You know when you make something a bit random on the offchance it’ll be nice but you don’t hold out much hope, and then it turns out to be delicious. BEST FEELING EVER.
This was such a surprise find that I didn’t take photos the first time around. I just bunged it together and when it came out tasty I scarfed the lot.
This time I have been a bit more careful so we have pictures. This is honestly one of my favourite creations.
You will need:
1 medium sized beetroot
1 small onion
180g pumpernickel bread, crumbled
1 egg beaten
25g butter plus a little extra to grease the dish
a tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180C and grease an ovenproof dish.
Peel and grate the beetroot.
- Finely chop the onion and fry in the melted butter in a covered pan over a very low heat until translucent but not browned. If they begin to brown stir and turn the heat down.
- Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly (make sure you get all the butter the onios were fried in) and transfer into the ovenproof dish.
- Cover with foil and bake until set. Remove the foil and allow the top to brown.
I serve this with roast chicken (slide a bay leaf under the chicken skin on each breast and thigh, place a quartered onion in the body cavity and salt the skin all over, roast breast down until the last twenty minutes and breast up to crisp at the end). The sharpness and subtle flavour of the stuffing aren’t overpowered by the chicken and bring out its meatiness.
I have been asked to put up more recipes so here’s one.
If you are a veggie you don’t need the bacon but you will need to season with salt and pepper and possibly cover it for the first part of the cooking process.
I suggest adding a pinch or two of paprika as well and/or a tiny dab of marmite.
To serve four:
4 medium/large carrots peeled and cut into large pieces (eg in quarters lengthways thenhalves/thirds )
1 large onion
2 dessert spoons black treacle (molasses)
1/2 teaspoon each: dried ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon
three bay leaves
a handful of raisins
8 rashers streaky bacon
a large splash of red wine
1, Preheat the oven to ~200C
2. Slice the onion and place in the bottom of an ovenproof dish with the bay leaves
3. Add peeled and cut carrots
4. Sprinkle over spices and raisins
5. Drizzles over treacle and wine
6. Layer over bacon
7. Put into oven. Cook until it begins to smell good.
8. Remove from oven. Baste with the juices thoroughly and return to oven.
9. Leave another 5-10 mins and repeat.
10. Repeat until the carrots are cooked through but al dente.
Serve with duck or green lentils or something. I don’t know. I made 1.5 portions and ate it by itself with bulgar and more red wine and it was bloody delicious.
Updated to add pictures kindly sent over by the lovely Rachel who has made this and liked it.
Crispy, salty, melting, soft and ooooh so moreish these were a flash of inspiration that made my little day.
They’re also pretty simple to make so hooray for that!
You will need:
- 1 aubergine (eggplant)
- 5-6tbsp gram (chickpea) flour
- enough oil to coat the bottom of your pan to about 5mm deep
- salt and pepper to taste (you can also add some ground chili or cumin or whatever you fancy)
Slice the aubergine across into rounds less than 1cm thick.
Mix the salt and pepper in with the gram flour and place in a shallow dish wide enough to fit a slice of aubergine into it flat.
Scrunch a few sheets of paper towel and put these onto your serving plate so the fried pieces have something to drain onto.
Heat the oil until it is shimmering but not smoking. You can test it with a piece of stale bread which should go brown in 30secs or so.
Place a slice of aubergine into the seasoned gram flour and press down. Turn it over and press down again so it is coated. The natural moisture should be enough to make a light coating stick.
Knock gently on the side of the dish to remove the excess flour and place in the hot oil. Repeat until the pan is full. The slices shouldn’t touch.
When the tops of the slices are changing colour and becoming translucent in places flip the slices over carefully. Don’t splash yourself!
Fry until both sides are golden brown.
Remove shaking to get rid of excess oil. Pat each slice with the paper towel then leave to drain and cool for a few seconds.
Serve as quickly as possible with a hot, sharp tomato salsa or just a wedge of lemon and some salad.
