No. 90 - July 2010


Welcome to the July 2010 Recipes4us Newsletter. If you have any suggestions, additions or interesting questions for the newsletter, please write to me at .


Happy Cooking!





Florence Sandeman,




Cooking Skills . . .

                           American Muffins

The first time I ever saw an American muffin was probably around 25 years ago when I was working in London. I clearly remember thinking "That's one big fairy cake!". I also probably thought why on earth are they being sold for breakfast.


Traditionally in the US, muffins were served at breakfast, often warm. They lend themselves very well to being eaten in the mornings as they tend not to be as sweet as fairy cakes (cupcakes) and generally they weren't decorated with sweet icings.

Today, certainly in the UK, they are eaten at any time of day and are rivalling our traditional cupcakes which isn't entirely surprising especially in these days of a calorie conscious populace,  as the sugar and fat content are much lower than many other types of cakes.

They also have the added advantage that they are a lot more simple to make if made with liquid fat such as corn oil, rather than  solid butter or margarine, making them a good dairy free option.

In these types of muffin recipes, there's no 'creaming' involved and the mixing of the batter takes a matter of seconds. The preferred method is to mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and the wet ingredients in another bowl or jug then simply pour the wet ingredients onto the dry ingredients and fold the mixture together very briefly, with as few strokes as possible so the gluten isn't over-worked.

Click here for the full sized video plus written recipe

As it's National Blueberry Muffin day on 11th July, here's a video in which you can watch me make traditional blueberry muffins and see just how simple and quick it is to make fresh American muffins at home. I've also set up a whole new page which has lots of hints and tips on how to make perfect American Muffins plus lots of muffin recipes.

Nutritional value of Blueberries

Blueberries are rich in Vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene, contain potassium, manganese and magnesium, are very high in fibre and low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Recent studies suggest that of all fresh fruits and vegetables, blueberries provide the most health-protecting antioxidants which help to stop the production of free radicals- groups of atoms that impair the cells and the immune system which leads to disease.


* * * Special Feature * * *


How to plan a kitchen - New!

Although this article isn't about food directly, having a well planned kitchen makes storing, preparing and cooking food a lot more simple... and I speak from recent experience.

As you may remember, I moved house in April. I was so looking forward to my "brand new" kitchen, that I didn't really stop to think about exactly how the kitchen was laid out. One thing is for kitchen was not designed by someone who cooks!  The first time I did a full Sunday roast fully tested my patience and balancing skills. ....and it was only for two of us. Had I been cooking a four course meal for 6, I think the air may have turned very blue very quickly.


Of course, I realise very few kitchens are perfect: not quite large enough, oddly shaped or the basics such as windows, doors or plumbing are in awkward places. BUT there are certain things which should ALWAYS  be considered  when planning a working kitchen (as opposed to something out of a glossy magazine).

So what's wrong with my kitchen? Here's a picture of the main offenders. The oven , hob and sink unit. If you click on the picture you'll be able to see it more clearly (inset).

1. There's not enough workspace on the left hand side of the hob to prepare or even place food ready to be cooked. Barely 30cm/12".

2. The sink bowl is too close to the hob which means if I have more than 2 saucepans on the go, there's nowhere near for me to easily place larger items (such as a joint) coming out of the oven.


What makes it worse is that, as you can see, there's quite a lot of work surface space on the other side of the sink unit.  So why didn't they fit a left hand sink drainer unit instead of a right hand one?


As for the oven. Sure it's a supa-doopa fan assisted electric oven - just what I'm used to - but it also incorporates the grill. I realise with properties being built smaller and smaller, the need for space saving appliances is needed, however, this type of oven/grill is SO inconvenient on sooooo many levels.


I could go on with what's wrong with my kitchen, but rather than bore you, I'll move on to the purpose of this editorial i.e. how to plan a kitchen.


No matter how large or small your kitchen is, the main working area should ideally be planned on a "triangle" basis,  with the cooker/hob, fridge and sink at the heart. The aim of this theory is to prevent unnecessarily long or potentially dangerous movement between the cooking and prep areas. Below are just two examples of well planned kitchens based on the triangle theory.


