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"5 things I've learnt this week" Thoughts on food, life and things I've learnt along the way

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This week, there are two original recipes on my newsletter which will make Christmas that little bit easier, and taste that much better! My Pork & Pickle Stuffing Balls and my Baileys Biscuits. The stuffing recipe is a great alternative to the traditional sage and onion - filled with pork, apple and chunky pickle, it has a real tang to it and is very easy and cheap to make. My very grown-up Baileys Biscuits have a good whack of alcohol and a delicious chewy, oat bite to them - naughtily moreish!

Throughout December, the theme for my newsletters is, not surprisingly, 'Christmas'! I have 3 great recipes for you this month, from my Grand Marnier Soufflé to Baileys Biscuits. So sign up for free today to get your recipes each week, along with valuable cooking tips for the festive season.

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This week, I've entertained, finalised my Christmas recipes and lived with a ghost. Last weekend was a lot of fun. On Saturday night, we had my oldest friend and his girlfriend round for dinner. When I say oldest, I don't mean a 90 year old, I mean I've known him for longer than anyone, since we were 4 in fact. We had a lovely evening with a selection of homemade curries and drinks. It's so much fun entertaining, and when serving curry, you can get everything ready in advance. We had Chicken Korma, Lamb Tikka Masala and my Lamb Tagine - a great evening and lots of fun.

Sunday morning was less fun. With Baby Chef needing to get up and get fed, Mrs AC and I tossed a coin to see who would get a lie-in. Muggins here lost, so it was up to me to be the spritely, lively dad that BabyChef deserves. To be fair, my act was Oscar worthy, despite feeling like someone was constantly smacking me in the head with a little hammer. There was only ever going to be one cure - out for lunch, and something greasy. We opted for the easy option - our local Harvester for a couple of burgers, whilst BabyChef happily gobbled the homemade sausage casserole we brought with us. Say what you like about Harvesters, but the burgers were cheap, filling and made us feel a lot lot better. Also, where else would you get a burger, chips and unlimited flat lemonade for £9.95…?!

This week I've cooked my little socks off. On Monday we filmed my Simple Satay Pork for my newsletter that's going out today. This was the last of my 'winter warmer' recipes and is so moreish. The ultimate compliment to me is that Mrs AC loves the dish, but doesn't like peanut butter. Despite the sauce being made of peanut butter… On Tuesday, Mrs AC went off to Geneva for 24 hours with her work. It sounds exciting, like Paris or Milan. I wonder if Swiss people think the same about British cities. "Ooh wondebar, zee other 'arf iz off to Birmingham for zee night." No offence intended to Birmingham of course…and I have no idea what that accent was supposed to be either…

Wednesday was a full on cooking day. Finally, after saying I had finally finalised my Christmas recipes, I have now finalised my Christmas recipes! I've been playing with Christmas food a lot and perfecting the ideas. I'm adding two new recipes to the site, and I've got three more Christmassy recipes for my newsletter. The two being added to the site are my Chocolate Honeycomb Bites and my Spiced Pear Balls in Cider Batter. The three newsletter recipes are Grand Marnier Soufflé, A gorgeous stuffing and Baileys Biscuits. All road tested to perfection so I hope you like them. If you haven't signed up for my newsletter then please do so. It's free, and you won't get any junk mail!

Yesterday was spent designing my new review section that will appear early next week. Last Thursday, I was invited to London for an evening with JME Foods, a group of products under the umbrella of Jamie Oliver. It was a great evening and I came away with some fun samples that are all top British produce. They will be the first to feature in my new review section!

Today, I'm sending out my newsletter and working on my review section, whilst trying to look after a poorly Mrs AC who seems to have picked up a sickness bug abroad. To be fair to her, she does look awful, and what with her being away this week, I've taken to calling her the Canterville Ghost - seldom seen and ghostly white. I'm really hoping Baby Chef and I don't catch it though! My wife went to Geneva and all she brought back was this lousy bug... This weekend, assuming Mrs AC is better, we're off out for a meal with my lovely in-laws. I say lovely, not just because they read this, but because I'm very lucky to have such nice in-laws that I really do get on with. (I'm hoping this flattery will be remembered when the bill comes tomorrow night…!)

5 things I've learnt this week

Curry & drinks seem like a great idea for a Saturday evening. Less so on a Sunday morning
Cheap burger and flat lemonade is the cure for all ails
My Swiss accent sounds like the waiter from Allo Allo
My Chocolate Honeycomb bites will make your friends like you more
The Canterville Ghost currently occupies my house

That's all from me this week, Happy St Andrews Day to all my Scottish followers, and have a great weekend.

