28 November 2010

Tuna & Lemon Pasta : a sheer delight!

BBC Good Food's version
I had attempted to include Tuna & Lemon Pasta in the menu list a month or so ago.  However, at that time, the boys in the house weren't at all keen on the idea so I shelved it.  This week, I slipped it quietly onto the menu list and hoped for the best - as I had an inkling that it would be lovely.

Well, it must have either slipped under the radar or they just gave up resisting the idea as we had it for dinner last night - and it proved to be a sheer delight.  Incredibly simple to make (note to self - get Son to make it (supervised) next time), it was just perfect for a Saturday evening when Strictly Come Dancing is trotting towards you on the t.v. horizon.

My version : not far off!
There were a number of good things involving this recipe, as the tuna chunks in oil that I used are currently on special offer with Asda, and I managed to take the two tins home for just £2.  I only used the oil from one tin as it was sunflower and I'd have preferred olive oil.  I just added some olive oil once everything was combined, which made up for it without losing out on flavour.  The oil from the second tin went into the dogs' bowls and was greeted with much enthusiasm at dinner time. We picked up some trimmed fine beans - which were the only fine beans they had - and having just seen one of Nigella's episodes where she cuts her fine beans through the bag, did just that which was just genius as the remainder of the bag kept the whole lot under control until you could throw them into the pan to cook.

TUNA & LEMON PASTA (serves 3)

Ingredients :

350g pasta shells
200g pack trimmed fine beans, cut into short lengths
2 x 185g tins tuna in oil
grated zest of a lemon, plus some juice for drizzling
1 tbsp small capers or a half a tbsp of large capers, cut in half
generous pinch of chilli flakes
olive oil for drizzling
ground black pepper.

Method :

1.  Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 6-7 minutes.

2.  Add the beans and cook for a further 3 minutes until both the pasta and beans are tender.

3.  Meanwhile, tip one tin of tuna & its oil into a bowl, plus the other tin of tuna without its oil.  Flake the fish, trying to keep the pieces quite large.  Stir in the lemon zest, capers, chilli and pepper.  Taste, then add salt and lemon juice to taste.

4.  Drain the pasta and beans, return them to the pan and toss with the tuna mixture.

5.  Add a little olive oil to moisten everything and a squeeze of lemon juice to freshen up the flavours.

Serve on its own, with garlic bread or a small salad.

Cheese Straws

Bet they'll be gone before they've cooled down!

As promised earlier in the blog, here's Hubby's recipe for the Cheese Straws, which are singularly different to the Bread sticks, or Grissini.

Personally, I prefer the Cheese Straws - and have very great difficulty leaving them alone once they're baked!  LOL  I defy anyone to eat more than one at any one go.

CHEESE STRAWS  (makes around 20, depending on how big you cut them)

Ingredients :

50g Self Raising flour
25g softened butter
80g grated mature Cheddar
20g grated parmesan
pinch of smoked paprika
A little milk if needed to bring the dough together


Method :

Heat the oven to 200deg C.

Put a pinch of paprika into the flour and then rub in the butter.

Put the cheeses into the bowl and incorporate with the flour, using a little (tiny amount) of milk if the mix is too dry.

Roll out onto a floured board to about 3mm thick & then cut out fingers to your desired size.  Alternatively, use small shaped cutters for variety.

Place fingers/shapes onto a tray lined with baking parchment and place into the oven
for ten minutes, rotating the tray halfway through if your oven has hotspots.  Once cooked, cool on a wire rack.

For extra lovelynessess, brush with milk & dust with more parmesan or sea salt, prior to baking.  Personally, I adore the sea salt versions.

Note : "Hotspots"  - this is where an oven has areas which cook the food more quickly then others.  In our oven, the very front of the oven space will brown food far more quickly than the back, which I take to be because our is a fan oven.  Hence, we always need to turn our baking, in order to achieve an "all over" browning.

Non-Rissoles, yummy Devilled Chicken & new Sausage & Mozzarella Pasta Bake photo!

You might remember from my overview of the week's menus, that we were going to endeavour a trip back in time by way of the Rissole.  Well, it didn't happen.  That's not to say we didn't TRY to make it happen - it just appeared to be doomed from the start and definitely didn't get any better as time went by.

It was a Delia Smith recipe, so we had confidence in that most of Delia's recipes work absolutely fine and give perfectly acceptable results.

Pork & Apple
normally works!
Hubby was cooking this one, but its success or failure wasn't anything to do with him, as right from the word go when he combined the first few ingredients, it was looking ropey.  The resultant mush, from which one was supposed to be able to form little patty shapes, ran through his fingers.  Having firmed it up with judicious use of flour, his suspicions were aroused and so he pan-fried some of the mixture as a test.  The flavours just didn't work.  The pork was overwhelmed by both the apple and the mace, plus the apple had made the mix far too wet.

However, he persevered and gave it the benefit of the doubt.  You see the cooking was long and slow oven cooking, covered, and so we thought that perhaps the flavours would meld better in the cooking.  Certainly the sharpness of the apple had mellowed somewhat, but the pork was indeed completely lost and quite apart from anything else, they had welded themselves to the roasting tin.  We got a pack of sausages out of the freezer and the rissole mix went into the bin.  Irritating, when it involved £2-worth of pork mince and a cooking apple, not to mention the energy it took to make and cook them.

However, it would be amazing if one didn't experience a flop every now and then!

