Thursday, 30 October 2014

Granola, Chocolate, Sauce, Nibbles and Chips on my Kitchen Table in October

It's time for another monthly round up of products that I've been sent to review, it's always interesting to try something different or revisit an old friend, I hope you will find it useful to read my comments too.

I've loved Jordans Original Crunchy since it was first launched in the 1970s, It was always a real treat and not something we could afford to eat every day.  Jordan's now have a whole range of cereals and they have just launched Jordans Simply Granola, a simple blend of crunchy baked oats with a hint of honey.  Simply Granola contains no artificial additives or flavouring and its oats are source from Nature Friendly Farmesr where Jordans' cereal farmers devote at least 10% of their fields to supporting wildlife.

Simply Granola Apple and Yogurt Layers
(serves 3)
3 cooking apples, peeled and chopped.
1 tsp sugar
250g Natural Set Yogurt
6 tbsp Jordans Simply Granola

1. Cook the apples with the sugar and a little water until they have cooked down, leave to cool.
2. Once the apples have cooled, layer the cooked apples, natural yogurt and granola in 3 glasses, ending with a sprinkle of granola.

We ate this as dessert but, as it isn't too sweet, it would also be nice for breakfast.

Well, Halloween is upon us and that means that, if you haven't started already, then you are probably going to be starting to think about Christmas.  Ferrero Rocher have come up with some fun novelty versions of their famous chocolates as well as the usual boxes.  I think the Grand Ferrero Rocher is a genius idea and a great gift for a fan of the crunchy, chocolate and nut confectionery.

The star shaped box also contains Ferrero Rocher chocs and has a ribbon so you can hang it on your Christmas Tree.  You may prefer to give a box of chocolates and Ferrero's Golden Gallery is a lovely selection of individually wrapped chocolates.  If you are a fan of coconut then you will love Rafaello by Ferrero
Proper Tomato Sauce was one of the products in my goodie bag from the BBC Good Food Show Scotland.  It's made by the Great British Sauce Co   who describe it as  delicately seasoned and blended with carefully selected ingredients. Bursting with fresh tomato flavour.

Most of us are familiar with Heinz Tomato Ketchup, this sauce is less astringent and has a sweeter and milder flavour, like a tomato sauce you would make yourself at home.  We enjoyed it and I think it would be good to include in recipes.

Mini Nibs are cheese straws created in North Yorkshire from quality ingredients, winners of Great Taste Award in 2013 and of 'deliciouslyorkshire' awards 2013-14.

Mini Nibs are crunchy cheesey biscuits for nibbling and then there is their risque cousin the Mini Nibs jumbo peanut.  These snacks are created in North Yorkshire from quality ingredients, Nib Nibs were winners of a Great Taste Award in 2013 and of 'deliciouslyorkshire' awards 2013-14.   The mini Nibs come in different flavours, I found the plain cheese mini nibs a bit of a non-event, but absolutely loved the Exceptional Cheddar and Spicy Chilli Straws, the Cheddar and Cheeky Onion Straws were also good.  I think a few tubs of these should be in everyone's cupboard for the coming festive season, or maybe even before that.  Oh yes, and the peanuts, nice chunky, roasted jumbo peanuts covered with salt and pepper, very tasty indeed.

There are stockists all over the UK

Everyone loves chips and I am no exception, however I am no fan of deep frying so McCain's Home Chips, which are baked in the oven, are my 'go to' chip every time.  McCains make a wide range of frozen potato products, potato wedges comes with a variety of flavours and are fun to eat with dips or as an accompaniment to many different dishes.  I like to eat wedges wtih pizza.

I've waxed lyrical about frozen baked potatoes before, they really do have a baked flavour even though you are cooking them in the microwave, McCain's Ready Baked Jackets ready in a few minutes making it easy to have a healthy filler. McCain's Roast Potatoes will always be crispy on the outside and fluffy inside and so convenient. Kids love Potato Waffles, Smiles and Mini Jackets.

