Saturday, 31 January 2009

Cauliflower & Chedder Soup

Friday evening was going to be a sit in front on the TV waiting for the beef stew to cook slowly in the oven. I should know by now that nothing is ever simple.

Having put my stew in the oven, basic stewing steak, carrots, onion and beef stock, bay leaf and a sprinkling of flour - I don't bother to brown the meat, just chuck it all in one crock pot and load into oven on a low heat for several hours - I thought why not run up a little batch of soup and some bread to go with it.

I had bought a pack of just add water bread mix, which I wanted to use more like foccacia so to cook I put it into a shallow baking tray, turned the heat up on the oven to 200oc for 15 mins thinking that the stew would not mind for a short while then set about making the soup.

Cauliflower & Chedder Soup

1 Medium Cauliflower, broken down into small florets
1 Onion Chopped
3/4 Pint Veg Stock
3/4 Pint Milk
Handful of grated Mature Chedder

Put the onion into a large heavy bottomed pan and fry gently in oil, add the cauliflower and veg stock, bring to boil and simmer for 15mins. Add the milk and simmer until cauliflower is soft. Blend until smooth, toss in the chedder and season.

Whilst the soup was simmering, I noticed to my horror that the oven had stopped working, leaving the bread and stew in a rapidly cooling state. This is an intermittent problem with the oven and it usually kicks back into life after a few minutes, but not this evening. I thought I could take the stew out and put it into my cast iron pot and carry on cooking on the hob, until my brain remembered that I had the soup in it, so I crossed my fingers left it in the oven and just took the bread out as my brain had an idea!
I cut the bread into biscuit sized chunks and fried them in a little oil until they had a crunchy brown crust and the dough inside had at last cooked through - they were not terribly light, in fact I think I could have used them a doorstops, but along with the soup they were good for dunking.

The oven did eventually start working again and continued to cook the stew for several more hours. The stew seemed to be none the worse for its interruption, still giving up soft juicy meat and thick gravy, lob a handful of frozen peas in and tuck in.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Leek & Potato Soup

Pondering what to make on Wednesday night, as I had forgotten to take anything out of the freezer and the cupboard was a little bare, I sought inspiration from other bloggers and came across the wonderful blog of Ximena at Lobstersquad and her easiest ever soup.

Knowing I had leeks and potatoes in I set to making it and can agree it is too easy!

500g Peeled and chopped potatoes
500g Sliced leeks
1.2 Ltr water
40g butter - I used the glorious President Butter, such a treat.
Salt and Pepper.

Add the potatoes and leeks to the boiling salted water. Cover and leave for 20 or so mins until the potatoes are mushy. Add the butter and lots of pepper. Serve. Simplicity, I would have added a grate of Parmesan or Cheddar if I had thought about it, but I was enjoying it too much.

Later on for a little snack I popped the bones from the belly pork dish I made on Sunday into the oven for an hour sprinkled with salt, pepper and Chinese five spice. Tasty and just right for nibbling in front of the TV.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce & Pasta

For the Meatballs

500g Minced beef
3 Finely chopped spring onions
Handful finely chopped parsley
1 Slice bread, crumbed
1 Egg
Salt & Pepper

Thoroughly mix together all the ingredients and the divide up and roll into balls, make approx 18. Set aside on a flour dusted board.

For the Sauce

500g Passata
1 Onion, chopped
Would have put a clove of chopped garlic in, but shock of shocks I had none!
The remaining 1/3rd jar of roasted peppers, left over from yesterday
4 tsp sugar
Just for the sheer hell of it, I also used a handful of chopped mushrooms.
1 tsp or to taste dried Oregano/Marjoram

In a little oil, fry the onion and garlic until soft, then add the passata and mushrooms, peppers, herbs and seasoning, check the taste of the sauce and add sugar to suit to help take away the sharpness of the tomatoes. Let it bubble away, whilst you shallow fry the meatballs in oil and wait for the water to boil for the pasta of choice - spaghetti in my case. Frying the meatballs will take around 15-20mins. Serve meatballs on a bed of pasta, spoon sauce over them, top with grated Parmesan.
A simple dish that would serve four, if only we were not such greedy gits and scoffed the lot - should have frozen the remainder instead of going back for seconds, but they were rather scrummy. *smacks hand at lack of will power*.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Haddock and Chorizo Paella

Yum, that is all I can say about Monday nights foray into the kitchen.
When I picked up the Mackerel from Gordon on Saturday, Hubby had a bit of a hankering for some Smoked Haddock, he has a thing for poached smoked haddock and a poached egg on top - whenever we go to a Loch Fyne restaurant he is a little predictable. Now I think that is fine for a brunch dish but not for evening meal so with my great love of Mediterranean food I decided on a summery Paella.

