The Crazy Kitchen: 2017

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Monday, 26 June 2017

Family Meals : Paprika Chicken with Chorizo & Olives

I've mentioned before on this blog that I cook the majority of our family meals from scratch, and on most nights of the week. We rarely eat out, and only have takeaways very occasionally, and if we do it's only usually from the local chippy.

We also have very little food waste in this house, which I put down to meal planning (albeit a bit haphazardly at the moment), cooking from scratch, and always using up any leftovers by making them into another meal, freezing them, or eating for lunch the following day.

I also encourage our family to eat our evening meals together as much as possible. It's not always easy with two teenagers though, especially at this tome of the year when they're out with their friends for the majority of the evening, so it's often only three of us at the dinner table. At least 3 or 4 times a week we do all manage to sit down together though, and some of our favourite meals involve a large panful of food in the centre of the table with breads, salads and vegetables on the side for everyone to help themselves to.

This article about the benefits of family meals is a very interesting read, and should encourage all families to try and eat together as much as possible. 
This Paprika Chicken dish is one of the many dishes that I enjoy cooking, as I know everyone will enjoy it, and it takes a minimal amount of effort to make. As the majority of the ingredients used are from Iceland's cook from frozen range it means that you can always have a supply of ingredients in the freezer ready to whip up a meal at any time, without the worry that anything is going to go off.

Family Meals : Paprika Chicken with Chorizo & Olives

The dish could be served with salad and bread or roast potatoes and steamed vegetables, but I chose to serve it with a large pot of ratatouille (which is always delicious the following day on a jacket potato or pasta), bread rolls (who knew you could buy frozen ready baked bread rolls), and Iceland steamed rice.

Family Meals : Paprika Chicken with Chorizo & Olives

Ratatouille is also a great way to use up vegetables from the bottom of the fridge, such as onions, peppers, mushrooms, aubergines, courgettes and tomatoes, as well as carrots, leeks, butternut squash and cabbage. Just like a 'fridge bottom' soup or curry, almost any veg can go into a ratatouille, but using the Iceland Mediterranean Vegetables as a base gives it a great flavour, as well as saving valuable time by not having any chopping to do.

Paprika Chicken with Chorizo & Olives by Helen Jessup on Scribd

Family Meals : Paprika Chicken with Chorizo & Olives


Family Meals : Paprika Chicken with Chorizo & Olives

This is quite simply one of the easiest, tastiest, cook from [almost] scratch, no chopping, no waste, family meals that you could ever wish to make. That's the #PowerofFrozen!

 photo paprika chicken Pin_zpsymyhymf8.jpg

a commissioned post for Iceland Foods #PowerofFrozen

Monday, 19 June 2017

Hot & Spicy Halloumi & Salad filled Flatbread

Wow, what a lovely weekend that was for the weather. Although, how many of us were doing the typical British thing of moaning that it's too hot? One week we're in jumpers & jackets & the next it's hotter than the Med. Crazy weather.

When the sun does come out for us, so does the barbecue. We are a family of barbecue and bbq sauce lovers, so when I was offered some Jack Daniel's barbecue sauces to try out I was intrigued to see what they would taste like, and whether the rest of the family would like them considering they're made with real Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey.

Hot & Spicy Halloumi Flatbread

I was dying to try the Extra Hot Habanero as I do love my spicy sauces, and this didn't disappoint, as it had a huge kick! It still packed a punch once it was brushed onto the halloumi slices and cooked on the griddle pan.

Hot & Spicy Halloumi Flatbread

These halloumi & salad filled flatbreads are so fresh tasting, and are very quick to prepare as the halloumi only takes a few minutes to cook. They're a great veggie alternative to the usual meats at a bbq, or a simple pack up for work. I love these ready folded flatbreads that I found in Tesco as they're a perfect size to hold the filling securely without everything falling into your lap! Myself & the husband ate these as we both love spicy food, and the kids loved the bbq chicken breast made with the full flavour smokey sauce at the weekend - you can see an Instagram pic of our tasty bbq feast here.

Hot & Spicy Halloumi Flatbread

Hot & Spicy Halloumi Flatbread Hot & Spicy Halloumi Flatbread jack daniels sauces

Jack Daniel's sauces are available in 6 flavours, including these 3 above, and are suitable for both vegetarians and vegans, and some are also gluten free.

