Recipe Review: Rick Stein’s Lamb Kleftiko

I love Greece and I love Greek food. As I can’t afford a holiday to Greece this year I thought I would bring a little Greek sunshine into my own dreary kitchen. Rick Stein’s ‘From Venice to Istanbul’ is a bible of recipes from, as the name would suggest, Venice to Istanbul. There are Italian pasta dishes, Turkish kebabs and lots of wonderful dishes inspired by his travels around Greece. With each turn of the page my mouth waters even more. Even the simplest of dishes from these regions look and sound delicious and lamb kleftiko is no exception. With only a few ingredients and minimal preparation it’s great for feeding dinner guests and tastes sublime.

Here’s my take on Rick’s recipe, which is actually exactly the same apart from the alterations for it to feed four. It was perfect.

Start the recipe by peeling 750g of waxy potatoes and cutting them into wedges. Slice a red pepper into strips and roughly chop 3 large tomatoes. Tip all of the veggies into a casserole dish and season well with salt and pepper.

Take half a leg of lamb and sit this on top of the vegetable base, then pour over the juice of 1 lemon and 60ml of extra virgin olive oil. Halve a bulb of garlic and chuck that in too. Sprinkle over 1 tbsp of dried oregano and then add 150ml of water. Put on a tight fitting lid and whack it in the oven for 2.5-3 hours at 190°c.

When the lamb is falling off the bone it’s done. Check the juices, adding a bit more water if too dry or reducing them down in a pan if too watery. Crumble over 100g of feta cheese and pop the dish back in the oven for a further 10 minutes. I left the lid off to get a little bit of colour going on.

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The finished dish looks beautifully rustic and filled the whole house with the aroma of garlic, lemon and tomatoes. I served it alongside a Greek salad and some homemade tzatziki. Yum!

 

 

 

Recipe Review: Leon’s Lemon Cake

Tyler’s just had a birthday. To celebrate I told him I would make him any cake he wanted, his choice. Anything at all. He chose a lemon drizzle cake. I’ve made a few lemon drizzle cakes in the past, they’re generally easy to execute and delightful to eat, but the one I’ve made more often than any other is the lemon cake from the Leon Family & Friends cookbook. That’s Leon as in the healthy fast food chain restaurants that are often found near train stations and the like and who do the most awesome pink lemonade. This isn’t a healthy recipe (I did suggest trying a vegan cake but it was quickly dismissed) but who wants healthy on their birthday. Tyler’s birthday was all about a good breakfast, watching football and eating cake. Any man’s dream, surely?

Not only is this cake ridiculously good, it’s also ridiculously easy and (possibly my most favourite point) makes very little washing up. Read on to find out what you do.

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The recipe uses ounces which is odd but I always stick to it so will carry on doing so here. You need 4oz soft butter, 6oz self raising flour, 6oz caster sugar, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 4 tablespoons milk and the grated zest of one lemon. You simply bung all the ingredients into a food processor and whiz it up to make a smooth batter, then pour it into a lined loaf tin and bake for around 50 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 180°c. It’s done when a skewer comes out clean.

My food processor has decided to go to kitchen appliance heaven so I used the old fashioned method of creaming the butter and sugar together then adding the eggs, giving it a good beat then folding in the rest of the ingredients. A workout as well as some kitchen sorcery. Win-win.

Once the cake leaves the oven, let it cool a little before pricking all over then drizzling over the icing which is simply 12 tablespoons of icing sugar mixed with the juice of one lemon. Leave it to set and devour, slice by delicious slice.

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I really love this recipe. A child could make it, nay, my dad could make it, it’s that easy. The Leon cookbooks are totally worth buying too, they’re great for good , honest family food.

My Cookbook Collection

Last year we had to move twice in the space of 6 months. You know what my partner’s biggest grumble was? Not the extortionate fees we had to pay for a removal company. Not the stress of the upheaval and all the work involved. No. None of these things. He did, though, spend a good month or so after each move moaning about having to transport my cookbook collection. I get it, they’re heavy, I’m protective about them getting damaged. But I mean all girls have their vices right? Sure, it might be easier if I were addicted to buying fountain pens or stamps. But I’m not. I’m a cookbook addict, and proud. For the next move, as my collection has grown further since, I may just need to sweeten him up with a new PS4 game or something.