Haddock & Chorizo Paella
1 Medium Fillet Undyed Smoked Haddock - cut into chunks
Approx 15cm length Chorizo - sliced thinly
1 Onion Chopped
2 Small cloves Garlic - Finely Chopped
1 Yellow Pepper - sliced into strips (I only had Yellow, use whatever takes your fancy)
Handful or so of Frozen Peas
Half a jar of Roasted Peppers in oil
250g Paella Rice
2 Tsp Pimenton
A few strands of Saffron
1 ltr stock - I used a mix of Vegetable and Chicken stock cubes, add the saffron to the stock.

In a flat Paella pan add some oil and fry the garlic and onions until soft, add the chorizo and yellow pepper for a few minutes until the chorizo has bled out its paprika colour, add the pimenton.

Tip in the rice and make sure it is all coated in the oil, add the stock and season. Bring to boil, then turn heat down and simmer covered for 25-30 mins, stirring occasionally, I used a heat diffuser to help stop the rice sticking.
Check to see how dry and add more stock if necessary, add the roasted peppers, frozen peas and haddock chunks, cover again for a further 10mins or until fish and rice is cooked.

Monday, 26 January 2009

The Morning After - Pan Fried Mackerel

As so it was we awoke on Sunday morning. Realising, in my case at least, the dangers of mixing the grape and the grain. A tongue so dry I had to pry it off the roof of my mouth and a niggling muzzy head. Lay in bed hoping that Hubby would get up soon and make a cup tea, as I could not move without one - he did, but glared balefully at me as he went to the kitchen - I think it may have been my turn to make one.

Finally up and dressed, my delicate constitution decided it needed some fuel to burn off the remaining alcohol. We had managed to go into the market yesterday and get all the weeks groceries with out touching a supermarket (barring milk and bread), I happened to have a lovely filleted mackerel from Gordon the Fishmonger. It was so simple all I did was pay fry the seasoned fish in a little oil and serve with bread, butter and slice of lemon - perfect, all the fishy oils soon got to work re-invigorating us.

Unfortunately it did not last too long and we ended up spending the afternoon wallowing on the sofa in front of the TV. I had originally invited the Parents of for Sunday lunch, I was eager to try out a stocky slow roasted belly pork dish from James Martin - 3 and a half hours in the oven - then I burnt it in the last 10mins!!! Luckily no one was up for this - so it was purely a training run, Hubby and I scarfed down the pork once it was cold later afternoon when we were feeling perkier. I will do it again and pay more attention as cold it was delicious.

Haggis, Neeps & Tatties

My parents had the wise idea of having Burns Night celebrations on Saturday 24th January, rather than the 25th - the Baird's acutal birth date. We were so pleased they did.

The night started with the boys off to the pub, leaving us girls with a bottle of pink fizz and nibbles - gossiping in the kitchen as usual. Everything was in hand the Haggis, steaming away, the Neeps and Tatties boiling gently, to be mashed later with creme fraiche and egg for the tatties and heaps of butter for the neeps. We served all on a large serving platter and although we could not pipe in the Haggis, my father took the traditional toast to the Haggis, before slashing into the spicy innards.
(Aplogies, for the badly presented food piccy, much had been imbibed already and it is sheer luck that I actually remembered to take photos.)

Served with glasses of whisky and a CD by the brilliant Eddie Reader singing the songs of Burns we devoured the feast.

After wards we recited some of Burns poems, drank more whisky, put on some other Scottish Folk music, danced, sang and drank more whiskey.

Several hours or types of whisky later, hubby and I trotted back home, full of Scottish spirit.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Freezer Food and Shepherds Pie

After sifting through the pot of cold chicken carcass stock last night I was ready to make a large batch of parsnip and swede soup. This was to be portioned out and then frozen in line with NY resolutions to make more soup and put food in freezer for later consumption, this is mainly so I don't get tempted with a takeaway or some form of slutty processed crap from the supermarket.

