Well, we’re on our way back. As it turns out, when you don’t check on your blog for awhile, there’s a fair amount of housekeeping and maintenance to do before you can get up and running again properly (1,500 unapproved comments binned, 19,963 to go – I’m not even exaggerating).
So, where have we been? We’ve been pretty busy between one thing and another: working hard, not really playing hard but at least picking up some new hobbies, which you’ll hear more about soon, namely the wonderful game of curling and a more advanced level of gardening. For some reason, there never seems to be enough time to do everything we want to while keeping a clean and tidy house and trying to get enough sleep. It can’t be just us, right? Who actually has time to watch Love Island or any other TV show that’s on every day?! Especially when you have an awesome little black labrador who needs feeding and walking twice a day.
Inspiration struck and we’re going to have another go at this here blog. I seem to spend an hour and a half a day cooking anyway!
Cards on the table, I forgot my password. Charles, tech guru that he is, managed to break me back in and we’ve got a bit of boring stuff to do before we can come back full guns blazing, but are at least planning a re-design, which should make things a bit more visually appealing.
We’ll see you soon for more recipes and random ramblings about things we like, maybe some books, interior design (we’re starting to look at paint and flooring for our new house), what we’ve learned from our vegetable patch and maybe even some photography from the very talented husband. Keep an eye on our Instagram in the meantime. AB out.
Rugby season is a big deal in the Brooker household and this Buffalo Chicken recipe is perfect for getting into the spirit of things, Ok, traditionally buffalo is a marinade for chicken wings – an American invention, commonly served as a bar snack while watching American Football. While chicken wings often sound like a good a good idea (especially if they come with curly fries), in reality, they’re a lot of faff for not very much eating. So we use thighs and drumsticks instead. The first time I made these it was with a jointed whole chicken (minus the breasts) so there were thighs, legs and a couple of wings too.
It’s a little bit tricky, a little bit smoky and a quite a big bit spicy, although if you’r not a huge fan of spice just use less hot sauce.
This is such an easy chicken recipe, and doesn’t just need to be a snack. Serve it up with a salad, chips or even some tasty rice and veg to make really tasty supper. The marinade is so simple, as long a you have all the ingredients available – just mix it all together and leave the chicken to take on the smoky, spicy, sweet flavours for at least half an hour, before roasting in the oven for about 30-40 minutes.
This is a great solution for skin on chicken on the bone, but of course you could use the same buffalo marinade for chicken breast. Just reduce your cooking time a bit so it doesn’t end up too dry.
The Berwick Food and Beer Festival is starting to become a bit of a tradition for us. Well, as far as going to something two years in a row can be called a tradition. If you live, or have ever spent a meaningful amount of time in the Scottish Borders, you’ll know there isn’t all that much to do, so you have to take the chance to do something interesting when you get it. Fortunately for the organisers and exhibitors, lots of other people in the area seem to have the same idea.
As food bloggers, and all round greedy humans, Charles and I jump at the chance to go to any event involving food. We’re not hugely keen on crowds so there aren’t that many that will actually make our day. I’m still trying to justify making a trip down to The Big Feastival (an annual food and music festival at Alex James’ farm – Alex James being the former frontman of Blur turned epic cheesemaker) but it would almost certainly be far too busy and overpriced, which would make us very cross indeed. They do say never meet your heroes and I have a feeling that biting the bullet on this one would be the food festival equivalent (but watch this space). As ever, I digress.
So, Berwick Food and Beer Festival. It’s held at the Berwick on Tweed Barracks every year, which is less impressive than it sounds, but it’s plenty big and might just have a couple of men in uniform floating around. Berwick upon Tweed has some pretty places, but not all that many, and there’s not very much to do there either, so when the festival’s in town, it gets mighty busy.
That said, it does have some pretty special restaurants (Magna Tandoori for a wicked curry and Upper West Street for lunch) and and one heck of a chocolate shop – Cocoature (they deliver, by the way – you’re welcome). Northumberland itself is both twee and pretty, so it’s worth the drive up or down (as long as you don’t get stuck behind as many farm vehicles as we did).
