Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Chicken and Vegetable Cobbler

The last few days have been strong winds and driving rain here, coupled with a drop in temperature that makes me go home and want to huddle in my apartment with warming, homey food. This cobbler is great because it has all the great taste of chicken pot pie, but none of the faffing around rolling out pastry. You try swapping half the flour for a whole wheat alternative if you wanted to make it a little better for you.

This is from a recipe I found on the New York Times website.

1 leek, well washed and chopped
Salt and black pepper
2 cups (140g) quartered button mushrooms
1.5 cups (375ml) chicken stock
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 medium carrots, cut into coins
2 boneless chicken thighs, diced
1 cup (130g) peas, frozen or fresh
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup (125g) flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/2 (125ml) cup buttermilk/soured milk
1 egg.


I didn't make any big changes, but quite a few little ones. I used a beef stock cube because that's what I had on hand, and I used chicken breast instead of chicken thighs. Thighs have a lot of flavour and are great for this kind of thing, but I had breast already and wanted to keep fat content down where I could.

I can't get butter milk here, so I used soured milk instead (put a tablespoon or two of fresh lemon juice into the milk and then leave it for 5 minutes). I used a sprinkling of ground, dried rosemary instead of a fresh sprig, and added a little bit of sage too.

The cobbler topping had margarine instead of butter, and as mentioned before you could also go for half whole wheat flour to make it a bit better for you.


1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the leek, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until liquid has released and evaporated, about 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Add stock and rosemary; bring to a boil, and let bubble for a minute or two, then add carrots and chicken and reduce heat so the liquid simmers. Cook until carrots are almost tender and chicken is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Add peas and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are brightly colored and just tender, another minute or so; fish out rosemary stem and discard.

3. Whisk cornstarch with a few tablespoons of broth to make a slurry. Add slurry to pot and stir until liquid thickens slightly. Transfer everything to an ovenproof dish and set aside.

4. Put flour in a food processor with baking powder, soda and salt. Add butter and process until mixture resembles small peas, no more than 30 seconds. (You can also do this by hand, using two knives, a fork, your fingers, or a pastry cutter). Transfer mixture to a bowl and mix in buttermilk and egg until it just comes together; it should be sticky. For this part you may have too much liquid (at least I did). so I would recommend whisking the egg and adding small, equal amounts of egg and milk until you reach the consistency you're looking for. The dough was wetter than I expected (I was thinking it would be more like scones, but it's much stickier than that) so don't be worried if it seems quite wet.

5. Drop spoonfuls of batter on top of vegetables and chicken and smooth with a knife, covering as much surface area as possible but leaving a few gaps for steam to escape. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until golden on top and bubbly underneath. Scoop into bowls and serve immediately.

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Thursday, 18 February 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

These are not the soggy sprouts that appear on your Christmas plate.

I enjoyed my roasted cauliflower so much yesterday that when the bag of Brussels sprouts I ordered arrived yesterday, a pan of them immediately went into the oven.

These were made exactly the same way as the cauliflower, with 300g of sprouts coated in 2tsp of olive oil and 1tsp of garlic paste, then seasoned and put in the oven. It was even more delicious than yesterday's attempt!

If your only experiences of sprouts involve being forced to eat them as a child, this might be just the thing to change your mind.

Along with my Brussels sprouts, I got a delivery of meat from The Meat Guy (link in sidebar). One of the things I ordered was 3kg of 'Mystery Meat', that is a guaranteed 3kg in weight of meat that gets chosen by the store. Among the very delicious products were two more unusual products; a crocodile claw and a bag of four pig tails. Having never cooked or eaten these before it should make for interesting times in chez subchef.

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Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower, where have you been all my life?

Today I had a lesson plan to finish at home, so I wanted dinner that didn't require a huge amount of effort on my part. given how easy this was I'd say it more than fit the requirements. The recipe and preparation is simplicity itself, so much so that even I didn't have to sub in anything!


1 head cauliflower (approx 300g/10oz), cut into florets
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp garlic paste
salt and pepper to season


1) Preheat oven to 220C/425F (I had mine on 200C because I use a convection oven)

2) Put all cauliflower, oil and garlic into a bowl, then toss together until the cauliflower is coated in the mixture.

