Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Spices - Sophie Grigson


The publishers Quadrille (www.quadrille.com) sent me this gorgeous book to review this week.  I have long been a fan of Sophie Grigson having watched her on TV and bought a couple of her books in the past so I was delighted to see her book Spices.  Sophie has written quite a few book on her favourite subject, cooking which is not surprising as she is the daughter of the late, great Jane Grigson who started the cooking revolution in the 70s.

This book is both a visual delight and an educational compilation.  Spices are found in just about every home across the globe and form part of the flavours and cooking of most cultures.  Each spice has its own flavours, evocative powers of memory to transport you straight back to food and occasions from your past.  A spice can mean childhood to one person and holidays to another.

In this book Sophie gives you a practical guide to the wealth of spices at our disposal and dedicates a chapter to each of the familiar spices and some not so well known.

The best way to become comfortable with spices is to experiment, using a little more each time to build to an intensity that you are satisfied with and that provide the desired results.  They are not intented to overpower but to enhance what you are preparing.

In this book Sophie Grigson takes you through exactly what is a spice, how to buy, store and use spices and then proceeds to educate the reader all about them.  The spices are grouped into aromatic, nutty, hot, warm and sweet and scented bitter & sour and blends

All the favourite members of many cupboards are there eg, cinnamon, corriander, cumin, poppy seeds and vanilla as well as the more unusual you may never have heard of or tried like fenugreek, sumac and kalonji.  There are also spice blends like garam masala, ras-el-hanout and za'atar.

Each chapter gives a history of the spice, some hints and tips and then follows with recipes that make your mouth water just reading them. For instance I read that each vanilla plant in Madagascar is pollinated by hand to get over the fact that the only insect that pollinates the vanilla plant lives only in Mexico where vanilla originally comes from.

With the colder weather on it's way I know that I will keep warm reading about and trying some of the spice recipes in Sophie Grigson's new book Spices.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Russell Hobbs

Tonight was originally supposed to be a bloggers event put on by (www.circle.com) Circle Beaconsfield for Russell Hobbs (www.Russellhobbs.com) in London and I was all geared up to go but it got cancelled for some reason.  I was going to include the two products I have been sent in by Russell Hobbs in the relevant blog so have decided to tell you about them now anyway.

I was looking to get a new hand mixer and saw the Russel Hobbs one used at a blog event in the summer so I asked them if I could try out theirs.  I really like it.  It is a good weight, some hand mixers are so light they don't feel like they have any power at all.  The one is from the new Allure range and is a pleasure to own.

It has removable beaters and dough hooks and 350w of power.  It has 6 speeds and an LCD screen with visual timer.  the instruction booklet that came with it was easy to read and understand and has quite a few easy, contemporary recipes with no frills.

The brushed chrome finish with black accents fits in really well in my kitchen (deor of cream, black and red).

They also sent me the new allure 2 in 1 salt and pepper grinder. It takes 4 x AA batteries which were not included but were easily installed and once installed you are ready to grind.  It has ceramic grinding heads with adjustable grinding size option.  It is also brushed chrome finish so matches the hand mixer beautifully.  The grinder system comes with a horizontal stand for storage.

I have however decided to put black pepper corns in the one end and My Secret Kitchen Szechuan Pepper Pot in the other.  In my house all salt grinders get clogged up due to condensation which is rather annoying.  This is a common result with salt grinders in our house.

I was hoping to view some more of the Allure range tonight but will just have to wait.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Christmas With Gordon - Book Giveaway

I was wondering if Gordon Ramsay would cook the Christmas dinner at his house for his family and guests or would he delegate to his wife Tana (who is a TV personality, cook and cookbook author in her own right)?  I reckon he would delegate but be unable to stay out of the kitchen.  A little advice here - a little there!  Who knows.

We all know Gordon Ramsay from his many television series including Hell's Kitchen, The F Word, Cookalong Live and Ramsay’s Best Restaurant. 

The cookbook - which is one of the many books Gordon Ramsay has written- Christmas with Gordon presents Gordon’s favourite festive recipes. Gordon shares his secrets for achievable, affordable and stress-free Christmas cooking. He gives classic ingredients  a modern twist his recipes add a new dimension to traditional festive food. His turkey is succulent and he shares some great alternatives for the main festive meal: Christmas Beef Wellington, Honey Glazed Ham, Pan-fried Sea Bass and Aromatic Roast Goose, with equally exciting contemporary desserts. Gordon's key to success is being organised and he offers advice on planning ahead and getting some of your preparation and cooking done before the big day.

