Chapter One: Going back to basics

mixture

“Never work before breakfast; if you have to work before breakfast, eat your breakfast first”

– Josh Billings, Humourist

Well, hello delightful ample followers! What a joyous occasion it is to meet one and other a year since my first ever blog post. I’m not sure I can believe it myself but by God, it’s been an entire twelve months since my first article on ‘fruit tarts and new starts’ and ample servings is still going strong! Once more, this blog is about to go through a turn for the better, what with my culinary training fast approaching. I must admit that I’m a little nervous to start my new chapter but I’d foolish not to be! It’s going to be a whirlwind adventure and I can’t wait to begin. Needless to say, you wonderful people will get to treat yourselves, not to mention amuse yourselves, with an array of food related delights and culinary disasters! Blood, sweat and perfectly salted tears pave the way to my desired success. Wish me luck, I’m going in (to a professional kitchen!)

 Kitchen Aid Video:

Homemade mayo with Jamie Oliver in 3 minutes! Do it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypQuZX5MVsI

Seemingly Seasonal:

Fruit & Vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Peaches
  • Redcurrants
  • Nectarines
  • Damsons
  • Quinces
  • Figs
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Apricots
  • Cucumber
  • Pumpkins
  • Aubergines
  • Beetroot
  • Courgette
  • Marrow
  • Chicory
  • Cobnut
  • Fennel
  • French Beans
  • Globe Artichoke
  • Cabbage

Meat & Fish:

  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Goose
  • Halibut
  • Whiting
  • Salmon
  • Mussels
  • Mackerel
  • Oysters

Culinary Query

Libby, Balham

Please could you suggest some tasty vegan meals that I can cook at home for friends?

Amongst a meat-loving, dairy guzzling, food crazed crowd the word ‘vegan’ often warrants a raise of the eyebrows and a great heave of disgust. I find this response a little unfair because truly, vegans can eat a great deal of food and your meals can still be full of flavour. The trick is to just ‘think vegan’ not goose, no….definitely not goose!

Here are a few suggestions that I thought of myself;

Brunch: Toasted soda bread with crushed avocado, salt and lemon juice. This is wonderfully tasty and quick as you like to make. Toast your slices of bread (under the grill is best!) and cut open your avocado. Once the toast is done, directly squash the avocado onto it with a fork. One avocado usually does three pieces of toast. Season with plenty of salt, a little pepper and a good squeeze of lemon!

Light-lunch: Portobello mushrooms stuffed with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley and homemade basil pesto. Have fun with the pesto and replace your pine nuts with toasted walnuts or pistachios for a different flavour! See my previous post of homemade pesto for a recipe. Simply roast your vegetables in the oven along with the herbs (add the mushroom stalks but not the mushrooms themselves!), then gently mix in a little tomato puree and handful of breadcrumbs before seasoning. Sear your portobello mushrooms in a pan on both sides and then place your vegetable mix on the bottom of each mushroom. Pop them in the oven for a further 5-10 mins until your mushroom is cooked through and serve with some rocket salad and a generous serving of homemade pesto on top of your mushrooms.

Aperitif: Homemade hummus by Yotam Ottolenghi is your best option here. It’s smooth, silky and totally vegan! Why not add some caramelised onions to the mixture for a sweet finish? Serve with pitta breads and wine! http://food52.com/recipes/22888-yotam-ottolenghi-sami-tamimi-s-basic-hummus

Dinner: Vegetable Thai curry is ideal for a flavoursome vegan feast. If you have time, make your own curry paste but one from the supermarket does the job just as nicely. Coconut milk is your main liquid as well as vegetable stock and obviously fine to use. I suggest that you use nice vegetables such as aubergines, squash and parsnips to keep it both interesting and filling. Don’t be afraid to use chilli, Thai basil (sweet flavour) and thai vegetables like water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. Pak choi is nice too! An example to follow: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/420641/veggie-thai-red-curry

This Weeks’ Recipes:

Grilled Halloumi with chilli

Halloumi

A very simple and easy dish which acts as a great accompaniment to any Mediterranean meal.

Ingredients:

250g halloumi cut into rectangles

Half a red chilli

Lemon

Olive oil

Method:

Place the halloumi onto a hot grill. Turn the pieces over when they get a nice colour on the bottom side this could take between 2-4 minutes. Once cooked and marked on both sides place them on a serving place. Finely chop your red chilli and sprinkle onto your halloumi, season with a little pepper and a good squeeze of lemon. Finish with a drizzle of good quality olive oil.

