“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
"Winter is dead.”
~AA Milne, when we were very young
NOTE: I am away at the moment helping my mother with her treatment for lung cancer. I have set up a few posts to post whilst I am away as a special surprise. Some are new and some are reposts of old favourites that you may have forgotten, or if you are a new reader may not even have seen. I'll be back at the end of May, but in the meantime . . . Enjoy!
PS - I will only have sporadic internet use, so if you ask a question and I don't get back to you . . . it's not that I don't want to. It just may take me a while.
Wednesday, 31 October 2012
I hated squash when I was a child. I am not sure what it was about it that I didn't like, perhaps the texture, or maybe the way my mother prepared it. Twas always boiled to death and mashed . . . B-O-R-I-N-G Sorry mum! I have learned as an adult that if you roast it either in the oven, or in a pan . . . you bring all the gorgeousness that this lovely vegetable has to offer you, to the surface! It is Boring no more. Just look at those beautifully caramelized edges . . . and that lovely colour against the spring onions!!!
Now I am venturing out into the unknown here by adding some tomatoes to the mix, but stay with me people . . . I know what I am doing!!
I've added a nice layer of greated strong cheddar cheese on top. Everything tastes better with cheese, don't you think? And bacon . . . but there's no bacon in this mix. Just cheese gilding the top of that lovely caramlized squash, pan roasted tomatoes and spring onions . . .
About half an hour later and it's ready to come out of the oven . . . just look at that gloriously gorgeous taste tempting cheese crust! I can't wait to dig in!!
The cheese has melted down into all of those lovely crevices . . . oozing beneath and covering every lucious nugget of squash . . .
I'm a greedy gus and I love the crusty edges of anything baked with cheese . . . they are my favourite bits . . .
Now we're talking!! Just look at that moist bejeweled gloriousness . . . simply waiting for me to dig my fork into it . . . I can almost taste it now . . .
This went down a real treat as a simple supper on a cold and rainy autumn day, served up with a nice crusty loaf to soak up all those gorgeous juices. Fabulous darling . . . just fabulous.
*Butternut Squash Baked with Tomatoes & Cheese*
One of my favourite autumn bakes. We love butternut squash. It may sound an unusual combination, but trust me when I say it works.
2 pounds of butternut squash
2 TBS butter
2 TBS oil
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a package of spring onions, sliced, including both the white and light green portions (8 to 10)
1 400g tin of chopped plum tomatoes, drained and rinsed (1 14-oz tin)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
4 ounces of strong cheddar cheese, grated ( 1 cup)
Preheat the oven to 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3. Butter a shallow 8 by 10 inch gratin dish. Set aside.
Peel the squash and discard the skin and seeds. Cut the flesh into bite sized pieces. Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet until the butter begins to foam. Add the squash. Cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown in places. Season with some salt and black pepper and then transfer this to the prepared gratin dish.
Add the onions to the same skillet and gently cook until softened. Season as required and spoon these over top of the squash.
Dump your drained and rinsed tomatoes into the same skillet. Add the thyme and season to taste. Cook and stir until they are quite dry with no excess liquid. Scatter these over top of the onions and squash. Top all with the cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered. Turn the temperature up to 200*C/40)*F/ gas mark 6, and bake for a further 10 minutes, just until the cheese begins to brown. Serve immediately.
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
There is a definite chill in the air these days. Autumn is well and truly here and Winter is nipping at our heels! The English Provender Company recently sent me an assortment of their new variety of Very Lazy Cooking Concentrates, along with a jar of their new Bramley Apple Sauce with Calvados to try out.
I have always been a big fan of their very lazy red chilies and garlic. With Very Lazy you get top-notch, essential cooking ingredients and kitchen short-cuts that are always ready when you are, so you can whizz up fresh and tasty home-cooked meals without a lot of fuss. I always hate chopping chillies and garlic . . . they leave my fingers all smelly and those chillies can burn, unless you wear a pair of gloves!
First up was a jar of their Chilli Con Carne Cooking Concentrate. This was very easy to use. All the ingredients you need to prepare a tasty pot of chilli are listed on the outside packet so that you know exactly what to pick up.
And inside the packet are clear instructions on how to put it together. I only used half the quantity of extra lean mince in mine, and added a tin of drained sweet corn.
