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14 October 2014

Anzac biscuits - a terrific emergency biscuit recipe

You know, I'm sure hubby wasn't planning on making biscuits today.  Not as far as I was aware, anyway.  This morning we went and got the bulk of the week's food shopping in, then came home and hubby put the shopping away while I had a shower. Then, I discovered that he was busily making biscuits - Anzac biscuits, which turned out to be the scrummiest, most naughty thing! SO many calories per biscuit, but so yummy with their coconut and oats.

Do I hear you asking "what is an Anzac biscuit and why is it called so"?  Both of which are very good questions.

Well I first tripped over Anzac biscuits in a supermarket (can't remember which one) which was stocking packets of them around about Remembrance Sunday time.  A percentage of the proceeds were going to injured servicemen, as I recall.  Well, being soldier's daughter, I bought a couple of packets for the charity point of view, hoping they'd be nice.  They were more than nice, they're a fabulous accompaniment to a cup of coffee, or chai tea, or even builders' tea.  They're the old fashioned HobNob, made before HobNobs were even a twinkle in their creator's eye.

As for why they are called "Anzac Biscuits", well Anzac biscuits have long been associated with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) which was established in World War I.  It has been claimed the biscuits were sent by wives to soldiers abroad because the ingredients do not spoil easily and the biscuits kept well during naval transportation. So you can see the Forces connection.

It must have been a wonderful moment to receive a parcel from home which contained a package of these wonderfully, munchy, crunchy biscuits.  A little bit of heaven in an awful lot of hell.

Now from a current perspective, the speed at which hubby brought the biscuits together and baked them - probably around half an hour at the most - makes them one of the most agreeable "spur of the moment" or "last minute, Mother's on her way" biscuits to make.  The end result is certainly worth more than the time they took to make!

So, if you fancy some baking or you're cooking with your kids, give them a history lesson while they are baking and make some Anzac biscuits.  Your next cup of tea will thank you.

ANZAC BISCUITS   (makes 20)

Ingredients :

85g porridge oats
85g desiccated coconut
100g plain flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter, plus extra butter for greasing
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method :

1.  Combine all the dry ingredients except the bicarbonate of soda together in a bowl.

2.  Melt the butter in a decent sized pan (it needs room to expand) over a low heat.

3.  Add the golden syrup to the butter.

4.  Put the bicarbonate of soda into a small cup, add the boiling water and mix.

5.  Remove the butter mixture from the heat and allow to cool for 30 secs or so.

6.  Pour in the bicarbonate of soda mixture to the butter and watch it froth!

7.  Quickly mix all the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients before you lose the froth and stir well until completely mixed.

8.  Make a flattened disc out of a spoonful of the mixture and place onto a lined baking sheet.  Make sure to leave at least 1" between each disc.

9.  Bake in a preheated oven at 180degC/350degF/Gas 4 for 8-10 minutes, watching them like a hawk to make sure they don't burn.

10.  Put each biscuit on a cooling rack until absolutely cold.

Calories per portion (1 biscuit) : 118 (wince) - however, they do keep well in an airtight tin!  (Reference : Calorie Counter).

13 October 2014

Homity Pie - well, the low calorie version!

There has been a lot of interest shown on the Rhubarb & Ginger Facebook page, in the Homity Pie that I found on the Slimming World website and which I have now cooked twice.  So, I thought I'd open it up to a wider audience and blog the recipe.

Now, first thing I will say about this recipe is that the true Homity Pie is contained in a pastry case and is a vaguely Quiche-like "pie".  However, because this is the low calorie version, we've jettisoned the pastry case.  Don't let that stop you from putting the pie filling into a pastry case if you're not watching your weight, or want to present it to an audience other than the family.  I would recommend a shortcrust or filo pastry crust, as it could all get a bit heavy with puff or flaky.

So, what actually is "Homity Pie"?  Well, it has an interesting history - going back to wartime rationing, land girls and making use of what you've got available.  It is basically, mashed potato with added flavourings such as onion, leek, cheese, garlic, peas - whatever you've got by way of veggies, with eggs to provide a little rise and lightness.  So simple, but it works so well!

