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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Our Next Big Thing...


Our next big thing...

Penny Grubb (http://www.pennygrubb.blogspot.co.uk/invited me to take part in the Next Big Thing Blog Tour. My nominees, who are listed at the end with links to their blogs, will go live a week from now.




We are husband and wife team Dan and Gabi and we love to cook. We also love to help aspiring writers, which is why we set up Fantastic Books Publishing.

Our cook books have recently undergone a major transformation with shiny new covers, new recipes, updated weights and measures and even more fantastic tips.

However, our next big thing is a collection of sauce and gravy recipes brought together from our family archives, spanning at least 4 generations!

What is the working title of your book?

Where did the idea come from for the book?
We had all these recipes in scrap books and scribbled on the backs of envelopes and we needed a way to ensure they would endure. This seemed like the best way to immortalise our family recipes once and for all.

What genre does your book fall under?
Cookery, gravies, sauces and hopefully 'Best Sellers'.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
To create from scratch? Around 3 months but if you include the generation of the recipes themselves then probably closer to 150 years!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Well, apart from the obvious pun in the title, we think the recipes in here are truly great and so I would have to use an evocative name like Mrs Isabella Beeton.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I suppose the thing that finally pushed us to write this was a recipe my grandmother used to make for melting moments. I found the scrap of paper it was on and most of the ingredients list had rotted away. I was mortified but then I thought, why didn't you do something about it sooner? And so, the Fantastic Cook Book series was born.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Although the book is for sale for under $2, within it readers will find 50 completely different, stand alone recipes, each with a fantastic tip or two to make their experience even more enjoyable. We're also donating 10% of the sales to charity! Check out my radio interview where I explain it all!
Dan's Radio Debut (jump forward to 1 hour 38 minutes to hear my interview)

Which writers will take over from you next week and tell us about their next big thing:-

Friday, 9 March 2012

FREE Lasagna recipe for all!

Ok, so here's the problem...

There's a million lasagna recipes out there and I'm a little scared to approach the subject of giving away our 'special' one. However, this is the recipe that I have been cooking with for about 10 years.

I'm sure Mamma Italiano would scoff loudly at some of what's below but to me it's a meaty (although veggie), healthy, quick and infallible family lasagna recipe. Oh, and it can be frozen and reheated if you want to make a huge one! (We often freeze into single portions as, after about 3 minutes in a microwave, makes an ideal quick lunch with a green salad.)

Don't forget to 'Like' us on facebook here and check out our e-cook books here

This recipe serves 6 hungry diners. Enjoy!

FANTASTIC LASAGNA

Ingredients

500g Veggie mince (or the real stuff, we like to cater for everyone is all)
1 beef stock cube (or 1 tablespoon of Marmite to keep it vegetarian)
4 large onions
About 20 button mushrooms
8 large tomatoes
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 red peppers (bell peppers, not spicy ones, they come later!)
Tomato puree (we usually use around half of a tube, your choice)
A full bulb of garlic
Course ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tiny, innocent looking chilli (your choice of variety, but be careful!)
2 packs of dry lasagna sheets
250g grated hard mature cheese (we like an Irish cheddar)
250ml of milk (for the cheese sauce)
6 leaves of basil

Method

Pretty simple method this one. First, familiarise yourselves with the basic construction of a lasagna. We like to make a lasagna with at least 9 layers but this can be tricky. 5 or 6 layers is fine.

The different layers will require 2 sauces, a rich tomato and mince sauce and the cheese (or bechemel) sauce.

To make the cheese sauce, heat the milk until it starts to boil, then remove from the heat and begin sprinkling in the cheese while stirring quickly. At first this will seem like a pointless exercise as the sauce takes a while to thicken but stick with it until all the cheese is melted completely and the sauce begins to thicken.
We find 250g of cheese and 250ml of milk makes the perfect consistency for our lasagna but we do like the cheese sauce a little sloppy so if you want to thicken yours up, simply add more cheese or, if you want to stay a little healthier, add a teaspoon of cornflour to the mix (don't worry, the cornflour will cook off in the oven).

