Southern Comfort Dinner

I’ll say it now- I’m not a big fan of cheese dishes. Now that’s out of the way I will admit to having cravings for them on occasion. Specifically one dish- Mac and Cheese. The stalwart comfort food that’s good enough to dissuade even a turophobe like me. One evening I took a fancy to make mac and cheese. Along with fried chicken. Along with Southern buttermilk biscuits!
Pairing the cheesy pasta dish with fried chicken and how could I not be on board? Whilst doing my research on fried chicken I came across “Comeback Sauce”. Originating in Mississippi this dipping sauce is a spicy condiment guaranteed to have you licking your fingers and indeed “coming back” for more.
When put together all of this dishes are for me the ultimate comfort food dinner and well worth the effort. After posting about it on my social media I was surprised by the interest in it and after much feedback from you- here it is! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

4 Cheese & Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 cups diced bacon
  • 1 1/2 tsp maple syrup
  • 4 cups dried macaroni elbow pasta
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 ground white pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup Velveeta processed cheese product
  • 2 cups freshly shredded Gouda (smoked can be used)
  • 1 cup freshly shredded sharp red cheddar
  • 1 cup fresh shredded Jarlesburg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesean
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbsp melted butter
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly grease/ butter a large casserole dish ( I used 11″x 11″x 2 1/2″)
  2. In a frying pan or skillet fry the chopped bacon until lightly brown. Add the maple syrup and continue to fry until crispy. Remove from the heat, transfer to a plate and allow to cool. (When cool the bacon may stick together. Break up to smaller pieces if needed)
  3. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, drain and return to pasta pot to keep warm. Lightly toss in olive oil to prevent clumping
  4. Combine the shredded cheeses and set aside until needed
  5. In a separate small bowl stir together the Parmesan cheese, panko breadcrumbs and melted butter. Set aside until needed
  6. Prepare the cheese sauce base. In a large pot melt the butter. Add in the flour and stir to coat in butter. Cook over a medium heat until golden.
  7. Gradually add in the milk, stirring constantly with a small whisk to prevent lumps
  8. Once all the milk has been added cook the sauce over a medium heat until bubbling. Cook for 2 minutes, again stirring constantly, until thickened
  9. Add in salt and pepper, and stir to mix
  10. Reduce heat to low, add in the Velvetta and stir to melt
  11. Once the Velveeta has melted, add in the shredded cheese mix in stages stirring between until each addition is melted. Once all the cheeses have been added continue to stir until smooth. Remove from the heat
  12. Add the prepared macaroni pasta and crispy bacon pieces and stir well to combine ensuring all the pasta is covered in the cheese sauce. Transfer to your prepared casserole dish
  13. Sprinkle the top of the pasta mix with the breadcrumb mix
  14. Bake in the prepared oven for between 20-25mins or until the crumbs are golden.

Southern Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, very cold and cubed
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C). Place the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl and stir to well combined
  2. Add the cubed butter and cut into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter until coarse crumbs form
  3. Make a well in the centre of the mixture. Pour the buttermilk on top. Stir everything together until just about combined– don’t overwork the dough. The dough will look like very crumbly
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently mould it into a rough looking rectangle using your hands. Next fold one side into the centre, then the other side. Turn the dough so it’s long horizontally. Gently flatten. Repeat the folding again. Turn the dough so it’s long horizontally once more. Gently flatten. Repeat the folding one more time
  5. Gently roll the dough out with a rolling pin until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 3-inch circles. Re-roll any scraps until you have 9-12 biscuits
  6. Arrange close together on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Make sure they’re touching
  7. Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown on top.
  8. Remove from the oven and, if desired, brush with melted butter. Enjoy warm. When cool, cover tightly and store at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days

Buttermilk fried chicken

Ingredients

  • 12-16 chicken breast fillets
  • Canola oil for frying

Marinade

  • 4 cups Buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Flour seasoning

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Method

  1. Whisk together the buttermilk and dry ingredients and place in a shallow casserole dish
  2. Place the chicken pieces into the marinade and gently stir to coat. The pieces should at least be semi-covered in the liquid
  3. Cover and leave to marinate overnight in the fridge
  4. In another shallow dish or plate mix together the seasoned flour ingredients
  5. Remove the chicken pieces from the fridge, remove from buttermilk (do not remove any excess marinade) and dredge one at a time in the flour mixture. Press the mixture into the chicken whilst dredging. Again do not remove or shake off any excess. Leave the coated pieces to rest on a plate to one side whilst you heat your oil.
  6. Pour canola oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pot or pan, so that oil only comes halfway up the pot. Heat oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 F (180 C). Add 4 pieces of chicken to the pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Fry chicken for 4 minutes per side, adjusting the heat so it hovers between 280 F (145 C) and 300 F (150 C)
  7. Transfer chicken to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain (and check for doneness by opening chicken or using a probe thermometer to read 175 F). Cover with foil to keep warm and continue frying other chicken pieces *if oil temperature drops due to frying process, simple reheat to original temperature
  8. Keep chicken pieces warm until ready to serve

