27 February 2011

Chicken & Bacon Cacciatore

Well, this recipe had mixed results in our family in that I loved it, son liked it, hubby liked it, but wouldn't go out of his way to have it again.

I thought I'd post it up, on the reckoning that there's a nasty cold bug travelling through the household (which started with son) and there's every chance that hubby's taste buds could have been affected.

We had tried a recipe for Chicken Cacciatore previously, which had turned out to be pale pink in the extreme.  So I'd been looking for another recipe which looked likely to turn out something flavoured rather more robustly.  Inevitably, I've tinkered around with the recipe so that it suits our requirements (breast of chicken instead of pieces, plus additional herbs) but the net result was a very creditable meal.

I served it with mashed potato, carrots and stringless beans, however it would be just as nice with anything from chip shop chips to plain white rice.  (Mmmmn .. did someone mention chip shop chips, just then? lol).

CHICKEN & BACON CACCIATORE (Serves 3, but is easily adjustable)

Ingredients :  

2 tbsp olive oil
3 skinless chicken breasts
6-9 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
2 onions, sliced
2 rosemary sprigs
1 x 400g can plum tomatoes
2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
500ml chicken stock
small bunch of parsley, chopped
5-10 leaves of basil, (depending on their size) chopped.

Method :

1.  Heat the oil in a deep frying pan.  Brown the chicken until golden, then reserve and keep warm.

2.  Add the bacon and cook until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crisping.  Then reserve with the chicken.

3.  Add the onions and rosemary (leave the rosemary as a sprig, don't remove the leaves from the stick) to the pan and fry for 5-10 minutes or until the onions have softened and are beginning to brown.

4.  Add the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, stock and seasoning.  Taste to check the seasoning.

5.  Add the bacon, then the chicken and bring to a simmer.

6.  Cover and cook for 25-30 mins until the chicken is tender.  If the sauce is still quite thin, add a teaspoon of cornflour slaked with a little water and stir until the sauce thickens.

7.  Add the parsley and basil, stir to combine and serve.


24 February 2011

Mid-week dinner idea : Sausages with Creamy Lentils

I know, the idea of cream and lentils doesn't always sound quite right, but here that isn't a concern due to the overall consistency being so light, the cream sits really nicely.

We had this for dinner (our evening meal - some call it "supper", lol) following on from Christmas but it didn't get blogged then.  I made a note that it scored a good 9 out of 10 and we'd voted to have it again - and to blog it then, so here we are.

The original recipe was just onion, carrot and celery with lentils which I thought was a wee bit light on the veggie front so have included peas and broad beans.  It seemed a shame to have to cook another vegetable separately, when you had so many going on in the lovely sauce.  The peas and broad beans combine very comfortably with the bacon and the cream, resulting in lovely flavours from two pans.  Perfect for a mid-week meal when you want to keep both preparation and washing-up to a minimum.

It's a complete mountain of food, I know.
Hubby did the plating up - and was a bit on the generous side!
Ingredients :

8 good quality pork sausages (I used Cumberland)
1 onion, chopped fine
2 carrots, peeled & chopped fine
1 celery stick, de-stringed and chopped fine
2 tbsp olive oil
2 rashers streaky bacon, diced small
pinch of dried thyme
200ml hot vegetable or chicken stock
a shake or two of Worcestershire Sauce
400g tin green lentils, drained
a handful of frozen peas
a handful of frozen broad beans (or fresh!)
4 tbsp double cream.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180deg C, then put the sausages onto a roasting tin and bake for some 20-25 mins or until golden and cooked through.

2.  Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or wok.  Fry the bacon for 2-3 minutes or until the fat has rendered.

3.  Then add the onion, carrots, celery & thyme and continue cooking until they are softened and begin to brown – around 8-10 minutes.

4.  Pour in the stock and Worcestershire sauce and simmer until the carrots are tender.  Add the lentils, peas and broad beans and continue to simmer until heated through.

5.  Add the cream, stir and taste.  Add seasoning.

6.  Add the sausages and give them around 3-4 minutes in the simmering sauce, before serving with mashed potato.

23 February 2011

Nasi Goreng - the power of a food memory.