Both times I cooked it, I used it as an accompaniment to a roast chicken.  Well, sometimes you fancy something other than roast potatoes.  Not often, I grant you, but when you do - Homity Pie does the trick.  I could imagine it would go very well with whatever you want to add it to - sausages, chops, steak, braised beef, gammon - I can't think of anything that it would be out of place beside.  Well, discounting things like curry and apple crumble, of course!

The leftovers have been useful to accompany things like bacon, a fried egg, cold meats and pickles for lunch, too.  A quick turn or two in a dry frying pan to heat it up and draw off some of the moisture that inevitably accumulates and it is good to go.

Once again, another wartime recipe proves its worth in these times of austerity.  As with the rice pudding I recently posted, I do love a flexible recipe!  The ingredients of a Homity Pie are about as flexible as can be, the only essentials being the mashed potato, cheese and eggs.  After that, you can add whatever the heck you like by way of vegetables - however, I would recommend that any hard veggies like carrots are pretty much cooked before they go in.  Having your teeth bounce off a piece of uncooked carrot could easily ruin what was otherwise a great dish.

Cooks notes :  the original recipe (see Slimming World link above) is a really low calorie version, if you're interested in taking the recipe that far.  I have added mushrooms to my version of the recipe, which doesn't add much to the calories, but does add heaps to the flavour.  I have also used a full fat mature cheddar, as half fat cheese just isn't worth calling cheese, in my opinion.  I've also used olive oil instead of the recommended low fat cooking spray, as I'd rather know what I'm using - and anyway, olive oil is good for you!

So, the next time you're pondering on what carbohydrate to put with a meat, whip up a Homity Pie.  Your family will thank you for it.

HOMITY PIE  (Low calorie version)   (serves 4-5)

Ingredients :

400g potatoes, peeled and cubed
100ml milk
knob butter plus 10g butter
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
225g onions, chopped
225g leeks, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 large chestnut mushrooms, halved and sliced
198g frozen peas
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
half a tsp dried oregano
2 eggs, lightly beaten
85ml of vegetable stock
160g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Method :

1.  Preheat your oven to 220degC/425degF/Gas 7.

2.  Boil some salted water in a large saucepan and add the potatoes.  Cook on a medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Drain, return to the pan and mash with 100ml of milk, a good sized knob of butter and some seasoning, but a good deal of pepper. Set aside to cool until needed.

3.  Add the olive oil to a frying pan and cook the onions on a medium high heat with a pinch of salt to draw out the moisture, until softened and transparent.  Add the garlic, leeks and mushrooms and reduce the heat slightly once they have started to soften.  Add the peas to defrost and finally add the stock to deglaze the pan.  Set this aside to cool slightly.

4.  Grate the cheese then add half to the mashed potatoes, along with the parsley, oregano and eggs.  Give a quick stir to combine, then add the vegetables and stock.  Stir through quickly, so as not to allow the egg to set. Spoon the mixture into your ovenproof dish and scatter over the remaining cheese.

5. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until risen slightly and golden in colour.

Calories per serving : 275 (reference : Calorie Counter)

Printable version

12 October 2014

Easy peasy rice pudding

Well hello one and all!  I'm sorry for abandoning you all for so long - I have no excuse, other than sometimes the demands of finding time for blogging in amongst everything else are just too much.  So, we'll skip lightly over that and be happy that here I am again!

Now then.  What has brought me back to you all?  Well, something unusual for me - a dessert.  I wasn't anticipating blogging it, so didn't take many pictures.  D'oh!  I will admit that I'm not a great one for cooking desserts.  They are largely really bad for you calorie-wise and often require cooking at the same time as the main course is being cooked.  Well once upon a time I could multi-task, but it would seem not so much these days.  ~shrug~  Can't be helped - it's just one of those things that are sent to try us.

However!  This dessert - the humble rice pudding - is one of those lovely things that costs very little, takes the work of minutes to prepare, then can be left to chuckle along in a low oven for hours until done.  Perfect.

