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30 July 2011

Kentish Pie - what an amazing thing!

My hubby hails from Newcastle, via Kent.  He lived in Kent for his formative years and right up until I uprooted him to move to Dorset.  Hence the Kent connection for this pie.

He remembered his Mum making this pie, which he absolutely loved, and so when I was looking for ideas for the menu planning, he suggested it.

Now, he only had a very loose idea of what was in it and the way it was prepared.  It sounded like a quiche, but with bacon, cheddar cheese and apple - but that didn't co-incide with his memory of it.  So, following a telephone conversation with his Mum where she put him straight, we had a go at re-creating the elusive Kentish Pie.

What it is, is a pie made in a deep pie dish.  You begin with a layer of shortcrust pastry (which I blind baked, just to make sure), then layers of cooked bacon, cheddar cheese and apple, repeated twice.  Then, you make up a concoction of seven eggs (which is how much it took to fill my pie dish, which was an oval, around 8ins long) and three tablespoons of double cream, plus a good scrunge or two of black pepper.  Pour that in and give it all a little shake to settle it.  Pop on the top layer of shortcrust pastry and bake for 35-40 minutes in a moderate oven.

See my piggy? I'm so proud of that piggy.  LOL
Leave it somewhere cool, to go completely cold.  It is best at room temperature rather than straight from the fridge, as you don't get the full flavours of the bacon and the cheese, otherwise.

Hubby was very hopeful as it was baking, and even more hopeful when it was done.

We ate it with a small side salad (for which I had griddled some courgette strips) and, after his first taste of the pie, rolled his eyes heavenwards and declared "that's the stuff!".

Success!

The apple goes so well with the cheese, the cheese goes so well with the bacon, the bacon goes so well with the egg, the egg goes so well with the cheese, the apple goes so well with the bacon - the flavour combinations are just lovely.

You can just about make out each ingredient, in its layers
This pie, quite apart from being delicious with salad, would be absolutely perfect to take on a picnic, or to a barbecue, or out to Glyndebourne.  It wouldn't let you down, wherever you took it, as it is such a robust individual.  Much in the same way as a pork pie, it won't drip down your ball gown and would be so easy to eat from a paper plate with a plastic fork.  Now you don't get that with every pie! 



KENTISH PIE  (feeds 6-8)

Ingredients :

Shortcrust pastry, sufficient for both top and bottom of the pie.
8 large rashers (or 12 smaller rashers) of back bacon, grilled and chopped into pieces
200-250g cheddar cheese, cubed small (depending on how strong your cheddar is)
2 dessert apples, peeled and sliced to approx 3mm (I used a Braeburn and a Jonagold)
7 eggs, lightly whisked, plus 1 egg yolk for glazing
3 tbsp double cream
freshly ground pepper.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat your oven to 180deg C/350deg F/Gas 4.

2.  Lay your first piece of pastry into the bottom of the pie dish and ensure it reaches the top of the sides.  Cut a piece of baking paper, scrunch it into a ball, then open it out and line the inside of the pastry.  Tip some baking beans into the paper, to hold it down and prevent the pastry from bubbling as it cooks.

3.  Bake the pastry for 20 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and allow it to cool slightly.

4.  Lay your first layer of bacon on top of the pastry, then follow with the cheese cubes and the apple slices.  Repeat.

5.  In a bowl, mix the cream with the eggs, season with the pepper and whisk lightly to combine.  Pour the mixture into the pastry case and give it a little shake to distribute it evenly amongst the contents.

6.  Take the egg yolk and with a pastry brush, break it up lightly.  Then brush egg yolk around the edge of the pastry case.

7.  Lay the top layer of pastry onto the pie and press down around the edges to seal it.  Trim off the excess and press a fork or knife into the pastry all around the edge, to make a pretty pattern which also helps to seal it.

8.  Cut two crosses into the top of the pie to allow steam to escape (otherwise it may blow the lid off) and adorn your pie with decorations cut from the excess pastry.  I made a little apple, a pig (I was quite proud of my pig) and then got stuck as to how to express "cheese", so settled for a simple "C".  Leaves would probably have done, though!

9.  When you're done being creative, give the whole lot a good egg wash and place it into the oven to bake for some 35-40 minutes.

10.  At the end of the time, the top layer of pastry will be slightly domed.  Remove the pie from the oven and pierce the lid with a sharp knife.  If you can't see any liquid egg, then your pie is done.  If there is liquid egg visible, pop it back in for another 10 minutes until it's done.

11.  Leave it to cool and eat at room temperature.  After a half hour or so, it is perfectly possible to remove it from its pie dish, which helps it to cool more quickly.

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Birthday lunch (there's going to be a "birthday dinner" later, you're right)


Ciabatta-style bread, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, char-grilled.

Then rubbed with garlic and grilled again.

Then the vine ripened tomatoes were char-grilled, while the basil went onto the rolls, followed by the tomato when it was done.

Balsamic vinegar was then drizzled over the tomatoes and salt & pepper added, before a final flourish of Feta cheese.

Absolutely divine.

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Happy birthday breakfast!


You know it's your birthday, when this shows up for breakfast.  :)

Gorgeous, just doesn't describe it.  Oh, and yes, it DID wake me up!  lol

27 July 2011

Baked Camembert - forgive me if I drool slightly.

This week was really the first week of our putting hubby's cunning plan into action.  He made us the Porcini Risotto last week, but the cunning plan was really only in it's infancy then.

