Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Road trip

Tomorrow is the day. Finally after enormous amounts of preparation our holiday is here. I am so excited and can not wait until my last night shift is over, then the fun begins. Yippee. As for the book it has been a little neglected however I know that I will continue to test out my recipes and will have far more photos available to add to the book on my return. After my holiday I am determined to input the remaining recipes and I aim to finish it by Christmas as more people are wanting to order it so I need to get my finger out and please my future customers

My upcoming blog posts will be fairly sparse over the next three weeks but I promise I will fill you in with all the fun and adventures we have had associated with food and the wild outdoors. See you all in three weeks.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fix it dinner

Don't you hate it when you come home from work to find the fridge empty. All you want to do is call for a take out, but you know that you can not have yet another take out meal within the same week. Sound familiar? For that reason I like to keep some essentials in the larder for emergencies, so I can whip up a quick fix it dinner. The essentials needed for the fridge are eggs, cheese and milk with the larder ingredients being dried pasta, bread, all purpose flour,  tinned fish, tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, rice, dried herbs, spices, honey, mustard, soy sauce, chicken stock, onions, garlic, ginger and potatoes. As for meat you can't go wrong with chicken and bacon. So with this list of food you can create a variety of dishes ranging from stir fry's to curries to pasta dishes, the list is endless. It always feels good to make something out of nothing and this is how many recipes are created although I must admit I wouldn't want to be doing fix it dinners every night as it can take a lot of thought and more often than not I am absolutely shattered when I come home from work, but the adventure can be fun.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I get inspiration for my cooking everywhere, ranging from magazines to restaurants to general chit chat with friends. I love it when I go to restaurants and enjoy a delicious meal. If I am really impressed I  always try to recreate the dish at home. I have done this on several occasions and more often than not it has turned out pretty well. When I was living in London my friend and I fell in love with a Belgian restaurant in Covent garden, we couldn't get enough of it. We must have tasted every Belgian beer at some point and every mussel dish going. Huge pots of mussels were served with vast baskets of fries and a side order of rye bread smeared with mayonnaise. Oh how I wish I could go back there now. Anyway, we had a mussel dish that consisted of steamed mussels on the half shell that were coated in this fantastic spinach creamy sauce with melted stringy cheese. It was devine. Well I tried this dish at home and it was perfect. I had invited my friend over and we stuffed our faces with the mussels and dipped bread into the sauce, this washed down with a nice fragrant Belgian beer took us right back to the restaurant in Covent garden. I am inputting a mussel dish into the book but it is more traditional so I will give you the recipe for the creamy spinach mussel dish.

Holidays also have given me ideas, Egypt gave me homemade flat breads with a homemade chilli and oil dip, Italy gave me home made Raviolli and tomato salad and Barcelona gave me potato bravas with chorizo, the list is endless and I could just keep going. If you like a dish and are not too sure what ingredients are needed just look at a couple of recipes and adapt them to how you remember the dish tasting. The key point is to keep tasting the dish as your creating it, that is the best way.

Creamy Spinach Mussels

Mussels (enough for 2 people)
1 Cup Chicken stock/ WhiteWine
1 Large Bag of baby spinach
1 Small onion
2 Medium cloves of garlic
1/2 Block of cream cheese
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp All purpose four
Light Cream
Salt & Pepper
Gruyere Cheese

Soak the mussels in cold water for an hour, drain and then de-beard.

Dice the onions and garlic up finely and fry in a large frying pan with a pinch of salt , when soft add the spinach and wilt. When wilted drain the spinach mixture into a colander and press out the remaining water then blend this until smooth and set aside. In the same frying pan add the butter and when melted stir in the flour to make a rue. Add the cream slowly until the sauce is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Now add the cream cheese and stir in until smooth. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg and the blended spinach mix. Stir in until incorporated. Taste and add more seasoning if required along with a squeeze of lemon juice (usually just a 1/4 lemon works). If the sauce is a little to thick add more cream.

