26 February 2013

The menu plan - for once, I'm ahead of the game!

Hot Punjabi King Prawn curry - and it was hot, too!
Look!  It's only Tuesday and I'm publishing the menu plan for the week.  You're impressed, I know.  Well, I would be - in your place.

So let's start off by taking a look at the wreckage of last week.

In fact, amazingly, we did really well with last week's plan!  I know!  Against all predictions, we only bounced one meal off of the plan and pretty much everything else fell into place in one way or another.  Well, apart from the Apple Slump, which I completely forgot I was supposed to be making until it was too late to do anything about it.  ~shrug~  Hey ho, I'll have another go this week.

For the menfolk, I think pride of place for last week's dinners goes to the Hot Punjabi King Prawn curry.  I really liked this curry too - but it was just on the cusp of being too hot for me.  The menfolk, however, loved it.  Hubby even went so far as to scrape the remains of the curry sauce from the wok and microwave it - that's how much he liked it!

Beef and ale stew - perfect empty tummy filler!

My favourite of the week had to be the Beef and ale stew done in the slow cooker.  This is just so my kind of food.  Hubby refers to it in rather derogatory fashion as "brown food" - but anything you can eat hot from a bowl with a spoon works as comfort food for me.  Following on from a day spent driving to Southampton and back to visit my Dad in hospital (where he's doing well, thanks for asking), a plate of hot beef stew absolutely hit the spot.  

So whilst basking in the warm glow of last week's success, let's have a gander at what's on the menu list for this week :

Tues : Pizza
Weds : Turkish style lamb pilau and tomato salad
Thurs : Hunter's chicken and pasta
Fri : Risotto primavera with herby baked chicken
Sat : Italian sausage meatballs, garlic roast potatoes and cavolo nero
Sun : Slow cooker chicken adobo with rice and side salad
Mon : Lamb meatballs and orzo with peas.

Sounds quite nice, if you say it quickly!

So we start the week with a day off from cooking.  To be honest, I've still got so much stew left over, I think we could probably eat that for the next couple of days!  However, I'll be taking care of the stew over successive lunchtimes as hubby really isn't in the market for successive plates of stew appearing in front of him.

We're back in harness for Wednesday, with a super-easy Turkish lamb pilau from BBC Good Food.  Looking at the printed out recipe, I think it'll be lucky to stay as originally intended because I've noted down at least three alterations that I'll be adopting, quite apart from any last-minute changes.  However, the basic pilau looks pretty yummy - and should be perfect for a late school pickup day.

Lawrence Dallaglio's Dad's Hunter's Chicken, c/o Lovefood.com
Thursday's Hunter's chicken is a standard onion/tomato/herb sauce job, but it has the distinction of being Lawrence Dallaglio's father's recipe which I found via Lovefood.com some months ago.  I figure if it's good enough for the man mountain Dallaglio, it's good enough for me.  I'll be pairing it up with some lightly buttered Mafalda Corta pasta with fresh parsley.  Yum.

Oh - which reminds me.  I'm a bit fed up with tinned tomatoes, now that our local Asda have stopped selling the lovely Tarantella versions.  So just recently, I've been swapping tinned for fresh chopped vine tomatoes.  After all, that must be what cooks used before tinned came along!  The acidity level in tinned tomatoes these days seems to be so vicious, it had to be worthwhile trying the fresh (which doesn't work out any more expensive).  I predict there will be a few spectacular failures in my future, but watch this space!

How our Risotto Primavera might look .. c/o Good Food
Friday sees Hubby the Risotto King in the kitchen, cooking up a beautiful risotto primavera - which translates (roughly) as "risotto with green stuff".  Think peas, courgettes, broad beans (which are unlikely as they're not liked much by the menfolk) and green herbs.  He's going to be pairing that up with some herbed baked chicken, which sounds delicious and really quite healthy.

Saturday brings the first of two meatball dishes, but they are very different.  This first version is an Italian sausage meatball dish which is served not with pasta but with garlic roast potatoes and a green vegetable.

Now ever since the dawn of time (well, it feels that long) I've been wanting to try Cavolo Nero.  Has Asda stocked it?  No.  Far too nice but us plebs, obviously.  However, just recently, they have had some in stock and it's too good an opportunity to miss, quite apart from I feel we should be supporting their endeavours to bring in new stock items like this.  You watch, when we go looking for some on Friday, there won't be any.  That always happens whenever I want Fennel, so I'm quite prepared for it to happen with the Cavolo Nero, too.

Cavolo nero - is it a Kale or a Cabbage?  Who knows!
Sunday is hospital visiting day again, so the Slow Cooker comes into play.  Last week's Beef and Ale stew was such a success, it seemed only logical to use it again this week.  I've had the recipe for the slow cooker chicken adobo for a while and it seemed a perfect time to break it out.  I'll just need to cook some rice when we get home, which won't take very long at all and open a bag of salad to go with it.  It's quite important to get dinner on the plate within a half an hour or so of arriving home, or hubby tends to go off the idea of eating completely - which considering his diabetes, isn't the best idea.  I've made chicken adobo previously and we all liked it, so it should be fine.

