Monthly Archives: January 2008

Beany Bacon Bake

The lovely aforkfulofspaghetti pointed me in the direction of this Nigel Slater recipe. The only alteration I made was to use a mix of haricot and kidney beans. Hubby enjoyed it so much he ate the portion I had put aside for my lunch tomorrow!

This type of food is very much called for at the moment. With the forecast of snow later on this week I need as much carbs as I can to survive the long playground duty on Friday. We take the kids out in all weathers, it’s good to let them run off steam. Great if your nice and cozy in the staffroom drinking tea and slowly making your way through the biscuit tin, not so great if your stuck outside in a force 8 gale with little Rosie complaining Jane has stolen her skipping rope for the 5th time that morning…

Hunters Pie

Another first for me tonight, venison. I’ve eaten venison in restaurants, but I’ve never cooked with it. I found the original recipe on Game to Eat but adapted it slightly as I only had 450g of venison and I find sweet potato complements venison really well. I served it with turnip.

Hubby really enjoyed it, but I wasn’t too sure; it was almost too “meaty” for me. I prefer a venison steak. Hubby is pleased as he has leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Hunters Pie
Serves 2-3

1 large onion
30g butter
450g venison mince
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp plain flour
200ml beef stock
1 dsp tomato puree
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 dsp thyme
salt & pepper
400g sweet potato mash
200g potato mash
40g mature Cheddar

1) Fry onions in butter, until soft and golden. Add venison and garlic, fry until venison and lightly browned. Stir in flour, add stock then remaining seasoning and simmer for 15 min.

2) Layer ovenproof dish with mince. Roughly mix sweet potato mash and potato mash together then spoon over mince. Sprinkle with cheese. Grill until cheese is bubbling and brown.

How NOT to cook a roast dinner & the redeeming clafoutis

Today I had possibly the worst cooking day I’ve had in a long time. I was so looking forward to cooking dinner today…and it went wrong in quite spectacular style.

First I cooked the pork. Rather than my usual lion of pork I brought a rolled piece of pork that had stuffing in the middle. I used my usual tricks to get the skin to crackle, but for some reason it didn’t.

Then I made a smashed potato dish that has 1/2 a head of roasted garlic in it. I’ve made this potato dish before, but rather than traditionally roasting the garlic like I usually do, I decided to use a trick I had read about; nuking the garlic in the microwave. First I blasted some oak smoked garlic we picked up at the Good Food Show…well this turned to dust , thinking the odd reaction was due to the age of the garlic I tried the same trick with some fresh garlic. This time it went rubbery. Rapidly running out of garlic I had to use garlic paste which doesn’t taste anywhere near the same. Lesson learnt – never try and cheat on recipes, it’ll always go wrong!

Thinking everything was back on track I cooked the Yorkshire puddings and started to quickly boil the purple sprouting broccoli. Just as I was about to serve the food, Hubby carved the pork only to find it still pink in the middle. I shoved everything back into the now switched off oven to keep warm while we pan fried the pork. 5 min later we sat down to over-cooked broccoli, dry Yorkie puds, fried pork and fake garlic potato…nothing like I had originally planned

Thankfully, to help rid the glut of cherries Hubby brought earlier on the week, I had made some mini clafoutis. These saved the evening from disaster. I just prey my cooking bad luck is out of the way as I’m planning to cook Hunters Pie tomorrow, something I’ve never cooked before

Mini Clafoutis
Serves 2

14 cherries, stoned
2 tbsp ground almond
1 tbsp plain flour
1 small egg
40g vanilla caster sugar (or normal caster sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract)
80ml milk
pinch of salt
icing sugar

1) Preheat oven to 190oc. Butter and flour two ramekin dishes. Place 7 cherries at the bottom of each ramekin

2) Whisk all of the remaining ingredients (apart from the icing sugar) together until smooth. Pour over cherries. Bake for 15-20 min until risen and golden. Allow to cool for 5 min before eating. Dust with icing sugar.

A Fishy First – Salmon Fishcakes

Tonight was a first for me. Until a few months ago I would touch fish, just the smell and look of it made me feel ill. I don’t know what came over me, but one day I decided I wanted to try fish. Slowly I’ve been trying different fish dishes and tonight was the first time we ate fish at home. The farm shop had fish available today so I decided to take the plunge and make fishcakes…OK a slight lie, Hubby made the fishcakes, I sorted the recipe (with a little help from River Cottage Family Cookbook)! I really enjoyed the fishcakes and look forward to trying them with other types of fish.

