Posts tagged recipe
Quark is a naturally fat free spoon-able soft cheese. The Lake District Dairy Company, who have launched their new range of Quark in the last week, sent me a hamper of goodies so I could try using it in one savoury and one sweet recipe.
Quark is actually a completely new ingredient to me – I’ve never tried it in any of its forms. My colleague at work, who is Polish, explained that she uses it a lot and it comes in different types – the one she uses is the consistency of cottage cheese, but you can also get it in a wedge and like soft cheese. This Quark from the Lake District Dairy company was rather like mascarpone in texture.
The hamper contained all the ingredients, and I mean all… fresh meat, vegetables, dairy products, store cupboard ingredients (well except the eggs were completely scrambled – who sends eggs by courier?!), I needed to make a Lamb Moussaka and a New York Baked Cheesecake. The recipes have been developed by The Fabulous Baker Brothers who say that Quark is a truly versatile fridge staple. Thankfully the instructions seemed easy to follow!
Quark was used to make the cheese sauce for the Lamb Moussaka. I used butter, flour, milk, bay leaf, salt and pepper and a tub of Quark to create the creamy sauce to layer up with the lamb mince and aubergine. It worked really well – the soft Quark easily melts into the sauce, and when baked gave the dish a lovely depth that complemented the mince and vegetables. The Lake District Dairy Company say that using Quark in this recipe instead of crème fraiche means you have 53% less fat, 158 fewer calories and 26% more protein per portion. That’s quite significant, and as it was really delicious I would definitely make it again this way.
In our house we generally prefer a chilled, set cheesecake. The one I normally make is a white chocolate full-fat affair with mascarpone, soft cheese, double cream and chocolate. If we are out for dinner I would definitely choose a chilled cheesecake over a baked one, and have never attempted to make my own baked cheesecake at home. But this version of New York Cheesecake was very easy to make – the topping is basically four pots (1000g) of Quark, butter, sugar, eggs, the zest of a lemon and some vanilla extract. Using Quark instead of cream cheese means there are a whopping 438 fewer calories, 76% less fat and 2.4 times more protein PER SLICE!!!! Wow. That is incredibly significant – an entire meal’s worth of calories saved by replacing one ingredient with another. No brainer.
And the cheesecake was good! The use of lemon zest and vanilla gave it a really lovely flavour, quite refreshing and not too sweet. I tried it out on family at the weekend, who do say baked cheesecake is their favourite, and they were very impressed with the Quark and how little difference it made to the flavour over using traditional ingredients. They didn’t even mind that I obviously didn’t cook the base long enough before adding the topping (sorry Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry – it had a soggy, and in fact leaky, bottom) – it might not have sliced perfectly, but it tasted good.
The idea of me receiving this hamper of goodies and trying out those recipes was of course for me to say whether or not I’d choose to cook with Quark again. And the answer is simply yes, I would. I’ve got quite a selection of recipes here from The Fabulous Baker Brothers that I’ve been sent, and I am hoping there will be more to come once the Quark website is up and running (it does seem odd to launch a product with only a holding page online).
It is great to have discovered a new-to-me ingredient that can be used as an alternative to cream cheese, crème fraiche, mascarpone, ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt, fromage frais, double cream and even soured cream – it is better for you than all of those, scoring “all green” on its on-pack Guildeline Daily Amounts information, and holds like the full-fat versions of those other products. I was also impressed with the flavour it provided; it does seem like the perfect product to keep in your fridge for all your cooking! Marvellous.
Thank you very much to the Lake District Dairy Company for sending me a hamper so that I could give Quark a proper test at home. If you want to try it for yourself, and I recommend that you do, you can buy it in Tesco and Morrison’s (in the cheese fridge!).
I don’t need an excuse to cook up a Mexican feast. Fajitas, enchiladas and tacos often appear on our menus – they are quick, tasty and fairly healthy evening meal choices. But if you do need an excuse to give Mexican food a try at home, then Cinco de Mayo is this weekend…
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for 5th May) a Mexican holiday celebrating their country’s victory over France during the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Actually it is quite a small celebration in Mexico itself, but in the USA it has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. There are parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals which bring communities together.