Gram flour is available from lots of Asian and increasingly from mainstream supermarkets. It’s made from ground chickpeas and is use in all sorts of Indian snacks. Too much of it can have a well-known embarrassing leguminous effect so go easy. That said it is great for making all sorts of little fried things like this and may be useful for people with a wheat intolerance. It’s also high protein so vegetarians and low carb dieters may find it a handy product to have around. It does have a specific flavour of its own, somewhat vegetable. Personally I like it but you may prefer to disguise it with lots of garlic and spice. It doesn’t substitute well for wheat flour in all things so check your recipes.
Unexpectedly (unexpected by me anyway) I returned home from my first 10K run the other day with a massive bag of overripe bananas… as well as jelly legs and the hunger of the righteous. Honestly if there’s a freebie going you know I’m going to be in like Flynn.
So I wasn’t a huge fan of bananas until I started running when I was introduced to their mystical energising properties. One of the things I always had a problem with was the shopping issue. If I wasn’t running I’d want to eat one banana about every three to four days. That’s exactly the wrong length of time for my greengrocery cycle which tends to be every five days or so, and bananas’ ripening time which is too bloody quickly. I like bananas practically green for preference but they don’t stay that way for long and they certainly don’t stay that way in my very warm flat for four days. And I feel like a fool going to the shops just to buy a solitary green banana every four days. Humph! (Listen to my first world problems…)
Anyway, the run was a ball. My buddies and I stayed together and as a result were right at the back, but since it was a training run and not a charity run, we were up against some serious runners. One boy in particular seemed to sprint the entire thing, lapped us twice and was way ahead even of the rest of the best! The whole thing took place on a lovely cool but sunny morning in Regents Park. The horse chestnuts were out. A gentle breeze blew. We saw the camels in the zoo.
When we finished the nice mumsy ladies at the water stand (like a much fitter version of the WI) were giving away bananas. Of course we each had one but they had over ordered by a couple of boxes and were desperately pressing them on everyone who walked by.
“Make banana bread!” They implored.
“Y’okay.” Thought I. I returned home with about twice as many as I needed.
Then I had a busy week and nothing got done. I made pre-run smoothies with a few of the nanas. (One banana, a handful of grapes, a nectarine and a slosh of apple juice. Mmmmm….) But eventually I had to just go for it and make the bread.
There’ s a recipe on the BBC which I’ve used before but looking at it I decided it was a bit too sweet. I wanted something slightly plainer and I wanted some spice in it.
So this is my version…
- 285g self-raising flour
- 110g butter, plus extra for greasing
- 150g caster sugar
- 2 free-range eggs
- 4 ripe bananas, 3 mashed, one sliced lengthsways
- 85ml/3fl oz buttermilk (or normal milk mixed with 1½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- a good pinch each cinnamon and nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
- Grease a 20cm x 12.5cm loaf tin.
- Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk, vanilla extract and spices to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well. Fold into the flour.
- Pour the cake mixture into the tin and lay the slices of banana on the top. Sprinkle with sugar.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for about an hour, or until well-risen and golden-brown.
- Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.
Now I may not have baked mine quiiiiiiiite long enough even though it looks a little burned in the photo at the top that’s just the photography! It has cooled and been a little over sticky. But otherwise it is just great. The nanas on the top look great I think you’ll agree. For those who want a more cake-like sweetness the original recipe calls for 250g of sugar so anywhere in that range will be tasty.
A few years ago my fella gave me a copy of Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating I’ve made a couple of things out of it, with limited success, but it’s definitely inspired me to be a bit more adventurous with choosing cuts of meat. As I think it has everyone. It also fits with my philosophy that if you’re going to cause an animal to be killed for your eating pleasure you should have the good courtesy to eat as much of it as is edible. Now I have to confess to having limits on this personally. I’m not a huge fan of tripe. I’ve yet to be able to bring myself to eat brain or sweetbreads. I’m not keen on kidneys. So saying I’m well up for liver. I think heart is absolutely delicious. I have enjoyed a pig’s ear and snout when roast.
