Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Store Cupboard

I am always totally amazed by the amout of food in my store cupboards.. I mean, it's not that there's a lot of space for food, I only really have two and a half cupboards to fill. In the blink of an eye, I feel I could rustle up any number of extravagant meals.. Just off the top of my head, allow me to introduce you to a sneak-peak 'through my drawers' so to speak... :o)

Actually, half way through this list I know I'll go into the kitchen to check because I can't do all of this off the top of my head ..

Tinned anchovies
Seaweed (dulse)
Dashi seasoning
Chinese vacuum packed meat (given to me by Cupcake's chinese friend's mom - can't read the instructions as they're in Chinese - but I'm looking forward to  trying it all the same..)
Preserved lemons
Dried chickpeas
Falafel 'mix'
Tube harissa
Pot Harissa
Hot chilli sauce
Sweet chilli sauce
Pickled red chillis
Pickled green jalapeno chillies
Lemon Juice
Lime juice
Soy Sauce
Worcestershire Sauce
Gravy granules (Chicken, veg and beef flavours)
Coconut milk

Olive oil
Vegetable Oil
Garlic oil
Sesame oil
Ginger oil

Cous cous
Pastille pastry (for making Chicken /Lamb Pastille)

Sweet stuff
Golden syrup
maple syrup
Black treacle
Demerara sugar
Golden caster sugar
Vanilla Extract
Real cocoa chocolate (by that chap Willie who farmed it abroad and shipped it to the UK..)
Self raising flour
Plain flour
Besan flour (aka chickpea flour)
Baking powder
Bicarbonate of Soda
Crumble mix

Tinned baked beans
Tinned spaghett in tomato sauce
Tinned soup (Vegetable)
Cook-in sauce - Chicken Tikka
Green curry paste
Red curry paste
Curry powder

Maryland cookies
Jaffa Cakes
French Fries
Dark chocolate


Strawberry jam
Cherry jam
Lime marmelade
Chocolate spread

Oh gosh, I'm starting to feel sick, the list is endless and I haven't even made it into the kitchen. Suffice to say that most of it falls out of the cupboards every time I open them ! I sometimes think that I should use everything that I have in my cupboards, and then start again.. but life doesn't really happen like that does it ? All I can say, is if you're ever in need of a meal, you know where to come...

Friday, August 27, 2010


Tiramisu is not usually a dessert that I would make.. I've never been over keen on creamy/eggy desserts, especially one with alcohol and coffee, but my tastes have changed, and I quite liked the idea of making my own version.

When I saw some sponge fingers in the supermarket in France, I just had to get them with this in mind. The next time I ventured into the supermarket I picked up some marscapone which is the only ingredient that I didn't already have (just for a change..).

Most recipes use eggs with marscapone to make a creamy custard, perhaps with the eggs separated and the whites whisked through to make  a mousse-like textured custard. Sounds scrummy, doesn't it ? Today I couldn't be bothered with all of that flaff though, and I  fancied a lighter, non-eggy version. Fortunately, I came across exactly what I was looking for in Gordon Ramsay's book Fast Food. Well, actually I first searched for the recipe on-line, and then when I saw that the version I wanted was in a book that I already had, I dug the book off the shelf and, for once, I followed it to the letter. No omissions, additions or alterations and it's not often at all that I can say that. :o)

Here is the recipe:

250gr marscapone cheese
150ml cream (I used single)
4tbps amaretto/tia maria/rum (I used Tia Maria)
200ml strong coffee/expresso (I made strong instant coffee)
Grated dark chocolate
1tsp Vanilla Extract
4 tbsp icing sugar
20-24 sponge fingers (mine were from France - no idea if these are the right ones..they look the part tho)

1. Add 3tbsp icing sugar to the cream, and whisk to combine. Add the mascarpone, vanilla extract and 1tsp vanilla extract. Whisk again.
2. In a different bowl, make the coffee - 200ml is needed.
3. Add the remaining 1tbsp of icing sugar to sweeten the coffee, along with the remaining 2tbsp alcohol.
4. Dip the sponge fingers into the coffee, until they are moist and not completely soggy. Layer the sponge fingers either into four individual glasses or a small, square dish. I used one per glass, broken in half. Next add a layer of the cream mixture, followed by another layer of coffee-soaked biscuits. Continue to layer until the cream, coffee and sponge are used up, finishing with a layer of cream.
5. Grate dark chocolate over the top of each glass, or over the dish.
6. Leave to refrigerate for a couple of hours, or overnight to allow the flavours to meld together.