To date my cookbook collection stands at 170. I had lost count and actually thought I was on more than that so it came as a disappointment when I did a stock take and tidied my shelves up. They sit in my dining room which is open plan with my kitchen so works well for recipe raiding. I am soon going to need to invest in another bookcase as you can see these are now pretty well stocked and I will also need to upgrade them, look at the bowing on those shelves! Dad, if you’re reading, I can hear you giving me a telling off already.

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On top of my left bookshelf sits a fake flower arrangement with some copper fairy lights in which looks ever so pretty in the dark, a huge Zara candle and a photo frame containing snaps of mine and Tyler’s trip to the Lake District last year. On the other side is a cactus which I only remembered to water when doing this post, a stone heart ornament which is actually meant for the garden, two kitchen themed plaques that my mum bought for me and my radio which I never use as I never get signal. I thought that was the whole point of DAB no?

So allow me to introduce you to my ever growing, much loved collection of cookbooks.

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The top left hand shelf starts with my Jamie Oliver books. I’m yet to purchase them all but am still working on it! He has another book due this summer which I’m already very excited about. I particularly love Ministry of Food and 15 Minute Meals. Jamie’s Italy is the one I use the least.

The row then moves on to Gordon Ramsay which are Tyler’s favourites for recipes, a couple of Rick Stein’s which I’ve only just purchased, the two gorgeous books from Sabrina Ghayour, Persiana and Sirocco which are absolutely stunning, a couple from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, three from Gino D’acampo (Gino’s Pasta is a must buy!) and then two Sainsbury’s cookbooks which are surprisingly good. This is one of the most used shelves in my collection.

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Beneath that sit some huge hefty bible style books, my favourite of those being the USA cookbook. It has some great sounding recipes in there but unfortunately no pictures. Next to the bibles are a few random books including Posh Toast, which as the title suggests contains recipes for things on toast, and The Pooh Cook Book which is utterly charming and smells of an old house. I think I bought that from a boot fair. At the other end of the shelf is a pile of everyday, simple cookbooks which I very rarely use.

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The bottom shelf of the left hand bookcase is home to my much prized Nigella Lawson collection. I have every book she has released but annoyingly not all from the same editions so they are all of different sizes and styles. Nevertheless, I love them and treasure them. How to be a Domestic Goddess was one of the very first cookbooks I purchased and is my go-to whenever I’m in the mood to bake. I adore Kitchen, the recipe in there for Chocolate Bread Pudding always comes to mind, and Nigella Express introduced me to Rocky Roads. It’s also not Christmas until Nigella Christmas moves from bookshelf to coffee table, as is the case every year, normally in October. Yes, I love Christmas.

Next to Nigella is Nigel Slater. I have 5 of his books, plus two more in the paperback collection next-door. Tender Volume 1 is a vegetable bible and Tender Volume 2 is the same but for fruit. I adore these books, and Nigel’s writing style in general. He can write about something I’m not particularly even fond of but once I’ve finished reading it all I want to eat is whatever he has been writing about. Maybe Nigel could start a campaign telling kids to eat their vegetables, it worked for me with aubergines!

The books at the end of the shelf are ones I purchased in packs and don’t get used all that much.

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Onto the top shelf on the right hand side, this is my healthy and vegetarian section. This shelf also gets used quite a lot. My favourite books here are the two Leon books (I really need to get more of the collection!), Lorraine Pascal’s Eating Well Made Easy, Davina’s 5 Weeks to Sugar Free and both of the Deliciously Ella books. All of these are my go-to options when I want guilt free snacks. I love the muffin recipes from Lorraine Pascal, and Ella’s Raw Brownies are one of my favourite things ever. The Hemsley Hemsley cookbook was such a disappointment but as other people rave over it so profusely I’m going to give it another look soon and see if I can change my mind.

The books at the other end of the shelf are more diet books, mostly from my days of Weight Watchers and Slimming World. The Slimming World Fakeaways book is brilliant whether you’re following the plan or not. The Weight Watcher’s ones are less so. There’s two cocktail books on this shelf are I had no-where else to put them. I do love a good cocktail.

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The second shelf down on this side is split into two categories. On the left are some random cookbooks featuring global cuisine. There’s one from Crete in there that I picked up on holiday and an authentic book about Parisian cooking, the rest are mostly Italian. On the right are a plethora of baking books. The Couture Chocolate book is a dream to look at, the Cadbury Chocolate Cooking book is a delight to cook from.

