30 June 2011

Shepherd's Pie - better than a couple of aspirin.

There are many different types of foodstuffs that are referred to as "medicinal".  A nip of brandy, a sherry before dinner, chicken soup - all qualify.

In our family, however, it is - without doubt - the Shepherd's Pie.

Whenever someone has been grievously ill, you know they're feeling better when they will accept some Shepherd's Pie - and you know that it will do them so much good, that they'll be well on the way to recovery thereafter.

Take when I had Shingles.  Now Shingles is a horrid thing at the best of times - but on your face (from my chin to the top of my head) is especially nasty.  Add to that a secondary infection and you can just begin to imagine how ill I was.  Knocking on the door of not being here, in fact.  I can well remember lying in bed wishing for Shepherd's Pie.  Dreaming about Shepherd's Pie.  I eventually asked hubby whether he could make me a Shepherd's Pie and of course he was straight into the kitchen, rattling pots and pans.


That Shepherd's Pie was of life-saving quality.  The first forkful, carried weakly to my mouth, was absolutely ambrosial.  Every forkful thereafter brought with it a little more nutrition, a little more energy - and ultimately, more life.

I can remember that, from that moment onwards, the slow creep back to normality began.

Shepherd's Pie was on the menu list for tonight - and my goodness, but did hubby do it justice?  You bet he did.  From the mashed potato that was mashed with double cream, butter, sea salt & freshly ground pepper, to the lamb mixture that included onion, carrot, celery and stock enrichened with a little sweet sherry and tomato puree.  He gave it his all.

My only regret was that we had a guest for dinner tonight, so there wasn't any leftovers.  Ah well, all the more reason to put another one on the menu list, very soon!

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The Artisan Bagel Baker returns!

I dunno, I go out to work for four hours and come back to find the Artisan Bagel Baker has been busy in my kitchen!



Yes indeed, hubby has found his yeast-flavoured baking wings.  Well and truly!

Today - get this - he ventured to produce these four beautiful plain (if plain is a satisfactory description, which I really think perhaps it isn't) bagels ....



along with four beautiful Red Pepper, Olive & Parmesan bagels.  Oh yes, you read that correctly.  Look at this 'ere picture and prepare to dribble, all ye bagel fanciers out there.


*happy sigh*

I was greeted, upon returning home, by the questions "would you like a cup of tea?" and "are you hungry?", which last loaded question I answered with "why, what's on offer?".   So we promptly road-tested one of the Red Pepper, Olive and Parmesan bagels with cream cheese.  Oh and it was T.D.F.  (Easily translated as "to die for").

Apparently, hubby had made the flavoured bagels by creating a tapenade of sweet peppers, green queen olives, parmesan cheese and olive oil - which he then mixed (with some difficulty, apparently) into the bagel dough.  He saved a little bit of parmesan for sprinkling just before they went into the oven.  Gorgeous!

Now, we're going to invite suggestions for bagel flavours.  What flavour would YOU like to see in a bagel?

If you're new to Rhubarb & Ginger and haven't followed hubby's Bagel-baking activities in the past, they all started here.

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29 June 2011

Baked gnocchi with spinach, tomato & mascarpone

I usually leave a day or so in between trying out a recipe and blogging about it, but the really good ones get blogged earlier than that because, basically, I can't wait to tell everyone about them!

Such is the situation with this Baked gnocchi dish from Jo Romero's Comfort Bites blog.


You know how some recipes strike you instantly as being so "do-able"?  You can see immediately that everyone who will be eating would enjoy the ingredients and the way they have been prepared.  The first time I read through the recipe on Jo's blog, I knew straight away that we'd really enjoy eating this dish.


I felt as though I was cheating a bit, buying a jar of pasta sauce.  However, I'm glad I did as the jar - a sundried tomato sauce from Dress Italian - was very nice with a depth of flavour that I'd have been hard put to have achieved in a home-made sauce (for the same money - just a pound - that is!).


I also added a ball of mozzarella, diced, to the recipe as I know how much Son & heir enjoys the stringiness of cooked mozzarella and anything that helps him over the fact that there's also spinach in the dish, can't be anything but good.


I have given the recipe below, but please note that I'm very definitely not claiming it as mine - it's simply because I've added the mozzarella, which is where my recipe differs from Jo's.


Even if you've never cooked Gnocchi before, this is a perfect introduction to the little darlings.  Flavoursome and rich with the mascarpone balancing the tomato and with the spinach for added texture and flavour, it is truly a lovely thing.  The sheer fact that neither hubby nor Son & heir missed their meat (in case you haven't noticed, it doesn't contain any!) is testament to the satisfaction it delivers.



