Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Home-made sausage roll and bread and butter pudding - Monday April 29th 2013

I don't know why, I just had a real yearning for a hot sausage roll.  Ready rolled puff pastry and some skinned sausages, half an hour and here it is... so good!

And to finish it off, a little bread and butter pudding, with the raisins on the bottom before putting the bread in so you don't get those hard burnt ones on the top.  (top tip...)

Monday, 29 April 2013

A weekend of sugo di carne... Saturday and Sunday April 27th and 28th 2013

I made a big pot of Italian sugo di carne.... the stuff English people like to call bolognese sauce. 

My Italian mother in law always called it sugo and I make it her way, so sugo it shall remain.

The first half  we had simply with spaghetti.

The second half I made into a bastardised version of gnocchi alla sorrentina - it should be with plain tomato sauce along with the basil, mozzarella and parmesan, but mine is a meatier version.

This is how I make my sugo - quantities are up to you, depending on how many of you there are! :

Saute a soffrito of onions, celery and red or yellow peppers all finely chopped. When soft, add a couple of garlic cloves and some finely cubed pancetta and continue to fry. Add minced beef and fry, stirring all the while, until the meat is no longer pink.

Add a good slug of white wine, sherry or marsala and reduce this to almost nothing. Then add sufficient full cream milk to come about half way up the meat and allow this to almost reduce away. Then add chopped tomatoes, some tomato puree, salt and little sugar and some dried oregano.

Simmer for a couple of hours on a very low flame.

It is VERY good...

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Risotto....Prawns leeks peas and Pernod! Wednesday 24th April 2013

I like a nice fish risotto... only a little butter at the beginning and no cheese or cream to finish so very light on the tongue.

This one has prawns and some slivers of smoked salmon, peas and leeks.  No white wine, but I used a good slug of Fino sherry and another of Pernod which worked beautifully, The slight anise flavour was rounded out with Essential Cuisine fish stock and a good pinch of Urban Spiceman TZ 5P spice. 

So very, very good.

Orzo Salad with Hard Boiled Eggs.. The Sun Shone Today! Tuesday April 23rd 2013

It was a lovely day , sunny not too windy, I even got into the garden for a bit of tidying up.

Which exhausted me as I'm still a bit flu-ridden, so I then couldn't be doing with making elaborate dinner. So I raided the cupboards and the fridge and produced a plate of salad.

Orzo is a rice shaped pasta that is wonderful in soup, but also makes delicious pasta salad. The trick is to make sure it isn't overcooked, and to strain it into cold water to cool so it doesn't go puddinglike. Then when it is lukewarm dress with a balsamic vinaigrette and add any herbs and vegetables you fancy.  I had red onion, grated carrot, mint and parsley in mine, along with some cubes of Doux de Montagne cheese..

And I had just a nice little half portion left over in the fridge for lunch :)

Monday, 22 April 2013

More kebabs with Gigantes Plaki... and flatbread Monday April 22nd 2013

The other half of the half leg of lamb was still in the fridge and needed to be made into something, and the vote was for more kebabs. Marinaded the same as the last time, and with gigantes plaki (Greek Giant Beans in simple tomato sauce, butter beans were used here...) and flatbreads made with my new pizza dough find through Twitter... .

Lamb Kebabs with Pilaf rice - sometime last week....April 2013

I've been a bit unwell recently, so I am not sure which day I had this rather yummy dinner..

But fortunately I did take a picture, so here it is.  Lamb kebabs with pilau rice and salad.

The marinade for the lamb and vegetables is so easy and so delicious. 

Cut your lamb (I used leg, but neck fillets and shoulder are also very good) - roughly 250g or so for two people - into 3 cm cubes, and put into a bowl together with a red onion halved and separated into leaves, and a large red pepper (or I used two narrow pointy ones) also cut into squares. Add the juice of a lemon, salt and pepper, a good glug of olive oil and a half teaspoon or so of dried oregano. Cover and allow to sit in the fridge for several hours.  String the pieces onto flat kebabs and grill for about 20 mins, or as long as the rice takes to cook. Use the marinade to baste the kebabs as they cook.