This was really quick and quite delicious. In the time it took to cook the rice, we had a lovely pot of Chilli Con Carne, which I served with some sour cream and grated cheddar on top. It went down a real treat.
I used the leftovers the day after to do sort of a lasagna pie which was also really tasty. You could use lasagna noodles, or even corn tortillas. It would be fabulous either way. I created a layer in the middle by stirring together a small tin of refried beans and some cream cheese. Scrummo! It was like a layer of Mexican dip in the middle!
It was really economical and filling too, with just 1/2 pound of minced beef, and the addition of just a few extra ingredients we had some very tasty meals for two nights running. That can't be bad in today's economy.
Very Lazy Chilli Con Carne Cooking Concentrate: A spicy & smokey blend of tomato, cumin & chipotle chilli. Simply add minced beef, tinned tomatoes, kidney beans & a red pepper for a delicious home-made Chilli con Carne in 20 minutes. Serves 4.
£1.79 at ASDA and Tesco.
The Second jar of concentrate was their Chicken Chasseur Cooking Concentrate. Once again, any ingredients needed were printed on the outside of the package, with clear instructions for cooking inside the pack. We enjoyed this with some rice, but it would also be fab with some Mash.
Chicken Chasseur Cooking Concentrate: A classic blend of tomatoes, Chardonnay wine and Tarragon. Simply add chicken, onion, tomatoes and mushrooms for a rich and flavourful chasseur, ready in 20 minutes. Serves 4.
£1.79 and available at ASDA and Tesco
I was getting really into these sauces by now and so the next day when I was at the grocery store I picked up myself a few other ones.
The next night we had a Green Chicken Thai Curry, created by using their Green Thai Curry Cooking Concentrate. This was also fabulous and so quick and easy to do. We both thoroughly enjoyed.
Green Thai Curry Cooking Concentrate: A spicy cream blend of green peppers, coconut milk and chilli. Simply add chicken or prawns and coconut milk and you have an easy and delicious Thai Curry for four, with minimum effort!
£1.79 and available at ASDA or Tesco
I saved the best for last!
I was really looking forward to trying this little gem. Apple Sauce has a natural affinity for pork . . . roasted, or chops . . . but they had included a delicious sounding recipe for some tasty Sausage Bakewell Tarts, created using this beautiful looking and smelling applesauce. (£1.69 Available at ASDA and Tesco)
These were absolute winners and would be a fab addition to any Halloween Celebration or a Bon Fire Night Party. Portable, and hand held, easy to make and even easier to eat!
The Toddster scarfed down two of them as soon as they came out of the oven. There were mmmm's all around!
Crisp puff pastry base encasing some of that lovely applesauce, along with some sausage meat, onion, and apple . . . and topped with some cheesy bread crumbs. Fabulous!!!
Tarts with Lincolnshire Sausage, Apple and Cheese
These are very moreish with their crisp puff pastry shell, and that lovely applesauce. Goes so well with the sausage and cheese!
225g of Lincolnshire chipolata sausages (1/2 pound)
(Suggested that you squeeze in half, twist and cut to make
two smaller chipolatas. I did not do this. I removed from the skins, and rolled each
into two balls and then flatted them into a disc)
500g of puff pastry ( a little over a pound)
English Provender Bramley Apple Sauce with Calvados
1 eating apple, cored and sliced
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
30g of Sage Derby Cheese or Cheddar, grated (about a third of a cup)
30g of breadcrumbs (1/3 cup I used Panko)
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. Butter a 12 cup medium muffin tin. Roll out the pastry and cut into 12 rounds, large enough to fit in the muffin tin and up the sides. Push the pastry into each buttered recess. Spoon 1/2 tsp of the apple sauce into each. Top the applesauce with a portion of sausage meat. Top with some of the apple and onion. Mix together the crumbs and cheese. Divide and sprinkle this mixture over the top of each tart.
Bake for 25 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden brown and the sausage cooked.
I'll definitely be making those tarts again and I have a nice store of those cooking concentrates in my larder now. They make a fab addition to my store cupboard and we really enjoyed everything we made with them. I am looking forward to using them again.
From the English Provender page:
We love good food and we know what tastes great. Quality ingredients packed with flavour and made with care - it's all in the making of good food. The English Provender Co.’s range of chutneys, condiments and dressings are made using nothing but good, honest ingredients from nature’s store cupboard.
