Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Easy Yorkshires: cooking for one

Everyone I know loves Yorkshire puds.  I certainly do but recently I have been singularly unsuccessful in making them as they have ended up solid and soggy rather than light and crispy.   I know all about the hot fat and the not opening the oven door but still no luck.

Brian Turner.
Fortunately, an online friend, Rachel, told me about the recipe she uses which is based on a Brian Turner recipe found here.

As you can see, if you follow the link, it is based not on weight but on volume/capacity.  Three cheers.  I know they freeze well but one person does not necessarily want twelve little puddings at one time.

As I wasn't sure, I used a bun tin with smaller spaces and I ended up with six little puds.  To my shame, I ate them all.  So if you use a muffin tin or similar, I would say the amounts below would make four puddings, two for straight away and two (if you have the self control) for the freezer.

Ingredients based on one egg (easily scaled up)
1 medium egg (which was 50 mls)
The same volume of half and half milk and water (so 25mls milk and 25 mls water)
50 mls plain flour
a pinch of salt, a grinding of black pepper and a dash of vinegar
(Mr Turner says he has no idea what the vinegar does but it is part of his granny's recipe so he uses it)

Preheat the oven to 220 - it needs to be smoking hot.  Put a little fat in whatever you are using to bake them in - I used a little cake tray and turkey dripping.  Put the tray into the oven to get really hot.

You need to measure the egg first, then pour it into a small bowl and wash and dry the container.
Measure out the same volume of plain flour and add to a clean bowl. Then measure out half the volume of milk and half of water.  Add the milk, water and egg to the flour and beat well into a batter.  Add a pinch of salt, a little pepper and a dash of vinegar.

Pour the batter into the smoking hot baking tray - the batter should sizzle as it goes in.
Pop into the oven and bake until done.  If you make smaller Yorkshires they will be cooked quicker but don't open the oven door until nearly the end.  Mine seemed to do quite quickly - around 15 to 20 mind but bigger ones would take longer.

That's it!  They were lovely.  I think I have found my easily remembered and successful template recipe for Yorkshires.  Better late than never!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Leftover turkey curry

Another very rambly idea . . . I'm useless at writing out concise recipes, there's too many ifs, buts and maybes!  I hope it makes sense.
If you can follow it, this makes a very tasty way of using up those turkey leftovers.  It's very, very adaptable and could use a lot more veg and less meat and still be tasty.  It is from the idea, start, taste and add school of cooking!  As most of it is Christmas leftovers and cupboard stuff, it is a surprisingly frugal outcome for such 'rich' ingredients

Ingredients (variable, depending on what you've got, sorry)

  • half a big onion, chopped
  • a dollop of butter
  • a squeeze of garlic puree
  • some curry paste - I used Patak's balti paste because that's what I had in the fridge but different pastes will give you a different end flavour (obviously)
  • leftover Christmas veg.  I had some parsnips, some sprouts and some potato
  • some mango chutney, chopped into bits if it has pieces in (must put mango chutney on the shopping list now)
  • some coconut milk - I have some coconut milk powder and I mixed it into a liquid with some water.
  • some mango powder because I have some.  It adds a bit of citrussy/sour flavour and balances the mango chutney very nicely.  It's very optional and I used it because I had it, not because the dish would be ruined if I didn't add it!
  • some creme fraiche - it would have been yogurt but I had used up the yogurt so I used up the creme fraiche instead.  It was half fat.
  • some chunks of left over turkey, both brown and white meat - brown has so much flavour and a great texture and is not to be sniffed at!  I used my eyes to judge how much.  I also added a bit of leftover ham too.
  • a sprinkle of salt
  • a squidge of chilli puree - because I wanted a bit more heat.  I don't like very hot curries but I like a bit of tingle on the tongue!
  • a ladle of turkey stock because it looked a bit solid and I had the last remains of the carcass simmering on the hob as I made the curry!  Water or other stock would be fine
  • and lastly . . .  a good splash of cream because I had some and it needed using

so - a luxury leftover curry

Saute the onion gently in the butter until it is lovely and soft and turning golden but not catching.
Add the garlic puree and give it a few more minutes.  Keep it very low.
Then add the curry paste, stir it well and leave it on very low to smurge together and develop flavour.

(I was doing other things at the same time so there was a lot of 'leave it on the lowest possible heat' stuff going on which works really well with curries as the flavours develop)

Add the cooked vegetables and mix well.  Add the mango chutney.  Add the coconut milk, the mango powder, the creme fraiche, the meat, salt and chilli puree.  Mix it all together gently and well.  If it is thick, add some stock or some water.