This week, however, we put it fully into action - with surprising results.

Baking a complete Camembert in its box is something that we have both seen done on the t.v. and have both looked at one another and said "Ooooooooh" in that "we have just GOT to do that, one day" kind of way.

So when we were pondering over what to have on Pizza Night and hubby had the blinding flash of memory regarding it, needless to say we didn't bother to look any further.

Son & heir has, in the past, proven to be sensitive (I hesitate to say "allergic") to cheeses that have involved the Penicillium bacterias that are used in their formation - of which Camembert is one.  Rather than keep him away from such cheeses, I have consistently allowed him to have just a little of each one that has come our way, in the hope that steady, gentle exposure to the bacteria will increase his resistance to them.  It certainly seems to have worked, as he can now eat Brie without looking like an octopus has had him in its fond embrace.

As a result, I knew that Son & heir would be interested in our cheese, once he saw it - all baked and luscious.  Prior to that event he was dismissive of it as only a young teenager can be.

However, when hubby and I sat down to tuck into our cheese - dipping into the beautiful liquid centre with our griddled asparagus (asparagus is one of Son & heir's weaknesses) and almost weeping over how lovely the whole experience was, he just couldn't bear it.  Over he came, with a piece of his pizza crust clutched in his hot little hand, to have a taste.  Hubby put a seal on the deal by giving him a piece of asparagus to try with the cheese.  Of course, then we had to suffer being given the evils from him for the rest of the meal, but hey - I was too busy trying not to cry over how incredible the cheese was.

So - on to the cheese itself.  We used President Camembert basically because there were only two in the shop and we know President Camembert is nice.  We did consider poking bits of garlic and rosemary into the cheese, but decided against it because - as this was our first go at it - we wanted to enjoy the full flavour of the cheese, without any adulteration from any outside influence.

Where making a dinner is concerned, it truly doesn't get any easier than this.  Simply remove the cheese from its wrapper, pop it back into its little wooden box, drizzle with olive oil and into a moderate oven for 30 minutes.

While it is baking, assemble a selection of things to eat with it - we had French bread, olives and three types of tomato along with the griddled asparagus.  However, to be honest, I could easily have had nothing but asparagus and bread.  Don't be tempted to butter the bread, as the cheese is quite enough both in the fat and flavour departments.  I can imagine that a drizzle of olive oil, a rub with some garlic and toasted on the griddle pan would have made the bread completely awesome - and I'll definitely do that if ever we get the opportunity to do this again.

Like the New Potato, Bacon & Goat's Cheese salad that I made a week or so ago, this is one of those meals that has to be sampled.  I am just SO glad I did!


23 April 2013 : We've just indulged in our second baked camembert supper - this time, including son & heir in on the lusciousness.

We skipped the asparagus this time, instead opting for one of Mark Bennett Patisserie's loaves of Mediterranean bread that had been cubed and toasted in the oven.  Utter, utter gorgeousness when dipped into the melty soft warm cheese!  For that extra bit of crunch, we had some sweet chilli pitta bread that had also been baked off in the oven and was deliciously crunchy.  Together with some watercress salad - watercress, tomatoes, beetroot, celery and cucumber - you just couldn't fault it.  I am proud to say that I ate all my cheese - inner and outer.  Well, the outer rind is where all the flavour is!  It fair breaks my heart to see hubby's and son & heir's being thrown away.

Son & heir was a little bit dubious about his cheese and cautiously dipped in a piece of pitta bread.  Suffice to say, that it didn't take long after he'd suspiciously placed it onto his tongue, for him to be diving in for a second bite.  I defy anyone to not like these baked camemberts - it's just not possible!   

BAKED CAMEMBERT (for 1) 

Ingredients : 

1 smallish whole Camembert, in its wooden box
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
French bread (baguettes work fine)
A selection of things to dip into the cheese. 

Method :


1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180deg C/350deg F/Gas Mark 4.

2.  Remove the plastic wrapping from the Camembert and replace it into its wooden box.

3.  Drizzle olive oil over the surface (you can add slices of garlic, poked into the skin, along with sprigs of rosemary, if you like).

4.  Place each cheese onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top of the cheese has domed.

5.  In the meantime, griddle any vegetables you might want for dipping (asparagus, peppers, red onion, tomatoes - all are good) and prepare your bread.

6.  Once the cheese is done, place onto a plate and get stuck in!

Meal planning - against the odds! W/c 26.7.11

I refuse to stop meal planning!  To be honest, I wouldn't know what to get from the shops if I stopped planning our meals.  I'd be wandering around like a little lost sheep.

Since I put the meal plan together on Monday, and before I've even had a chance to talk about it here, it has changed three times.  Firstly because we didn't get the car back from the mechanic until the following day so had to move the shopping because of it, secondly, because it suddenly dawned on me that it's my birthday on Saturday and we're meeting my Parents for lunch on Sunday and thirdly, because the boys had such huge burgers for lunch on Wednesday, that we just had sandwiches for dinner!


Ah well, onwards and upwards - and fingers crossed that it stays put as a plan, now.

Oh!  I've an interesting new routine where the meal planning is concerned.  Because Son & heir is becoming increasingly difficult (for which, read picky) to cook for, hubby had a Baldrick moment and came up with a cunning plan.

Under this cunning plan, Tuesdays have been declared as "pizza day", in that Son & heir has pizza (which is the meal he asks for whenever I ask for input into the meal planning) - and hubby and I have whatever we want.  Which, of course, opens the door for us to have things which otherwise would be rejected - like the mushroom risotto and stir fries.