Some twenty five years ago, my then boyfriend and I went to a baby's christening.  The baby's parents, Michael & Vida (they ran the Singapura Restaurant in Fulham), hailed from China and Singapore respectively and this was no ordinary christening.  Regrettably, owing to one of my horses being poorly at the time and requiring veterinary intervention, we missed a large part of the Christening itself but managed to get back in time for the reception afterwards.
This was a very good thing, as Vida's Mum was in the kitchen of the hired Hall, making Nasi Goreng (amongst other things) for all the guests.  Huge platters kept appearing, with piles of steaming rice, chicken and prawns on board - which tasted divine.

Now, I knew I liked Nasi Goreng, as because my father was in the Royal Engineers we had lived abroad quite a bit during my childhood.  I was born in Malaysia and we spent intervals in Germany.  I'm not sure about experiencing Nasi Goreng as a baby in Malaysia (I doubt it, somehow!), but my parents (or my Dad, to be specific) obviously enjoyed it because I recall that when we were in Germany, we would often buy a big tin of Nasi Goreng from the Naafi.  I can very definitely remember eating that and liking it a lot.

That flavour - of Nasi Goreng (or Fried Rice) - has stayed with me down the years.

I can remember getting very excited some years ago when Sainsbury's started stocking small packs of Nasi Goreng seasoning, which contained instructions on making Nasi Goreng.  I tried it out, but the flavour wasn't quite how I remembered Vida's Mum's Nasi Goreng tasting, so it wasn't quite right.

Since then, I've tried a recipe from the BBC Good Food website - and it's the first recipe that's ever let me down in a big way, as it was not only horrible, but didn't taste in the slightest bit right.

That has to have been some three or four years ago.

So there I was, on Monday evening, trying to think of something relatively easy that I could make on Tuesday evening (following a busy day).  I've described how, at moments like this, I examine how I'm feeling and what I would really like to eat - and there, out of the gloom, came the answer "Nasi Goreng".  As ever, my mouth watered at the very idea.

It occurred to me that I had some chicken left from the weekend's roast, which if I added a bag of prawns to, would do fine.  Next, I needed an authentic recipe so turned to the internet.  There are plenty of recipes out there, but everything is slightly different, but intrinsically the same.  Having read them all, I decided that none of them were right but the thought had occurred to me that maybe I'd be better off following my memory of the flavours.  After all, I knew what I didn't want - a very highly flavoured, saucy, mixture - and I knew the flavours I did want - heat, sweetness, savouriness, but in a dry rice mix.  I had some Mirrin (sweet Japanese rice wine) in the cupboard, along with Soy sauce and Fish sauce.  I had chicken and could get prawns.  I could get some spring onions, I had ginger and coriander .... the thought had formulated into a plan.

The recipe is below and if this isn't Nasi Goreng, then Vida's Mum must have been making something else!

24.05.2013 : I've cooked this Nasi Goreng recipe a number of times since the first go - but this time of trying made me realise how much better I am getting, at handling a blisteringly hot wok.  I very definitely cooked this attempt far more proficiently - which basically means far quicker - than ever before and it showed.  The flavours were beautifully balanced, the chicken didn't dominate and the prawns were still pinkly munchy.  Having been given the idea by my Facebook friend Viv Braznell, I put a few fresh lime wedges on the side, as they do in Thailand.  It was a bit of a departure from the Chinese/Singpore tradition, but is a wonderful addition - so thanks, Viv!  Good gracious, but I love this dish!


Ingredients :

2-300g Basmati rice, cooked and cooled
2 eggs, lightly whipped
salt & pepper
3 individual knobs of butter
1 tbsp rapeseed or vegetable oil

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut thinly on the diagonal
a bunch (6 or 7) of spring onions , cleaned and chopped
a medium hot red chilli, stalk removed and chopped - seeds are optional
2 fat cloves of garlic, grated
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, grated
4 chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
a handful of frozen peas
fresh coriander, chopped, to taste
3 heaped tsp of red Thai curry paste
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
1-2 tbsp mirrin (Japanese Rice Wine)
300g cooked and peeled prawns, drained but not rinsed.