To help me celebrate Cinco de Mayo in my own home this year, Discovery Foods sent me a bag full of their Mexican inspired products to try out. The other evening LincsGeek and I sat down to our feast – chicken fajitas using The Perfect Fajita Kit and the three colourful squeezy bottles.
I could dive into that lot again right now!
Cooking fajitas is so very easy and is really quick, especially when you have a fajita kit to hand. The kit contained eight tortilla wraps, a packet of fajita seasoning, and some tomato salsa. There are only two of us in our house and even though these kits are designed for four (two wraps each), LincsGeek and I seem to manage the whole lot between us with no problem – we don’t serve anything else with it unless we’re really really hungry, in which case we’d have some potato (or sweet potato) wedges too.
My chicken fajita recipe is very simple. I start by frying an onion and some garlic in a little oil before adding two diced (into quite small pieces) chicken breast fillets. Once the chicken has started to cook I add the seasoning sachet – I use the whole lot, Mexican food is full of flavour and I want all of that in my finished wraps. Once the chicken is cooked I add a decent amount of chopped peppers and mushrooms to the mix too – we like lots of veg in this sort of food (a colourful meal is a healthy meal!). The smell of Mexican spices fills the kitchen and make us very hungry!
I served up the fajita filling with warm wraps, rocket leaves, grated mature cheddar, the salsa that came in the kit, and the sauces provided in my hamper. Normally I would use fresh salsa and soured cream so I was very interested to see what the bottled variants would taste like.
We both create our wraps quite differently. I start with the salsa and soured cream, and then add rocket leaves and some cheese before spooning on the hot filling. LincsGeek puts the filling on first and then the salsa, soured cream and cheese – he has his rocket on the side. I generally overfill my tortillas to get as much filling in each of two or three wraps one as possible, whereas LIncsGeek puts less in and has more wraps in total. Either way fajitas are always a favourite meal choice of ours, so good.
The squeezy bottles were completely new to me. I mentioned above that I normally buy fresh tomato salsa and soured cream to have with our Mexican food, so I was very interested to see how these longer life versions compare. We were very impressed actually. The Garlic and Herb Soured Cream was very tasty, although the squirt was a bit violent at times and on one wrap I got much more than I’d anticipated. It was a good alternative to fresh soured cream and had a lovely flavour. The Green Jalapeno Relish was also nice, it had a lovely flavour and was something that I don’t normally get at all for our Mexican feasts. The bottle said “medium” heat but LincsGeek felt actually it was mild so don’t be put off by the Jalapeno content, it’s well worth a try. It could definitely do with more of a kick but it’s got a great flavour. I think it’s fair to say that in both cases I still prefer fresh, but these work well and are a good idea to have in the cupboard for an impromptu feast!
If you’ve not planned your menu for Sunday then really you have no option but to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and have a Mexican feast of your own. If you have planned your menu for Sunday then have Mexican food on Monday! I can recommend these Discovery products to help with your cooking.
If you’d have walked into our kitchen at around 7.30pm last night you’d have known, instantly, that LincsGeek and I were enjoying our dinner. The gentle mmmmms and nommmmmms left no room for conversation.
I’d spent the previous hour or so making a fish pie. I’ve not made one for months, maybe more than a year, which was a great mistake because it was absolutely delicious – if I do say so myself! To be fair I rarely make time to spend an hour cooking dinner; I like to cook things properly from scratch but if I spent an hour preparing and cooking a meal then I end up getting nothing else done at all, so I stick to half an hour when possible. But this was well worth it.
I’ve not shared a recipe for a while so here you go… my fish pie recipe, courtesy of instructions my mum gave me years and years ago along with the influence of a couple of recipe books I have at home. This will serve four. And I’ve no idea on calories but it can’t be that bad!