Our chefs are experts in flavour combinations and our traditional open pan cooking methods create naturally delicious combinations that taste every bit as good as home-made.
We’ve been a bit saucy with our jars too! We’ve stripped them down so you can see all the natural beauty and juicy chunks inside our tasty creations.
Many thanks to English Provender and Jess for sending me along these tasty ingredients to try out. Boy, I love my job!
Monday, 29 October 2012
I am a relative newcomer to the delights of Thai food. I had never eaten it at all until a few summers ago when the Toddster and I went for a meal at a Thai Restaurant in downtown Chester. I fell in love at first bite.
I just adore Thai flavours! Especially Thai Green Curry . . . oh wow. Green chilies, fish sauce, lemon grass . . . lime leaves. Just smelling it starts my taste buds into tingling. I love the stuff!
We all want to be a bit healthier today and using minced turkey instead of beef in your burger is one way of doing that. As you know I am a real fan of British Turkey! It's low in fat, tastes nice, is better for you than eating red meat and is usually a lot cheaper as well, and in these uncertain economic times, that is always a plus.
A few months back I developed a Buffalo Turkey Burger recipe for the British Turkey Association, which was simply fabulous.
Another favourite of ours are my Spicy Turkey Burgers, which have sort of a Mexican Flair, with real Tex Mex flavors and a guacamole garnish.
Today I decided to take the lovely flavors of a Green Thai Curry and put them into a turkey burger and we were both well pleased with the results!!! They were so easy to do to!! All I did was to mix some bottled Thai Green Curry Paste into my turkey mince, shape it into patties and then grill them.
They smelled heavenly when they were grilling too. Todd came downstairs sniffing the air with a smile on his face wanting to know what was for supper!
With a sliced tomato garnish and a few homemade condiments like this delicious lime mayonnaise . . .
and this fabulous homemade cucumber pickle . . . they went down a real treat.
We both thoroughly enjoyed them. In fact Todd loved them so much he had two of them!
They were moist and juicy with just the right amount of spice for us. Of course you could up the heat by adding a touch more curry paste.
Just look at that juicy burger . . . the colors of the cucumber and tomato setting it off perfectly . . . and that creamy mayonnaise . . . Oh so good.
A bit messy to eat . . . but well worth it I'd say! These are a new favourite in this house for sure!
*Thai Turkey Burgers*
As well as being the simplest to make, these are the tastiest turkey burgers! Delicious with a tangy lime mayo dressing and a lovely cucumber pickle garnish!
500g of ground turkey (about 1 1/4 pound)
(try to use a mix of breast and thigh meat)
2 TBS green Thai curry paste
(or more depending on how spicy you want them to be)
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Lime Mayo Dressing:
145g of good quality mayonnaise
(I use Hellman's, low fat works fine)
the finely grated zest of a small lime
1 TBS fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
For the cucumber pickle
1 TBS rice wine vinegar
pinch of fine sea salt and fine white sugar
a handful of fresh coriander leaves, coarsely chopped (cilantro)
1 small shallot, peeled and very finely sliced
1/2 of a medium sized English Cucumber, very thinly sliced (peel or not as you like)
1 ripe tomato sliced
4 soft white rolls, split and toasted
Place the turkey into a bowl. Add the curry paste and about 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands to blend. Shape into four 1/2 inch thick patties. Set aside.
To make the lime mayo, whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Stir together all of the ingredients for the cucumber pickle in medium bowl. Set aside to allow the cucumber to marinate while you cook the burgers.
Lightly oil a grill pan, and heat over medium high heat. Add the turkey burgers and reduce the heat to medium. Cook over medium heat for approximately 6 to 8 minutes per side, until any juices run clear.
Lightly spread both sides of the toasted rolls with the lime mayonnaise. Top the bottom half of each with one cooked burger. Top each burger with a slice of tomato and a portion of the cucumber pickle. Place the bun halves on top and serve. We like chips with ours, but you can have whatever you like, potato salad is also nice.
Sunday, 28 October 2012
I had some lemons that I needed to use up today. I always buy too many. I just love the sight of a bowl of lemons on the counter top . . . I often pick them up and have a smell as I walk past. Lemons just look so cheerful to me, and homey.