Salmon Fishcakes
Makes 6 large fishcakes

350g salmon fillet
500g potatoes
milk, enough to cover salmon
1 bay leaf
strip of lemon zest
4 peppercorns
small handful of coriander
5 small slices of bread, breadcrumbed
2 tbsp plain flour
1 egg, beaten
big knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil

1) Peel potatoes then boil for 15-20 min until soft, drain. Place fish in a saucepan, cover with milk. Add bay leaf, lemon, coriander and peppercorns. On a medium heat let the milk slowly come to the boil then turn off the heat. The fish will continue to cook. Allow to cool

2) Mash the potatoes with a small amount of the fishy milk. Season.

3) Drain the milk off the fish and break up into flakes. Add to the mashed potato. Mix in some coriander.

4) Mould mixture into 6 fishcakes. First dip in flour, then beaten egg, then finally the breadcrumbs.

5) Heat butter and oil in the frying pan. Gently fry fishcakes for 4-5 min per side, until golden.

Spinach & Feta Frittata

This week is Farmhouse Breakfast Week and to celebrate I made Scotch Pancakes with the butter and buttermilk I made earlier on in the week. They were beautifully fluffy and if my waistline allowed I would eat them every day.

With the miserable weather and all the stodgy comfort food we’ve been eating today I was craving a simple veggie summer dish. Although a frittata is traditionally done on the hob in a frying pan, I prefer to oven bake it. This is a slightly different version on the oven-baked frittata I’ve baked before. On the way home from work I popped into Morrisons to pick up some feta, while walking to the fridges I noticed a huge display promoting 5-a-day. On this display was potatoes, I didn’t dare point out to the woman setting up the display that potatoes don’t count as one of your 5-a-day!

Spinach & Feta Frittata
Serves 4

4 eggs
1 tbsp cornflour
200ml milk
200g spinach
handful of feta

1) Heat oven to 220oc. Wilt spinach, allow to cool then squeeze out water. Blend the cornflower with a bit of milk, then whisk in the rest of the milk and eggs. Season with salt and pepper.

2) Line 8in x 8in baking tin with baking parchment. Pour in the batter, then sprinkle the spinach and feta over the batter. Bake for 20 min until firm and golden. Can be eaten warm or cold.

Homemade Butter

This weekend was another weekend-long family gathering in Warwickshire. Like everytime we meet up there is lots of food left over by the Sunday afternoon. I managed to bring home, amongst other things, enough sausages to make a meatloaf tomorrow and nearly a litre of double cream. Not wanting the cream to be wasted I set about making butter.

I first came across homemade butter while flicking through River Cottage Family Cookbook a few years back. Never did I think it could be so easy to make. To make it even better not only do you end up with fresh butter you also produce buttermilk which is fantastic for making pancakes and scones.

Making butter this way takes some serious elbow grease, but it is great and satisfying to see the cream turn into butter. While watching a recording of Cook with Gordon, between the two of us we managed to churn out 5 pats of butter.

Homemade Butter

Double cream (ideally not really fresh cream)
jam jar

1) Allow cream to get to room temperature before using. Half fill the jam jar with cream and tightly screw on the lid.

2) Shake the jar enough so you can feel the cream slop against the lid. Keep shaking. All of a sudden you’ll notice the slopping sound stop; at this point you have whipped cream.

3) Keep on shaking! All of a sudden the slopping sound will return and you’ll notice a large lump sloshing around in a watery liquid. This can take anywhere between 10-30min. Carefully open the lid. If the butter looks like fine cottage cheese shake for a few more seconds until you end up with a smoothish round ball. The solid is the butter and the liquid is buttermilk.

4) Pour off the buttermilk into a bowl and fill jar with cold water. Swil and keep on changing the water until it is clear. Squeeze the ball of butter in your hands to rid of excess buttermilk. It is important to remove as much buttermilk as you can as this can make the butter go sour.

5) Shape into a pat, wrap in greaseproof paper and store in the fridge.

Potato & Leek Gratin

Earlier this afternoon Hubby’s parents and Grandma popped around for tea and cake. It’s the first time in nearly 3 years Grandma has been to our house, for various reasons she has been housebound for the best part of 2.5 years, but now she is able to get up and about you can’t stop her! The cottage we live in is very much an important part of local history and Grandma can remember visiting our row of cottages when she was a child. How the cottages have changed since them! To celebrate her road to recovery I used the remains of my mincemeat to make Pixie’s Mincemeat Crumble Cake . It certainly went down well.