My pilaf is made with Essential Cuisine lamb stock, really good stuff, and the only lamb stock I know that doesn't taste of salt and MSG.  Saute a finely chopped onion or a couple of shallots until soft, add half a cup of basmati rice per person, one whole cup of water per person, a half teaspoon of Essential lamb stock powder (or you can use any stock cubes you like of course! or even fresh stock if you have some) and a handful of finely chopped parsley. Bring to the boil, and then cover tightly and turn the heat right down to barely simmer and absorb the stock. 

It should take roughly the same time as the lamb. 

Serve with salad. Yummy.

p.s. I know I go on about Essential stocks a lot. They don't sponsor me, although I am using stock powders I have won in their Facebook competitions, but honestly they really are the best. I hope you give them a go and let me know what you think.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Braise-Roasted Duck Leg with Marmalade Sponge Puddings for afters.. Weds April 17th 2013

My fabulous Spanish literary agent friend Angela came over last night, whilst she was here in the UK for London Book Fair, and I cooked us dinner so we could natter and catch up on the business gossip.

Duck cooked this way is a favourite, and it really is delicious, and so tender it falls off the bone.  If you are good I'll even let you know how I made it...

So here you go...

  • 4 duck legs
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • handful of fresh thyme stems
  • 1tsp each of Essential Chicken and Veal Stock powders , (or any stock granules, Marigold are good)
  • 500ml warm water
  • salt & pepper

For thickening the gravy:
  • 1 tbs plain flour slaked in a little water
  • couple of drops of gravy browning or home made caramel (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of shredded orange zest (optional)

In a sturdy roasting pan just big enough to take the legs, put a bed of onions and thyme

Put the duck legs on top, mix the stock powders into the water and pour over the duck to come about half way up the legs.

Salt and pepper the tops (I was daft and put the salt and pepper on first, then put the stock in, as you can see I washed the salt and pepper off some of the legs.. be sensible, put stock in first, then salt and pepper! ) and place in a moderate oven, Gas mk 4 , 350/175 degrees. Cook for an hour and a half, basting the top occasionally.

After the hour and a half, drain off the stock into a small pan, put the duck back for another half hour at Gas mk 2 300/150. Add the slaked flour to the stock and whisk until smooth, the flour will combine with the duck fat to thicken the gravy. Bring to the boil, whisking and then turn right down to a murmur and cook for 20 mins to make certain the flour is cooked through. Deepen the colour with a little gravy browning if you wish. (You can add the orange zest now if you wish to use it, it adds a lovely flavour to the gravy without turning it into duck a l'orange. )

Remove the legs from the onion/herbs, you will probably need to remove some herbs from the underside, and serve with mashed potatoes, a green veg and the delicious gravy.

To carry on the orange flavour, I decided to make little steamed marmalade puddings for afters...

Made in individual steamed pudding moulds, just a simple Victoria Sandwich mixture (like this one for the cakes I made for Mother's Day) with a little more milk than you would use for the cakes, some zest and orange essence in the mix, and a good dollop of marmalade and one of golden syrup in the bottom of the mould. Cover and steam for 40 minutes. The mixture filled 5 little moulds.

That's it!  Now that was all easy wasn't it!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Gawd bless my Pork Belly :) Sunday & Monday April 14th & 15th 2013

Lovely, lovely pork belly.

Slow roasted for 3 hours with rosemary and sherry vinegar, on a bed of onions and thyme branches, covered in foil, then foil off and a hot blast for half an hour.  Rosemary on the very crunchy olive oil potatoes too.

So delicious. And a £6 belly gave me plenty for two days for two of us..

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Eat The Fridge Saturday... Minestrone and Pizza - Saturday April 13th 2013

I always intended to have soup for dinner. But then I saw a rather delicious looking pizza on Facebook and thought that instead of just more flatbread, why not a lovely bit of pizza to nibble alongside? 

A question or two on Twitter and Facebook, and I am armed with plenty of pizza dough advice.


Would you like the pizza recipe I ended up with?

Just ask away.....

Fish cakes and Yoghurt Tartare Sauce .mmmmm Thursday and Friday April 11 & 12 2013

I love a nice little fish cake. If you have never made one, here is how I make mine. Easy peasy I promise you.

