Friday, September 26, 2008

Kedgeree for the British Food Fortnight Challenge

Since I decided to host the
British Food Fortnight Challenge a few weeks ago, I've been trying hard to decide what I should cook for the challenge. At first, I thought I'd go for a traditional British pud - treacle tart, perhaps? As the days passed, I decided that I'd focus on some of the best produce our nation produces and thought I'd plunk for something meat-based. Beef Wellington is a favourite, but is hardly credit crunch-friendly (...and as I had no plans to entertain this week, I thought it a little decadent to make for one).

I then decided that I'd like to challenge myself a little and attempt something I haven't made before. I have a bit of an issue with rice. I virtually never cook it. I'm hopeless when it comes to cooking the stuff. Actually, the truth be told, I'm not really hopeless at it. I just have a fear of cooking rice. I'm convinced I'll get it wrong. Either it'll be one big sticky, lumpy mess or it'll stick to the pan and have to be chiseled off, or it'll be more al dente than an uncooked potato.

However, a dish that I've loved since childhood is kedgeree and I have always wanted to re-create it. Kedgeree became popular in the UK during the reign of Queen Victoria and was served at breakfast in the homes of the wealthy. The name of the dish may be Indian in origin, but it came initially from Scotland. The dish was taken to India by troops serving the British Raj and it is no doubt in India where the kedgeree gained its curry spices. The combination of smoked fish, rice, eggs and spices became popular amongst British colonials in India and made its way back to Britain. Since then, it has become a British classic. Whilst still served in the finest hotels as a breakfast dish (it is particularly good 'the morning after the night before'), it actually makes a delicious lunch or supper dish.

There are many variations of kedgeree. The basics are fish (traditionally smoked haddock), rice, eggs and butter. The quality of these are all key to the success of this dish. I made mine with smoked haddock but you may prefer to plunk for a more sustainable species. I think that smoked mackerel would work quite well. Salmon is a good choice too, though quite different.

This recipe worked out just as I hoped. It is a combination of around 6 different recipes as I couldn't find one that sounded just right. Cooking the rice in the poaching liquid is key - adds so much flavour. I've kept my version fairly basic, just enriching it with a touch of cream. But peas, spinach or tomatoes would be valid (if nontraditional) additions.

Serves 2


2 fillets Scottish smoked haddock (traditionally smoked and undyed*)
1 mug long-grained rice
bay leaf
2 free-range organic eggs
a good few knobs of butter
1tsp medium curry powder
1/2 an onion (or 1 very small one), chopped
a very generous handful of parsley
a small handful coriander (optional)
1 tbsp double cream (optional)
cayenne pepper
a lemon

1. Place the haddock in a pan and just cover with water. Add a bay leaf and bring to simmer. Poach for around 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and easily flakeable. Remove with slotted spoon and place in a dish, covered with foil in a very low oven to keep warm. Do not throw away the poaching liquid. Pour it into a measuring jug.

2. In another pan, melt a knob of butter and gently sweat the chopped onion. Meanwhile, give the rice a good rinse and add to the buttery onion. Stir to coat the rice and add the curry powder and mix gently. Pour poaching liquid into same mug that you used to measure the rice - you need two mugfuls in total (i.e. double the volume of rice). If you don't have enough, top up with water. Pour over rice, stir once and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer very gently for 15 minutes, or until rice is tender.

3. Meanwhile, hard-boil the eggs in a pan of simmering water.

4. Whilst you are waiting for this to do, utilise your brand-new mezzaluna to chop copious amounts of parsley. Try not to get too excited or carried away event though mezzaluna chopping is so satisfying...

5. Peel the eggs and chop into quarters (or smaller, if you prefer). Flake the fish into the rice and stir to combine. Add the herbs, another decent knob of butter, the cream (if using) and the eggs. Heat through gently and stir to combine all the flavours. Squeeze over the juice from half a lemon (or to taste). Add pepper and salt but go easily on the salt as the fish may be quite salty (taste to be sure).

6. Serve, garnished with more parsley and a little cayenne pepper.

*Traditionally-smoked haddock should have a natural yellowy colour - if it is very white, it has not seen enough smoke. If it is bright yellow, it has been dyed to make up for the lack of natural colouring that should arise from proper smoking.

N.B. The herbs came from my garden. The haddock from Scotland. The eggs from Monmouthshire, butter and cream are British. The rice, spices and lemon are sadly not!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What is the matter with Mary-Jane? It's lovely rice pudding for dinner again!