- Fish – of course! I used a punnet of fish pie mix from Morrisons; about 340g of cod, salmon and smoked haddock.
- Decent handful of cooked and peeled king prawns.
- Four eggs.
- Decent handful of frozen peas.
- Decent handful of frozen sweet corn.
- Chives – I used dried as my fresh chives died!
- 25g flour.
- 25g butter.
- Bunch of spring onions, chopped but not too finely.
- A rounded teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
- 400ml milk.
- Potatoes for mashing – around 1kg.
- Butter and milk.
- Plenty of grated mature Cheddar cheese.
- Ground black pepper.
Clean and chop your potatoes, cover with water and boil for 20 minutes. I like leaving the skins on when I make mash – makes for a rustic mash with plenty of goodness (this isn’t Masterchef!). Once cooked, mash well with a good amount of butter and a dash of milk. Season with ground black pepper.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put your flour, butter and spring onions into a pan and allow the butter to melt over a low heat. You should stir regularly. Allow this to cook for a couple of minutes before slowly adding the milk bit by bit. Use a whisk to mix in the milk well at each stage – you don’t want a lumpy sauce! Once the milk is all mixed in bring the sauce to the boil (keep stirring!) and allow to cook for two or three minutes until it has thickened. Take it off the heat so it doesn’t get too thick.
Add the Dijon mustard to the sauce and stir, followed by the chives, fish (no need to poach the fish first, it cooks in the oven), prawns, peas and sweetcorn. Transfer all this to a deep oven-proof dish.
Halve the eggs and push into the pie filling. I don’t add these until now as they can break up when stirring and pouring, and this way you can add them so you know each serving gets an egg.
Spread the mash evenly over the top of the pie filling (but not too neatly – don’t spend ages on it!) and cover with the grated cheddar.
Cook in a medium oven (180 degrees ish) for 25 minutes or until the top is golden.
Serve immediately away and enjoy!
Allow me to tell you the story of my mock GCSE Technology exam.
I’d only been at this particular school for less than six months, and when we moved I had to change my GCSE options thanks to my new School being a Technology specialist. This meant starting a new subject half way through the course. A new subject that was very important to the school and one that I had very little knowledge of.
Since I arrived in the September I’d been taking part in the woodwork classes, trying to get some sort of practical project done to hand in for my coursework that May. I made a clock out of MDF and dowel with a few bits of lathed brass for decoration. It lasted well actually; it hung on my Mum and Dad’s wall for years.
Anyway, that exam. It was in the January; an incredibly cold January actually – the rest of the School were sent home one afternoon while we sat our exam (not sure if it was this one, but one of them) because they couldn’t get the School warm enough. I was very nervous; I’ve never been very good at examinations and it had been very difficult to prepare as I knew it would include all sorts of questions I would have no idea how to answer. I remember two of the questions vividly, I can see them written on the paper in front of me just as well as I can remember the chair and desk and hall and pencil. The first was about how a roller coaster carriage attached to the track. We were expected to draw a diagram of the mechanism and label the parts. The second: How do you make scones?
Having completed my detailed diagram of how I imagined a carriage/track system worked on any one of my favourite roller coasters, I sat and looked at the page about the scones, trying to think. I reckoned I’d last made scones in Brownies. Or maybe it was in Primary School. We did Home Economics at my previous school but I don’t remember making scones. And before you question whether I would cook with my Mum – she offered regularly but I was more interested in playing outside so that was my own fault.
But I had to write something; so I searched the deepest parts of my brain in the hope that there was something there. I wrote about flour and butter and the rubbing in method and dried fruit and sugar and kneading and rolling. I wrote in very general terms – no measurements except “a pinch of salt” – and no temperatures apart from “a hot oven”. I made some suggestions on how to serve them, pointing out they are best eaten with clotted cream and strawberries on a sunny afternoon served with Earl Grey tea in a bone china tea cup. Ok I didn’t say anything about Earl Grey or the weather, but I figured the serving suggestion might go in my favour!