Thanks to all of the companies who provided me with samples to review.  I was not paid for these reviews and all opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

St Andrew's Day Out and St Andrew's Night In

Scots encouraged to enjoy a St Andrew’s Day Out with largest ever programme of events

Pupils from Royal Mile Primary in Edinburgh today (Wednesday 29 October) accompanied Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop in launching St Andrew’s Day Out 2014, encouraging Scots and visitors to Scotland to take advantage of the wealth of events and offers available across November to celebrate St Andrew’s Day.

P4 pupils Sophie Martin (chef), Angelina Wood (skier), Siaka Jateh (golfer) and Erkan Gullupinar (surfer), all aged eight, got into the spirit of the celebrations, dressed to represent the vast range of activities on offer across Scotland - from food and drink events and surfing lessons to skiing experiences and mini golf – all to mark our national day on 30 November.

Over 200 participating attractions across the country are offering 2 for 1, kids go free or free entry, presenting a huge variety of fun days out to suit every taste.

Culture vultures can enjoy visiting House for an Art Lover in Glasgow and the latest exhibits at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, while outdoor enthusiasts can take in the best of Scotland’s scenery at the Nevis Range, explore the countryside with Segway tours in Dumfries or go Nessie hunting at the Loch Ness Centre. Budding scientists can investigate the cosmos at Satrosphere, Aberdeen or learn about the world underwater at Macduff Marine Aquarium.

In addition to over 200 attractions in Scotland running discounted offers, there are a variety of St Andrew’s Day events taking place through the Scotland’s Winter Festivals programme, funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by EventScotland. 

To find out what’s on across Scotland this St Andrew’s Day, and download your event vouchers, visit

After an action packed St Andrew’s Day Out, what better way to carry on the celebrations than with a St Andrew’s Night In - dining on the quality produce that Scotland has to offer.

Scotland’s natural larder has a wealth of local produce to create a delicious meal for all the family to enjoy and November is one of the best times of year to plate up something seasonally Scottish. Scotch lamb is a warming family favourite which is in season, or a hearty fish dish is a good way to pay a nod to Saint Andrew’s life as a fisherman and indulge in Scotland’s array of seafood. All recipes can be found at

Look out for more information about St Andrew's Night In here at Farmersgirl Kitchen.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Crock-pot Bread and Food Warmer Soup in Crocktober

Today Crocktober took a turn for the worse and a turn for the better!  The weather outside was frightful, cue for a song, strong winds, torrential rain and so so dark.  I battled my way into work against the elements, well between the house and the car and the car and the office at the other end.  But I knew that inside my trusty tote bag was a a secret Crock-pot Food Warmer.

You just fill the Crock-pot Food Warmer with pre-cooked food, in my case soup, and plug it in two to three hours before you want to eat and it slowly warms your food.  I have to say I was a little sceptical about the benefits of this gadget.  It's quite bulky and wouldn't be so convenient if you had to commute by train or bus, the other thing is that we have a microwave in our kitchen at work, so I wondered if it would be worth carrying it in when I can easily heat my food in the microwave.

However I was wrong, my cynicism was misplaced because, after two hours, the soup was at the perfect temperature with no hot or cold spots. There were no foodie smells escaping into the room either and the soup tasted much better than it usually does when I heat it in the microwave.

The home made Cream of Vegetable Soup (leeks, carrots, celery, stock and milk) was made in the Pressure Cooker but could have been made in the Crock-pot, it's just that it was busy cooking the bread that accompanied my soup.

It was Lucy at Baking Queen 74 who put me on to baking bread in my Crock-pot.  I started, as she did, with a Wrights Bread Mix, but having seen how well it worked I will be extending this to bread flour, yeast and water, it was just so easy, in many ways even easier than the bread machine and no mixy-pokey thing sticking into the bottom of the bread leaving a big hole when you take it out.

After mixing and kneading, pop the dough into the Crock-pot, lined with baking parchment,  on low for an hour to rise, then an hour and 45 minutes on high to bake the bread. The bread isn't crisp on the outside, it's slightly steamed, but it was very tasty and went brilliantly with the vegetable soup.

Share the love of slow cooking in your Crock-Pot with the Crocktober Community on Facebook

Thanks to Crock-pot for providing me with a Countdown Electronic Crock-pot and Crock-pot Food Warmer, I was not paid for this post and all opinions are my own..

