, which a friend with an allotment kindly gave me.

Middle Eastern Beef & Shallots  - Paleo

Middle Eastern Beef & Shallots  - serves 2/3

450g shallots, peeled
olive oil
salt & pepper
400g diced beef
2 tsp Baharat spice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Add the whole shallots, drizzle of oil and salt & pepper to an lidded ovenproof casserole dish
  • Cook in a preheated 180C oven for 30 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and stir in the beef, spice and garlic, stirring well
  • Add the tomatoes, mix well and return to the oven
  • Lower the temperature to 160C and cook for approx 1.5 hours, until the beef is tender


Middle Eastern Beef & Shallots  - Paleo Middle Eastern Beef & Shallots  - Paleo


For tips on owning an allotment please visit my friend's site here.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Love, Lies & Lemon Pies

My 11 year old daughter loves to read and she's always got her nose in a book. Sometimes she can disappear off onto her bedroom for hours and come down later with a big smile on her face announcing that she's finished her book. 

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When I was sent Love, Lies and Lemon Pies by Katy Cannon I thought she would love it, especially as it's full of yummy sounding recipes throughout, but unfortunately she read that it was recommended for ages 12 and over and refused to read it just yet, deeming it too old for her. Without my young bookworms opinion of the book to share, I am instead sharing one of the simple recipes that I tried from the book, along with a brief description of the book and author.

Grandma's Gingerbread
  • Heat the oven to 160C/ fan 140C/ gas 3
  • Melt 150g of golden syrup with 100g of butter and 150ml milk in a pan
  • Add an egg and mix in, allowing it to cook a little
  • Beat in 200g of sieved flour (I used self raising), 3 tsp of ground ginger and 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • Pour into a prepared loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes before turning down to 150C/ fan 130C/ gas 2 for the last 20 minutes *note that mine baked in just 30 minutes!
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I poured some Opies Ginger Syrup over the gingerbread whilst still warm to give it a sticky coating.

THE BREAKFAST CLUB MEETS THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE-OFF!

Lottie’s dad has recently died and things at home are not great. Determined to keep prying eyes away, especially her teachers and a pushy school counsellor, Lottie agrees to join Bake Club.  However, keeping up the lies and pretending all is fine is not as easy as it seems.

Then there is school bad boy, Mac. Written off by his teachers as nothing but trouble, Mac is given one last chance before he's kicked out of school: Bake Club

Lottie and Mac would rather be anywhere but Bake Club and even less so working together. However, as things ‘hot’ up in the kitchen and the end of year Bake-Off competition approaches, tensions rise and Lottie starts to feel the pressure. Can she really expect to keep up the pretence that life at home is fine, while her friendships crumble around her and the bubbling romance with bad boy Mac intensifies? This is one baking mix she was never prepared for.

Love, Lies and Lemon Pies is the perfect summer read for readers age 12+ and comes with yummy baking recipes at the start of each chapter. Ideal for those lazy days at home during the holidays, plus baking suggestions that are guaranteed to ‘wow’ your friends and family. An authentic and captivating novel that explores teen issues such as young romance, school cliques, family life and difficult teachers, in an inspiring and creative way.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Katy Cannon was born in the United Arab Emirates, grew up in North Wales and now lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and daughter Holly. She did an English Literature degree at Lancaster University, but soon found out that writing her own stories was much more fun than analyzing other people’s. Katy loves animals and baking.


publish date : 5th May 2014

paperback £6.99


I was sent a copy of the book free of charge, along with a few products to sample from Opies, who have a range of sauces perfect for BBQ season.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Choc Ices on a Stick

As we get nearer to the Summer, the days are getting warmer and the evenings are getting longer, and the chime of the ice cream van can be heard (my kids no longer believe me when I tell them that the scrap man has changed his tune). I begrudge forking out an arm and a leg for ice creams from the van when I am in my own home - especially when the kids skip back smugly with a hideous blue lolly in their hands!