Lamb Stuffed Aubergines

bergg

This is an Ottolenghi recipe and is utterly delicious. The one thing I would suggest is to not to stuff your aubergine until the last half hour of the aubergine cooking. My mince became a tad overcooked after an hour and a half of baking! Serve with some salad leaves of eat on its own.

Ingredients:

4 medium aubergines (about 1.2kg), halved lengthways

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

One and a half tablespoons sweet paprika

One and a half tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 medium onions (340g in total), finely chopped

500g minced lamb

50g pine nuts

20g flat-leaf parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons tomato purée

3 teaspoons caster sugar

150ml water

One and a half tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon tamarind paste

4 cinnamon sticks

Salt and black pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas mark 7. Place the aubergine halves, skin-side down, in a roasting tin large enough to accommodate them snugly. Brush the flesh with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

While the aubergines are cooking, you can start making the stuffing by heating the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan. Mix the cumin, paprika and ground cinnamon and add half of this spice mix to the pan, along with the onion. Cook on a medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often, before adding the lamb, pine nuts, parsley, tomato purée, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Continue to cook and stir for another 8 minutes, until the meat is cooked. Place the remaining spice mix in a bowl and add the water, lemon juice, tamarind, remaining sugar, cinnamon sticks and half a teaspoon of salt; mix well.

Reduce the oven temperature to 195C/175C fan/gas mark 5 and a half. Pour the spice mix into the bottom of the aubergine roasting tin. Spoon the lamb mixture on top of each aubergine. Cover the tin tightly with foil, return to the oven and roast for 1 hour 30 minutes, by which point the aubergines should be completely soft and the sauce thick; twice through the cooking, remove the foil and baste the aubergines with the sauce, adding some water if the sauce dries out. Serve warm, not hot, or at room temperature.

Choux Pastry

eclairs

Last week we saw contestants on the Great British Bake Off making an array of eclairs for the show stopper challenge. This encouraged me to seek some choux pastry training from a professional pastry chef, Alice Peel. Although Alice prefers bread over pastry, she didn’t mind teaching me how to make a decent choux pastry (of which she is most skilled at!) and turning it into a sea of chocolate eclairs and choux buns. This recipe is from BBC Food but is more or less how we did our pastries on Monday!

Ingredients:

100g/3½oz unsalted butter

pinch salt

150g/5½oz plain flour

4 large free-range eggs, beaten

Method:

For the choux pastry, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6

Gently heat 150ml/5½fl oz water, the butter and salt in a medium saucepan until melted, then bring to the boil.

Sift the flour into a bowl then tip it into the pan of boiling butter and water. Remove from the heat and, using a wooden spoon, very quickly beat the mixture until smooth.

Return the pan to the heat and continue to beat the mixture until you have a smooth paste. Return the dough to the bowl and add the beaten eggs gradually, until the mixture has a smooth dropping consistency (the dough should hold onto the spoon but drop off when lightly tapped on the edge of the bowl). Spoon the dough into a large piping bag fitted with a 1cm/½in plain nozzle.

Line two baking trays with non-stick silicone parchment and mark six 13cm/5in lines on each piece of parchment, leaving as much room as possible between each line. Spray the parchment with water and pipe identical tubes of dough on the lines. Bake for 20 minutes, or until well risen and golden-brown.

choc

Behold Alice’s finished eclairs!

See you all next week for more foodie fun! I’ll leave you with a picture of my new chef shoes….I keep telling myself they’re not crocs! In fact, I think they’re worse!

shoe

Please note that all my opinions and comments on Ample Servings are my own and are not of the culinary school I attend currently.

Love E. Wells

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The Darling Taste Buds in May

trifles

“All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered”.

-Kenneth Grahame, Wind in the Willows

Good morrow ample darlings! It’s been a little over a week since my last post and for that I am terribly sorry. My main sources of technology have been absent and yet, my foodie riddled brain has been very much alive! Not only have I been working tirelessly on new techniques and recipes, but I have also spent some time working on a children’s baking book as an assistant to a professional food stylist and have secured my first paid catering job for a vintage hat making company called Betty Noire this summer. The hats in question are incredibly stylish and utterly bespoke, so do have a look at the website if you’re into that sort of thing! I do wonder what stylish little canapes I’ll end up making!? As  you can see, it’s all go in the ample kitchen this week so, prepare to get your taste buds in gear for many a delectable delight!

