Monday, 29 April 2013

Wild Garlic and Lemon Risotto

Wild Garlic

Wild garlic seems to be on trend at the moment, over the last few weeks I've seen countless recipes using it. Most probably because it's in season, spring has sprung and the foragers are out in force.

I loved the ingredients in this recipe posted on Lucy Antal's Grab Your Spoon Facebook page, so when I spotted wild garlic this weekend at my local farmers market at Lark Lane, Liverpool dinner was decided.

You can see the original recipe here

Risotto is a very quick and easy meal to put together, I like to have the prep done in advance so when you fancy eating, it can be on the plate within twenty five to thirty minutes.

  • 1 small white onion, finely diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely crushed
  • Risotto rice (110g for 2 people)
  • A tiny pinch of dried herbs (dried sage and rosemary – just a pinch of each) Salt and Pepper
  • Vegetable stock ( I made up a litre using four teaspoons of Bouillon stock powder, used most of this save a ladleful )
  •  1 small glass of white wine ( I used a Sauvignon blanc, it's citrus and grassy notes perfect for this )
  • A splash of rapeseed oil
  • A knob of salted butter
  • Handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • A handful of freshly wild garlic
  • 1 Lemon (zest only)

To dress the dish: ( original recipe calls for 1 pot of Well Seasoned Wild Garlic, Basil & Mint Pesto) I did not have this so just used the other two ingredients.
1) Parmesan shavings
2) Baby Rocket

Finely chop onion and celery, crush the garlic, zest the lemon, grate parmesan and weigh the rice.

  • Heat rapeseed oil and a knob of butter in a large saucepan.
  • Add the celery, onion, garlic and herbs and fry gently until slightly softened.
  • Add the rice and continue frying for 4 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper.
  • Make up the vegetable stock and keep it warm.
  • Add the small glass of white wine to the pan; this should simmer immediately. Let the alcohol evaporate for 2 minutes.
  • Add the hot stock, a ladleful every few minutes and constantly stir the risotto until the stock is absorbed. Keep the heat low, the risotto should be only just bubbling.
  • The rice will take roughly 22 minutes to cook. The texture should be oozey.
  • Once you are happy that the risotto is cooked and seasoned well, turn the heat off and stir in the Wild Garlic, the lemon zest and the Parmesan, and let it rest for 4 minutes.
Tip! If you’re feeling indulgent stir in a little knob of butter at the end, this makes the risotto even richer and glossier. Serve in warm bowls, garnish with some Parmesan shavings, baby rocket leaves and a drizzle of rapeseed oil.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The worlds first sky butler dining, The Singapore flyer.

Marina bay centre with the Singapore flyer far right
I am a sucker for dining in unusual places, so when a friend recommended we try dining in the worlds tallest ferris wheel whilst in Singapore my ears where well and truly pricked.

I love drinking on rooftop terrace bars, so dining on the worlds largest ferris wheel with a 360 degree view of Singapore is right up my street.

The wheel was constructed between 2005 and 2008, with a total height of 165m (541 ft) 42 stories, making it the tallest ferris wheel in the world. Situated on the southeast tip of the Marina centre's reclaimed land, the wheel is 150m (492 ft) in diameter, built over a three-story terminal building which houses shops, bars and restaurants.

Checking their website an advertisement for the Singapore flyer read:

"Indulge in our premium Sky Dining experience which now comes with exclusive Gueridon service, a new 4-course menu, wine pairing options, personalised butler service, magnificent skyline views – all in the comfort of a spacious capsule, atop the world’s largest Giant Observation Wheel".

Dinner for Two Package Includes:
2 Rotations (approx 1 hour)
Exclusive check-in (Express Boarding)
In-flight Host
4-course Fine Dining Menu (Dinner) with Dessert, Coffee and Tea served in-capsule
Flyer Lounge access*

Sounded great so further research had me checking out some video footage on YouTube. One video in particular showed waiters bringing in plated up main courses on the second revolution from where I assumed had been prepared from a kitchen in the vicinity.
You can see the footage click here.

It looked fantastic, but sadly it wasn't we had no such service, the word Gueridon in the advertisement had gone unnoticed and if I'm honest I'd never heard that culinary term before.

