29 April 2013

Using up your leftovers - Chicken & Ham Pie

We bought a whopping great big piece of Gammon to do as a pot roast last Sunday - and it was scrummy.  I served it with gnocchi in a Carbonara sauce plus some veggies and it was very acceptable indeed as a different sort of Sunday dinner.

However, we were left with rather a lot of Gammon that needed to be found a job to do.  As I didn't think that using it as a door stop would be much good - not with the dogs around, anyway (joke!) I set my mind to what we could do with it.

Immediately, I found myself liking the idea of a pie.  It would need to be a pot pie sort of pie, with a white sauce holding it all together rather than gravy (didn't fancy a gravy pie) and it occurred to me that I had a perfectly sized piece of pastry left over from the Rhubarb & Ginger Pie (oh dear, I really must blog that!) to make a lid for a pot pie.  It also occurred to me that I had one chicken breast in the freezer, also waiting for a job to do.  Perfect!  There was certainly enough gammon there that the addition of a chicken breast would turn it very much into sufficient for a pie, so long as some veggies came along for the ride.

I knew I had a selection of veggies in the fridge that would do the trick, so there I was rummaging through the vegetable drawer, thinking "what can I use?".

The original use for the gammon - with gnocchi in Carbonara sauce

Onion was a definite, that will start off the flavour base - with some garlic to lend depth.  Then carrot for sweetness - some finely diced with will lend flavour to the sauce and some rather bigger to add interest to each bite.  Celery was a definite - again finely diced to add flavour to the sauce and some sliced bigger to add interest to the pie.  Aha!  Mushrooms - perfect, but I'd have to make sure they were well cooked before putting the pie lid on, or they'd release a heap of water into the pie which would make the sauce thin and watery.

Hmmmn ... it needed something else.  Peas?  Well yes, but I had thought to serve peas alongside and too many peas isn't good (even though I love 'em and can eat dozens of the little green lovelies).  What else is small and sweet?  Aha!  Sweetcorn.  Perfect.

Now then, what herbs to use.  I had fresh parsley and dill.  I pondered long and hard over the dill because I know it goes well with chicken - but I just wasn't convinced about how well it would go with the gammon.  I decided upon just the parsley and the dill went back into the fridge.

Now, to make a white sauce or to "cheat" and use a tin of condensed cream of chicken soup?  Well, the way my knees have been, just lately, the simple act of making the pie will be enough to upset my knees severely.  So perhaps the length of time it takes to make a white sauce would be rather more than my knees could handle, so opted for the condensed cream of chicken soup.

I have no qualms in using ingredients like a tin of soup in recipes, as I am quite sure that there are more people out there who - like me - have reasons to not spend the entire afternoon in the kitchen (nice as that may be) than there are devoted cooks who do!  Things like gravy granules - these days - are perfectly nice ingredients that have a place in everyday home cooking, in my opinion.

To reduce the strain on my knees, I made the filling for the pie during the afternoon - which gave it plenty of time to cool (and for my knees to recover) before putting the lid on and baking it.  The 35 minutes it was baking were perfect timing for preparing and steaming some vegetables and making some mash, too.

Oh and I must have a quick word about the mash!  I peeled a roughly 50/50 combination of potatoes and parsnips and simmered them until they were tender.  After draining and leaving to dry for a moment or two, I put them back into the hot pan along with a good (and I'm talking "good to big") knob of butter and a tablespoon of Creme Fraiche D'Isigny - my favourite creme fraiche.  The D'Isigny type has a lovely savouriness about it that comes from a slight hint of cheesiness - which goes so, so well with savoury dishes.  It was just beautiful in this mash, as once the potatoes were seasoned and mashed together, everyone declared it to be really tasty.  So that was a success!

As a cook's note, once baked the juices from the vegetables and meat had reduced the soup base very slightly - so do be careful to not overdo the water in the first place.  It is far, far better to have your filling - pre-baking -  be on the thicker, more gloopy side than to be a perfect degree of sauciness.  Once baked, you'll find it comes out perfectly.