Butter beans - don't they look gorgeous?  No?  Oh, you have no soul.  lol
Monday's lamb meatballs involve tomato, butter beans and bacon - which gives me a chance to use the can of butter beans that the lovely Marj from Facebook recommended to me.  I know that hubby is more than a little wary of these butter beans, but hopefully the lamb meatballs will balance the equation for him.  I've carried this recipe over from last week - it's the one where I'm intending on serving it with orzo (a small rice grain sized pasta).  It wasn't any reflection on it as to why it got bumped - it was just that we all ran out of puff that night and decided to have a kebab instead!

Winner!  Yay!
One piece of news I have for you, this week, is about my Daisy pancake.  Do you remember it?  Well it got entered into the goodtoknow.co.uk "Pancakes your way" competition and we won the category for the best blogger's pancake!  Yay!  So thank you all those who went and voted for it.  I was exceedingly chuffed to find out we'd won. :)

So, there you have it.  Let's hope the weather decides to warm up a bit and we start seeing some of the Spring flowers coming out!  It's hubby's birthday soon and (apparently) the weather is always brilliant on his birthday, with the cherry trees in bloom and Spring flowers everywhere.  I can't help but think that he's being hopeful for this year - but we'll see.  Keep your fingers crossed!


23 February 2013

Simple Slow Cooker Beef Goulash, but with loads of flavour

You know me, I like recipes that are simple.  Not just because they are easy to make (and that's an undeniable truth), but because a few good ingredients, combined with care, seem to make such excellent dishes.

I spotted this Goulash recipe on the goodfoodchannel.co.uk website and was immediately attracted to it because of the shortness of its ingredients list.  Now I know there are those amongst you who will tut and say "it's not authentic!", but the way I see it, Goulash has been made for so many years by so many different ethnicities of people, that it's probably like my favourite Cottage Pie, in that there are many ways of producing what amounts to the same thing.

So let me say from the word go, that with this recipe I wasn't looking to make an "authentic" Eastern European Goulash, but a Goulash-style beef stew that would fill empty corners and warm the cockles of our hearts.  After all, with the snow that's been blowing around our garden, our hearts have needed their cockles warming from time to time!

Now because the recipe uses beef and because of hubby's dislike of even remotely chewy meat, I decided to use the slow cooker.  As a result, the recipe has been somewhat re-written with that in mind, but the ingredients stayed (almost) the same.  The original recipe can be found here if you are interested but don't want to use a slow cooker, otherwise, read on!

Alongside the Goulash, I serve white rice and garden peas - I just added the frozen peas to the rice saucepan with 5 minutes to go.  If you're going to do the same, allow the full five minutes as the ice of the peas reduces the heat of the boiling water and you need time for it to regain a full boil in order to finish cooking both peas and rice.

I also served some roasted carrots, beetroot, radishes and onion.  These had been tossed in sunflower oil and seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper before being added to a moderate oven for 35-45 minutes' roasting.  It was the first time I'd ever roasted fresh beetroot and I was jolly impressed by the flavour, which - perhaps not surprisingly - went very well with the Goulash.  None of us were impressed by the roasted radishes though, as the roasting appeared to concentrate the cabbagey flavour in them, rather than the sweetness or pepperiness.  I don't think we'll be doing roast radishes again, somehow!

Along with the lemon soured cream - which made a pleasant change from plain soured cream and provided a lovely acidity which balanced both the Goulash and the sweetness of the roasted vegetables, the whole combination made a very acceptable Sunday dinner.  I know that I was completely stuffed by the end of it - and didn't start to get peckish again until breakfast time the next morning.  All of which, I consider a real result.

Hubby declared himself rather underwhelmed by the flavours, however I suspect he was anticipating a more pronounced smoked paprika flavour.  Smoked paprika is one of his favourites, yet I'm not so keen on it and had tamed the recipe by the use of 1 teaspoonful of sweet smoked paprika along with 1 teaspoonful of hot smoked paprika.  Although the original recipe doesn't say what type of smoked paprika to use, I know that hubby was expecting more of the hot version - which could account for his being underwhelmed.  He enjoyed the meal - loved the roasted beetroot - and was perfectly satisfied with the Goulash, just expected rather more from it than it delivered.  Son and heir thought the Goulash was "lush" and the lot disappeared - including the roast beetroot, which was a major surprise.

Personally, I really liked the end result of this recipe.  It didn't compromise on flavour and the use of fresh tomatoes instead of tinned tomatoes was a real revelation to me.  I think I'll be swapping those two in future recipes - which will be interesting, no doubt!  The red peppers were definitely there, but didn't overwhelm the flavour profile (for once).  So often, when you use red pepper in a dish, it becomes the predominant flavour.  I think because they were chargrilled peppers from a jar instead of fresh red peppers - and only 50g of them - it made all the difference.

All in all, a great cockle-warmer!


Ingredients :

750g beef brisket, trimmed of fat and cut into chunks
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp rapeseed or sunflower oil - or any combination of the two
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, seeds removed and roughly chopped
50g chargrilled red peppers from a jar, rinsed if in vinegar, sliced into strips
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
400ml beef stock (I used Essential Cuisine beef stock)
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
zest of half a lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
1-200ml soured cream.

Method :

1.  In the morning of the day you're planning on eating the Goulash, place the flour and seasonings into a large plastic bag, then add the beef cubes.  Seal the bag and give it a good shake to toss the beef in the seasoned flour.