The Devilled Chicken recipe was markedly more successful - although I don't have a photograph to prove the issue, as I hadn't realised that the memory card wasn't in the camera when I took the photographs!  However, I'm quite sure that it won't be long before we re-visit this recipe and I'll update with photographs and blog the recipe then.



Here's a new photograph of a family favourite, our Sausage & Mozzarella Bake.  This one shows the underside of the lovely gooey Mozzarella, where the pasta, broccoli and sausage hide.  With the lovely rich tomato & chilli sauce, it is just the job for these chilly winter evenings.

Self-saucing Lemon Pudding

Photo from BBC Good Food
Regrettably, I don't have a photograph of my version of this one - although it was completely gorgeous and well worth a photograph.  The recipe stated baking it for 45-50 mins, but when I looked at it after 40 minutes, the top was incinerated!  I could have kicked myself all around the kitchen and back (had I have been capable of doing so).

Still, I managed to cut the burned top off and there was still around two-thirds of the sponge left - and it didn't taste burned at all - so we ate it anyway, just minus it's lovely brown crunchy top.

Once we've replaced our weighing scales (which have melted in some bizarre and unknown heat-induced accident that no-one can lay claim to), I'll have another go at this one.

The sponge is as light as a feather, owing to the whipped egg whites.  It put me in mind of Floating Islands, although floating on a sea of lemon curd.  The flavour was beautifully lemony - and not so lemony that it made your eyes cross and your saliva glands go into overdrive.  Just a balmy lemon curd that was completely yummy.

SELF-SAUCING LEMON PUDDING (serves 4)

Ingredients :

50g butter
200g caster sugar
1 lemon, zested
100ml lemon juice (include the juice from the zested lemon)
3 eggs, separated
50g plain flour, sifted
250ml milk
icing sugar for dusting

Method :

1.  Heat the oven to 180deg C/fan 160deg/gas mark 4.

2.  In a bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until they are creamy.  Add the lemon zest and whisk again to combine.

3.  One by one, add the lemon juice, egg yolks, flour and milk until you have a smooth batter.

4.  Whisk the egg whites until firm but not stiff, and fold the two mixtures together.

5.  Pour into a buttered oven proof souffle or baking dish and put it in a baking tray half-filled with hot water.

6.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is browned (check after 30 minutes) and set and there is a gooey lemon curd below.

7.  Remove the dish from the tray, dust with icing sugar and serve hot, with or without cream.

24 November 2010

New blog post on "Jenny's Week", Bournemouth Echo "Taste" Supplement




I won't put the whole blog post out here, as you will have read the majority
of it before, in the blog posts regarding the Quince, Apple & Carrot Muffins
and the Creamy Kabanos Pasta.

However, if you're curious, click on :


Oh noes! Curryless in Curry Week!


Well that was spectacularly bad planning on my part.  It's National Curry Week this week (21st - 27th November) and I haven't scheduled a curry - at all!  ~gasp~

Is there a calendar somewhere that shows when National <insert foodstuff here> week is?  At least then I'd be prepared - and you all know how I love to be prepared!  There has to be some boy scout somewhere back in my lineage somewhere.

Although - have you heard (or even seen) some of the weird and wonderful dishes that Cobra Beer have cooked up in honour of National Curry Week?

Devonshire Cream Chai
with cardamom cream and chilli jam
Having teamed up with currinary (*snicker*) talent and Indian cookery writer Pat Chapman, made-for-curry beer Cobra conducted a survey which identified the nation’s top ten favourite regional foods. Various ‘Br-Indian’ versions were then created of each of the nation’s ten favourite traditional dishes. While the humble Yorkshire pudding has been named Britain’s number one favourite regional dish (not surprisingly, perhaps), the results of the survey also includes the Cornish pasty, the Devonshire cream tea, the Bakewell tart, Haggis and Welsh rarebit – all of which have been ‘curried’ in celebration of Cobra National Curry Week 2010.  The mind boggles at how they have managed to "curry up" a Devon Cream Tea, for instance.
Ha-ghee-s
*snort*

So, the ten new delicious recipes – including ‘Devonshire cream chai’, a spice-infused take on the teatime classic served with chilli jam; ‘ha-ghee-s’ (my personal favourite), traditional haggis served with curry sauce; and ‘pie, madras & liquor’, an Eastern twist on the East end favourite –will be sold in participating regional Indian restaurants across the country throughout Cobra National Curry Week 2010, 200 years on since the very first curry house opened in Britain in 1810.
For those after more traditional dishes, Cobra has also teamed up with 500 restaurants across Britain to offer a two for one promotion on main meals from Monday 21st November to Thursday 25th November with the purchase of Cobra Beer.
 
Log onto www.cobrabeer.com (where you can find pictures of all 10 "curried up" dishes) or www.facebook.com/welovecurry for details of the nearest participating curry house as well as the recipes and details of the curry houses selling the special dishes during National Curry Week.

Now, if only we could afford to go out for a curry .... *sigh* .... ah well, I guess we'll just have to "curry up" something at home!

23 November 2010

What's for dinner this week, then?

Very good question!

This week's menu's have largely been brought to you care of Delia Smith's "Frugal Food" and the BBC Good Food website, with one element of Jamie Oliver.  The week's programme began to write itself fairly early on in the previous week, when I got down to having a serious (as opposed to a quick flick through) look through Delia's recipe book.