Monday, 27 October 2014

Bacon-wrapped Trout kebabs with Gravadlax Potato Salad

More fishy goodness for you today, We are eating two servings of oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and herrings every week for four week.  This is no hardship for us as we love fish and I'm enjoying finding different ways to serve the fish.  It's good to know that it's also doing us good (okay perhaps bacon wasn't quite such a healthy choice) as oily fish is full of Omega 3 

There are loads more fish recipes on the Fish is the Dish website.

Bacon Wrapped Scottish Trout Kebabs
Serves 4

500g Scottish Trout Fillets
200g dry cured smoked streaky bacon rashers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Gusto Peppercorn Balsamic (or balsamic with a good few grinds of black pepper)
wooden skewers soaked in water (to stop them burning)

1. Cut the trout fillets into 2 cm cubes.
2. Mix the oil and balsamic together, either shake in a jar or mix with a whisk, just like making salad dressing.  Pour the mixture over the trout and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours.
3. Remove the trout from the fridge.
4. Stretch the bacon rashers with the back of a blunt knife and then cut each in half.
5. Wrap each chunk of trout in half a bacon rasher and push onto a skewer.
6. Line your grill pan with foil and line up your kebabs.
7. Grill until the bacon is cooked and crispy, you can be guaranteed that the fish will be cooked inside.
8. Serve with  roasted vegetables and salad.

These kebabs would work well on a barbecue, griddle pan or electric grilling machine. 

Potato Salad with Gravadlax 
Serves 4

500g small new potatoes
50g Gravadlax (cured salmon)
2 tbsp Dill dressing (comes with the Gravadlax)
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1. Cook the potatoes in boiling water until just tender, drain and place in a large bowl or dish.
2. Make the dressing by adding the lemon juice and olive oil to the dill dressing and mix.
3. Add to the potatoes and mix well.
4. Cut the Gravadlax in to small pieces and add to the potato salad with the finely chopped parsley.
5. Serve at room temperature.

Fish is great for kids too, there are lots of fun dishes you can make with your children on the Fish is the Dish website too.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Crock-pot Chicken Tagine for Crocktober

As my regular readers know, I am slightly obsessed with my slow cooker and use it pretty much every week to make all kinds of slowly cooked recipes. There are many different brands of slow cooker but the original Crock-pot is still has a certain cachet, if slow cookers have cachet!  I was delighted to be invited by Crock-pot to try out the Crock-pot Countdown Slow Cooker  join them making some recipes for Crocktober over on their Facebook page.

My sister-in-law gave me a jar of preserved lemons that she had made and everytime I open the larder I see them there, so it seemed like the ideal opportunity to make a Tagine in the Crock-pot.

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons
Serves 4

300g  hot chicken stock
pinch of saffron
6 chicken thighs
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ras el hanout
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 large preserved lemon (two quarters)
1 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
100g green olives
50g chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Soak the saffron in the hot stock to bring out the colour.
2. Heat the oil and brown the  chicken thighs and place in the bottom of the Crock-pot
3. Cook the onion until it starts to become transparent.
4. Add the garlic, ras el hanout, ginger coriander and cinnamon stick and cook for a minute.
5. Add the stock and bring to the boil, add to the Crock-pot and cook on Low for 5 hours.
6. Add the chickpeas, the olives and the preserved lemons, roughly chopped.
7. Cook on Low for a further 1-2 hours.
8. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.

If you are not ready to eat, the Crock-pot will keep the Tagine warm for a couple of hours without coming to any harm.

Serve with couscous, I added some sultanas to the cous cous and used some of the juices from the Tagine, with some added boiling water, to swell the grains.

The Tagine was much lighter than the usual lamb recipe that I make, I missed the sweetness of dried fruit in the dish, which was why I added sultanas to the couscous. I would probably add some dates or apricots if I was making it again.  I would recommend that you don't add any salt to the dish while cooking as I found that the preserved lemons (preserved in salt or brine) and the olives added enough salt without any additions.

So how did the Crock-pot perform?  

