Sunday round up. 21/02/2016

This week has been a little up and down.

Mainly ups, but some downs. Then I read this article thanks to my best friend, Jodie, and things seemed to gain a little perspective. If you haven’t yet read it, I urge you to. I think it’s applicable to most people. It’s addressed “To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind In Life” but is a particular good read if you’re possibly, potentially, maybe having a brief  ‘mid-twenties’ crisis. You’re welcome.

A highlight of this week, without a shadow of a doubt, was curry night at my old man’s. It’s also his birthday today – so shout out to Pete and happy birthday from your number one favourite blogger, Sophie’s Scran!

Dad loves curry. He always has done, always will do. His recent stint living in north Manchester and desire to take a ‘healthier’ approach to eating curry almost daily, saw him ditch the takeways and has started making his own from scratch instead.

Curry Night at Dads (9)
chicken tikka, wholespices and spices simmering in the pan with masala gravy

Inspired by a cookbook he got this Christmas (Atul Kochhar’s Curries of the World), he’s been experimenting will all sorts of new, authentic Indian flavours and techniques. So on Wednesday he made Atul’s British chicken tikka masala complete with homemade chapatis and chickpea dhal. Served with wholespice infused basmati rice. We even tweeted a picture to the twice Michelin starred man himself (Atul, that is), and he kindly tweeted back with his approval. Well done, Dad!

 

Curry Night at Dads (10)
homemade fresh chapatis, ready to be dry-fried in the skillet
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puffing up to perfection, Dad’s homemade chapatis
homemade masala gravy - the basis of many curries in Atul's book
homemade masala gravy – the basis of many curries in Atul’s book
the finished feast ❤

Sticking with the positives, we are dog-sitting this week for Brad’s parents. It’s so lovely to have their staffy/collie cross, Vinnie, with us this week. We took him on a three hour trek around Tatton Park yesterday, which also gave me the opportunity to browse their food offerings…

In the Housekeeper’s Store they sell all sorts of fancy local ingredients including venison reared on site. I’m making a Moroccan tagine for friends next week, so picked up some mutton, which I thought might be nice instead of lamb. All will be revealed next week!

In the meantime, here’s a cute picture of Vinnie absolutely living the dream after his walk!

It's a dog's life!
It’s a dog’s life!

Have YOU had a good week? I sure hope so. Happy Sunday, anyway.

Sophie -x-

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Cheshire Food Blogger

2015/16: What I’ve learnt & Where I’m going

So, New Year, new me? I really, really hate that cliché. But of course, this is the right time of year to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.

I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learnt in 2015 and what my plans for 2016 are. Feel free to share your resolutions or tips in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

I learnt what healthy eating really is.

I think this came about due to a conscious effort to start looking after myself more. It was also nicely geed along by the surge of health-food focussed chefs, bloggers and cookbooks taking to the scene to promote well-being and healthy living through good, honest food.

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Healthy eating spread at the Holland & Barratt Bake Off ❤

This change in lifestyle enabled me the confidence to share my own tips for healthy eating with you all (which might come in handy this month as we kick-start January with our best intentions!)

Becoming closer friends with Pamela from www.spamellab.com, meeting Deliciously Ella and Ugne Bakes have all helped me learn so much more about healthy eating too! Thanks, ladies!

I learnt to have career confidence.

Those of you who know me on a personal level know I had a bit of a bumpy ride when it came to choosing my career path. However, starting my blog in August 2014 was the best decision I think I’ve ever made. That’s because it opened doors for me; to meet some incredibly talented and inspiring people, to kick-start my freelance writing and to enable me to do something creative that I love.

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From project coordinator to creative campaigns ❤

My blog also landed me my (fairly) new job as an Earned Media Executive for award-winning organic search agency click.co.uk. During my first 3 months I have learnt so much more about organic search and SEO. I’ve also had the opportunity to put my previous project management and blogging skills to the test to run lots of interesting client campaigns, alongside a great team of people.

