About MyGastroAdventure

The basics about me:- ◾Name: Vanessa ◾Age: 26 ◾Day job: Aspiring Trade Mark Attorney ◾Passion: Anything to do with food! What is MyGastroAdventure.com? Quite simply, it is a site through which I will document my adventures in the kitchen. I will be sharing pictures, recipes, tips and advice for a wide variety of recipes. To start with, I will be embarking on a year long challenge trying out 52 recipes chosen by my wonderful friends and family.

Challenge No. 40 – Tomato Soup

This challenge was suggested by my lovely mum, who as it turns out got to be in Manchester to try this one!  I have made tomato soup before, however, I don’t remember it being particularly nice and I’ve always stuck to my tinned favourite.  Nevertheless, for the purposes of Challenge 52, I went back on the hunt for a lovely cream of tomato soup recipe.

I eventually settled on a recipe posted by Lacey on her blog, A Sweet Pea Chef.   Be sure to go and check out this blog…there are some really yummy looking recipes!

So for this recipe, you will need:-

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • ¾ cup milk 

Ed -ingredients

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while, may remember that I try to stay clear of ‘cups’ recipes!  Well after discussing this with some friends who were visiting from Canada, Linda very kindly bought me a couple of gifts…

Ed - cups

Amazing!  I can now measure in cups ☺

Anyway, on with the recipe.  I started by peeling and then dicing my onions and carrots before adding them to the hot oil in my GIANT saucepan. 

Ed - chopped veg

Whilst the onions and carrots were cooking, I roughly diced up the tomatoes and got my stock ready.  I cheated and used instant stock but I have added this to my post Challenge 52 list of things to try – homemade stock! So watch this space for a post about how I get on.

*It would have been good to have a picture of my chopped up tomatoes here, however, apparently I forgot to take one!  You would have thought that by Challenge No. 40, I would have the hang of this but evidently not.  Whoops! You’ll just have to use your imagination*

Once the vegetables had been cooking for around 10 minutes, I added the crushed garlic.  I let this cook for around a minute and then I added the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and chicken stock.  I seasoned it with salt and pepper, mixing it all up before letting it come up to a boil.  I then reduced the heat and left it to simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

Ed - all in the pan

Time to blend it all together into a nice smooth soup.  I decided to use my handheld electric blender and did it in 2 batches in a jug.  The recipe then says to pour it back into the pan to reheat, however, I added in a little extra step here.  I don’t like soup with too much texture and it wasn’t quite going smooth enough with the blender.  So I decided to strain the blended soup through a sieve before returning it to the pan.  It worked a treat!

Ed - blending Ed - sieve

I added my milk but then portioned the soup up to reheat the next day.  We’d already been naughty and eaten left over Chinese food for dinner 🙂

So the next night, when my mum was visiting, I put two portions of the soup into a pan and heated it up over a medium to low heat.  The other two portions have gone into the freezer for another day. 

Ed - served up1

This soup was delicious!  Mum and I both agreed that the sieve hadn’t got rid of all the ‘grainy’ texture but it was close enough and we thoroughly enjoyed this lovely smooth and rich tomato soup.  Dave (who had KFC whilst we ate this!), tried a spoonful and said it was great…and that is coming from someone who doesn’t really like soup. So Lacey can now a third ‘tomato soup’ convert to her list!

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 41 – Zebra Cake.  Hope to see you then. 

Challenge No. 39 – Apple (not Winberry) Pie

Have you every heard of winberries? Well I hadn’t until about 18 months ago when Dave mentioned to me that he used to love having winberry pie when he would stay with his Grandma and Grandad.  I thought he was going a bit crazy until I mentioned it to someone at work and they knew all about winberry pies! So when I was asking for suggestions for this blog, Dave suggested I make his old favourite.  However, try as I might, I just couldn’t find any winberries in the shops! I even tried the fruit market in town but with no luck 😦 so instead, I decided to make another fruit pie.  Dave loves apple pie so it seemed like a perfect alternative.

I thought making apple pie might be a bit easy so I looked for a recipe to make homemade custard too.  I soon found this recipe by Ed Baines.

