Monday, 30 January 2012

Blueberry Pancakes

We seem to have ended up with loads of punnets of blueberries in the freezer, so this was a delicious way to use them for breakfast on Sunday, served with Greek yoghurt mixed with orange zest and honey, and sliced fresh oranges, bananas and mango.  Much healthier and less sweet than with maple syrup!  I used 200g of self-raising flour, plus an extra teaspoon of baking powder, a tablespoon of caster sugar, 1 egg, separated, and a couple of tablespoons of yoghurt, made up with milk to 300mls in a measuring jug.  Keep the egg white separate and whisk all the other ingredients together.  Whip the egg white until soft peaks form, then fold through the batter with the blueberries (a 150g punnet, straight from the freezer). Don't keep this batter hanging around as the egg white will loose its oomph and the baking powder won't be as effective - it doesn't need to stand.  Heat a non-stick frying pan over a mediumish heat, and sizzle a teaspoon or so of butter in it.  Spoon in tablespoonfuls of the batter making sure you get a good portion of berries in each one.  Cook until bubbles appear on the surface (about 2 minutes) then flip over and cook the other side for another minute.  Keep warm in a folded clean tea towel on a plate over a pan of simmering water whilst you make the remaining batches, using more butter each time.  This made about 12 pancakes, which were all consumed - greedily - by the two of us with the yoghurt and fruit on the side.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Balm Cocktail

My husband is a bit OCD when it comes to cocktails - sorry to get all gendered but he does the typical male thing of collecting just about everything he can - books, cocktail accessories, weird liqueurs and bitters, you name it - and he kept passing this one by because we didn't have something called 'Pimento dram', a very obscure concoction from the Caribbean of rum infused with allspice berries.  Anyhow, he read in one of the books from his hero, Dale De Groff, that you can emulate its flavour by mixing Angostura Classic Bitters and Angostura Orange Bitters.  So, tonight, we had his rather delicious interpretation of the 1930's cocktail, 'The Balm' - you need 5 parts of Oloroso/Dry Amontillado sherry, mixed; 1.5 parts Cointreau and 2 parts freshly squeezed orange juice; 2 dashes Angostura Classic Bitters and 4 of Angostura Orange Bitters.  Shake over ice, strain into a martini glass and serve with an orange twist.  It looked a bit muddy, but was a perfect aperitif, and not too alcoholic.  We forgot to take a photo but here is one from an interesting blog,, where the author worked their way through the absolute classic, The Savoy Cocktail Book, from A to Zee, as the Yanks would say. 

Monday, 23 January 2012

Tortelloni Soup

This soup, or versions of it, has been doing the food blog rounds this winter, so I thought I'd give it a go.  It breathes life into bought tortelloni, and makes a substantial, low fat meal-in-a-bowl, especially with salad and garlic bread.  You can go veggie too, varying the pasta fillling and using veg stock.  I do think it needs a good stock, though, so I made some chicken stock with yesterdays' roast chicken, about a litre and a half for 4 people.  Then I added a tin of chopped tomatoes, a sliced leek and onion, a sliced carrot and a couple of cloves of garlic, crushed or grated.  Simmer for 30 minutes or so until the veg is tender, then add a good handful of baby spinach leaves, chopped chard or greens - whatever you have, and simmer for another few minutes to wilt and soften the greens.  In a separate pot, boil a 500g pack of tortelloni or ravioli - whatever filling takes your fancy, though I went just for cheese and tomato.  Drain and add to the soup along with some shredded leftover chicken if you have any.  Dish up with grated parmesan.  Depending on the brand and filling of pasta, this falls well under the fiver price barrier and is good and filling - we have loads of leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Coffee Walnut Blondies

These are a very 'adult' taste, with strong coffee, dark chocolate and slightly bitter walnuts, in a fudgy, yet crisp sponge.  Incredibly quick and simple to make, and I knocked this batch up to take to my friend, Tom von Kaenel this afternoon.  Tom is going to be cycling from coast to coast in the USA later this year to raise money for US and UK veterans - check out the Sea2Sea website to read more and find how you can get involved.  Anyway, back to the baked goodies!  The recipe is, appropriately enough, in US cup measures.  You need a stick of butter (about 120g), 1 cup of soft light brown sugar, 1 large egg, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons of espresso or strong coffee powder, 1 cup of plain flour + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 cup of walnuts, chopped, and 1 cup of dark chocolate, 70% cocoa content if possible (I used Green and Black's Espresso Dark Chocolate to ramp up the coffee-ness).  Heat the oven to 170C, grease and line with parchment a 20cm square brownie pan.  Now, simply melt the butter, mix with the sugar in a bowl, then add the egg, vanilla and coffee and stir to combine.  Then, using a metal spoon, fold the other ingredients in - it will become quite a stiff batter.  Try not to overmix.  Plop it into the prepared tin and spread out, using a palette knife or back of the spoon.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and just beginning to shrink from the sides of the tin - don't overbake it, you want it a little squidgy inside.  Allow to cool a little in the tin, lift out using the paper, and cut into squares - you should get 16 of them or thereabouts.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Keralan Egg Curry with Butternut Squash