2.  Pour the oil into a large frying pan and place over a moderate heat to bring up to temperature.  Test whether the oil is hot enough, by touching one corner of a piece of beef to the oil.  If it frizzles and fries, the oil is ready.  Add (gently!) the beef to the frying pan and reserve any remaining flour.

3.  Brown the beef to a stage where it is just beginning to caramelise, on at least three sides.  Using a slotted spoon, decant into the slow cooker, leaving any surplus oil behind.  Switch the slow cooker on, using the "low" setting if you're wanting to take all day about cooking the Goulash, or "high" if you've only got 4-5 hours.

4.  Add the onions and fry, stirring frequently, until softened and golden.  Add the garlic and turn the heat down.  Cook for another couple of minutes, taking care not to let the garlic burn.

5.  Add the tomatoes and continue to fry, until the tomato pieces have softened and begun to break up.  Add the paprika and the leftover seasoned flour and stir to combine.  Cook for another minute or so.

6.  Add the beef stock gently, stirring all the time to combine it with the pan's contents easily and not wind up with lumps.

7.  Add the sliced peppers and stir to combine.  Bring back up to a simmer, then decant the lot into the slow cooker and give everything a good stir.

8.   Cook for the requisite time (4-5 hours on high, or 9-10 hours on low).  An hour or so before you are due to serve, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary and if the sauce is rather too thin, cook with the lid half on/half off for an hour, to reduce the liquid.  However, if you're doing this, you need to keep an eye on it!

Serve with the parsley sprinkled over and the lemon soured cream beside.

Printable version

22 February 2013

Hot Punjabi King Prawn Curry - and it is hot, too!

Sometimes, a recipe just works so well and is so tasty, that it needs to be blogged ahead of the queue.  This is one such.

I found this recipe in the latest BBC Good Food magazine and you can find the original recipe - which deals with raw King Prawns as opposed to cooked King Prawns - if you click here.  The recipe apparently comes from a lady called Jagdish Kaur who hails from the Punjab'n de Rasoi cafe in Edinburgh.  I liked the recipe as it looked awfully easy to make (which is always a good thing) and had interestingly few ingredients.  So many curry recipes have ingredient lists as long as your two arms, that it was intriguing to find one working along such minimalist lines.

I won't deny that the notion of using three live chillis and some dried chilli flakes caused several ominous gyrations of my stomach, but the "Taste Team Comment" indicated that the heat was agreeable.  However, in the interest of self preservation I changed one of the chillis to a milder red version and removed all the seeds from it.

I also included a little fish stock - in my case, the lovely Essential Cuisine fish stock and have reflected these changes in the recipe below.  I think that adding just water to a recipe is often missing a golden opportunity to inject a little more flavour.  I accept that, in some curry recipes, the addition of stock would be inconsistent with the integrity of the style.  However, in this instance it worked very well.

In fact, we very nearly didn't have the curry at all.  I completely forgot about marinating the prawns on the night before and again first thing the next morning.  Even worse, we had a breakdown in communications and only got one bag of prawns out of the freezer, needing to defrost the remaining pack at the last minute, in a sieve, under the tap!  So, it may be worth bearing in mind that the marination of my prawns only took place for around a half an hour!  Oops!

The actual cooking of the recipe lived up to my expectation and was easy peasy.  I think it took longer to chop up the onions, tomatoes and coriander, than it took to do the cooking.

One cook's note that is worth bearing in mind, is that once the water is added it is worthwhile cooking the sauce until all the water has evaporated and the sauce is really thick - which is contrary to how the original recipe goes.  The reason for this is because as soon as you add the yoghurt and prawns, the yoghurt is going to melt to a certain degree and - no matter how well you've dried the prawns - they're going to release moisture.  If you haven't reduced the sauce to begin with, you're going to land up with a really dilute sauce which if you then try to reduce, you'll end up with rubbery prawns and split yoghurt.  Not good!  So make sure your sauce is reduced as far as it can go, before you add the marinated prawns.

Very definitely a hit with the family, I'll be making this again - perhaps with chicken next time.  Hubby declared it the best curry he'd had in many a long year (which is enormous praise, especially considering he was concerned about it turning to "pond water").  Son and heir didn't say anything, just sat stolidly moving his spoon from plate to mouth until it was all gone.  I think he liked it.  For me, I loved the flavours that were bright and fresh - and although the chilli effect made my nose run and the tip of my tongue hurt, I'd have it again tomorrow - and you don't get to say that about every recipe you make!


Ingredients :

For the marinade

600g cooked, peeled king prawns
6 tbsp full fat natural yoghurt
2 green chillies, finely sliced, with seeds
half a tsp of sea salt. 

For the curry

2 tbsp sunflower oil plus 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
half a tsp of cumin seeds
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 red chilli, finely sliced
2 tsp Garam masala
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
half a tsp of sea salt
half a tsp of fish stock powder, or half a fish stock cube
half a tsp of dried red chilli flakes
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped.

Method :

1. For the marinade: Rinse and drain the prawns.  Pat them dry and put into a non-reactive bowl.  Add the yogurt, chillies and ½ teaspoon of salt.  Mix well, cover and marinate overnight in the fridge.

