29 December 2017

Thick, chunky creamed vegetable soup (with a little bacon)

It's the 29th December, 2017.  We have eaten our own body weight in turkey over Christmas.  It is time to give our digestions a bit of consideration, hence, a vegetable soup.  However, because we're not vegetarians, it's got a wee bit of bacon in it too - just for the flavour input, don'tcha know.

Now for all that I like the brothy kind of soups, I wanted this one to be hearty, thick and worthy of being served as a dinner soup.  Perhaps with some crusty bread, or as it turned out, a gorgeous thin flatbread with mozzarella, basil and olive oil.  Mmmnn, delicious.

Truth be told, you could use just about any vegetables you wanted for this soup.  I will give you the full rundown of vegetable input in the recipe, but you need to follow a few rules, no matter what veggies you use.  Said rules go like this :

a)  chop some veggies very small, so that they cook down and disappear into the vegetable stock.

b)  chop some veggies into bite sized pieces, so that they will be retained and create lovely texture.

c)  start with a tasty oil - coconut, or butter, or rapeseed - and a finely chopped onion.  Do not be tempted to use a bland vegetable oil, or a slightly bitter olive oil.  If you start wrong, you won't ever be able to come back from it.

d)  use the best vegetable stock you can source.  It is the base of your soup and deserves to be delicious.

So there you are.  Not difficult at all, but make sure to set aside a good time to be spent  choppin', cuttin' and a-peelin'.  Not to mention a good hour or so in the preliminary cooking stage and a pause in the middle of however long you've got.  Good soup does not come about in a half an hour.  Well actually it can, but not with this one.

Here comes the recipe!


Ingredients :

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
4 rashers of streaky bacon, finely chopped (optional)
2 tsp ground coriander
a large pinch of sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
half a tsp dried thyme
half a tsp dried parsley

Peeled and chopped small :

1 medium carrot
1 large stick of celery, with fluffy green bits if possible
1 large leek
2 chestnut mushrooms
6 sweet cherry tomatoes (halved works for these)
half a medium potato

Peeled and chopped into bite sized chunks :

2 medium carrots
2 large sticks of celery
5 chestnut mushrooms (quartered)
1 and a half medium potatoes
2 small parsnips
a decent sized chunk of swede or turnip

plus :

750ml of strong vegetable stock (I used 1.5 tsp Marigold vegetable bouillon and 1 tsp Essential Cuisine vegetable stock powder)
4-5 tbsp dry split red lentils
3-4 large leaves of Savoy cabbage, ribs removed and leaves sliced
2-3 tbsp double (or heavy) cream
2 tsp cornflour mixed with a drop of water to thick pouring consistency
sea salt & ground black pepper to taste.

Method :

To begin, make sure you are using a pan which can contain the entire contents.  It needs to be BIG and have a lid which fits.  I used my steep sided wok, which worked perfectly.

Heat the oil and add the onion & bacon (if using).  Cook, stirring often, until the onion is transparent and the bacon is beginning to render its oil.  Add the coriander, sea salt, black pepper and herbs and stir through.

Add all the chopped small ingredients and cook on, stirring regularly to turn the pan contents.  Once the leek and mushroom pieces are softened and the whole is beginning to look cooked, add the vegetable stock.

Increase the temperature under the pan and bring the contents to a gentle boil.  Add the bite sized chunks of veggies, the red lentils and the cabbage.  Gently stir through, cover the pan and bring back to a gentle boil.  Cook on for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Taste to check the seasoning levels - which should be fairly high as when you add it later, the cream will obliterate a certain level of seasoning.

Remove from the heat, leave covered and go and have a sit down for a couple of hours.

When you return, using a hand blender, blitz a certain amount of the soup to your preference.  I probably made it 50:50 blitzed to chunks which seemed to go down well.

Turn the heat on under the pan and add the cream and cornflour slurry and stir through.  As the soup heats up to a lively simmer, the cornflour will thicken the soup to a consistency where it will coat the back of a spoon - which is what you are aiming for.  If it becomes too thick, add a little water.

Finally, check the seasoning and adjust to your taste.  Serve into warm bowls with crusty bread for dipping.

Printable version

9 November 2017

Bacon & Cheddar Twice Baked Potatoes - jackets with knobs on!

When I decided to put these twice baked potatoes on the menu plan for this week, I imagined that I would have a recipe here on the blog to consult where quantities were concerned.  Well I was wrong!  I seriously can't quite believe that I haven't blogged the recipe for these little darlings, mostly because they're so NICE!

Now, having made them again without following any recipe but relying on my (patchy, at best) memory of what to use and how much, I appear to have made the best version of these baked potatoes, to date.  All of which necessitated a blog entry, so that I can re-create them in future.

They are very simple to make and don't take much longer than a standard jacket potato.  You just need to allow a bit of time for filling the potato shells and putting them back into the oven to finally bake.  Making the filling is a little bit fiddly, but can easily be done while the potatoes are baking, so no worries there.

In this instance, I served the potatoes with some leftover gammon ham, juicy tomatoes and homemade coleslaw.  However, finding something to serve them with really shouldn't be difficult - they can be lunch, the star of the show, a side dish or even a standalone item in a finger buffet (so long as you let them cool down a bit!).