  • I really liked the solidity of the Crock-pot, it feels substantial and looks attractive
  • The 'stay warm' feature is really valuable as you know that if you are a little later getting home, your meal will be kept warm without being over cooked. 
  • My other slow cooker has a metal 'pot' which can go on the hob, I did miss that but not as much as I thought I would. 
  • The electronic timer means that you can be accurate with your timings.
  • Best of all for me, the Crock-pot bowl and lid can go in the dishwasher - woo hoo!

If you would like to try to win a Countdown Slow Cooker Crockpot and Crockpot Warmer (I'll tell you about the Crockpot Warmer in another post) my friend Karen is running a giveaway over at her blog  Lavender and Lovage - Crockpot Slow Cooker and Crockpot Warmer Giveaway ending 9th December 2014.

I'm adding this to my own Slow Cooked Challenge, anyone is welcome to join in with a slowly cooked recipe whether in a slow cooker or by other slow cooking method.

Thanks to the people at Crock-pot for providing me with this Countdown Slow Cooker Crock-pot, I was not paid for this review and all opinions are my own. 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Smoked Mackerel Kedgeree - Fish, Feed our Future

I do love smoked mackerel.  It's such versatile fish, you can eat it cold with salad, whizz it up with creme fraiche to make a Mackerel Pate  or serve on toast in a Mackerel Sun Dried Tomato and Cheese Toast or add it to all sorts of different dishes.

I also have a soft spot for kedgeree, my mum used to make it with leftover rice and cooked smoked haddock. The whole lot was re-fried in butter and was so luscious and fun with the added sweetness of peas and topped with hard boiled eggs.

My recipe does include a little curry flavouring it takes about 20 minutes to make and was a perfect Friday night supper.

Smoked Mackerel Kedgeree
Serves 2-3

1 tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 cup/195g basmati rice
2 tsp of korma paste
2 cups of stock or water
2 small smoked mackerel approx 200g (I used peppered mackerel as we love pepper)
50g frozen peas
small bunch of parsley
2 hard boiled eggs
salt to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the garlic and onion and cook until soft.
2. Add the rice and stir around till covered in oil, add the korma paste and cook for a minute.
3. Add the stock or water and simmer until the rice is soft and all the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes, add the peas.
4. Flake the smoked mackerel and add to the cooked rice, season to taste.
5. Finish by adding the chopped parsley and quartered hard boiled eggs.

I'm entering this for Credit Crunch Munch, the thrifty blog challenge run by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla at Fab Food 4 All, this month the challenge is being hosted at A New Addition.   I feel that this dish qualifies because smoked mackerel is really good value as well as being really good for you,  read about the health benefits of oily fish at Fish is the Dish.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Chocolate Popcorn, Spooky Cakes, Pumpkin Soup and Pie-tatoes for Halloween

Food is such an integral part of every festival and Halloween is no exception.  My memories of Halloween feature the Brownie Guide Fancy Dress Party for which we all had to carve a 'Turnip' lantern.  There were no pumpkins in 1960s Scotland, so we used turnips/swedes, it was really hard work carving them and many a spoon was bent in the process.

At the party there would be large dishes of  buttery mashed potato and others of peppery, mashed 'neeps' the inside of those turnip lanterns cooked and mashed!  We also had 'Treacle Scones', girdle scones dangling on strings that you had to try to take a bite from as someone swung the string so you got covered in sticky treacle.  That was soon washed off with the 'Dookin' for Apples', the only way to be sure of getting your apple was to stick your head right down to the bottom of the bowl and bite hard into the apple, you got soaked but it worked.  I always hated it when, at some parties, they made you drop forks into the bowl, it was not nearly as effective.

There were none of the fancy themed sweets and cakes to be bought in the shops, but I think it is much more fun to make your Halloween treats at home.

Chocolate Popcorn Triangles are a really fun and simple treat to make with your kids, you don't really need a recipe, just melt some chocolate in a bowl over a pan of just simmering water and add ready made popcorn until it is all covered in chocolate, then press it into a brownie pan lined with non stick paper and place in the fridge until set.  I decorated mine with some lines of white chocolate.  I have a neat little trick for melting chocolate for piping (see below).

I'm entering the Chocolate Popcorn Triangles for Family Foodies the blogger challenge run by Eat your Veg and Bangers and Mash, as they are really easy to make with little ones.  

