30 November 2011

The problem that is lunch - solved!

Ever since I've been attempting (with ups and downs) to follow this anti-inflammatory diet, I've had a problem with two meals - breakfast and lunch.  Breakfast is another blog post entirely, but lunch has continued to be a problem right up until I remembered soup.

Of course, the fact that we're now into the chilly autumnal days that lead into true winter does help.  Gone are the days of whipping up an interesting salad for lunch.  Take this salad - these days I am not "allowed" the fresh tomatoes or the Feta cheese - and the Kiwi's are only tolerated because of their high Vit.C. content.

It's not so bad though, because there are a myriad collection of vegetables that are at my disposal.  All the green leafies, and basically anything that's not a carbohydrate are open to me to use.

I went through a stage of eating stir fries at lunchtime, until it dawned on me that I was probably overdoing the oil content.  Olive oil is very good when you're on an anti-inflammatory diet, but when you're trying to lose weight as well, you need to just ration it a bit.  Okay, a lot.

Rubbish presentation - bet Monica wouldn't put that in front of Michel!
It's the same thing with oily fish.  Mackerel is easy-peasy, as you can obtain a tin of mackerel in brine for less than £1 and pop it on toast for lunch - but you can't do that every day of the week, not without going off mackerel and anyway the toast is a no-no.

I had a flash of inspiration and put mackerel with an avocado, which went beautifully.  However again, you can't be having that every day.

So when the desire to have something warm, comforting and "food-like" - you know, something that you know you've eaten by the end of it; something that doesn't just fall into the black hole that is your stomach and disappear; something that won't mean you're hungry again by the time you leave the table - came over me, I was so happy when I thought of soup.

I have, so far, made two soups - both of which are versions of one another.

Mmmn, warm, filling, lovely!
The original, Lunchtime Soup, I have already posted about.  However, today's version was even better - and made more agreeable from an anti-inflammatory point of view by the addition of some chilli.

Today's lunchtime soup involved sweating off in some olive oil, a chopped onion, a crushed clove of garlic, two finely chopped sticks of celery and some finely chopped carrot.

Next, I added (all finely chopped) a leek, a parsnip, a courgette, some swede and a sweet potato.  Stirred them all around to get them covered in the olive oil and added 750ml of Swiss Vegetable Bouillon.  Brought it to the boil and then simmered, covered, for 5-10 minutes or until the vegetables were looking half-cooked.

I then added some finely sliced Savoy cabbage and left the soup until everything was cooked through and tender.

Next, using a hand blender, I blitzed approximately half the soup and mixed it in.  Had a taste, adjusted the seasoning and sat down for lunch.  It probably took around a half an hour to make from start to finish - and I've got enough left for the next two days.

Now, from an anti-inflammatory point of view, it works out to be around +340 per serving, which is absolutely great!  The only vegetables that registered a negative score were the parsnip (-35) and the swede (-9).  The savoy cabbage (+1), leek (+8) and celery (+8) are very worth including for their flavour, but don't add much to the cause otherwise.  However, the cause is very much boosted by the addition of the chilli (+170), onion (+257), garlic (+107), carrots (+144) and a majestic +232 from the sweet potato!

In my attempts to find something nice to eat for lunch, I made a Skinny Cauliflower Cheese a couple of days ago.  Now, as a low fat Cauliflower Cheese, I'd say it hit the spot.  However, it missed being suitable for an anti-inflammatory diet, by quite a mile, unfortunately.  However, because it was successful for what it was, I've included the recipe here.

When I was thinking about how to go about this, I realised that in losing some of the intensity of the cheese flavour, I'd need to replace it with something.  Now because I'm a vegetable-lover and it's getting close to Christmas, immediately Brussels Sprouts sprang to mind.  I just adore those little green jewels - and cooked carefully, I felt they would add some interesting flavour notes.

I blanched the brussels along with the cauliflower, for just 2-3 minutes, then cut them in half.  I felt a half a brussels sprout would be more acceptable to find on your fork than a big mouthful.  More in keeping with the size of the cauliflower, too.

The sauce was made by heating a tablespoonful of olive oil, then adding two tablespoonfuls of flour and a heavy teaspoonful of English Mustard powder.  Of course, it would be difficult to call this a roux, as there wasn't nearly enough oil to qualify.  It was more of a r... than it was ever a roux!  However, having mixed everything together, I began to add a pint of skimmed milk and stirred out the lumps.  I added a good quantity of black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg and stirred again.

It wasn't burned, honest - just lightly singed!
Next into the sauce, went a half a tub of low fat ricotta, some grated Leicestershire cheese (I had around 50g to use up!) and some low fat double gloucester.  In fact, the double gloucester was the remains of a truckle of double gloucester with chives & onions - which lent another very successful flavour note to the sauce - and successfully used that up, too.

Once the cheese is all mixed in, put the vegetables into a baking dish and pour the cheese sauce over.  Add a micro-grating of parmesan to the surface and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling.  As you can see, I left mine in for a weency bit too long - but it still tasted marvellous.

Regrettably, at a score of -48 per serving (I was so sure that cauliflower had a greater anti-inflammatory rating than it did), it was a poor show in that regard.  Maybe next time, I'll add an onion and some chilli - that'd do it!


28 November 2011

Pizza Tart - or Chorizo, Mushroom & Mozzarella Tart, if you like!

We were in the mood for some tart, last week.  We hadn't had one for quite a while and, although pastry is on the no-no list for my diet, I hoped that I'd be able to offset it a little bit with the other ingredients.