Comeback Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2/3 Cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Method

  1. Mix all ingredients together until smooth and well combined
  2. Keep refrigerated until serving

#Recipe Cajun Chicken Alfredo

Cajun Chicken Alfredo

Something a little different for you all now, and not a baked good in sight! One of the few pasta dishes I actually enjoy eating, this a perfect comfort food dish in my view. A one-pot wonder dish thats great on so many levels. No fuss no muss and easy to prepare. It’s great if you want something indulgent in front of your favourite TV program or equally as good for al fresco dining with a chilled white wine. Hope you enjoy!

Cajun Chicken Alfredo

Serves 2

Mirepoix vegetable base

1 red pepper, halved

5 sticks celery heart, roughly chopped

200g onions, roughly chopped

Main chicken dish

2 chicken breast fillets, cut in to cubes

2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, I use Barts

4 cloves garlic, crushed

150g button mushrooms, halved

50g streaky bacon, chopped and fried until crisp

1 litre Chicken stock

125ml Milk, semi-skimmed is fine

50ml Double cream

250g fettuccine pasta

Salt and Pepper, to season

To serve

Parmesan cheese, grated

Mire Poix

To make the “Mirepoix”

  • Blitz the red pepper, chopped celery and chopped onion in food processor until combined and well chopped.
  • Remove and place in a bowl. Cover until needed.*
  • Heat some oil in a large pan, or wok, and add the chicken pieces. Fry until lightly browned.
  • Sprinkle on the Cajun seasoning and fry for another 2 -3 minutes.
  • Add in 4 tablespoons of the mirepoix and the crushed garlic cloves. Saute for another 5 minutes.
  • Add the mushrooms and crispy bacon and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Pour in the chicken stock, milk and double cream. Stir to combine all the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Break the fettuccine in half, add to the chicken mixture and stir so that the dried pasta is mixed well into the other ingredients.
  • Cover and simmer over a medium heat for about 20 mins, stirring occasionally. Remove cover for last 5 mins of cooking. Cook until the sauce has thickened and the pasta cooked until al dente.
  • Remove from the heat and transfer to serving bowls.
  • Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

*This make more than enough mirepoix base. I keep mine in the fridge covered and use it whenever I need a quick season base for dishes. I don’t just use it for Cajun or Creole dishes either – it goes rather well in a Bolognese too!

Cajun Chicken Alfredo

#Recipe Chilli Chocolate Panna Cotta with Sriracha Cinder Toffee, Fenugreek Clusters & Raspberries

Panna Cotta 3

This is pretty much my most ambitious recipe yet with a number of components to make and finally assemble into the completed dish. It came about as a result of a number of hankerings of mine:

The use of fruit vinegar in a dessert. I’d tasted Wormersley fruit vinegars at a food show and was utterly blown away by them. Fruity, tart and utterly delicious these vinegars are well deserved of their awards and of a place in anyone’s pantry. I’d always envisioned using them in some kind of brownie dish with the cheek-puckeringly beauty of the vinegar serving to foil the richness of the brownie. But on developing this recipe I knew the panna cotta would provide a great canvas on which to highlight the vinegar’s pudding pimping properties.

The use of a smoking gun. My latest kitchen toy that I was itching to be use and this was more than a convenient excuse. I had never used one before and was intrigued as to how well actual smoke would work with a sweet dish. Suffice to say I was not disappointed.  Whilst it’s not necessary to the overall dish it does lend an extra “Wow factor” and an interesting talking point. A word to the wise though. It only needs a short space of time for smoking (2-3 mins) and if you do decide to use it make sure you turn your smoke alarm off! I learned this the hard way – #RookieFail. As small as the amount of smoking chips used are, they still produce a heck of a LOT of smoke from the gun. Use it sparingly and near an open window is my advice.

The use of Sriracha hot sauce. Yes the very same condiment that seems to set Buzzfeed alight had been my carving for a long time. I’d just about used it in every savory application from dim sum to fries, to cold cuts and bacon- the one thing that had alluded me had been a sweet use. To be perfectly I can’t explain why but in my head the pairing of sweet cinder toffee (otherwise known as honeycomb or hokey pokey) and tongue-tingling heat of the sauce made sense. By now you probably know there’s nothing I like better than taking two extreme, opposite flavours and “smashing” them together to see what results from the gustatory debris. Here is another perfect example.