Method :

1.  Cook the basmati rice according to the instructions on the packet, but stop the cooking a fraction before it is done, leaving a slight bite in the rice.  Drain it well and spread it out onto a plate (or two) to cool.  Fork the rice over from time to time to keep it fluffy.  Don't use a spoon, as this will encourage the grains to break and clump together.

2.  Empty the prawns into a colander and leave to drain.

3.  Using a deep frying pan or wok, melt one of the knobs of butter and add half the seasoned egg mixture.  Roll the pan to spread the egg out thinly and cook to form a thin omelette, then reserve to keep warm whilst you cook a second omelette.  Reserve to keep warm, on top of the first.

4.  Melt the butter with the oil until really quite hot and add the chicken.  Fry until the chicken is almost cooked through and has gained some golden colour.

5.  Add the spring onions and chilli.  Stir and fry until softened - around 4-5 mins or so.

6.  Add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir and fry for another 1-2 minutes, taking care not to let it stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add the mushrooms and continue to fry until the mushrooms have gained some colour and softened a little.

7.  Add the Thai curry paste.  Stir well and cook for some 4-5 mins.

8.  Add the soy sauce, fish sauce and mirrin and reduce the heat to prevent it burning.  Continue to cook until a sticky and thick consistency has been achieved.

9.  Add the frozen peas and stir until they have defrosted and softened slightly.

10.  Add the rice and toss regularly to prevent it sticking. 

11.  Add the prawns and stir to combine.  You'll need to increase the heat slightly to make sure that the rice and prawns heat through properly.

12.  Take the two omelettes, roll and cut into strips.  Once everything is heated through and piping hot, add the coriander and omelette strips and stir through.

Serve at once.

Printable version

22 February 2011

Caramelised Plum & Nectarine Sponge, with Amaretto

Photograph by our son
Having been sent the lovely gift box of South African stone fruit from Red Communications, my mind immediately set to with regard to the best way of using them - apart from just eating the lot there and then, of course.  Which, I have got to tell you, was sorely tempting.

I pondered on fools, and tarts, and pies - but nothing really said "yes!" until I considered doing a sponge dessert for after our Sunday dinner.

Although they are all delicious, I didn't want to venture into steamed sponge pudding land (as I can't but help thinking that this is a dangerous road to travel, being such a short hop to syrup sponge pudding), so I began thinking along the baked sponge line - and upside-down cake in particular.

I used to make a seriously nice upside down cake using pineapple, but had stopped because they were just so huge, we'd spend all week eating the stuff.  Which was nice in a way - but seriously bad for our expanding waistlines.

So, upside-down cake it was, using plums (one of which tasted so much like bubblegum it was incredible) and white flesh nectarines.  However, how to provide enough juice to make the cake luscious and moist, and what flavouring to use in the sponge to make it interesting?

Answer?  Hubby's Amaretto.  Now he swears it isn't HIS Amaretto, but I'm sure at Christmas I heard him say he would be fighting off all comers who had intentions of getting near HIS Amaretto.  *chuckle*

So, the end result is slices of nectarine and plum fried off in a blindingly hot pan with a little butter and teensy bit of oil until they colour.  Then add some sugar and let it caramelise, then let the whole thing down with a splash of Amaretto - and include 3 tbsp of Amaretto in the sponge mix.  Completely and utterly gorgeous, both hot and cold two days later.


Ingredients :

1 knob of butter
1 tsp flavourless vegetable oil
1 large deep red plum, halved, stoned and cut into sixths
1 large nectarine, halved, stoned and cut into sixths
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp Amaretto + 3 tbsp Amaretto for the sponge
110g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
110g butter (room temperature) or soft margarine
90g caster sugar
2 large eggs

Method :

1.  Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan until sizzling and drop the fruit in gently.  Do not stir, just allow each slice to colour and then turn and do the other side.  It's important that the pan is hot, or the fruit will stew - and you don't want that.  The whole process just takes a few seconds.