Being Pizza Tuesday, I was able to craft the tart to please just hubby and I - which obviously meant mushrooms!

Aside from that, however, I had been having difficulty with chorizo just lately.  I am not all that taken with the taste of a lot of smoked paprika, which of course, makes chorizo very difficult.  I like a little smoked paprika in dishes, but find it becomes almost medicinal in quantity - which isn't very nice.  However, our local Asda has begun to stock some cooking Chorizo, as well as the "ready to go" version.  I thought it would be worth giving it a try, so used it in the filling for the tart and was pleasantly surprised.  I certainly would be willing to use it again, so it can't have been all that strong!  Hubby used the last Chorizo sausage in the Chilli Con Carne later in the week, and it was crackingly good in that.

Something else that's worth noting, is that I used the Jus-Rol Low Fat Puff Pastry for the first time.  Now I know that "low fat" and "puff pastry" seem like a contradiction in terms, but it worked perfectly!  You must bear in mind, though, that I wasn't looking for a well risen pastry for this tart, but something that would give a lighter effect than shortcrust - and in that context it worked just fine.  I'll be using it again, as every little ounce of fat that can be gained, is all to the good.

So.  What did I do?  Well, I unrolled the pastry rectangle and placed it on a baking tray, then because it was a bit big (ordinarily I'd run a knife around the outside to create a crust), I rolled up the edges to form the crust of the tart.  After copious amounts of pricking to prevent it from puffing up hugely, I then part baked it for 10 minutes at 200degC.

Next, I took a pizza sauce (yes, shop bought. I was interested in a tart that was easy to prepare!  If you want to make a pizza sauce, then by all means be my guest.  I know they aren't difficult to make, but it was one step further than I wanted to go, that night) and put a coating of that over the pastry.

Next job was to slice the chorizo very thinly and add that to the tart base, followed by the sliced mushrooms (which in the recipe, below, I have sauteed first - it will remove a lot of the water that they carry) and topped off by the slices of mozzarella and a small sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese over the lot.

That done, it went into the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until the mozzarella was melted and browned on top and the filling was obviously heated through.

I served it with the Zesty Beetroot Salad on top of some mixed salad leaves.  Oh, incidentally, I used a pack of beetroot that had been marinated in honey & ginger for this - and it was gorgeous.  That's something else we'll be having again!

The salad was just lovely with the tart and provided that nice freshness to counteract all the rich flavours of the tart.

Totting up the Inflammation Factors, the end result is -356 per serving, so as you can see, I failed miserably where offsetting the pastry is concerned.  *sigh*  I was SO sure that beetroot was anti-inflammatory, but it turns out it's anything but.  Hey ho.  Back to the drawing board!

PIZZA TART  (Serves 2-3)

Ingredients :

350g puff pastry
3-4 tbsp tomato pizza sauce
a tsp of olive oil
3 cooking chorizo (4" links), sliced finely
3-4 mushrooms, sliced finely
2 balls of mozzarella, sliced finely
a small amount of parmesan cheese, grated.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat your oven to 200deg C/350deg F/Gas 4.

2.  Roll out (if home-made) your pastry to form a rectangle which will fit your baking tray, then using the tip of a knife, score approx 1" in from the edge a line around the inside of the pastry, to form the crust.  Alternatively, (if shop bought) simply unroll the pastry onto your baking tray and score - or if slightly larger than your tray, roll up the edges to form the crust.

3.  Using a fork, prick the inside of the pastry all over, then place into the oven for 10 minutes.

4.  While the pastry cools slightly, in a frying pan, add the teaspoonful of olive oil together with the chorizo and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes or so, until the oil has changed colour.  Add the mushrooms and cook on a fairly high heat until they have given up their water.

5.  Next, coat the inside of the pastry with the pizza sauce, then add the chorizo & mushroom mixture, levelling off as you go.

6.  Lay the slices of mozzarella on top, then sprinkle the parmesan over and place back into the oven for 25-35 minutes or until the mozzarella is browned and bubbling.

7.  Allow 5-10 minutes for the tart to cool once removed from the oven, then serve with a salad.


25 November 2011

Lunchtime Soup

You know those days when you're contemplating what to have for lunch and just don't fancy anything that you've got in the fridge?

Well, on one of those days, "Lunchtime Soup" was born.

I could easily have had a sandwich, but as bread is such a no-no with regard to being inflammatory, (one slice of Oat bran bread registering -33) I was feverishly trying to think of something to have that wouldn't upset the apple cart and leave me in pain for the afternoon.

I knew I had a few crumbs of Turkey left from the meat I'd defrosted for use in the Turkey Curry, but I didn't much fancy having Ramen noodles which would have used them up perfectly.  I did, however, feel like having something warm that came out of a bowl.  Something that you knew you'd eaten by the end of it.  Soup!

Now, this was an enticing proposition because I knew I'd be eating it alone - so I could make it just how I wanted.  Hubby isn't a great lover of home-made soups and anyway he already had plans for lunch.

I had a rummage in the vegetable drawer and pulled out the following :

a shallot (which registered +20)
two sticks of Fenland celery (+10)
a parsnip (-12)
a block of swede (-4)
three florets of cauliflower (+18)
one clove of garlic (+107)
a small bunch of parsley (+50)
a handful of leftover roast turkey meat (-17)

plus :

olive oil (to cook the shallot & garlic in - +71)
chicken stock - I used 2 Knorr Chicken Stockpots (-43)
and enough water to cover.