Here’s looking forward to 2016, where lots more crazy campaigns will follow!

I learnt to surround myself with amazing people.

This might go without saying for some people. But in 2015, I learnt a valuable lesson that is; you don’t have to be friends with anyone for the sake of it. It can add unnecessary stress and pressure to your life, and let’s face it – life is tricky enough as it is.

What I don’t mean by this is that it’s OK to dump or ‘de-friend’ anyone who you might not see eye to eye with at times. You need to be friends with people who have different views and perspectives. However, what I do mean is that you don’t have to try to be friends with everyone. Especially those who don’t give you much (or anything) back in return. Just keep it simple and nurture the  friendships that are mutually beneficial for each of you in terms of fun, laughter, love, companionship and being there throughout the hard times.

Looking forward to 2016 and the friend-filled fun I know it will bring.

I learnt the importance of family.

This year I have learnt something valuable about family. Being focussed on getting a new job, staying in shape, having a social life, keeping up with blogging (recipes, events and reviews) as well as some freelance writing on the side – things got quite hectic, very quickly.

Looking back on 2015, I can see that it’s been my family who have taken the hit the most as I assume they still love me and think about me regardless of my busy lifestyle. Which they do, of course, but it doesn’t harm to make the effort to call or see them more often.

This is something I endeavour to do more of in 2016, and I am looking forward to it as I really am so lucky to have such a wonderful, crazy family. 🙂

I learnt that food doesn’t have to be complicated.

In 2015, I think I over-complicated food in some instances. Specific examples didn’t make it onto the blog, but in a nutshell at times I over think things, which can confuse the outcome of something that was otherwise intended to be straightforward.

This year in 2016, I will be focussing more on stripped back versions of meals that are easy to prepare, cook and eat. Full on flavour, minimum fuss food. Looking forward to sharing the outcomes with you all.

 

Thank you so much for reading the things I learnt in 2015 and what direction I’m heading in throughout 2016. I look forward to sharing lots more delicious, nourishing recipes with you that will hopefully encourage you to spend quality time with the people you love most.

 

Happy New Year,  Sophie -x-

Cheshire Food Blog

Eat Well for Life: Top Tips for Healthy, Balanced Eating

You may have noticed that my latest blog post discussed what healthy eating is, and how we all (including the pros) take different approaches to it.

This time, I’ve decided to summarise my own key tips for eating well; things I’ve picked up over the past few years that I honestly think will stick with me for life.

My approach to healthy eating is simple; I’m considered in what I eat the majority of time, and treat myself the rest. After all, life’s for living, and it’s way too short for crappy diets that leave you feeling guilty and hungry. Another key to the balanced lifestyle is fitness – so I try to stay active as much as possible too (dancing in the kitchen most certainly counts!)

So here are my top tips for ‘eating well,’ I hope you find them useful!

Be selective with your oils

With its light and nutty flavour, Rapeseed oil can replace olive oil in pretty much every recipe. It’s especially good in curries, stews and classics like chilli con carne, or a great low-fat Bolognese ragu. It has the lowest saturated fat content of any cooking oil (half the sat-fat as olive oil), and as it’s mostly made here in the UK. So supporting local artisans like Calvia Rapeseed Oil (made in Cheshire) is also a big plus for me. Make sure you buy the high quality, cold pressed versions for the true healthier option.

Coconut oil is also a firm favourite in my kitchen. It is high in ‘good fats’ that are easily absorbed by the body, and is fantastic for frying eggs or roasting veggies, fish or sweet potato fries. I use Lucy Bee as I love her brand, recipes and the cute jars come with ‘easy-peel’ labels, so you can easily re-use them to stash tea bags, candles, dried chillies or whatever else you might have knocking around your kitchen!

Choose lean, good quality proteins

It’s common to want meat with every meal nowadays, as it’s so easily accessible in the supermarkets at cheap prices. However, it’s also good to give your body a rest from it, which is why I love the #MeatFreeMonday campaign that promotes this message.

