Thursday, 31 March 2011
Well, we are back to the rain and drizzle . . . all the sunshine and warm temperatures of the past week having desserted us. It sure was nice while it lasted, but this early in the year, one really can't expect anything else!
We got to work doing some spring cleaning this morning, starting off in the kitchen. It's amazing how cluttered the cupboards got over the winter. It doesn't seem to matter how many times you tell yourself you are going to try hard to put things back in the same place after you use them . . . it never really seems to happen!
I was also amazed at how much out of date things there were stogged in the back of the larder cupboard . . . a sure sign that I've been overbuying and something I'll have to rectify!
In any case, we found ourselves in the mood for a hearty and filling soup when it came to lunch, and I just happened to have a bag of green split peas that needed using up asap!
Oh, I do love a good pea soup! It may not be very pretty to look at, but it tastes wonderful. Todd . . . he loves his with bread rolls and butter, but me . . . I like mine with crisp crackers. (I like the Italian ones. They are the closest thing to the ones from back home.)
Did you know it is considered uncouth to crumble your crackers into your soup? well shut my mouth! I discovered that the other night as I was reading a book on table ettiquette . . . and whilst I would never do it in front of the Queen . . . I do think it's quite, quite acceptable to do it in front of Todd!
*Thick Pea Soup*
You can sprinkle the top of this delicious soup with some crisp croutons just before serving, or do like me and just crumble on soda crackers!
3 1/2 pints of ham stock (7 cups)
12 ounces of dried split peas (yellow or green) (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 ounces butter (1/4 cup)
4 thick slices of smoked back bacon, diced
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, trimmed and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 small potato, peeled and diced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the stock into a large saucepan. Bring just to the simmer and then add the split peas. Cover and simmer very gently for 30 minutes.
While the peas are cooking melt 1/2 of the butter in a small skillet. Add the vegetables and bacon. Cook and stir over medium heat, until softened and golden. Add to the simmering split peas. Season lightly with some salt and pepper. Cover and simmer gently for a further 45 to 50 minutes. Remove about 1 cup of the soup and set aside. Use a stick blender to puree the remaining soup, or pass through a seive, or use a jug blender. Return to the saucepan and stir the reserved 1 cup of soup back into it. Taste and adjust seasoning. You may thin it out with an additional amount of hot stock if you think it is too thick.
Serve hot, ladled into heated bowls, dropping a bit of the remaining butter on top of each serving, along with a grinding of pepper and a few flakes of sea salt, if you wish.
Wednesday, 30 March 2011
We had the missionaries over for tea tonight and, as you know, I always like to spoil them a little bit. Last week one of them mentioned that he hadn't had a Pecan Pie in almost 2 years, and so I thought today I would bake them a Pecan Pie.
Todd does not like Pecan Pie. I know . . . he's crazy. Poor Todd . . . he had fruitcake instead, which he does like. To make matters worse I baked a tasty lasagne for the main course, which Todd also doesn't like!
Or he says he doesn't like it at any rate, but I notice that whenever I do make it he clears all his plate. Ahem . . . me thinks he doth protest too much! He is actually a secret lasagne lover! Ok, so maybe love is tad strong . . . tolerate would probably be more like it in all actuality.
I do make a really good lasagne though. Back home we never topped our lasagne with a Bechamel sauce, so discovering that it is the norm over here was quite exciting to me, but then . . . Over here, they usually don't ever have a layer of ricotta or cottage cheese in the centre like we do back home!
I like to think of this lasagne as being the best of both worlds. It not only has a tasty bechamel on the top and in the middle, but a delicious layer of ricotta cheese in the middle as well! Combine that with a delicious meat sauce and lotsa lotsa cheese and you got one heck of a great lasagne!!
I didn't get a photo of it cut unfortunately, and danged if the Missionaries didn't take all the leftovers with them when they left, so I can only show you the deliciousness of the outside . . .
You'll have to take my word for the deliciousness of the inside I'm afraid. But then again, have I ever lied to you?? I thought not!
*Marie’s Fantastic Lasagne*
This is the best lasagne! Sometimes I do cheat and use a store bought tomato sauce. You can get some very good ones these days. It’s well worth the effort of making your own though! This is a lasagne that you will find yourself thinking about long after you’ve eaten it . . . longing for yet another delicious slice.
