Tag Archives: Cooking

nettle risotto with stilton and crispy bacon

21 Jun

We are still eating our way through the frozen nettle pesto and to be honest it is becoming a challenge to reinvent it to keep it interesting. Stilton and bacon are a pretty winning combination, although not an especially healthy one, this meal would be perfect as a mid-week treat after a bad day at work.

I make up a basic risotto with 1.25l of stock and 200g risotto rice and then throw in two cubes of the pesto when the rice is nearly cooked. The main thing here is getting the bacon nice and crispy. Before putting starting to cook the risotto, I pre heat the oven to 250°C and lay the bacon; 3 rashers per person, (it must be streaky for this to work),  on a cooling rack on a tray. It’s also important to make sure the rashers don’t over lap, this will stop them crisping and they will just be chewy (not desirable)!

Oven the oven is up to temperature the bacon should take 30 min to crisp up but will need a few minutes out of the oven to crisp up completely, so you will have loads of time to make the risotto. When it’s ready, crumble the bacon and Stilton over the risotto and maybe add some salad leaves in a nod healthy eating!

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chilli, the ultimate comfort food?

5 Jun

Comfort food is a deeply personal often emotional subject, and I think comfort foods change at different stages of our lives. If you’d asked me as a child what my comfort food was it would have been ice cream, jelly or maybe chocolate blancmange ; definitely not chilli ! When I was younger I refused to eat anything spicy, my Mum likes to remind me that she would dutifully set aside a portion of non chillied chilli for me, before adding spice for the grown ups. It wasn’t until I made curry at school that I realised I quite liked spicy food. I haven’t looked back since. I pride myself on making good chilli both meat based and vegetarian and am always looking new recipes to try.

My latest trial is a keeper. A lamb chilli from U.S.A by Sheila Lukins a weighty 604 page encyclopedia of down home american cooking, it was a bargain on Amazon and I can see it becoming a firm favourite. The corn bread and zesty picnic slaw are also from the same book and routed the meal firmly in the southern states (and thus not for slimmers). The chilli was everything I want in a chilli, spicy and hot but not eye watering, savoury but with a hint of sweetness thanks to the addition of molasses. Ancho chilli and a bottle of beer give it a deep, rich earthy flavour which develops over the long slow cooking period. It isn’t speedy comfort food! I also think it would work as a meat free recipe with lentils or a mixture of beans rather than lamb.

The cornbread is recommended with it in the book and makes it feel very American, I love its sweet taste and slightly sandy texture alongside the chilli, but can see that others might find it odd at first. It was my idea to have the slaw with it, partly because I thought we should have some fresh veg to balance the meat and carbs! As it doesn’t use mayo like many coleslaw recipes it was very light and fruity with a dressing based on orange juice, a nice balance to the richness of everything else, a is a bit of healthiness on the side.

This was a truly epic chilli, if I had a freezer I would make a vat of it so I could have some on hand for emergencies and emotional crises, I know things would feel much better with a plateful of this in front of me. What’s your go to meal in times of need?

Pretty in Pink Victoria Sponge

28 May

Up until now one of the chinks in my culinary armour has been sponge cakes! The Victoria sponge has been a particular nemesis, if the batter doesn’t curdle I get over excited and open the oven too soon and watch my gorgeous pillowy cakes sink! That is until my Mum bought me Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale. I’ll be honest, I haven’t cooked much from it yet but I’ve high hopes after having a go at her Victoria sponge recipe. Ta da..

This one has been adapted with some added elderflower cordial as a practice run for a Clandestine Cake Club event I’m going to in June. It looked like a Victoria sponge*, tasted like one, and was light and fluffy with not a hint of curdled batter insight. Result! The non standard icing is a mixture of 2 tbsp of freeze-dried raspberries and 1tbsp icing sugar pushed through a sieve over the cake. A fruity, tangy alternative to the traditional sugar topping.

*Purist would argue that it isn’t a true Victoria sponge because of the elderflower, non standard sugar topping and even for some because the jam wasn’t raspberry. I however was too proud to care!

rhubarb and lavender

22 May

I love rhubarb! As a kid my Dad used to let me eat the very young stems raw with an egg cup of sugar  on the side to dip them in.  When we first took over the allotment Dad split one of the crowns in their garden and gave it to us, I could get quite sentimental about it but I’ll try not to. It was the first thing we planted, well I planted (The Man was away) and I still remember an old man wandering over to tell me that was exactly the sort of thing I should be planting, but “why wasn’t my husband helping me”, kindly meant I’m sure so I didn’t challenge it!