To make the tomato and mince sauce, first finely chop and fry the onions and garlic together until the onion starts to soften and go a little transparent. When this is done, take them out of the pan and place in a bowl for later. (REMEMBER: Save a handful of chopped onion UNCOOKED for later.)
Now fry the mince and either your stock cube or Marmite until it starts to brown. A good little tip at this stage is to add a little splash of water to allow the stock to melt and to be evenly distributed around the mince.
Add the fresh, chopped tomatoes, chopped peppers and the finely diced chilli to your sauce. To make it really thick and juicy, now add the half tube of tomato puree and the tin of chopped tomatoes (a bit of a cheat but we find it gives the best results). Now add the cooked onion/garlic mix from earlier and stir in well.
At this stage, to give your tomato sauce a really Italian flavour, add the finely chopped basil leaves and cayenne pepper. (If you like, you can add a few sprigs of coriander at this stage too.)
Now chop the button mushrooms roughly (no finer than quarters) and add them to the mix.
Finish the sauce with a generous amount of black pepper and a decent pinch of salt.

Ok, your two sauces are done. Take an oven proof dish (we usually use a square one as dry lasagna sheets come in rectangles but you can use a round one if you wish) and begin by placing the handful of chopped onion you saved on the bottom. This helps to remove the cooked portions without them sticking to the bottom.
Now place a layer of pasta sheets to completely cover the bottom (don't worry of they overlap a little and remember, these sheets snap easily so don't be tempted to try and do this with full sheets only, you will end up with a very stodgy lasagna!)

Now comes the fun part;

On top of the layer of sheets you just laid, pour 2 or three large spoonfuls of the tomato sauce and spread evenly with the back of a spoon. Now add another layer of pasta sheets. On top of these, pour enough cheese sauce to cover them completely. Now spoon on another 3 or so spoonfuls of your tomato mixture.

Yes, you guessed it, now you continue with pasta... cheese sauce... tomato sauce... pasta... cheese sauce... tomato sauce...

Be sure to finish the lasagna with a top layer of pasta sheets covered in cheese sauce.

On top of this, grind a generous amount of black pepper then top with more grated cheese (if you want to be very Italian at this stage, use a hard Italian cheese like Parmesan).

Heat your oven to 180 degrees C and place the lasagna in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes (35 minutes for fan ovens)

Place a baking tray beneath your lasagna as, when it starts to bubble, a little sauce and melted cheese tends to escape and run down the edges.

After cooking, we like to leave the lasagna for about 10 minutes uncovered. This seems to help it bind together and we have less slipping layer catastrophes as a result. Maybe you'll have steadier hands and can serve it straight from the oven!

Anyway, we hope you enjoy this recipe and look forward to hearing about your cooking exploits.

Please remember; Lasagna is a very evocative dish for many families and all we're doing is sharing our version. I'm sure your version is just as nice if not nicer so hold the hate mail!

Fantastic Tip: Strange one this as it applies to after the lasagna is cooked but a really good tip is to leave it overnight in the fridge. The garlic infuses the layers and gives a much more intense flavour than the fresh-out-of-the-oven lasagna. The strong tomato and pepper flavours also infuse the sheets of pasta themselves.

Until next time, enjoy your kitchens and we wish you all Fantastic Cooking!

The Fantastic Team

Monday, 5 March 2012

FREE RECIPE Fantastic Bolognese... NOT the boring alternative!

Hi guys,

So another week's flown by and we find ourselves stuck for a Monday night treat. Fish and chips? Pizza? Chinese maybe? No.

With the pantry full, nothing hurts more than collapsing under the pressure of hunger and coming home with a variety of un-recyclable boxes of somebody else's food (and usually greasy trousers/shoes from the trip).