2.  Add the sugar and toss the fruit while the sugar melts and caramelises, then add the Amaretto and toss the fruit to coat.  Pour the fruit and the sauce into the base of your baking tin, arrange the fruit prettily and put to one side while you make the sponge.

3.  This sponge couldn't be any easier.  Place all ingredients (bar the fruit) into a bowl and whisk until well incorporated.

4.  Pour over the top of the fruit and level the surface gently.  Then put into the oven to bake for 25-30 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean.

5.  Allow to cool slightly and turn out onto a serving dish.  Don't let it cool too much, or the caramel will be too sticky to turn out.

Serve with double cream.


20 February 2011

Oh for smellivision, right now ..

No Bisto in this kitchen,
but you get the idea!
I'm well known for poo-poohing new technology, but I can tell you that the minute someone comes up with reliable smellivision, I'll be there.

If you could smell my kitchen at the moment, it'd make your mouth water.

I've just taken out of the oven, a Nectarine, Plum & Amaretto upside-down sponge, for our dessert.

As if that weren't enough, there's also a chicken poaching in fresh chicken stock, issuing forth gorgeous chicken, celery, garlic and parsley fragrances.

As if THAT weren't enough, there's also a Potato Dauphinoise in the oven.

Of course, I might be good for nothing by the time I've made the stuffing and the yorkshires and got it all ready to be dished up .... (hope not, though!).


Cumberland & Black Pudding, Sausage Rolls

Ever since Christmas, when we had some frozen cocktail sized sausage rolls that were completely ghastly and about as removed from a sausage roll as it was possible to get, I've been craving "proper" sausage rolls.

Now, I made some sausage rolls around 5 or 6 years ago which were treated with such derision by the family, that I've never tried again.  True, it may have had something to do with the pastry - as my pastry has, historically, been random in its results - and I prefer shortcrust, whereas hubby prefers puff.  Either way, it resulted in my resolving to never try to make the blooming things again.

However, my yearning for a sausage roll that actually contains sausagemeat instead of moist cardboard has turned the tide and in the spirit of compromise, I made some - using shop bought puff pastry.

The next problem was the sausage meat - what sort of sausage would hubby prefer?  I was determined not to fail, you see.  After some negotiation, we were agreed on some of Spring Fields Cumberland sausages, stripped of their skins and (as a final flourish from hubby's imagination) with a little black pudding crumbled in.

Gosh, but they were good.  We had them for tea last night and they were just the job - and again for lunch today.  There's still four or five left, so we're sorted for another lunch too.  Not bad value, considering the whole lot probably cost £5 (ingredients, not counting the cost of baking them) and you certainly wouldn't find sausage rolls of this quality in the supermarket.


Ingredients :

8 chunky Cumberland sausages, skins removed
50-100g black pudding
Ready-rolled puff pastry
an egg

Method :

1.  Pre-heat your oven to 180deg C.  Lay out the pastry and roll it gently to flatten and reduce the thickness, taking care to maintain the rectangular shape.

2.  Divide each piece into two rectangular halves.

3.  Along each half, place the sausage meat in an even roll - stretching it to thin it out a little, if you're lucky enough to have really chunky sausages.

4. Slice enough black pudding (to taste : I used around 75g) and chop it into small pieces.  Sprinkle a quarter along the sausage meat, pressing it in slightly.

5.  Break the egg into a cup and whisk lightly.  Then, brush a little onto the clear side of the pastry.

6.  Roll the pastry with the sausage meat on it, towards the egg washed side, taking care to roll in a straight line, so that both sides meet - preferably with a little overlap.

7.  Sit the roll down on to the join and press lightly to secure it.

8.  Cut the roll into three and place each roll onto a non-stick baking sheet.

9.  Once all are assembled, egg wash each roll and place into the oven to bake for some 25-30 minutes, or until golden and crispy.


Chicken in Cider - the "nearly rabbit".

I really wanted to find a rabbit from the butcher, this week.  Unfortunately, neither of our local butchers had rabbits (Spring Fields only stocked rabbits from China – what’s with that?) so I was left pondering on chicken versus pork as a satisfactory stand-in.