If you have a well-behaved dog, you can take it along, or if you have a moderately well-behaved dog that you wish was very well-behaved like our naughty Cress, you can take her along too. Just don’t expect your experience to be quite as plain sailing. There was a maverick old Border Terrier just pottering around off his lead, peeing on the recycling bins – we enjoyed that little guy immensely.
Pro tip: go when you’re hungry. Ideally right before lunch. That way you can make the most of the numerous street food style stalls they have on offer. My big problem with these situations is that I immediately want to try everything, so it’s pretty difficult to decide what to have for lunch. Charles made a very sensible suggestion which I took him up on – let’s get two things and share.
That seemed epic to start with as we immediately joined the long-but-worth-it queue for wonderful wood fired chorizo and red onion pizza from Earth & Fire, but the pulled pork Yorkshire pudding wraps we picked up as we were leaving were a huge disappointment. Not only did they get our order wrong which left us an extra quid out of pocket (and one portion of roast potatoes still would have been too much as they weren’t good at all) but what we did get was a real let down. The pulled pork was tender enough, but it was served up in a Yorkshire from a packet with a dollop of wholesale apple sauce. It needed a couple of scoops of good sage and onion stuffing and a couple of cracks of black pepper. You can’t win them all.
I suppose the really disappointing thing was how few local exhibitors were there compared with the number of exhibitors making a career out of attending festivals. Funnily enough, our favourites (and those who got us to empty our wallets onto their tables) were almost all local food superheroes. Two of which we specifically made a point of returning to after loving their produce last year.
Northern Edge Coffee – a local coffee roaster who was selling whole beans, ground beans and wonderful takeaway coffees and hot chocolates (this one always confuses people as I drink coffee as black as it can get whereas Charles orders the girlies, frothiest hot chocolate available). I chuckled at the irony of two ladies joining the festival queue with Costa cups in their hands.
The Geordie Banger Company – a sausage and occasional burger maker based in North Shields. These are quality sausages available in variety of different flavours, such as Newcastle Brown Ale, Bourbon and Hog Roast. The chap at the stall was the salt of the earth. When I made a point of telling him we’d come back specially for his sausages he even gave us a quick little recipe if we got bored of eating them just as sausages. He clearly doesn’t appreciate how many sausages we eat.
The Brownie Bar – sells all different types of brownies and cookies with brownies in the middle (I know) – really pleasant chap behind he counter but I wasn’t all that impressed by the brownies themselves. They were lovely and fudgey but a bit too sugary and buttery for my taste – they could have done with a bigger chocolate hit.
Le Mini Macaron – There was a very similar little business back home in Perth, and to be fair, who can be bothered to make their own macarons? Very pretty little confections in a variety of flavours and they’re relatively local (based in Jesmond, Newcastle).
The Chirnells Farmhouse Kitchen – this lady was at Kelso farmers’ market last week and has a table heaving with beautiful home baked cakes, cookies, tarts and scones. It’s how I’d like my stall to look if I ever had the courage to bake for a living.
Earth & Fire – The aforementioned excellent pizza makers. They tow their oven around on a little concrete lined trailer and it turns out that they also offer their services to build a similar oven for you in your very own garden. Might just have to enquire about that one…..
The live music was too loud and pretty off-putting to be frank – I’m not convinced any of them actually had to audition. That or the sound production was really, really bad.
The Yorkshire pudding wraps.
Having to queue for about 20 minutes, only to be given the wrong change when paying, and getting our wristbands was fairly disorganised.
Having to pay to get in, despite basically emptying our wallets at the first stall we got to.
Oh, and we didn’t try any of the beers – I’m sure they were very good but it’s not my bag and Charles was driving. We also missed the demo kitchen, but had sort of forgotten about that element when we decided to take the dog with us!
Anyway, we’ll be back next year. Hope you had a great time if you’ve been, and have a brilliant day if you’re going tomorrow!