Incidentally, can anyone tell me the difference between a "cookery book" and a "recipe book"?  The Cambridge Dictionary defines a "cookbook" as "a book containing recipes which tell you how to prepare and cook particular dishes", whereas it doesn't carry a definition for "recipe book".  I'd have thought that a "cookery book" contained paragraphs on "how to" as well as recipes (as with "The Constance Spry Cookery Book"), whereas a "recipe book" is just the recipes.  Maybe I'm wrong in that, though?  There seems to be almost as many descriptions for books regarding cookery as there are books!

So, anyway, I digress.

Here's what's on the menu this week :

Tuesday (which is tonight, as I write this blog) : this is a Delia night.  We had Devilled Chicken Pieces with onion rice.

This is the photo that went with the
recipe - but it's not how they looked
when I'd finished making them!
This was an experiment on two counts.  Firstly, as a first go at Delia's recipe for Devilled Chicken Drumsticks (albeit we had pieces) and secondly, as a first go at having chicken pieces (i.e. drumsticks & thighs) instead of breast fillets.  Because of the hike in price of frozen breast of chicken fillets, it has now become almost impossible for us to afford them and, because we have so many chicken recipes, I was keen to find a replacement.  I pondered on buying a whole chicken and jointing it - but I could immediately see that would be a non-starter on a busy day.  A bag of frozen drumsticks and thighs cost less than an entire chicken (and provide you with 5 of each, drumstick and thigh) and have the benefit of being extra-tasty in comparison to a breast fillet.  Of course, you can't stuff them, but you can use them in casseroles and stand-alone roast type dishes such as the Devilled Chicken.

Well, it proved a success.  Not exactly a resounding success - but that was down to Son's difficulty with handling chicken on the bone, rather than any other problem.  The recipe is a good one (I'll blog it eventually!) and although - next time - I might add a little more spiciness to the devilling, it was suitably finger-licking good.  I gave Son a drumstick and a thigh.  The drumstick he coped with just fine, the thigh was a little more challenging.  However, it's nothing that a little practice won't cure.

The onion rice, however, was more than a little ho-hum.  I won't bother blogging that one as we definitely won't be trying it again.  It was just too bland and uninteresting, even though I tarted it up with some cinnamon bark and broad beans.  I'm sure I can make a vegetable rice that will provide more interest.

Wednesday : Spirali al Pesto Rosso

Please don't pick me up on my Italian - it's just a humorous "at home" name for Spirali pasta with Red Pesto and Kielbasa sausage.  I'm looking forward to this one, as we've bought a red pesto which involves walnut and which should go with the Kielbasa (Hunter's Sausage) really well.  It's hubby's first cooking night, so fingers crossed it goes well for him!

[Edited on Wednesday evening, to say that the Kielbasa sausage (Hunter's Sausage) is TDF (to die for) and the Pesto (Red Pepper and Walnut, made by Dress Italian) is absolutely lovely.  I have rarely seen such a simple pasta dish wolfed in shorter time!]
Mace, bagged up
and ready for export
Thursday : Rissoles, potato wedges and peas

Thursday is hubby's second cooking night and tonight he's attempting to re-create a taste from his past - Rissoles.  The recipe he's using is another Delia one, which also uses ground Mace.  Now, I can't remember the last time I ever used Mace in anything so I was intrigued to have a sniff once we'd bought some.  Immediately my mind travelled to Rice Pudding, not Rissoles, so it'll be interesting to see what the Mace brings to the Pork Mince that is being used.

Friday : Sausage & Mozzarella Pasta Bake

By dint of the frequent requests, not to mention the puppy-dog eyes that accompany them, we will be indulging in gorgeously spicy tomatoey pasta with sausage pieces, broccoli and that creamy, gooey, cheesy mass that is melted mozzarella.  *sigh*  Happy happy.

This is the Jamie Oliver inspired one, which I have blogged about on a previous occasion back in September, but you can find its recipe here.

Saturday : Tuna & Lemon Pasta with garlic bread
Photo from BBC Good Food
Wonder what my version will look like?
It's another "eat on your lap, whilst watching Strictly Come Dancing" job again.  We've not had this one before and the idea of tuna alongside lemon, with fine green beans and pasta shells, appeals to my taste buds.  In fact, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Sunday : Pot Roast Chicken, roast potatoes & parsnips, carrots & green vegetables with Yorkshire Puddings.

I just have to try the pot roasting method on another chicken.  It was SUCH a resounding success the first time, I have to check and see whether that was just a fluke!

I'm also going to attempt to make my own yorkshire puddings.  I haven't told you about the disaster, nay tragedy, that was my Toad in the Hole - and I never will.  Suffice to say that I'm not holding out much hope for wonderfully risen Yorkies.  However, I'll keep on trying because one day - one day - I'll make it.  One day.

Photo from BBC Good Food
Monday : Lemon & Chilli Chicken Noodles

I think maybe I'm coming down with a cold or something, because I have a serious yearning for all things lemony at the moment.  I'm not sure what a yearning for noodles means, but I seem to have a constant hankering for those, too!  This is another BBC Good Food recipe which makes admirably good use of the other half of the chicken from Sunday.  I just hope that the fresh stir-fry mix I buy on Friday will last until Monday!

Apart from a marked lean towards the pasta, I think this week's dishes are a little more balanced than last week's "heavy on the Yorkshire pudding" week!

