Thursday, 28 February 2013

Smoked Haddock with Parsley Sauce, LIme Cheesecake with Roast Plums - Thursday February 28th 2013

A day for celebrating the end of February, not the best month in the calendar. Only good point is that everyone gets paid early...

We ate out last night at Eat 17 in Walthamstow, a fab meal with LOTS of meatiness about it so I fancied fish today.

Smoked haddock, lightly poached in plain water, served with parsley sauce, mashed potatoes and runner beans. Light and tasty.

and to follow, a Lime and Rum cheesecake, with a lime syrup served with roast plums.

I still have several Brazilian Limes left, and also some plums from my Fruit for the Office box, and this was a simply delicious way to combine them.

I used amaretti biscuits and savoiardi fingers crushed and mixed with butter for the base, rather than digestive biscuits, and found this much lighter.  The cheesecake recipe is similar to my Oliver Hardy cheesecake from A Greedy Piglet, but I used a 7 inch springform pan, halved the quantities and instead of the vanilla and lemon I used the zest of 3 limes, the juice of two limes, and a tablespoonful of rum.  I gave it 10 mins at Mk 6 then turned down to Mk 4 for 30 mins.

The plums are easy, simply remove the stones as neatly as you can, and quarter the plums, put in a dish cut side uppermost, and sprinkle with sugar and lime juice. Roast underneath the cheesecake, they should take roughly the same time. When they have cooled down, dust with icing sugar and singe the edges with a blow torch. (not necessary really if you don't have one don't worry about it..)

Really delectable.

Very Delicious Penne with Fresh Tomatoes & Olives - Tuesday 26th February 2013

Speedy dinner as we are out tonight quizzing at the Bell, so fab pasta it is.

This is so easy, you just quarter some baby plum tomatoes, shred a handful of basil, a few spoonfuls of  black olives  - I also had some ham left over from the other day, so added this cut into cubes - and put it in your bowl.

Whilst the pasta is cooking (you can use anything, I had lovely big fat penne) fry some chopped red onions in olive oil until soft and deglaze the pan with a little sherry or cider vinegar.

Tip the penne into the onion pan with a little of the cooking water and stir to coat with the oniony sauce, then toss with the raw tomatoes in the bowl. 

Serve with a salad - we had rocket, watercress and spinach.

About 15 minutes from start to on the plate.

Roast Pork Belly...Monday February 25th 2013

Catch up time this week, it's been busy, we've added another quiz night at the Bell in Walthamstow on a Tuesday night, and decided to try out a restaurant not far from us that we have been meaning to try for ages and ages. So no time for keeping the diary together..

So speedy but to keep you in the loop, Monday I roasted a pork belly, with thyme and sherry vinegar. Oh it was good... Got to love a little bit of belly haven't you..

Monday, 25 February 2013

Spezzatino di pollo all'aceto e acciughe - Domenica febbraio 24 2013

It was Italian day today...

Most of the day I was baking with the lovely chef Carla Tomasi who was making fabulous sweet ravioli and pastries and tweeting as she did so. I was going to make some delicious Italian pastries as well, but at the last moment decided to make a more English fruit cake, similar to Dundee cake but in little bars. You can see pictures and follow our tweet cook-in on my Storify summary here.

I had already decided that I would have one of my favourite simple Italian recipes, a spezzatino (basically that means any kind of stew) of chicken with vinegar and anchovies. I first discovered this recipe in a Time Life Good Food recipe book, and from what I can see, it is a pretty classical recipe. I have made it successfully over the years, it is one of my failsafe recipes, it just never seems to go wrong.  The anchovies garlic and vinegar meld together to form a simply delicious sauce, full of flavour and not at all fishy.

Marcella Hazan describes it as a fricassee, but  I would probably call it more of a saute than either that or a stew, I cook it in a battered little black enamelled frying pan I bought years ago in Spain, that goes happily in the oven.

I make it with chicken thighs, boned out and halved, and allow three large thighs for the two of us. Tossed in seasoned flour, I fry these in olive oil with rosemary added until crisp on the outside, and then drain most of the oil away (don't throw it away you can use it to roast the crusty Italian roast potatoes, cut small and roasted with lots more rosemary).  

