29 September 2011

Peppered Mackerel with Sweetfire® Beetroot Couscous and horseradish cream

On to my next - and just as successful, but in a very different way - beetroot concoction for the "So you think you know beetroot" challenge.

This time, I wanted to use the Sweetfire® baby beetroot.  These adorable little baby beets have been infused with a chilli marinade and are just the most delectable mouthful.

So I began pondering on what would go with the chilli effect of the beetroot, not to mention the beetroot itself.  Here’s how the thought processes went :

Initially, my thoughts travelled down the “one leaf of Little Gem, filled with chopped beetroot with horseradish cream and with some smoked salmon on top” avenue, only to wonder how that could be translated into a full-size main course dinner.

Financially, smoked salmon for dinner was out, so I went sideways and wound up with peppered smoked mackerel.

In order to make it more of a main course, I jettisoned the lettuce leaves and pondered on carbohydrates.  So many forms of carbohydrate – pasta, potato and bread – just didn’t fit.  Then I remembered couscous.

So, I had couscous, with quartered baby beetroot.  Needs something to cool that chilli – aha!  Cucumber, peeled and de-seeded.  Couscous needs strong flavourings, so what about herbs?  What would go with mackerel and beetroot?  Fish always likes dill, so we’ll have some of that.  What about something else, to balance the earthiness?  Parsley, in this connection, would be a bit dull.  Hmmn .. how about mint?  Yes, mint!  Goes well with fish and cucumber and won’t fight with either the dill or the beetroot.  Maybe some red onion, to provide a sweet savouriness and lemon juice for balance.

One problem – I’ve not included the horseradish.  Hmmn, ponder ponder.  Well, I’ve got smoked fish and couscous but nothing particularly juicy or dressing-like.  Horseradish sauce alone is too strong.  How about if I were to let it down with a little Greek yoghurt?  Yes!  Then it would go not only with the fish, but also as a little dressing for the couscous – but not over the couscous, just by the side with some salad leaves.


In this way, the Peppered Mackerel with Sweetfire® Couscous and horseradish cream, was born.  We ate it for dinner on Tuesday last and it was utterly scrumptious.  It would work with just ordinary beetroot in natural juice too – just add a pinch of chilli flakes!

Hubby reckons he has never had a nicer accompaniment to Smoked Peppered Mackerel and I think he's got a point, there.
Everything was just perfect.  The oiliness of the mackerel was cut through by the chilli and lemon juice.  The flavours were enhanced by the horseradish.  The herbs provided the depth of flavour and the mint danced across your tongue.  If anything, the cucumber and dill took something of a back seat, however, I'm quite sure that without them the cooling elements of the couscous would be compromised and you'd sure notice that they weren't there - even if you didn't notice particularly, that they were!

Now, I've just got to prepare myself for a visit to Tesco or Waitrose in order to source some more Sweetfire® Beetroot and reproduce the recipe.  Get the blinkers out!


Ingredients :

150g couscous
150ml vegetable stock
3 tbsp low fat greek yoghurt (I used 2% Total)
2 tsp horseradish sauce
210g pack Sweetfire® baby beetroot, cut into quarters or small dice
2 inch piece of cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and diced small
20g fresh dill, chopped
20g fresh mint, sliced gently into small pieces
small red onion, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp olive oil
250g pack peppered smoked mackerel fillets.

Method :

1.  Put the couscous into a large bowl, pour over the boiling vegetable stock, give a quick stir and cover with cling film.  Set aside for 10 minutes in a cool place, to encourage it to cool.

2.  Mix the horseradish sauce into the greek yoghurt and taste for seasoning.

3.  When the couscous has absorbed all the stock, uncover, give it a good fluff up with a fork and leave to cool.

4.  Once the couscous is cool, add the cucumber, herbs, onion, lemon juice and oil and toss well to ensure everything is mixed through.

5.  As the last thing, and to prevent the beetroot colouring the entire bowl of couscous, add the chopped beetroot and give a quick stir through.

6.  Serve by placing the couscous onto the plate, followed by the flaked smoked peppered mackerel and a dollop of the horseradish cream.  I also served some salad leaves.

~ : ~

A Beetroot health fact!
Research has shown that beetroot can help reduce blood pressure as well as its associated risks such as heart attacks and strokes. This is because the high content of nitrates in beetroot produce a gas called nitric oxide in the blood which widens blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. A daily dose of 250ml of beetroot juice or 1 to 2 cooked beetroot (approx. 100g) can help dramatically reduce blood pressure and its associated risks.