NOTE:  Some recipes use cocoa instead of dark chocolate on top. Some recipes also use cocoa or chocolate in between the layers.

Having made this, I was thinking what a perfect dinner party dessert this would be. This version is put together in a few minutes and is best made the night before. So, perfect for a dinner party when you usually need time to do other things (eg, get ready, clean the house, cook all of the other food, chill out... gosh, I hate dinner parties.. all that pressure!)

Anyway, I will post a photo and give my judgment on this later, as I have yet to taste it !


I have to say that despite not usually liking creamy desserts, this was ansolutely delicious. No single mouthful was creamy alone, but exquisitely combined with the really strong bitter coffee, the tang of the chocolate, or the alcohol mixed with sponginess. All in all I would make this again for a dinner party. Only one small note, I would say I have a moderate appetite, not huge, not small, and I couldn't finish this. So, next time I think I would make this is in six smaller ramekins, rather than four large glasses. I hope you enjoy it if you make it. TTFN. KG. x

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CompreSSport - A Review

Biscuit Boy, Cupcake and I recently watched the World Triathlon Championships in Hyde Park in London. We watched the Women's race, as the men were racing the next day. As I was racing the next day in Andover triathlon, the women's race was the only one we could make.

The organizers had also put on a great triathlon show, and whilst there I tried on a pair of these CompreSSport running calf supports. They are only recently available in the UK. These calf supports are similar to flights socks worn when flying on an aeroplane, and offer similar advantages. Increased circulation being one of these, of course increased circulation is getting blood through those muscles, which will speed muscle recovery after a race.

The day after making my purchase I took part in Andover triathlon (check out my race review here: After the race my legs were aching a lot.. I had decided not to race in the supports, as it was quite a warm day and I did not want to feel even warmer. In addition, as these are so tight, it could take a while to get them on. If you are in transition you do not want to take up even more time putting these on too !!!

That said, I always like to have plenty of kit with me and spares so if anything breaks, then your race is not completely ruined and your entry fee totally wasted. So, after the race I took a shower and put on the compression supports. It was a long afternoon and a long drive back home and with the supports on, well my legs felt really supported, and firm, and comfortable. My muscles felt like they were being cushioned, it was a very nice feeling for my exhausted legs. Usually I worry that my legs will cramp up on the way home after a race, but I did not have that worry this time, as my legs felt quite relaxed and not stiff at all.. In all I probably kept the supports on for about five hours.

The very next day I could very easily have run, and it's not very often that I would say that after a race. I had no aches or pain whatsoever. Unbelievable. I was impressed. A few days later when I did run, I decided to try out running with the supports on. I did my usual 4-mile run through the woods. Unfortunately, I also did my usual 'trip over a tree root' thing and went tumbling over. Thanks to my compression tights my bare legs were not exposed, so I did not cut my legs as I probably would have usually.. I did find the compression supports quite hot to run in though.

Whilst in France recently I took advantage of a bit of free time and did a few longer runs. These were a mix of on and off road, and I was running for about 1hr 20 mins in total, so the run was about 10-12 miles in length. There were some very, very steep parts, and of course what goes up must come down, so this was coupled with some downhills too. All of this plays havoc on your leg muscles. I did this run four times in 2 weeks, and only really on the last couple of runs did I feel that my legs were really achy. I didn't wear the supports after any of these runs, mainly as it was either too hot or wasn't convenient..

On the long 16-hour car journey home, the first stop getting out of the the car my legs felt really, very stiff. I can only guess that this was a combination of the previous few runs, some dehydration, that last run was absolutely boiling hot (well into the 30s), and the lack of leg movement in the car. I remember I had packed the compression supports in my bag, so I dug them out and put them on. Immediately my legs felt massaged and supported. I didn't take them off until I got home some 15-odd hours later and yet again, I have not noticed acing legs since...

Due to reasons beyond my control, I have not run since then, but if you are running long distances and want a product that will aid your recovery then I would definitely recommend these. During the winter, when I am running in the freezing cold, I will definitely be wearing these under my thermal running tights every day. Not just for the added support, but also for the added insulation.