Another reason for liking this rice pudding recipe is that if you follow the straight, as published, recipe you wind up with a delicious, creamy, comfort food dessert.  However, it shows all sorts of promise for being dolled up in all kinds of directions, if you want to.  For instance, you could simply add a little cinnamon and some sultanas for a bit of a different slant, or serve with some baked apple, or melt chocolate into it, or take it down a Chai route with the appropriate spices.  Maybe even swap out the cow's milk for coconut milk.  I do love an adaptable recipe.

Looking good at half-time!
I had been wanting to make a rice pudding for the longest time, but it wasn't the right time of year (best made in Autumn/ Winter) and I hadn't found a recipe that I was entirely happy with.  Some recipes have the most ridiculous amount of steps in them for what seemed to me to be the easiest of things.  Then I tripped over a "cook with the kids" feature in my local Asda's magazine, which included a recipe for rice pudding.  (See here :  It involved rice, milk, evaporated milk and sugar.  Well that sounded a whole lot more like it!

Having decided to make it, I then had an internal argument over whether to use cow's milk or goat milk.  The cow's milk won on this occasion, as I felt it was better to go with the recipe 100% as it was something new to me.  Save the tinkering about with it until I'd cooked it once!  I was just crossing my fingers that the sudden intake of cow's milk wouldn't affect my tummy adversely (which, it would appear, it didn't - thank goodness).

If you, like me, have memories of your Mum making rice pudding and the kitchen filling with the most lovely smell of baking milky nutmeg - then you just have to make this.  It took me straight back to being a young teenager again.  Yes, it is a wee bit heavy in calories at 272 (reference : Calorie Counter) for a serving (a quarter of the pudding) - but it could be a whole lot worse!

CLASSIC RICE PUDDING (care of Asda's Recipes)  Serves 4

Ingredients :

15g unsalted butter 
75g pudding rice 
50g granulated sugar 
170g can Carnation Evaporated Milk 
530ml whole milk
Pinch (or more, to taste) ground nutmeg.

Method :

1.  Using a little of the butter, grease the inside of the baking dish.

2.  Mix together the rice, sugar, evaporated milk, milk and a dash of the nutmeg in the dish.

3.  Place into a pre-heated oven at 150degC/300degF/Gas 2 for 30 minutes.

4.  Remove, stir the contents gently and dot the remainder of the butter over the surface.  Grate on the remainder of the nutmeg.

5.  Replace into the oven to bake for another 2 hours.  You may need to turn the heat up for the last 30 minutes if you prefer your rice pudding top to have a darker hue.  I turned mine up to 180degC/350degF/Gas 4 and the top was perfect.

The pudding can wait in the oven (make sure to turn it off!) whilst the family eat their first course.  It is also fabulous cold, the following day.

Calories per serving : 272

Printable recipe

2 September 2014

Making rhubarb cordial

As I am sure you are all aware, having followed Rhubarb & Ginger for a while, we very often have a complete glut of our very favourite fruit - rhubarb.  I dare say you even know all about Ruby and her daughter Rubytwo who reside in ground planters either side of our patio.

Well, over the course of the summer Ruby and Rubytwo have been busy growing like triffids and supplying us with the most beautifully textured and flavoured fruit.  However, as mentioned above, it does tend to come in enormous great instalments.  We give it away to neighbours and cook with it - of course.

Now in the last few months, hubby has become interested in making rhubarb cordial.  We get through a lot of cordial (or squash, as we know it here), mixing it with sparkling mineral water for a refreshing and "better for you than commercially produced fizzy drinks" kind of drink.  How better, then, to use a cultivar whose name is "Champagne" rhubarb!

Following some research, hubby established that there are two main methods that folk use for making rhubarb cordial.  The one is where the fruit is cooked - much in the way of jam production - and the juice is then separated.  The other is where the raw fruit is broken down by the use of a blender, the juice extracted and then cooked to separate out the impurities.  It seemed as though both tendered good results, so we resolved to give them both a go.

He started with the cooked variety, which certainly didn't offer much in the way of difficulty and definitely resulted in a very palatable, sweet and fruity - if a tad cloudy - cordial.

The second - raw, let's call it - variety however, really has taken the biscuit where results are concerned.  As such, this is our recommended version and hubby has kindly written up the recipe, which you'll find below.

