Santa Maria Product Launch event

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Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of joining my friend Katrina to a wonderful supper club evening to celebrate the new Santa Maria product launch. I know, another post that starts with “Kat kindly invited me” -(thanks, girl you’re the best!). For those of you who don’t know, my friend Katrina works at the Lady magazine and her job often involves getting approached by journalists who send and invite her to try their new food/ drink and lifestyle products. Here, we got to discover their new range of sauces, rice, seasonings, tortillas, toppings and sides, influenced by tastes from the Caribbean to Argentina. This was all cooked and prepared by chef Luiz Hara, the London Foodie and award-winning food blogger Rosana Mcphee. The event itself was hosted in the chef’s lovely home- (seriously, can I just say: HOUSE GOALS!), which really made the evening feel relaxed and more personal- we were all told to help ourselves to his fridge overflowing with delicious wine, beers and bubbly.

Upon arrival, we were each handed a yummy cocktail as we tucked into a few tapas items before the main event. I must admit, we did arrive a bit late, so we sadly only got to try one of the items on the menu (I say sadly only because I’m greedy). These were the Colombian crunchy chicken bites, served with a pineapple and chilli sauce. I was really surprised to hear that the crumb coating was part of the Santa Maria range, as it made the chicken perfectly crispy and crunchy with minimal effort – and who doesn’t love stress free crispy chicken!  I think we all tend to judge that if a sauce comes in a packet, it will fail to deliver on flavours- but as we were about to discover,  chef Luiz created all his delicious and high-quality plates by incorporating the different Santa Maria products, showing us all their versatility and ability to be used by both amaetuers and professionals alike.

Our menu for the evening was as follows, and bear with me because it was a lot of food (which of course, I loved!) I’ve also inserted the Santa Maria products used for each dish that was featured to show you what the chef used, as well as my own pictures of the food to properly convey just how effective the seemingly simple sauces went in transforming the dishes.  You’ll be as amazed as we were, trust me.

Starters:

Baked Costa Rican fish in Banana leaf

 

Capaccio of Mexican Chayote

(served with cheese, truffle oil, hazelnuts and the Santa Maria soured cream topping)DSC03680

Brazillian Xinxim de Galinha  

 

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Mains:

Argentinian Picanha of Beef

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Venezuelan Cigarillas de Repollo

(Baked cabbage cigars with cashew nuts)

 

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Arroz y Frijoles

(Served with spring greens & avocado)

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So, my verdict? I was pleasantly surprised at just how flavourful the new Santa Maria range really is! I LOVED the beef, which thanks to the chef, was cooked to utter perfection. The spices gave it a rich flavour that kept me going back for seconds. I also loved the peanut sauce which was particularly tasty and made the perfect accompainment to the soft peppery tortillas. I’m all about cooking things from scratch- I’m sure every food blogger would agree, but the great thing about Santa Maria range is that it allows anyone to quickly whip up a delicious meal in only 15 minutes. I’m looking forward to trying my own concoctions thanks to the guys at Wildcard PR who gave us all a hefty bag of yummy goodies!

 

Making Pizza with my Kitchenaid

To christen my new KitchenAid and celebrate the return of my boyfriend Mark coming back from his travels, we decided to make our own pizza yesterday! It is already incredibly simple to make but having a kitchen aid makes it that much easier! I know we all say that “this year is definitely a new year and new me” but now I can pretty much make pizza in two hours it’s going to be a struggle to stick to my vows...jokes never made any.

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The recipe we used for the dough itself was as follows:

  • 2 and a half cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 7g of yeast
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar

This is enough for about 5 small pizzas.

With the KitchenAid, it is as simple as chucking in all the ingredients on speed setting 2 with the dough hook, until the dough clings to the hook and doesn’t stick to the sides, making sure the yeast was pre-dissolved in the water before adding it to the mixing bowl. If at this point, you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about- don’t  worry. If you are doing this manually, all you have to do is create a well with the flour and pour in the warm water slowly before adding the rest of the ingredients. This is the laborious part. Pizza dough needs a lot of kneading, usually for about 8-10 minutes, until it is soft and springy. Even so, it is still worth it to make your own dough because it only really requires minimal labour when you think about it in the grand scheme of things. I mean, 8-10 minutes isn’t even half an episode of most TV shows, and I watch a lot of T.V.  I find that when I didn’t have a kitchen aid, a big phat glass of wine and an extra pair of hands helps with this step.