Dry mashed potato.  I steam mine (roughly 500g floury potatoes make 8 fish cakes, so two per portion, I made two days' dinners ) and then mash. Don't add any butter or milk.

Fish. I made these with smoked mackerel, skinned, flaked and any odd bones removed. And a can of crab lumpmeat I received in a hamper, too tasteless to eat on its own, but good to add texture and a little more bite to the mix.   Or you could use tinned tuna or salmon. Or any fresh fish, lightly poached. Or kippers... You want about half the volume of the potato in fish.

Seasonings: I love smokey flavours so added a couple of tablespoons of Halen Môn Smoked Water - really good stuff! I love Alison's salts and this fabulous foodie ingredient really made a difference to the flavour.But don't fret if you don't have it, add a little more pepper instead. 
I finely chopped and fried a shallot until crisp and added that with a tablespoon or so of chopped parsley.

Mix this all lightly in a bowl, and chill for a bit until thoroughly cold.

Make smallish patties, flour them lightly and pop on a plate, back into the fridge for about half an hour.

Egg and Breadcrumb:  Lightly whisk an egg and a splash of water,  get a plate with plenty of dry breadcrumbs ( I like panko crumbs , and am delighted that they are now available in Sainsbury's and Waitrose so I don't have to order them from the Japanese shops) .  Dip in the egg and then the crumbs, don't press the crumbs too hard, you want to keep the insides nice and light.
Back on the plate and back in the fridge for another half an hour (or until dinner time, they will keep for ages, even overnight, or you can freeze at this stage.  So you could make the fish cakes when you have time, and save the hassle later on at dinner time.)

Frying:  an inch of rape seed oil in a frying pan, heat until hot but not smoking and fry on each side until golden. The insides are cooked so you are really just interested in a nice even golden crumb, you don't have to cook the insides.  I then pop the finished fish cakes on a baking tray into the oven on a lowish heat whilst I make the salad, the flatbreads and the tartare sauce.

Flatbreads: I was making bread today so used a lump of my usual milk bread rolled into golf balls and then patted flat and cooked on a dry frying pan like these ones. 

Tartare sauce: I don't buy tartare sauce any more. It's too easy to make, Half and half mayonnnaise and Greek yoghurt, with chopped gherkins, capers and a little shallot. Maybe a bit of herbs if I am in the mood and they are about.

There you are! It takes time yes, but hassle .. no!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Sun-Came-Out-for-10-Minutes Spring Salad Dinner - Wednesday April 10 2013

Did you see it? Did you? It was there... look ... over there......

Oh, It's gone again...

It was sunny. Honestly it was. Sunny enough to make me fancy something salad and springlike.

Avocados that I bought last week to ripen for this VERY sunny moment. Some plum tomatoes, a squeeze or two of nice sharp lime, coriander, sea salt, a smudge of chopped chili.  Salad leaves with a little bit of the salty lime juice from the salsa to dress them, some nice prosciutto and salame. And a hard boiled egg - my salad hero.

You could almost think Spring was here and Summer on its way.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Comfort eating... mincemeat and cabbage - Monday April 8th 2013

I am feeling a bit better today. better enough to cook, though with little enthusiasm for anything elaborate. Which in the end extended to mashed potatoes .. I just cut up some new potatoes and threw them in a pot.

Mince though. That is easy to eat, easy to cook, just all round easy.

I am sure you have your own ways, but if not here is mine. This is my usual base for cottage pie as well, but that would have meant mashed potatoes...

For two people, generous portions

  • 400g good quality lean minced beef
  • 2 medium onions (or one large one or three small ones...) 
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • sprinkling of flour
  • 1 tbs tomato ketchup
  • 1 tbs Lea and Perrins Worcester sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Essential Cuisine beef stock powder (or any other stock powder, granules or cubes you may have but Essential Cuisine are the best by a long way) 
  • 1 teaspoon gravy browning or caramel
  • sprinkle of herbs - I like thyme and marjoram

Chop the onions and garlic and put in a saucepan with a splash of olive oil and a cup of water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the water has evaporated and the onions have started to sizzle. Add the minced beef and cook, breaking the meat up to brown all sides.