Happy cooking,

The Amateur Chef


Posted @ 16:00 on 30 November 2012

This week has been strange. I've dreamt I was in the jungle, embarrassed myself in public and invented some fun Christmas recipes.

Last weekend was nice and sedate for a change. On Saturday morning we thought it might be fun to go into town to see if we could get started on Christmas shopping. It seemed like a good idea, however it also seemed like everyone else in Cheltenham had the same idea, as it was absolutely packed. The crowds, coupled with BabyChef pulling at her reins like a hyperactive Great Dane, meant that very little was actually achieved, but at least it kept me warm! On Saturday afternoon, I practised some Christmas recipes - my favourite being edible honeycomb holly. I have the recipes sorted for my Christmas newsletters, but I want to put some up on my site for general viewing, so I was like a child in a sweetshop with pots and pans on the go (interspersed with the very occasional odd 'bad' word). On Saturday evening, the festive mood was put aside and we enjoyed turkey fajitas. Turkey thigh is great for this - it's so cheap and tasty, although how we were hungry is beyond me, given all the treats we had sampled that afternoon!

On Sunday morning, we did the boring 'big shop' and despite making a list, inevitably forgot half the things we needed. On Sunday afternoon, Mrs AC took BabyChef to the in-laws whilst I got my newsletter ready to go out with my recipe for Tangy Lamb Tagine. Sunday evening saw the return of our Sunday night favourite - a lovely Macaroni Cheese. I had some leftover mascarpone from the day before, which added a lovely richness to the cheese sauce.

This week started strangely, partly due to my Sunday evening TV viewing, and partly due to my cheese induced sleep on Sunday night. I woke having dreamt that I was in 'I'm a celebrity get me out of here.' It was one of those 'real' dreams… I was in the jungle with David Haye and the others and even did a bush tucker trial. All I remember was that I had to eat Kangaroo 'bottom' and then kept going on about how nice it would be in a stir fry. In classic dream form, the show's producers then realised that I wasn't famous and told me I shouldn't be there and that I had to leave. So how's that for weird?!

This week's cooking has been delicious and, thankfully, kangaroo-free. We've had had my Beef Chilli with rice, from the freezer, along with my 'Magnificently Moreish Pork Pasta'. My mum had cooked the pork recipe at the weekend and kindly gave me her leftover ingredients - She often makes my recipes! Well I say 'makes' my recipes, but usually she substitutes many of the ingredients for whatever she has available. But not this time! I gratefully received a couple of pork loins, some parmesan and fresh pasta. All ingredients in my actual recipe! I haven't cooked this myself in a while and had forgotten how great it tastes. Magnificently moreish is definitely the best way to describe it and a real change to have pork in a pasta dish. This week, I've also made a cheesy sausage pasta - the result of having forgotten to defrost chicken breasts for a salad. The pasta was a nice throw-together dish - a bit like macaroni cheese, but with tagliatelle. I alway keep some fresh pasta in the freezer as it's ideal for a last minute meal because it can be cooked from frozen in minutes.

To top off my week, yesterday I had to pop into town and I managed, whilst walking through a busy street, to walk into a lamp post. A brand new Aston Martin had pulled up about 100m away and I was turning to look and see who it belonged to (vaguely wondering if it was the 'Hoff', who has supposedly sold his Malibu home to move to a nearby village?!?!?!)… I walked head first into a lamp post. There are things that you don't mean to do, but you can make look like you intended to - i.e. slipping on a wet floor in a bar and turning it into a 'dance walk' to the bar. Walking into a lamp post is not one of those things… I didn't injure myself, but to be honest, I was up and out of there that quickly, that I didn't wait to find out. My face was scarlet. Last night, I finally remembered to defrost the chicken and made a salad with a honey and paprika marinade. It only takes an hour to marinade chicken enough to really take on the flavour and we're trying to eat more salad!

This weekend, Mrs AC and I are off out for the night in Cheltenham to let our hair down. With my ever decreasing hairline though, 'letting my hair down' could have disastrous results!

5 things I've learnt this week

Christmas is coming, the chef is getting fat
Kangaroo-bottom stir fry - you heard it here first
Too much cheese makes me dream... of Ant and Dec
My mum does actually cook my recipes
Walking into a lamp post is worse on the ego than on the head

That's all from me this week and I hope that you have a great weekend.