So the next time you find yourself with two rashers of bacon that are homeless - break out the twice baked potato and do yourself a super-tasty favour.


Ingredients :

3 large baking potatoes (floury are best - I like Marabel type)
a drizzle of rapeseed or olive oil
sea salt & ground black pepper
2 rashers of smoked back bacon
1 heaped tsp of sour cream or mayonnaise
1 tsp of wholegrain mustard
2-3 spring onions, sliced finely on the diagonal
200g & 50g mature cheddar cheese, grated.

Method :

Pre-heat your oven to 200degC/400degF/Gas 6.

Taking each baking potato, cut each in half long-ways.  Shave a tiny amount from the underside of each half, so that it will sit level and steady on a baking tray.

Drizzle each half with oil and season lightly with sea salt & black pepper, then place into the oven - on a high rack - to bake for 45mins.

While the potatoes are baking, make the filling.

Grill the two rashers of bacon until cooked through and the fat rendered, but not crispy.  Set them aside to cool.

Into a large heatproof bowl, place the spring onions, sour cream, mustard and bulk of the cheese.  Reserve the 50g of cheese for sprinkling over the filled potatoes.  Cut the bacon into tiny pieces and add to the bowl.

When the potatoes are soft and baked golden brown on top, remove them from the oven and set aside to cool slightly in order for them to be handled.  Using a teaspoon, gently remove the bulk of the cooked flesh from inside each half and add it to the filling bowl.  Replace the empty shell onto the baking tray.  

Once each potato is done, break up the potato flesh using a fork and mix lightly into the rest of the ingredients.  Taste for seasoning and add more if necessary.

Spoon the filling back into the shells, making sure not to pack it down.  Leave each spoonful light and airy for a deliciously luscious look.  Once the filling is evenly distributed, divide the remainder of the grated cheese between each potato half, sprinkling it over the top.

Place the potatoes back into the oven for 15-20 mins until golden brown and delicious.

Serve with your choice of accompaniment.

Printable version

8 November 2017

Chicken Mulligatawny soup - with thanks to Jo Cooks

I was recently introduced to the terrific recipe blog "Jo Cooks" by another cooking friend.  He certainly is absolutely right about the wealth of interesting recipes on there - and lots that fit within my favourite type of "sit and put things in the pot in order" one pot dinners.

As a first foray, I immediately decided upon giving a go to Jo's recipe for Chicken Mulligatawny soup.  Mainly because it looked so good, but also because I've been looking for a great Mulligatawny recipe for the longest time.  So many Mulligatawny recipes are thin, brothy type of soups and to my mind, a good Mulligatawny needs some body.  I'm sure that back in the days of the British Raj - when the soup first found favour - it wasn't light and brothy, but rich and hearty.  Oh and speaking of the British Raj, the origins of the name are interesting (thanks, Wikipedia!), as the name apparently originates from the Tamil words "millagai"/"milagu" and "thanni" and can be translated as "pepper-water".  Ha!  Cute.  

Everything about Jo's recipe said "yum!" to me.  The fact that it was made with chicken appealed very much as I now have to be careful over my red meat consumption owing to a marked tendency towards gout.  So chicken ticked that box.  The use of the apple cubes appealed, too.  I like a fruity, milder, coconut flavoured curry and one turned into a soup could only be good in these colder early autumnal days.  I loved the simplicity of the cooking method, as well.  None of this "cook this, take it out, cook that, take it out and bring it all together at the end" malarky.  Nope.  Just chuck it into the pan in the right order and cook as described.  Lovely.

I made a few changes to Jo's original recipe - the first being that as I was making just half the original quantity, yet had to buy a 400ml can of coconut milk, was that I used the whole can and reduced the quantity of the chicken stock (broth).  I countered that by using an extra amount of chicken stock powder, so that the chickeny flavour was right up there and not compromised at all.

Secondly, I added a half a large potato, diced.  I just love potato in curry and as I was after a good, thick, hearty Mulligatawny I figured if some dissolved and added to the thick texture of the soup that could also only be good.  It certainly was - good, that is!

Aside from that, I made just small changes such as using 50:50 butter and coconut oil to start with, I used a red onion for its antioxidant properties, I used the full amount of turmeric for the health benefits and the full amount of curry powder because if it's supposed to be curried, let's taste it!  I  also backed off from some of the seasoning as my chicken stock is low salt, but it's worthwhile being cautious and adjusting the salt at the end.  You can't take it away once it's been added!

So I have detailed my version of Jo's recipe below - but my advice to you is to take a look at Jo's original recipe - here - and decide for yourself which recipe to follow.  Oh and for people who don't use cup measurements, mine is expressed in metric.  I know some of you have problems with cup measures!

Personally, I can't wait until tomorrow lunchtime because the leftovers of that soup are MINE, all MINE!  *chuckle*


Ingredients :

1 tbsp butter 
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 large red onion, chopped finely
1 medium carrot, diced finely
1 stalk of celery, diced finely
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 medium potato, peeled and diced finely
sea salt and black pepper to taste
4 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized chunks
half a tsp dried oregano
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
500ml chicken stock, made with 1.5 tsp chicken stock powder
150g dry basmati rice
400ml unsweetened coconut milk (1 can)
1 medium Braeburn apple peeled, cored and diced small
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped.

