Awesome Rice Pudding


One of the staples of any British diet is a good old rice pudding, everyone has their own methods but none of them ever come near to how your mum used to make it! 

The traditional method uses pudding rice, milk and sugar and is usually just plonked in the oven whilst the rest of the roast dinner is being cooked. It either comes out perfectly gooey in the middle with a skin that everyone fights over (cos it’s the best bit). Or it’s as dense as plutonium and lands in your stomach with and audible ‘thud’ when you swallow it! 

One of the ways to stop the jeopardy of getting insanely thick rice pudding is to make it on the hob; like a risotto. This cuts down on the risk of gloop although you do have to be vigilant and stay with the pudding, constantly stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom giving you horrible bitter lumps of burnt sugary milk. 

After many attempts, burnt bottoms and overly al dente rice I think I might just’ve cracked it!

Brace yourself; this one’s epic! 

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup risotto rice 
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract/paste
  • 1-3 tablespoons of powdered malted drink e.g. Horlicks
  • Dessert spoon of creme fraiche
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg to sprinkle on the top

The method is pretty easy, a few faffy bits to start off but then it’s plain sailing. 

  • Preheat an oven to as hot as possible (>200c)
  • Put the rice on a small baking tray and leave in the oven until lightly toasted (trust me on this, it adds a really nice nuttiness) 
  • Put the water in a medium-size saucepan and melt the butter in it
  • Add the toasted rice and cook until the water has been absorbed 
  • Heat the milk in a microwave and add it to the rice
  • Add the sugar to the pan
  • Stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved 
  • Add the Horlicks 
  • Stir until the rice has absorbed most of the milk but still has a tiny bite to it
  • Add a spoon of creme fraiche and stir it in
  • Leave it to stand for 5 minutes 
  • Dollop into a bowl and sprinkle with the cinnamon and nutmeg 

The Horlicks adds a wicked maltiness to it and, even though it’s not as good as my mum’s, it’s hands-down the best rice pudding I’ve ever made! 

BBQ Ideas

BBQs – who doesn’t love them? Leaving the grill languishing in the back of the shed for months on end because we’re never quite sure when summer actually starts and the weather is being a prick! And once it is lit and ready to rumble 9 times out of 10 all you’ll see on it are semi-cooked (but black) sausages, chicken legs that are likely to give you salmonella as soon as you look at them and burgers with meat of dubious origin! Don’t get me wrong, after a couple of beers I am a big fan of dubious burgers – but occasionally you’ve got to at least give something different a bash! Maybe that’s just us Brits though, we so infrequently have good enough weather for BBQs that we panic whenever the opportunity arises!

For my BBQ I decided to forgo the above mentioned British staples and have a bit of fun:

Greek Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki

  • 250g Lamb mince
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 50g of feta cheese
  • 1 tbsp of chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp of chopped mint
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • A squeeze of lemon juice

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with your hands, you don’t need any binding agents like egg or breadcrumbs – once you have mixed it all up well enough you will feel the meat binding together and kinda wanting to make it’s own shape. Leave them in the fridge for an hour or so them to set a bit and then they are ready for the BBQ. I served them in flatbreads with water cress and Tzatziki (Greek yoghurt, chopped cucumber, mint and lemon juice), and honestly they are probably one of  the best burgers I can remember eating; easy to make and pretty cheap too!

Sweet Chilli Mackerel Fillets

  • Two mackerel fillets (pin-boned)
  • 100ml Sweet chilli sauce
  • Extra chilli if you’re feeling brave
  • Squeeze of lime juice

Another easy method: Just mix the marinade together, slather over the (pin-boned) mackerel fillets and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours. You need to make sure that the mackerel is as fresh as you can get; it can go off pretty quickly and when it does – boy do you know about it! 

Veggie Kebabs

  • 1 medium size courgette
  • 1 red onion
  • packet of baby aubergines
  • Garlic oil spray
  • Mixed dried herbs

These are unbelievably easy to make as well, all you need to do is to chop the veg into roughly the same size (so they cook evenly), feed onto a (pre-soaked if you are uusing bamboo) skewer, spray with the garlic oil spray and sprinkle some herbs over the top. If I were to do these again I would use peppers instead of the aubergine – this would add a bit of extra sweetness rather than the slight bitterness that comes with both the aubergine and the courgette.

