Thursday, 27 September 2012

My mash

While on twitter the other day I mentioned my special mash I made for the kids now and then. And it is not often I make this given the amount of butter in this. But people seemed interested so I thought I would show you how I make my mash.  

Whatever potatoes you like to use for mash then prepare them and cut into even chunks and place in a pan of cold water with peeled garlic cloves.  For mash for 4 people I used 7 cloves. Was supposed to be 6 but I apparently cannot count!

Bring to the boil and add salt to the water and boil until potatoes are tender and mashable.  Then drain potatoes.  I leave them draining in the colander in the sink to dry out a little while I prepare the next part.  Now I never measured my milk but it covered the base by half a centimetre and I warmed the milk until it melted around 50 grams of butter with lots of salt and pepper.  I have often used white pepper which works apparently better with potatoes and even some grated nutmeg will work surprisingly well

I use a potato ricer or you could mash the potatoes and garlic with a masher or even whip with an electric mixer, but DO NOT use a food processor unless you like eating wallpaper paste gluey potatoes. Then I stir the whole lot together or mash together until fully combined.  I then slice another 50 or so grams of butter into thin slices and place over the mash and cover with a lid.  I just leave it to sit while I finish the rest of the meal off 

When I take the lid off I get greeted with a river of yellow lusciousness that I stir into the mash.  It seems to add more richness and smoothness to it doing it this way.  Also It seems to have a very slight cheesy taste, but that could be my imagination.

My 19 year old son would happily eat this mash daily and I swear I could bribe him with it! 

So a very simple recipe/idea but another one the family loves, especially with sausages and onion gravy as above ;o)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Nigellas spaghetti spice

Being the cookbook addict I am I of course preordered Nigella Lawsons Nigellissima book and was pretty happy when it arrived. Nothing quite like a new book to read and fall in love with. I hadn't actually cooked anything from it though as things have been a bit busy or we were already set on having certain meals already.

 Today however knocked me sideways.  With a sickly cold that had attacked my chest and a migraine that just would not quit I spent to day feeling rather sorry for myself. I had made sure the kids had eaten and got Luke off to bed and as migraine faded I realised that I was ravenous after a day of no food and was craving something like pasta.  But what to put on it? Really was not in the mood for cooking a sauce to or just cheese on it.  Then my mind flashed to the spaghetti spice Nigella has in her book.  I had already bought some dried parsley and chilli flakes for this last week thinking I would have it ready in cupboard but me being me never got around to it.It is a simple mix of 4 ingredients 
Dried parsley
Sea salt flakes
Chilli flakes
Garlic granules
 mixed up together in a bowl and jarred it looks quite colourful. using it proved simple to for every 100 grams of dried spaghetti you use 2 teaspoons of the mix put into still warm pasta pot with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss the pasta back in to coat with a little reserved pasta cooking water.

Now it's a good job I love spicy things because for some it could be a little hot.  But on the other hand if you are a follower of Nigella you are already aware she loves her chillis and heat :o)  I found the chillis were a strong flavour obviously and the garlic took a less starring role but brought it all together.  The parsley is nowhere near as strong as I thought it would be.  But all in all a great balanced spice mix  Which will become a store cupboard staple for me for that odd solitary bowl of pasta I have now and again.  I must get older son to try it to as think it is so simple to use he might just be tricked into cooking pasta instead of walking to the local takeaway instead of cooking. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Lamb breast roast

I'm hoping this hasn't got everyone going yuck at just the thought of it.  One thing I grew up with was meat very well cooked and that the cheaper cuts often had better and richer flavours when cooked well. I get a bit bewildered when people turn their noses up at pork belly and lamb breast because they are fatty.  Well yes they are, unless they are cooked well that is. 
Often I am gobsmacked at the price of lamb, and then amazed at the big pieces of lamb breast that one butcher virtually gives away at a pound a breast because he just wants rid of it.  Yesterdays Sunday dinner consisted of a roasted lamb breast I had picked up in the reduced section in a supermarket at a ridiculous price.   It was easily big enough to feed 4 people had we not been greedy and eaten half of it before we served it up! Very often these don't have bones in but if they do ignore them as they will just pull out easily when cooked like this.

So I thought I would share how I treat this much overlooked joint and turn it into a lovely offering.
We start with the stuffing.  Yes you could grab a just add water pack but I save odds and ends of loaves of bread and blitz them to crumbs and freeze them ready for when I need breadcrumbs ( thrifty and frugal to the last it seems I am ) I used a

good 3 big handfuls of breadcrumbs
finely chopped small onion
2 cloves garlic crushed
small bunch of thyme stripped off the stems
lots of salt and pepper
1 egg.