Next, you need to leave the dough to prove. Put it in a flour-dusted bowl with a damp tea towel on top. The minimum time is an hour, but ideally the longer, the better. We left it for about an hour and a half until we couldn’t take it anymore due to our hunger, but you could leave it for much longer if you had the time. Sip more wine, time will fly by I’m sure!

Finally, we also made our own tomato sauce, and since I have an Italian mum (probably about the 100th time I’ve mentioned this), I know the best tricks and trades to Italian sauces.  Honestly, if you’re not feeling lazy, why buy a jar of sauce when you can make it fresh and catered to your liking. Plus, you know exactly what is going in it, none of that shit where you read the back of the label and try and figure out what all the fancy chemicals are. First things first, tinned plum tomatoes are essential, rather than chopped. This is because they are a little more acidic and when rendered down and cooked for a while, they begin to let off their natural sweetness (true story). I added slightly less than 1/2 teaspoon of salt and sugar, a glug of olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic. If you had fresh basil that would be great, but freeze dried works fine if that’s all you have.

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Leave it to simmer for 30 minutes and spread it all over your dough! I have a rolling pin, but my rolling skills suck so we used a plate to mould out circle shapes, folding the leftover dough to make our crusts.

Cook the pizza for 10-12 minutes at 200c.

. The toppings we went for were:

  • Margarita (tomato sauce, mozzarella, oregano and parmesan)

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  • Mushroom & Ham (Oyster Mushrooms, Tomato sauce, ham and both mozzarella and buffalo mozzarella)
  • Asparagus, Mushroom & Chili (with truffle oil ham and buffalo mozzarella)

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It’s safe to say, the pizzas came out so good!! I wish we had been able to make more.  My favourite was probably the first batch we made, only because we were expecting to have a bit of trial and error and somehow they ended up being perfectly cooked. The fresh tomato sauce definitely made the pizzas taste more authentic.  We were impressed with ourselves, and it was the perfect way to spend an evening together.

If you have any leftover dough, you can freeze it or, my favourite, make a sweet pizza with some Nutella all over…. trust me, it’s delicious.

 

 

Breakfast Eggs Three Ways

As I was making my weekend breakfast today, it dawned on me… I REALLY love eggs. I mean while I certainly have (and will always have) a sweet tooth, I always seem to prefer savoury flavours in the morning. I think this stems from my summers in Italy. My grandma always used to get breakfast Nutella doughnuts as eating sweeter items is more common, and while that may sound amazing (and they are!), I think it may have scarred my breakfast options for life.

As eggs are an easy and quick thing to make in the mornings, I figured I’d share some of my most recent eggellent breakfasts. (see what I did there- I’m so punny)

1)Soft Boiled Egg with Cheesy Tomato Bread

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Recipe: (Serves 1)

  • 1 egg
  • 1 slice of sourdough bread- if possible avoid using toast as it’ll never taste AS good but if that’s all you have that’s fine!
  • 1 tomato
  • a sprinkle of oregano (fresh or freeze dried)
  • 2 slices of provolone cheese- *side note you can use any cheese that you have– I had cheese that my family had brought from Italy, but Cheddar/ Mozzarella/ Feta would work well (if using feta just crumble it on top)
  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh thyme (freeze dried is fine)

Method:

  1. preheat your oven to the grill setting
  2. If you store eggs in the fridge, take them out while you boil the water – once boiling soft boil your eggs for 5 1/2 minutes (so they’re nice and runny!- you can obviously adjust this to your liking)
  3. toast a slice of wholemeal bread and gently rub the clove of garlic on it
  4. cut up the tomato and lay it on the bread
  5. add the cheese and the oregano,a pinch of salt and lots of pepper
  6. put the bread in the oven to let the cheesy goodness transform
  7. top with your egg and thyme and season to perfection! DONE.

