Boxing Day Sandwich Designer of the Year 2012!

Cooking, Events

Boxing Day Sandwich Design Competition 2012Firstly; THANK YOU!!! to everyone who entered this competition, we had some amazing designs and it was very difficult to choose the winner.

Another big thank you also goes to all of you who watched and shared the YouTube video, liked and shared Facebook reminders and for all your wonderful RTs on Twitter – without you social media dudes we wouldn’t have been able to do it. xxx

So, without further ado….I am pleased to announce that the miriamnice.com Boxing Day Sandwich Designer of the Year Award 2012 goes to:

Zara

Zara Gardner

who won with her “Merry Mushroom Melty” Sandwich

Congratulations!

Zara

What the judges said: “Sounds really tasty”, “would like to be at Zara’s house where there’s leftover ale and homemade bread!”

Well done Zara! I’m totally gonna make one of these this week!

We had some smashing runners up too:

Sarah

Sarah

Runner Up: Sarah’s “Euro Teaser”

Raj

Raj

Runner Up: Raj’s “Turkey Tikka”

Hayley

Hayley

Runner Up: Hayley’s “The Fabulous Vegetarian Tree Topped Roll”

Congratulations to the winners and runners up and thank you again to everyone who sent in designs, here are a few more delicious ideas:

Bradley

Bradley’s “Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich”

Helen

Helen’s “Big Boxing Basco Bagel”

Jon

Jon’s “Raiders of the Lost Fridge Bagel”

Richard

Richard’s “Nice to Meat you”

I ran this competition in association with Total Greek Yoghurt (who very kindly donated the prizes and tweeted like mad on our behalf!) to raise awareness of my chosen charity Action Against Hunger. The competition was centered around using up leftovers from all of our wonderful yuletide feasting so it felt right to set up a page on Just Giving to ask people to donate to those for whom leftovers aren’t really a thing. Please do give what you can by clicking on the “sponsor me” button below. And here is some more information on how Action Against Hunger use your donations.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Trick or Treat?

Recipes

I felt strangely obliged to bake the treats for the trick or treaters this year instead of just picking up a pack of something at the shops. This was in part, due to the fact that I felt as a food writer I should make everything myself (one of many self inflicted pressures) but also the guilt I still feel for the year I completely forgot about it and had to resort to giving the kids unripe plums from the fruit bowl whilst fiercely crossing my fingers that the front of our house would escape a thorough egging!

The recipe I chose was this one for Sugar Cookies. It’s a great, basic biscuit recipe that makes a really large quantity from just 1 egg. The biscuits can be flavoured with nuts, fruit or chocolate chips before baking if you like and if you cut them out with fancy cookie cutters they hold their shape really well. Be warned, they are incredibly sweet so make sure you’ve got loads of people round to share them with.

Sugar Cookies

200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
400 g plain flour

280 g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
a pinch of salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar

1) Rub the flour and the butter together with your fingers until it all looks like fresh breadcrumbs.

2) Mix the egg and the sugar together in another in a bowl with a fork and when it is really well combined add it to the flour mixture.

3) Add all the other ingredients and knead together with your hands to form a smooth dough.

4) Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin until it is about ½ a centimetre thick. Cut into shapes.

5) Place your biscuits on a baking sheet lined with a piece of greaseproof paper/baking parchment and bake at 150° C for about 15 minutes (until they are lightly golden at the edges – keep an eye on them).

6) Let them cool in the tin for a few minutes before carefully transferring them to a wire rack.

7) Decorate with icing or sandwich together with butter-cream.

I decorated mine with plain and coloured icing then topped with spooky decorations. To make the spiders and creepy crawlies pipe small “v’s” onto a piece of tin foil using melted chocolate to make the legs and leave to set hard. Ice the biscuits and set aside until almost dry. Top with a jelly sweet for insects or a chocolate for spiders and carefully peel the chocolate legs off the tin foil and stick into the biscuit.

It felt like a continuous stream of knocks and shouts all evening. After a rough count up I think gave out about 50 biscuits (which I had not anticipated) so I had to keep running to the kitchen to ice and decorate more to satisfy the seemingly ravenous ghouls and ghosts at the door. I finally collapsed on the sofa with a glass of wine at about 9 o’clock and considered possible holiday destinations for next Hallowe’en!