Thankfully I must have been right. With both the roller coaster (anyone need an engineer?!) and the scones. I totally passed that exam, and went on to do well in the real thing too. Ha! It’s funny what you remember.
How Do You Make Scones?
Scones are so easy to make and only take ten minutes in the oven so they’re super fast too. I’d not really thought about making them myself for years until the other day when I was looking in the cupboard for inspiration. That mock GCSE exam came flooding back and (checking the recipe from a list my mum gave me when I left home) I made a batch of fruit scones. While I know they’re not perfect they tasted great, so I thought I’d share the very simple recipe here on my blog.
- 225g Self Raising Flour
- A pinch of salt
- 50g Butter – I used Flora Buttery
- 25g Caster Sugar
- 50g Dried Fruit eg Sultanas or Raisins
- 1 Medium Egg
- Put the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and rub in the butter til it is like fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the sugar and fruit.
- Beat the egg in a mixing jug and add enough milk to make up 150ml liquid. Add this to the mixing bowl a little at a time until you have a nice soft and spongy dough – you’ll need something like three quarters of the liquid.
- Roll the dough out to about 1-2cm thick and cut into rounds – I used a 6.5cm cutter and got ten scones from my mixture.
- Place the scones on a lined baking tray and use the remaining milk/egg mix to brush the top of each scone.
- Put in a hot oven (220 C or Gas Mark 7) for ten minutes.
- Cool down a little on a wire rack before eating – just enough so the fruit isn’t nuclear!
Scones are perfect to serve for lunch or supper with a little butter and/or jam. Of course they are best served with clotted cream and strawberries on a sunny afternoon along with some Earl Grey tea in a bone china cup… Enjoy!
I was recently offered the chance to review an Easiyo Yogurt Maker. It is basically an insulated tub in which you use powdered mix to create yogurt in a variety of flavours.
Yogurt, or yoghurt, I’m never sure, has great health benefits. It is rich in protein, a great source of calcium, helps with synthesis of vitamins, is wheat and gluten free, is pretty low in calorie, provides natural fats, and is full of nutrients. Easiyo allows you to make your own at home very easily, 1kg at a time, so is perfect if you have a big family or eat a lot of yogurt at home.
This is the Easiyo yogurt maker. It’s a rather large white plastic insulated cylinder and a jar. The process is very easy. You half fill the yogurt jar with cool drinking water, add the contents of the sachet and shake to mix it all in. Then fill the jar to the top with more cool water and re-shake.
You poor boiling water into the large insulated cylinder, place the jar inside and leave it on your kitchen worktop for 8-12 hours until set. Once set the yogurt jar goes in the fridge to cool before you eat it. It’s quite a long process, but you need time for the yogurt cultures to do their work. Once it is done, though, you end up with 1kg of yogurt that will last up to couple of days in your fridge.
I tried the Greek n Coconut flavour sachet, which is a creamy yogurt with bits of coconut in it. It’s really easy, certainly not rocket science! I found after 12 hours my yogurt had mostly set but there was a bit of clear liquid on the top – I checked and this is apparently whey which you can either stir in or drain off to use in soups or drinks. The yoghurt was not solid, it still poured like a thick double cream, and so was ideal for eating over fruit or weetabix or having with meringue and ice cream. The morning after I made the yogurt I noticed it was more tangy; this is also normal as the flavour develops over time – if you eat it after six hours of chilling it will provide a mild flavour, if you wait 10 hours it will be more tangy. 1kg of yogurt is quite a lot for a couple to get through really, but you can get smaller jars if you don’t want to make quite as much at a time.
Making your own yogurt is a great idea if you use a lot at the breakfast table, for example, or if you like to drink yogurt based smoothies. It’s also great for cooking with – there are some savoury sauce and dressing recipe suggestions in the instruction booklet that comes with the yogurt maker. Ideal for home use… it doesn’t travel as well as little pots of yogurt for packed lunches or picnics, unless you have some yogurt pot sized tupperware tubs.