Monday, 17 December 2012

Christmas means Biscuits?

I had a sudden urge to make Christmas biscuits of some form or another. I don't mean those really hard ones you hang on the tree, I mean something warming, crumbly and delicious. Probably heavy in chocolate. Below is the result, I think it turned out rather well.

You've probably worked out by now that at least 50% of my cooking is improvised. This is no different, we had wholemeal flour in so that's what got used and let me tell you, it worked. These biscuits are delicious. 

Britt's Chocolate Christmas Biscuits

You will need:
  • Wholemeal flour (but like I said, that's just what I had in, plain will do fine) - 300 grams
  • Caster Sugar - 150 grams
  • Butter - 250 grams (that's a full block)
  • Cocoa Powder - 40 grams (roughly)
  • Baking Powder - 2 teaspoons
For the topping:
  • Dark Chocolate - 150 grams
  • Baileys - 2 tablespoons (give or take) - optional
  • Cinnamon - a dash
  • Icing Sugar - very little
  • White Writing Icing (totally optional and difficult to control at that)

Put the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with parchment.

Put the sugar and butter into the largest mixing bowl you can find and cream them together, then add the cocoa powder and do it again. When they're all combined rub in the flour and baking powder. The mixture will turn to crumbs, gradually gather it into a solid ball. If you find the mixture is too crumbly to stick together you can add a tablespoon or two of milk (it's unlikely you'll need much if any). If you've got one of those snazzy food processors or kitchen aids skip most of this step and dump the butter, flour, sugar and cocoa butter into the thing all at once but realise you're removing the joy from it. I could just be jealous of your kitchen gadgetry. 

Pull off a small ball at a time and squish slightly as you place them on the baking tray. I recently got some shape cutters, don't get excited, they're just circles, so I actually pushed the mixture flat (I don't have a rolling pin yet) and used the shape cutter, then repeated until I was all out of the mixture. 

You'll probably get 12 biscuits per a tray, cook them for 15 minutes. Leave them to stand for 15 minutes (you can use this time to cook the next batch as this recipe makes roughly 40 biscuits) on a cold surface or cooling rack. 

Once you've got all the biscuits you want and they're nicely cooled it's time to start on the topping. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water. Add the Baileys (optional but encouraged), cinnamon and icing sugar, I won't tell you how much, this depends entirely on your preference but use the icing sugar to get the texture slightly gloopy and spreadable rather than a runny mess. Spread the chocolate Baileys mix on to the top of the biscuits and leave to set, this can take a while depending on how boozy you went. You can also attempt to draw snowflakes with writing icing at this stage but it's not a deal breaker.

Now eat one.

Now another.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Mulled Wine

Loosely based on Jamie Oliver's Mulled Wine plan, but I stuck cloves in the oranges and chucked the whole thing in.

Crusted Lamb : Part 1

Ok, so I've got visitors tomorrow, and it's going to be a moroccan stew and couscous in the tagine, but cooked outside of the tagine I wanted to do a crusted rack of lamb as i'd seen one done on a cookery show recently.

Couldn't find a recipe was the kind of thing I was after though, a sort of haphazard sweet and savoury moroccan affair. Also, the recipe's online don't seem to agree on which order to sear, apply crust, and slow cook and if you can at any point refrigerate. So I took advice from Alison and Ian Mayor, it seemed wise.

My crust ingredients are...

Dry things for crustiness:

Almonds, Pine Nuts, Breadcrumbs, Black Pepper, Salt, Turmeric, Paprica, probably some other things that came to hand. I can't remember.

Wet things for sticking the crustiness to the lamb:

Olive Oil, Mustard, Sun Dried Tomato Paste, Harissa.

I've hammered all that together, seared the lamb on both sides, but mostly the fat side then applied a paste made mostly of the wet things. Then poured the remainder of the dry things on top. This is what it looked like:

It's now wrapped in clingfilm and waiting for tomorrow in the fridge. I'll let you know how it goes.

My intention, is to serve it with slices of orange, samphire and balsamic. Not sure if that's odd, but it's what i'm going to do.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Lamb Meatballs, with Chilli, Mint and Coriander.

So, we have some pretty big Chilli's (from the North East Chilli Festival, which Britt wrote about yesterday) and some Mint and Coriander, Red Onion, Cumin and Smoked Paprika from MMM Newcastle. This is much the same set of ingredients as in my Make it Mint post from a while back, but you get pictures this time.

Divide it up over some Lamb mince, quite a lot of it actually, and keep an egg on hand to bind it all together. Roll them into balls, get the herbs and spices as evenly spread through and into the middle of the lamb balls as possible.