Method :

Using a large saucepan, soup pot, or as I did - a wok -  melt the butter and coconut oil over a medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and potato to the pot, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, stir and cook for about 5-10 minutes or until the onion and carrot softens and the garlic becomes aromatic.

Add the chicken thigh pieces to the pot and cook for around 10 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink. Don't worry if it's not cooked through - it will finish cooking once the liquid is added.

Add the oregano, turmeric, curry powder and stir well to combine.  Sprinkle with the flour and stir again.

Add the chicken stock, rice and coconut milk, lower the heat to a medium-low and stir through well.  Let the soup simmer for about 10-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked through and you can be sure the chicken is fully cooked.

You may find that you need to add a little hot water every so often to maintain the soupy texture.  It is worthwhile having a little on hand in a jug so that you aren't tempted to swamp the soup!  Just add a small amount and stir through until the texture returns back to being soupy.

Add the apples and simmer for a couple more minutes, to heat them through and bring everything up to a piping hot temperature.

Garnish with fresh parsley and serve in warm bowls with crusty bread for dipping.

1 November 2017

Manchego chicken Alfredo - super quick, two pot supper

This bowl of chickeny, cheesy, garlicky and creamy delight could almost be called a one pot supper, but regrettably the pasta needed to be cooked in its own pan - hence it became a two pot deal.  However, that in no way slows it down, oh no.  The sheer simplicity of the ingredients makes this as speedy a dinner to produce as any you could wish for.

With no onions to chop, no veggies to peel or slice, the only preparation that's required is to peel and chop some garlic, cut some chicken in half, grate some cheese and chop a bit of parsley.  I certainly can't claim that's in any way difficult - and oh boy, does it pay off by way of flavour!  Alfredo de Lelio, you sure knew what you were doing when you put the original dish together, all those years ago in 1892.

However, I suspect Mr de Lelio would be horrified to learn that I have removed the quintessentially Italian Parmesan cheese from the recipe and submitted, instead, a Spanish replacement - the gorgeous Manchego hard cheese.  Being a sheep's cheese, Manchego has a very different flavour to Parmesan, but equally there are similarities in both texture and colour plus they both melt in a similar way.

Son and heir is passionately opposed to Parmesan - he can't bear the after taste it brings with it, so consequently I was committed to finding a replacement for it or not indulging in pasta Alfredo at all.  I was intending on using Grana Padano, but having recently used some Manchego in cheese scones with every success, I decided to give it a go and I'm so glad I did.

So there we are.  A bit of a different spin on pasta Alfredo, but super tasty and super quick to make, too.  If, perchance, you can't find any Manchego but like the sound of the recipe and don't have anyone at home passionately opposed to Parmesan, then by all means use Parmesan.  You won't be harming the recipe at all, you'll simply be returning it back to its roots.

I only have one Cook's Tip for you, which is that when you drain the pasta make sure to keep some of the pasta water close by.  If (as sometimes happens), the sauce becomes too gloopy and thick, simply add a little of the pasta water.  Far better to use that than add more cream, or milk, or have to mix up some chicken stock.

Onwards to the recipe!


Ingredients :

250g small, open style pasta such as Conchiglie shells
1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved horizontally
sea salt & black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
200ml dry white wine
250ml single cream
50ml double cream
half a tsp good quality chicken stock powder (or half a chicken stock cube)
125g Manchego cheese, grated finely
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped.

Method :

Bring a good quantity of salted water to the boil in a large saucepan and cook the Conchiglie shells to manufacturer's recommendation, draining once cooked.

In a large frying pan, heat the rapeseed oil and melt the butter over a high heat.

Season the two halves of each chicken breast with both sea salt & black pepper and carefully place into the frying pan.  Fry the chicken until it is a deep golden brown on both sides and cooked through.

Remove the pan from the heat and decant the chicken onto a warmed plate.  Cut the chicken into even sized slices and reserve to keep warm.

Replace the pan onto a reduced heat and add the garlic.  Stir and cook gently until the garlic is softened and lightly golden.  Add the wine (and a little bit extra for luck is definitely allowed) and allow to bubble and reduce by one third.

Add the single and double creams along with the chicken stock powder and stir gently to combine.  Once the sauce has heated through, is bubbly and slightly thickened, add the grated cheese, most of the parsley, the hot, drained pasta and sliced chicken.  Toss everything in the sauce until all is well combined.  Taste for seasoning and add more pepper if necessary.

Serve into warmed bowls with a sprinkle of the reserved parsley on top as garnish.

25 October 2017

Scarborough Fairly Meatloaf - parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme!

You may not be altogether surprised to hear that the name of this meatloaf is one of my own devising. Of course, it's because the herbs involved are parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. LOL

You see, I was after a midweek, no frills, relatively plain, good and savoury, tasty meatloaf that could be served with some denomination of potato dish and a selection of vegetables. A meat & three veg. meatloaf, if you like!