I made some additional chicken gravy, as we are all gravy hounds and I knew that the sauce in the pie would be insufficient for mopping up with mashed potato - but it is entirely up to you.  If you aren't a gravy hound, then don't make additional gravy!

A note for the more health-conscious amongst us, is that Campbells have brought out a range of low fat condensed "cream of" soups.  Now I've had a peek at the ingredients list and they don't appear to contain anything terrible (such as Aspartame), so they might be worth a look for you.

I can't let the opportunity pass to make another little mention of the fabulous Essential Cuisine stocks.  I'm not joking in that obtaining these stocks has made the thorny question of "is there too much salt" in a recipe, incredibly easy to deal with.  I used the fantastic chicken stock in this recipe and the flexibility of being able to add just a little bit of water, but a lot of stock powder which ups the chicken flavour beautifully without making it too salty, is worth so much to me as a cook.  I couldn't do that with a stock cube - even the low salt stock cubes would be way too much.  The Essential Cuisine range of stock powders are so reasonably priced at £3.95 a tub (which lasts longer than its equivalent in stock cubes, as you can be so much more flexible in how much you use) and delivery is amazingly quick - I can't sing their praises enough. 

My hubby - who is notoriously particular about his pie fillings - really liked this pie.  Now I consider that a total win, without anyone else having given their approval!  However, as it was, son & heir also thoroughly enjoyed his dinner and would happily have it again.  I really liked how no two forkfuls were the same - and you ate all the way to the end of your dinner without getting fed up with eating the same old thing.  A pie that holds your interest, is a thing of beauty!  Another good point is that I ate the last piece of pie for lunch the following day and it had lost none of its flavour or its appeal.  Having been warmed up via microwave, that's quite an accolade for a leftover piece of leftovers pie!

CHICKEN & HAM PIE   (Serves 4)

Ingredients :

1-2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, halved and sliced finely
1 fat donkey carrot, half diced finely, half sliced
2 sticks celery, one diced finely, one sliced small
4-5 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thinly
1-200g sweetcorn niblets (defrosted, if frozen)
295g tin of Campbells condensed cream of chicken soup
100ml water
a low salt chicken stock cube or 1 tsp chicken stock powder
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped finely
300-400g cooked gammon ham, broken into random bite sized pieces
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
300g (approx) short crust pastry
2 tbsp milk.

Method :

1.  In a large frying pan, heat the oil on a moderate heat and add the onion.  Cook, without browning, until transparent.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.

2.  Add the carrot, celery and mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms have softened and given up a certain amount of their moisture.

3.  Add the chicken pieces and cook - still on a moderate heat - until the chicken has turned a uniform white.

4.  Add the sweetcorn, soup, water and chicken stock and stir to mix well.

5.  Once well combined, add the parsley and the gammon.  Stir gently, so as not to break the gammon up.

6.  Taste for seasoning and adjust.  The very least you should need, will be a good shake of pepper.

7.  Set aside to cool.

8.  Once cool, decant into your pie dish and roll out the pastry to fit over the top of the dish.  You are aiming to keep the pastry fairly thick.

9.  Brush some milk onto the edge of the pie dish and place the pastry over the top.  Press down lightly onto the edges to make a seal and then cut off the extra with a sharp knife.

10.  Cut a small hole in the centre of the pastry to allow the steam to escape without blowing the pastry lid off, then crimp around the edges to finally seal the pastry.

11.  Paint the pastry lid with milk and place into a pre-heated oven at 180degC/350degF/Gas 4 for 35-40 minutes.

Serve with mashed potatoes & parsnips and a selection of in season vegetables.

Printable version

28 April 2013

An enormous lunch at the Toby Carvery, Fleetsbridge, Poole

Son & heir was out for the day today (Sunday), so we decided to take ourselves off to the local Toby Carvery for lunch.

I was (as I always am) a little bit worried about how we were going to manage getting in a settled, but amazingly, we managed to get in without any great problem even though all the disabled parking spaces were taken.  The non-disabled parking spaces were sufficiently wide that it made getting out (and back in) an easy matter.  My wheelchair even fitted through the front door!  (There have been notable occasions when it hasn't).  We were shown to our table by a very nice young lady who facilitated moving a few things to make it easier for us.