I am very fond of lemon flavored anything. I think if I had to choose between any kind of pie and a Lemon Pie . . . I'd take the lemon pie ever time! And Lemon Cake, Lemon Loaf, Crisp Lemon cookies, Lemon pudding . . . you name it. I just love, Love, LOVE Lemon!
I decided to make some of my favourite slices . . . Lemon and Jam slices. Or Squares if you would rather call them that. I like to call them slices . . . sounds even more delicious when you call them slices. A rose by any other name and all that . . .
I love these slices because they encompass three of my favourite things . . . a buttery, crisp shortbread base . . . sweet strawberry preserves . . . a tangy lemon topping.
Oh my . . . but these are heavenly bliss. I love to enjoy them in the middle of the afternoon along with a hot drink. They're so good. These are the type of slices that you have a hard time walking past without picking at them . . . and I confess . . . I can never wait until they completely cool before I dig into them.
You're supposed to wait until they are completely cold to cut them . . . but they are awfully good warm . . . just sayin is all. They bring out the glutton in me. The tang of the lemon is soooo very good with the sweet fruitiness of the jam . . . and that buttery crust.
Of course you could use another flavour of jam if you wished. I just particularly love them made with strawberry jam. Cherry, raspberry or apricot are all rather good too . . . and then there is wild blueberry preserves, another favourite of mine.
I confess . . . I sometimes use limes and ginger jam. Those are awfully good too, especially if you add a little bit of ground ginger to the base. Mmmm . . . mmm . . . good.
*Lemon and Jam Slices*
Makes 15 squares
A butter, almost shortbread type of base, topped with sweet strawberry jam and a tangy lemon topping baked on top. Delicious.
For the base:
200g of plain flour (2 cups)
225g of cold unsalted butter (1 cup, or 2 sticks)
42g sifted icing sugar (1/3 cup)
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
For the jam:
6 heaped dessert spoons (about 3/4 cup)
For the Lemon topping:
281g of granulated sugar
the finely grated zest of one un-waxed lemon
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 TBS plain flour
3 large free range eggs
the juice of 2 1/2 lemons (1/3 cup)
Icing sugar to dust
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter an 11 by 7 inch baking dish, Dust with flour, shaking out any excess. Set aside. (Alternately you can line with foil and butter and dust the foil, leaving an overhang to lift the slices out when done.)
Whisk the flour, icing sugar and salt together in a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and drop it in. Rub it into the flour mixture with your fingertips until you have coarse crumbs. Press this mixture into the prepared baking tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, just until it is firm. Remove from the oven.
Whisk together the granulated sugar, lemon zest, baking powder and flour for the lemon topping. Beat in the eggs and lemon juice until smooth. Set aside.
Stir the jam together in a bowl with a fork to loosen it. Spread this over the warm base. Pour the lemon mixture over top and return the pan to the oven. Bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until it is set and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely before removing from the pan. Dust with icing sugar. Cut into squares to serve.
Saturday, 27 October 2012
I have a fabulous recipe for Double Chocolate Chunk Blondies that I just love. They always turn out rich, moist and perfectly scrummy. Moreish even . . . In fact I'd go so far as to even call them dangerous.
Yesterday I decided to shake things up a bit and switch a few things around . . . using the same batter, so that they would keep that moist and fudgy texture . . .
But substituting the vanilla flavor with ginger . . . in four delicious forms. Some in the form of the syrup from a jar of Preserved Ginger-root, some as finely grated fresh ginger, some as dried ground ginger and finally some as chopped preserved ginger-root. Oh I do so love preserved ginger-root.
I could just pick knobs of it from the jar and eat them like candy. They're just lovely. You might be tempted to think that with four kinds of ginger, it would be too much, but you would be completely wrong. It was just the right amount, giving lots of flavour and just a touch of heat, but in a very good way.
I offset it with white chocolate. Ginger and white chocolate are a marriage made in heaven. Oh my . . . they are perfect together . . . You get the crisp sweetness of the preserved ginger, and then that creamy sweetness which provides an equal amount of balance in the opposite direction . . .
And then I added the crunch of Macadamia Nuts . . . just love Macadamia Nuts, don't you???
A friend once sent me a tin of honey roasted ones from Hawaii and they were sooooo good. Almost the best nut temptations that I have ever eaten . . . and I have dreamt about them since . . . hopefully one day I will be able to taste them again.