British Food Fortnight has now started and I'm busy plotting my own entry for my event which celebrates the best of British produce and the best of our culinary heritage. I'm still undecided as to what I should make but I have a few ideas bubbling away... Should I make something with our fantastic meats or fish or plunk for one of my favourite British desserts? I'm really looking forward to receiving your thoroughly British entries too and hope you'll think of joining in. In fact, I'm so keen for you to join in that I'm even bribing you with the promise of a prize for one lucky participant...!

I'm exceptionally keen on British 'nursery' puddings. Such puds are usually made from simple, inexpensive ingredients and are usually immensely comforting. Rice pudding more than most. Of course although I always think of rice pudding as being typically British, it is in fact popular the world over in many different forms. Its origins (unsurprisingly) are to be found in Asia. The traditionally British version of this creamy pudding involves baking the rice over several hours with milk and sugar and plenty of nutmeg. Usually, a good dollop of strawberry jam is stirred in before serving and jolly good it tastes too.

At least it does to me. They are an alarmingly high number of people who don't seem to like rice pudding. They baulk at the texture and the brown skin that forms on top. Not so in my family. There were frequent fights over who got the best bits of skin and to me, rice pudding without skin is like apple crumble without custard. Just plain wrong!

Rice pudding is a positively thrifty dessert in times of credit crunch too. I'm always astonished just how little rice you need to make a sensible sized pudding. I made enough for three and used just this tiny amount of rice (...which makes you wonder why they sell it in such large bags, does it not??)..

The key to a really good rice pudding (I think) is to use full-fat milk. Semi-skimmed just does not cut the mustard here. You might even like to add cream too. I don't, but then I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to cream.

The simplest of rice puddings involves just pudding rice, milk and nutmeg. On this occasion though, I infused the milk with a few different spices. A little vanilla and a touch of cinnamon. And plenty of nutmeg freshly grated on top. It smelt (and tasted) heavenly. Sometimes I add cardamon too which is great if you serve some fresh (or dried) mango alongside.

Simple rice pudding
Serves 2-3

50g pudding rice
25g sugar
550ml full-fat milk

1. Pre-heat oven to 160C. Butter a shallow ovenproof dish. Pour in the the rice, sugar and milk and stir to combine.

2. Grate nutmeg all over the top and bake in the oven for 2-3 hours, until the skin is golden and the pudding creamy. After an hour, you might want to give the pud a quick stir before putting back in the oven.

I served my rice pudding with some seasonal fruit. Two bramley apples stewed down with a punnet of the juiciest blackberries. Delicious!

This much-loved of puddings is also the subject of one of my favourite A.A.Milne poems.... Here is the final verse...

'What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She's perfectly well and she hasn't a pain.
And it's lovely rice pudding for dinner again
What is the matter with Mary Jane?'

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chicken with ginger marmalade. Yes, really.

If you have decided to read past the title then I am thankful. I know this is not the most tempting-sounding recipe in the world. After all, marmalade is something best eaten on hot buttered toast for breakfast, is it not?

But here, you're eyes do not deceive you, I have decided to dish it up with a juicy chicken breast. Have I gone mad?

Indeed, it would be totally understandable if I had gone mad. Having been
ill all week, I finally decided to venture out this afternoon in order to rent a DVD with which to console myself as I missed a rather fun birthday party. Upon reaching the car, I discovered that it had been broken into. For the THIRD time in two years and the second time in six months. Each time I've had to have the door replaced and the entire car resprayed. As you can understand, in the immortal words of Queen Victoria; 'we are not amused'.

Having called the police and filed a report I then traipsed to the video shop only to discover that it had closed down earlier in the week. Again I tell you: 'we are not amused'.

Anyway, I'm still not fully recovered and am existing on a deeply uninspiring diet of toast, eggs and soup. So I thought I'd share a few things that I cooked up last week. Where better to start than with some marmalade-glazed chicken, I ask you?

With corn-on-the-cob, that's where. I'll woo you with this lovely butter-laden corn and you won't even notice the seamless transition to marmaladey chicken.

Corn is in season and it is delicious. If you haven't been eating it by the bucketful then I conclude that a) you don't like sweetcorn or b) you don't like sweetcorn.
If, however, like me, you think it is wonderful stuff, buy it with the husk attached and remove this and the silky threads before boiling until tender. You can grill it too. But how you actually cook it is of no interest to me (...or of little interest...). What I'm all about is the butter in which you smother it. After all, corn-on-the-cob is the ideal vehicle for the stuff, is it not?

My latest thing is to flavour the butter. A favourite is
lime, chili and coriander. You can make a nice roll of it and keep it in the freezer - just slice of little rounds as and when you need it. It is great with fish too. However, the cob you see in the picture is enhanced with a very simple flavoured butter. I simply melted the butter with a generous pinch of smoked paprika. Just delicious with the corn.