BAKED GNOCCHI WITH TOMATO, SPINACH & MASCARPONE (feeds 4)

Ingredients :

500g pack of potato gnocchi
500g jar of your favourite tomato based pasta sauce
2 handfuls fresh spinach leaves, washed
About 6 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
A mozzarella ball, diced
Handful of Parmesan.

Method :

1.  Preheat oven to 180C. Heat a large saucepan of slightly salted water until it boils. When the water is boiling, drop in the gnocchi and cook for around 2 minutes, until they puff up slightly and float to the top.

2.  Meanwhile, scatter the washed spinach leaves in the base of a fairly large roasting dish.

3.  When the gnocchi are cooked, drain and tip directly onto the spinach in the dish. Mix slightly, so that the spinach begins to wilt in the steam of the cooked gnocchi. But go careful - you don't want to break them up.

4.  Tip on the tomato sauce and mix again.

5.  With a tablespoon, scoop out dollops of mascarpone and arrange them over the top of the tomato-gnocchi mixture. Sprinkle over the cubed mozzarella and cover with a handful of freshly grated Parmesan and bake for around 30 minutes, until the gnocchi is bubbling and the cheese has melted.

Allow to cool slightly before serving - with a side salad.

Printable version

Can we at least TRY to keep to the menu plan, this week? 28 June - 4 July 11

Well, I suppose we can TRY - but it's highly unlikely we'll make it to the end of the week without going off-piste somewhere along the line!  That is, if current progress is anything to go by.

The Shepherd's Pie has been bumped from last week to this coming week, but at least we did manage to make the Prawn & Pea Risotto - which was gorgeous.  I have to admit that I ate far too much of it, but then it was really nice and it wouldn't have kept.  Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I also didn't get around to making the Gooseberry & Almond Cake, as hubby beat me to it with a boiled fruit cake and I figured that one cake in the family was probably enough.  He's working on getting back into baking and went for the fruit cake as being the thing he's been most successful with in the past.  Although, having said that, he did make a cracking loaf of bread, shortly afterwards.  I don't think he's going to have much problem picking up the threads where he left off, somehow!


So, here's how this coming week is planned to shape up :


Tuesday : Pizza
Wednesday : Baked Gnocchi with spinach, tomato & mascarpone
accompanied by a side salad
Thursday : Shepherd's Pie with carrot, swede & broad beans
Friday : Creamy ham & mushroom pasta bake
Saturday : Chicken Caesar Salad with crunchy croutons
Sunday : Pasta "Rick Stein" (can't remember the name) plus a side salad
Monday : Sausage, bacon, egg, mushroom & baked beans.

Okay, I admit it.  Tuesday's dinner is (was) a large cop-out.  Frozen pizza - chuck it in the oven and that's it.  Dinner's on the table with the minimum of washing up.  I have to admit, also, that I was looking forward to mine - a Pineapple & Ham pizza.  Haven't had one of those for ages and it was really nice, too.

So I'm back onto the cooking horse today (Wednesday) with the Baked Gnocchi dish from Jo Romero's Comfort Bites blog.  Oh, and no - I won't be making the Gnocchi from scratch.  LOL  After our last disaster with that, I think I'll make some for a lunchtime before I commit myself to a main course dinner dish!  For all that it contains a lot of cheese, I'm quite looking forward to a meal that doesn't contain meat for once!  I can't say that Son & heir joins me in my enthusiasm, but I know for sure that he'll love the gnocchi once it's in front of him.

Thursday brings about the return of the Shepherd's Pie from last week.  Hubby has decided to serve it with carrot, swede and some fresh broad beans - which he says he might even double de-pod (is that an expression?).  It did occur to me that at £1.40-something for a bagful of the beans in their pods, if you then pod them again, you'll be throwing away far more than you're ever eating.  Which makes me wonder why we didn't buy frozen - but there you are!  Chalk this one down to living and learning.

I've had a resistance to creamy sauces just recently, which seems to have abated as I've included three dishes on this menu plan that involve a creamy sauce of one sort or another.  Funny how these things go, isn't it?  Friday's dinner of creamy ham & mushroom pasta bake certainly couldn't get a lot creamier, hammier or cheesier (just making up words as I go along, now!).  Son & heir will have to pick the mushrooms out of his portion, but it's a small price to pay for the rest of the recipe - which I know he likes.