Did someone mention stir fry?  Picture c/o Virgin Media

So, here's how this week is looking :


Tues : Pizza & Baked Camembert with french bread, tomatoes, olives & asparagus
Weds : Sandwiches
Thurs : Sausage casserole
Fri : "Kentish Tart" & salad
Sat : Roast Lamb, roast potatoes & parsnips, peas & carrots, Yorkshire puddings
Sun : Lunch out with my parents
Mon : Tuna Pasta Bake.


As today is now Wednesday, we had the Baked Camembert last night.  I think that all there is to say, at this stage, is that I'll be blogging it right after this.  Oh, and if EVER you get the chance to either have or to do Baked Camembert, have it and do it.  This is one of those "things to do before you die" recipes.  'Nuff said.

Oh!  I must tell you - the Stromboli.  I can give it correct billing now, as I've re-discovered the website that it came from : The Keenan Cookbook.  (Thanks, Chris!).  Do go along and have a look (and sign up for the newsletter, too!) at the original Stromboli that caught my attention.   I dare say you'll be able to understand its attraction!

So anyway, Thursday sees Hubby making one of his awesome Sausage Casseroles.  He's not made one in ages and neither of us can understand why not, as they are munchy gorgeousness.  If you add into the equation the fact that he'll be using our lovely butcher's sausages, we're ready for a cracking dinner, that night!

Friday evening's dinner is an interesting one.  Hubby can remember his Mum making a "Kentish Pie" (or tart) which was egg-based like a quiche, but less custardy (so no cream).  It had bacon, cheddar cheese (surely it should have been a Kent-based cheese? ~shrug~ I guess it's not my memory we're trying to re-create here!) and diced apple.  I can't seem to find a recipe that matches that description, so I'm going to have a crack at creating one and we'll see how close it gets.  If anyone reading this recognises the description and can point me in the direction of a recipe, do let me know!

Saturday is my birthday (wheee! 21 again!) and as is our family tradition, you get to choose whatever you want for your dinner that night.  I have been lusting after a leg of lamb (I suppose that'll take care of the little lost one, above!) with vinegary mint sauce, roast potatoes, roast parsnips and onion sauce, since God was a boy.  So I'm hoping we can get a lovely leg of lamb from the butcher without having to get a mortgage and will cook it long and slow.  Dear hubby has volunteered to cook the rest of the roast, so I'm looking forward to it already.

I don't need to worry about a dinner for Sunday, as we'll be meeting my Parents for lunch at The Woolpack, Sopley.  Apparently they have been there a number of times and approve of the place and looking at the menu online it looks lovely.  So we should have a good lunch and it will be lovely to see them again, of course.


After all the good eating that seems to be on the cards for the weekend, Monday brings a return to easy-going, "normal" food with a good old Tuna Pasta Bake.  Now, if we get that far without a change to the programme, I'll be amazed.


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26 July 2011

Creamed Courgettes & Mushrooms : by far and away the most delicious thing to do to a courgette

Sunday dawned and I had every intention of making the Ratatouille Pasta Bake to accompany the roast bacon that I had planned.

The trouble is, it didn't happen that way as around 3pm my "get up and go" just got up and went, without letting me know.

Which was all very inconsiderate, as it left me wondering what the heck I could come up with instead of the ratatouille pasta bake, using courgettes, mushrooms, tomatoes and broad beansSo the thought process went like this :

"What have I got to use as carbs, if I don't use pasta?".
"Hmmn, I've got some muddy Jersey Royals in the cupboard, doing nothing ...".
"Okay, well, if I use those - maybe I could use them in the pasta bake, instead of the pasta!"  (Which goes to prove it was the pasta that I didn't want, rather than the vegetables!).
"No, that won't do.  It wouldn't be right, I'd better use them alone and not in with the veg".
"So - what veggies can I make?"
~ponder~
"Oh wow!  Courgettes ... and mushrooms .. and yes, I've got a bit of cream left in the fridge .. and some worcester sauce in the cupboard!".
"Oh thank you God, I can make Creamed Courgettes & Mushrooms!  Oh, and maybe add some peas and broad beans".  (As an afterthought).

Creamed Courgettes and Mushrooms is one of the most delicious and simple things you can do, to a courgette.  I first had this veggie side dish when my Mum cooked it to accompany (I forget exactly) either a chop or a piece of steak.  I fell in love with it then and repeatedly asked for it, only to have it rejected because "cream is too fattening" or "it's too expensive, with the cream involved" - which are all valid points, but not when you're 12 or 13 years old.

I have to admit that I appreciate both those arguments now and as such, it hasn't appeared on our menu list more than around 4 or 5 times in the last 14 years.  However, I am just so glad I remembered it in time to take advantage of the ingredients.

Showing promise!

The roast bacon that I served it with, was truly gorgeous.  I had boiled the bacon in a 50:50 apple juice/water mix, with an added cinnamon stick, pepper and an onion for around 30 minutes.  I then put the bacon into a medium oven (160 deg C) in a roasting dish that was sealed over with baking foil and with a little of the boiling broth inside.  I didn't look at it again for an hour and a half, whereupon it then sat in a warm place to rest for another 20 minutes before uncovering, cutting off the fat and attempting to carve it.  In truth, it just fell apart and turned into a "one lump or two?" carving method and you could have cut it with a spoon, it was so tender.  Amazing.