With a bit of a 53 point turn, I was able to get my feet tucked under the table and we were there.

We had a lovely carvery meal and I considered taking a photograph, however, there would have been little point to it, as my dinner consisted of several complex layers!  We both had "a little bit of everything" - gorgeous tasty roast beef, the most amazingly tasty roast pork, beautiful succulent roast turkey and juicy gammon with accompanying gravy (which was really tasty), both cranberry and bread sauce and two chipolata sausages.

I am almost (but not quite) embarassed to admit to having some extremely tasty roast potatoes that although a bit squashed and not crispy, did taste amazing and had to have been cooked in the fat from the meat, along with carrots, peas, green beans, yummy cauliflower cheese, cabbage, some gorgeous stuffing and an enormous yorkshire pudding!  Boy, were we stuffed!

After a bit of a polite pause to aid digestion, we had just enough room left to share a Raspberry Eton Mess - which turned out to be 80% cream, 15% meringue and 5% the tiniest raspberries in the world - but which was really very nice, before we (slowly) attempted getting back out again.

As it turned out, getting back out was almost as easy as getting in - special thanks go out to the two gentlemen who got up from their own meal to hold the doors for us.

It was still fairly early in the afternoon and it seemed a shame to go home, so we went for a little drive around, via Poole Quay and all its variety of boats and through Poole Park where we admired the bootiful flowers, before coming home for a likkle snooze.

What a lovely day.  Son & heir wants to watch out, or we'll be encouraging him to go out more often!  lol

23 April 2013

It's about time I posted a menu plan, I thought ...

Baked cod on pea puree with beurre blanc sauce - now that's living!
So here we are.

Hubby and I have been beset with this horrid flu/chest infection bug that's been going around.  First he got it - then I got it - and we've been cooking simple meals from the blog all the way through.  Of course, this has been good for the blog, as it has meant I could update a few of the recipes!

We've been eating things like the Sausage & Mustard Spirali, Sweet and Sour Pork, Cod on pea puree and Prawn & Chorizo rice.  All of which have been worth their weight in gold, at getting a good wholesome meal onto the table with the minimum of fuss.

We're getting over the most debilitating part of the 'orrid virus now - and are just into the irritating cough phase.  You know, the one where it waits until you're on the phone negotiating the fee with the AA for this year's breakdown cover, then suddenly strangles you and makes your eyes water and nose run while you do a good impression of a 40 a day smoker.  :: nods ::  Yup, you know the sort.

Sweet and Sour Pork
So, as I reckon we've got half a chance of staying on this week's menu plan - and as it deals with some interesting albeit not exactly groundbreakingly original recipes, I though I'd post it up.

Here's what's on the list :

Tues : Baked Camembert with Mediterranean bread cubes and salad
Weds : Chicken & ham top crust pie, mashed parsnip & potato, carrots and peas
Thurs : oven baked BBQ chicken, jacket potatoes with wedge salad
Fri : Chicken curry, with basmati rice and naan bread
Sat : Tave me presh (baked lamb mince with leeks), mashed potato and stringless beans
Sun : Toad in the hole, roast potatoes, broccoli, carrots, peas & gravy
Mon : Baked cheesy gnocchi with salad and garlic bread.

Note the prevalence of vegetable matter throughout this week's menu plan!  This is not to hubby's liking (nor that of son & heir, to be honest), but when you've been poorly is not the time to be shirking one's vegetable responsibilities.  :: nods ::  I've let them have one, potentially, vegetable free meal - the curry on Friday - so they'll just have to look forward to that one from here - and hope that next week brings some respite from the dreaded vegetable.  *wink*

Aaaaah, sweet memories!
This evening's baked camembert will be the first time we've had this utterly fantastic meal since our first try at it back in July 2011.  We've counted son & heir in on the deal this time - do go and read the blog post from last time, regarding son & heir's reaction to it - and blow me, if he wasn't lukewarm about it this time around when we suggested it to him!  He obviously has a very short memory.

This time, we're going to be having some of Patisserie Mark Bennett's amazing Mediterranean Bread in toasted cubes for dipping - along with some baked pitta triangles and a side salad.  I'm looking forward to this one!

