Food. Travel. Recipes.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Party Food! Halloumi Cheese - 2 ways

I've been wanting to write about certain party food recipes for quite a while and I thought I would stick one in before New Year's Eve. Perhaps wanting to post about all of the party snacks I've made before NYE was a little ambitious, but I get so excited cooking for friends and I enjoy writing about it too. However, the other posts will have to wait for next week! For now, I want to share with you the following recipes which are two simple recipes to make the amazingly moreish Halloumi cheese even more moreish! They are both taken from Nigella Lawson's cookery book Nigella Express. Her books are becoming a permanent fixture in my cooking and blogging, I love her creativity in recipes and the exciting ingredients she uses. The following recipes really bring to life this salty delicious cheese. It is wonderful when you simply grill it, but these recipes give it another life, completely different tastes and flavours!

Halloumi Bites (yum, yum)

This recipes turns the Halloumi super juicy and flavoursome.


80ml garlic oil (or a crushed garlic clove works well)
1 x 15ml lime juice
3 x 15ml tablespoons chopped parsley
Generous sprinkle of black pepper
3 x 250g blocks halloumi cheese (You must buy the full fat version, the low fat one is just plain shoddy in comparison!) (You will have to drain the Halloumi and chopped into cubes, or whichever shapes you like but small cubes or thin long slices are best)

Combine the oil, lime juice, pepper and parsley into a small jug.

Heat a heavy based non-stick frying pan and quickly fry the Halloumi on its own, no oil or anything.

Once fried, browned and lovely looking, turn down to simmer and pour the mixture over the Halloumi (this is slightly different to Nigella's direction but it is what I prefer). Coat well. Then decant to a bowl.

Halloumi grilled with flame roasted peppers

Grilling the cheese makes it crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the peppers give it a lovely vinegary taste as well. My favourite Halloumi recipe.


1 x 250g block Halloumi cheese. (Again, cut into small cubes or long slices)
1 x 220g jar flame roasted peppers (very easy to get hold of in supermarkets) (Sliced)
1 x 15ml tablespoon garlic oil

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Line a baking tin with baking parchment. Place the chopped Halloumi in the tin along with the sliced tinned peppers.

Drizzle the garlic oil over.

Cook for 15-20 minutes. The cheese should have browned by this point and will be ready to serve.

Enjoy the Halloumi and also enjoy people's reactions to how damn delicious this cheese is!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

What I've been loving this Christmas...

My blogging has been awful during this month and I had so much planned to write about! I had a list of food that I've made going as far back as a month or more to blog! It just seems that this whole month has been completely manic, not really managing to have a rest and then when I was relaxing, I didn't feel like writing a post. However, I am still planning to cover a lot of what I've cooked this week before New Years, especially party food recipes as it seems more appropriate to cover around this time. Then when New Year hits, I plan to post about some slightly healthier meals!

I thought as Christmas has just passed, I would share with anyone who is interested a few things I have been loving this month and some things that have really got me into a Christmassy festive spirit!

We have a lovely (fake) tree that I helped to decorate. I really love the decorations we have and like that they are mostly ornamental style and larger baubles. I think it makes the tree look kind of stylish! The rest of the decorations in the house I can't take credit for, that's my mum's interior style touch! She loves buying decorations and there always seems to be a place for everything, so many corners of our house are filled with festive objects!

Something else that has made me feel Christmassy are festive candles! I love candles all year round and have a few in my room however at Christmas all these new fragrances come out and make everywhere smell like it's been infused with a large dose of vanilla, cinnamon, spice and almonds.

I also have to mention my Mum's table setting for Christmas day, it was so fun, a mismatch of different Christmassy prints and colours that in my opinion, looked pretty damn stylish!