For the recipe you will need the following ingredients:-

  • For the pastry
    • 250g/9oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
    • 125g/4½oz unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
    • 1 orange, zest only
    • 75g/2½oz caster sugar
    • pinch salt
    • 2 free-range egg yolks
  • For the filling
    • 1kg/2lb 4oz Cox apples, peeled, cored and cut into large chunks
    • 250g/9oz Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into large chunks
    • 250g/9oz Royal Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into large chunks
    • 200g/7oz caster sugar
    • 1 tbsp cornflour
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • For the custard
    • 250ml/9fl oz whole milk
    • 250ml/9fl oz double cream
    • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out
    • 2 free-range egg yolks
    • 50g/1¾oz caster sugar

Edited - ingredients

I went to the supermarket on Sunday morning to buy my ingredients and it was only once I got home that I realised I’d got my apple quantities wrong.  I accidentally bought too few Cox apples and too many Gala apples.  I didn’t think it would matter too much so ended up making the recipe with a bit more of a random mixture of weights but I made sure the total amount of apple was 1.5kg.

I started by making the pastry.  I put the flour, unsalted butter, orange zest, sugar and salt into my mini food processor and gave it a good blitz until it resembled fine breadcrumbs.   It was a tight squeeze and in hindsight, it may have been better to rub the ingredients by hand.  But I just about managed it in my mini processor.

Edited - breadcrumbs

When I came to add the egg yolks, this didn’t work! I tried to blitz it but the ingredients were too packed in to get an even mix.  So I tipped it out into a bowl and brought it together by hand.  After working it for a while in the bowl, I tipped the pastry onto a lightly floured surface and gently kneaded it until it became smooth.  It was quite a crumbly mixture so took a bit of working but it got there in the end.  I then shaped it into a disk, wrapped it in cling film and popped it into the fridge to rest.

Edited - pastry disk

I put my apples and sugar into a big saucepan over a medium to low heat.  The recipe said to heat the apples gently for 5 minutes or until they start to break down slightly.  The 5 minutes didn’t seem to do very much to the apples so I let them heat for about 10 to 15 minutes.  I then stirred in the cornflour, vanilla extract and cinnamon.  I left it on the heat for a couple of minutes and then set it aside to cool down whilst I made mine and Dave’s dinner.

 Edited - applesEdited - cooked apples

Once I was ready to get back on with the pie, I pulled the pastry out of the fridge and broke off 2 thirds.  The pastry was really stiff and when I tried to roll it out, the edges kept splitting.  So I decided to work the pastry to soften it slightly before rolling it out. 

I then lined my (new!) pie dish with the pastry.  I covered it with baking paper and added my rice to use in place of the baking beans. 

Edited - uncooked base

I popped the dish into the oven on 200 degrees celsius for 15 minutes before removing the rice and baking paper.  I then put the dish back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

Edited - part bakes

Whilst the pastry was finishing up, I rolled out the final third to create my pie lid.  I also used some of the excess to make a little picture topper which you can see in the pictures later on 🙂

I filled the baked pastry with the apple mixture.  This is where I potentially went a little wrong.  The apples had given off a lot of liquid when I cooked them in the pan and I decided to add most of this to the pie.  It seemed like the right thing to do but as you’ll see below, it may not have been!

Edited - filled

I added my top, sealed the edges and added my picture topper to the middle.  Then into the oven it went for around 23 minutes.

Edited - topped

When the pie had about 15 minutes left to go, I got started on my custard.  I put the milk, cream and vanilla pods and seeds into a pan over a low heat. 

Edited - milk cream pan

Once the milk/cream mixture had come up to a simmer, I poured it through a sieve into a pouring jug.  I whisked the egg yolks and sugar together using a fork and then slowly added the sieved milk/cream mixture, being sure to whisk constantly (now with a balloon whisk).

Edited - whisked

I then poured the mixture into a clean pan and returned it to a medium to heat to thicken up.  This took quite a while, and I ended taking the pie out of the oven about 10 minutes before the custard was ready.  It didn’t matter though as the pie retained its heat and the custard was well worth the wait!

So this is my pretty pie in one piece…

Edited - baked

I then tried to serve it up to get a nice looking photo of a slice with custard…

Edited - served up

Evidently that didn’t work!! The pie didn’t have a base any more and there was so much liquid in the middle. 

Edited - juices

So it wasn’t the prettiest served pudding but it sure did taste yummy! There is clearly room to improve my pie making ability.  Dave said it was more like delicious baked apples with a pie crust top 🙂 but I have to say, that custard…it was absolute heaven and so easy to make.