All of which, once you've done the maths, amounts to a total of +200 - which is just wonderful.

So I was able to have - over two days - lunch that not only was good for me, but was low fat, tasted fabulous and soothed my yearning for comfort food!  It would have been even better for me if I'd have had a couple of carrots in the house, but regrettably we'd used them all up.  What makes this even better, is that the soup ingredients were all leftovers - all except the cauliflower, which I'd bought to make a Skinny Cauliflower Cheese with.

I reckon I've hit dieting Nirvana.  Food that is not only good for you (in whatever way you want it to be good for you), but comes as an added bonus on top of your normal planned menus.  Can't be bad!

If you'd like to re-create this lovely yumminess at home, here's what I did (but you can add or remove any part of it, substitute veggies, or use veggie stock - the world is your oyster!) :

LUNCHTIME SOUP  (serves 2)

Ingredients :

1 tbsp olive oil
1 banana shallot, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
2 sticks celery, de-stringed and chopped fine
1 medium parsnip, peeled & sliced finely
a small block of swede, peeled & diced finely
3 florets of cauliflower, each cut in half

600ml chicken or vegetable stock - I used 2 Knorr Chicken Stockpot
a few offcuts of cooked meat taken from a roasted joint
a small bunch of parsley, chopped.

Method :

1.  Heat the olive oil gently in a saucepan and add the shallots.  Cook over a medium heat until they are softened but not browned.

2.  Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute or so.

3.  Add the remainder of the vegetables, except the parsley, and cook on a greater heat for 3-4 minutes.

4.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.

5.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are very nearly at the desired tenderness, then add the cooked meat.  Make sure the meat has heated through and the soup is back up to temperature, during which the vegetables should have attained the desired tenderness.  Try not to stir too briskly, or you'll break up the pieces of meat.

6.  Add the parsley and stir to combine.  Cook for another minute, then serve.


Rhubarb & Ginger breaks its own record!

Jenny Eatwell's Rhubarb & Ginger has today passed its all-time record for page views, which stood at 3,627 in a month.  With five days left in the month, I can't help but think that we're probably going to smash that record into tiny pieces!

Big thanks go out to all of you people who stop by here for inspiration, amusement or just because you're hungry.

None of this would be possible, without your keep coming back to read the next instalment, so I thank you all, most sincerely.

Just a little edit to say that, with a day to go, we're standing at 4,425 page views.  Wow!  

You're all brilliant, did you know that?

23 November 2011

Turkey Curry - or "making use of leftovers"

When Knorr sent me the lovely Seasonal Box from Foreman & Field, they also included in it  ingredients with which to make use of some of the leftovers.

I was, initially, intrigued to find a plastic bag containing two Cox's apples and a banana.  I was wondering whether this was someone's idea of a joke, until I put two and two together (with the help of the pineapple) and came up with "curry".  Sure enough, I then found some curry powder, dessicated coconut and double cream.

In the past, I've not had a great deal of success with curries that involve fruit.  So you can imagine, I wasn't overly chuffed about the idea of having to utilise the three fruits together with the leftover turkey.  Well, I was more worried about the loss of the beautiful turkey meat, in the event of the fruity curry turning out to be inedible.  You can only imagine the amount of brain-time I gave to pondering over this recipe.

The original recipe - as given by Marco Pierre White - also involved the use of two Knorr Chicken Stock Pots.  Well, as you know, I'd made some beautiful turkey stock - which rendered the use of the Stock Pots superfluous.  I was torn between doing what I was supposed to - which was follow the recipe to the letter, then blog about the results, versus adapting the recipe to one which was more acceptable to our palates, plus making use of my home-made stock instead of the Knorr Stock Pots.

In the end, it was the quality of the Turkey meat that made my mind up for me.  After all, if we'd all have hated the Marco Pierre-White recipe (which there was every possibility of - sorry, Marco!), the turkey meat would have been wasted.  I very definitely didn't want that to happen - so I adapted it.

We were all very happy with the results.  The curry was considerably hotter than the original would have been and I compromised regarding the fruit.  The apple added the fruity backnotes, with the coconut and cream smoothing the whole effect.  Hubby even ate the leftovers the following day for lunch (not recommended - as the Turkey meat had already been re-heated once, but no rules & regulations come between my man & his curry) - so it must have been good! 

(See also the second Turkey curry recipe - Turkey & Apple Curry which sounds very similar but is in fact very different in flavour).

TURKEY CURRY  (serves 3-4)

Ingredients :

1 pink curry onion, sliced thinly
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 small knob of butter
a pinch of sea salt
1 clove garlic, chopped and crushed
1 red chilli, chopped
1 Cox's apple, peeled, de-cored and chopped into fine dice
2-3 heaped tbsp curry powder
2 tbsp dessicated coconut
1 heaped tbsp tomato puree
350ml turkey stock
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp dark brown sugar
100ml double cream
pre-cooked Turkey meat, cut into 1" chunks
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped.

Method :

1.  In a deep frying pan or wok, heat the sunflower oil and add the onions.  Cook on a medium heat until the onions are transparent, then increase the heat and cook until they are just beginning to take on colour.  Reduce the heat to medium and add a pinch of salt and the garlic.  Stir to combine & cook for another minute or so.

2.  Add the chilli and apple dice and stir to combine.  Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes or until the apple begins to soften around the edges.

3.  Add the curry powder, coconut and tomato puree and cook gently, stirring, until completely combined and the oil is beginning to separate.

