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I’m one of those weird people who gets all funny about ketchup. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but I have certain rules about it – which I’ve never really examined in too much depth, to be honest. For example, it is never to be squirted onto food – makes it soggy. Better to go on the side, by itself, so it can be dipped into. Also, it is never to be mixed in with things to create some hideous Frankenfood of soggy ketchup and ‘other stuff’. That’s just wrong.

So, with that in mind, it’s very strange that one of my most favourite and comforting foods should be omurice: the dish that breaks my cardinal food rules and somehow manages to rise above its offence:

Omurice bento

Omurice is basically rice and veggies cooked with some ketchup, then coated in an omelette and served with another drizzle of ketchup on top. It’s comfort food for children, which makes it all the more weird how strangely nostaglic the dish is for me, a 28-year-old woman who has never lived in Japan… But nevertheless, there’s something very universal about its combination of starchy carbs, eggy protein, and lashings of tomato sauce.

This recipe makes four portions:

Ingredients

  • Butter
  • 2 chicken thighs, boned
  • 1 onion
  • 50g carrot
  • 1 green pepper
  • 2 shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 4 cups cooked Japanese rice
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tsp sake
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 8 eggs
  • Ketchup to serve

Method

  • Finely chop the onion, carrot, mushroom and parsley.
  • Debone the chicken and remove the skin. Cut the thigh into small pieces, around 1cm in size, then season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat 1 tbsp butter in a frying pan and sauté the onion until slightly softened. Add the chicken and fry until the outside has gone white. Add the carrot, pepper and mushrooms and cook until soft. This could take as long as ten minutes. You need to ensure the carrot is tender, as it will not be cooked again. Add the parsley and remove from the heat, reserving the mixture and wiping out the frying pan.
  • Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a frying pan and add the hot rice, stirring well. Add the fried mix along with the ketchup, sake and Worcestershire sauce. Season if needed, and keep warm. Do not over cook as this will dry out the rice.
  • In another, shallow frying pan, heat 1 tsp butter. Beat two of the eggs, season with salt, then pour into the frying pan, spreading to cover the base. Put a quarter of the rice in the middle of the pan while the egg is still slightly raw. This helps to stick the rice mixture to the omelette.
  • When the eggs are slightly set, wrap the edges over the top of the rice and turn out onto a warm plate. Don’t worry if you pierce the egg as you do so, as the edges are tucked under. Using a paper towel, shape it as in our photo, then squirt tomato sauce on the top. Continue with the rest of the eggs and mixture until you’ve made four omelettes.

You can also keep this for the following day, and serve it in a bento ala the picture!

Victoria sponge cake

Image via Wikipedia

CLASSIC BRITISH TREATS

Victoria sponge

A beautifully simple, light cake – classically British, of course – dusted with icing sugar and filled with jam would make the perfect addition to your table. Add whipped cream and fresh fruit to make it even more indulgent!

Gin and Tonic jelly

A great Nigella Lawson recipe – a grown up version of a party staple, and what better way to toast in the newly weds than with some gin and tonic!

Sweet vanilla cream and dulce de leche butterfly cakes

My own recipe for ridiculously delicious caramel and cream butterfly cakes. Forget cupcakes!

Scones with clotted cream and jam

You could make your own scones with this excellent recipe, but, equally, I’m sure no one will mind if you buy it in…

Lemongrass and raspberry trifle

Another Nigella recipe – and if you fancy a classic version, there are tonnes out there for sherry trifle!

Eton Mess

Legend has it this was invented at at Eton College – which is where Prince William was educated, of course, making this the perfect dish to serve on the big day. Just remember to mix it just before serving, because the meringues will melt otherwise! This is Delia’s recipe, but you can also add a splash of Pimm’s at the last minute to transform it into an ever more celebrationary dish!

Pimms anyone

Image by Walt Jabsco via Flickr

You’ve got a host of people over to watch Will and Kate tie the knot – but what the heck do you give them to drink, apart from good, old fashioned tea, of course? Check out this handy list of the best British tipples for your thirsty guests!