 

Adventures in Canapés

Events, Recipes

I think a good canapé should look and taste delicious but equally your guests need to know they will be able to actually pick the thing up!

You shouldn’t need to use your hand like a claw from a fairground toy-grabbing machine just to avoid the very real danger of the base of the canapé sliding to the floor whilst the topping collides with your eveningwear! Many a lapel has fallen foul of a blob of rogue hollandaise! (true story!)

Canapés are ace when done well (and structurally sound), and I love them because they are a great way to feed people who are going to be moving around a lot! Together with my business partner Bradley Taylor; we are going to be hosting themed pop-up cabaret nights in London. We are very keen to have our events centred around food to help bring together the theme and make everyone feel welcome.

Because canapés are small you can have real fun with the flavours and reinvent classics to fit your theme. Pastry or mini pancakes make great bases so why not try adding additional flavours to the mix. Add fresh dill to blini batter before frying and top with sour cream and salmon or Bradley’s creation of cooked prawns mixed with chilli jam and fresh rocket – delicious!

Canapés don’t just need to be reserved for parties or events; a plate of three of four would make an elegant starter for a special meal and many can be prepared in advance.

Mini Sweet potato & cardamom patties

We’re making sweet potato patties for our first big event so we’ve put mild curry powder into the pastry to give it a subtle spicy flavour and a lovely yellow colour (Makes around 25)

For the Pastry

200g plain flour

100g of butter

2 tablespoons of mild/medium curry powder

1 teaspoon of turmeric

cold water

1 egg beaten

For the filling

1 small sweet potato (around 150-200g)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of ground cardamom

1 teaspoon of hot chilli powder

1 small red onion finely diced

1 red pepper finely diced

100g of sweetcorn

50g of peas

1 teaspoon of honey

Start by making the filling:

1) Peel and chop the sweet potato into large chunks and boil for around 10 minutes or until soft. Drain, mash and set aside.

2) Next, heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the cardamom and the chilli powder

3) When the mixture starts to sizzle add the onion and red pepper. Reduce the heat and allow to soften slowly until the onion starts to be come translucent but not brown.

4) Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes, sweetcorn, peas and honey. Keep stirring until everything is thoroughly combined and the honey has melted into the mix.

5) Take the filling off the heat and set aside whilst you make the pastry.

6) Rub the butter, flour and spices together in a bowl until the mixture resembles fresh breadcrumbs

7) Add a pinch of salt then gradually add the water – only add just enough to bring it together to form a firm and smooth dough (so just add it a dessertspoonful at a time and knead gently as you go).

8) Wrap it in cling film and rest the pastry in the fridge for around 30 minutes

9) Once rested roll out to around 1 or 2mm thick and cut into circles with a straight or fluted round pastry cutter.

10) Brush one side of each circle with beaten egg

11) Place ½ teaspoonfuls of the filling mixture onto one half of each pastry circle and then fold the opposite side over to cover it and enclose the filling into half circle shaped patties.

12) Press to seal and then use a fork to make small indentations along one side (this helps secure the seal and looks good too)

13) Repeat until all the pastry is used and brush all the patties with the rest of the egg wash.

14) Bake at 200°C for around 10 minutes.

15) Serve cold on their own or warm with a red pepper sauce or a yoghurt dip.

(If you have any of the filling mixture left – it makes a great side dish with grilled or barbecued chicken)

Grilled pineapple with lime and coriander

Canapés don’t have to be tricky either – this grilled pineapple number is a cinch but has wonderful flavour – if you can grab some of those fancy bamboo skewers they’ll look extra special. (Makes around 50)

1) Mix the juice of 1 lime with a small bunch of fresh coriander which has been finely chopped. Add half a teaspoon of ground black pepper and set aside.

2) Peel, core and cut 1 fresh pineapple into chunks. Place on a baking tray and the pineapple pieces until they start to caramelise at the edges.

3) Take the tray out from under the grill and immediately pour over the lime and coriander mixture and toss the pineapple gently so it gets well coated in the dressing.