2) Turkish Eggs – (i had heard about this and had never got to try it before, definitely worth it!)

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Recipe: (Serves 1)

  • 1/2 cup of natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • Small handful of fresh parsley (on this day I just used freeze dried but fresh always tastes better)
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • pinch of turmeric
  • pinch of cayenne
  • Salt
  • 1 slice of sourdough bread
  • 1 egg

method:

  1. mash the garlic clove with the side of a knife and sprinkle in your salt so it creates a paste-like consistency
  2. Scoop the garlic paste into a bowl and stir in your natural yoghurt. Leave to one side
  3. In a small saucepan on a low-medium heat, melt the butter and add the spices- don’t let it burn! Keep this warm
  4. Toast your wholemeal bread
  5.  Next, my easy trick in poaching eggs: Boil your water and let it simmer. Get a small ceramic dish and line it with plenty of clingfilm. Crack your egg into the cling film pouch you’ve created and season with salt and pepper. Close the pouch to form a small pocket with the egg inside. Place that in the water – make sure it isn’t boiling at a rapid temperature as this may cause the clingfilm to stick to the egg. Leave for 4/5 minutes and unravel the clingfilm. It works and means foolproof poached eggs every time!
  6. Next, serve! Spoon the natural yoghurt on a plate- top with the spiced butter and place the egg on top.
  7. marvel at your greatness and dunk that bread in!

3) Fried Egg and Herby Mushroom Toast

dsc01056 Recipe(serves 1):

  • 200g chestnut mushrooms (any will do really)
  • olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • a small handful of fresh parsley and thyme (the dried options will work too)
  • a slice of sourdough bread
  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • salt & pepper
  • truffle oil (optional!)

Method: 

  1. chop the mushrooms up and place in a medium pan on a medium heat with a dash of olive oil
  2. Pan fry the mushrooms until nice and golden- add the fresh parsley. Once done remove and set aside
  3. Toast the piece of bread and once done rub the garlic clove on it with a drizzle of some oil olive and fresh thyme- place the mushrooms on top
  4. Fry the egg in the same pan- adding a bit more oil if needed. I like my eggs runny as you have probably gathered!
  5.  Top with the egg- season to perfection and if you do have some truffle oil lying about drizzle this all on top as well- YUM

So it’s settled then. Eggs win as my ultimate breakfast favourite all day every day.

 

 

Cooking with my Italian Grandma

Earlier in the week, my grandma from Italy arrived in the U.K. As some of you may (or may not) know, recently, my mum officially moved back here after living in the Middle East for fourteen years, a place where I spent most of my childhood.

I’m not sure how many of you will be familiar with Italian culture, but basically, everything in Italy revolves around food (and carbs!). Your lunch times are strictly classed within the order of antipasti (starter) primo (usually pasta), secondo (followed by meat/fish) and dolci (desserts.. I think this is where my rule of always finishing a meal with something sweet came from).  Seriously, it still takes me an effort to convince my grandma that I don’t particularly like having a three-course meal every day. Nonetheless, when my grandma arrived, she had naturally stocked up her suitcase and bought over an abundance of fresh Italian produce (Lucky me!). She had items like fresh buffalo mozzarella (you can buy these at Naples airport), ricotta, among other delicious things. Unsurprisingly, one of the things she enjoys most is cooking, usually waking up super early most mornings to start making fresh pasta dough and regularly yearning to cook us all something. While her old fashioned beliefs still startle me, (she tells me that it’s vital for a woman to cook for her man- I don’t think so sister!) it’s always nice when we can come together and make something tasty.

We decided to make both fresh ravioli and fusilli (another type of pasta pictured below and made by yours truly). The ancient trick to making the perfect fusilli? My grandma uses the inner rods from an umbrella (no lie).

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For the pasta dough itself, her recipe is as follows:

1 egg

250g of pasta flour “00.”

You simply mix the two ingredients together and add some water to help bind it all together. Leave it to rest for a bit before attempting to use.