Pour over the sauce which you will make in a mortar from 5 anchovy fillets, 3-4 cloves of garlic mashed together finely, and then slaked with around a couple of wine glasses of white wine or cider vinegar. Allow this to simmer down to about half, and then move the pan into the oven to finish. If the sauce reduces too much, you can bring it back with a spoonful or two of water, heated through to re-emulsify the sauce, but don't expect copious gravy, you will only get about 3 tablespoons of sauce each.

Finish it with a fresh green vegetable, broccoli today

Che buono !

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Saturday is Sossij Night... Saturday February 23rd 2013

If you look back, you will see sausages are a favourite. Cheap. Quick. Always in the fridge.

The consensus was for mash. With onions. And brussels sprouts with a few chestnuts thrown in....

Saturday night was made for sossijs.

Friday, 22 February 2013

A Lamb Chop and a Lime and Brandy Syllabub - Friday 22nd February 2013

More lentil soup, with home made poppy seed rolls to start. 

The rolls had lovely kissing crusts, I adore kissing crusts, that slightly puffy soft join, so sensuous. These were particularly nice, though the photo (from my phone) is less so:

Then a nice lamb chop with roast potatoes and golden beetroot, nothing special, but I do love a lamb chop...

and to make another three course meal (such hedonism! ) a Lime and Brandy Syllabub with amaretti biscuits. Very yummy. I've blogged the recipe for you over on A Greedy Piglet, so I hope you try it.. do let me know if you do, and how it works out or if you have altered it at all.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Ham and Bubble and Squeak, and Black Forest Trifle mmmmm Thursday 21st February 2013

Easy day today... lentil soup  from yesterday (which is dark brown and delicious and perhaps the least photogenic thing apart from savoury mince... so no can imagine a bowl of brown can't you?)  followed by cold gammon and my special bubble and squeak.

I love a nice bit of bubble.

I usually cook the potatoes and cabbage fresh, steam them with some leeks or onions, mash the potatoes with a little of the steaming liquid. Add in the cabbage and leeks, and today I added in some cooked chestnuts and a good bit of spice - TZ Urban Spice Dog Liar's Club spice blend, a special blend that I am honoured to have as a member of the Twitter club #TZSpiceWimmin.  I have no idea what is in it, but feel free to add in your own favourite spices!

Heat some oil until it is hot but not smoking, and splodge in the potato mix. Don't move it, let it fry and crust on the bottom, then turn it in bits breaking up the crust. Do this several times so that you have lots of bits of crunch and still some lovely hot steamy soft bits.

We had gherkins with this, but chutney or ketchup goes well too.

 (sorry about the pic quality - I didn't realise there was grease on the lens until after I had eaten the dinner.....)

Now for pudding, I had a little project for my lovely friend Carol Ford of Growing Direct, who saw a pic of a rather luscious trifley thing on Facebook. She was asking for the recipe, and I offered to invent something if she didn't hear..

It came out rather well if not as prettily as the Seasonal Berries one. I have written this one up in full over on A Greedy Piglet.  I shall leave you with suitable yummy mmm nom nom type noises..

The Chicken Wings are go! Wednesday 20th February 2013

Today we ate the chicken wings!

And today the lesson is in frugal use of cooking heat. We, like everyone else, have seen our power bills soar this year. We were luckily on the British Gas/Electric capped tariff until it ended last year and we have been working through Martin Lewis' suggestions for better suppliers. But even though we have one of the best ones suggested, the bills are still high. And we are on a fairly tight budget anyway, so power isn't something to use without considering how to use it wisely.

I have been using the small oven/grill more than the main oven for lots of things. I don't think it cooks bread well, and doesn't have enough room for loaves to rise anyway, so bread has to be baked in the main oven. But I am using my pressure cooker a lot, and this saves a lot of power as it reduces the time you need so dramatically.