Saturday's Chicken Caesar Salad isn't going to be greeted with much enthusiasm from Son & heir, that's for sure.  Not only is it full of lettuce (*gasp*), but it also contains the dreaded Parmesan cheese (*horror*).  Still, it's a trade-off to get his paws onto the lovely chicken and his favourite, crunchy garlicky croutons.  Hubby and I love a good Caesar Salad and I'm hoping that this proves to be a good one, as I'm making the dressing from scratch instead of relying on a pre-made dressing.  We do love anchovies, but keeping your fingers crossed for me can only help!

Now, what about this "Pasta Rick Stein", then?  Well, you see, I saw the lovely Mr Stein making this in one of his "Mediterranean Journeys" t.v. shows a couple of weeks ago and it looked so easy and so nice, that I immediately thought "that'll do for me!" and resolved to make it.  However, such is the incapacity of my brain to remember small details, that I have completely forgotten what he called it.  If I describe it to you here, perhaps those of you who also saw the programme might have a better memory than I and be able to tell me the name of it!



[As an aside, I'd just like you to imagine a lot of bleeps while I swear like a navvy at the frustration engendered by owning my brain.  Three or four years ago, my brain melted.  That is to say, I went to sleep and didn't wake up the next morning.  I was still alive (no, really? lol) but in coma.  I was rushed to hospital where they put me further into coma and then woke me up, which fortunately for me - worked.  However, since then my memory has been random at best.  For three weeks, I have been trying to remember the name of that dish - and having typed the above, it comes back to me.  Pasticcio. I could honestly bang my head on the desk, right now.  Yes, it's good that I remembered it - but why couldn't I remember it all those weeks ago, when I first started trying to?]

Deep sigh - and carry on.

Okay, so it's a ragu made with lamb or beef mince, in this case it'll be beef, layered with what is basically a macaroni cheese mixture.  If you imagine a cross between Lasagne, Macaroni Cheese and Spaghetti Bolognese, you've probably got the idea.  Anyway, it sounded - and looked - really lovely and perfect for a Sunday.  I'll serve it with a side salad of lettuce, tomatoes, olives and roasted red peppers, so we'll be going a bit Greek on Sunday!

All of which leaves us with Monday to deal with, where I've planned to have a good English breakfast - except for dinner.  I just know that Son & heir and hubby will enjoy the meat fest that a full english breakfast can be and, so long as the majority of it is grilled, I think I'll get away with it too.  We don't have this kind of thing very often, so it's a treat.

Well, goodness only knows whether we'll have any of that on the day's we're supposed to - but I'm liking the look of the plan so far!

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28 June 2011

The elusive Beef "Red Dragon" and Aduki Bean Pie

Why is it elusive, you ask?  Well, because we were initially supposed to be having it two weeks ago but it got bumped until last week owing to the fact that I just couldn't find Aduki (or Adzuki, or Azuki) beans.

Of course, I should have gone to Makkha's on the Ashley Road - the best ethnic food store in the area - straight away, but life just didn't take us that way.  Hubby eventually called in there on his way to another appointment and bingo - got the beans.

So, we were all set for this last weekend, when we were due to be having the pie on Saturday.  I even remembered to put the beans in to soak before going to bed on Friday evening - which was a start!

Of course, we hadn't foreseen the problems that arose with Son & heir and his sleepover guest, which culminated in said sleepover guest returning home rather earlier than previously anticipated.  Not through any fault of his own - she hastened to add - but because they both ran out of things to amuse themselves with and terminal boredom set in.  All of which stamped all over the time I should have been preparing the Beef "Red Dragon" Pie.

So we had bacon & egg sandwiches that night and the pie got bumped to Sunday evening.  I was beginning to think that perhaps I might have stepped on a gypsy's toe and had the hex put on me - especially considering how a number of different dishes lately had failed!

Would you believe it, having woken up Sunday morning thinking we had a free day, we ultimately found ourselves heading in Bournemouth's direction for an unavoidable, emergency bit of shopping! 

I was so determined to make the flipping pie, I managed to make it in stages.  I put the dish together - consisting of beef brisket, it required a couple of hours of slow cooking before adding the potatoes and beans - and took advantage of the automatic cooking function on our cooker to switch the oven on at the right time to begin cooking.


Consequently, it seemed to take all day to make - but goodness me, it was worth it!

I had my first taste once I'd combined the sauce ingredients prior to putting it in the oven and it showed promise even then.  I have got to say, though, that was nothing compared to how it tasted after the first 2 hours of cooking.  It was rich and tasty and so very unlike a Shepherd's Pie as to be incomparable.  I was relieved about that, as I had been under instructions from the recipe's source, Martin Kitcher, to make sure it went in a Stir Fried Beef direction and not in a Shepherd's Pie direction!  So I felt all was as it should be.