2. For the curry: Pour the oil into a deep sided wok or frying pan and set it over a medium heat.

3. Once the oil is hot, spoon in the cumin seeds, swirl and brown for 10 seconds.  Add the onions and sautĂ© for about 10 minutes, or until golden all over.

4. Add the garlic, reduce the heat to low and stir and fry for 2 minutes.  Mix in the turmeric and stir for 1 minute.

5. Add the red chilli, increase the heat to medium and stir for 1 minute.  Mix in 1½ teaspoons of the Garam masala and stir for 1 minute.

6. Add all of the tomatoes, a pinch of sea salt and the chilli flakes.  Cook until the tomatoes have broken down, then add 120ml boiling water and the fish stock powder or cube.  Stir to combine.  Allow the curry to boil and reduce until all the extra liquid has gone and the sauce is really thick.

7. Stir in the prawns and their marinade plus the chopped coriander and cook over a high heat until they are heated through.

8. Sprinkle the remaining Garam masala over the top and stir.


Printable version

Menu plan - subject to negotiation!

Lime & pepper chicken wraps with salt & pepper potato wedges
Here we are!  Especially for Seren - and anyone else who misses them when I don't get to putting them up.

This week has been quite a rollercoaster, so far - and I don't doubt it's going to continue rockin' and a rollin' for some time yet.

However, before we get into all that - what happened with last week's menu plan was that it almost happened how it should have!  The pancakes and lime & pepper chicken wraps went according to plan.  Then we had a mad rush of blood to the head and ordered in an Indian takeaway on the Thursday.  Friday's crunchy fish happened how it should have and the lime cured pork from Thursday got subbed in instead of the High Tea on Saturday.  Sunday's Goulash went according to plan and Monday's meatballs turned into a spectacular Pasta bolognese!  So not too bad.

Dad on his 80th birthday
We had some bad news on Thursday evening, to say that my dear old Dad (who only 7 months ago was undergoing heart surgery), had fallen in their kitchen and broken the femur bone up by his hip.  Oooh, ouch!

He was rushed off to Southampton General and is still there, as during the investigations regarding the pinning operation for his leg, they discovered he has an aortic aneurysm (heart again) that needs sorting out as soon as possible!  So it's a bit of a worrying time, involving lots of travel to and from the hospital for my Mum and Brother (around 26 miles one way) and as and when we can, for us (around 38 miles one way).  He has had the leg operation and is now more comfortable there, but we're completely in the hands of the hospital about what happens next.  Not a happy time!

Anyway, from bad news to good news!  I applied - and have been accepted - as a contributor to Gojee Food. Yay!  You may now all commence dancing the happy dance.  Ayethenkyoo!  If you haven't a clue what I'm on about, click on the link here and you'll quickly get the idea.  It is basically a serious food porn site, but instead of just showing pictures, you can follow through to the blogs behind the photographs by clicking on the fork icon.  Additionally, you can use the site for inspiration.  For instance, if you have some ground lamb in the freezer and can't think what to use it for, just click on the magnifying glass and type in "Ground lamb" and it will pull all its relevant recipes up for your consideration.  The photographs on the blog here are of sufficient quality for Gojee now (thanks to hubby's mad skills and his new camera!) so I thought it would be worth while asking - and I am so chuffed to have been accepted!

Now, even though it is Friday today and this week is marching on regardless, I thought I'd better post up a menu plan!  So here it is :

Tues : Takeaway chinese chow mein (Hospital visiting day)
Wed : Allspice chicken and mango rice with red cabbage & apple
Thurs : Takeaway Lamb Shish Kebab and salad
Fri : Hot Punjabi King Prawn curry and rice
Sat : Pesto pasta with ham hock & asparagus
Sun : Beef and ale slow cooker stew (Hospital visiting day)
Mon : Burritos with guacamole, wedges & refried beans.

Hospital visiting hours don't start until 3pm, which considering we have to travel for 45 minutes (probably a little more, including picking my Mum up and dropping her back home again) there and the same again back again, all means that sorting out something to eat is a tricky business.  Because of hubby's diabetes, he has to make sure he eats regularly and having dinner later than our normal 6pm (which is terribly early for me - I used to eat at closer to 8pm in days gone by) leaves him light headed and with an ever diminishing appetite.  So we opted to just go for a takeaway Chow Mein which we could pick up on the way home and tuck straight in to as soon as our bottoms hit the chairs.

This Sunday, when we're visiting again, I've opted to make a one-pot slow cooker beef stew.  I'll put it together in the morning before we go and it can chuckle away in the slow cooker all day, being ready to just dish up into bowls and tuck into as soon as we get back.

Wednesday's Allspice chicken and mango rice with red cabbage and apple was a bit of a revelation in flavour.  None of us are used to the allspice flavour being so "up there" in a dish, so it was interesting and a bit of a challenge for son & heir.  However, he coped very well and ate all but his red cabbage, which is still too vinegary for him.
Allspice chicken and mango rice - turned out very well

Son & heir wound up going for a sleepover on Thursday evening - a rather last minute arrangement - so being rather frazzled by then, his Dad and I opted for the line of least resistance and got a kebab each.  Mine was a Lamb shish, his was a Doner.  To be honest, I think the lamb shish kebab is one of the healthiest takeaways you can get!  The lamb is always as lean as can be and cooked beautifully.  Whether you eat the two enormous pitta breads is up to you - but I never seem to manage it.  Other than that, you get a mint yoghurt sauce (yum!) and a platter of mixed salads - can't get a lot more healthy than that!

