What I'm cooking and eating

Friday, 28 December 2012

Carrot, lentil and split pea soup

In the interests of remembering how I did it!

1 tbs olive oil
2 small onions, peeled and chopped
5 large carrots, ditto

1 tsp each cumin and coriander seeds, ground in a pestle & mortar
Pinch asafoetida
1/3 cup (approx  80 ml by volume) each of red lentils and  split peas
Salt, pepper, soya sauce
1 tsp tahini

1 vegetable Stock Pot
1.5 litres water

To serve (optional): 1 small tin petits pois and/or 1 small tin sweetcorn or equivalent amount of frozen sweetcorn

Pound the seeds in a pestle and mortar until they are powder.  Fry this, the asafoetida, the onions and the carrots for a few minute in the oil.  Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft.  Now run all this through the blender, put it back in the pan, add the peas or sweetcorn (if using) and bring back to the boil.  Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.

I do love the mouthfeel that both carrots and lentils bring to a soup.  And this was particularly good on an evening when nobody was very hungry, but we all wanted/needed a light meal!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Mulled Wine

Someone asked....

1 bottle cheap red wine
1-2 sachets mulled wine spices (or mix your own - cloves, cinnamon, mixed spice, nutmeg....)
2-4 tbs brown sugar
1 orange
1 tbs brandy per person (optional)

Put wine, spices and sugar into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes.   Some people boil the sliced orange in with the wine, but I prefer to put the orange slices in the mugs with the brandy, if using, and pour the mulled wine on the top. 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Instant Supper!

I didn't have my act together at all this evening, and the Swan Whisperer came in from Ice Dance Club at 8:30 pm and I hadn't even begun to think about supper.  In my defence, I had had rather a substantial snack earlier in the day.... 

So a quick trawl through the fridge yielded this, which really took no more than 7-8 minutes in total:

1 packet lardons
1/2 packet cherry tomatoes
Handful diced cheese (or grated, but I had some diced brought back from France - a mixture of Mimolette and Gruyère.  It was nice as it went all stringy, but if you don't like stringy cheese, use Cheddar!)
2 eggs

For the noodles:
1 egg
1/2 cup (125 ml by volume) buckwheat flour (or plain white or wholemeal flour, or even gram flour.  Buckwheat and gram flours are gluten-free, so suitable for those with coeliac or similar)
120 ml water
Salt and pepper

Pierce the cherry tomatoes and put them and the lardons into a saucepan and allow to cook gently.  Meanwhile put a second pan of salted water on to boil, and make the noodles by mixing the ingredients together to form a smooth paste.  It should be more paste-like than batter-like.  To make noodles, you really need a potato ricer - I have this one, which I use pretty well daily for mashed potatoes, mashed root vegetables and noodles (it comes with three different discs) and have done for some years now.
Put the paste into the tub of the ricer, using the disc with fewest holes in it, and press the noodles into the boiling water.  Bring back to the boil, and allow to cook for one minute.  Drain, and add to the saucepan where the lardons and tomatoes will now be cooked.  Add cheese, the two eggs and some pepper and stir until the eggs are cooked.  Serve at once.

Sunday, 9 December 2012


Although hummus (or homous, depending on how you care to spell it) is ubiquitous in supermarkets these days in a multiplicity of flavours, I like to make my own occasionally.  It's the one occasion where I do think tinned chickpeas are useful - I've increasingly moved to using the dried variety, only you do have to think about them in advance!

1 400-g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1-2 tbs tahini (sesame seed paste, widely available in the World Foods section of supermarkets; but if yours doesn't do it, check your local Turkish shop)
1-2 cloves garlic (which you may, of course, omit if you dislike garlic)
1-2 tbs lemon juice
1-2 tbs olive oil OR 1 tbs olive oil and 1-2 tbs natural yoghurt

Seasoning to taste.  I went for Moroccan, and used a Moroccan seasoning mix from France, some Ras-el-Hanout, also from France, a few coriander seeds (couldn't find my cumin seeds; think they were lost in the Great Spice Rack disaster of a few weeks ago) and a little Harissa paste.

