Come & Dine with Me, Taylor Wimpey Dinner Party Competition Entry

Update: Since I last wrote this post, winners of the Taylor Wimpey Dinner Party Competition have been announced- Pebble Soup won the prize for its Seared Tuna Salad with Guacamole as best starter course. I would also like to highlight that this gadget will definitely be on the table.

tuna salad, guacamole

Come and Dine with me never really appealed as a TV program, the snooping in somebody's else bedroom is way OTT. The Taylor Wimpey Dinner Party  is much nicer. Bloggers are invited to enter a fantasy Come and Dine with Me where the focus is on food not on sexy underwear. The brief is to describe the menu bloggers would cook if...
With my hostess tiaira firmly wedged on my chef's hat, I thought about what would my guests fancy as welcome drink.

Every meal has a theme, even if on an every day base it is not a glamourous one, such as "what do I have in the fridge which matches my mood?". 

Of course for a dinner party, the deal is slightly different the starter, the main and the dessert need to flow and be full of flavour. If the menu can make a statement so much the better but the overall success is always guaranteed if the host has allowed time to mingle with the guests.

Vanilla Vodka Cocktail
My Perfect Vanilla Cocktail is a Vodka Vanilla, Cranberry juice and Raspberry liqueur in a Collins glass
Seared tuna salad with guacamole
Fresh and substainable tuna thinly sliced, spiced to perfection with a guacamole to contrast the colours served with a light soy dressing

Braised shoulder of lamb with in-season vegetables

A slow cooked recipe allows the host to enjoy quality time with the guests. Cooked in wine, rosemary and lots of vegetables, this is full of flavour and melts in the mouth.

 Lemon tart with basil syrup
One which never fail to impress, very lemony with a hint of sweetness and quirkiness provided by the basil syrup.
Time to talk wine: alway tricky when there is fish and meat to choose one wine but since money is no object I will go for a Vintage Champagne Brut. 

If you would like to enter the competition and create your menu you will need to email your entry to email your entry to The competition closes on 30th June 2013 and four winners will be chosen in total: one for each individual course, who win £100 each, plus £250 for the best overall menu


Mackerel Fillets with Parsley, Mint and Anchovy Sauce

Food is the new Rock and Roll. It would seem every opportunity is taken to get recipes out. Brands and retailers are using chefs as if they were the ultimate Rock-stars. Away with actors and sports personnalities which let's face it where not always credible in their promoting roles and bring on the next chef.
At times the mind boggles but on occasions it makes sense, especially when it is thought through carefully. There is leverage in advertising via recipes and meal plans, Ecover proved it with Rachel Allen.
Rachel provides good recipe ideas, negotiating a difficult balancing act, it needs to be fatty but healthy. They have called the campaign ‘Eat Clean, Feel Good’ campaign, The aim is  to raise awareness of the hidden ‘nasties’ in washing up liquid.
I was invited to the launch and came back with a list of healthy recipes which were put to the test straight away, starting with
Mackerel Fillets with Parsley, Mint and Anchovy Sauce
The sauce is full of nicely combined strong flavours, it will make more sauce than required but in my experience halving the recipe doesn't work so use the rest with chicken or lamb.

Serves 4, preparation time 20 minutes

For the sauce:
Large handful of parsley leaves
Handful of mint leaves
2 tbsp capers, rinsed
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
6 anchovies
200ml extra virgin olive oil

For the butterflied mackerel:

4 large mackerel fillets, gutted
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Serve with couscous

400g couscous
Seeds from one pomegranate
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
500ml boiling chicken or vegetable stock
4 tbsp pistachio nuts (shelled), toasted
2 tbsp chopped coriander


First make the sauce. Place everything but the olive oil in a food processor and whiz for 3 - 4 minutes until the herbs are finely chopped. Then add the olive oil to mix. Set aside until needed or place in a jar in the fridge. If storing for more than a few hours cover your sauce with a good layer (about half a centimetre) of olive oil. It will keep in the fridge for about a month.

