The Crazy Kitchen: June 2017

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Thursday 29 June 2017

Garden to Table Recipes : Rhubarb and Custard Cream Cheesecake

A couple of years ago we acquired an allotment, which had been a bit of a dream for me for a while. The dream involved baskets and baskets of home grown fruits and vegetables that would see us through the winter months, balmy evenings spent enjoying views across the countryside whilst sipping wine on our home made pallet bench, and involving the rest of the family in our [semi] self sufficiency venture.

In reality it was hard work. Now I'm not afraid of a bit of hard graft & really enjoyed clearing our plot and getting some veggies planted. At first the whole family joined in too and it was a great way to do something together. By the following spring the enthusiasm began to wane, and one by one the kids drifted off and no longer waned to be involved. A combination of bad weather, longer working hours, and a frozen shoulder made us realise that maybe an allotment wasn't for us after all - not to mention the fact that my fingers aren't all that green and woman cannot live off potatoes alone.

After many years of attempting to grow tomatoes and peppers at home, I made the decision earlier this year that no more growing of vegetables would be carried out on these premises, and the piles and piles of seedling pots were disposed of. (Then Jack brings a tomato plant home, and decides to plant some runner beans!)

One thing I have had lots of success in growing though, is rhubarb. Ok, so you don't have to be green fingered to be successful at growing rhubarb as it just grows and grows year after year, but it does make me feel like a real gardener when I snap a few stalks off to use in a crumble - from garden to table within the space of an hour.

Last weekend I made a Rhubarb & Custard Cheesecake (recipe can be found lower down this post) using rhubarb from the garden. Oven roasted rhubarb is *the* best, and it's such a lovely pink colour, so perfect on the top of a creamy cheesecake. The cheesecake was so good, and the whole family loved it, although I did have to remove the rhubarb from the top for a couple of fussy ones.

Another rhubarb recipe that I make over and over is my rhubarb cake, which can be thrown together really easily, and keeps really well in an airtight container, making it great for lunchboxes throughout the week (as well as a delicious dessert served with custard).

Worktop Express have included my Rhubarb Cake in their 'From Garden to Table' recipe ebook, along with some other delicious looking recipes made using home grown produce, which you can find below.

Do you grow your own fruit and vegetables? 

I would love to hear about your successes.

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 time 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.

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.

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

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!

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 & Salad filled 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 & Salad filled 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 & Salad filled Flatbread

Hot & Spicy Halloumi & Salad filled Flatbread
Hot & Spicy Halloumi & Salad filled Flatbread
Hot & Spicy Halloumi & Salad filled Flatbread

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

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