Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Reason for Absence

Things have been VERY hectic in the Jodsgirl household recently and have resulted in me not having enough time to post anything here on the blog, or spend hours reading the posts on the BBC food message board.

So why have things been hectic I hear you ask?  Jodsgirl has a new job!!!

I had my interview the day before good Friday and was pretty much offered the job, and was told they would call me on the Tuesday to discuss further.  Well that never happened.  I obviously panicked a bit, harassed them a great deal, and they kept coming back to say that they were re-writing job specs, checking things with HR, and they had to advertise internally as well.  All of this was not looking good for Jodsgirl, until I got an email one night about 7pm.  I called them straight away and the next morning got an email to say the job was mine.  I handed my notice in that day, and was released from the place I had worked at for 6 years and 9 months, my first job when I left uni.

Anyway, I have been in the new job since the 11th May and its all going well so far.  But the biggest issue is now that I actually have a job that requires me to do some work, I cannot wile away the hours on the internet updating my blog, surfing message boards and generally trawling for new recipes.  Made worse by the fact I cant go on "personal" websites during working hours.  How rude!  Do they not understand I have a blog to write posts for?!

So there you go.  Ive just uploaded a batch of photos taken in the last two weeks, and as hubby isn't home for another hour I can start writing the posts to go with them.  Sorry again for the absence but in the long run it means a MUCH happier Jodsgirl.


Friday, 1 May 2009

Homemade Pizza

I think I have found pizza heaven.  Seriously...I'm in love.  

Whilst checking out Annies Eats yesterday I found a fantastic picture of pizza.  It was that good it had me drooling on my computer keyboard.  We have been meaning to try making our own pizza for a while now but always were under the impression it was more hassle than it was worth.  After looking at Annie's picture and reading through the recipe it all looked fairly simple, and it would be inexcusable to not at least give it a bash.

So ingredients bought hubby and I settled into the kitchen to whip up a culinary masterpiece.  That is where I discovered I hadn't read the recipe as thoroughly as I thought.  We had to leave the dough for 1.5-2hrs.  Well seriously, its dough, what did I think was going to happen with it!  So after palming hubby off with carrots and humus to keep him going we continued with the creating.

Annie's recipe is really easy to follow, both for the dough and for the pesto topping suggestion as well.  Actually we made two things for the first time today, pizza dough and pesto.  The pesto was really well flavoured although we used Pecorino rather than Parmesan as I hate the stuff.  I could have done with more basil, but that's just a judgement error.  

So dough made, pesto blitzed, mozzarella grated we were ready to go.  We decided to follow the recipe and use some cooked chicken and sliced cherry tomatoes, but hubby had to add some chorizo for a little extra zing.

So 12 minutes in the oven and we couldn't wait any longer.  The smells coming from the oven were saliva inducing.  And that's it.  To be honest it probably could have done with another couple of minutes just to brown the cheese a little more, but it was still really good.

See the picture below and head over to Annies Eats for the recipe.  Oh and while you are there check out her fantastic owl cupcakes! 

Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Anything I make in my house that has lentils in, in any shape or form is called "lentily goodness". I don't know why, it just is. Hubby isn't the biggest fan of lentils, whereas I love them, so maybe its me trying to convince him that whatever I have made is going to be great!

Something I never order when we go out to Indian restaurants, or have takeaway is Dhal. Therefore I have no way of knowing if what I am making is right. I realise its in no way authentic as its a recipe borrowed from about 3 others, and then bits of my own ideas thrown in. All I know is that is tastes good! I have been known to make a batch and stand by the cooker with a saucepan and wooden spoon in hand, shovelling unceremoniously. I often take a little pot from the freezer for my lunch at work, and its great served with a salsa type mix of chopped tomatoes, onions and cucumber. Its equally as good served with a meat curry and rice, or stirred through any leftover curry to bulk it out a bit.

Very comforting, and can be made as spicy as you like it.


half tsp of fennel seeds
half tsp of cumin seeds
1tsp garam masala
1tsp medium curry powder
1/2tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground turmeric
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
2 inch piece of ginger peeled
300mls water
400mls coconut milk, can use low fat
1 small dried chilli, or fresh chillis to your taste
tea spoon sea salt
olive oil
200grams small red lentils
50grams green lentils

1) put spices in a pan and dry fry for a couple of minutes

2) take spices, onion, garlic, chilli and ginger and blitz in a blender to form a paste

3) fry the paste in a little hot oil for 5 minutes

4) add the lentils, water and coconut milk. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently until lentils are cooked through, usually about 20-30 minutes. I sometimes cook for maybe 40 minutes to get a nice thick creamy texture.