21 November 2010

Creamy Kabanos Pasta


This is a Rachel Allen recipe, which I have tweaked slightly to appeal to our taste in tomato sauces - which is that a tomato based sauce should taste of tomato.

Regarding the Kabanos sausage, we are fortunate in that Bournemouth Asda stocks a good range of Polish ingredients (Indian, too!) and in their delicatessen range are these Kabanos.  Asda used to stock their own version, but replaced it with the much more authentic type.  If however, you can't find Kabanos in your locality, do not despair as Chorizo would do just as well, as would Kielbasa.  In fact, we've got our eye on some of the Polish Kielbasa (known as "Hunter's Sausages") for a dish next week.

I chose this recipe for this day because it appeared to be simple to prepare, didn't make much washing-up and could be eaten whilst sitting in an armchair watching Strictly Come Dancing.  *chuckle*  As it was, it fitted all those requirements admirably!

I was a teensy bit worried about how the cream would amalgamate with the tomatoes without a) splitting and b) tasting disgusting, but in fact it mixed in without a problem and turned what was beginning to be a quite aggressive tomato sauce into a toothless tiger of a sauce (but not in a derogatory way!).  Once you add the sausage and it has bled its flavour into the surroundings, the whole thing comes together in a delicious amalgamation that was right up there in the flavour stakes, but without any of the tummy-curling acidity that can sometimes come with tomatoes and chillies in the same spoonful.

Definitely a do-again, in our house!

CREAMY KABANOS PASTA (serves 3)

Ingredients :

A knob of butter or 2 tbsp olive oil
225g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, grated or crushed
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1-2 tsp sugar
225g kabanos sausage sliced into small logs
pinch dried red chilli flakes
80ml single cream
a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp chopped parsley
300g spirali pasta
4 tbsp grated parmesan

Method :

Melt the butter or olive oil in a large saucepan and add the garlic & rosemary and allow to infuse.

Add the chopped tomatoes and season with salt & pepper and to taste with the sugar.  Cook the tomatoes until they have begun to soften, or for about 5 minutes.

Add the sausage to the pan with the chilli flakes, cream, chopped parsley, worcestershire sauce and tomato ketchup.  Simmer with the lid off until the mixture has reduced by half, 10-20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Take off the heat and check and adjust the seasoning.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water until it is slightly al dente (according to pack instructions).  Once cooked, drain and toss with the sauce.

Scatter each serving with the grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Good with garlic bread!

Quince, Carrot & Apple Muffins

On the way to work the other day, I was sat at traffic lights when I was aware that there, in the hedge to a piece of common land, were several small golden globes.  I suddenly woke up to the fact that I was, in all probability, looking at a quince bush.  There was a slight possibility that they were apples, but either way they required further inspection.  So, when I left for home, I had a quick peep and sure enough they were quince.  It didn't take very long at all for me to pick them and pop them into a bag (I always carry a plastic bag, just in case of foraging bounty!) and away home they came.

I still had half of Laura's quinces in the freezer, so what to do with these?  I had found all kinds of savoury uses for quince, but wanted to explore using them in a sweet context.  They are quite tongue-curlingly sour, so my mind began to travel down the lemon route.  After all, lemons are equally sour yet we use them in lemon tarts, lemon drizzle cakes - all kinds of sweet contexts.


I had a recipe for lemon drizzle muffins, which fitted with the ingredients I had to hand.  However, I felt that the quince on their own might not have enough "oomph" to stand up to the relatively rough handling that a muffin mix receives, although there would certainly be enough sugar involved.  So I remembered my recipe for carrot & apple muffins.  Quince goes admirably well with apple, they have a certain similarity in flavour.  Hence, the Quince, Carrot & Apple Muffins were born.

A tip for grating quinces - don't cut them into quarters and try to remove the core (as I began to do), instead just grate them down to the core (which is so hard, it doesn't grate easily by hand anyway), turn and grate again, turn and grate again, until the quince is done.

The muffins are truly delicious, with a light fluffy texture that retains the moistness of the fruit & carrot content and a very definite flavour of quince which lends them a mysterious air.  Perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.


QUINCE, CARROT & APPLE MUFFINS (makes 12 medium sized muffins)

Ingredients :

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt
half a cup of raisins, or sultanas, or mixed fruit
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated apple
1 cup grated quince
three quarters of a cup of vegetable oil
3 eggs

Method :

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180deg/gas mark 4.  Mix all the dry ingredients together, then add the wet fruit and carrot and stir briefly with a fork, to combine.

2.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and oil together, then add to the flour/fruit mixture and stir lightly with a fork.  You're not looking for a well-mixed texture, as muffins seem to benefit from the odd lump and bump!

3.  Spoon into muffin cases (silicone versions are great) and bake for 20-25 mins or until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

4.  Try not to eat them all before they've cooled down.

20 November 2010

Pasta Ratatouille Bake and how time flies!

I woke up this morning with two priorities in mind.  One was to bake some Muffins involving Quince in some way.  The other was to blog on the Ratatouille Bake we ate for dinner last night.

So far, it's got to 1.50pm and I've had a shower, had breakfast, been to Sainsbury's (extra-curricular trip, for flour), returned and caught up with my email whilst having a coffee, then had lunch, then had an extra-curricular trip to the Ashley Road to drop hubby off.  Only now, am I getting to one of those priorities.  Does this happen to everyone, or is it just me?

