One Big Fat Catch Up! Week 41

Oh my goodness. It has been AGES. I’ve come to the conclusion that I have two lives, my winter life where I cook and blog and feel all cosy and domesticated and then there is my summer life which is a lovely whirlwind of weddings and birthdays, eating out and drinking – leaving little time for cooking and blogging.

I have been cooking though and experimenting with things I haven’t tried before. My aim tonight is a bit of a whistlestop tour of recipes I’ve attempted, some have been amazing, some have failed miserably. I may do this over two posts if my fingers get tired after 18 weeks off – I feel like an MP with the length of my summer break! Anyway, on we go.

I’m making an executive decision to skip past some of the more mundane dishes and go with the show stoppers – mundane could be pasta or meatballs – stuff that’s new but not too difficult to make.

First up we had some Grown Up Mocha cupcakes, made with real coffee and the most amazingly naughty mocha topping. Whilst in my summer break I had a bit of a special birthday and hit the big 3-0 – I wasn’t all that happy about it but I did get a really lovely baking book from Mr Gem, it’s called Baking Magic and is by a lady called Kate Shirazi – this recipe is from that book. Happily another blogger out there has already written out the recipe for me so have a look: Grown-up mocha cupcakes and thank you very much to Lola and Finn’s mum for saving me the job of typing it out.


The recipe is so simple – for the cakes mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, marg, baking powder eggs and coffee together until well mixed and light and fluffy, spoon the mixture into muffin cases and bake in the oven for 20 mins. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. While the cakes are cooling make the icing, which consists of butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder and instant coffee dissolved in water. Amazing. To be honest we were lucky to get any icing on the cake, I couldn’t stop eating it!

The cakes turned out light and fluffy and nicely balanced with the chocolate and the coffee. Yummy. I don’t make this recipe very often because it is completely dangerous for the waistline! 

In the same week as the cupcakes I also attempted a new recipe from Nigel Slater Kitchen Diaries:

Lamb Osso Busco with Giant Shells


Another surprisingly simple but delicious recipe, marred only by the fact I couldn’t find any Marsala wine in my local big green shop…however you can follow Madame Gourmands recipe who made a similar version and blogged about it here this is essentially a lovely casserole type dish made with onions, celery, carrots and lamb, served with buttery garlicky pasta. It was a bit different from what I normally cook, but so delicious I would definitely cook it again. Because I didn’t have any marsala I had to concoct a sauce from white wine and tomato puree, so probably didn’t really taste anything like the real thing – however still good, as soon as I get my hands on some marsala I’ll have another crack at it!

So far so good on the catch up but I have to say that one of my favourite new discoveries over the summer was another sweet bake. I don’t do much baking as I always get a bit cross when I can’t make my cakes look as pretty as I’d like. However, these cakes looked good and tasted amazing, enjoy…

Cherry Bakewell Cupcakes


These cakes are absolutely delicious – they taste exactly like a Cherry bakewell.

The recipe came out of my Good Housekeeping bakes and cakes book – I can’t find a recipe online exactly like the one I have used but there is a similar one on BBC Food the main difference between the two being that rather than use jam I used chopped up glace cherries. Making  the cake was pretty standard, all the cake ingredients well mixed together until light and fluffy, then stir in the cherries. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes and then leave to cool. Then comes the icing. Mix a tablespoon of custard powder with boiled milk and stir until thickened, mix in with butter and icing sugar and leave to set a bit, then spread over your cakes – this is hands down one of the best cake toppings I ever tasted. Once you’ve iced your cakes top each one with half a glace cherry and leave to set. Yummy! 

And finally for this evening I’ll finish with a risotto, old favourite basic dish but with a twist I’ve never tried before.

Pea and Mint Risotto with Seared Scallops


Now that I have a house with a bit of outdoor space I have been trying to grow some bits for myself – I have lavender, parsley, basil and a mint plant now growing so wanted to use some mint in my cooking. I decided on a pea and mind risotto after finding a recipe in Delicious magazine It was a very simple recipe, simply make a standard white risotto base, then boil some peas and pop them in the blender with mint leaves and olive oil. Stir the puree into the risotto and serve with some seared scallops and parmesan cheese. This was a really delicious but light tea, perfect for summer!

I think this is where I should conclude my update for now, I have two or three more recipes to cover but I want to do them justice so they need their own post!