DRINKS

Fruit Cup

Pimms isn’t the only fruit cup you can make – check out this awesome blog for reviews of some other great fruit cup liquers! What could be better than a long glass of a fruit-studded cocktail on such a great day?

Buck’s Fizz / Mimosa

In the UK, we mostly have Buck’s Fizz, but whether you call it that or a Mimosa, there’s no denying this classic glass of bubbly and fruit juice is a right Royal winner!

Ginger Beer

You can buy your own, but you could try this great recipe for lashings of the stuff – the appropriate quantity for such a feast…

Lemonade

For your drivers and sober types, you need something without alcohol, lest you fall asleep before the vows are over… Making your own lemonade is easy, just combine lemon juice, water and sugar to taste.

Rhubarb, ginger and apple cocktail

Make use of some very British ingredients for this cool cocktail.

Royal Wedding Cocktail

Gin, Dubonnet, lemonade and pomegranate juice make this symbolic cocktail, especially formulated for Wills and Kate.

Cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches with tea ...

Image via Wikipedia

I love sandwiches and they should have centre stage in your wedding party buffet! But you have to make sure you cut them correctly – not diagonally into quarters, but into long, dainty finger shapes as they do for afternoon tea at The Ritz!

Because I would imagine you’ve made your own sandwiches more times than you’ve made any other kind of recipe, I’m not offering quantities, just ideas. That way you can be inspired and dish up your own quantities, depending on whether you’re watching the wedding with friends, or the whole street!

SANDWICH IDEAS

  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Ham, salad and cherry tomatoes with dijonnaise
  • Cheese and caramelised red onion chutney
  • Roast beef with horseradish mayonnaise and rocket
  • Egg mayonnaise
  • Prawn mayonnaise
  • Thinly sliced cucumber
  • Chicken salad

Have an idea I’ve missed? Tell me in the comments and I’ll add it to the list!

Don’t forget to check out my other post, on your ultimate recipes for a wedding watch buffet, here!

Making Fresh Almond Milk

Image by QuintanaRoo via Flickr

I’m no health nut, and I’m definitely not a vegan, but I love soya, almond, coconut and rice milk. I recently bought Jillian Michaels’ excellent Master Your Metabolism Cookbook, and she asks you to replace your diary with other products – specifically not soy, for various reasons. So, I purchased a litre of coconut milk and one of almond milk (and then had to carry them home four miles from the shop, but that’s a whole other story!) and discovered how delicious almond milk was in porridge and banana smoothies. I’d never had it before, and realised precisely why this was when I got to the health food shop – firstly, it’s quite hard to find (only in health food shops and Waitrose, it seems!) and secondly, it’s a whopping £3.00 a litre… Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s quite a lot for me, so I was pretty pleased to discover that it’s really easy to make your own almond milk at home! I’m not saying it tastes better than shop bought – I think the shop bought stuff is sweeter, but at home it gets a bit worrying to continually add honey to your mix, so I stopped after three teaspoons! However, it’s definitely cheaper, as once you’ve bought yourself a nut milk bag, you end up paying about £1.60 or so for every litre – basically, the cost of your almonds.

So, the recipe!

Equipment

Blender

Nut milk bag (buy these on eBay if you find them hard to track down)

Bowl

Jug

Ingredients

220g almonds

Water, to cover

1 litre water, to make milk (4 cups)

Vanilla extract, optional

Honey or other natural sweetner, optional

Method

Cover your almonds with water (I like to rinse mine first as well) and leave to stand overnight, for at least 8 hours, and up to 12.

Drain away the soaking water (I rinse here again) and add the nuts to a blender.

Pour in your four cups / 1 litre water, then blend well. Add in the vanilla extract and sweetner to taste, if using.

Pour the mixture into a nut bag over a bowl or wide jug, and strain. You’ll have to help the process along by squeezing the bag to get the excess moisture out.

Your nut milk is ready! Keep in the fridge, covered, for up to four days.

The leftover almond meal is great for adding fibre to porridge, cereal, etc!