Yes, I could have got out of bed before 9 a.m. but I have been so totally dog-tired for the last two days that having a bit of a long sleep through was getting to be vital.  I'm always scared to become too tired, just in case - one day - my brain decides to melt as it did some 2 years ago when I had a mini stroke.  Don't want that to happen again, just in case next time it decides not to be mini!  Anyway.  Enough rambling about not having time - let's get on and tell you about the Pasta Ratatouille Bake.


I had tripped over this recipe on the Good Food Channel's website and it appealed to me for the following reasons :

1.  It provided three of your five-a-day vegetables in what appeared to be extremely palatable form;
2.  It used pasta, so was potentially a good alternative to using potatoes in a dish;
3.  It was oven baked with cheese melted over the top, which is very palatable for young Son.

I knew Son wouldn't enjoy the courgettes, but they were big enough for him to avoid.  I had hope that he would enjoy the broad beans, as they were a relatively new vegetable for him and, coming in frozen form, were easy to keep handy.

As it turned out, the dish was delicious and baked well with the pasta.  I used Spirali instead of the classic macaroni, largely because we already had some Spirali in the cupboard.  I also used Thyme instead of Basil, as my Basil plant had died over the last two days of sharp overnight frosts.  Even being kept in the kitchen didn't help it.  I admit that I also added a tablespoon of tomato ketchup to the sauce, just to add that little tang that the fresh tomato wasn't providing.  The last adjustment was that I grated over some sharp Cheddar cheese as well as the Parmesan, in order to up the cheese quota so as to appeal to Son.  The recipe makes a fair amount - way more than would feed 4 people - but nil desperandum as it made a lovely lunch the following day.

PASTA RATATOUILLE BAKE  (feeds 5-6)

Ingredients :

200g pasta (Spirali or Macaroni are good)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 courgettes, sliced (you may need 3, depending on how many you're feeding & the size of the courgettes.  Mine were big!)
200g broad beans (fresh, frozen or tinned)
1 tbps tomato ketchup
125ml vegetable stock (from a cube is fine, just don't add too much extra salt)
25g parmesan cheese, grated
10g sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Method :

1.  Preheat the oven to 180deg c/gas mark 4.

2.  Cook the pasta according to the instructions given on the packet and drain.

3.  Meanwhile, in a deep frying pan, heat the oil and cook the onion for 5-10 mins, until it's tender and golden.

4.  Add the garlic for the last 2-3 minutes and cook through.

5.  Stir in the herbs, tomatoes, courgettes, beans, stock, tomato ketchup and seasoning and simmer for 5 minutes.

6.  Combine the pasta with the vegetables and stir gently, then decant into a warmed casserole dish.

7.  Grate the cheese over the top, then oven-bake for 30-35 mins.

Excellent served with Sausages, Gammon, Pork Chops.

19 November 2010

Grissini


While I was at work yesterday, hubby was busy in the kitchen working on a new bread product - Grissini.

Now this is his first go at Grissini and he's not terribly happy with the results, but I am!  I ate four (at least) of them last night, as did our son.  I can understand his dissatisfaction with them, as being a bit of a perfectionist ~koff - putting it mildly - koff~ the fact that they wound up slightly hard rather than crisp, wasn't how he imagined they would result.  However, I could very easily see them working beautifully well with a pot of Green Pea Dip, or Hummous - one of those rather more substantial dips that wafer-like dipping equipment quail at.

I'm sure he'll have another go, as he definitely won't be beaten by a Grissini.  However, until then, here's the recipe if anyone wants to have a try :

GRISSINI (Breadsticks) Makes 20 x 6" grissini

Ingredients :

200g white bread flour
50g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary or ½ tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2  tsp pepper
7g of fresh yeast or 1/2 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
140ml lukewarm water
4 tbsp semolina or polenta
1 tsp olive oil


Method

Dissolve the sugar into the water and then mix in the yeast.
Add the remaining flour to form a soft dough then dust a work surface with flour.
Turn the dough on to the floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, working in more flour if needed, to keep the dough from sticking.  Cover with a damp tea towel and rest for 10 minutes.
Cut a sheet of greaseproof paper and sprinkle with 1 tbsp semolina or polenta.
Roll out the dough into a large rectangle, then fold in four and repeat four or five times.
Finally, roll into a large rectangular sheet 3mm thick.  Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until doubled.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6). Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and sprinkle with semolina or polenta.
Cut the dough sheet across into 20 equal strips. Holding each strip by the ends, twist and stretch until it the desired shape is reached. Place the twists on the baking sheet. Leave to rise, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Lightly coat the strips of dough with cooking spray or a little olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes.
Remove the breadsticks from the oven and lightly coat again with cooking spray or brush with a teaspoon of olive oil. Bake for a further 8 minutes or until golden and crisp. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.Mix 100g of the flour with the parmesan, rosemary and pepper in a large bowl.

17 November 2010

Pot Roast Chicken

This blog post first appeared in the Bournemouth Echo newspaper's "Taste" supplement.  You can see it here.

I MAY NEVER ROAST A CHICKEN AGAIN

To roast .. or to poach, this is the question!
After last night’s Pot Roast Chicken, I should think that this bold statement is a very strong possibility.  Poached in a rich, flavoursome home made stock, with fresh vegetables alongside, all thoughts of dry over-done chicken are cast into history by this revelation of a cooking method.