Hot & Spicy Halloumi & Salad filled Flatbread

a commissioned post for Jack Daniel's Sauces

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

A Day out at the Vegetarian Society Cookery School

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited by the Vegetarian Society to their Headquarters and cookery school in Greater Manchester. All I knew was that it was going to be a day of cooking up some Vegan dishes with a handful of fellow bloggers, so I didn't really know what to expect from the food that we were going to be preparing & eating. I do like meat free dishes and cook many of them for the family, often without them knowing (bread bolognaise for example!), but I do love a steak every now and then, and couldn't see myself living without cheese.

vegetarian cookery school

We weren't invited along to be converted to veganism though, and there was a good balance of both vegetarians and meat eaters. One of the reasons for our visit was to be introduced to the new Vegetarian Society Approved vegan trademark, which will be appearing on products from late summer, and will help the consumer when selecting vegan approved foods, without having to scan all the ingredients, safe in the knowledge that products are 100% vegan. 

These products are guaranteed to be free from: 
• animal-derived ingredients
• cross-contamination during production
• GMOs
• animal testing, either directly or via commissioned processes. 

The Vegetarian Society is a charity passionate about veggie food, and rather than pushing meat eaters, such as myself, into becoming vegetarians or vegans they aim to help people better understand the impact of their food choices, and support those who choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, whether it be every day of the week, or just on a Meat Free Monday.

The day started with an introduction to the friendly and welcoming staff, including our tutor for the day, Alex, before being shown to our workplace for the day. It was hands on right from the start, with Alex getting us involved in making our own dishes. Before long the kitchen was a hive of activity, with plenty of chopping, kneading, rolling and blending going on, in between the chatting, laughing & taking photos.

vegetarian cookery school OUR TUTOR, ALEX (photo credit : Vegetarian Society)

During the day we used many ingredients that most of us hadn't come across before, including braised tofu, ackee and breadfruit. I was seriously impressed with the vegan mayonnaise made from soya milk, and I'll definitely be making that one again

One of the other dishes that stood out for me was the Solomon Gundy, which is traditionally a fish based pate, but in this instance had been made with braised tofu. If you're a vegetarian or vegan that hasn't tried braised tofu then I insist you go and buy some. I can't really explain what it's like, and whilst it has an odd initial taste, the aftertaste is really quite nice, and in the pate it worked so well. 

I also really really loved the Spicy Chickpea Tagine with pan fried Harissa Aubergine, and the cashew crème in the Fruits of the Forest Sundaes was so creamy and you would never guess that it was a dairy free nut based alternative to cream once it was paired with the berries and crunchy oat topping. Tofu scramble was a bit of a revelation for me too, as tofu can be a bit of a 'meh' ingredient, but it worked really well in this protein packed breakfast dish. I'm not convinced about Vegan cheese though, so although I'm happy to continue with my semi vegetarian diet I'm not ready to go full on vegan and ditch the cheese just yet.

vegetarian society cookery school
BUSY BUSY BUSY (photo credit : Vegetarian Society)

tofu scramble

vegan pate

vegan tagine

 photo cake_zpsqtsxtvpc.jpg

If you want to see more of the fab dishes that we cooked up, you can find them on this post on Facebook.

If you're a fully fledged Vegan, or maybe considering adopting a more plant based diet, then you can register here for FREE TICKETS to the Just V show in London from 7th - 9th July.

 photo vegan trademark_zpshvyhoits.jpg

Monday, 12 June 2017

BBQ Asian Beef Skewers

A couple of weekends ago the weather was beautiful, so we spent a little time cleaning up the garden and having a sort out in the garage, which seems like a never ending task. I have no idea why we keep so much junk, or even how we acquire much of it in the first place! Three carloads to the tip and the garage is looking tidier, but somehow it still looks full!

It was a lovely day for some outdoor cooking, so at lunchtime I fired up the bbq (it's gas so doesn't take much effort!), and cooked us up some Asian Beef Skewers. They only take a few minutes to cook so are perfect for large family gatherings as a large batch can be cooked in next to no time, and most of the prep can be done ahead of time.

BBQ Asian Beef Skewers

I've always considered rump steak to be a little on the chewy side, and rarely choose it when eating out or cooking at home. I wanted to give the Irish Beef rump steak a try to see if Irish Beef really did live up to its reputation for being a premium product, superior to much of the meat available to consumers. I can honestly say that I was not disappointed with this cut of meat, which worked perfectly in this dish, and had the family fighting over the skewers. They were divine.

If you've never considered Irish Beef before, here are a few reasons why you should :

Irish agriculture: Spread across a network of 120,000 small farms, Ireland’s agricultural production uses a seamless blend of traditional craft passed down through generations and modern farming methods developed using cutting edge technology – resulting in bumper harvests and best-in-class, world-renowned cattle.

