My Perfect Barbecue

It’s getting to that time of year, when the evenings are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer and we’re all realising that we can cook and enjoy the outdoors again.  With this in mind, and in association with the Central England Co-Operative, I’ve come up with some delicious ideas that you can use to cook yourself a tasty meal to enjoy outdoors with a cheeky glass of wine (or two).

Beef Burgers:
500g Lean minced beef
1 medium red onion
¼ Red pepper
¼ Orange pepper
Bunch coriander
Salt and Pepper to season
30ml Double Cream

1. Finely chop the onion and the peppers.
2. Chop the coriander.
3. Place the mince, chopped onions, pepper and coriander into a large bowl.
4. Add the cream and season with salt and pepper.

5. Mix together thoroughly and shape into 6 burgers.

6. Chill for 10 minutes in the fridge.
7. Cook on the barbecue until thoroughly cooked through.

Sausage Wheel:
1 Pack of Cumberland Sausages
3 long metal skewers (or use wooden ones that you’ve soaked in water)

1. Untwist the individual sausages and distribute the meat evenly throughout the skin.
2. Roll gently into a spiral.
3. Skewer through from one side, through the centre and back through the other side, evenly using your three skewers.

4. Brush the surfaces with oil and barbecue until cooked through.

Chicken, Pepper & Red Onion Skewers

1 Chicken breast, cubed
1 Red onion
¼ Red pepper
¼ Orange pepper

1. Cut the top and bottom off the onion, then stand it on one of the flat edges.
2. Slice vertically through the onion into 6 wedges.
3. Cut the peppers into pieces the approximate size of your onion wedges.
4. Thread the pieces of chicken, onion and pepper alternately onto the skewers.
5. Brush with a little oil and barbecue until the chicken is cooked.

Pineapple Salsa:
175 Pineapple in natural juice
4 Spring onions
50g Red pepper
15ml Cider vinegar
15ml Dark brown sugar
60ml BBQ sauce
5mm Root Ginger.

1. Chop the pineapple, onions and pepper.
2. Grate the ginger.
3. Place all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat through for 10 minutes.

4. Serve hot or cold with your cooked burgers and sausage wheel.

Soured Cream Mint Dressing:
100ml Soured cream
15ml Concentrated mint sauce

1. Mix the soured cream and the mint sauce together thoroughly.
2. Serve with your cooked meats and salad.

I served my burgers in warmed pitta breads, which I spread with the soured cream mint dressing and stuffed with salad.

I was provided with vouchers from the Central England Co-Operative to purchase ingredients to make my BBQ meal.

Saffron Bakewell Tart

Saffron is a spice from the Crocus genus of flower.  The flowers grow 20-30cm and each bear up to four flowers.  Each flower has three vivid crimson stigmas (strands).  These ‘strands’ are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and a colouring in foods.  Saffron is generally sold by weight, which as you can clearly imagine, it takes an awful lot of those stigma strands to produce a single gramme of the saffron we use in the culinary world. This makes it the most expensive spice in the world. Currently Iran produces approximately 90% of the world’s production of the saffron that is in use today.  It takes approximately 80,000 saffron flowers to produce just 500 grammes of finished saffron.

Saffron has a hay like fragrance and contains a pigment which gives a golden yellow colour to dishes.  It has also been used to dye fabrics and textiles as far back as the 7th Century and has been traded and used for over 4,000 years.

I was recently sent a sample of saffron to try from the Premier Saffron company who import their hand picked saffron from Iran.