Luckily rhubarb seems to travel well and it’s been very happy in it’s corner of the allotment ever since. It’s a versatile vegetable, yes vegetable, and can be used in meat dishes as well as more traditional desserts and puddings. This was a gorgeous pud, but it didn’t photograph well.

Inspired by Peck Peck’s honey and lavender ice cream at the underground night market, and with a big lavender bush on the allotment I wanted to try adding lavender to my cooking. This combination was picked on a whim when I was weeding round the plants but a quick google shows it is fairly common. The highly perfumed flavour of the lavender seemed to make the rhubarb, well more rhubarby and more complex tasting than straight up stewed rhubarb.

Ingredients

3 sticks of rhubarb, leaves removed

50g caster sugar ( more or less to suit your taste)

3 sprigs of fresh lavender

4 tbsp water

Method

Place all ingredients in a pan and simmer gently until rhubarb is soft ( I went over board and over cooked it ).  Can be served hot but I left it to cool and served it with Greek yoghurt with honey from Tims Dairy which I love! It’s rich and creamy with a lovely but not overpowering honey taste. Lavender in cooking, watch this space for more ideas..maybe brownies next, any suggestions?

quinoa salad with chickpeas, courgettes and feta.

15 May

I’ve been practicing my courgette recipes ready for later in the year! Only kidding, but with the weather turning warm I instinctively move away from heavier food and towards lighter more summery food.

Quinoa has an interesting history, it is much beloved of Gillian McKeith; but don’t let that put you off! Originally grown in South America it was regarded as a sacred food by the Incas with its cultivation actively suppressed by Spanish colonists for its links to non-Christian ceremonies. Now widely available, it is mild, slightly nutty little bundle of protein and easy too cook and use much like rice or cous cous. The Man pronounced this dinner ” a triumph”, the highest level of praise in our house; and is a great light and tasty supper.

Ingredients

2 courgettes cut into rough slices, drizzled with oil, salt and pepper.

100g quinoa

300ml water

2 tbsp pesto, your choice but I used nettle

1 can chickpeas

1 red chill finely chopped

1/2 bulb fennel finely sliced

1 can chick peas, drained

100g feta diced.

squeeze of lemon juice

Method.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees, and roast courgettes; this should take 20/30 minutes but how well you want them done is up to you. Boil the quinoa with 300ml water, for approx 20 minute, until tender. The rest is really and assembly job. Drain the quinoa and place in a mixing bowl, add the pesto and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients and stir together. Serve with lemon squeezed over to taste.

smoked salmon, broccoli and chive quiche

9 May

The Man and I picked up some gorgeous treats at Ms Marmite Lover’s Underground Market including some lovely smoked salmon and smoked cheese from The Artisan Smokehouse their products are more widely available in Norfolk and Suffolk (they are based in Suffolk) but you can buy online too. As both products are a bit special I wanted to try to make the most of them so decided to combine them.

Not bad for a first attempt ( I’ve never made quiche before) but it confirmed that The Man makes better pastry than me; cold hands!! Here is the recipe I used, based on my Mum’s and one that could be adapted for almost any filling.

Ingredients

Short Crust pastry, enough to cover 10 inch dish. I used this recipe doubled. Or you can buy it!

Filling.

4 eggs whisked

1/2 pt milk

handful chopped chives

50g grated smoked cheddar cheese

120g smoked salmon, sliced

5 florets or broccoli, broken up into little “trees”, part cooked.

pinch salt and pepper

Method

Pre heat over to 180. Roll out pasty, line quiche tin with pastry and blind bake for 15 minutes. While pastry is cooking, part cook the broccoli for 2 minutes and allow to cool. Next mix together, eggs, milk, cheese, salmon, broccoli, salt and pepper. Take pastry base out of the over and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Pour filling mixture into the base and bake to 25 to 30 min or until the middle is just wobbly.

Serve with green salad or the seasonal recommendation, new potatoes and asparagus.

dandelion fritters – give these a try!

29 Apr

Inspired by out adventures with Fergus last week on our last trip to the allotment The Man and I were on the look out for anything edible that we had previously considered a weed! It’s been a real eye opener, and I feel I can justify my lazy attitude now, I’m just growing alternative crops, not encouraging weeds! We grow dandelions almost as well as we grow nettles, and at least they have the advantage of being pretty! Shallow? Me?

Pretty yes, and tasty too! Dandelion leaves are edible, we tasted them when we were out foraging,  they were too bitter for me, but I’d encourage you to try them and see. The flowers and stems are also edible. We ate the flower petals scattered over a salad, but Fergus also suggested a savoury tempura treatment and many web sites suggest adding honey or maple syrup which is where this idea came from.

