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.

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 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

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.

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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.

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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

Be the Perfect Host this Christmas

If, like more than two thirds of the nation, you're going to be hosting a festive get together over the Christmas period then you might want to check out a few top tips from fashion designed Millie Macintosh, chef John Torode, and coffee expert Hazel Middleton.

Millie’s top tips to create a great ambience
Think about lighting – luckily, we have a lot of different lighting settings in our kitchens, but candles and lamps can be used to soften a room.  Mellow ambient music during dinner and then afterwards, I’d put on some more lively music.  And finally, the smell of food cooking is also very inviting, so get something in the oven early!

John’s top kitchen must-haves
My go to food when hosting friends is anything in pastry, because it is easy and always satisfies everyone. Little pies, tarts, puffs, sausage rolls and those sorts of things always work because both adults and kids alike always love them.

Hazel’s Coffee Mornings
There’s nothing better than a coffee morning with a selection of great hot drinks, including cappuccinos and lattes and some lovely cakes and biscuits. Nothing compliments coffee more than a delicious slice of cake or a crisp biscuit. I like to bake my own cakes for coffee mornings, and this can be done the day before to avoid panic on the morning.

I have to agree with Millie's tips about candles & lamps, which I use a lot and if you use festive scented candles it definitely gets people in that Christmas mood. I also agree with John's tip about pastries, as anything encased in pastry is so easy to serve, as well as eat, at gatherings with a lot of people, and they can also be made in advance which is a must for me. 

As part of the Tassimo Perfect Host campaign I was asked to get together with friends or family and host a meal or coffee morning. We decided to have a family get together, and bearing Millie's tips in mind, lit a few candles, put on some mellow music and enjoyed a family dinner (with a few games thrown in), followed by John Torode's recipes for Affogatto (kids had hot chocolate instead of espresso) with Shortbread Biscuits and Chocolate Brownie Cake (recipes below).

Affogatto With Shortbread Biscuits Affogatto With Shortbread Biscuits Affogatto With Shortbread Biscuits Chocolate Brownie Cake With White Chocolate Chips

I enjoyed my brownie with a Carte Noir Espresso, made using the Tassimo Vivy.

Chocolate Brownie Cake With White Chocolate Chips

The brownies were amazing; so rich and chocolatey, and were very well received. According to Hanna they were possibly even better than 'Amy's Mums quadruple chocolate brownies' (sorry Claire), which means they must have been very good indeed. I left out the hazelnuts and whiskey and added extra white chocolate instead.

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Affogatto With Shortbread Biscuits

If you're going to be hosting a gathering then check out the Tassimo website on the run up to Christmas for more top tips, recipes and kitchen hacks from the celebrities.

This post has been commissioned by Tassimo

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Walkers Market Deli Range (and some tortilla coated chicken strips)

I don't often buy crisps, and if I do it's usually for an occasion, such as friends coming around for drinks, and I tend to buy large bags of grown up type crisps with interesting flavours.

The Walkers Market Deli range are the kind of crisps I would go for as their flavours sound particularly appealing.

Potato Chips
  • Balsamic Vinegar of Modena*
  • Cornish Mature Cheddar
  • Flame Grilled Spanish Chorizo with roasted Onions
  • Wiltshire Cured Ham, Mature Cheddar & Farmhouse Chutney*

Pita Chips
  • Sweet Roasted Red Pepper & English Tomato
  • Roasted Garlic with Mediterranean Herbs*

Tortilla Chips
  • Roasted Red Chilli with Mediterranean Sundried Tomato*
  • Anglesey Sea Salt with Cracked Black Pepper*
We tried out a few of the flavours over the weekend and baked up a batch of crispy tortilla coated chicken strips with the roasted red chilli tortillas.

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Mum's favourite
My favourite flavour out of all the ones we tried (marked with an * above) were by far the Balsamic vinegar potato chips which had a sweetness to them without the vinegar being too overpowering.

Hanna's favourite
Hanna definitely liked the roasted garlic & herb pita chips best. Unfortunately they were a little squashed in the post but the few that did manage to remain whole were great for dipping.

Sam's favourite
Sam liked the more traditional sounding ham, cheese & chutney potato chips, which were thick cut & crunchy with a good flavour, without being too cheesy.

Dad's favourite
Unfortunately Dad was too slow and never got a look in, but if he's lucky I might share the one remaining bag of Anglesey Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper  Tortillas with him.

Crispy Chilli Tortilla Chicken Strips

Crispy Chilli Tortilla Chicken Strips - serves 4

450g chicken breast fillets, cut into strips
3 eggs, beaten
100g flour
1 x 165g bag of Market Deli Roasted Red Chilli with Mediterranean Sundried Tomato Tortilla chips, finely crushed
  • Place the beaten egg, flour and crushed tortillas into separate bowls
  • Dip the chicken strips first into the beaten egg, then the flour, back into the egg and then coat in the crushed tortillas
  • Place chicken strips onto a baking tray & spray with cooking spray
  • Bake in a preheated 200C oven for 20-25 minutes (depending on the size of the strips), until cooked all the way through
  • Serve with ketchup or sweet chilli sauce
Crispy Chilli Tortilla Chicken Strips

Walkers Deli RRP:
sharing bags £2.39 (165g)
single bags 83p (40g)

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Monday 1 December 2014

Mini Christmas Mincemeat Loaves

Whether you make your own mincemeat or use shop bought, these mini loaves are both delicious and simple to make. I bought these mini loaf cases from Ebay but you can make them in cupcake cases instead, or one large loaf (just adjust the cooking time accordingly).

Mini Christmas Mincemeat Loaves

Mini Christmas Mincemeat Loaves - makes 4

75g butter
75g caster sugar
2 large eggs
150g mincemeat
120g self raising flour
tsp cinnamon
  • Beat the butter & sugar together until creamy
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time
  • Add the mincemeat and stir until well distributed within the mixture
  • Sift the flour & cinnamon together & fold into the batter
  • Divide the mixture between the loaf cases
  • Bake in a preheated 180C oven for approx 20-25 minutes
Mini Christmas Mincemeat Loaves Mini Christmas Mincemeat Loaves

If you want to make your own mincemeat I have a very popular Chocolate Mincemeat recipe here, or a regular mincemeat below - just add your favourite dried fruits. I use vegetable suet which makes any recipes that I use it in suitable for vegetarians.


1kg mixed dried fruit (I used currants, raisins, sultanas & cranberries)
200ml dark rum (this can be replaced by tea if you prefer)
200g suet
300g demerara sugar
1 tbsp mixed spice
1.5 tbsp cinnamon
  • Mix all the dried fruit together & pour over the rum
  • Cover and leave to soak overnight
  • Once the fruit has soaked overnight, stir in the suet, sugar & spices
  • Mix well & pack into sterilised jars

A photo posted by thecrazykitchen (@thecrazykitchen) on

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