3) Empty bowl out onto a baking pan, making sure it's an even, single layer, and season with salt and pepper.

4) Put into the oven for about 40 minutes (depending on the size of your florets)

And you're done! This would also be delicious with a little parmesan grated on top. Feast your eyes on the beauty, the crispy, the deliciousness of the final product!:

Go forth and make this immediately. You can thank me later.

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Sunday, 14 February 2010


Ahh fail tag, we meet again.

I was hungry and didn't want to go out in the cold, so I decided to whip up this chili from things I had in the house.

From now on, I'll stick to recipes.

It wasn't 'bad' precisely. It was edible, it was warm, and it was filling. And with a good glug of red wine and some more herbs it would have made a nice, hearty topping for pasta, but as a chili? Failure. This had almost no heat, and all in all turned out quite bland. It's one of those things that I'll eat because I made it and don't want to waste things, but wouldn't recommend to others. Read more!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Cottage Pie with Sauteed Carrots

The rain battering my city ensured that I arrived home chilled and with wet feet. Cold, and wanting something to envelope my apartment with comfort, I decided on a cottage pie for dinner.

I have a basic go-to recipe, but it can be a little bland on occasion, so I went looking for a recipe that would have a bit more depth to it, but still be a traditional pie. I ended up on the channel 4 website with an old Gordon Ramsay recipe for Shepherd's Pie. Unfortunately lamb in a no-go around here, so I switched it out for beef mince and was in business!


Shepherd's pie
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 500g minced lean lamb
* 1 large onion, finely grated
* 1 large carrot, finely grated
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
* 1 tbsp tomato puree
* Handful of thyme sprigs, leaves picked
* 1 sprig of rosemary, needles chopped
* 250ml red wine
* 300ml chicken stock
* 1kg potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
* 50g butter
* 2 egg yolks
* Parmesan, for grating
* Olive oil
* Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Pan-roasted carrots
* 2 sprigs of rosemary
* Small handful of thyme sprigs
* 1 garlic clove
* 500g medium sized carrots, peeled and trimmed
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
* Few knobs of butter


As mentioned, beef mince for the lamb

I realised in the middle of cooking that I didn't have red wine (hence the paler look to my pie). I was disappointed, but couldn't really do anything about it just then, so I went without.

Switched the chicken stock for beef.

As I was having carrots for a side, I didn't want them in the pie too. I did throw in a handful of peas though.


1) Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Drain, then return to the hot pan over low heat to dry out briefly. Pass them through a potato ricer then beat in the egg yolks, followed by about 2 tbsp grated Parmesan. Check for seasoning.

My potatoes were a bit dry at this point. It may be because Ramsay's recipe called for Desiree potatoes and I have no idea what kind mine were, but if you wanted to add a little butter/cream to make it smoother I wouldn't tell anyone.

2) While the potatoes are cooking, heat a large pan until hot. Season the mince and fry in the oil over moderate to high heat for 2-3 minutes. Stir the onions and carrot into the mince then grate the garlic in as well. Add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree and herbs and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in the red wine (err... oops), and reduce until almost completely evaporated. Add the chicken (or beef) stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the sauce has thickened

3) Spoon the mince into the bottom of a large ovenproof dish. Using a large spoon, layer the mashed potato generously on top of the mince, starting from the outside and working your way into the middle. Grate some extra Parmesan over and season. Fluff up the mash potato with a fork to make rough peaks. Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown

4) While the pie is in the oven, chop the carrots and boil them in a pan of water with the garlic and herbs for 2-3 minutes to soften them a little. Drain, then pat dry. Add oil to a hot pan, season the carrots, then saute until the carrots are browned all over, adding the butter at the end.
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Saturday, 30 January 2010

Orange Ricotta Pancakes

Try and contain your excitement my dears, I'm back.

Half entertaining thoughts of just deleting this blog, I made these pancakes the other day and decided they were so good they deserved to be up here. There's a new supermarket opened up in my city and a nearby one, that sells a range of foreign goods mixed in with the usual foods, hence the reason why I have a real-persons sized tub of ricotta on hand.

This recipe came from the BBC Food site. I halved it because there's just me, but this is the full recipe.