Meal planning for a sudden summer : w/b 27.9.11

Where has all this lovely weather come from?  *blink*

Just this time last week, I was shivering under several layers of clothing whilst writing blog posts for Rhubarb & Ginger and resisting putting the heating on!  Now, I'm sitting here with the window open beside me, perfectly comfortable again.

So all of this made meal planning for this week a bit tricky.  I didn't much fancy sitting in a hot kitchen for hours making hot meals, but the natural cautiousness borne of mistrust of the weather forecasters made scheduling light salads unlikely.

There is one other change to the parameters for scheduling, which is that I am now no longer working at the Hotel Piccadilly.  It was with very great regret that I handed in my notice last week, due to the onward march of my arthritis and accompanying pain.  Coincidentally, I also discover that I am suffering with cellulitis (which has nothing to do with cellulite, interestingly) in my lower legs - which is also causing huge amounts of discomfort.  I'm now on some big antibiotics which have stopped my legs appearing to be horribly sunburned (thank goodness), but the itching (which just about drove me mad) is slow to leave.  I could do the work okay, it was just getting there, getting up the stairs, sitting for four hours and then reversing the whole procedure, that I couldn't do.

So the upshot of all this is that now Hubby can choose which days he wants to cook on - and it also means that I'll be here more to be able to do some prep. in the afternoons, if necessary.

Here's how this week is hoping to shape up :

Tues : Pizza for boys, Peppered Mackerel & Sweetfire® beetroot couscous
with horseradish cream for us adults
Wed : Spicy chicken pittas with salad
Thur : Tenderstem broccoli & Goat cheese tart with zesty beetroot salad
Fri : Tortellini with garlic bread
Sat : Chicken Caesar Salad
Sun : Pot roast bacon, accompaniments depend on the weather
Mon : Sausage, mash and baked beans.

I've been just busting to tell you all about the Smoked Peppered Mackerel and Sweetfire® beetroot couscous that we had on Tuesday, but as I try to keep the blog postings in chronological order according to the menu plan, I had a couple of postings to get through before I could - and that includes this one!  So, watch out for the next blog post - oh, but it's a good one!

Wednesday's Spicy chicken pittas unfortunately got stamped all over by Son & heir volunteering to help with a school open evening.  We wound up grabbing a quick burger (or a sweet chilli wrap, in my case) and back to school.  However, because the chicken is marinading (in lime juice and curry spices - mmmn!) hubby and I will have a (hopefully) spectacular lunch today.  I'll let you know!  lol

Which of course, begs the question about whether we'll have room for the Goat's Cheese tart and zesty beetroot salad for dinner tonight.  Hang on a minute - Tenderstem broccoli and Goat's Cheese in a filo pastry base?  Yes, I think we'll find room.

Tomorrow's tortellini is hubby's night to cook and before you all get excited and think he's making his own tortellini, stop right there because he's not.  It's good old shop bought, put into a home-made sauce (which hasn't been decided on, until we decide which flavour tortellini we're getting).  I haven't had filled pasta of any type in probably two years, so it will be a nice diversion from the norm!

I understand from the weather forecast that Saturday is going to be the hottest day of the week, so hence I've scheduled a Chicken Caesar Salad, as a method of self-preservation.  The chicken will cook in the oven and the rest is a simple case of assembly, with a bit of grating and whisking involved.  I should be able to manage that, even if the temperatures are in the high twenties!

Sunday is another "left open to eventualities" dinner.  The one bit we can be sure about, is the pot roast bacon, which I'll do in the slow cooker.  As to whether we have a salad, or a courgette bake, or roast vegetables with it, is all dependent upon what the weather forecast for Sunday is likely to be!

Monday brings hubby back to the helm in the kitchen and he's doing our ultimate family favourite of sausage and mash.  I suspect we'll wind up just having baked beans with them, but that tends to depend on how creative hubby is feeling at the time, what vegetables we have left in the fridge and how hot the kitchen is likely to be!

Oh, and speaking of hubby being creative - we've a new toy to play with!  We bought an ice cream maker (on special offer at Comet).  So far, he's made a Salted Caramel ice cream which is truly To Die For, but doesn't really suit his diabetes, so next he's exploring frozen yoghurt, so that at least he gets the chance to eat some of his creations!

I dare say I'll be blogging the Salted Caramel ice cream, as it is just SO gorgeous, it has to be shared.

Incidentally, I just just give over a line or two to hubby's Sausage Plait that he made at the end of last week.  I thought it was yummy, son & heir agreed with me, however hubby wasn't keen on it at all, so I won't be passing on the recipe.  He says he's sure he can improve on it, at which stage the recipe can be passed on - which is fair enough.

He mixed Cumberland sausagemeat with caramelised onion, sage, pepper and apple which he'd finely diced.  I thought it was as nice cold with chutney the next day as it had been the previous night, with hash browns and salad!  If this was the less-than-good version, then I'm looking forward to the improved version!