Serve warm or cold on sticks or bamboo skewers.

The recipes in this post are taken from the menu at our “A Tropical Storm” event taking place on the 4th of October at Caipirinha Bar in Highgate – a night of Music, Drama, Comedy and Canapés. Caipirinha is known for it’s great cocktails but we’ll be adding one or two of our own to their menu on the night too, like this Lychee Bellini:

Lychee Bellini

1) Place a whole sprig of fresh mint into a champagne flute.

2) Fill up halfway with Rubicon lychee juice drink

3) Top with prosecco and serve.

It would be wonderful to see you all next Thursday at A Tropical Storm

For more details on our pop-up events venture Taylor & Nice visit our website, come see us on facebook or join in on twitter

xxx

Crab cakes and updates

Cooking, Events, Recipes

I think I may have finally found a way to survive the dreaded “so what do you do?” question and the inspiration came from the depths of my childhood; the TV show Blue Peter.

I always find it difficult to say “I’m doing an assortment of food-related and profile-boosting activities with the sole purpose of one day opening a restaurant” it’s a mouthful, and generally sounds a bit odd. Then I remembered that when the Blue Peter team wanted to reach a goal they used a totalizer. On the show, every time they reached a milestone in their charity campaign the totalizer would light up a new level. I can’t build anything quite so impressive (and I probably shouldn’t as it might be disrespectful to their charity work) but I can draw a career plan with a picture of my restaurant at the end and post it on my about page. I’ll update it with each step along the way until I get there, by that time the internet will have advanced and there’ll no doubt be a widget to make it light up and fling out confetti.
Now when people ask me what I do I can say, “Hi, I’m a food blogger please read my about page”…

… and then I can leg it 🙂

The rehearsals for my TV pilot are going well too; am coping ok now with the whole talking into the camera thing by pretending the lens is that Johnny five robot from the 1980s film Short Circuit, I’m not sure why this helps but I’m gonna go with it.
As soon as we get a location confirmed we’ll start filming so watch this space for updates!

The second big collaborative project is the events company, Taylor & Nice which my new business partner Bradley and I are starting up. We had loads of fun launching our website at the weekend. We hit the shops early on Saturday and spent the rest of the day (and evening) churning out countless canapés and cocktails to liven up the PowerPoint presentations. I would definitely recommend giving your focus group booze and nice food they are bound to love you idea!

One of the best things about hosting a launch party/focus group for a catering venture is that the fridge is full of leftovers for quite a few days afterwards. This has led to a string of easy dinners and last nights Crab Cakes were no exception. In fact the tinned crab and curry paste were surplus items from filming rehearsals and the chilli jam and salad were from the bash. It was lovely to pull together ingredients from these two projects, an edible reminder that I have actually started making good use of my time by working and watching a little less of our Fraiser box set!

Crab cakes

  1. Take 4 medium sized potatoes and boil for 12-15 minutes or until soft.
  2. While the potatoes are boiling chop a handful of flat leaf parsley and put it in a mixing bowl with a tin of crab meat chunks, a tin of dressed crab and a little lime zest. I also added a tiny bit (about 1/4 teaspoonful) of Thai green curry paste but that’s optional.
  3. When the potatoes are ready mash them till smooth and then fold them into the other ingredients.
  4. Shape into 4 fishcakes and coat in breadcrumbs before shallow frying until golden brown
  5. Serve with chilli jam, green salad and mashed avocado.

As Taylor and Nice is just starting out we would be really grateful for your ideas and feedback, if you have a few moments please do fill out our short survey on what makes a good night out in London. xx

Vegan in the house

Recipes

Richard is rehearsing for Kin right now and we have the stage manager, Liam staying with us. He arrived straight from Heathrow airport on Tuesday night after spending the last 18 months travelling. It must have been a bit of a shock to his system to be thrown straight into a busy London theatre schedule only hours after stepping of a plane from a very extended holiday in India. Richard had made some pork and lentil stew with some boiled grain mix so there was plenty left over to heat up when he arrived, but on the realisation that Liam was Vegan I quickly began frying plantain, toasting sunflower seeds and slicing avocado in blind panic. I have never cooked Vegan food before because I know so few. Luckily he seemed happy enough with the strange plate of grains, seeds, vegetables and salad I handed to him but I felt that I really should come up with some proper food to give him next time.

