Chilli Con Carne

Here in the UK, the days are crisp and the nights chilly, people are getting cosied up under blankets, (at least I am!) and at night you can hear fireworks going off, in anticipation for Guy Fawkes Night!

Lat week, after one of those autumnal morning walks, when you start out cold but the walking warms you up and the array of colorful trees distract you and leave you in aww, on my way home, starting to feel cold again, I suddenly craved and was ready for a hearty chilli Con Carne. The problem was I'd made the best chilli my friend and I  had ever witnessed a couple years back (if I say so myself! Miss modest over here!) and not made it since so did not remember exactly what I had done. *note to self- write these things down and keep in a fire proof/erase proof container!

So, I went about not stressing to go for the ultimate and came up with a FANTASTIC one. At the end of the day, I realized ALL Chilli Con Carnes are yummy!!! That's why we love them so much!

So without further ado this is what you need for mine - but do note, that a lot of it can be done in different orders, just that I did it this way, this time around.


Serves 4:

Ingredients: 

*warning, mine is spicy but the dollop of créme freche makes it amazing!

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium white onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium/large red chilli peppers, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 tspoon chilli flakes
1 tspoon cayenne pepper
2  teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped
1 tspoon oregano 
1 tspoon marjoram
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers (most people only put in one but I love it so much I always put more!) chopped
500grams mince meat
1 tinned chopped tomatoes
Optional - 3 fresh tomatoes
Half a cup of passata 
300ml beef stock
600 grams cooked red kidney beans, rinse very well, if they are tinned
2 squares of dark chocolate
Salt & pepper to taste
1 lime
*water on tap if need to add as you go along

What to do:

1. Put one tablespoon of the olive oil in a large pot and heat
2. Put in the chopped onions and stir on a medium heat for 6 minutes, keep stirring to make sure the onions don't burn 
3. Add the garlic, stir for 2-3 minutes and then
4. Add the carrots and celery, stir and leave to cook on low heat for about 6 minutes. Keep an eye out and stir once in a  while to avoid any burning.

5. In that time, get your meat, and sprinkle some salt and black pepper on it. 
6.Get another larger pot and put one tablespoon olive oil in there. Put the heat on high.
7. Once the pot is hot, put the meat in. Break the meat up well with a large spoon
 8. Put the heat on medium now and stir in all the spices and herbs into the meat pot and mix. However, only put half the fresh chilli and half the chilli flakes in.
9. Put a lid on the pot and have on low heat for 5 minutes.
10. Get all the ingredients from your vegetable pot and put into the larger meat pot. Stir and keep on low to medium heat for 10 minutes.

11. Add the tomatoes; tinned, optional fresh and passata
12. Add the beef stock
13. Simmer for 15 minutes
14. Add the red bell peppers and keep simmering for another 25 minutes with lid just a tiny bit ajar
15. Every ten minutes check the pot to make sure it has enough water in, if not, do add water as you go along.
16. Add the chocolate- stir to mix and melt
17. Now put in the beans and the rest of the chilli -taste the pot to see if you need a bit more salt at this point- if so do add a sprinkle or two
18. Now, sit back and let simmer for another half an hour and you're good to go! (although by sitting back I mean do check it every 1 minutes to see if enough water etc)

*Chilli tastes better and better the more it's slowly cooked and the more you leave it - it's always even better the next day! But I ate this straight out of the pot I was so eager and it was delicious!

 
To garnish

1 big dollop of Créme Freche
squeeze of half a lime
sprinkle of coriander leaves

*other options can be grated cheddar cheese or any other cheese for that matter!
chopped spring onions
yogurt


A Guy Fawkes tradition is to usually have the chilli in a jacket potato cooked by the bonfire/campfire but oven for me!
Other serving suggestions can be with rice, with bread as I did or on it's own with nachos and Guacamole on the side.

Happy Guy Fawkes everyone!!























The Chocolate Show At Olympia this weekend!

I was lucky enough to go to the Chocolate Show Gala last night so I thought to share a little bit about it for those who are thinking of going this weekend. There was, as you can imagine a lot of chocolate on show and I am very proud to say that I think I sampled ALL! But as there were so many, I am just going to share a few that struck a chord with me.

The first people I saw were these two lovely sisters, third generation Munné - the first being Spaniard brothers José Maria and Trifón Munnrullols with their cousin Jose Maria Trullols Calvis who founded Munné & Co in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

This Guaba 80% was my favorite of their chocolates! Soooo delicious :) Diana to our right is the owner of Xoxolat and chocolatier too.

