Category Archives: cheese

Sunshiny Sunday: Barbecue Halloumi Skewers

Sunny Sundays prompt the lighting of barbecues across the nation and after niffing the lovely smells weekend after weekend, today we joined in. We invited our fishy friends around (which is no insult, they are vegetarians who eat fish – pescetarians officially but ‘fishy friends’ makes me chuckle) so we were to prepare a mostly meat-free barbecue. Halloumi first came to mind.

Great minds thought alike and our friends also brought ingredients for halloumi, and tuna, kebabs. As per the natural order, the boys took charge of the barbecuing and sat at the table threading the skewers: halloumi-courgette-cherry tomato-pepper-mushroom. They too took charge of the cooking:

‘Just chuck the oil over as well, it’ll be fiiiiiiiine’

The tuna kebabs were first to be cooked (brushed with garlic infused oil and lime and sprinkled with salt and coriander). Consensus was that they were the best things to have ever come off a barbecue.

We were, however, mistaken. The halloumi skewers – picture at the top of the page – (brushed with lemon infused oil and sprinkled with salt and mint), slid into a lightly barbecued pitta bread were absolutely delicious. The courgette-cherry tomato-halloumi combination was particularly good!

I now have a spare chunk of halloumi and a recipe from said fishy friends for a halloumi salad including spinach and oranges…

(As a side note, we started the barbecue by supping some English wine from very close to where my parents live. It was the 2007 Sharpham’s Dart Valley Reserve, and very nice it was too! I’ve had English white wine only once before, from a place called Wissett in Suffolk and it was NOT good. This, however, was light and crisp and I don’t know if we were simply overcome with summer, but we could definitely sense a taste of the most summery of fragrances: elderflower.)

An Autumnal Weekend

This weekend we both took the Friday off work and we enjoyed a long weekend up north. We started at a place called Shugborough in Stafford – an estate and grounds. We rolled up on Friday, the estate was closed and the whole place was deserted so we played Lord and Lady of the manor and enjoyed the autumnal surroundings and the various lakes and canals

We had lots of fun playing in the dry leaves and running around the paths and past the follies to stay warm.

I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the swans, they were so graceful and elegant. I really like this picture, though a bit blurry, because it looks so serene. It was freezing cold though!

As we were strolling up and down the canals, we saw this travelling cheese boat!

and duly bought a pickled onion and a chilli variety of the Welsh wax-wrapped cheese. Can’t wait to have some wodges of it with crusty bread or a long-baked jacket potato.
The next day we braved the British weather so TLM could go on his special driving day. I was so cold, I could barely move my fingers. It was a true test of love and devotion!
But it was all worth it as TLM sped round the track

We then made our way up to Manchester for a friend’s firework party (she made some delicious leek and potato soup and some peanutbutterchocoaltethingies and I will try and wrest the recipes from her).

Unfortunately, I got a rather nasty vomiting bug from somewhere… (dodgy Chinese buffet?) so the 4 hour drive back from Manchester was -ahem- interesting. But the whole weekend was delightful, and I’m really glad we took in the autumnal goodness before the torrential rain that seems to have invaded.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake

One of the main reasons I like food blogging is the potential to experiment and still feel that something productive came out of something that didn’t go perfectly. This entry to A Slice of Cherry Pie’s In The Bag event (this month’s ingredients: strawberries and white chocolate) was one of those imperfect, but valuable cooking experiences.

I knew I wanted to cook a cheesecake, but I wanted to not follow a recipe strictly as it seems all the cheesecake recipes I try to follow don’t work. This is probably due to differing oven temperatures, but many times I’ve found the cooking times specified to be either far too short or far too long, with me having to slice a burnt top off. So today I wanted to try one that has been much hyped, Nigella’s London Cheesecake, but I wanted to do it a bit differently. You can find the original recipe here.

I started my departure from the recipe by doubling the amount of biscuit and butter required in order to make a cheesecake with a base and walls. (Probably more accurately termed sides, but I think they look like a rather craggy fortress myself) Although working against gravity to create the walls, they didn’t cave in and it was all A-OK.

I then made up a strawberry syrup from a punnet of berries, some caster sugar and a touch of water. I boiled it up, then down, then mushed it and spread all over the biscuit base and let the whole lot cool. So far, so good.

