Thursday, 31 January 2013

Minestrone soup with orzo

Minestrone must be one of the easiest soups in the world to make, infinitely forgiving as it uses what ever vegetables you have left moldering in the fridge and any small starch grain to bulk it out to give that rib sticking quality that you need on a cold day. In fact as long as it contains tomatoes it pretty much qualifies, Italian in origin and you can see why this is frugal cooking at its best, it can be a vegetarian or meat based soup, its a great dish served with homemade bread.
  • 2 sticks of celery chopped
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • 1 onion - chopped
  • 1 small red pepper chopped
  • 2 small carrots - peeled and chopped
  • Couple of cabbage leaves - finely chopped
  • Vegetable stock
  • Handful of Orzo pasta ( rice, vermecelli, broken spaghetti, etc)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese to serve
  • Little oil or butter
  • Herbs
  • Heat the oil or butter in a large saucepan
  • Add the onion and garlic and sweat off to soften without colouring
  • Add the carrots, celery, pepper, to the pan
  • Now add the tomatoes and the vegetable stock just enough to cover the vegetables
  • Bring to a gentle simmer 
  • Add the cabbage, and continue to cook until all the vegetable are softened slightly
  • Now add the orzo and herbs if using and simmer until the orzo is cooked
  • Serve in warmed bowls with grated parmesan cheese and chunky slices of bread.

Ferrero biscuits

Italian inspired biscuits, apparently chocolate hazlenut spread known the world over as Nutella was invented in Italian by a gentleman named "Ferrero" , who later used this ingredient in the ambassadors favourite chocloate Ferrero Rocher. These little biscuits use chocolate hazelnut spread as their source of chocolatelyness, very easy to make and bake.They are also a perfect foil to a delicious creamy prosecco, ideally served with quality vanilla ice cream or the classic  wobbly delight of pannacotta.

  • 3 tbsp chocolate hazelnut spread
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 50g softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 100g of sieved self raising flour
  • Orange rind, choc chips, raisins are all optional extras

  • Preheat your oven to 180c
  • Mix all ingredients together throughly in one bowl
  • Place dollops of your mixture on a ungreased baking tray
  • Squish them slightly to flatten with a fork
  • Bake for 15 - 25 minus until set but not coloured, cooking time depends on the size of your biscuits
  • Cool on a wire rack
  • Dust with icing sugar when cool or alternatively you could drizzle with chocolate

Fresh handmade tagliatelle and tomato sauce with sun dried tomatoes and creme fraiche

We are so happy to be invited to take part in a one off return of #BoothsCheers for the launch of Booths family of won label Italian wines. The selection includes a Chanti, Gavi Gavi, Pinot Grigio and a Prosecco all carefully sourced for the finest Italian vineyards by Booths.

We have devised this quick supper dish to perfectly complement the Pinot Grigio which is delicious chilled, the slight acidity of the wine perfectly cutting the creamy edge to the tomato sauce. The pasta of course is homemade using our homelaid eggs.

Pasta Ingredients ( per portion)
  • 100g pasta flour
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • splash of water 
Pasta Method
  • Sieve your flour and salt onto your work surface making a volcano crater like hole in the middle for your egg(s)
  • Drop your egg(s) in to the hole

  • Mix with your fingers until you have combined all the egg and have a soft sticky dough
  • Knead this for about 5-7 minutes
  • Leave to rest for approx 15 - 20 minutes , wrapped loosely in cling or a plastic bag, divide the dough by half to ease rolling out.
  • If you don't have a pasta machine then you are now going to roll the pasta out manually, roll up your sleeve and flour your work surface well, Roll out until very thin and you can see a tea towel through the rolled out dough. 
  • If using a pasta machine then put the dough through the machine on each setting approximately 5 /6 times, until the dough is smooth and very thin.

  • Now leave the dough to dry for 10 minutes or so, on a clean  tea towel

  • Cut the pasta into your desired shapes, I used my machine to make tagliatelle

  • Toss in flour or polenta until ready to cook

  • Cook by adding to boiling salted water , the pasta is cooked when it rises to the top of the water
  • Drain and do as the italian's do and tosh the pasta with the sauce in the pan
  • Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese.
Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 clove of garlic - crushed
  • 1 tin of tomatoes - crushed
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 tbsp creme friache
  • 1 tbsp sun dried tomatoes - chopped
  • Flat leaf parsley - chopped
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive oil or oil off sun dried tomatoes
  • Splash balsamic vinegar
Sauce Method
  • Heat a little oil in a saucepan and gently fry the garlic until lightly golden
  • Add the tin of tomatoes and the tomato puree to the pan, cook on a gentle simmer for 5 minutes
  • Next add the sun dried tomatoes and the splash of balsamic
  • Cook for a couple of minutes longer, remove from heat and stir in the creme fraiche and parsley
  • Bring back to hot , but don't boil as your creme fraiche may split.
  • Taste for seasoning and dress the pasta.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan and a glass of #BoothsCheers Pinot Grigio 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Cream of mushroom, mustard and tarragon soup


Two of my fellow food bloggers, Sue over at Heaven on a Plate and Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen have launched a monthly cook along for any Nigel Slater recipe, I have quite a few of his books in my extensive cookery book collection, Nigel Slater is my style of cook, cooking seasonally and using what he grows and purchases locally, he is the only TV cook my husband will watch, that says a lot.

