4 Must Have Dishes For Your 4th Of July BBQ

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 A Guest Post from America!

When you have a 4th of July Barbecue, there are a few essential dishes that you should include.

Potato Salad

Potato salad is one of the items that is easy to make and that many people enjoy. There are different ways that you can make potato salad, but you can add what you want to make it taste good. Read On…

Burger Review: The Marriott Burger

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As part of my search for the perfect burger, I like to try every famous burger I can, to enable me to improve my own burger recipes. During a recent tour of southern England I found myself at the Marriott Highcliff hotel in Bournemouth, so therefore could not resist trying out the famous Marriott Burger.

The Marriot Burger is an 8oz burger with cheese and crispy bacon, and comes with chips and a salad garnish. At first glance it did look a good burger. It was well presented in a white sesame seed bun, the chips were golden on the outside, and the salad was OK as far as salads go.

Unfortunately it was soon obvious that the first impressions were misleading. The presentation did not make up for what was a very disappointing burger. The first problem was the bun was slightly stale and over toasted. It seemed that the bun may have been frozen, then quickly defrosted. Or it may have just been a bit stale. Either way, not what I would expect from the brand as highly respected as Marriott. The burger was rather disappointing too. The burger itself was slightly over cooked, and bland, there seemed little if any seasoning to the meat, and certainly no spice. There was no juice whatsoever. The bacon was certainly crispy, and the cheese was cheesy, but neither complimented the burger. There was also no burger sauce or relish provided with the burger, just the standard tomato sauce, mustard and mayonnaise.

The Marriott burger was a real disappointment, especially as it came with a price tag of GBP10.45 (about 22 US dollars). Maybe the chefs at Marriott should take a look at the recipes here before putting their burgers back on the menu.

Burger Sauce

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A good burger sauce is prepared fresh from old ingredients. Fresh ingredients could be used, but this will add several hours to the preparation time. My burger sauce recipe:

  • Tomato sauce
  • Mayonnaise
  • English mustard Read On…

The Perfect Full English Breakfast

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full English breakfastAn old friend, now living overseas, came to stay over New Year, and insisted that a cooked full English breakfast on New Years day, and it was good. If you want to impress your friends and cook a decent full English, then this is what you do. The art is in the timing, everything has to be ready at once. The toast cannot be cold, the eggs cannot be burnt or rubbery. Everything must be perfect.

Ingredients

  • Good quality pork sausages
  • Bacon – your favourite type, smoked or unsmoked
  • Black pudding, cut into thick slices (at least 1cm)
  • Free range eggs, or the best local eggs you can find
  • Baked beans
  • Bread for toasting
  • Hash browns (optional extra – I rarely use, but do like them)
  • Tomatoes
  • Button mushrooms

Sausages

Do the sausages under an oven grill if you have one. Keep the grill on a medium setting, and keep the door closed. This ensures that they are cooked well, but not burnt to a crisp. Turn once, after about 10 minutes. Once ready they can be removed and placed with the black pudding a bacon once they are done too.

Bacon and black pudding

Cook the bacon and black pudding on a griddle, ideally so that grill marks are burnt into the bacon rashers. Turn the black pudding a few times. The key to black pudding is not to overcook, they must be served moist on the inside and crispy on the outside.

Mushrooms

Cut the mushroom in half and fry in butter, in a separate pan.

Beans

Heat the beans in a saucepan. Keep on a low heat.

Eggs

For a large group, scrambled eggs are best. Scramble with just some butter, salt and pepper. Do not add any milk, this is a big mistake when scrambling eggs as it totally changes the flavour and ruins a good egg.

Toast

Prepare the toast last when the eggs are cooking. Ideally once the sausages, bacon and black pudding are cooked, place the sausages on the griddle, and turn the heat right down, or switch off. Then use the oven grill to do all the toast at once.

Finish and Serve

All the time ensure the beans are not burning, the eggs are not over cooking, and the mushroom are not drying out. There should be plenty of butter in with the mushrooms.

Once everything is ready, place the griddle straight onto the table (on a protective mat!), serve the beans and eggs in a bowl, and the toast in a rack if you have one, then let everyone help themselves.

This makes a great breakfast / brunch / lunch. Especially good after a hangover. Enjoy!