It went absolutely perfectly with the sweetness of the courgette pieces, the earthiness of the mushrooms and the creamy, savoury sauce.  Goodness, it's making my mouth water just thinking about it!

There'll be another day for the rejected Ratatouille Bake - but it wasn't to be on Sunday!


CREAMED COURGETTE & MUSHROOMS  (Serves 2-3)


Ingredients :


A large knob of salted butter
a splash of olive oil
3 small courgettes, sliced into 5mm rounds
6 or so, chestnut mushrooms, sliced
150ml double cream
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper.


Method :


1.  Take a non-stick frying pan and melt the butter and add the olive oil to heat through.


2.  When the butter is bubbling, add the courgette slices and fry, cut side down, until they have obtained a lovely golden colouring on the one side.


3.  Flip each one over to the other side and continue to fry, but add the mushroom slices to the pan.


4.  When you think the courgettes will have obtained a good colour, mix the mushrooms in so that they are all touching the bottom of the pan (as much as you can) and continue to fry, but reducing the heat a little.


5.  When the mushrooms have become opaque and wilted and the courgettes are softened all the way through, add the cream and the Worcestershire sauce and stir through.


6.  Add the freshly ground black pepper to taste and once everything is piping hot, serve.


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There's nothing plain, about this Quiche Lorraine!

Didja see what I did there?  *chuckle*

I took a sudden fancy for Quiche Lorraine.  Yes, I know, there are a billion different quiches out there that are far more exciting and interesting in their ingredients than plain old Quiche Lorraine, but I was feeling a bit de-tuned in the ingredients line at the time.

I wanted something savoury, that could be accompanied by saladI was also fairly keen to use my new quiche dish again.

The plan (which worked to perfection) was to make sure that the ingredients were the best I could achieve, bearing in mind finance and availability.  So that meant shop-bought pastry (because my last attempts at rolling out pastry were a trial, putting it mildly), beautiful Burford Brown eggs (for their unctuous richness and glorious colour), our local butcher's back bacon (because it is by far the best bacon available around here) and some gorgeously strong, salty mature cheddar cheese.

Add to that a pot of cream and some lovely cherry tomatoes and you have all the makings for a superb Quiche Lorraine.

To make extra-sure that the bottom of the pastry was cooked (I have some history with soggy bottoms), I put the pastry back into the oven for five minutes without the baking beans, when I blind baked it.  I'll have to remember to do this more often, as it certainly solved the "soggy bottom" problem.  The bottom of this pastry was as crisp as you could want - even the next day, when I polished off the last slice cold from the fridge.

QUICHE LORRAINE (Serves 4-5)

Ingredients :

1 pack pre-prepared shortcrust pastry, to fit an 8" quiche dish
1 pack back bacon, trimmed of fat
4 eggs
200ml double cream
freshly ground black pepper
a quarter tsp of nutmeg
150g gruyere or mature cheddar cheese
4-5 cherry tomatoes, sliced.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180deg C/356F/Gas 4.

2.  Roll out the pastry so that it fits neatly into the quiche dish, with sufficient up the sides to hold the mixture in.  Place the pastry gently into the quiche dish and trim any excess.

3.  Scrunch up a piece of baking paper that will fit easily into the pastry dish.  Smooth it out and put on top of the pastry.  Next, fill the pastry case with baking pellets or beans - to prevent the case from bubbling up as it bakes.

4.  Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the paper and baking beans and bake again for another 5 minutes or until the pastry has gained a lovely golden hue.

5.  Remove the pastry case from the oven and set aside to cool whilst you make the filling.

6.  Cut the bacon into small squares and place into a dry frying pan.  Fry until each piece is beginning to caramelise, but before the pieces become crispy.  Set aside to cool slightly.

7.  Crack the eggs into a large bowl and give them a good whisk.  Add the cream, nutmeg and salt & pepper and whisk to combine.

8.  Take the pastry case and add the bacon to it.

9.  Grate the cheese and add three quarters of the mixture on top of the bacon, then give it all a little mix - making sure the bacon is evenly spread.

10.  Pour the egg mixture into the case and give it a very gentle stir around, to make sure it has got under all the cheese.

11.  Next, sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and lay the slices of tomato over it, in an appealing pattern.

12.  Give the tomatoes a sprinkling of freshly ground pepper and place the quiche into the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is risen and golden.

Allow to cool before serving at room temperature with a side salad.

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25 July 2011

Happiness is .. Pot Roasting a Chicken.


You'll all know that I’ve not been very well for the last few days, which is why you haven’t heard from me recently.  As I've said in my last blog post, this caused a bit of an upset in the menu planning line.  However, one dish that very definitely made it to fruition was the Pot Roast Chicken we had for dinner last Sunday.
I really love cooking pot-roast chicken.  There’s something so homely and comforting about having a chicken chuckling in a stock pot on your cooker.  I think it’s also the smell of the herbs and vegetables that go to make up the stock ingredients, combined with the knowledge that the chicken will emerge from its bath both subtly flavoured and succulent. 
I always roast the chicken for a half hour at 200deg prior to dunking it into its bath of gorgeous stock ingredients.  I think it imparts some of the “roasted chicken” flavour without resulting in the sulphurous effect that can be brought about by just roasting alone.
For the stock, you can use anything you like - carrot, any type of herb you have handy, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, the choices are endless.  I used what I had at the time, which was onions, garlic, celery, thyme, parsley, basil, black peppercorns and included a star anise for that lovely and very distinctive flavour it imparts.  The smell, as the chicken cooked, just improved as the 90 minutes (it was a big chicken!) went on.
Once the cooking time is up, I remove the chicken from the stock and place it on a plate, swathed in silver foil, to keep warm and just rest.  I could do with a bit of a lie down when I come out of the bath sometimes, so why should my chicken be any different?  I just don’t indulge in the silver foil for myself, you understand – although it is an idea, especially on a cold day.
Getting back to the chicken, after removing some stock to make the gravy with – it makes superb gravy - the stock is strained and allowed to cool before freezing.  I can thoroughly recommend Ramen noodles made with your own chicken stock, as a lovely mid-week lunch!
I served the first half of our chicken with some steamed Jersey Royals, roast parsnips, broccoli and carrots, plus some sausage meat balls that I'd made.  Unfortunately they didn't really work, as we couldn't get the butcher's sausages that I was originally intending to use - and the Tesco's substitutes just didn't compare, being all pasty and pappily nasty.  I'll have another go at those for the next chicken, but make sure I get some good quality sausagemeat, this time!