So when Waitrose had a packet of what turned out to be seven cheeks for £1.37(!) I was straight in there. Good call, Quincey! It turns out pigs’ cheeks have the tenderness and flavour of pork belly without the thick strip of fat on the outside. Mmmmmm…
Henderson’s recipe called for the cheeks to be brined for three or four days and frankly I couldn’t be doing with that so I did a quick internet search and came up with this recipe. Another good call. People this was a serious hit.
Now I did fiddle a little bit but not so you’d notice. So here are where I cut corners:
The recipe calls for the cheeks to be seasoned floured and fried. I have the fear of salting meat too early in the braising or stewing process and making it tough so I skipped the seasoning.
I used red onions because that’s what I had to hand. I also played fairly fast and loose with the quantities of vegetables. I was already making a funny amount because I had seven cheeks so I wasn’t going to be overly fussy about making sure I had everything too perfect.
I didn’t brown them either I just let them get to being really soft and the onion to being transparent and clearly well cooked.
I didn’t have caraway seeds, I had aniseeds so substituted those. I may have used slightly less than the recipe would have demanded if scaled up for seven cheeks exactly but seriously it looked like a lot of aniseed already and it’s pretty potent stuff.
I went for a run with my half marathon buddies while it was all in the oven so it may not have had exactly four hours. It might have been slightly over. As if that makes a difference.
We had a nice run though. It’s been a very beautiful spring here in London. All sunshine and daffodils and birdsong. After a grim old winter and a shockingly bad summer last year we’ve earned it frankly.
It was still quite cool and brisk when I made these (this post is a couple of weeks late I’m afraid) now it’s almost summery so I’m not sure you’d want to make them unless we have a cold snap. Still I feel I should get the post up now or I never will.
Of course I came back from the run absolutely ravenous. I had some mash ready to heat up with them and washed some baby spinach to go on the side.
I did not bother to strain out the vegetables. I mean come on! Really? Chuck out all those lovely simmered down veg?
So this is what it looked like when all served up…
I was surprised at how well the flavours blended. I would never have put aniseed in with tomato before but they melted in together and the result was warm and subtle and smooth. This was one of the nicest things I’ve made in ages. Posh comfort food. The kind of thing you’d get in a really good gastropub. There being so much of it I had some more with a friend the next day and froze a portion too.
I will definitely be buying these again. The only trouble is, that means going to Waitrose and I always end up spending three times as much as I mean to when I go in there.
Proportions are funny things. It’s easy to get the a little wonky. And sometimes it’s even easier to get them a lot wonky.
I’m sitting here eating a sort of home made gelato. It wasn’t what I set out to make but it tastes quite nice and frankly I’m happy to have rescued my recipe so that’s all good.
You want to know the story of how I came to be eating an unintended gelato? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
My darling mother told my darling sister and me how to make jelly whip not so long ago when she was up in town. It sounded good. She subsequently emailed a recipe which goes as follows:
1 pkt jelly, any flavouf 3/4pt hot water
1 small tin evaporated milk – refrigerated for several hours
A 1 pint mould or dish
- Dissolve the jelly in the hot, but not quite boiling, water, and leave to set.
- When the jelly is thickening but not set, whisk the evaporated milk in a large mixing bowl until a very thick foam.
- Whisk in the setting jelly.
- Pour into mould/dish etc. and leave to set.
A variation – before stage 2: pour a quarter of the jelly into the serving dish and leave to set. Continue as above and turn out the whole thing set with a clear layer atop and decorate with fruit.
Being my mama she entitled her email “jelly whip” and started it with the phrase “Let’s see what your spam-check makes of that title.” ! I love you mum!