Saying that, I do LOVE meat, so when I do eat it I make sure it’s of the highest quality available. Musclefood is an excellent option for meat and fish. It’s delivered to your door ‘super chilled’ so you can chose to eat it right away (refrigerate it) or store in the freezer. Their chicken breasts have won numerous Great Taste awards and they stock great quality Red Tractor approved British meats. There’s no added water in their bacon or chicken, and they have a greater variety of lean meats compared to the supermarkets. The chicken sausages I use in my Lean Sausage Shakshuka dish are delicious, and only 97 calories per sausage.

You should also never underestimate your local Butcher or Fishmonger for providing top-quality cuts of meat and fresh fish at very reasonable prices. They will de-bone it, slice it, portion it or skin it for you if you need them to, which can save you valuable time in the kitchen (for dancing, of course!).

Substitute heavy carbs where possible

You will have seen me do this a few times recently; using ‘courgetti’ instead of spaghetti, substituting potato mash for sweet potatoes and/or cauliflower or ditching white rice in favour of ‘cauliflower rice’ in this recent curry recipe. These simple approaches not only up your veg intake (getting more nutrients and fibre into your body), they also fill you up without the stodge.

When you do eat carbs like rice, bread and pasta – opting for whole grain varieties is best as they have a lower ‘GI’ (glycaemic index). This means they release energy slower, keeping you ‘fuller for longer’ as they are less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar. Ask your local bakery if they do a low GI loaf option, or stick to whole grain, pitas or tortilla wraps where possible.

I’m also a massive fan of quinoa and bulgur wheat which you can substitute for rice in many dishes. Or if you want to avoid wheat and gluten but love pasta, I highly recommend Rizopia’s brown-rice pasta. It tastes amazing considering it contains neither wheat nor gluten!

Never compromise on flavour

To ensure proper satisfaction after each meal – you need to make sure you haven’t compromised on flavour too much in order to keep things ‘healthy’.  I try to make sure my food is full of fresh or dried herbs and spices where possible. Adding a kick with fresh chillies (if you like it hot) or a hint of freshness with some freshly picked herbs can often transform a dish from mediocre to average, without affecting the calorie count. My favourite herbs and spices are;

  • Basil (great in Italian dishes or Thai curries)
  • Coriander (perfect in any type of curry dish, as well as to freshen up rice, quinoa or bulgar wheat salads)
  • Thyme (great with roast meat or veggies, or as a fragrant subtle kick in my Thyme and Tabasco sausage rolls!)
  • Fresh chillies (in my opinion, a superfood as it speeds up your metabolism as well as adding flavour)
  • Bay leaves (last for ages in the cupboard, and go perfectly with minced meat dishes like spag bol or cottage pie)
  • Garam Masala (perfect to add a beautiful curry flavour)
  • Oregano (fresh or dried, great with Italian dishes or on top of veggie pizza)
  • Harissa (dried or paste, you only need a bit to add a wonderful depth of flavour)
  • Piri piri/Cajun or Jerk (great to spice up chicken or sweet potato fries)

Remember, it’s all about balance!

Healthy eating really is all about finding your own way and sticking to it, until it becomes a healthy habit. I find that it’s all about staying on track as much as you can, and eating your favourite ‘treat’ foods in moderation. Food is meant to fuel you and make you feel good, so I don’t beat myself up trying to eat the perfect ‘healthy diet’ 100% of the time, nobody should!


 

What are your top tips for eating healthy? And what are your favourite indulgent, ‘treat’ foods? Use the comments below to let me know, I would love to hear from you! ❤

Tahini Lemon Biscuits

You might have noticed I don’t really bake that much. I’ve featured some pretty impressive guest-posts by way of showcasing some brilliant bakes, like when I made this lush Raspberry & Coconut Cake with my friend Cee, or when Pamela made these gorgeous Ginger Cakes with Spiced Lemon Cream as a guest recipe. Very yum indeed.