Put most of the chickpeas and the rest of the ingredients into a food processor and puree until smooth.  A tablespoonful of water or another tablespoonful of yoghurt or olive oil may help if the mixture is too thick for your taste.  Add the rest of the chickpeas just before you stop the machine, so they remain a little chunky.

Perfect with pita or other flatbreads, toast, or stirred through "slow-fried" vegetables.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Lemon marmalade

I seem to be unable to make the correct amount of marmalade each January, as either I have too much left when the Seville oranges come in again, or I run out, as I did last year and have this. As I am not very fond of three-fruit marmalade, finding it rather too sweet and lacking the "tang" or a proper Seville orange marmalade, I made lemon marmalade last year, and have done the same this year.

4 lemons and their weight in sugar, and the equivalent amount of water, or a little more (my lemons weighed 540 g so I used 600 mls of water and 600 g sugar).

Place whole lemons into a pressure cooker with the water and cook on HIGH pressure for 20 minutes, then allow to cool. Remove lemons from the water, then remove the insides, which you return to the water, and chop the peel as finely as possible. Boil up the water with the insides of the lemon in it for 5 minutes, then strain to remove the pips. Add the chopped peel and sugar, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil hard until setting-point is reached (about 5 minutes - lemons have a lot of pectin!).

Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so, then pot into heated jars, cover and seal. Keeps indefinitely, but you only need it to keep until you make proper marmalade again in January!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Onion Soup

4 large onions (I used 2 red and 2 white)
1-2 tbs olive oil
1-2 tsp Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp flour (cornflour if you need to be gluten-free)
1 litre water
1 Knorr Vegetable Stock Pot
Seasoning to taste

To serve:
Toasted cheese, ideally Emmental, ideally on a chunk of baguette (but ordinary cheese on toast will do); 1 slice per bowl.

Peel and slice onions and place in a heavy-bottomed pan with the olive oil and balsamic.  Cook on a low-ish heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the onions are soft and colouring, add the flour and stir well for a few seconds until the flour browns.  Now add the water and Stock Pot (of if you are that way inclined, you could use a litre of your own home-made stock), adjust the seasoning (I used salt, pepper and soya sauce).  Bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes or so while you make the cheese on toast.  Place a slice of cheese on toast into a big soup bowl and pour the boiling soup over it.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Vegetable Carbonara

2-3 potatoes, diced
1 packet lardons
1 leek, chopped
A bit of cabbage, also chopped ("just a nice amount")
2 eggs
About 50g strong Cheddar, grated
Pepper (the recipe won't need salt).

Put the lardons into a large, shallow casserole or frying pan and cook gently until the juices run.  Then add the potatoes, leeks and cabbage, cover, and allow to cook on a low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are done.  Whisk the eggs together, and stir them and the grated cheese through the hot vegetables until the eggs are just set, like you do spaghetti carbonara.

Prune and Armagnac ice-cream

150 g stone-out prunes
200 ml boiling water
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs Armagnac
4-5 tbs Greek yoghurt

Put the prunes and sugar into a bowl; pour over boiling water.  Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then leave to cool and cook for 5-6 hours.

In a food processor or blender, blend the prunes, armagnac and yoghurt and as much of the prune juice as is necessary to make a fairly thick batter.  You can drink the rest but it is foully sweet (you need ice-cream to be sweeter than what you would normally eat).  Freeze as normal.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Vegetable Curry

This started out as a take on David Lebovitz' root vegetable salad, and sort of evolved!