The cross country running season will soon be starting here, so I am looking forward to seeing how the calf support help after 13 miles of hard cross country.

You can buy them here in the UK:

Enjoy! If you do try them, drop me a comment and let me know - I'd love to hear.

PS> I must mention that some weeks later, I won my first ever prize when running .. and, guess what ??? I had on my calf supports. Coincidence or calf supports ??  Here's a link to the race review, and also a video !

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Courgette Chutney

Two weeks ago I left for France and our house that is the Labour of Love and now I am back. I am pleased to report that both Project Kitchen UK and France are now partially complete - we are still awaiting the fitting of the oven in France ; and the fitting of the flooring and the installing of the folding, sliding doors in the UK. We're in no rush to complete these, I've waited about five years already, what's another couple ??

So, what does that have to do with Courgette Chutney ?? Well, the night before leaving for France I went and picked a whole load of courgettes out of the garden and thought.. What on earth am I going to do with these before I leave? With hindsight, that was the least of my problems, as I returned to at least three times that amount of courgettes, but what I end up doing with them is for another day.. as I haven't yet decided...

Anyway, with this particular batch I decided to make Courgette Chutney. Not that I am a particularly major chutney lover (odd sentence, no ?), in fact I have never made chutney before... In fact, that made it all the more tempting as I love a recipe challege. I was totally amazed too that I happened to have all of the ingredients that I needed to make this in my store cupboard (which is never knowingly understocked) and you will see what I mean when I give you the ingredients list. Actually,not all of the ingredients, but near enough alternatives.. In the meantime, here' s a pretty photo of some of those ingredients. (I'm really getting into taking photos as I go at the moment, Cupcake and Biscuit Boy are getting used to it - slowly, eg me shouting 'Stop! I need to take a photo for my blog!', just as they're about to eat something.)


2kg Courgettes (yellow, in my case)
2 Granny Smith (tart or sour) apples (which needed using up anyway, as I was going away..)
2 medium onions (I used one white and one red)
1 yellow pepper (again, these needed using up - happy days !)
1 orange pepper (but you could use any colour for the peppers..)
2 garlic cloves, grated using a plane grater or minced
250gr dark brown sugar (now I didn't have any of this... so what to use instead ? Well, dark brown sugar is only sugar with extra molasses right ?? So, I used 200gr of demerara sugar and 3tbsp of black treacle instead and prayed it would do the trick. :o)
500ml white wine vinegar
2 tbsp fresh root ginger (I used 2tbsp from a jar of ready grated ginger, great stuff this is, for stir fries and I now realize - chutney making !)
2 tbsp English mustard (good old Colman's - is there any other?)
1/4 tsp crushed chilli flakes - I didn't have any chilli flakes so I used a few good dashes of chilli sauce .....
1tsp salt


1. Chop all the veg into dice - yes the onions, apples, the peppers, the courgettes. When you're supposed to be packing this actually takes a very, very, very long time. Hang in there and chop, chop, chop! Perhaps this would make a good 'angry' recipe that you could make when you feel like chopping wildly... not that I ever want to do that, of course.

2. Put all of the veg into a VERY large pot. Add all of the other ingredients.

3. Bring the pot to the boil. Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT put a lid on the pot.

4. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and simmer over a medium heat. Give the chutney a stir every so often so that none of it sticks to the bottom of the saucepan.

5. Ok, bear in mind that I am stil supposed to be packing. I had to just go off and leave this simmering and go and hunt out jars and lids and put them in the dishwasher to sterilize for later when the chutney is done. (Did I mention that I was actually supposed to be packing at this point ????)

6. Fast-forward about three hours and this chutney is still looking watery. The bags are now happily packed and ready to load into the boot of the car and I am looking to be in my bed, and soon! Chutney's just not looking at all, well, like chutney....

7. I wearily searched the Internet for other's woes of chutney-making, and there found forums mentioning 'the evaporation of the vinegar' and the 'jam-like' texture of the chutney, that leaves a 'rivet' through the mixture when a spoon is drawn through it. Were they having a laugh ??? It's now 11pm and when a spoon is drawn through my 'chutney' it pulls together like a fast-running stream in a hurricane - if you get my drift and the whole thing smells really, very strongly of vinegar...