28 September 2011

Beef Goulash that wasn't.

I've come away from doing a Sunday roast just lately again and have been filling the gap with some lovely hearty beef casseroles and stews done in the slow cooker.  We've stew & dumplinged, stroganoffed and finally decided to Goulash.

I swapped from my favourite beef shin to beef brisket for the goulash.  This was for two reasons, a) because shin can be tricky to trim up, when your hands aren't so good at holding a knife for very long, and b) because I wanted the cubes of beef to be as uniform as possible, which is a lot easier to achieve with a piece of brisket.

The recipe called for some piquillo red peppers from a jar, which I will admit I didn't even try to find, as we'd already got a half a jar of char-grilled red peppers in the fridge that were looking for a home.  I also added some diced swede and Chantenay carrots, just to increase the vegetable content and with half an eye towards our five a day!

While I was rummaging in the fridge, I also found the remains of a container of anchovies left over from our home-made pizzas, so on a whim, included three of those.

The end result, which could be entirely down to the age and/or quality of our smoked paprika (which is very old/poor), came up as a very nice beef casserole but a Goulash?  Nope, it missed its chance there.

Hence, I haven't included the recipe I used here as it would be a misnomer to call what we had a "Goulash".

I'll just have to find some real smoked paprika (a trip to Waitrose might be in order) and try again.



Chocolate and Beetroot Cake : deep, moist and truly delicious

All this sudden interest in beetroot requires some explanation, I think!

Well I was contacted by the "Love Beetroot" campaign and asked whether I would be interested in working with them to try and find some new delicious recipes for their beetroot.  I was immediately interested, as both hubby and I love beetroot and get through a fair amount of the stuff in salads - but usually just sliced by the side of a green salad.  Hence, I was especially interested in the "thinking outside the box" aspect of trying to include beetroot in unusual or quirky recipes.

I was sent - in the most gorgeous box with a sumptuous purple ribbon - three preparations of beetroot to try, a 250g pack of cooked beetroot in natural juice, a smaller pack of Sweetfire® baby beetroot (which is infused with a chilli, sugar and white wine vinegar marinade) and a pack of baby beetroot that had been dunked in vinegar.

It was an easy decision as to what to make with the natural cooked beetroot, as I'd been hankering after making a Chocolate & Beetroot cake for a while.

The Sweetfire® beetroot took a bit more thinking about.  However, I finally settled on their becoming an integral part of a couscous recipe - which we had for dinner last night.  It was just divine and I'll be blogging it very soon.

The beetroot in vinegar is going to be made into a zesty beetroot salad to accompany a Tenderstem Broccoli & Goat's Cheese tart - and I dare say I'll blog that one (provided it turns out to be as nice as it sounds!).

I will also admit to having bought another pack of natural cooked beetroot, in order that the beetroot fun doesn't need to stop when the supplies run out - so watch this space!

So - back to the cake.  I had been looking for a recipe for a while - since before I was contacted regarding the campaign - and had a Diana Henry recipe tucked up my sleeve.  The majority of the recipes I had seen had involved vegetable oil as the fat in the recipe.  However, I was interested in making a cake that involved butter.  I haven't a clue why, I just wanted butter and beetroot, rather than oil and beetroot.  Diana's recipe was the first one that fitted the bill - and seemed to be the one which matched up best to my mental picture of a chocolate & beetroot cake.

As ever (well, you wouldn't expect anything else, now would you?), I didn't prepare it exactly to the letter of the recipe, in that I wasn't interested in slathering it with a flavoured ganache-style chocolate mixture - I simply melted a pack of milk chocolate together with 10g of butter and smoothed that on top.  I was certainly very happy with the results, as was anyone who accepted a slice.

Most interesting was the reaction of Son & heir.  He'd told me that he wasn't going to touch a cake made with beetroot, as it sounded disgusting.  (Bear in mind, he doesn't like beetroot at the best of times).  He was certainly interested in how it smelled as it was cooking and was intrigued by the look of the thing.  I think the fact that the beetroot had just melted into the whole, helped.  I suspect he was thinking it would be covered in slices of beetroot!  His interest was also encouraged by the sight of a block of milk chocolate being used to ice the cake.

When it came to sampling a slice, he still wouldn't commit himself.  He said he'd have "a mouthful of someone else's slice" and decide after that.  Well, so far, he's eaten probably between a third to a half of the cake, on his own.  I think he likes it.

Just out of the oven!