Place the couscous and pomegranate seeds in a bowl and mix in the olive oil and lime juice. Pour in boiling stock or water and season. Allow to sit in a warm place for 5 - 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. To serve, stir in the toasted pistachios and chopped herbs and season to taste.

Meanwhile, place a cast iron griddle pan on a high heat - if you don’t have a griddle pan you can use a frying pan. Brush with oil (or put 2 tbsp oil in the frying pan) and allow it to get quite hot. Season the skin side of the mackerel with salt and pepper and place on the griddle skin side down. Season the other side and cook for 2 - 4 minutes until the skin is golden and crisp, turn over and cook for a further 1 - 2 minutes.

Put on plates and serve immediately, drizzled with the parsley, mint and anchovy sauce and the lime and pomegranate couscous

photo and recipe reproduced with the authorisation of Ecover

Green Risotto

Green Risotto
Recently a good friend of mine regretted aloud the fact that there were no pills which she could have fed her children with, day in, day out, when they were growing up. The remark arrested me. How could she think food in only nutritive terms, what about the joys of textures, the array and delights of taste, the wonderful aromas, the tactility of ingredients and the colours. Oh colours, do it for me, every single time.
-How could a pill replace that? I harangued back
-Pfff, she puffed, you wouldn't need all this with pills, as you would have more time to devote to other things and food would become irrelevant.
I was gobsmacked.
How can you resist a plate of Green Risotto? full of fresh spring vegetables, smooth like velvet, warming and comforting and so 
Now that spring vegetables are in full flow it's time to make the most of Spinach, peas, mange-tout and salads.
Here is my recipe for Green Risotto adapted from Waitrose website
100g frozen Petit-pois

100g spinach

4 leaves fresh mint

3 tbsp crème fraîche

1 litre Vegetable Stock

1 tbsp olive oil

350g Arborio Risotto Rice

150ml white wine


Steam the spinach for 5 minutes and put the peas in a bowl, pour boiled water over. Reserve
In a large pan with thick bottom, heat the oil and drop the rice in, stir cook for 5 minutes, reduce the heat
Add the stock, quarter at the time, keep stirring time to time
In the meantime, drain the peas, add to blender or food processor with peas, mint and crème fraîche. Note that mint has a strong over powering taste but is well liked by some so the quantity can be increased to 20g.
When all the liquid is absorb, add the wine and the vegetable mix. Stir well
Serve with rocket salad as garnish.
Making a risotto is a longish process which takes about 30 minutes cooking time.

Give-Away #20 : BART Products Worth £40

Get ready for BBQ and Braai season with BART's Give-Away.

The lucky winner will receive 
  • 1 sea-salt with wild garlic BBQ mill
  • 1 smokey paprika for a bit of a kick BBQ mill
  • 3 marinade rubs : one mediterranean, one smokey chipotle, one lemon and sweet pepper
  • 1 mustard BBQ sauce
  • 1 Texan hot sauce
As they say at BART's, "Not all ingredients are the same" and BART certainly has different and reliable ingredients

And to keep things neat and tidy they have added
  • 1 BBQ apron
  • 1 Old fashion classy note-book with a pen
To enter the give-away you'll need to unlock the rafflecopter by answering the following question "What will you cook on your BBQ/Braai?" in the comment box, then you will get 6 bonus points by following the instructions.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Courgette, Mushroom and Pesto Panino

Languages behave in different ways, English absorbs, accepts, uses and discards new words every day. English bilingual dictionaries proudly display a large English section compared to the other language.

