Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A Birthday Dinner for My Old Man..Saturday Nov 24th 2012

It was a major birthday. Bob's 65th. He was so cheery when he got his bus pass, and now he has his pension to look forward to. Yes, he has a somewhat dry sense of humour. Ahem.

But how to celebrate this milestone?  No party, no packdrill. He doesn't like a fuss.

However, he loves his dinners. So I asked him what he would like to eat. Oh anything, he said. Well, I said. That isn't very helpful is it....

I got him to decide on either lamb or sole for the main course, and dessert was to be "apricotty" . OK.  Starter was my choice.

We don't have any fishmongers round here any more, so I decided against sole. And we are both rather partial to rack of lamb so that was decided.

I love scallops but they are quite expensive so we don't have them very often. But that makes them even more suitable for a celebration.  Waitrose had some rather nice plump looking King Scallops.

Dessert. Apricots bought, and a tart decided on. I wish fresh apricots were easier to buy nicely ripe though. Peeling an unripe apricot is a highly thankless task. I tried blanching and skinning like I would do tomatoes, but the skins were decidedly unyielding. So then I baked them in the oven in a vanilla syrup, and then skinned them but sadly the move from nicely tender to rather soft was wooooosh. Oh well. the top will have to be a puree then.

Here we are :

King Scallops with caramelised beurre blanc - caramelised because I kept doing something else, and finding the wine had all evaporated. So a bit more wine and off we go again... three times before the butter was added. I tell you this is the way to make beurre blanc! Really good depth of flavour.

Rack of Lamb with celeriac and potato mash, red wine sauce, and a little piss take on Masterchef which is on at the moment, in the form of 3 teeny little roast potatoes. There would have been more but I got the timing wrong, and the rest were rather nearer to incinerated than golden brown.

Apricot tart - crisp pastry, creamy crème patissiere , topped with the apricots I salvaged almost whole and a lot of puree. Very delicious if not as pretty as I would have liked.  I only have 4 inch  individual tartlet cases, and expected to want to leave half as it was definitely on the large size. Don't be silly. Scarfed the lot we did...

And to drink with this (hurray for eating at home, since I wasn't driving I got to drink too...)

A rather tasty Rioja (on very special half price at Sainsbury's) and our very very favourite dessert wine Maculan Dindarello which we buy by the half case because if we bought a whole case we would just drink more of it. It is luscious stuff, apricotty and sweet but with a little acidity.. gorgeous.

So that was his dinner. He ate every shred of it. And so did I.

Cook's prerogative...

Yes, I have still been eating my dinner ....

Oh dear. I have had a little sabbatical from posting here. I just thought my dinners were getting rather boring and not interesting to anyone and perhaps it was time to stop this navel gazing...

But then I cheered up!  And if you look over at A Greedy Piglet, you will see that I have been baking lovely brioche type things, and this has made me feel much more in the mood to tell you about my daily boring old dinners again.

So I have made you a little gallery of recent dinners. Lots of roasts and some other bits. Let me know if you would like more info on anything. And don't forget, if you would like a detailed recipe over on A Greedy Piglet, do let me know and I'll do my best to accommodate you :)

Roast Pork Loin steak 

Herby Chicken Thighs

Roast Pork with lots of crackling....

Left over Herby Thighs and Roast Pork with roast onions

Pasta shells with fresh chopped tomatoes and Emmenthal cheese

Tuna and Egg salad with avocado

Braised shoulder of veal 

More Herby Chicken, with roast Mediterranean Veggies

Pasta shells with sautéed aubergines and crispy bacon

Just Bob's birthday dinner from Saturday to show you, and then we will be about up to date..except for Sunday which was just a sandwich, and Monday and Tuesday which were not photographed. Or I have lost the photos... 

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Expresso Arancini with Ham, Emmental and Peas - Saturday November 10th 2012

I showed you all the lovely Riso Gallo goodies I won on Facebook didn't I? Over on the Greedy Piglet - The Bare Minimum. 

I wanted to try out the Express type risotti to see if they can be used to make things, other than just heating quickly for lunch. So I picked out 2, the four cheese ready cooked one in the Risotto Box , and the Mushroom Express Rice that has to be cooked but only takes a moment in the microwave. And I made arancini or fried risotto balls.  Traditionally, in Siciliy, these are filled with a lovely rich ragu sauce. But they are also made with mozzarella cheese (when they are called suppli al telefono in some regions, because the cheese stretches like telephone wires when it is cut open)  I simply made a filling with what was in the fridge.