4.  Add the stock, lemon juice and sugar, to taste.  Stir to combine and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook and reduce for 5-10 minutes or until beginning to look sauce-like instead of broth-like.

5.  Add the cream and gently stir.  Do not boil from this point on, but just gently simmer.

6.  Once the sauce has achieved the consistency you prefer, add the turkey chunks and continue to simmer to heat them through.  It is most important that the turkey becomes piping hot.

7.  As a last flourish and to freshen up the colour and flavours, add the chopped coriander and mix through.

8. Serve with boiled or steamed rice.


Meal Planning around your son's social life

It seems as though, having hit 13yrs, suddenly our son is taking off with a social life that involves the evenings instead of just weekends and school holidays.

For years, we've been trying to get him to go to after-school clubs (and have been a wee bit successful, in parts) and to take part in after-school events.  However, he seems to be taking after me and was happy to remain a homebody.

However, now he's 13, son & heir is finding his wings!

This week, therefore, is a case of meal planning around his appointments and a visit to my parents.

Monday (Turkey Curry night) involved making dinner very much earlier than usual, in order to get son & heir back to school to take part in "Rock School" (as in "Rock and Roll", rather than the close inspection of geological formations)Fortunately, as the curry included pre-cooked Turkey, it was simple and quick to make.  Son & heir had a great time practicing to be a rock star, whilst hubby and I sat in Macdonald's car park and enjoyed a large cup of their delicious coffee each.  We'll get our reward once he's famous, I'm sure.

By the way - how is it that Macdonalds manages to sell such lovely coffee?  We reckon they have to be putting something addictive in it that makes you come back for more.  There's no "gentle sipping" involved with a Macdonalds coffee - it's a consistent "down the hatch!" until it's gone, swiftly followed by much sorrowful peering into the bottom of the cup, wishing it would fill up again.

Here's how the rest of the week is shaping up :

Tues : Son & heir - Pizza, Adults - Pizza Tart & Zesty Beetroot Salad
Weds : Chicken Casserole & Sweet Potato Wedges
Thurs : Chilli con Carne with rice
Fri : Turkey & Bacon Pie with carrots, parsnips & tenderstem broccoli
Sat : Dinner at lunchtime, so sandwiches for tea
Sun : yet to be decided
Mon : Devilled sausages, sweet potato mash & peas.

We had the Pizza Tart last night and although the concept requires some fine tuning, the flavours were there.  The tart utilises chorizo, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese - so it's easy to tell how nice it was.  The mistake I made was not frying off the mushrooms before using them on the tart and as a consequence, a lot of water escaped from them.  I salvaged the situation and, when I blog about it, will take that into account in the recipe.

Wednesday's Chicken Casserole is one I found on the Good Food Channel's website.  It doesn't appear to be attributed to anyone - but if you recognise it as yours, let me know and I'll give you the proper mention.  In the meantime, consider yourself mentioned by proxy!

It's an interesting recipe, using sherry, cloves, green peppers, raisins and green olives.  I'm really not at all sure how son & heir is going to receive it, but it sounds good to me!
Thursday is son & heir's Jazz Club night when he plays bass guitar with the Jazz Band and which takes place immediately following school.  However, we have to be picking him up at the time I would normally be cooking the dinner - which requires a bit of forethought and planning.  This week, we've opted for a chilli con carne which hubby will cook in the day.  That'll leave us to heat up the chilli and cook some rice, which shouldn't make dinner late.
Friday is the next "Turkey leftover" night, in which I'll be making a Turkey & Bacon pie.  The cooked Turkey meat has been in stashed in the freezer and I've kept back a few rashers of that wonderful Emmett's streaky bacon.  I've also retained half the pack of chestnuts, which I'm going to include (chopped finely) in the pastry for the pie.  If it turns out how my imagination is seeing it, it should be really lovely.

Saturday is a "back to front" day, as (assuming my Mum is okay - she's experiencing arthritis problems with her knees, too, now!) we should be visiting my parents.  They live very locally to us, so we'll be able to leave the three dogs at home - which saves having to worry about muddy paw prints across their carpets!  So we'll, effectively, be having lunch at dinner time, that day.

Sunday is another weird one, as we're going to see Mike Dawes & Amy Turk perform at the Bournemouth Folk Club.  We'll be eating while we're out, so it's going to be a light snack before we go, if anything.  Both Mike (guitar) & Amy (harp) have such amazing touch and ability with their instruments, they are just mesmerising to watch - and extremely agreeable to listen to.  Mike has been such an inspiration to Son & heir regarding his guitar playing, too.

 Following all that excitement, I felt the need for something homely and yummy - so will be trotting out the good old Devilled Sausages, along with sweet potato mash and peas for Monday evening.  I reckon we'll all be flagging a bit by then and they'll warm the cockles of our hearts, without having to slave for hours over a hot stove.  Couldn't be better!


22 November 2011

Making gorgeous stock using your slow cooker

One turkey carcass all cuddled up with its veggies, ready for stock making
As mentioned in a previous posting, once I'd taken all the meat from the Turkey's bones - and I do mean ALL the meat from the bones, no leaving half of it there "because it's too difficult to pick out", I went over it with a fine toothcomb! -  my next job was to make some stock with the carcass.

Now, once upon a time, I used to put the chicken carcass into the big old stock pot with vegetables etc., and boil it on the cooker top.  Then it occurred to me that I had a slow cooker - so why not use that?

