Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Product Review - Philadelphia Simply Stir Cooking Sauce

Philadelphia Simply Stir
As many of you will know, I'm always looking for quick solutions to make for dinner. I'm not a fan of microwave ready meals as I'm a firm believer that you can put a taste meal on the table in less than half an hour using fresh ingredients and a little skill and imagination. That's not to say that I'm not on the lookout for things that might save me a little time in the kitchen so when I spotted that Philadelphia had launched some new Simply Stir sauce pouches, I had to pick one up to try. There are two flavours to choose from just now, Garlic & Herb, and the Mushroom sauce that I tried tonight.

Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 1 pouch Philadelphia Simply Stir mushroom sauce
  • 200g chicken breast
  • 6 chestnut mushrooms, diced
  • 50g broccoli florets
  • 6 stalks asparagus, cut into 1" pieces
  • 150g fusilli, I always use De Cecco pasta
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  1. Season the chicken then add to a heated pan and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from the pan, leaving to rest for a minute before chopping into bite size chunks then set aside until needed.
  2. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the fusilli using the packet instructions. When the pasta has just a few minutes of cooking time left, add the asparagus and broccoli to the same pot. The vegetables will cook enough in the pasta liquor in the final few minutes. Drain the pasta and veg and set aside.
  3. Heat a little olive oil in a pan then add the chopped mushrooms. Flash fry the mushrooms for a few minutes before adding the Philadelphia Simply stir sauce to the pan. Cook the sauce for a couple of minutes until heated through before squeezing some lemon juice into the sauce then adding the pasta, broccoli, asparagus and chicken to the sauce.
  4. Stir everything together, making sure that everything is heated through and that all of the pasta is coated with the mushroomy sauce.
To serve, divide the contents of the pan between two bowl, scatter with some finely chopped flat leaf parsley and grate generous amounts of Parmigiano Regianno or Grana Padano over the top.
Fusilli, broccoli, asparagus with mushroom Philadelphia Simply Stir sauce
As you would expect from the Philadelphia brand, the sauce was glossy, creamy, well seasoned and packed a rich mushroom flavour, this is no doubt down to the combination of Champignon and Slippery Jack mushroom varieties used.
I always have tubs of Philadelphia in the fridge and have used it as an ingredient in pasta dishes before the launch of the new Simply Stir sauce range, and whilst we both enjoyed the flavours in the Simply Stir sauce, there are a couple of reason why I am unlikely to buy the pouches in the future. Firstly, the RRP is likely to be £1.99 per pouch which I think is expensive, I bought the sauce from Morrisons (on offer) for £1 which I think is a more realistic price. Secondly, the pouch claims to serve 3-4 people - this is very optimistic as our own pasta dinner was hardly swimming in sauce.
If I were expecting to serve four hungry adults then I would definitely need two pouches, meaning that regardless of what I'm preparing, the cost for sauce alone would be almost £4. With a little imagination and a 150g tub of Philadelphia, I could easily prepare something just as tasty at a fraction of the cost.
To sum up, I actually enjoyed the sauce both for the taste and the convenience factor - we had dinner served up in less than twenty minutes. However I feel that the price point is too high for the size of the serving in the pouch so I'll be sticking to my regular Philadelphia tubs as the basis of any of my future pasta sauces.
Keep up to date with what's going on at Philadelphia on Facebook and Twitter.


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Recipe - Pork Schnitzel with Basil & Jarlsberg

A week or so ago, I was at a loss about what to cook for dinner after work. I knew that I had pork steaks in the fridge that could be used in a quick stir-fry or in my trademark Stroganoff dish but I fancied something different. As I started thinking though all of the many things that I could do with the pork, I suddenly had a memory of a dish that my late mother-in-law Ruth used to cook as part of one of her many diets. This recipe is a slight adaptation of a Weightwatchers meal that Ruth would cook every now and again.
Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 4 thinly sliced pork steaks (approx 300g total weight)
  • 75g Jarlsberg cheese' thinly sliced (Emmental will work too)
  • 8-10 basil leaves
  • 100g breadcrumbs (I use Panko)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 50g seasoned flour