POT ROAST CHICKEN (Serves 6 - or two separate dinners, for 3, one hot/one cold).

Ingredients :

A chicken, minus giblets and trussing string
a tbsp of olive oil
salt & black pepper
herbs of your choice
stock ingredients of your choice, but must include : an onion, a garlic clove, two sticks of celery and a handful of parsley.  After that, it's up to you.
Enough water to fill your saucepan or stock pot.
Method :
1.  Pre-heat the oven to 200degC.
2.  Taking a suitably sized roasting tin or dish, place the chicken inside and pour over it the olive oil, season with the salt and pepper and add whatever herbs you've decided to use, to add to the flavour and aromatics.  I like thyme, rosemary and lemon - at this stage.
3.  Place the chicken into the oven to roast for 30mins - 45 mins depending on the size.  I like to see the top of the chicken has become golden and crispy, before removing from the oven.
4.  When the time is up, remove the chicken from the oven and place it into a large saucepan or stock pot.  Add the juices from the roasting pan, plus the vegetables and herbs, packing them in around the sides and remember to season again.
5.  Fill the saucepan with water to the point where the top of the chicken is just about to be submerged - but not quite.  Place on the heat and wait for the liquid to boil.
6.  Once boiling, reduce the heat to the minimum required to keep the liquid simmering very gently.
7.  Cook in this way (with a lid on) for the next 60-90 mins (again, depending on the size).  I think it is fairly difficult to overcook a chicken this way, but do the classic "looking for pinkness" test when you remove the chicken from the stock, just to be sure that your chicken isn't undercooked.
8.  Once the cooking time is up, remove the chicken from the stock (as above) and place on a plate.  Swathe it in silver foil and leave in a warm place for it to rest.
9.  In the meantime, put the stock through a sieve and remove enough of the stock to make a delicious gravy with.  The remainder can be set aside to cool, after which it can be frozen for use in a multitude of ways.
Serve your chicken!
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24 July 2011

Successes and failures - a typical cooking week or so!

What BBC Good Food thought it should look like.
Now, where was I when it all went pear-shaped?

Aaah yes, it was Friday of the week before last (how DOES the time slip past so quickly?) and we were due to have the Sticky Chinese Chicken and Thai Carrot Salad.  Hmmmn, well, that all went very much to worms, I'm afraid.

The chicken went well enough - although it was far from "sticky", but very nicely flavoured all the same.  The Thai Carrot Salad was just such a disaster!  The dressing seemed to be weighted very heavily in the Fish Sauce direction and, having spent over a week trying to purchase rice vermicelli noodles, found that they didn't react in the way that the instructions on the packet intimated that they would.  The carrot mixture, on it's own, was barely edible - but having introduced the noodles to the equation, it became totally inedible.  So that wasn't a successful attempt - which was very disappointing, after the spectacular success of the New Potato, Bacon & Goat's Cheese salad.

The Pork with Lemongrass & Cinnamon didn't happen, which was a shame, but I just didn't feel up to making it.


However, the Pot Roast Chicken just had to be made as the dinner for the following day was relying upon it - not to mention Sunday's dinner!


I really love cooking pot-roast chicken.  There’s something so homely and comforting about having a chicken chuckling in a stock pot on your cooker.  I think it’s also the smell of the herbs and vegetables that go to make up the stock ingredients, combined with the knowledge that the chicken will emerge from its bath both subtly flavoured and succulent. 
I always roast the chicken for a half hour at 200deg prior to dunking it into its bath of gorgeous stock ingredients.  I think it imparts some of the “roasted chicken” flavour without resulting in the sulphurous effect that can be brought about by just roasting alone.
For the stock, I used onions, garlic, celery, thyme, parsley, basil, black peppercorns and included a star anise for that lovely and very distinctive flavour it imparts.  The smell, as the chicken cooked, just improved as the 90 minutes (it was a big chicken!) went on.
I'll be blogging the whole process as my next blog post, hopefully!
The sausagemeat balls were a bit of a disaster, unfortunately, as we didn't manage to get sausages from our local butcher - and the Tesco versions we did get were pretty darned pallid.  I'll have another go when I can get the butcher's sausages I was after to begin with.

It was very worthwhile taking the trouble to cook that chicken, even though I was feeling so rough, as the Coronation Chicken wraps we had on the following day were spectacular.  I included some lovely avocado in the wraps for us grown-ups - Son & heir has yet to obtain a liking for avocado - and with the lovely fresh crunchy lettuce they were just the job.