So I used to leave the slow cooker on overnight, on low, and decant the stock the following morning.  Right up until I realised that it was the smell of the stock cooking that gave me nightmares!  Real technicolour ones with stereo sound, too.  Not just any old nightmare, but the ones that would leave you out of sorts for the following day.  It wasn't good.  I tried shutting the kitchen door, but the smell wafted out all the same and every time I closed my eyes - nightmares.

Hence, there is now only one way to make stock - to pop the carcass into a freezer bag and store it in the fridge, then make the stock the following day.  No nightmares, lovely stock.  Every one's a winner.

So, whenever you decide to make your stock, this is what you do :

STOCK (Turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, veal - you name it, it'll work)

No! Take the meat off, first!
1.  Take your roasted bones - in this case, a Turkey carcass, and place it in the slow cooker.  Now, I always use all the yukky bits too - but if you're after a clear stock then you need to leave the skin and wobbly bits out.  I throw anything that isn't immediately edible into the stock pot, including the skin, as I feel that it gives the stock extra depth and as I'm not in a restaurant, nobody's going to care if the stock isn't clear!

2.  Add to the slow cooker some, or all, of the following :

- a carrot, unpeeled but with the top and tail trimmed, then cut into four sections.
- an onion, peeled and quartered.
- two garlic cloves, unpeeled, put under the flat of a knife and whacked so that they split.
- two sticks of celery, washed and trimmed - but include any leaves that are on the bunch.
- a bunch of parsley - approx 25-30g, including the stalks.
- at least a teaspoon full of freshly ground black pepper.
- a large pinch of sea salt.
- a bay leaf.

You can be creative with your stock's flavourings, by including such things as Star Anise, Cinnamon, chillies, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, lemon zest, a quartered apple (good for pork stock), but always bear in mind what you're going to be using it for.  For instance, if you're going to want to make a vegetable soup, you won't be wanting lemon zest in there.  If you're going to be making gravy to accompany a pie, you probably won't be wanting Star Anise, with its oriental tones.

Equally, as regards vegetables, you don't want to include things like potato or parsnip, which are likely to disintegrate and cloud the stock.

3.  Once everything is in the slow cooker, pour in enough water to almost cover the contents.  For instance, with a chicken, I'll usually be able to see the breastbone rising above the waves.

4.  Switch it on, to "Full" and leave to cook for 2 hours, then switch it down to "Low" and leave it to cook for however long you want it to (it's unlikely you'll forget about it, as the lovely smell will keep on reminding you!).

5.  When the liquid has taken on a good colour, turn the slow cooker off and give the contents a good old compress with the back of a ladle.  This helps to break up the carcass and release all the lovely flavours.

6.  Place a sieve above a big bowl and slowly pour the stock into the sieve, which should catch any bones or vegetables that fall out of the slow cooker.  Try, as much as possible, to not create a tidal wave as you pour, as it is so much harder to control - and you don't want your kitchen floor to be awash.  In fact, I usually put the bowl and sieve into the sink before I start to pour - just in case.

7.  Before you remove the sieve, give the contents another compress with the back of your ladle, just to squeeze all the available stock from it.

8.  Then, taking two old carrierbags, decant the contents of the sieve into one, then place that in the other and either out onto your compost, or into the bin.

9.  It is very well worth your passing the stock through the sieve one more time, just to make sure you've caught all the lumps - and don't tip the sediment into the bowl of stock.  It just helps to keep the stock as clear as possible.

10.  Next, decant the stock into a large jug (or if you haven't got one, keep it in the bowl) and cling film the top.  Put it in the fridge to cool - and the fat will set on the surface.

11.  (Usually the next day)  Take a spoon and carefully separate the fat from the surface of the stock and discard (into the dog's bowl, is a good place).  Don't be dismayed if your stock has jellified - this is a very good thing and is caused by the gelatin in the bones.

The end result - worth every minute!
12.  You're now ready to decant your stock into smaller containers to either go into the fridge and/or freezer.  I usually find that I've used the stock long before I need to worry about how long it has been in the freezer - but a month should be fine.

Try making gravy with a roux base and your stock - I guarantee you won't have tasted such a great gravy in a long time.

In fact, the gravy I made to accompany the Turkey that we had been sent by Knorr, was so good that it didn't require any input from the Knorr Stock Pots that they'd also sent.  I felt quite guilty about that - but on the other hand, it said a lot for the quality of the stock I'd just made!



21 November 2011

Roasted Kelly Bronze Turkey with all the trimmings

Yesterday (Sunday) was the big "roast the Turkey" day.

The full menu for the meal, looked like this :

Roasted Kelly Bronze Turkey
Pigs in blankets
Stuffing balls
Roasted Potatoes & Parsnips
Brussels Sprouts with bacon & chestnuts
Carrots en Vichy
Bread sauce
Turkey Gravy

with a nice Zinfandel served alongside.
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

Well, I can tell you that it was almost all absolutely divine - all except the stuffing balls, which were truly disgusting and got thrown into the bin.  However, I'll tell you all about those in just a while.

Let's talk Turkey, first.  I have, at this point, to remind you all that I am coming at this from the perspective of someone who has had to count every penny in order to get through the month.  Literally, every penny.  Some months, we were down to just 5p in the account - but at least the account was still in credit, which is more than can be said for a lot of accounts!  So, to be faced with a Kelly Bronze Turkey that was worth a completely staggering £73.95 ~gasp~ was almost more than hubby or I could bear.  You cannot imagine the sheer guilt involved in converting that much money's-worth of Turkey into meals.  That Turkey was worth more than a week's shopping has cost us, in the past.  It was just jaw-dropping.