It sounds like a piece of cake to be honest and readily open to adaptation so I thought I’d have a go at the posh version. I had a tin of evaporated milk in the cupboard so I stuck it in the fridge overnight. I coudn’t remember ever seeing a smaller evaporated milk tin, this one was regular tin sized so I assumed that’s what the recipe meant. Ahem.
I wanted to make a peach jelly so I bought some peach juice from the corner shop and set to with the gelatine. I got the quantities a little off using the full pint of peach to make the jelly but I reckoned that would probably be ok. BTW I should emphasise the importance of not playing fast and loose with the instructions on gelatine packets. You can end up with some really nasty stringy, lumpy, goopy messes if you do. Even I try very hard to stick to the rules with this stuff.
While it was setting I went for it with the whisk and the tin of milk. Not every recipe I make involves whisking but somehow I’ve been doing quite a bit of it lately. Things come in phases I guess.
I was pretty amazed by how much volume can be created so easily in this process. The milk fluffed up like nobodies business. It was fun. But I began to become a little concerned…
Because I realised that of course this was not a small tin of evaporated milk. This was probably double the size of a small tin. As I whisked some more and the milk expanded further I thanked my lucky stars for the size of my mixing bowl and started to worry properly that I hadn’t made enough jelly to properly flavour and set the milk.
When I whipped in the jelly I knew I was right. There was barely any flavour except a slight souring of the milk.
I didn’t have much more peach juice and I didn’t trust it to provide enough flavour anyway. I needed to think of something else. Meanwhile time was ticking and what I had already made was setting.
I rifled through my various cupboards rejecting spices and colourings and inappropriate alcohol until my fingers grasped a bottle of almond flavouring. Aha! I don’t know if you’ve had fruit- almond combinations but can I recommend amaretto and orange juice as a good way to start exploring them. Add a good dash of lemon juice if that sounds too sweet.
I made up another jelly with the remaining peach juice and poured in a goodly splash of almond flavouring. I poured it slowly at height into the milk to help cool it on its way in. In it went but the flavour was still too mild.
More almond. Still not much flavour. More almond… meh, stil a bit bland. More almond and now I’m worried about overdosing on almond essence, but at last I have something that tastes good.
Oh and I should also mention, could fill a small bathtub.
Yes, in my drive to finish making the stuff I had left aside all sense of proportion and allowed myself to create a dessert that would occupy 3/4 of the space in my fridge.
Clearly it was time to call in the professionals.
Once it set I got on the phone to my sometimes fella and put in a plea. “I need my fridge back! Will you help?”
He was on the bus practically before I’d finished the call.
Between us we got through about a third of it straight off.
That sounds like a huge amount but it really is mostly air. His comment was that he had never eaten anything so light and fluffy. I blended some frozen berries to go with it which was a good call. (Sorry no pictures of this. It was yummy and we snaffled it before I remembered to take any.)
When he left I packed him a boxful to take home. It was set quite successfully and didn’t collapse on the journey.
I wasn’t sure I could eat the rest before it went off but it occurred to me that it might freeze ok. And I was right. It’s slightly chewy compared to, say, ice cream, but still very nice.
I definitely want to try to make this again but next time I will definitely search around for a small tin of milk. I will also use a stronger flavour of juice to make the jelly. Cherry I think would be nice or perhaps ditch the juice altogether and make it with coffee.
Anyway, I will get back to my thawing pudding and look forward to hearing about your last minute rescues. What have you made that required quick thought and a splash of something out the cupboard to sort it out? Tell me in the comments.
Baked avocados? Baked avocados?
Oh yes. Definitely yes. Very definitely yes.
The idea for these came from the wonderful Leiths Vegetarian Bible by Polly Tyrer. Her version has garlic herb cheese in it but I am a funny bunny and don’t like cheese. No not even cream cheese. Not even marscapone. I do like garlic butter though, so I took the cooking time and temp and made a new thing.