I'm looking forward to the Punjabi Prawn curry tonight.  It's a Madhur Jaffrey recipe that looks easy peasy to make - and I'm into easy peasy, right now!

It has just occurred to me that we were supposed to buy a ham hock from the supermarket this morning and I forgot to include it on the shopping list.  However, what we should be having - presuming we can find one in the meantime - on Saturday, is a quick and easy pesto pasta (pesto from a jar) with the meat from the ham hock and asparagus.  Yum.

Hubby is due to be making this one and presuming he does, I'll try to make some "Apple Slump" for dessert, as it can be made during the day and wait until dinner time.  I was intrigued by the recipe, as it seems to be a cross between crumble and cobbler - and Bramley apples appear to be in season at the moment, so why not?

So skipping Sunday (Beef & ale stew - as mentioned above), that leaves Monday's minced beef burritos - which is a simple matter of knocking up a chilli mixture - with home made guacamole (loved that guacamole I made to go with the Lime & pepper chicken wraps), home made wedges and refried beans from a can.  Now that's what I call a compromise!

I think I'm looking forward to all of the meals that are yet to go, so assuming nothing untoward happens in the meantime, we should have some interesting blog posts coming up!

21 February 2013

Allspice chicken and mango rice - suddenly, we're in the Caribbean!

I'm often drawn towards recipes for traybakes.  They always look so good, with beautifully golden roasted chicken pieces nestling amongst gorgeous roasted vegetables that have just begun to caramelise.  However, my efforts haven't always been successful in the traybake department.

As such, I was bearing this in mind when I found myself drawn towards the recipe for Mango chicken, bean & rice bake in the latest BBC Good Food magazine.  There were the golden roasted chicken pieces, as cosy as can be beside chunks of glowing mango, on a bed of fluffy rice and shiny red kidney beans.

Looking at the ingredients, they seemed to fit what we like - but in a different way to normal.  There were Indian curry ingredients there (chilli, coriander, ginger, onion, rice) with Caribbean influences (allspice, mango and kidney beans).  The recipe even called for lime - which as you know, I have quite a few of just at the moment!

After 30 mins cooking - all chutneyed up and ready to go back in!

I had a little word with hubby about whether he felt he could cope with chicken thighs in this instance.  He's a chicken breast man, ordinarily, you see.  I felt that the chicken thighs would give more flavour to the rice (as they sit on the rice to cook) than ever chicken breast would - plus thighs could cope better with the hour and a half they would be in the oven!  He wasn't convinced, but decided to take it like a man - and have a strategic sandwich afterwards if it all goes to worms.

Making the marinating mix was a breeze - a simple matter of chopping everything into bits and chucking it into the food processor, then whizzing, mixing and we're done for a day.

In fact, for all that the recipe is three main processes - marinating, 30 mins cooking then another 35-40 mins cooking, it really is incredibly easy to do.  Once again, it is a one-pot dish (unless, like me, you decide to add something like red cabbage & apple as a side dish - but that's up to you!) and they really are the easiest things in the world to make.

I have a couple of cook's notes for you though :

1.  If you can, following the 30 minutes cook under silver foil and before the next batch without the silver foil, remove the centre pieces of chicken and give the rice a bit of a stir there.  I found that at the very middle of my dish, the rice was still fairly under done and a bit of a stir at a judicious moment, would have solved that.

2.  If you have anyone who is - like hubby - a bit phobic about "globby bits", remove the skin from their chicken before marinating.  The skin is delicious eating - but not for certain people - and to remove it before serving will mean that they lose all the effects of the marination on the chicken, plus the mango chutney.

3.  Don't be tempted to put too much mango chutney onto the chicken.  I have reduced the amount to half a teaspoonful from a full teaspoonful, as it made the chicken rather too sweet.
So munchable!

4.  The marinade was full of flavour, but if you like the chilli heat do leave the seeds in.  I removed them from our chilli - and rather wished I hadn't by the end of it!

Hubby didn't have need of his emergency sandwich, he enjoyed the new combination of flavours and found the chicken agreeably tender (and free from the dreaded "globby bits", thanks to some careful trimming!).  He did make the comment - and I think he's quite right - in that pineapple would have been a good substitute for the mango.

Son and heir wasn't so keen on the clove-like allspice flavour that is prevalent all the way through the dish, but I think that is simply a matter of being unfamiliar with that particular flavour.  I really liked the dish and agreed, to some extent, with son & heir's lament about the allspice, so I have reduced it from one and a half teaspoonfuls to just the one teaspoonful, in acknowledgement of its dominance - which was a bit too much, I felt.  However, I really liked how sitting on top of the rice - initially in a stock bath - made the chicken incredibly tender.  It was literally falling off the bone.  Lovely!

Considering how differently this turned out to how I was expecting, it was a very interesting and remarkable dinner that is very well worth repeating.  I may well experiment with using chicken breast next time - and cook the rice in the oven without the chicken on board for the first half hour.  Interesting!  I'll let you know what happens.