U-shape Type Kitchen

Island Type Kitchen

Of course there are lots of other factors to take into consideration when planning a brand new kitchen or even re-vamping an existing one - too many to list here. So I've set up a new page on the main website which covers many aspects of kitchen design and planning including appliance placement, lighting, safety and lots more.

> > > >  Click here to go to the full article



2 in 1 . . .

    Caesar Salad Day & Salad Week


To celebrate both Caesar Salad Day on the 4th and National Salad Week 7th-13th (UK) and 25th-31st (USA) here's an easy recipe courtesy of which is perfect for picnics and lunch boxes.



Prep and cooking time: 5 minutes
Serves 4



4 large
Tortilla Wraps
120ml/8 tbsp
Caesar dressing
100g/4oz Sweet Romaine lettuce, trimmed
350g/12oz cooked Chicken, sliced
30g/1oz Parmesan Cheese, shredded
60ml/4 tbsp toasted Pine Nuts


1. Place the tortillas on a board, divide the dressing between the two, then spread all over. Top with half the lettuce, tearing it into bite sized pieces.

2. Top with the chicken, remaining lettuce, parmesan and pine nuts. Fold the two side edges in, then starting at the side nearest to you; start rolling up the tortilla to make a neat wrap.

Cut in half diagonally, then wrap in clear film and chill until ready to eat.

You can find lots more salad recipes at  Main Course Salads  or  Side Salads


> > > > More about National Salad Week

> > > >  More about traditional Caesar Salad



July Site Updates


Food in Film

I haven't done one of these for a long time but it's back with a vengeance. During the film, the following are not only mentioned but shown - some even being prepared

Chocolate cream pie
Artichokes with hollandaise sauce
Chicken with cream mushrooms and port
Poached egg
Sweet soufflés
Lobster Thermidor
Braised cucumbers
Chicken stuffed with chicken livers and cream cheese
Beurre blanc its butter with vinegar
Boeuf bourguignon
Raspberry Bavarian cream

Sole Meunière
Floating islands
Pear tart
Pate de canard

If this film doesn't merit being included in this section, I can't think what should be. A true foodie film.  Click the Food in Film banner to find out what the film is and which of the above dishes is the featured recipe.




This film has also given rise to a new entry in our History section.


Click the picture to find out what it's about



What's in Season in July


Click here to see what's in season this month and to find a UK Farmers' Market near you. There are Lots of seasonal recipes too



Culinary Videos


Click the picture to find the latest Recipes4us additions plus the next in the Phil Vickery pudcast series



Weekday Menus


Click the picture to find July's weekday menus to help you plan your meals and shopping weeks ahead.  Each weekday has a main course, suggested vegetable side dishes and accompaniments plus a dessert, which have been planned to supply you with a balanced diet.  It's also been designed so that you can interchange one day's menu with another in the same grouping.



  Experimenting with . . .


Quite often, the amount of time it takes to bake meringues puts me off making them, so I wondered if there was a quicker method. I am pleased to report there is.


Would you be surprised if I told you the meringues in this picture only took 10 minutes to make....from start to finish?


When I first read how to use this method I was really sceptical but it worked a treat and produced light, crumbly snow white 1 minute 20 the microwave.

I used 1 egg white and 225g/8oz of icing sugar which I mixed together in a bowl with a knife. The aim is to produce a very thick, pliable mixture which you can roll into a ball. No need to whisk the egg  - just gradually sift the icing sugar onto the egg white. Depending on the size of your egg, you may need a little more or less icing sugar.

Here comes the best bit. Dust your hands well with icing sugar, take a very small amount of the mixture and roll into a ball the size of a large marble...that's more than 18mm/¾-inch diameter. Do 3 or 4 at a time, place well apart on a large plate lined with greaseproof or parchment paper, then microwave for about 1 minute 20 seconds (800w). The first time you do it, just watch them cooking. They seem to rise at one side, then the other - spreading out as they rise up.  The eventual size is around 7.5cm/3 inches in diameter and 2.5cm/1-inch high. Once done they are immediately crisp. If they aren't, just return to the microwave for 5-10 seconds at a time.