As a side dish I threw together the remainder of the watercress, some packet beetroot and some balsamic vinegar, then crumbled over some leftover feta cheese to make a sweet, tangy and fresh salad.

BBQ Cinnamon Peaches

Now a BBQ wouldn’t be a BBQ without some sort of sweetness involved would it?! I was tempted to go for a rum, brown sugar and banana concoction but stumbled across quite a few pages on Pinterest with the same idea: peaches with cinnamon sugar! 

Not only did it sound delightful but it looked easy-peasy to do, bonus! All you need is: 

  • Peaches
  • Ground cinnamon 
  • Brown sugar
  • Coconut oil spray

The method is as easy as pie too, all you need to do is: 

  • halve the peaches and de-stone them. 
  • Put the halves into a parcel of strong tin foil
  • Sprinkle sugar and ground cinnamon over the peaches
  • Spray over some coconut oil 
  • Seal the peaches in the foil parcel and chuck it on the grill until the peaches are soft 

That’s it, how long on the BBQ depends entirely on how hot your BBQ is. 

To go with the peaches I had a dollop of the Greek yoghurt leftover from the tzatziki (the peaches are heroically sweet so you need something sharp to cut through it), a healthy spoonful of raspberry sauce and put them on some waffles. Heaven. 

Apple roses

  
I first saw these frittering around Instagram about a year ago, thought they looked cute (but difficult), and then promptly forgot about them! Then when I was trying to think of a pudding that consisted of pretty much what I had in the fridge (puff pastry, apples and ginger preserve) these little beauties popped into my head. I was initially thinking of doing some sort of tarte tatin but I’ve done a few of those before and these looked proper fancy! 

Turns out they’re also insanely easy to do to! All you need to make them are: 

  • Apples sliced really thinly 
  • Lemon juice
  • Water
  • Puff pastry
  • Jam/preserve (I used ginger but any would really work)
  • Sugar, cinnamon 

To start off with slice the apples as thinly as you can, I used a mandolin for this but if you value your fingertips you can just slice them with a knife. Put the apples slices in a bowl of water with the juice of half a lemon in – this will stop them from browning. Finally (for the apples) put them in the microwave for a minute or so until they are soft. 

Slice the (pre-rolled is easier) puff pastry lengthways into two inch/4 cm strips. 

Spread some jam/water mix along half (lengthways) of the pastry, pat dry the apple slices and overlap them along the jam side of the pastry. Sprinkle with cinnamon and some sugar and then fold the other half over the apples leaving the semicircles protruding out of the pastry. 

Roll them up into circles and voila – flipping roses!!!!!

Put them in the oven (375F/190C) for about 3/4 hour or so. 

Below is one of the better pages on the interweb that I could find on these delightful little things. It’s got decent step by step instructions and video and gifs to help too. 

http://metro.co.uk/2015/10/17/the-internets-obsessed-with-apple-roses-this-is-what-they-are-and-how-to-make-them-5446038/

Fancy little buggers these things, looks as though you’ve become a seasoned pastry chef for not a huge amount of effort! 


Prep time: 20 mins to half an hour

Cooking time: About an hour or so, depending on your oven. 

10/10: Can’t fault them, drizzle a bit of honey over the top before eating them and you’ll need a serviette to wipe up the drool! 

Fish thumb (too big for fingers) sandwich with tartar sauce and sweet potato chips

  

If you’re British, brought up in the 80’s or 90’s, and/or are hungover then fish finger sandwiches need no introduction. They have been  the staple diet of 30-somethings during their formative years, and students nursing poorly heads for decades. Captain Birdseye has made a killing out of these since he first set sail on his fishing boat! 

Essentially they are small fillets of fish, coated in golden breadcrumbs and plonked in the middle of some slices of cheap white bread. And they are awesome! 

Now I’m a big fan of the normal fish fingers you get in the frozen aisle, but part of me wanted to have a go at making them myself and seeing if they were any good (and how easy they could be). After scouring Pinterest, websites and books for different recipes they all seemed to be more or less the same thing; so here is my take on them:

  • Mix your breadcrumbs (try and get the golden variety, if only because they’ll look like the real thing) with some parsley and lemon zest
  • Set up an assembly line of plates with flour, egg, and the breadcrumbs
  • Cut your fish (I used cod loin) into the size you wish
  • Dip into the flour and pay off the excess
  • Dip into the egg an let the excess drip off
  • Dip into the breadcrumbs and make sure they are fully coated. 
  • Lay on a baking tray and cook at about 180c for 20 mins

With my ‘delicate’ touch I made mine a bit larger than the standard fish fingers, so I had to christen them fish thumbs! 

