Sweet and Sour Pork

Last weekend I had a craving for Chinese food. But as Fi and I still haven’t found a decent Chinese takeaway – seriously how hard can it be to find a good chinese takeaway in London – we decided to cook some ourselves. So after a bit of an internet trawl we settled on sweet and sour pork – basically because we had pork in the freezer! Also the recipe didn’t look too confusing! Here’s the recipe we decided to go with in the end, from the BBC Good Food website. I won’t type it all out here as we pretty much followed it exactly apart from with the rice, we just went with wholegrain brown rice, although we plan to try the egg fried version soon. What I will say is that a few things didn’t quite turn out how we expected…

Firstly, we don’t have a deep fat fryer, so we used the saucepan method. While this worked fine, I did freak myself out by reading something online that included the word ‘combustion’. Needless to say I was then panicking all through the cooking process in case the oil got too hot and exploded – this didn’t happen, but I think I’d be happier cooking in a deep fat fryer next time. Just for my own piece of mind! But frying the pork was fine, really easy, once you got used to how long the meat needed. We did cut up the first few pieces just to check that they were properly cooked.

The actual problem we had with this recipe was the sauce. The problem happened when we started to stir the sugar – apparently you’re not meant to stir sugar while melting it – oops! Anyway once the sugar finally melted we went to add the next ingredients and this is where things went wrong. As soon as the juice, wine and soy sauce were added they reacted with the sugar, causing steam and sizzling which left us with a hard clump in the middle of the pan – eek! I don’t really know what happened, maybe we added them too quickly or maybe things were too hot – but whatever happened was very weird and certainly not the way the recipe was meant to go. We managed to salvage the sauce by removing the odd clump of hard stuff and luckily the rest of the sauce was okay, so after decanting to a new pan we finished the sauce instructions without further issues -phew! We did however burn the pan beyond repair!

Luckily, as I said we did salvage the sauce and we were able to finish the recipe and served up a delicious meal of sweet and sour sauce and rice. The verdict – it was delicious, the perfect amount of crispy batter paired with beautifully cooked pork and a delicious sweet and sour sauce. Honestly I’d definitely make this again – I’d quite possibly look for a different sauce recipe or (dare I say it) just pick up a jar from the supermarket!

If anyone has any explanation as to what we did wrong, do share, as I hate not knowing!

Lau xxx

Easter nest time

So neither Fi or I have given anything up for Lent. Personally from past experience I know that if I do give anything up I then tend to go a little bit manic once Easter happens and I finally allow myself to eat chocolate or sweets again! Seriously in previous years I’ve been known to be on a complete sugar high for at least seven days after Easter Monday. Even without the excitement of Lent ending we are both still eagerly anticipating Easter weekend. Eggs have been bought, hot cross buns have been sampled, we’ve planned the baking of the Easter bread and butter pudding and started to plot the Easter Egg hunt. The only think missing is the making of these Easter nests. These are classic treats for this time of year and we’ve been making them for as long as I can remember. So it’s high time we shared this recipe with you all on CB&E.

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  • Take one bar of chocolate – for us it has to be the purple wrapper from Mr Cadbury – and melt in a bowl over boiling water on the hob or in a microwave.
  • Once all the chocolate is melted pour your choice of cereal into the chocolate. Here we like to use either Rice Crispies or Shredded Wheat as both can be made into perfectly shaped nests. You want to make sure all of the cereal is well covered.
  • Next spoon the mixture into cupcake cases, and top with three mini eggs.
  • Place in the fridge to harden.

Voila, all done. Now sit down, relax and enjoy these tasty morsels of Easter fun.