Hey Martin - did you notice the extra ingredient?  *chuckle*

Having added the beans, some more peppers and the sliced potato to the top, I put it back into the oven for another hour and felt a whole lot more confident about it than I had been!

After what seemed to be an unconscionably long time, we sat down to tuck in.  I'd served it with some steamed Pak Choi and Broccoli, which seemed to go very well.  Hubby had insisted on some gravy, which amazingly went absolutely perfectly with the pie too.  All in all, we were very happy bunnies with our dinner that night.  Everyone cleared their plates and, if I hadn't have been so full, I'd have made inroads into the leftovers!

So, Beef "Red Dragon" and Aduki Bean Pie was not only a hit, but was marked as a "Do again" recipe.  Can't wait to see what Martin finds for me next!

BEEF "RED DRAGON" AND ADUKI BEAN PIE  (Serves 4)

Ingredients :

1 tbsp olive oil
500g brisket of beef, finely sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, sliced and divided into two halves
1 green pepper, sliced and divided into two halves
1.5 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tsp sugar
1 flat tsp of paprika
1 tsp Tikka Masala powder
2 cups soaked & reconstituted Aduki beans, boiled for 15-20 minutes
3 or 4 par cooked peeled, sliced potatoes
olive oil to drizzle
sea salt & ground black pepper.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat your oven to 160deg fan.  In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil until hot and sear the beef.  Remove to a large casserole dish.

2.  Place the onion and half the two peppers into the pan and cook on a medium heat until everything has softened and the onion is becoming transparent.

3.  Add the cumin, coriander, tomato puree, tomato ketchup, sugar, paprika and tikka masala powder into the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, before adding a little water - just enough to mobilise the spices and create a thick sauce.

4.  Add to the beef and stir to combine.  Add seasoning, cover and place into the oven for 2 hours.  Take a look after an hour to ensure it hasn't dried out.  If it is looking dry, then just add a little water to take it back to being saucy - but not runny.

5.  At the end of the two hours, remove from the oven and stir in the remaining peppers and the beans.  Add a little more water if necessary, bearing in mind it's got another 45 minutes at least, to go.

6.  Finally, add the sliced potatoes in a neat layer on top, drizzle olive oil over, season and put back in the oven for 45-50 minutes or until the potatoes are golden.

Serve.

25 June 2011

Breakfasts - what do you have?

Classic : Shreddies with Greek Yoghurt & semi-skimmed milk
Having now accumulated a few photographs of various breakfasts, I thought it'd make an interesting blog posting.  After all, breakfast can be the best meal of the day - depending on what you have!

I suspect that, nine times out of ten, breakfast is a hurried affair where you grab a bit of toast whilst heading out the door to work - or even doesn't appear on the meal calendar for the day.  I know I spent many years not having enough time to have breakfast, when I had to walk the dogs and see to the horses before work.  In those days, "breakfast" was a cup of tea that I drank whilst getting dressed, then I was off and doing.


Fried egg on toast with loads of black pepper - mmmnn!
These days, I look forward to breakfast almost as much - if not more, some days - than dinner in the evening.


Breakfast on a work day, always involves an egg in some way.  Scrambled egg on a muffin, or an egg lightly fried in olive oil on toast, or the rather better for you poached egg on dry toast followed by an orange and a kiwi fruit.  

Every so often, I'll have a break from eggs for breakfast and have some tinned oily fish instead.  Usually mackerel in brine, sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and doused with black pepper, spread across toast with horseradish cream.  It's a bit of a challenge for the tastebuds, first thing in the morning - so you've got to be feeling like it!  
Mackerel on horseradish, on toast (which Jonty in attendance)

Both the eggs and the fish follows the theory that eating something involving protein will leave you feeling fuller for longer - which is certainly true, in my experience.

Of course, any mention of egg for breakfast brings about thoughts of all the nice things you can do with eggs if you involve them with something else.  Omelettes feature occasionally, but by far and away our two favourites are :
Scrambled egg with smoked salmon on a bagel
or fry some beautiful BIG bacon (that's a 10in frying pan, there)
... and make a bacon & egg sandwich. The ultimate in yummy breakfasts.
But then, on other days, I might feel like something lighter, which usually means some fruit with yoghurt.


This one involved a nectarine, a Gala apple, a Kiwi fruit and an orange, with a big old blob of lovely Greek Yoghurt with a teensy drizzle of honey.


Gorgeous!


Oh, and speaking of fruit - another good way of utilising fruit that might be a bit past it's best is to cut out the mangy bits and whizz the whole lot up with a banana and some greek yoghurt.