I know some people are funny about egg curries, but I love them!  Eggs go so well with a good curry sauce and are cheap and nutritious.  This is definitely an 'under a fiver' candidate.  I have no idea of the authenticity of this recipe, but I like it.  For 4, you need 6 free-range organic eggs (yes, you can afford it the rest is so cheap), which you boil for 8 minutes, then plunge into cold water to cool.  When cold, shell and set aside.  Chop a large onion, a red chilli, 4 cloves of garlic and a 'thumb' of peeled ginger in a processor or mini chopper until almost a puree.  To this, stir in a teaspoon of garam masala, a teaspoon of ground turmeric, 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds and 2 heaped teaspoons of ground coriander.  Fry this paste in a couple of tablespoons of oil over a medium heat for a minute or two.  Blend a can of good tomatoes in the processor or chopper until like a 'passata' and add to the paste with about 120ml of water.  Bring to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes until thick.  Whilst this is happening, steam some chunks of butternut squash - either one you've prepared or a pack of ready-prepped from the supermarket.  When tender, add to the curry sauce along with a 200ml can of coconut milk.  Simmer for a few minutes until thick and well combined.  Now turn the heat off, add the eggs, halved, a bunch of shopped coriander and a couple of tablespoons of natural yoghurt.  Taste for salt.  Cover, and let the eggs warm through as you drain your rice and/or tear up your naan breads.  Serve and enjoy!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Poached Rhubarb with Ginger Yoghurt and Pistachios

This was pretty as a picture and delicious after a rich meal of roast duck.  Now, you COULD spend all day chopping crystallised ginger into tiny chunks and adding to Greek Yoghurt and honey, or you could just go buy a tub of Rachel's Greek Yoghurt with Ginger.  Guess the option I took.  The forced rhubarb was gently roasted with the zest and juice of a blood orange and some sugar, then chilled.  Come pudding-time, the rhubarb and yoghurt are gently swirled together and topped off with some chopped pistachios.  So simple, so utterly divine, so try some.  This would also be perfect after a spicy Middle Eastern or Indian meal.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Roast Duck Legs and Potatoes

A really simple recipe, this, from Nigella Lawson (her book, 'Kitchen', if you want to look at the original).  You cube some peeled potatoes and place in a roasting dish.  I would recommend something non-stick if you don't want to spend the next week removing welded-on starch from the bottom (guess what my husband is doing right now?!).  Season well with salt, pepper and some fresh thyme sprigs.  Sear the duck legs (1 per person) in a frying pan, skin-side down, until there is some colour and the fat is starting to render.  Whilst this is happening, sprinkle the meat-side with salt, pepper and more thyme.  Place, skin-side up, on the potatoes and pour any rendered fat over the spuds.  Alternatively, just to what I did, season the legs and place, un-seared, on the spuds.  They still turned out fine! Now roast for 2 hours at 200C (180C fan oven).  Turn the spuds a couple of times during this time, exposing as much of them to the heat as possible.  When all is crisp and brown, serve up straight away.  We ate this with juicy red cabbage and Bramley apples, and some bright green purple sprouting broccoli, which offset the richness of the meat perfectly.  A bottle of Merlot helped it down too!  We have a couple of roast legs left over, which will go into a stir-fry tomorrow.

