Friday, 29 May 2015

Feta and Pomegranate Cous Cous Salad

Summer just can't make up it's mind this year.  One day we're barbecuing, next we're stewing, so when asked to make a salad to go with a barbecue, I put my mind to work for something that can used another time.

Let me explain.

I always make enough to feed an army; I cant bear the thought of someone coming to our home for dinner and going home hungry, or the thought that I might take food to someones house and be seen as stingy. No, no, no.  So invariably, no matter how delicious the food, I always end up with leftovers.

I also can't bear the thought of eating summery salads on a freezing cold, blustery day; food must match the surroundings (think tapas in the sun in Spain, or a steaming cappuccino in a piazza in Italy).

Finally, I love leftovers; I love opening my fridge and seeing cling filmed bowls of good food good to go - it makes me happy.

So this salad had to be good for this changing weather.

With all this in mind, I went for a glorious cous cous salad, emboldened by the sprinkle of pomegranate and brought back to earth with mint and feta.  Perfect on a summers day with a barbecued chicken thigh or two and actually, even better served up alongside a lamb Tagine on a blustery day, which the next day just happened to be - you could say I planned it that way....

Feta and Pomegranate Cous Cous Salad (Serves 6-8)

  • 300g cous cous
  • 450ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • A fat clove of garlic (or two, depending on taste)
  • A good squeeze of lemon juice
  • 250g pack feta, crumbled into large chunks
  • Olive Oil (extra virgin if you have it)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Large bunch Mint, leaves chopped
  • 2-3 salad/spring onions, snipped into rounds about 5cm in width
  • Seeds from one pomegranate

  1. Pour the stock over the cous cous in a large bowl, cover with cling film and leave to soak for 5-10 minutes
  2. Fluff the cous cous with a fork and add the garlic, lemon juice, feta, olive oil, mint, spring onions and a good grind of salt and pepper and stir well, taking care not to break up the cheese.  You can make ahead until this point.
  3. Tip the salad into a serving bowl and top with the pomegranate seeds just before serving so the colour doesn't bleed.
  4. Tuck in


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Salted Caramel Brownies

As news arrived that we could be moving in just two short weeks, euphoria was quickly replaced by panic when I realised I'd no longer be able to get my weekly (OK, daily) Salted Caramel Brownie from the local bakery.  Argh! So when I agreed to make dessert for our Bank Holiday Monday BBQ with our friends-who-have-given-us-a-place-to-live, I knew what needed to be done.  I need these in my life.
IMG_8366The bakery brownies, dense with a slither of salted caramel running through the middle were perfect apart from one thing - they were less than an inch high but quite large in shape, more like a flapjack. No good.  Brownies, to me, are a large squidgy cube allowing for maximum fudginess and little chance of going dry, so I made that change first by using a 20cm square tin (I'd prefer 23cm but the damned thing is in storage). The brownies I made were indeed chocolatey with salted caramel running through the middle but were sweeter than their bakery counterparts snd much, much fudgier.  They were also much saltier than I'd like and I have a thing about salt in my boys diets, so I'll made sure I use a little less next time - the recipe below uses less salt than I used (for that intensely salty hit, use a full teaspoon of salt in your caramel).  I'd also be tempted to put all of the caramel in the middle and not bother with the topping - one to try next time I guess!
I've another brownie recipe in mind to use for those who enjoy something sweet but don't have a hugely sweet tooth (such as me). However, should you be the sort who enjoys the feeling that their teeth may fall out straight after chowing down on their sweet treat, like The Man, punctuated and tamed by that seriously salty hit, then this is the recipe for you my friend.
How to:
  • First, take 200g unsalted butter and melt in a pan over a low heat. Once melted, add 100g each of 70% cocoa and 50% cocoa chocolate, broken into pieces (no less or you wont get that lovely fudgy-ness) and take off the heat.  Leave until all the broken chocolate has melted.
  • IMG_8353Next, take 175g Carnation Caramel from a 397g tin and mix in half a tsp of flaked sea salt - make sure you use the good stuff here, not your 30p saxa table salt. Set aside.
  • Take the remaining caramel and whisk together with four medium eggs at room temperature and 200g golden caster sugar, until all mixed together
  • Add your melted chocolate and butter concoction and beat until smooth
  • Finally, weigh 130g plain flour and 50g cocoa and sift together over your chocolate and caramel mixture. Beat until just mixed - no more!
  • In a greased and lined 20-23cm square tin, add half of your mixture and smooth. Take half of your caramel and sea salt mixture and make five 'stripes' across your brownie mixture, then finally top with the rest of your brownie batter.
  • IMG_8360
    Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food
    Take the second half of your salted caramel and make a further three thick stripes then, using the end of a knife, drag it through the caramel to make a feathered effect, taking care not to disturb the mixture below. Sprinkle with a further half teaspoon of sea salt.
  • Bake at 180 for 25-30 minutes, until the brownie has risen but still has a slight wobble to the centre.
  • Leave to cool, or if you're feeling rebellious (or simply didn't make this early enough in the day because your kids were being 'challenging'), eat just warm with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream.
  • Brush your teeth. Well.
Keep an eye out for the less sweet recipe to follow, should you feel the need.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