Raw version on the left, cooked on the right - amazing difference!
The raw version has given a beautifully clear, pale pink elixir that is by a factor of some 50% stronger than the cooked version, much to our surprise.  The flavour is just incomparable, however.  There is certainly no missing the fact that it is rhubarb cordial!

We saved a little of the first, cooked, batch so as to be able to give a proper comparison.  My gosh but the difference is certainly apparent, even from just the look of the thing.  I thought that the first, cooked, batch was good - but this second version transcends good into sublime on both looks and flavour.

Hard to imagine that the paler of the two is the stronger in flavour!
So - if you're lucky enough to be parent to a rhubarb plant (or two!) or maybe you know someone with a rhubarb plant who always has too much rhubarb, why not have a go at making cordial.  You will need a little bit of specialist equipment - a collection of jam bags (cheesecloth is good) and a jam or jelly stand (which saves rigging up somewhere to hang the jam bag as the juice drains).  Both of these are available from Amazon - as that's where we got ours!

RHUBARB CORDIAL    (makes 1.5 litres)

Ingredients :

2 - 3 lbs
rhubarb stalks, washed very thoroughly
700g sugar
juice of 1 lemon, that has been passed through muslin to remove any solids.

Method :

1.  Take a liquidiser (or blender) with a 1 litre capacity jug and keep feeding it raw, washed rhubarb until the puree fills the jug to the 1 litre mark.

2.  Place a jam straining bag, or a piece of muslin in a sieve, over a large bowl and pour the puree into the bag or muslin.

3.  Cover the whole lot with a clean pillowcase or some other contrivance to keep the dust out and allow the puree to drain for at least 12 hours, in a cool place. 

4.  When fully drained, discard the rhubarb pulp or use it to make fruit leather or some such.  Pour the raw rhubarb juice into a large pan, add the sugar and bring the mixture to a slow rolling boil, skimming off any impurities.

5.  Boil for 3 - 4 minutes, by which time you should have finished skimming, which should leave a crystal clear pink syrup in the pan.

6.  Cool the syrup by placing the pan in a sink with enough cold water to come halfway up the outside of the pan.  Stir regularly until the correct temperature has been reached.

7.  When cooled enough, to about the temperature you'd have washing up water, add the lemon juice, stir well and decant into sterilised bottles.

As we've discovered, the resulting syrup is very sweet and very strong.  Dilute at about 10:1 and see how you get on!

Printable version


19 August 2014

Chicken Chow Mein - who needs the takeaway?

Who needs a takeaway?  Not me, not now I've discovered this Chicken Chow Mein recipe.  Oh boy but it was good.  Chow mein from a Chinese takeaway is always good - it's one of our favourites and so that goes without saying.  However, this chow mein was full of everything that does you good with very few things that don't - and no MSG.

Once again, I have to thank Slimming World for the original recipe (which is here) that I have taken and boosted a wee bit for flavour and interest.

Now I really wasn't in the mood for cooking this evening.  I've had a little run of cooking dinner for the last four or five days and I'm about ready for a day off.  (Hubby is stepping into the breach tomorrow, so don't feel too sorry for me - a break is on the horizon!).  I think there must be rain due sometime soon, if my knees are to be believed!  Ouch.

Because this dish is another great two-pot deal (one for the noodles, one for the stir fry), all it required was a half hour's a-chopping and a-peeling, then it was a classic case of sit there and add stuff in order, stirring as you go.  Perfect.  I most definitely wasn't feeling ready for a "dotting about the kitchen, many different processes" type of dinner.  Nuh-uh.

I will admit that I've not made too many changes to the original recipe.  I opted not to use chilli sauce for the marinade, but to chop a live chilli instead.  My tummy can sometimes react badly to the ingredients in hot sauces, so I thought I'd go for the "hot" and leave the "sauce" in the cupboard for the boys to play with.  I also left out the ginger, because Hubby can be sensitive to ginger.  Feel free to add it back in, if you like it!