  1. Using a rolling pin, beat the steaks between some cling film until they are about the depth of a £1 coin.
  2. Layer two of the steaks with slices of Jarlsberg and some basil leaves before laying the other pork steaks on top. Use cocktails sticks to keep the porky parcels together.
  3. Coat each of the parcels with the seasoned flour the dip in the beaten egg before covering with breadcrumbs. This is the most fiddly part of the process so take care that your Jarlsberg and basil doesn't make a bid for freedom. Once coated all over in breadcrumbs, chill the pork in the fridge for at least ten minutes before cooking, this will help the breadcrumbs stay on the schnitzel.
  4. Heat some oil in an ovenproof frying pan or skillet. When the oil begins to smoke, place the pork into the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes. Carefully turn the schnitzel in the pan before placing the pan straight into a preheated oven 180C and cook for another 10-12 minutes. The schnitzel should be golden brown and cooked through by this stage so remove from the oven and carefully remove the cocktails sticks before serving. Always take care to check that the pork is cooked all the way through.
I served the pork schnitzel with new Jersey Royal potatoes and some crisp tenderstem broccoli before drizzling with some parsley butter. The strong flavours of the basil and the nutty Jarlsberg worked incredibly well with the sweet pork and crispy breadcrumb coating.
There might be a little more effort involve in bringing this dish to the table but its definitely worth it. Let me know how you get on and I might post up another of Nicola's Mums recipes, maybe the one using cornflakes and mayonnaise?
Following the success of this blast from the past, I recreated the dish tonight using chicken breast instead of pork and it tasted delicious too! So there you go, a fantastic, tasty and adaptable meal that can be on the table in half an hour.


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Recipe - Stir-Fried Beef with Black Pepper Sauce

When it comes to Chinese food, it has always been difficult to recreate the flavours from your favourite restaurant or takeaway in the comfort of my own kitchen. There are plenty of sauces available on the supermarket shelves but more often than not, they end up tasting more Chinesey than authentically Chinese.
Things might be changing though as I spotted that Blue Dragon have added a few classics sauces to the shelves in their new 'Restaurant Specials' range, including my own favourite Black Pepper Sauce. So with sauce mix in the trolley, one of this weeks meals was taken care of.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
  • 200g beef, thinly sliced - used silverside but I imagine that any cut of beef would work
  • 1 red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 red chilli, sliced finely
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 120g pack Blue Dragon Restaurant Special Black Pepper Sauce

  1. Place the beef in a small bowl with the sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar and set aside. This will help tenderise the beef before you stir fry.
  2. Heat some groundnut oil in a wok until the oil begins to smoke. Add the red pepper, onion and chilli to the wok and cook for 5-6 minutes until the peppers have softened.
  3. Add the beef to the pan and stir fry for 2-3 minutes before pouring the sauce into the wok ensuring that the sauce is heated through before serving with rice or noodles.
Lat night I made a quick and easy egg fried rice to serve with the beef and black pepper sauce. T make the fried rice simply heat some groundnut oil in a non stick frying pan or wok then add cooked boiled rice into the pan. Keep the contents of the pan moving to avoid it catching on the bottom the pan. Create a well in the middle of the pan then pour in one beaten egg, stirring the scrambled egg into the rice as it cooks, stir through a splash of dark soy sauce and a splash of sesame oil.

The end result was stunning! Blue Dragon have certainly created a sauce that is reminiscent of my favourite dish from my local Chinese restaurant. The sweetness of the peppers and onion are countered by a huge punch of cracked black pepper whilst the sauce had a real depth of savoury flavours that left us both wanting more. If it weren't for the fact that Nicola knew that I was cooking, I reckon that I could have easily passed this dinner off as a takeaway, it honestly tasted that good, and can be sure that this is one of those handy sauces that I will make sure to have in the cupboard for another time.
Keep up to date with Blue Dragon on Facebook and Twitter.


Saturday, 15 June 2013

Well Done Waitrose!

One of the reasons that I started writing Gerry's Kitchen was to show people that putting together a tasty meal isn't too difficult. Of course, it helps if people are interested in making sure that they eat healthily with fresh produce.
I ready a story today in the latest issue of Foodies magazine that my local Waitrose store in Newton Mearns will be working with four local schools on an initiative to encourage children to grow their own produce and then sell it to Waitrose customers.
I think this is a fantastic idea! It's well documented that we have some serious issues in the UK in regards to our diet and that child obesity rates are rising, so surely getting kids interested in where their food comes from at an early age can only be a good thing.
There is a more details story on the Scotland Food & Drink website here.
I wonder if any parents of any of the children involved follow Gerry's Kitchen? If so. I would be keen to hear your thoughts and any feedback on what the kids are learning about eating well, as well any entrepreneurial skills that they might be picking up too.


Friday, 14 June 2013

Things To Do Before I'm 40ish?