Technique of the Week

How to make perfect  rice in under 10 minutes. Apologies that it’s n0t my own video this week but the lack of a phone and a laptop has led me to seek a professional this time!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx9h65E433M

Seemingly Seasonal

Vegetables:

  • Asparagus
  • Chicory
  • Radish
  • Rocket
  • Spring Onions
  • New Potatoes
  • Morel
  • Samphire
  • Watercress

 

Meat and Fish:

  • Crab
  • Sardines
  • Lamb

 

Fruit:

  • Elderflower
  • Goosebury
  • Nectarines

 

Culinary Query

Callum Brodie, Streatham

“What can I cook for myself that’s both healthy and quick during the week?”

In order to eat well and look after your body, it’s very important to get a balance of all the food groups. Always have a good supply of fruit and vegetables that you like to eat, readily available. Sainsburys do small mixed bags of veg now and if you’re worried about wastage, put them in the freezer for when you need them. Vegetables can fit into any meal such as curries, risotto, homemade pesto or even as a side dish.

Slow releasing carbohydrates such as brown pasta, rice, bulgar wheat, quinoa and coucous are excellent sources of energy and can be knocked up very easily. Keep a couple tins of coconut milk and tinned tomatoes on stand by for quick fix meals such as pasta sauces and stews. For snacking foods I suggest mixed nuts (unsalted), dried fruit and dark chocolate. All are delicious and good for your body in moderation.

Protein is vital for a healthy diet too. A bit of read meat is good for your iron levels once in a while or a piece of fish such as salmon fillet cooked with a squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper tastes great! I like to indulge in hot salads once in a while, pulses such as chickpeas and puy lentils are wonderful thrown in with some chicken and a tasty dressing. Eggs are briliant too, and I’ve never heard anyone turn down scrambled egg on seeded bread! If you fancy some naughty fat, a homemade cake or bread and butter pudding is the best way to go in my opinion!

This Weeks’ Recipes

Tomato and Red Onion Focaccia

focaccia

As I said previously, two weeks ago I spent a day helping the lovely chef Dagmar on a food shoot for a children’s baking book. Together, we made all sort of delicious sweet and savoury breads and at the end of the day, once all the photos were shot we were able to sample our creations! The most tasty of the lot was definitely the homemade focaccia. Dagmar used cherry tomatoes and placed thi slices of red onion onto the top of the bread and it tasted fantastic! I can’t pass on the actual recipe that was used that day until the book reaches print however, I have an excellent replacement that works just as well! I recommend eating the bread fresh out of the oven….

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/focaccia_08389

Here are a few pictures of some other things we made that day on set…

chocolate bread

Chocolate Bread

french wreith

A current wreath

cin bread

Cinnamon Loaf

 

Toad in the Hole

Sausages

Now, I will admit that this is one of the lesser attractive toad’s I have made in my life-time but I must insist you give it a whirl. Despite it’s slightly rude appearance, it tastes absolutely delightful. Mr Nigel Slater asks you to put a little mustard in the batter mix which gives it a little but more oompfh! I suggest you get your hands on some decent sausages, make sure the fat is sizzling in the tray before you pour in the batter and finally, serve with plenty of green beans, silky mash and a good dose of onion gravy!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/toadinthehole_83871

Spring Trifle

trifles again

I am of the opinion that nothing quite beats a homemade trifle in the springtime. From a layer of alcohol soaked sponge (traditionally sherry), to soft fruit and vanilla custard, the whole dessert is sublime! An English showstopper if I ever saw one that sees off a weekend lunch with family and friends. Ideal for advance making on the day as the bowl of layers will happily sit in your fridge for a fair few hours without hesitation. It is worth noting that there are many variations of a trifle today. For example, I haven’t used jelly in this recipe but of course, you can if you want to! Just remember that the jelly is always the bottom layer, confusingly the one you would make first. To do this, simply mix the jelly with hot water and pour over the fruit in your serving bowl. Place the now jellied fruit in the fridge to set. Next you would place the sponge, followed by custard and then finally, the cream! For a really funny 50s example of a trifle, I suggest you watch this youtube clip of Kim Woodburn on ‘Come dine with me’. She is simply hysterical- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PKISKcZkvo