Hey presto!  The smoothie.  It's not so good at filling you up, but if you've got a big lunch ahead, then it'll do you fine.


Thinking back to when I was a child, my breakfasts seemed to take the form of breakfast cereal followed by toast with either marmite or marmalade.  In the winter, however, we had Ready Brek.  I bought some for Son & heir recently and had a trip back in time, making some for my breakfast (just to prove to him that it was edible, after all).  Having eaten it, I'm really not so sure that it is, in fact, edible.  Even with the help from a large dollop of jam, I wasn't convinced.  Son & heir wasn't convinced either and, some months later, it went down the dog (who thought it was very edible).  I think we'd better not think too hard about that one.  *chuckle*


The winter months, for us, are always interspersed with sausage sandwiches.  For breakfast or lunch (or, very often, brunch) a sausage sandwich is rarely turned down and always hits the spot.


Once again - as with the bacon sandwiches, occasionally guilt gets the better of me and I turn to something lighter and less calorific.


All of which would have been just fine, with this breakfast of Tarantella Organic tinned tomatoes on toast, if the butter hadn't have been as hard as rock when it came to being spread on the toast.  Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.


Just look at those gorgeous tomatoes - all sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.  Oooh, it makes me hungry.  Now, how many hours until breakfast?


Okay, so what do you people have for breakfast?  C'mon, share - even your dirty little secrets (like chocolate spread on fried bread).  Out with it!



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23 June 2011

Onion tart : how could something that looked so good, not deliver?

Just look at this onion tart.

It looks as though it has behaved perfectly, no?

All baked to perfection, sizzling hot - and I have to report that it smelled utterly divine.

What I don't understand, is how it could have let us down so badly?

It was easy enough to make, with no real room for error or mishap.  Just take a whole shed load (900g, in fact) of common or garden brown onions (is that where I went wrong, should it have been another type of onion?), top, tail, slice and cook in a mixture of olive oil and butter for half an hour until they are as relaxed as a mother of twins at Champneys.  Or, to put it another way, transparent and soft.  Add to a mixture of cream and eggs, add some grated parmesan and cheddar, bung into your tart case and bake until done.


Why, then, did the cream and egg mixture separate out and rise to the top?  Why, then, was it so darned sweet that it had us all feeling more than a little bit bilious?

I know that long cooking in a frying pan until both transparent and softened, brings out the natural sugars in an onion.  However, there really wasn't anything in the filling mix that would have balanced that sweetness.  I can imagine that the addition of a little thyme to the egg/cream mixture would have been nice, but other than that, can think of no other alteration to this recipe that would have made any difference to the outcome.


As for what the eggs and cream were doing, going all floaty light and rising to the top of the onions, I have no answer.  Perhaps, being free range eggs and double cream, they both felt themselves better than the common or garden onion.  I feel sorry for the onion, in that case, but that won't make my dinner any more pleasant.

Ordinarily, I have a mixture of theories as to why a dish went wrong.  In this case, I have no idea.

Oh great and good out there, can any of you shed any light on this?  Only I'd kinda quite like to not have to throw away a good third of what should have been a perfectly good tart, again!

21 June 2011

Salmon & Asparagus Salad

Before I say anything else about this salad, let me just point out that I enjoyed it and would have it again - so I'm not ruling out the prospect of this being "girl food".  Any men out there reading this might like to bear this in mind.  *wink*
However, firstly, let me point out something very important.  Today I discovered why the salmon we bought was half the price of any other type.

When I took it from its packet to wash and prepare it, I had to be very careful or my fingertips would keep sinking into the flesh.  Now that's not good - not in a salmon.  To be that soft and squidgy can only indicate one thing to me, which is that the salmon had been previously frozen.

I suspect, very strongly, that we got caught with some of the "fresh (not fresh at all) salmon" that the newspapers had been talking about recently.  Another point worth noting is that the fishmonger (or "fella who works on the fish stall at Asda") didn't advise us that the fish had been previously frozen.  I could easily have taken it home and frozen it again.  Yeuk!

I cooked the salmon in the microwave for two and a half minutes, with no extra milk or water, but covered and so it cooked in its own juice.  Its own not inconsiderable juice.  The end result had a good flavour that was mild and clean, but the flesh was so soggy it quite spoiled the meal for both hubby and Son & heir.  Because I'm a dustbin, I enjoyed mine anyway, but it would have been a lot nicer if it was firmer.

So that wasn't a good start.

I really wasn't in a good place to be making this salad today.  I forgot to season the potatoes once they were cooked, forgot to season the salad, basically it all went wrong because I was hurting too much and I suspect my mind wasn't really on the job.