A description of this I found meant :
Gueridon service is a form of food service provided by restaurants to their guests. This type of service encompasses preparing food (primarily salads, main dishes such as beef stroganoff, or desserts) in direct view of the guests, using a "gueridon". A gueridon typically consists of a trolley that is equipped to prepare, cook and serve food. There is a gas hob, chopping board, cutlery drawer, cold store (depending on the trolley type) and general working area.

However this was truly an amazing setting for a meal and offered without doubt the best views of Singapore, from the wheel you can see the whole Marina bay area, which houses the iconic Marina bay sands hotel, The Helix bridge, which has been brilliantly constructed to resemble DNA, the art and science museum and a fantastic floating stage which was a footbal pitch on our trip. You can also see beyond to about 45 km (28 mi), including the Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan, as well as Johor, Malaysia.

Singapore flyer capsual
After being seated the first course of butternut squash soup was served up, this was nice and tasty but on the small side and served with what looked like a slice of bread cut off a baguette. Not great, how hard is it to serve up a nice roll ? but there was also something else missing ? wine ?  we asked our waiter if we could order some wine. "Sorry was the reply, you need to order that before you enter the capsule".

Stunned, we explained we had arrived about 15 minutes before our original reservation required us to do so. We presented ourselves at reception then taken to the flyer lounge and within two minutes of us being there we were led by a member off staff straight into the capsule of the flyer.

Not once where we offered a wine menu or asked if we would like to order drinks let alone inform us this is what we had to do!
We were gob smacked, the waiter was left in no doubt we thought this was unacceptable and he made a telephone call down to reception. Even that was a farce, we were told we could only be offered house red or white, and had no idea what it was, there was no question of choosing a cabernet or merlot, etc it was this or nothing!

Next up was a crab salad, nothing special just ok.

The not so special Crab salad

By now we had completed our first revolution, when the capsule reached the bottom in rushed the waiters with 4 glasses of wine and what looked like trays of airline food.

Evidence of our £79 meal being delivered to the capsual like airline food !

I was gob smacked again. The waiter began to plate up and by time it reached our table it was stone cold, no heat whatsoever to any of our meals. We sent our meals back. For some reason I thought he had the means to reheat them in the capsule but he began to plate up a second batch, again all stone cold ! By now we were not a happy bunch, we had paid in advance from England at a cost of £79 per person.

As the waiter retrieved our untouched plates he asked us if we'd like desert !
Words failed me at that point, it was a good job we had said "no" as within two minutes we had reached our second revolution and were all being ushered off without so much as a cup of coffee ! As the wheel doesn't stop we had to get off quickly.
Completely incensed all four off us asked to speak with the manager.

The stone cold main course

After raising our complaint for over 45 minutes with a manager we seemed to be getting nowhere, they have a non refund policy ! we were offered another evening with discount ! not great when we were homeward bound to England that evening. " come back in six months then" was his reply " we'll make sure you get a discount" Oh lordy this wasn't easy. "who in the right mind would travel all the way from England to Singapore to have a discounted meal?" was our reply.

Even more infuriating was the manager had to keep going off to speak to someone more senior than him on the phone. We ended up leaving with a promise of an e-mail response !
It was our last night, we had a flight to catch there was nothing else we could do !
we left bitterly disappointed and hungry and totally out of pocket.

Since then I have to say despite our grievance with the meal, we received an email within a day of our return with the offer of 50% refund which we think is fair as after all we did get to have two revolutions with a soup, salad and a glass of wine.  

Here are some pics of the fantastic view.

Marina bay area, Singapore

Gardens by the bay and giant greenhouses

The art and science museum






Monday, 15 April 2013

Lamb steaks with pesto butter beans

I have a slight addiction for butter bean mash at the moment so when I spotted this recipe card in Sainsbury's today for lamb with pesto butter bean mash I was sold.

If your looking for something qick and easy to make, this can be knocked up in 20 minutes. Give it a go it's utterly delicious.

This recipe is for four people. I halved this for two.