I also did away with the tinned bamboo shoots, not because I don't like them - I really like them - but it just adds to the expense to be buying a tin of water chestnuts and a tin of bamboo shoots.  Yes, I know you can get tins of stir fry mix that carry them both, but bleugh - who wants tinned bean sprouts?  I much prefer water chestnuts, so I opted to go with those.  Now I also added a few mushrooms, because a stir fry isn't a stir fry without mushrooms in it.  Also, I was surprised to see that there were no bean sprouts included in the original recipe.  Again, a chow mein just isn't right without bean sprouts - so I added a couple of big handfuls of those.  I will admit to being heartily sick of red pepper at the moment, so I reduced that down to a half a pepper.  Feel free to add any of your own favourite stir fry veggies or to take any of my favourites out - after all, it's your dinner!

Now once upon a time, I would always cook a chicken breast per person.  However, I quickly realised that this simply resulted in too much chicken.  Yes, I know, is there such a thing as "too much chicken"?  Well yes, particularly when it goes into a bowl for lunchtime tomorrow, then we get sidetracked and lunchtime tomorrow doesn't happen - and it gets thrown away.  Now that is just heartbreaking.  So in these enlightened times, I generally work on two chicken breasts between three people, but then our butcher's chicken breasts are a very generous size.  I'll leave you to decide how much is enough for your family.

We loved this recipe.  Even Son and heir loved this recipe - and he has been known to dislike stir fry recipes, recipes that include red pepper, recipes that include water chestnuts, etc. etc.  So for Son and heir to tuck into his dinner without a murmur of complaint, is quite some vote of approval.  Hubby even went back for seconds - and at 355 calories (approx.) per portion, he could easily do that without upsetting his diet!

I really enjoyed this recipe.  From the first mouthful to the last, I was happy.  For all the chilli involved, it wasn't very hot spicy at all.  I loved the flavour of the noodles, the mixture of the vegetables, the texture of the chicken - it was all just gorgeous.  I served the chow mein with a little handful of prawn crackers - just to provide a different texture and a little added interest.  Yummy.

There aren't very many Cook's Tips for you about this one, just the following :

-  make sure to have done all your chopping and peeling before you start cooking.  Once you start cooking, it all happens very quickly!

-  make sure the water for the noodles is boiling before you begin cooking the stir fry, as you want the noodles ready and waiting.  The veggies won't wait like the noodles can!

-  be brave over the heat under your wok.  You need it to be at top whack, blisteringly hot, to keep everything from stewing.  Stewing would be just yuk.  Frying is what we want - so you're going to have to move fast to stop bits from burning!

-  make sure to add the sesame oil to the noodles once they're done.  It seems like a stage that could be dropped, but it makes SO MUCH difference to the flavour!

So that's about it!  Do try this one, it really is something special.

CHICKEN CHOW MEIN    (serves 3-4)

Ingredients :

4 tbsp light soy sauce
1 red chilli, half chopped, half sliced for garnish
1 tbsp Chinese rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
3 fat garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets, thinly sliced
200g dried medium egg noodles
2 tsp sesame oil
100g mangetout, halved lengthways
100g baby sweetcorn, halved or quartered lengthways
half a red pepper, sliced finely
100g canned water chestnuts, drained and sliced
8 spring onions, sliced diagonally
3 large mushrooms, halved and sliced
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
4 tbsp dark soy sauce
thinly sliced raw red chilli, for garnish.

Method :

1.  Stir together in a large bowl, the light soy sauce, chilli, vinegar, garlic and five spice powder.  Add the sliced chicken and stir to coat evenly in the marinade.  Leave to marinate for 10 minutes or the time it takes to prepare the vegetables.

2.  Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions and drain well, adding the sesame oil and giving them a good toss to keep them from sticking to one another. 

3.  Using a large wok (because there's a lot to go into it!) add the sunflower oil and heat to as hot as you dare.  Add the chicken mixture and stir-fry over a high heat until all pink is gone and the chicken is beginning to brown.

4.  Add all the mangetout, red pepper and baby sweetcorn and stir-fry until the sweetcorn has begun to soften.

5.  Add the onions, mushrooms and water chestnuts and continue to cook until the mushrooms are softened.

6.  Add the beansprouts and stir to combine.

7.  Add the noodles, sweet chilli sauce and dark soy sauce and cook for a further few minutes until piping hot.

Serve immediately with sliced red chillies sprinkled over and a few prawn crackers.

Printable version

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