Ingredients:

For the sponge

100g Caster sugar

100g Self-raising Flour

2 Eggs

100g Unsalted Butter

Tsp Vanilla Essence

Fruit layer

100g Raspberries

100g Sliced and hulled strawberries

50g Blueberries

Custard

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/realpropercustard_65614

Cream Layer

50ml Double Cream

50ml Mascapone

20g Flaked Almonds

Method:

First, you make the sponge by creaming the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, flour and vanilla with a wooden spoon and then place in a baking tin for 25 mins at 180C. Once cooked through, place the sponge on a cooling rack to avoid a soggy base. Next, break up the sponge into small pieces and place at the bottom of your trifle bowl. Drizzle over a little liquour, I quite like cointreau here and place the washed soft fruit on top. Then place the freshly made vanilla custard on top and finally, the whisked combination of the ‘cream layer’ and spread on top. Toast the almonds in a dry pan and throw on top of the cream for a pretty finish. Grated chocolate is quite nice too or even maraschino cherries!

Thank you all once again for taking time to read my blog! I hope you have learnt a little, enjoyed yourselves and are now gagging to cook something delicious this week. If you want to look at yet more food related images and updates feel free to add me on instagram @EKCWELLS or follow me on twitter @BlitheringTwit. Here is the link to Betty Noire hat boutique: http://bettynoire.co.uk/ and finally, thank you to Ness Lafoy for all her hard work on the bake and bike illustrations! You are wonderful! Oh, one more thing! If you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, I finally ate at that fantastic vodka bar near Waterloo, called Baltic. The food and service were wonderful. Check out my sour cherries, poached pear and venison main course below!

venison

Until next week! I should be back with videos a plenty and some new stories from the butchers and a children’s cooking class with ex-professional chef Margaret!!

E. Wells Xx

A Touch of Spice in Spring

chilli

She turned to the sunlight
    And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
    “Winter is dead.” 

-A.A Milne

Hello ample darlings! What a wonderful start to spring we’ve had so far. All these sunny starts and tepid to pleasant temperatures warrant a celebration, a culinary celebration that is! Prepare for this weeks’ double helping of Thai cuisine inspired from an ex-professional chef and Good Food Guide critic’s cookery class and some ideas on how to celebrate pancake day in health and style! Fortunately for us all, not only has this week permitted me ample time in the kitchen (see what I did there?), but I was lucky enough to enjoy the wonderful company of Miss Grace Jenkins in my kitchen which can only mean one thing….some excellent photos! Let the spicy, spring games commence!

photo 2

Chef Margaret

Sometime ago, a friend of mine put me in contact with the food critic mentioned above and after a few emails, chef Margaret invited me to help her out in one of her cookery classes. With a professional kitchen installed in her home not far from Richmond Park’s Ham Gate, Margaret has taught cookery lessons to all ages and levels for the past three years. She cooks everything from French patisserie to Iranian cuisine and is the absolute star of the show. The class that I attended was in fact specifically tailored for a client’s wishes, which was Asian style cooking class. Sat round a cooking ‘island’ with five mothers from the local area we spent just over four hours swapping culinary techniques, drinking white wine and eating the food prepared by both Margaret and ourselves. It is from this class that I would like to share two brilliant tried and tested recipes straight from a professional kitchen! You lucky buggers!

photo 4

The first dish is an absolute classic, chicken satay. However, this has to be the best I’ve EVER tried and I mean it. The recipe may be a little longer than your average satay recipe but trust me, it’s worth it. This includes not just peanuts but cashews too, in the words of Hal, this is delish.

Chicken Satay

Marinade:

1tbsp coriander seeds

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2.5cm piece of ginger, finely chopped

500g skinless, boneless chicken thighs

3 tbsp lemongrass, finely chopped

2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded

1tbsp vegetable oil

1tbsp kecap manis

1tsp soy sauce

Peanut and cashew dipping sauce:

2 bird’s eye chillies, seeded and finely chopped

5 shallots, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ shrimp paste

1tbsp vegetable oil

150ml coconut milk

1tbsp cashew nut butter

2tbsp sugar

100g unsalted peanuts, roasted and whizzed

50g roasted cashews and whizzed

2tsp kecap manis

Juice of 1 lime

First make the marinade. Toast the coriander seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, and then grind to a powder in a pestle and mortar. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves and pound to a rough paste along with a generous grinding of black pepper. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the oil, kecap manis and soy sauce.