2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs curry powder (or to taste)
Asafoetida, garam marsala, turmeric, to taste
1 onion
Several cloves of garlic
Chunk of swede
2 carrots
2 parsnips
1/2 red pepper
Chunk butternut squash
1/2 punnet mushrooms
3 tomatoes
Seasoning to taste (salt, pepper, soya sauce, maybe hot pepper sauce)
2 tbs hummus

Fry the first lot of spices very gently in the oil, while you peel and dice the first 5 vegetables (down to and including the parsnips).  Add these, cover, and allow to cook gently for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Now add the rest of the vegetable (also diced), stir again, and cook for about 15 minutes.  Season, and stir the hummus through it.  Serve with rice.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Gran's strawberry ice-cream

I haven't made this in years, and had forgotten all about it until I reread Clothilde's coconut ice-cream recipe, which is what I have made this week (substituting creme de framboise for the rum and adding some frozen rasps to make it a raspberry-coconut ice-cream).  So when I was buying the evaporated milk for this recipe, I bought a second tin, and a tin of strawberries, too, and this will be made very soon:

1 tin evaporated milk
1 tin strawberries

Whisk together (no need to puree too hard, it's rather nice with bits of strawberry in it) and freeze.  Couldn't be easier.

Although when I make it, I'll probably add 2 tbs creme de fraise (this is how you use all those fruit liqueurs you buy in France and seldom, if ever, drink when back in the UK!) as alcohol does seem to make ice-creams freeze better.

Edit: I did make this and it was horrible!  Tasted of evaporated milk!  Greek yoghurt is a much better idea!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Peach and butterscotch ice-cream

This didn't quite come out how I intended, but I don't actually care, it is very, very good!  Quantities for the peach bit are approximate - depends on how many peaches/how much yoghurt/etc, you have.

5 ripe peaches
3 tbs white sugar
About the same amount, or a little more, Greek yoghurt (depends how much you have!)
About 150 ml whipping cream
2 tbs peach liqueur (optional)

1 quantity butterscotch sauce using David Lebovitz' wonderful recipe (Please note that "heavy cream" is apparently whipping cream, not double).

Soak the peaches in boiling water for c 1 minute until the skins slip off easily.  Remove them, the put the flesh in a large bowl.  Blitz with a stick blender (or use a food processor) until you have a smooth puree.  Now add the sugar, yoghurt, cream and liqueur, if using, and continue to blitz until well mixed.  Chill thoroughly in the fridge, and freeze in ice-cream maker.

I meant to make the butterscotch sauce go through the ice-cream as a ripple, but either it wasn't quite cold enough, or the peach ice-cream wasn't quite as frozen as I'd thought, as it went a bit liquid, plus there was rather too much for the ice-cream maker. So I emptied most of the frozen peach into a freezer-proof bowl, and continued to work the ice-cream maker with the liquid remains; it didn't really freeze solid, but enough so I could add it in to the rest of the stuff. Of course we had quite a lot of tastes that night - but really, next day when I came to try it, it had turned into a sort of marbled-effect ice-cream, and was (and still is) seriously delicious!  Not quite sure if it's reproducible, though!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Lemon chocolate sorbet

I do own an ice-cream maker, but the bowl tends to sit in the freezer taking up space and the other bits do likewise on top of the fridge.  So when we got a new fridge-freezer recently the Swan Whisperer more or less said "Use it or lose it".

So I was half planning to make Clothilde's wonderful dark chocolate sorbet anyway, but yesterday a friend said that for her, one scoop of chocolate ice-cream and one scoop of lemon sorbet was a match made in heaven.

So I thought, well, why not lemon chocolate sorbet?  I cut back the water a bit from Clothilde's recipe, and upped the sugar in order to add the lemons.

3 unwaxed lemons
140 g granulated sugar
250 ml water
40 g unsweetened cocoa powder
80 g good-quality dark chocolate (70% at a bare minimum)
2 tbs limoncello

Either peel the lemons very finely (don't get any of the white pith) with a potato peeler or grate the rind on a lemon zester or equvalent.  Place into heatproof jug with the sugar, and pour the boiling water over this.  Stir well and leave to stand while you squeeze the lemons and chop the chocolate into as small pieces as you can be bothered.