Whilst they are cooking you have plenty of time to rustle up a kinda tartar sauce.

Mix together:

  • Mayonnaise 
  • Salad cream
  • Lemon juice 
  • Parsley 
  • Chopped gherkin 
  • Chopped capers

….. in a small bowl, I would add the lemon juice last as you don’t want to ruin it by adding too much! 

Once the fish fingers/thumbs are cooked serve with a side of chips (I opted for sweet potato), salad and some bread. The grand plan was to have some homemade cornbread with this but something went catastrophically wrong (I think the yeast was out of date) and I ended up with a kinda yellowy frisbee so I rushed to Tesco and bought a posh(ish) loaf.  

Great for a little stroll down memory lane, unless the memories it brings back are of heroically bad hangovers! 

Prep time: 20 mins

Cooking time: ~20 mins to 1/2 an hour depending on your oven. 

8.5/10: Tasty, nostalgic, fun and easy to make. Not exactly a taste sensation but that’s completely missing the point of fish finger sandwiches.  

Salted chocolate tart 

 
If you like quick puddings, and quick puddings that taste a lot richer and more opulent than they actually are, then this is for you. The filling is only four ingredients (Nutella, cream cheese, dark chocolate (or dark chocolate sauce) and sea salt. And if you feel like cheating (as I did) use a pre-made pastry case and the entire dessert is made in about 5 minutes! 

  • Mix 400g jar Nutella, 250g tub of cream cheese (get the lightest you can) and 150-200g of melted dark chocolate (or Belgian/dark chocolate sauce) it depends on how rich you want it. 
  • Mix all the ingredients together and then add sea salt to the mix. 
  • Add enough just so that there is a slight saltiness to it; add it bit by bit because you don’t want to ruin a whole batch by making it too salty. 
  • Pour the mix into the pastry case and chill for about an hour until it is set. 
  • Sprinkle a small amount of salt on top just before eating. 
  • Slice, add some aesthetical buffoonery and shovel it into your mouth. 

I dare you to only have one slice. 

Prep time: 30 seconds microwaving the Nutella and dark chocolate (or sauce) to melt it enough so that they are mixable. 

Cooking time: Zero, about an hours chilling in the fridge to set. 

10/10: Cannot fault it. A friend who tried it said it tasted ‘restaurant quality’! She can come again. 

Burns Night supper: Haggis, neeps and tatties pie, baby carrots, roast red onions and greens with beetroot sauce. Cranachan with chocolate flapjack cookies. 

  

It’s been a fair bit since I posted anything and admittedly Burns Night was quite a while ago. But I’ve got one of those annoying ‘job’ things that I’ve had to do (for like money and stuff) and honestly haven’t had the time to write anything. 

Ah well, best get back into it I suppose! Back in January it was Burns Night – I haven’t got a bit of Scottish in me, not one bit, can’t even claim the tiniest piece of me being Scottish. Quite like the place though; Edinburgh is up there with my favourite cities in the world. I’ve been there a few times with Uni, stag do’s and doing Tough Mudder a few years ago. During the ‘Mudder’ visit (and after a few sherbets) I had haggis pizza; mind – blown! Never had haggis before and even though it’s made from the bits of the sheep that you don’t normally eat (heart, lungs, liver, lips, eyelids, bleat) it somehow tasted really nice! Took me completely by surprise. 