When I saw this challenge I knew I had to take part, so a quick rummage in the bookshelves and I came up with this hybrid combination inspired by mushroom soup from Real Fast Food ( a very early Nigel) pg 164 and Roasted mushroom with mustard and tarragon in Kitchen Diaries 1 Pg 279.

A delicious easy creamy mushroom soup with the great inspired additions of a touch of dijon mustard and the herb tarragon,  I didn't have any fresh tarragon as perscribed so I used dried and it worked fine.Nigel's recipes are of simple but always inspired and the mustard and aniseed back note of the tarragon combined well with the earthy mushrooms.

Agave nectar Chocolate cake

How to make a healthy ( well healthier) with no sugar chocolate dish ?  that's this months challenge for We should Cocoa  - January 2013, so here goes, substituting agave nectar for sugar is allowed.


  • 2/3 cup of light agave nectar
  • 1 cup of  plain wholemeal flour 
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Good pinch of salt
  • 1 egg free range please
  • 1/2 cup skimmed milk
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • Preheat oven to 180c
  • Oil spray and base line approx 8" round cake tin
  • Sieve flour, cocoa and all other dry ingredients into mixer bowl
  • Add all other ingredients except the boiling water
  • Mix throughly for a couple of minutes
  • Now stir in the boiling water, this is to activate the baking soda
  • Quickly pour your mixture into the prepared pan
  • Bake for approx 35 -40 minutes until tests done with a skewer
  • Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes and then on a wire rack
  • Serve when full cooled with creme fraiche or vanilla yoghurt.


Monday, 21 January 2013

Almond, amaretto and blueberry torte

This bake is inspired by the great Jo Wheatley - winner of the Great British bake off in 2011, I love making her raspberry and almond torte as featured in her book and also on the daily mail website here, I suggest if you are interested in baking you buy a copy as it contains some great no nonsense family recipes.

My variation on a theme is to pimp the cake by adding booze, in this case amaretto (thats inspired by a book Flavour Thesaurus - but thats another post) and to use blueberries rather than raspberries, obviously blueberries when cooked are more moist so the resultant cake is  slightly different in texture than Jo's version,  but very delicious all the same.

Ingredients - these were my additions and substitutions to the original recipe
  • 2 tbsp amaretto
  • 1/2 punnet blueberries

Jo is regularly on twitter and facebook and seems to be one of life's genuinely nice people despite what life throws at you, I tend to find most bakers are like that as when you bake you really are putting you heart and sole out there on a plate.

So buy her book , its fantastic . I purchased my copy and in respect for Jo, I am not publishing the recipe, just linking to where it is available in the publish domain.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Enter a different world - mail order

Just before Christmas I was approached to carry out a review from the iconic Luxury store - Harrods, once I had picked my self up off the floor, I decided that this would be a great post for the blog. Harrods is a quintessentially English brand and as some one who doesn't get down to the "big smoke" (London) very often I liked the idea of virtually shopping with them instead.


As a Food blogger, I obviously have confined the shopping spree to their virtual online food hall, famous the world over for Christmas Food Hampers , Harrods also supply year round a fine selection of  foodie delicacies which can be mailed to an address of your choice. So with my gift card in hand, I ordered a lovely selection of goodies from the easy to use website, I was not too impressed that even-though I ordered almost £100 worth of items I had to pay a delivery charge of £5.95, then again though if you can afford to shop at Harrods a small delivery charge isn't going to worry you. So I completed the online ordering process quite quickly and then waited for my goodies to arrive.The items took just over 7 days to arrive with me ( but this was over new year), however I was kept informed throughout the process by email, all the items were in stock and when delivered where packaged well.

Now on to the items I ordered, I wanted to steer clear of any touristy jams and biscuits and focus on what treats they had for an ardent foodie like myself.

My first selection was an aged balsamic vinegar of Modena IGP (£40)( Protected geographical status), if you've noticed on the blog I do love Italian food and finding that the cupboard was bear (so to speak) this was a must order item. Packaged in a funky sleek bottle this PRIMVS branded vinegar was a good vinegar with some age, so ideal to serve in all the usual ways for sprinkling and dipping. The price was a little steep given to what I have paid for aged balsamic vinegar before but it is quite a large bottle.