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it's a Kelly Bronze Turkey!
The only way to approach this process, we found, was to deal with it in two ways.  Firstly, consider it as "work".  We had been given these lovely ingredients by Knorr, to make into lovely meals, in return for blogging copiously about it.  Now the fact that I enjoy doing both those two things, just means that I'm lucky enough to have a "job" that I enjoy - and was going to particularly enjoy working with the Foreman & Field Seasonal Box.  Secondly, we felt compelled to take that Turkey as far as we possibly could push it.  Hence, we currently have on the list, the following : a roast "Christmas" dinner; a Turkey Leftover Curry; a Turkey pie; Turkey stock; a Turkey soup and several lunch incarnations of various leftovers.  Not to mention that the dogs will have enjoyed their fair share of the bounty, too - receiving various inedible bits and the giblets.  If we can take it any further, rest assured we will.

All ready for the oven, including 2 onions "up its jacksy", to quote Jamie Oliver
The Kelly Bronze came, most obligingly, with a booklet with gave full cooking instructions which helped no end.  Just how scared was I, of ruining this beautiful bird by overcooking it?  Yep, you've got it - pretty darned worried.  So I followed the instructions to the letter - roasting the bird "upside down" so that the fat could trickle through the breast meat and so keep it moist and roasting it for the prescribed 20 minutes in a very hot oven, then an hour in a medium oven.

I only wish that I could have bottled the smell of that Turkey cooking.  As hubby said, it took him back to Christmasses of yore, when his Granny would be doing the cooking and Turkeys were fresh as opposed to frozen and more than likely free range.  It sounds a bit of a tall tale, but it truly did smell totally different to a standard old supermarket turkey (the one that we're all, not surprisingly as it turns out, so bored with).

Hand me the carvers, Gloria, I'm going in!
What emerged from the oven was a gloriously golden, beautifully roasted, succulent and supremely tasty Turkey.  I have a terrible suspicion that we've now been spoiled for any other kind of Turkey - and are definitely not going to be spending £70+ on a Kelly Bronze, no matter how gorgeous it is - at Christmas.

Following on from a half-hour's resting time, I carved the Turkey and broke the quantity of meat down into individual meals, to make freezing the remainder easier.  I was - and indeed still am - just amazed at how much meat came off of that Turkey.  To say I was up to my elbows in it, wouldn't be far wrong.

The carcass immediately went into the slow cooker with an assortment of vegetables, to begin the process of making the stock - of which more in another blog post.

The portion of meat for the Roast Dinner went into a pyrex bowl, to have gravy added and be popped into the oven to warm through at dinner time.  So much easier than trying to juggle with roasties, vegetables, gravy AND the Turkey!  In any case, we wouldn't have had room in our oven for the Turkey and the roasties, so it was essential that I roast the bird beforehand.
The "Pigs in blankets" took the form of some Musks's Special Recipe Christmas Chipolatas, wound round with some of Emmett's Black Mild-Cured Streaky Bacon, which we also used for the Brussels Sprouts and the last of which I shall use in the Turkey pie.  At around £4.50 for a 250g pack, the bacon is something else I'll be determined to make the most of!  It was a shame that the chipolatas had been previously frozen, as that has made utilising the leftovers a bit short on timescale, as we obviously can't freeze them again.  They're going to form part of my lunch today, I think.

I liked the chipolatas and son & heir seemed to approve too, but hubby wasn't so keen.  They were an interesting mix of Pork (50%), Bread (wheat flour, water, yeast, salt), Rusk (wheat flour, salt) Cranberries, Chestnut Puree (chestnuts, water, sugar, salt), Dehydrated Onion, Demerara Sugar, Spices, Sage, Orange & Lemon Peel, and Salt.  As a "pig in blanket", the chipolatas were completely overawed by the quality of the superb bacon, but he found them to be too "mealy" and a bit lacking in flavour.  A shame, as they retail at around £3.75 for a pack of 10, which is a wee bit pricey - but then, Musk's do carry a Royal Warrant, which has got to be worth at least 50p on the price.

The bacon though.  Oh, the bacon!  Emmett's have been providing Suffolk ham and bacon since 1820 and also have received a Royal Warrant.  However, the difference is that here you can taste the years in the cure of the bacon.  In fact, just open the bag and inhale - there's a whole lot of history involved in that sweet smokiness.  The depth and layers of fragrance just don't arrive because someone has had a good idea about what to cure the bacon with - they come through years of practice.

The smell of that bacon cooking to accompany the brussels sprouts, dominated the kitchen in the most mouth-watering way possible. Closely followed by the Pigs in blankets sizzling away in the oven, the place took on a very satisfactorily bacony character.  However, the true worth of the bacon is the fact that the flavour is even better than the smell.  I reckon that the Turkey was the star of the show - but the bacon was a very close second.

Even the dogs enjoyed the bacon, as I popped the trimmed bacon rind into the oven to bake - and the dogs had that with their tea.  Everyone ate every scrap that was in their bowl, so I think it's safe to say they approved - which I'm sure you are significantly reassured by.  *chuckle*

I wish it were possible to speak in such glowing terms as regards the "Finest Quality Cranberry Walnut & Smoked Bacon stuffing" from Foreman & Field.  As it states on the pack lid, the stuffing has been previously frozen - which wouldn't be a problem, as in my experience, stuffing balls don't tend to hang around waiting to be eaten!  However, it was a big problem in this instance, because as I was forming the stuffing into balls, it was necessary to squeeze the water from the mix.  Gross, or what?  Not a good start - and the situation didn't improve, as the cooked stuffing tasted stale and old.  You know that "old rancid fat" taste that cheap, cheap sausages have?  No?  Well, think yourself lucky then.  This stuffing was on the verge of decomposition, I reckon.