I used beef and pork mince in a two thirds/one third combination because the pork mince just serves to lighten the texture of the beef. Adding loads of extra flavours - mustard, herbs, onion & garlic granules - helped pep up the savouriness and my now indispensable method of draining off the cooking juices halfway through the cooking time as ever, resulted in a good firm loaf. I do so hate meatloaf that you could serve with a spoon. Gak!

Now you might be wondering why I used the onion & garlic granules instead of adding fresh onion and fresh garlic. Good question! I find that fresh onion has to be almost grated or minced, so as not to leave small pieces of quite firm, almost crunchy, onion behind in the mix. Some people might like that, but I'm not a fan. Grating or mincing the onion just serves to increase the liquid in the mix, which I pour off at half time anyway so its not a good method.

It's a similar thing with garlic. I'm allergic to raw garlic, so it has to be incredibly finely chopped to wind up cooked sufficiently for me. Hitting on a piece of semi raw garlic is so overpowering to the other flavours, that again, it's just not a good method for me. However, if I add onion and garlic granules - which are simply dehydrated and finely minced - I get all the benefit of the flavour and none of the drawbacks. It's a personal taste thing. If you like to find onion or garlic in your meatloaf, or have the time and energy to pre-cook and caramelise them, then by all means go ahead and use fresh!

Oh and I'm also assured that this meatloaf is fairly epic when used, cold, as part of a sandwich. Happy days!


Ingredients :

1 bread crust, blitzed into breadcrumbs
500g reduced fat beef mince
250g pork mince
1 large egg
1 heaped tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
pinch of sea salt
pinch of ground black pepper
1 tsp onion granules
half a tsp garlic granules
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine (dried parsley would work too - use 1 tsp)
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried rosemary
half a tsp dried thyme
1 tsp beef stock powder or 1 tsp Bovril.

Method :

Pre-heat your oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas 4.

Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix together well, using your hands.  Try not to over-mix or the meatloaf will become tough, but ensure all the ingredients are distributed well across the mix.

Line a 1lb loaf tin with silver foil and pack the meatloaf mix in well.  I find it best to put half in and press into the corners, pushing it well down and ensuring all air bubbles are out, before adding the second half and repeating the process.

Using your fingertips, create a small space along the edge of the mix between the loaf tin and the ingredients - a gutter, effectively!  This will help when it comes to draining off the excess liquid, later.

Place onto the middle oven shelf and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the meatloaf from the oven and carefully drain off any accumulated liquid.  Take care not to let the loaf slip from within the tin, into the sink!

Place back into the oven for another 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and, using the silver foil, pull the meatloaf from inside the loaf tin.  Place onto a chopping board and carefully unwrap.  Cut the meatloaf into slices and serve with mashed potato and seasonal vegetables of your choice.

Printable version

14 October 2017

Smoked Haddock & Asparagus Quiche - mellow deliciousness.

I'm not really sure what made me choose smoked haddock for this quiche, other than the fact that white fish is one of my "safe havens" where the risk of gout is concerned and as such, bacon, ham or sausage were out.  Obviously, I fancied making a quiche and I think I've become quite passably good at them over time.  It is unusual for me to pick fish as a quiche ingredient, but this combination of smoked haddock and asparagus worked really well.

(It is worth bearing in mind, if you - like me - have to watch gout triggers, that asparagus is also a very famous gout trigger.  However, I think that the amount of asparagus in each portion of quiche isn't at danger point for me.  Do judge that for yourself, though).

If you're looking for a quiche in the style of Quiche Lorraine, i.e. super cheesy and stuffed with bacon, then you may need to up the cheese quota and/or change from Gouda to mature Cheddar.  However, I didn't want the primary flavour to be cheese in this quiche, so I opted for the milder Gouda.

The smoked haddock is poached in milk, which also tends to mellow out the flavour a wee bit - although I used some of the poaching milk in the filling, to catch as much flavour as possible.  I have issues with throwing good flavour away down the drain!

A very good point with making any quiche, is that you can get on with the making and baking in the morning, then take it relatively easy where putting dinner together is concerned.  Just assemble a few tasty salad ingredients and maybe add a few buttered new potatoes - or in our case in this instance, chips - and you're done.  A good one for those make-ahead days!


Ingredients :

Sufficient shortcrust pastry to line an 8" loose bottomed sandwich tin or quiche dish
125g asparagus tips
250g smoked haddock fillets (chunky ones are best)
250g or thereabouts semi skimmed milk
2 whole very large or 3 whole large eggs
150ml single cream
pinch of sea salt
pinch of black pepper
half a tsp onion granules
75g Gouda cheese, finely grated
a pinch of dried parsley, to garnish.

Method :

Pre-heat the oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas 4.

Carefully line the sandwich tin or quiche dish with pastry, ensuring the pastry doesn't become pierced.  Cover the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill the case with baking beans or ceramic pellets then bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the greaseproof and baking beans and bake again for another 3 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

In the meantime and in a small saucepan, boil some water and add the asparagus tips.  Cook for 3 minutes, then drain and run under cold water to arrest the cooking process.  Set aside to drain fully.