The Risotto Box looked most unpromising when I opened it up, all dry and separate, but as I turned it out into a bowl, I found lots of sticky cheese sauce in the bottom. Mixed up together meant it stuck together nicely to make arancini.

The Express Rice I was hoping to do the same with, but it really is too dry to use straight from the packet, and looking on the packet I found that it needed water added before a zap in the microwave. So it took longer to prepare than the Risotto box as it had to be allowed to cool down before I could shape it.  I mixed an egg, and some of the ham and cheese filling into the rice, spread it out on a plate and left it to cool.

The mixture for the filling was a couple of slices of cooked ham, a couple of ounces of Emmental cheese (I wanted one that made strings, you can use mozzarella, but I didn't have any) and a handful of thawed peas, mixed into some soft cheese.

I made two types of rice balls. Both were egged and breadcrumbed (Panko breadcrumbs - I have found that Sainsbury's do their own brand now! Who knew? ) and then chilled a bit until I was ready to fry them (they had to be prepared pre-Strictly Come Dancing, and then cooked afterwards.. can't disturb my adoration of the pro-dancers with cooking..) .

One has the mixture as a filling in the middle of the rice (I made that with the 4 cheese Risotto Box) - you take a spoonful of rice with wet hands, flatten it out, put some of the filling on, then top with another spoon of rice and form it into a ball.   As you can see, it makes for a lovely oozy bit in the middle of the rice. It also makes the balls a little more fragile to fry.

The other one has the mixture folded through the rice (see above, made with the mushroom rice). so you just take large dollops and make balls without adding any extra filling.  As it has a little egg in with the mixture, it holds its shape well, and fries up nice and plump. But it is drier than the other version, and I think I prefer having the mixture in the middle.

I don't have a deep fat fryer, if you do you can fry them in there until golden. I fried mine one by one in hot oil in my wok, them transferred to a baking sheet and finished off in a hot oven until golden and crispy. I liked doing them that way as it gave me time to make the sauce and the salad. 

They do need a bit of something saucy to stop them from being too dry, so I topped them with a tomato and onion sauce (just finely chopped onion, sauté, then add a carton of chopped tomatoes, a little salt, sugar and oregano, and simmer until thick.)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Faggots wrapped in bacon - Thursday November 8th 2012

I am rather partial to a nice faggot. My favourites at the moment I get from The Giggly Pig at Walthamstow Farmer's Market.

They are a little on the large side for me, and they are not wrapped in caul so can sometimes fall apart a bit. I used 4 and reformed them into 6, (I think the smaller ones cook better, and so have a nicer texture) and wrapped them in streaky bacon before baking in the oven for half an hour. I added some gravy for the last 10 minutes. Mashed potatoes and greens of course.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Smoked Cod with Thai Style Rice - Wednesday 7th November 2012

Oh dear.

I was supposed to be making kedgeree. But when Old Mother Hubbard opened the cupboard there was no basmati rice ... three different risotto rices, and sushi rice, but these are all sticky rices and I wanted light and fluffy. What to do? I certainly wasn't going to run to the supermarket for more rice at this late stage.

Then I remembered I had a couple of packs or Ainsley Harriot Thai rice (bought for quick lunches), that would do.  After all, kedgeree was curried, so Thai curry should go as well, shouldn't it?

I gussied the rice up with extra Red Curry paste and fish sauce, the addition of vegetables as it finished cooking, so they steamed nicely (red peppers, green beans, peas and broccoli) and then some coriander to finish. I tasted the rice, it was savoury and tasty.

The smoked cod would normally have been flaked into the mix, but I decided to serve it simply on top, in one piece. I am glad I did.

The cod was delicious. The rice was delicious. But together.. oh no no no... I would not suggest anyone combining these two. We carefully removed the fish from the rice and ate them as separate courses.


Using up - Cold Roast Lamb and Bubble & Squeak - Tuesday November 6th 2012

After any roast dinner there is always the deliciousness of Using Up Day... cold roast meat and the excess vegetables to be made into Bubble and Squeak.

Bubble and Squeak is a true British tradition, and recipes can be found dating back to the 18th century. It is called Bubble and Squeak as originally it would have been made from leftover meat and gravy along with cabbage, and the gravy would bubble and the cabbage would squeak as it cooked.  Now it is more usual to include potatoes, and to fry up the vegetables, and serve the meat and gravy separately.

If there aren't sufficient potatoes in the leftover vegetables, I like to cook and mash a couple more, as you really need that starchy softness to hold things together.  Then just chop up all the other roots and vegetables that you have, and mix them all together with some extra seasoning if you think it needs some. You can add an egg if you wish, although I didn't. Then fry in olive oil, or leftover fat from the roast if you have any, turning and mixing from time to time to get all the golden crispy base mixed through the vegetables.

