Monday 30 April 2012

Hearts of Palm, cooks & co, a rather tasty tart and a delicious salad

I was sent a few tins of these cooks & co  Hearts of Palma week or so ago to try out.  I had never eaten hearts of Palm before and wasn't sure what I could do with them, but I'm game to try most things.  I think they are seen as a somewhat exotic ingredient.  I know my ex boss used to bring tins of them back from  America when she came back from her frequent trips over there.  I had never actually used them . . . although I did know she liked them in salads.

From the cooks & co site:   The unique flavour and texture of cooks & co Hearts of Palm make them a surprisingly versatile food. For a quick appetiser add a simple vinaigrette dressing or alternatively wrap in Smoked Salmon or Parma Ham for a more luxurious version. Slice them to add to salads, pizzas, quiches and tarts.

I ate one right out of the tin and found it had a very pleasant flavour and texture, somewhat  similar to artichokes.  I was impressed and all the wheels in my head started to turn!


The first thing I decided to make with them was a delicious tart.  I used pufff pastry and spread it with a pesto mayonnaise.  I sprinkled on cheese and added toppings of sliced Hearts of Palm, sliced olives, flaked tuna, chopped hot peppers, red onion, and parmesan cheese.


Somewhat like a pizza, but with a different base and a lot flakier.  It tasted fabulous and Todd and I both really enjoyed this tasty treat!  Todd didn't complain about it being like a pizza either, coz it wasn't pizza . . . it was a tart!  (MEN!)  (I must apologize for my pictures.  It's a very overcast and gloomy day today and I couldn't get a great photo at all.  I like to use natural light as much as possible)


*Cheesy Tuna and Hearts of Palm Tart*
Makes one large tart, serving approx 6 people
Printable Recipe

This is just something I kind of threw together.  It turned out to be delicious!

1 box of ready rolled puff pastry (In the chiller section of the grocery store.
I use the all butter puffed pastry)
one egg yolk beaten together with some water
2 heaped dessertspoons of mayonnaise
2 tsp of basil pesto
a couple handfuls of a shredded cheese mixture (mine had cheddar, mozzarella, jack and gouda cheeses in it)
1 small tin of albacore tuna in brine, drained and flaked
a handful of olives, sliced (I used the green and black dry cured with herbs, pitted)
about 5 Peppadew pickled peppers, chopped coarsely
1 400g tin of Hearts of Palm, drained and sliced into coins
1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
a couple of TBS of finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7.  Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment.  Spray it lightly with some cooking spray.

Unroll the puff pastry onto the tray.  Using a sharp knife, make a shallow cut all the way around the sheet of pastry, creating a 1/2 inch border all the way around.  Brush this border with the egg yolk.    Stir together the pesto and mayonnaise.  Spread this evenly all over the pastry inside of the outside border.  This will be your base.  Sprinkle with the cheese mixture to cover. 

Mix together the flaked tuna, sliced hearts of palm, pickled peppers, red onion and sliced olives.  Sprinkle this mixture over top of the cheese, evenly.  Sprinkle with a light dusting of Parmesan Cheese.

Bake in the heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes until puffed and golden brown.  Cut into squares to serve.  Serve hot or cold.  Delicious either way.


With the other tin I debated on whether I would make a soup or a salad.  I finally decided on the salad.  I thought that these tasty hearts of palm would be delicious with streaky bacon wrapped around them (kind of like you do around asparagus spears) and then roasted until the bacon was crisp.


Then I laid them out onto salad greens, topped them with an Italian Vinaigrette and some Parmesan cheese and wowsa wowsa . . . a new favourite was born!  I'm almost ashamed to call this a recipe as it was so simple to do, but I put it down in recipe form anyways for continuity.


This was really good too.   Todd's not really a salad man, but he sure enjoyed just eating them as they were with the bacon wrapped around them, all crisp and salty.  I can imagine that proscuitto  or Parma ham would also be fabulous wrapped around them!


*Bacon and Hearts of Palm Salad*
Serves 4 - 6
Printable Recipe

This was rather good if I don't say so myself.  I quite liked it.