270g pack tomatoes on the vine
2tbs olive oil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 x 410g butter beans, drained and rinsed
300ml chicken or lamb stock made with 1 stock cube
75ml creme fraiche
2 tbs pesto
2 x 220g of lamb rump steaks
200g of spring greens

1) Preheat the oven to 180 C fan 160 C, gas 4. Put the tomatoes on a baking tray and top with half a teaspoon of the oil and the oregano roast for 15 minutes.

2) Heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil in a pan and cook the onion for 5 mins; add the garlic for the last min. stir in the butter beans, stock, crème fraîche and pesto simmer for 5 mins.

3) Brush the Lamb steaks with the remaining oil and season with black pepper. Heat a frying pan over a high heat, add the steaks and cook a 3 to 4 mins on each side. Remove the steaks from the pan and allow to rest. At the spring greens to the pan and stir fry for 5 minutes.

4) Serve the stakes on top of the pesto butter beans and spring greens, With the roasted cherry tomatoes on top.

Lamb steaks with pesto butter beans

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Singapore sling

On my last vacation I managed to tick off one of my bucket list goals of having a Singapore sling in the long bar at Raffles hotel in Singapore. But there was one small problem, understandably as Raffles sell over 1000 of these drinks a day they are pre mixed.

Undeterred to try a proper one I made a note of the recipe and once home sourced the drinks needed.

Metric Measurements as printed on the original raffles Hotel menu.

30ml Gin.
15 ml Cherry Brandy.
120 ml Pineapple Juice.
15 ml Lime Juice.
7.5 ml Cointreau.
7.5 ml Dom Benedictine.
10 ml Grenadine.
A Dash of Angostura Bitters.
Garnish with a slice of Pineapple and Cherry.


Shake with ice. Strain into an ice filled collins glass.

Garnish with cherry and slice of pineapple.

Recipe for those preferring to use fluid oz

1 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce cherry heering
1/4 ounce Cointreau liqueur
1/4 ounce benedictine
4 ounces pineapple juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/3 ounce grenadine
1 dash bitters

A fantastic cocktail, every time I make a singapore sling I will now be able to visualise walking the beautiful courtyards of Raffles and of course sipping at the long bar with the mechanical fans wafting over my head. Oh and I mustn't forget, to make it truly authentic I must have a bowl of monkey nuts.

Ingredients for a Singapore sling (Raffles)

Forgive the terrible attempt to garnish, In my eagerness to get home and make them I forgot to but Pineapple and cherries. Glace it had to be :0)

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A Singapore sling at the long bar, Raffles hotel Singapore

I love a good cocktail so when I found myself in Singapore it would have been a sin not to visit Raffles hotel and have a Singapore sling in the long bar where it was invented, (Allegedly)

According to Raffles the Singapore sling was invented in 1915 by their head bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. However there are countless stories questioning if the version served today is the original version or if indeed the Raffles version is a true sling? but I was not going to loose sleep over this I just wanted to enjoy the legendary drink in the legendary bar ( by the way the original long bar is not where it is now, but that's another long story )

I wasn't going to let my dreams of sitting where Hemingway, Noel Coward and Rudyard Kipling to name a few sat sipping the sling be marred by these little discrepancies!
I have also read Ngiam Tong Boon invented this pretty pink drink to encourage women to drink with men. Whether this is true or not ?  I love this idea.

The hotel itself is beautiful, very colonial in design. Your left in no doubt this would have been the place to stay and be seen by the the upper class British colonials in it's day.

The long bar is designed in the style of a 1920's plantation.  Slow moving mechanical fans wafting above your head are mesmerising to watch, the atmosphere had a great buzz feel to it. That said it is a bit of a tourist trap and unfortunately the drinks are pre-mixed but this is no surprise, and expected they sell over 1000 a day !

I also loved the little boxes on the tables filled to the brim with monkey nuts, the tradition is to eat the nuts and throw the empty shells on the floor, a strange tradition when littering in Singapore is heavily finned! But great fun.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


I really like granola, but it's quite expensive for a small amount and after paying over a fiver for a packet of artisan granola blend at the weekend at Knutsford market I was inspired to have a go at making my own.