Happy cooking! :-)





Week 23: Nutty Prawn and asparagus stir-fry

Its always a big moment when Mr Gem announces that he has just eaten one of his favourite new dishes. This dish created one of those moments…it was epic.

Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Asian cooking. Most of the time its easy, quick and so tasty and mostly healthy. So those are my reasons for liking them – and what follows is the reason Mr Gem declared this one of his favourites!

Nutty Prawn and Asparagus Stir Fry


This recipe is from Ching’s Fast Food – but the recipe does not appear to be online so here it is:

200g asparagus, 1tbsp groundnut oil, 2 cloves garlic, 2.5 cm fresh ginger (or 2 tsp ginger paste) 150g cooked and shelled prawns, 1 tbsp shaosing rice wine (or dry sherry), 1 tbsp light soy sauce, 1 tsp rice vinegar, handful of roasted salted cashews, 1 tsp cornflour, 1 tbsp water.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and blanch the asparagus for a couple of minutes then drain and plunge into cold water. Put aside. Heat a wok over a high heat until it starts to smoke then add the oil. Add the ginger and stir-fry for a few seconds and add the asparagus and any other vegetables you might like. Stir-fry for 2 minutes then add the prawns.

Add the reice wine (or sherry), soy vinegar and cashew nuts. Mix the cornflour and water to a paste and then stir into the sauce, leave over the heat until the sauce thickens.

Serve over some sticky white rice.

The flavours are so authentic and delicious – I would definitely cook this again – I don’t think I’ll be able not to. So simple and tasty. Anyone could cook this dish.

Week 20 – Chicken, Leek and Parsley Pie

This blog is about the mishaps as well as the triumphs that happen in my kitchen. To be honest I thought there would be a lot more disasters than there have been, I’m sure it’s much more entertaining when it goes wrong. It’s certainly entertaining to watch Mr Gem swallow down my disasters and try to think of something to say about it that won’t hurt my feelings. This is exactly what happened in week 20.

Chicken, Leek and Parsley Pie

Chicken Leek and Parsley Pie

Chicken Leek and Parsley Pie


We had a bit of a frugal week at Kitchen Gems HQ and I had all the ingredients for this recipe except for the parsley. This is a recipe from my Nigel Slater Kitchen Diaries recipe book (another favourite) and it is so simple. There is a copy of the recipe here. It’s a really hearty dish perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

I forgot to buy the puff pastry from the supermarket so had to make my own (yes – make my own) shortcrust pastry – and it was pretty good even if I do say so myself.

Proof that I made my pastry from scratch!

Proof that I made my pastry from scratch!

However…after cooking the chicken and poaching the leeks I was ready to put the dish together I realised that in our quick dash around the supermarket we had bought a huge bunch of coriander – not the parsley needed by the recipe. I don’t like coriander.

However, we had nothing else meal was all but ready to go in the oven so I thought – what’s the worst that could happen? I mixed the leek, chicken and coriander mixture into the sauce, popped it into an oven dish and applied homemade pastry top and shoved it in the oven.

30 minutes later it was ready.

Chicken Leek and Parsley Pie - served with sweet potato mash

Chicken Leek and Parsley Pie – served with sweet potato mash

The result was surprisingly ok. The coriander wasn’t overpowering and although the flavours didn’t quite sit together as they would if I’d used the parsley but it wasn’t the biggest disaster it could have been. The moral of the story is – even when you mess up it will probably still taste ok!

Week 22 – Chicken and apricot curry

So I almost caught up…so close. Then I stopped and here we are at week 22 and I still have at least 3 more weeks to go. I really am my own worst enemy because I genuinely can’t event remember what I did between week 22 and now – which is actually only 2 weeks. Phew. Anyway I digress. The week 22 recipe comes courtesy of Mr Nigel Slater.

Chicken and Apricot Curry

Chicken and Apricot Curry

Chicken and Apricot Curry

This was a surprising treat actually. It was simple and used mostly store cupboard bits – there is a copy of the recipe here

I used lemongrass paste and ginger paste instead of fresh (I always do – I hate the idea of ginger contaminating my cheese grater…) and you simply whack this in a blender with chillis and lime zest and then whiz to a rough paste, add the fish sauce, chopped tomatoes and soy sauce and whiz up some more till it becomes a smooth sauce.