I have also been looking into cooking things together more often, to make good use of the heat produced.  This is something that everyone did during the war when heat and energy was in limited supply and is something we could well learn to do again.  Today I wanted to cook a small gammon joint, to use the stock for lentil soup and to finish cooking the chicken wings I wasn't happy with yesterday. I wanted to cook all of these together, but I didn't want the barbecue sauce on the chicken wings in the stock,  so I decided to try something I had been thinking about but hadn't got around to trying - my Food Saver vacuum packer.

I use my vac packer a lot for packaging things for the freezer,  and I know top chefs use these vac packers for sous-vide cooking, but that is at a low temperature so I wasn't 100% sure how it would work at the much higher temperature inside a pressure cooker. There was only one way to find out.

I have an old fashioned style Prestige High Dome pressure cooker, so that gives me plenty of height for stacking things. I half filled the base with water, added a quartered onion, a chopped stick of celery, two chopped carrots,  three peppercorns, three cloves, a tablespoon of muscavado sugar. Popped in the gammon joint (a small one, just under a kilo) and then on top of all that, the chicken wings that I had vac-packed.  The pack had to be bent around a bit but it fitted in fine.

I brought the pan to pressure, and cooked for 40 mins, then allowed to cool slightly before reducing the pressure.  The chicken wings were still firmly held in their vacpack, the barbecue sauce hadn't leached into the gammon stock. The gammon was also well cooked.

These two came out, the very soft skin of the gammon was removed, chopped finely and returned to the stock along with two handfuls of red lentils and two of puy lentils. I closed the cooker again, and cooked the lentils in the stock for another 15 minutes.

Whilst the lentils cooked, the chicken wings (out of their packaging) and the gammon went into the little oven for a quick crisping - the gammon coated with mustard and demerara sugar to make a nice sweet and sour crust - for around the 15 minutes the lentils took, about the same time it took to cook the potatoes and cabbage.

Lentil soup was then blitzed with a stick blender, and will be for lunch and dinner tomorrow, and the wings and a little of the gammon made dinner tonight! And I have gammon all cooked and ready for tomorrow.


Let's not eat the chicken then.... Tuesday February 19th 2013

Chicken wings take longer than you think to get tender.  These looked lovely, but were still not as I like them, after 45 mins in a hot oven. And I get nervous about undercooked chicken, even though these were lovely free-range wings from the Farmers Market.

So they came off the plate and got replaced with some cheese...

So was it just a ploy to eat up more cheese?

Well the cheese went well with the homemade coleslaw, and some freshly baked bread, so really it didn't matter, and the chicken wings? I have a cunning plan for those...

The coleslaw? that was a use up-the-fridge baby.  A quarter of a sweetheart cabbage (one of those delicate pointy ones), one baby gem lettuce, a stick of celery, all sliced finely, two carrots grated. A teaspoonful of poppy seeds. A tablespoon of mayonnaise, a tablespoon of Greek Yoghurt, a tablespoon of vinaigrette. All just mixed together and allowed to mellow for about 10 minutes.

Great with cheese. I reckon it would make a good cheese sandwich too.

Cheese Omelet - nice and simple Monday February 18th 2013

Sometimes you just want something really quick and simple, not complicated, not fancy, just getting something tasty on the plate.

I have also been trying hard to finish up lots of bits and pieces in the fridge. I ALWAYS buy too much, so spend the main part of the week thinking of ways to eat stuff up. At the moment, I have too much cheese. I mean like FAR too much cheese. I tried a tartiflette before to try to reduce the cheese mountain and this really didn't go down well with OH or me. I don't like rich it would seem these days.

But I haven't had a cheese omelette for ages! and I have just bought a spanking new omelette pan, so there we are...

I like the cheese grated into the omelette rather than just sitting in a melty sticky wodge inside, it toasts slightly on the outside of the omelette and gives a lovely flavour. And I like to make individual omelettes rather than one big one, so I plate up the salad (just tomatoes and cucumber which was what was in the fridge....) and then serve each omelette as they are done, rather like pancakes on Pancake Day.