Place the smoked haddock into a small lidded frying pan and add the milk.  The milk shouldn't cover the fish, but come two thirds of the way up.  Place on the heat to simmer with the lid on until the fish is just cooked.  Set the pan aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, add the eggs and quickly whisk them together.  Add the cream, sea salt, black pepper and onion granules and whisk them all together.

Cut the asparagus tips to fit the surface of the quiche in an attractive pattern.  Cut the excess into small log shapes and add them to the egg mixture.  Set the decorative pieces to one side.

Remove the fish from the milk and take off any skin.  Flake the fish into the egg mixture and add the grated cheese.

Judge the quantity of egg mixture according to the pastry case and add a little of the poaching milk.  Gently stir everything together, so as not to break up the fish any further.

Using a slotted spoon, spoon the solids from the egg mixture into the pastry case and spread evenly.  Pour the egg mixture into the pastry case, but make sure it doesn't overflow or the quiche will argue about coming out of the tin once baked.  Any excess can be poured into a ramekin and baked for a cook's bonus taster.

Arrange the remainder of the asparagus spears attractively over the surface of the filling and press lightly so that they are partly submerged.  Add a light sprinkle of dried parsley and a grind of pepper, then bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.

Serve with a side salad and buttered new potatoes or chips.

Printable version

2 October 2017

German Style Chicken Soup with Spaetzle

I'm really quite proud of this soup.  Not because it's particularly difficult to make or requires intricate processes, but because it means I have made the most of a plump chicken.  It always pains me terribly to throw away the carcass of a roast chicken, as - in the days before I had room in my freezer for chicken stock - I very often had to. 

To start at the beginning, we had a good old traditional roast chicken for our Sunday dinner and quite apart from the three roast dinners it made, there was leftover breast meat, plus the leftover little taggy bits of meat (which are destined to be divided between a ramen noodle lunch and a chicken sandwich) and of course, the skeletal remains of the carcass.  So, feeling all worthy and ambitious, I included a chicken noodle soup for the following day.

I see so many gorgeous looking chicken soups, made from scratch, go past on various Facebook groups that I really felt I was missing out - and the blog was missing out - on not having a great chicken soup recipe.  Well, this evening fixed that one!

Yes, it is a bit of work, but with my trusty pressure cooker I was able to make the stock for the soup in a fraction of the time it would have taken without it - and without giving myself nightmares that always happens when I make stock using the slow cooker and leave it on overnight.  True, the pressure cooker does scare me but in years of using them only one has ever blown up (when I was living on the boat.  It blew the valve and painted the inside of the wheelhouse with boiling linseed that I was cooking for my horses' tea.  I had to put up an umbrella to go turn the burner off and rescue us) and nowadays they have inbuilt mechanisms that make them considerably safer to use.

Once the stock is made, cooled and de-greased, it is a simple matter of a bit of chopping and a-peeling, then simply chucking stuff into the saucepan and watching it cook.  Oh and tasting it get better and better, of course.

The spaetzle, I have to admit, came from Lidl.  Yes, I know people are going to tell me that it's so much nicer/tastier if you make your own, but I was curious about this dried egg spaetzle, okay?  As it turned out, it went superbly in this soup and provided the substance that otherwise would have been lacking.  Took FOR EVER to cook though - so bear that in mind if you get a similar product.  Their 10-11 minutes was closer to an actual 15-20.

I served the soup with simple buttered crusty bread rolls and it was perfect.  I consider us to now be immune to all cold and flu viruses for at least the next month, as this kind of soup is very well known to cure all known ills.  I'll have to spread a spoonful across the bank statement and see if it can cure the bank balance.  *wink*

Now as far as Cook's Tips go, I really only have one which is more of a warning than a tip.  For all that the making of the stock from a roast chicken carcass is time consuming and a tiny bit gross (to some people, I didn't find it so), it really is worth it.  A stock cube is a supremely useful thing, but it can't take the place of this liquid gold.  As I did, you can always add commercially produced stock to increase the liquid content, but you won't be able to find the depth of sheer chicken flavour - not even from the very best commercially produced chicken stock.  So go that extra mile and make the most of your roast chicken carcass.  You'll be so glad you did!


Ingredients :

For the stock

A roast chicken carcass, stripped of all useful meat but including all the ghastly bits you would normally throw away : skin, fat, gristle, bones - the lot
2 carrots, peeled if they're a bit gnarly or dirty, sliced into chunks
1 large brown onion, peeled and quartered
1 garlic clove, peeled but left whole
2 large celery sticks, cleaned and with feathery leaves left on, sliced into chunks
1 large handful of fresh parsley, stalks included
half a tsp of dried thyme
a pinch of sea salt
half a tsp of ground black pepper
1 tsp of vegetable stock powder, dissolved into 1 litre of hot water.

For the soup

1 litre of home made chicken stock
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks, de-strung and chopped into similar size pieces as the carrot & potato
1 small parsnip, peeled and diced
2 tsp good low salt chicken stock powder (to taste - you may require less or more)
500ml hot water
half a tsp of ground black pepper
two fistfuls of dried Spaetzle
a good handful of petit pois
1 tbsp plain flour, mixed into 50ml warm water
150g minimum of roast chicken meat, chopped into bite sized pieces
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish.