250g/8¾oz ricotta cheese
4 tbsp caster sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 large orange, finely grated zest only
50g/2oz plain flour
2 tbsp melted butter


I used regular granulated sugar instead of caster

Although I used orange zest, you could easily switch this for lemon and top it with some blueberry jam instead.


1) Beat together the ricotta, sugar and the egg yolks until light and fairly smooth (you don't want any lumps of ricotta left)

2) Add the finely grated orange zest (I didn't grate mine quite as finely as I should of. I found this to be OK, but it's personal taste), and the flour and stir in gently.

3) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a balloon (or electric, my personal choice because I'm lazy) whisk until it forms stiff peaks. Then fold the egg white mixture into the pancake batter carefully, you don't want to beat it and knock all the air out. This step will make them the lightest, fluffiest pancakes ever!

4) Warm a pan over moderate heat and add the butter. Place heaped tablespoons of batter into the pan, turning them over when they start to bubble. Top with melted cherry jam and enjoy.

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Monday, 9 November 2009

Pumpkin Spaghetti

Wow, has it really been that long? Things have been busy and it's making the days fly by. Yesterday I had lots of odds and ends in my fridge to use up, most notably some pumpkin from a pumpkin cookie recipe I used for school Halloween lesson prizes recently. After a quick look online I found this Pumpkin and Sage Spaghetti recipe that I adapted to use up a few other bits and pieces I had. I've never really though of using pumpkin in pasta before (though I was served it once a while back and enjoyed it), but it turned out really well, and it gives a surprising heartiness and warmth to the dish, making it perfect for autumn.

Ingredients Serves 1 hungry person

160g Japanese pumpkin (flesh only), chopped into small cubes
70g dried wholewheat spaghetti
20g polish sausage, finely diced
Half a medium red onion
1 clove garlic, minced (or garlic puree)
1 tsp butter
160g frozen chopped spinach
Juice of 1/4 lemon
5 sage leaves, roughly chopped
20g Parmesan , grated
Sugar (optional)
Black Pepper


This is really my own version so there are too many to mention. The sausage was a spicy, soft salami type sausage, but any spicy sausage would do. I only used a tiny amount diced very finely because a) that's all I had left, and b) I don't tend to like that kind of sausage normally. I find the flavour a little overpowering and just wanted a hint of it to add some depth to the dish. If you'd like to add more or keep the pieces chunkier then feel free.

This recipe was originally vegetarian, if you'd like to keep it that way then skip the sausage altogether. You could saute a dried chili or add a drop or two of hot sauce to the sauce if you want a bit of non-meat spiciness.

I had to cook the pasta first, then make the sauce, because I only have two burners. If you're lucky enough to have more then I am jealous, and you can make everything at the same time so the pasta doesn't have to sit.

Cheese is to taste.


1) Put pumpkin into a saucepan with a fitted lid, season with a dash of salt and a dash of sugar. Drizzle with approx 3 tbsp and place, covered, over a medium heat. Stir it occasionally and add a little water if needed. You want the cooked pumpkin to be tender but still hold its shape, it will take about 10-15 minutes.

2) While the pumpkin is cooking, cook the pasta according to packet instructions until just ready, reserve some of the pasta water and then drain the pasta and set aside.

3) In a pan over med-high heat, saute the red onion, butter, sage, garlic, and sausage together until the the onion is soft. Add the lemon juice and allow it to splutter for a moment or two. Tip the pumpkin, 3-4 tbsp of the reserved pasta water, and half the Parmesan cheese, into the pan and give it a good stir. Add the pasta, and serve well seasoned with salt, pepper, and the rest of the cheese.

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Monday, 26 October 2009

Chicken Curry

Trying to combat the onset of winter weight is never easy, all those comforting, soul-food recipes just begging to be made as you swath yourself in warm clothes and heated rooms to chase away the chill from outside. This week I'm trying to focus on bringing lunch to work every day so that I stay away from the convenience store, so am either working on making healthy recipes (101 series, you're so good to me), or paring down the recipes I find to a healthier version. If nothing else I can lose a few pounds and enjoy putting them back on over Christmas!

The original version of this recipe can be found here, I'm sure it would also be delicious as written if you're lucky enough to not need to watch your figure.

