Hi! Welcome to my blog. I am a major foodie, with a haphazard cooking philosophy, currently making that transition from cooking and baking for friends and family to 'wonder if I could make this my career'. Follow me for recipes, the outcomes of a few experiments, and general lovely foodiness. Opinions, reviews and recommendations are all my own.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

A Little "Pick-Me-Up" Experiment

I love Italian food. Of all food cultures, Italian is the one that I can relate to the most, the dishes are classical, passed down through generations, and adapted from region to region based on local ingredients and traditions. The recipes are simple, usually with a short list of ingredients, where taste is determined by the quality of the produce used, rather than excessive seasoning. My cooking style differs only in that the Italians can be very protective over the integrity and authenticity of their recipes, whereas I am much more flexible when it comes to switching ingredients either to experiment with a different taste, or (as happens more frequently) to adapt to the ingredients in my cupboard...

Last night I made a Tiramisu in true kick-at-the-pantry-door fashion, replacing about half of the ingredients in the process. For starters, my local store was out of mascarpone cheese, so I had to buy ricotta, then I had to substitute the Marsala sherry (well really, who has Marsala sherry in the house) for Amaretto. I had decided to adopt a Gordon Ramsey recipe, which calls for double cream rather than eggs, and is a much quicker method for making the dessert - in the end only the lady-fingers, coffee and sugar were from the original recipe. Here's the link if you are interested http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/chefs/gordon-ramsay/easy-tiramisu-recipe

The Italian translation of Tiramisu is "pick me up", which is a beautiful name for a dessert, although in my case I could apply the phrase to most foods! Here are my colourful little mood-lifters from this morning...

G'night all! Vx

Monday, 24 September 2012

A Surprise Birthday Meal at The Thatched Cottage, Kingsteignton

Despite the cold and the rain, and it being Monday, I am warmed today by the memory of a great weekend, wonderful company, and good food. Having travelled to Newton Abbot, Devon with Gary to celebrate his Mum's 60th birthday for a surprise even Cilla would have been proud of, I was truly touched to be involved in a celebration that included not only the aforementioned 60th birthday, but two additional family birthdays, and the 61st wedding anniversary of Gran and Grandad.

The venue for the meal was a wonderfully quaint restaurant called The Thatched Cottage, located in Kingsteignton. A beautifully converted 16th century building, the thing that struck me most from the minute we entered was the cosy, welcoming atmosphere that the team have created. Greeted with warm smiles, the staff could not have done more to make sure that the evening ran perfectly.


As for the food, The Thatched Cottage seem to me to have perfected a balance of the kind of heartwarming homely dishes that suit their setting, with a beautifully professional finish. The end result is absolutely fine dining with none of the pretencion and stuffiness. I left the restaurant feeling like I had spent a relaxed night with family, and yet knowing that the meal had been as special as the occasions we were celebrating.

I guess I do have a second reason to wake with a warm feeling inside this morning as well... The weekend celebrations gave me the perfect opportunity to create the first official Pantry Door cake, and for a newbie I think it came out pretty well - I'll let you all judge for youselves...

V x

Photo: Ok folks, pleased to say that The Pantry Doors first official creation was a success! The secret is out, and here it is! Night all! Xx

Monday, 17 September 2012

Halfway Up The Sausage

If you are anything like me at all, there are times when someone mentions a certain food or meal, or you catch a glimpse of it on TV or in a magazine, and it becomes all you can think about eating until you do. This happens regularly in our house. Last week it was a Chicken Caesar Salad. At the weekend Gary had a craving for KFC induced by a TV show, which lasted three days until it was eventually sated. Yesterday, with particular thanks to ITV's This Morning, it was Toad in the Hole.

Toad in the Hole is one of those classic English dishes that everyone loves, and yet many people I know avoid making because of the key ingredient - the Yorkshire Pudding!

Yorkshire's are so easy to make well, providing you do one thing... Leave the batter to rest. It's that simple. If possible, and you are planning ahead for a Sunday roast for example, you will get the best results if you make the batter the night before, and leave it to rest in the fridge overnight. Or, if you want a simple, traditional meal such as the aforementioned Toad in the Hole, you can make the batter quickly in the morning before work, and then all you need to do in the evening is cook it.

A simple batter to make a reasonable sized Toad in the Hole would be made as follows;
Sieve 115g of plain flour and add salt and pepper to taste.
Whisk 4 eggs, and then mix well into the flour.
Slowly pour in 1/2 pint of milk, whisking constantly to make a smooth batter.
Then cover with cling film and place in the fridge to rest.

When you come to make your Toad, simply place sausages in a dish and put in the oven to cook. As they are cooking they should release enough fat into the pan to then cook the Yorkshire Pudding. Once the sausages are cooked through, pour over the batter, which should fill the dish to around halfway up the depth of the sausage. Return to the oven until the Yorkshire has risen evenly and is golden brown.

Serve with lashings of gravy, and dig in!

V x

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Sunday Roast Centrepiece

I think I'm one of the few people that looks forward to the point each year when Summer changes to Autumn. When, usually overnight, the air gets a little cooler, mornings get a little darker, and people start to whisper about Christmas in hushed tones.

Autumn for me means food. Sure, during the Summer months we have fresh fruits, crisp salads, and BBQ'd meat at any possible opportunity. But Autumn... Autumn means pies and crumbles, game meats, and the return of the full Sunday roast, having been pushed aside during the warm weather for being too heavy.