There is also a selection of party food, holiday brunches and suppers to keep the family happy.  There are also great hints and tips for using the leftover turkey, meats and cheeses.

Each main meat menu has a full menu with time plan so I haven't decided which menu I like to follow - either the turkey or baked ham would be my preference.

Quadrille publishers (www.quadrille.co.uk) have sent me a copy of the book to review and I am offering it to one lucky reader. (You must live in the UK to enter this competition). The closing date for this competition is 10th December 2011. The winner will be chosen at random from all the entries received.

For a chance to win this great Christmas must-have book post your answer in the comment box below with your e-mail address.
Question:What is your favourite family Christmas recipe?

For another chance to win follow my blog and leave a comment in the box below to let me know you have done this.

For a bonus chance of winning follow me on twitter @HeidiMSKstalban and/or @walpolegirl and tell me you have done so and leave your twitter ID in the comment box.

For another chance of winning please post the details of this on twitter using the symbol below and tell me you have done so by leaving a comment in the box below and include your twitter ID.

For a further chance of winning please follow me on Facebook Heidi's Secret Kitchen and tell me you have done so by leaving a comment in the box below.

For a bonus chance of winning share this post on your Facebook and  tell me you have done so by leaving a comment in the box below.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Let's Make Christmas - Food Blogger Gift Swap

Here are my recipes for the Let's Make Christmas Gift Swap?  I have been working all week so haven't had a chance but I have made pumpkin and apple chutney and  peppermint crunch chocolate.  My recipes are both simple and easy to make.

Pumpkin & Apple Chutney: (my own recipe)

In a large preserving pan put the following:-
750g apples (cored and finely sliced or chopped - no need to peel)
750g pumpkin flesh (grated and peeled)
750g golden granulated sugar
500g onions (finely sliced or chopped)
500g sultanas
1 lemon (rind and juice)
3 red chillies (chopped)
2Tbsp mustard seeds
2Tbsp ginger
1 tsp each - ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cumin, corriander
10 cloves (optional)

Bring to the boil and boil to dissolve the sugar.  Turn the heat to moderate and simmer for 2 hours, stirring from time to time.

Fill sterilised jars. Cover first with the waxy circles and then cellophane covers from a pack of 2lb jam pot covers.  Cool and label.  You can eat this right away but it will improve if kept for a couple of months before eating.

Peppermint Crunch Chocolate

2 striped peppermint candy canes
300g white chocolate
300g plain chocolate
1 1/4 tsp peppermint extract

Line a medium sheet pan with a piece of non-stick baking paper. Set aside.
Place candy canes in a large resealable polythene food bad and coarsly crush using a rolling pin, set aside.
Cut the white chocolate into pieces and place in a glass bowl. Microwave on medium heat for approx 2-3 minutes until almost melted, stirring after every 30 second interval. Stir to melt any lumps and set aside.
Cut the plain chocolate into pieces, add the peppermint extract and proceed as with the white chocolate.
Place scoops of melted white chocolate and plain chocolate onto the prepared sheet pan.  Cut through the chocolate using a spreader to create a marbled effect.
Gently tap sheet pan flat on working surface to level the top and fill any gaps or air bubbles. Sprinkle the chopped candy canes on top.
Refrigerate at least 35 minutes or until chocolate is set.  Lift the papeer and peel away from the chocolate.  Using a knife break the chocolate into irregular shaped pieces.
Fill small celo bags with chocolate and tie with ribbon.
(This recipe is curtesy of The Pampered Chef)

I will put the photos of the above items on the blog next week.  Looking forward to the Let's Make Christmas Gift Swap next Friday 18 November in London at Fortnum & Manson.  I will let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Quick Snack

I got the munchies this afternoon and fancied a quick snack.  Looking in the cupboard I came across an almost finished jar of honey we bought in Suffolk so I added that to some Total Greek Yogurt (www.totalgreekyoghurt.com) and a punnet of blueberries and yum yum ready to eat heaven!

Monday, 7 November 2011

It's Competition Time!