5) check seasoning and serve

optional 6) you can fry some sliced onions, curry leave and mustard seeds until they start to pop and pour over the dhal before serving

Pea & Mint Soup

Making Soup. I think this has to be one of the most satisfying things you can do in a kitchen. Whether its making soup for a special occasion, following a recipe to the letter, or just using up odds and ends to make a comforting bowl of goodness.
I was supposed to go to the gym last night, but it started to rain and it put me off. Instead I went home and got busy in the kitchen whilst I waited for hubby.

First stop after sorting out the tea was to make some soup. Something cheap, but it had to be undoubtedly cheerful. Now that spring has officially sprung, I'm not craving those thick warm, stew like soups of the winter months. I need something zingy and with colour.

And this is where pea and mint soup hits all the spots. Its bright green vibrancy reminds you of the rolling hills outside. The mint adds this amazing freshness and overalls its quite healthy so gives you that boost you need.

However it did mean I had to venture out into the garden in the rain to get some mint. I so much prefer the soft fluffy mint with large downy leaves, to that horrid stuff the supermarkets sell. The leaves on that stuff are almost crunchy and brittle.

My mum and dad used to have the best mint patch in the world. It was roughly a metre square patch by the back door full of mint plants at least a 18 inches high. Magnificent. Anyway I pinched some and after a poor crop last year, I am obviously doing something right as it is popping up all over the place in my one of my raised beds. Last week I had one tiny spike poking through, yesterday there were 3 big plants in the middle of my lettuces, some more showing through the rosemary, and a bit more over in the corner!

I know it bothers some people, and they say if you are planting it in a bed you should put it in a pot first so the roots cant spread, but I love mint and am happy to have as much of it as I can. Especially when summer comes and I need it for my Pimms!

Anyway pea and mint soup is about the easiest and tastiest thing you can make.

Pea & Mint Soup

2 large onions chopped
small knob of butter
splash of olive oil
1kg frozen peas
15g of fresh mint. the soft fluffy kind is best
1 1/2 pints of veg/chicken stock
salt and pepper

1) heat the oil and butter in the pan and add the onions. fry off for 10 minutes until soft

2) add the frozen peas, and stir to coat in the butter/onion. You might need to put the lid on a leave for 5 minutes before you do this, if like me your peas were all stuck together!

3) add the stock, and leave until it comes to the boil

4) take off the heat and blend, I used a hand blender

5) check seasoning, and serve

This recipe makes 5 pints of soup, so perfect for freezing in individual portions for lunches.

I added a swirl of soya cream for the photo but it doesn't really need it to be honest. The peas and mint add such a great flavour that it can carry itself quite easily. The photo does make the soup look a little thin, but that's only because by the time I had finished setting things up the peas had sunk to the bottom. When blending I like to leave a little texture. I don't think this is the sort of soup that suits being really smooth, but its entirely up to you.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Beetroot Rissotto

Whilst round at my parents recently I noticed a Slimmers World cook book out on the table. It appears this is my mums attempt to lose weight for our holiday to Cuba in a little over 7 weeks time. That makes her, my sister and myself all desperate to lose at least half a stone!

Anyway, I was flicking through as I do, and saw a recipe for a beetroot risotto. I didn't have time to write down the recipe, but it has stuck with me since and I have been desperate to make it. I had two small raw beetroots in the fridge left over from mothers day which seemed to have lasted rather well, plus we always have risotto rice in. The only thing I was lacking was any decent stock, having used up my freezer reserves of homemade chicken and vegetable stocks.

Following a discussion on the BBC Food Boards, I discovered that the new Knorr Stock Pots were on offer in Sainsburys for half price. Eight pots for 99p cannot be ignored as a handy store cupboard standby.