Whilst it may take some time to make and finally assemble, the completed dish is definitely a show-stopper and one that I’m indeed very proud of. There’s a wonderful array of textures and flavours at play in this dish- sweet, sharp, smooth and crispy. It’s wonderful example of just how much I like flavour experimenation in the kitchen and for me takes my “Falvour Maths” to the next level.

Makes 5

Panna Cotta

Sunflower or Corn oil for greasing

200g Green and Blacks dark chocolate

2 leaves of gelatine

190ml fl oz whole milk

250ml oz double cream

100g caster sugar

1 tablespoon Nielsen Massey vanilla extract

1 large dried Ancho chilli 

Sriracha Cinder Toffee

200g caster sugar

4 tablespoon golden syrup

1 tablespoon sriracha sauce

2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Fenugreek Oat Clusters

200g Jumbo rolled oats

250g quick oats

375g chopped roasted nuts

3 tablespoon fenugreek seeds

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

175g dark brown sugar

8 tablespoon honey

125g butter

8 tablespoon maple syrup

100ml water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To finish

Fresh Raspberries

Womersely Raspberry Vinegar

5 teaspoons bee pollen

Smoking gun with wood-chips (optional)

Equipment of Note

5 ramekin dishes (150ml apx capacity)

20cm square Silicone baking tray

Lipped baking tray

Food Smoking Gun (optional)

To make the panna cotta

  • Lightly oil five ramekin dishes (appx 150ml capacity) with the sunflower or corn oil.
  • Roughly chop the chocolate, and place in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, don’t let the base of the bowel touch the water.
  • Once the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat and set aside until needed.
  • Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for about 5 minutes.
  • Place the milk, cream, sugar, vanilla extract and Ancho chilli in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and leave to infuse.
  • After 5 minutes pass the liquid through a sieve and squeeze the soaked chilli on to the melted chocolate. Stir well to combine.
  • Squeeze the gelatine to remove the excess water and add to the mixture, stirring as you do so. Make sure all the gelatin has been dissolved.
  • Pour into the oiled ramekins and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

To make the cinder toffee

  • Mix the caster sugar, syrup and sriracha sauce deep saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has melted. Don’t let the mixture bubble until the sugar grains have disappeared.
  • Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat a little and simmer until you have a deep amber coloured caramel.
  • Turn of the hat and tip in the bicarbonate and beat in with a wooden spoon until it has all disappeared and the mixture is foaming.
  • Scrape into the silicone immediately but be careful as the mixture will be very hot and may still be bubbling.
  • Leave the mixture in a safe place to rest about 1 hr- 1 hr 30mins, by which time the cinder toffee will be hard and ready to break into pieces.
  • (This recipe makes more than need for this dish but the finished cinder toffee can be kept in an airtight container and used for dessert/ cake decoration or even as a treat!

To make the fenugreek clusters

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, combine the jumbo oats, quick oats, nuts, cinnamon and fenugreek seeds.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, honey, butter, maple syrup and water and heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Stir in the salt and vanilla extract.
  • Leave to stand for 15 minutes.
  • Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet oiled with sunflower oil and press it down.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven, let cool, then using a spoon or spatula break up the oat mixture into clumps. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let it cool completely on the tray then break it up into clusters.
  • (Again this recipe  makes more than needed for this recipe but the finished clusters can be stored in an airtight container and used as a granola substitute.)

To assemble and complete the dish

  • To serve, place the ramekins into warm water )just up to the top) for 1 minute then quickly remove and invert out on to chilled plates. If the panna cotta doesn’t come out return to the warm water for a few seconds and repeat.
  • Top the each panna cotta with fresh raspberries and sprinkle a teaspoon of bee pollen over each.
  • Drizzle around each panna cotta with raspberry vinegar, and sprinkle around with a mixture of cinder toffee pieces and fenugreek clusters.
  • Serve and enjoy!
  • Optional: For a final touch before just before serving, place the complete dish underneath a bell cloche and insert the hose of a smoke gun. Ignite the smoke gun and inject flavoured smoke to fill the chamber, leave for 2-3 mins, remove dish and serve. (PLEASE NOTE: DO NOT USE IN AREAS WITH A SMOKE ALARM!)

Panna Cotta 1

 

 

 

#Recipe- Egyptian Flatbreads

Egyptian Flatbreads 4

This started life as yet another “Popcorn” recipe which was consigned to the “Not Right Now” folder on my desktop. With the weather taking a turn for the better I’ve decided to dust it off and let it see the light of day. The flatbreads are really easy and they’re fantastic for picnic or BBQ weather. The popcorn feature ingredient can easily be omitted and the breads will be just as good- maybe not as much of a talking point though?

I love these with smeared with fresh, homemade hummus and sprinkled with some pomegranate seeds. They’re also ideal halved and stacked with slivers of BBQ’d meat, fresh juicy tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil. A definite taste for the summer!