Put the cocoa powder into a saucepan and strain the lemon water on to it.  Whisking and stirring all the time, bring to the boil, and, as soon as it boils up (don't let it boil over!), pour it on to the chopped chocolate (which you have, of course, transferred to the jug you originally used to steep the lemon peel).  Stir vigorously until the chocolate dissolves and you have a smooth fluid.  Now add the lemon juice and limoncello (you can leave this out if you don't have any, or if children are going to eat this, but all sorbets and ice creams are improved with a little alcohol in them), stir again, and leave to cool.  When cool, chill thoroughly in fridge.

Freeze in your ice-cream maker (or in a shallow tray, stirring every hour to break up the crystals) and enjoy!  I served with a peach-and-raspberry sauce (home-made) and some thick cream with limoncello which I'd happened to see in Tesco's earlier.

VERDICT:  Tastes absolutely lovely, but a little watery.  Not sure quite how to deal with that - perhaps make sure there is no more than 275 ml total of liquid, whether lemon juice or water, and then bring it all to the boil together, and strain out the lemon peel before adding the solid chocolate?  Or boil for longer?

It would be greedy to have a second helping, wouldn't it?

EDITED: Made this again last week (10 November) and altered it to about 250 g sugar to 200 ml water/lemon juice, which I brought to the boil, boiled hard for one minute, then added the cocoa powder, brought it back just to the boil (this was my grandmother's chocolate sauce recipe: 6 oz sugar, 1/4 pint water, 2 oz cocoa powder),  then added the chopped chocolate.  Much better - thicker, and less watery.  And rather too much limoncello so it didn't freeze quite properly, but was none the worse for that!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Mushroom Risotto

It feels like ages since I made risotto!  But it is so good, and easy (although time-consuming).  This was a mushroom risotto, but of course the variations are infinite.

About 5-10 g dried mushrooms
500 ml boiling water
1 Knorr (or Own Brand) vegetable Stock Pot
20g butter
1 tbs olive oil
5 small "pickling" onions (what I had - an ordinary medium-sized onion would have been fine)
2 large cloves garlic
2/3 punnet mushrooms
1/2 cup risotto-type rice (arborio or the one that begins with c whose name escapes me and I cba to look up!)
125 ml white wine
Seasoning to taste
About 60g Parmesan cheese, grated

Pour the boiling water over the dried mushrooms, add the Stock Pot (or stock cube - or make your own stock from scratch if you feel that way inclined), and leave to stand.

Peel and chop the onion(s), peel and crush the garlic cloves, slice the fresh mushrooms.  Put the fats into a large saucepan and add the vegetables.  Let them begin to cook for about 5-10 minutes.  Then add the rice, and stir until all the grains are coated with oil.  Now add the white wine and stir vigorously.  Leave to cook for about 5 minutes.  Add 1/2 the stock (let the dried onions, now reconstituting themselves, go in too - chop them if they are too big), stir, and letcook for about 10 minutes.  Add the remaining stock, and let cook for a further ten minutes - if it seems very liquid, leave the lid off, and it really is nicer if you can be bothered to stir it during this stage. 

When most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked, stir in the grated Parmesan and serve.  With or without a green vegetable, as you prefer. 

Monday, 28 May 2012

Bean casserole

My friend P is married to a Greek man and produced the authentic version of this wonderful dish at a party recently.  My version is less authentic, as I used cannellini beans, but if you can get proper Greek Giant beans (I haven't seen them dried here, only butter beans, which are not the same thing at all!), then so much the better.  I think this would have been even nicer had the ratio of beans to passata been higher, but I'm certainly not complaining!

