What I'm cooking and eating

Friday, 12 September 2014

Gluten-free cheese scones

An unexpected - and very, very welcome - visit from my sister-in-law and her husband this evening.  And no cake or anything in the house.  So I thought I'd make cheese scones, which are quick and easy - but just as I was standing on the stool looking for the flour, I remembered that my sister-in-law has coeliac disease and wouldn't be able to eat normal scones.  But, of course, neither gram flour nor buckwheat flour has gluten in it.... this might work....

125 g gram flour (besan, chick pea flour)
125 g buckwheat flour
Pinch dry mustard powder or cayenne pepper
50 g butter
125 g strong Cheddar, grated
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp lemon juice
About 120 ml milk

Rub the butter into the combined flours and baking soda, then stir in the cheese.  Add the lemon juice, and then gradually add the milk until it comes together in a ball (I was using a food processor, as time was off the essence).  Squish it all together, then flatten into a rough disk and bake in a hot oven (Mark 7) for 15 minutes.  Serve at once, with butter.
No, they weren't as good as normal cheese scones would have been, but they were eminently edible!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Mung bean and cauliflower risotto

This was inspired by Clothilde's photo on Facebook from a new restaurant.  I'm sure this wasn't as good as what she was served, but it was nevertheless delicious!

1/2 cup mung beans
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion
About 1/4-1/3 of a large cauliflower
1/2 cup risotto rice
250 ml white wine
500 ml vegetable or chicken stock (if you have home-made chicken stock, use that; if not, use a vegetable Knorr Stock Pot, or Tesco's own brand equivalent which I think is nicer)
About 60g Parmesan cheese

Soak the mung beans for several hours, then change the water,  bring to the boil, and boil hard for 10 minutes.  While this is happening, chop the onion and cauliflower, and sweat in the olive oil.  Add the rice, and stir thoroughly.  Add the drained mung beans, and then the wine.  Season, and bring to the boil, stirring all the time, and then allow to simmer for 7-10 minutes.  Add the stock, bring back to the boil, again stirring all the time, and simmer for a further 10 minutes, perhaps a little longer if it is still very liquid.  Stir in the Parmesan and serve at once.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Sandwich fillings and lunchboxes

This post was inspired by a conversation I was having in a group on Facebook, plus the fact that schools in England and Wales are poised to go back this week.  Mind you, Reception and Year 1 get free school dinners now, so the youngest probably won't be taking their own lunches, but still.  Adults like to take sandwiches and wraps, too - and one's own are so much nicer than bought, even if it's nice to buy them occasionally.  Who has time to make their own BLT of a morning?

So you start with the bread.  I tend to always use bought bread for a sandwich, but if you can slice your home-baked loaves thin enough, go for it!  My personal preference is a seeded wholegrain loaf.  Pitta bread or tortilla wraps are nice for a change, too.  Also, now that Lidl do such delicious rolls, baked fresh each day, I'll often go out and buy one specially (Lidl is all of 50 yards away!).  But then, I tend to make my sandwiches when I want them; for lunchboxes, I would find a roll difficult to manage. 

If whatever you are using for a filling doesn't spread readily, you might want to use a little butter (or equivalent, if you're vegan), but if it's something like cream cheese, it doesn't need it. 

I divide sandwiches into two - the main event, as it were, and the garnish.  The garnish is something vegetable - tomatoes, cucumber, sliced peppers, avocado, lettuce, grapes, any or all of the above!  Even banana can be nice, especially with peanut butter (although that is a combination I prefer in a breakfast sandwich).  If you're making your sandwich to take to work, avoid sliced tomatoes and cucumber, as they can make it soggy; use cherry tomatoes instead, and take a hunk of cucumber to eat separately.  Oh, and don't forget pickle (or chutney) with a strong cheese. 

The main event can be all sorts of things - hummus or peanut butter if you want a vegan sandwich, or all sorts of different kinds of cheese, including cream cheese (with or without Marmite) and cottage cheese.  Or egg mayonnaise - I always put chopped spring onions in mine; my mother uses chives to the same effect.  Grated cheese and carrot, bound with a scrap of mayonnaise, works well, too.

I was thinking in the supermarket that you could sprinkle sunflower seeds into your sandwich for extra crunch - Lidl sells them at the checkouts, which I find far, far more tempting than the sweets they've replaced!  Ah well.

For omnivores, of course, there is pate, there is ham, there are all sorts of proprietary sliced meats, or you could use some cold chicken (for instance) if you have some.  Bacon is good, but nicest when eaten freshly cooked, so we save our bacon and avocado sandwiches for the weekend.  Cold sausages work well, too.  And don't forget smoked salmon, which can be bought very cheaply nowadays - with cream cheese and avocado, it is a feast!  Or, if you like tinned fish, you could always mash some up; not sure how well they would travel, though.