With my little halo shining Hubby and I had a small bowlful each with the remainder squirreled away. Whilst it was bubbling away I whipped up two individual Shepherds Pies for dinner - again I won't post the recipe as it was a bog standard lamb mince, onions, carrots in beef stock with a mashed potato topping, although the magic ingredient whilst cooking the mince is a dollop of HP sauce and grated cheese on top of the potato.

They did look mighty fine, but we were so eager to eat, I completely forgot to take a photo of them. Instead I have posted is a pastoral scene of sheep on frozen hillside during a walk around Tissington taken last January, what is not in the picture is the farmer on a Quad Bike who had just 'Shepherded' them into the field and fed them - there who says I did not stick to the theme!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Being a bit fed up of the cold wet winter nights accompanied with stodgy, hearty comfort food, I decided on a lighter form of comfort food, a courgette and tomato cous cous dish. I love cous cous, it is so quick and easy to prepare - the perfect base for chucking in whatever is lying around and bringing it together to form a perfect light dish.

While my leftover chicken carcass was bubbling away with various stock veg and herbs ready for a batch of soup tomorrow, I found a couple of old courgettes in the fridge along with some cherry tomatoes and a plan came together:-

Courgette & Tomato Cous Cous Salad

2 Medium Courgettes - halved and sliced
A handful of Cherry Tomatoes - halved
Handful of Fresh Rosemary - roughly chopped
Glug Balsamic Vinegar
A quantity to suit of Cous Cous - steeped in boiling water approx twice the volume of water to cous cous and covered in cling film for at least 5 mins, until all water absorbed.

Heat oil in pan, add courgettes and fry on high until the edges are slightly brown, add the rosemary and a glug of balsamic and some ground pepper - this really is to taste, it will sizzle. Add the cherry tomatoes and swirl around the pan for a few minutes until the tomatoes begin to get soft - add further Balsamic if required. Mix together with the cous cous and serve, with a little chopped mint if you like.

I took a photo in the cooking stage, then forgot to take one of the finished product! It was light and tasty and cleansing after all the meat, potatoes, pasta of recent weeks - the balsamic really lets the flavours pop out. I have a feeling this idea came from a Gordon Ramsey recipe for a Courgette Provencal that I have adapted for my own requirements.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Here's Katie!

Here she is my new car Katie, shimmering in the cold winter sunlight. Slowly getting to grips with her and have finally figured out how to change the time on the dash!

With Hubby away with work in Portugal I settled down last night for leftover chicken and mash added a few frozen peas and the remainder of the scrummy onion gravy from Monday. I sat in front of the fire and was able to watch a girly film of my choice without the derisory comments from the corner!

His meal however was far more interesting, the hotel he stays at about 45 mins outside of Oporto has a large open fire place with a bed of hot charcoal, over this is roasted various meats, in his case a small leg of lamb - whilst he sits at the bar munching olives and drinking the local Vihno Verde on tap, his meal is cooking to perfection in the background - he loves his visits to Portugal and has been known to have lamb every night of his stay - I am most envious. I do have a photo he kindly sent over somewhere - if I can find it I will post later.

Tonight I have a chicken carcass just calling out to be turned into soup stock.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Celebratory Roast Chicken

Over the weekend and probably the cause of my lack on enthusiasm was the necessity to go and troll round all the car dealers in the area searching for a reasonably priced, small car to replace my trusty Fiesta, who having had from new was now over 10 years old and starting to cost money in repairs. As the MOT was due at the end of the month and anticipating a hefty bill, we set off on Saturday morning. Several hours later we had decided on two a Citroen C1 and Peugeot 207.
The following day, with parents along for advise and fiscal assistance the C1 was ruled out as being too small for my needs and we plumped for the 207. I am not a creature that likes change and all these decisions for some reason made me rather depressed, after all 10 years with Vog the Fiesta was a long partnership to break, I knew all her foibles and she mine, but today after taking the final drive to the garage with Vog all was forgotten as I stepped into Katie (her reg. is KT 07 xxx). Katie is smooth and sleek, whereas Vog was rough and grubby, she also has power steering, so a couple of over zealous turns later almost ending on the pavement I got the hang of that, not quite so the incredibly light gear changing - a lot of revving engine is still occurring whilst I try to get to grips.