Beetroot Risotto
2 raw beetroot, peeled and grated (wear gloves if you have them!)
200g of risotto rice
1 onion, finely chopped
half tsp of fennel seeds toasted and crushed
half tsp cumin seeds toasted and crushed
2 pints of stock (made with one little stock pot) needs to be simmering in a separate pan
sour cream
fennel fronds

salt and pepper

1) sweat onion in a little oil or butter for a few minutes. add rice and spices and cook on a gentle heat for another few minutes or until the grains of rice have cracks appearing on them. add in the grated beetroot and stir until incorporated with the rice

(I love the colours in this photo. The dark purple of the beetroot starts to turn the rice pink as soon as you stir and it gives you this fantastic mottled effect)

2) add a ladle full of stock, stir gently until all the stock has absorbed. repeat until all the stock has been added and the rice grains are creamy when bitten into. should take about 45 mins

3) season to taste and serve a bowl full of the risotto with a spoonful of sour cream and fennel fronds to garnish.

I think next time I will add a little more of the spices, but overall it was a really good risotto. I loved the colour and the flavour was ever so subtly earthy. I would have been happier if the colour of the beetroot had bled as much, I liked the darker flecks as it was cooking, but I suppose thats the nature of beetroot. Everything goes pink!

Weekend in West Sussex - Sunday

On the Sunday we started with a lovely breakfast in the hotel. Nice meaty sausages, crispy hash browns, and some lovely ripe sweet grilled tomatoes. Not too much as we knew we were going for a day out in Brighton, somewhere I had only passed through on my travels with work and hubby had never been to.

Upon arrival in Brighton we first navigated the weirdest underground parking system we had ever encountered, and then stripped off our jackets for a walk along the beach. Wonderful weather meant that the world and his wife were out for the day in Brighton but it just made everything seem more summery rather than crowded if you know what I mean.

We decided that we could happily share fish and chips, so after stalking a few people to see what they were eating, we found what looked like a good contender. Cod and chips once and a can of coke. Carried over to the beach, where we settled down with our little wooden forks. Heaven. Creamy soft fish, crispy batter and hot chips just the way I like them. (horrid picture, sorry about that. I seem to have the fluffiest hair in the world!)

After a couple of hours of wandering the beach and the pier we decided we better head home. However I had spotted a lovely looking place for an ice cream, The World Famous Pump Room right on the beach just about in line with the Grand Hotel. Their ice cream is made on a local farm and they have lots of lovely flavours. OH went for Amaretto and I opted for Lemon Meringue. I know I shouldn't as dairy really does not agree with me, but my goodness it was good. One scoop served in a crisp sugar cone lasted me a good 20 minutes back to the car and out of Brighton.

Sunday night we had dinner in the hotel planned. Hubby had scoped out the menu earlier in the day and said there were some decent looking options. So we settled down (quite uncomfortably close to the next table in my opinion) and placed our orders. Mackerel pate for me, and I actually cant remember what hubby had, followed by roast Topside of beef for hubby and stuffed sea bass with leek, ginger and fennel for me.

First we were served our wine. Id gone for nice Sancerre and the poor waiter took about 10 minutes to get the cork out, snapping it in the process. He poured some and asked if I wanted to taste it. Well I would have done if there weren't tonnes of bits of cork floating in my glass. After speaking to the manager we managed to get them to get us a new bottle. This was followed by them serving me normal pate instead of mackerel. Tasty starters but not overly impressive.

All was about to change. OHs beef with horseradish mash was divine apparently. I wouldn't know, I don't really eat beef so declined a sample. My sea bass however was out of this world. Two fillets of seabass sandwiched together by a slow cooked, soft sweet caramelised mix of leeks and fennel with the not overpowering addition of fresh ginger. Served with saffron potatoes and some buttery cabbage and broccoli, I could have happily eaten this dish again and again.
Sorry about the fact that there is a large proportion of me in the picture. Being very close to the next table I didn't feel overly comfortable taking pictures of the food, so hubby pretended to take one of me, but moved it down to the get the fish instead!

We don't normally do desserts but had to finish off with one as they were paying! OH opted for Baileys creme brulee which he really enjoyed and I had date and ginger pudding. Perfect texture and size, accompanied by creme fraiche to offset the richness. Again shouldn't have eaten the dairy but what the hey!