Transfer to a wire rack and repeat with the remaining mixture. I managed to make 14 from 1 egg white.

They don't have a chewy centre which many people like, and they are a little fragile, but if you want light as air crisp meringues then you must try these. At the time of writing this article, I have kept mine for 7 days in an air tight plastic box and they are still as crisp and light as when they were first made.

3 ways with . . .

                                   Fresh Cherries

Did you know.....

The pigment in cherries work with vitamin C to strengthen collagen which is why they are believed to be  good for athletes who put a lot of stress and strain on their joints.


For those of us who are less active, cherries are a great source of potassium and flavonoids.

17th July is National Cherry Day in the UK and whilst there's nothing better than eating fresh, fully ripened sweet cherries just as they come, they also make excellent additions in all types of recipes - both sweet and savoury. Here are three examples to give you some ideas

July is National Ice Cream Month (USA)



Check out these pages dedicated to this favourite dessert:-

National Ice Cream Month

History of Ice Cream

Guide to choosing Ice Cream Makers

Just  Ice Cream Recipes




Other special food celebrations which fall in July include:-


4th  - Caesar Salad Day

4th - Independence Day (US)

14th Macaroni Day
17th - National Ice Cream Day

National Pickle Month
National Hotdog Month

National Ice Cream Month (US)


Are you Britain’s best cooking family?  

If so, the Hairy Bikers want YOU to take part in a new BBC TV contest.

Click the Hairy Bikers for more details

*Closing date 12th July 2010*




 Food in the News . . .


Vitamin K may reduce risk of type-2 diabetes

Increased intakes of vitamin K may reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes, says a new study with almost 40,000 Dutch men and women.

> > > > More  External Link

The Cookery Murders Masterchef meets CSI


* * * New Series * * *


The Underground Cookery School in London has launched a new web cooking show called The Underground Cookery Murders where food is "murdered."  


This is the Third video of the series, in which Detective Chef Matt Kemp finds a murdered chocolate fondant pudding on the backstreets of Shoreditch, London. Together with his assistant he will not only bring it back to life with a delicious chocolate fondant vanilla ice cream but he will also demonstrate how to correctly prepare a mouth-watering chocolate fondant pudding for perfect results every time.


Click here for full sized video.


Coming Next Month  .....

The team investigates the murder of a pear souffle


Recipe of the Month


Salsa Jambalaya Rice

Love Dips have teamed up with ex-Atomic Kitten and Celebrity Masterchef winner Liz McClarnon to give you some summer entertaining tips and tricks to help you out whether you’re firing up the barbecue or making some quick and easy dishes while the World Cup’s on. For more of Liz's recipes and ideas visit


Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Serves 4



1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
10ml/2tsp ground paprika
175g/6oz long grain rice
400ml/14floz vegetable stock
1 (200g) pack salsa dip
Freshly ground black pepper



1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add the onion and pepper and sauté over a medium heat for 3-4 mins or until soft. Add the crushed garlic, paprika and rice and cook, stirring for 30 seconds until the grains are coated with spice.

2. Add the stock and half the salsa sauce, stir well. Cover and simmer for 15 mins or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.

Cook's Tip....


For easy barbecued chicken, place 4 chicken drumsticks and thighs in a non-stick roasting tin. Make a few slashes in the skin with a sharp knife. Pour over 90ml/6tbsp ready made barbecue sauce and toss to coat. Roast at 200C/Fan 180C/Gas Mark 6 for 25-30mins, turning occasionally until browned and tender.


      Serve hot or cold with extra salsa on the side. Tastes great with barbecued chicken.



The Kitchen Garden

      * * * 2010 Garden Experiment * * *

 RECAP - This year I decided to try growing summer pumpkins. I've chosen the variety "Summer Ball (Sahara)" because not only will the plants produce 1kg/2lb pumpkins, but the fruit can also be cut when they are small and used like courgettes (Zucchini). Suitable for containers or open ground, I will be trying both methods.