I also have been loving Christmas style cakes. Both of which are shown below and are not ones that I have made! The first is my Mum's try at Nigella's spruced up vanilla cake, and it came out unbelievably well. It does have a mould but it is still something that looks tricky and so Christmassy! The second is a gingerbread house made by one of my work colleagues. He made it for a party he had at his house and I didn't go, however he sent me a picture of this creation and I was properly bowled over by how good it was! I did persistently ask him to bring it into work as I wanted to see it in real life! He eventually he did and unfortunately it was pretty much devoured and destroyed by everyone (including me...), but even after a week, it tasted lovely and looked like a work of art!

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

My Mum's adapted Christmas cranberry rice!

I have neglected blogging for a couple of weeks now and this was when I wanted to go Christmas mad! I have so many recipes and meals that I have made the past few weeks but really haven't had the energy to post and today of all days, when I'm tired and full of cold, I've decided to post. It's only a week until Christmas and I'm so excited (I was excited mid September...) and the best part about Christmas for me (apart from being with family, friends etc...) is food! There's nothing better than eating your body weight in chocolate, turkey, roast potatoes, delicious puddings and bread sauce!

I've decided to start with this recipe as it is such an amazing Christmassy recipe. The cranberries give it a lovely sweetness whilst the parsley and onions make it taste like stuffing! It's a great accompaniment to some leftover turkey on Boxing Day. This recipe is my Mum's adaptation of a Nigella Lawson stuffing recipe in the cookery book Feast. It originally contained dried sour cherries but my Mum put cranberries in the recipe instead and it turned into a wonderful Christmassy side dish!

Serves 4


60g butter
2 onions, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
200g basmati rice (or enough for how many you are cooking for)
80g dried cranberries
500ml water
4 tablespoons chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a wide saucepan. Add the finely sliced garlic and onions to the melted butter and fry gently until the onions brown.

Add the rice and dried cranberries and stir well so the rice is coated in the buttery mixture.

Add the water and a sprinkling of salt and bring to the boil. Pop the lid on and cook at a very low heat for 15 minutes.

The rice will be cooked when the water has all been more or less absorbed. Then add the parsley and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Ta-da! Enjoy this Christmassy cranberry rice with some nice roast chicken or turkey!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Tuscan sea salt bread with rosemary and extra virgin olive oil (Gino D'Acampo)

So, this is the last non Christmassy post I'll do, the rest of December I plan to dedicate my posts to the magical holiday season! So everything will be Christmassy, party centred, chocolatey and altogether festive! For now however , I hope you enjoy this Tuscan style sea salt bread with rosemary recipe!

I did make this flat bread style recipe quite a while ago but I made it as an accompaniment to my previous post of homemade pesto with sun dried tomato and parma ham wrapped chicken. However, I wanted to do it as a separate post as I don't like to bombard people with too much in one post! (Cue this post now being super long!)

This recipe really surprised me. I've only ever tried making my own bread once, which was a relatively easy Nigel Slater recipe. I've never tried flat style bread or any other bread recipes (apart from banana bread ... if that counts!) This is taken from Gino D'Acampo's Fantastico cookery book, a book that I've been using a ridiculous amount and one which I have shared a LOT on here. I absolutely adore his style of cooking, it's fresh, simple and not too difficult despite some recipes perhaps looking like they are harder than they actually are.

The only downside to this recipe is it is quite time consuming (I did knead the bread for a whole 10 minutes, which is slightly insane but I wanted to put the time and effort in so it turned out well as I'm usually so quick and slapdash!), there's lots of waiting, kneading and different stages so I would only recommend trying this if you have a couple of hours spare (yes a couple of hours!) but it was worth it as it was delicious!

Serves 4-6 people as an accompaniment to a main course.


450g strong plain white flour
1 teaspoon fast-action dried yeast
130ml extra virgin Olive oil, plus extra for greasing
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, stripped from stalks (and I know I can be lazy and revert to dried herbs sometimes, but you really must use fresh rosemary here!)
Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Firstly, mix together the flour and yeast in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in 300ml of warm water with 6 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix well to make a soft dough.