A Food Revolution - A Review

  • WhereRevolution Macclesfield  
  • When: Wednesday, 12.30pm
  • Who: Myself, my husband and our baby in his pram
  • How Much: Less than £10 for a main course on average
Think Revolution. Think sticky floors, chilli vodka and cheesy Saturday night music? Think Again.
Revolution. Now that brings back some memories - hazy ones, but memories none the FullSizeRender_1less.  Often a destination for a start out drink on a Saturday evening, more often an 'ended up' place - 'Oh, we ended up in Rev's, cracking night' etc etc, Rev's has been the scene of many a messy evening, always sponsored by Absolut Vodka Cocktails. Now, it seems, Rev's is also the scene of style, fabulous food and innovative drinks with a new menu to boot - their new relaxed sharing style of dining that 'is at the centre of the foodie scenes in New York and San Francisco', was one I was keen to try when invited.
You can't have a post about Revolution without a Disco Ball
Never having been in Revolution during the day, I entered with my baby with trepidation, but they were more than happy to accommodate us, moving chairs for the pram and making sure we had enough room without causing a fuss.  There aren't any children's menus (that I could see) which is to be expected in a bar, but I was reassured they could accommodate our little man when I looked around and saw lots of happy families enjoying the chilled out music coming from speakers, the funky, industrial inspired interior and, of course, the food.
So, on to the menu.  
I'm ashamed to say I was expecting classic chicken in a basket, everything-tastes-the-same-deep-fried platters and still-radiating-with-microwaves-when-it-arrives Lasagnas.  I'm happy to say I was very wrong; they stuck to their promise of American Deli-style produce with salt beef sliders, buttermilk chicken, burritos and shrimp all gracing the menu with nothing microwaved in sight.  Fabulous choice for those more adventurous (popping candy and Armageddon sauce on a burger, anyone?) and just as much to choose from for the more picky amongst us.
I REALLY wanted one of the sharer crates I spied on a neighbouring table, involving  pulled beef sliders, viper dusted fat chips, buttermilk fried chicken and dough dogs, but I knew I'd struggle to share and had to turn my attention to the wider selection with an initial reluctance.
Fruit Water
BBQ Crackling Puffs
With this in mind, we perused the menu whilst sipping on water (stylishly served in a carafe bearing chopped fruit - very now, very Pinterest) and munching our BBQ Crackling Puffs, deliciously salty, devilishly crunchy and decided, after much deliberation to start with a few Sharing Plates. At 3 for £13 they struck me as the perfect way to start a night out with friends or a quick snack break with a chilled Prosseco whilst shopping. We devoured Dough Dogs (inspired by corn dogs, hot dogs on a stick, bloody gorgeous, my son would kill for them), Crispy Goat's Cheese Bon Bons (perfect with their homemade Armageddon sauce - which will knock your socks off) and Butterfly Breaded Shrimp (which happily took me back to a drunken afternoon on a pier in San Francisco).  I normally avoid 'breaded' thanks to many heavy, oil-soaked experiences, but these breaded bites were gently battered and fried to give a light taste and texture, not a drop of oil to be seen.  We were impressed.  We were surprised.
Sharing Plates (CW from top) - Battered Shrimp, Crispy Goats Cheese Bon Bons and Dough Dogs
For our main course, despite the extensive menu, we both headed for the burger section. He chose the Smokin' Bacon, resplendent with Wotsits (yes, the crisps - they work), dripping with cheese and bursting with BBQ onions.  I plumped for the healthier San Fran Chicken, fresh as dawn, laden with beetroot, sunblush tomatoes and avocado - right up my street.  More choices were to be made - Normal skin on fries or sweet potato? Vapor dust (spicy I'm told) or BBQ dust? (he went for normal with BBQ, I had plain sweet potato.  Good fries all round).
San Fran Burger with Sweet Potato Fries
FullSizeRender_2 (2)
Smokin' Bacon Burger with Skin On Fries with BBQ Dust
Chocolate Fluffwich
Chocolate Fluffwich
Banoffee Fluffwich
Just when we couldn't eat another bite, the dessert menu appeared and two 'Fluffwich'es were ordered; Chocolate for me, Banoffee for him; The fillings, wrapped in a sweet bread and gently fried until molten, were sickly sweet and gorgeous.  Both were stuffed with Fluff, that marshmallow stuff you see in the American section of Selfridges, then mine with Nutella, his with banana.  Only one complaint - mine could have done with a bit more Nutella, but then even with a 1kg jar on the side I still wouldn't be happy!
This review wouldn't be complete without a review of the impeccable service, from the smile from Shelley as we arrived, to the asking if we'd like to wait for our mains or go ahead, through to the attention with the drinks - not overly fussy, friendly and attentive.  Perfect.
Blue Moon Cocktail
We were both hugely surprised at what we found at Rev's; memories of those sticky floors were quickly fading to be replaced with memories of style, good food and good service. But, whilst I and Revolutions may have evolved, grown and matured over the last few years, a trip to Revolution wouldn't be compete without a Absolut vodka based cocktail now, would it?
  • Who should come here?: Anyone; families, friends, colleagues; but I'd avoid bringing your gran and avoid children after 6pm ish.
  • Is it value for money?: Absolutely - you get plenty of grub for your GBP and won't leave feeling you've been 'done'. You could go to a chain competitor and send much more for microwaved fare. And on Monday's, there's 50% off certain dishes - see you there!
  • Revolution kindly invited me to review their menu and the meal was free of charge - thanks guys!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Combat Boredom - Jammy Biscuits