Another Simple Christmas Turkey Roast Dinner Recipe

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Ingredients

  • 1 turkey (10 to 12 lbs ready-to-cook weight)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • Melted fat

Directions

  • If the turkey is frozen, thaw according to package instructions
  • Set out a shallow roast pan with rack
  • Clean turkey (cut off neck at the body leaving only the skin) by rinsing and draining the body and patting it dry with paper towels.
  • Prepare your stuffing
  • Rub turkey cavity with salt
  • Lightly fill the body and neck cavities with stuffing
  • Close turkey body by sewing, lacing, or skewering. Fasten the neck skin of the turkey to the turkey’s back with a skewer. Tie the drumsticks to the tail. Bring the wing tips onto the back of the turkey.
  • Brush the skin thoroughly with melted fat.
  • Place turkey on the rack inside the roasting pan with the breast-side down
  • Place a roast meat thermometer in the centre of the inside thigh muscle. When done the meat thermometer should register 100 Celcius.
  • Place a fat-moistened cheesecloth over top and sides of turkey. Keep the cloth moist during roasting by occasionally brushing with fat from the bottom of the pan.
  • Roast uncovered at 170 Celsius for 4 to 4 1/2 hours or until the turkey is done (the thickest part of the drumstick feels soft when pressed with your fingers – protect fingers with a cloth or napkin when testing).
  • Remove the turkey from the oven.
  • Remove the meat thermometer and keep the turkey hot until served.
  • Allow 20 minutes of standing time before serving (this makes it easier to carve the turkey and allows time for any last minute preparations
  • Remove and cords or skewers and serve on a heated platter

Simple Tomato Soup

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This is a simple tomato soup, which makes a great starter or a meal in itself.

What you need:

  • A large knob of butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can peeled Italian plum tomatoes, or ripe in season tomatoes
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 1 small potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves or2 tsp. dried basil1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • Salt to taste
  • 250ml milk or cream

The procedure:

Melt butter in a soup pot over low heat. Add the onion, carrot and garlic.
Cook, covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and wilted. Crush tomatoes in their liquid and add to the pot along with the chicken broth, potato, basil, nutmeg and salt. Cook, covered, over low heat for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool to room temperature. Puree in a blender, in small batches, adding a bit of milk/cream to each batch. Return to soup pot and adjust seasoning. Before serving, warm through over very low heat. Do not boil. Serves 6.

Such a simple and delicious soup. Use the best, freshest ingredients you can find and this should warm you up on a cold winters day.

Is This The Year To Simplify Christmas Dinner?

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by: Joanie Williams

Are you hosting Christmas dinner this year? What do you think about making this the year you simplify it?

We know perfectly well that every year there’s too much food on the table. We eat too much, we work too hard, and most years we get ourselves too tired to really enjoy everything.

What about making as much as possible ahead?

What about (gasp!) even cooking the turkey and making the gravy the day before?

There are lots of recipes on the internet for making the turkey ahead. You just have to put in “make-ahead turkey” and you can pick and choose the one that suits you.

A few years ago one of my sisters and I tried cooking our turkey the day before. It worked beautifully. The turkey tasted no different, although I admit we “cheated” a little because we also cooked another turkey on Christmas Day. So the guests could smell turkey cooking when they walked in.

Just the same, I am going to cook my turkey ahead this year, and I won’t be cooking another one on Christmas Day.

I’m also going to make the mashed potatoes and gravy ahead. You can also find lots of recipes for make-ahead mashed potatoes and make-ahead gravy on the internet.

Imagine – all those roasting pans and mashed potato pots washed and put away before Christmas morning. Wouldn’t that be super?

The other thing I am going to do this Christmas is limit the number of dishes. When we already have turkey and gravy and stuffing, why do we need a bunch of other side dishes?

Isn’t one or two vegetables enough?

If you really think you need two vegetables why not serve frozen mixed vegetables? That way you get two for one, and you only have to use one serving dish.

Does that salad get eaten? Be ruthless answering this question. If you have wondered in years past why you (or your host of the year) bother making it, then just don’t make it this year.

Of course if people love to have salad, then by all means go ahead and make it. Just prepare it the day before, so all you have to do at the last minute is add the dressing.

If all this sounds a bit heartless, then close your eyes for a minute and visualize what Christmas Day is really like. Do you have nuts and tangerines and maybe chocolates out in little dishes around your living room? Have people been eating a hearty breakfast at your house or somewhere else? Did it maybe include eggnog, shortbreads, candy canes and other rich treats? Have your guests spoiled their appetite a little even before they arrive?

Have you or your guests already been to a big meal on Christmas Eve? Do they have to go to other relatives tomorrow to have yet another feast?

Then ask yourself – will people suffer if Christmas Dinner is simple? Or will they be grateful that they have the turkey and trimmings, but don’t have to stuff themselves with hearty starter appetizers, turnips, squash, or whatever else you normally put on the table to make it groan?

What would you prefer?