Cut the chicken into long strips about 3cm wide and stir into the marinade, mixing well. Cover, refrigerate and leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes if you’ve got it, and up to 12 hours. Soak skewers in cold water until ready to use.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put the chillies, shallots, garlic and shrimp paste in a food processor and blitz to a paste. Heat the oil in a wide frying pan, and then fry the paste until it smells cooked. Add the coconut milk and palm sugar and simmer for a couple of minutes, then add the peanuts and simmer until slightly thickened. Stir in the kecap manis and lime juice, add a little water or coconut milk if it’s too thick, then taste to check the balance of flavours; add more lime juice, sugar or soy sauce if you think it’s lacking. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thread the strips of meat onto the skewers. Cook the skewers on a barbecue or a griddle pan over a medium-high heat, for about 20 minutes until cooked through, turning regularly. You can turn the heat down to medium on the griddle after all are well charred. Don’t worry about black bits, they add flavour.

 The next delectable dish all the way from Thailand is a gorgeous Kung Po Prawn curry. Honestly, this is a winner of meal. You would be foolish not to make this! Get yourself down to your local Thai Supermarket or even Waitrose (they do everything) and stock up on supplies such as peanut oil, kaffir leaves and different types of soy.

photo 1

Kung Po Prawns

 200g raw king prawns

3tbsp roasted peanuts

5-10 dried red chillies

3tbsp peanut oil

5 slices peeled fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic

1 spring onion

100g water chestnuts, sliced

Marinade:

1tbsp corn flour

2 tsp soy sauce

Glug of Shaoxing wine

1tsp peanut oil

1 egg white, broken up with a fork (this “velvets” your prawns meaning it makes them lovely and smooth)

Sauce:

2tbsp light soy sauce

1tsp dark soy sauce

1tsp sugar

A drop or two of black vinegar

2tbsp water

1tsp corn flour

Cut the prawns along their backs to butterfly them. Mix the marinade ingredients, add the prawns and set aside for 30 mins. Meanwhile mix the sauce ingredients together.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a wok with a splash of cooking oil and stir-fry the prawns till they just begin to go pink, but don’t cook them all the way through. Scoop them into their bowl again.

Add another splash of oil. Heat till it smokes. Add in the ginger and garlic slices and do a quick stir fry before adding in the dried red chillies. Stir fry until aromatic and they smell spicy, them put the prawns back in.

Stir through before adding in the roasted peanuts and continue to stir a few times, until the nuts start to colour.

Add the sauce and stir continuously until it looks like a dish. Add the spring onion and water chestnuts stir round and serve.

mixing

Now, seeing as it’s pancake day, I feel that I must contribute a few ideas your way! I recommend Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s classic French crêpe recipe if you’re a thin pancake kinda’ gal/guy. I found this recipe on the channel four website. A word of caution, make sure you have hot oil in your pan before you pour in the batter otherwise the pancake won’t work at all!

Flour weighing

Good fillings include;

Sweet

  • Lemon juice, sugar and fresh blueberries
  • Nutella and strawberries
  • Double cream, dulche de leche and sliced bananas

pancake

finished pancake

Savoury

  • Emmental and ham
  • Creamy mushrooms and spinach
  • Chorizo and chedder cheese

http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/chefs/hugh-fearnley-whittingstall/pancakes-recipe

If you like a more American style pancake hit up Jamie Oliver. Nothing beats these fluffy clouds of yum. Yes, I did just say something utterly ridiculous.

Add to the batter:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Fresh corn
  • Fruit purée
  • Chocolate drops

xy

Add to serve:

  • Maple syrup and bacon
  • Yoghurt, fruit and honey
  • Chocolate or toffee sauce and ice cream

photo (9)

Blueberry pancakes served with bananas, raspberries, natural yoghurt, bacon and maple syrup.

https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/eggs-recipes/pancakes-usa-stylie

Until next week ample folk! I have some wonderful stories and of course, some fantastic recipes from my time spent at an Organic Butchers.

Love and pancakes to all!