Take the dough out of the bowl and onto a floured surface. Now here is the first mega time consuming part but also the part that'll make your bread amazing! Knead for 10 minutes! If you're like me and can't seem to stand still for 10 minutes, call someone and get them on speakerphone or play some music really loudly and sing along. So it's less like you're actually standing there kneading bread! You will really notice the different after the 10 minutes, the bread becomes so much smoother and easier to handle.

Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave in a warm place for 1 hour until it has doubled in size.

Once it has grown, turn onto a floured surface and knead the dough for a couple of minutes, then roll into a large rectangle, around 2cm thick. I did it so it would cover a large rectangular baking tray.

Transfer the dough onto an oiled baking tray. (I just poured a bit of olive oil over the tray and moved it about so the oil covered the surface) Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise (AGAIN!) for about 25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Remove the cling film and prick the risen dough with a fork so it has a nice look about it and has some breathing holes! Brush the dough with half of the remaining oil, sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt.

Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until it looks gorgeous, golden and brown. Remove from the baking tray and transfer to a wire rack. As it cools, brush with the remaining oil to soften the crust.

Serve with a yummy Italian style dinner for friends!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

How to: homemade pesto (with wholewheat fusilli served with parma ham and sun dried tomato wrapped chicken breast)

So, another edition of my attempts of a 'how to' post , this isn't me trying to sound like an expert, just my tried and tested methods that I'd like to share. I've been wanting to make my own pesto for so long and it is a simple method and I'm sure people reading who have made it themselves would agree. Although saying that, for most people (myself include) grabbing a tin of pesto is much easier just making your own is more satisfying!


Makes enough for a pasta dish for 3 people.

100ml olive oil
1 packet pine nuts, roughly 50g
1 pack of fresh basil
80g Parmesan cheese, grated (basically a good handful)
Lemon juice, 1 tablespoon
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

The simplest way is to literally chuck everything into a food processor and whizz to desired consistency.

I did it in stages however, processing the drier ingredients first. So put the oil into the processor with the pine nuts and whizz.

Then add the basil leaves, parmesan, lemon juice and crushed garlic clove with a drizzle of olive oil over the top. Whizz up these ingredients and hey presto, you're done!

I served this with parma ham and sun dried tomato wrapped chicken breast. I'm slightly obsessed with sun dried tomatoes at the moment and how gorgeous they taste, all oily, bursting with flavour and it just reminds me of Italy!

If you want to try this as well, you will need the following ingredients:

Serves 3

A packet of mini chicken breast fillets
A jar of sun dried tomatoes (enough for the chicken and some to nibble on!)
A packet of parma ham
Olive oil

Lay a slice of parma ham on a chopping board. Place the mini chicken breast in the middle with one or two sun dried tomatoes on the top, then wrap up with the parma ham!

Arrange on a baking tray and pop in the oven at 200C for 35-40 minutes.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Nibbles for friends! Recipe: Lemon mint and paprika griddled chicken

The other night I had a few friends over, something I love doing and a reason I can't wait to get my own place, I just love cooking and entertaining. My lovely friend Christine also came over a few hours before and helped me with the cooking. We warmed up some very yummy mulled wine to drink whilst preparing the food and chatted a lot!

I thought I would just make a small ish spread but I was hoping that it was something that would appeal to most of my friends.

I served -

Halloumi pan fried with parsley, garlic oil and lime juice.

Oven cooked halloumi with tin roasted red peppers

Loaded potato skins - cheese and onion and cheese and bacon.

Breadsticks and a selection of dips and olives. (All shop bought, to save time!)

Garlic pittas with lemon mint and paprika griddled chicken.

Chocolate dense cake.

The recipes for these nibbles will be posted on here at a later date (and the majority are courtesy of Nigella Lawson's cookbooks!) but for the meantime I'm going to share the chicken recipe. This may seem like a slightly strange concoction of ingredients for a marinade and it was quite accidental (a case of me chucking way too much mint into the mix really!) but it actually turned out rather well! The paprika was another element added as I did want the chicken to have a kick to it, however I think the overall result was that the mint cooled the paprika down and the chicken came out quite mild!