Many of you already know that I am a Consultant with My Secret Kitchen, the UK's first home food and drink tasting company.  I bring the My Secret Kitchen (www.mysecretkitchen.co.uk) products to your home and introduce you and your friends to our fantastic range of products including Jumping Jack Chilli Jam, Tapenade, Red Pepper Cheese Ball, Maple Caramel Sauce, Mango Mojito Dessert Sauce, and many more.

All products are suitable for vegetarians and have no unnecessary additives, colouring and preservatives.  They are all designed to help you make the most of your mealtimes.

Well I thought it was time to let you find out for yourself how great these products are.  For a chance to win a Jumping Jack Chilli Jam and Maple Caramel Sauce there are a two main things for you to do, each one giving you a seperate entry.  The winner will be chosen at random on 20 November 2011.  The prize (like all our products) can be delivered straight to your home address. The winner will have their prize well in time for Christmas.

1. Like my Facebook page, Heidi's Secret Kitchen, and post a comment below to let me know you have done so and include your Facebook name.

2. Follow me on Twitter, @HeidiMSKstalban, and comment below to let me know you have done so and include your Twitter ID.

3. If you would like to try these great products for yourself and live in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire or North London then book a tasting event at your home, office or school and get a bonus entry, direct message me (either Facebook or Twitter) with your phone number and comment below to let me know you have done this with either your Facebook name or Twitter ID and I will ring you to set the date and details.

4. For another bonus entry and if you live outside of the above areas you can still order from our catalogue and have the order shipped to your home address so send me a direct message (either Facebook or Twitter) and comment below to let me know you have done so with either your Facebook name or Twitter ID .

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Cutting Edge

Have you ever tried to cut something with a less than sharp knife?  You tear, you pull and it is a lot of frustrating hard work. Any chef worth their salt (ever wondered where this saying comes from? See below) will have their own knives which they look after and covet.  There are some great makes of knives on the market today, such as Global (usually the chef’s choice), Sabatier, ICEL (from Portugal) and I have had many during my life in the kitchen.

A good knife is a very personal choice.  I prefer a 13cm Santoku to an 18cm Santoku but have never been fond of a paring knife. Santoku is the knife with the little indents along the blade.  These create air pockets therefore stopping the food sticking so much to the blade and easier to slide off.  Stops that syndrome when you start out with a nice slice of cheese, for example, and end up with a thin wedge after trying to slide if off the blade.

A good knife is made up of eight main parts and I am going to be referring to the German Forged Steel range of The Pampered Chef (www.pamperedchef.biz/partieswithHeidi).  If you are going to part with a lot of money then you need to treat these knives with respect.  They come with a life time guarantee. I recommend that in a normal domestic kitchen situation you stop what you are doing, clean your knife in hot soapy water (do not use a dishwasher as this will dull the blade and may cause rust spots)

1.       Blade:  they are made of high-carbon German steel, finely crafted through a forging process. This helps to maintain a perfect edge and keep their shape and sharpness. They are stain resistant and corrosion resistant. When the blade is made up of one piece of steel from the tip to the end of the handle this is called “full tang”.

2.       Tip:  of the blade is the front end which is used to cut small or delicate pieces of food or to pierce.

3.       Edge: Working part of the blade. The part you can sharpen from the tip to the heel.

4.       Heel: Rear part of the blade, used for cutting items that require a bit more force.

5.       Spine: The top of the blade, opposite the edge which adds weight and strength.

The best way to store your knives is in a knife block and the Pampered Chef has one to fit their whole range of forged steel cutlery.  If you don’t have a knife block then keep the protective covers on your knives when you store them away.  The cover protects the knife blade from damage from other knives in the drawer but also protects you from serious injury!

Before purchasing a new knife you should try it out.  You might think you will like a particular size or style but when you use it you may decide differently. 

I will be holding a knife Masterclass where you can try several different Pampered Chef ranges of knives and sizes at my house on Friday 11 November 2011 8:00-9:30 pm.  If you live near St Albans and want to attend send me a message and I will see if there are places available.  The Masterclass is limited to 6 places so don’t delay if you want to attend.  We will be trying the whole range of forged knives as well as the colour coated range and self sharpening range.  We will also try using the chef’s knives in a proper and professional manner which should improve your chopping skills.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Let's Make Christmas - Food Blogger Gift Swap

I have been invited to take part in a food bloggers competition to make the ultimate Christmas gifts.  The invitation has come from Vanessa Kimball, a talented and very busy food blogger and mum.  I am honoured to have been invited by Vanessa.  The afternoon will take place at Fortnum & Mason in Picadilly and we will have afternoon tea and a good deal of food talk.