Here are two simple ideas to keep smiles on the kids faces, and the money firmly in your pocket!

Choc Ices on a Stick

Choc Ices on a Stick - makes approx 6

Lolly sticks (or coffee stirrers cut to size)
Silicone mould (I used a Dariole mould)
Vanilla ice cream
150g Dr Oetker Fine Cooks' Milk Chocolate
Vegetable oil
Dr Oetker chocolate beans
  • Fill the moulds with the ice cream, compacting it into the mould, and sticking the lolly sticks into the ice cream
  • Place in the freezer for a few hours to harden
  • Remove the ice creams from the mould and place back in the freezer for 20 minutes
  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave on short bursts, stirring regularly, until melted and smooth
  • Stir in a little oil to make the consistency a little runnier
  • Coat the ice cream with the chocolate and sprinkle a few chocolate beans on the top
  • Return to the freezer for at least an hour


Choc Ices on a Stick Choc Ices on a Stick

Another idea for a frozen treat is to pop a Jaffa Cake Mini Roll onto a stick and place in the freezer for a couple of hours, making a change from the regular way of eating mini rolls!

Choc Ices on a Stick Choc Ices on a Stick Choc Ices on a Stick

I received the Mini Rolls and Dr Oetker chocolate as part of the most recent Degustabox.

degustabox april

Contents of the box :

2 x Dr Oetker Fine Cooks' Chocolate
Crabbies alcoholic Raspberry Ginger Beer
2 x Clearspring Miso soup on the go
3 x Lindt Lindor treat bars
Go Splash blackcurrant concentrate
Cawston Press Rhubarb drink
Keogh's Atlantic Sea Salt & Irish Cider Vinegar crisps
2 x Mornflake Muesli & Granola Superfast pots
2 x McVities Jaffa Cake Mini Rolls


I currently have a discount coupon code which gives you a £3.00 discount when registering. The code is: VR4DG

Degustabox are currently running a competition on their Facebook page to win one of their surprise boxes.

You can also follow them on Twitter here 


I received the Degustabox free of charge

Cheesy Twice Baked Potatoes

We all love baked potatoes (or jacket potatoes if you prefer to call them that), and sometimes if a little extra time permits I like to bake them twice, for something a little bit different. Personally I prefer my baked spuds not to be messed with but the rest of the family love these, although Jack would like me to leave the onion out next time!

There are no quantities here, as you can add as much or as little of the fillings as you like really.
   Cheesy Twice Baked Potatoes

Cheesy Twice Baked Potatoes 

Baking potatoes
Sweetcorn
Red onion, chopped
Ham, chopped
Butter
Boursin garlic & herb portions
Red Leicester cheese, grated
  • Bake the potatoes in a 200C oven for approx 1 hour, until the skins are crisp and the insides soft
  • Turn the oven down to 180C
  • Cut the potatoes in half lengthways
  • As soon as you are able to handle the hot potatoes, scoop out the insides into a bowl & place the skins onto a baking tray
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, apart from the grated cheese, to the potato and mix well
  • Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins and top with grated cheese
  • Bake in the oven until the cheese has melted and is bubbling

Cheesy Twice Baked Potatoes Cheesy Twice Baked Potatoes


Boursin 

These little individual portions of Boursin are idea to add to a baked potato, take in a packed lunch with crackers or added to a risotto.

chicken risotto

I was sent some samples of Boursin free of charge

Thursday, 24 April 2014

New Lunchboxes

Hanna and Jack take a packed lunch to school every day, and their lunchboxes can get worn very quickly. I can pop Hanna's into the washing machine but I'm sure it's not supposed to go in there and the inside has suffered a bit from this. It's not possible to put Jacks in as it has cardboard inside it that can't be taken out, so his box isn't easy to clean at all.

We were pleased when we received a couple of new lunchboxes in the post to try, each one quite different to the other.