Method :

To make the chicken stock, place all the ingredients into a pressure cooker and give it all a quick stir.  Fix on the lid and place over the heat to come up to pressure.  Cook at medium pressure for 20 minutes, then de-pressurise and remove the lid.

The stock can also be made, using the same ingredients, by cooking for a minimum of 8 hours in a slow cooker, or the good old fashioned way of simmering it all in a huge pan on the stove top, for as long as you can bear it.  Just remember to keep an eye on the liquid level if you opt for this method.

Drain the liquid through a sieve over a large bowl or jug (don't make the schoolboy error of forgetting to catch the stock!) and set aside to cool.  You should have at least a litre of stock.  The solids can all be discarded once cool.

Once the stock is cool, you will find that the fat has accumulated on the top.  Skim the fat off using a spoon - you don't have to be exact, just get rid of the worst of it.  The stock is now ready to make soup with.

Pour your stock into a large soup saucepan and add the carrots.  Bring the contents up to the boil, then reduce to a lively simmer and cook for some 3-4 minutes.

Add the potato, celery, parsnip, chicken stock powder (how much depends on how strong your stock flavour is) and the additional hot water and black pepper.  Stir everything in well and bring back up to a lively simmer.  Cook until the carrots are tender.

Using a potato masher, break up some of the vegetable pieces, leaving the majority intact.  Taste for chickeniness (if it's a bit pale in flavour you can either leave the lid off and reduce the soup, taking care to leave enough to feed everyone, or add a little more chicken stock powder - but remember that the chicken meat has to be added yet) and for pepper and salt.  This is when you find yourself very happy you were using a low salt stock powder!

Add the spaetzle to the soup and continue to cook at a lively simmer until the noodles are al dente.

Add the petit pois and the flour slurry, making sure to stir it in very well.  This will thicken the soup.  If you would like the soup to be thicker, simply add more flour slurry but take care to cook the rawness out of the flour.

When you are happy with the texture of your soup and the noodles are soft, add the chicken meat and heat through well.  Once the soup has returned to a lively simmer, remove from the heat and serve into warmed bowls.  Add a good sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley to each bowl as garnish and serve with warm crusty bread.

Printable version

25 September 2017

Cherry bomb & chicken curry - frisky, fruity and fab!

This curry really wasn't supposed to be like this and I don't mind admitting it.  If I had have been paying attention, it was supposed to be my Chilli Chicken Curry with Courgettes. However, I wasn't paying attention and the aforesaid curry seemed to be too complicated for my head to handle, so I decided to wing it. Aaaah, how often does winging it result in a great recipe?  Not as often as I'd like, to be honest, but in this case it did.

I've been having problems with my chicken recently.  Now I don't THINK it's my cooking methods - or I flipping hope it's not my cooking methods - but it seems to often come up hard or even tough in the finished dish.  I'm coming to the conclusion that the quality of chicken breasts that aren't organic, corn fed, gold plated and groomed by faerie folk, is just pretty parlous.  A kind of "keep the good chicken for the people with money, fob the rest off with the hard as nails, brought up in Wormwood Scrubs, whatchoolookinat chicken" situation. So I've been thinking about how I can alter my cooking methods to best cope with this reluctant to be cooked chicken - and this was my first foray into this turned on its head kind of cooking and, to my palate anyway, it seems to have worked.

The chicken spends much less time in the pan, but it didn't seem to lose anything for having not been cooked for long in the curry sauce, so I'm happy with that.  The curry sauce is made with the same oil that the courgettes and chicken were cooked in, so none of the flavour is lost.  However, the big joy with this recipe is the cherry tomatoes.  By piercing the stalk end of each tomato, it allows the sauce to penetrate and the short time they are in the pan means that each tomato while cooked, still retains the characteristic sweetness and juice of a cherry tomato.  They are nothing short of little flavour bombs that fill your mouth with deliciousness and refresh you as they go.  Just remember to keep your mouth closed when you bite one!  Nobody enjoys being targeted by someone else's cherry tomato explosion, particularly not one that comes with curry sauce.

I really enjoyed this curry.  I liked its lighter nature, it has a cleanliness that a cream based curry, or even a lentil based curry, doesn't have.  The courgettes lend it a natural sweetness and the tamarind sauce balances that with a touch of sour.  Frisky enough with its medium curry powder, black pepper and red chilli flakes to satisfy those who enjoy a spicy curry, it can easily be pepped up by simply adding more red chilli if you like your curries hotter than the average.

I'd better get on and type out the recipe, before I forget it!


Ingredients :

2 tbsp rapeseed oil
20g salted butter
1 courgette, cut into bite sized chunks
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced
sea salt
ground black pepper
2 red onions, diced small
2 garlic cloves, chopped
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
3 heaped tsp of medium curry powder
1 heaped tsp of Tikka curry powder
1 tsp paprika
a pinch of red chilli flakes
400ml hot water
2 tbsp tamarind sauce (I used East End brand)
1 heaped tbsp creamed coconut
10-12 tiny cherry tomatoes, pierced at the stalk end with a sharp knife
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped (keep some back for garnish)
Cooked, hot, Basmati rice to serve.