The vegetables that were included in the box (parsnips, carrots, brussels sprouts) were all lovely quality, fresh and tasty.  Something amazing happened with regard to the Brussels Sprouts with bacon & chestnuts, mind you!  Hubby - that self-confessed disliker of all things Brussels Sprouty - ate three of them!  All of which might go some way towards giving you an understanding of how truly gorgeous the bacon was, alongside some beautifully soft, sweet chestnuts.  I'll be using the remainder of the chestnuts in the pastry for the Turkey pie, I think.

The Carrots en Vichy were simplicity itself to make and I think we'll be re-visiting this recipe again, very soon.

You simply prepare the amount of carrots you need, by peeling, then slicing them lengthways.  Place them into a saucepan and just cover with water (Vichy water, if you want to be precise - but we used simple tap water).  Add a teaspoon of sugar and a large knob of butter, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow the water to cook away until you're left with cooked, glazed carrots.  Gorgeous!

The Turkey gravy was another revelation, as it caused son & heir to abandon his love for dry food in favour of a plate swimming in gorgeous Turkey gravy.  I made the gravy with the Turkey Stock, supported by one of the Knorr Stock Pots to just boost the intensity of the flavours.  I had been able to skim all the fat from the stock, but will have to admit to starting with a butter/flour roux when making the gravy, so it wasn't low fat at all.  What it was, however, was completely gorgeous and more like a Turkey soup than gravy!

Again, I have to thank Knorr for the opportunity of cooking this feast, but most of all, I have to thank hubby for the hours he has put in over the weekend, peeling, chopping, calculating timings, getting things out of and into the oven, watching over boiling pots, laying tables, taking photographs and just doing all the legwork.  I honestly couldn't have done it without him, so he deserves most of the credit for the production of both this meal and the Christmas Buffet.  Thanks, darring!


20 November 2011

Smoked Salmon Mousse

The one dish from the Christmas Buffet we produced that took any "cooking", as opposed to simply assembly, was the Smoked Salmon Mousse.

However, it was so simple to make that I hesitate to call it "cooking".  More a case of understanding balance of flavours, plus the ability to operate a food processor!

I dithered (for an astonishing length of time) over whether to include cream cheese as well as the double cream - and then wound up using them both, but in smaller quantities.  I figured that they both had a part to play in the texture and flavour of the mousse - and I was right.

As for the horseradish, even if you are not a horseradish fan, do include it.  It isn't obvious - and adds that little bit of tang that it is apparent isn't lemon juice, but you can't quite work out what it is.

Between the fish itself, the horseradish, the lemon juice and the dill, this is a mousse of extraordinary dimensions - so take care as to what you serve it on.  It can cope with being served on something like the rye bread we used, as the bread has a flavour that is very different to that of the mousse.  However, served on something like a Blini, I can't help but think that the overpowering flavour would become cream.

I know that the supermarkets are selling small packs of smoked salmon offcuts - Asda do one for 90p - which would be just perfect for this mousse.  After all, there's no need to chop up a perfectly lovely piece of smoked salmon!

The recipe below makes double the amount seen in the ramekin above.  I only made half because I was just using it for canapés and didn't want any left over, but it just goes to show how easy it is to make the amount that you are going to require - which is incredibly useful if you've spent a lot on a little!

Thank you to Knorr for supplying us with the majority of the ingredients for this dish.


Ingredients :

120g smoked salmon
2-3 tbsp double cream
1½ tbsp cream cheese
½ a tsp of creamed horseradish 
½ a lemon, juiced
fresh Dill, to taste.

Method :

1.  In a mini food processor, or a bowl suitable for using a hand blender, place the smoked salmon and whizz to chop into small pieces.

2.  Add the cream, cream cheese and horseradish, then slightly less than the stated amounts of lemon juice and dill.  Whizz to combine, and taste.  Add more cream, lemon juice or dill as required and whizz & taste until it suits your palate and the desired consistency is reached.

3.  Decant into a bowl, ready for use.


Christmas Buffet : Canapés, Cheeseboard & Dessert

Click to enlarge & you'll be able to see more!
First of all, I have just got to tell you how much fun (and a little bit of anxiety) hubby and I had, creating the Christmas Buffet.

Although we've done our best - with what was available - in the past, to make a Christmas Buffet along the lines of this one, we've never had the quality of ingredients.  It was a lovely change - and something of a responsibility - to have such great ingredients to work with.

London Cure Smoked Salmon
Why responsibility?  Well, when you have the opportunity to handle items that are a) worth so much (in relation to our normal ingredients) and b) so beautiful in both quality and flavour, you want to do them justice.  All the ingredients in the Foreman & Field box sent to us by Knorr were gourmet quality.  Although we'd spent quite a long time planning this Buffet, we weren't 100% sure as to whether we'd done them justice, until we'd done it!  For instance, the beautiful London Cure Smoked Salmon - would it have been best to have served it simply, with some buttered brown bread and a lemon wedge?  Maybe so - but we wanted to explore what could be done with the Salmon, as it is unlikely that we'll  get the opportunity again for a long time!