If you would prefer to simplify Christmas dinner, then why not start right now, this Christmas?

Just remember, make everything you possibly can ahead, get those pots washed and put away. Pare down the number of side dishes, and don’t serve a rich appetizer.

Then enjoy your own simplified Christmas dinner!

About The Author
Joanie Williams has been giving small dinner parties for years. She would love to hear your burning questions about planning a dinner party. Submit your burning question now.

Feijoada – English style

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This weekend I finally made my wife a proper feijoada, after promising to do so for several years. I had previously made pork and bean stew, which although very nice, my wife informed me was not feijoada. For those that do not know, feijoada is a dish from Bahia, Brazil, made from black beans and pork. The dish was invented by slaves who were given the left over pork by their master to cook with. Really the meal is simply beans, onion, garlic, bay leaves and any bits of a pig you can get – ears, feet, lips, and no doubt less savoury parts than that.

Today in Bahia people also use salted beef and Brazilian smoked sausage. My wife managed to order these on the internet, so I cooked with these. But in future I will use steak and salami instead.

Anyway, on with the ingredients:

Pork – I used a mixture of chops, ribs and thick smoked bacon
Spicy smoked sausage
Beef (use good quality – the imported salt beef cost us more than a piece of fillet from the supermarket, so we will not be doing this again).
Large onion
Several cloves of garlic
bay leaves
black beans – if you cannot get Brazilian black beans, use nay others that you like – black-eye beans work well, as would a selection of beans, or kidney beans etc.
herbs – oregano, basil, tarragon
salt and pepper
cumin – and anything else you fancy (I usually like to spice it up a bit)
stock

Preparation is easy. Hack up any big bits of meat, chop the onion, slice to sausage.
Get a big pot, add some olive oil, fry the onion gently, chuck in the meat and garlic and all other spices and herbs, continue to fry gently until meat is sealed. Then add the stock (use chicken or beef) and add the beans (either soaked and washed or tinned). Top up with water, stir it a bit, bring to the boil, then reduce and simmer for a couple of hours. Serve with rice.

Easy. One pot wonder. Plus another for the rice….

It really pays to use better quality meats. My wife has agreed to let me make more “pork and bean stews” as I do not really like the Brazilian sausage and salted beef much. But each to their own. Try it, change it, modify it, and enjoy.

Pumpkin soup

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This is an ideal soup for Halloween. If you are planning to carve your pumpkin, this site has some good tips: http://www.pumpkincarving101.com/pumpkin_carving_basic.html

Pumpkin soup ingredients:

2 pounds ( 900g ) of pumpkin flesh, cut into cubes
1 large onion, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 flat teaspoon of curry powder, mild or medium strength
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground pepper
3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon sunflower oil

The procedure:

Boil the pumpkin cubes and the bay leaf in some water until nearly tender
Genly fry chopped onion in the oil until transparent, then add the crushed garlic
Mix in the curry spice and stir, then pour the cooked pumpkin into the mixture and
add potato cubes, stock and salt and pepper, simmer until cooked

Blend to a creamy consistency and serve with crusty rolls.

Chocolate Cake with Buttercream

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Now this is a delicious chocolate cake recipe. What makes this good is the real proper dark chocolate. Use good quality organic chocolate. It does not have to be organic, but for some reason this always seems to be the best to buy.

What you need for the Chocolate cake mixture:
150g/6oz butter
150g/6 oz caster sugar, plus another 50g/2oz for meringue
7 eggs, separated (use free range if possible)
175g/7 oz Fairtrade dark chocolate, melted
125g/5 oz self-raising flour, sifted

What you need for the Buttercream:
100g/4 oz butter, softened
175g/7 oz icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon of Fairtrade ground coffee, or 1.5 teaspoons of Fairtrade instant coffee

The procdeure for the chocolate cake:
Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F/ Gas Mark 5.
Grease and line the base of a deep 23cm/9 inch round cake tin.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in egg yolks one at a time, and then stir in the melted dark chocolate.
Whisk egg whites until stiff, then fold in sugar to make meringue.
Alternately fold in flour and meringue to the chocolate mix.
Transfer mix to tin and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the cake is firm to touch and a skewer can be withdrawn cleanly.
Leave to cool in the tin, then transfer to a cooling rack until cold.
Split cake in half and fill with the coffee buttercream.

The procedure for the buttercream:
Infuse the ground coffee in a tablespoon of boiled water, then strain; or dissolve the instant coffee in half a teaspoon of boiling water.
Beat the butter until light and fluffy.
Add the icing sugar to the mix a little at the time, beating well in between.
Gradually beat in the coffee.