Lau xxx

Mini Egg Blondies

I know a lot of people freak out when they visit the supermarket on January 1st and are faced with a wall of Easter treats. I am not one of those people. In fact I’m the complete opposite, I embrace the wondrous moment and start stockpiling. You see I’m addicted to Cadbury Mini Eggs, there’s something about the creamy chocolate inside, hard crisp shell and glorious pastel shades of these little bites that has me squealing in excitement and reaching for a bag (or four!). So yes as soon as they appear in the shops I’m all over them – I mean they are only available for three months of the year, so you HAVE to make the most of them.

Now considering I’m obsessed with them it’s odd that I’ve never baked with them, well apart from popping them on Easter Nests! However, I recently found this recipe online of mini egg blondies and my interest was piqued. I’ve never tried blondies – I usually go straight for a brownie recipe if I’m making a tray bake – but thanks to the addition of my favourite Easter goodies I was intrigued enough to give them a whirl. And my goodness am I pleased that I made them – they are so good that I’ve made them three times in the last month alone, oops! The recipe makes about 30 small squares and each square is chock-a-block with mini eggs – my ideal scenario!!

What you’ll need:
2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups mini eggs

And how to make these wondrous bites:

  • Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together
  • Melt the butter and then cream with the sugars in a separate bowl (we used an electic mixer)
  • Add the vanilla extract and eggs and mix until creamy and fully combined
  • Slowly add in the flour mixture until fully mixed
  • Fold in the Mini Eggs
  • Spread batter into a greased cake tin, roughly 8 x 8 x 2 inches
  • Bake for 25 minutes at 175 degrees until a skewer is inserted in the center and comes out clean
  • Leave to cool before slicing and eating…

I’m sure you’ll agree that they are the best things you’ve ever tasted! It’s just a shame you can’t make them year round, although I imagine they’d be just as good with a different chocolate as a substitute – perhaps I’ll give m&m’s a whirl next!

– Fi xxx

Our very first Sunday Roast

One of my all time favourite meals is a roast chicken with all the trimmings, but for someone who writes a food blog, it’s a little bit embarrassing to admit that I’ve never made a roast dinner in my life!! This is particularly bad when I then go on to admit that growing up I ate a roast dinner every single week, yeah like I said it’s embarrassing to admit that I’ve never cooked one. Don’t get me wrong I’ve been there when someone else has cooked it – I’m not that rude! – in fact I’m usually the chief potato and parsnip twirler and bread sauce maker. But I’ve never even attempted to make one myself until a couple of weeks ago that is. My friend was coming round for lunch and having stupidly told her I’d never made one in my life, she made me promise to  make one for her – eek!! So with that deal made I enlisted Lau’s help and we started researching recipes and trying to work out what to make. After a lot of discussion we ended up going for a ‘simple’ chicken, although I wasn’t sure how simple it would end up being on the day! With our chicken we also made roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli, leeks in white sauce, stuffing, roasted sweet potato, gravy and of course bread sauce (my all time fave accompaniment). Everything ended up being super scrumptious and miraculously it was all edible (well apart from the brocolli as it was a bit hard) AND most importantly everything was ready on time – hooray! I won’t bore you with the recipe for each and every item but I will explain how we made the potatoes super fluffy and crunchy, the chicken super moist and delicious and also how we made the nicest ever carrots and sweet potatoes!

The Chicken – We used this wonderfully easy recipe from the BBC Good Food website for our roast chicken. It was really easy to make the chicken delicious and perfectly moist, we simply stuffed the chicken cavity with bay leaves, lemon halves and garlic and then rubbed the top of the chicken with butter and lemon. Easy peasy, well apart from stuffing my hand in a chicken – not my favourite job!!

Super Fluffy Potatoes – Yet again we headed to the BBC Good Food site for help with our roast potatoes, see here. By adding the flour after the potatoes had been part boiled it made the potatoes nice and fluffy, so that some bits were extra crunchy and other bits were soft – perfect!

Perfect Carrots and Sweet Potatoes – We part boiled both the carrots and sweet potatoes and then cooked them with the potatoes. This made them lovely and sweet and very soft. Plus because the carrots were so small each morsel ended up being really crunchy.