A proper Sunday roast in our house embodies all the principles of "a kick at the pantry door", the meat of choice surrounded by a medley of whichever vegetables are to hand (this week in particular is a bundle of Mum's homegrown runner beans).

But always, always, the centrepiece of a Sunday roast, the part that defines the meal, are the potatoes. Done well, they are golden brown, crisp and crunchy on the outside, and fluffy and moist on the inside.

Here's my fail safe method for the perfect roasties;

The experts say to use a floury potato for roasting, such as a Maris Piper or King Edwards, but I find that if I follow a few simple rules any variety will have same results.

Peel the potatoes and chop so that all are even sized. Place in a pan of water and bring to the boil. Cook in the water until a fork can be inserted into a potato with little effort. Remove from the heat, and drain the potatoes in a colander over the sink. Once the water has drained away, shake the colander so that the potatoes knock against the sides and start to get rough around the edges. This is to help the outsides get really crispy once in the oven. They should look like the picture below.

Transfer the potatoes to a baking tray or roasting dish. Cover liberally with oil (any kind will do) and sprinkle salt over the top. Place on the top shelf of the oven. My tip is to cook the potatoes long and slow. Check them every 15 - 20 minutes and turn each time to allow them to crisp evenly.

And it really is as easy as that, serve with whichever meat and vegetable accompaniments you choose, but the main event will always be the roast potato!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

We're In Business!

OK, so the seedling of a thought that I had not yet two weeks ago has sprouted and is now growing into a fully fledged idea...

I have a plan...

... and a name...

... and a website address, blog, facebook and twitter profiles.

Today I received my Basic Food Hygiene Certificate. I have enrolled on a 10 week course for Cake-Decorating and Sugar-Craft. And I have had acknowlegement from Companies House that I am now officially the Director of The Pantry Door Ltd.

OK, we are not actually trading yet, and may not do for some time to come, but it's a start!

Now, on to phase 2 of the masterplan...

Saturday, 8 September 2012

It's the Simple Things in Life

It's such a cliche, but sometimes the simplest pleasures in life are the best, and food is no exception to the rule. Cornflakes and cold milk, Baked Beans on toast, hot Jacket Potatoes with lashings of butter are all seriously underated - and then there is freshly baked bread...

I personally have avoided making my own bread for years, in the belief that the secret to making it is closely guarded by bakers alone. I had in my mind visions of kneading for hours, dough that refused to rise, and hard baked rocks at the end that would make me the laughing stock of my friends and family. Instead I have hovered by the bakery sections in supermarkets, waiting to get my hands on still warm bread that I could rush home and tear into (and yes, on occasion pass off as my own).

Yet, how wrong I was!

I have now in the oven a magnificent loaf of white bread baking and the smell that is wafting through the house is so tantilising that I have the butter knife out already in anticipation. And making it could not have been easier. This is my basic white bread recipe, and by following a few basic rules, it works every time;

Sieve 700g of Strong White Flour, and add a tbsp of Salt. Rub in 25g of Butter. Add 1tsp of Caster Sugar, and 1tsp of Yeast. (You can use Fast Action Dried Yeast for this, however wherever possible I try to use fresh Yeast, as it reacts better. I find mine in near the butter section in my local supermarket.) Make a well in the middle of the dry mix, and add 150ml of Milk, and 300ml of Warm Water. Mix to form a dough, and tip out onto a floured surface.

Then Knead. The most useful thing I ever learned about making bread is that you cannot over-knead the dough. Do not be afraid to get stuck in, and you should knead the dough until the surface of the dough is shiny, and when you prod it with your finger it should spring back to it's original shape. If you do this, you will not go wrong with your bread.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and place in a warm place for approximately 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. Turn the dough back out onto the floured surface and knead again for a couple of minutes, knocking the air out back down to it original size.

Now shape the dough to suit, either shape into an oblong and place in a loaf tin for a classic loaf, form a round and place on a baking tray for a more rustic appearence, or separate into smaller sections to make individual dinner rolls. Cover with clingfilm again for a further 30 minutes to rise again, then place in an oven at 200 degrees c until golden brown, and it makes a hollow sound when you tap the base.

The whole process should take a couple of hours max, and is worth every minute when you break the still warm crust and cover with butter. Which is exactly what I am going to do right now...

Mmmmm.... V x

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A Kick At The Pantry Door

When I was a little girl, whenever I asked my Mum or Dad what was for tea, they would answer "A Kick At The Pantry Door". I believe that this is a South Yorkshire saying, although am unsure of the origin. In our house it came to mean a meal made out of whatever we could find in the pantry, and sometimes led to some very interesting concoctions!

Now I find it a fitting philosophy for the way I cook - I always start with a basic recipe in mind, but I like to experiment with ingredients based on what is in the house. Many recipes these days require all sorts of exotic and wonderful ingredients, but who really has Star Anise and Rice Wine Vinegar in the house all the time? So my recipes now are all about creating great tasting, home-cooked meals, with as little fuss and cost as possible, and maximum room for experimenting.


There is no sincerer love than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Master Plan


So... this is my first ever blog! Kind of a late starter I guess. Anyway,  I'm 28 years old, and I finally have a master plan  That's all I'm going to say for now until I have figured out the details, as they say... watch this space...

V x