Inspired by last week’s #GBBO biscuits theme, I thought I would get my bake-on again and rustled these little beauties up. I must say, it’s one of the easiest and most delightful recipes I have ever followed. Thanks to the lovely Ruby Tandoh (finalist of the Great British Bake Off, 2013), as I found it in her book “CRUMB” which I got for my birthday earlier this year.

This is the second recipe I’ve made from her book, which is very well laid out, the recipes are simple, easy to follow and the photography is plain and moody, which I like. The balance between the lemon and tahini is delicious, the tahini is delicate, nutty and it’s bitterness is wonderfully offset by the sugar and the mild zing from the lemon zest. In her own words; “The result is a delicate biscuit, as tender as shortbread but without the heaviness.” They really are gorgeous.

Not sure if this counts as a , but I thought I’d share the recipe with you on the blog, as they are so lovely. Makes about 24.

What you need:

  • 120g unsalted butter, softened
  • 120g tahini
  • 120g caster or granulated sugar, I used caster
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 180°c/fan 160°c/gas mark 4 and line a large baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment.

Cream the butter, tahini and sugar together until pale and fluffy, then mix in the lemon zest. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, mashing gently under the back of a spoon to combine.

Cheshire Food Blog
Cream the butter, sugar and tahini

Roll out 24 conker-size balls from the mixture and space them apart on the baking tray. Pat each ball down to a flattish disc, about 1cm thick. It doesn’t matter in the slightest if the biscuits have little cracks around the edge. You can use a fork at this point to make lines or a crosshatch pattern on the top of the biscuits.

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Let the biscuits cool on the baking tray, before transferring to a rack

Bake for 12-15 minutes; the edges should be golden brown. The biscuits will be very crumbly when first baked but leave them on the tray and they will become firmer as they cool. Once cold, transfer them to a wire rack.

Cheshire Food Blog
Lemon Tahini Biscuits ❤

Ollie’s Mulberry and Apple Jam

Morning Campers!

I’ve not treated you to one of these for a while, a lovely guest post plus special recipe, this time from Ollie Nuttall – Head Chef at Cheerbrook Farm Shop & Butchers in Nantwich, Cheshire. A local lad born and bred in the Nantwich area, Ollie started cheffing in his early teens and has learnt some of his craft whilst working in various well-rated establishments across Cheshire. He worked as sous-chef at Brunning & Price’s Old Hall in Sandbach and then went on to work at Cheshire Cat Pub Co.’s The Three Greyhounds, in Allostock, Knutsford. Both pubs serve delicious, creative, comforting classics that are consistently well-executed and both in absolutely gorgeous settings.

Being on the creative side of the academic spectrum, and with a passion for food that shone through from an early age, Ollie decided to pursue a career as a chef to follow his ambition. When I met up with Ollie to find out more about why he loves what he does (and to try his delicious jam) he was quick to tell me that no two days are the same. The job is always keeping him on his toes; coming up with new recipe creations based on the freshest, seasonal produce Cheshire has to offer and serving them up in the idyllic setting of Nantwich.

This recipe is fresh from the fruit in his garden – juicy mulberries and big cooking apples. As they were ripe and ready, he wasted no time in turning them into this scrumptious jam which is perfect on scones or even just a slice of toast. He admits, this is not something he’d usually make, but as it’s a great way to use up what nature’s provided (and save money on future pots of jam!) he thought, why not. It only cost £4 for the sugar, and 30p for the lemon the only gadget you might need to make the perfect jam is a big heavy saucepan and a jam thermometer

This recipe takes about 1 hour and makes about 2.5kg (5 lb) of jam, or 6 jars full.