Ingredients :

1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 tsp finely grated ginger
2 garlic cloves
1 red chilli, seeds removed if necessary, roughly chopped
small handful of coriander - including stalks - chopped roughly
2 tsp thyme leaves
zest and juice of 2 small limes
1 tsp ground allspice
2 tbsp sunflower oil
8-10 chicken thighs, skin left on but trimmed of fat
300g long grain rice
400g tin kidney beans, rinsed and drained
500ml chicken stock
1 ripe mango, peeled, stoned and cut into small cubes
150g mango chutney.

Method :

1.  Marinate the chicken up to a day, or as little as an hour, before you want to cook it, by putting the onion, ginger, garlic, red chilli, coriander, thyme, lime, allspice and oil into a food processor and blitzing until a paste has been formed.  Pour the paste onto the trimmed chicken thighs in a large bowl and mix until the chicken has been coated.  Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge to marinate.

2.  Heat your oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas4.

3.  Rinse the rice in a sieve under the cold water tap until the water runs clear.  Then place the rice into a large high sided flat baking dish (a lasagne dish is perfect).  Add the kidney beans and a pinch of salt and level out the surface.

4.  Remove the chicken from the marinade onto a plate and stir the stock into the remains of the marinade in the bowl.  Pour the stock over the rice and beans.

5.  Sprinkle the mango pieces onto the top of the rice mixture and place the chicken pieces on top again.

6.  Cover the dish with silver foil and bake for 30 minutes.

7.  Remove the foil from the dish and increase the oven temperate to 220degC/425degF/Gas 7.  Spoon a half a teaspoon of mango chutney onto each chicken piece and return the dish to the oven for a further 35-40 minutes to brown the chicken and cook the rice.

8.  Before serving, remove the chicken pieces and fluff up the rice with a fork.


Printable version

16 February 2013

Spiced vegetable and lentil soup from Bill Granger

I expect you all know, by now, how much I like to find good soup recipes that can be used in place of the main course.  There are so many "meat and vegetable" combination meals out there, that it is nice to find a good hearty soup recipe to ring the changes every now and then.

I was attracted to this vegetarian soup (or it would have been, if I hadn't have used chicken stock) from Bill Granger (via the Good Food Channel website), because it involves oven roasted veggies of your choice.  Now this is a real change from most recipes, that direct you to use this vegetable or that vegetable, do this to this one, do that to that one - and you get your meal.  With this recipe, you could choose to use whatever you liked from within the winter vegetable category and so long as it could be oven roasted, you could make the soup.

Of course, oven roasting vegetables always intensifies their flavour - which is perfect for soup making.  After all, nobody likes a weak flavoured soup that is more water than flavour!

Aside from the vegetable aspect, I also liked the sound of the "spiced" in the name.  Using chilli, cumin, coriander and paprika just heaps flavour upon flavour and the addition of red lentils puts heart into the dish, so all the elements were there promising a cracking bowl of soup.

I opted to use carrots, parsnips, celeriac and turnip along with the butternut squash, tomatoes and garlic.  The end result was warming and delicious, with the added interest of the yoghurt, sumac and coriander sprinkles that were absolutely essential to the flavours.  It's not often that I say the additional garnish is essential to a dish, but in this case the yoghurt gives the creaminess which together with the citrus sharpness of the sumac and freshness of the coriander brings alive the sweet earthiness of the basic soup.

Hubby wasn't as in love with this soup as I was, which I think was entirely down to the lack of a meat ingredient.  He liked the flavours, but was left thinking "well that was good for starters, now where's my dinner?" - which is never a good thing.  Son and heir enjoyed his soup and was satisfied by it - as was I.  The leftovers (because it really does make a lot!) I ate for lunch throughout the week and as is often the way, the flavours just got better as the soup aged.

Upon reflection, I think maybe this soup would be better served just as a lunchtime soup, or as a starter - in rather less quantity.  However, you can't argue with its lovely flavours, each of which were distinct and detectable.  I would definitely make it again.

SPICED VEGETABLE AND LENTIL SOUP from Bill Granger  (Serves 3-5)

Ingredients :

1kg mixed winter vegetables (such as carrots, parsnips, celeriac) peeled and cut into 3cm cubes
500g butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut int o 3cm cubes
750g tomatoes, quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small carrot (if you've not included carrot in the winter vegetable mix), chopped
4 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
chilli flakes to taste
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp paprika
1.25 litres vegetable or chicken stock (I used Essential Cuisine chicken stock)
180g red lentils.

To serve :
plain yoghurt - 1 heaped teaspoonful per bowl
sumac for sprinkling
chopped coriander leaves, for sprinkling
warm crusty bread.

Method :

1.  Preheat the oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas 4.  Put the vegetables into a large bowl and drizzle with the oil.  Add the spices and season with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Toss to coat the vegetables liberally with the flavourings.

2.  Turn out onto a large roasting tray lined with silver foil (or two, if necessary, to give the vegetables room to breathe as they cook).  Cover and roast for up to an hour, or until the vegetables are soft.  You can reduce the amount of time required for roasting by cutting the veggies into smaller chunks.

3.  While the vegetables are roasting, add the stock and lentils to a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.  Spoon out 2-3 spoonfuls of the lentils and reserve.

4.  Once the veggies are done, keep two or three of each vegetable cube back and place the rest into the saucepan.  Using a hand blender, whizz until smooth.  You can add a little more stock or just some water, if the soup becomes too thick.