Pairing perfectly with almonds, I re-created the traditional Bakewell Tart to include some saffron, thereby adding a slightly different, but subtly delicious tasted.  Here’s how I did it:

Pastry
225g Plain flour
50g Lard
50g Butter
25g Caster sugar
30ml (approx.) cold water

Filling
5-6 strands Saffron
15ml Milk
125g Butter
125g Caster sugar
150g Ground almonds
75g Ground Rice
2 Eggs
2.5ml Almond essence
45ml Raspberry jam
Flaked almonds to decorate

1. To make the pastry, cut the lard and butter into small cubes and add them to a large bowl containing the flour and sugar.  (I use half lard and half butter to give a ‘short’ crisp pastry, as taught to me by my nan and my mum).
2. Rub them together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs (it helps to keep the pastry cool and the butter and lard not to melt if you only use your finger tips).
3. Add the cold water, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together to form a dough.
4. Wrap in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
5. Heat the oven to 190℃, and place an upturned rectangular baking tin in to heat up (this will help prevent your tart from getting a ‘soggy bottom’.
6. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to an even thickness to line a 20cm square tin.
7. Retain the pastry trimmings for decoration.
8. Return the pastry lined tin to the fridge to chill whilst you prepare the filling.
9. Place the saffron strands onto an oven proof plate and heat in the oven for 4-5 minutes until warmed (this helps the flavour and colour release from the strands).
10. Warm the milk gently then add the warm saffron strands.  Stir and leave to infuse for a few minutes. The milk will turn a summery pale yellow colour.
11. In a large bowl, place the butter, caster sugar, ground almonds, ground rice, eggs and almond essence.
12. Add the milk and saffron mixture and beat until well incorporated.
13. Remove the pastry case from the fridge and spread the jam evenly over the base.
14. Pour the filling mixture into the pastry case, over the top of the jam.
15. Re-roll the pastry trimmings and use to decorate the top of the Bakewell Tart.
16. Sprinkle with flaked almonds to decorate.

17. Place in the oven on top of the upturned baking tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the pastry is cooked.
18. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove the tart from the tin on to a wire cooling rack and leave until cold.

19. Slice and serve with custard or simply on its own with a cup of tea.

The saffron adds a very subtle flavour to the Bakewell Tart and marries perfectly with the almonds.

I was sent a pack of the saffron strands from Premier Saffron to try.  I was under no obligation to create a recipe or to link to their website as a result of receiving the sample.

George Foreman Evolve Grill – Cactus Kitchens London

I was recently invited to go to the Cactus Kitchens in Clapham which is co-owned by Michel Roux Jr and is the film studio for Saturday Kitchen as part of a small band of Food Bloggers for the launch of the new George Foreman Evolve Grill.

On arrival at the event, we were taken upstairs to the Cookery School which is on the top floor of this converted church and which has an incredible space and light as well as beautiful original feature beams where we were welcomed with glasses of Prosecco and canapés of cream cheese and smoked salmon served on savoury cheese waffles.

We were introduced to the lovely team from George Foreman and the members of the PR company before being shown to our work stations where we each had an Evolve Grill to use to create our dishes that we’d eat that evening.

To start, we created a tasty dish of sesame crusted tuna steak served on an light and fresh Asian salad base.  Using the sear function of the George Foreman ensured a perfectly cooked crust to the tuna steak.

Following on from our starters, we changed the bottom grill plate to the deep baking pan and created a fresh tasting beetroot and broccoli pizza.  The base of the pizza was perfectly cooked and crispy whilst the top of the pizza, under the heat of the top grill plate ensured that the cheese was melted beautifully.

To follow we created light and fresh yellow plums skewered with rosemary sprigs, over which we poured a delicious honey, orange and liqueur syrup.

We were also treated to a taster of an incredibly tasty sirloin steak with a Hollandaise sauce as well as the some American style waffles and fruit.

To top off the evening, we were each given the George Foreman Evolve grill that we’d been using to take home and were invited to have a look around the Saturday Kitchen film studio, where we duly posed for our ‘Omelette Challenge’ photo.

Spurred on by the versatility of this amazing machine (my first ever George Foreman), I then ordered a set of the waffle plates (£14.99) for collection from my local Argos.  Needless to say, Sunday saw us eating waffles and fresh fruit for breakfast!