What you need:

  • 1.5kg (3 lb) mulberries, washed
  • 600ml (1 pint) water
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 500g (1 lb) cooking apples (prepared weight), peeled, cored & sliced
  • 1.75kg (3.8 lb) jam sugar
  • A knob of butter

What to do:

  1. Wash 6 largish jam jars, and place on a tray in the middle of the oven at 100°c to sterilise them. Leave them in the oven at this heat, until the jam is ready.
  2. Place the mulberries in a preserving pan (large heavy based saucepan) with half the water and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until soft and pulpy.
  3. Place the prepared apples, lemon juice and zest in a separate pan with the remaining water, and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.
  4. Add the apples to the mulberries in the preserving pan, and stir in the sugar.
  5. Continue stirring until all the sugar is dissolved, then add the knob of butter.
  6. Boil the jam for 10-30mins and use a jam thermometer to test the temperature (It could take longer than 30mins)
  7. Test for a set using the jam thermometer, and when setting point is reached, take it off the heat and remove the top layer using a slotted spoon.
  8. Remove the jars from the oven, and divide the jam into them equally then add the lids.

Do you have any fresh fruit growing in the garden, which you could turn into jam? Gooseberries are in season at this time of year, as well as red currants, blueberries and cherries!

Let me know if you’re making a jam this summer and use the hashtag #sophiesscran to show me your creations.

Follow Ollie on Instagram here for more food ideas and recipe inspiration.

Ollie's Mulberry & Apple Jam <3
Ollie’s Mulberry & Apple Jam ❤

A Persian Feast…

For my birthday last month I was bought a wonderful cookbook, Persiana, from my Uncle and Aunty. The book is by Sabrina Ghayour, a food blogger and supper club hostess from London, and I had never actually heard of her before. However, I trusted my Uncle’s judgement (he is a trained chef and worked in the industry for years, so he knows good food). Also, the wonderful Gizzi Erskine is quoted on the front of the book to have stated “Sabrina Ghayour is a phenomenal Persian chef” – so, naturally I was more than eager to give the book a go to find out for myself what all the fuss was about.

During the Introduction to the book, Sabrina talks about her supper clubs and the simplicity of Middle Eastern food. She talks about how Eastern food can be (as has been) misinterpreted over the years, to be something more complicated or difficult than it actually is. She talks of how her supper clubs put emphasis on bringing strangers together; using food as the focal point for shared, convivial experiences during which all else is forgotten and food and enjoyment alone become the focus.

It all got me thinking. No, not about starting my own supper clubs (but maybe one day!) Thinking about inviting some close friends round for a feast of good food, good conversation, fine wine and of course, a few obligatory card games at the end the evening! Ok, the last bit was just a spontaneous (but fun) add-on…

I wanted to keep the menu light, summery and varied – because the weather’s been nice recently, and I love the idea of mezze platters, sharing plates and tapas. I think food is so much better when you can just place it all in the middle of the table and let your guests dive in. To make the experience even better, my friend Rachel bought her new ‘Swiss Grill’ to the table – an electric grill which allows you to grill food and keep it warm at the table, as well as having 8 individual frying pans which you can fill up as you chose and set them down on the ‘hob’ to warm through. It was like having a BBQ only inside, and without men and fire! Bliss! 🙂

The Food

A Traditional Persian Mezze Sharing Experience:

Spice & Salted King Prawns

large, juicy king prawns lightly coated in a salty spiced dry-mix then fried in hot oil to make them crispy, light and very morish

Turkish Adana Köfte Kebabs (Lamb)

juicy, tender lamb mince pummelled like a dough to combine with finely diced onion, diced red pepper, garlic, chilli flakes and fresh parsley

Chargrilled Aubergines

with saffron yogurt, parsley & pickled chillies

Shirazi Salad

a beautiful, vibrant and refreshing salad of diced cucumber, ripened vine tomatoes, red onion, pomegranate seeds and sumac

Griddled Halloumi

the classic!