E. Wells

When in Bristol, eat sweetened meat!

books

“…he is a heavy eater of beef. Me thinks it doth harm to his wit.”

-Shakespeare

Before I began this blog, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough to say each week. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth! If anything, there are far too many delicious treats to discuss in such a small period of time. What is a poor aspiring chef to do?! This week I’ve been focusing on infused oils, spices and sweetened meat. Prepare yourselves for a chapter that will tantalise your taste buds and make you question why you haven’t tried these wonderful recipes before. I guarantee that you’ll never look twice at supermarket bought pesto once you’ve made your own!

Jamie Oliver’s latest cookbook, ‘Save with Jamie’ points out the importance of a decent store cupboard or if you’re really lucky, a pantry! Good things to have in stock are; vinegars, oils and selection of dried herbs and spices. You never know when you might need to add a little heat or spiced flavouring to a dish. A few years ago, I discovered chilli oil in lovely, pizza restaurant called The Actress in South East London. A dash of the stuff can really add a bit of life to anything you want! It’s not only great on pizza but brilliant for dipping bread into, marinating meat and even sautéing onions in for a hot chilli con carne or a tasty homemade curry. Now, I’m sure you’re now thinking the same as me, could I infuse other oils? The answer is YES! You can make almost any infused oil you like using both fresh and dried ingredients. Why not try garlic and chilli, rosemary and lemon or even saffron for something really special.

chilli

Having done some research, there appears to be some discrepancy between fresh and dried herbs. If you want to make a lot of oil and keep it for some time, you must use dried herbs. Fresh herbs hold a stronger flavour, but can produce unpleasant bacteria if left to sit in the oil for too long, so don’t say you haven’t been warned. Freshly infused oils should be kept in the fridge and must be used within 10-12 days. For dried infused oils, they can be left out. To get the flavour out of the herbs, break them up with a pestle and combine with your desired oil (extra virgin is the best, but sunflower will do nicely) in a saucepan over a low heat. After a few minutes, strain the herbs and decant the now flavoured oil into a pretty glass bottle. You can always add a few strands of said herb into the end product. Personally, I like to keep a small amount of the dried chilli flakes in my oil because I just LOVE chilli but it makes quite a pretty aesthetic too. These oils make a great gift especially at dinner parties or for a thoughtful Christmas present. Stick on a delicately inscribed label and you’re good to go.

chilli bottle

Infused oil guideline:

240ml of oil

4tbsp of chilli flakes (or any herb you like!)

2 crushed garlic cloves (optional)

Oils aside, let’s check out the pesto! For a few years now, my mum has been making her own jars of herby, oily goodness and honestly, they’re to die for. Below are the recipes for basil and sundried tomato pesto but once again, you can use the recipe as a framework for whatever flavour you want. Rocket works quite well too. Perhaps you could try a chilli tomato pesto? Oh gosh, I’m off again! Apologies. This is my mother’s own recipe. Keep it secret, keep it safe. This recipe makes one big jar of the good stuff.

pesto

Basil Pesto Recipe:

A bag of fresh basil leaves (or a hefty bunch)

50g pine nuts

Half a triangle of grated parmesan cheese

Two garlic cloves

Salt and pepper

¼ pint of good quality oil

After lightly toasting the pine nuts in a saucepan (without any oil), put all the ingredients into a blender and blizz. Check for taste and add a little more salt and pepper if need be. The garlic has a real kick in this, so this isn’t ideal first date food but then again, if you’re both eating it, it shouldn’t be a problem! If you want to try sundried tomato pesto, exchange the bunch of basil for a small tub of sundried tomatoes which you can buy at any deli counter. Jars of sundried tomatoes would work here too if on a tighter budget. Mix the pesto with some cooked pasta and sprinkle with parmesan to serve. Buon appetito!

Pasta dish

Now, let us talk of Bristol! This week I spent a little time in this wonderfully historic city and needless to say, I visited some delicious establishments. Honestly, my Instagram was near to breaking point! Tapas is known to be pretty spectacular and I can confidently say, that Bristol’s Bravas is a great little spot to find reasonably priced, intelligent food. The iberico pork was gorgeously succulent, the pedro ximenez (south American sherry) marinated liver with caramelized onions was sensational and the fried aubergines with molasses was a bargain at £2.50 a go. I thoroughly recommend a trip here to anyone looking for some good grub. Oh and try not to stuff yourself silly (unlike myself, classic Emily) as the salted chocolate desert truffles are divine (yes, I managed one in the end!).  I must mention here that the only real expense is the alcohol but the house red, described as ‘perfectly gluggable’ goes down swimmingly. If you’re going T-total, order a sparkling elderflower as it’s homemade and so refreshing.