Maybe I will be able to figure out a way to make them myself. Now that is a challenge . . . I just may try.
In the meantime, these squares are so deliciously good. Every bite brings you fabulous textures . . . fudgy cake, creamy chocolate, snappy ginger, and crunchy nuts. T'was a splendid idea I think.
Oh, all of this experimentation and taste testing is a tough job . . . but somebody has to do it . . .
*Ginger, White Chocolate Chunk and Macadamia Nut Blondies*
Deliciously moreish blonde brownies, moist and stogged full of four kinds of ginger, white chocolate chunks and scrummy macadamia nuts! What's not to like?
140g of butter, melted (1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 TBS)
400g soft light brown muscovado sugar (3/4 cup plus 1 TBS, lightly packed)
1 TBS ginger syrup from a jar of preserved ginger in syrup
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger-root
1 tsp ground ginger
2 knobs of preserved ginger in syrup, coarsely chopped
3 large free range eggs, lightly beaten
300g of plain flour (2 1/2 cups)
1 tsp baking powder
50g of macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
100g of coarsely chopped good quality white chocolate (1 medium size bar. I use Green & Blacks)
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Line a 9 inch square pan with baking paper, leaving an overhang. Lightly spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
Place the butter into a large saucepan and melt over low heat. Stir in the muscovado sugar, ginger syrup, grated ginger-root, ground ginger and preserved ginger. Mix well. Allow to cool until lukewarm. Beat in the eggs. Sift together the salt, baking powder and flour. Fold this into the wet ingredients, just to mix and blend. Don't overmix. Stir in the nuts and chocolate. Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan.
Bake for 25 minutes, until just firm. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before lifting out onto a rack, using the overhang. Allow to cool completely before removing the paper and cutting into squares. Store in a tightly covered container for up to 4 days.
Friday, 26 October 2012
If you look through the chiller cabinets of the grocery shops over here you will see oodles and oodles of Quiches . . . in just about every flavour under the sun.
There's farmhouse cheddar and onion, broccoli and cheddar, Sundried tomato and feta cheese, bacon and broccoli, ham and cheese . . . you name it . . . they've got it.
They also come in a variety of sizes, right from teensy weensy individual sized ones . . . on up to big huge family sized ones.
Which begs to ask the question . . .
If real men don't eat quiche . . . . then just who the heck is eating all these quiches????
It can't be the women, surely.
Or is it?
I made a delicious quiche the other day for lunch adapted from a recipe from a cookbook by good old Katie Stewart's Times Calender cookbook. This is a great little book, just chock full of wonderful basic recipes and good old standbys. The Kedgeree recipe in it is fabulous.
Serves 4 to 6
I am here to say that real men do each quiche. My man does all the time . . . and, what's more, he really likes it!!
1/4 lb of shortcrust pastry
For the filling:
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 pint single cream ( 1/2 cup)
freshly ground black pepper
4 rashers of thick cut streaky bacon, chopped
15g of butter (about 2 TBS)
2 ounces of gruyere cheese, grated (1 cup)
Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to fit an 8 inch round tart tin, or flan ring. LIne the tin with the pastry, trimming the edges neately. Set aside to prepare the filling.
Pre-heat the oven to 190*C/375*F.
Beat the eggs and cream together with some salt and pepper. Heat the butter in a skillet and add the bacon pieces. Fry until crisp and then sprinkle them over the bottom of the crust. Top with the grated cheese and then pour over the egg mixture. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the filling is set and the top is golden brown.
Serve warm with a salad if you wish.
*Short Crust Pastry*
Makes 1/4 pound
This is a good basic pastry that is great in all kinds of savoury pies and tarts.
4 ounces plain flour (1 1/4 cup)
pinch of salt
1 ounce of butter (scant 2 TBS)
1 ounce of vegetable shortening (Scant 2 TBS)
2 TBS cold water
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub together the butter and vegetable shortening and then add to the flour mixture. Rub this into the flour with the tips of your fingers, lifting it as you go to aerate the flour somewhat. Rub in lightly until the mixture looks crumbly. Don't over mix. Add the cold water all at once, and stir in with a fork. Blend quickly until the mixture clings together in a ball, leaving the sides of the bowl clean. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a couple times, lightly, to make a smooth fairly stiff dough. Let rest for 10 minutes before using.