Harissa-Marinated Asparagus

marinated in Harissa, lemon rind, lemon juice, honey and sea salt

Homemade Cacik

pronounced ‘jajik,’ a wonderfully cooling mixture of cucumber, Greek yogurt, parsley and  dill

Persian Herb Rice (Sabiz Polow)

basmati rice, parboiled with finely chopped parsley, coriander, dill and spring onions then steamed in a lidded pan with butter to created crispy, indulgent base

As you can tell from the variety above, we really did have a true feast! Most things I was able to cook and prep ahead, and then heat up on the Swiss grill (asparagus, aubergine, lamb kebabs). The halloumi cheese we just cooked there and then on the grill at the table.

The other dishes (herb rice, king prawns, cacik, and salad) were easy to make ahead and serve when it was time. I also popped a shop-bought flatbread in the oven too, which was great for dipping into the creamy cacik and eating with the kebabs. Next time though, I will try making one of Sabrina’s flatbreads from scratch as they look and sound delicious.

Well, there you have it. I just wanted to share our Persian feast with you to hopefully inspire you to get creative in your own kitchen. All the recipes I tried from this book were easy and delicious. The only dish I wasn’t keen on was the aubergine and saffron yogurt – I loved the grilled aubergine, but I found the dish was too bitter (teamed with the saffron yogurt) – perhaps just a Persian paring my palate isn’t quite yet used to!

As you can see, the girls didn’t hesitate to get their phones out and start taking pictures of the wonderful feast! Here are some of the snaps they took…

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Thai Chicken Noodle Broth

It’s really easy nowadays to create authentic tasting Thai curries and broths with very, very little effort. Obviously you can’t beat the real deal, and there is nothing better than a homemade curry paste to really inject your food with fresh, full and pungent flavours. But, for a mid-week dinner to rustle up after a long day a work, Thai curries are one of my super easy, quick, no-fuss dinners to whirl together in next to no time. The classic Thai red/Thai green flavours are delicious with chicken, king prawns or just veggies. I either serve them with steamed basmati rice or very thin rice noodles (the noodle version is more like a broth as opposed to a curry – the perfect warming dish for a cold, wintery night).

I like to add lots of fresh chilli, ginger, lemongrass, basil/coriander and lime juice to really give the flavours a boost, without too much effort.

Thai Chicken Noodle Broth
Thai Chicken Noodle Broth

Here is the recipe for my classic Thai Chicken Noodle Broth, which serves 2 and takes about 30 mins from wok to bowl.

What you need:

  • 2 skinless free-range chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 2 red chillies, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 3cm piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 fresh limes
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, outer layer removed
  • a teaspoon of fish sauce
  • handful of fresh coriander (leaves removed and stalks finely chopped)
  • 1 400ml can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons Thai Red curry paste (I use Taste Thai which you can get in most supermarkets and some delis)
  • 2 nests of rice noodles (I use Sainsbury’s)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • prawn crackers, to serve

What to do:

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a large wok over a high heat. Once melted, add the chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes until slightly brown on the outside
  2. Add the sliced garlic, half of the sliced chilli and all of the chopped coriander stalks and continue to stir fry for another minute
  3. Once the ingredients start to release their fragrance, add the curry paste and continue to stir, coating all of the chicken
  4. Add the fish sauce and stir-fry for another minute whilst you bash the lemongrass stalk with the handle end of a knife to help release its fragrance
  5. Add the tin of coconut milk and the bashed lemongrass to the wok, and turn the heat down to a gentle simmer
  6. Simmer the broth for about 8-10 mins until the chicken is cooked through
  7. Whilst your curry broth is simmering, prepare the rice noodles as per the packet instructions (I use Sainsbury’s nests of rice noodles which cook in 3 mins)
  8. Drain the noodles and divide them into 2 warm bowls
  9. Take the broth off the heat and remove the lemongrass stalk. Squeeze in the juice of one whole lime and stir well
  10. Use a ladle to divide the broth into the two bowls of noodles
  11. Top the bowls with the rest of the sliced red chilli and finely chopped coriander leaves
  12. Serve with prawn crackers, and a wedge of lime!
Thai Chicken Noodle Broth
Thai Chicken Noodle Broth

Hope you enjoy this one! Sophie -x-

An Introduction to Taste Today

taste-today-logo

Hey foodies, it’s been a little while since my last post. The past few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest, but I have some news for you…

I am now a writer for Taste Today, which is a brand new website promoting everything to do with food in the North West and beyond. It’s an online magazine style site which promotes, praises and publicises all things food in the region, and really celebrates local produce and independent producers.