Overall an enjoyable weekend away. Food wasn't as perfect as I would have liked on the Saturday, but serves me right for not booking somewhere before 4pm on the day.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Weekend in West Sussex - Saturday

Despite the fact that I am not loving my job at the moment, I cant really complain. We regularly get invited by hotels to go and sample their wares. They invite us down, feed us, ply us with alcohol, let us stay in their sumptuous bedrooms and then after a full English the next day we toddle of home. Sometimes these little trips are for two nights, sometimes they are open to members of staff only, sometimes we can take partners, sometimes there are groups from other companies there.

Anyway, a few months ago the Hilton Avisford Park, Arundel came into the work and gave us two vouchers entitling us to a free two nights stay at the hotel with free dinner on one night. Lucky old me got my name pulled out of the hat for one of the vouchers. We had to use it by the end of May and last weekend was the only time we had free. So off we went. Its a bit of trek from Cheshire, but we set off about 10:30am, took some A road routes to avoid the standard tailbacks on the M6 and were soon well on our way.

Normally we take sandwiches, but we didn't have anything in the fridge so decided to stop at some services on the way. Now I am not one for a Ginsters pasty, or Scotch egg, but providing you can find a services with a Costa Coffee, or even an M&S you can do OK. We decided to go the Costa Coffee route and filled up on panini's and soya milk hot chocolate.

If we had realised we came off the motorway quite so early, we would have maybe postponed lunch and stopped in one of the many quaint little villages along the way. We went past so many country pubs, each one looking better than the last. Eventually half an hour from our destination we decided that we couldn't pass up the sunshine and we had to stop for a drink. We went to this lovely pub called The Mulberry Bush or Mulberry Tree which has a sister property somewhere. Stoopid me me thought she would be able to find a web link to the place and I cant. Anyway i had a lovely Pimms, and OH had an Old Speckled Hen.

As dinner was included on one night, I thought it best to have this on the Sunday night, as we would stand more chance of finding somewhere to eat on the Saturday. What I should have realised that being a Saturday it would give us less chance of finding somewhere to eat! Especially as the weather was gorgeous. We stopped in Arundel on the way to the hotel, to case the joint and get some cash. Thanks to the lovely folks on the BBC Food Boards, I had some suggestions for dinner. First option was the George and Dragon at Burpham. Armed with the phone number we rang, and rang, and rang. Not wanting to hedge our bets and book a taxi out there for it to be shut, we got back in the car and went for a little drive. It was shut with no signs up saying what time it would open, so rather than risk it we gave up on that idea. We tried Arundel House on the High Street but they had just re-opened that day after a refurb and were fully booked. We tried Butlers on Tarrant Street, but they only had one table which was next to the service door. Thanks but no thanks.

On our way back to the hotel we went past another pub called The White Swan. We stopped off to investigate and it looked really nice on the inside. We had a gander at the menu and it all looked fairly decent. So later that evening we hopped in a taxi and made our way back.

It was quite quiet when we got there with only about 3 other tables eating, and one couple having drinks at the bar. We decided to have a drink whilst we read the menu, and having made our decisions were led to the table. They started off by saying they didn't have one thing on the menu which was scampi. No problem there, neither of us wanted it. Then she came back 10 minutes later to say they also didn't have the seabass(my choice) and one other thing which I cant remember. So I had to change my mind. There were a few other things on the menu, but nothing really grabbed me like the grilled seabass on a white wine risotto had done, so I resorted to the starter of fish cakes, but served as a main with chips and veg.

For starter I had leek and potato soup, which was homemade and nice, but far to peppery. OH had duck terrine, with Tacklemans chutney and Melba toast. For mains, I had the above mentioned fish cake and OH had his all time favourite of steak with peppercorn sauce, onion rings, chips and roasted vine tomatoes. The service was good throughout the meal, but the place lacked atmosphere to be honest. We then had a terrible end, when they brought us the bill with an extra £2 added onto the steak, an extra 70p on the fishcakes and a few more pennies here and there. All in all they tried to charge us an extra £4.20p. We spoke to the girl who served us and it appears it was something to do with the computer, and she was very apologetic and took the money off as she should. They also didn't seem to charge us for the drink we had in the bar before the meal, so I did still leave a tip!

Top Photo - Hubbys pate and chutney

Bottom Photos - Sorry about the messy picture of hubbys steak, he started eating before I could take a picture. The mustard on the top left of the plate just about blew his head off the poor mite!