Courgette Mushroom and Pesto Panino

Now French is a language which  relies on structures. Grammar is rigid, uncompromising. There is only one right way, get it wrong and a crime is committed.
So when it comes to foreign words we hit a world of confusion. For most people, it may not matter greatly but if you were born French and worked for decades with languages then a simple recipe can create havoc, even before looking at the ingredients.
A couple of month ago, I was very fortunate to find a last century practical encyclopedia of healing food, for 50p in a charity shop. Among hundreds of recipes it contains a recipe for what looked like a kind of Pain Bagnat. Having a particular fondness for Pains Bagnats, stuffed breads, originating from Nice. I was readying myself for a 5 minutes enjoyment reading the recipe when suddenly brain did a double take on the title.
This is a Courgette, Mushroom and Pesto (so far so good) Panino. I knew of panini and if when in a state of starvation or in the position when choice was required paninis (plural) but it never occurred to me that I was incorrectly using the word. Then "salami", raised its ugly head, should that be "salamo".
Drop the newly bought ancient encyclopedia with a thump and grab the fablette to get to Wikipedia which revealed that, "In some English- and French-speaking countries, panini is sometimes used as a singular word (like salami also an Italian plural noun) and sometimes incorrectly pluralized as paninis."
But it gets worse, "In Italian, panino refers properly to a bread roll and panino imbottito (stuffed panino) to a sandwich.....Panino is also often used to refer to a sandwich in general."
Now utterly confused, words had deserted me. So here is a picture step by step
Courgette, Mushroom and Pesto Panino

For this recipe, you'll need:
1 small round loaf
3 courgettes
3 tablespoon olive oil
250g small round mushrooms
1 tsp oregano
3 tbsp pesto
50g gr salad
250g Taleggio cheese ( which I didn't use in my recipe)
salt and pepper to season

Garlic Honey Soya Sauce Marinade with Pork Chops

 Garlic Honey Soya Sauce Marinade with Pork Chops
 The reason behind the posting gaps lately is that I had to keep a secret. I was commissioned as a ghost writer and ghosts don't talk. So a book later, I am back talking away.....of course not about the book.

Instead what about talking soya, Kikkoman and their Best Blogger Recipe Competition? Kikkoman, provider of soya sauces is looking for a recipe which proves what a versatile seasoning soya sauce really is. With the express condition that this recipe should not be oriental.

This, really is a bit of a challenge since  it doesn't matter how wise you are with ingredients, soya sauce will always add a little of the oriental to a recipe.
Be ready, here come the geeky bit: soya sauce originated 2 000 years ago, the recipe has changed very little since. It's made by combining crushed soya beans with wheat, salt, water and a yeast based plant culture called koji. It is left fermenting for between 6 months and 3 years.
There are two basic types of soy sauce: the light and the dark, the difference is a matter of consistency and salt used.
I chose this recipe out of necessity, while working away on the book, meals had to be tasty but quick. I opted for a reduced salt soya sauce because of the marinade which uses a lot of soya sauce to infuse the meat so the less salt the better.
And now for the Defence Statement: Is  Garlic Honey Soya Sauce Marinade with Pork Chops oriental? well it's debatable. Garlic and honey are universal and ancient products. In fact significantly both where found together in Egyptian tombs and grilling is a cooking method used every where.
Pork meat can be a bit "though" when grilled, one of the way to tenderise it, is to marinate it overnight. Get your plastic bag ready for
 Garlic Honey Soya Sauce Marinade with Pork Chops

pork chops
4 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp clear honey      
4 clove garlic peeled and finely chopped
 Cayenne pepper or chilli flakes to taste

The night before mix all the ingredients (except the chops) in a plastic bag, preferably one of the resealable one, Combine well. Failing this, drop the bag use a small deep plate, as the marinade needs to cover the chops.

Transfer the chops to the bag and refrigerate.

Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan and fry the pork chops for a couple of minutes each side. Transfer the chops to a grill. Grill for 4-5 minutes each side.

Disclaimer: I received free products to test recipes with Kikkoman Soy Sauce, Less Salt and Teriyaki Marinade.


Photo of the Week : Welsh Lamb PGI -10 Years Already-

It's ten years since Welsh Lamb obtained its PGI badge of authenticity. A celebratory lunch took place at Odette's where chef Bryn Williams cooked lunch here is his mini Shepherd's Pie.

PGI stands for Protected Geographical Indication and is a symbol of quality created by good practices.


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