4.  Take the reserved cubes and cut them into bite sized pieces and add them to the soup along with the reserved lentils.

5.  Heat through - without boiling - to bring back up to temperature.

6.  Serve in warmed bowls with a blob of yoghurt, a sprinkling of sumac and coriander - and some warm crusty bread.

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13 February 2013

Curried Carrot & Mushroom Pancake Fritters

One evening last week, when we should have been having the Taco night chicken casserole but had forgotten to take the chicken out of the freezer, I came up with a really good pancake/fritter combination.

Once we'd realised about the chicken, obviously we set about trying to decide what to do next.  We were all a bit "meh!" about having an emergency takeaway, so I spent some time mentally running through what we'd got in the cupboards - to see whether anything jumped out at me as being dinner material.

I reckoned the best place to start would be to look at what we'd got that was surplus to requirements, or about to go out of date.  Unusually, we had quite a few odd bits of this and that lurking in the fridge - such as a pack of honey roast ham that had been overlooked in favour of a jar of hot dogs at the weekend and half a bag of salad leaves, from my desire to eat something other than chips with my lasagne.

We also had some cherry tomatoes - always got those in the fridge - along with some beetroot, red pepper and black olives.  I had been intending on eating these things up over the course of a few lunches, but I knew I had several backup tins of soup in the cupboard, which will always do for lunch instead.

So we had the makings of a ham salad - but what carbohydrate to put with it?  I was quite keen to make some jacket potatoes, but hubby wasn't so enthralled at that idea.  He suggested buying some potato salad, but I wasn't so keen on that idea either as shop bought potato salad is ghastly and just not worth the effort.  I knew we had some new potatoes in the fridge, but didn't really want to use them as I remembered they were earmarked for use later on in the week.

I then remembered the Gordon Ramsey's Sweetcorn Fritters that I'd made recently and how successful they were.  We didn't have any sweetcorn in the cupboard or freezer, but we did have some carrots and three little dessicated mushrooms.  I reckoned that with an onion and some curry spices, they might very well make a decent little fritter/pancake thing.

They weren't exactly in keeping with the ham salad, but then they weren't so wrong either.  I mean, if we were to have gone down the pasta salad route, what's to say we wouldn't have made that with curry flavours?  So long as they are gently flavoured, I thought they'd go fine.

And they did.  Because of the mushroom (even though they were dried up and a bit dessicated) consisting largely of water, the fritters didn't really want to crisp in the pan - which is why I'm describing them more as pancakes.  However, the flavours were lovely (I was so glad I'd decided to grate the onion and add the half a teaspoonful of ginger) and after a moment of "well, that's different!" from the menfolk, they decided that they really liked them!

So, on the whole, not a bad dinner considering it was cobbled together out of nothing!

Cook's notes : The "cup" of grated carrot was teacup sized - but feel free to add more or less, depending on a) how much batter you require and b) whether you like carrots or not!

The 100ml of milk is not precise.  It all depends on how big your egg is, how juicy the carrots, etc.  Don't fixate on the measurement of milk - just use that as a guide and add as much or as little as you need, to achieve the right consistency.


Ingredients :

1 cup of grated carrot
1 small onion, grated
3 mushrooms, chopped finely
half a tsp finely minced ginger
a pinch of sea salt
a heaped teaspoonful of Madras curry powder
2 heaped tbsp plain flour
1 large egg
100ml approximately of milk
rapeseed oil for the pan.

Method :

1.  Add the grated carrot, grated onion, chopped mushrooms, minced ginger, sea salt and curry powder to a large bowl.  Stir to combine.

2.  Add the flour and egg - and stir very well.  Before the mixture is 100% combined, add a tablespoonful of the milk and continue to stir.  Continue to add more milk until you have achieved a consistency somewhere between "dropping" and "thick cream".  You need the mixture to spread across the pan with the back of a spoon - so not too thick or it will just stick.  Equally, you don't want it to be running all over the pan, so not too liquid.

3.  Heat a tablespoonful of oil in the pan and add a tablespoonful of the pancake batter mix, making sure to pick up a good amount of the veggies.  Spread the blob out with the back of the spoon so that it is level all over and not so thick that it will take for ever to cook through.  You should be able to fit three into an average sized frying pan.

4.  Fry until the underside has picked up good colour and is golden brown - around 3-4 minutes.  Gently flip the pancake over and press down gently with the spatula.  Cook the other side until golden brown, then remove to a plate covered with kitchen paper in a warm place.


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12 February 2013

Pancakes, limes, baking and beetroot - oh, that'll be a menu plan then!

First of all, how did we do with last week's menu plan then?

Erm, well, not so well - but not too badly either.  We made four out of the seven dinners that were on the list, which is a pretty poor average - but then we didn't go hungry either.

Impossible quiche and Lasagne - tick, mission accomplished.

Taco night chicken casserole (photograph above) got made but not successfully, as I found it disgusting and the menfolk valiantly battled through theirs.  It looks nice enough and smelled nice enough, but the flavour let it down as there really just wasn't any.  Won't be doing that again, or blogging it.

Creamy haddock gratin was made and both son & heir and I thought it was lovely.  Hubby wasn't so keen, as it didn't quite work the way he wanted it to.  I think we could try this one again, but won't be blogging it until it comes together satisfactorily.