For each omelette I use 3 eggs, lightly beaten, a splash of water, salt pepper and a nice handful of grated cheese. Cheddar this time, but honestly, whatever you have hanging around will do fine. Soft cheeses I would cube rather then try to grate, but I would still add them to the eggs in the beginning.

A nice hot pan, a good teaspoonful of unsalted butter, swirl it round, and tip your eggs in. Keep the heat up high, and leave the eggs alone for a second or two until you see the edge just start to stiffen. Then take your fork, and pull the eggs from the outside to the middle, giving the pan a shake to spread the unbeaten egg about. Keep doing that until you have no obviously liquid egg left.  If you are making a filled omelette or like more cheese in the middle, now is the time to add your extras - fried mushrooms, chopped and fried peppers and onions, bits of bacon - these are all things I like.  But today we are staying with virgin cheese..

Now flip one third into the middle. turn that to the other edge, so you have a little bolster in the pan. The underside should be nice and golden and full of ridges.  Flip that on to your plate and there you have it.. a perfect cheese omelette. Takes about 3 or 4 minutes to cook, don't try to do it in under 30 seconds like Saturday Kitchen......

Friday, 15 February 2013

Tapas para el viernes - Friday February 15th 2013

Remember the selection of lovely charcuterie I won from Unearthed recently? This lovely stash...

We had a little portion as a starter for Valentine's Day yesterday,  but I always intended to have a nice selection as a tapas style dinner.

Look, what would you pick from this table?

A very nice selection to be had, this was mine...

Thank you Unearthed!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Valentine's Day - Lambs' Hearts! Thurs Feb 14 2013

Well it had to be didn't it? Once I mentioned on Facebook that I had lambs' hearts in the fridge, all the jokes came thundering in. So why fight against it?

Tonight, my love and I ate our hearts an unassuming little stew with carrots,celery and Puy lentils, mashed potatoes and cauliflower.

We topped and tailed the hearts with a lovely little antipasto of olives, artichoke hearts and San Daniele Ham (thank you Unearthed for the ham and the Chili and Sundried Tomato Pesto Olives - both delicious) and a dessert of baked chocolate mousse with cherry compote and clotted cream.


Monday, 11 February 2013

Chicken Soup for the Poorly Boy - Monday February 11th 2013

I have a lurgified Other Half.

Who isn't terribly hungry.

But he can always manage a bowl of proper Jewish style chicken soup. So I made him some. Cos I love him lots.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Yoghurty Tiramisu

Marie-Anne has asked me for the recipe for my tiramisu from here , so here it is. It is based around a recipe by Alastair Little, from his book Italian Kitchen, not always obtainable, but a brilliant book if you ever find it at a good price.

Here is a copy of the page, so you can see the original recipe. You can see it is well used!  But I have changed the method of making it. I found that trying to incorporate the mascarpone into the eggs was nigh on impossible, so I soften the mascarpone before I add it.

Alastair suggests making this in a spring form tin, but I found that the cream was a little too wet for this to turn out nicely, so I prefer to make it in a glass dish. No disasters that way. Also, remember you need to start this the day before you serve it. At a pinch you could make it in the morning for the evening, but a good long stint in the fridge is much better.

So the ingredients to feed 6-8 people for a party are:

for the sponge layers:

  • One or possibly two packs of sponge fingers (Italian ones if you can find them,I get them from Waitrose) - depends on the size of your bowl, you might need one and a bit.
  • two-three double espressos, sweetened, or you can use very strong cafetiere or filter coffee, I have never used instant but I am sure it would be fine. 
  • dark rum to add to the coffee if you are feeding adults, or simply omit if you are feeding children. 

For the cream layers:

  • 4 eggs
  • 8 tablespoons of caster sugar (roughly 100-120g)
  • 1 large pot of mascarpone (400g I think)
  • 200g Total Greek Yoghurt (full fat, 2% or 0% depending on your diet status that day, all are fine) 
  • 1 wine glass of Marsala (or you can use Sherry if you don't have any Marsala - or replace with a teaspoon of vanilla essence  or a little more coffee if you are feeding children or don't wish to use alcohol) 
  • chocolate powder or cocoa in a teastrainer for sprinkling

Firstly make the cream, using an electric mixer (hand held or stand as you please) whisk the whole eggs and sugar to a thick stable foam, it should form a ribbon when you lift the whisk out of the bowl. In an separate bowl, whisk the marsala into the mascarpone to loosen and soften it, then whisk in the yoghurt.
Add about a third of the egg mousse into the mascarpone and mix to lighten, and then lightly fold in the rest of the egg mousse.