Blood and Sand Cocktails

I haven't blogged any cocktails for a while - this isn't because we haven't had any (far from it), but because our recent ones have been classics.  This drink is certainly venerable - it is named after a 1922 Rudolph Valentino movie - but it isn't as well known as others from that era.  As the great Dale de Groff says in his book "The Craft of the Cocktail", the ingredients sound unappealing - Scotch whisky, sweet Vermouth, cherry brandy, blood orange juice and orange bitters.  But, BUT, believe me, they blended into a most sublime drink.  Mind you, I have yet to find a drink based on Scotch and Vermouth that I don't like - a Perfect Manhattan is probably my favourite drink ever.  So, this consists of 2 parts each of Scotch and Vermouth (we use Grant's and Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth), 1 part of cherry brandy and 1.5 parts of freshly squeezed blood orange juice.  Put into a cocktail shaker with a couple of dashes of orange (or Angostura) bitters, add lots of ice, shake well and strain into a Martini glass.  Add a twist of orange peel, flamed if you are brave (we aren't) and ...... relax!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Spiced Jerusalem Artichoke and Squash Soup with Parsley Pesto

People are really divided by Jerusalem Artichokes - over on the Riverford forum, people either look forward to their arrival, or they chuck them in the compost as soon as they arrive.  I am definitely in the former camp.  They have 2 downsides - the difficulty of peeling them and the farting - I find husbands are eminently suited to both of these activities.  I love them in soups (artichokes, not husbands) and a quick check of my recipe index throws up some real favourites - with carrots, in a Cranks-inspired recipe with Bouillabaise flavours, and also combined with watercress.  Today's variation is a blend of roughly equal quantities of leeks, roasted squash and artichokes, flavoured with garlic, cumin seed, ground coriander and a chilli for a little warmth - ideal on a frosty January day for lunch.  Make it pretty much the usual way by sweating the leek, garlic and artichokes in a little butter and olive oil until soft, add the chunks of roasted squash (I used a Crown Prince pumpkin, but butternut is fine too) and the spices, about a heaped teaspoon of each, and the chopped chilli.  Just cover with veg stock (Marigold is fine, as always) and simmer until tender.  Blend and serve as is or with a spoonful of parsley pesto: a bunch of parsley, with the tougher stems removed, a handful of toasted pine nuts, a clove of garlic, all blended quickly in a mini processor with a little oil, salt and pepper.  I didn't use Parmesan as I thought its flavour wouldn't go with the spices in the soup, but you can add the cheese to serve with tomato or red pepper soup, and with pasta, of course.  This is an 'under a fiver' dish that will feed 4-6 people (maybe the pesto pushes it a little over that cost threshold?).

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Mushroom, Spinach and Leek Frittata

Definitely qualifies for an 'under a fiver' job this, especially if you have a handful of mushrooms, half a pillow-pack of spinach and a single leek staring at you in the salad drawer of the fridge, saying "Well?  What are you going to do with US little lot, then?" when you open the door. (I often hear veg talking to me). The answer was to chop them and saute them for a few minutes in a little butter with some fresh thyme leaves and seasoning, combine with 3 or 4 beaten eggs (depending on how hungry the two of you are - naturally, we went with 4), pour into a parchment-lined round or square cake tin (NOT one with a loose bottom!), top with a little cheese of your choice (we had some creamy Lancashire, also sulking in the depths of the fridge after Christmas), and bake at 170C for 20 minutes until set and probably a bit puffy.  Lovely, fresh and frugal, served with some crusty bread.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Christmas Pudding Ice Cream

I am embarrassed to even call this a recipe really, but if any of you still have a lump of Christmas Pud lurking in the fridge, then this is a great way to use it up.  You simply chop or crumble the pud and mix it with GOOD bought vanilla ice cream - allow it to soften a little.  Season with some cinnamon and rum or brandy to taste (not too much booze as this inhibits the freezing), pile it back into the ice cream box or little ramekins if you are feeling precious.  Return to the freezer and then serve in scoops or turn out onto a plate if you went down the ramekin route.  Delicious!  Of course, it helps if you have a really good Crimbo pud to start with - we make our own each year.  Perhaps I should finally blog the recipe on here later on?