First pick your flowers; legally you need permission from the land owner before you pick anything, as ours came from our allotment they are fair game. Also you need to be careful not to pick too close to roads, anywhere that has been sprayed with chemicals or peed on by dogs etc! Boring maybe, but I felt I should say it.  When picking, leave enough of the stem to act as a handle when cooking and eating, think of them as a floral lolly pop.

For the batter I used a drop scone batter; you will have some left over, but you can make pancakes the next day which is no bad thing.

Ingredients

As many dandelion flowers as you wish.

125 g self-raising flour, 2 tsp caster sugar, 1 egg beaten, 1 tbsp melted butter, 150 ml milk, 4 tbsp sunflower oil. Other batters will also work just as well.

Runny honey, maple syrup, golden syrup *sauce of your choice.

Dunk the blooms in the batter and shallow fry in hot oil until browned and crisp. Serve together, the stems will act as a handle. I think they look incredibly pretty too!

Dip in chosen sauce or syrup and enjoy!

You should experience a range of tastes and textures, sweet syrup, crispy batter, soft petals and then a slight bitter finish. The Man and I ate them up with relish and they are certainly and accessible and tasty way to begin experimenting with foraged food. Also, like the nettle pesto, I find a certain satisfaction in finding a use for something I’d otherwise consider a nuisance.

up cycled olives

14 Apr

This recipe can be used to jazz up cheap olives into something party worthy with minimum effort. I used to hate olives when I was younger and then developed a taste for them almost overnight. However, like my cheese habit, my love of olives can be a costly one. Recently I was asked to bring olives as nibbles to a party but wasn’t sure how may people were going to be there so I thought I’d have a shot a marinating my own. Starting with cheap olives and adding herbs and flavours to disguise their true origin.

Ingredients

1 jar of green olives & 1 jar of black olives from a well-known budget supermarket.

1 clove garlic finely chopped

1 sprig of rosemary and same of thyme finely chopped

1 tsp crushed

1 red chilli finely chopped

zest of 1 lemon in strips of finely grated.

Olive oil to cover

Method

Drain the olives and place in a large tub or jar, chop garlic, herbs and chilli and crush fennel seeds with a pestle and mortar and the back of a spoon. Add to the olives. Cover with olive oil and leave in the fridge to infuse for at least 48 hours. If the oil still covers the olives these could be kept in the fridge for a few weeks if needed, or feed a lot of people in one go. These olives are especially good with a little lemon juice squeezed over them, and the oil can be kept and used as a dressing or in other dishes.

geitost round two

3 Apr

This is only a partly formed recipe, no measurements as yet, but I wanted to post it as a thank you to Johannes who encouraged me to give geitost another chance.  You can read the discussion here but is seems I underestimated its uses. As we had a lot of the ingredients Johannes mentioned and a lot of cheese left I had a go at putting something together.

I part cooked some venison sausages in a frying pan them put in the oven to continue cooking and then in the same pan gently cooked some mushrooms. When these were part cooked I de glazed the pan with stock, (but white wine or cider would also work really well) and allowed everything to simmer of a bit (not very specific I know) until the sausages were cooked. Just before serving I stirred in the grated cheese, some spinach, cooked squash (I’d had to defrost the freezer earlier in the day) and a tablespoon of creme fraiche.

As well as being a massive amount of food for two people, (probably because I busked the recipe), it was incredibly tasty. The sweetness of the cheese worked with the sweetness of the squash and whilst the sauce did have a lactic tang it didn’t seem out-of-place and if anything it helped cut through the richness of the sausages. The mushrooms and stock also added a deeply savoury flavour and a good punch of umami along with the cheese. It was very filling, a real winter warmer, and really I don’t think it needed the squash, but it needed using up and next time I will pay more attention to the quantity I’m making, but it was a pretty impressive result for something I had written off as not for me. Thanks Johannes!

super easy rocky road crispy cakes

30 Mar

Continuing the lazy but delicious theme last week I had a craving for rice krispie cakes, a bit of nostalgic childhood comfort food. The end result was a wee bit different, mixing the marshmallows, nuts and dried fruit of rocky road with the lightness and crunch of krispie cakes.

Ingredients

200g dark chocolate broken into pieces ( milk if prefered)

60g unsalted butter diced

3 tbsp golden syrup

100g mini marshmallows

50g mixed dried fruit

50g walnut pieces

120g of rice krispies

Method.

In the microwave, or over a pan of simmering water melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup being careful not to overheat and burn. When the mixture is liquid and glossy add the fruit, nuts and half the marshmallows, allow the marsh mallows to melt a little. Put the rice krispies and the rest of the marshmallows into a large mixing bow. Stir in the chocolate mixture until the rice krispies are totally covered. Place in cake cases or a baking tin until cooled and set. If using a baking tin cut into squares when cool.

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