Reading through a multitude of recipes it seemed there was hundreds of different ways to make granola but rather than follow a recipe I decided to stick to the formula which seem to be dry ingredients, rolled grains, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, spices and salt. Then the wet ingredients and sweetener, honey or maple syrup, oils and add the ones I like.

What I did learn though is that the type of oats you use is very important it seems that good old fashioned rolled oats is best for granola, Old fashioned oats are thicker and perfect for the texture of granola. Quick cooking and steel cut oats are generally a no no as they have been cut into thinner pieces, steamed and rolled so when combined with the wet ingredients can result in a mushy mess.
This is how I made mine, cooking time was around 50 minutes in total. Maked about 700g. 


8 Tbsp honey
300g rolled oats
40g sunflower seeds
40g pumpkin seeds
75g skin on almonds, chopped
30g desiccated coconut
50g sour cherries
50g dates, chopped
50g dried apricots, chopped
50g cranberries

Ingredients for granola

  • Preheat the oven to 150c / gas mark 2
  • In a large bowl mix the oats, seeds, nuts and coconut.
  • Heat the honey in a saucepan to warm through and loosen it's thickness. Pour over the oat mixture, mix well to coat all the ingredients, spread on a large baking sheet.
  • Pop the mixture in the oven for 20 minutes, check after 20 minutes and fork through to break up any clumps.Put back in the oven.
  • Check every 10 minutes forking through often, till you feel your not far off the desired colour and texture your after.
  • Add the fruit and fork through to distribute evenly. Cook for a final 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool before forking through again to break up any clumps, store in an airtight container for up to one month.
  • Serve sprinkled on top of yogurt or with poached fruit, also great by the handful as a snack.

Add honey and mix oats, seeds, nuts and coconut

Spread ingredients on to a large baking tray

Finished Granola


                                  The finished granola stored in an aitight container

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Slow cooked lamb shanks with Ras El Hanout

Although I love to cook I hate it when I've just returned from holiday, after having everything cooked for you it's hard to get motivated to go near the cooker. But after catching up on a few foodie blogs I follow I came across this recipe by +Gingey Bites for Ras El Hanout spiced shoulder of lamb.

I had Lamb shanks in the freezer and ras el hanout in the store cupboard, so this was a good motivator for me. You can see +Gingey Bites recipe for Ras El Hanout spiced shoulder of lamb, Here.

After reading through a few different recipes for lamb shanks and ras el hanout I decided to just throw the holy trinity of vegetables for most stew based meals, onion, celery and carrot into the pot and see how it came out.

  • 2 large lamb shanks, trimmed of excess fat and sinew
  • 4 table spoons of olive oil
  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp ras el hanout
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Juice and rind of one lemon
  • 1/2 of large white onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 carrot finely diced
  • 8 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1/4 pint,142mls vegetable stock


Marinading lamb

  • Mix the oil, ras el hanout, lemon juice & zest and garlic to make a marinade.
  • Make a couple of slits in the lamb shanks and pour the marinade over the lamb.
  • Massage into the meat, cling film and leave for a couple of hours to marinade.
  • Sweat of the onion, celery and carrot in a large casserole pan, add tomatoes and stock and bring to a simmer.
  • Add lamb and all it's marinade to the pan.
  • Cover and slow cook for at least 3 hours, I cooked mine for 5 hours at 325f / 170 c gas mark 3 but after 3 hours I turned the heat down to 250f /150c gas 2. 
  • Around 30 min's before finishing uncover the lamb and pour over the honey. Finish cooking uncovered to brown the meat and the liquid should reduce.

Sweating off the vegetables

I will make no apologies for serving this with a shop bought ( sorry but I am very jet lagged ) cous cous. This particular one is a favourite in our household, Ainsley Harriot's spiced sensation, it's really good.
however I did add a handful of raisins and toasted almonds which added extra sweetness and crunch.
Lamb shanks after 5 hours slow cooking, meat has shrank back from the bone and falling apart.
Served with the cous cous and toasted pitta bread for mopping up the juices.
These shanks were very large and what was left over was shredded and stuffed inside a toasted pitta bread, making a tasty lunch the next day!