½ pound lasagne noodles (I use fresh that I don’t need to cook first)
½ pound extra lean ground beef
½ pound spicy Italian sausage meat (over here I use spicy pork and garlic sausages, removed from their casings)
½ cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 TBS olive oil
3 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (or canned tomatoes, drained)
1 ½ tsp seasoning salt
2 TBS chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 TBS chopped fresh basil
½ tsp dried oregano, crumbled
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
½ cup butter
4 TBS plain flour
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken stock
1 chicken boullion cube (optional)
1/8 tsp salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ pound ricotta cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups grated Parmesan Cheese
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
Butter to dot on top
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion and garlic until slightly softened. Add the meats and brown them well. Add the tomatoes and spices and simmer on medium heat until the sauce is quite thick, about 30 to 40 minutes.
While the meat sauce is simmering make the béchamel. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk for about one minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and the chicken broth. Cook, whisking, until it starts to bubble and thicken. Taste for seasoning. You may need to add the bullion cube for additional flavour. Add salt if needed.
Make the ricotta filling by whisking together all the ingredients with a fork. Set aside.
Once you have all the sauces prepared and the filling ready, pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F.
Spoon a bit of the meat sauce into a 13 X 9 inch baking dish. Layer on as follows: half of the lasagne noodles, half of the remaining meat sauce, ½ cup of the Béchamel sauce, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, half of the Mozzarella cheese and half the ricotta. Top with the other half of the noodles and repeat the layers once again. Dot the top with butter and bake in the pre-heated oven , uncovered for at least 30 minutes or more, until bubbly and starting to brown.
*You can make this ahead of time and chill, covered, until needed. It also freezes very well!
We like to serve this with a delicious tossed salad and some freshly made garlic bread.
Tuesday, 29 March 2011
I was going through my box of photographs the other day and came across this one. It's my four youngest children cleaning out the residue left in the pot after I had made a batch of Rice Crispie Squares. My eldest son isn't there . . . he was about 15 at the time, and cleaning out Rice Crispie pots was not considered at all cool!
A lot of water has run under the bridge since then . . . see that little one with the cheeky grin that you can see front on? Well . . . he's 24 years old now, and in the Canadian Armed Forces! I'll wager it's been a long time since he cleaned out a rice crispie pot!
Seeing that photo did make me very nostalgic though . . . and so, I decided to make a treat today . . . to share with the little fella next door. Unfortunately, I didn't have any rice crispies . . . sigh . . . but I did have a fresh box of cheerios, which would have to do.
And then I had a brainstorm . . . everything tastes better with Nutella does it not? What if I mixed some nutella into the mix, along with the butter and marshmallows . . . that might make it ok, and actually quite acceptable that they were cheerios and not rice crispies . . . doncha think?
I think they turned out really ace! Not quite so tasty to look at . . . but . . . then again, chocolate doesn't look all that great most of the time. It's the taste that counts . . . really, and these were quite, quite scrummy!
And they are definitely child approved . . . both by the young lad next door . . . and by the big one I live with!
I do confess . . . I did enjoy cleaning out the pot! It was rather tasty, if I don't say so myself!
Makes 12 bars
A favourite snack for kids, both large and small alike! Creamy nutella, melted together with butter and marshmallows, and tasty oaty O-shaped cereal stirred in. (Ok, so it's cheerios!) Scrummy, yummy nummy!!
2 ounces butter, 1/4 cup
10 ounces of big white marshmallows (about 50)
4 ounces Nutella
10.5 ounces O-shaped cereal (like cheerios) (8 cups)
Lightly butter a 13 by 9 inch baking pan. Set aside.
Place the butter, marshmallows and nutella into a large pot. Cook and stir over very low heat until all are melted and smoothly amalgamated. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheerios, stirring together until well mixed. Press this mixture evenly into the buttered pan. Allow to cool until completely set, then cut into 3 by 3 1/4 inch bars. Store between sheets of parchment paper, in an airtight container.
Monday, 28 March 2011
We're usually starving by the time we get home from church on Sundays. We just don't do Sunday lunch in this house. By the time we get home from church, there's not really enough time on Sunday do one justice. We usually have Sunday Lunch on Saturday Night, then on Sunday we usually just have either leftovers, or something that I can quickly throw together, like beans on toast or scrambled eggs and toast, or something like that.
Once we are fed, I usually call my mom while Todd does the dishes. (I know I am a really lucky woman!) After that we settle in to watch some quiet telly together and then late in the afternoon or early evening, I will bake us a teatime treat.
It's usually something scrummy like rock cakes, or scones . . . something that we can enjoy eaten out of hand with a cold glass of milk or mug of Horlicks.
Today it was these wonderfully scrummy Strawberry Jam Swirls.
Beautifully puffed and buttery pastry . . . quite similar to a scone dough, and stogged full of gooey Strawberry Jam.
All swirled and then glazed with an egg wash and granulated sugar . . . oh my but these are soooo good.