Ingredients serves 2

1 boneless skinless chicken breast (approx 200-250g), diced
2 tbsp (30ml) canola oil
1.5 medium onions
1 garlic clove
0.5 tsp cayenne (red pepper)
0.5 tbsp coriander (or less to taste)
1 tsp garam masala
1 cup (245g) non-fat plain yogurt
0.5 tsp sea salt (or less to taste)


I used non-fat (0%) yogurt for this recipe, but it had a tendency to separate when cooked. It comes back to together again when simmering, and your whizzing this in the blender anyway so it's not a huge issue, but you may be able to help this using a yogurt with higher fat content.

Speaking of higher fast content, I really reduced the oil for this recipe. Originally you were supposed to use 2 tbsp oil for the onions/spices, and then another two for the chicken. I halved that but you don't have to.


1) First prepare the sauce: Slice or chop the onions. Using a large heavy frying pan that has a lid, saute the onions in half the oil. When they are translucent and beginning to brown, add the garlic.

I realised at the last moment I only had 1 yellow onion to hand, so I used half a red one too.

2) When its moisture evaporates, add the cayenne, coriander, and masala seasoning. Add the yogurt. Lower heat and simmer 5 minutes, partly covered. Remove from heat.

3) Puree the onion-and-spice mixture in your food processor or food mill. Don't make it into baby food, but make sure there are no stringy pieces of onion left in it.

4) Over medium-high heat, heat the other half of canola oil until very hot, then dump in the cut-up chicken all at once. Stir continuously for 2 minutes, then saute for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

5) Add the onion-and-spice pure to the cooking chicken. Add salt. Stir the mixture until it starts to bubble, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool until ready to serve. The longer you wait, the better it will taste.

Nutritional Info:

Calories per serving: 320
Fat: 15.2 g
Carbs: 18.2 g
Protein: 29.4 g

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Thursday, 22 October 2009

Beef Pot Roast with Red Wine and Tomato Gravy

With the weather still playing games with me I take any overcast day and grab on to it greedily, going through my backlog of winter recipes for things I can make. A few days before I made this I walked into my supermarket and was shocked to see them selling reasonably big cuts of meat. Well, big by Japanese standards, the 5-700g (1.1-1.5lb) beef roasts were the biggest (possibly the only?) proper roasting pieces I've seen grace my fresh meat counter shelves in the just over two years I've been here. I bought two, and vowed that the next time the weather dropped below 20C during the day I would make something with them. A few days later the skies were cloudy enough to need a cardigan to walk to school and I started searching 'beef' on foodgawker. Oh man, doing stuff like that is a good way to torture yourself.

After passing up some truly mouthwatering looking dishes, I came to this country style pot roast with red wine tomato gravy at

I had found it.

For Japan residents who may be having trouble finding bigger cuts of meat, if you have a local Brazilian store they are usually good sources for big, cheaper pieces of meat. If that's not an option for where you're living then I have linked to The Meat Guy in my sidebar, it's easy to order what you need.


1 large boneless beef chuck roast (5 1/2-6 pounds), tied
Salt and pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1 large celery rib, chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup red wine
800g (28 ounce can) crushed tomatoes
500ml (2 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


This recipe was intended for a slow cooker, but mine was a little small for everything so I used a dutch oven on my stove, at the lowest heat my gas was capable of giving me. It worked out fine (I'd say the equivalent of a slow cooker on 'high' for the sake of this recipe's timing) but I wouldn't recommend leaving the house if you do this because of the dangers of the flames going out.

I had two smaller roasts that together added up to about 900g/just under 2lb, so I halved the ingredients. This left me with a lot of sauce but I had no problem with that.

I can't stand celery, so I didn't put it in. I also forgot the parsley at the end.

My crushed tomatoes were actually two cans of chopped/diced tomatoes forced through a sieve.

Because I was using smaller joints I was tempted not to tie them up. This would have been a mistake, the meat goes spoon tender at the end, and taking it out of the pan at the end would have destroyed it if I hadn't. Go here for how to tie meat.

As the recipe itself mentions, if you're using smaller pieces of meat don't forget to reduce cooking times. I ended up simmering mine for about 3 and a half hours all told.


1) Assemble and prepare all ingredients

2) Liberally season roast with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown roast on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes (you may need a shorter time for smaller pieces, you want to seal everything in and get a nice colour, not have it go black or hard). Transfer roast to slow cooker.

3) Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to skillet, along with onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.

4) Increase heat to high. Add red wine to empty skillet, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and broth, and bring to a boil. Add pepper flakes, bay leaves and thyme. Transfer to slow cooker.

5) Set slow cooker to high, cover, and cook until tender, 6 to 7 hours. Or, cook on low for 9 to 10 hours. (Check the temperature with a meat thermometer about 2 hours before the roast is supposed to be done to prevent overcooking). As I mentioned I cooked mine for about 3 and half hours on the equivalent of high in my dutch oven. Any big/heavy saucepan would do I think, so long as it has a well fitting lid and is reasonably thick. You'll have to be really careful with how high the temperature is if you're using a thinner pan, else you'll end up with a nasty burnt layer on the bottom.

6) Transfer roast to carving board; loosely tent with foil to keep warm. Discard bay leaves. Allow liquid in pot to settle, about 5 minutes, then use wide spoon to skim fat off surface. Puree liquids and solids in batches in blender or food processor. (Or, use an immersion blender.) Stir in parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

7) Remove strings from roast and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Transfer meat to serving platter. Pour about 1 cup gravy over meat. Serve, passing more gravy separately.

NOTE ON REDUCING RECIPE: If you cut this recipe in half, be sure to reduce your slow-cooker time to about 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

This was everything I'd hoped it would be. I'm toying with the idea of doing a beef order from the meat guy myself so I can make it again.

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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Meaty Ragu

Excuse the absence everyone, I've been in Kobe for the long weekend. Given that I didn't do any of my own cooking over the weekend, today I'm posting I a recipe I tried right at the beginning of this blog and for some reason (probably the blinding heat of summer) never posted.

This recipe was taken from Bitchin Camero, a recipe site that I absolutely adore. This dish is perfect for chilly afternoons as it needs simmering on the stove for a while, leaving a rich tomato-meat smell to hang on the air and spread warmth around your kitchen and into the other rooms. As soon as the last of summer releases its death grip from the back of the neck of this year, I will be making this again.


2 tbsp. olive oil
450g (1 lb) pieces of lamb (I used boneless shoulder chops)
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
190ml (3/4 cup) red wine
800g (28 oz can) whole, peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano tomatoes)
coarse salt
1/2 – 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes


I substituted beef for lamb as it is incredibly hard to find here, and even when you get it it is in very small Yakiniku sized pieces. I ended up using two steaks and and yakiniku beef pack my supermarket had on offer because that was cheapest for me, but whatever works for you. Pieces big enough to pull apart when the time comes are best.

I used two cans of whole peeled tomatoes because the large ones aren't available here.


Excuse the quality of the pictures, they were taken right at the beginning of this blog.

1) Assemble ingredients, and chop onions, carrots, and garlic. You don't absolutely have to do this, but it takes time and I find it much easier to have them prepared.

2) Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium. Once it’s hot add the olive oil. Season the lamb with salt and sear it in the olive oil, allowing for about 5 minutes per side. You want a nice, brown char on the meat.

3) Remove the lamb and add the onions and carrots. Saute for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the onions just begin to get translucent.

4)Add the meat back in and cover with remaining ingredients. Mix, and once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce it to low and let simmer for about an hour.

5) After the hour (or 2 – whatever works for you) passes, remove the lamb to a plate. Using 2 forks, pull the meat apart to a shred (like pulled pork). Once all of the lamb is shredded, add it back to the pot and simmer for at least another 30 minutes.

6) Ladle over pasta and sprinkle with freshly ground Parmesan (or your cheese of choice).

Again, sorry for the pic quality, but I assure you this is wonderful.

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Saturday, 3 October 2009

Apple Cake

Autumn has finally hit Japan! It psyched me out a few times but it's finally here. After an unusually long Spring rainy season, Summer came very late this year, this in turn meant that a mere week ago I was still using a fan at night and cursing the skies every time I had to make the trek to school schlepping my laptop and books. However, at the beginning of this week the heavens opened and sent forth the rain, and it's only stopped for little breathers since.