Hanna decided she would like the first one that arrived as blue is her favourite colour.


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The Solvetta Flatbox lunchbox is very different to most lunchboxes. Not only is it made from heat resistant and durable neoprene that is machine washable, but it unzips at each side and folds out completely flat, into your own personal table cloth.

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There is plenty of room inside and it is tall enough to contain a drink bottle too. Hanna loves this but doesn't usually unzip all sides at lunchtime, unless specifically asked by her friends. We haven't found it necessary to wash completely yet as it's really easy to wipe clean, without any awkward corners for crumbs to collect.  I can see this lunchbox lasting for many years to come.

The second lunchbox that arrived was a Yumbox, which are not yet available in the UK. This is ideal for Jack as he likes to have lots of different things in his lunchbox, but small containers can be quite tricky to open. The Yumbox is really easy to open and is made up of six compartments of varying sizes.

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The tight fitting one piece lid means that food won't get mixed up within the box, and it manages to keep yoghurt in one place without leaking over everything else.

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It's easy to wash and fits inside a regular kids lunchbox to make carrying easier. As you can see, I'm not very creative with my Bento lunches but if you are looking for Yumbox inspiration then you should check out the yumboxuk Instagram feed, as well as Eats Amazing who use their Yumbox in many of their Bento posts.

My only issue with this box is that the none of the compartments are large enough to take cream crackers, which Jack likes to take in his lunch, meaning that when he uses this box he has to take alternative [smaller] crackers, which he doesn't like as much (plus they are more expensive than cream crackers). I am also concerned how it would survive a drop onto a hard floor, which is inevitable with kids, but I'm not willing to put that to the test just yet.

I received the lunchboxes for the purpose of this review

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Fettuccine Bolognaise - #RespectThePasta

For the third #RespectThePasta challenge set by ASk Italian I have been asked to recreate a Fettuccine dish from the ASK Italian cookbook. I chose to make Fettuccine Bolognaise, as the family love a rich and meaty bolognaise.

I was provided with a box of dried Fettuccine that takes just 6-7 minutes too cook, however the bolognaise sauce takes a little longer to develop the rich flavours so make sure you start cooking it in plenty of time, or make in advance and store in the fridge.

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Fettuccine Bolognaise - serves 4-6

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
450g lean minced beef
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100ml red wine
150ml beef stock
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
500g tomato passata
5 fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
500g Fettuccine
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan over a low heat
  • Add the onion and cook slowly until it has softened and become translucent
  • Add the beef mince and brown gently, breaking the meat up and stirring constantly
  • When the meat has lost its raw look, add the garlic
  • Add the wine, turn up the heat and cook for about 5 minutes, until the wine has evaporated
  • Stir in the stock, tomatoes & passata
  • Season with the herbs, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and salt
  • Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often
  • Check the seasoning, adding pepper to taste
  • Lower the heat and cook the sauce very gently for 1 hour 20 minutes with the lid off
  • Stir often to prevent the sauce from sticking
  • It should be at a low simmer
  • Cook the Fettuccine according to the directions on the pack
  • Once the Fettuccine is cooked, add it to the sauce and mix well
  • Serve immediately. Enjoy!


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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

#NextKids Summer 2014 Range

Earlier in the week we visited the Next head office in Leicester to have a sneaky peek at their Summer 2014 range for children. Unfortunately, due to the M1 being closed we arrived, extremely late and only managed a quick browse of the new range.

Hanna was really pleased to see lots of blue's in the older girl's range, as she loves blue. There were lots of very cute clothes for both boys and girls, and lots of bright clothes once again for the boys, including a range of football t-shirts in the colours of all the main countries.

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I think someone has her eye on a few new pieces for her wardrobe this Summer!


We received travel expenses to attend this event, along with a giftcard and goody bags.