These Homemade Turkey Burgers aren’t like the dried out, breaded discs you might be used to. Let’s face it, that’s what comes to mind when you think of turkey burgers, isn’t it? The frozen Bernard Matthews guys kids were fed in the 90s. I’m not sure what kids are fed these days, but I imagine there’s a bit less of that sort of thing around – or maybe not given Farmfoods is alive and well. I digress.
These turkey burgers are different. They’re just like beef burgers, only they’re leaner, and of course they taste like turkey rather than beef. To me, they’re a little bit more sophisticated, and I’m convinced turkey mince has a more umami flavour than beef mince, which can often taste quite fatty and salty. Turkey mince also takes on other flavours a lot better than beef mince. You can buy turkey breast mince, or turkey thigh mince, and I would suggest using the thigh mince, or perhaps mixing a packet of each together. Turkey is very lean, so you should get a juicier burger if you use at least half thigh mince. And it’s still going to be better for you than fatty beef mince (not that I shy away from beef mince – in fact, you can catch my homemade beef burger recipe here).
Oh, and you can skip the chopped onion too. It’s just going to make the burgers break up. It’s much tastier to add some onions sautéed in balsamic vinegar on top of the cooked burger.
If you’ve ever made homemade burgers (unless you’ve used any of our recipes!) you’ll probably be used to including breadcrumbs and an egg to ‘bind’ them, right? It’s a common misconception that both of those are essential for stopping your burgers sticking together, but really they’re just padding – a way to make the burgers look bigger or help the meat go a bit further. There’s no need for any of that. Which, incidentally, means that this recipe can be dairy and gluten-free (provided the mustard and ketchup you use are as well, or course). You know how we feel about the ‘free from’ movement, but accept that there are people who genuinely have coeliac disease or a dairy allergy, and they should be allowed to have some delicious food too.
You can stick them in a white, spongey bun, or slice them up for a wrap or pitta, or you can skip the bread altogether. I quite like them with ginger and spring onion noodles, cous cous, or even a salad (but let’s face it, who really wants salad when they can have carbs instead?).
Grate the garlic and ginger together and put in a bowl. Pat the jarred peppers dry with a paper towel and finely chop them, then add to the bowl.
Finely chop the spring onions and add to the bowl along with the spices and sauces.
Now, grab the mince and stick that in the bowl too.
I'm afraid you're going to have to get your hands dirty here. Mix it all together and that's your burger mixture.
Grab a large frying pan and add the oil to it. While it's heating, form the mince mixture into burger patties.
Now fry them on both sides, turning frequently until cooked through. If you're worried about how cooked they're going to be in the middle you can always stick them on a tray in the oven for 10 minutes.
My Spicy Pork, Chorizo and Rice Jambalaya isn’t exactly an authentic jambalaya, but it does have pork, rice, spice and plenty of nice fresh vegetables. It’s not a one pot wonder but the end result comes altogether in one large pan or wok in the end, ready to scoop into a bowl to devour steaming hot.
Of course, you can change it up with your favourite spices, meat and vegetables, but I like to use pork fillet, peppers, green beans and peas. And you should know my feelings about chorizo by now……
Just writing this post makes me want to cook it all over again, but tonight we’re having my father-in-law and his friend over for supper, so I’m making a chicken and ham pie by special request. It’s based on my turkey and ham pie, but we’re making it with leftover chicken and ham and serving it up with some new potatoes and vegetables. We also have a mocha cake for pudding. Man, I love food.
Handful green beans, topped, tailed and cut in half
2 handfuls frozen peas
Grate the ginger and garlic into a bowl and add half of each of the dried spices and seasoning. The rest of the spices will be added to the vegetables later.
Add a glug of olive oil and mix together.
Thinly slice the pork fillet and mix it into the marinade, making sure each piece is well covered. Set aside with a cling film cover for at least half an hour.
Cook your rice, using twice as much water as the rice and a good pinch of salt. If using brown rice, this'll take around 20 minutes, but it'll be 10 - 15 if you're using white rice. Drain it once it's cooked and set aside.
In the meantime, slice the onion and fry it off in the oil with the rest of the spices.