Irish Cattle: Today, Ireland sets the benchmark for high quality cattle. Enviable lineage and exemplary breeding practices have enabled Irish farmers to produce cattle that possess many benefits of different breeds – from superior conformation and marbling to fertility and milk production.

Irish grass: Ireland’s nickname is ‘The Emerald Isle’ – and for good reason. A phenomenal mix of perfect atmospheric conditions, proximity to the gulf stream and unprecedented levels of nutrient-enriched grasslands all combine to create a landscape as perfect for cattle grazing as it is beautiful.

Health benefits of grass-fed Irish Beef: Imbued with heightened levels of Vitamin A, carotene and Omega 3 fatty acids, coupled with superior marbling and tenderness, Irish Beef is a great fit for any balanced diet.

WIN a Weber Barbecue
If you think this recipe is worthy of winning the Irish Beef Summer Beef Encounters blogger competition then please head over to their site to cast your vote. By voting you could be in with a chance of winning a Weber barbecue for yourself too! Voting is open until 9th July. (full terms & conditions)

BBQ Asian Beef Skewers

Asian Beef Skewers - serves 2-3

2 x 265g Irish Beef rump steaks
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2cm of fresh ginger, peeled & finely grated
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp honey
  • Trim any excess fat from the steaks, and cut them against the grain into 2cm strips
  • Mix the remaining ingredients together to make a marinade
  • Add the strips of steak to a large bowl and toss them in the marinade
  • Cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least a few hours)
  • Thread the steak strips onto skewers 
  • Place the skewers on a very hot bbq and cook for just a few minutes each side (depending on how you like your steak cooked)
  • Serve with sticky rice, chilli dipping sauce and a salad of noodles, lettuce and spring onions

  • BBQ Asian Beef Skewers
    BBQ Asian Beef Skewers BBQ Asian Beef Skewers

For more information on Irish Beef & their Summer Beef Encounters, follow their social media via the links below, or search using the hashtag #SummerBeef :

 BBQ Asian Beef Skewers

a commissioned post for Irish Beef

Friday, 9 June 2017

A Fuss Free Italian Antipasti Platter

When it comes to the weekend it's sometimes nice to have a break from the cooking, without having the expense of going out for a meal. In the comfort of my own home, I enjoy having a bit of a 'picky' tea whilst enjoying the evening sunshine in the garden, or watching trashy tv with the family, if the weather is as bad as it has been recently!

Putting together an antipasti platter takes only a matter of minutes, but can look impressive enough to wow dinner party guests, as well as being informal enough to share with family in the back garden, or even taking on a picnic.

A Fuss Free Italian Antipasti Platter

Ciao Gusto is a collective of authentic Italian food and drink brands, and their wide range of products makes it easy to put together a platter of antipasti.

A Fuss Free Italian Antipasti Platter

Products are available to order online from the Ocado Ciao Gusto shop, making it even easier to enjoy the taste of Italy without leaving your home.

I ordered roasted peppers and sun dried tomatoes from the Ponti range of antipasti in jars, dry cured smoked ham from Negroni, mozzarella from Auricchio, and crispbread/croutons from Amica.

A Fuss Free Italian Antipasti Platter

Along with olives, breadsticks, toasted ciabatta, ricotta cheese, fresh baby plum tomatoes, stuffed peppers, flavoured oils (lemon olive oil is particularly nice drizzled over mozzarella) and some fresh herbs, it made for a very delicious antipasti platter.

A Fuss Free Italian Antipasti Platter A Fuss Free Italian Antipasti Platter

You can follow Ciao Gusto on their social channels :

I was provided with shopping vouchers to enable me to buy the products included in this post

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Slow Cooked Chinese Style Ribs

When you think of BBQ food you may often think of charred sausages, undercooked chicken and dried out burgers, but with a little forward planning it doesn't have to be this way. Meat can be pre cooked beforehand in the oven, slow cooker or sous vide and then finished off on the bbq for that bbq taste, without the risk of making your guests ill!

We have a gas bbq which is great for all year round cooking, and as it's the type with lava rock it really does taste as though it's been cooked on a charcoal bbq. Bbq's in our house don't have to be a major event, and I'll quite often cook dinner outside when the weather is nice, which can save on a lot of washing up!

Pork ribs are delicious on a bbq, but they can often be tough if they haven't been pre cooked, or dried out if they've been on the bbq for too long. This recipe for Chinese style ribs produces moist meat that's full of flavour and comes away easily from the bone. I've pre-cooked them in the slow cooker, coated with sauce and then finished off on a hot bbq.