I was pondering on why I haven’t ever given the Pot-Roast a try (well, except with the slow-cooker, but that’s somewhat different).  I have come to the conclusion that it is for fear – particularly with a chicken – that the bird will emerge from the pot looking rather too much like one’s big toe does after too long immersed in a hot bath.  A flabby, wrinkly chicken isn’t the most appetising prospect.   What?  You mean to say that your toes don’t go all flabby and wrinkly?  Oh dear, it must just be mine then.

Incidentally, and going back to the beginning of the story, a quite lovely coincidence happened with regard to my Pot-Roast Chicken.  I had discovered the recipe when I was trawling various recipe websites, looking for inspiration for the next week’s menu list.  Up popped this recipe for Pot-Roast Chicken, which appeared to be a) economical and b) by Delia Smith.  That was two points in its favour.  Fast forward to Saturday morning, when I went to the Library to return my books and choose my new batch.  There, sitting quietly on the shelf, was Delia Smith’s “Frugal Food”.  Well, the word “frugal” attracted my attention to begin with, and realising it was one of Delia’s made me tuck it under my arm and bring it home.  Lo and behold, what is in there but the very recipe for Pot-Roast Chicken.  Ta-daaa!  Amazing.

I got in a bit of a tizzy over the cooking of the Pot-Roast, as it seemed to involve a number of different processes – not to mention I was producing roast potatoes & parsnips, Yorkshire puddings and cabbage alongside.  So I wrote out a programme, to make sure it arrived at around 5.50-6 p.m. :

3.40    Trim & prepare chicken
3.50    Oven bake chicken for 30 mins and prepare vegetables.
4.20    Put chicken in pot plus veg and cook 1 hr.
4.50    Par boil potatoes & parsnips, put tray in to heat
5.00    Put potatoes & parsnips in to roast.
5.20    Put Yorkshire puds in, veg to keep warm, gravy to reduce in small pan, carve chicken.
5.40    Put cabbage on to cook.

It may not appear to be much of a plan, but I knew that without it I’d spend a large part of my time working out times, just so that I could keep everything happening when it should!

Trimming and preparing the chicken was just a few minutes’ work - piercing an onion with cloves and parking it in the cavity, seasoning and rubbing the chicken with butter, before popping into the oven to brown.

It was important to prepare the vegetables - two carrots, a leek cut into four, two garlic cloves and some parsley, before the chicken finished it’s oven roasting, as they had to accompany it into the pot.

Mindful of Masterchef’s constant challenge to “get some flavour into your food”, I thought that poaching the chicken in plain old water was a bit under-achieving.  (Sorry, Delia!).  So I quickly defrosted a couple of blocks of home made chicken stock, which I topped up with water – and poached the bird in that.  Apart from the odd cruise past to make sure all was well under the lid, it had enough moisture, no veggies had emerged etc., it was a remarkably well-behaved way of cooking.  I can’t help but think it is probably more economic than running the oven for an hour and half, too.  It mostly chuckled along on a gentle heat for the hour it was poaching.  Of course, I blew any advantage along those lines by roasting potatoes and parsnips, plus making Yorkshire puddings – but it’s worth remembering for next time!


The chicken was delicious.  Moist and without that odd sulphurous tone that an ordinarily roast chicken has, it was a pleasure to eat – not to mention the added notes from the stock and vegetables.  I served the carrots and leek pieces alongside the chicken and both had benefited from their languishing in the tasty stock.  The gravy, though!  Oh, the gravy!  I scooped out three or four ladlefuls of stock into a smaller saucepan and reduced it down to make the gravy.  Oh boy, but it would be the base for a truly gorgeous chicken soup.  Regrettably though, I shall have to keep the extra stock for the next chicken – although next time, I shall definitely put the carcase into the slow cooker and make up the next batch of stock.

Dessert was something of an experiment.  I had been given a bag full of Quinces from a friend who grew them for the decorative effect in the garden, but not for use.  I have never tangled with Quince before and for all that I’d seen many recipes that involved their use, I hadn’t any great plan for them.  Because of this, I firstly investigated how best to keep them – would Quince freeze, for example.  Having cut them in half and oven-roasted them covered, with a little sugar, I was able to squeeze the core and pips out and discard them.  This resulted in a gorgeously aromatic little bowl of extremely tart fruit flesh.  The taste – once you stop wincing from the sourness – is slightly reminiscent of apple.  I knew I had a cooking apple in the fridge, which was looking for a home.


Cue one Apple & Quince Sponge pudding, with the fruit in a gorgeously tart layer below a sponge made with foraged Chestnut roasted crumbs, which was an absolute treat with some vanilla ice cream.


 

16 November 2010

Tuesday preview of the week to come

Gosh, where did the last week go?  We don't try to have the days fly past - but they do - and seemingly quicker and quicker as I get older!  Makes me wonder if perhaps one reaches an age where the days begin to slow down, or if they just continue to disappear at the rate of knots.  

So. I've yet to post about the Pot Roast Chicken, which is largely because it forms the bulk of the post I have written for the Bournemouth Echo's "Taste" supplement, so I'll post to here once they have released it.  Suffice to say it was something of a revelation, but you'll just have to wait to discover why.

For the coming week, I was primarily concerned with price.  We're still feeling the pinch from the disruption to our cash flow and consequently we're pedalling hard to catch up.  Spending over the budget on food is definitely not on the agenda at the moment.  In fact, the closer I can get the Tuesday shopping to £40, the happier I'll be.  Today's shopping came to £45, so we almost hit the target.

