Wednesday, 28 September 2011

One of my favourite dinners...

One of my all time favourite and easy dinners has got to be the good old Baked Potato.  Simple, delicious and can be easily transformed into something a bit fancier if the mood takes you!

Now although Baked Potatoes are a British staple soooo many people don't get them right.  If there is one thing I can not stand it is a wet skinned Baked Potato - it's just not right!  This is why I will very rarely eat a Baked Potato if we go out anywhere.  My Baked Potato has to have crunchy skin!  It's one of those treats that is best had at home where you can lather on as much butter as you wish (in my case this is probably verging on a 1/4 of a pack!), and not feel in the slightest bit guilty about it.  Here is my fail safe guide to how to cook the PERFECT (in my opinion) Baked Potato :

Ingredients :

1 Potato per person - size dependant on how hungry you are!
Sea Salt

Method :

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.

The first thing that I do is get my baking sheet ready.  I put a good sprinkle of chunky sea salt on the sheet where each of the potatoes are going to be sitting - a bit like a bed of salt.

 I then stab my potatoes all over, I have a special multi pronged device just for this, but obviously a fork will do.

Then I stick the potatoes under a running tap - get them soaking wet - and then I cover them in a layer of chunky sea salt.  Place them onto the bed of salt on the tray and place in the oven.

It really depends on the size of the potato as to how long it needs to bake.  If you are using a potato that is the size of a large mango then it will need around 2 hours at the above temperature.

Once the potato is ready remove it from the oven and place each one on their serving plates.  Now wrap your hand in a clean tea towel and give the top of the potato a short sharp punch, in theory if the potato is cooked to perfection this should make the inside all fluffy.

Cut your potato to how you like - I personally like to cut mine in half and then load each side with a disgusting amount of butter.  Season and serve.

That is my perfect Baked Potato.

Now for the filling.  Whilst I was pregnant there were a few of things that I craved.  The first was pre-bottle Bitter Shandy - I could not get enough of it.  The second, which completely disgusted my hubby, was french fries covered in baked beans and cheese, baked in the oven and then doused, and I mean drenched, in vinegar - BEAUTIFUL!!!  The third, which although not as common, was a Baked Potato with the following toppings all mixed together : Baked Beans, Cheese and Tuna Mayonnaise - yes thats right, it sounds disgusting but trust me, give it a go and you might be pleasently surprised.  Thats the sort of potato that I love when I am having it as the main event.

If I am using a Baked Potato as a side dish I love stuffing it.  Here is my version of the yummiest stuffed potato :

Ingredients :

Bacon Lardons
Onion - diced
Sour Cream
Chedder Cheese

Method :

Bake the potatoes as above.  Whilst they are cooking get your bacon and onion prepared.  I like my bacon cooked until lovely and golden brown.  This way it has a nice crisp texture that complements the softness of the potato.  Saute your onion and then mix the two ingredients together and put to one side.

Remove the potatoes from the oven once they are cooked, cut them in half and scoop out the fluffy insides into the bowl with the bacon and onion.  Place the empty cases back on the baking sheet and place into the oven just to dry out the insides - they only need to be in there whilst you are prepping the potato mix.

Add the sour cream, cheese - reserving a bit of the cheese to sprinkle on top of the potatoes - and seasoning and mix it all together really well.  Take the cases out of the oven and re-stuff them with the potato mix.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and place back into the oven for a further 10-20 minutes - use your judgement as to whether they look done - the cheese should be nicely browned.

These can be eaten as a non fancy starter or have them as a side accompaniment with pork chops, steak or anything else that you love!

I do love a Baked Potato, I am so having one tonight, but the question is, what with???  I'll let you know what I experiment with another might turn out disgusting, in which case, I won't bother you with the details!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

In the Beginning.....

It all started at the beginning of the summer 2010.  I got the taste for Morrocan food and began to experiment at home.  Now I am not a complete foodie and by this I mean I am not utterly obsessed, but I do like to think that I am a good cook.  Well my husband says I am, whether or not he is saying that for an easy life is another matter!  So I cooked and perfected over a couple of weeks a lovely lamb tagine with apricots (recipe to follow later) which needless to say the hubby loved.

Now, we very rarely do anything off the cuff, but seeing as we had a little bit of spare cash we decided to do something "crazy" for once and within 3 hours I had found and booked a private Riad in the centre of Marrakesh Old City - the Medina.  Which not only had views of the Atlas Mountains but also could accomodate 8 guests and came with 3 members of staff!  So about 8 weeks later off we trundled, with my brother and sister in law and friend in tow to Marrakech.

We had an amazing cultural holiday which I will not bore you with the details of, but my love of Morrocan food only grew more intense as the week long holiday went on.  We had our own cook at the Riad and so every alternate night she would cook us the most beautiful, authentic, home-cooked food.  Each night we would have three courses, starting with 5-6 salads for our entree which ranged from green bean to orange salads.  This would then be followed by a scrummy main, we had cooked for us the most DELICIOUS lamb tagine where the meat was falling off the bone.

Not only did we have our dinner cooked for us but also our breakfasts.  Now some days it was something quite simple like fruit and yoghurt but other days it would be something naughty and delectable like French Toast, now this sounds plain and boring, but believe me, it was the best damn French Toast that I have ever had!!

On the nights that we didn't stay in the Riad to eat we went and dined in the Medina - Djemaa El Fna
- this is a spectacle all on its own!!  Not only is the food amazing but it is dirt cheap, you can eat for around £3.00-£4.00 per person - thats if your brave enough to tackle people trying to put snakes and monkeys on you from all directions!

 Chicken Tagine...yum yum - although admittedly not as good as the lamb tagine!

 Kebabs - cooked on a homemade BBQ - which the cook made in the INDOOR kitchen!

 A tasty breakfast of fruit, hard boiled eggs (sadly) and pancakes.

 The remnants of one of our dinners at the Djemaa El Fna.

 A couple of the amazing salads put in front of us for our Entree.

 Bizarrely we were served chicken and chips one night - but it was all homemade and the chips were gorgeous!!
Just some of the treats at the Medina - although as a hint - don't buy them here as you will pay tourist prices - ask someone at your hotel or Riad for advice on where the locals go to buy their groceries (especially spices) - it worked for us!

We had an amazing holiday in Marrakesh and ate the most delectable foods.  After returning back to the UK, I found out a week later that I was pregnant with our first baby.  From then on I was unable to go near any spices that reminded me of Marrakesh as as soon as I caught the scent it gave me terrible morning sickness!  To this day I have still not been brave enough to give it a go!!  Seeing as I have started this little journey now I might just have to man up and cook a lamb tagine!