If you get sick of sandwiches, as we all do sometimes, there's plenty of other things to take.  Salad is always good - what works best is to put the "nice bits" (chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, scallions, avocados, sunflower seeds, etc) with the dressing into one container and keep the greenery - lettuce, Chinese leaves, baby spinach, rocket, etc - separate, combining them all at the last minute.  You can buy - or make, if you're that way inclined - all sorts of nice bits for protein: falafel, pork pies, quiches, even a Cornish pasty (nicest hotted up, so I hope work has a microwave - if it does, you can take a mug of soup, too; they sell special mugs to take soup in these days.  And if you have a shaming taste, as I do, for ramen noodles.... sometimes I cook those in the microwave and then poach an egg in them, which is lovely!  Not very good for you, mind, but still lovely!

Then there are all sorts of rice salads or couscous salads you can make or buy to eat.  Home-made is often nicer, but I do rather like bought couscous salad!  And sometimes I like a box of (preferably veggie) sushi as part of my lunch!

All very vague and off the top of my head.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Gran's Peach and Orange Conserve

I was making apricot and nectarine jam the other day - the nectarine was to make up the weight, as Someone (who had better be nameless, but wasn't me) had been eating the apricots - when I remembered that my grandmother had made a very delicious peach and orange conserve.  So I emailed my mother to ask for the recipe.  She says that it was her recipe, not Gran's, but either Gran used to make it, or she took ownership of it (she was that kind of person), as I think of it as Gran's.

So this was Mummy's recipe, which I have made today (I did think of taking photos, but no matter how careful you are, making jam is a sticky business and I really don't want a sticky phone), and is delicious:

8 peaches
5 oranges
100 g  blanched almonds
3 lbs sugar (1.36 kg) sugar.  I used 1 kg preserving sugar, then made it up with ordinary granulated.

Peel the peaches (the easiest way to do this is to pour boiling water on them and leave for 1 minute, after which the skins should slip off easily) and then cut into chunks, discarding the stones.
Cut the oranges in half and discard any stones; then puree the whole thing (skin, pith, pulp and all) in a food processor.
Roast the almonds (I used a dry frying pan) and cut into smallish pieces (you can do this while the jam is boiling)

Put fruit and sugar into a preserving pan, and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Bring to the boil, and allow to boil until setting-point is reached.  Stir in the almonds, pot, seal and enjoy!

(For Dorian E Gray)

Monday, 18 August 2014

Chicken Stock

I always feel it is a fearful waste of a chicken not to make stock from the bones.  And yesterday we had a chicken, so today:

Bones of a roast or otherwise cooked chicken - remove as much of the meat as you can, and save that to eat another time.
1-2 onions, peeled and quartered
1-2 large carrots, ditto
The green parts (the bits you usually discard) of a leek or two
A stick of celery is traditional, but we don't like the flavour of cooked celery, so we don't use that.
Lots of seasoning - salt, pepper, a couple of cloves, some mushroom ketchup, Worcestershire sauce.... whatever.  I usually add a chicken "Stock pot" gel.
Up to 2 litres boiling water

Put everything in either a slow cooker and cook on auto for about 8 hours (which is what I did) or a pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.  Strain the liquid, and discard all the solids.  Use in soups, risottos, etc - or you could poach another chicken in it.....

Sunday, 17 August 2014


Haven't taken any photos, I'm afraid, but nachos aren't terribly photogenic.  They are, however, delicious.  Quantities are approximate.

1 large packet tortilla chips
60 g cheese - I like the kind with chillies in it for this, but plain is fine, too
1 tbs milk

Melt the cheese and milk together in a saucepan, stirring all the time, and then pour over the chips. 

That's basically it, but to make it a proper meal, serve with any or all of the following:

Guacamole, either bought or home-made*
Sour cream dip
Fresh salsa, again, either bought or home-made.  I made a nectarine/tomato salsa, as follows:

2 large tomatoes
1 red onion
1 nectarine (or peach, of course)
1 chilli pepper 
Bunch of coriander (cilantro)
1 tbs lime juice
1 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper

Peel and chop all the vegetables and mix together with the rest of the ingredients.   This is nicer if you make it an hour or so before the meal, to give the flavours a chance to mix.

* Or you could chop the avocado into the fresh salsa, which is what I was going to do, only my avocados weren't ripe, so I popped out and bought some guacamole.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Simple tomato sauce

1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes (or quantity to suit you)
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
1 tbs each olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, possibly a little oregano or marjoram.

Pierce the cherry tomatoes and put in a saucepan with the other ingredients.
  Cover, and cook gently until the juices run.
Transfer to a blender or food processor and work until smooth.
Bring back to the boil.

Delicious with fresh pasta, and a dollop of pesto on top.