I love the rain, maybe it's because it reminds me home, maybe it's because it signals an end to the horror of Japanese summer (I'm British! I'm just not designed to withstand the heat!). I love sitting in my apartment listening to it hit roof, I love watching lightening (though we haven't had any yet this season), and I love walking home under my umbrella instead of under the harsh beating of an unforgiving sun. I don't love the fact that my gaijin ('foreigner') proportions means I have no rain shoes, but you can't have everything in life.

This year particularly I've loved that the loss of extreme heat and humidity in my kitchen means that I can start spending more time in there. Walking home from school the other day I arrived home a little chilled and with wet feet and remembered this recipe I'd seen the previous weekend. A perfect autumn recipe, my whole house kept that sweet baked apple smell long after the cake came out. Even better, because there's so much apple in it, making the cake very moist, it can be baked in the convection oven with far less problems than the light and airy recipes I've attempted and failed with before.

This came from Kosher Camembert and actually required very little by way of modification.


For the apples:

4 apples (1 each of Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Crispin)
lemon juice to prevent apples from browning as you cut
2 tbsp margarine (or butter if you are making dairy)
1-2 tbsp sugar (or to taste)

For the cake batter:

125g (1 cup) flour
190g (3/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs
125ml (1/2 cup) canola oil
5g (1 tsp) baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
2-3 T demerara (coarse grained) sugar (optional)


My apples were a little on the large side so I only used 3. I have no idea what type they were as my expertise stops at 'red', 'granny smith', or 'golden delicious'. My apples were red, and a quick gander at the packaging tell me they were from Tsugaru, the western region of Aomori Prefecture, but beyond that I couldn't tell you. They were quite sweet.

I used butter to cook the apples instead of margarine because I didn't have to worry about the recipe being kosher.


1) Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. I did mine to 170C, then turned it down to 160 once the top had browned as I'm still experimenting with converting temperatures while baking when it comes to my convection oven. Grease your cake pan.

2) Peel and core the apples, then cut into slices. Sprinkle with lemon juice (you don’t need much – maybe a tablespoon or so) while the others are being sliced to prevent browning.

3) Heat margarine in pan over low heat and add apples and the 1-2 tbsp white sugar. Stir, ad allow to cook for about 10-15 minutes until apples soften. Some of the liquid will soak into the apples, but if too much of it starts to evaporate, then turn the heat down.

4) While the apples are on the stove top, mix together the remaining ingredients (except for the demerara sugar) — flour, 190g sugar, eggs, oil, baking powder, and vanilla - in a bowl.

(I added to flour to this after mixing these together, to make it easier to mix smoothly)

5) Add half the warm apples (juices and all) to the batter and mix.

6) Pour the mixture into your prepared pan, and arrange the remaining apple slices any way you like on top.

7) If using the sugar on top then sprinkle the cake pan with sugar, bake for 1 hour.

Ideally this should have been a little less brown on top, but I've so many instances where I've thought a cake is done and ended up with a raw bottom/centre because the convection oven hates full sized cakes, that I erred on the side of caution. There are enough apples in this that it stayed nice and moist inside, so the usual problem of overcooked cakes being dry wasn't an issue.

The cake can be a little difficult to move because the amount of fruit in it makes it prone to breaking apart, so wait a little for it cool before trying to take it out of the pan.

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Sunday, 27 September 2009

Scallops with Asparagus and a Bean Mash

Mostly I'm a meat girl. I eat sushi and sashimi here of course, it's Japan after all, but when it comes to home cooking I'm much more comfortable cooking meat than I am fish or seafood. However, I'm trying to branch out a little and vary my diet, and practice is the only way to make me better at cooking these things, so I found this recipe and thought I'd give it a go. My scallops didn't turn out perfectly, I should have cooked them at a higher heat for a shorter time to get a nice crust on them, but it's all a learning curve.

This recipe originally came from here, and had a cauliflower puree instead of the beans. I wanted something a little more substantial though so I switched things up a little, any white bean would work for it, I used soybeans because they're the only canned beans I have and I didn't want to wait until tomorrow for my dried ones.