Oh - one more thing before I go on to the chicken dish - isn't this rainbow chard lovely? I served this with the chicken - just cooked it in a saucepan with a little garlic and some olive oil. I started with the stalks as they took a little longer to soften and then just wilted the leaves as I would spinach. Very tasty.

And now... The moment you've all been waiting for... The marmalade chicken....

It is not so crazy, you know. Duck is good with orangey things. Why not chicken? (Because chicken is totally different to duck is not an acceptable or helpful answer here incidentally).
The recipe came from a little supplement that came with BBC Good Food magazine which was called something along the lines of '101 things to do with chicken'. Actually it wasn't called that at all, but I am now unable to lay my hands on it.

You can use any kind of orange marmalade for this - mine just happened to be laden with ginger too. It thought it all the better for it. The chicken was lovely and sticky but wonderfully moist too. It was so good, that I'm almost loathe to spread the remaining marmalde on my morning toast. I might just save it for the chicken.
My ratios are slightly different to the recipe, so I give my version here...

Sticky ginger marmalade chicken
Serves 2

2 skinless chicken breasts
1/2 pint of chicken stock
2 heaped tablespoons of marmalade with ginger
pinch of chilli flakes

1. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry the chicken breasts for approx 10 minutes until golden, turning once and seasoning with salt and pepper as you go.

2. Pour in the stock and marmalade, giving everything a good stir to combine. Sprinkle over the chilli and then simmer gently for around 5 minutes. You want the sauce to become sticky and syrupy. If it reduces too much too quickly, add a little more stock. You want a little syrupy liquid to pour over. Taste and season as necessary.

3. Remove chicken from the pan to a plate and spoon over the syrup sauce. Serve, perhaps with fluffy mash and greens.

Don't forget: There is still plenty of time to think up a great entry for my exciting blogging event 'The British Food Fortnight Challenge'. The details can be found in my previous post - I hope you have thinking caps on as I can't wait to see your entries!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Apologies for the long break between posts, folks. Things at Food, Glorious Food central are not quite as they should be. I've been struck down with some horrible bug which means that I've eaten not a thing (bar one slice of marmite toast) since Sunday. Not fun. And certainly not conducive to food blogging.

Actually, I have a whole backlog of delicious things to post but, as it is, I can't even face looking at pictures of food. Hope to be back to resume normal service before long.

In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy these gingerbread men - they went into the party bags at my nephew's 1st birthday party and naming ceremony which took place last weekend.

Don't forget: There is still plenty of time to think up a great entry for my exciting blogging event
'The British Food Fortnight Challenge'. The details can be found in my previous post - I hope you have thinking caps on as I can't wait to see your entries!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

British Food Fortnight Challenge - blogging event and competition

I am very excited (...and somewhat nervous) to announce that I am hosting my first ever blogging event! I hope you will consider joining me by entering a dish that celebrates the very best of British food.

The 20th September sees the start of
British Food Fortnight. This event, now in its seventh year, is a celebration of the fantastically diverse range of foods produced in Britain. It is also the largest volunteer movement educating children about food. Much maligned in the past by our European neighbours, Great Britain is today a nation of top-quality produce and exciting food: we should be proud of this!

British Food Fortnight offers a great excuse to remind ourselves of the pleasure of eating quality seasonal, local produce.

Fish and chips

Not only do I think we have some of the best produce around, I also think that Britain has a wealth of wonderful national dishes. From Lancashire hot pot and Welsh rarebit to Sussex pond pudding and apple crumble, our culinary heritage is rich in delectable goodies. The challenge for British Food Fortnight is to create a thoroughly British dish from (where possible), locally-sourced ingredients. I very much hope you will consider taking part, even if you have never entered a blogging event before. Everyone is welcome!

You can cook absolutely anything - sweet or savoury, starter, main course, pudding, sweets, cakes, jams, chutneys. All are encouraged! The only stipulation is that the recipe must be something which is typically British. If you can find out a bit about the origin of the dish, then do share the details if you have time.

Cottage Pie

As far as possible, please use British produce to create your dish. Obviously this is not practical for every ingredient but meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables should be British and preferably locally-sourced.

Whilst this event is obviously rather geared towards British-based bloggers, anyone is welcome to join in. If you do not live in Britain, use produce local to you but please come up with a traditionally British dish.

Summer Pudding

If the thought of a spot of thoroughly British cookery wasn't enough to get the creative juices flowing, I am also offering a prize for one lucky participant. All entrants names will be put in the hat and a winner picked at random. The winner will receive a copy of Marguerite Patten's 'Century of British Cooking'; a fascinating guide to the history of British food packed with interesting and nostalgic recipes.