The white chocolate was simply melted and stirred in with the cream cheese of the original recipe, and I adjusted the cooking times up a little to make up for the 200g of white chocolate I’d added but cooked it in a vat of water just as with the original. Well, I evidently didn’t adjust enough because it was still wibbling at me after a good hour. I can’t quite tell with cheesecake how much it’ll firm with cooling (once I had a rather amazing disaster where I undercooked a cheesecake and took it out of its tin without letting it cool. Result: cheesecake avalanche, followed by a number of spoons scooping and eating from the table and a mortified me!) so I bunged it in for another half hour. I eyed it suspiciously once more, removed it from the water, let it cool.

As it was cooling, I fanned some strawberries for the top (apparently very retro, but novel for me).

Unfortunately the slice of cake itself was not pretty enough for a full-frontal (boo hoo) as the strawberry layer, though tasty, looked a little tired (well it must have been after all that time sat under the cheesecake filling). The walls went down very well with TLM, but I think next time they could be thinner, and hopefully with today’s knowledge I will be able to judge them better. Something inside me felt the strawberry syrup needed whizzing for a more event texture, and maybe even something to made it redder – more appealing I suppose? However, it tasted fine so maybe I should keep it organic.
I will want to add more vanilla next time (pod maybe?) because that would really bring out the white chocolate softness. It had flecks from the vanilla sugar and flavour from the vanilla extract but I think a pod is the way forwards for this one.

A very interesting challenge. Cheesecake, not yet mastered. I predict with us moving (again) and me having a new kitchen and cooker the battle will continue…
(any tips – welcome!!)

Pea Shoot and Feta Bureks

With the advent of my pea shoot delivery and a craving for Feta cheese, these little delights were born. My first thought was to combine the two in a spanakopita (a Greek spinach and cheese pie). After reading up, one of the big problems with spanakopita is that that spinach can be too moist, so the pea shoot would fare well I thought. I didn’t want to make a whole pie though, I wanted singular nibbles. After a bit of exploration, I found out (from wikipedia, so not really mich exploration actually…) that “Burek is a type of pie popular throughout the former Ottoman Empire. They are made of a thin flaky dough known as filo, and are filled with salty cheese (often Feta), minced meat, potatoes or other vegetables.” So I’m calling these bureks.

As a complete amateur cook, I’ve no idea if my concotion is hideously inauthentic but the mix smelt GOOD before it was wrapped in filo, and then DELICIOUS when they came out of the oven.

The mix is made from pea shoots, fresh parsley, sping onion and garlic which is cooked up to soften. Then I added an egg and crumbled in the Feta and stirring through.

I’ve never cooked with filo pastry before, so the experiment got a bit tricky at this point. I layered up three slices (?) of filo, sliced it into strips and then added a dollop of filling before folding it along the length of the strip into triangles. I brushed the pastry with olive oil, crossed my fingers, and put them in the oven at 175 Celsius for 25 minutes.

They turned out very well, and even TLM who doesn’t go in for pastry or fancy cheese scoffed happily. Long live experiments!

Royale with Cheese

You know when you were a child and your mum would say, “if you’re not well enough to go to school, you’re not well enough to got to the party/have chocolate/bounce on the bed”? Well, I figured that it must work the other way round too. I have been going into work despite feeling unwell, so I decided to treat myself with a cheeseburger. So, using the really nice mince from the farm shop, I made these babies for our dinner.
Ingredients (makes 2) 

  • 250g good quality mince
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon mixed herbs
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • great big grind of black pepper
  • breadcrumbs to bring it to a dry-ish consistency

How to make it

Squidge around, make into burgers and put in the fridge on cling film to firm up. These make two quarter pounder-sized burgers.

People go wrong with home made burgers in two ways: 1) they don’t season them enough (which is easy enough to fix) 2) they fall apart because they are either too wet or too dry. The strength of these burgers is a magic ingredient from the local asian supermarket: panko breadcrumbs. They are exceedingly fine (so don’t ruin the consistency of the burger) and very very dry indeed. I’m sure there must be a suitable substitute in the shape of blitzed-up ritz crackers, but I’ll stick with these until I’m forced to experiment. Add as many breadcrumbs as needed to bring the burgers to a dryish consistency (a couple of handfuls usually does it).

I then simply grilled the burgers, added cheese, mushrooms fried with a squirt of 1-cal sunflower oil (frantic damage limitation… hehe) and stuffed them into an oven bottom muffin.

I’m now sat in bed with a cup of hot chocolate. If you’re gonna be bad, do it right.