Meanwhile throw away any mussels that are open. In a medium pan add the chicken stock or wine and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and add the mussels and cover. Allow to steam for approx 5 minutes until mussel shells have opened, shake the pan half way through. (Once opened they are ready) Drain and throw away any mussels that have not opened. Remove one half of the shell and lay mussels in a grill proof dish. Pour over the spinach sauce and sprinkle with grated Gruy√®re cheese. Place under the grill until cheese turns golden brown. Serve in dish with fresh bread for dipping. Et voila.

Let me know how it turns out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


My Ego is getting rather large now, I have just spoken to best friend and she wants to place an order to buy my book for her sister as a Christmas present. I would love to finish the book by then but I have told her that it will be the photos that may hold it up. So now I have two definite orders, yes both are family and friends but it is a start, people are interested.

My friend was shocked when I told her I was going to write a cook book, at first she thought it was sad,  but now to be honest I think she is rather proud. She said she didn't know that I liked cooking as much as I do, but really how could she. I left home at nineteen to go to university and since then have always lived further away from her. Whenever we catch up its always discussions about what we have been doing socially and how our families are, food never really comes into it.

This week I have been catching up with everyone, my parents, sister and new friends here in Canada. Whispers of Christmas have also been floating around and of course that involes parties and food. I have a few things in mind, one idea is having people round for Christmas drinks, mulled wine (mullered wine I like to call it) and picky food and the other is Christmas dinner. I would love to cook a suckling pig, yes you heard me right, ambitous or what?. I think however this would be a huge amount of meat for Ian and I to devour, so maybe if we had guests over for christmas this could happen. Its too early to say but I would love the experience of creating a spectacular main dish. Yay!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Soup and Cookies

I am loving the soup, it is so easy to make. At the moment I am into Broccoli and Stilton, although I often like tomato but I do find that the tomato soup can be a little acidic. Apparently if you add balsamic vinegar it reduces the acidity, I know that sounds strange adding acid to acid but it does work. I always make the base of my soup the same no matter what flavour I desire, two carrots, a medium onion, two small potatoes, cellery and chicken stock. I then add whatever flavor I want it to be. I prefer a smooth soup so you do not have to worry about how neat your vegetables have to be chopped, my only exclusions to this is when making a chicken flavored soup. There is a pumpkin soup I want to try, the magazine I saw it in had it presented so well. It was served in a hollowed out baby pumpkin and was scattered with pumpkin seeds. I think that would be lovely to serve as a starter for a special dinner. (Maybe Thanksgiving) I always think soup is healthy as it is an easy way to get loads of vegetables into your diet, it is packed with flavour and fills you up nicely. What more can you ask for.

Todays mission is to make some special occasion cookies and I get to use my new mixer for the second time!!! This is one of my sisters recipes and I cannot wait to try them. She made them as wedding favours for her friends wedding and decorated them in pink icing. They were presented in cellophane bags and tied with pink ribbons. How perfect. I am making them to take with us on out trip so I am off to the cookshop to buy an ornate cookie cutter. I love making food and linking it to special occasions, it is just the best.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A bit of a lull

That is how I feel about the book at the moment. I was going great guns at it last week and since then it has definitely come to an abrupt stop and I know the reason why. Its the one major thing in our lives, work. When we are at work we want to be home and when we are at home we want to be at work. We can't win either way. I must admit though since starting this adventure I love my days off as they are mostly filled with my number one passion, cooking. The only thing is that my days off always seem to rush by and the next thing I know I am back at work wishing to be off. This week I plan to make a good old hearty beef stew and I will be wanting Ian to photograph the dish. Last week it felt like the we were working opposite shifts to each other, so no photos were taken. Once I am back in the kitchen and the photos have been processed, this should then give me inspiration to write the 'Dinner' chapter and then the lull will be over.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Loose ends

This week I feel like I have accomplished a multitude of tasks and tidied up a few loose ends. I started and finished the salad and lunch chapters and even inputted one photo. Yes the first photo went in. I can now view a double page spread as it should be, a picture followed by a recipe, there are no gaps. Yay!!!. I am feeling very proud of the upcoming book.