£5.25 per 1kg
The thing is, they aren't even
nice!
You won't find any recipes involving king prawns, or beef, or lamb or any loveliness like that - in fact, you won't find any frozen chicken involved in our menu either.  Have you seen the price it has suddenly shot up to?  We were shocked - and our Chicken Curry was abandoned which led to a spur of the moment choice which I'm sure the boys will be happy with, but leaves a bit to be desired where both nutrition and gastronomy are concerned.  In fact, all the meals where Hubby is cooking, appear to be "straight from the freezer" meals which are certainly cheap, but that's about where it finishes.  I understand why we have chosen these meals and I know that we have little choice in the matter right now, but it is disappointing when you're trying to steer clear of processed meats and high fat foods.  I can only think that we're going to have to buy a whole fresh chicken and joint it up - which bizarrely, was cheaper!

So, the week to come is looking like this :

Home made chicken pie, with illicit yorkies and, right to left
at back - swede & carrot mash, plus broccoli and peas.
Tuesday : home made Chicken Pie with mashed carrot & swede, plus peas and broccoli.

The chicken for this pie is the other half of the pot roast chicken.  I thought it would be interesting to see how the leftover chicken reacted to a) being cold and b) being heated again by being put in a pie.  I can confirm that, as cold chicken, it was deliciously moist and would have been completely divine in a Coronation Chicken, or a humungous chicken salad.  Once heated and put in the pie, it had none of the "leftovers" taste of roast chicken, but was deliciously flavoured by the stock it had been cooked in - which I used to make the gravy for the pie.  So that is all good!

I absolutely love mashed carrot & swede - particularly when the carrots are sweet.  Mashed with a little butter and a lot of black pepper, it is just so rewarding to eat.  Because of the pastry involved in the pie, I wasn't going to bother with any other form of carbohydrate so no potatoes, however some leftover pre-made Yorkshire Puddings just happened to creep in.  ~Looks hard at hubby~  The carrot & swede, plus broccoli and peas were ample, but the yorkies were nice to have anyway. The only point I felt needed work was the gravy within the pie, which became much more liquid as the pie cooked.  I'll have to make sure the gravy is a lot thicker, next time!

Note "real meat" sign
What else would they be?
~shudder~
Wednesday : Meatballs with parsnip, carrot, peas & broccoli in a giant Yorkshire Pudding.

Yes, it's yorkshire pudding again.  Don't ask me how, but we've wound up with the stuff on the menu twice - and with the extra-curricular yorkies in Tuesday's dinner making three times, I suspect we'll just have to avoid it for a while hereafter!

The meatballs are the pre-prepared Swedish Meatballs, which are on special offer at the moment, at £1 a pack.  The vegetables are all the leftovers from other meals, so we didn't have to buy any specifically for this meal.  For all that they smell disgusting, the Swedish Meatballs hold a place in my heart as they were the only thing that my little dog Ginny would eat, following some surgery many years ago.  They brought her back from the dead, and for that I will always be grateful to them.  However, I wouldn't want to experience them on the menu too often - there had to be a reason why dogs like them so much!

Thursday : Fish in breadcrumbs, potato waffles and peas.

Call this a D.I.Y. fish & chips.  Well, it uses up the six waffles we've got lurking in the fridge!

Picture from Good Food Channel
Bet mine won't look like that!
Friday : Sausages with Pasta Ratatouille Bake.

Now this is a new one.  No, not the sausages - they're old friends.  Incidentally, we've discovered that we can no longer stomach Asda sausages and have defected to Sainsbury's.  Sainsbury's common-or-garden sausages aren't the best by a long chalk, but they're still streets ahead of the hard, tasting of bicarb and not a lot else, miserable offerings from Asda.

The Pasta Ratatouille Bake is one of the Good Food Channel's recipes.  It involves lovely things like fresh tomatoes, courgettes, broad beans and oodles of parmesan cheese - so we'll be getting some of our five-a-day.  Here's hoping it turns out as nice as it sounds!

Saturday : Kabanos Pasta & Garlic Bread.

This one is an interesting recipe that I really don't know how it will come out.  The Kabanos are Polish sausages somewhere inbetween Chorizo and Kielbasa.  I've bought the authentic Polish versions of them (our Asda stocks a number of authentic Polish ingredients) and, as the recipe includes tomatoes, garlic, chilli flakes with single cream and parmesan, it will be a bit of a leap of faith!

Incidentally, in case you're wondering about the Parmesan - knowing that it is normally quite pricey - we've discovered that Asda sell a small block for some £2.25 which will usually last around four to five servings.  If you divide that into the price - it doesn't turn out too bad.  Well, not when you consider the return you get in flavour!

Sunday : Toad in the hole, carrots, swede, green beans and peas.

Yes, here comes the old yorkshire pudding again.  *sigh*  I really must try not to do this again in future!  Still, this one will be home-made - and if you knew how hard I have tried to make a decent yorkshire pudding that rises how it's supposed to, tastes good and doesn't languish like a thick coating of latex, you'd be wishing me good luck with it!

I'm quite determined that ONE DAY, I'll be able to produce a yorkshire pudding that a Yorkshire housewife would be proud of.  I've even bought a new roasting tin, especially for the job.

Monday : Chicken Portions with vegetable rice.