Cooked in a frying pan with a little bit of oil, I should mention that they shouldn't really be moved much during cooking. Press down on one side, cook until the bottom is holding together then flip and press down on the other side. I don't know how long they took to cook. Probably just under ten minutes.

 We had them with Pitta bread, sour cream, a bit of salad and feta, and yes, that's going to work just fine right now but as with all such things the flavours develop a lot, so by day two or even three, the meatballs will be very, very good indeed. It's definitely worth making more than you can reasonably eat in one sitting.

Lamb Meatballs : Day 2

I added additional onions, peas and mushrooms to the pan to soak up the juices. We had this with some steamed broccoli, which is neither pictured nor essential, and some Red Wine, which isn't pictured but was essential. On the second day, the mint and coriander were really making their presence felt and really working with the Chilli.

These were some good Lamb Meatballs.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

North East Chilli Fest

Today was the first day of the North East Chilli Festival at Seaton Delaval Hall. Paul and I agree that we need to visit Seaton Delaval Hall again in the near future, possibly a destination for cycling.

We operated a very strict policy at the festival to avoid buying everything and being rich in only chilli based items. We did a full tour of all of the taster bowls, upon deciding the highlights over a glass of Pimms we purchased. The photo shows our swag, the best of the best in our opinion. Having said that, there wasn't a bad chilli among them, some were simply too hot for my poor taste buds to handle. I prefer a depth of taste over heat. 

Britt and Paul Recommend...

The Chilli Pepper Company's Chilli Honey - Sweet runny honey with a warmth that grows gradually. I think this will be going on my morning crumpet, I think it would also do well with roasting carrots.

The Cherry Tree's Hot Chilli and Carrot Chutney - I'm eating this right now, with some cheese, on an oatcake. I'm also betting it'll be very nice on some good burgers.

A bit Chilli!'s Serano Smokey Chutney - A lovely smokey chutney, as the name suggests. Probably another that will go well on a burger or with sausages actually, yes sausages. Or bacon.

Holly and the Ivy's Scotch Bonnet Preserve - A little hotter than the rest, not having chunks of veg to spread the flavour, this preserve features some chilli seeds which give you some bursts of heat, still quite sweet though. Yum.

Chillilicious's Red Pepper Chilli Chutney - I know I keep saying this but it will go well on a burger. Also I think this would be great for dipping things into, like carrot sticks and celery. Oh, just dress a full salad with it and stick some lamb beside it, cooked with chillies.

Chillilicious's Chilli & Coriander Oatcakes - Remember that oatcake I was having the chilli and carrot chutney off of with cheese? Well this is that oatcake. That makes it the best oatcake I have ever had. Ever.

Fresh chillies, I forget where we got these from, but I'm sure you'll see them if you go along tomorrow. Also there are some chilli chocolates in there which we picked up from the man who does the fudge... opposite them we also picked up a "Relight My Fire" chocolate bar from a lovely stall selling very quirky chocolates.

That green thing behind all those jars, that's a chilli plant. I don't have a good track record with caring from plants but was reliably informed by Simone of mmm Newcastle that they prefer to be mostly left alone anyway. We put it in the same bag as the fresh red chillies, I like to think that will give it some aspirations, a clue as to what it's meant to be. If we get even small chillies I will be quite pleased.

On our final pass, towards closing time we noticed that Pet Lamb Patisserie had also been there earlier in the day, looks like they sold out pretty quick. I must say that if you ever get a chance to try a Pet Lamb cake you really should, hopefully they'll be there tomorrow.

So with all of these chilli products now in the house I feel inspired, I'm going to attempt to make some chilli cupcakes, or possibly chilli muffins, depending on ingredients. Paul is going to make some lamb burgers. We're off to get some lamb mince to have with all of this chilli.

If you get the chance do get yourself down to the festival tomorrow, it's on from 10am until 4pm and has wonderful Wylam Beer to keep you refreshed, a haystack for the kids to jump about on and more chilli than you can shake a stick at.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Herman - A Friendship Cake

It seems likely that if you're into food and baking you'll already have encountered the Herman, or at least the concept of a chain cake. Certainly a number of my friends have independently taken on a batch of this beige gloop into their possession and nursed it to full cakedom.

Herman is likely to come into your posession at a particularly humble point in his life cycle: a small quantity of goo, roughly enough to fill half a small tupperwear box, which you put in a bowl and are compelled to stir.

The pale brown mixture is best described as claggy: it will not come off anything it sticks too. I strongly suspect that this is part of Herman's many survival adaptations to aid his proliferation during his weakest phase.

I am told that Herman is a sourdough: a species I intend to investigate further.