Which brings us to the start of this week's fare.

Rather cunningly, we decided to deviate from my self-set rule of not cooking separate dinners for everyone, and bought Son & heir a frozen pizza to have while we had a rather delicious Porcini Mushroom risotto.  Made by hubby's own fair hand, it contained the lovely chestnut mushrooms as well as the usual shallots and other ingredients.  For me, I was challenged a little bit by the grittiness of the dried Porcini.  As hard as you try to avoid including any grit from them, it just isn't possible to filter it all out - even with leaving the last of the soaking juice behind in the bowl.   Some people are challenged by fat in their food, I'm challenged by grit.  If an omelette includes even the tiniest bit of eggshell, I'm afraid that's enough to stop me stone cold dead in my tracks - and probably bring what I have eaten, back.  It's really such a shame, as the risotto was just SO mushroomy and gorgeous.  I loved the flavours - but could have done with having a comedy set of teeth, i.e. removeable, in order to eat it.

The next meal on the list was a Chicken & Cauliflower Curry.  For some reason, I decided to go about this curry by blitzing the onion, garlic and chilli before frying them off.  I suspect it's too much food t.v. that planted this particular idea in my mind.  I really don't know why I did it, because in the past whenever hubby has made a curry this way, I haven't really liked it because it leaves the sauce quite textural and almost gritty (again).  In fact, part-way through the cooking of this curry (shortly after the addition of some yoghurt, which promptly split) I was seriously considering consigning it to the bin.  However, I persevered and once the cauliflower began to cook, the whole thing came together quite nicely.  It wasn't bad, but I have to admit that I much prefer the "slice onions, fry, add garlic & chilli, fry, add spices, fry" approach to making a curry!

All was safe and sound by the following day's meal.  I have cooked the Sausage & Mozzarella Pasta Bake dozens of times now.  However, this time was a little different in that hubby was cooking.  I had to write the recipe out, as our printer has given up the ghost, and he even managed to read my writing correctly.  He turned out a lovely rendition of the dish - and for once, not having cooked it, I suppose - I could understand why the whole family like it so much!

We're up to Friday now, and owing to certain things happening rather suddenly (which I won't go into here, as I'm sure you'd be bored by it all), the planned Stromboli (regrettably, I failed to keep a note of the website which fired up my interest in the dish, or you could have seen it) fell by the wayside when I ran out of time in which to prove the dough required.  Pizza managed to fall into the gap again.

Yesterday, Saturday, I had planned on making a Quiche Lorraine.  Following a bit of comparing and contrasting various Quiche Lorraine recipes - from those with an ingredients list a mile long, to those with four or five ingredients - I decided on a fairly plain recipe.  I knew that the ingredients I had - Burford Brown eggs, Butcher's Bacon and a lovely strong piece of mature cheddar, were probably enough.  I will admit to adding a pinch of nutmeg, but that just seemed to make sense at the time!

The end result was a quiche of quite glorious proportions and taste, too - which I'll be blogging second on the to-do-list.  With a fairly simple salad, it made for a lovely meal.

Tonight's dinner is going to be roast bacon - I bought a lovely little roasting joint from Spring Fields Butchers on Friday - together with a Pasta Ratatouille bake.  I was after something a bit nicer than your average fare, but that was easy to prepare.  Hopefully I hit that nail on the head - I'll let you know later!

So far, I've boiled the little chap in some apple juice and water - approx 50/50 dimensions - with some thyme, a cinnamon stick and some pepper.  It smelled lovely when I got it out of it's bath to go into the roasting pan.  I'm currently cooking it long and slow - it will probably have had about two and a half hours in the roasting tin, by the time dinner is ready.  Fingers crossed, it will be falling apart tender by then.

All of which just leaves Monday.  I'm taking the car back to the garage to have the work done for the MOT pass on Monday, so we needed something easy to make and flexible - just in case we got the "come and get the car" call right at an inopportune moment from the dinner's point of view.

There's really only two meals that fall easily into that category - either spaghetti bolognese or chilli con carne.  As we've had a number of pasta dishes just lately, we opted for the chilli.  Hubby will be cooking that one as he's the Chilli-meister, so I'll be able to sit back and lick the wounds that the MOT will have undoubtedly caused.  If I had the money, I'd buy a new car every year, just so that I didn't have to go through this MOT nightmare annually.  It'd be worth it, I'm sure!

.

21 July 2011

Still cooking!

I'm so sorry for the hiccup in proceedings here, it's just that I had a bit of a relapse and so have been staying off of the computer.

Today is the first day that I can say I am feeling a little better, so fingers crossed - and carpal tunnel syndrome allowing - I shall be back at the computer tomorrow.

Have you all missed me?  (Please say yes! lol).

 

15 July 2011

Spanish style chicken & prawns

For absolutely ages, hubby has had a yen to make a paella-style dish.  Of course, he'd have absolutely loved to have made true paella, but I fear that's beyond our purse at the moment.

I've got to say, though, that the dish he made last night - Spanish style chicken and prawns - is so "after the style of" a paella, that he got as close as he could have done.

He'd obviously spent some time thinking about how he was going to approach the cooking of the dish, having decided to marinade the chicken and cook it separately, so as to preserve the flavours of the marinade.  He absolutely achieved that, as the chicken was discernibly flavoured differently to the rice.  This made for interest in a dish which could very easily have been one overall flavour.