Serves 4-6 (it really varies to how much people want to eat and if it doesn't all get eaten, it makes great leftovers!)

4 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons olive oil
Generous sprinkling of dried mint
1 tablespoon lemon juice
A light sprinkling of paprika

Chop up the chicken into bite-sized pieces and put into a large bowl.

Add all of the marinade ingredients and mix well.

Leave to marinade in the juices for as long as you're able to leave it!

Get a griddle pan on hot (it won't need any extra oil since the chicken is coated in quite a bit of oil already). Empty the bowl of chicken into the pan and pan fry until golden and brown.

Serve with pittas and dips for friends!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Redcurrant and mint lamb steaks served with honey roasted sweet potato and parsnips and green beans

This was a Sunday dinner meal for me and my family. We usually have the traditional British meal of meat, potatoes and vegetables on a Sunday evening however I'm not that traditional so I did change it up slightly (but not that much, as I do love the homely meals!) I made a sauce for the lamb which was taken from a Nigella Lawson cookbook called Kitchen, which I've mentioned before. I have to say that the sauce was absolutely delicious, it made the meat so succulent and the taste of the redcurrant made it very sweet but rich at the same time with the other ingredients. I served it with honey roasted sweet potato and parsnip wedges and then green beans with sesame seeds, crunchy sea salt and black pepper.

Serves 3 people


For the sauce (Nigella Lawson - Kitchen):

1 tablespoon garlic oil
Juice of 1 clementine/satsuma
1 tablespoon redcurrant jelly
dash Worcestershire sauce
dash red wine vinegar/sherry vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Small bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped. (Or dried mint, which I used ... cos I'm lazy...)

4 lamb steaks

2 large sweet potatoes, sliced into wedges
1 parsnip, sliced into wedges
1 red onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of squeezy honey

Half a pack of green beans (enough for 3)
A good sprinkling of sesame seeds
Crunchy sea salt
Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.

First, start off with the vegetables as they will take the longest. Chop the parsnips and sweet potato into wedge type shapes, add the chopped red onion, drizzle with olive oil and pop in the oven for around 40 minutes.

Then prepare the sauce for the lamb. In a plastic jug, add the clementine/satsuma juice, redcurrant jelly, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk well.

Around 20 minutes before the vegetables are done, start on the lamb. I used a griddled pan to fry the lamb steaks, not healthy at all! However, I do find that doing it that way doesn't make the lamb shrink, like it does in the oven, and I just prefer this method of cooking it. So I get the pan hot and put a little bit of oil in there, place the steaks in and stick the lid on. I find that the heat contained inside the pan with the lid on helps the lamb to get juicier and to cook quickly (at least that's my reasoning!)

Keep checking the lamb at intervals and once one side looks cooked, turn over. These should take around 10-15 minutes to cook. Once they are cooked to your preference, take out and put on a warm plate and cover tightly with foil. The meat needs some time to rest!

At this point, around 5-10 minutes before the veggies are completely done, pull them out of the oven and drizzle with honey. Then pop back in for the remaining time.

Then in the same pan you cooked the lamb in, use it to make the sauce. Keep all of the fat, oil and the crispy bits from when you cooked the lamb in the pan, get the heat going again and pour the sauce mixture into it. Turn it down to a simmer, and let it cook until slightly thicker.

Whilst the sauce is sizzling away and the veggies are almost done, cook the green beans. When cooked, drain and add the sesame seeds, crunchy sea salt and black pepper.

Now to finish up. For about 2 minutes, add the lamb steaks to the pan where the sauce is cooking. It gets the steaks all juicy and infused with the sauce flavours and warms them up. Then serve them up onto a warm plate, add the veggies and green beans. Then drizzle the rest of the sauce over the steaks.