I really hope you will join me in this celebration of the best of British!

Here are the guidelines..

1. Please post your thoroughly British dish during British food fortnight - 20th September to the 5th October.

2. In your post, please include a link back to me and also to the
British Food Fortnight website.

3. You are encouraged to use the British Food Fortnight logo in your post, but this is not essential.

4. Once you have posted your dish, please email me by Sunday, 5th October at abitofafoodie [at] gmail [dot] com with the following information -

-Your name

-The name of your blog

-Your blog's URL

-The name of your dish

-A link to your post of the dish

-Please attach a photograph of your dish

Rhubarb Crumble and Custard

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Pimientos de padron

Another weekend, another wash-out. We've had a string of family celebrations this 'summer'. All of them planned around enjoying the great outdoors, all of them dampened rather by rain. Fortunately, our spirits have not been dampened and we therefore soldier on. A naming ceremony for my nephew 'in the garden' next weekend and a sister's birthday party al fresco the next. Will we ever learn?

My favourite 'washout' though occurred this weekend. My nephew decided he wanted to celebrate his birthday at
Wilderness Wood in Sussex. They specialise in children's parties here - you walk into the woods, build a huge den using branches and leaves from the forest floor and then build a campfire. Out come the sausages and marshmallows and everyone gets involved in cooking them over the smouldering fire. At least this is what is supposed to happen in theory...

The heavens opened at the crucial moment and sausages cooked over a rain-drenched fire. My favourite photo of this damp and muddy affair is this one...

I can't help thinking that the sausages look rather rude. I'm sorry. My mind is obviously impure and unclean. I have nothing to add in my defence.

Moving swiftly on, I'm reporting in briefly tonight to tell you that how delighted I was to get my hands on my favourite 'padron' peppers whilst in the butcher last week. These small green peppers are often found on Spanish tapas menus and whenever I see them, I always order them. The fun of these little peppers lies in the
Russian roulette style gamble you take when plucking one from the serving platter...

You see, most pimientos are lovely and sweet and tasty. Every now and then, however, you'll pluck a hot one from the plate and your eyes will water! The good ones are absolutely delicious and totally moreish, the hot ones aren't too violently hot, but certainly enough to make you a little wary.

Traditionally, the peppers are fried in olive oil and then sprinkled with crunchy salt. Plenty of it. For some reason best known to myself, I decided to roast mine in the oven on a high heat instead. They worked pretty well, but I guess the might have been a little crisper on the outside had I reached for the frying pan.

Either way, to eat them, you hold them by the stalk and bite the pepper off in one go.

Pimientos de padron

Padron peppers- allow approx. 5 per person as tapas/nibble
Olive oil
Crunchy sea salt, such as Maldon

1. Place peppers on a baking sheet and drizzle with generous amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with some of the salt and shake the baking tray to coat evenly.

2. Roast in a hot oven (210C) for 10-15 minutes until the pepper skins start to blister and brown. Blot on kitchen paper and sprinkle with a little more salt - don't hold back.

3. Hand round whilst still hot along with a dish to collect the stalks.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Cheesy ham and leek pie

I am rather partial to the odd pie.

A satisfyingly crisp exterior that gives way to something creamy, unctuous and just a little bit naughty underneath is my idea of heaven. Or rather, it is one of my many culinary ideas of heaven.

Pies can seem like a lot of work. I've seen many blanch at the mere mention of pastry. But here is where I come clean. I didn't actually make the pastry for this pie. Shhhh. Don't tell anyone...

I am in the school of thought that labels ready-made pastry as one of the great time-saving devices of the modern age. I know that homemade tastes better and when I have a little more time to spare, I'm pretty nifty at the old shortcrust. But puff pastry? I simply can't be bothered. I'm sorry. I hope you don't think any less of me, but there we are.
I am someone who can't be bothered to make my own puff pastry.
I'm not ashamed. I laugh in the face of puff pastry purists... Or something.

I find a couple of packs of the ready-made stuff are handy items to have in the freezer. Puff pastry can be just the thing to transform an uninspiring supper into one with a bit of dash. Got red onions? Got goats cheese? Bingo. You have a rather tasty tart. Got left over roast chicken? Got milk? Bingo. You have a creamy chicken pie.

At the weekend I held a party in my garden for twenty or so friends. I do this every year around my birthday and do a big buffet for all to dig into. I would share the recipes here, but I kept it pretty much the same as last year with my
favourite quiche, scrumptious ham, a series of salads and a couple of my favourite puddings.

