Recipes that are delicious and that always work!

You know these recipes are delicious because if I didn't think that they were fabulous . . . I wouldn't be showing them to you. You can also be sure that these recipes work for the same reason! The rest is simply a matter of taste.
I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. So I have spent almost all the daylight hours in the open air.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Some refreshing new sauces from the Lake District Dairy Co


As you know I get sent new products to try out from time to time and a few weeks ago I was sent a lovely hamper from the Lake District Dairy Co, containing their new Cooking sauces along with some fresh ingredients so that I could cook some recipes using the new flavours . . .  Garlic & Herb, Tomato & Basil and Tikka Sauces.

Included in the hamper were all the necessary ingredients so that I could cook Gnocchi with Spinach and Tomat & Basil Quark Sauce, Chicken Tikka & Quark Rice, and Spaghetti Quarkonara.

First a bit about the sauces:

The new Lake Districk Dairy Co. Cooking sauces are ideal for those who are pressed for time and who are health conscious.   Naturally low fat, convenient and naturally nutritious they taste deliciously indulgent, yet because they are made with Quark, they boast half the calories and treble the protein of other stir-in dairy sauces.  They recently won an award at the World Dairy Innovation Awards.   You can simply swap these cooking sauces into recipes as an alternative to traditional dairy ingredients such as creme fraiche or double cream to create  a variety of healthy and flavoursome day to day dishes, from creamy carbonaras to tantalizing tomato bakes.

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The first recipe I tried was Chicken Tikka & Quark Rice.  The sauce itself was delicious as was the finished dish, however the recipe was inconsistent with the ingredients sent, with uncooked rice being called for in the recipe and a pouch of already cooked rice being sent in the hamper.  I decided to go with the recipe and used uncooked rice.

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This was our favourite of all the dishes cookes.   Coming in at only 382 calories a serving, it was quite satisfying and very delicious.  We all really enjoyed this.

(click on photo to enlarge recipe)

The Lake District Dairy Co - Naturally Low Fat Tikka Cooking Sauce
(RRP £1.75 per 200g pot)
One of the nation's favourites - a beautiful blend of herbs and spices for perfect curry dishes with minimal fuss.  contains NO preservatives or artificial flavours
Nutrition (per 100g)
75 kcals, 4.5 g Sugar, 2.6g Fat, 0.6g Saturates, 0.74g Salt

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The next dish I cookes was Gnocchi with Spinach and Tomato & Basil Quark Sauce.  Everything for the recipe was included.  It went together very easily and I found the sauce to be quite delicious.

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The finished dish was attractive and very tasty.  We all really enjoyed this as well.

(again click on photo to enlarge recipe)

The Lake District Dairy Co. - Naturally Low Fat Tomato & Basil Cooking Sauce
(RRP £1.75 per 100g pot)
Great for adding a sumptuous Italian twist to meat and pasta dishes.
Contains NO preservatives or artificial flavours.
Nutrition (per 100g)
79kcals, 6.3g Sugar, 2,8g Fat, 0.6g Saturates, 0.83g Salt

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The final recipe which I cooked was Spaghetti Quarkonara using their Garlic & Herb Sauce.   I have to say that we did not enjoy this recipe at all.   First of all, I thought there was too much pasta per sauce ratio, and I would never use quick cooking spaghetti myself.  I would like to try it again, using regular spaghetti and less pasta per sauce.

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The ham added nothing to this recipe.  You couldn't even taste it really.  I added peas because I thought it could use some colour, but again, this wasn't our favourite dish.

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The sauce itself was quite flavourful, but this recipe let it down in my opinion.  I would use the sauce again in another way, but not this recipe.

The Lake District Dairy Co. - Naturally Low FAt Garlic & Herb Cooking Sauce
(RRP £1.75 per 200g pot
Smooth and indulgent, with a deliciously fresh garlic taste - great for mixing with fish, chicken or pasta.
Contains NO preservatives or artificial flavours
Nutrition (per 100g)
76 kcals, 5.6g Sugar, 1.5g Fat, 0.4g Saturates, 0.74g Salt

For more information about The Lake District Dairy Co. Quark, including delicious recipe suggestions to suit every occasion, visit and follow @LDDCQuark on Twitter.

Over all I found the sauces themselves to be filled with flavour and I love that they are all natural and relatively low in fat which make them a great option for someone who is looking for convenience along with healthy options.  Many thanks to The Lake District Dairy Co. for sending this lovely hamper to me. 

Biscoff (Lotus) Granola

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I think you would pretty much have to live under a rock to not know what Biscoff, or Lotus cookies are.   They are those gorgeous little caramel flavoured biscuits that they hand out in coffee shops and that get handed out on Delta Airlines etc.  I just adore them.   I just love Nutella and Peanut butter . . . so when I found that they make a Lotus (Biscoff) Spread  I was thrilled and of course I had to buy some.  Oh boy that is some good.  I could eat it with a spoon.    All caramel rich and gooey . . .  lovely on crackers or plain biscuit/cookies.  Or sandwiched between two . . .  just sayin!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Easy Oven Baked Pasta

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Sometimes you just feel really lazy, don't you?  It can't just be me, can it?  I confess . . .  I do have days when I feel really lazy and I can't get motivated to do much of anything, and yet I am absolutely starving!     That is when a recipe like this one here today comes in really handy.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Custard Corncake with Berries and Honey