So the book is progressing well and so are our plans for our October holiday. Our larder ingredients have been bought and Ian has bought additions for his camera. I can't wait to see his photos from the trip. (Yes I know we have not even gone yet). I am so excited to go, we are both ready for a holiday and definitely need the time to relax. I have already let my mind run wild with the thoughts of what we can cook on our open fire. We are having Thanksgiving away and weather permitting I am looking forward to grilled pumpkin slices with herb butter, whereas Ian looks forward to the roasted meat cooked in our dutch oven. Lets just say there will be lots of experimenting going on.

With the approaching trip and Ian's camera skills I have also been giving it some thought as to how the front cover should look. I definitely want a wrap around photo and was thinking that a scene of us chilling in our hammock surrounded by food would be awesome, as it shows everyone how relaxed we are and I am sure that a couple of glasses of wine in the scene will finish it of nicely. We will see, you just have to use your imagination.

Talking about imagination I had to use it for dinner tonight. The fridge was looking bare, there was a bunch of week old asparagus, two potatoes, two peppers and a handful of tomatoes. I had managed to pull out some Italian sausages from the freezer to add some protein to our meal but I still had no idea what to make, so I decided to cut all the veg up and throw them onto a baking tray with the sausages. I added some garlic,olive oil and herbs and roasted it all. It turned out pretty good considering we basically had nothing. Roll on food shopping tommorow.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


This is no joke and I am not kidding. Today we were buying the last bits needed for our holiday when I pulled Ian into a cook shop to help me look for a ravioli tray. We walked passed the Kitchen Aid mixers and Ian said "Do you want one?". I nearly died, "Of course I want one". He had planned to surprise me and buy me one as a gift but wasn't sure which one to purchase, so today we bought one and it is now sitting proudly in prime position on my kitchen counter. It is soooo sexy. Thank you Ian.

Pasta Night

I love pasta night, you can sit on the sofa with a huge bowl of pasta and homemade garlic bread and just gorge. There is nothing more satisfying. I always feel so proud that I made it from scratch. Home made pasta is so quick and easy to make. I must admit I tend to use it for lasagna, ravioli and tagelletele only because I can not be bothered to mold shapes individually. Yes I can be lazy, I like good food but I also like to cut corners too. Years ago I tried to make pasta and I ended up with this thick horrible non tasty mess. The secret to making good pasta is based on three main points, firstly to get the moisture content right, secondly to knead it well and thirdly to roll it out thinly. A pasta machine is ideal, but I use a rolling pin only because I have no pasta machine. My rolling pin up until a few months ago was a wine bottle. Classy or what? At the moment I use a cookie cutter to cut the ravioli out and then sandwich the fillings between two pieces, it looks so elegant, however I am tempted to buy a ravioli tray so you do not waste the pasta and it is easier.

I love to browse round the cook shops admiring all there products. I have my eye on two pieces of kitchen equipment the first is a kitchen aid mixer and the second is a le creuset cassorole dish. (I always go for the expensive brands. Trust me!!!) The casserole dish can wait but I am eager to purchase the mixer. Well its nearly christmas so lets pray. Ian has been shown this mixer so many times that I think he has finally got the hint.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oscar Wilde had it right.

How many English languages do we require? I say this with respect to the different spelling and meaning of words, for example; coriander is used in England whereas it is known in Canada as cilantro, porridge is oatmeal and rocket is arugula. I just can't keep up. I am not sure if I should add a page to the book informing the readers of the different name variations, I do not want them to think I am offending them. What would the professionals do? Maybe I will have to Google and research the answer to this question. The other issue I am having is, do I go for the North American way of spelling, or the UK spelling. Surely I should stick to the UK spelling as I was brought up and schooled there. However I am now living in Canada, so should I embrace the North American way of spelling? Aghhhh the decisions. I like the quote from Oscar Wilde, he once said  "we have much in common but one of those things is not language". Ultimatley the book is available for anyone to buy in any country. All I can say thank goodness I am not translating it into any other language than English.

More recipes have been inputted into the book and I think I have reached page 40-41. I am still only half way through my lunch chapter so I am beginning to feel a little overwhelmed at how big this book could ultimately become. I must admit though I am very proud of how it is turning out. I am currently concentrating on writing the recipes and have left gaps for where the photographs will be inputted. Once all the recipes are inputted I will  then check them for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I think I will get a couple of people to read through them to see if they understand the recipe process's and add any changes that need to be made. The next big job is writing the monologues. I have a notepad where I where I keep jotting down my ideas so I know that that will be my saviour.