As it turned out, I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer in time, so we got another 5 chicken breasts for £5 and put two of them in the freezer for next week.  Far easier than pondering further on what cut of pork to use!

I can quite see how this recipe would be really suited to cooking a rabbit, as the chicken was nice, but rabbit would have lent a rather more earthy flavour to the ensuing sauce.  However, a gold star for excellence must be awarded to the Cider I used.  It was Sheppey’s Dabinett Cider, a single variety cider that at £1.54 for a 500ml bottle wasn’t the cheapest choice, but equally it could have been worse.  However, for flavour, it really was perfect.  In fact, by the time hubby and I had had tasties, there was little more than the required 350ml left!

I certainly didn’t miss the rabbit, as the chicken made for an excellent stand-in and we didn’t have to contend with son and heir’s distaste for rabbit.   He’s having problems getting past the “fluffy bunny” aspect, you see, but considering he’s just 12 it’s understandable.

One thing to bear in mind with this recipe is that it requires overnight marinating – so you need to have a plan in place and not forget to take the chicken out of the freezer, like I did. 

Poulet au Cidre


Ingredients :

3 skinless chicken breasts
9 prunes
350ml dry cider
a large onion, sliced
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
2-3 tbsp plain flour (more = thicker sauce, less = thinner sauce)
2 tbsp olive oil
10g butter
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
small can red kidney beans, drained

Method :

1.  Put the chicken pieces into a large bowl with the prunes, cider, onions, mustard, bay leaves and 250ml water.  Season and stir gently to mix, then cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

2.  The following day, pre-heat your oven to 180deg C/350deg F.

3.  Remove the chicken breasts and pat dry with kitchen paper.  Whilst the oil and butter heats up in an ovenproof casserole dish, toss the chicken in seasoned flour.  Then fry until brown and remove to keep warm.

4.  Sprinkle any remaining flour into the casserole and stir round.  Pour in the marinade, reserving the prunes.  Add the parsnips, return the chicken to the dish and bring to the boil, covered.

5.  Once at boiling point, put into the oven and bake for around 40 minutes.

6.  Add the prunes and the beans, cover again and bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until everything is tender.

Serve with mashed potato and green beans.


19 February 2011

South African Nectarines & Plums

I was recently sent a little box of South African fruit - three different types of plums and two different types of nectarines, to sample.

The gift box is beautifully presented (including a lovely green apron) and almost upstages the lovely fruit.  To receive the  box as a gift would be a lot of fun and I'm still wondering what the box could be used for as it is waaaay too nice to throw away!

As ever, the fruit is just gorgeous and you can taste the sunshine that made it.  Of course, it's also good for you being high in fibre and an excellent source of vitamins C and A.  There's a study available online regarding the health benefits of eating fruit & vegetables high in antioxidants such as you find in these fruits.  I have to admit that I'm all for reducing air miles for food, so I'm a bit betwixt and between where my opinion of the fruit is concerned for that reason, but there's no doubt that it is beautiful.  It made a lovely bright, fresh breakfast with an orange & banana added, plus a spoonful of natural yoghurt.  I could almost have been on that beach.  If you need inspiration on recipes that use these ingredients, Sophie Michell has prepared some lovely ideas available from http://www.beautifulcountrybeautifulfruit.co.uk/.

Ideas for use, gratefully accepted!


18 February 2011

Shin of Beef : a hearty stew with parsley dumplings

I want to make a steak and kidney pie.

There, I’ve said it.  Owned up to it, so I’ll have to do it now, instead of shying away from it like a pony scared by a flapping leaf.

With that in mind – you see, I’ve been working up to this moment – I thought I’d better suss out the beef from our local butcher.  We’d had a fabulous piece of rib of beef at Christmas, but that was all and I wanted to get some cheaper cut just to see whether I was capable of cooking it in the manner that would get the best out of it.  So, when we visited the butcher this week, I picked up 600kg of Shin with a view to doing a properly hearty beef stew with dumplings.

Now, remember I’ve got two fat-phobic boys in the family here.  They can’t bear it if any of their meat is “wobbly” (their description).  This is why I approached the Shin with caution, as I was very aware of their requirements and didn’t really want to spend hours trimming every little bit of fat from the meat – and so lose a lot of the flavour.  But sometimes you have to experiment in order to discover.