These are the spur-of-the-moment fallback position from the Chicken Curry that didn't happen owing to price.  I can't actually remember which flavours Hubby picked up - but they are the "in breadcrumbs, munched up and stuck back together again" chicken portions, rather than pieces of "real" chicken.  While they are okay, I'll be secretly looking forward to the vegetable rice.  But ssshhhhh - don't tell anyone!  *chuckle*

15 November 2010

Chestnut Sponge Dessert with Apple & Quince

I say "dessert", to distinguish it from a sponge cake as this is very definitely a "sponge in a dish".

This dessert sponge was something of an experiment.  I had been given a bag full of Quinces from a friend who grew them for the decorative effect in the garden, but not for use in the kitchen.

I have never tangled with Quince before and for all that I’d seen many recipes that involved their use, I hadn’t any great plan for them.  Because of this, I firstly investigated how best to keep them – would Quince freeze, for example.

Having cut them in half and oven-roasted them with a little sugar and water in a covered dish, I was able to squeeze the core and pips out and discard them.  This resulted in a gorgeously aromatic little bowl of extremely tart fruit flesh.

The taste – once you stop wincing from the sourness – is somewhat reminiscent of apple.  I knew I had a cooking apple in the fridge, which was looking for a home.  Cue one Apple & Quince Sponge pudding, with the fruit in a gorgeously tart layer below a sponge made with roasted Chestnut crumbs (we'd foraged the Chestnuts some weeks ago and the roasted crumbs had been in the freezer ever since), which was an absolute treat with some vanilla ice cream.

CHESTNUT SPONGE WITH APPLE & QUINCE  (Serves 3-4)

Ingredients :

3 tbsp Quince pulp
1 Bramley apple, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp water
a half a cup of sugar
a half a cup of flour
a half a cup of roasted chestnut crumbs
a half a cup of milk
1 tsp baking powder
a quarter teaspoon of salt

Method :

1.  Pre-heat oven at 180deg C. 

2.  Place the sliced apple, quince, honey, sugar and water into the bottom of a small casserole dish and microwave on high for 3 minutes, then stir to combine and set aside.

3.  In another bowl, place the flour, sugar, milk, baking powder, salt and chestnut crumbs and whisk together until they resemble a thickish batter.

4.  Pour over the fruit, then place into the oven for 35-40 minutes.

Serve warm, with vanilla icecream or greek yoghurt.

Win a £25 voucher for use with CSN Stores!


CSN Stores?  Who are they?

Many apologies to them, but that's what I asked myself when I was contacted by them to run a giveaway.  However, behind the letters "CSN" there lies a multitude of opportunities to find a very good use for £25.  From bedroom furniture through lighting both classic and modern, to - and most importantly - cookware, you'll be spoiled for choice as to what to ask for.


There are six - yes, six - websites affiliated to the CSN name and across which your voucher will apply, comprising :

http://www.csnstores.co.uk
http://www.allmodern.co.uk/ http://www.cookwarebycsn.co.uk/
http://www.furniturebycsn.co.uk/
http://www.lightingbycsn.co.uk/
http://www.tvstands.co.uk/

So.  What do you need to do for this competition?

  Simply tell me the very first recipe you ever made - that you felt really proud of.

For me, it was 31 years ago and it was a curry - made with chicken pieces cooked in the pressure cooker that I used to boil Linseed for my horses.  Made from scratch and with home-made stock, it was real cooking.

Post your responses to the blog here
and for an additional entry, re-tweet on Twitter!

Competition closes at 4pm on the 22nd November 2010

Good luck!

14 November 2010

Honey & Lemon Chicken

I absolutely love this recipe.  I love the way the lemon juice caramelises in the roasting tin - and in doing so, it caramelises onto the chicken and the potatoes which are roasting and just absorbing all that lovely lemon juice and honey which has been infused with rosemary and garlic.  With the melted butter, it just winds up with a gorgeusly chickeny, roast potatoey, lemony melange that makes my mouth water.

Son and hubby both decided that it was just "okay", but I am afraid it is going to re-appear at some point in the distant future, because it is just too gorgeous to ignore.  We'll have to call this one a "Mummy Supper" and everyone else will just have to suffer it.  *chuckle*

There aren't many that I insist on cooking, and I do try to avoid potatoes, but I am afraid I just enjoy this one too much.  You need to use a BIG roasting tin so as to give everything room to manoeuver, or it will braise too much instead of roasting.

HONEY & LEMON CHICKEN (serves 3)

Ingredients :

2 lemons, 1 zested and juiced, the other simply juiced
50g butter
leaves from 4 rosemary sprigs
2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
4-5 chicken breasts, without skin, cut into biggish goujon shapes
400-500g potatoes , peeled and cut into smallish chunks
green salad , to serve

Method :

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6/fan180C.

Put the lemon juice into a bowl, together with the butter, honey, rosemary, garlic and salt and pepper then microwave for a minute or so, until the butter melts and it smells fragrant.

Place the potatoes into the roasting tin and drizzle with lemon butter to coat evenly.

Add the chicken to the remainder of the lemon butter and set aside.

Roast the potatoes for 15 minutes.

Add the chicken and the rest of the lemon butter to the roasting tin.  Spread the chicken so that it lays in individual pieces, or it won’t cook evenly.

Roast for another 30-40 minutes, turning after the first 20.  Don’t worry if there is an awful lot of juice in the pan – there’s supposed to be!

Serve with a green salad, or with carrots, peas & broccoli.
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