What I'm cooking and eating

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Inspired by......

For me, part of the point of recipes is that they can be a jumping-off point for your own dishes.  Unless I am seriously trying to re-create a dish, I tend not to follow recipes too slavishly, especially when it's something like stew or a curry that can, and should, be modified to suit your own tastes. 

So, anyway, the other day I read this recipe, for leek and feta croquettes.  I thought they sounded lovely, but I know from past, bitter experience, that if I try to roll things in breadcrumbs and fry them, they go all over the place and seriously don't look like what they are supposed to look like.  Probably because I rush them, but anyway.

And I had some butternut squash that wanted using up, and one of my favourite things to do with butternut squash is to mix it with feta and couscous in a tomato sauce.   And I had far too many leeks.... and found a packet of udon noodles in the cupboard.  And this was the result:

½ butternut squash, cut into chunks.
1 large leek, finely chopped
1 400 g tin tomatoes
2 tsp plain flour
1 tbs cooking oil
1 oz butter
½ packet feta cheese, crumbled
1 packed udon noodles

Put the squash, the leeks and the cooking oil into a frying-pan with a lid, and cook on a low heat, stirring fairly frequently, until the squash is soft and beginning to caramelise around the edges.  Whizz the tomatoes with the flour with a stick blender until smooth; season to taste.  In a separate saucepan, melt the butter, then add the tomato mixture and bring to the boil, stirring all the time.  Stir in the crumbled feta and pour over the leeks and squash.  Adjust seasoning.   Serve with the noodles which you have prepared according to the instructions on the packet (you can, of course, use another sort of noodles, or pasta, or whatever).

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Seville Orange Marmalade

You can scale this up, as you wish.  Each batch makes about 2½ kg, c. 5lbs of marmalade.  There are a couple of different ways of doing it, both a hassle, but worth it in the end.


1 1kg bag Seville oranges
1 kg preserving or granulated sugar
1 lemon
1 litre water (or less, depending which method you use).

First Method:

Place the whole fruit and the water in a pressure cooker, bring to pressure and cook for 20 minutes at high pressure.  Allow to cool.  When fruit is cool enough to handle (you can leave it overnight, of course), cut each piece in half, scoop out the insides and return them to the pan, and chop the peels very finely.  Boil the insides in the pan for 5 minutes, then strain to remove the pips.  Add the chopped peel and sugar, and proceed as below.

Second Method:

Cut fruit in half and juice it.  Measure the juice, and make up to 1 litre with water.  Boil the pips with some of this liquid (about 150 ml) for 5 minutes, and make up the jug to 1 litre again.  Strain the pips.  Meanwhile, you have been chopping the peels, which is a lot harder when they are not cooked, but you save time by not having to wait for it to cool once the pressure cooker has lost pressure.  Boil the chopped peel in the juice at high pressure for 20 minutes, allow to cool at room temperature, and then proceed.

Both Methods:

Put the sugar into a large pan and add the cooked fruit/water/juice mix.  Stirring all the time, heat gently until it comes to the boil, then allow to boil, stirring frequently, until setting point is reached, which you test on a plate you had previously put in the freezer.  "When it gels, it's jam" to quote Elizabeth Goudge.  Allow to sit for ten minutes, then stir, pot in glass jars which you have sterilised in a warm oven while all this has been going on, and seal.
This is two batches.  I'm wondering if it would be a best or worst of both worlds to cook the oranges after halving and juicing them, but before chopping.  One would still have to wait until they were cool enough to handle, though, which is a nuisance unless you cook them before you go to bed and finish off next day.  Still undecided about which method I prefer.....

For Susan Gerules.

Oh bum, just discovered I already posted this recipe back in 2012.... oh well.  I could delete this, I suppose, but I've written it now....

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Crayfish curry

I don't like prawns, and have been made sick by them in the past, so I don't eat them.  But I do like crayfish, and Lidl sells crayfish tails alongside prawns.  So use whichever you like. 

And what was left of the curry/rice mixture was even nicer next day!

1 tbs cooking oil
1 tsp each coriander seeds, cumin seeds (crushed in a pestle and mortar if necessary), black mustard seeds, turmeric, garam marsala, and dried crushed chillis
1 lump frozen ginger (or grate your own - I'm lazy!)
2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 onion
1 smallish sweet potato
1/3 vegetable marrow (or 1 smallish courgette)
1 tin tomatoes
Tinful of water (fill the unrinsed tin, to get the most juice)
1 tbs coconut milk  powder (or use a tin of coconut milk instead of the water)
1 fish Stockpot (or stock cube, whatever)
1/2 cup (125 ml by volume) long grain rice

Packet cooked prawn or crayfish

Fry all the spices, the garlic and the ginger in the oil, stirring all the time.  Then add the vegetables which you have peeled and chopped (and removed the seeds if you use a chunk of marrow).  Cook these with the lid on over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the tomatoes, water, coconut powder and rice.  Bring to the boil, stirring frequently, then lower the heat, cover, and leave to cook for 15 minutes, until the rice is cooked.

Divide the crayfish or prawns into two plates and spoon the curry over the top.

As I said, there was a little bit much for two, so we had the rest of it next day and it was even nicer!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Cheesy Eggy Bread

Warning: do not read this if you are being healthy for January.  I was in need of comfort food today, and this was it!

Eggy Bread was a staple of school breakfasts, and very good it was, too.  It wasn't quite the same as French toast, as I understand the latter to be sweet and served with fruit, while this was definitely savoury and could well be served with bacon.

So I decided to make an American-style "grilled cheese sandwich", but to soak the bread in beaten egg first.... yes, I know, heart attack on a plate, but there are times....