As someone who is only ever able to cater for twice the number of people I've invited, I had a fair few leftovers to use up. In particular, quite a large hunk of ham. Sandwiches were good, but this tasty pie was the best. I made a cheesy sauce in which to smother the ham and added leeks and courgettes too. You could use any combination of vegetables - mushrooms would have been good, carrots and certainly peas. Whatever takes your fancy really.

My favourite moment with pie-eating is when you plunge the spoon through the crust for the first time to reveal the juicy interior. Heaven indeed...

The recipe here is for two, but can be easily doubled/tripled etc...

Cheesy chicken and leek pie

Serves 2


3 generous handfuls of chopped cooked ham (cut thick slices and then cut into chunky cubes)
1 large leek (or two small...)
1 medium courgette
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
1 1/2 oz butter
1/2 pint milk
4oz mature cheddar cheese
1 heaped teaspoon of dijon mustard
Approx 250g puff pastry (I used half a regular pack)
1 beaten egg
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Make the sauce first. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir thoroughly to combine to make a paste. Cook for a minute or so. Next add a little milk and stir to combine. Cook for a few seconds. Add a little more milk - stir until smooth, cook a little. Repeat, adding the milk a little at a time until you have a smooth sauce. Keep the heat reasonably low and keep stirring all the time to prevent sauce sticking on bottom.

2. Grate the cheese into the sauce, add the mustard. Taste. Add more cheese or mustard if required.

3. Steam the leeks and courgettes until al dente. Add to the sauce, along with the chunks of ham. Warm through and season carefully, remembering that ham is usually quite salty, as is the cheese.

4. Pour the pie filling into a small pie dish or baking dish. Flour a surface and roll out the pastry until the thickness of a pound coin. Brush a little beaten egg around the edge of the pie dish and place the pastry carefully over the top. Trim the overhang. Use any trimmings to decorate the top (I used a little heart cutter). Brush the top with egg so that it browns nicely. You can also use milk, if you prefer.

5. Place in the oven and bake for half an hour, or until the pastry is crispy and golden.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A London cheesecake and some wonderful awards...

Ugghh. It appears to be September.

I've nothing against September per se. It is just that after a quiet August work-wise and a summer of rather lovely holidays, I now have the 'back to school blues'. Three days back and work and already I'm wondering when I can next find some time to take off...

No doubt it is a temporary blip and I'll soon be back to my usual self but at the moment I'm facing a horribly hectic September and I'm far from relishing the challenge. Luckily though, I love autumn produce so there is lots to look forward to!

In the meantime, let me tell you about this delicious cheesecake that I baked whilst up in Wales.

My first ever experience of cheesecake-making didn't turn out so well. In fact, it was rather a disaster. I was at school and required to produce one of those somewhat old-fashioned gelatine-set cheesecakes that you see rather rarely these days. Somewhere along the line I must have had a little slippage with the gelatine as the whole thing set like rubber. I could literally peel it off the biscuit base and flap it about the room without it breaking. Not a good sign. On the plus side, it looked the part and as the teachers didn't taste it, I was awarded top marks for what was a totally inedible creation.

Scarred by the experience, I have never since made a cheesecake. Until the other day. With the weather rather wild, wet and windy, I was glad that I had thought to take Nigella's
'How to be a Domestic Goddess' with me to Wales.

Nigella dubs this cheesecake 'London Cheesecake'. Being terribly patriotic she felt that if she had to include a 'New York Cheesecake', then she simply must have a London one too.

The cheesecake had the most perfect, silky texture and a lovely soured-cream topping. The secret, so suggests Nigella, is cooking it in a water bath. I thoroughly recommend it and shall be making it again and again, I am sure. I served it with some summer berries but it would be lovely with any kind of fruit. Next time, I might cook the fruit down a little and make it syrupy.

I'm not going to repeat the recipe here as I have nothing to add to Nigella's excellent and clear instructions. You can find them on her website

The only tricky part is wrapping the cake tin in a double layer of foil to ensure that no water seeps in.

Before heading to bed, I simply must apologise to Margaret at Kitchen Delights and Julia at A Slice of Cherry Pie. Both of them were kind enough to award me with some lovely blogging prizes a while back and amongst the holiday season I've only just got around to mentioning them. Thank you so much ladies for these lovely awards, they mean a huge amount and really made my day! In fact, just thinking about them again has lifted me out of my September gloom and made me feel able to face the week ahead at work!

With so many blogs out there, it is hard to pick just a few to award these prizes to. I've been discovering a few more favourites recently and plan to pass these awards on over the next week or so.