Hubby was expecting to taste beetroot in the cake itself - I hadn't explained to him that its function was more as regards the texture and moistness of the cake, rather than the flavour.  However, once he got over the fact that he couldn't taste beetroot, he was utterly convinced.  Having had a slice when it was first cut, then another the day after and another the day after that, he reckons (and I agree) that the flavour just keeps getting better.  The cake doesn't dry out, either, as so many chocolate cakes are wont to do.

Look at all that lovely chocolate!
It's my Dad's 80th birthday in December and I'm seriously contemplating making him one of these cakes.  I know it would go down a storm - and it would stay as nice as the day it was made, thus enabling it to be made a wee bit ahead of time.

I can see this one becoming a very definite family favourite.


Ingredients :

250g cooked beetroot, coarsely chopped
125g softened butter (I used salted, but use unsalted if you prefer)
75g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g soft dark brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
225g self-raising flour, sifted
a quarter of a tsp salt
50g cocoa powder, sifted.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180degC/160degC fan/gas 4.  Line the bottom of a 23cm non-stick springform tin with baking parchment.  Grease the tin if yours isn't a non-stick one.

2.  Chop, or grate, or blitz in a food processor, the beetroot until coarsely chopped.  You are definitely not looking for a puree!  Set aside.

3.  Place a small saucepan on the heat with some water inside and place a bowl on top, so that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl.  Put the chocolate pieces into the bowl and melt by allowing the water to simmer, which in turn will heat the bowl, causing the chocolate to melt.  Do not stir or otherwise tinker with the chocolate - leave it to melt.

4.  Into a larger bowl, place the butter, sugar and eggs and beat until light and pale.

5.  Mix in the melted chocolate, then fold in the flour, salt and cocoa powder with a large metal spoon.

6.  Finally, stir the beetroot gently into the mix.

7.  Transfer the mixture to the cake tin and make a slight dip in the centre with the back of your spoon.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out with just a tiny bit of cake mix still attached.

8.  Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove from the tin and place on a cake rack to cool completely.

9.  When the cake is cool, put the saucepan/water/bowl combination back together again and break a 100g block of milk chocolate into the bowl.  Add 10g of butter and leave to allow them both to melt.

10.  Once melted, mix together with a whisk and pour onto the top of the cake.  Encourage the chocolate out to the sides of the cake, then leave to cool.

Absolutely lovely when served with a dollop of Creme Fraiche d'Isigny.


Fun Beetroot Fact!

Beta cyanin, the pigment that gives beetroot its colour, is an antioxidant so the humble beetroot could be the key to beating your hangover! Beta cyanin speeds up detoxification in your liver, which enables your body to turn the alcohol into a less harmful substance that can be excreted quicker than normal.  



27 September 2011

Tarragon chicken with gnocchi

What a find this recipe is!

It is based upon the "Chicken Hot Pot" from Olive Magazine (which you can see here), except without the new potatoes and with some gnocchi.  Also, why buy Kenyan beans when there is lovely tenderstem broccoli out there?  Okay, the country of origin is still Kenya, but then I'd rather have tenderstem over squeaky beans any day!

I cut the recipe out of the magazine absolutely ages ago - probably close to two years ago, now.  When I first mooted having it, hubby obviously didn't quite understand what was involved in the recipe, as he wasn't keen.  So I kept hold of the little slip of paper, because I really wanted to try it.

I slipped it onto the menu list at the beginning of last week and crossed my fingers.  I was hoping that the use of the word "gnocchi" might overshadow any memories of having rejected the recipe earlier.  I also, strategically, didn't call it "Hot Pot" as I know that brings connotations of a casserole with a layer of sliced potatoes on top - which is not one of hubby's favourite things.

Having read through the recipe again, I could see that it should turn out a sauce that would be acceptable with gnocchi and, as both hubby and son really like gnocchi, was hopeful that those little puffy potato clouds would suit them - and they did.

As is so often the way, the recipe is superbly simple to produce and right from the word go you can tell that it's going to be a corker.  I mean, leeks and garlic cooked in butter - if ever there was a great start, it's that one.  Capitalise on that great start by adding wine, tarragon and creme fraiche (especially creme fraiche D'Isigny, as I did) - you just can't go wrong!

Because the leek I had bought was only very thin, I used three spring onions just to boost the oniony flavour.  I figured that spring onion, being sweet, is about as close as you can get to a leek!  I also used chicken breast instead of the chicken thighs, basically because the chaps here prefer chicken breast.  So owing to that plus the lack of potatoes, the sauce didn't require as long to cook as the original recipe said.  I will try to make a bit more sauce next time - and there will be a next time - as it was absolutely gorgeous and I ran out a bit early, when it was on the plate.  Those gnocchi are too good at absorbing sauce!