At this moment in time I am planning on entering one of my chutneys and chocolate olive truffles (Leaarned how to make these last week at a cooking class with Food@52.  I will be posting the recipes for the items I am entering in a couple of weeks once I have made my final decision on what to enter.

There will be some fantastic entries in the competition so I only hope I can come close.  Watch this space for more details.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Time for Tea

I have always been a coffee drinker and love the smell of freshly ground coffee.  At one time I even banned instant coffee from the house, preferring only the French press method.

I don’t really like a cup of tea (except funnily enough with proper Afternoon Tea) but a few years ago did start drinking the redbush tea, a caffeine free tea originally from Africa which I find very refreshing indeed.  It is something of an acquired taste and did take me a while to like it but now I do make a cup when I need a really thirst quenching drink.

I have heard lots of time in the past however, that drinking green tea has loads of health benefits both preventative and curative.  I have never got on with fruit teas.  The smell lovely but fail to deliver the same experience to my taste buds as they do the nose.

Many years of eating in SoHo in London (the Chinese quarter) I learned to really like the Chinese jasmine tea served with meals.  This is thirst quenching, caffeine free and contains lots of health benefits. 

So I was intrigued to try jasmine tea from Choi Time’s award winning collection (www.choitime.com).  Melissa Choi sent me some samples of her jasmine tea pearls and other teas in her range to try.  First of all the fragrance was intense and beckoning.  You need 5-10 pearls in a pot and pour boiling water over to release the flavour and let it brew for 4-5 minutes. The smell was so strong it was torture waiting for it to be ready to drink.  It did however keep its promise and was a lovely drink on a hot summer day. This tea is what they call ‘single estate’, green lu-cha tea leaves naturally scented with thousands of jasmine blossoms and then dried rolled into ‘pearls’.  Much easier to measure out exactly the right amount than loose tea such as that found in high street tea/coffee shops.

Melissa Choi  learned the wonderful tea drinking and appreciation from her grandmother since an early age.  She started bringing the best quality teas back from her trips to China and Hong Kong for friends and this blossomed into a thriving business.  Her teas are beautifully packaged and she also has a range of beautiful glasses and teapots to enhance your tea drinking experience. Her teas are sold online and are also stocked in Harrods and Selfridges.  If you want to order online Melissa will give readers of this blog a 10% discount till the end of the year.  Just type ‘HRKitchen' in the discount voucher area.  This offer will be held until the end of 2011.

The next tea that I tried was Thousand Year Red.  This is a single large flower which did make me laugh when I first saw it.  This tea aids digestion, strengthens the immune system, helps to lower cholesterol and has anti-ageing properties.  To brew pour hot water (82-88C) into your cup or pot.  Drop one bulb into the hot water and watch the bud uncurl.  You can use this one flower bud for 5-12 infusions depending how strong you like your tea.  Apparently using the same bulb or pearls intensifies the anti-oxidant effects too. 

I decided to invite my friend Lizzie to have a tea party so we could try some of the teas.  We did find the Thousand Year Red a bit of a disappointment.  It was great to watch the flower bud unfurl but it didn't seem to have much aroma or flavour.  We brewed a couple of pots so had lots to drink and hopefully we help our digestions!

I certainly look forward to trying the rest of the samples in the range in the very near future.  Don't forget, use the voucher to try some of these pure and fantastic teas for your self.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Every Day is Fish Day

Recently I was invited to a Food Bloggers evening on behalf of Lyons Seafoods.  I was very excited to attend, especially given the description of the event and whilst this was taking place in East London I would be taken to and from the event by cab.  This made quite a difference to my willingness to attend as it would otherwise have been an awkward journey especially as the event started at 6:00 pm.
The venue as an absolutely stunning loft apartment, a converted Victorian factory (previously used in Victorian times to manufacture zips and suspenders) just off the Kingsland Road in Shoreditch, East London.  This area is not known to be a well off area of London but when we passed through the security gates to the courtyard it was fantastic.  Very modern and contemporary buildings and companies within the courtyard.  The apartment can be hired out for photo shoots and corporate events such as the one I was attending. (www.studiohirefirstoption.com)