Ingredients serves 2

1 lb jumbo sea scallops (about 10)
1 small head cauliflower
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch asparagus*
2-4 tbs snipped fresh chives
1/2 c Greek yogurt
1/2 tbs butter
Olive oil spray (or you can brush/drizzle)
Salt and pepper to taste
Seasoning salt

*bunches here only ave 4-5 stalks, so you may one one per person


The big one was my bean mash: replace the cauliflower with a can of white beans/soybeans, then put the beans into a bowl with the cloves of garlic (crushed/grated). Mix the two until well combined and put in the microwave until heated through. Add to a food processor with the yogurt to mix, or mash together with a fork/masher if you don't have a mixer.

Instead of yogurt, I used sour cream and a little milk to get the consistency I wanted in the mash because I happened to have them in the fridge and didn't want to go out and buy anything.

I used a saute pan to cook my asparagus because my grill is awful.

My scallops were smaller instead of jumbos.

I didn't have any chives so I skipped them.


If using cauliflower:
Bring a large stockpot of water to boil. Add chopped cauliflower and whole cloves garlic. Simmer until cauliflower is fork-tender. Drain and remove from heat, mash with a fork until cauliflower and garlic are completely pureed. Add chives and Greek yogurt, stir to incorporate.

If using beans: follow the instructions in the 'substitutions' section.

Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over medium heat. Spray or drizzle asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill until just done and still crisp.

While the veg is cooking, in a saute pan heat butter until foam subsides. Season scallops on both sides with seasoning salt. Place scallops in pan and do not move until they can be moved freely (not sticking at all). Turn over and remove from heat. The heat of the pan will continue to cook until perfect.

To serve, mound cauliflower puree/beans in the center of the plate. Top with asparagus spears, then scallops. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.
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Saturday, 26 September 2009

Baked Chicken Stuffed with Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Cheese

I've gained a bit of weight recently (heh, too much baking, those Cheesecake Brownies get me every time). Wanting to continue fitting into my clothes, finding foreigner-sized clothing can be difficult here, I've started up on the South Beach Diet again. I don't want to get too boring, but it means for the next couple of weeks I'm on low-carb, then I'll start adding in whole grains again. Don't worry though, feel free to serve any of the recipes I post with mashed potatoes, pasta, or whatever other carb-filled goodness might catch your fancy. Don't be scared dear reader; it's only for a couple of weeks.

With that out the way, let's move on to this delicious looking recipe I found on Kalyn's Kitchen. Usually I post the original recipe as written and then list my substitutions, but I ended up making a lot of changes so I've linked the original recipe above and will list the final one I used.


1 chicken breast
1-2 sun-dried tomatoes
2-3 tsp pesto
28g (1oz) soft cheese
28g (1oz) grated cheese


1) Chop your sun dried tomatoes finely. The only sun-dried tomatoes I can fin are packed dry, but if yours are packed in oil then blot any major excess off.

2) Mix the chopped pieces into the pesto, leave while you prepare the chicken.

3) Place your chicken breast between two piece of saran wrap, smooth side up, and pound it until it's of even thickness (about 1/4 inch thick). If you don;t have a meat hammer to pound it with then don;t worry, you can use any heavy object (e.g a heavy bottomed pan, a heavy jar base etc). I ended up being a bit clumsy here because I'd forgotten that I'd thrown away the heavy jar I usually use for this kind of thing. This led to me experimenting with a few different things, not all of which were successful. I ended up with a tear in my chicken where I'd it a little too hard in one spot, try to avoid that if you can.

4) Remove the saran wrap, and flip your chicken to the other (not smooth) side. Take your pesto and smooth it evenly over the surface, then add a layer of soft and hard cheese. The original recipe called for goats cheese, which I couldn't find and don't really like, so I used a mix of soft cheese (I got 'Fromage Roux', but Camembert is readily available here and would work instead), and some of the grated cheese I had in the fridge.

If you decide to go with goats cheese, a good way to combine the ingredients is to whiz the pesto, cheese, and tomatoes in a mini food processor and just spread it all on. I don't have a mini chopper so I went for layering the ingredients.

5) Starting from the thin (pointed) end of the chicken, roll the breast up like a Swiss roll. Secure the roll with toothpicks to ensure it doesn't come undone while cooking.

As I said before I had some problems during the hammering section of this, so mine doesn't look as pretty as it could.

Put in the oven to cook, times will change depending on the final size and thickness of your chicken breast, but mine took about 35 minutes. This is optional, but you can also sprinkle a little cheese on top before putting it in the oven.

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