This weeks ingredient challenge is leeks and I decided to make a potato & leek gratin. I admit I’m not a huge fan of leeks when they are on their own, but add cheese and potato and I’m a huge fan…actually add cheese and potato to anything and I’ll love it! I made the gratin to accompany a mustard crusted topside of longhorn beef I roasted. We both really enjoyed it and to make it even better Hubby has the left over beef for lunch and I have the leftover gratin.

Potato & Leek Gratin
Serves 2-3 as a side

70ml vegetable stock
70ml double cream
70ml milk
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 bay leaf
400g potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 slice of ham, chopped
2 small leeks, thinly sliced
30g cheddar, grated

1) Pour stock, cream and milk into saucepan. Add garlic and bay leaf then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2) Preheat oven – 180oc. Mix sliced potatoes, leeks and ham in ovenproof dish. Pour over stock then sprinkle with cheese.

3) Loosely cover dish and bake for 30 min. Uncover and bake for a further 40 min. Cool for 15 min before serving.

Sticky Pork with Noodles

This weekend has been the first weekend since the beginning of December where we have had a free weekend. We popped into Derby to do a few jobs and I got stupidly overexcited when I noticed M&S sold cherry stoners, I’ve been searching for one for ages…I need to get out more.

We had lunch in a great Irish pub in hidden away down the side of St Peters Church. It’s very much typical pub grub, but done really well and great prices. So tonight, after our huge lunch we didn’t fancy anything big so decided to try a recipe in this months GFM, I adapted it slightly. It was really delicious and possibly the quickest meal I have ever made.

Sticky Pork with Noodles
Serves 2

2 pork steaks
2 tbsp rice vinegar
6 tbsp soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tsp soft dark sugar
5 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 sheets of noodles
1 tbsp sesame seeds

1) Mix rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and sugar in shallow bowl. Marinade steaks for up to 24 hours.

2) Cook steaks in saute pan (minus the extra marinade) for about 3 min each side until cooked. Remove steaks from pan and allow to rest. Cook noodles then drain. Add remaining marinade to pan, boil until sticky. Stir in sesame seeds.

3) Slice steaks into strips. Mix steak back into marinade and add noodles. Stir until pork and noodles are coated. Serve with spring onions on top.

Pure Hot Chocolate Indulgence

When Hubby is out for the night, it’s freezing cold and chucking it down with rain only one comfort food is called for… Chocolate, and preferably of the hot variety. I also have a chick flick, the latest copy of delicious and roaring log fire for company.

I like my chocolate dark and rich. The darker the better. Tonight I made the hot chocolate with my favourite Green & Blacks Hot Chocolate, lashings of whipped cream topped off with a Max Brenner dark chocolate thin. Heaven.

Thai Green Curry

While we were at my parents for Christmas we popped to WH Lung, a Chinese supermarket, in Liverpool. I’ve never been in a Chinese supermarket before and I was like a child in a sweet shop! There were so many ingredients I struggle to find where I live, so I stocked up. My haul included kaffir lime leaves, creamed coconut, spring roll pastry, dried shittake mushrooms and sesame oil.

Tonight’s meal was Thai Green Curry. I don’t think I’ve had a proper Thai Green Curry, but have always like the sound of it so decided to give it a go. I know green curry is meant to be hot, but although it was beautifully flavoursome it blew my head off!

I had read a tip somewhere about adding sugar to reduce the heat, I did this and it did work to some degree, but my lips are still tingling. I should have known it would be hot as the main ingredient in the paste is green chillies. Next time I’ll 1/2 maybe even 1/4 the paste amount or even make my own paste.

Thai Green Curry
Serves 2-3

1 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tbsp green curry paste (half if you don’t like it hot hot hot!)
1 tbsp soft dark sugar
2 chicken fillets, diced
8 kaffir lime leaves
400ml coconut milk
1 tsp Thai fish sauce
1 tbsp chopped coriander
juice of 1 lime

1) Heat oil, paste and sugar on a high heat for about a minute. Reduce heat then add chicken and leaves until coated in the paste. Add coconut milk, fish sauce and simmer for 25 min.

2) Stir in lime juice and coriander. Taste sauce. If it is too spicy add some more sugar. Remove kaffir lime leaves. Allow to sit for about 5 min before serving.

On the talk of chicken please sign the petition Chicken Out! This campaign is very much in the news at the moment plus I’m a big fan of Hugh’s beliefs and ethics.

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