So, tonight we decided to use up some of last years frozen tomatoes (cooked down, skins and all, mixed with a few slices of pepper and frozen into 2 person portions for occasion such as this) and create a modern day family staple, Bolognese.

Now we like meat as much as the next carnivore but we have got a problem with minced beef.

Mainly, the problem lies with the possibility of spending a couple of hours tweaking and refining the perfect Bolognese, only to find it spoilt on the first mouthful by a horrible chewy bit.

Sure, you can pay through the nose and buy the leanest, best mince but who can really afford to do that nowadays? Especially as we're talking about a meal that could be served twice a week some months.

So we use Quorn (other vegetarian brands are available) mince as an alternative.

It browns like the real stuff, soaks up flavour better than the real stuff and can be easily 'beefed' up by adding a stock cube at the appropriate time.

TODAYS FREE RECIPE

Fantastic Bolognese

Ingredients

500g Vegetarian Mince
2 large onions
5 cloves of garlic (seems excessive, but the cooking process evens things out)
1 litre of cooked down tomatoes (we use 1Kg tomatoes and 250g sliced pepper)
2 medium carrots
Handful of frozen peas
2 beef stock cubes (or to keep it veggie, 2 teaspoons of Marmite)
1 Kg pasta of your choice (don't just use spaghetti, experiment a little)


Method

Brown the mince in a medium hot pan with a little olive oil.
Dice the onions somewhere between chunky and fine and fry them seperately until they start to go transparent.
Mix the onions into the mince and crumble in the stock cubes.
Finely chop the garlic and throw straight into the mince and onion mix, we find this lessens the impact and keeps the garlic tasting sweet, not bitter.
Add the tomato and pepper mix to the mince and stir thoroughly.
Finely dice the carrots and add to the mix.
Add the peas to the mix also.
If you like a little heat, why not add a couple of teaspoons of cayenne pepper here? If you don't like spice, leave it out.
Turn down the heat, put a lid on the bolognese and leave to gently bubble and blip in the pan for a good hour.

Many Bolognese recipes are quicker than this and as an easy fix meal we cannot fault these methods. However, by using this method, there is plenty of scope for you to taste and change the recipe as you see fit throughout the cooking process.

Why not try adding some fresh herbs like basil or coriander?

Oh, and our best method for pasta?

Place a small amount of water in an empty pan and put on the cooker.
Boil a full kettle.
Pile the pasta into the pan when the small amount of water begins to boil.
Pour the full kettle over the pasta in the pan.
Stir once.
Leave to boil for 12 minutes (pastas vary, 12-14 minutes is usual).
Test (most important part, if it doesn't feel ready in your mouth, it's not!).
Drain through a colander, then pour cold water over it to stop it cooking further.
Drain again and serve.


This recipe serves 8 hungry diners.

This recipe is really quite healthy, that's why we left out the salt. If you prefer it with salt, put it in yourself.

Also, many people drown their Bolognese with grated cheese, usually a hard, cholesterol filled variety like Cheddar.

We don't. We add a large dollop of creme fraiche to the bolognese sauce on the plate, then hide it with more sauce.

The coldness of the creme fraiche against the warmth of the sauce? Mama Mia!

Don't forget to have a look at our Fantastic Cook Books and join our Fantastic Cooking Fan Page on Facebook.

Happy cooking adventures everybody.

The Fantastic Team

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

This weeks free recipe HOME MADE PARTY CHOCOLATES and a tale of two cheeses

Hello again everyone!

Today's nattering starts with cheese. Not just any cheese mind you, a lovely selection of Swiss cheese.

On returning from a stock buying mission today, wifey and I decided to create some cheesy breads.

My favourite method is to incorporate some hard cheese into the dough, then top it off with some good quality mature cheddar 15 minutes before the cooking's up.