In a shallow dish, put one of your double espressos, sweetened to taste and a slug of rum. Quickly dip one sponge finger at a time into the coffee, don't let it get too soggy, and lay it in your bowl. Repeat until you have a single layer of sponge fingers in the bottom. Break them into pieces to fill any gaps.

Spoon about a third of the cream over the sponge fingers and smooth out. Shake a layer of chocolate powder over.

Repeat the two layers twice - you will need more coffee/rum but it is easier to use a shallow amount in the dish and add to it than put all the coffee in at once.

Finish with the cream but don't put chocolate on this top layer.

Cover the bowl in clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.

Sprinkle with chocolate or cocoa when you serve - if you add it earlier it will go dark and wet in the fridge, much nicer to add it just before serving. 

 Do let me know if you try this, and if you make any of your own changes, I'd like to hear your own tweaks.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Le Vrai Rosbif ... Saturday 9th February 2013

Nothing more to say really, just fly the Union flag and sing the National Anthem and eat Roast Beef...

Then follow it up with a bit more rum and lime pannacotta. (which I managed to unmould without melting today....)

Hand Made Pappardelle with Roasted Vegetables & Basil, Rum Pannacotta with Brazilian Lime Syrup - Friday 8th February 2013

What a fabulous afternoon I spent, making hand made pasta along with Carla and Joanna  - you can read about the amazing Twitter Tutorial here on my storify summary of the tweets.

Carla is so generous with her expertise and knowledge, and both she and Joanna are becoming dear friends through our Twitter relationship. Twitter has so much going for it, it is a deeply valuable part of my life. Anyway, I digress....

I rolled my pasta by hand not having a machine.. (yet...) and so it is rather a bit thicker than Joanna and Carla made theirs, but it cooked in about 5 minutes, and I dressed it with a fairly simple tomato sauce with roasted peppers and onions, and fresh basil. Very delicious.

To make it a real feast of a meal, we started with Minestrone again (same as yesterday) with some more semolina buns, and finished it with Rum and Vanilla Pannacotta with Lime Syrup (from a recipe in Carluccio's Two Greedy Italians book). Sorry I heated the ramekin a bit too long when unmoulding and so made some creamy sauce before the lime syrup was poured over. Not so pretty but still very delicious.  (The fabulous limes are from Brazil's new season, courtesy of Brazilian Limes, most fresh and zingy. )

Friday, 8 February 2013

Minestrone and Smoked Salmon Salad - Thursday February 7th 2013

A main course smoked salmon salad from the Total hamper that we won recently, followed by minestrone and home made rolls.

I love the little salad I made for the salmon, nothing difficult, just little gem lettuce, cucumber, and then gherkins , capers and sliced silverskin onions, dressed with hazelnut vinegar, no oil.  Sort of the flavours of tartare sauce (which was actually on the side, but I made it after I had taken the pictures as OH reminded me to make it. Then wanted his dinner NOW! So no more photo opportunities...) but in a salad.

The tartare sauce (that you can't see...) is delicious by the way. One part of mayonnaise to two parts of Total Greek Yoghurt, with chopped gherkins, capers and silverskin onions, maybe a little lemon zest if you fancy it, maybe a little chopped parsley if you have it.. Easy and quick and MILES better than anything you will buy.

More frugality to follow , we are still eating our way through the veg in the fridge. I bought too many varieties, which means I end up with lots of bits and ends. They make fabulous soup of course.

I made some on Wednesday (a boring day, not worth writing up, soup and bangers and mash) with some mixed casserole veg (picked up for 30p on the cheaps counter) an onion and a parsnip or two (also going very cheap so OH grabbed them), pressure cooked together with some vegetable stock and blitzed. Very delicious but look, you can see it isn't very photogenic.