1 400g tin of hearts of palm, well drained
sliced streaky bacon, enough for 1 slice per heart of palm
4 cups of mixed salad leaves
Italian Vinaigrette salad dressing
freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 6.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil.  Set aside.

Take your drained hearts of palm and wrap one rasher of streaky bacon around each, slightly stretching it as you go.  Place each onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake the bacon wrapped palm hearts in the preheated oven until the bacon is nicely crisped. Remove from the oven and drain on a bit of  paper kitchen toweling.

Divide your salad leaves amongst 4 to 6 chilled salad plates.  Top each with one or two bacon wrapped hearts of palm.  Drizzle with Italian dressing and dust a few sprinkles of Parmesan cheese over top.  Serve immediately.  Delicious!

I would have to say that we both agree that these are a delicious vegetable.  (I'm not sure if you could call them a vegetable, but that's what I am calling them.)  I think I am going to be buying another few tins to have on hand.  I do want to make a soup with them as I think they would make a fantastic soup and to be honest . . . I quite, quite enjoyed just eating it like you would a carrot stick, etc.  I am thinking they would make a fabulous hot dip as well!  (with cheese and garlic, and oh my . . . my taste buds are tingling now!)

Many thanks to the cooks & co people and to Simon for sending me these to try.  They are available in most food shops at £1.99 a tin. 

I loved them!!

Sunday 29 April 2012

Lemon Curd & Blueberry Loaf


Have I ever told you about how much I love the flavour of lemon???


How about how much I love ADORE blueberries????


ok, so I've never made any secret of either fact. I adore them both, but what I love even more is . . . both ofthem TOGETHER!!


Especially when they are showcased in a beautifully delicious and scrummily moist loaf cake like the one here today. Oh so fabulously tasty. With lots of lemon flavour, both in the batter, where you use lemon curd and lemon zest . . . and then in that tart/sweet drizzle icing which is strongly flavoured with lemon.


Then there are the blueberries. They settle somewhere in the middle of this cake like a layer of sweet blueberry jam . . . except it's not blueberry jam, just cooked blueberries.


 It's really quick to throw together too. You just throw all of the batter ingredients into a bowl and beat them together! What could be any easier than that??? Not much I reckon!


Then it's just a matter of layering the batter and the berries into a prepared loaf tin. I have gotten really lazy lately. I discovered loaf pan sized parchment paper pan liners! They're just like cupcake liners, except bigger . . . and shaped like loaf. They work fabulously! (I got mine at Lakeland.)


Baked in a slow oven until lightly browned and oh so scrummy, and then . . . glazed with that beautiful lemon drizzle icing. You will hardly be able to keep yourself from tucking in right away.


But do wait until it cools. Your patience will be well rewarded. I promise you. (Those are purple lobelia that I clipped from my garden. I thought they looked really pretty.)


*Lemon Curd & Blueberry Loaf*
Makes about 8 to 10 slices
Printable Recipe

All in one loaf cake, made with Greek yoghurt,  lemon curd and fresh blueberries, and iced with a lemon drizzle icing.  Delicious, moist and easy!

175g of butter, softened (3/4 cup)
100g of thick Greek Yoghurt (scant 1/2 cup)
2 TBS of lemon curd (heaped)
3 large free range eggs
the zest of one unwaxed  lemon
200g of self raising flour (generous 1 3/4 cup)
175g of golden caster sugar (9/10 of a cup)
200g fresh blueberries (about 1 1/2 cups)

For the icing:
140g of sifted icing sugar (1 generous cup)
the juice of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 16-*C/325*F/ gas mark 3.  Butter a 2 pound loaf tin and line with parchment paper.  (I've been using the liners you can get from Lakeland. They're like a bit cupcake liner.  Easy peasy.)

Put the butter, yoghurt, lemon curd, eggs, lemon zest, caster sugar and flour into a bowl.  Beat with an electric whisk until the batter just comes together.  Spoon half of it into the prepared loaf tin.  Sprinkle half of the blueberries over top.  Spoon the rest of the batter over top of the berries and then scatter the remainder of the berries over top to finish.