On arrival (I was accompanied by my fish foodie friend Mandy) we were offered cocktails with either a gin base or a vodka base, lots of nibbles and a chance to chat to the hosts (Cirkle Beaconsfield www.cirkle.com and Lyons Seafoods who are one of the UK’s leading seafood suppliers -  www.lyons-seafoods.com or www.lyonsseafoods.co.uk )  Once the rest of the diners (there were only 12 of us) arrived we went into the kitchen and they had put on a chef to cook us each one of their new range of seafood meals which will be found in the chiller cabinet of the supermarket.  Sainsburys are the first to stock this range which I will describe in detail below.

The chef was using the latest 28cm wok from Tefal – Sensorielle range designed to be the latest in non-stick, thermo-spot technology/ easy use-easy clean www.tefal.com) and each meal was to serve two people with the addition of rice or noodles as appropriate. 

There was also a lovely lady there to show us how to add the nice little extra touches to our meals before serving like edible flowers for garnish and loads of other hints. 

 It was a very relaxed atmosphere where we felt free to ask questions and one lady even had a go flipping the wok contents chef style instead of using a wooden spoon to stir.

As our food was cooked (and each dish took an average of only 6-7 minutes from pack to wok to plate with no mess and no wastage) we went into the other room to a lavishly set table and were offered lots of wine with our meal.  It was great to sit, eat and chat to fellow bloggers in such a relaxed setting. 

Time passed quickly and when it was time for our respective carriages to arrive we were presented with a fantastic goodie bag for coming!  Each goodie bag included one of each of the new meals that Lyons Seafoods are launching and a Tefal Sensorielle range 28cm wok to stir fry them at home. 

I certainly had a fantastic evening and hope the photos can give you some idea of the style and settings of the evening.

The range of meals that Lyons Seafoods have launched are four meals to be found in the chiller cabinet of the supermarket.  They are priced at £5.99 (don’t forget this feeds two people)

The idea of the range is something quick and easy to prepare when you get home after a very busy day or late shift that is fresh and nutritious and still tastes great.  I think they have achieved their aim and I certainly will be purchasing these products in the future. 

There is the main ingredient, a fish or collection of fish, fresh stir fry vegetables and an appropriate fresh sauce all individually wrapped in a cardboard sleeve.  The range is not freezer friendly so you can’t be ultra organised but they do have a good fridge life so you can plan ahead a few days in advance.

My favourite was the Thai Sweet Chilli King Prawns.  

This is a delicious combination of king prawns, crunchy water chestnuts, baby sweetcorn and mange tout with a tangy thai sweet chilli sauce – you just need to serve with noodles.  The Chef’s tip on the packet suggests sprinkling some chopped red chillies for added warmth and stirring a few drops of sesame oil through the cooked noodles prior to serving. The packaging has very easy to follow instructions, clear ingredient list and nutritional & allergy information. There is also recycling information on the package. 

I could not rate the remaining three in order of preference because they were all so different and I loved them all.  I will just tell you about them in no particular order.

 Classic rich Catalan Fish Stew:

A lovely combination of cod, squid and chorizo with Mediterranean vegetables and a classic red wine and smoked paprika sauce to be served with crusty ciabatta bread.  Chef’s tips to rub a clove of garlic onto toasted Mediterranean bread and drizzle with olive oil to serve.

Hot and aromatic Malaysian King Prawn Laksa:
A distinctive and creative combination of king prawns, baby sweetcorn, ripe cherry tomatoes with crunchy green beans and a fragrant coconut sauce to be served with rice.  The Chef’s tips would be to sprinkle with red chillies for added spice (if you feel it needs it) and stir fresh chopped coriander and lime juice through the rice just before serving.

 Hot and spiced Kerala Seafood Curry:
A creative combination of cod, salmon and king prawns with chick peas, sweet mango and baby spinach and an Indian spiced, aromatic coconut sauce suggested to be served with rice.  I am not usually a fan of hot spicy food but this was tasty, aromatic with lots of flavour and not an unbearable heat to it.  I would certainly eat this one again. – Chef’s tips to stir fresh chopped coriander and lime juice through the cooked rice just prior to serving.

