Beetroot and pumpernickel stuffing

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.

Enjoy.

Stuffing mix as the egg goes in

This stuffing mix is very colourful

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

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease an ovenproof dish.
  2. Beetroot stained hands

    And my hands are colourful too. (There must be some way to prevent this...)

    Peel and grate the beetroot.

  3. 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.
  4. Mix all the ingredients  together thoroughly (make sure you get all the butter the onios were fried in) and transfer into the ovenproof dish.
  5. 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.

Hot stuffing just out of the oven

Hot stuffing just out of the oven


Carrots oven-cooked in molasses glaze

Carrots

Carrots

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

...and raisins

...and spices and raisins

2 dessert spoons black treacle (molasses)

1/2 teaspoon each: dried ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon
three bay leaves

three cloves

a handful of raisins

8 rashers streaky bacon

a large splash of red wine

1, Preheat the oven to ~200C

Carrots, spices and treacle

...and treacle

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.

Covered in bacon and ready for the oven

...and bacon!

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.

 

 

 

Ready to eat, served with a glass of red wine

Yum yum yum


Tenses or what happens when I get up early.

Scarf for Elly

Scarf for Elly

I am sorry for the dearth of posting lately. In my defense I have had a significant and much welcome upturn in my career and the previously mentioned less welcome but ultimately beneficial personal tribulations.

As part of my new work situation I have had to adjust my body-clock to a more normal daily routine and leave behind the luxurious freelancer’s world of 8.45am rising. It’s worth it to be doing fun stuff and getting paid for it but it is a bit of a shock. So, on the days when I don’t have to traipse across London at sparrowfart I still wake up in time to do so. (There is an upside which is lots of time to crochet on the train. The project in the blurry photo on the right is a new scarf for the lovely Elly.)

I breakfast bright and fresh… ok… ok… I breakfast grumpy and yawning at 6.45am and by 10 o’clock it’s definitely time for elevenses. Hence the title of this post.

So what am I having for tenses? Cooooookiiiiiies! And tea, lovely, lovely tea.

When I left home for the first time my mum gave me a load of simple recipes for the student kitchen printed on scraps of paper. I have carted them around with me on my wanderings since then and they are many of them battered and stained as all good recipes should be.The cookie recipe has become such a staple that it now lives behind the cereal on the worktop in my kitchen along with the basic sponge cake recipe. There’s no point putting them away because they’d only have to come back out again in no time.

The main reason I love this cookie recipe is its adaptability. Today I share it with you.

You will need:

100g soft margarine

150g dark brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

200g plain flour

1/2  teaspoon baking powder

50g tasty stuff e.g. chopped nuts, raisins, chocolate chunks etc

Method:

1.Grease two large baking trays. Pre-heat the oven to 180C

2. Cream together the marge and the sugar until pale.

3. Add the egg and vanilla essence, beat in thoroughly.

4. Sieve in the flour, baking powder and any powdered flavourings such as cocoa powder or spice. Fold in.

5. Stir in the other tasty stuff.

6. Spoon out even-sized teaspoons onto the baking tray and spread the mix slightly leaving a space around each to expand further as they bake.

7. Bake until firm. Personally I like a crunchy cookie so I tend to bake them until the begin to brown. Take them out sooner if you prefer more chewiness.

8. Cool on a wire rack.

Now here comes the cool bit. Although Momma’s original recipe is for a chocolate and nut cookie, I am an inveterate fiddler. I have found that amongst others you can make:

Oatmeal and raisin cookies

Remove 50g of the flour, add 50g of rolled oats and 50g of raisins and a pinch of cinnamon.

Lemon cookies

Add the grated rind and juice of half a lemon plus 50g of candied peel.

And today’s special… sesame cookies

Add a generous pinch of powdered ginger and 50g of  black sesame seeds. (I’m sure white would be just as tasty but black looks prettier.)

Tea and sesame cookies

Tea and sesame cookies

The sesame cookies are ridiculously moreish. I am getting through them at a hitherto unseen rate. (It’s also that time of the month mind.) They had a weird characteristic of being more delicious once they’d cooled than when they were fresh out the oven, which is frankly bizarre. Warm they were somehow odd and disappointing. Now they are cold though they are going down very nicely indeed with a good cuppa cha.


Aubergine Fried in Gram Flour

Fried Aubergine

Fried Aubergine

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)

Instructions:

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.

Aubergine slices

Aubergine slices

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.

Notes:

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.


Going bananas

Banana bread

Baking again, mmm banana bread

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

    Yay banana bread!

    Yay banana bread!

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
  2. Grease a 20cm x 12.5cm loaf tin.
  3. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk, vanilla extract and spices to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well. Fold into the flour.
  6. Pour the cake mixture into the tin and lay the slices of banana on the top. Sprinkle with sugar.
  7. Transfer to the oven and bake for about an hour, or until well-risen and golden-brown.
  8. 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.

Enjoy!


Pigs’ cheeks – or what happens when I shop at Waitrose

Frying pigs' cheeks

Frying pigs' cheeks

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…

Cheeks nicely browned

Cheeks nicely browned

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.

Pretty coloured veggies

Pretty coloured veggies

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.

Caramelising nicely

Caramelising nicely

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.

Before they went in the oven

Before they went in the oven

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?

Nah!

So this is what it looked like when all served up…

Pig's cheeks with mash and baby spinach

Pig's cheeks with mash and baby spinach

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.

Ho hum…


Jelly Whip – or why I should trust my instincts

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:

JELLY WHIP

1 pkt jelly, any flavouf                 3/4pt hot water

1 small tin evaporated milk – refrigerated for several hours

A 1 pint mould or dish

  1. Dissolve the jelly in the hot, but not quite boiling, water, and leave to set.
  2. When the jelly is thickening but not set, whisk the evaporated milk in a large mixing bowl until a very thick foam.
  3. Whisk in the setting jelly.
  4. 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!

Peach juice and gelatine

Peach juice and gelatine

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.

Just beginning whisking the milk

Just beginning whisking the milk

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.

Bleugh!

Frothy and fluffy

Frothy and fluffy

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.

Gah!

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.

Big bowlful of jelly whip

Big bowlful of jelly whip

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.