Long story short, by the time I got home I felt in a celebratory mood and as Hubby was going to be late back from work I figured I had time to roast a chicken, something I had not done for a long while. My favourite way to cook the bird is in a large lidded roasting pan, this keeps the meat so juicy and tender and stops all the flavours escaping. My plan was twofold, as Hubby is off to Portugal for two nights tomorrow, I will have another meal of cold chicken and salad waiting for me tomorrow.

Roast Chicken

1 x Medium Free Range Chicken
1 Onion - sliced
1 Lemon
Veg stock

Such a simple recipe, but so tasty. Slice the onion and place in the bottom of the roasting pan. rub butter on the chicken along with salt, pepper and a nice handful of tarragon. Place half the lemon inside the bird with the other half, chopped again in the pan. Place the bird on the onions and add approx 500ml veg (or Chicken) stock in the pan. Cover and place in oven at 200oc for 1 hr 15 mins. Remove from roasting pan and place onto carving dish - pop back into oven for 15 mins to make skin brown and crispy. With the remaining stock in the pan, put on the hob and add a little flour stir to thicken and re-season. I served it with creamed potatoes and sprouts.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Swede & Parsnip Soup

My latest foray into the kitchen was to use up what ever veg was to hand, this was a bag of swedes from the cheap and cheerful corner of Tescos and some local parsnips. In line with resolution no. 1 - make more soups, I hatched a plan:-

Swede & Parsnip Soup

1 medium swede - peeled and chopped
400g Parsnips - peeled and chunked
1 onion - chopped
500ml Veg stock
250ml Skimmed Milk
Cubed Pancetta - Optional

In a large pan put the oil, onion, swede and parsnips, on a fairly high heat I swizzled them around until the onions & parsnips caramelised slightly, I then added some dried thyme (none in garden or fresh to hand) salt and pepper. Add the veg stock and milk and bring to the boil before simmering for 15-20 mins. I then took my trusty hand blender and whizzed away until most of the chunks were smooth but not all.

As a naughty extra I took a pack of pancetta cubes and fried them till crispy, these were then served on top of the soup with some doorsteps of crusty bread and butter.
The rest of the weekend was a bit of a culinary abyss - slobby pizza on Saturday night and a really cannot be bothered to cook anything Sunday consisting of a bacon butty. I did however manage to make it over to our local game butcher and picked up a couple of frozen rabbits, I have found a lovely receipe (if only I could remember where from so I can give credit where credit is due) for a Rabbit and Chorizo Stew which I will try next weekend and some lovely smoked bacon, which is just too delicious - hence the bacon butty.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Stand-by Lasagna

Ok, Ok nothing to see here, move along! The fridge is looking extremely empty at the moment, but I think I can hang out until the weekend before going shopping. So another good old standby was called for and I codged together and very mushroomy beef lasanga (condemned counter mushrooms).

I won't bother with the recipe because everyone has their own and how they like it, but for me making the white/cheese sauce from scratch is a must, none of this cheating in a jar stuff.

For a complete change instead of scarfing the lot, for this is a total favourite dish, hubby and I were reserved and managed to save a couple of portions to freeze. Another of my NY Resolutions is to cook and freeze food for later consumption. So after collecting all the Thai takeaway containers from a recent meal at my parents house I am ready to start freezing meals. I think having so many resolutions makes me feel less guilty when I break, as I know I will, one or more of them.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Stuffed Marrow with Bacon & Tomatoes

Last night was an old favourite standby - Stuffed Marrow. I love this recipe because you can literally fill the marrow with anything, no doubt there will be several versions of this dish in the months to come.
I must also explain that although I like cooking I hate shopping and do pride myself on combining whatever is left in the cupboards to make just one more meal before I am forced to the shops, so last night I was able to use the left over streaky bacon from the Cheese Puff dish and some condemned counter tomatoes. I know that we must all be thinking about the air miles our food travels and stick to local, but sometimes a marrow from Spain just looks so delicious that it is popped into my basket and sod my carbon footprint. I would miss too many foods if I tried to cook only what is in season so some items do slip through.