The Herman Lifecycle

His full life cycle lasts approximately ten days during which he is kept in a bowl covered by a tea towel.
  • Stirred for two days, during which time he bubbles and smells funny.
  • Fed on the fourth (a cup of flour, a cup of milk, and a cup of caster sugar)
  • Stirred for four days, during which time he bubbles from deep beneath his surface, grows considerably, and continues to smell funny.
  • On the ninth day he is fed again  (a cup of flour, a cup of milk, and a cup of caster sugar), and you are compelled to split herman into five equal parts. Four of which need to find their way to your friends along with some version of the instructions.
I'm told that these offspring can be frozen to be awoken from their dormant state later. Again, a very useful adaptation for any life form seeking to cling to its home world long enough to evolve a means of escape.

Instructions can be found on here:

But What Of The Fifth Which Remains?

The Fifth Part awaits day ten when it is fed once more and takes on its 'mature' form.

I suspect that this final feed can vary when you know what you what you're doing, but for me it was as follows:
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 apples cut into as fine a chunks as you can manage
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
  • a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • a teaspoon of baking powder
  • half a teaspoon of salt.
This was all mixed up and piled into a cake tin, then I sprinkled a little melted butter and brown sugar on top and put it in the oven at about 180 degrees for half an hour or so. Once the top looked cooked I covered him with tin foil and left in the oven for another half our or so. Probably a little more as I was worried the interior wouldn't cook.

Anyway, the result looked like this and was very good indeed - in my opinion was even better on day two having dried slightly. I suspect that this, being a fruit cake, could make friends with a nice piece of cheese at some point.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

"A sausage runs through it"

This is not going to be pretty

OK, on my previous posts, I've received some suggestion that possibly I should have put photographs with it. By way of revenge, this post is going to be entirely photographs, and the only explanation I shall give is that it had been a long week at work and the idea of making something like a baguette with a seam of sausages running through it seemed like a good idea.

I started with two kinds of sausage - a dense lamb/beef moroccan type affair, and a more traditional pork sausage, though still quite a dense one.

As you will see, the dough rose considerably more than expected: I expected maybe an inch or two of bread all the way around the sausages, but it became massive!

I'm off to make a bacon sandwich.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Lamb with Butternut Squash, Garlic and things.

Veg Box!

Ok, so the veg box arrived from River Ford this afternoon - excellent as ever, amongst other things it contained wet garlic and butternut squash.

One thing lead to another and since it's a reasonably hot spring evening and barbeques were very much in evidence, quick as you like we nipped up to Morrisons (beggers can't be choosers) to get the biggest available lamb steaks on offer and some other things.

So, the butternut squash gets cut into chips and covered in smoked paprica from mmm newcastle which I do recommend. The carrots get covered in cumin. These get in the baking tray with a little oil (there may also have been ras al hanout, there usually is) and stuck in an oven at 220 degrees turned down to 170 straight away to soften and cook for an hour or so while I get the lamb sorted. Most of what I do with lamb comes one way or another from Nigel Slater's very excellent book: Appetite.


  • Slice up the wet garlic. Wet garlic looks like a big spring onion, and is the foody find of the day.
  • Chop up two or three anchovies. 
  • Finely slice two or three twigs of rosemary.
  • Sea salt and some smashed up pepper corns. Probably not too much salt as the anchovies will do that.
Smash all of that together in a pestle and mortar as best you can, then pour on some olive oil and squeeze quite a bit of lemon in there too.

Smear this all over your lamb steaks and leave them for as long as you can. In my case this was about ten minutes, but you know, this should really be measured in hours.


Get a griddle pan good and hot. A barbeque would be the ideal, but I don't have a garden. Once it's proper hot, chuck the lamb steaks on there with any marinade that's stuck to them. Any marinade that's left can be poured onto the butternut squash. The anchovies will more or less dissolve and add a saltyness to everything: this is good, but go canny on any additional salt.

Start warming up some plates. If you have steak knives they should be deployed now.

Three minutes on one side, pressed down, then a minute or so held with any fat against the pan, then onto its other side: squeeze any remaining lemon and pour any remaining marinade over it then three or four minutes on that side.

Put it on the Plate!

The lamb could use a couple of minutes to rest after its ordeal, so when you slice it it's pink but not bleeding. Sort out the butternut squash and carrots while the lamb is resting: get it all on a plate, and do not for one moment consider taking a photograph for a blog post. Do not worry about mixing tense or third/first person. Eat. Yes. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Discovering Biscuits

Recently I've been on a bit of a biscuit making kick. It started with the cookies I blogged about not so long ago and has grown from there. All this baking is like rediscovering my childhood, I was always making cupcakes, crispy cakes or pie pastry with my mum and granny. There's something very satisfying about knowing that from such simple ingredients you can make almost anything, usually in far greater quantities than you intended. Those ingredients stretch a long way.