TARRAGON CHICKEN served with Gnocchi and Tenderstem broccoli  (serves 3)

Ingredients :

A knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
3 chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and cut into 3 pieces each
1 leek, halved lengthwise and sliced
3 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
1 garlic clove, grated
1 glass (generous) white wine
400ml chicken stock
1 tsp dried tarragon leaves (or fresh, if you can get it - use a little more)
3 tbsp creme fraiche (use half fat if you want to reduce the fat content)
sufficient gnocchi for 3 people
a pack of tenderstem broccoli (or other green vegetable of your choice).

Method :

1.  In a large frying pan, heat the knob of butter and olive oil.  Once heated,  add the chicken and, on a high heat, fry until golden brown on at least two sides.  The chicken doesn't need to be cooked through at this stage.  Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve in a warm place.

2.  Add the leeks and spring onion to the pan and cook on a reduced heat until beginning to soften.

3.  Increase the heat under the pan, then return the chicken to the pan and add the wine.  Allow it to frizzle for a moment or two, then reduce the heat again.

4.  At this stage, boil some salted water in two pans - one for the gnocchi, one for the tenderstem broccoli.

5.  Add the chicken stock, tarragon leaves and season to taste.  Allow to simmer for some 10-20 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced by almost half and the chicken is cooked through.

6.  Slot the gnocchi into the cooking process around this time, according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Mine took just 3 minutes.  Likewise with the tenderstem broccoli.  Mine took around 5 minutes to cook.

7.  Getting back to the chicken, add the creme fraiche and stir to combine.  Taste to check the seasoning and allow to simmer so as to thicken the sauce slightly whilst you drain the gnocchi and tenderstem.

8.  Serve.

26 September 2011

Rhubarb & Ginger : featured on Channel 4 Food!

Oh, I'm so proud!

Jenny Eatwell's Rhubarb & Ginger has achieved the accolade of being featured amongst other family food blogs by Channel 4's 4Food site.

See my shiny new badge on the left there?

What?  Oh, you want to see?  Well then, just go here!

25 September 2011

Hubby extends his repertoire - Lasagne!

He's got the job!  Hubby is now the family's official Lasagne maker.

After lessons in making a white sauce went so well, followed on by his cheese sauces being so well received, hubby decided to "go for it" and made his first Lasagne.

There were no corners cut, but he did adjust the recipe so that it didn't require so long to cook the sauce.  It turned out to be such a beautiful Lasagne that he instantly got the job of Lasagne & Moussaka maker.  He says that he can see areas where the recipe can be improved to suit our palates better, but in my opinion, this Lasagne was so gorgeous, I'd be happy if he didn't tinker with it.  However, you know what us cooks are like for tinkering with recipes to "make it our own" - it's a rare thing that a recipe gets past me without my tinkering with it in some way or another.

I was particularly impressed to find that he'd even done the infusing of the milk for the bechamel.  He was really intent on doing this right - and doing his first Lasagne justice.

Well, both Son & heir and myself had seconds - and if we had of had the room, would have crammed thirds in too.  Fortunately though, neither of us could find the room - so hubby claimed the leftovers for his lunch the following day.  Now THAT is testament to how good this Lasagne is, as it's a rare occasion that he indulges in leftovers!

LASAGNE AL FORNO  (feeds 4-5)  from Tamasin Day-Lewis

Ingredients :

2-3 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 sticks celery
2 carrots, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 kg fresh minced beef
2 fresh bay leaves
225 ml milk
1/3 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
225 ml white wine
400g canned chopped tomatoes, roughly chopped
9-10 sheets pre-cooked dried lasagne sheets
90g parmesan, freshly grated
black pepper.

For the béchamel sauce:
600ml milk
2 fresh bay leaves
1 onion, halved
freshly grated nutmeg
60 g butter
60 g plain flour
black pepper

Method :

Just add parmesan and it's ready for the oven
1. Warm the oil and butter in a heavy-based casserole over medium heat. Add the onion and gently fry for about 5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the celery, carrots and garlic, and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring to coat well then remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Add the beef and cook, stirring, until the beef has lost its raw pink look.  Drain any fat that has accumulated, then add a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Return the vegetables to the pan.

3. Add the bay leaves and milk, bring to the boil, then simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the meat has absorbed the milk. Season with a pinch of nutmeg.

4. Pour in the wine and let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes with their juice and stir thoroughly.

5. Cook, uncovered, at a lazy simmer with just an intermittent bubble breaking through the surface, for 3 hours or more. (Hubby didn't cook ours for anything like this long - he cooked it until the sauce was at a good consistency).  The fat will have separated (Hubby cooked our mince off until the fat separated to begin with - and removed it), but the sauce will not be dry. Taste and correct the seasoning.