As such, I wasn’t too particular over trimming the meat.  Obvious strings of gristle were removed, as well as thick pieces of fat, but otherwise I left it in the hope that the 4hrs cooking that was ahead of it would do the trick and render what little fat was left.

I found that the 600g of Shin was the perfect quantity for 4 of us.  Yes, I know there are only 3, but you’ve just got to have second helpings of this one!

I started the cooking at around 2pm, by cooking all the ingredients that were going to add flavour to the gravy and then adding the meat.  When we came back from collecting Son and heir from school, the whole flat smelled of glorious beef stew.  I next looked at it with an hour and a half to go and added the “soft” vegetables.  Then, with just a half an hour to go, I included the dumplings.

Oh. My. God.  Honestly, if you never master any other dish – master making this one.  It truly is heaven.


Ingredients :

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 tablespoons of plain flour
salt & pepper
600g Shin of Beef, cubed
1 fat clove of garlic, grated
1 leek, sliced
2 sticks celery, de-stringed and chopped
half a red pepper, seeds removed and cut into cubes
2 beef oxo cubes
1 litre plus of boiling water
1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup
1 teaspoon of creamed horseradish
1 large teaspoon of wholegrain mustard
1 teaspoon of Bovril
a shake or two of Worcestershire Sauce
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5cm pieces
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into large chunks
3 mushrooms, cleaned and each cut into 6
a handful of peas or broad beans

For the dumplings :

150g self-raising flour
50g suet (I used vegetable suet)
salt & pepper
fresh chopped parsley to taste – if you don’t have fresh, make plain dumplings
small quantity of milk to bind

Method :

1.  Turn your oven on at 160deg (fan) to pre-heat.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of a deep pan or casserole – one that will go from the top to the oven.  Cook the onions very slowly until transparent and beginning to colour – approx 5-10 mins.  Remove and keep warm.

2.  Put the flour onto a large dished plate (or one with a lip) and season it well, then mix lightly with your fingers.  Toss the shin of beef in the flour until it is coated.  In the meantime, heat 1 more tablespoon of oil in the pan and add the coated beef.  If your pan isn’t big enough, you might need to fry the beef in two batches.  Make sure it fries and browns – don’t let it stew!

3.  Remove the beef and keep warm.

4.  Add the leek, garlic, celery and red pepper and cook until it begins to soften.

5.  Then return the onions to the pan and add the remaining flour, mixing well to ensure it amalgamates and cooks for 2-3 minutes.

6.  Add enough boiling water to just above the contents, mixing well with a whisk to ensure no lumps form from the flour.  Add the tomato ketchup, horseradish, mustard, Bovril and Worcestershire Sauce.  Return the beef to the pan and stir to combine.  Add a little more water, if the beef isn’t submerged.

7.  Cover with a lid and place into the oven for a minimum of 1½ hours – whatever suits you. A longer time would be fine, but a shorter time is not good.

8.  Remove the lid and give the contents a stir.  Taste, so that you know where the gravy is headed.

9.  Add the potatoes, parsnip, carrot and mushrooms, stir to combine, replace the lid and place the whole lot back in the oven for up to another 2 hours.

10.  Remove the lid, stir the contents and taste for seasoning.  Add more seasoning if you think it is required.  Add the peas or broad beans (or both if you’re feeling rash!), replace the lid and return to the oven.

11.  Make the dumplings.

12.  Place the flour and suet into a bowl and season.  Add the parsley and mix to combine.  Add a little milk and mix to combine.  The dumpling mixture should stick a little to the spoon, but not be fluid in any way.  If your mixture is too fluid, add a little more flour.  Too dry – add a little more milk.  The mixture should make eight dumplings.

13.  Remove the stew pan from the oven, remove the lid and carefully add spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture to the stew.  Allow them to sit where you dropped them, then replace the lid and back in the oven they go, for 20-30 minutes, depending on how big your dumplings are.