Stuffed Marrow with Bacon & Tomatoes

One Medium sized Marrow sliced length ways and seeded scooped out.
6 rashers bacon chopped
1 red onion chopped
3 medium tomatoes - roughly chopped
A quantity to suit of grated Chedder

Set oven to 200C. Take a frying pan and a dash of oil and fry the bacon and onion, season as wanted. When the bacon is fairly crisp add the tomatoes and spin round the pan briefly.
Lay the scooped marrow halves side by side in a ceramic dish, add the bacon mixture on top on the marrow, season a bit more. Cover in foil and bake in oven for 30-40 mins. Remove the foil and scatter on the cheese, place back in the oven for a further 10 mins. Serve.

Normally, I would have mixed breadcrumbs into the mixture, this helps soak up the juice of the marrow, but I had none so the dish came with its own juicy liquid.

I suppose I should add to my New Years Resolutions:-
1) Cook more of what is in season and watch my air miles.
2) Step away from the supermarket and source local foods.

Given my hatred for shopping, this may be more tricky, as I do like to get everything in one go. I do know of some fab little local butchers and a fishmonger, but getting to them on a regular basis is the problem - something I will have to overcome, also I must force myself out of bed on a Saturday and visit the local market.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Cheese, Bacon & Onion Puff

Last night I chose another recipe from the February edition of Good Food Magazine. Something cheap and cheerful - the Cheese Bacon & Onion Puff. Handy, as it consists of mainly storecupboard items for me. It was a take on Toad in the Hole, without the Toad, but replaced with bacon & cheese:-

Basic Batter

140g Plain Flour
4 Eggs
200ml Milk

All whizzed together in a blender (or the 30+ year old Osterizer that I have in my possesion, still plodding away, with only a minor smell of burning as the motor decides it has had enough on this attempt, but will cool itself down and be ready for the next time!)

Small knob of butter
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
8 rashers Streaky Bacon - chopped
4 Spring Onions sliced
140g Grated Chedder

Heat oven to 230C/fan, 210C/gas 8. Grease round (or square in my case) dish approx 22cm wide, then dust with the parmesan.

Add butter to frying pan and sizzle the bacon until crisp then leave to cool.
Add the bacon, onions and cheese to the batter and mix well.
Pour out into dish, then cook for 30-35mins. Dish will puff up and become golden.
Serve straight away with a crisp salad.

Hubby was rather impressed with the dish, but I found it a bit too stodgy and was pleased the salad was there to cut through and lighten the dish.

It was impressive when it came out of the oven though, rather like a souffle, which quickly deflated in the centre, despite the grease dish, it still stuck the the proverbial to a blanket. I think this may become a dish that is made only when there is nothing else in the house.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup

Part of my New Years Resolution is to 1) Cook more soups and 2) To cook more recipes, rather than relying on my old favourite standbys. So last night I combined the two and made a quite delicious and filling Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup with Fresh Herb Pesto (Good Food Magazine February 2009). Taking the recipe from the top of my head, it went a bit like this:-

500 grms Sweet Potatoes, peeled and chopped small
1 Red Onion, chopped
1 tbs Olive Oil
1 tbs Thai Red Curry Paste (I bought one, but there was a receipe to produce own)
400 grms Coconut Milk
500 ml Vegtable stock

Put sweet potato, onion and oil in large pan and cook for 15 mins until soft - leaving the lid partway off so they caramelise slightly, add the red thai paste, turn heat up high and sizzle for a couple of mins. Add the stock and coconut milk and bring to boil for a few minutes. Pop into blender and blend till smooth, serve with pesto.

(This is where it gets a little confused as I was gossiping with hubby, and not paying full attention to what was going on)
Small handful Peanuts
Large handful Fresh Mint
Small Handful Fresh Corriander
Small Handful Fresh Basil
1 tbs Light Soy Sauce
2 Large Green Chillis deseeded and chopped
2" Chunk Fresh Ginger
1 tbs Soft Brown Sugar
2 tbs Juice of Lime

All blitzed together in a blender, or as I did get hubby to bash away with pestle and mortar.
Serve drizzled onto of soup.

3) Resolution - Take a leaf from The Cottage Smallholder and buy more from the condemmed counter.
4) Blog more. Not difficult as I did zero blogging last year!