I must confess I’d had cooked avocados before in Ethiopian stews with chicken. They were delicious but pretty much buried under the flavour of the spices and the fire of the scotch bonnets. This recipe lets them shine and shine they do. They have a flavour a little bit like artichoke but really unlike anything else. What you really notice is the fantastic texture and the very enjoyable sense of eating a genuinely decadent tasting vegetarian dish.
This is also super quick and simple to make.
I’m going to give you a per avocado recipe and you can adapt it for the number of people you have. One avocado will serve one person as a main course or two as a substantial starter.
You will need:
1 ripe but firm avocado
1 dessert spoon softened butter
1 clove garlic
1 sprig each fresh thyme, sage and rosemary
salt and black pepper to taste
Set the oven to 200C/gas mark 6
Grate the zest from the lemon. Chop the herbs very finely. Crush the garlic into a paste. Mash all of the above into the butter with a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper.
Halve the avocado, remove the stone and peel.
Smear the avocado and fill the stone hole with the butter mixture. Place the avocado face down on a baking sheet. No need too butter the sheet because as you’ll see the the avocado is well greased already and won’t stick.
Bake for ten minutes. No longer. Timing is important.
Serve with a wedge of lemon, a side salad and crusty bread. Drizzle the melted butter from the pan over the avocado.
Feel smug that deliciousness is so bloody easy.
We have had a request! The fabulous owner of Yarn To Knit has asked for my chocolate and orange pudding recipe, and well she might as this is one of the successes of my year to date. This is an adaptation of Nigel Slater’s sponge pudding in its own sauce and is a bit of a faff to make but totally worth it.
I have this lovely lady to thank for introducing me to the original. I don’t tend to return to recipes over and over unless they are a base recipe from which I can improvise but this one is just so gorgeous that I have made it several times over and have only just thought to add the chocolate.
Be warned before you begin, you will need lots of bowls and hence a good washer up. I suggest bringing this to the table and refusing to serve it until you have extracted promises of dishwashing from your family.
The quantities given make a very large pudding so I usually halve them.
This should be enough for six:
softened but not melted butter 100g
caster sugar 175g
oranges 3 small fruit
at least 70% cocoa solids chocolate 6 squares
proper cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate with sugar and milk added) 40g
Cream the butter and sugar together until very pale and aerated. Nigel suggests a mixer for this. I’ve never felt the need to buy one so do it by hand.
Put the oven on to gas mark 4/180C (my oven is fan assisted and tends to run high so I put it on 160C).
Grate the zest of the oranges, avoiding the pith. Then cut them in half and stick them in the microwave for 30secs, this helps you with the next step, squeezing the juice out. Grate the chocolate.
Clean inside of grater with fingers.
Separate the eggs and add the yolks to the butter and sugar. Nigel reckons it should curdle right now but mine never does. It waits until a couple of stages later, then it curdles. He also says not to worry about it so I never have.
Slowly and gently add the milk and cocoa powder alternating bit by bit. I bet it’s curdled now hasn’t it?
Except if you’re taking photos of it for a blog post, then it’ll be almost televisually smooth! Mix in the grated orange and chocolate then the juice. The batter should really soft, almost sloppy and not look particularly appetising. Never fear Nigel knows his puddings.
Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Now I regret not getting that electric mixer. It would be handy. Still, feel my right bicep! Grrrrr! I’m like Popeye on one side and Olive Oyl on the other.
Gently, gently fold the egg whites into the batter. You don’t want to knock the air out of them.
Pour the whole lot into a tallish oven proof dish so that it comes about halfway up the sides.
Put that into a pan filled with hot water high enough to come halfway up your dish.
Carefully transfer the whole lot into the oven.
You now have an hour on your hands. I suggest you crochet. Or y’know, start on the washing up if you’re one of those horrible organised people.
After an hour test the top of the pudding which should feel ‘spongy’. When removing it from the oven be super careful with the boiling water in the roasting pan. I once nearly poured it all down my stomach. That would have made my dinner party memorable…
Leave it to cool for as long as you can stand. I can never wait nearly long enough and I burn my mouth every time.