Last Sunday's slow cooked gammon with carbonara gnocchi
Tomorrow's Chicken & Ham Top crust Pie could very well morph into a pot pie involving some mushrooms as well as the chicken and ham.  It all depends on what I find in the fridge when it comes to making the filling!  I have one homeless chicken breast which will be perfect for it, along with the remains of a whopping great Gammon pot roast that I made for this last weekend.  We've already had Sunday's meal from it, then Monday's Blue Cheese & Bacon Pasta from it - so to get three meals from it is a wonderful bargain!

So Wednesday is comfort food night.  Pot pie with mashed parsnip and potato with carrots and peas.  Lovely grub!  Oh, and because it's Choir night I can make the filling for the pot pie ahead of time which will speed things up when it comes to making dinner once son & heir returns from school.

Baked sweet potato with chilli & lime yoghurt
Thursday is a super-simple matter of coating some chicken breasts and legs (oooh matron!) in Mic's Chilli El Loco BBQ sauce and bunging them into the oven to bake, along with a couple of Jacket potatoes and a Sweet Potato for hubby.  Couple it with a wedge salad involving sweetcorn and we're sorted.

Friday is Chicken Curry - which hubby will be in charge of.  The last few curries he's made have been - to quote the vernacular - bangin', so I'm looking forward to another goodie!

Tave me presh - makes my mouth water just looking at it!
Saturday's dinner is one of my very favourites, so if the world could resist coming to an end until thereafter, I'd be obliged.  :: nods ::  Thanks.  I've made Tave me Presh (baked lamb mince with leeks) a couple of times previously and everyone likes it (even my parents!).  There's just something about the texture of the minced lamb with the buttery sauce (although how it gets to be buttery, with no butter in it, is another matter), soft leek and mashed potato - mmmmmmn .. match made in heaven.  Another one I can't wait for!

Oh yes!  Now then, Sunday.  Well, Sunday is the start of a new teaching regime in the household.  Ahuh.  Impressed, eh?  Well, it suddenly occurred to me that it really won't be all THAT long until son & heir will be striking out on his own into the world.  *gulp*  So the very least we need to him to be able to do, is feed himself.  Now, as the author of this 'ere food blog, if I were to send him out there knowing only how to make fried egg sandwiches, boiled egg and soldiers and omelettes (as is currently the case) he probably wouldn't starve - but he might have some digestive issues after a while.

Hence, I decided that every so often we'd cook a meal together.  Well, correction, he'd cook the meal - I'd supervise.  This Sunday's Toad in the hole was intended to be his first attempt at this new regime, but last weekend he decided he'd like a bacon sandwich and so received the first of his home cooking lessons from his Dad.  You have to love the teenager's self confidence.  "I already know how to grill bacon" he claimed.  "You already know how to make bacon warm - but not cook it", was his Dad's response.  *giggle*  He ultimately turned out a very creditable bacon sandwich and was subsequently very pleased with himself.

Now he's cooked a Toad in the hole at school, which is why I chose this.  He claims that it was a good Toad in that it rose as required and tasted great - and has been after cooking it for us ever since.  So now's his chance, except he's also going to learn to make roast potatoes (always a winner), how cook a couple of vegetables and make some gravy, too.  We may be sending out for takeaway on Sunday.   *grin*  No - I'm sure he'll do a great job and, fingers crossed, he'll take after his Dad where yorkshire pudding batter is concerned and not after myself.

Just how promising does that look, eh?  Yuh Um!
So that just leaves Monday's Baked Cheesy Gnocchi, which is another "action replay" recipe.  Just click on the link above and you'll be taken to the original blog posting about it.  Oh, hey!  I've just realised, we'll be observing "meat free Monday" for once!  There's a bit of a trade-off where the accompaniments are concerned, as we'll be having lovely healthy salad together with lovely unhealthy garlic bread.  *grin*  Well, hopefully the garlic bread will keep the menfolk happy if they're feeling a little hard done by with the lack of sausages.  *wink*

Rhubarb & Ginger Pie - oh yes!
There we are!  One menu plan.  :)  I have no idea whether we'll be making or baking any other delights along the way - after all, I had no plans to make the Rhubarb & Ginger Pie that I made last week - but I figured something had to be done with all the rhubarb that's busy trying to take over the garden!