Keeping it on low, simmer it, stirring occasionally, for a little while.  Add cream if you have it and fancy it.

It was dead easy and knock-out delicious!

Thursday, 24 December 2015


I made stollen yesterday.  I've never made it before but there was some marzipan left over and I didn't want to waste it.

I used a very simple recipe because it was first time.  I don't think it is complete because there's no mention of spices (I put some in anyway!) but it came out well and tastes absolutely delicious so I thought I would share the link with you anyway.

(I also used port to soak the fruit because I had no rum.)

Here it is.

I will trawl around for other recipes when I have a bit more time.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Gluten free stuffing for Christmas

Ingredients to make ten to twelve little patties.

1 medium onion, very, very finely chopped
around three rashers of back bacon with the rind removed (render it down for nice bacon fat, if you want), zizzed into almost a paste
a squeeze of garlic puree
20g + 30g butter
around 130g gluten free breadcrumbs (I made some gf bread and used the crust ends to make the breadcrumbs)
dried sage (or fresh)
half a medium egg, whisked (I made pancakes with what was left so no waste)
about 60g dried cranberries
a bit of port
some chopped walnuts (about the same amount, in volume, as the cranberries)
oil for frying

Method using Thermione.
Pour some port over the cranberries a few hours before and leave.

I used Thermione to make the breadcrumbs, then set them aside and used the same bowl.

In the bowl place the onion, the bacon and 20g of the butter.  Zizz briefly to chop very finely, then cook at 90, speed 2 for about ten minutes.  Add the garlic puree in the last two minutes.

Add the 30g butter, breadcrumbs, sage to taste (I added around 1 heaped tsp, I think), a very little salt (the bacon will have added salt) and some black pepper and mix on 2 for a few moments until all mixed together.

Add the egg and mix on 1 until all combined, then add the walnuts and the cranberries (but not the port - drink that, it's lovely)!  Reverse mix on 1.

Tip the stuffing into a bowl and use your hands to bring together into small patties.  Fry them in a little oil until brown on both sides.


Usual method
Pour some port over the cranberries a few hours before and leave.

Use a processor to make the breadcrumbs and set aside.
Pop in the onion and bacon and zizz together.

Melt 20g butter in a pan, add the bacon/onion mixture and sizzle for around ten minutes, stirring well.  Add the garlic puree in the last five minutes

Add the 30g butter, breadcrumbs, sage to taste (I added around 1 heaped tsp, I think), a very little salt (the bacon will have added salt) and some black pepper and continue to cook, stirring to mix it all in.

Tip the mixture into a bowl, add the 30g butter, walnuts and strained cranberries and mix well to melt the butter.  Allow to cool a bit.  Then add the egg, go in with your hands (as Delia used to say) and squidge it all together.  Shape into patties and fry as above.

I have frozen the patties individually and will reheat them on The Day, probably in Handy Andy (halogen oven).

Friday, 11 December 2015

Jam: the 'template' recipe

I wouldn't use the method below for strawberry jam; it requires a different method.

How to make jam

some suitable fruit
granulated sugar
lemon juice, if needed

Notice there are no amounts.  That's because the amount of sugar depends on the amount of fruit.

You will also need
clean, warm jam jars with lids
a saucepan or a maslin pan depending on how much you're making
a jam funnel (optional but I wouldn't be without mine)
labels because you think you will remember but you don't, like things in the freezer - I use Avery labels (or similar and cheaper)

Clean and prepare the fruit (e.g. take out stones).  I usually leave the skin on unless it is very tough.

Warm the very clean jam jars in a cool oven.

Put the fruit in a saucepan with some water - not too much, just enough to prevent sticking.  Do NOT add sugar at this point.  Bring to a boil and gently simmer until the fruit is soft.  Stir occasionally.

Measure how much fruit mixture you have.  For every pint of fruit mixture use one lb of sugar.  (metric doesn't work here) If you want to use less sugar, do so, but the jam won't keep nearly so well.

Put the fruit and the sugar back in the saucepan (make sure it is large enough as the cooking jam bubbles up) together with lemon juice if needed/used and stir it all well to dissolve the sugar.  If your fruit mixture is warm, the sugar dissolves more quickly.  If it is cold, heat it all gently, stirring well, and don't let it boil until all the sugar has dissolved.

If using the wrinkle test for setting, put two saucers in the fridge or, if possible, the freezer.