Tapas

Another place I discovered was the newly opened Grillstock on the triangle. As you can probably guess, there is some serious meat involved in this restaurant. The place is relatively small, and the room is mainly taken up by a long wooden table. Food is ordered at the counter and served on a tray. The food is so tasty and the portion size can only be described as worthy of an episode on man vs. food! I had the pulled pork barbeque plate and oh boy, it was scrumptious. The pork was probably the best I’ve ever eaten. It was so moist and sweet. I didn’t know what to do with myself, I must find out what they used to produce such sweetness! The meat came with homemade slaw, cornbread and fries. Scattered over the tables were the following; BBQ sauce, chilli BBQ sauce and chilli sauce so, I was in heaven! A few friends of mine took on a Grillstock challenge. One wolfed down a tray holding three types of meat which was entitled the smokehouse challenge and the other engulfed an enormous, “lockjaw” burger held together with a carving knife! The evidence of food combat and defeat of such dishes lies below and oh, what proud chaps they were indeed.

grills 2 burger   Grills grills 4

I feel it’s time for something light, a light snack that is! As the nights have drawn in closer, it’s almost time to prepare for the frightful (see what I did there) all hallows eve. I’m a big fan of scary films, even more so when the food is good. A while back, Nigella produced a few flavoured popcorn recipes and I really believe they need to be resurfaced. I will be providing both sweet and savoury suggestions to smooth out any controversy amongst popcorn lovers. The latter recipe is from another fellow food blogger and is a solid, sweet toothed choice. Once again, use these recipes as a template. You can add anything you fancy. I might have a go next week making my own, so stay tuned.

  • Savoury:

Nigella’s Party Popcorn:

I suggest that you use half the amount of salt stated in this recipe. It was a tad too salty for little old me.

www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nigella-lawson/party-popcorn-recipe/index.html

savoury sauce savoury

  • Sweet:

Not quite Nigella:

http://www.notquitenigella.com/2010/02/25/nutty-caramel-popcorn-better-then-bought/

toasted nuts sweet pop

Finally, we reach the grand finale and a cheeky cocktail is in order! As far as I am concerned, all cocktails should be cheeky so this badboy (kill yourself, I know) is perfect. I first sampled this in a pizza restaurant called The Hill in Bristol, once again. It’s called a gingerbread martini and is ideally consumed in number, by a fire and with a group of merry friends. This recipe serves two martini glass servings.

Martini

Gingerbread Martini:

1/2 shot of vodka (Russian standard is the best)

One shot of baileys

One shot of Kahlua

A dash of gingerbread syrup

A little milk

Sprinkling of cinnamon for presentation

That’s all for this week folks! I hope these recipes have got you thinking about your next culinary adventure. A note to close friends of mine, you’re all getting infused oil for the foreseeable gift giving future. You lucky, lucky people! I know there was quite a bit of reading this week but I just couldn’t help myself. I’m most definitely on a mission to test some meat sweetening recipes now. Expect more cake next week and a detailed blog on the moment I met Miss Rachel Khoo at her newest book signing at Harrods this Thursday. She was truly wonderful.

book

Before I go, I must reference a few people (the old university student in me eh?). Firstly, a BIG thank you to the lovely Grace Jenkins who has been taking some wonderful foodie snaps for this blog. She took the main cover image which stands hands and feet over my Instagram photos! If you would like to get hold of Grace for photography here is her website: www.gracejenkins.co.uk. I’ve known her for over fifteen years and she’s great with a lens. Secondly, the restaurants I’ve mentioned are all on twitter and have their own sites. Click on the links below to get to them. Lastly, if you fancy looking at my Instagram which is regularly updated with food and furry animals, add me on EKCWELLS and if that’s simply not enough, my twitter is @BlitheringTwit.

www.theactresseastlondon.com

http://www.pizzakitchenbars.co.uk/location/the-hill

http://www.bravas.co.uk

http://www.grillstock.co.uk

Lots of love,

E.Wells X