Add the peppers and green beans and allow to cook together, then push all that to the side and add in the chorizo, sliced into coin sized pieces.
Fry off the pork in a separate pan, making sure it's nicely caramelised on each side but being careful not to overcook it. Remember, it's ok to each slightly pink pork these days, and it tastes much better that way.
Now, you just need to mix all the elements together - rice, pork, chorizo and veg - in there biggest pan you have on the go. I used my trusty old wok for this. Taste and add any more seasoning you feel it needs and add the frozen peas. They just need to be stirred through for a couple of minutes or they'll end up overcooked.
The key to this dish is not to get stressed about it. Look after each element individually if you have to then just take it off the heat and leave it to sit until it's time to pull it altogether.
I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like lemon drizzle cake, and these Lemon Drizzle Squares are a perfect way to feed the masses. You know I’m a fan of always having some home baking in the tin when possible, and this one keeps fresh and moist for a few days.
Soft buttery cake, with a sharp lemon zing and a crisp sugar topping – it’s delicious and you don’t have to go to as much effort as you would with a layered, iced cake. Just put the batter into a traybake tray, bake, allow to cool a little and then mix the sugar and lemon juice together to make your glaze, drizzle it over and you’re done. No need to faff around with a palette knife or anything. The squares are also a lovely size for a bake sale, and it’s quick and easy to whip up a couple of batches.
I made these recently for family coming to visit, and they were so simple to whip together between finishing work and them turning up, with so few steps to get to get to the finished article. And what’s more, you only need two lemons, so chances are you’ll be able to make them with what you have in your cupboards and fridge.
2 tbsp double cream (or milk if you don't have cream)
175g granulated sugar
Line a large traybake tin or deep baking tray with butter and greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 160c.
Cream the butter in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer if you have one. If you don't a wooden spoon and then a whisk and some elbow grease will do the trick (although this recipe will become less easy very quickly!)
Add the caster sugar and mix together for a few minutes until very light and fluffy.
Add the eggs and mix them in for a good few minutes, until the mixture is pale and mousse. This is a great opportunity to bring in the air that will make your cake light and fluffy.
Add the zest of the two lemons, and mix together.
Finally, add the flour and the double cream and mix until just combined, then stop.
Scrape the mixture into the tray and level out a little, making sure it reaches all the edges.
Slide into the middle of the oven and bake for around 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden on top and springy to the touch.
Leave to cool for a few minutes while you mix up the topping, by putting the granulated sugar into a smallish bowl and adding the juice from the two lemons. Mix together well and leave to stand for a moment.
Prick the sponge all over with a cocktail stick or similar and then spoon the glaze over the sponge, making sure you cover the whole of the cake's surface. Leave to cool completely then cut into squares or fingers.
Ginger and spring onion noodles are a simple but tasty addition to a stir fry or a great side to all sorts of things when you’re not really sure what you want to go with the main part of your meal but don’t have the time to commit to rice or potatoes. We eat this with everything from burgers when we don’t have any buns to beef stroganoff (it works surprisingly well). If you make a lot of your own stir fries, chances are you’ll have the ingredients to hand anyway.
This works best with medium egg noodles, but fine egg noddles would work well too, or soba or udon. If you’re using rice noodles, avoid the very fine ones as they cook too quickly and tend to go a bit laggy. This recipe is written with dried noodles in mind, so skip the boiling part if you have straight to wok noodles. The butter should be enough to cook them through without pre-cooking, as there will be enough moisture to steam them.
If you know our site well, don’t really go in for gluten or dairy-free recipes, but you could make this gluten free by using gluten free buckwheat noodles and you could skip the butter and use some groundnut oil instead (unless you have a nut allergy!).
While the butter does add a clagginess and creaminess, the ginger and spring onions are fresh enough to lift it (in my opinion at least!).
I’m not one for blowing my own trumpet, but this really awesome garlic pizza bread is actually quite awesome. It’s also pretty quick and easy to make compared to most other bready things. It’s great served up with some cold meats and salads, as a starter or snack, but we like it best with spaghetti and meatballs (these ones or these ones) or lasagne, as you can use them to mop up the sauce and things your fork can’t quite manage.