Happy cooking,

The Amateur Chef


Posted @ 15:30 on 16 November 2012


Last weekend was so much fun. On Saturday, we went up to friends in Nantwich for a bonfire party and the hosts didn't disappoint. The bonfire was 20ft high and the fireworks wouldn't have been out of place on the Southbank on New Years Eve. We had lots to drink and even more to eat, including some amazing toffee apple sausages from Cheerbrook Farm Shop. We had been worried about BabyChef, as it was the first time she had slept in the same room as Mrs AC and I since she was about 4 weeks old. We thought that any problems would be worth it though, as she'd get to mix with lots of people and she always loves big get togethers. In true BabyChef style, the opposite happened. She screamed at EVERYONE, and slept through without a peep. Strange little thing. We had a great time though, so big thanks to Mandy & Simon! Back home on Sunday, we had a lazy day, followed by Beef Chilli - perfect for a chilly(!) Sunday evening. Beef Chilli is one of my favourites in the winter as it's so so comforting, with just enough heat to warm you up.

This week's cooking started with my 'Mincey Pasta' on Monday  - the recipe that I wrote about in my blog last week. I still haven't come up with a good name for it though... 'Mincey Pasta' doesn't quite sound right! We've also had baked potatoes and I filmed my Tangy Lamb Tagine, which is going out on my newsletter this Sunday. This recipe may well be one of my quickest and easiest to throw together, so I hope that you enjoy it! 

In other news this week, BabyChef may have started the terrible twos, 3 months early. She's generally a happy little soul, but her favourite word at the moment is "no", followed by screaming. I'm clinging to the hope that if she's started 3 months early, she should grow out of it 3 months earlier too…?! I'm clinging to this notion, rather than thinking that this is only the prelude to turning two. Parents that I've mentioned this to have not exactly filled me with confidence. Usually it's been a little laugh, followed by "you could be right…". 

I've also been really annoyed by something. On Twitter this week, there's been a spat going on, referred to as Bosigate. The background is this: Amateur food blogger James Isherwood dined at, and then reviewed Mayfair's award winning Hibiscus restaurant. In James' review on his blog diningwithjames.blogspot.co.uk, he dared to criticise one portion of the meal. Renowned head chef Claude Bosi then took to Twitter, berating poor James and calling him the 'c-word' for not speaking up at the time of dining. Since then, other chefs have come out in support of Bosi, and renowned food critics have also had their pop at James for his amateur writing and lack of understanding. This is what's bothering me... What difference would complaining in the restaurant have actually made? James didn't enjoy a part of the meal. As a paying customer was he obliged to enjoy it?? Had he spoken up (and had the technical and culinary argument been put to him about why the chef had put certain ingredients together), it wouldn't have changed the fact that he didn't like the dish! I have nothing but respect for most highly renowned restaurants, and some top chefs are clearly geniuses in their profession. But to call a diner the c-word for having the temerity to criticise a small element of the meal? Bosi not so much crossed the line, but took a flying leap across it. In my opinion, the only way that something like this could be avoided, is if pretentious chefs begin entrance exams to their restaurants. I can see the exchange now…"Yes sir, a table for 2, but first we need to check that you're sufficiently qualified to eat here, and that your amateur little palate can fully appreciate the magnificence that we're going to allow you to pay for"."Oh, I was only after a bit of dinner"… Here's a link to the review on James' website and here's an article in today's Mail Online about the spat. Rant over.

Back to me. Tonight I've got friends coming round for dinner. The bhangra beats will be…beating…? as I'm cooking up a couple of curries. It should be a great evening and I'm really looking forward to it. As for the rest of the weekend, we had hoped to go and see 'Skyfall' at the cinema, however the lack of babysitting options, added to the fact that BabyChef isn't a James Bond fan, means it is unlikely. At least when we do go and see it, we should have the cinema to ourselves, as it seems as if we are the only people in the country yet to see it.

5 things I've learnt this week

BabyChef snores like a baby rhino
My 'mincey pasta' needs a new name fast
The terrible twos are here
Be careful what you write online (gulp!)
Mrs AC and I may be the only people in the country not to have seen Skyfall

That's all from me this week and I hope that you have a great weekend.

Happy cooking,

The Amateur Chef

Posted @ 16:15 on 09 November 2012

This week has been strange. I've dreamt I was in the jungle, embarrassed myself in public and invented some fun Christmas recipes.Last weekend was nice and sedate for a change. On Saturday morning we thought it might be fun to go into town to see if we could get started on Christmas shopping.
Last weekend was so much fun. On Saturday, we went up to friends in Nantwich for a bonfire party and the hosts didn't disappoint. The bonfire was 20ft high and the fireworks wouldn't have been out of place on the Southbank on New Years Eve.
Following a 'robust' night out with my oldest friend Andy, it meant starting the weekend with a hangover, which is never good! My wonderful wife, however, gave me a lie-in so that when I surfaced, I didn't quite resemble prehistoric man - more like his ever so slightly, more evolved friend.
It's been a few weeks since my last post. I've had one of those times that most people go through, when things are quiet. Not unenjoyable, but just not 'broadcast to the web' enjoyable.

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