Quick, look at this and tell me what you think of:

Taiyaki on a plate

I expect you didn’t think ‘ah, it’s a delicious, sweet Japanese street food’, did you? If you did, congratulations! Read on for a recipe to make your very own at home! If you didn’t, then let me educate you – read on for a recipe to make your very own at home! (See what I did there?)

The best way to describe taiyaki is as waffle-type confections which are usually filled with a Japanese sweet called ‘anko’. Anko, or an, is made from aduki beans, which you can purchase in most major supermarkets, as they’re actually a health food. Not when you cook them Japanese style, of course, which basically means stewing them with plenty of sugar.

DSC_0268

In Japan, these are cooked in dedicated stalls, and although an is the most common filling, you can even get savoury versions with things like cheese inside. At home, in a western kitchen, your biggest hurdle to making these yourself will be buying a proper taiyaki press.

Taiyaki step 1

I got mine from J-List, and if you look on the left hand side of this site and scroll down, you can find my affiliate link to J-List which means you can support Distracted Gourmet at the same time as making yummy treats. You might also be able to find these in Oriental or Japanese supermarkets.

Taiyaki ingredients

Apart from the an, the ingredients for taiyaki are very easy to find, and you probably have most of them already.You simply mix your batter together (recipe below), and then grease up your taiyaki press. Then, ladle in your batter, and spoon in some an, and place on your hob.

Taiyaki step 2

Then, you cover the an with a bit more batter, so that you create a nice, sealed pocket for your filling.

Taiyaki step 3

Once you’ve done that, you close the press and turn it over the heat, keeping it firmly closed, until the batter is cooked and your fish takes on a lovely golden colour.

Then, you simply have to trim the excess batter from your fish, and serve it piping hot!

Taiyaki step 4

Try your own taiyaki today!

Ingredients

125g plain flour

½ tbsp baking powder

½ tbsp caster sugar

½ tsp salt

225ml milk

1 egg

1 tbsp vegetable oil

6 tbsp anko paste

Method

Begin by oiling your taiyaki press thoroughly – you don’t want anything to stick.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl. Add the sugar and mix.

Beat the egg in a jug, and then add in the milk and oil.

Add the liquid ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and mix until combined.

Put the taiyaki pan over the heat and allow to get as hot as possible for a couple of minutes. Once the pan is hot, recheck that it’s well oiled, and then spoon in some of the batter. Allow to set for a few seconds, and then add a small spoonful of the anko paste (or other filling) in the main body section of the fish. Pour on a little more batter over the top of the anko paste to cover, and close down the press immediately and allow to cook. Turn over the heat and cook until the taiyaki is golden brown on both sides. You may need to hold the handles together to ensure the taiyaki pan doesn’t open, as the batter will expand as it cooks.

Once it’s cooked, eat it hot!

Also, try other fillings – sweet cream, Nutella, Smudge, peanut butter, cheese or even stir-fried vegetables!

If you want to try before you purchase pricey specialist equipment, I’ve seen these on sale in The Japan Centre in London – their supermarket is well worth a visit, whether you’re there to nosh taiyaki or not!
Taiyaki

Yesterday, I dangled the promise of a delicious recipe in front of you, and I’m not about to go back on my word! Whilst I’m not claiming that my idea to swap buttercream with real cream on a butterfly cake is really revolutionary, I have to say it makes a huge difference to these cakes. Okay, they won’t keep as long and they’re not as immune to standing around for hours (days?) not being eaten, as with traditional butterfly cakes (like the one below), but to me, they are a million times nicer, and a special treat of epic proportions. Just right, in other words, for serving at your royal wedding watching party!

Old fashioned butterfly cake

This is hardly a ground breaking recipe, but I personally had a hard time trying to sort through the many recipes for butterfly cakes I found online for a good one. There were some interesting variations but not a lot of simple, good old fashioned recipes. So, rest assured that if you want to make plain, no-nonsense butterfly cakes, the sponge recipe below, from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, will do you right. Then, you only have to follow the directions for the dulce de leche buttercream and omit the dulce de leche, and you’ll have butterfly cakes the old fashioned way in no time.

But life is short, why not try yours with sweet vanilla cream?!