Once the dumplings are cooked (you can insert a knife into one, which will show you whether they are still sticky or not), serve into warmed bowls or warmed dished plates.


16 February 2011

Pepper-poached Salmon

Last week, when we were trundling around our local supermarket doing the shopping, I noticed that they had on offer a bag of four Young's salmon fillet pieces for around the £3 mark.  Now for me, that’s almost affordable so long as the remainder of the ingredients of your dish aren’t too expensive.

So, when I was researching what we were going to eat this week, I had salmon in the back of my mind.  As it was, I turned up three salmon recipes that looked good, but this one won the toss as it looked to be extremely simple to prepare, I already had a certain amount of the ingredients and the remainder weren’t expensive.

It’s another one from that inspirational resource that is the BBC Good Food website.  I only tinkered around with the recipe a little bit, in that I extended the cooking time to ensure that the peppers were really soft and the baby potatoes were really cooked (as it was, some were still a little hard, so I’ll have to microwave them for longer next time).  I also wanted to ensure that the sauce was as reduced as it could get before I introduced the salmon to the pan, as being frozen (and “cook from frozen” at that), I didn’t want the sauce to become all washed out with the water that was bound to be released.

Oh, and I changed its name.  “Pepper poached salmon” describes it far better than “Basque-style salmon stew”.  For one, the word “stew” had hubby looking a bit worried and the “Basque-style” I understand (because of the peppers and tomatoes), but it’s either Basque or it isn’t, and if it isn’t, then why not call it something else?  So I have.


Ingredients :

1 tbsp olive oil
3 mixed peppers (I used 2 red Romano Peppers), de-seeded and sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
enough baby potatoes for your 3 people, unpeeled and halved
1½ tsp smoked paprika
2 garlic cloves, grated (or finely sliced)
1½ tsp dried thyme
400g can cherry tomatoes
4 salmon fillets (or 3, if they’re large ones)
1 tbsp chopped parsley, to serve

Method :

1.  Heat the oil in a large deep frying pan and cook the onion slowly for 5 minutes.

2.  Add the peppers and continue to cook.  You may need to increase the heat for the first few minutes.

3.  In the meantime, microwave the potatoes on high for 3 minutes, or until they are partly cooked.  Then add them to the onion & pepper mixture and continue cooking until everything is softened.

4.  Add the paprika, garlic, thyme and tomatoes and bring to the boil.  Stir and cover, turning down the heat and continuing to simmer for some 12 minutes.  If your sauce becomes too thick, you can add a little water.  However, I found that the condensation that formed on the underside of the lid did the job and in fact, I had to take care to not let it run off into the pan in the later stages of cooking.

5.  Taste and season the pepper mix, then lay the salmon on top skin side down and burrow it into the mixture a little.

6.  Replace the lid and simmer until the salmon is cooked through.

7.  Scatter with parsley and serve with sugar snap peas.


Creamy chicken and butter beans

Not the dreaded cabbage in sauce,
but very similar!
When I was considering what to include on last week’s menu list, it occurred to me that I was quite probably capable of concocting my own dish.  This was a notion that made me sit up and pay attention, as way back in the dim dark days of when I began cooking, any attempt to go “off piste” would be fairly disastrous.  I well remember a dish of turkey breast, red, green & yellow peppers and cream, which I served to my parents.  Quite apart from the fact that my Mum can’t eat peppers, it was a tad one-dimensional to say the least.  I also cringe at the memory of visiting friends in Devon and cooking for them some filled pasta (not made from scratch, of course) with cooked white cabbage and a cheese sauce.  Poor souls, they ate it diligently but never let me cook again, for which I can’t blame them.  

So, many years have passed and many a sausage has gone with them.  It is true to say that I’ve really only fairly recently (like, within the last six or seven years) taken such an intense interest in food.  I think this was largely borne by the requirement to make a very little go a long way (following on from redundancy and pregnancy) and having a child.  There’s nothing like being responsible for someone else’s health, for focusing your mind on what you’re all eating! 

