Thursday, 31 January 2013

Ham hock

This may not look an exciting bowl of pasta but it what it made up for in appearances it made up for in taste. 
As I was saying in my last post it started with a smoked ham hock.  I took inspiration from a ginger pig recipe and in true Jules style didn't have half the ingredients in the book as couldn't remember where I saw the recipe until after I had been to shop and realised I had creme fraiche but not marscapone. Or parsley to finely chop etc so here is what I did in the end. 

I took the ham hock covered in cold water and brought up to the boil and then simmered for an hour. Took it out of the water to cool and kept the water as stock for a soup ( another meal to come) While the ham started to cool I put on a pan of water and started to cook some linguine  Then as this was cooking removed and discarded the skin off the ham ( cat ate it) and shredded most of the meat and cut into smallish chunks.

I found some dried parsley left over from making my spaghetti spice and put a good heaped tablespoon in a small amount of boiing water to try and bring it to life a bit.  I had a 1/3 tub of low fat creme fraiche and into that I added a small spoon of Dijon mustard and the parsley with the water and put it to one side.  When the pasta was cooked I drained quickly and put back in pot with creme fraiche, shredded ham and good grind of pepper. I needed a little reserved pasta water I saved out of habit to loosen it slightly.  It was just a little bland and we solved that with the tiniest grating of Parmesan cheese. All in all was a nice meal that was made up with things I had open or needed using up.  Both Luke 10 and Ever 19 months ate this and making the right noises so a hit. 

I have a little ham left and the stock from simmering the hock still so there will be a bit more to this story soon. And all from a £1 ham hock.  So far it's given 3 servings. 

New beginnings

Well not yet but soon in a month or 3 (who knows really) I will be having a new kitchen and bathroom fitted. 10 days of absolute chaos promise to be given to me. So I'm left with the joy of going through my cupboards etc and a chance to sort out what is essential and what needs to be given to a new home.

Meanwhile I have decided that I need to start using the food I have squirrelled away in the cupboards and freezer etc. I grew up in a family where money was always short but the food was always good. Very lucky on that score. But it does teach you to have lots on hand for hard lean times. So I have decided to save my money and use these things up and see if I can find some new recipes or ideas for old favourites.

As I was rummaging today I was almost praying there wasn't a tin of steak pie filling in my cupboards. My great aunt used to give them to me. Luckily there wasn't. I'm not fussy food wise but those tins of steak and gravy never tasted or felt right in my mouth and still to this day gross me out. Start me off with a lb of steak any day!

Today though I raided the freezer for a smoked ham hock that was on offer at the butchers not to long ago :-) so I will let you know how that goes later

Posts could get a bit strange cooking wise as I do want to explore more outside my normal comfort zone.

Meanwhile, why not have a rummage in the back of your cupboards or deep freeze and see what you have to use that you forgot you had? You might be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Parsnips and chorizo


This may not look like the most wonderful side dish going but it certainly tasted good. I was going through Stephane Raynauds book 365 reasons to sit down and eat. Rediscovered this book again and decided to flick through.  Parsnips and chorizo not an obvious pairing but they work well. 

Started off peeling 2 parsnips into chips. Slicing half an onion and put  them on a low heat to saute for 15 minutes with a generous splash of olive oil, Stir occasionally and by the end half they will have picked up some colouring be slightly crispy in places but mostly sweet and soft and somehow mellowed.  Then add a fair chunk of your chorizo sausage, I used the cured one, and cut it into chip shapes but finer than the parsnips and saute them all together for another 5 minutes.  No additional seasoning needs to be added. 

Pretty simple and basic skills needed recipe which I scaled down to be suitable for 2 people.Not an OMG amazing but it did add a lovely pizzazz to pork chops and different to plain boring veg 

Thursday, 10 January 2013


Last year I started listening to audiobooks to help practice my listening skills. Today I realised and caught it on time to take a screen shot. I've listened to 3 days worth of audiobooks. Never dreamt in my deaf days this would ever be possible but here we are and I'm beaming with happiness.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Morning view

Usually I don't open my curtains until I am leaving the house as I am not a morning person at all. But this morning I saw a splash of colour through a chunk of the curtains and curiosity got the better of me and I opened my front door wide to be greeted by this spectacular view . I think it's time to keep a closer eye on the skies in the morning as this really lifted my morning mood and somehow filled me with hope :)

Chocolate chip cookies

I might be on a healthy eating kick but I still feel the need to bake and have things on hand for the kids to have as after dinner treats etc and chocolate chip cookies always go down well with most people'. 
So I started with the oven at gas mark 3 and 2 greased large baking sheets 
170 g melted butter
200 g light brown sugar
100 g caster sugar
 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg and 1 yolk
250 g plain flour
150 g chopped dark chocolate
50 g chopped white chocolate

first thing first the 2 sugars and melted butter were beat together until smoothly combined and colour became really pale. The eggs and extract were added next and beat until well combined . 

the flour was achieved in and folded into the sugar/egg mix and then the chocolate. 

Then came my new gadget the meatball maker . this dough was quite wet and sticky compared to meatballs but the dough did come out with only a little encouragement and even sized cookies are always good . placed the balls on buttered baking sheets and in the oven for around 10 minutes and left on the sheets for a couple of minutes to firm up a little first

these came out crispy outsiders and a just soft and slightly chewy centres. definitely a try again and I got 23 cookies out of this . Would of been 24 but let older son sample a dough ball. 