About 3/4 cup by volume (c 180 g) of dried cannellini beans.  Or perhaps 250 ml (1 cup by volume) would be even better.
1 large carrot
1 red onion
1 carton passata (sieved tomatoes)
1 tbs olive oil
Seasoning - salt, pepper, garlic flakes (or use fresh garlic, but it's not in season just now and what is available isn't very nice, so I'm on the dried for now!), maybe a dash of soya sauce...

Soak the cannellini beans in water overnight.  Next morning, drain, rinse, and cook with fresh water in a pressure cooker for about 10 minutes.  Drain again, and place in the bowl of a slow cooker.  Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well, and leave to cook on auto until dinner time.  Fabulous!   I served this with mushrooms and new potatoes, and left-overs (there are a couple of spoonfuls) will go to pad out tomorrow night's mince.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Mum's mushroom pate

I've been meaning to post this for ages!  It is very good, makes far too much but it freezes well.

375 g mushrooms, sliced
3 tsp finely chopped onions (I used 1 small onion)
250 g butter, softened
50 g fresh breadcrumbs (2 slices!)
Lots of grated nutmeg
1 tbs chopped parsley
200 g reduced-fat cream cheese
2 tsp lemon juice (10 ml)
Scant tbs soya sauce (15 ml)

Melt 225 g of the butter, add onion and soften for about 10 minutes.  Add mushrooms, turn up the heat and fry briefly for a few minutes.  Stir in breadcrumbs and allow to cool.  Puree in food processor and then add the rest of the ingredients and work until smooth.

Monday, 12 March 2012


My mother used to get very irate when we called it "fishpaste".  "It is trout paté!" she would say, crossly.  But needless to say, "fishpaste" persisted.

You could use salmon instead of trout, and I think I fancy trying it with kipper or smoked mackerel, too.  This version, I had a slice of smoked salmon that wasn't doing anything, so it went in, too.

The remains of a cooked trout (the sort of amount which isn't enough for another meal, but too much to throw away)
1/2 pack low-fat cream cheese (c 100 g?)
About 75 g butter
Small sloosh tomato puree
Slice smoked salmon (optional)
Seasoning as liked.

Whizz it altogether in the food processor until it's smooth.  It freezes well.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Chicken, ham, leek and mushroom pie

Lots of cooked chicken - basically "Pick" the carcase of a roast chicken and chop the meat.
A similar amount of cooked ham, cubed if possible
1 leek
Small punnet mushrooms
About 20-25 g butter
250 ml milk
1 heaped tsp flour
2-3 potatoes
A little more butter and/or 1 tbs milk

Chop leek and put in saucepan with butter and mushrooms, which also chop if necessary.  Cover and allow to cook on a low heat for 6-7 minutes, until the juices have run.

Meanwhile, peel and steam or boil the potatoes, and mash with the extra butter and milk (and salt and pepper).

Whisk the flour into the milk and pour the result on to the leeks and mushrooms.  Bring to the boil, stirring all the time.  Now add the chopped meat, and transfer the lot into an oven-proof dish.  Top with mashed potato (or you could make your pie with a pastry topping, if you liked), and bake in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Healthy Egg Muffins

I have a totally shaming taste for Sausage and Egg McMuffins from McDonald's.  Yes, I know.... but every once in awhile I indulge it. 

But because I really can't afford the calories too often, and because it's junk food, I rather love a healthy home-made egg muffin; and this is what I had for breakfast this morning.  If you can't bear microwaved eggs, then either fry your in a ring so they stay circular or poach them, but for me, the rubberiness of the microwaved egg is part of the charm!

1 wholemeal muffin
1 large Portabello mushroom
1 tomato
1 egg
Large pinch of grated cheese (I used pre-grated Emmenthal, but Cheddar works very well, too).
Salt and pepper, as liked.

