Time for a Caesar Salad

I did quite fancy a Caesar salad for lunch, but I don’t buy the kits, partly as I prefer making my own, partly, as I like more than croutons and parmesan, and mainly as I need to have gluten free croutons.

For my Caesar salad I took some Romaine Lettuce and cut in half and set them across the plate. To this I added some white anchovies, quartered small tomatoes and peelings of parmesan.

For the croutons, I took the crusts of a Schär white loaf and sliced it into cubes. In a hot pan I added some olive oil and some butter, to which I added the cubes of bread and some dried Italian herbs. Once the croutons are browned I took them out of the pan and drained them on some kitchen paper.

These were then added to the salad, followed with some freshly ground black pepper.

I have variations, sometimes I prefer sun-dried tomatoes, but then I do like fresh, it’s a preference. 

I do sometimes add Caesar salad dressing, but usually have it on the side.

A bizarre breakfast

Not going out to eat over the last three months has meant that I’ve had no meals or dishes to blog about. I have caught up with some recent meals, but have now been going back further into my photo library to see if there were dishes and meals that I may have not blogged about. One of these was a breakfast, which was not amazing!

In August of 2019 (only last year) we went to Brittany in France for our summer holiday. We took the ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg before driving down to a Eurocamp close to Dol-de-Bretagne.

Though the weather wasn’t that great, we did have a nice holiday.

We drove down to Portsmouth to catch the morning ferry. I hoped we could have breakfast at the port, but the process was very much queue up for passport control and then board the ship.

We were catching the fast ferry, the Normandie Express. It is a high-speed catamaran cruise ferry, owned and operated by Brittany Ferries.

The car deck was packed with cars and we scrambled through to the passenger deck.

Knowing that everyone was hungry we went straight to the café to get some breakfast and avoid any queuing or no seating.

I was anticipating something rather special, as I had seem this video on the Brittany Ferries website.

The menu looked a little bit strange, but I ordered some croissants, a few cooked breakfasts as well as some gluten free rolls. Oh and of course some coffee!

The breakfast looked like this!

There was some bacon, sausages, scrambled egg and bizarrely mashed potato!

It was an interesting experience, not one I would want to repeat. The sausages were fine, the egg was passable, however the mashed potato was just bizarre and the bacon did not taste like bacon.

The croissants were okay, fluffy and the French butter was very tasty. As for the gluten free rolls, well they were not very nice.

I think this could have been so much better and it was a bit of a flat start to our holiday. One of the reasons I wanted to go to France was for the food.

The breakfast was completely forgotten about though once we reached the open sea, as the water was very choppy and there were strong winds.

The day before the service had actually been cancelled due to the weather, and though the wind was not as strong as the day before, the waves were still there and it was a very rough crossing.

We had a lovely holiday and some great food. On the way back, we took a homemade packed lunch!

Waffling

This is one of our quick favourite meals, savoury grilled waffles.

I had an electric waffle iron for years (over twenty) and then it eventually stopped working, so we bought a double sized waffle iron, so we could make two at once.

My waffle mix is as follows, take a cup of self-raising gluten free flour, a cup of milk and one egg, Whisk the ingredients together until you have a smooth batter.

If you are making sweet waffles add some sugar and some vanilla essence.

I cook the waffles in the iron and then set them aside.

You can then choose which toppings you want. Some in the family like the classic ham and cheese, whilst others (like me) go for spinach,  mushrooms with onions and pepper, with cheese on top.

The waffles, complete with toppings are then finished off in a hot oven for about ten minutes.

Pan fried Sea Bass

In the past my attempts at cooking sea bass have failed, with cooked, but rather tasteless fish on the plate. However recently I have been getting better results by pan frying the sea bass in butter and lemon, with parsley.

The key I found was to cook the fish skin side down, but then cover the fish with crumpled up greaseproof baking parchment as a kind of loose lid on the pan.

The end result is tasty fish, full of flavour.

Little salad bowls

With this beautiful hot weather we have been eating a lot of salad. Recently I have been plating up salads for people using individual tapas style bowls. These I “picked up” from Lidl in their Sol Mar Spanish Tapas dishes in the freezer, which come with some useful little brown tapas dishes.