Gousto meals delivered to your door - HALF PRICE OFFER

Around 18 months ago I reviewed Gousto ingredient delivery service, so when I was asked to try them out again I thought it would be interesting to see if anything had changed.

Last time I was bit disappointed with the quality of a couple of the ingredients, however it was mostly really good quality organic ingredients, and the portions were of a reasonable size.

This time around I chose 3 meals, each of which were for 2 people - Pork Tenderloin Tagliatelle in creamy mushroom sauce, Crisp Chicken Escalope with Taleggio & Leek gratin and Middle Eastern spiced Beef Pitas with homemade hummus.

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The delivery arrived on a Wednesday, as promised, and it was advised that all of the meals should be eaten by the Saturday. The ingredients all looked to be of good quality, and included detailed recipe cards for each of the meals.

 photo goustoporkloinjpg_zps736a21f0.jpg
Pork Tenderloin Tagliatelle in creamy mushroom sauce

I chose to have green beans (my own) with my pork tenderloin instead of the tagliatelle, which I piled onto the husbands plate. The sauce was lovely and the pork was of a really good quality. No special equipment was needed for this and I just needed to add my own salt, pepper & olive oil.

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Crisp Chicken Escalope with Taleggio & Leek gratin

The chicken in this dish was beautiful - due to doing my paleo diet I coated mine in crushed nuts instead of the breadcrumbs but the husbands meal (above) looked delicious. I was a bit lazy and didn't peel the potatoes for the mash and instead crushed it instead of mashing fully. We would both have liked a little more green veg with this dish.   This one needed a few more ingredients providing - salt, pepper, olive oil, butter, milk & flour - although I would have expected the required amount of flour to be included as not everyone has a bag of flour kicking around their store cupboard. Saying that, I didn't actually use flour & it the crispy coating on the chicken was still great.

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Beef Pitas with homemade hummus

This was our favourite dish as it was so tasty, with so many flavours going on. The beef was a little on the oily side and I would have liked some salad with it, but apart from that it was absolutely delicious & I've since bought some Bharat spice mix to try and recreate it myself. I just had to provide salt, pepper & olive oil for this dish.

The portions in the 2 person box were enough for 2 people, however (in my opinion) could be stretched to feed 3 people if you added some vegetables or salad on the side. The 4 person box could easily feed a family of 5 that includes children but I would definitely have to add some greenery on the side to make sure that they had their 5 a day.

SPECIAL OFFER
If you would like to try out Gousto for yourself I have a great deal where you can get 50% off your first Gousto box. That could make it as little as £1.90 per meal (based on a family box for up to 5 people), which is great value.

Although Gousto is a subscription service there is no obligation to buy any further boxes and you are free to cancel at anytime.

Just enter CRAZYKITCHEN50 at the checkout to gain the 50% of your first box.


Monday, 14 April 2014

Rich Chocolate Loaf Cake

On Saturday morning Jack was up with the lark and into our bed, fidgeting, tickling and giggling so much that I had to get up and bake a cake with him and Hanna. Nanny was paying us a visit so what better excuse did we need to bake a cake. I opted for the simplest chocolate cake recipe known to man, and one that I use for my chocolate cupcakes. It includes espresso or a strong black coffee but you don't need to add that if you don't want the subtle coffee flavour, just boiling water works well.

Rich chocolate loaf cake - a simple yet moist chocolate cakewith a cream cheese & Nutella frosting

Rich Chocolate Loaf Cake

100ml boiling water
2 tbsp Instant coffee granules 
35g Cocoa powder
190g Caster Sugar
115g Plain Flour
3/4 tsp Baking powder
3/4 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Egg
60ml Hazelnut oil
125ml Milk
150g Full fat Philadelphia cream cheese
150g Nutella
  • Mix the boiling water, coffee and cocoa powder together until smooth
  • Mix the sugar, flour, baking powder, bicarb of soda and salt together in a large bowl 
  • Beat the egg, oil and milk together, add the chocolate mixture & beat well
  • Beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well
  • Pour the cake batter into a lined & greased loaf tin
  • Bake in a 180 C oven for approx 40 minutes, until springy to the touch
  • Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin & cooling fully on a wire rack
  • Make the frosting by beating the cream cheese & Nutella together
  • Decorate the cake with the frosting 
  • I added Chocolate enrobed crystallised orange peel from The East India Company