Butterfly cake

Ingredients

For plain sponge cakes:

125g softened butter

125g caster sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

125g self-raising flour

2-3 tbsp milk

Icing sugar, for dusting

For the sweet cream and dulce de leche topping:

Small tub of double cream

1 tbsp (or to taste) vanilla caster sugar

Tin of Nestle Carnation dulce de leche

For alternative dulce de leche buttercream

125g butter

125g icing sugar

2 tbsp dulce de leche

Method

Preheat oven to 200c or gas mark 6.

Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla extract and mix until combined.

Mix the eggs in one by one, adding a large spoonful of flour in between each addition.

When mixed, add the rest of the flour, then mix to a smooth dropping consistency using the milk.

(Alternatively, if you’re one of these super duper posh types what has a fangled machine, simply add all the ingredients except the milk to a processor or food mixer until blended, then add the milk until it reaches the correct consistency. I’m not bitter or jealous at all, honest.)

Line a 12-bun cake tin with cake cases, and pour in the mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden on top.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

While the cakes are cooling, you can make your sweet vanilla cream! Simply add vanilla sugar (or sugar and a hint of vanilla extract) to your double cream, and whisk until it forms soft peaks. You need it to hold its shape when you spoon it onto your cakes, but be careful you don’t overwhisk – I am the worst at over-enthusiastically churning my cream into a grainy mess, so I can talk…

Once you’ve created your sweet cream, you only have to wait for the cakes to cool before assembling.

To make a butterfly cake, simply cut a round circle in your cake, tipping the knife inwards so you form a circular well inside as you do so. Fill to the top with your dulce de leche. Then, finish with a swirl of sweet cream – you can make a jaunty tip simply by using the end of your spoon and lifting off in the middle. Then, cut the piece of cake you excised in half and turn those pieces into the wings of a butterfly, and finish with a dusting of icing sugar.

Here’s what those beauties will look like inside:

Inside butterfly cake

An additional thought – if you reckon dulce de leche is too forrun for a patriotic national celebration such as the wedding of Kate and William, why not turn it into a tribute to a classic Victoria sponge by adding a spoonful of jam to the middle instead of caramel?

My tip for these is that the cream should be still chilled when the guests eat (why? Because it’s DELICIOUS that way, try it!), and that they really should be assembled last minute, just because the cream will wilt and spoil if you leave them sitting around for too long.

But, if you want to make your classic butterfly cakes with buttercream, simply cream your sieved icing sugar and very soft butter together until the mix is creamy and white, then add in dulce de leche until you have a still-stiff yet caramelly topping. Finish as above to make your butterfly wings.

Just one thing though…

Old fashioned butterfly cake

Don’t forget your icing sugar!

Old fashioned butterfly cake top

It is absolutely vital for optimum uh, prettiness…

Also, patriotic napkins are optional. (I got mine from Tesco’s.)

Butterfly cake on Union Jack napkin

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been a loyal Lostie since the show started. While I’m sure I’m not going to love the finale (so many unanswered questions!) I’m sure I’m going to have a blast watching it – because I’m planning my very own Lost finale party! When it comes to parties, there’s only one thing I care about, and that’s the food. So here’s my lowdown on the best menus for a Lost finale party, culled from the interwebs, and in places, my own imagination. I’ve got three ‘menus’ to choose from, although in reality they are just three lists – food inspired by the show, food from the show itself, and an extra special, cos I love ya low-fat/low calorie diet menu. Plus, as an extra special bonus, a list of drink ideas!