6. In the meantime, make the béchamel sauce. Pour the milk into a saucepan with the bay leaf, onion and a generous pinch of nutmeg. Bring to just below the boiling point, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 15-20 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Grease a shallow baking dish.

8. Strain the milk and set aside.  The onion, herbs & spices can now be discarded.  Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Then gradually stir the milk into the flour mixture to make a thick smooth sauce. Season to taste.

9. Pour some béchamel into the baking dish - enough to just cover the base. Place a layer of lasagne sheets on top, followed by a layer of meat sauce, another layer of béchamel and a good handful of Parmesan. Continue with two or three more layers until both sauces are used up. Add a final sprinkling of Parmesan.

10. Bake in the oven for about 30-45 minutes until bubbling all over and a knife slips easily through the layers of lasagne.

Lasagne & chips
Serve with salad for the ladies and chips for the chaps.  Well, that's what happens in our house - you do what you want to!


Corn Chowder main-course soup style!

I think that sweetcorn (or corn-on-the-cob) has to be my favourite vegetable of all.  I love it in all its forms, even as polenta.  I used to make cornbread, up until it dawned on me how fattening it was, but a home-made chilli with cornbread was one of life's little pleasures for a while there.

So when I saw recipes for Corn Chowder appearing as the corn season progressed, I began to hope that I could find one that would equate to a main-course soup.  That is, a soup which could be eaten as a main course, without winding up feeling "well, that was okay, but what's for dinner?".

One of our regular family favourite soups is the Smoked Haddock Chowder, which contains sweetcorn.  So I knew that the whole idea wasn't likely to be blown out of the water, it was just a matter of finding a recipe that was "big" enough to qualify.

I found just the thing, by accident, on www.fresh365online.com.  The recipe contained potatoes, sour cream and most interestingly, a cupful of cheddar cheese.  I liked the idea of how that sounded as a recipe, but felt in order to turn it into a main course soup, it needed the addition of some meat - smoked bacon, to be specific.  I felt the bacon would "butch" up the soup, plus add a lovely smokey flavour.

Well, I wasn't wrong.  One thing I hadn't counted on, though, was that the cobs of corn I bought for the soup had a marked resistance to being cooked.  Because I wanted the niblets to wind up tender, I par-boiled the corn before adding it to the soup.  It's just as well I did, as even with the par-boiling they were still like little bullets.  Goodness knows how they'd have been, if I'd have added them from uncooked!  Ultimately, to make the soup easier work on the jaws, I blitzed part of it.  The resultant mix was, as Son & heir put it "rather like loose porridge, but porridge that tastes brilliant".

I suspect that, if I'd have caught the corn at the beginning of the season, I wouldn't have had this problem with it.  So, if you decide to make this recipe and you have young tender corn on your cobs, bear that in mind and try the texture before you decide to blitz!

CORN CHOWDER  (feeds 4)

Ingredients :

2 tbsp olive oil
1 pack (250g) streaky bacon, diced small
1 garlic clove, grated
1 onion, chopped
half a tsp of cayenne pepper
2 medium potatoes, diced small
500ml vegetable stock
150ml sour cream
half a tsp salt
5 cobs of corn, (par-boiled for 5-10 mins if necessary), kernels removed
a large handful of cheddar cheese, grated
pepper to taste
2 spring onions, chopped fine.

Method :

1.  In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the chopped bacon.  Fry until the fat has rendered and bacon is beginning to crispen.

2.  Add onions and garlic, reduce the heat and cook for 5-10 minutes, until onions have softened.

3.  Stir in cayenne and potatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring often.

4.  Add the vegetable stock, sour cream and taste for seasoning.  Add salt if necessary - I didn't need to, as the bacon was quite salty enough.  Add the corn and bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.

5.  With a potato masher, gently press on the mixture to break up some of the potato chunks, which will thicken the broth.

6.  Cook for an additional 10 minutes.

7.  Stir in the cheddar cheese and cook for another few minutes, to ensure it has all melted and been combined.

8.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, adding some black pepper if you like.

9.  Serve in warmed bowls and sprinkle the spring onions over the top.


22 September 2011

A week of firsts - well, almost. Meal plan w/c 20 Sept 11

Firstly though, I just want to tell you about the end of last week.

A couple of weekends ago, you may remember we invested in a mahoosive great lump of roasting bacon.  I did a kind of pot-roast with the slow cooker and half of the piece has been sitting in the freezer awaiting inspiration.

Eventually we gave up on inspiration striking and went for Ham & Cheese Pasta.