Sprinkle with flour and mix this in thoroughly. Add water until a gravy texture is reached. Add the ketchup, L&P, gravy browning, herbs and stock powder.  Bring to a simmer and cook for around 40 minutes stirring from time to time. Add a little more water as it reduces to keep to the consistency that you like, I tend to keep it thicker for cottage pie.

Serve with potatoes and vegetables, (Or allow to get cold and cover with mashed potatoes for cottage pie )

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Flu can feel just like a hangover... Saturday April 6th 2013

I felt rotten all afternoon, I think it is a flu type thing I have working up ... so whilst I was happy to cook, I didn't really reckon on any thinking.

I'd exhausted my thinking anyway by making flatbreads for lunch . My last bit of thought was that feeling flu-ridden was rather like a hangover. And the best thing for a hangover is a fryup.

It was good. But I still feel infested.

Boo.  End of whining.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Just a little bit of gammon... and lot of soup Friday April 5th 2013

It isn't necessary to have huge amounts of meat, just a little will do. I had just a small piece of gammon left from yesterday, and diced it to go in the soup I made from the stock from yesterday, the left over vegetables, some extra cabbage, peas and butterbeans, and a good couple of handfuls of fregula, a Sardinian pasta that cooks up rather like pearl barley.

So good. Two large bowlfuls made a good filling dinner.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Learning about pre-diabetes & a low carb Ham Dinner - Thurs April 4th 2013

Blood tests back and sugar and HBA1C levels show pre-diabetes rather than full blown Type 2 diabetes. Which is a relief, yet not something to sit back and relax about, as it could still develop into that...

An appointment with a dietician has been requested, and until then it will be time to scour the net and read books and generally chat with anyone who has been there and done that. So if you have, do make contact please!

In the interim, I feel it is probably best to keep to a relatively low GI diet, and forgo the delicious yet deadly refined carbs. I started today by substituting puy lentils for the potatoes I would normally have with my boiled gammon and root vegetables. Still delicious, but not as good for soaking up the liquor!

Boulangere potatoes and finishing up the lamb - Wednesday April 3rd 2013

A slow cooked shoulder of lamb simply has no waste. Unlike traditionally cooked lamb, that clings to the bones in a determined fashion, when it is slow cooked, the collagen melts away and the meat just falls from the bones.

So from one shoulder, I got a large roast dinner for Easter Sunday for 4 adults and one child, a second roast dinner for two people on Monday (and slow roasted lamb reheats beautifully - just wrap in foil and re-roast alongside the potatoes) and today the last of the lamb cold, again for two people. So that is 8 portions (plus a teeny one) from one joint of lamb that cost £14, averaging out at less than £2 per portion, That is GOOD value.

It was so cold today I wanted something warming and cosy, boulangere potatoes are easy and like a potato based fluffy jumper. Simply slice floury potatoes and onions, layer them in a dish, cover with stock (I used Essential Cuisine lamb stock powder) and a scattering of herbs (thyme here) and bake for an hour to an hour and a half on a moderate heat. Very untemperamental is this dish, so it can be cooked early and reheated when you want it. Excellent with chops as well as cold meat.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Easter -- Paschal Lamb but its all about the cakes.. Sunday March 31st 2013

We had delicious slow roast lamb with rosemary, roast potatoes, etc. etc... but you don't want to know about that.. it is the same as this one - and once again I was too eager to eat the plateful to remember to take a photograph...

Never mind, it is Easter and all about the cakes and chocolate. Sainsbury's had run out of Easter Eggs by Friday and I hadn't thought well enough in advance to buy any more than some creme eggs for Izzy's Easter Egg Hunt but never mind.. I have maltesers. They are egg shaped.  So we have little Easter Malteser Nests.. Sort of.

Little vanilla sponge cakes, with chocolate buttercream filling and chocolate ganache icing. With malteser eggs.

And of COURSE there was pudding #2 .. a Greek Yoghurt Cherry Fruyo cheesecake made to the same method as my Oliver Hardy cheesecake but with these ingredients:

The Fruyo made it a pretty very pale pink colour, we had it with strawberries and passion fruit pulp. Very fresh and tasty!