Taste Today delivers the latest food and comment from across the whole industry, plus features recipes, offers and competitions. I am so glad to be part of a team which champion local produce and aim to get it into the shopping baskets and onto the plates of local people. We want to raise awareness that everything we need is locally available, and more often than not is produced with love, care and pride!

I will be writing a range of features for Taste Today, mainly falling into the Dining In and Dining Out categories. Here is the link to my bio on the website: tastetoday.co.uk/about, please keep your eyes peeled for my first article featuring the wonderful Cheshire Smokehouse! I will be posting regular updates from my Twitter account (@sophiesscran) and you can also follow Taste Today directly – so please do (@TasteTodayHub)!

I sincerely hope you enjoy taking a look around the site, please let me know what you think. If you think you know of a story which would feature well on the site, you can contact Jo Cooksey (Editor and Founder) on hello@tastetoday.co.uk, or drop me an email direct on sophiesscran@gmail.com.

Thanks for all your support!

With love, Sophie -x-

Comfort Food: Cheesy Jackets with Smoked Bacon, Goats Cheese, & BBQ Beans

Baked Pots

So, Christmas is over. Part of me is kind of thankful. It was wonderful, full of friends, family & food. The three best things in life, pretty much ;-). Now January is well and truly upon us, and in my world, a little bit of indulgence is still acceptable. I know most posts this time of year are health and detox orientated, ‘New Year, new me’ and all that codswallop – but I reckon January should be a mild extension of the festive season.  Ease yourselves in gently, that’s what I say!

You might also notice these bad boys are served up on my ‘Sophie’s Scran’ solid wood chopping board. Best Christmas present ever, thanks Sis 😀

So here it goes – a simple, easy, super scrummy Saturday night treat. Cheesy Jacket Pots. This serves two hungry, hungover mongrels and takes about 1.5 hours from pot to plate.

Baked Pots

What you need:

  • 3 decent sized floury white potatoes
  • 50g grated cheddar cheese (or any leftover cheese from the Christmas cheese board)
  • 20g goats cheese (just a small amount for topping, no need to measure)
  • 3 rashers of streaky smoked bacon
  • Olive oil (plain, or you can use an infused olive oil such as garlic)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Baked beans
  • BBQ sauce (I used The Market Wraps Louisiana BBQ Sauce from Market Wraps, via Flavour Full Stop.)

What to do:

  1. Heat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6
  2. Clean your spuds and dry off with a tea towel, then use your hands to rub a layer of oil over them
  3. Season your spuds with some sea salt which should stick to the oil nicely
  4. No need for a baking tray – once the oven is hot, place them directly on the middle shelf of the oven, and bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes. If you’re using really big spuds, they may need a little longer, so add 15 minutes to the cooking time if you think it’s needed.
  5. Whilst they are cooking, griddle your bacon on a hot skillet until it’s crispy, they transfer to some kitchen paper to absorb any excess grease (or don’t, depending on how healthy you’re feeling!)
  6. Grate the cheese and set aside.
  7. To check your spuds are baked, take them out of the oven and examine them to make sure they are a golden brown colour and the skins are nice and crisp. If you insert a knife into the biggest spud and it’s piping hot when you take it out – they should be done.
  8. Turn off the oven, and preheat your grill to a high heat.
  9. Cut each baked spud in half and scoop out the fluffy potato filling into a bowl, then add 2 thirds of the the grated cheese and crispy bacon and mix to combine.
  10. Using a spoon, scoop the mixture back into each jacket potato skin until each skin is full again and all the mixture is used up.
  11. Transfer your loaded skins onto a baking tray and top with a thin layer of of the remaining grated cheese, and top again with a small crumbling of the goats cheese.
  12. Transfer the cheese-topped spuds to the grill and keep an eye on them for about 10 mins – just until the cheese is melted, bubbling and golden.
  13. Serve with BBQ baked beans (I added a few lashings of Market Wraps Louisiana BBQ Sauce to some Heinz Baked beans, but you could use a sauce of your choice) and a little rocket salad.