This was to be one of hubby’s cooking nights and my goodness but he did it proud!  The ham was soft and sweetly salty, while the cheese sauce on the pasta was all oozy and delicious.  We have found a new cheese (well, to us it is new!) in the supermarket, called Castello® Reserve Herrgård®, which is apparently a matured Swedish hard cheese.  It is a cheese very similar to extremely mature cheddar in its texture, but without any of the salty crystals that you so often find in cheddar.  They reckon it has buttery undertones of caramel and nuts – well I’m not sure about that, as the high flavour tones do tend to monopolise your tongue!

Anyway, I can recommend it in a cheese sauce for pasta.  Working together with a mature cheddar (cheddar in the majority) it completely rounded out the flavour, resulting in a super strong cheesy kick.

Oh and by the way – it’s gorgeous on a cracker with some chutney, too!

So, that brings us on to the new week - and this is how it's looking :
Tues : home-made pizza
Weds : Corn chowder with poppy seed loaf
Thurs : Beef Lasagne with chips for boys and salad for me
Fri : Chicken Traybake with runner beans
Sat : Tarragon chicken, gnocchi and tenderstem broccoli
Sun : Beef Goulash with rice
Mon : Sausage plait with chips and baked beans.

Well, typing that just made me hungry - so I reckon it's looking good.

Looking good!
As is often the way, a few days have gone by in the new week.  So where Monday's pizza day is concerned, because we couldn't think of anything we particularly wanted that wasn't suitable for Son & heir, we all had pizza.  Except, instead of buying frozen pizzas, hubby put his pizza-maker's hat on and made some cracking home made versions.  Son & heir had a ham & pepperoni, whereas hubby and I had everything including the kitchen sink on ours.  That included pepperoni, ham, red pepper, red onion, mushroom and most wonderfully of all - anchovies.  Goodness how I love those little fishies!

The pizzas were so filling that neither hubby nor I managed to finish ours - which provided breakfast for hubby for the following day.

As for Wednesday's Corn Chowder, well, I'd been keeping my eye open for a good hearty recipe for this.  I'd seen a few that seemed particularly lightweight and not really suitable as a main course soup.  Then I clapped eyes on one from www.fresh365online.com.

I made it last night and after a bit of a worry about how the corn was cooking, it turned out fabulously.  I'll blog about it separately, so won't go into detail now.

Tonight's dinner - the Lasagne - is hubby's first ever go at making Lasagne.

We all really like Lasagne and because I've not been well, I've not been making dishes like this that take a while to make.  I just find it impossible to devote the time that's required, what with making the bechamel sauce, then the pasta sauce, then the assembly and creation of a salad to go with it.  Unfortunately, it's just beyond me at the moment.  So, dear hubby has stepped up to the hotplate and had a go.

Having just got back to the computer from devouring a good third of the Lasagne, I can tell you that hubby has got the job!  Again, I'll be blogging about this one - so you'll have to wait until then to hear all about it in detail.

Sneak preview!
Friday is a little bit exciting in a beetroot kind of way.  This is the day that the samples of beetroot arrive for the "So you think you know beetroot" challenge.

I'll be receiving three types of beetroot and, to start us off, several recipes have been suggested.  I thought I'd do one of those recipes - as they are recommended - and just freewheel after that.  So Friday's dinner will be the "One pan roast lunch of chicken, beetroot, potatoes and carrots" from www.lovebeetroot.co.uk site.  I have plans to add this and that to the dish, to make it more an evening dinner rather than a lunch, but again (sorry!) you'll have to wait and see what turns up.

I've got all sorts of fledgling ideas about what to do with the other two types of beetroot, but none of them have turned into formulated plans yet.  I'm waiting to see how much of each type I get, before I decide what to do with it.  After all, it's no good planning on doing something that takes 500g of purpleness, if you are only getting 250g - and you can't get to the shops!

Photo c/o BBC Good Food
Saturday's Tarragon Chicken dish is an adaptation of a recipe that I first saw in Olive Magazine, absolutely ages ago.  I've kept it, thinking "I'll do that one day soon" and some two years later, I've managed to include it!  Because of hubby's potato hatred, instead of the new potatoes (which we'll already have had in the traybake) that are recommended, I thought I'd go for gnocchi.  The sauce for the tarragon chicken should have a good enough consistency for the gnocchi and I think our favourite tenderstem broccoli will be fabulous with it.

Now Sunday's Goulash is all that @sarahcartlidge's fault, because she mentioned it being Goulash weather, which switched on an "oooh, yummy!" response in my brain, which won't be switched off again until I make one.  Fortunately, I haven't put the slow cooker away yet - which may well prove to be a permanent fixture on the worktop, at least until Spring strikes.