If you care about all your biscuits being the same, uniform in shape and size, then you'll need to get one of those shape cutters, I don't even own scales, so I'm not about to start caring what shape they come out of the oven in. These are now officially Paul's favourite biscuits, the best thing about them is they can be as chocolatey as you like. I've already made a variation on this recipe involving chocolate chilli buttons and intend to make them with orange zest in the next few weeks to create a sort of chocolate orange biscuit.

Okay, so how did I make these?

You will need two sets of dough, chocolate and vanilla.

The Vanilla Dough
175g plain flour - 1 and 1/2 cups (for those of us without scales)
75g icing sugar - 2/3 a cup
125g butter - do it by eye, most packets are 250g so roughly 1/2 of that
vanilla pod seeds, or a little bit of vanilla extract

The Chocolate Dough
150g plain flour - 1 and 1/3 cups

25g cocoa powder - 1/4 a cup
125g butter - roughly 1/2 of a packet
And just to offset the bitterness of the cocoa powder (but not too much) a tablespoon or so of icing sugar, you be the judge.

Get the block of butter out of the fridge, divide in half. Cut each half into cubes, this will make it so much easier to handle later. Now go and have a cup of tea.
Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, grease and line an oven tray with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.

By this point the butter will be soft enough for your needs. Take all your vanilla dough ingredients and put them in a bowl, then rub together until the mixture becomes a dough. Take the dough out of the bowl and put it to one side.

In the same bowl (no point in adding to the washing up) put together all of your chocolate dough ingredients and as before rub together until it becomes a dough.

Now you've got two doughs, yay. Roll each dough out into a square that's about 1cm thick (your baby finger is probably 1cm thick) and press one dough on top of the other, brush with a little water to make sure it sticks. Cut that in half and press one half on top of the other, you'll now have four layers of dough, stripy.

The striped part of the dough will be the top of your biscuit so cut it up accordingly, making each biscuit roughly bigger than the size of a domino. Place your dough on the baking tray and put them in the oven for 25 minutes. All ovens are different so keep an eye on them, you're looking for the vanilla dough to go slightly golden, the texture of the biscuits should not be too soft or they'll just fall apart but be careful you don't cook them for too long.

While they're cooking you might consider melting some dark chocolate and white chocolate to drizzle over them once they exit the oven. This is optional and I will warn you the texture of melted white chocolate is not what you expect it to be, but it will set back to normal once left to stand on the biscuits.

This tends to make enough biscuits to fill a large tin, they'll probably last you a month (less if children are involved).

This recipe is roughly based on Chocolate harlequin biscuits, having mutated through use to reflect my wants and needs.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

A box of Veg

Just after Christmas Paul and I were offered a free veg box from River Ford by a friend, never being the sort to turn down free food I jumped on the chance. Not only was this a bit of a novelty, the idea of someone growing organic fruit and vegetables and delivering them to our door, it was also something we'd been thinking about for a few months now. It wasn't long before the first box arrived and we got to know our local veg delivery folk, who are very accommodating and helpful when it comes to setting up your orders and settling into a regular routine, lovely folk.

Above is a photo of our most recent fruit & veg box, this included the best grapes I have ever had, ever. They were better than most sweets I've had. As there's only two of us we opted for the mini boxes on a fortnightly basis, one fortnight just veg, the next fruit and veg. This allows us to top up with veg for specific meals around the side or eat out without worrying about wasting all that food. You're pretty much guaranteed to get carrots, potatoes and onions but that's fine by me, they are the basis of many different kinds of meals and they are always really good quality.

A major highlight of the fruit and veg box for Paul was getting tomatoes. Tomatoes can be quite watery, boring even, when bought from a supermarket, a disappointment, specially if you've had good tomatoes while away, probably in Spain. The veg box tomatoes were sweet, ripe, fresh and even had a fantastic tang to them that is so often missing from the supermarket tomatoes. The result was the best cheese and tomato sandwich we've ever had, followed by several salads.

Another highlight, of similar nature was receiving our first cucumber this week. Cucumber is another fruit that has lost it's way and gained a reputation as simply being a thing that tastes of water in the supermarkets. I can tell you that this cucumber was crisp, full of flavour and did something I've never seen a cucumber do before. When it was left cut open in the fridge a few droplets formed on the exposed white area, these were sugary, syrup like even. A cucumber so bursting with flavour it was fighting to get out.