Bake for 1 1/4 hours, until golden in colour and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.    Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before lifting out to a wire rack to finish cooling. 

Whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice to make a runny drizzable icing.  Pour over top of the cake, spreading it out to cover.  Allow to set before serving.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Old Fashioned Molasses Crinkles


I wish I had a pound for every time I have baked these cookies through the years. I'd be rich, Rich, RICH! Seriously. Thse cookies were a favourite of my children when they were growing up . . . and errr . . . I have to confess they have always been a favourite of mine as well.


I think there must be a bazillion versions of this recipe floating through the internet and scribbled on bits of paper and tucked into secret places in kitchens all across the world.  This is my version.  Scribbled onto the back of an envelope and tucked into my Big Blue Binder eons ago.


This is my favourite recipe for these deliciously spiced gingersnappy kind of biscuits/cookies. What they are called depends on where you live. Here in the UK they are biscuits. In North America they are cookies. I don't care what they're called. To me they are just plain, good, Good, GOOD!


The main reason I like this recipe is because they a beautifully spiced, filled with the warm kitchen spices of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom . . .


I like this recipe because they are sweetened with golden caster sugar and molasses. Plain and simple. They're rolled in Demerara sugar (Turbinado) which gives them an additional crunch.


Crunchy on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside. Just the way I like them.


Are you a Dunker??? I am.


Nothing like a warm cookie . . . all spicy and fragrantly yummy . . . dunked into an ice cold glass of milk. Oh my. Scrummy. Scrummy. SCRUMMY!


There's nothing like sitting down to your favourite cookie and a glass of cold milk in the middle of the afternoon. It just makes a day seem right somehow, no matter how anything else is going.


 *Old Fashioned Molasses Crinkles*
Makes about 20 cookies
Printable Recipe

Crisp and sugar on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  Everyone's favourite!

For the cookies:
280g of plain flour (2 cups)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp fine seasalt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
12 TBS cold vegetable shortening (White Flora, Trex or Crisco)
190g of golden caster sugar (1 cup)
1 large free range egg
60ml of molasses (1/4 cup, can use 30ml of golden syrup and 30ml of dark treacle)

To roll:
50g of demerara sugar (1/4 cup)

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*f/ gas mark 5.  Line two baking sheets with some baking parchment paper.  Set aside.

Cream the shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the salt, egg and molasses.  Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices.  Add to the creamed mixture all at once.  Beat on low until everything is well combined. 

Working quickly take 2 TBS of dough at a time and shape into balls.  (They will be about the size of a golf ball)  Place the demerara sugar into a bowl.  Roll the balls of dough in the sugar and place them onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between each.  Bake them, one cookie sheet at a time, for about 18 minutes until lightly browned on the bottoms and the tops have cracked.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before stirring in an airtight container.

Friday 27 April 2012

Onion, Garlic and Cheese Pluckit Bread


Do you remember that Cinnamon Roll Pluckit Bread that I made a few weeks back???  My goodness, but it was some good.  Are you sitting down???  Well . . .

I decided to try making a savoury version.  We love our Garlic bread in this house.  Umm . . .  ok, Todd's  not overly keen.  He thinks it falls into the same category as Italian food, pizza, pasta and all that.  I love garlic bread.  (At least I'm honest!)


Today I made an Onion, Garlic and Cheese Pluckit Bread!  Oh my goodness.  It is some good.


Just imagine a hearty French Boule . . . sliced through and spread inside all over and in all the gaps with a savoury onion and garlic butter, chock full of bits of chopped spring onion, poppy seeds, and a bit of a bite from some hot sauce . . .


Now fill those gaps with Monterrey Jack cheese.  You can use Pepper Jack if you want some real heat . . . or you can keep it simple and use the ordinary Jack cheese.


Now wrap that boule in foil and bake it in the oven until the butter all melts into those crevices . . . and the cheese gets all goooey scrummy melted delicious.