Sticky Slow Cooked Chinese Style Ribs

The ribs in the large bbq pack from Great British Meat Co, are perfect for this recipe. 1kg of ribs contains around 10 ribs; enough as an appetiser for a family, or a meal for one or two.

Sticky Slow Cooked Chinese Style Ribs

Slow Cooked Chinese Style Ribs

2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp Hoisin sauce
1cm fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp honey
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Chinese five spice
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce (optional)
1kg pork ribs

  • Mix together the soy sauce, hoisin, ginger, honey, garlic, balsamic and Chinese 5 spice together
  • Coat the ribs in the sauce and add everything to a preheated slow cooker
  • Cook on high for 2 hours, or until the meat comes easily away from the bone, but doesn't fall off when touched
  • Remove the ribs from the slow cooker and add the liquid to a saucepan
  • Bring the sauce to the boil and simmer for approx 10 minutes, until thick enough to coat the ribs - if you like your ribs spicy then add the sweet chilli sauce now
  • Coat the ribs with the thickened sauce and cook on a hot bbq for a few minutes each side, ensuring they are heated through thoroughly

Sticky Slow Cooked Chinese Style Ribs

I've got quite a lot of bbq recipes & tips on this blog, which can all be found here.

I was provided with a large bbq pack free of charge. The pack is currently on offer at £32.50, and contains enough meat for for 8-10 people.

10 Things to Think About Before Opening Your Own Café

The UK is steadily moving towards the kind of café culture that France and Italy are famous for. Most high streets have a branch of Costa or Starbucks, but there are also a good number of independent and boutique cafés offering customers a cosy place to sit and read, or work on their laptops.

If you’re thinking of becoming part of the café culture and opening a business of your own, there are 10 things you need to think about before making the commitment.

10 Things to Think About Before Opening Your Own Café

1.     It takes time to set everything up

Even if the café you’ve bought is in great condition, you can’t start trading immediately. Why? Because the person selling the business is leaving and that might be because customers were unhappy with the service, the coffee, the food, or just the look and feel of the place. You need to find out what the problem was and deal with it. Your approach needs to be different from the previous owner, and you’ll probably have to make some changes to entice customers back to your new-look café.

Because of refurbishments and the installation of equipment, the average time it takes to open a café is between three to six months from when you start renting the space. (It’s a good idea to try to negotiate a rent discount for this time.) Delivery times of a new espresso machine are around 4 weeks, cups and saucers 5 weeks, a customised counter top and tables and chairs 8 weeks and outdoor seating approval up to 12 weeks.

2.     Your business plan

Your business plan in which you estimate the café’s monthly turnover, cost of materials, staff costs, and so on, is key to your success. (Tip: Increase your costs by 20%, and, if on-paper, you still come out ahead, there’s a good chance you’ll succeed.) Always confront your business plans realistically. If your bills exceed your estimates, then do something about it right away.

3.     Shop design and research

Apart from the design and the interior décor, you’ll have to research new food recipes so that your café offers something different and unique. Customers are very discerning these days and know exactly what they want. Mediocre service, food and drink is not an option.

4.     It’s a hands-on business

Unless you intend to hire someone to run the café, you’re going to have to do everything yourself, which can be a daunting task. If you do hire staff, you’ll need to train them properly and monitor their work ethic and customer service skills. (You’ll also need to be trained in the art of coffee-making and become a skilled barista – but maybe that’s the fun bit!)

10 Things to Think About Before Opening Your Own Café

5.     Paperwork and administration

There’s a lot of boring but necessary paperwork to complete – setting up the payroll, calculating payroll taxes, complying with food hygiene regulations, filing the day-to-day accounts, and preparing the work roster for your staff. Check out cloud based services and software to help you. For instance, Planday software simplifies the staff roster process.

6.     Liaising with suppliers

Try to develop a good rapport with your suppliers. They’re your support team, and it’s important that they always deliver your food ingredients, coffee beans and so on, on time – the last thing you need is to run out of some ingredients and disappoint your customers.

7.     All day every day

Be warned, running a cafe is not easy. You need to be there every day from opening time to closing, and this means you won’t have much free time for yourself or your family. And until you have staff who are fully trained and who you can trust, you won’t be able to take a day off or go on holiday.

8.     Staff … keeping them on board

Being a chef or serving coffee and food to customers is not the most glamourous of jobs. Realistically speaking, it doesn’t pay well either. Very few people are happy working in the food and beverage industry, but for you to succeed you need to try to find good dependable staff. In this industry, many jobs are part-time and people come and go, so it’s important to retain good staff, especially if you’ve spent time training them.
10 Things to Think About Before Opening Your Own Café

9.     Motivating staff

An equally challenging task is keeping your staff motivated. If you think just because you’re the boss, the staff will do everything you say, watch out, because they won’t! However, when they’re unhappy, they will look to you, their café guru, to motivate them. Good luck with that!