Rich chocolate loaf cake - a simple yet moist chocolate cakewith a cream cheese & Nutella frosting Rich chocolate loaf cake - a simple yet moist chocolate cakewith a cream cheese & Nutella frosting Rich Chocolate Loaf Cake



I was sent some chocolate enrobed crystallised orange peel from The East India Company to use in my baking

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Spanish Sausage & Mash

On Saturday I took some sausages out of the freezer as it looked like it was going to be a nice day to be in the garden, and possibly have a barbecue. Unfortunately it didn't turn out to be as nice as I thought so decided on good old sausage and mash instead, but with a twist.

I had some Schwarts Flavour Shots in the pantry (yes I have a pantry now after wanting one for almost a decade!) and chose to use the Spanish Paella flavour. Each of the flavour shots contain a recipe on the packaging, but I'm not one to follow recipes, and like to try something a little bit different.

 photo flavourshotsjpg_zps9f9f6f0a.jpg 

The flavour shots are a combination of spices and oil to make your chosen dish taste authentic. I thought that the smoked paprika and garlic flavours would be perfect with the sausages, onion and peppers that I had. 

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You could leave the sausages whole, but I like to cut them up to make them go a bit further.

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Spanish Sausage & Mash - serves 4/5

Schwartz Spanish Paella Flavour Shot
1 onion, sliced
750g sausages, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
1 green pepper, cored & sliced
1 red pepper, cored & sliced
  • Heat a large pan and add the flavour shot and onion
  • Fry gently for 2 minutes
  • Add the sausage and fry for 10 minutes, stirring regularly
  • Add the peppers and fry for an additional 10 minutes, or until the sausages are cooked through

Serve with creamy mash.

 photo spanishsausageampmashjpg_zps39213e79.jpg  photo spanishsausagemash3jpg_zps68ee6906.jpg


Saturday, 12 April 2014

Pork, Chestnut & Cranberry Fusilli - #RespectThePasta

After the first challenge (which was a nice easy one) it was time to get into the kitchen and start cooking some pasta, following a few rules set out by ASK  ambassador, Theo Randall.

DO
  • Use lots of boiling, well salted water
  • Cook for 2 minutes less than the packet instructions and finish cooking in the sauce with a spoonful of cooking water
  • Enjoy immediately in small portions in warm bowls or plates - "pasta waits for no man"

DO NOT
  • Tip pasta into a colander to drain it - use tongs or slotted spoon to take pasta out of the water
  • Test 'done-ness' by throwing pasta onto the walls
  • Use too much sauce - coat the pasta, don't drown it

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I decided to make a sauce using some dried cranberries and chestnuts that I had kicking around after Christmas - yes I know it's April, but I had them hidden away and forgot all about them!

Pork, Chestnut & Cranberry Fusilli - serves 4/5

4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp herbs (I used thyme & rosemary), finely chopped
200g cooked chestnuts, chopped
500g pork mince
100g dried cranberries
400g tinned tomatoes
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
150ml red wine
pinch salt & pepper
500g dried fusilli
  • Heat the oil in a large pan
  • Add the onion and garlic and fry gently for 1 minute
  • Add the herbs, chestnuts, pork mince and cranberries, and fry gently until the mince is browned
  • Add the tomatoes, worcestershire sauce and red wine
  • Stir well, place a lid on and simmer for approx 30 minutes
  • Cook the pasta as per the rules above and add to the sauce with some of the cooking water as needed, and stir
  • Serve with some chopped herbs on top


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