Method :

Heat the rapeseed oil and butter together in a deep pan or wok over a medium heat, until the butter is foamy.  Add the courgette pieces and fry until just beginning to take on colour.  Turn each courgette piece and continue frying until beginning to soften but still fairly firm.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the courgettes to a warm bowl and reserve, leaving as much of the buttery oil behind as possible.

Increase the heat under the pan and add the chicken slices.  Season with a pinch of sea salt & black pepper and fry until just beginning to turn golden, then turn and repeat on the other side.  Cook until just cooked through - a little bit of pink showing is okay, as they will receive more cooking once added to the sauce.  Using a slotted spoon, remove from the pan to the bowl with the courgettes and reserve.  Retain the oil and cooking juices in the pan.

Add the chopped onions, garlic and cinnamon to the pan and fry until the onions and garlic are softened.  Take care not to allow the garlic pieces to burn.  

Add the two curry powders, paprika and chilli flakes to the pan and stir well while they cook out.  This should take about 3-4 minutes.

Add the water and tamarind sauce and stir well to combine.  Pour any cooking juices into the pan from the courgette and chicken bowl and stir to combine.  Bring to a lively simmer and reduce the heat.  Simmer the sauce, stirring from time to time, until reduced by approximately a third.

Add the coconut cream and stir gently through.  Add the contents of the chicken & courgette bowl and the cherry tomatoes and stir gently until everything is covered with the curry sauce.  Simmer until you are happy that the chicken is cooked through, the cherry tomatoes are hot and the sauce is at your preferred consistency.  If the sauce becomes too dry, simply add a little more hot water.

Stir in the chopped coriander and serve with hot white rice.

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17 September 2017

Sherried rhubarb crumble - only for grown ups!

As most of you know, we grow rhubarb in our garden.  It all started with the one plant - called Ruby - who grew so much we had to split her in half and so she spawned her daughter, RubyTwo.  Well, the years have gone past and the pair of them are now busting out of the brick planters they are in and three times a year (or more) threaten world domination unless we harvest them and share them around the neighbours.  So, as you can imagine, obtaining rhubarb isn't exactly a challenge.  In fact, for this recipe, hubby went out and cut the 500g required and it was in the oven half an hour later. Can't get a lot fresher than that!

With this crumble, I wanted very much to just celebrate the joy that is rhubarb.  Not dilute it with apple, or confuse matters by adding blackberries.  No, I wanted it to be simply rhubarb.  Our rhubarb is so tasty - it's a champagne variety - that I always think it's a shame to mask its deliciousness with other flavours.

However, that didn't stop me from having a rush of blood to the head and adding sherry.  *chuckle*  Well, I figured that as we've had a rhubarb trifle with sherry in the past - which was delicious, why not?  I used a medium sherry - Harvey's Bristol Cream, in fact.  It definitely lent the dish a certain something and I'd definitely do that again.

What did it taste like?  Oh, it was beautiful.  Sweet, sharp, deep rich flavours of rhubarb with the slight headiness of sherry, balanced against the buttery, oaty, slightly toffee flavoured crumble that just melted in the mouth. Heavenly. Especially with vanilla custard, which is just the perfect accompaniment.

I have two Cook's Tips for you, which are as follows :

Lots of crumble recipes tell you to pre-cook the fruit, but I didn't want rhubarb slush, I wanted pieces of rhubarb that still had their shape and a little of the crunch.  Cutting the pieces slightly smaller than usual, managed to achieve that very nicely across the 30 minute cooking time.   If however, you prefer your rhubarb to be softer then make sure to cook it on for another 10 minutes or so.

I'm sure we've all made fruit crumbles that wind up being all juice.  For me, too much juice can almost ruin a crumble as it tends to steam the underside of the crumble top and you end up with a yukky sludgy uncooked layer and the fruit swimming in juice.  To offset this, I mixed in some cornflour (or perhaps corn starch where you are) with the raw fruit and sugar, which has the effect of thickening the juice and so preventing both the sludge and the pool.  You don't even notice it's there, so it's a sneaky tip to remember for fruit pies, too!

Maybe the very next time you lay your hands on some rhubarb, you can give this crumble a go.  Your family will thank you!


Ingredients :

500g rhubarb, washed, dried and cut into 1cm pieces
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
3-4 tbsp of medium sweet sherry.

For the crumble :

130g self raising flour
50g light brown muscovado sugar
30g rolled porridge oats
90g slightly salted, chilled butter.

Method :

Pre-heat your oven to 190degC/375degF/Gas 5.

Place the chopped rhubarb into a deep sided casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle over the caster sugar and cornflour and mix together thoroughly until each piece of rhubarb is coated.

Sprinkle the sherry over the rhubarb and set aside while you make the crumble.

Weigh the self raising flour, muscovado sugar and porridge oats into a large bowl and lightly stir together.

Cut the butter into small pieces and rub it into the dry ingredients until everything is buttery and breadcrumb-like.

Spread the crumble across the top of the fruit mix and level the surface without pressing down or compacting the crumble at all.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or 40 minutes if you like your fruit softer.