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The very last shelf holds a random assortment of cookbooks, mostly from Celebrity chefs. I like this shelf a lot. Baking Made Easy from Lorraine Pascal has the best brownie recipe ever, Cravings by Chrissy Teigan makes for a jolly good read, Levi Roots’ books bring a touch of much needed sunshine on even the gloomiest days and my latest purchase, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients by John Whaite looks promising from an initial flick through.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my collection of cookbooks and that it was worth the hour it took me to tidy up! I would love to know what your favourite books are and what’s missing from my collection. Really, just leave me a comment and give me an excuse to go book shopping!

Cookbook Review: Deliciously Ella Every Day

Ella Woodward’s debut cookbook, simply titled Deliciously Ella, was Amazon’s best selling cookbook of 2015. Look at me being all factual! Last month, Ella released the follow up book, Deliciously Ella Every Day. Both books now sit very happily together on my overstocked bookshelf in my ‘good for you’ section.

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I was shamefully late to the Deliciously Ella party and only bought the first book at the very end of last year but it’s already one of my most used cookbooks and I love making recipes from it. It was only fair that I got the new book too so ordered it ready for release date and was super excited when it arrived. It doesn’t disappoint.

What I love about both books, other than the lovely photos of Ella and her dog, is that they don’t intimidate me. I find some books in the same genre really unnerving, mentioning no names *cough-Hemsley Hemsley-cough*. I don’t want to feel like I’m being lectured and I don’t want to feel inferior for not having a chlorine filter on my shower or not knowing what the hell amaranth is. I still have no idea by the way. Ella manages to completely simplify her recipes so that they are relatable, easy to follow and not in any way intimidating. Yes, the ingredients may seem a little expensive and you might not be able to pick them up in your local corner shop, but most of the recipes only rely on a few elements and quite often the prep time is so quick and simple that it makes up for a few extra pounds spent in the supermarket. All of the recipes are well thought out, well written and accompanied by gorgeous photography.

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Although my diet is completely different to Ella’s (she is a dairy free, gluten free vegan, whereas I consider chocolate, burgers and pizza the three main food groups) I really enjoy the recipes. In reality, I love all food and enjoy healthy recipes as much as I do takeaways and these books have completely opened my eyes to the amazing food you can create from just really good produce. I will never be a dairy free, gluten free vegan (1. steak 2. cheese 3. bacon) but I can still enjoy these great recipes safe in the knowledge that Ella won’t judge me for that.

There’s so many dishes that I still want to try from this book and I’m excited to work my way through it. The biggest success I have had so far is the Spiced Sweet Potato Stew. It’s basically just sweet potatoes and a red pepper cooked down in a spiced tomato sauce with beans and spinach added in at the end of the cooking time. Obviously it’s insanely good for you but more importantly it is absolutely delicious. I made a big batch on a Sunday night and we had it for dinner in the week plus lunches for a couple of days too with some brown rice. It really filled me up and was a bit different to my normal lunches.

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The Warming Pesto Butter Beans were good too. These are butter beans and spinach cooked in some lemon spiked pesto with pomegranate seeds thrown on top. I am so into pomegranate lately and I loved the little bursts of juiciness against the dry beans. Again this made a lovely lunch and was something completely different to anything I had made before. The picture below shows the butter beans with some tomato rice and some caramelised onion hummus with a sprinkling of feta cheese.

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I’ve previously gushed about the Raw Brownies from Ella’s first book and have found a similar recipe in the second one. The Fizzy Truffles are so good; really nutty and chocolatey and a perfect afternoon pick-me-up. I didn’t fancy the ‘fizzy’ element so skipped the baobab powder as per Ella’s tweaking suggestion and they turned out great. Like the brownies from book one, these are a work of moments and just rely on a food processor to do all the work.

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I already had a lot of the ingredients hanging around for the Warming Winter Bowls so we made these for dinner on a cold and windy night. This was my least favourite of all the Deliciously Ella recipes I have made so far. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t necessarily make it again as it just didn’t suit my tastes.

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I’m super excited to try more recipes from the book. I’ve got the Winter Spiced Pear and Apple Crumble lined up already, it looks like it would be the perfect Sunday pudding and make an awesome Monday breakfast. To be honest, there’s not much in the book I wouldn’t try and knowing all the recipes are so good for you is such a bonus.

So should you buy this book? HELL YEAH! Here’s a link to Amazon so you can buy it right away and a link to the Deliciously Ella blog if you want to learn more about this wonderful woman.

Overall Rating: 9/10