However, had it have all come together in the way it was supposed to, it would have been very nice indeed.  Unless you're a boy or unless you get rubbish salmon.

SALMON & ASPARAGUS SALAD  (Serves 3)

Ingredients :

3 salmon fillets
a Little Gem lettuce or salad leaves of your choice
9 Jersey Royal new potatoes, halved
6 baby plum tomatoes, quartered
6 asparagus spears, halved lengthways
3 radishes, sliced thinly
a third of a red pepper, sliced thinly
slices of cucumber, halved
a beetroot, sliced thinly
an avocado, sliced thinly
3 tsp green pesto
6 tsp extra virgin olive oil.

Method :

1.  Put a pan of water on to boil and, when boiling, add the new potatoes.  Cook until tender then remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl and add some butter and seasoning.  Retain the cooking liquid for the asparagus.

2.  Prepare all the salad ingredients and arrange them on either a large serving plate or individual plates, not forgetting to add a little seasoning.

3.  Prepare the dressing, by adding the extra virgin olive oil to the pesto and stirring well.

4.  Place the fish into a microwaveable dish, cover with a plate or some such ill-fitting lid (so as to allow the steam to escape) and microwave on high for two and a half minutes.  Allow to stand.

5.  While the fish is cooking, add the asparagus to the potato pan and cook for 2 minutes, then drain.

6.  Arrange the potatoes onto the salad ingredients, then arrange the asparagus.
 
7.  Drizzle with the dressing.

8.  Finally, remove the fish from the microwave and remove its skin, then place on top of the salad.

9.  Serve.

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Camembert & Redcurrant Muffins

Which of these can be used to make muffins?
You recall, earlier today, I mentioned that I wanted to make some more muffins for Son & heir's break time?  Well, I suspect I may have to do that - again.

You see, the muffins I made - Camembert & Redcurrant - are so utterly, utterly divine that we've already eaten half of them.  *blush*  I also know that I've got the other half of the Camembert in the fridge and the remainder of the ingredients were store cupboard staples (for us, anyway!).

Prior to the advent of these muffins, our absolute favourite was Cheese & Bacon muffins.  Now anyone who has ever had a Cheese & Bacon muffin will be able to confirm what a hard act to beat they are.  I've got to say that these Camembert & Redcurrant muffins are currently jostling for the first position - and it's only latent loyalty to the Cheese & Bacon ones that's keeping them out!

AHA!  Muffins ready for the oven

There's a beautiful subtlety to the Camembert ones.  A creaminess and overtly "dairy" sense to them, which is both offset and complemented (how does it do that?) by the Redcurrant Jelly.  I suppose the tartness of the Redcurrant offsets the creaminess of the cheese & yoghurt, whereas the sweetness complements the inherent sweetness of the Camembert.  However they do it, you just HAVE to make some.  This is one of those "if you do nothing else in your life, you just have to make these muffins" situations.

Ooooh, they're out of the oven! Excitement!

The other good thing, is that they are the work of less than an hour to prepare and have cooked.  Now, for these results, I'd spend a long old time baking these - but no, it's just a matter of cutting up some cheese, weighing and measuring ingredients, mixing together and baking.  Could it get any easier?

Look ... fluffy texture, blobs of redcurrant, melty cheese .... *faint*

A quick collection of cook's notes:

- the original recipe (from "Muffins Scones & Breads" from the Australian Woman's Weekly) states to sprinkle the tops with chopped walnuts.  I didn't have any and couldn't get any, so didn't use them.  As such, I haven't included them in the recipe here, but feel free to add them if you want.

- additionally, I didn't have cranberry sauce (as originally recommended) but used the redcurrant jelly instead.  So, if you have cranberry but no redcurrant, don't worry and go ahead!


- because of hubby's diabetes, I reduced the amount of sugar from the recommended 2 tbsp to 1.5 tbsp.  Because of the redcurrant jelly, I felt that I could have reduced it down to just 1 tbsp, so if you're wary of sweetness, feel free to do that.

Ah, Camembert & Redcurrant Muffin, I shall pen an ode to thee ..

CAMEMBERT & REDCURRANT MUFFINS  (makes 6 large) 

Ingredients :

2 cups (300g) self raising flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
one-third cup (80ml) redcurrant jelly
125g camembert cheese, chopped small
half cup (125ml) of Greek or plain yoghurt
quarter cup (60ml) milk
60g butter, melted.

Method :


1.  Pre-heat your oven to 200 deg C/180deg fan/Gas 6.


2.  Prepare a muffin pan - silicone are perfect for this.  I used a 6-hole, you can always use a 12-hole and reduce the cooking time accordingly.