I tried her mint herb & bacon chocolate out of curiosity as I've never had bacon chocolate before and it just wasn't to my taste. I think I'd like to keep my bacon in my bacon butties! However, as you can see from the plate below, it was very popular to others!


and this was really interesting - tasting the alkalized cocoa butter versus the natural!


For me the natural was just superb and so much nicer!

Now, moving on to my favorite chocolatier, Alejandro Campos who is married to Ana Beatriz Parizot Wolter. They are third generation chocolatiers, following Ana's German doctor grandfather's Otto Wolter and Otto chocolates!! Their hacienda is located in Tobasco!  The fact that some of their chocolates were tequila filled may have had something to do with me liking him and their chocolates so much! But just look! Aren't they beautiful!? No filter needed!

This pack contains tequila, mezcal and passion fruit amongst others!

Googling Quetzalli, I came across the history (which includes a legendary crocodile; erm, yes, really!) and a really lovely & informative article by Karen Vázquez

Willy Wonka Mexican. Create gourmet chocolate

Moving from Mexico, I find what is in my opinion THE BEST dark chocolate EVER!!!!

Meet Rasmus Bojesen the CEO of Oialla organic chocolate! Oialla is a Danish company and their cocoa is from Baures, Bolivia.



I really took my time here, sampling the different percentages of cocoa but quickly went on to try the 100%. I can honestly say this 100% (as well as the 72%) is the loveliest, most sophisticated dark chocolate I have ever tasted in my entire life and I think I probably will never find one to beat it.
Of course Oialla have all sorts of chocolate but I was in a dark chocolate mood.

 And what exquisite packaging!!






And last but definitely not least, what a sweetheart Aneesh Popat was!!! Bless! Sooo sweet and helpful and yes, I got myself some of his chocolates to take home!



 These chocs are kulfi (saffron, pistachio, cardamon, fennel infused with white ganache) , Beetroot, Cabernet Sauvignion vinegar & hazelnut, HH Vara (Royal supplied - milk chocolate infused with rose, quince, vanilla and honey), cardamon coconut inspired by Kerala, Falooda (rose, morello cherry, saffron, infused with white ganache and Mango and fennel with honey mango. Believe it or not, I haven't scoffed these yet- I'm saving them for a special occasion where I can take my time devouring every bite and letting it all linger and envelope my taste buds!!! and on that note, I'll leave you in chocolate heaven!

More pics will go up on my instagram as I couldn't fit everyone here and if you do go to the event, do let me know what chocolates were your favorites!

*Btw, I was in no way subsidized to write or promote by anyone or anything - which is a bit obvious, cause well, it's chocolate!!!! ;D x

What I really think of GOUSTO!

Gousto invited me to try their service for free and as someone who will never turn down free food, I thought why not! In all seriousness though, I have always been curious about companies such as Gousto. I haven't really felt positively towards them if I am to be honest. I always felt companies like that wouldn't really be that great with recipes and probably more expensive then they are worth. Therefore, this was really the main reason I decided to try them- as I knew I would never try them if I had to pay for them.

So, what did this negative thinker of such companies, think of Gousto...??

Well, I can't compare others to Gousto, having not tried them but have to say that Gousto surprised me BIG time and I have actually ordered from them again (yes, actually paid!) and will do so again and again! (not every week mind you, as I live alone and do not need to make main meals every day- if I had people living with me though I think I would order every week for sure, at least for a while) So, this is how my experience went:

Firstly, I went on line to choose my two dishes. There was quite an array of selections and ingredients from all kinds of cuisines.

For my first box (2 meals/ 2 portions each) I ordered a 'Blackened Cod Taco' and a Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup.

Now, the way I eat, when I buy a ready meal for example from a supermarket and it says enough for two it is always enough just for one - ME! Therefore, I was convinced these portions would not be enough for two really and therefore not worth the money. 

So, the day comes, a friendly chap delivers my box and I suddenly feel like I'm in the middle of a remote part of Alaska and being sent treats via helicopter. So far, so good :).  Next, I take the large box into my living room and open it.




 I was very impressed with the neatness, organisation and coolness of the foods (the meats were kept in biogradable wool and icepacks too - which I am using both of still for other things), but what I was most impressed with was how FRESH every item looked. I hardly ever find things this fresh at my local supermarkets - honestly, everything looked like they had just been picked or/and made! 
I also enjoyed the lovely nice touch of getting a free wooden spoon which made me smile :D. 
Also, every thing was labelled with the portions, allergy notes and temperature best to keep in as well as obviously ingredients and sell by dates.











