Friday, 26 December 2008

The Alford Arms

click on image to see larger picture

Hi All

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday. I thought I'd blog a little about one of our favorite places to eat. It's called The Alford Arms. The staff are friendly and the food is wonderful. It's one of those places that no matter what you order it will always be good. It's also one of those places that does not advertise at all and they are off the beaten path. If someone hadn't told me where to find them (and there are four locations) I would have never known they were there. If you plan to eat there on Saturday or Sunday you had better book ahead or be prepared to wait. Yes, it's that good. People flock from far and wide to eat at this place and I am one of them. We went on our anniversary and had the steak and sea bass. It was wonderful. The one we eat at is located near Hemel Hempstead.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Pumpkin Bread Muffins with a Twist

The other day I started to make some pumpking bread. The recipe makes two loaves so I decided well I'll make one loaf and the rest into muffins. Also, when I went over the ingredients for my recipe I noticed I was out of nutmeg. So I went to my spice shelf and started taking out spices and giving them a good old "sniff". When I came across garam masala I knew it was the one. So I used the garam masala in this recipe instead of the nutmeg. And I don't think I will ever go back to the nutmeg again. These things are so good. I froze the loaf to use at Christmas but the muffins...uh, well, let's just say those are gone.

Okay here are the ingredients:
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin

3 cups all purpose self rising flour
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg ( I used garam masala)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional, I used pecans)

Preheat oven to 350F/175C Butter and flour two loaf pans. Beat sugar and oil, in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs and pumpkin. Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg (or garam masala), baking soda, salt and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Mix in walnuts if desired.

Divide batter equally between prepared pans. As I said above I made one loaf and the rest into muffins in my muffin pan using the muffin liners (easy clean up). Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. (note the muffins will not take that long). Transfer to rack and cool for 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, cut around edge of loaves. Turn loaves out onto rack and cool completely. Freezes well.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Lemon Scones with Strawberries and Clotted Cream

I made this wonderful recipe today and just had to share it with everyone. It was my first attempt at making scones and my first try of wonderful Cornish Clotted Cream. Both of them were love at first bite. This recipe was in my Sainsbury's magazine recipe calendar 2009

Makes 12

225g self-raising flour, (or 8 ozs)
50g unsalted room temperature butter, cut into small pieces (or 2 ozs)
3 tbsp casters sugar (or superfine sugar in USA)
zest and juice of one small lemon
100ml 1% fat milk (or 1/2 cup appx)
Icing sugar, for dusting (aka powdered sugar)

Preheat the oven to 220C,425F. Sift the flour along with a pinch of salt into a large roomy mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Stir in the sugar and lemon zest. Mix 75ml or most of your milk into the lemon juice and add it to the flour mixture. Stir it around until it begins to come together, then use your hands, adding a spot more milk if necessary to form a dough.

Tip the mixture on to a lightly floured work surface and roll or pat it out to about 2cm thick (appx 1 inch) Stamp out rounds ( I used a glass) and place them on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with a little milk. Bake for 12-15 minutes in total until golden. ( I forgot to brush the top with milk and mine took 12 minutes). Allow to cool until just warm, then dust with icing sugar.

Serve the scones with strawberries and clotted cream. Yummy !

Red Thai Curry with Coconut Milk

I made this curry for dinner last night and it was a hit. Every time I make it I use whatever two vegetables I happen to have in the house. Last night it was carrots and mange tout (snow peas). The time before it was baby corn and red bell peppers. Just use whatever you like. Even though I might use a stock cube or granules here or there. I still feel like the food I am feeding my family is much better than pre-cooked, processed foods. You can't go wrong with this easy to make, looks like I slaved over a hot oven all day little recipe.

2 chicken breasts ( I use one breast per person )
1/2 jar Barts Thai Red Curry Paste ( I use mild and it doesn't matter what brand)
3 carrots sliced and pre-cooked
1 package mange tout (snow peas) ends removed and sliced on the diagonal, pre-cooked
1 can coconut milk
2/3 tablespoons soy sauce (I used soy lite)
1 cup chicken broth (can be made from stock cubes)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sunflower oil
Fresh Basil approximately 1/4 cup sliced (optional)

After I pre-cooked my carrots, mange tout (snow peas) and chicken I just put them all in a bowl waiting for the time to toss them in.
First thing I do is slice up my chicken breasts, I slice the length of my breast right down the middle then chop it up into bite size pieces. I then pan fry those until lightly browned in a little sunflower oil and remove from the pan and set aside for later. It doesn't take long maybe 4/5 minutes total just stirring them around to get all sides cooked. I cooked mine on medium high.

Then add your curry paste to a med high pan and let it sizzle just a minute and add in your pre-cooked carrots, chicken, soy sauce and snow peas. I pre-cooked both of mine in the microwave for about 5 minutes each just until they are "nearly" done. Add in the cup of chicken broth, coconut milk and brown sugar. Simmer for about 10 minutes. When ready to serve just before you serve it stir in the fresh basil. It's so worth it.

I serve mine with white basmati rice. I take rice and put a good portion in the bottom of the bowl then ladle the curry over it.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Moroccan Spice Blend

As promised, here is the recipe for the Moroccan spice blend that goes with the Moroccan Chicken recipe below. This stuff is soooooo good. I recommend if you can use as many of these freshly ground as you can. It just makes the flavors so much nicer. BUT if you can't it is perfectly wonderful also.

Pic of Allspice above

I also wanted to mention I was surprised to see the Allspice was just the dried unripe fruit of the Pimenta dioica plant, a tree native to the West Indies, southern Mexico and Central America. For some reason I thought allspice was a blend of spices and after reading about it I see I am not the only one to think that either. Evidently, it was the English who named it allspice for that reason.

Anyway, here is the recipe.

Moroccan Spice Blend
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
• 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Preserved Lemon

click image for larger view

Moroccan Spiced Chicken with preserved Lemons

12 thighs and drumsticks total ( I used 4 chicken breasts)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (I used 2 and I grated instead of crushing it – I am breaking hubby in slow with garlic it’s not his favourite food but it’s oh so good for you)
2.5cm piece root ginger, peeled and grated OR (1 inch)
3 preserved lemons, chopped and seeds removed OR (zest of 1 large lemon)
3 tablespoons Moroccan spice blend ( I will add recipe for it)
300ml chicken stock OR (10 oz)
A handful of pitted green olives (I also added some sliced black ones)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 25gram pack coriander leaves only chopped OR (appx. An ounce)

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Arrange the chicken in a large roasting pan in a single layer. Mix the oil with the garlic, ginger, preserved lemons and Moroccan spices. Rub the mixture all over the chicken. Roast the chicken for 45 minutes. (NOTE: Being as I used chicken breasts which were boneless I only did mine for 30 minutes). Then pour the stock into the tin and baste the chicken. Add the olives, return the chicken to the oven for a further 15 minutes or until the juices run clear when pierced at the thickest part.

Transfer the chicken to a serving dish. Spoon off the excess oil from the juices in the roasting tin, then put the pan directly over the heat and simmer for a minute or two. Stir in the lemon juice and coriander, season to taste and serve spooned over the chicken.

This chicken is sooooo good you will definitely get that new dress, purse or shoes you have been wanting your hubby to get you. Trust me on this one. It’s worth the effort.