No more Fish Friday now everyday can be a fish day!!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Total Greek Yoghurt

I was luck enough to be invited to a Total Greek Yoghurt ‘I Love My Lunchbox’ event recently and got some generous samples to take home and try.  Following on from that event Total Greek Yoghurt sent me a selection of their duo pots (plain yoghurt in the main part and a fruit compote or honey in the small attached part of the pot) to review.
Years ago I thought plain yoghurt was just for eating if you were on a weight loss diet and was about as exciting!  More recently I discovered Greek style yoghurt (I have not been to Greece yet but hope to one day) and the taste and creaminess was nothing like the yoghurt of my youth.

These days it is unusual for me not to have Greek style yoghurt in the fridge and it seems appropriate that a good tablespoon or two gets into a large proportion of the food I prepare.

When the samples arrived from Total Greek Yoghurt (TGY) the first thing I did was try each flavour.  They sent me Honey, Blueberry, Strawberry and Tropical Fruits.  My favourite is definitely the plain yoghurt with honey.  The quality of the honey is extremely good and mixes with the plain yoghurt to produce a creamy, rich, luscious dessert. 

Recently when I made a cake with this flavour it brought to mind middle eastern images so I added pistachio nuts and chopped dates.  The recipe for this cake is:


100g Self Raising flour
100g Castor sugar
100g Unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 pot TGY Greek yogurt with honey duo pot
100g chopped dates
50g chopped pistachio nuts
3 Tbsp Demerara sugar for topping


  • Grease and line a 20cm square baking pan.
  • Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy (I used the new Russell Hobs hand mixer that I received to review – this will be a further post to watch out for)
  • Add the eggs and a little bit of the flour to stop the eggs curdling.
  • Add the contents of the duo pot of yoghurt, the chopped nuts and the chopped dates (it is a good trick to coat the dates in a little of the flour to stop them sticking together and to stop them falling to the bottom of the cake)
  • Mix well together and pour into prepared baking pan.
  • Sprinkle a little golden Demerara sugar over the top of the cake which will add a crunch to the finished cake.
  • Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes till the top is golden brown and a skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean.
  • Cool completely, cut into squares and serve sprinkled with icing sugar on top and a little frozen Total Greek Yogurt on the side.

This cake did not last long in our house!

The next TGY duo pot I tried was the Blueberry.  I was visiting my daughter and decided to bake blueberry muffins with my two year old grandson Logan helping me!  I weighed out the ingredients but let Logan put them into the bowl and help with the mixing.  I did however have to explain that we do not put the whole egg, shell and all into the mix, and that we need to open the egg first!  He got that OK and cracked the second egg on the counter top!

We followed the recipe I got from the ‘I Love My Lunchbox’ event which was demonstrated by Nick Coffer aka ‘My Daddy Cooks’.  This is a simple recipe and a very good one to make with the children or grandchildren as the exact quantities are not so important.  The Greek yoghurt gives the muffins a light effect and you can add fresh or frozen blueberries if you like as well.

Whilst I liked the Strawberry flavour duo pot my least favourite was the Tropical Fruits.  I could not really identify which fruits were used when I tasted it but perhaps it would come into its own if you were to bake with it and add some tropical extras to the mix.

There are so many ways you can use Greek style yoghurt and here are just a couple of my favourites:-

  • mix in the fruit/honey pot, stir then pour over breakfast cereal or fresh fruit.  The strawberry duo pot is excellent poured over fresh, sliced strawberries and raspberries.  The tropical fruit or honey duo pots work well mixed together and poured over kiwi fruit and passion fruit mixed or sliced bananas.
  • I made potato salad and for the dressing to pour over the cold potatoes I mixed 3 Tbsp mayonnaise, 3 Tbsp plain Total Greek Yoghurt, My Secret Kitchen (Heidi’s Secret Kitchen Facebook page or www.mysecretkitchen.co.uk ) Lemon Chipolte Sea Salt, 2 garlic cloves crushed (www.pamperedchef.biz/partieswithHeidi), 2 tsp creamed horseradish or wasabe and 2-3 Tbsp My Secret Kitchen Thai Dressing with Kaffir Limes.  I mixed this through the potatoes and added chopped chives.  Lovely!
Keep checking back to this blog to see what I do with the plain yoghurt from Total Greek Yoghurt.