Wife's strategy is to use a much smoother, creamier cheese, such as a Swiss Appenzeller both in the dough and to top off the finished loaf.

So we both set to work.

It became apparent from the smells drifting out of the oven that I had made a mistake.

Although the hard cheese was making a lovely cheesy steam, the Swiss Appenzeller shone through to our hungry nostrils.

Please don't get me wrong, a good hard Cheddar is as good an accompaniment to lots of dishes as anything, but the subtle creaminess of a good quality Swiss cheese certainly takes some beating.

So, my advice to all you cheesy bakers out there, try letting a little Swiss into your life! (And the super soft cheeses of Switzerland are incredible. Try Vacherin Mont D'or).

And so to today's free recipe which this week is.... drum roll please......

FANTASTIC SIMPLE PARTY CHOCOLATES RECIPE

Be warned, at some point during this recipe I will use the phrase 'Bain Marie'. Please don't hurl your computer into the dustbin in disgust, it just means to place a glass bowl over a gently simmering pan of water so you can use the heat of the steam but not the moisture to melt your chocolate.

Just like all of the Fantastic recipes, the ingredients list can easily be tweaked and changed to suit individual tastes and dietary requirements.

Ingredients

Chocolate (For this selection, use white, dark and milk. One large bar of each.)
Almonds
Dessicated Coconut
Jelly (choose your flavour, you won't need the whole pack)
Icing sugar (to dust the tops)

Equipment

Bain Marie - Glass bowl, pan smaller than glass bowl, a little water

Ice cube tray(s) - These will be the moulds for your chocolates so choose wisely. The silicone variety is best as your chocolates will peel out of them much easier than a rigid tray

Method

Visualise your finished chocolate. Yes, that's right, visualise it. Is is made of three layers of white, milk and dark chocolate? Perhaps it has a jelly centre? Maybe a pinch of coconut between each layer? Why not dust the top with icing sugar or hide an almond inside?

Ok, that's the zen bit over. Now for the method.

It's pretty obvious you're going to have to melt the chocolate so begin by setting up the Bain Marie (sorry). Put about an inch of water in the pan and, when it is close to simmering, turn down the heat a little and place the glass bowl on top as shown below;



Break up the chocolate bar of your choice into the bowl.


Move the chunks around until they melt together to form lovely silky melted chocolate.

Now, decide which of your party chocolates require this type of chocolate and begin filling the appropriate ice cube pots.



If you would like to create a simple solid chocolate, just fill a pot all the way to the top, easy!


If you want to hide a nut inside, fill about a third of the pot and allow to cool a little. When the chocolate is beginning to go tacky and thicken, press the nut into the third-full pot and leave to set completely (we find almonds work a treat, hazelnuts too).


Now, to finish the nut chocolate outlined above, when the base with a nut in it has set completely, continue filling the pot. If you are making a triple layer chocolate with a nut inside, don't make the middle layer too thick, allow plenty of room to finish the chocolate off with the third layer.



The jelly containing version above works in just the same way. The only difference is that a well cut piece of jelly (straight from the packet, don't bother making it into jelly proper) will stand on the first layer of chocolate when it has set completely.

I hope the illustrations help a little. Trying to photograph the process whilst racing setting chocolate is no fun at all! However, I do apologise for the quality. I am a cook, not an artist!

There are many different ways you can personalise these party chocolates.


If you are brave try hiding a chunk of hot chilli inside. If you are feeling fruity, why not try hiding some crystallised ginger or orange inside?

Now to finish your party chocolates;

When they have set completely, turn them onto a piece of baking parchment and use one, all or none of the methods below to add the final pizazz to your Fantastic Party Chocolates;

  • Dust with icing sugar
  • Dust with dessicated coconut
  • Decorate with edible gold leaf
  • Make child friendly with 100s and 1000s
  • Carefully cut patterns into the tops with a sharp knife
  • Gently push a favourite sweet into the top
Ok guys, hope you enjoyed the blog.