Even the cabbage is a welcome addition to our plates now, specially when cooked up with some pepper, lemon and pancetta cubes. Served with pasta. Yum. Or in a pork based stir fry.

I've never encountered a veg I wouldn't eat, but occasionally a bit of inspiration is in order to figure out exactly what to do with the more unusual additions to the box. That's when recipes come in handy, every time you get a box you also get a recipe card with a few seasonal recipes on it. If that isn't enough for you there's also a whole section of their website just for recipes, cooking and preparation tips.

I'm quite looking forward to an excuse to try the meat boxes, could be great for the run up to Christmas, or for a BBQ if the summer weather behaves itself.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Biscuits

These were delicious.

Being rather fond of chocolate it was about time that I learned how to make my own chocolate biscuits. It's safe to say that Nigella Lawson likes chocolate almost as much as I do. The recipe that I followed was Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies, with a few alterations, as follows:

There was a lack of light brown sugar in the cupboard so I used dark muscovado sugar instead, this is a very rich, sticky sugar, apparently ideal for sprinkling on desserts. I did not sprinkle, I used roughly 75g.

The term chocolate chips can be interpreted loosely in my opinion, Nigella covers for this school of thought by referring to them as morsels. I snapped two bars of chocolate into squares, some large, some small and stirred them into the mix before scooping it out onto the baking tray.

Overall this recipe took me under an hour, anything that can be cooked in under an hour is worth your time.
Don't expect neat and tidy looking biscuits from this recipe. They are huge, chunky, amazingly chocolatey and great broken up with some icecream and raspberries. They are not tidy and if this worries you then you're reading the wrong blog.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Make it Mint

Mint is a new herb to me, being largely associated with the mint source to go with slices of Lamb at my grandma's house. Untill recently I never really understood how it works in a context that doesn't have Lamb on it.

Here's what I know now:

Mint, Coriander, Cashew Nuts and Chili's

  • Take a small handful of fresh mint leaves, and small handful of fresh Coriander leaves and rip them up.
  • Take a large Red Chilli and slice it into thin rings. Get rid of the seeds.
  • Take a small handful of Cashew nuts and toast them up for a minute or so in a pan.

These four ingredients should be smashed together in a pestle and mortar, with a shake of Turmeric or Paprika, though not so far that the nuts become dust.

Now then, this can either be sprinked dry, more less as it is, but it's probably going to be better if you add a little bit of nut oil and a bit of soy sauce to make a paste or dressing.

So I need to put this on some actual food, or eat it off a spoon or what?

Well you can clearly use this as a nice dressing to add to a salad involving leaves, tomato, sliced spring onion and/or couscous and feta. You can call that done, you call that a victory.

That's a salad.

Where is Paul and what have you done with him?

Or we can do this properly: get your griddle or frying pan good and hot while you sprinkle some crushed black pepper and rub some oil onto a piece of sirloin or rump (or whatever) Steak - not a huge piece, but certainly as thick as your thumb. This recipe will be equally fine and maybe even better, with a small but again thickish Tuna steak from the Fish Quay.

Once your pan is hot, press the steak onto it. There will be smoke, so if you can open a window, turn on the extractor fan and close the door to any room you don't want to smell like beef, that would be a great idea. If you happen to have some Teriyaki, Hoisin or more soy to hand, you can pour a bit of this onto the streak before you turn it over. It'll make the edges a bit sticky and/or caramelised when you slice it. It'll make a lot more smoke.

After two minues, the steak should be griddled on one side now, turn it over for another two or three minutes. Not much more than that. If you've got good salt, sprinkle some on the cooked side now.

If there is fat around the edges make sure this gets pressed right down into the heat.

After absolutely no more than six minutes in total, get the steak onto a chopping board and leave it for two or three more minutes: if you do this the insides should still be nicely pink, but shouldn't bleed when you slice it into the thinnest strips your sharpest knife willl allow.

Place the strips onto a salad involving leaves, tomato, sliced spring onions. Pour the Mint, Coriander, Turmeric, and Chilli's on top, either dry or as a paste with some oil and soy, like I said.

You have now won.

Monday, 26 March 2012


This is Foody Finds, my little food blog.

I'm going to use this space to tell the world about my adventures in the world of food. 
Exploring recipes, ingredients, places to eat out and anything else food based I think of. There will be photos, recipes to follow, recommendations on what tastes good and so on. There will be the occasional cocktail too, mmm. 

The goal is to talk about local ingredients, independent food shops and home grown goodies as much as possible. I live in Newcastle, a city with a fish quay, allotments, indoor marketplaces, a dozen independent breweries and some fantastic places to eat out. It's ideal. Why aren't we all keeping a food blog here?