I do have an ambition to make the Hairy Bikers' Pear & Chocolate Frangipane Tart - so I'm busily accumulating the ingredients required over the course of the next couple of shopping trips.  If you missed the "Apples and Pears" Episode of the Hairy Bikers Best of British, do go and have a look at this recipe - here.  You see what I mean?  It just has to be done.

8 April 2013

Chicken, asparagus and peas in a Marsala cream sauce : a "once in six months" dinner dish!

I am quietly very proud of this recipe.  To me, this represents a little of where I am in regard to my cooking experience.  Put in Masterchef terms, this is "my own food" - but not everyday food.  Because of the quantity of double cream, this is very definitely a "once in six months" dinner!

Even so, I'm still proud of it.

You see, at one time, I'd have cooked this a) from a recipe instead of following my own thoughts and b) if I had have been making it up from scratch, I'd have done it a totally different (and not so successful) way.

To put not too fine a point on it, we've been having a few tummy issues in the family just lately, which has resulted in our relationship with food being a bit hit and miss.  We either just haven't wanted to eat - or what we could eat has been a short list!  Still, we're getting a bit better on that front now - exhibit A being the Tapas meatballs, which had been on the menu list for probably three weeks or more.  We eventually got around to being able to face them and were jolly glad we did.

I wanted something "nice" for our Sunday dinner.  Something a little out of the ordinary, something inoffensive and unchallenging to eat, that would tempt the taste buds and satisfy the tummy.  I had a number of favourites to choose from, as anything involving cheese, bacon, curry or chilli usually gets a thumbs up of approval.  Also on that list is anything in a cream sauce, which doesn't get made that often because of the general naughtiness of the cream sauce.

The obvious choice for a cream sauce was chicken and the minute I had decided on that, the rest of the recipe just fell out of my head with virtually no amendments once I'd written it down.

Now, in days gone by, I'd have sweated off the onion and garlic, then added the chicken and in so doing would have burned the garlic, making it bitter.  I'd have then added the cream and tasted, only to find it was bland and too gloopy.  So I'd probably have added the vegetables in the hope that they'd cheer the flavour up and when they didn't, I'd probably have added something completely random like Worcestershire sauce.  The end result would have been a slightly bitter sauce with overcooked vegetables and reduced cream - all of which was pretty horrid.

Well, I reckon you have to fail at making something (and probably several times) before you begin to work out where you went wrong.

This time, I browned (or maybe that should be - more correctly - "goldened") the chicken and removed it.  Then I sweated off the onion and garlic (without burning it) and added the Marsala wine, then some stock.  (Wouldn't have thought to use stock in the past!).  I re-introduced the chicken, which cooked as the stock reduced.

Then, when the stock had reduced sufficiently that adding the cream wouldn't affect the texture of the sauce, I added the asparagus (no, not the chicken - it would have taken up too much room and the asparagus wouldn't have cooked properly) and cooked that for 2-3 minutes in the stock.  Then I re-introduced the chicken (so that it could re-heat), then the peas (as they only need seconds in which to heat up), then in the final few minutes, the cream.  Leaving the cream until last means that the ingredients all cook and exchange flavours with the stock - so it's essential to use a good stock.  It also means that the cream doesn't have time in which to reduce, so maintaining the integrity of your sauce.  Bring it all back up to temperature and serve.  Perfect.

I made a couple of mistakes with the accompaniments though.  Firstly, I used rather too much thyme on my garlic and thyme roast potatoes and parsnips.  This is purely a personal taste issue, as I find too much thyme to be redolent of disinfectant.  Hubby and son & heir enjoyed them though.  Oh, and they'd have been a lot more crispy if the oven hadn't decided to turn itself off (for some reason, it switched over to timer-controlled.  I lost some 15 minutes of cooking time, thanks to that!) half way through.