Monday, September 14, 2009


That is the feeling I had yesterday afternoon after inputting my salad chapter. Yes I have done another chapter, two down and 3 more to go (plus all the monologues). I had no intention to sit down and write the chapter, it just sort of happened. It was nice and calming just letting my fingers run over the keyboard and watching the pages evolve. I think I got my inspiration after talking to Ian's mum who was excited about my little adventure, she had been told all about it from Ian's sister.When I was inputting the recipes I could not believe how easy some of the salads were to prepare mainly because there is no real cooking involved, it is more about the layering and combinations of the ingredients that work so well. At the moment I am really into adding fruit to salads especially roasted figs and grilled peaches. That reminds me I have a box of fresh figs in the fridge waiting to be stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in parma ham before being baked in the oven and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

On Sunday I had purchased a new cast iron skillet and was excited to use it, however it needed to be seasoned to ensure that no food stuck to it. Well after following the instructions of rubbing vegetable shortening into the pan and baking it in a 300 degree oven for one hour I thought I would have to call the fire brigade. I was happy typing away when I looked up and saw that the whole house was was filled with smoke, the doors were flung open and the extractor fan in both the kitchen and bathroom were put on at full tilt alongside the oscillating  fan. I didn't dare open the oven door. Once all the smoke disappeared I took the skillet out of the oven and allowed it to cool before cooking my paella. I had a large amount of different fish that had been frozen as leftovers so it was time to use them up. In went the white fish, prawns, squid, onion, red pepper, rice and seasoning and out came an edible delectable delight. Our neighbors home grown parsley finished of the paella nicely. As for the pan, the seasoning did not work as effectively as I had liked but hey ho.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Next week

Ian and I have been on opposing shifts this week so I have not really had the opportunity to cook some of my fail safe recipes so next week this plans to change. I am going to concentrate on some lunch dishes that are quick and easy to prepare. I am thinking of chicken quesadilla with avocado cream, rice wraps with peanut dipping sauce and rosemary flat bread with tuna herb mayonnaise amongst a few others. Gosh we will be fed well. Whenever Ian goes to work with something other than a sandwich I am sure his colleagues think "Oh Alex is on a cookathon again".

I love to prepare special lunches especially when friends are coming round. It is a lovely way to break up the day and I love it when your guests are impressed with the spread you have presented. I once arranged to meet a friend who was stressed out studying at home, she  needed a break and we arranged for me to come over with lunch. The lunch was simple and delicious, a big hunk of bread laced with cheese and ham, baby tomatoes, slices of ham and my orange with feta and mint salad. It was extremely welcomed and lasted all afternoon. Lunch is a much more casual affair than dinner and yet just as enjoyable, it is also a lot easier to prepare.  

Thursday, September 10, 2009


After three twelve hour shifts its time to relax with a nice plate of comfort food and a large glass of red, kindly provided by one of my patients. Ahhh bliss. Firstly I am so pleased to see that I have another follower and this follower is very special as I do not know who they are. How did they find my blog? I do not know but thank you. Having gained an unknown follower I decided to search for other blogs on writing cookbooks to see if I had any competition. To be honest I found very little although there was one blog that took my eye and after reading the entries I realised that they had similiar thoughts and processes to me these being, waking up during the night with inspiration, getting the recipes and pictures organised and sharing important family influences with the readers. Sometimes I will be unable to sleep at night as I am thinking of recipes that should be inputted into the book or I am visualizing the pictures that will be used. Once I have imagined how it should look I finally then go to sleep.

Yesterday whilst at the book store I could not stop myself from flicking through all the recipe books, I just love it. I love the way some of the books are laid out and I am pleased to say that my recipes are just as good  and possibly even better than the professionals. Can I say that?... well I just did!!! On return from the store I checked into one of the coffee shops to see if my flyer was still on the notice board, it was nowhere to be seen. I can either take this two ways, the first being that all the strips had been taken off the flyer or secondly no-one was interested and it was taken down. I like to think it was the first option although I think it is time to advertise with my flyers once more. I always keep a couple in my bag so if I see any opportunities to advertise, up goes a flyer.