He used pepperoni sausage, as we had some left over from some Calzones he was going to make last week.  I think I probably preferred the pepperoni, as the paprika from the chorizo, together with the two paprika's used in the dish could very easily have been too much for me.  I seem to have become quite paprika-sensitive in my old age!

We were both agreed that it would have finished it off perfectly to have had a sprinkling of chopped parsley to serve - so you may want to add that if you try this dish.

One thing that is worth saying about the meal, is that Son & heir started it suspiciously but was very soon tucking in and polished off the lot!  So that was a seal of approval as regards its kid-friendliness.

SPANISH STYLE CHICKEN & PRAWNS (serves 4)
Ingredients :

1 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts, sliced into small pieces
half a lemon, juiced
freshly ground black pepper
half a tsp smoked paprika
pinch of Saffron
50ml boiling water
a small knob of butter
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 large spanish onion, chopped
1 red pepper, de-seeded and chopped
1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and chopped
half a red chilli, de-seeded and chopped very fine
1 clove garlic, grated
half tsp dried oregano
half tsp of paprika (not smoked)
100g chorizo or pepperoni, diced into small chunks
300g long grain rice
1 litre chicken stock (2 stock cubes are fine)
2 handfuls of frozen peas, defrosted
200g prawns, defrosted
1 large de-seeded tomato, chopped.

Method :

1.  Place the chicken into a bowl and squeeze over the juice of half a lemon.  Add a few grinds of fresh pepper and the smoked paprika.  Stir and marinade for half an hour.

2.  Prepare the saffron by placing a pinch of saffron into a small bowl with the boiling water.  Cover and leave for half an hour.

3.  Add the olive oil to a frying pan and fry the chicken until golden brown all over.  Remove from heat and set to one side to keep warm.

4.  Add the knob of butter and more olive oil to the pan and saute the chopped onions, chopped pepper, chopped chilli and garlic until soft.

5.  Bring temperature up very high and add the dried oregano and paprika together with the chopped chorizo or pepperoni.  Season and allow the spices to cook out of the sausage for a minute or so, then add the long grain rice and stir until coated with the seasoned oil.

6. When the rice is hot, add the saffron water, together with the strands of saffron.  Add the chicken stock and stir through.

7.  Cook until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid and add the peas.  Check the seasoning and cook until rice is al dente.

8.  Add the prawns, tomato and the chicken.  Stir and cook until the rice is tender and everything is heated through.

Serve.

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14 July 2011

Mouthwatering salad : New potato, bacon & goat's cheese.

I should really, by rights, call this salad "Twitter-created" as that is pretty much how it happened.

I was sitting here doing the menu for the coming week and had included Scotch Broth soup for the Wednesday evening.  However, that didn't seem right to me - after all, what if the weather turned really hot?  I wouldn't want to be sat over a soup pan for an hour or more - and everyone wouldn't really want to be tucking into bowls of steaming soup, when they were far more likely to fancy lazing around on the top shelf of the freezer.

So I began to think down the salad lines, but not your classic "lettuce, tomato, cucumber" salad.  I wanted to do more of a Jamie Oliver style main course salad that included interesting ingredients that you wouldn't have, upon first thought, necessarily put together. 

However, my brain just wouldn't conjure up an exciting combination.  I knew that we'd got a whole shed load of chicken on the menu, so I was trying to think of an alternative main meat ingredient.  Now I know that everyone loves bacon - and our butcher's bacon is just amazing, so that was a good start.  I considered Impossible Quiche, but I have to be in the mood for that - and I just wasn't.

My eyes strayed to the computer screen, where Twitter was open.  So I asked - of the general Twitterati - "@JennyEatwell is trying to think of a salady thing that doesn't involve lettuce, that is a main meal. ~ponders~".  Almost instantly, came suggestions from @presentsqueen, @TheSourceLeeds, @CarolineTecks, @Scarlie_Maere and @rmrezendes, suggesting things like chicory, fennel, new potatoes, citrus dressing, feta cheese, baby spinach and others.


So began the compilation of my Wednesday evening's dinner.  After many suggestions, exclamations of approval, expressions of doubt and alternative suggestions, we came up with a salad which involved a bed of baby spinach & watercress (so good for you), with baby plum tomatoes (so sweet), roasted Jersey new potatoes (so gorgeously earthy) and red onion (so savoury), crispy bacon (so salty), sauteed chestnut mushrooms (earthy again, but a different kind) - all topped off with crumbled creamy goat's cheese (so gorgeous) and a dressing made from wine vinegar (red, in this case) and wholegrain mustard (so tart).



You're salivating, aren't you.  I know I was!


The reality proved to be every bit as tasty as the imaginary creation - in fact, it surpassed my expectations.  It was one of those salads that, every forkful you took, contained different mixtures of flavour that all went so superbly well together.  It was impossible to become tired of eating it.  In fact, where the bacon was concerned, hubby declared himself reluctant to swallow on occasion, so as to live with that gorgeous flavour for as long as possible.  The onion and the goat's cheese, the tomato and the goat's cheese, the potatoes and the bacon, the bacon and the tomato - every bit was as gorgeous as its neighbour.  The spinach and watercress leaves were gently dressed with the red wine vinegar and mustard, which served as a beautiful palate cleanser as you progressed through the meal.

Two cook's notes - firstly, I prefer to use muddy Jersey Royals as they seem to have the best flavour.  For the cost of having to scrub them in the sink, they are well worth the benefits you get in flavour.  Secondly, the goat's cheese I used was a little square one that I got from Asda, called "Poitou-Charentes".  It's one of their "extra special" range and is perfect for the job.