Secondly, I decided to make a variation on Vichy Carrots.  I didn't want the sweetness that a Vichy carrot brings with it, so decided to use vegetable stock to cook them in, but omit the sugar - adding the butter that makes the glaze and cooking them in the same way as Vichy carrots.  Well, it kind of worked.  They tasted great, albeit a teensy bit overcooked as I used too much stock which took too long to reduce and the use of stock instead of water gave them an odd colouring.  That one needs further work, I think!

However, there were murmurs of appreciation all round as the family tucked into their chicken.  The chicken breasts were still tender and moist - not overcooked - and deliciously flavoured from being cooked in the stock and Marsala wine.  The asparagus was perfectly cooked with just a teensy bit of bite left in each piece and the cream sauce was just delicious.  Real lick the plate stuff!

If we had three more chicken breasts, I'd be perfectly happy to eat that again for dinner tonight, it was that good.   Aaah, happy sigh! 

The Chicken Chick


Ingredients :

1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced finely
150ml sweet Marsala wine
200ml chicken stock, using 1 tsp stock powder or 1 stock cube
150g asparagus, cut on the diagonal into 1" pieces
3 handfuls of frozen peas, defrosted
sea salt & black pepper
150ml double cream.

Method :

1.  In a deep frying pan or wok, heat the oil over a moderate to high heat.  Add the chicken breasts and fry, undisturbed, on each side in order to gain a little golden colour.  Reserve on a plate.

2.  Add the onion to the frying pan and reduce the heat to moderate.  Stir fry, not allowing the onion to brown, until demonstrably softened.  Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute.

3.  Quickly add the Marsala wine and allow to frizzle for a moment or two.  Add the stock (or water and stock powder) and bring to a boil.

4.  Gently return the chicken to the pan and maintain the boil so that the stock begins to reduce.  Cook like this until the stock has reduced to a third of its original quantity.

5.  Remove the chicken breasts back to the plate and add the asparagus and black pepper to taste.  Cook for 2-3 minutes or so until softening, then return the chicken to the pan.  Continue to cook for another minute or so to bring the chicken back up to temperature.

6.  Add the peas and as soon as the sauce has returned back up to temperature, add the cream and, once again, bring back up to temperature.

7.  Check for seasoning, adjust if necessary and serve with roast potatoes and a selection of vegetables.

Printable version

6 April 2013

Tapas meatballs in tomato & fennel sauce

It has been a long old trail to this recipe, if I'm honest.

I now have a reputation (in the family - not globally, you understand), for being a master meatball maker.  This is something of a turnaround from the days when I would suggest meatballs for dinner and be greeted with lukewarm interest and the remark "well, you're not very good at meatballs".  Let me tell you, though, that there have been many meatballs passed under the bridge between then and now.

I'm pretty sure that I told you in another meatball post how I really wanted to create a tapas-style meatball, able to be eaten on its own - tapas style - with a glass of wine and maybe some bread as accompaniments.

Well, with tonight's "I really must make something with that lamb mince and that fennel, before they both go off" dinner, I think I achieved it.

I used lamb mince for its superb flavour, but I'm sure it would work as well with pork mince.  Beef might be a tad too flavoursome for the fennel, but I imagine that turkey would work, although you'd lose some of the savouriness of the flavour.  Anyway, give it a go with whatever you've got - and let me know!

I recently made some lamb meatballs that involved fresh mint and grated carrot.  Now I was a bit dubious about the grated carrot, but I liked the idea of the sweetness it would bring, plus the added moistness.  One of the big problems with meatballs, is keeping them moist and juicy.  Nobody likes a dry, pasty meatball.

So when I was contemplating what to do with this lamb mince in conjunction with the fennel, I remembered the carrot meatballs and how successful they were.  Carrot was a definite, but I pondered on adding some of the fennel to the meatball mix.  Maybe if I grate some of the tougher, woody stems?  No - they probably wouldn't cook quickly enough even with being grated.  It needed something smaller and more tender.  The bulb I was definitely going to slice and put in the sauce - which left the green, ferny, frondy bits that taste so good in a much milder way and are more of a herb than the bulb.  If I chopped them finely, they would be perfect in the meatballs!  Sorted.