Last night myself, my gorgeous wife and a few other bloggers were guests of the Glasgow luxury hotel, Hotel du Vin. The night had been organised by Hotel du Vin Glasgow's sales manager, Nan Li, who was keen to meet up with local bloggers with the hope of raising more awareness to the charms of the wonderfully converted nineteenth century terrace of five townhouses on Devonshire Gardens in the West End of Glasgow.
The event was kicked of with wine, canapés and some introductions, Nan Li keen to know more about the people behind the blogs. Fresh oysters were served alongside roast beef & horseradish in miniature Yorkshire puddings, and wonderfully light Mediterranean tartlets. The arrival of the oysters created quite a buzz as some of the bloggers had unfortunately received food poisoning from eating oysters at another event earlier in the year. The cause of the food poisoning is suspected to have come from the highly contagious Norovirus from contaminated oysters that were served on the night. Hotel du Vin use Cornish Assured Oysters which have been put through a rigorous purification process in order to remove the threat of Norovirus food poisoning, and we seen the documentation to back this up. The previous oyster issue was still fresh in people's minds and as a result there weren't many people wanting to revisit oysters so soon, which was good news for me as I slurped my way through the salty mollusc's.
With our introductions over and the canapés finished, Nan Li went to get some room keys and we started our tour.
The tour started in No 5, where the hotel is licensed to hold wedding ceremonies, as well as double up for meetings, conferences and private dining, before we moved on to some see some of the gloriously decorated bedrooms and suites. As we clicked away with our cameras, Nan Li gave us a running commentary as we oohed and aahed as we worked our way through the hotel.
If I wasn't already impressed by the luxurious surroundings, the framed miniature Picasso on the wall of Glengoyne lounge made sure that I sat up and paid a little respect.

All of the 49 bedrooms are named after wine producers, keeping in line with the hotels name, and the first bedroom that we viewed was named after the late American vineyard operator Robert Mondavi. Mondavi was highly regarded for the way that he moved technology and marketing of the Napa Valley wineries, this grand suite that has been named after him is a true reflection of bringing the classic decor into the 21st century with plush sofas, tin bath and chaise longue being paired with an iPhone speaker dock and a Nespresso coffee machine in a way that I'm sure Mondavi would have approved.

The next room that we entered was a wonderful duplex studio with a comfortable living area with its own conservatory that extended into its very own private fenced garden, whilst the modern bathroom was stowed away downstairs.

The next room was my personal favourite. The dark chocolate colours, matched with deep reds and creams in this huge bedroom made the room feel cosy and welcoming. There was also a beautiful roll top bath and ornate fireplace that gave the room a proper homely feel to it. This suit was also a duplex with a stairwell running behind the top of the bed to a huge bathroom with a massive double shower cubicle.
If I was staying in the hotel as a guest, I think I'd feel comfiest in here. In fact as we were moving on, Nicola was almost locked in as she was downstairs taking photographs - although this may have been a ploy to spend the night in luxury.

The last room that we were shown around was in The Mews, a newer part of the building added onto the back of the townhouses. As we made our way there, we passed a huge lounge area that had two fantastic armchairs with an elephant motif that I instructed Nicola to photograph. All other photography in this post was also taken by my gorgeous assistant. (If Hotel du Vin are ever throwing the elephant chairs out, please bear me in mind.)

The last suite that we visited was the most expensive room in the house! This luxury house suite, complete with a king-size four poster bedroom and separate living room with dining area. A large bathroom with marble surround Jacuzzi bath, aqua TV, large walk-in monsoon power shower and sauna. Plus a separate shower-room and private gym area. I'm not kidding when I say that this room was bigger than the swanky one bedroom flats down on the Clydeside. This suite also overlooks the Secret Garden.

The Secret Garden is an overgrown, yet manicured outside seating area where guests can relax with a glass of champagne or enjoy a cigarette or cigar away from the bar and lounge areas. The focal point of the garden is the wooden roofed bothy fitted with a fire and plenty of comfy chairs, allowing guests to sit outside in comfort until the wee small hours, if they wish to do so. The bothy in the secret garden was definitely a place where I could unwind with a glass of bubbly, maybe I could get one built at my new home?

We came back inside from the chilled Glasgow night and Nan Li took us down to the well stocked wine cellar. the cellar was as I imagined it to be, with dusty vintage wine bottles stack from floor to ceiling and wooden champagne crates piled high. As well as the obvious storage of wine, the cellar is also used for as the setting for wine tasting event, when up to 12 people can come downstairs to sample, learn more about and enjoy some of the wines in stock.
As we climbed out of the cool wine cellar, we had reached the end of our tour of this beautiful establishment. The evening was an eye opener for me in the sense that I had assumed that Hotel du Vin would not be the type of place that myself and Nicola could relax. From the moment we walked in the front door, until the time that we left, we both felt comfortable and a little in awe of the charm and beauty inside this boutique hotel.
In addition to the accommodation side of the business, the food at Hotel du Vin is held in high regard. The bistro was recently awarded 3 AA rosettes, and caters for guest and visitors alike. The hotel also run various events including chef demonstrations alongside some of their high end suppliers, and wine matching meal nights. Check out the website for more information on what's happening at Hotel du Vin Glasgow.
On behalf of myself and Nicola, I would like to thank Nan Li and the staff at Hotel Du Vin for giving up their time to show us round the hotel and making us feel so welcome. The night has certainly given me some food for thought and I can't wait to get back to One Devonshire Garden and enjoy the experience as a fully fledged guest, although as my fortieth birthday is only nine weeks away, I better get my finger out!
Keep up to date with Hotel du Vin on Twitter.

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