Makes 4

Flatbreads

500g strong, white bread flour

10g salt

10g fast (easy) yeast

375ml warm water

40ml olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

 

Dukkah paste

100g chopped hazelnuts

50g sesame seeds

50g coriander seed

10g cumin seed

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

50g nigella seeds

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

14g Lemon & Fennel popcorn, crushed

Olive oil

Egyptian Flatbreads 1

  • Place the flour in a bowl, add the yeast to one side, and the salt to the other.
  • Create a well in the middle and add 275ml water, the olive oil and the honey and mix with your fingers until combined. Continue to add the rest of the water a little at a time until all the flour in the bowl has been incorporated. You may not need all the water- you want a dough that is well combined and soft, but not sticky or soggy. By the end your dough should be smooth and elastic.
  • Lightly oil a clean bowl and transfer the dough. Cover loosely with oiled cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size.
  • Whilst the dough is rising, prepare the dukkah.
  • In a pan add the chopped hazelnuts; sesame seeds; coriander seeds; cumin seed; nigella seeds; and paprika. Toast over a medium heat until fragrant.
  • Add the salt and pepper and grind until rough.
  • Add in the crushed popcorn and mix to combine.
  • Drizzle in enough olive oil to create a rough paste.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, tip out onto a lightly oiled surface and knock back to remove the air (knead for about 5 minutes).
  • Cut the dough into 4 (roughly) equal pieces, and flatten with your fingers in a rough circle shape. With a lightly oiled rolling pin, roll into a larger circular shape, approximately 10-12cms diameter.
  • Transfer to 2 baking trays lined with baking parchment (2 dough discs on each).
  • Smear each of the dough circles liberally with the dukkah paste, covering the entire surface. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  • Whilst the dough is resting, preheat your oven to 225 degrees.
  • When the dough is rested, place the baking sheets in the oven- one on top third of oven, one in lower third of oven. After 6 mins, swap the positions of the trays, also turning them 180 degrees (front to back). Continue to bake for another 6 mins.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on their baking trays for a further 5 minutes. After this time transfer from the baking trays to wire racks.
  • The flatbreads can be served warm, or cool.

#Recipe Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars (2)
Nanaimo Bars

Last year my husband and I went to Canada for the first time. We spent a week in Toronto and I absolutely fell in love with the place. The food…the people….the food…you get the picture I’m sure? I won’t wax lyrical about it (if you want that you can read all about my Canuck adventures here). The food is something I definitely never run out of things to say about. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried poutine, and then there’s Nova Scotia Lobster! But the point of this post is to share my love of yet another Canadian foodstuff (albeit not a native of the East Coast) – the Nanaimo Bar. Yes, I’ll admit it does sound like a character from a Disney movie but believe me it’s worth getting used to the name.

It’s basically a layered fridge cake made up of a crumb base layer, a buttercream-style middle layer (traditionally custard flavoured), then topped with a chocolate layer. Yes- they are a rich as they sound. Trust me, no matter how much your eyes tell you, one will be enough (okay- maybe two!) Originating in the district of Nanaimo, British Columbia it’s so popular that it’s been declared a national treasure. And like all good national treasures there are many recipes and many takes on how to  make the bars- and they’re all the “proper” way. This is however is my way and how I like them best.

(As a note I prefer them kept in the fridge once they’re made as keeping them at room temperature causes the buttercream and chocolate layers to soften too much)

Ingredients

Base layer:

½ cup unsalted butter 

¼ cup sugar

5 tbsp. cocoa

1 egg beaten

1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs

½ cup chopped walnuts

1 cup coconut

For the filling:

½ cup unsalted butter

2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream

2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder

2 cups icing sugar

For the topping:

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate 

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

– Lined 9″ x 9″ tray (1 ½ inch high) or silicone baking tray

Nanaimo Bars (5)

Method

To make the base:

  • Melt the butter, sugar and cocoa in a small pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Take off the heat.
  • In a separate bowl combine the crumbs, coconut and walnut pieces.
  • Add the beaten egg to chocolate mixture and mix well to combine and thicken. The mixture may appear to separate but continue whisking vigorously and it’ll come back together to a shiny, thick consistency. Pour chocolate mixture over the crumb mixture and mix well to combine.
  • Press mixture into the lined tin and level the surface. Chill for 30mins to 1 hour.

To make the filling:

  • Add the butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together in a stand mixer.
  • Cream well at a high-speed until fluffy and smooth
  • Spread this over the biscuit base and chill for at least 3 hours until set firm.

To make the topping:

  • Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  • Allow to cool for a few mins then spread it over the filling.
  • Return to the fridge and leave until set (at least 1 hour).
  • Cut in to bars and serve.

Nanaimo Bars (3)