Since then, I’ve grilled chicken, steaks, bacon and toasted sandwiches on the grill plates, made a sweet & sour chicken in the deep baking pan and have had waffles most weekends for breakfast!  I think I’m in love with my George Foreman Evolve and how clean and versatile this piece of kitchen equipment is.  No more cleaning fat splashes from the tiles at the back of the hob when preparing chicken or steaks, or from the top of the grill when making bacon in the oven.

The Evolve is a 5 portion, family sized, grill with removable plates which you can easily place in your dishwasher to clean after use.  It comes with a pair of non stick grilling plates which are angled to allow fats and juices to run off and which are caught in the trough that you place at the front of the machine.  What’s different about this grill though is that you can easily, with the twist of a lever, adjust the foot so that the grill is horizontal, making it perfect for toasting sandwiches and for grilling vegetables or fish.  Not only this, but the bottom grill plate is easily and quickly changed for a deep baking pan, in which you can cook omelettes, pizza and tray bakes.  Ordinarily the George Foreman grills heat up to 220℃, but this new Evolve machine has a digitally variable temperature selection which includes a 90 second, 260℃, sear function allowing you to quickly sear your steaks to lock in that all important flavour.  An additional feature is the digital 20 minute timer which you can set and leave until it reminds you when your food is cooked.

An optional extra purchase available for this grill is a pair of non stick waffle plates, allowing you to make an incredible, quick and easy, tasty breakfast in no time at all. These also go into your dishwasher for easy clean up after breakfast.  Of course, waffles aren’t just sweet treats, but can be made into a savoury base for canapés or teatime snacks.

I attended the event as a guest of the PR company for George Foreman Grills.  As part of the event we were each given the George Foreman Grill that we had been cooking on that evening, free of charge.  The waffle plates I purchased personally.


Chocolate Cake for Easter

The most indulgent chocolate cake to grace my table is this one that I made in collaboration with the Central England Co-Operative.  Unlike most chocolate cakes, it’s not dry as it has evaporated milk in the recipe.  It’s slathered in a rich and creamy chocolate ganache and is decorated with rather a lot of chocolate mini eggs along with some decadent praline animals.

 

It’s certainly not a cake you’d make every week, but for special occasions and a little indulgent treat, this is the cake sure to be a hit with any chocolate lover.
All of my ingredients were sourced from my local Co-Operative, and where possible, FairTrade ingredients were used.

 

Cake:
300g Self raising flour
340g Caster sugar
40g Cocoa
150g Butter (room temp)
3 Large eggs
110g Evaporated Milk
80g Water
5ml Vanilla extract
Ganache:
200g Dark chocolate
100g Milk chocolate
250ml Double cream
Decoration:
Cadbury Mini eggs (my cake took 9 bags)
Box of Co-Operative Spring praline chocolates
1. Heat the oven to 180℃.
2. Grease and line two 20cm/8″ cake tins.
3. In a large bowl place all the cake ingredients.
4. Mix together for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

 

5. Divide equally between the two cake tins.
6. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
7. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn out into a wire rack to cool completely.
Whilst the cakes are cooling, now is the time to get your ganache ready.
8. In a saucepan, break the chocolate into squares and add the cream.
9. Heat very gently until the chocolate has melted, stirring frequently.
10. Remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl, then set aside to cool and set.
11. When the cakes are cold and the ganache has set, use ¼ of the ganache to sandwich the cakes together.
12. Place the cakes onto a serving plate and use the other ¾ of the ganache to thickly coat the sides and top of the cake. Don’t worry about it being perfectly smooth and pretty as you’re going to decorate the sides and top with lots and lots of mini eggs.
13. Starting at the bottom, place a row of mini eggs all around the cake, adding extra layers until you either run out of mini eggs, or you’ve covered the sides completely.
14. Decorate the top of the cakes with the spring praline chocolates.
You won’t want a large slice of this cake unless you’re a raving chocoholic with the sweetest tooth known to man, so this cake will certainly go a very, very long way indeed!  You could even (perish the thought!) share it with friends and neighbours, as I did!
Happy Easter, enjoy my recipe xx
I was sent a voucher from the Central England Co-Operative to buy ingredients with which to create a recipe for them.