It seems the traditional way of having haggis, neeps and tatties is just kind of plonked on a plate. I’d been trying to think of a way to jazz it up a bit for a few months and getting nowhere, then I saw a Facebook post off a friend who did it all in a pie. I thought ‘that’s a good idea Hols’ so I stole it! (After telling her that I would, got permission and everything)

The haggis was pretty easy to get hold of; it was just sat there in the meat aisle. And again the turnips and potatoes (neeps and tatties) were in the fruit and veg part of any supermarket. I’m not 100% sure how to officially cook haggis but once it was open it looked a lot like cooked minced beef so I decided to use it just like that. The pie method was pretty simple:

  • Fry the haggis with some onion
  • Chop the swede and potato into small (sugar cube size) chunks and roast in the oven until just cooked 
  • Get some short crust and puff pastry (I always use ready-rolled; life’s too short to worry about puff pastry!) and line a tin with the short crust
  • Fill the pastry with a mix of the haggis, neeps and tatties 
  • Put a puff pastry lid on top and brush some egg wash over the top 
  • Return to the oven until the pastry is cooked (about 1/2 hour or so)

The accompaniments to the pie included roast red onions and Tom Kerridge’s awesome Christmas carrots: 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/christmas_carrots_90489

And some green stuff I found in Tesco (a mix of cabbage and leek). The beetroot sauce is a phenomenal cheats recipe; it is essentially some grated pickled beetroot that you get from a jar and added to gravy. Simple but severely yummy, you don’t need to slave over a stove for hours pickling the beets and then reducing and altering the sauce until it’s just right. Sometimes the simple options work out the best! It was then just a case of getting the pie out the oven and playing the food up. 

And then pretending you’re Scottish. 

The dessert (pic below) was my take on Cranachan. Cranachan is usually made with whipped cream but I found that to be a bit too rich for me, so I used thick Greek yoghurt  instead. 

To make the granola and oat cookies I pretty much followed the following recipe from Bake Off (but took out the stem ginger, not because I wanted to – I just didn’t have any to hand) : 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/classic_stem_ginger_83286
Cranachan is a nice easy dessert to bash out: 

  • Once the cookies are baked let them cool and smash up a couple of them
  • Mix some Greek yoghurt, a dram (or two) of whisky and some icing sugar
  • Put a layer of the smashed cookies on the bottom of whichever dish you’re going to eat from, then the whiskey-yoghurt mix, then some raspberry sauce and finally some more of the cookies
  • Add a few fresh raspberries for aesthetical reasons 
  • Put a couple of the cookies (covered in some chocolate) on the side and shovel into your face

 

And there you go, a kinda Burns Night supper. 

Prep time: Around 1/2 an hour for measuring, mixing, peeling etc

Cooking time: About 45 minutes for the cookies, 90 minutes for the pie (including 10 mins for the haggis/onion, 30 mins for the neeps&tatties, and pie in oven time), 20 mins for the carrots, 5 mins for the greens and sauce. The cranachan can be put together in about 5 minutes. 

7.5/10: Pretty good, but in all honesty I don’t thing I’ll make haggis in its usual form again. It’s just too much of a strong flavour that overpowered everything else. Will probably use it as a flavour enhancer in meat dishes though! Defo making the Cranachan and cookies again, they brought the score up from a 5/10 to a 7.5. 

A kind of Tirimasu with amaretti biscuits, chocolate and a healthy portion of baileys, and a fancy dollop of chocolate sauce

  

There’s only one real way of making an easy, quick pudding better; add booze, many booze! (This one is no exception to that rule!) To go from ingredients to in your belly it’s less than 5 minutes. Tastes bloody good too! 

Tiramisu is meant to have those sponge fingers that are meant to be soaked in coffee for a few minutes but I decided to go off on a tangent here and use amaretti biscuits. Not only because they sounded as though they would work, but also because I had a pack open and wanted to use them up. Double whammy! 

The recipe is unbelievably simple: 

  • Put a layer of (whole) amaretti biscuits in the bottom of the bowl/glass
  • Slowly pour Baileys over them until they reach saturation point
  • Drizzle chocolate sauce over the soaked biscuits
  • Pour over a mix of Greek yoghurt, honey and Camp coffee essence 
  • Put some sort of aesthetical buffoonery on top
  • If you want (and if you have the willpower) you can put it into the fridge for an hour or so to set a bit
  • Devour

There really isn’t much else to it, it’s simple, boozey, easy to eat and if you use fat-free yoghurt it’s not hugely bad for you (if you ignore the biscuits, Baileys and chocolate sauce!). 

Prep time: Insanely quick – 5 mins max

Cooking time: Zero, but you can put it in the fridge for an hour or so if you are serving it out of a mould. 

9/10: Hard to fault, but the Camp coffee essence was a little bitter (although that is probably my fault as I may have put too much in to try and get the yoghurt a bit browner!)