You don't have to use Strawberry Preserves though . . . you can use whatever preserves strike your fancy . . . plum, raspberry, blueberry, apricot . . . even orange marmalade! If you are a marmalade lover like me, that is superdy duperdy scrummilicious!!!
You can even get really fancy and sprinkle the jam with some chopped toasted walnuts or pecans before you roll them up. Seriously delicious.
Seriously . . . trust me on this.
*Strawberry Jam Swirls*
A buttery pastry swirled with strawberry jam, rolled, sliced and then baked until the pastry is all puffed and the jam all gooey scrumdiddlyumptious! You can use any flavour of jam you wish, or even marmalade. We love them with strawberry jam though!
3 ounces of butter, diced (6 TBS)
16 ounces of plain flour (4 1/2 cups)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 ounces of caster sugar (a scant 1/2 cup)
2 medium free range eggs
300ml of milk (1 1/4 cups)
2 generous dessertspoons of strawberry preserves
1 small free range egg, beaten for glazing
2 TBS granulated sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7. Butter a baking sheet really well. Set aside.
Measure the flour into a large bowl. Whisk in the baking powder, salt and caster sugar. Drop in the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Beat the eggs and milk together. Make a well in the dry ingredients and then pour in about 2/3 of the egg/milk mixture. Mix it in with a fork, until you get a soft dough, adding more milk/egg if necessary. You will havea fairly sticky dough and may not need more.
Lightly flour your work surface. Dump the dough onto it and dust with flour. Roll or pat out into a rectangle about 12 inches in length, 7 inches wide and 1/2 inch tall. Spread with the strawberry preserves covering completely. With the long side facing you, roll into a roll, rolling the pastry away from you. Cut into 12 slices and place each slice onto the buttered baking sheet, leaving some space in between.
Brush with some beaten egg and then sprinkle with the granulated sugar.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Allow to cool on the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling. Lovely eaten warm with a nice cold glass of milk!
Sunday, 27 March 2011
I had in mind all week that I was going to make a Pavlova. Food of the God's is Pavlova . . . all light and airy and somehow when you are eating it, you kind of are misguided into thinking there are no calories . . . coz it's kind of like eating a cloud, right??? And everyone knows that clouds have no calories!
I normally top my Pavlova with peaches or raspberries, but this today I decided to do something quite, quite different. I had some apples that needed using and I thought to myself . . . how about a Pavlova that has all the elements of an Apple Crumble . . . and then I thought to myself, who not go one step further and make it an Apple and Blackberry Crumble.
Imagine it . . . a soft cloud of crisp on the outside, mallow like on the inside meringue . . . filled with a rich cloud of softly whipped cream . . .
Now . . . top that cloud with a sweet/tart mixture of caramelized and slightly spiced apples mixed with fresh blackberries . . .
Finally . . . top the whole thing with scrummily sugared, flaked and toasted almonds . . . this is genius, pure culinary genius.
Sigh . . . this is the food of the Gods, all light and ethereal . . . and totally calorie free, I am sure of it!!!
Shhhh . . . please don't burst my bubble! Sigh . . . I do so love it when I am inspired to push the boundaries of the traditional and create something totally familiar and at the same time totally new and refreshing!!
*Apple and Blackberry Crumble Pavlova*
All your favourite flavours in one scrummy dessert!
For the Meringue:
3 large free range egg whites
6 ounces caster sugar (a scant cup)
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
For the Filling:
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 TBS butter
2 TBS soft light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 punnet of blackberries (about 1 cup)
300ml of double cream (1 1/4 cups)
For the sugared almond topping:
1 1/2 ounces flaked almonds
2 TBS caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 130*C/260*F/ gas mark 1/2. Trace out a 7 inch circle on a sheet of baking paper. Place the baking paper on top of a baking sheet. Set aside.
Place the egg whites into a clean, grease free, glass or metal bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add half of the sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites are stiff and glossy. Slowly beat in the remaining sugar (reserving 1 TBS) until it is all amalgamated. Stir the cornflour and remaining sugar together and beat that in along with the vinegar, beating it for about a minute. Spoon the meringue mixture out onto the baking paper, spreading it with a metal spoon to fill the circle and scooping it somewhat hollow in the centre, creating a raised edge all around.
Place iinto the heated oven and bake for about 1 hour, until crisp on the outside and mallow like on the inside. Set aside to cool on the baking tray. Once completely cooled, carefully peel off the baking paper and set the meringue onto a plate.
For the filling, place the apples, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into a small skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally over medium high heat, until the apples are somewhat softened and beginning to caramelize, but still holding their shape. Stir in the blackberries and set aside to cool completely.