Serve with vanilla custard, or double cream if you must.  *wink*

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16 September 2017

Chicken sausage, pea & courgette risotto - fresh and tasty!

As much as I would like to, I can't take credit for this delicious risotto recipe. No, that accolade needs to go to Heck Sausages. However, I found the recipe because it was featured on lovefood.com 
with credit going to Heck - so I suppose this is the great-grand daughter recipe recommendation, if you like!  I have changed the recipe a tiny bit, but it's only re-organising the order of play and not changing the ingredients.  Now I could have just placed the link here and not bothered to reproduce the recipe, but I have learned that sometimes favourite recipes disappear from the internet never to be found again - so I'm immortalising it here for future reference.

If you're still with me after such a meandering explanation, well done.  LOL

It has been ages since I made a risotto.  Hubby is ordinarily the risotto chef in our house - and he does a cracking job at it too.  However, he was otherwise engaged so I decided to give it a go.  I'd made some good risottos in the past, so my track record wasn't bad.

For all that it is currently autumn - and a good time for risotto - I have to say that this recipe would be very much at home in a springtime capacity.

The addition of the courgette and petit pois, with the light touch of the chicken sausages, definitely made us think of the relief of coming out of the heaviness of winter and into a relatively lighter menu, as spring comes around.  However, as all the ingredients aren't reliant upon seasonal produce (although, again, it is the perfect time for young courgettes), you can enjoy its fresh tasting loveliness at any time of the year.

As with all risottos, they live or die on the quality of the stock you are using. So at this point I have to blow my Essential Cuisine trumpet once again.  I used 75% Essential Cuisine chicken stock and 25% Essential Cuisine vegetable stock for this risotto and it was fantastic.  The very best part of the Essential Cuisine stable of stocks is their wonderfully intense flavours, however, because they are a stock powder (and they have a new range of liquid stocks, too) it is so simple to just increase the intensity by adding another half a teaspoonful as required.  For a risotto stock, this works perfectly.  So - I recommend them.  'Nuff said.

As for Cook's Tips, I have two :

Firstly, I wasn't looking forward to the unzipping the sausages and separating the sausagemeat into individual little meatballs.  It's a gacky thing to have to do, even if you baste your hands liberally with cold water so that the sausagemeat doesn't stick.  Then, I had this brilliant idea.  I unzipped each sausage from its skin, ran my chef's knife under the cold water and chopped each sausage into five pieces.  It worked, too!  You have to wet the knife in between each sausage, but it is SO much more of a pleasant way to do it.

Lastly, if you're wondering what pan to use to cook the risotto in, well I used our new wok.  It's quite compact, with high walls and fits nicely onto each burner so there are no cold spots to contend with.  So if, like me, you were worried about the rice catching on the bottom of your pan and/or can't see in to the top of a tall pan (alright, so I'm short and most unhelpfully, have to sit to cook), consider using a wok.  It worked absolutely perfectly for me.

So, without further ado, here's your recipe :


Ingredients :

1-2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
8 chicken sausages (Heck or Asda are our favourites), skinned and each sausage formed into 5 small meatballs
450g approx of courgettes, cut into half centimetre dice
1 sweet onion, diced small
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
125g Arborio risotto rice
pinch of sea salt
quarter of a tsp ground black pepper
1 litre of good quality hot chicken stock, or chicken/vegetable combined
half a tsp of ground nutmeg
1 heaped tsp of Dijon mustard
300g defrosted petit pois (peas)
1 handful basil leaves (I used Thai basil as we prefer it)
grated Grana Padano, Parmesan or Manchego cheese to garnish.

Method :

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and once heated, add the sausagemeat balls. Fry on a medium/hot heat until deeply golden on at least three sides, then remove from the pan into a bowl and reserve.

In the meantime, make up the stock in another saucepan and place on the heat to simmer.  Just before you are due to add the peas to the risotto, give them a few minutes in the stock pan to take the rawness off of them and heat them up.

Leaving the sausage flavoured fat in the pan, add the chopped courgettes and fry until just beginning to soften and take on colour.  Remove from the pan to the same bowl as the sausage balls and reserve.

Decant what little fat is left into a high sided saucepan or wok and add a little more oil if necessary.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and fry over a medium/hot heat until softened and transparent.  Add the sea salt and black pepper and stir through.

Increase the heat under the pan to maximum and add the dry rice.  Stir well, to cover the rice in the flavoured oil and cook until you can see the rice is beginning to toast.  Add a ladleful of the stock and stir well, to release the starch from the rice.  Add the nutmeg and Dijon mustard and stir in.  Once the stock has all but disappeared, pour in another ladleful and stir consistently - it is the stirring that ensures you wind up with a creamy texture to your risotto. Once the pan is again almost dry, repeat with another ladleful of stock and continue this way until the rice is very nearly cooked through.  You may find that you have a little too much stock, or you may need to add a little boiling water as your last ladleful - it all depends on how much you stir and how starchy your rice is.

Add the petit pois along with your last ladleful of stock and stir through, then add the courgette/meatball combination and stir through.  Make sure to bring the pan contents to piping hot and add the torn basil.

Serve immediately, on warmed plates and with grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese as garnish.

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