My sister has been a little slack with sending her fail safe recipes, she promises to send more this week as she has the week off work, but I can not say I have recieved any yet (Sorry Steph). The recipes I have already recieved are mainly desserts which is great as I am not really a dessert girl although my favorite dessert I always succumb to is a chocolate tart served with fresh raspberries. It always reminds me of when Ian surprised me and booked a romantic night at a Scottish castle. I had always said I would love to stay in a castle, it was perfect. The restaurant was in the dungeon and the guest rooms were themed, we stayed in the Robert the Bruce room and unbeknown to me Ian had arranged to have a bottle of champagne on ice delivered to the room. The grounds boasted a large falconry which we enjoyed so much, we got to meet the cutest of owls and the strongest of eagles. Anyway I am digressing from the point, as part of our evening meal I had a chocolate tart served with raspberries and mint ice cream, not any ice cream, a creamy vanilla bean ice cream flecked with natural mint herb. My mouth is just watering thinking about it. Since having this dessert I have been experimenting how to make this gastronomic delight, well now I know and yes I am going to be sharing it with my readers.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Finding the time

My mind is racing about the tasks ahead, testing out my recipes, experimenting with new recipes, finishing off the breakfast chapter, obtaining the photographs and not to mention the running of my home and going to work. How do I find the time. To be honest I don't know although I am very lucky that I have all my main recipes written down and it is now just a matter of ensuring the recipes are good enough for the cook book. There are two things I look for in a recipe, one is simplicity and the other is taste. I am not too worried about the salad and lunch chapter but the main meal recipes definitely need to be tested. As I have said before it will take time and I should enjoy the process but I also have to remember to have a life.

At the moment I feel slightly frustrated, not at the speed of the project but of my grasp of the English language. I sometimes find it difficult to find the right word to use and always get my tenses mixed up. All I can say is thank goodness Ian is here to help me.  The blog helps me too as I can practice writing my monologues on here before entering  them into the book. On the positive side though I am loving the meals that I am testing. The braised lamb and root vegetables we had on labor day was delicious so much so that Ian went back for seconds and thirds. At one point I thought he was going to have a nosebleed with the amount of meat he had ingested. You may think that Ian and I always eat extravegant meals but that is not the case, tonights dinner was sloppy joes and potato wedges. Something very quick and easy to prepare for a perfect weekday dinner. Mmm mmm....

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lazy but productive

What a fantastic day, it started off with a lovely long sleep in, followed by a refreshing walk on the waterfront. I took my camera looking for potential photo opportunities to add to the book, but to no avail. I did see a huge ripe pumpkin but unfortunatley the birds had made a meal of it, something that would not have looked appetizing if presented in the book. Whilst on our walk we were diverted into one of the shopping malls where there happens to be a fantastic photography shop, Ian was in heaven. So after we spent a small fortune and carted our gifts home I showed Ian how I had progressed with the book. I thought he might be more critical, but he was very impressed, although his first comment was "you need some photos". In reply" that is your domain darling", he did not seam to be overwhelmed by the task ahead.

Ian has been great. If I have a photo opportunity he is there taking the picture often having to wait for his meal once the food has been photographed.  I once saw a  television program on food designers and was shocked that people actually have jobs making food out of crap, for example using vegetable shortening and powdered sugar to make ice cream that it does not melt under the studio lights. It may look appetizing in the magazine but in fact it is inedible ,more of an oily disaster instead of a sweet treat. All I can say is that the photographs that will be taken for my book will be the original dish.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

" The season is a changing"

Well Autumn is rapidly approaching, it was only yesterday that I had commented to a friend that I could feel the autumn chill in the air. Although I loved the long hot summer I now can not wait for the fall. All the food changes for me too, hearty soups, delicious stews and desserts made with apples and pears. Cooking seems to be more homely and the smell of slow cooking fills the house giving it that cosy feeling. There is nothing like coming in from a cold windy day to be greeted with a hot wholesome meal. Autumn could not come at a better time,  I have nearly finished inputting my breakfast recipes (although I am sure that more work will be needed on that chapter) and I can now focus my attentions on creating my main meals before adding them to my cook book. I like to make sure that all the recipes I am planning to use are still as tasty as I can remember and it also gives me a chance to remember how much of each ingredient is needed. As the autumn is arriving its time to make the stews, it starts today, Yay!!!