The recipe I used for the meatballs with carrot, also rolled them in seasoned flour which when browned gave the meatballs a lovely tasty coating that then dissolved a little in the sauce, thickening it as it went.  This solves the problem of "do I reduce the sauce further, or do I serve it thinner than I wanted, or shall I thicken it somehow?", so that method was a definite here too.

The sauce couldn't be any easier.  It gave me an excuse to use two cloves of garlic (we could use some garlic about the place, as we have cold and sore throat germs floating around!) and use up a long lost rasher of bacon.  Incidentally, the bacon - because it is cut into such fine strips - just melts away into the sauce lending it a special kind of saltiness and smokiness that you can't get any other way.  Yummy.

Now, a cook's tip is to watch the amount of salt you use in the seasoning of the flour and the meatballs.  Because you're using the bacon and if you're using a stock powder or cube that isn't reduced salt, you need to rein your salt sprinkling back.  This is why I recommend to taste before serving and adjust then if necessary.  You can't take it out if there's too much there to begin with!  I used the beautiful Essential Cuisine Lamb Stock powder which is naturally low in salt and saves any need for worrying.  Check out their website, as the fabulous stock powders really aren't expensive and last for absolutely ages - well, apart from the chicken version which disappeared at the rate of knots!

Son and heir was out on a sleepover and missed this one.  He's going to be very cross about that when he finds out, as this was his perfect kind of dinner.  Hubby thoroughly enjoyed his, even though he is poorly at the moment (see earlier comment about sore throat germs) and ate the lot, which he was seriously dubious about doing before he tasted it.  As for me, well I was busy congratulating myself over - finally - making the elusive tapas style meatballs, but I did pause to note that it tasted as good as I wanted it to - if not better.


Ingredients :

600g lamb mince
1 medium carrot, top & tailed and grated
sea salt & black pepper
1 onion, chopped fine
1 rasher of smoked bacon, cut into fine strips
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 bulb of fennel, sliced finely and
1 tbsp fennel frondy tops, chopped finely
2 tbsp seasoned plain flour
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
500ml good quality tomato passata
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp of powder or half a cube of lamb stock
100ml cold water.

Method :

1.  It is very worthwhile making sure you have all the vegetables prepared before you roll the meatballs in flour, to avoid the meatballs sticking catastrophically to their plate.

2.  In a large bowl, add the lamb mince, the grated carrot and the frondy parts of the fennel.  Season with a little sea salt and a lot of black pepper and mix with your hands, making sure the component parts are all well combined.

3.  Place the seasoned flour onto a large plate and begin to roll your meatballs.  Larger meatballs will feed less people, smaller ones more people, so it is up to you what size you make them.  Place each meatball onto the plate, roll in the flour and continue until you have run out of meatball mix.

4.  Heat the rapeseed oil in a deep frying pan and add enough meatballs so that you aren't overcrowding the pan.  You want the heat to stay moderately high so as to cook the outside of the meatballs, without burning and without stewing in their own juice.  Cook the meatballs in batches, if necessary.  It is not necessary to cook them all the way through at this stage, so remove to a clean plate as they are done.

5.  Without wiping out the pan (you don't want to lose all that flavour), add the onion and bacon and cook on a moderate heat until the onion is transparent.  This should take 3-4 minutes.

6.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring well, for a minute.

7.  Add the fennel slices and stir to combine.  Cook until the fennel is beginning to demonstrate some softening.

8.  Add the tomato passata, tomato ketchup, water and stock powder or cube.  Stir well to combine, then put a lid on so as to allow some steam to escape but keep the heat in (half cocked, I call it!) and allow to simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

9.  Your sauce should have reduced a little and thickened a little.  Try the fennel to see whether it is soft and cook on for a little longer if not.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

10.  Serve into warmed bowls, with bread for dipping and a side salad if you wish.

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1 April 2013

Thanks go out to you all.

My very great thanks go out to everyone who has contributed towards making Jenny Eatwell's Rhubarb & Ginger the success that it is.

Last months page views totalled 56,183 - which is just a jaw-dropping total for the one month.

Thank you!


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