I have had a bit of a disaster. The one I transplanted to open ground is dead. Not sure what happened to it, perhaps a gust of wind or some critter,  but the stem was completely severed.   Not quite as bad but still annoying, the one in the pot has been attacked by something - probably a snail - with one leaf completely gone. 

Click on the picture for a close up. Very disappointing.

Not to be defeated, I re-sowed 3 seeds directly in the ground in the hope they would germinate relatively quickly and catch up with the pot grown specimen. All three germinated well and I've left one in the ground and potted up the other two. I also potted up the original pot grown one into its final sized pot - just over 30cm/12" wide. Here are the results as at today (30th June).


Original pot grown New

As you can see from the close up below, not only has the original one now got flowers but there are several little pumpkins on it too.

July in the

Kitchen Garden



Plants such as courgettes, marrows, runner, dwarf and green beans and outdoor cucumbers should be romping away by now. Make sure you keep them well watered and weed free.

Continue to make small sowings of carrots, lettuce, radish, spinach and spring onions to ensure a continuous harvest.  Alternatively just harvest every other plant. that way, you can have young small tender veggies now whilst leaving some to grow on. This method works especially well with Carrots, spring onions, turnips and beetroot.

When harvesting spinach, leaf beet and loose leaved lettuce, only harvest a few outside leaves from each plant, allowing the plants to keep throwing up new leaves.

Check the ties and staking of taller plants such as beans and tomatoes , loosening or tightening as necessary.

Cordon tomatoes
Pinch out side shoots which will appear where the leaves join the stems, when they are about 2.5cm/1" long. Once tomatoes have developed on 4 or 5 trusse
s, pinch out the growing tip.

Aubergines & Capsicums
Fine spraying of plants with water helps encourage fruit to set. Limit to 5 or 6 fruits per plant. Once the fruit start to swell, feed with tomato food each time you water.

Butternut Squash, Courgettes &  Marrows
Pinch out growing tips of trailing varieties when they reach 60cm/2ft long or have 6-8 leaves. Keep very well watered but only water around the plants and feed with liquid fertiliser once the fruits begin to form. Continual cropping is necessary to prolong the harvesting period. Start cutting courgettes at about 10cm/4" and Marrows and butternut at about 20cm/8".



For detailed growing instructions visit growing herbs and vegetables section

If you're interested in how the rest of my new garden is doing, visit my blog at

 Take some . . .


This is the moody teenager of store cupboard ingredients as it often stays shut away because nobody understands it. But it’s simple really. Polenta is corn meal, that’s to say it is ground up sweetcorn (or “maize”). There are three sorts of ways you can use it:

  • Cook it and let it set into a sort of loaf, then use it as the base for bruschetta or canapés. (You can add herbs or stock before cooking if you like.)

  • Grilling it with some bacon and Dolcelatte on top makes a brilliant lunch

  • Use it to make your cornmeal porridge, popular in Caribbean cooking. Ours will cook in 1 minute

  • Use it like breadcrumbs to coat chicken or skinned sausages before cooking. You get a nice crispy coating, and kids love it

Polenta is a really easy-to-use, versatile ingredient.

In this video chef Alex Mackay shows how to make different types of Polenta, and he uses them to cook up 3 yummy meals -

1. Fluffy Polenta Mash with Sausages and Onion Gravy

2. Polenta Fritters with Tomato Sauce and Basil

3. Salmon with Polenta Chips and Mushy Peas


More ideas for using Polenta from Merchant Gourmet:

.... Chop set Polenta into small cubes and deep fry. Allow to cool and use as croutons in soups and salads

.... Add some flavour to your Polenta by adding grated Parmesan, fresh herbs, pesto or sun dried tomato sauce during cooking

.... Mix soft polenta with pesto and line a tart tin, leave to set. Once firm, fill with your favourite tart fillings such as cheese, peppers, onion or ham

.... Chop set polenta into cubes and thread onto kebab skewers, alternate the Polenta with SunBlush® Tomatoes and chunks of halloumi cheese, then grill on the barbecue




Whether you're looking for everyday,  exotic or unusual food and drink,  visit  Food shopping has never been easier !

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