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 40 – tomato soup.    

Challenge No. 38 – Beef Bourguignon

This challenge was suggested by my lovely Dad.  Beef bourguignon is one of the classics from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  With the film Julie and Julia being the inspiration behind my blog, I thought this was a perfect suggestion.  When I searched for a recipe, I did come across Julia Child’s version, however, I ended up using this recipe by James Martin.

Before I get into this challenge, I thought I would explain why I’m a little late with this post.  Sadly Dave’s grandad passed away last Saturday, the 19 September 2015.  At the age of 83, Eric had a long life full of some wonderful adventures.  He was a big part of Dave’s life and Eric, along with Dave’s grandma helped shape him into the wonderful, caring man he is today.  I unfortunately didn’t get to meet Dorothy who passed away 10 years ago, but I have had the pleasure of knowing Eric for the last 7 years.  He was a wonderful artist who was passionate about history and politics.  Eric’s health had deteriorated over the last 12 months and he passed away peacefully in his own home.  He will be sorely missed by those who knew him but I know he will always be a part of my life through Dave.  Rest in peace Eric.   

It has been a tough period since Eric passed away and I’ve struggled to get going with this post.  I actually made the challenge a couple of weeks ago but just couldn’t find the words for my write up.  I’m therefore going to apologise in advance if this post isn’t very good.  Hopefully you will still enjoy reading about this challenge and can maybe take something away to try for yourself.

For this recipe, you will need the following:-

  • For the beef bourguignon
    • 2 tbsp plain flour
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 kg/2lb 4oz blade of beef, cut into large cubes
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 150g/5oz pancetta, cut into small chunks
    • 2 shallots, finely chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, crushed
    • 50ml/2fl oz brandy
    • 500ml/18fl oz Burgundy, or other red wine
    • 250ml/9fl oz beef stock
    • 1 bouquet garni made up of 2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
    • 25g/1oz butter
    • 150g/5oz peeled baby shallots (or frozen button onions)
    • 200g/7oz chestnut mushrooms
  • For the mash
    • 1kg/2lb 4oz floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
    • 110g/4oz butter
    • 110ml/4fl oz full-fat milk

Edited - ingredients

When I went to get my ingredients, I had a little trouble getting ‘blade of beef’.  I ended up just getting some stewing beef and it seemed to work.

With everything ready, I started off by putting the flour in a bowl and seasoning it.  I then tossed the beef chunks in the seasoned flour and put it to one side whilst I fried the pancetta until golden-brown.

Edited - floured beefEdited - panchetta

I added the beef and fried it off until browned on all sides. Whilst the beef was browning, I sliced up the shallots and got the garlic ready to crush.  I then added these to the browned beef.

Edited - beef added Edited - shallotts

The recipe then states to add the brandy and light it.  I chickened out a little bit here.  Being in a flat with a small kitchen, I was terrified I was going to set the cupboards on fire! So I decided not to use the brandy. 

Instead, I went straight ahead and poured in the red wine and beef stock.  Once it came to a boil I added the bouquet garni and let it cook on low for two hours.

Edited - wine added

Practical tip: a bouquet garni is like a floral bouquet but made with the herbs.  Simply take the herbs and tie them together with some cooking string.

Edited - garni

When the two hours was up, I fried off the shallots before adding them to the beef along with the mushrooms. I had chopped up the shallots and chestnut mushrooms just because Dave and I prefer our vegetables a little smaller.

Edited - frying shalotts Edited - cooked

Whilst the bouguignon cooked for the final 20 minutes, I boiled the peeled and chopped potatoes until soft.  I drained them and put them back on the heat for a couple of minutes.  I added the butter and milk and mashed it all together.

And then it was time to serve up…

Edited - served up

Whilst this was really nice, to be honest, it was just a bit of a posh beef stew and I didn’t think it was as nice as the one made for Challenge No. 02, beef stew with dumplings.  Perhaps it is because I missed out the brandy or I didn’t use the right cut of meat.  Don’t get me wrong, I still polished off my plate and enjoyed the leftovers the next day, but to me, it just wasn’t quite as good as the beef stew I made earlier in the year.

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 39 – apple pie (which was meant to be windberry pie!)