All you do it put your chocolate, I used Hadleigh Maid white chocolate buttons, into a disposable piping bag, pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds or until the chocolate has melted, then snip off the end of the bag and pipe lines over the chocolate popcorn in lines.  Leave to set in the fridge again, then once set, cut into squares or triangles.

For some rather more spooky cakes, a Halloween themed silicon cake mould is ideal for a bit of impact, especially if you top them with chocolate set in the same moulds.

I coloured white chocolate with orange food colouring to make the pumkin colour and it wasn't too difficult to make the two coloured witchy pumpkin with milk chocolate for the hat.

Spooky Halloween Cakes

175g  Flora Buttery
175g  golden caster sugar
300g  self raising flour, sieved
3 medium eggs
5 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
100g cooked pumpkin or butternut squash, mashed
zest of an orange

150g white chocolate
100g milk chocolate
orange food gel

Spooky silicon cake mould  and 6 muffin cases in a muffin tray (if no cake mould then 12 muffin cases)

1. Place the muffin cases into a muffin tray.
2. Place the first five ingredients in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth.
3. Stir in pumpkin mash and orange zest and divide between the paper cases.
4. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes at 200C, 180C (fan), Gas mark 6 for 20-25 minutes.

Leave the cakes to cook and then unmould.  The shapes don't come out too well with the soft sponge cake but they are the perfect shape to top with the chocolate shapes.

Making the chocolate shapes is easy, simply melt the white chocolate and pour it in a thin layer in the base of the moulds for the ghost and the skull.  Add the orange colouring to the remaining white chocolate, pour this into into the pumpkin moulds, being careful to avoid the witches hat, leave to set in the fridge.  Once set, melt the milk chocolate and pour in a thin layer in the bat mould and then carefully into the witches hat, using a small spoon to make sure the chocolate gets into all the corners.  Once set, unmould and then remelt any remaining chocolate and use to stick the toppers to the cakes.  
Decorate the remaining muffins with a little chocolate on top and some spooky sprinkles. 

Eat and enjoy! 

It's not just sweet treats that are needed at Halloween.  You need something warm to eat before going out trick or treating.  Knorr have some great recipes which will hit the spot, how about a bowl of warming Pumpkin and Butterbean Broth from a recipe created by Marco Pierre White?  Or the perfect individual 'Sheperd's Pie-tatoes' a variation on Marco's Shepherd's Pie.

Shepherd's Pie-tatoes (or Shepherd's Potato Pies)
makes 8 Pie-tatoes

4 large baking potatoes

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
500g minced lamb
10g plain flour
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1tbsp tomato puree
1 Knorr Beef Stock Pot
500ml water
1 sprig of thyme
1/4 of a pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, diced
1 large carrot, peeled, diced
Butter, milk and 1 egg yolk, (optional) for the mash

The Potatoes
Bake the potatoes until tender (I did mine in the microwave first, then finished them off in the oven to get a crispy skin) Cut the potatoes in half while still warm, scoop out the baked potato and mash with the butter, milk and egg yolk

Make the filling
1. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish. Add in the onion and garlic and fry, stirring, for 2–3 minutes until lightly coloured.
2. Add in the minced lamb and mix it into the onion mixture. Cook the lamb, stirring to break it up, for a good 10–15 minutes to cook off the moisture inside the lamb. This intensifies the flavour of the meat.
3. Once the water has been cooked off, the lamb should crackle as the fat renders. Add the carrot and pumpkin and cook for 5 minutes.  Add in the flour and work it in thoroughly. Season with Worcestershire sauce and mix in. Add in the Knorr Beef Stock Pot, pour in the water and add in the thyme.
4. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C.
6. Fill the scooped out potato halves with the mince, then top roughly with the mashed potato.
7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes until a lovely golden-brown. Serve.

These were really tasty and would be perfect served in a napkin at Bonfire Night too. 

There are lot's more great recipes and cooking inspiration on the Knorr and Flora websites.

I was provided with a hamper of ingredients from Unilever/Knorr/Flora to make these Halloween Treats and Eats.  I was not paid and all opinions are my own. 
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