8. The chutney has now taken about six hours in total to cook. Wow! Guess what ? I need a holiday.

9. Finally, after about another hour, I was content that the chutney was sufficiently jam-like and that most of the vinegar had evaporated and that it could now be potted.

10. Siz small jars potted, and so to bed..

A couple of morals or hints to this recipe -

Don't cook it the night before you go on holiday
Don't start cooking it at 5pm unless you want to stay up til past midnight - stirring like a loon.
Don't put a lid on the pot, or the vinegar will never evaporate off, and you'll be stood there waiting all night.

11. Once potted, leave for 2 weeks or longer to let the flavours meld together.

12. Two weeks later, the holiday is over and the chutney is ready. See the photo below. It is, I have to say, delicious. I will make more as I have such a glut of courgettes at the moment, and this time, I will be following my own advice.

Update: December 2010 - here's a jar of courgette chutney, labelled and ready to present as a gift. Cute huh ?


Monday, August 23, 2010

Lovely homegrown food - Courgette flower omelette with tomatoes

I arrived back from my holidays today, to a glut of yellow courgettes that when picked looked like this :

That's quite a mound huh ? I've no idea what I will do with them all yet ... as you will see from previous posts  I have already made 'Courgette Woteva' (Vegetarian Tagine with couscous), Courgette and Lemon cake, Courgette salad and even Courgette Chutney.. and I put a load in the freezer before I went away... but I am sure I will come up with something.

In the meantime, I was desperate to eat some courgette flowers. The flowers are a new ingredient for me, and I had thought they would all be gone by the time I got back, so I was overjoyed when I got back to see some flowers remaining. This is what I did :

2 eggs - lightly beaten
Salt and Pepper
A splash of milk
1 spring onion (scallion) chopped finely
2tbsp low fat cheese finely grated (not big chunks of cheese)
3 courgette flowers (stamens removed) pulled into strips length ways where they naturally separate

1. Switch the grill on to heat up.
2. I took some homegrown tomatoes brushed them with olive oil and placed them under the grill.
3. Meanwhile, all of the above ingredients were added to a bowl and lightly whisked. In a frying pan I then added a teaspoon of PURE soy margarine (which I always use in cooking and baking but any other oil, margarine or butter will do) and turned on the flame.
4. Once the PURE soy margarine was melted I added the egg mixture to the pan. I used a non-stick frying pan, but still moved the egg mixture around a little bit. Once the egg mixture looked set around the edges, I placed the frying pan under the grill. I watched the grill until the eggs looked just set and some of the cheese had started to brown.
5. I then removed the frying pan and flipped the omelette onto the plate and folded it over.
6. The homegrown tomatoes were the accompaniment.

This is one of the most quickest, simplest and flavorsome meals I have ever made. I just wish I had started making them a long time ago... Bon Appetit..

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It's not all about the food - what about the drink !

I usually read recipe books or anything that I can find out about food in general, and also food from other countries. It makes me happy. Although I have a great recipe book collection, not every recipe book is going to get a place on the bookshelf, so I will often get recipe books out of the library and then take them back !

On my latest visit to the library, I got out a book that is definitely worthy of a space on my cook book shelf. The book is called How To Drink and it is by Victoria Moore.  Here is a link to it here:

The reason I will buy this book, is that because as well as being informative, it also contains a lot of recipes for the various drinks, like making your own Mosco Mules. That sounds good to me ! The book does not just focus on alcoholic drinks, but also non-alcoholic drinks like coffee and tea. It also contains little titbits of information from other countries, like the fact that in Japan you do not pass food from your chopstick to someone else's chopstick (eg for them to taste). This is because after a cremation in Japan, a bone is picked from the ashes and passed.. yes, you guessed it, from chopstick to chopstick. I love these little nuggets of information.

Another more foody one like this that I was told concerns the way you place your french bread (baguette) on
the table at home. You always place it patterned side up, and never flat side up. The reason for this is that the flat side up was always the executioner's bread and that's how his was placed..

The book has also taught me that my bottles of vodka which currently live on my wine rack, should absolutely, definitely be in the freezer, so I will be rectifying that pretty soon too...