Hearty meals deserve a huge side of mashed potatoes, its just the best. Hot buttery smooth salted potatoes. You can add just about anything to them, rosemary, onion, garlic, pesto and cheese. Our favorite is roasted garlic and rosemary, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. We are very lucky to have two huge bushes of rosemary in our complex, which we often indulge in. 

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cheats cheesecake

So I thought I would let everyone know the cheesecake worked.(I know I was planning this for Monday but I just could not wait). Yippee, I love it when a made up recipe turns out well. The infused mint worked a treat, although at one point it did smell like something out of a herbology class, but once the sugar was added it was something quite different and pleasurable. I decided to let the cheesecake chill overnight to set and then this morning I drizzled it with dark chocolate and removed the side of the cake tin. I think that if I was serving this for a dinner party I would leave it in the cake tin up until the last minute. My next experiment is to see how long it can hold its shape for, once out of the tin, well that is if I can hold myself back from stealing a slice or two.

The plan for today is to add some more breakfast recipes into the book and then go food shopping for our carpet picnic tonight. Could not ask for a better day really. Carpet picnics are awesome. I was introduced to them by a previous landlady whilst I was at University. It is basically lots of picky food served on trays whilst sitting on a rug scattered with cushions in the middle of the lounge. Its such a relaxed atmosphere especially with a few glasses of ice cold white wine. I can't wait for tonight...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Its coming along

Yes its true, the first recipes were entered into the book yesterday.  It took me a good few hours to enter four breakfast recipes, but  I am pleased with the layout and design so far.  It took me a while to figure out how I would present variations of my recipes, for example  how you could simply change my pancake recipe to create blinis with smoked salmon. I decided to keep them on the same  page otherwise I would be re-writing the recipe instructions and  repeating myself  too often. I thought that on the picture page I could incorporate the variations associated with the initial presenting recipe, so that the reader can visualize the different dishes. I now just need Ian to proof read the recipes to ensure that they make sense before I proceed with the remaining breakfast recipes. I think that will have to be a weekend job.

My cooking has taken a backseat this week as I have been working at the hospital so I am itching to get back into the kitchen to experiment. I want to make a special dinner for labor day on Monday so I am thinking; braised lamb shanks with root vegetables followed by a cheats cheesecake. I have had the cream cheese in the fridge with the the whipping cream for almost a week and it is crying out to be used. I want to try and  infuse fresh mint  into sugar  water and turn this into a syrup and add it into the cheesecake and top it off with shaved dark chocolate. If the infusion syrup doesn't work it will have to be mint essence  although I am hoping it will work. Has anyone got any tips?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Today's the day!!!

I am finally going to try and input some breakfast recipes into the cook book. Yay, I'm so excited and I cannot wait. I just have to remind myself that I have to take it slow and relax, its going to be a slow process but an exciting one. The photos will just have to wait, mainly because they haven't been photographed and secondly I don't want to rush the process. I don't want to have photos just showing plates of food, I want to try and show the food off in different ways and possibly different settings. We have a big camping trip organised in October, so I am sure some photographs will be taken then. Our favorite foods which can also be cooked on an open fire always come with us camping, they mainly consist of homemade baked beans, Greek couscous salad, pancakes and flavored buttered corn. It does not matter where we cook I love it, although to be honest you can not beat cooking on an open fire, the atmosphere is awesome and some how the food always tastes better.

Yesterday our neighbor gave us a huge bouquet of fresh herbs that he had grown, it consisted of parsley and green and purple basil. They smelt so fragrant that Ian and I were sneezing most of the night when we entered the kitchen. Tonights dinner will be pizza made with homemade pizza dough. I may make two, one with the herbs in the crust and one with the herbs on the pizza. We can then have a taste test. My favorite pizza topping is mozzarella, salami, spinach and an egg. I love it when the egg oozes out all over the pizza. Ian loves meat, which man doesn't!