Chilli Turkey Meatballs

I have to say that I prefer meatballs made from turkey rather than beef.  As well as being lower fat, they have a better texture and remain soft and tender.  They also carry flavours better.  So, last night I made a big pot of chilli with them - 500g of turkey mince makes plenty for four people so we stashed half in the freezer.  Take said pack of turkey, and mix with 2 slices of bread, turned into breadcrumbs, 1 finely chopped onion, and 1 crushed clove of garlic, an egg, salt, pepper and a chopped red chilli.  Form into meatballs, whatever size you like.  I go for about a heaped teaspoon, which should yield 40 meatballs.  Saute lightly in a little olive oil until browned and drain well on kitchen paper.  Pop into a pot of simmering chilli sauce, made from: a sauteed chopped onion, red pepper and more garlic, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon (or to taste) of chilli powder, 3 teaspoons hungarian sweet paprika and 1 teaspoon dried oregano, a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, a can of water and a splodge of tomato puree.  Last, but not least, a big can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed.  Simmer all of this, with the meatballs, until rich and reduced a little, then serve with carbs of your choice - I like plain rice, but you can pile it into a jacket potato, use taco shells, or mix your cultural influences and have it with pasta.  I eschew cheese and soured cream, but don't let me stop you!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Lentil, Bacon and Tomato Soup

I know, I know, another lentil soup recipe and it is only the 6 January!  But lentils are a traditional thing to eat in France and Italy in the New Year.  Supposedly they bring luck, but really, it is because we are all broke and looking for cheap ways to fill hungry tums and warm us up.  Well, this soup fits the bill.  It is adapted from a recipe in this month's 'Good Food' magazine.  It uses store cupboard ingredients to good effect, with some fresh veg to liven it up.  You saute a chopped onion and 2 or 3 slices of chopped smoked bacon in a tablespoon of olive oil, until the bacon is crisp and golden.  Add a sliced carrot and about 75g of brown or Puy lentils - I had a tin of cooked lentils, so used that instead.  Also add about 150g of tinned chopped tomatoes or the equivalent of fresh if you have some in the house, and a clove of garlic, finely chopped.  Now add about 800mls of chicken or veg stock, cover, and simmer until the veg and lentils are tender (not long if you've used tinned lentils).  Remove the lid, turn up the heat and add a handful of chopped kale, spinach, chard or other green cabbagey stuff, and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes until tender.  Dish up, with a blob of Greek Yoghurt if liked.  Another cheap eat, and great for supper in big bowls with cheese on toast and lots of fruit to follow.  Leave out the bacon to make it veggie, but you'll lose some of the smokey depth of flavour.

Spiced Roasted Roots

One of my most useful stand-by ingredients is Bart Spices Garam Masala Spice Mill which allows you to grind whole spices just like you would black peppercorns.  It is perfect for this treatment for roasted root veg.  This is a moveable feast, so use whatever root veg you have to hand.  Last night, we used carrots, potaotes, parsnips and butternut squash, along with a red onion.  Chop them into equal-sized pieces, around an inch or so in size.  For 2, we used 1 large spud, 2 medium parsnips, some Chantenay carrots, about a third of a squash and one onion.  In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of oil with a teaspoon of garam masala, freshly-ground if possible, and two cloves of garlic, crushed.  Add some salt and pepper.  Mix well, then add the prepared veg and toss around, so they are all covered in the spicy oil.  Tip onto a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet, and spread into one layer, then roast at around 170 degrees for about 40 minutes.  I don't like them to be too charred so you can increase the temperature if you like them that way.  Turn once or twice during cooking.  This makes a lovely, easy and cheap side dish and accompanied a quick chicken coconut curry really well.  Alternatively, you can tip it all into a pot, cover with stock and then blend into a lovely, spicy veg soup.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Lentil Broth

So, we had an excellent piece or organic gammon for New Year, and a happy by-product is the lovely salty ham stock from the poaching.  Don't throw this out - make it into a soup with red lentils, carrots, celery, swede, leeks and tinned cannellini beans or butterbeans.  Allow to cook for a good hour and a half, and you will end up with a thick, sustaining bowl of goodness - a real taste of my childhood!  Ignoring the fact that the gammon cost us fifteen quid, this definitely qualifies as an under a fiver dish.  You could make it with veg stock, but you won't get the salty hammy earthiness of this version.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year!

So, here is 2012.  Where did 2011 go?  There were ups and downs last year, but one constant was our wonderful Riverford veg box delivery, and this will still be a source of major inspiration.  At the request of a friend, I will blog a recipe each week that costs less than a fiver - in reality, many of my recipes already do, but I will highlight them where possible. 

Also, we will continue with our attempts to keep the fat intake down.  I find this tricky in the winter, where so many dishes seem to use cheese and dairy - comfort eating, I suppose.  Let me know your tips for avoiding this, whilst still delivering on warmth and comfort.  Thanks for staying with me and I love to hear your feedback if you cook any of my recipes - either on here or my Facebook pals.  I shall also try to get on Twitter, if I can be ar$ed!