So, first for my Blackened Cod Tacos experience. I followed the recipe exactly and found it just soo easy and straightforward and quick!!  I filmed myself making it to show how the experience would be, without prior reading of the recipe card, not knowing at that point how straightforward it would all be! Here is the link (the only thing that slowed me down had nothing to do with Gousto but my stupid blunt knife!)


This has been my favorite Gousto recipe so far (ok, I've only tried one other!) and I shall be making it again and again and again! It's perfect for a warm day when you are hungry but don't feel like too much of a heavy meal - and a must and great accompaniment to a pitcher of (frozen) Margaritas!!


Two days later, I made the Chicken & Sweetcorn soup.

It was delicious as well and perfect for me at the time as I had a tooth ache and could only eat soft foods! As an amateur cook, what I enjoyed most about this soup was being shown how to pull a chicken. So simple, yet I never knew what that term actually meant. 





Oh and I needn't have worried about portion sizes! I ate tacos for both lunch and dinner that day and the above soup lasted me two whole days (and I'm greedy).
I honestly did not think I'd be giving a good review on Gousto- I had such pre-perceived ideas about it and am so glad I got the chance to try it out. Fresh food, delicious recipes, not wasting ingredients, a tip with every recipe and all the hard work of shopping and measuring taken out of the equation. Thumbs up on this one and looking forward to my next two meals: Turkish Lamb & Dill-infused Bulgur and Honey Baked Gammon with an inventive side salad. I can not wait!!

Fish Pie






I'd always wanted to make a fish pie but never seemed to find the right time for it! Luckily, I happened to pass a really cute fish pie dish in my local supermarket  and had to have it and therefore desperately had to make a fish pie for it!

As I'd never made a fish pie before, I decided to look at different recipes and it was interesting to see how different some were from each other and I got a bit confused as to what an authentic fish pie should be! Therefore, I just took what I liked from each recipe, added a few of my own ideas and came up with this!

Serves 6 hungry people!

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg potatoes (I used Maris Piper)
  • 80g unsalted butter(50 for the white sauce and 30 for the mashed potatoes)
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 450 ml fish stock
  • 360 ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 100 ml white wine
  • 50 g Cheddar cheese 
  • 25g  Red Leicester cheese 
  • ½ a lemon
  • 1 heaped teaspoon English mustard
  • A small bunch of parsley
  • 200 g baby spinach  
  • a handful of peas
  • 300 g cod
  • 200 g  salmon
  • 200g smoked haddock
  • 150g Fresh Prawns
  • 1full teaspoon of nutmeg

What to do!

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C /356F/  G4
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut into small evenly sized chunks.
  3. Place the potatoes in plenty of cold water with a good amount of salt
  4. Boil until tender- this will take approximately 20 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes! 
  5. When potatoes are cooked and tender, drain and leave in the colander for them to cool down.

 In the meantime, you can make the sauce!

6. Melt 50g of the butter in a heavy pan over a low heat and stir in the flour. Add the bay leaves, then the fish stock, white wine and 150 ml milk. Gently and slowly, stirring as you go when adding every addition until you find you have a smooth consistency. Take your time with this :).

7. Bring the sauce to the boil and then let it simmer straight away. Let the sauce simmer until you see the sauce thicken. This will take around 10 minutes.

 8. Once the sauce is thick, add the mustard and grate half of the cheddar cheese, chop the parsley and add them all to the sauce as well. Keep stirring all throughout.
9. Squeeze in the lemon's juice and continue stirring until you see the cheese has melted.
10. At that point add a pinch of salt and some pepper and remove from the heat.


11. Now, you can mash your potatoes! Mash the potatoes and add the remaining of the butter and a splash of milk when needed. Season with some salt, pepper and your nutmeg!




12. Now grab your lovely dish and make sure it's deep enough (mine wasn't for the amount I made!) A 2.5 inch deep dish should be perfect.

13. Cut up your fish, if not already done so and place them evenly on the dish, making sure there are no bones!

14. Add your spinach, peas and anything else you wish to add to your fish pie!

*You could also choose to put the fish and veg in the sauce, simmer for 5 minutes and then put all in your dish, mixed.

 
*If you do not choose to put your fish and veg into the sauce, then now's the time to:

15. Remove the bay leaves from your sauce and pour the sauce evenly all over your fish and veg.





16. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top of the pie (at this point it would be nice to use a piping bag for the potatoes but I was in too much of a hurry to see how this would taste so denied myself of the fun of that!!)

17. Grate the remaining Cheddar and the red Leicester over the top

18. Bake in the oven for approximately 50 minutes or like me, you can check to see if the top is lovely and golden!




and Voila! It sounds bity but once you've done it the first time you realise how easy it is! You can save yourself a bit of time by buying ready made mash and prepacked, cut and selected fish in 'fish pie' packages at the fish section of supermarkets. But all these things don't take that much time really and make the process more fun and tasty!