Being the lamb was going to cook for a long time I didn't cook the onion or garlic off in butter/oil to soften first but if using in something that needed a shorter cooking time I usually would cook slowly until soft then cool down before mixing in.
I used thyme because that is what I have on the windowsill in a glass of water.  sage, parsley or other herbs could be used with various fruits or spices added in to

I know this doesn't look to thrilling mixed together and a bit pale and uninteresting. But the smells from the thyme, garlic and onion where mouth watering :o) 

I took the string off the lamb next and rolled it open skin/fat side/outside down on the board and sometimes the lamb is in one piece and sometimes it has leaves almost like a book.  This one was almost book like so I divided the stuffing into 2 and spread it over the leaves of lamb (try saying that 5 times in a row drunk) 


this needs to be packed in firmly and great for heavy handed kids to come along and slap and push it in roughly leaving small gaps around the outside. Then roll it back up and tie up with suitable string, or even skewers if you have them.  I am no good at knot tying as you can see by the bows in the next pic, but at least it is all contained :o)

Season heavily and place in a low oven and in lower third of oven at around a gas mark 2.  I left mine in for around 3 hours on really low while I got on with the mornings activities.  It slowly cooked and the fat layers filtered though the meat and stuffing basting the layers and leaving amazing flavours as it did.  
Later on I needed to cook my roast potatoes so the heat of oven was cranked up to a suitable heat and meat left where it was.  Now anyone not feeding a vegetarian son would perhaps use a bigger tin and cook their potatoes and parsnips in around the lamb. And would be rewarded with gorgeous veg so feel free.  I did mine in a separate tin and all was still well.  

After 1 hour and 20 minutes of the potatoes cooking at gas mark 6 ish the lamb came out to rest while the Yorkshire puddings went in.  At this point I removed the lamb from the tin to rest on a plate.  I drained the fat from the tin and was left with a shocking amount that almost filled my capucino cup I save for such things. and after 10-15 minutes resting I cut into large chunky slices and put back in tin in base of oven to warm up. 

The skin at this point has no fat under it. It is papery and crackly and a joy to nibble on.  The meat is juicy and succulent but not fatty.  The taste is rich and the stuffing a lovely compliment to the meat. 

I carved 4 very chunky slices.  This meat falls to bits so easily there is no way I could do it more elegantly. 

It really annoys me at times when people turn up their noses at these 'cheaper cuts'  cheaper doesn't really mean they are nasty.  With a little bit of time and care a £1 piece of breast like this with a few cheap additions can feed a family of 4 an amazing roast dinner :o) 
I like a fore rib of beef as much as the next person, but, budget wise no way am I going to be putting a fore rib on the table very often and not be eating baked beans for a month to make up for it ( and I hate baked beans) 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Rum Babas

Rum Babas are something that really up until now never appealed to me.  I think the problem was down to the word Rum, I have a big recollection as a small child at someone letting me taste the dark Navy rum YUCK! And I like a rum and coke as much as the next person does but put the name Rum and anything and my face grimaces automatically. 
Then these got made on the great British bake off.  They actually looked nice.  They sounded nice and cause a lot of interest on twitter. So first problem first it was decided coconut rum/Malibu would be my choice of booze and I just yesterday happened upon Rum Baba moulds.  We were all set. 

So I opened the relevant page earlier on in the Great British bake off showstoppers book and started lining up things up ready.  First thing first flour, turned out not bread flour but plain flour. room temperature milk so microwaved mine as have no patience. Also due to various ailments I used my kitchen aid mixer to mix the dough ingredients together and kneading while adding the soft room temperature butter until incorporated. Leaving me with this very gloopy dough. Which I left to rise for an hour until doubled.

The Rum Baba moulds required generously buttering and coating with caster sugar so they came out easily when baked. 
Then when the dough was ready I piped into the moulds evenly. Book does say you can spoon the dough in to. I used a silicone dariole mould for the last bit of dough I had and it worked really well along side the others.

These were left to prove again so they rose up past the centre bit but not over the outside.  This bit still confuses me as I wasn't sure if they were supposed to have a closed bottom or not?? Anyone else know?
Then into the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and firm to the touch, mine seemed a bit to dark at the 20 minute mark but didn't taste burnt at all :o)

Then while the babas are cooking I got to open the Malibu and fill the kitchen with the tropical cheerful warm smell of coconut rum while boiling it up with sugar and water.

After the babas came out the oven and had cooled a few minutes I transferred them to a shallow dish and poured half the still warm syrup on them.  When this was absorbed I turned them over and poured the rest of the syrup over.  After about an hour or so ( we went for a walk) it was time to get creative with the presentation.  First off made a Chantilly cream with double cream, vanilla pod seeds and icing sugar whisked up.  We had a few strawberries growing in garden and a ripe mango to slice.  

Luke decided to help with piping and decorating and I shared one with Luke and 3 lucky teen aged boys ate the other 3 :o) 

Sprinkle of icing sugar was all that was left. These were lovely. But for me they were way to big and rich to eat a whole one, the boys managed to and were very impressed so it may just be me. 

All in all they did take a few hours but what was done didn't take that much effort and only in short bursts.  I am sure at some point I will be making these to impress some lucky person/people. 