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In America there is a debate between bakers in the south and bakers in the north about whether there is sugar in a proper cornbread or not.  Up north, and in Canada actually, we use some sugar in our cornbread and our corn muffins.  Down south they do not.     In their eyes, once sugar is added . . .  it becomes a cake.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Flaky Goat Cheese and Chive Biscuits

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I am a huge fan of quick breads . . .  muffins, loaves . . .  scones, biscuits.   Scones and biscuits are really quite similar.   The basic ingredients are essentially the same . . .  flour, butter or shortening, milk or cream, leavening, and a bit of salt and possibly sugar. The method of preparation, too, is pretty similar . . . you sift the dry ingredients, cut in the fat, and add the liquid. As with biscuits, the scone dough is rolled and cut into shapes.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Blackberry and Clotted Cream Shortcakes

One of our favourite things to eat here in the UK at this time of year are blackberries and they are pretty much free for the asking, as they grow  wild in the hedgerows all across the country.  They are quite prolific and need little or no care really, which is probably why they can be found in such abundance.  They can be somewhat of a nuisance to home gardeners whose aim is to have a very manicured garden, as they do have a habit of popping up in the most diverse of places, their canes travelling beneath the ground.  I, for one, don't really mind.  We love blackberries and cannot get enough of them when they are at their best, eating them fresh as often as possible . . .  and I  try to freeze as many as I can as well, for winter time treats.   We grown our own in our garden . . .  well, I say that.  We actually planted tayberries, but they've become blackberries for the most part.  The blackberries which grow in the hedgerow bordering our property have taken over somewhat and intermingled with them, so what we have now is a happy mixture of them both.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

All About Knives


(Click on the above picture to enlarge for more detail.)

One of the first things I was taught, amongst other things, when I went to Culinary school was the proper use and care of knives.   A good knife is one of your most important tools as a chef, or a cook . . .  and it's really important that a person knows how to use and care for them properly.   Not only are they one of the most important tools in the kitchen, but they are also one of the most dangerous tools in the kitchen, so proper care and safety is essential!  Knives must always be handled with respect, used correctly and taken care of so that a professional performance can be achieved.

Some safety rules for knife use are:
  • Always carry your knifes, point held downwards
  • Knives placed on tables must be placed flat and not project over the edge of the table
  • When using knives, always concentrate on the job at hand.
  • Keep knives sharp and use the correct knife for the correct purpose.
  • After use, always wife the knife, blade away from the hand.
  • Keep knife handles clean and do not leave in the sink.
  • Never misuse knives.  After use wash, rinse, dry and safely put away.
  • Colour coding of knife handles can assist in preventing cross contamination
Two tools are available for sharpening knives, a steel and a carborundum stone.  Periodically knives may need to be ground.  To retain sharpness, always use a cutting board.   A good craftsman or craftswoman never blames his or her tools since they always take good care of them.

It goes without saying that for a tool as important as a knife you will want to invest the most that you can in them, as you will want them to be of good quality and to last you for a lifetime.  It is more than worth the money to invest in something as important as a good set of knives.  My mother is still using the same knives she purchased back in the 1950's.   They may have seemed expensive at the time, but they have more than paid for the initial investment through the years and have served her very well.    When I was getting kitted out for culinary school, the knives were the major part of my financial investment, aside from the course.  I can never under-estimate the important of having good tools to work with.   Some of the best quality chefs kitchen knives can be found online at kitchen specialist websites such as Milly's Store.

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It's important to remember also that speed is not essential when using your knives properly.   When watching celebrity chef's on the telly, they always whiz through their chopping amazingly quickly and it can be impressive to watch.  Don't forget that they have had years of professional training and experience . . .  and their knifes are really sharp The most dangerous tool in the kitchen is a dull knife.  Never forget that.   Remember also, that control is much more important than speed.  With time and experience you may well become just as fast as they are, but really all you want to be is safe.

So, with good quality knives, taken care of and used safely . . .  you can be well assured that you are well on your way to becoming a master chef in your home kitchen.

Sweet And Sour Chicken Balls . . . Combo Number Nine Part Deux

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 Following on from yesterday's post on a Chinese Combo Plate Number Nine, here are the delicious Sweet and Sour Chicken Balls which went along with the Beef and Broccoli which I cooked for us the other day.  If you go to a Chinese Buffet (in Canada at least ) these are the first things to disappear!  Followed closely by the won tons and the chicken wings!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Beef and Broccoli . . . Combo Special Number 9

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I wouldn't like to call myself predictable, but I guess there are some choices which I obsess on choose predictably identically all the time every time.  Things like always sleeping on the left hand side of the bed . . .  or getting up at the same time each morning and going to bed at the same time each night . . . drinking diet coke as the drink of choice when we go out for dinner, or always having Turkey for Christmas  . . . I suppose we all have our own individual quirks and obsessions!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Macaroni, Cheese and Tomato Bake

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Interestingly enough the food here in the UK isn't all fish and chips and roast beef or curries.  They're also very fond of macaroni here, and other pasta's too.  In fact it is said that at the beginning of the 19th century they used to call their dandies "macaronis" because the  wigs which they wore were said to resemble macaroni!

 There is a saying over here which goes . . . "There's naught so queer as folk."  I believe that would apply in this instance!