Whizz up the lime, chilli, ginger and lemongrass

Whizz up the lime, chilli, ginger and lemongrass

Add the chopped tomatoes and blend to a smooth sauce

Add the chopped tomatoes and blend to a smooth sauce

From here on in the rest is easy – brown the chicken in the pan on all sides then remove from the pan. Fry the sauce in the pan, add the coconut milk  and then add the chicken back in until its cooked through then add the apricots for the last 5 minutes. Serve with some sticky white rice.

Brown the chicken pieces

Brown the chicken pieces

Serve with sticky white rice

Serve with sticky white rice

The dish was light, fragrant and so easy to make. Mr Gem enjoyed it and I did too although some of the flavours were a bit light – I would make it a bit stronger next time but otherwise a top dish!



Week 21 – Rhubarb Crumble

And not just any rhubarb crumble – my mum’s rhubarb crumble… no pressure there then!

So a couple of weeks ago I caught the summer lurgy and after 2 days lying in bed – Mr Gem took off to Prague (on a preplanned event – not just because I was sick) I needed some TLC. And where better to convalesce than in the arms of your family.

After a couple of days I started to feel a little better so mum and I made a crumble!

Rhubarb Crumble

Rhubarb Crumble and custard

So – crumble is really easy to make – why I haven’t done it sooner I will never know but simple and delicious works for me! There are loads of crumble recipes on the internet so google away and experiment.

So essentially for a rhubarb crumble peel and chop your rhubarb, pop it in your oven proof dish with some sugar to taste, a splash of water and I added a pinch of cinnamon. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes or so until the rhubarb starts to go soft but not mushy. In the meantime mix together your crumble ingredients so it resembles breadcrumbs.

Peel and chop the rhubarb

Peel and chop the rhubarb

Mix the crumble until it resembles breadcrumbs

Once the rhubarb is done top it with the crumble and pop it in the oven for about 25 minutes until the crumble is golden and a bit crunchy.


Serve with custard and you have an undiscovered cure for the lurgy – delicious, comforting and as puddings go – probably not that bad, I mean it has fruit in it, how bad for you can it be?!

Week 19 – Asian Trout

So it was one of those weeks wandering aimlessly around the supermarket when Mr Gem spotted some trout on offer so we bought it without really having a plan of what on earth we were going to do with it.

So I made something up. 

Asian Trout


I was a bit perturbed when I got the fish out of its wrapper and it still had fins. I love food and cooking but I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to animal bits (I know its shocking for a food liking person!) 


I’m a bit squeamish about flippers and fins

Anyway after attempting to cut the fins off and failing miserably I decided to go about cooking the fish.

I stuffed it with a butter mixed with ginger, lime, garlic and spring onion, then wrapped it in tin foil and popped it in the oven for around 20minutes, when it was done I served it with some sweet potato wedges.


Stuffed and ready to go into the oven

It was delicious, but a bit boney!


Week 18 – Chicken Pilau

Two curries in a row may seem a little excessive but they were a week apart and after the success of the Chicken Tikka Masala I thought I’d have another go at another recipe from the Hairy Bikers. As I’m writing from the future there are no curries for a while after this! The pilau is a lot different from the masala as its a rice based dish with less sauce. It was a bit of an odd one for us as we’re used to quite saucy curries (pardon the expression!) but we were quickly converted!

Chicken Pilau


A perfect midweek dinner

Sadly there are no online versions of this recipe so I’ll be copying from the recipe book today.


3 heaped tbsp flaked almonds, a pinch of saffron (optional – I didn’t bother), 900ml chicken stock made from 1 stock cube, enough chicken for 4 people (the recipe states thighs but I used breast meat – it doesn’t matter as its a quick dish so the meat won’t dry out), 1 medium onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 red pepper, 100g green beans, 4 tbsp medium curry pastes, 300g basmati rice, 25g sultanas


Scatter the almonds into a large frying pan over a medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes until golden and then remove from the heat. Heat the oil and fry the onions for 5 mins until softened then add the chicken pieces and fry for 3-4 minutes until lightly coloured all over. Add the garlic, peppers and beans and cook for a further minute, stirring constantly.

Spoon the curry paste into the pan and cook with the chicken and vegetables for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, add in the sultanas and the almonds and stir through. Tip the rice on top, pour over the stock and cover the pan with a lid. Leave to cook over a low heat for about 12 minutes or until the rice and the chicken is cooked.

Once cooked through remove from the heat and leave covered for 5 minutes then serve immediately.

This dish was delicious – you can add more or less curry paste to increase or decrease the spice, but it was fragrant and fruity. Easy to make – its perfect for a midweek tea!



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 52 other followers