Make the sugared almond topping by placing the almonds into a skillet along with the sugar. (Have a sheet of baking paper ready and waiting on the counter.) Cook and stir over medium high heat until the sugar melts and begins to coat the almonds, some 2 to 3 minutes. Take care not to burn the sugar. Remove from the heat immediately and pour the almonds out onto the baking paper, spreading them out as much as you can. Allow to cool completely.
When ready to assemble whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Spoon this into the centre of the meringue. Spoon the apple and blackberry mixture over top along with all their juices. Sprinkle with the candied almonds and serve immediately. Delicious!
Saturday, 26 March 2011
It is no secret that I have a chocolate cake hating husband. He hates chocolate flavoured anything . . . well except for candy bars. Those he doesn't seem to mind.
As a result of this . . . I only ever very rarely bake anything chocolate. I am always trying to watch what I eat, and the danger of having a chocolate creation in the house, with me being the only one who will be eating it is just too horrific to imagine!
Occasionally though, I succumb to desire and just have to bake a chocolate cake or brownies for myself. A girl just has to do what a girl has to do!
This is one of my favourites. Dense and fudgy with a fabulously scrummy frosting.
Thank goodness for friends who happily accept the leftovers. And Todd??? Well . . . he had to make do with leftover Bun and Butter Pudding. He didn't seem to mind too overly much . . . poor dear.
*Chocolate Fudge Cake*
Makes one 7 inch double layer cake
A rich fudgy cake, perfect for celebrations or just when you feel rather like indulging yourself.
3 ounces dark chocolate
2 TBS cocoa powder (not chocolate drink mix)
6 ounces of butter, softened (3/4 cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 ounces soft light brown sugar (3/4 cup packed)
3 large free range eggs, separated
6 ounces self raising flour (1 1/2 cups)
For the Frosting:
8 ounces plain chocolate
8 TBS double cream
8 ounces icing sugar, sifted (2 cups)
2 to 3 TBS recently boiled water
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter and base line two 7 inch round sandwich tins. Set aside.
Place the chocolate, cocoa powder, butter and vanilla in a bowl. Place over a pan of simmering water. Heat and stir to melt. Whisk together until smooth. Allow to cool slightly.
Cream together the sugar and egg yolks until light and creamy. Fold in the chocolate mixture first and then carefully fold in the flour.
Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold one tablespoon into the cake mixture to loosen and then fold in the remainder until the mixture is smooth and no white streaks remain. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins. Smooth over and then make a small hollow in the centre of each.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until risen and the tops spring back when lightly touched.
Remove from the oven. Leave in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Place the chocolate and the cream into a bowl, again over a pan of simmering water. Heat and whisk until the chocolate has melted into the cream and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and then gradually beat in the sifted icing sugar, adding hot water as required if the mixture becomes too stiff. You want a mixture with a spreadable consistency.
Use a third of the frosting to sandwich the layers together and then use the remainder to frost the sides and top. Cut into wedges to serve.
(Alternately you may bake the cake in one layer in a deep 7 inch tin. It will take 10 to 15 minutes longer to bake so adjust your times accordingly. In this cake just pile all the frosting on the top and sides.)
Friday, 25 March 2011
No surprise that Curry is one of the nation's top dishes, coming out time and time again at the top of the list of our favourite dishes. We owe this great love in thanks to the British Army and the some 20,000 soldiers that were based across the Asian Sub Continent during the 18th and 19th century. Cooks of the East Indian Company developed Anglicized versions of Indian dishes and the modern curry was born!
The Soldiers Charity is a charity organization that gives lifetime support to Soldiers and their families both serving and retired. Our soldiers do so very much for us. They regularly put their lives on the line in the defence of freedom. Their families are no strangers to sacrifice and as a former spouse of a serving soldier, I know only too well the price that is paid.
The Soldiers Charity is able to provide financial support when they are in real need of it, a need that goes up every year.
In April they will be holding one of their largest fundraisers of the year, The Big Curry.
All over the country, individuals and organizations will be holding Big Curry events to help to raise money for this very worth while charity. Now in its 5th year, ABF The Soldiers' Charity are asking families across the UK to join in their flagship fundraising event The Soldiers' Charity Big Curry. By signing up to host a one off Big Curry themed event you can help to support and raise for our soldiers, former soldiers and their families. You can find out more about it and sign up or even give a donation to this very worthy charity here.