What do you reckon to beetroot in vinegar served beside Goulash, a la Margi Clarke's Scouse on MasterChef?  Seems do-able, to me.  More so than the Scouse, because after all, beetroot and goulash do originate from similar places ..

Monday is hubby's day to cook again - and this time he's planning on creating a sausage plait (basically a giant sausage roll, with plaited pastry).  Sounds lovely to me - especially as he's going to be adding some additional flavours to the sausagemeat.  As of yet, I'm not sure what, but all will be revealed!

So there we are.  All except for the home-made pizzas are dishes that are new to us.  Even the Goulash is, as I've never managed to create a "proper" Goulash - and by "proper", I mean one which lives up to the one I've got in my head.  Exciting times in the kitchen, even before the beetroot turned up!


21 September 2011

Slow cooker beef stroganoff

Yes, I know.  Having bored you all to tears with Tenderstem Broccoli, I'm now in the process of boring you all to death about the slow cooker.

I suppose, if you don't have a slow cooker, there's absolutely nothing to stop you assembling the recipe into a casserole dish and cooking it long and slow in the oven.  Same difference!  (In fact, I have since tried doing this - see the note at the end of this post).

So there I was, browsing The Kitchn website as I said earlier, and I spy a recipe for Braised Beef Stroganoff (click to view).  Over the last couple of months or so, I've tried two different recipes for Stroganoff without much success.  There was just something missing from the flavour that reminded me of the Stroganoffs of yore - those that my Mum put together and served for dinner at the weekend.

Having read the version on The Kitchn, it seemed so simple that it held some promise of success in that simplicity.  I also knew that the slow cooker was still sitting on the worktop, which meant that any beef recipe that contained shin of beef would be achievable.  It was just a matter of converting The Kitchn's recipe to one which could be done in the slow cooker.

As it turned out, that really wasn't difficult.  The end result was a smooth, glossy sauce over mushrooms and super-tender beef that tasted just perfect.  I've finally found a recipe that captures those Stroganoffs (or Strongenoughs, as they're known in this house) of yore.

To its credit, it even survived my having a tear-stained emotional meltdown about five minutes prior to serving, which meant it had to sit and wait until I'd calmed down enough to consider serving and eating it.  Don't worry, it wasn't the Stroganoff that sparked the meltdown, I was just having a bit of a one-woman pity party.  You know the sort - where you put a on a brave smile and carry on through thick and thin right up until the straw hits that breaks the camel's back.  Well, a bit of a hug and a sympathetic supply of tissues from hubby and I'm back on form again.  What would I do without him, eh?

12 January 2017

Well, it's been a while, but I was cooking this delicious stroganoff for just the two of us today and opted to go for the oven method.  I assembled everything as for the slow cooker version, but into a lidded casserole dish.  It then went into the oven for 3.5hrs at 150degC/300degF/Gas 2.  I then added the sour cream, stirred it through and put it back into the oven for as long as it took the tagliatelle to cook.  It worked perfectly and was completely delicious.  :D


Ingredients :

2 knobs of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
600g trimmed shin of beef (800g untrimmed), diced into large chunks
3 tbsp flour
a large glass of a full-bodied red wine
300ml beef stock
1 onion, diced
6 small round shallots, peeled and left whole
200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced thickly
a small carton of sour cream
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Method :

1.  Heat a knob of butter and the olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat.  Add the diced beef (in batches if necessary, to avoid braising instead of frying) and fry until browned and beginning to caramelise.  Decant into the slow cooker and switch it to low.

2.  Melt the remaining butter into the frying pan and add the onion.  Fry until softened and just beginning to brown.  Add the mushrooms and fry until beginning to soften.  Decant into slow cooker, along with the whole shallots.

3.  Sprinkle the pan with the flour and stir to combine it with the leftover butter and cooking juices.  Season with black pepper and a pinch of salt.  Allow to cook for a minute or so.

4.  Add the red wine, stirring busily with a whisk, to prevent lumps forming.  Bring to a boil and reduce by half, then add the beef stock and continue stirring to combine.

5. Once the sauce has reached the correct thickness (which should be fairly thick, as the juices from the vegetables and meat will serve to dilute it slightly), pour into the slow cooker and stir to combine.

6.  Turn the slow cooker up to high and leave it for a minimum of 4 hours.

7.  After 4 hours, remove the lid and give the contents another stir.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.  If your beef requires longer, or you aren't ready to eat just yet, turn the heat down to medium, to prevent the sauce from burning.

8.  Add a tablespoon or so of the gravy to the sour cream and stir to combine.  Then, add the diluted sour cream to the slow cooker contents and again, stir to combine.  This way ensures that the sour cream is accepted into the gravy without leaving any lumps.

8.  Serve with papardelle pasta or rice.

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