Do check out our latest offerings on the kindle.

And please feel free to contact us via the Fantastic Cook Books Fan Page.

Until next time, enjoy your chocolates!

The Fantastic Team




Friday, 24 February 2012

A free favourite family sandwich recipe and battling with boiled eggs

Hello cooking fans,

This is the first post since the fan page went live and the response has been wonderful so thank you all very much for liking and following us. We even had a member join from Oz so please continue to spread the word!

Today has been all about eggs. Boiled eggs mostly as our chickens have decided to break all records and are currently producing around a dozen eggs a day! Even allowing for eggs every breakfast, we simply can't keep up and we don't want to even toy with the idea of cracking an egg and finding it has gone off. NOTHING in this world smells as bad as a rotten eggs gently frying away (usually beside five perfectly serviceable eggs that you then have to throw away).

The reason for all this egg related sweating is twofold.

In the first instance, we want to make pickled eggs. Pickled eggs are easy. Look out for the recipe in 'Fantastic Pickles', coming soon.

The one thing that makes a pickled egg look terrible is if it's skin isn't perfectly smooth. Now, we have a problem. The fresher the eggs, the less likely you are to be able to peel them without breaking the skin. And some of these eggs are still warm from being laid!

So, what to do with all those torn skinned eggs?

Well that's easy. Simply grate them into a bowl and mix them into some mayonnaise for a delicious egg salad. This will keep, covered in the fridge, for 3 or 4 days and is the perfect accompaniment to baked potatoes, as a BBQ side or simply spread on sandwiches.

Ah, speaking of sandwiches, here's today's free recipe;

Dan's Fantastic Triple Decker Salad Surprise

Ingredients;

3 slices of bread
Half a tin of tuna
2 large spoonfuls of mayonnaise
3 or 4 leaves of lettuce
1/8 of a cucumber (about 7 or 8 slices)
1/8 of an onion
Butter (salted) for spreading
Tomato puree
Fresh parsley or coriander leaves (small handful)
Half a lemon

Method;

Mix the tuna, mayonnaise and finely chopped onion together. Squeeze in some lemon juice and mix well. This will form the main body of the sandwich filling.
Roughly chop together the cucumber, lettuce and either parsley or coriander.
Add a small squeeze of lemon juice to this salad to stop it browning.
Toast one piece of bread on both sides.
Toast the remaining 2 slices on one side only (We tend to put them together like an extra thick slice and use the toaster for this).
Now, butter the un-toasted sides of the 2 slices and, without getting too messy (good luck!), butter both sides of the remaining slice.

Construction;

Place a one-side-toasted slice, un-toasted side up, on a plate.
Fill base layer with salad, remembering to add the occasional 'mine' of tomato puree as a surprise later.
Place a small amount of the tuna mix on top of the salad and place the fully toasted slice on top.
Now, add a couple more 'mines' of tomato puree then pile on the rest of the tuna mix.
Top off with the remaining half-toasted slice, un-toasted side down.

Turn the whole thing over to stop the salad making the base layer soggy.
Chop it in half if you dare and get stuck in.


The tuna/mayo mix can easily be substituted for your favourite sandwich filling, just make sure it's moist enough to counter all that bread.

The 'mines' mentioned above make sandwiches interesting for us. Garlic puree, tomato puree,  a well hidden chilli, a cheeky gherkin. Anything will do for a 'mine' as long as you're not expecting it!

Hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to contact us about your cooking conundrums.

Until next time.

The Fantastic Team


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Free gravy recipe and a chance to check out our brand new facebook fan page!

Hello everybody!

We do hope you didn't miss us too much. We've been very busy you see.

We now have 3 e-books published on the Kindle;

Cookies
Bread
Bread 2

So get out there and buy our books!

Also, we now have a Facebook fan page so please go and check it out!

Today we have decided to give you all a lovely, easy recipe for a beautiful beef/veggie gravy.