The dough is easiest made if you have a stand mixer, but you can make it by hand too, you just need to dedicate some time to kneading the dough.
If you don’t like garlic (really though?!) It’s delicious with just the herbs and butter, but you could get creative with paprika butter, pesto or sun blushed tomatoes. It’s your pizza bread. If you don’t eat it all in the first sitting, it can be reheated in the oven or in the toaster in slices.
This recipe will make two large relatively deep pan pizza breads, or possibly three, thinner smaller ones if you prefer it thinner and crisper. I make it with one pizza stone and one large round tray, but use whatever you’ve got. Small ones would work really well in sandwich tins, or you could make them rectangular in baking trays. Remember, we’re all about making things as easy as possible and working around what you’ve got. You do you. (Ooh, it’s just occurred to me that these would be awesome with melted cheese on top too…)
Weigh out the flour into a large bowl then add the yeast and salt at opposite sides of the bowl. Add the sugar.
Add the olive oil and water and mix together.
The mixing can be done in a stand mixer from this point on with the dough hook set up, or by spoon or hand if you're hand kneading. If you're using the mixer, leave on a low to medium speed mixing for at least 20 minutes. Or turn out onto a floured surface and hand knead for 25 to 30 minutes.
Once kneaded, leave to rise in the bowl, covered with cling film, for at least half an hour but it doesn't need to have quite as much time as a loaf or something.
Preheat the oven to 200c fan. Once risen, turn out onto a floured worktop and turnover a few times until not too sticky, Split into two (or however many pieces you're using).
Lightly oil the trays/pizza stones and slap the dough onto them, spreading it out to the edges. If it's too stiff, just given it 10 minutes or so to rise a bit then it can be respread.
As long as the butter is relatively soft, it can be mixed easily with the grated garlic. Spread over the dough being careful not to rip it, then sprinkle with the dried herbs.
Stick in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly golden at the edges and looking like it's cooked through.
This banana bread will not only take care of those extra bananas you have in the fruit bowl that are too far brown to eat, but it will also give you a delicious, moist cake that can be eaten alone or with a cup of tea. It doesn’t even need any butter or icing.
With bananas, there are three types of people in the world: those who like them a bit too ripe, those who’ll only eat them when they’re still a little green on the outside but firm and slightly sour on the inside, and those who don’t like bananas at all. Whichever type you are (I’m in the first camp), most people like banana bread, so it’s a great bake to have in the tin in case someone pops round for a cup of tea. It’s best eaten fresh on the first day, but will keep well for a few days before it starts to go stale.
This banana loaf is has a slightly caramel top, which is my favourite part, and it can be slightly gooey or firm in the middle, depending how long you cook it. It does contain eggs, so I’d errr on the side of more well baked if you’re feeding the elderly, young or pregnant. Baking anything in a loaf tin can be a bit tricky if you’re not used to your oven, so you’re at less risk of underbaking it if you leave it in the oven closer to the full hour and a quarter than the minimum hour suggested in the recipe.
Anything with bananas in it can give a false reading if you use the old skewer test* to check if it’s done, as the mashed banana can look very like raw cake batter and vice versa. I’ve always been more of a fan of the ‘prod test’ where you gently poke the cake with your fingertip at its deepest point – if it’s slightly firm and springy it should be ready, and if you leave it in the tin until completely cool the residual heat will keep it cooking a little.
Grab a loaf tin, butter it and line with greaseproof paper. If you don't have a loaf tin, you can use a couple of cake tins, but it should only need 20 minutes or so in the oven if you use shallower tins. Preheat the oven to 160c fan or 170c conventional.
Weigh out the butter, which should ideally be at room temperature so it will combine better with the other ingredients. To the same bowl, add the caster sugar.
Using an electric hand mixer if you have one or a good wooden spoon if you don't, mix the butter and sugar together for at least a few minutes, until they are well combined, soft and fluffy.