Baked Pots (1)

Enjoy, Scranners! -x-

Grandad’s Sausages: Breakfast & Posh Dogs

Grandad's Sausages - Perfectly Packaged for #BritishSausageWeek
Grandad’s Sausages – Perfectly Packaged for #BritishSausageWeek – scroll down for more amazing pictures!

As you may have noticed from some of my previous recipes and social media posts, I am rather a fan of a good old sausage. Sausages are so versatile, tasty, quick and easy – if you’re a meat lover you’d be daft not to have a constant stash of good-quality sausages in the fridge. And these ones are awesome.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on some of Grandad’s Sausages as part of celebrating British Sausage Week, which was earlier this month 3-9 November. I got the chance to meet up with Matthew Woodward and his business partner Michael – we met in Chorlton; it was pouring down with rain and it turned into a sort of ‘drive-by’ pick up, which was very funny and felt a bit like we were doing something dodgy. But we weren’t, honestly, just casually picking up sausages… 😉

Both Matthew and Michael are really nice blokes. I will certainly be ordering more of their sausages in the future, and my own Grandad has already told me he wants some next year for his famous Summer family BBQ’s! Their sausages come in a range of different succulent flavours (the ones bold & italic were included in my sample):

  • Traditional British Pork
  • Olde English
  • Lincolnshire
  • Cumberland
  • Pork & Welsh Leek
  • Pork & Somerset Apple
  • Pork & Crushed Garlic
  • Pork & Fiery Chilli
  • Pork & Bury Black Pudding
  • Pork & Cranberry
Selection of Grandads Sausages
Selection of Grandads Sausages

 

Breakfast with Grandad’s Sausages:

First off had to be a traditional full-English breakfast/brunch. I just grilled them (hardly any fat came out) and served with plum tomatoes, fried egg ‘sunny side up’, black pudding & buttered toast. I had the Cumberland & Lincolnshire, and Bradley (boyfriend/partner in crime) had the Traditional Pork and Olde English. All super-succulent and perfectly seasoned, very meaty and even more morish. No need for bacon as well when the sausages are super tasty.

Grandads Sausages Full English Breakfast
Grandads Sausages Full English Breakfast

 

Posh-dogs with Grandad’s Sausages:

Next up was my take on ‘posh-dogs,’ where I used Pork & Fiery Chilli, Pork & Somerset Apple and Pork & Welsh Leek. I warmed a poppy seeded baguette in the oven at 150 degree for about 5 minutes, grilled the sausages in a griddle pan on a medium heat for about 20 minutes, turning regularly until cooked-through and crispy on the outside. I served them with a little rocket and plum tomato salad, some fried shallots, English mustard and a little ketchup. All of the sausages tasted brilliant, all with seasoning subtle yet distinct enough to be able to really appreciate the different flavours.

Grandads Sausages Posh Dogs!
Grandads Sausages Posh Dogs!
Grandads Sausages Posh Dogs served with poppy seed baguettes, rocket salad and fried shallots
Grandads Sausages Posh Dogs served with poppy seed baguettes, rocket salad and fried shallots

Being a chilli lover, my favourite was the Fiery Chilli of course. Just the right amount of chilli for a nice little kick. So, so good as a ‘posh-dog’. I urge you to try it!

Grandads Sausages Posh Dogs - a taste sensation. Highly recommended!
Grandads Sausages Posh Dogs – a taste sensation. Highly recommended!

For more information visit grandadssausages.com!