All in all our first roast dinner went well – it was all delicious and not quite as hard or as complicated as I had imagined. So I think I’ll definitely be making one again, perhaps a roast beef with lovely crunchy yorkshire puddings next time.

– Fi xx

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Disney Treats. The Sequel.

I realised recently that I’ve been lax and not shared my yummy recipes from our Disney evening with you – outrageous I know! I’m not sure what happened there, it’s like I forgot that you’d be waiting with baited breath for these recipes since Lau teased you with her first mentione of these lovely creations a few weeks back here. Sorry about that! But I’m rectifying that now with the following recipes for these scrumptious, super-easy pasta parcels and amazing, brilliant, delicious popcorn (to many superlatives? I think not!).

20130226-133838.jpgDollops of mac ‘n’ cheese – These are so easy to make that I won’t share the actual recipe with you I’ll just give you a couple of tips to remember next time you make mac and cheese*.

  • Firstly add spinach to the mixture when you mix the cheese sauce and pasta
  • Use Gruyère and cheddar cheese – an absolutely delicious combination
  • This is the big one, this is the revelation that you’ll kick yourself for not doing sooner: Don’t put the mix in a normal big casserole dish, dollop the mixture into 12 cupcake cases – yes really! LIFE CHANGING or what?!

But in all seriousness it’s that simple, just cook your mac ‘n’ cheese in a different container to normal and you’ll have the perfect mac ‘n’ cheese dollops that will be perfect for any meal – cold in lunch boxes, easy fingerfood (well plate and fork food) when you’re having friends round or even serve a couple with salad for dinner. Easy peasy and delicious. What more could you need?

*We used about 500g of pasta and made 13 mac ‘n’ cheeses, which we baked for about 20 minutes.

20130226-133827.jpgDisney Princess Popcorn – to be honest this wasn’t really a Disney themed food, I just put the word princess in front of it as I wanted the excuse of making popcorn, which I’m sure you’ll agree is essential for any movie night. Another super-easy recipe here (I seem to be on a roll with the easy recipes today, don’t I?), simple pop your popcorn kernels in the pan as instructed and then mix it in a big bowl with agave syrup, m&m’s, mini marshmallows and peanuts. Then as if by magic you’ll have super sticky, super scrumptious popcorn for all to share – pair with Disney films, good friends and Lau’s Minnie Mouse cupcakes and you’ve got the perfect night ready quicker than you can say bippity-boppity-boo!

– Fi x

Butternut Squash Chocolate Brownies – yes really!

Chocolate brownies are one of my vices, whenever I’m out and there’s a pudding option, I’ll always go for the chocolate brownie – especially if it involves lovely vanilla ice cream! There’s something about those chocolate chewy morsels that just make them addictive in my mind. I adore them. So when I saw this recipe for healthier brownies, which contain butternut squash – yes really! – I was intrigued enough to make them. I mean if I’ve found a brownie that’s only 50 odd calories each, then just imagine how many of those I could eat a day!!

To make 30 odd brownies you will need:
400g butternut squash (peeled and chopped)
100g dark chocolate
4 eggs
200g golden caster sugar
100g cocoa powder
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

  • Put the butternut squash into a heatproof bowl and splash with water, cover with cling film and microwave on high for 8-10 minutes until it’s soft and cuts like butter
  • Drain off the excess water add the chopped chocolate to the bowl
  • Stir to combine and then use a hand-held blender to create a purée
  • In a seperate bowl whisk the eggs and sugar with an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy, then fold in the cocoa powder, plain flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt
  • Next fold in the chocolate squash purée and transfer to a greased and lined square tin
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes on 180°C until the brownies have set
  • Leave to cool in the tin for at least an hour before cutting into squares and eating!

The one thing to note about them is that they are quite cakey, and aren’t that chewy, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I like variation in my brownies after all!

– Fi xx

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