Now take it out and plunk it down on the table in front of your family and let them dig in.


They will love it.  You will love it.


You will be instantly addicted.  Don't blame me though.  You were warned.


*Onion, Garlic and Cheese Pluckit Bread*
Makes one large scrummy loaf
Printable Recipe

This makes a fabulous party food, or side dish to an Italian meal.  Your family will love, Love, LOVE this!

1 large round un-sliced Boule loaf of bread
16 ounces of Monterey Jack cheese, sliced thinly
4 ounces of butter, softened
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp poppy seeds
1/2 tsp of hot sauce
4 to 6 spring onions, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Place a large piece of foil on a baking sheet.

Cut the boule of bread lengthwise into cuts, 1/2 inch apart, cutting all the way through to the bottom but NOT through the bottom.  Leave the bottom intact.  Turn the boule 90* and make cuts again in the same way, making sure that once again you don't cut all the way through the bottom of the loaf.

Stir together the softened butter, onion powder, poppy seeds, hot sauce and chopped spring onions.  Spread this mixture down into the cuts, all the way through the loaf, reservin a couple of TBS for the end.  Tuck slices of the cheese down into the cuts also.  Place the bread onto the foil wrap.  Brush the top of the bread all over with the remaining butter mixture.  Wrap the foil over top of the bread to completely enclose it.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Loosen the foil and uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Serve hot at the table.  Allow people to pluck their own bits to eat.

Thursday 26 April 2012

Parmesan Crusted Turkey Steaks with a Tomato and Peppadew Relish


As you know, I was recently invited to participate in a competition being hosted by British Turkey alongside Peppadew to find Britian's best recipe blogger. They asked me if I would mind devising some dishes using both British Turkey and Peppadew peppers. The winner will be crowned at the British Turkey Awards being held at the Savoy this September.


That is something I love to do more than anything else when I am cooking . . . creating new recipes, using my favourite ingredients. They don't always work out, but more often than not I am quite pleased with the results.


Much like these delicious turkey steaks that I cooked the other day. I used Parmesan cheese to coat them and then I flash fried them until the cheese got all scrummy golden brown. You want to cook them quickly as you don't want the turkey to dry out.


Don't be tempted to flip them before the cheese on the bottom has turned golden brown though . . . it will stick to the pan and that's not what you want. You want all those crunchy golden scrummy bits to be stuck to the turkey steaks!!

 I used a mixture of chopped Peppadew peppers, chopped tomatoes,  red onion and parsley to create a delicious relish to serve with the turkey steaks.  It was colourful and very, very scrummy  indeed.


Oh my the two together tasted really, really good. I served this with some steamed herbed baby new potatoes.  Todd had two helpings! I love to see a man with a good appetite, don't you?


Parmesan Crusted Turkey Steaks with a Tomato and Peppadew Relish.  Quick, easy and oh so scrumdiddlyumptious!  I hope you'll give this a try!  (It's also very healthy!)

*Parmesan Crusted Turkey Steaks with a Tomato and Peppadew Relish*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Tender and moist turkey steaks, crusted with salty Parmesan cheese and served up with a tangy Tomato and Peppadew Relish!  Quick and Delicious!

For the Relish:
a punnet of cherry tomatoes on the vine (several large handfuls)
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
5 or 6 peppadews coarsely chopped
a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

For the Turkey Steaks:
400g of thinly sliced turkey (about 1 1/4 pound)
360g of Parmegiano Reggiano Cheese, grated coarsely on large holes
of a box grater (about 2 cups)
freshly ground black pepper
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

First make the relish.  Chop the cherry tomatoes into quarters and place them into a bowl, along with the chopped red onion and peppadew peppers.  Chop the parsley coarsely and toss in along with a few pinches of coarse sea salt and a good grind of black pepper.  Drizzle with a bit of Olive oil and toss together.  Set aside to macerate while you cook the turkey.