The advantage of these over plating onto the main plates is that they take up less room and it’s easier from a portion control perspective. The advantage of merely creating one big salad is that in the family some people like some salad items and others prefer something else. I like tomatoes, but another member of the family prefers grapes in their salad.

Depending on what we have in the fridge and the cupboard will determine what goes into the individual salad bowls.

I quite like to add a base layer of houmus to mine, to which I then add a handful of mixed lettuce leaves. I add slices of “heritage” tomatoes, slices of radish, sliced pepper, pomegranate seeds and diced cucumber.

Other ingredients I have used include batons of cucumber, grapes, sweetcorn, mixed pulses, sometimes raw red onion.

I rarely add dressing, but if I do, usually I just add a drizzle of olive oil and some white wine vinegar.

Cooking prawns

When eating prawns, either with salad, or on paella, I much prefer cooking them from raw, rather than heating up cooked prawns.

One thing I do which I learnt after eating prawns in a restaurant (which I don’t remember which one) is to reverse “butterfly” the prawns. I find this makes them quicker to cook, adds flavour and they look more attractive on the dish.

I take my raw prawns and then holding them down on the chopping board, slice through the back of the prawns, but not all the way through. As with the squid I discussed earlier, let the knife do the work and try not to press down otherwise you will find you are merely cutting the prawns in half.

I call this reverse butterfly, as I think you usually butterfly prawns from the front.

In a hot pan I add some olive oil and then quick flash fry the prawns. They can then be seasoned and served, though I also use this method when adding prawns to my paella dishes.

Cooking squid

I have a very simple way of cooking squid, it does require some preparation time, but I find that the end result is tender tasty squid.

I take squid tubes and split them into a flat piece of squid, then I score the squid in a checked pattern on the inside of the squid. The key here is to cut into the squid, but not all the way through. With thicker pieces of squid this is easier than when the squid is quite thin. The technique I do, is let the knife do the work and not to press down with the knife. You really do need a sharp knife for this.

In a hot pan I add some olive oil and then quick flash fry the squid. What should happen is the squid should cook and roll.

This can then be seasoned and served, though I also use this method when adding squid to my paella dishes.

Gluten Free Chocolate Fudge Cake

Though I do make my own cakes I sometimes use mixes, both for convenience, but also sometimes to try something new.

One pack we recently used, and really enjoyed was Betty Crocker Gluten Free Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake Mix.

Despite what you see on the box, you don’t get the icing, so you need to buy that as an extra.

As well as the mix you also need:

      • 125ml vegetable oil
      • 250ml water
      • 4 medium free range eggs

There are three steps:

      1. Mix the eggs, oil, water and cake mix gently together and whisk (by hand or electric mixer) for 2-3 minutes until smooth and creamy.
      2. Pour the cake mixture evenly into two greased cake tins.
      3. Bake in the centre of the oven for between 23-28 minutes or until a rounded knife inserted fully into the centre of the cake comes out clean. 

Once cool you can smother the cake with chocolate fudge icing.

It was rather good, and to be honest you wouldn’t know it was gluten free as it had the taste, texture and smell of a chocolate fudge cake even without the icing.

Not going to Starbucks!

Those who know me, know I enjoy my coffee.

However since we got into lockdown I’ve not been able to visit my usual places for coffee and enjoy a flat white.

As lockdown is now easing, our local Starbucks, which is a drive-thru, has re-opened, but only for drive-thru, you can’t go and sit down and drink coffee.

Starbucks

I try and avoid takeaway coffee, as for me it’s not just about the coffee, but the whole coffee drinking experience. So though I could drive to Starbucks and get a flat white in a cardboard cup, and then drink it in my car, I am not quite sure why I would do that?

What I am looking forward to is going out for a coffee. Ordering the coffee, maybe a cake or pastry and then sitting down to enjoy that overall coffee drinking experience.

Lidl Sol Mar Cod Croquettes

I do quite like the country special weeks that Lidl have. I find it gives you a chance to try new things and be inspired to cook a different kind of meal.

At the recent Spanish week, I picked up some frozen Sol Mar Cod Croquettes.

These are cod and potato croquettes (or fishcakes).

You cook them by deep frying them, though I have shallow fried them with excellent results.

Lidl Sol Mar Cod Croquettes

You get a lovely crisp outer layer and then soft tasty fluffy inside.

I really quite enjoyed them.