I asked a few leading questions to find out what sort of food he likes and last night, after consulting a handful of vegetarian cook books and a whole host of vegan blogs I decided to try and make him a decent meal.

I found it extremely hard at first because it seemed to me that almost every thing I like to make included egg, yoghurt or cheese somewhere so I really had to concentrate and not finish sauces with butter or add a splash of milk to anything. I chose to make these Vegan Bangers and Mash and a Carrot cake recipe I found online and I think, for my first attempt at Vegan cookery it wasn’t too bad.

Vegan Sausages

Ingredients

1 punnet of mushrooms, weighing around 400g, finely diced

2 small onions finely diced

1 clove of garlic, crushed

100g of oats

1 tbsp of wholemeal flour (plus extra for coating)

1 tbsp of peanut butter

dried thyme

tsp of fresh herbs like savoury, chives or flat leaf parsley

salt and black pepper

Olive oil

Method

Fry the mushrooms in a little olive oil until cooked through. Place in a large mixing bowl and then fry the onions. When they start to soften add to the mushrooms. Into the mushrooms and onion mix add the flour, oats, peanut butter, herbs garlic and seasoning. Stir really well squashing and mashing everything together. (I blitzed mine in the hand blender very very slightly so that it stuck together a little better but still kept lots of chunks of mushroom and onion, I won’t lie, it’s not a pretty mixture but it will turn out ok).

Leave the mixture to cool until it is cold enough to handle. Put about 2 or 3 tablespoons of flour onto a plate and dust your hands with flour too – the mixture is sticky – and shape the mixture into 9 sausages. Roll them in the flour and then shallow fry in a little more olive oil until golden brown.

I served mine with mashed potato (made with soya milk and olive oil) with spinach and nutmeg folded though it and a splash of onion and rosemary gravy.

For dessert we had this Carrot Cake from the Permaculture Magazine website. Although, I didn’t have any maple syrup so I used honey which was still really nice…big slices got eaten so I suspect that is a good sign.

Sundays & Smoothies

Cooking, Recipes

Last weekend I went to visit my brother and his wife in Hampshire. We spent a sunny Saturday at the allotment getting the plot ready for their first crops and looking at creepy crawlies!

After a well deserved lie-in on the Sunday morning I woke to find my sister-in-law Em and her brother Jack in the kitchen making us all a big batch of blueberry pancakes.

They were really scrummy and made with blueberries and cornmeal they were superfoodtastic! Em used this recipe from Martha Stewart but made it even more exciting by laying out a great selection of toppings. We had maple syrup, honey, almonds, bananas, walnuts and seeds to choose from.

Blueberry Pancake Toppings

This weekend I’ve gone smoothie mad! Smoothies have always ended up being a bit of a fad for me as I’ve tried a few times to have one a day but I often end up finding that the effort involved in cleaning the juicer/blender/jug/processor always outweighed the yumminess of the end result.

This new wave of smoothie love started off badly with my 10 year old hand blender dying a death. With a sliced banana in one hand I hurled it into my housemate’s blender and haven’t looked back. It even has a smoothie setting and completely purees an orange in seconds. It’s easy to clean too, I just whizz up some hot water and a smidge of washing up liquid and then rinse it – hoorah!

This morning’s smoothie was really simple and made enough for 2 large glasses:

Blend 2 peeled oranges with 2 peeled bananas until smooth. Pour into tall glasses and top each one with all the innards of half a passion fruit!

Other smoothie combos I’m gluzzling at the moment:

  • Orange, banana, pear, fresh ginger, pinch of spirulina
  • Orange, carrot, ginger

To keep up my smoothie-enthusiasm I need to get experimenting, next up I’m thinking cucumber, mint, apple and limes. Maybe some herbs too; strawberries, lemon, basil and black pepper might be nice in the summer…would love to hear some of your suggestions or your trusted favourite smoothie combos. x