Menu from the show universe

  • Peanut butter (Charlie’s present to Claire – bonus points if it’s in a Dharma-labelled jar!)
  • Fish biscuits (from the Polar bear cages – as eaten by Sawyer and Kate) – recipe here.
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches (brought to Jack by Juliet when he was being held captive by Ben)
  • Muffins (cooked by Juliet for her book club)
  • Mr Cluck’s Chicken (fried chicken from Hurley’s fast food chain – use generic fast food fried chicken!)
  • Foraged fruits: mango, banana, passionfruit, guava, papaya, coconut, oranges (for Locke-smiles…). Serve them whole on a chopping board with a hunter’s knife for added drama and authenticity. Or, make them into a fruit salad like Hurley.
  • Hunted meat like boar (cop out and use pork! Roasted pork tenderloin, pork ribs, pulled pork… Mmm!), rabbit and chicken
  • Grilled fish, or sashimi ala Jin
  • Dharma-labelled food, easily created by printing out labels and sticking them on pre-existing packages. Some of the most famous Dharma food includes the aforementioned peanut butter, ranch composite (ranch dressing), Dharmalars (probably a version of Mallomars), and mac and cheese. Click here for an amazing array of Lost labels for your food!
  • Apollo bars (dark chocolate and nuts)
  • Alcohol salvaged from the plane in mini-bottles, or provided by Dharma, including beer, whiskey, rum, red and white wine.

Menu inspired by the show

Low-calorie Lost menu

Lost-inspired drinks

  • Tropical fruit juice
  • MacCutcheon whiskey (stick a fake label over a bottle of whiskey to create ultra-rare Lost whiskey!)
  • Wine from Moriah Vineyards, as made by Desmond the monk (as above)
  • Zombie (2 parts white rum, 1 part dark rum, 1 part golden rum, 2 parts lime juice, 1 part orange juice, 1 part pineapple juice, half part sugar syrup, ice, shaken in a mixer)
  • Pina Colada (1 part white rum, 2 parts coconut cream, 2 parts pineapple juice, shaken and strained)
  • Banana Daiquiri (2 parts white rum, 2 parts lime juice, dash triple sec, 1tsp sugar, crushed ice, 1 ripe banana, blended until smooth)
  • Mai Tai (1 part light rum, 1 part dark rum, 1 part Cointreau, dash Grenadine, tsp lime juice, 3 parts orange juice, 3 parts pineapple juice, shaken over ice and strained)
  • Blue Devil (3 parts gin, 1 part lemon juice, 1 tbsp maraschino, shaken over ice)
  • Blue Lagoon (3 parts vodka, 1 part blue Curacao, 3 parts pineapple juice, shaken over ice and strained)
  • Non-alcoholic fruit cup (2 parts orange juice, 2 parts grapefruit juice, 2 parts pineapple juice, 2 parts apple juice)

You can find some Lost-themed menus, ideas and resources at these sites:

Have fun! And, be sure to tell me what YOUR Lost party menu consisted of…

DISCLAIMER: I didn’t create any of the content linked to here, nor can I vouch for the reliability or deliciousness of any of the recipes, save Nigella’s awesome peanut butter fudge sauce… Click and make at your own risk!

If there’s one thing I’m learning from my 52 weeks, 52 chickens experiment, it’s how to dispose of leftover chicken (and turkey!) in a variety of ways. Here are the leftover chicken recipes I’ve come up with so far – they should all work well with leftover turkey, too!

If you’ve just popped in for a visit, I hope you’ll stick around!

This recipe is a pretty good ‘un, in my opinion (I know, I know, who asked me?). Not only does it taste good, but it’s got veggies in it and it’s a way of naturally colouring your food without using chemicals. Now, there’s no way anyone could suggest I’m not up for dying food whenever I get the opportunity, but somehow it seems wrong to dye savoury food. Don’t know why! When you introduce sugar, all the bets are off…

Also, once you’ve softened your veggies, you bung the whole lot into rice cooker and let it cook. Easy! Obviously, you don’t have to eat this in a bento – it makes a great addition to a hot meal, too.

I really like this bento box – I have a thing for single tiered boxes. I also love Animal Crossing. I don’t know if the box is still available, but I bought it from J-List. (If you click that link, you’ll be taken to the J-List site, so if you buy anything, it earns me pennies to buy new bento stuff! Thank you!)

Teriyaki burger and carrot and onion rice

Recipe for carrot and onion rice

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw rice
  • 1 carrot
  • ½ onion
  • Butter
  • Splash soy sauce
  • Seasoning

Method

  • Process the onion and carrot until they are finely chopped, then sauté in butter until softened – but not browned. This will take around five minutes. Season and add the soy sauce.
  • Add to a rice cooker with washed rice and an equal amount of water, and cook as normal.