*I shall be putting up some alternative fish pie recipe links that I have found since, through my twitter & facebook  accounts next week, so do watch out for them!

























Bean Body Coffee Bean Scrub (an extension from my Holland & Barrett Review - see 22nd Jan blog post)

I know my blog is all about food yet this is a rare occasion where I have decided to review a beauty/health product.
I did mention in my past Holland & Barrett blog post how I had not had a chance to pamper myself much. Boy, was I not wrong! It's taken me 3 months to get around to trying this body scrub! What did I think, you may wonder? Was it worth the wait, you might ask?............ 

YES!
I think it's the best body scrub I have ever used- and I have used many body scrubs in my life, including products such as Clarins, Decleor, The Sanctuary, Soap & Glory and Cowshed!


Why was it the best body scrub I have ever used? Well, for a start, it doesn't feel harsh, it felt that it scrubbed dead skin off effortlessly, but somehow managed to keep my skin smooth and silky - and not too oily like some products can be. It just has a great balance and I was very impressed indeed. I truly feel it got my lymphatic system moving and honestly stimulated my circulation and digestive system. I know this seems like a lot for one scrub- perhaps it is the power of the coffee bean - but whatever it is, I felt cleansed, healthy and smooth after.

I have heard that coffee scrubs can improve the appearance of cellulite and stretchmarks and since I have both those things and have tried different potions and lotions in my life to combat them to find that nothing really worked,( though to be fair, the Clarins body lift helped my cellulite for a while, when it first came out, as long as I used it every single day continuously), I was totally skeptical and took that claim with a pinch of salt! I have only tried this scrub the once, two days ago, but it instantly made both my cellulite and stretchmarks look visibly better and having had a quick glance at my body right now, it seems to have stayed that way! *Note to self, use this scrub once a week religiously!!

The two tips I would give on this product is a) you need less than you think (as you'll see the amount of coffee is very generous) and b) make sure you wash off well and use a dark towel as it will stain your towel if you do not wash off well.



I don't know if you can tell in the photo but my hands & arms (amongst the rest of my body) look soo smooth and silky and honestly, feel so soft- something no product can ever maintain for me. 

Thanks Bean Body Care and Holland & Barrett, I have certainly found a find! :)


Vanilla Cupcakes

Getting ready for my baking and my *Morphy Richards Mixer is my old reliable friend!
 
Spring has sprung and I have been frantically busy and in need of some down time. So, I thought what better way to relax then with a little baking! Here is a simple Mary Berry Vanilla Cupcake recipe I found on line.

Ingredients (for the cake mix) :
175g butter, cut into large pieces
175g self-raising flour
175g caster sugar
½ tsp baking powder
3 large eggs
½ tsp vanilla extract

What to do!

Preheat the oven to 180c/Gas mark 4. 
Get a 12-hole muffin tin with either paper cupcake or muffin cases (I used the silicone kinds) 
Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and beat with an electric hand whisk or a wooden spoon until smooth and are evenly mixed (I used my electric mixer for most of it as I find it needs a lot of beating to get a smooth consistency & and then I finish it off with a bit of hand whisk beating!)
Divide the mixture evenly between the cases (make sure you leave some space at the top as they will rise!)
Bake for approximately 20- 25 minutes or until the cakes are well risen and firm on top.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
 
 
Icing Time!

Ingredients:
175g butter, cut into large pieces
½ tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp milk
350g icing sugar, sifted 
Pink edible food coloring
Edible pink hearts or sprinkles for decoration

What to do! 
Put the butter, vanilla extract, two tablespoons of the milk, and half the sifted icing sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth. 
Beat in the remaining icing sugar, and pour in the rest of the milk if needed to make the icing the right consistency. (the first time I made this, I did exactly as stated here, but today, I just put it all in at the same time and the end result was the same!)
Put half of the icing into another bowl and color it pale pink with the edible coloring. Carefully spoon this down one side of a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped nozzle, then spoon the non-colored icing down the other side of the bag. Twist the end of the bag to seal the icing in.
Pipe swirls of the icing on top of each cupcake. Scatter with the edible pink hearts, or other sprinkles, to decorate. (Again, I did the above the first time I tried out this recipe, but today, I tried all kinds of icing colors and even marzipan, just to demonstrate how much fun one can have decorating a cupcake!)










*disclaimer - I have not been endorsed by Morphy Richards- I just love my mixer and thought it's about time to mention it as it's been my friend throughout a lot of my cooking!

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