Pork chops with peppers

Gordon Ramsey has a new book out Ultimate cookery course  And although I have never been a massive fan of Gordon's I decided to give it a go.  It's not Gordon's cooking or his style etc that puts me off, it's the fact I have 3 children plus others that all seemed to demand different things and for a while I think I actually almost gave up cooking food food in favour of baking which was less likely to provoke the usual 'I hate onions' 'there's nothing weird in here mum?' and I am not eating sweetcorn/green things/round things/ or anything with the letter r in them this week!' But eventually my love of cooking, not just baking, reemerged :o)

Yesterday it was just Luke (9) Ever(1) and I ( you can guess if you like but I am 21 honest!) eating, and the butcher had a sale on free range pork chops so this fitted the bill.  I had seen this cooked on here so I am not going to repeat the recipe on here.

Sweet and sour peppers are FANTASTIC, in fact I think I would love these on burgers instead of just onions or added as a side to lots of meals.  And they are so easy to do to.  Luke hates onions that have any taste or bite, but he loves the hairy dieters sweet and sour so I was hoping the flavours would convince him, which they did.  Gordon points out the vegetables should be hissing in the pan and cooked on high.  I personally wouldn't of kept it that high if he hadn't of said for fear of burning everything to a cinder, but I followed his advice and it all worked well. I cooked the peppers ahead of time and the pork chops when we needed them.

Pork chops are a bit of a sketchy point for me.  I always seem to end up with dry or tough chops unless they are cooked in a sauce or tray baked in the oven.  So I followed the recipe to a Tee and basted them with butter and left to rest as long as they were cooked.  Oh my!  these were gorgeous. 

 I added a small cup of cous cous I had made with a little of the thyme to echo the pork chops and drizzled it with pan juicess, heavenly.  The left over pepper juices went over the chops.  This was a seriously impressive mid week meal but was so easy. 

It's not the best looking photo of a plate of food, and I must buy some plates that aren't so colourful as they don't help show off the beautiful colours in the foods. 

Luke demolished his and spent about 10 minutes trying to chew last of pork off the bone, and he hates his meat on the bone!  Ever actually had a beefburger ( butchers special one) and the cous cous and peppers and she hoovered hers down to.  So I am feeling more heartened to go forth and experiment more again.  Maybe just maybe I can find more meals that won't leave my head reeling at the logic of why they can't/won't eat it ;o) 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Egg and bacon salad

Trust me to take a pic and in this one there being no egg!, turned out while I was faffing with a camera Luke had eaten the eggs he loves them.  This recipe came into being after reading an idea somewhere a few years ago and then remembering the idea while looking in the fridge thinking what on earth shall I cook? Being it is such a wonderful meal that is very adaptable to what you have on hand I thought I would share what I do to make mine. 

First things first.  In this instance I used half a pack of my local farm shops dry cure bacon bits. I dry fried them in a pan until they were nearly crispy and nicely browned. Being they were such good quality there was no excess fat in pan.  If there was however I would of saved it for dressing later.  Especially if I had subbed and used chorizo.
When the bacon was cooked I removed it from the pan with a slotted spoon putting the bacon to one side, and left the pan to use later untouched and not rinsed or wiped out.

As there was only 2 of us eating tonight I grabbed 7 or 8 large new potatoes and quartered them and boiled them until tender.  I also boiled 4 eggs. In this case I hard boiled them but soft boiled is lovely if you wish to.  Or even poached eggs work well.

So a rummage through the fridge revealed I had 1 1/2 little gem lettuces, some cucumber and chives.  I had found some sungold cherry tomatoes which are a slightly different texture and taste that normal ones.  Sort of a velvety texture and mellowed taste.  So I chopped these up and placed in a serving bowl reserving chives for last minute.

At this point my potatoes are now done and drained, eggs are cooling in their shells and in a bowl of cold water cooling a little. Then comes the fun.  Back to the bacon pan.  Now if there is fat in the pan you can remove all but around just over a tablespoon of it.  But being this was dry and just had cooked on bits on bottom of pan I put the pan back on a gentle heat and added a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, just under half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and salt and pepper and whisked it together and tasted to check seasoning.  It should be warmed through but not hot.  Turn the heat off and tumble in the now just warm new potatoes and coat in the dressing.  Doesn't look wildly exciting but tastes good. 

I leave the potatoes in the pan to absorb some flavour and cool a bit while I peel eggs and chop into quarters.  Then I toss the bacon and potatoes through the salad and finish off by placing eggs over and chives.  Serve on it's own or with bread or even croutons are a really good addition if you have some slightly stale bread around.

This is great for using any left overs up or for lunchboxes the next day as it's good warm or cold. Very adaptable to whatever salad leaves or items you have on hand. Simple to make but a real family pleaser.

Sat here with my coffee the morning after posting this I got asked by son why didn't we have cress with this last night! If you have one of those boxes of cress you can buy or grown some it does work beautifully with this. As do whatever salad leaves you like to use normally.