The country chicken got abandoned owing to son & heir being away on sleepover.  Hubby and I mounted a daylight raid on Sainsbury's and we had a "what we fancy" night.  I had BBQ pork belly rashers and oven chips, hubby had a prawn cocktail ciabatta.  Yum.

Goulash got abandoned until this coming weekend, as everything had slipped a day by then - and the Teviot pie became Chilli con carne as it was snowing quite severely by then (didn't I say it would?).

All of which leads me to this week's menu plan - and the meals which we're going to try VERY HARD to stick to (but probably won't) :

Tues : Pancakes!  Woo!  Maple/bacon, lemon and/or lime with sugar or golden syrup.
Wed : Lime & pepper chicken wraps with avocado, potato wedges & lime dip.
Thurs : Lime cured pork with fattoush.
Fri : Crunchy fish, oven chips and mushy peas.
Sat : High tea with home made sausage rolls & Victoria sponge cake.
Sun : Beef goulash with roast beetroot/carrot, plus rice with green peas.
Mon : Meatballs and pasta with garlic bread.

Hubby and I had a little 'fess up as regards the dishes that we find ourselves putting on the menu plan and discovered that we're both guilty of including recipes that are great - but not a sensible option for us - in one way or another.  Of course, once they're on the menu list, then we're committed to them as I immediately do a shopping list and the next day we're out buying the ingredients.  When it comes to the day when we're supposed to be making the recipe, it dawns on us that it's going to take best part of the day to make this thing, or it's going to take twenty seven saucepans, for instance.

So, we've both decided to think about the recipes a bit more closely - about what it would take to cook them, the cost of the ingredients (which we do already, but sometimes creativity carries us away and commits us to more expense than common sense would otherwise have allowed), the origin of the ingredients (try to stay away from green beans from Kenya, for example).  Now I'm not promising that we won't get carried away from time to time - after all, some recipes just say "I have to be done - and done now!", but we'll try.

Must resist putting bacon into sandwich ....
The first item on the menu list - pancakes - is easy enough to make, suitably inexpensive and yummy as all heck.  I congratulate ourselves on actually managing to get to a pancake day without suddenly waking up to its appearance around three days too late to do anything about it - which is what normally happens.

We've picked up some delicious bacon from our local butcher and will be having crepe style pancakes with a) bacon and maple syrup, b) lemon juice and sugar, c) lime juice and sugar and d) golden syrup.  Where's the vegetable matter in this repast, I hear the more health-conscious of you ask?  Well, there isn't any.  'Cos it's pancake day, alright?  We'll have vegetables tomorrow.  :: nods ::  Done.

Those of you who visit Rhubarb & Ginger's Facebook page will know that I was recently in receipt of a whole shedload of beautiful little Brazilian limes.  Now I've already made Key Lime Pie (to be blogged some time soon) plus used lime juice in many evening drinks.  (No, not alcoholic ones - things like squeezing half a lime into lemonade, which is super double yummy).  The trouble is, that none of this seems to have made much of an impression on the half hundredweight of little green lovelies.

Enter the first of the savoury lime dishes - Lime & pepper chicken wraps.  Everyone in our house likes chicken in a wrap - especially when it involves a touch of spice.  The recipe is one from BBC Good Food and promises to only take 15 minutes to make.  I can definitely cope with that - and so I chose it for Wednesday as it is always a late pickup from school night.
Photo c/o Sainsburys.co.uk
As I'll have the oven on for the potato wedges, I decided to (hopefully) put Mary Berry's Mother's Bread & Butter Pudding to the test.  It looks as though it can be made in advance and put into the oven as the potato wedges come out, so hopefully, it will all fit nicely.

Fattoush - photo c/o telegraph.co.uk
Thursday's Lime cured pork with Fattoush sounds a lot more complicated than it is.  Again, the recipe for the pork comes from BBC Good Food, whereas the Fattoush recipe comes from Ottolenghi's cook book "Jerusalem" and is Sami Tamimi's Mum's recipe for a mixed salad with toasted pitta bread.  I seem to be channelling other people's mums at the moment!

Hopefully, by the end of the three days, we'll have a bit of a dent in the lime mountain and I'll be ready to blog about them!

Friday is an official day off from cooking, with shop bought fish in batter, with oven chips and tinned mushy peas.  Yes, I know I COULD have made everything from scratch - but everyone needs an easy cooking night.

Saturday's evening meal will make son & heir's eyes light up.  He does love a high tea - and this one should be no different.  I'm planning on making some sausage rolls to go with the sandwiches (which will be ham, or tuna, or corned beef - haven't decided yet) and the much talked about Victoria sponge will take pride of place on the table.

Sunday's dinner will be the poor old Goulash that got bumped off the menu plan from last week.  The fresh beetroots are looking perky and as though they'll last all the way until Sunday if kept in the fridge, so fingers crossed!

We're not sure who will be cooking Monday's meatballs and pasta - as both of us are perfectly capable of doing so.  Again, it is a meal that will make a teenage boy's heart pump a little faster.  He does love a meatball, that boy!

So there you have it.  What do you reckon, 5 out of 7 will get made?  :: nods ::  Let's try for that as a goal, then, eh?

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