So frugal and simple yet so very delicious. You could serve the bubble and squeak for breakfast too if you like, with a fried egg on top.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Felicity Cloake's Sticky Toffee Pudding - Monday November 5th 2012

Well we actually had slow roast leg of lamb, boned stuffed and roasted for hours. But I forgot to take photos it was so delicious and I just wanted to thrust it down my gaping throat.


and as it was a birthday celebration for Rebekah, we had cake and pudding too - pudding being a Sticky Toffee Pudding.

I have not made this before, so took myself off to check out Felicity Cloake's Guardian column for the best recipe (she tries things out so we don't have to...)  . I made her version, sort of. No spice although I did add a little cinnamon to the cake mixture. No nuts. And I did go with Jamie Oliver's sauce recipe. But not in the bottom as well as the top. So it was a sorta Felicity pudding.

But I wanted to eat dinner in peace, and then come out to a bubbling pudding, so I had made the pudding in advance and then put the dish into the oven to heat through instead of grilling it. Look  - it was very hopeful. All covered in its caramel sauce.

However, this was NOT a good idea. The heat was too high, the sauce split and I was left with pale curd sitting in a large puddle of butter. Oh dear. Letting it cool and sort of stirring round on the top of the pudding helped to mix it back again, but next time I will certainly be careful of the temperature I use, or I will reheat the pudding on its own, then add the caramel sauce afterwards.

Loved the pudding itself though. It tasted as it should, nicely date-y and dark and very light. I had a little too much mixture for my dish so cooked some in a small dish to make a light cake without caramel sauce. I haven't cut into that so I will be interested to see if it does eat well as a plain cake.

Grilled Lemon Sole - Sunday November 4th 2012

Lovely simple grilled lemon sole. So delicious. So easy.  With roast potato wedges and fine green beans. And a dollop of tartare sauce on the side.

I have been so lazy this week!  I don't think much has taken more than 20 minutes or so to cook.  The longest things to cook here were the potato wedges, and they were only a half an hour.

Think of dinner. Blink. Eat it. Sounds ok to me...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Sausages with Creamy Wholegrain Mustard sauce - Saturday November 3rd 2012

It is definitely getting wintery, damp, cold, and generally grey.

Only a good, porky sausage can cheer me up when it is this grey. I made a creamy mustard sauce, gussied up with a good tablespoon of wholegrain mustard, instead of ordinary gravy. Just a little flour in with the fat from frying the sausages, some water from boiling the cabbage, seasoning, and little sage, a good teaspoon of English mustard and a tablespoon of grainy mustard, and you have a very tasty sauce.

Creamy vegetable soup with croutons, sausages and bacon - Friday November 2nd 2012

With half of the bag of stir fry vegetables from Thursday to use up in the fridge, but no desire for another ersatz Chinese meal, I decided to make soup.

Two onions, a leek and half a head of celery, roughly chopped and softened in some oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker, then the stir fry veg thrown in on top. Some fresh thyme leaves, vegetable stock powder, water to cover.  Cook for 15 minutes at full pressure, release the pressure then allow to cool slightly.  Whizz up in a liquidiser or with a stick blender, and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Whilst this was cooking, I tossed some bread cubes in garlic olive oil and baked them for 15 minutes at high heat until golden and crisp, and fried a couple of sausages and some chopped bacon.

25 minutes including preparation, and a couple of bowlfuls each made a useful and very cheap meal.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Teriyaki Pork with Stir Fry Vegetables and noodles - Thursday November 1st 2012

Bob came home from Sainsbury's clutching a bag of stir fry vegetables and a pack of fresh noodles. £1 for the lot..

So with the addition of a bit of oyster sauce, a couple of trusty pork steaks from the freezer and a good slug of teriyaki sauce for them, this was another quick quick quick meal.  Just thrown at the sizzlingly hot wok for a minute or two, and topped with the glazed pork that I cooked separately. Only thing missing was some coriander....

DISCLAIMER: this isn't proper Chinese or Japanese or Thai or anywhere oriental.  In fact, the only thing Eastern about it is the postcode...

Pork Loin Steak with Puy Lentil Salad and sauté potatoes - Tuesday October 30th 2012

Its been all about speed this week,  this delicious meal was made and on the table in about 20 minutes.

The potatoes were left over boiled ones, sliced and sautéed whilst the pork was on the griddle.  And whilst those cooked a can of puy lentils, combined with shredded carrot and kohl rabi, red onion and parsley. In a honey and whole grain mustard dressing.

Took no more time than it took to eat it :)