Ultimately, we decided to make some canapés with the Salmon.  This also gave us a chance to show off the Salmon Roe Caviar and have some fun with the ingredients.  We made the predictable Blinis (small sour cream pancakes, with a fold of smoked salmon, a dab of Ricotta cheese - instead of sour cream - and a piece of dill), some smoked salmon pinwheels (a slice of salmon, spread with Ricotta, rolled and topped with a dab of caviar) and some Smoked Salmon Mousse on Rye bread.  I will blog the recipe for the Mousse as my next blog post, as it was completely gorgeous and can easily be made with offcuts of Smoked Salmon - thus rendering it affordable for most!

Smoked Salmon Pinwheel & Blini
Of the three canapés, our favourite was the Blini - and I can tell, having had one, why they are so popular - although probably going terribly out of fashion these days.  Yes, I agree, I could have made my own blinis, but I honestly had enough to do and even with hubby's considerable help, there are just some things that it is easier on me to buy rather than make.  One day, when I'm not so broken, I'll make my own blinis.

We had used Ricotta cheese in the canapés rather than sour cream, in a "damage limitation" exercise as regards the Anti-inflammatory diet I'm on.  (-111 as opposed to -50 for 100g).  The fish is just superb for me (+247 for 100g), as is the caviar, but the cheese is rather a different story - so any little improvement we could make to the negative score at the end of the meal, was worth it.

I enjoyed the Ricotta, although son & heir didn't agree with me.   Hubby wasn't keen on it in the Salmon Pinwheels, although liked it on the Blinis.  I think, perhaps, it would be better to go for the sour cream with the Blini and cream cheese with the pinwheels - but you live and learn!

The pinwheels were simplicity itself to produce - just slice a piece of salmon in half (to a width of around an inch) and trim to 4 inches long.  Smooth cream cheese along its length, remembering to leave a little space at the end free, then roll from the cheesed end to the empty end.  Sit on its cut side and top with a teensy bit of the salmon roe.  Delicious!

Smoked Salmon Mousse, ready to go!
Son & heir's reaction to the Salmon roe caviar was interesting - he completely understood that it was fish eggs and I expected him to be all repulsed by it because of that.  However, he was as intrigued as anything, to the point of stealing one little egg from the top of a canapé while we were still assembling the table.  He loved how the eggs would "pop" on his tongue with the intense salmon flavour and kept going back for more.  He even asked whether any was left - and was very pleased to hear that I'd hardly made an impression on the pot!

The Smoked Salmon Mousse was something else that was simplicity itself to produce.  If you've got a mini food processor, then it'll be even easier - especially if you're making just a little amount, as I was.  The addition of a little horseradish was truly inspirational as it gave the mousse the little bit of tang that had you wondering what it was, without being identifiably horseradish.

We served it on top of Rye bread with sunflower seeds, with a teensy piece of cucumber set in the top - and it was absolutely delicious.  Son & heir wasn't keen on the bread, but I noticed that the blob of mousse disappeared quick sharp!

One of the most amazing flavour sensations was the Smoked Salmon Pinwheel, followed up by a Physalis.  The acidity of the beautiful little fruits worked so well with the oiliness of the fish and acted as a perfect palate cleanser.

The Physalis were also a great success with the cheeseboard, too.  We'd bought some grapes to go with it (along with the Physalis), but those little golden fruits in their papery shells were such a great foil for the richness of the cheese - including the Colston Bassett Stilton - that I commend the idea to you.  Physalis are available in the shops now for around £1 for a bag containing 25 or so fruits, so not too expensive.

Something else I have to commend to you, were the crackers we bought to accompany the cheese.  Carr's Cheese Melts are quite the nicest cheese cracker I've tasted in a very long time.  Because of their fragile nature, you have to be gentle (and almost ladylike!) in loading them up with cheese, or you'll wind up with a plate full of crumbs.  However, once you've successfully conveyed them to your face - especially if the cheese is a crackingly good, creamy, gentle but full-flavoured Stilton like the Colston Bassett - then you're in for a few moments of complete heaven.

Our cheese board consisted of the Colston Bassett Stilton, a fairly young but creamy Brie, a lovely piece of "Real Yorkshire" Wensleydale, a small wax-coated Applewood Smoked Cheddar that only I liked and a wax-coated Double Gloucester, which son & heir thought was the raving business!

I served some green olives and a jar of pickled walnuts with the cheeseboard and was disappointed to find that I was the only person who enjoys pickled walnuts.  Well, me, my Dad and Len Goodman (of Strictly Come Dancing fame) are the only people I know of who do.  Yes, they are a bit of an oddity and yes, they do look a tad strange.  However, couple them with cheese and you're onto a winner.  Ah well, all the more for me!

Dessert was - I admit it - a complete cheat.

I took a completely bog-standard (but very tangy and nice) defrosted Lemon Tart and added raspberries (and 3 physalis, for decoration) to it.  I honestly had no intention of mentioning it on the blog here, as it was such a cop-out that it felt dishonest to do so.  However, it was - for me - the surprise of the night owing to just how delicous and more-ish it was!

Asda's Lemon Tart has always been one of my favourite "quick" frozen desserts, as it is quite surprisingly tangy and completely devoid of horrible ersatz cream, chocolate or other decoration.  The addition of the fresh raspberries though, just propelled it through the stratosphere as regards pimped up quick desserts - and I can't help thinking I'll be doing this again!

Hand me a spoon - I'm going in!

I'd like to take this opportunity of thanking Knorr for the opportunity of experiencing working with these wonderful ingredients and the fun of producing the Christmas Buffet.  Fabulous!
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