n Mondays, I have two children with me, a five month old and an inevitably bored-for-some-of-the-day three year old.  Today, to combat said boredom, satisfy my/his sweet tooth and take my mind off the fact we STILL haven’t heard from the solicitor, I took to Google to figure out what could be done to rectify the situation.  Today I'm cooking for necessity - there is no room for error here; one mistake resulting in less than perfect produce will inspire a tantrum worthy of, well, a three year old.  Anything that takes longer to do than ten minutes results in flour, butter or anything else he can get his hands on being flung about the kitchen and on to the dog.  So, no making up of recipes here!
FullSizeRender (2)We ended up making some deliciously gooey Jammy Biscuits to pass some time; just five ingredients and a pair of clean hands and you’re off (NB in our house clean finger nails and no sight of bogies passes for clean – his bogies that is), with lovely, time saving instructions from  Hard to get wrong, this forgiving dough allows little hands to abuse it and still turn out a biscuit you’d give to a friend rather than an enemy… and the fact that these particular little hands made less than perfectly shaped biscuits (those on Good Food were clearly made by, oooh, say, a five year old), makes them all the more endearing.  The only thing I’d note is to use bloody good jam – is it worth doing any less?
How to?
  • Measure out 200g self-raising flour100g sugar (recipe calls for caster but only had granulated so it had to do) and 100g butter and get your little hands to rub
    together to make a breadcrumb like texture – ‘i said rub, not throw!’
  • Finish off for them when they get bored.
  • Dribble in a lightly beaten egg and get those hands in again to form a dough – I left this to the little hands – I have nice nails and I’d like to keep them that way.
  • Roll said dough into a sausage about 5cm in diameter and cut into 2cm thick rounds – you’ll end up with 12 or so.FullSizeRender (1)
  • Stick your little ones finger in the middle of each to make an indentation into which you’re going to plop a teaspoon of jam (alternating a spoon full for yourself of course).
  • Put them on a baking tray, leaving a good 3cm around each one for spreadage and bake for 10-12 minutes at 190 degrees.
  • I don’t need to tell you that hot jam is like molten lava, so make sure you leave them a bit before you get greedy and shove one in in one go…. erm I mean allow your little horror to eat one delicately (I’m not talking from experience here or anything…).
May your day pass a little faster, if not sweeter.