If you like reading my blogs please follow me and tell your friends to have a look too.  Look out for my competition coming soon!!

    Wednesday, 21 September 2011

    Grandma's Banana Bread

    When I was growing up my mother would use up the old, wrinkly bananas to make her mother’s recipe for Banana Bread.  Over the years this became one of my favourite recipes and still reminds me of my childhood and because it is super easy I make it whenever we have bananas past their good looking stage.

    Very often the skin turns brown but inside the actual banana is fine but if my children saw the brown outside they would not eat the ripe fruit.  So it traditionally became a way to use the bananas and not throw them out.  To the point that sometime friends would call in for coffee and bring me their over ripe bananas and ask me to make a Banana Bread for them.

    I make the recipe almost exactly as my mother and her mother before her used to make it.  The only small change I make is to vary whether I add chopped walnuts, raisins or chopped dates for a special touch.

    To make this recipe work you have to use an American cup measurement set and not weigh the ingredients.   In the USA we measure all flour, sugar, butter and liquid ingredients etc in cup measurements and although a cup = 8oz it does not work if you weigh the dry ingredients.

    So for a 2lb loaf of Banana Bread you need:-
    3 ripe bananas (as soft and brown as possible)
    1 egg
    2/3c sugar
    2 cups Self Raising Flour
    You can add up to ½ cup chopped walnuts, raisins or chopped dates.

    Preheat the oven to 350F/175C/Gas 3
    Grease and flour a 2lb loaf tin or use a loaf liner.

    In a large bowl put the peeled bananas (the skin or peel can go directly on the compost heap) and mash with a fork until almost liquid.
    Add 1 egg and beat with the fork
    Add 2/3 cup of sugar

    If using this is the time to add the walnuts etc.

    Mix in one cup of the flour and continue to mix well.  Then add the other cup of flour until all the flour is well incorporated.

    Pour all the mixture into the prepared baking tin and place in the middle of the oven for 1 hour.  Let cool completely if you can before slicing and serving with butter and a cup of coffee.  My favourite Saturday morning breakfast.

    Saturday, 17 September 2011

    The Village Fete

    Nothing says summer like a village fete. 

    Cricket can be played on the green with village residents sitting around enjoying this very English sport. The village fete is one of those quintessential English occasions where everyone joins in the spirit of the day.  I was invited to the Longstowe village fete in Longstowe, Cambridgeshire a few weeks ago.  This was the 17th fete, usually held in May but it was felt there was a better chance of nice weather to hold it a bit later on in the year.  And as if it was payment for good behaviour the sun shone making it a bright and sunny day for an outside event.

    It was being organised by my ex-husband and he had roped in my son to be the chief BBQ cook.

    I was looking after my granddaughter Elizabeth for the weekend so we decided to pop up the see her daddy and granddad in action.

    It turned out to be a beautiful afternoon. There were loads of people attending the fete and the atmosphere was very buoyant.  Three and a half year old  Elizabeth was quick to join in on the fun, having a ride on the merry-go-round and a second ride later on.

    There was a marquee on one side of the village green. Local residents had brought their best vegetables, cakes, jams and wines to be judged.  The rosettes looked lovely placed on the winning entries.  Towards the end of the afternoon the entries were raffled and the proceeds were all added to the total raised on the day. 

    I bought some vegetables for £0.40 and a basket of prize winning potatoes for £1.50.  All of these were part of the meals for the next day or so. The winners were presented with trophies

    Usually at BBQs of this type the sausages and burgers are supermarket bought but the Longstowe BBQ meat was donated by a local butcher and the sausages were lovely and thick with no added fillers or flavourings.  You could taste the real sausage and the burgers were lovely and not just tasting of seasonings that mask the absence of real meat.  These were lovely and round and didn’t shrink much with cooking. 

    My son Edward was chief BBQ grill man and worked his way through about 100 sausages and several dozen burgers and was still smiling at the end of the afternoon.

    And of course, where there are farmers there are also tractors.  Several of the locals own tractors and enter competitions and races at all sorts of venues and events.  Each owner was very proud and willing to show off their machines.

    It is a shame that summer has come to an end but this kind of event leaves us with memories of bright summer days, cricket, BBQs and happy village residents!