 If your turkey steaks are not of equal thickness, place them between two sheets of cling film and flatten them with a rolling pin, until they are all the same thickness.  Be judicious as you don't want to tear your meat.  Place the Parmesan cheese into a large shallow bowl.  Season the turkey steaks generously with black pepper on both sides  Press each side of the steaks into the cheese, pressing it onto the turkey with your fingers to help it to stick.

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet, over medium high heat.  Add the turkey steaks,a few at a time, and cook for several minutes on each side until the cheese is crisp and golden brown, and the juices run clear.  Be careful not to over cook them.  Don't turn over before the first side is golden brown in colour.  Keep warm and repeat with the rest,  until you have cooked all the turkey steaks.

Place the turkey steaks onto a heated platter and spoon some of the relish over top to serve.  Pass the rest at the table.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Dried Cherry, Almond and Apricot Breakfast Loaf


It never hurts to have something in the house that you can pick up for a quick breakfast on those mornings that you are in a rush and don't have a lot of time for faffing about. Something that you can put together at the weekend, store and then rely on  for a tasty and filling breakfast on-the-go during those busy weekdays that we all have far too often!


This is one of my old reliables from my Big Blue Binder. Not only is it delicious, but it's also very, very healthy and  virtually fat free, believe it or not!   That can't be bad!  Free from fat and abundant in flavour. It's win/win!!


Chock full of goodness, with hearty oats and wholemeal flour (if you so choose), the sweetness of honey and a bit of brown sugar, toasted nuts, and sweet/tart dried cherries and apricots.  There is only a slight hint of cinnamon flavour, which of course you could increase if you really wanted to.

I like to add an optional glaze of lemon juice and granulated sugar as a personal  preference.  It also helps to keep the nuts on the cake.  I just use about a quarter cup of golden caster sugar and the  juice of half a lemon, which I pour over the cake as soon as I take it out of the oven.

This is a sturdy bread, which makes it a lovely breakfast bread, and quite suitable for toasting under the grill.
It is also a great picnic bread, sliced and put together with some cream cheese in the middle.  Oh so scrummy!


I bake it up, slice it into slices, then put it back together with pieces of parchment paper between the slices and then I freeze it in an airtight plastic container.  That way all I have to do is to grab out as many slices as I am wanting to serve and the rest stays safe in the freezer ready to  indulge in at another time.


I do hope you'll give this delicious breakfast bread a try.  I think you'll agree with me.  It's a real winner!  Oh, I do so love dried cherries and apricots.  They are my only weakness . . .

*Dried Cherry, Apricot and Almond Breakfast Loaf*
Makes one 2 1/4 pound loaf
Printable Recipe

Perfect to bake at the weekend and then serve for breakfasts during the week, toasted and spread with a bit of butter and honey.

50g old fashioned rolled oats (1/2 cup)
300ml of semi skim milk, warmed (a generous 1 1/4 cups)
240g of self raising flour (2 cups)  (You can use white or wholemeal, depending
on how healthy you want this to be.)
1 tsp baking powder
125g of dried cherries (3/4 cup)
50g of diced dried apricots (1/3 cup)
75g of soft light brown sugar (1/3 cup packed)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 TBS Acacia honey (runny)
1 large free range egg, beaten
5 TBS flaked toasted almonds, divided

Preheat the oven to 180*C./350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter and line a 2 1/4 pound loaf tin with baking paper.  Set aside.

Measure the oats and fruit into a large bowl.  Add the warm milk.  Allow to stand for about 10 minutes before proceeding.  Sift the flour, cinnamon and baking powder together onto a piece of parchment paper.  Stir the brown sugar, honey and beaten egg into the oat mixture.  Stir in the flour mixture, mixing together well.  Fold in 3 TBS of the almonds.  Spread the batter into the lined tin, smoothing the top over.  Sprinkle the remaining 2 TBS of flaked almonds on top.

Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until the loaf is risen, golden brown adn a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.  Store in an airtight container. 

To serve, cut into slices and lightly toast under the grill.  Butter and serve with a drizzle of honey.  (Of course you can always just cut it into slices to eat plain.  It's good either way.)