Add the eggs and whisk up again, but keep going until the mixture is very airy, pale and mousse. It's the best way of getting lots of air in to give you a nice light cake.
Mash up the bananas and add them to the mixture along with the vanilla and salt.
Finally, add the flour and mis this in, but this time you only want to mix for as long as it takes for the ingredients to be just combined.
If you over mix, the cake will come out heavy and stodgy as you'll start to develop the gluten in the flour.
Using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, scoop the mixture into the prepared tin or tins. Make sure there is a relatively even amount of cake batter across the tin, but don't worry about levelling it - the oven will sort that out.
Now slide the filled tin into the middle of the oven and leave to bake for at least an hour, to an hour and a quarter until rise, brown and cooked through.
*The skewer test is where you use a skewer or cake tester (or very thin, sharp knife) to test if a cake is baked all the way through by pushing said skewer into the deepest part of the cake, all the way to the bottom of the tin, then pulling it out again. If there’s batter on the skewer when you pull it out, it needs more time in the oven,but if it comes out clean it should be ok. With banana bread, the banana pulp can look like cake batter on the skewer even when the cake is ready.
This tandoori chicken recipe a really simple but yummy chicken dish for when you fancy a curry but can’t really be bothered to make a paste and a sauce and so on and so forth. It’s what you might call a ‘dry curry’ in that it doesn’t have lashings of sauce to go with it, but it’s lighter as a result. Because it is on the drier side, I like to serve it up with some flavourful rice, such as our nutty lemon rice, as well as flatbreads or yoghurt-free wholemeal flatbreads if you’re feeling a bit healthier and maybe even a yoghurt dip just to make it into a tasty meal. It would also be great as part of a barbecue. It’s delicious cold.
If you don’t have very much time to prepare it, you don’t need to bother with the spice toasting and grinding. I think it adds a fresher flavour, but it’s still tasty if you use pre-ground spices. You can make up the marinade ahead of time and leave the chicken marinating for a day or so if needed. Make your cooking fit around you.
Tandoori isn’t a flavour but rather a style of cooking, and unless you have a tandoor (a type of pot-like, exceedingly hot oven used in Indian cookery) you’re going to have to substitute another source of very hot, intense heat, either by turning your oven as high as it gets, or using a barbecue. There are a number of recipes which suggest using a very hot grill, but I’m not convinced that’s a safe way of cooking chicken with the bone in, so I just used the oven.
If you want this to look more like ‘traditional’ tandoori chicken, with a deep red colour, you’ll need to add some food colouring (or use a ready made tandoori paste) but didn’t do that as it wouldn’t add anything to the flavour and I’d rather eat food that’s the colour it’s supposed to be (unless we’re talking novelty cakes that is!).
5 tbsp (or around 150g) or low fat (or full fat) yoghurt
2 tsp lemon juice
Chicken thighs, thighs and drumsticks or bone in chicken pieces with the skin on
Toast the whole spices, if you're using them, in a small frying pan over a low heat, tossing frequently. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn.
Bash and then remove the seeds from the cardamom pods. Now tip the toasted spices into a pestle and mortar.
Grind them up as finely as you can manage and tip them into a nice big bowl.
Add the other spices and the salt.
Grate the ginger and garlic and add to the bowl and then mix together. Now add the yoghurt and lemon juice and mix everything together.
Add the chicken to the marinade and cover. Allow to marinate for at least an hour or overnight in the fridge if you would prefer.
Take out of the fridge at least half an hour before you cook it - longer if it's winter and it's cold in your kitchen. Ideally it should be at room temperature when it goes in the oven.
Turn the oven up to its highest temperature with the fan on (for us that's 240c). Just be very careful when going in and out of the oven. Once it's nice and hot, put the chicken on a good nonstick tray and slide it into the oven on the top shelf.
It should take around 25 to 30 minutes to cook through with crispy skin. Don't panic if it's blackened when it comes out of the oven - it just adds to the authenticity.
Enjoy with rice and bread and maybe a nice yoghurt dip and some mango chutney, as well as some fresh lemon slices on the side.