Enough said, a little plug for Victoria Moore, if you know next to nothing about booze and how to drink it, like me... Buy the book.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"The Best" Cottage Pie

OK, ok... I'm totally not saying that this is 'the best' cottage pie, ok ? It's just that this recipe or meal, Cottage Pie, reminded me of a show called "The Best" which aired in the UK in around 2008. It only aired for one season and starred  the chefs Paul Merrett, Ben O'Donoghue & Silvana Franco. I loved the show, they were basically given a handful of ingredients, they all had to cook something different and they handed the food through a hatch to a herd (?) of tasters who decided which dish was "The Best".

No, this recipe is not taken from the book... in fact I haven't looked at the book for ages, and once I've finished this I will go and pick it up and have a browse... So, I was thinking to myself how versatile Cottage Pie can be and how you can make many variations on this meal, as I have done over the years.

For the last two years, I have even made a 'super special' cottage pie for Christmas Day, which has actually been for the children to eat, but the adults have all had a side 'dollop' as well, which is pretty amusing. I also make one of these to be ready and waiting when we get back from Labour of Love. As soon as we get home (which is usually in the early hours of the morning), I take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. We are usually pretty exhausted after the long drive, hit the sack and then later, having got on with the unpacking and washing, plop it in the oven. No cooking or fuss needed. It's totally perfect.

So, you might be thinking what's the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherd's Pie.. ? Cottage Pie uses (minced) beef and Shepherd's Pie uses (minced) lamb. I'm not a great lover of lamb and find beef goes better with some of the flavourings I am going to mention here... but by all means give it a go.. Why not ?

Here's a photo to get the taste buds going....

Ingredients - serves about 4-6

450gr Minced Beef (or one large packet)
4 large potatoes (baking size)
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper
Gravy browning
Milk and butter (for mashed potato)

Extra veg (optional)
Carrots - diced
Onions - diced

Flavourings (optional)
Worcestershire sauce
tomato ketchup
tinned tomatoes
brown sauce
baked beans
tomato puree
Glug of red wine
Few drops of tabasco

Grated cheese

1. Peel and chop your potatoes. Put them on to boil. Meanwhile, get on with the rest of the recipe..Once the potatoes have boiled, season them and add milk, butter and mash to your desired consistency. Set to one side.

2. Fry your minced beef in a non-stick pan, and once cooked drain off any excess oil. Grate a clove of garlic into the minced beef. Then if you are adding extra veg, add it now and saute for a few minutes. You don't need to add both, either will do. This is one of Cupcake's favourite meals, but with the diced onion it would be one of her worst. Enough said.

3. Add your flavouring. Now, if I  was making this for a kid's tea, I would add the diced carrots, a dash of worcestershire sauce, some gravy browning and a small tin of baked beans, a dash of water from the kettle would loosen the mix  if it was getting a little thick and that would be it for the sauce. However, if I was making this for an adult meal, I would lose the beans and carrots, add a tin of tomatoes to the meat and garlic, a glug of red wine, tomato puree, a dash of worcestershire sauce and maybe a splash of tobasco, with some gravy browning to thicken and deepen the sauce.

4. Whichever way you flavour your cottage pie. Once it has bubbled away for twenty minutes leave it to cool for a few minutes longer, whilst you take out your ovenproof casserole dish and grate your cheese (if using).

5. Pour all the meat into the casserrole and top with the mashed potato. If I was making this for the kids I would put grated cheese over the top, for a lovely meaty, cheesy, beany feast. Otherwise, I would just fork the top so that as it cooks in the oven it gets a nice crusty, crunchy top - as in the photo above. Once constructed, place in a hot oven (200 deg) for about 30-40 mins.

6. If you are not eating this straight away, then once it is cool you can wrap the casserole in foil, and put it in the fridge for eating later, or put it in the freezer for another day. Don't forget to defrost it throughly before you reheat it. If you are freezing, I would recommend leaving the grated cheese off, and adding that just before it goes in the oven when defrosted.
If cooking from defrosted, you may need to extend the cooking time to 50mins - 1 hour. You'll know it's done when it's scorching hot and bubbling- please be careful when serving !!!

If you've included vegetables in this, then you don't need anything extra. If not, or you want to stretch it further, you might want to serve it with a green vegetable like green beans or broccoli and maybe extra gravy. Acutally, thinking about it, although I eat this all year round, this can be quite a comforting winter meal. If you've added red wine, pour yourself a glass as you eat and dream of merry times yet to come..

I hope you enjoy this fantastic Engish recipe.