As for the filling, (roasted butternut squash and ricotta), I decided to take inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s new recipe book- ‘Super Food Family Classics’. If you follow me on my food Instagram, then you will know I’ve recently been using the book and replicating dishes (to convince myself I am an actual chef). I roasted a butternut squash whole at 180c for an hour and then added the ricotta in for an additional 30 minutes. When the butternut squash had softened, I scooped out the flesh discarding the seeds and mixed both the ricotta and squash together with some salt, pepper and basil.

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As Italians, my mum obviously owns a pasta machine (i think almost every Italian does), which makes rolling the dough out easy, to spoon the mixture and fold the pasta sheet over. Of course, if you don’t have a machine (like myself in my kitchen) then you can use a rolling pill to still get a similar effect.

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Next, using a mould especially made for ravioli making (see, I told you- italians are dedicated to our food), my grandma pressed and discarded the surrounding dough. Once everything was done and enough had been made, I boiled water with some salt and cooked the pasta for about two minutes. For the cherry (tomato) on top of my fabulous food day, we also had fresh parmesan from Italy AND tomato sauce that my mum had made earlier. While it took time and effort, nothing quite beats a plate of fresh creamy pasta!

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In true Italian fashion, the day couldn’t be over without making desserts. We made Pasticelle, or Stelline di Natale- because they look like stars and they are made during Christmas in the south of Italy. However, my sister and I love them and have usually never got to go to Italy during the Christmas season, so my grandma is happy to make them 365 days of the year! It is essentially a sweet pastry that is fried and has a gooey chestnut, coffee and dark chocolate filling. They are also lightly dusted with icing sugar. My favourite time to eat them is when they are fresh out the fryer and the chocolate filling oozes from the inside.

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I think it’s safe to say that I was left pleasantly satisfied (along with incredibly full- which is what every Italian grandmother aims to accomplish) and if you ever get the chance to meet her, I’m sure you’d feel the same. 

 

 

 

Thai Inspired Prawn Curry

As I left Broadway Market on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but stop at the local fishmonger, Fin and Flounder. Here we eyed up the vast array of beautiful fresh fish (Rebecca waited outside, hating the smell of seafood) and after much deliberation decided on getting 12 king prawns for dinner. Combined with my other Thai ingredients, I was adamant: we simply had to make a Thai dish.

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Inside Fin & Flounder

What we used: 

  • 12 sustainably sourced fresh king prawns
  • Brown rice (we used about 1/2 cup per serving)
  • Eight tablespoons of Coconut Milk
  • 250ml of Water
  • 80g of Mangetout
  • 4 Lime Leaves
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 cup Coriander
  • One Red Chili
  • One stalk of Lemongrass
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • Sesame Oil

What we did:

Firstly we created a spice paste, using the garlic, coriander, lemongrass, ginger and chilli, placing them into a  food processor. After blending for a few seconds, it should turn to a paste consistency. Set this aside.

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NOW: drink a glass of wine. Preferably white… the flavours will really extenuate the fish flavour.. joking I just like wine and needed an excuse. sip sip gulp gulp

Next, I decided to create a stock from the prawn shells. De-head and peel the prawns, making sure to take out the digestive tract. Fry these in a large pan with a splash of sesame oil with the freshly cracked black pepper and lime leaves. This does give prominence to the prawn’s distinct flavours (not joking this time). Cover the prawn shells with enough water and leave to simmer on a low heat for 25 minutes – the longer, the better.  If it appears to be reducing quickly, you can add some more water, and if you are in a rush, you can obviously decrease the time. When you are done, strain the stock through a sieve and keep warm.

While doing this, I would also suggest putting on the rice (this is because I never do this myself and then end up waiting for ages while the rest of my meal sits on my counter idly waiting…lesson learnt and duly noted).

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Fry baby fry disco inferno

Finally, in another saucepan, pour in a little olive oil, fry the paste until fragrant (around 2 minutes)  and add 250ml of the stock. Add the coconut milk, the prawns and the mangetout. Simmer for 3-4 minutes and season with salt. Place the rice in a bowl topped with the curry.

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The finished product

ENJOY and marvel at your food awesomeness. (I know I did)