It is not easy to show how delicious vegetable soups are when they are blended up, you will have to take my word for it.

But today I made minestrone, and that is MUCH more camera happy. Look...

You can make it pretty much with any veg you fancy, with the addition of something meaty (bacon and chorizo here) and some beans and some pasta. Oh and a carton of chopped tomatoes.


Oh I forgot the bread, some more of my version of  Dan Lepard's brilliant semolina rolls.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Tartiflette, Salame and salad.. Monday February 4th 2013

Tartiflette is basically potato dauphinoise with the addition of cheese, onions and bacon lardons.  It is traditionally served in the Alpine regions of France, and is a good ski chalet staple. I had never made it before but it seemed a good way to use up some cheese hanging in the fridge.

It is good, but very rich. Too rich with too much English cheese, so don't make my mistake, be frugal with the cheese.   Oh and don't forget the garlic like I did. It needs it.

We couldn't eat it... it was so rich it was almost sickly. The fox in our garden who got given most of it seemed to enjoy it, mind you...

Monday, 4 February 2013

Cote de Porc Charcutiere - Sunday Feb 3rd 2013

A fabulous way to cook pork chops, gently braised in butter on the stove top, with a charcutiere sauce that includes cornichons and capers for a lovely sharpness.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Bendy Pie with Kale and Mushrooms. Saturday February 2nd 2013

A shepherd's pie with a difference,  Vivia (@Farctum) christened it Flexitarian pie, and I felt that this had to be shortened down , so a Bendy Pie it is.

Really, I fancied some beans in something, and had a pack of minced beef to use up. So, chile con carne! Yeah! Errrrm. Well no. No tomatoes (used them all in the lasagne on Thursday and I'm not shopping again until Sunday). So shepherds pie with cannellini beans thrown in. And the chicken stock in the fridge can go in. And maybe a bit of thyme. And some Lea and Perrins. ... flexible you see? Check the fridge and chuck it in...

The vegetable bag revealed the ends of last weeks kale and a pack of portobellini mushrooms. I didn't think they went together usually, but Robyn ( @RobynVolker) assured me that kale and mushrooms are ace.. (and they are! thank you Robyn)  I love Twitter for good advice!!

Lasagne! Foccacia! Insalata! ...Totaliano! Thursday January 31st 2013

The last day of January! It has been such a long long month....

But I brightened it up for a family lunch to celebrate and share the office hamper that Josordoni Collectables won from Total Yoghurt in their Totally Tasteful competition.  It was a fabulously generous prize, and so I voted Becky, Clinton and Izzy onto the board of directors for the day, and shared some of the booty with them.

We had a delicious lasagne, with homemade foccacia and salad, followed up with two lovely desserts, a tiramisu and a make-your-own sundae with Total Greek yoghurt. So versatile, I love that it can add protein and a little sharpness to both sweet and savoury recipes.

The Sundae is a lovely way to encourage children to eat fruit and yoghurt, as they love making their own glass full.  Everything for this was from the hamper, we had tropical fruit salad, Ottolenghi  granola, toasted almonds, honey and wonderful thick creamy Total Greek yoghurt. 

Here is  mine - I had EVERYTHING in mine, of course!

Friday, 1 February 2013

and More Chicken for MidWeek... Weds 30th Jan 2013

There seems to be a theme for this week... if I start clucking you will know why.

But what is there to discuss about fabulous midweek roast chicken?  Thighs and drumsticks are so cheap compared to breasts and whole chickens, and I think have tons more flavour. Cook them for longer than you think, I give them about 45 mins, roughly the same length of time as the potatoes, at a good high heat. With a spritz of oil and lemon juice, some salt and pepper.

With roast potatoes and can you see that creamy stuff? Fast bread sauce.. mmmmmm...  cubes of stale-ish bread, a finely chopped shallot some salt, pepper and lots of nutmeg, add enough milk to just cover, bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 mins until the bread can be mashed into the milk. So good...