3.  Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl, then stir in eggs, sauce, cheese, yoghurt, milk and butter.


4.  Dollop into the muffin pans, making sure they contain even amounts so that they cook all at the same time.


5.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted gently, comes out clean.


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So Jenny - what's the plan for this week, then? 21-27 June 11

That, is a very good question.  After last week, it could be anything at any time, it seems to me!  We did a spectacularly good job of swapping meals around and exchanging them for other incarnations of the same basic ingredient.


So I'm crossing my fingers that this week stays a bit more settled!


For starters, it's unusual that I'm in a position to write the meal plan post on the day it kicks off!  I blame the Strawberry Stacks, they were so gorgeous I just couldn't not blog about them - so then the Beef stew needed blogging - and so here we are.

In actual fact, we've just returned from doing the food shop at the supermarket and everything came to much less than I was fearing it would, cost-wise.  I had an enormous shopping list going in there, so either we've shopped very well or the prices aren't as bad as I thought they would be!  Fresh salmon was a bit of an eye-opener, as from the fish counter it was £7 a kilo, whereas pre-packed it was £14 - yes, FOURTEEN! - a kilo.  The wet fish counter didn't even have it on special offer, either.  It just proves how it's worth looking at all the options before buying!


So anyway - to business.  This week (she says, whilst emerging from a shed and adopting a West Country accent - and if you haven't seen that T.V. Programme, just ignore that bit) we shall mostly be having :


Tuesday : Warm Salmon Salad with Little Gem, Asparagus, Avocado and Jersey Royals
Wednesday : Onion tart, salad and Jersey Royals
Thursday : Meatballs and Pasta
Friday : Kedgeree
Saturday : Red Dragon Beef Pie with steamed Pak Choi & carrots
Sunday : Shepherd's Pie with carrots, broccoli and peas
Monday : Prawn & Pea risotto.

There now.  That all sounds just lovely, doesn't it?

Today's salmon salad started out life in my head as one of the BBC Good Food recipes for a warm potato & tuna salad with pesto dressing.  It required some fine tuning, in that almost everything on the ingredients list someone had something they objected to.  So, I swapped Salmon for the tuna (Son & heir doesn't like tuna), swapped green beans for asparagus (hubby doesn't like green beans, we all love asparagus) and swapped baby spinach for little gem lettuce (Son & heir doesn't like baby spinach used as a salad leaf).  Truth be told, it doesn't resemble the original recipe in the slightest any more.  The only resemblance is in the structure of the salad and the pesto dressing!

I've bought some garlic & herb tear'n'share bread to have with it, as although hubby likes Jersey Royals they are still potatoes and he won't cope with too  many of them on the plate.  Son & heir will be disgusted by the fact that it's a salad and the bread is to make the whole thing seem worthwhile to him.  I know, I'm a pushover.

I'm also planning on making some muffins today, as the ones I made for Son & heir's break time snacks have all disappeared now.  It's an intriguing recipe, being a Camembert and Redcurrant muffin.  Should be absolutely gorgeous, but I'll let you know!

I'm looking forward to making tomorrow's dinner, the Onion tart.  I was always terribly allergic to onions to the point where I couldn't eat them at all - not even cooked away to nothing in a stew.  My system would still know they were there, with the ensuing consequences - the worst being that I'd spend some time calling to God on the great white telephone.  Which is what makes it all the more remarkable that, having been pregnant, I can now eat onions again.  ~shrug~  Don't ask me how it happened, but I can now risk a cheese & red onion sandwich, which was such a no-no in the past!  Hence, to make an entire tart dedicated to my nemesis of old is something of an triumph.

Thursday is hubby's day to cook and he's going down the sausage meatball route again, except in a rather more classic sauce this time.  Meatballs and pasta has always been one of Son & heir's favourite dinners, so it should be a trouble-free meal time.

Son & heir is bringing one of his friends, J, home from school for a sleepover on Friday.  I recalled when J was here last (when we had the Shoulder of Pork) that he commented on how much he enjoyed fish.  Everyone here loves my Kedgeree, so I thought that would be a nice thing to make for J.  It has the added benefit of being incredibly easy to produce, too!

I'm aiming to make a rhubarb & ginger upside down cake for dessert (just a little one - 4 slices big) that day, too.

Saturday brings the return of the Red Dragon beef pie, now that I'm fully armed with the Aduki beans!  All I've got to do is remember to put the blinking things on to soak on Friday evening!  lol  @MartinK10 - if you're reading this and you're around on Friday evening, send me a twitter to remind me!  *chuckle*

Hubby's volunteered to cook again on Sunday and he's doing one of his gorgeous Shepherd's Pies.  It really IS a Shepherd's Pie, as it will be made with lamb mince.  Oooh, I can hardly wait, as Shepherd's Pie is one of my very favourite meals.