I also love chocolate and for a chocoholic like myself the next selection was a no brainer, the iconic Hot Chocolate brand "Charbonnel et Walker" (£7.50) , quality chocolate flakes to make gorgeous hot chocolate with, perfect for this time of year with the added bonus of the gorgeous tin to use for storage later.
I make elderflower cordial very spring and have often thought of making rose cordial, so on spotting East of India Company Rose Cordial (£7.95) on the website that had to go in my basket too, thinking it will make a nice addition to cake and dessert recipes or drizzled over warm scotch pancakes. You could also use this in cooling summer drinks and cocktails, Plus I loved the bottle and delightful packaging. Interestingly whilst this cordial is available via other outlets its the same price.
We love Port in the the Lancashire Food household, so we couldn't pass up the chance of snaffling a bottle of Vintage port (£33.95) to enjoy in front of the fire with friends, the bottle came parceled in a fine wooden case and complete with filter to use when decanting, the only disappointment was that the filter was plastic, this would obviously make an ideal gift at any time of the year.
Last but no means least were these delicious little biscuits Dolcetto di Cocao (£3.95), Italian again (I know I know !), tiny morsels of chocolatelyness , with a creamy centre. These were delightful with coffee and disappeared very quickly.
So all in all shopping mail order with Harrods was a pleasurable experience, and the quality of the products was very good and considering its Harrods the pricing was fairly competitive for most of the items. 

This is a sponsored blog post and I received the items for review  free of charge, these opinions are my own.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Parsnip, lentil and bacon soup

I've been clearing out the fridge after the festive period and came across a bag of parsnips that needed using up, Christmas is like that we all buy too much stuff and then end up chucking it out, however we try not to let that happen at Lancashire Food. So here is a comforting warming recipe that is falling of a log simple yet produces great results from some fairly humble ingredients. The recipe would also work well with ham instead of bacon or if you are cooking for vegetarian eaters omitted entirely. 

  • 500g bag of parsnips, topped and tailed, peeled and chunky chopped
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and chopped fairly finely
  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • Vegetable stock
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 small pack of Pancetta / or a couple of rashers of bacon chopped up into small pieces
  • Small knob of butter
  • Start by melting the butter in a large saucepan, once melted add your bacon and cook until golden, remove from pan
  • Now add the chopped onion and parsnips and cooks for a few minutes without colouring, now add the red lentils to the pan and add enough vegetable to cover.
  • Bring to the simmer and cook until the lentils have disintergrated and the parsnip is soft, watch the quantity of liquid you may need to add more water.
  • Once cooked allow to cool slighty, then blend with a stick blender until you reach you desired consistency, add more water if you want a thinner soup.
  • Add the bacon back to the pan and reheat gently
  • Serve with crusty bread

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Pikelets - a traditional tea time treat

Pikelets are the easier to make sibling of the crumpet family, that great afternoon teatime treat or in our household breakfast treat too. For many years I have fancied giving making crumpets or pikelets a try and not got around to it but finally I have had a go and was pleasantly surprised by how very easy they are to make, so much so that I will be having another griddle baking session very soon. Yeast raised but griddled baked these little fluffy holey delights turned out great and are best devoured toasted and slathered (good word that !) with butter and home made jam or better still apple butter.

If like us you have either an open fire or log burner, pikelets are great toasted on a cold wet wintery afternoon for a carpet picnic. You will need a toasting fork, but its way more fun than an electric toaster !

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 350ml warm milk
  • 350ml warm water
  • 5g dried yeast
  • 10g salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Vegetable oil for frying - a little
You will also need a heavy based frying pan or flat griddle hotplate to cook your pikelets in or on.

This makes about 16 pikelets

  • Mix all your ingredients except the oil in a large bowl, whisking together until your batter is the consistency of a thick pancake batter
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to ferment in a warm place until the mixture is all bubbly. This will take at least an hour and may be as much as 3 hours. Don't rush this step as time is what creates the flavour in the dough.
  • You are now ready to cook your pikelets
  • Preheat your pan / griddle , oil and then wipe (I use kitchen roll) so there is just a trace of oil remaining.
  • Ladle large spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan, whatever size you wish to make your pikelets
  • Cook on one side without moving until the top side is covered with lots of air bubbles that have popped, this takes a couple of minutes.
  • Flip your pikelets over and briefly cook on the other side
  • You are aiming for lightly golden on both sides, as bear in mind that you will be toasting to serve.
  • Delicious toasted served with butter and preserves
  • They freeze really well also.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Mushroom, onion and thyme focaccia

Another baking adventure from Mr Lancashire Food, this time a twist on the Italian delight - focaccia. We love mushrooms in our household and decided that we would experiment by adding cooked mushrooms and onions to a traditional focaccia mix.