This is a very simple but delightfully flavoursome sauce that compliments beef and chicken beautifully (apologies to any vegetarians reading, it compliments soya based stuff beautifully too as the flavour penetrates things like Quorn mince and rissole fantastically).

Fantastic Beef/Veggie Gravy

Ingredients;
2 tablespoons of flour (we find strong white bread flour best)
3 tablespoons of either beef fat or good quality rapeseed oil (the veggie option)
Boiled water from the kettle
1 tablespoon of Marmite (No, it's not cheating, and it doesn't matter if you don't like it in sandwiches, you will love it in this, guaranteed!)

Ok. Get a frying pan painfully hot and heat either your oil or fat until it is almost starting to smoke.
Take the pan off the heat and vigorously mix in the flour, stirring it up into a creamy sludge.
Take a small amount of the kettle water and drip mix it into the sludge until it begins to smooth out (it will, it just appears like it won't for a while, be patient).
Now add the Marmite and continue to stir.
When the mixture looks far too thick and gloopy to ever become a beautiful gravy, add a little more water from the kettle and keep stirring.
When you have a very thick, smooth gravy, place back onto a LOW heat and stir in more water.
When you have the consistency you require, simmer whilst stirring for at least 12 minutes (to cook the flour), adding a little water where necessary to maintain the chosen consistency.
And you're done!


The choice of when to stop adding the water is, like so many things in home cooking, yours to make.
We prefer our gravy to be thick enough to cut slices off, others like theirs thin enough to drink as a winter warmer. The choice is yours.

At our thickness, this recipe makes about half a pint but of course, if you like it thinner, it could make a pint. Experiment. That's what cooking is all about.

This is the basic recipe. The flavour can always be enhanced by adding a little salt, pepper and even mustard.

We love the fact that with most of our recipes, we leave a little room for maneuver as far as final flavourings and personal twists are concerned.

We feel you should be able to make any dish we give you your own so enjoy and happy cooking everybody!

The Fantastic Team

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Fantastic Bread on Smashwords and free sauce recipe

So baking away for days now and, through the fog of flour dust, we have a wonderful variety of loaves for Fantastic Bread.

However, we have already decided that the cooking books (all of them) will be available for 0.99c and as such, we should limit the number of recipes in them. The number we decided on is 8.

Here comes our problem. We currently have 16 bread recipes (and that's a hard fought for short list, believe us) so there seems to be only one option.

Fantastic Bread will be released as two books. Fantastic Bread and Fantastic Bread II.

The first is now available and we'd love any feedback you might have about them.

Fantastic Bread

We decided not to include pictures as this can limit the number of e-readers the books are available to.

Still waiting for Smashwords to release Fantastic Cookies for Amazon but we've heard it can take a while (couple of weeks we gather).

FREE DIPPING SAUCE RECIPE

Saffron Infused Dip

Here's a little dipping sauce that we hope you'll all love;

Ingredients
200ml Creme Fraiche (double cream works, but we find it too rich)
2 tablespoons of wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon of English mustard
Generous squeeze of lemon juice (fresh only please!)
Small sprinkle of saffron
Salt
Pepper

Method
Cream the mustard and creme fraiche together and add a little salt and pepper.
Mix in the lemon juice (don't worry, creme fraiche doesn't split).
Turn in the saffron so that flecks of red appear throughout the dip (save a few bits for garnish).
Place in serving dish, finish with remaining saffron and cover with clingfilm.
Put in the fridge for at least an hour (overnight is best).
Remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving.

We love this dip with sticks of raw carrot, raw cauliflower (yes people, we said raw, try it), toasted triangles of pitta bread or bread sticks.

The most effective thing about this seemingly simple dip is that, after leaving it in the fridge, it becomes marbled with a yellow stain from the saffron.

Hope you like it.

Please spread the word about our newest book, Fantastic Bread. Thanks.