I'll be aiming to make a Gooseberry & Almond Cake on Sunday morning, so long as I get time!  I'm intrigued by how the gooseberries sink from the top of the cake while it's cooking, and have to see it in action.

All of which brings us around to Monday again, when hubby is promising us a prawn & pea risotto.  Being the Risotto King, I just know this is going to be a success - to the point where I can almost taste it if I think about it for long enough.

So there we are!  Sounds like a bit of a busy week, one way and another.  I reckon I'd better get on with those Camembert & Redcurrant muffins, because they won't cook themselves!

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19 June 2011

Back to the Beef Stew - the changing face of Saturday's dinner!

Such a shame those dumplings were so nasty!
You remember how I was intending to make a beef stew with horseradish dumplings on Saturday, but then along came Martin with his intriguing sounding Red Dragon Beef pie?

Well, I'm afraid I had to go back to the beef stew because I couldn't find the Aduki (or Azuki) beans in time to have them soaked, cooked and ready to go.  I did find them, eventually, at Makka's Food Store in Parkstone (don't know why I didn't look there first, to be honest!).  So, I'm all set for this weekend and we'll have another go at it next Saturday.

So, that meant going back to the beef stew and horseradish dumplings.  Which was fine, except I then needed to send faithful Hubby out to fetch a parsnip and a swede.  Thus armed - and with 800g of beef brisket from Spring Fields butchers - I set about making my stew.

I love making stews because they always come out differently, depending on what ingredients you include.  This time, I didn't want to include flour as a thickener.  I thought I'd use red lentils and pearl barley.  The lentils just disappeared, which was lovely as they just added to the thickness and earthiness of the gravy.  The pearl barley just did what pearl barley does and became plump and yummy.  Unfortunately, Hubby isn't so keen on pearl barley and I can really only get away with using it in something like a stew, where it goes down along with everything else and doesn't really get in the way.  The stew came up beautifully thick and with a clarity to the gravy that just doesn't happen when you've used flour.  So I was happy with that.

It looked so good, too!
The beef, as ever, was lovely and wonder of wonders, I didn't over cook the parsnip.  In fact, I do believe some pieces were actually slightly under cooked!

However, I have to take issue with Olive Magazine's rendition of a horseradish dumpling.  The dumplings I made, according to their recipe, were not only a tad wet (which, on its own, would have been forgivable as I don't roll the dumplings but drop them straight into the stew in a kind of free-form pattern) but adopted a really odd kind of sweetness, which I imagine came from the fact that Horseradish Cream was used (as per their recipe).  Put it this way - I won't be attempting horseradish dumplings again, any time soon.  I shall stick to my good old herby dumpling mixture which always works a treat.

As a consequence, I haven't included dumplings in the recipe here.  I don't want to have you thinking that I've tried and tested the recipe and approve of it.

BEEF STEW  (serves 4-5)

Ingredients :

A tbsp of olive oil
800g beef brisket, trimmed of all fat and cut into chunks
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1-2 onions, chopped
1 clove of garlic, grated
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
half a swede, peeled and diced
a beef oxo cube
water, to cover
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp marmite or bovril
a pinch of dried sage
a glug or two of Worcestershire Sauce
4 tbsp dried red lentils
2 tbsp dried pearl barley
2-3 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 160deg C.

2.  Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and, when hot, add half the beef and sear on all sides.  When seared, decant into a deep pan or casserole dish.  Repeat with the remaining beef.


3.  Add the onion to the pan and reduce the heat.  Allow the onion to cook for around 5 minutes or until it is softened and transparent.  In the last few minutes, add the grated garlic.  When cooked, decant into the casserole dish.


4.  Add the carrot and swede to the casserole dish.


5.  To the frying pan, add enough water to approximately cover the contents of the casserole dish and begin heating it as you add the oxo cube (crumbled in), the tomato ketchup, tomato puree, marmite (or Bovril), sage and Worcestershire sauce.  Allow to come to a boil, then decant into the casserole.

6.  Add the lentils and pearl barley and stir to combine.

7.  Cover and place the casserole in the oven and cook for 90 minutes.

8.  Remove from the oven and add the potato and parsnip.  If you are adding dumplings, you may need to add a little water to increase the gravy level.  Check the seasoning and give a good stir to combine, then replace in the oven for another 60 minutes.

9.  Serve!

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