In honour of this very worthy cause I cooked up a curry for Todd and myself tonight. Curry wasn't something I really ate a lot of before I came to live over here in the UK. I had only ever tasted it once and yes, it was at a Soldier's home who was stationed in Suffield, Alberta in Canada, back in the 1980's. I fell in love with it then and have embraced it totally since moving over here in 2000.
It's not something that is really all that spectacular to look at . . . and some might even find the smell of it cooking disgusting . . . it is all a matter of taste, which is very subjective I have come to discover.
We happen to love it. Todd likes his with a little bit of heat . . . while I am a curry wimp and I like mine a bit milder. I usually prepare it somewhere in the middle but have been known to enjoy Chicken Tikka from time to time.
This is an easy and quite delicious version that sits just about there . . . in the middle. You can adjust the heat by the strength of the curry powder that you use and of course the amount of chilies. I do hope that you will give it a try and that you will find it in your hearts to support our Soldiers who give so very much in some way as well. Thank you very much!
*Chicken and Coconut Curry*
Easy and quick and very tasty. You can substitute the chicken with pork, beef or lamb if you wish.
1 TBS sunflower oil
1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 inch piece of fresh root ginger peeled and grated finely
2 large green chilies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 TBS garam masala
a small handful of coriander leaves picked and stalks, roughly chopped
1 TBS curry powder (the strength is up to you)
1 440g tin of coconut milk (about 2 cups)
150ml of chicken stock (scant 2/3 cup)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into cubes
fine seasalt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 ounces frozen petit pois (about 1 cup)
lime wedges, pilau rice and naan breads to serve
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, green chilies and garlic. Cook over low heat until softened, stirring frequently, without browning. Add the ginger., coriander stalks, garam masala and curry powder. Fry for a further minute or two. Add the chicken. Cook and stir to brown all over. Stir in the coconut milk and chicken stock. Season to taste with some salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for a further 15 minutes. Stir in the frozen peas. Cook for several minutes longer. The chicken should be cooked through and the sauce somewhat thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the coriander leaves. Serve immediately with some Pilau rice, naan bread and some lime wedges.
Thursday, 24 March 2011
It was such a gorgeous day today, that Todd and I decided to take full advantage of the sunshine, and take the bus into Chester city proper. I have a new cane which makes walking a lot easier for me, and so off we went.
Oh it felt so good to be out and about in the warm sunshine, breathing in fresh air and getting a bit of exercise after the long cold winter we have had.
All the buskers were out on the streets, playing guitars, singing and lending a definite celebratory feeling to the air! Everone seemed to be in a great mood. It was so nice! I just love Chester! I really missed it when we were living down South.
We did a fair bit of walking and then popped into M&S because I wanted to pick up some of their Hot Cross Buns. Homemade are nice of course . . . but the M&S ones are rather scrummy too! We are rather fond of them.
Imagine my delight at discovering that their luxury buns were on offer at two packs for £2! Result!! Yummo!
Of course I picked up two and tonight I made us a scrummy Bun and Butter Pudding with one of the packs. Adapted from a recipe in the April issue of Good Food Magazine, this one is a bit different than my usual Hot Cross Bun Bread and Butter Pudding . . . this one has crumbled golden marzipan sprinkled on top along with some chunky marmalade!
Ohhhh . . . there is nothing I love more than a tasty Bread and Butter Pudding, and when you make it with Hot Cross Buns . . . it is even tastier! (Just look at that scrummy little knob of Marzipan sitting on top there . . . ohh . . . it was just like a little bit of crunchy, gooey candy and went very scrummily with the texture of the pudding . . . sigh . . . )
*Bun and Butter Pudding*
A tasty version of Bread and Butter Pudding made using hot cross buns. I reckon teacakes would work very wel also. The recipe is also easily divided in half, although you may not need to use all of the custard mixture if you do, depending on how dry your buns are.
300ml of double cream (1 1/4 cup)
600ml of milk (2 1/2 cups)
4 free range eggs
100g of caster sugar (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
8 hot cross buns
4 ounces golden marzipan, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
3 TBS chunky marmalade, gently heated
icing sugar to dust
Preheat the oven to 170*C/3225*F/ gas mark 3. Place the cream and milk into a saucepan and heat gently over medium low heat until warm.
Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla together in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the cream mixture, a bit at a time.
Cut your buns in half and spread each half with some softened butter.Arrange in a large shallow baking dish. Spread the warmed marmalade over top. Crumble over the marzipan.
Poure the heated cream mixture slowly over top of the buns. Set aside to soak for 15 minutes, pressing them down every couple of minutes as the custard is absorbed and adding more of the cream mixture as it will take it, and as they soften.
Bake for 50 minutes until set. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving. Dust lightly with icing sugar and serve while still warm.