Little secret here . As I have to shop on a budget I don't buy chocolate chips or expensive chocolate very often . I buy the stores own labelled bargain chocolate and chop to size . Usually 30-35 pence a bar and no Ono's noticed or complained get . just have to make sure it's not that horrible cake covering chocolate they sell in the baking aisle . 

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Meatballs and maker!

A little while ago I was having one of my can't sleep nights and ended up browsing Amazon on my phone and found the above beauties at a low price, listed as a meatball maker.  Which at 3 am seemed the perfect piece of kit for portioning out cookie dough. Well they arrived and looked just like the picture showed and were forgotten until today as was a bit busy with Christmas etc.

Being January has had the household eating more healthily today we decided on the hairy dieters meatballs in tomato sauce.  Which start off with finely grated carrot and half a medium chopped onion. The colours using
a red onion seemed a vibrant pleasing start.

After the mixture was hand squidged together I went in with the meatball maker. Well it worked perfectly. Compacted the meat well and uniform shapes and even made the recommended 24 balls like the recipe said. There is a single hole in each of the 2 cups which help with the removal I would imagine and do leave a couple of bumps in the meatballs but a little press as you put the balls down solve this problem.  

Not the best picture below colour wise but the meat balls all survived browning and tossing around in a pan and simmering in their sauce for a long time, held their shape but did not become hard and bouncy.

Best of all the kids were impressed with the meal and I wouldn't of rated it as a dieters plate of food. Really felt as if I had eaten an indulgent satisfying meal.  Now to try try these wonders out on cookie dough to see if they perform as well with that :o) 

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Crabmeat and pea shoot foo yung

After the excess of Christmas most of us are looking at ways to cut back and shrink waistlines back to normal . with this in mind and wanting to use up what was in the house and eat well but not feel I was missing out on extravagance I decided on Goks crab meat and pea shoot foo yung . ok I bought pea shoots but would of gone without if I hadn't of had to go to a shop. I swapped the picked white crab meat for a tin of crab meat chunks . for a meal for tea with broccoli I steamed with a little soy sauce it was a perfect bowl of tv food .

1tbsp veg or groundnut oil
 small red onion thinly sliced
4 eggs beaten and seasoned with salt, pepper, 2 tsp fish sauce and 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce . 
4 tbsp frozen peas, I used petit pois
 tin of drained crab meat chunks
2 spring onions shredded

 with all that happily prepped and my broccoli steaming I pre heated my wok over a medium heat and added my oil and added my red onion until it was softened and starting to brown . 
Add in your peas and a table spoon of water and stir occasionally in the few minutes,it takes them to cook . they should be just undercooked and water evaporated.

I then added the seasoned eggs and strange colour they looked but I carried on . Stirring as you would scrambled eggs as you want clumps not an omelette. when almost cooked check fir seasoning adding a bit more soy if needed . then sprinkle over the crab meat around the edge for a shirt while until heated through . stir through gently with the spring onions and serve up for two lucky people . with a few pea shoots if you have them . 
I worked this out with what I used as 338 calories and an extra 25 for the broccoli. we finished dinner off with a fruit salad and feeling very much treated . 

Being our Chinese takeaway is closed on Tuesdays it is of course the day that I crave Chinese. this is a recipe that is fast, easy and good for curing those cravings.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Just before Christmas I happened upon the new book the great british bake off, Learn to bake 80 easy recipes for all the family First of all I didn't bother looking as I can bake and I didn't need to learn the basics right? Well then I finally looked through the book.  It was actually full of lovely bakes which anyone would be proud to serve up to family and friends or even just greedily eat ;o) Luke seemed to love looking through the book to as it was easy for him to see what needed doing, how it needed doing and he finally asked could we make these please?

So our maiden recipe for this book was large soft pretzels. 
we mixed the dry ingredients 

300g white bread flour
2 teaspoons caster sugar
7g/1 sachet fast action dried yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt 

together in our mixing bowl and then added 225 ml of luke warm milk

At this point we put it into our mixer to knead for 5 minutes, by hand it would take about 10 minutes and we finished off by putting the dough on a board and letting Luke learn and experience kneading, which he announced he could do all day it was fun! hmmmm? 

Dough went back into the bowl and covered with our trusty shower cap for half an hour before we punched the dough down and divided it up into 8 equal sized balls and left to rest for a few minutes. 

Each ball then got rolled out until it was the length of our board ( not right length but it worked) and we had a little fun getting tangled up trying to make the pretzel shapes.

Eventually we had 2 trays of pretzels, which we left to prove for 15 minutes while we prepared the toppings. one egg was beaten to brush over then grated cheese for 5 of them and course sugar for the other 3.

We then baked for 15 minutes at gas mark 7 and Luke carefully brushed them all with melted butter when they came out of the oven giving them their glossy soft chewy crusts. 

We waited until they just still warm and ate them without butter but with the odds and ends left from Christmas left in our fridge.  Wensleydale  cheese with cranberries, brie, sliced gherkins and ham cooked in coke.  

All in all the book impressed me, it was basic enough it was understood by a 10 year old, but the recipes were impressive enough to appeal to a baker who has baked for a while.