10.  Handling customers with aplomb

Unlike a lot of other businesses, you will be dealing with customers face to face, and they can be very demanding and difficult at times. But no matter what, try to be helpful, positive and friendly … and keep smiling!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Rhubarb Cake Traybake

Well that was a bit of a typically rubbish bank holiday with the weather. It's May but we spent much of the weekend wrapped up in winter coats watching football. Where we should've been sitting on blankets in the sunshine, we instead had the blankets over our knees to keep warm!

Thankfully the sun came out on Monday afternoon allowing us to spend a couple of hours in the pub garden, catching up with friends who we somehow only seem to see when the sun comes out and we bump into each other over a pint. The best kind of friends!

I hear the sun is shining in Portugal, and as that's where I'm heading next week for a break with old friends I'm happy that I will be able to wear my flip flops at long last.

Rhubarb Traybake

This weekend did mark the arrival of our rhubarb though, which does make me happy, as I bloomin' love rhubarb, firstly because it doesn't require me to have any green fingers to grow it, and secondly because it makes a mean crumble. On Sunday I cooked a roast dinner (which is a bit of a rarity here), and followed it with a home made crumble  and a rhubarb cake. I started to panic when I checked the baking cupboard & realised that the girl teen had used up all the caster sugar making her speciality chocolate mug cakes, but had thankfully left me 3 eggs, which was enough for the cake. I used soft brown sugar instead of caster, but it would work equally well with caster, albeit a little paler in colour.

Rhubarb Traybake
Rhubarb Traybake

It's a lovely moist cake, and it can be served warm or cold, on its own or with custard or vanilla ice cream. It's also great for packed lunches and picnics, and keeps well for a few days in an airtight container.

Rhubarb Traybake

Rhubarb Cake Traybake

Hijacked By Twins

Celebrate Star Wars Day with Swagbucks Collectors Bills

In honour of Star Wars Day, Swagbucks has a special one-day-only collector's bill available exclusively through Search! It's an 8 SB bill available all day long - and here's the best part: If you get it, you'll get an automatic 20 SB bonus as well!

If you aren't already a member of Swagbucks, it's a site where you earn points (called SB) for Searching the web, shopping, discovering deals, taking surveys, and watching videos. Then you redeem those points for gift cards to places like Amazon, PayPal, New Look, M&S, Debenhams, and more! They've awarded hundreds of pounds in free gift cards already in the UK, and I've personally earned over £400 in gift cards since November, which I've used to buy clothes, gifts, electronics and more!

What are you waiting for? Sign up for Swagbucks now

Friday, 28 April 2017

Creating a Desk area out of an Unusable Space

A few years ago we knocked the utility room out of our relatively small kitchen and extended the kitchen out into a conservatory. Whilst we now have a pretty large kitchen/family room space there isn't a great deal of workspace. There's enough for cooking and prepping food as we also have an island, but I longed for somewhere to organise our lives. I needed a little desk area to keep the family diary, letters from school, the wheelie bin calendar, and other general bits and bobs, without taking up a much needed area of worktop.

A couple of years ago I made a memo board wall, but as it was mostly behind the kitchen door it didn't really work for me, and there still wasn't anywhere to keep the diary apart from in the hallway, and I kept forgetting to look in it!

I then came up with the genius idea to change the opening of the kitchen door. Instead of opening into the kitchen, it would open out into the hallway, freeing up that unusable kitchen wall which would no longer be hidden behind the door. We did similar in our ensuite bathroom last year, and it made a huge difference to the space, making it feel so much larger.

I found a local chippie on Checkatrade, who changed the opening and refitted a new door for £40, enabling us to fit a shelf to the kitchen wall. A few accessories were purchased, and I now have a handy shelf for all our paperwork and reminders, plus somewhere to hang school artwork.

Creating a Desk area out of an Unusable Space

Creating a Desk area out of an Unusable Space

 photo kitchen2_zpsxxjqul3t.jpg

Creating a Desk area out of an Unusable Space

Copper Clock : John Lewis
Wire Memo frame : Maisons du Monde
Stacking mugs : Waitrose
Memo pad & Notebook : Sainsburys
Copper beaker : Sainsburys
Copper bulldog clips in jar : Sainsburys
Copper tealight holder - New Look
Copper vase : Tesco
Shelf & Brackets : Ikea
Half glazed door : B&Q

Creating a Desk area out of an Unusable Space


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