Split and toast your muffin;  meanwhile peel the mushroom, dot with butter (or spray with olive oil or even Fry Light) and cook in the microwave for 1 minute.  Chop the tomato and put in a ramekin dish with salt and pepper (and the juice from the mushroom, which will have run on to the plate).  Microwave the tomato for 1' or 1'30".  Top with the egg and cheese.  Pierce the yolk of the egg.  Return to microwave for a further minute or so, or until the egg is cooked to your liking.

Now assemble the mushroom on top of half the muffin, run a knife round the edge of the ramekin and turn the egg/cheese/tomato out on to the mushroom, and top with the rest of the muffin.  You'll probably need a knife and fork to eat this with.

Okay, it's not McDonald's.  But it is very nice!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Red Pork

I had some belly pork in the freezer, and didn't really know what to do with it, but this seemed to be the way forward.  I borrowed from several different recipes, I'm afraid, and can't remember who to credit.

I quantity belly pork (I had two thick pieces, no idea how much they weighed), cut into cubes. 
1 tbs each sesame oil and stir-fry oil
2 tbs white sugar
3 tbs soya sauce (I used 2 tbs light and 1 of dark, it was only meant to be 2 tbs but I forgot I had the dark stuff)
1 tbs rice wine or cheap sherry (you could probably use rice vinegar but I had none)
A large clove of garlic, crushed
A chunk of ginger - I use those frozen cubes of, which are brilliant
Chinese seasoning - 5-spice, star anise if you have any, general Chinese seasonings....

Mix the soya sauces and sherry/wine/vinegar together and stir in the seasonings.  Crush the garlic, and if using whole ginger, crush that, too.

Heat the oil and add the sugar, and then cook until the sugar caramelises.  The smoke alarm will probably go off.  Add the meat, stirring fiercely, and the ginger and garlic, and when the meat is coated with the caramelly oil, add the liquids.  It will boil hard, so keep stirring. 

Then turn down the heat, and transfer to an oven-proof dish if it isn't already in one.  Turn the oven on low - Mark 2 at the highest - and put the casserole in there for at least 2-3 hours, if not longer.  Slow cooking is far and away the best for this dish.

It's rather rich, so serve with plain boiled rice and a boiled or steamed green vegetable.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Seville Orange Marmalade

Strange, I could have sworn I posted my recipe last year!  Well, perhaps not.

2 kg Seville oranges
2 kg sugar
2 lemons
2 litres water

(Do you see what I'm doing here - so it makes it easy to scale your recipe up or down, depending on time, energy, etc).

Place whole oranges, halved lemons and water in a pressure cooker, and cook at HIGH pressure for 20 minutes.  Let cool at room temperature, and wait until cool enough to handle (overnight is good).  I've always used a pressure cooker - I believe if you don't you need about 3 times as much water and you need to boil the fruit for about 2 hours, but I've not tried it so can't guarantee it.

Scoop out the insides of the fruit and, if possible, separate out the pips.  Chop the rinds into tiny pieces.  Put the pips into a small saucepan with some of the water and boil hard for 5 minutes.  Strain into the large pan into which you have placed the chopped rinds, the remainder of the water, and the sugar.  Heat gently while sugar dissolves, stirring frequently, then bring to boil and boil until setting-point is reached (somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes).  Test by dripping on to a cold plate.

Pot into sterilised jars, seal, and keep in a dark place until you eat it. 

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Pasta and veg

This first week of the new year one often wants fairly plain food to make up for the excesses of the festive season.  This also had the merit of being easy!  Substitute vegetables as you choose....  Serves 2.

1 tbs olive oil
20 g butter
1/2 aubergine, finely chopped
1/2 punnet mushrooms, sliced
About 16 Brussels sprouts, peeled and sliced
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tbs low-fat cream cheese
1 tbs caramelised onion humus

Put the fats and vegetables into a wide-based frying-pan with a lid and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, then leave to sit, covered, on as low a heat as possible for a further 10-20 minutes (it is very forgiving!).  Just before serving, stir in the cream cheese and/or hummus and then your choice of cooked pasta (or noodles!).