Those were the days!
Having fun hunter trialling with Kellie of Whitefield,
my Highland pony
Another aspect is focus.  For years I ate, slept and breathed my horses.  They were my life and food was simply enjoyable fuel that enabled me to get up at 6am, walk the dogs, “do” the horses (feed, muck out, etc), go to work for 8-9 hours, then do it all again on the way home.  When the horses faded (regrettably, they don’t last for ever), that focus was taken up by the new baby.  In turn, as the son and heir has grown up and become more independent, I’ve obviously been looking for something to fill that gap – and food was an obvious choice.

It was an intriguing notion, to think up a tasty dish that had several dimensions and that catered for all our whims and foibles.  It’s those whims and foibles that more often than not has me tinkering around with other people’s recipes, so I was well used to substituting ingredients or changing quantities.

I didn’t have the confidence to just come right out and tell the boys that this was one of their Mum’s ideas, I talked about it as though it was another recipe I’d picked up.  At least, that way, if they hated it I didn’t have to admit it was mine!

However, lo and behold, they liked it – and everyone cleaned their plate.

There were a few adjustments required to the dish, which I’ve taken into account with the recipe below.   If you decide to have a go at it, do let me know what you think!


Ingredients :

3 x chicken breasts
3 rashers streaky bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, grated
1 leek, sliced
100ml white wine
1 small tin butter beans
2 tbsp sweetcorn
salt & black pepper
crème fraiche
200ml chicken stock
1 tsp tarragon, chopped

Method : 

1.  Using a deep frying pan, fry the bacon until the fat has reduced.  Remove the bacon and keep warm.

2.  Fry the chicken breasts until golden, then remove and reserve to keep warm.

3.  Fry the onion until translucent and starting to colour, then add the garlic and fry for 1-2 mins more.

4.  Add the leek and fry until softened, then add the bacon to the mix.

5.  Add the white wine and boil until reduced by half – this only takes a few minutes.

6.  Add the crème fraiche and some chicken stock to let it down a little.  Add the tarragon and season.

7.  Add the butter beans, sweetcorn and the chicken, put on the lid and simmer until the chicken is cooked – some 10-15mins depending on how big your chicken is.

8.  Check the seasoning and serve with tagliatelle.


15 February 2011

Spiced Coconut Prawns

I found this recipe in an Ainsley Harriott recipe book, “Ainsley’s Friends & Family Cookbook”, which I recently borrowed from the library on “Support your local library” day.

It interested me because it isn’t a curry as such, although it shares many of the curry spices.  Before I’d cooked it – and indeed afterwards – it reminded me of the Prawn Puri that you often get on a starters menu at an Indian Restaurant.

I have to say that, without the 2 tbsp of double cream that I added, it would have been entirely too acidic.  The cream just smoothed the flavours out and even though they are all big flavours that jump up and whap you around the taste buds, it made the difference.

Next time I make it, I will have to ensure that I cook the sauce for a lot longer and reduce it right down to seriously sticky.  As is often the way, when you introduce frozen prawns, they release so much water that it all became a little too fluid.

However, we live and learn – and it was definitely a different category of curry to our normal.  I served it with rice and chapatis, even though it was supposed to only be served with the chapatis.  I was glad I cooked some rice, as I felt it would have been hard work with just the chapatis.  Oh, and another point is that buying two packs of chapatis would be a tad on the expensive side – so we had just the one pack.  Next time, I’ll have to make a trip to Makkah’s and get the real thing for, I suspect, a lot less!


Ingredients : 3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 med onion, finely chopped
2.5cm fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp minced red chilli
4 tsp hot paprika
2 tbsp garam masala or korma curry paste
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp double cream
150ml hot water
200g can chopped tomatoes
450g cooked peeled prawns
50g creamed coconut, chopped
20g chopped coriander
salt & pepper

Method :
1.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli and fry for 3-4 minutes until soft and very lightly browned.

2.  Add the paprika and garam masala and fry for 2 minutes.

3.  Then add the lemon juice and water and simmer for 2 minutes more.

4.  Add the tomatoes and prawns and simmer for 2 minutes.

5.  Stir in the creamed coconut and double cream and cook for a further minute.

Season to taste, stir in the coriander and serve with basmati rice and warmed chapatis.

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