I'm going to ask the Twitterati to create my dinners more often, if this is what they come up with!


NEW POTATO SALAD WITH BACON & GOAT'S CHEESE  (feeds 3)


Ingredients :


500g muddy Jersey Royal new potatoes, scrubbed and halved (or quartered, in my case, as they were mahoosive!)
a drizzle of olive oil
2 red onions, cut into 6 wedges each
12 baby plum tomatoes, halved
a pack of back bacon, diced
140g chestnut mushrooms, sliced finely
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 big handfuls of watercress & spinach salad leaves
85g creamy goat's cheese
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.


Method :


1.  Pre-heat the oven to 200deg C.

2.  Place the new potatoes onto a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, then remove the tray and add the onion pieces.  Give everything a shake and return to the oven for another 20-25 minutes' roasting.  When done, let them cool for a few minutes, before adding to the salad.


3.  While the potatoes are roasting, dry fry the bacon until crispy.  Remove from the pan and keep warm.


4.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and saute them on a high heat until they are softened and lightly caramelised.  Remove from the pan and keep these warm, too.


5.  Make the dressing by whisking the mustard and vinegar with a little water to let it down sufficiently to drizzle.


6.  Place the salad leaves into a large bowl and drizzle 2 tsp of the dressing over.  Toss to coat the leaves lightly, then pile onto the plates - a handful for each plate.


7.  The add the tomatoes, potatoes, onion, mushrooms and bacon, finally crumbling the goat's cheese over the top.


8.  Add a last drizzle of the dressing, and serve.


Utterly, utterly divine.


.

13 July 2011

Pesto chicken with roasted tomatoes and Milanese couscous

"Milanese couscous" - cracking name, don't you think?  After a bit of research, it's what I've called the couscous dish that I made to accompany the Pesto chicken.

I made the Pesto chicken once prior to starting the Rhubarb & Ginger blog and it had become lost in the sands of time.  Well, until I noticed I had half a jar of pesto lurking in the fridge, waiting to be used for something.  A quick ponder and my normally unreliable brain threw out the "how about Pesto chicken?" idea.

As the chicken I'd used in the previous incarnation had been hugely inferior to the chicken breasts I can find these days, I could only think that the dish would be better than last time - and let me tell you, last time was pretty darned good!

I had one problem with the making of the dish, which was that as fast as I tried to spoon the filling into the chicken, it was coming straight back out again on the same teaspoon.  *sigh*  Losing sensation in my hands is really becoming a problem!  However, I shall sidetrack that next time, and buy a piping set.  That'll solve that particular problem and if you have one, I'd recommend using it when you make this chicken dish.  You WILL be making it, won't you?


For the breadcrumbs, I had unusually run out of my frozen breadcrumb stash, so just whizzed up a crust and a slice of Oatilicious bread which made the most lovely breadcrumbs.  So if you don't have oaty bread, it might be worth adding a tablespoon of rolled oats to the blender when you're making your next batch of breadcrumbs!


I've given the recipe for the Milanese couscous here as well, as it went so beautifully with the chicken that I thought it would be nice to give details for an entire course, as opposed to simply the meat part, or the vegetable part.


The couscous is based - loosely - on the Ottolenghi Green Couscous, but is dealing completely with Italian flavours such as Grana Padano cheese, basil and pine nuts.  In fact, that's where I got the "Milanese" bit from - as Grana Padano hails from near to Milan.  Don't worry if you don't have Grana Padano, because Parmesan will do just as well.


PESTO CHICKEN WITH ROASTED TOMATOES (serves 3)


Ingredients :


3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tbsp green pesto
50g mascarpone
2 tbsp olive oil
100g breadcrumbs
9-12 cherry tomatoes on the vine
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Method :


1.  Pre-heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.


2.  Cut into the thick end of the chicken breast, moving the knife around to create a pocket within, but with a small opening.


3.  Mix the pesto and mascarpone together, then carefully fill each chicken breast with the mixture (this is where the piping bag would come in handy!).


4.  Drizzle a little olive oil over each chicken breast, then roll them in the breadcrumbs and place onto a baking tray.  Press a little extra breadcrumbs into the top surface of each chicken breast, then season.


5.  Sprinkle the cherry tomatoes around the chicken, then place into the oven for 20-25 minutes.


Serve with :


MILANESE COUSCOUS (serves 3)


Ingredients :


1 onion, sliced thinly
a knob of butter
1 tsp olive oil
4-5 chestnut mushrooms, sliced thinly
100g fresh parsley, chopped roughly
100g fresh basil
a handful of pine nuts
30g Grana Padano, grated finely
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
150g couscous
150ml boiling chicken stock
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp lemon juice.


Method :


1.  In a frying pan, melt the butter and add the olive oil, then gently fry the onion until golden and just starting to caramelise.  Add the mushroom slices and cook for another 3-4 minutes.  Add a pinch of sea salt and put aside to keep warm.


2.  In a mini-blender, add the parsley, basil, Grana Padano, pine nuts and olive oil.  Whizz until you have created a herb paste.


3.  Place the couscous into a large bowl and add the stock.  Cover with cling film and set aside for around 10 minutes.  Remove the cling film and fluff up the grains with a fork.


4.  Then add the herb paste and stir through evenly.  Add the onions and mushrooms and stir through.  Season to taste - including with black pepper.  Add the lemon juice and serve.


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