2 slices Tesco cornbread (which I have a craze on just now, but of course, any other bread will do just fine)
Cheddar cheese (or other melty cheese of your choice)
1 egg

Butter the bread and make a cheese sandwich with it.  Beat the egg, and season with salt and pepper, then turn the sandwich over in it several times until the bread is soaked.  Fry in butter on both sides, pouring any excess egg over the top of the bread..... Lovely!  But really, not to be eaten too often!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Chocolate-cranberry cake

I think this is only the third birthday cake I've made for the Swan Whisperer in all the years we've been married!  And the other two were fruitcakes.

For the cake:
4 eggs
The same weight (c. 240 g) of butter/baking fat and sugar.
2 tbs cocoa powder, made up to 240 g with self-raising flour and a pinch of salt
2 tbs very strong black coffee

Cream fat and sugar together; add the eggs one at a time and beat in, add the coffee, and finally fold in the flour/cocoa powder mixture.  Divide into 2 21-cm sponge tins and bake in a moderate oven (Mark 4) for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. 

For the cranberry filling:

About 75 g fresh cranberries (you don't need a huge amount)
Juice of 2 oranges (1 if it has made plenty - you want about 4-6 tbs)
2-3 tbs sugar (make it slightly sweeter than if you were making cranberry sauce for the Christmas table)

Put all of the above in a saucepan, put a lid on and cook until all the cranberries have gone "phut" (which is the noise they make as they cook).  Allow to cool.

For the ganache topping:
1 bar Green and Black's Organic dark chocolate
1 large tbs crème fraiche
Any surplus juice from the cranberries

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water (or in a double saucepan, if you have such a thing); stir in cream and juice.

To assemble:

Have the nicer cake, if there is one, on the top.  Spread the other one with the cranberries, then put the second cake on the top, and spread it with the ganache.  Allow to cool thoroughly and keep refrigerated.  Decorate as liked.....

Monday, 24 November 2014

Chicken Hash

I don't quite know what else to call this; I had been going to stir-fry my leftover chicken but then didn't go out so had no stir-fry vegetables (I do like beansprouts and water chestnuts in my stir-fries). So rethink time.....

1 tbs cooking oil
1 tsp curry powder
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 small swede
1 parsnip
1 sweet potato
2 small white potatoes
1/4 butternut squash
1/2 leek
3 cherry tomatoes (obviously you can add more, but this was the end of a punnet) A bit of cabbage 1/2 green pepper
A quantity of cooked chicken
A quantity of left-over gravy

Peel and chop all the vegetables into small pieces, and add the first 7 to a frying pan along with the oil and curry powder. Stir, cover, and allow to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Now add the rest of the vegetables and cook for another 15-20 minutes,
and finally add the chopped chicken and gravy, and cook for 10 minutes or until it's piping hot.  Make sure the pan is covered all the time except when you are stirring it or adding more veg, so that they cook in their own steam.  Adjust seasoning, and serve. 

Of course, you can use whatever vegetables you like, and you don't have to use quite so many!  But it was very good, and there is enough left for another meal later in the week.  Meanwhile, I was making stock in the slow cooker!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Victoria Sandwich

I very seldom make sponge cakes.  My old oven wouldn't, and although my new one does quite beautifully, we have managed for over 35 years without eating sponge cake regularly, and I fail to see why we can't go on doing so, or rather, not doing so.  But when asked to contribute a cake for the ice dance club's post-RIDL buffet, I happily volunteered.

I grew up eating these sponge cakes, and have always known how to make them (although I did have to check with my mother, both about flavouring this particular cake with orange, and about how you make butter icing, although in the end I went with the recipe on the side of the packet of icing sugar, using orange juice instead of milk or cream).  They are actually very easy to make, and it was only that they would not rise in my old oven but came out flat and miserable.

I have 21 cm diameter sponge tins, so made this cake with 4 eggs.  If your sponge tins are smaller, use 3 eggs, or even 2.  My grandmother used to make just one layer, so used only one egg.

Weigh your eggs, and then accumulate the same amount of butter (or baking margarine), sugar and self-raising flour.  For 4 eggs, which is what I used, it was 240g, which meant the last 10g of baking marg got used to grease the tin. 

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (an electric mixer is the easiest thing to use for this).  Add in the eggs one at a time, and continue to whisk until they are incorporated.  Now fold in the flour, into which you have added a tiny pinch of salt.  Divide the mixture among your sponge tins, and bake in a moderately hot oven (c gas 5, or 200 C - 180 in a fan oven) until it is cooked, which will take around 25 minutes or so.  If you bake the sponge in one tin, it will take longer, of course.  When it is cooked - when a skewer or very thin knife inserted into the top comes out clean - remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

That's your basic Victoria sandwich.  Mine - pictured - was an orange cake so I added the zest of an orange to the cake mixture, and substituted orange juice for milk in the icing (according to Tate & Lyle's recipe, which was beat 75 g butter until light and fluffy, slowly incorporate 175 g icing sugar, and then as much milk or cream - or orange or lemon juice - as you need).  You can, of course, substitute unsweetened cocoa powder for 25g or so of the flour, and also for some of the icing sugar to make a chocolate cake.  Or for a delicious cake that can be used as pudding, sandwich it together with jam and whipped cream, or fresh fruit and whipped cream.... and sprinkle a little icing sugar on the top through a tea-strainer if you want to make it look "finished".

You can also use this mixture to make a hot pudding, putting jam or cooked fruit in the bottom of the dish and the cake mixture on top, then turn it out and serve hot with cream or custard.  Or both.  You can cook this in the microwave, as, indeed, you can the cake itself, but the texture is Not the Same.