The resultant focaccia was absolutely delicious, it was fortuitous that we made two slabs of this crusty delight, as the first one disappeared within minutes. We used large open capped mushrooms but you could use button or if feeling especially decadent wild mushrooms instead, if you are using dried mushrooms you will need to reconstitute them first before cooking.

As with all bread baking the secret is time, allowing your dough to rise fully and prove, this time creates the  flavour in the dough.


  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 7g dried yeast
  • 70ml olive oil
  • Warm water to mix - hard to be precise as this all depends on your flour
  • Roughly 100g of mushrooms ( whatever type) - chopped finely
  • 1 large white onion - chopped into fine half rings
  • Thyme ( fresh or dried)
  • Salt and olive oil for sprinkling 
  • Little oil or butter to cook your mushrooms and onions in
Baking tray or shallow baking pan 

  • Firstly cook the onions and mushrooms in a little oil or butter until softened but with hardly any colour, allow to cool, stir in your thyme.
  • Now mix the flour, sea salt, yeast and liquids to a  make a soft sticky dough, add the water last and mix by hand so you can judge the consistency of the dough
  • Once combined knead well on lightly floured surface, until the dough is pliable and stretchy
  • Place in a bowl and allow to rest  in a warm place for at least an hour or so until your dough has doubled in size
  • Add the Mushroom, onion and thyme mixture to the dough pressing in with your hands
  • Now place your dough on your baking sheet / pan and shape by pressing out with your fingers to cover the tin to the edges, allow to prove for approx 30 minutes covered with a tea towel
  • Now using your fingers prick all over the surface of your focaccia to make dimples, sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt crystals, leave to prove again for another hour or so
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 200c for approximately 25 -35 minutes until golden brown
Delicious served with Italian salami, cold meats, olives or oil and vinegar.

I am entering this post in "Herbs on Saturday" blog  challenge for January 2013 challenge from Lavender and Lovage and this  month hosted by Bangers and Mash.


Season of Soups, Stews and Casseroles Round Up


Firstly apologies for the delay in the round up for the blog competition, what with Christmas, a short spell in hospital for me and a change of judge things have got a little delayed. Anyway on with the round up, the blog competition saw some great entries from food bloggers across the country who gladly shared treasured recipes for the chance of winning our great prize from Essential Cuisine.

I am also very grateful to Stosi Madi the talented chef from the multi award winning Parkers Arms in Newton in Bowland who stepped in to judge  the competition. The Parkers Arms is a gorgeously situated country inn  in the stunning Trough of Bowland in Lancashire, Stosi is passionate about the use of local produce in her fine establishment and I can whole heartily recommend a visit, I am not alone in singing her praises either as the establishment features in many of the restaurant guides and many a  food critic have sampled her culinary delights too.


A warm welcome at the Parkers Arms


On with the entries , we had 6 diverse dishes to consider, our first entry was from Karen Booths Burns over at the fantastic food blog  Lavender and Lovage, a comforting chicken and corn chowder, Karen got extra marks for using Essential Cuisine Stock in her chowder too !

                               The Secret Recipe Club: Comforting Soups and Chicken Corn Chowder

Karen's second entry was a delicious sounding Highland stew which despite being rib stickly warming is actually a diet food !

                               A 5:2 Fast Day Diet Winter Meal Plan with Low Calorie Highland Stew Recipe

Now we are off over to Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen who's entry was another warming comforting recipe  of Chicken broth featuring that lovely grain barley. 


Our next entry was a German pork, beef and sauerkraut goulash from Claire at Foodie Quine blogging in Aberdeenshire, who came up with this recipe to get her in the mood for her festive trip to the Munich Christmas markets. 

Over to Recipe Junkie now for a man sized chicken pie made with her own stock, just what you need on a cold winters day.


Last but no means least our final entry is from Claire over at  Ooo Bi Doo, who's entry is a sausage and bean casserole, sorry no picture, this is Ooo Bi Doo's first blog post and hopefully not her last.

OUR WINNER IS JANICE AT FARMERSGIRL KITCHEN, CONGRATULATIONS YOU PRIZE IS ON ITS WAY ! Stosi was very impressed by the standard of entries and loved the look of this dish.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Cheese of the Month - No 01

Garstang Garlicky Goats Cheese

Our first try something different cheese is a Garlicky Goats cheese made in Garstang, this firm creamy cheese is flecked with garlic, which packs plenty of punch and off sets most of the goatyness of the cheese, delicious served with homemade bread or crackers. We purchased the cheese from Pats Cheese stall on Chorley Market , a great cheese stall which supplies some great local and international cheeses.

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