Bring the jam mixture to a rolling boil, stirring well.  If you get scum, skim it off.  Boil the jam well for five minutes or so, stirring regularly, then remove from the heat and test for set (see previous entry).  If it has not reached setting point, reboil for another five minutes or so.

Once setting point is reached, skim off any remaining scum, if you want to, or add a knob of butter and stir it is which reduces the scum.  Leave the jam to stand for five minutes, then carefully (it is VERY hot) ladle into the hot jam jars.  I find using a funnel cuts down amazingly on stick mess.
Screw the lids on tightly.
Don't label until cold, not because the labels won't stick, they will, but they are the very devil to remove afterwards if they go onto hot jars!  Bitter experience, believe me!

Enjoy your jam!

Jam: intro

I found some old plums while sorting out my fridge yesterday.  After umming and ahing I made some plum and star anise jam which is lovely.  It set me thinking about a sort of 'template' recipe for jam.
Before I give that there's a few things to go over.

1.  Pectin.  Some fruits are low in pectin and some are higher.  Pectin is essential for setting.  If there's not enough pectin your jam won't set.  If I don't know, I google and here's a useful site for info.  Scroll down for a table of info but actually the whole page is informative, albeit not terribly attractive.
My plums were very ripe so I added some lemon juice.  Works a treat!  You can buy jam sugar which has added pectin and that also works well but it is dearer than ordinary sugar.  You can also buy pectin but I never have so cannot comment, and according to the link above you can make pectin.  Something to go on the list, I suspect.

2.  Setting point.  This page says it all - I do the wrinkle test!   Works for me.
You can also find youtube clips that explain and show.

3.  Jam jars.  Use ones you have recycled (keep the lids too) if possible.  I clean them either in the dishwasher or in very hot, soapy water.  I keep them warm in a cool oven on a baking tray of some kind.  How many?  No idea, it depends on how much fruit.  I make a guesstimate and add a couple more for luck.
If you don't have any you can buy them.  Hobby craft and Lakeland both sell jam jars although they are expensive.  I prefer to use the Jam Jar Shop for price and for variety.

4.  Ditto with sugar.  How much depends on how much cooked fruit you have.  A pint of fruit equals a pound of sugar, more or less.

5.  Ditto with any extra flavours.  I know plums go well with star anise so I usually pop one into the first stage, cooking the fruit, removing it before jarring the jam.  Port or other alcohol needs to go in nearer the end of the whole process.  Read up about it - I always do and bless Google.

6.  If the above sounds very casual, it's because it is.  Housewives/keepers were making jam long before the scientific stuff was discovered.  I'm kind of gung-ho with it all now and rarely have a failure.  The worst that can happen is that the stuff hasn't set and you can add more lemon juice and reboil until it does.  The flavour will change with longer cooking but not in a bad way.
The most important thing is to be very clean, sterilise your jars, wash your fruit and don't use any fruit that has actually gone 'off'.

The template recipe is in the next post.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Christmas leftovers: mincemeat scrolls

I had some mincemeat left over and fancied trying these.  I've not made much sweet dough so it was a bit ad hoc but the results were great.  The recipe below made twelve little scrolls and, unfortunately, several seemed to vanish before they reached the freezer.  How strange.  I don't have an elf on the shelf so it's a puzzle!!!

This is NOT what I made.  I've posted it to show what I mean by scrolls.  Mine were smaller and much, much nicer (of course!)
I shall make more before Christmas as they will be absolutely scrummy on the Christmas Eve buffet table and  are a great alternative to mince pies.

220g strong flour
half tsp dried yeast - the kind for breadmakers
a scant half tsp salt
2 heaped tsps sugar (I just used granulated but some of the brown sugars might be nice)
30 g butter
1 tbsp dried milk powder
a really good pinch of garam masala (it's great for sweet spiciness but if you don't fancy it, use cinnamon or allspice)
130mls warm water (or maybe orange juice would be nice - I didn't use any so can't say but perhaps I will try that next time)

chopped walnuts (or other nuts to own taste)
dried cranberries
maple syrup
(some alcoholic something might be nice too!)

The thermomix way
Into the bowl; place the flour, salt, yeast, sugar, dried milk, garam masala and cubed butter.  Zizz it around a bit until the butter has breadcrumbed and everything is mixed.
Add the warm water.
Knead for 15 mins (I read that sweet dough needs more kneading because it is a wetter, softer dough).
(Or - the usual way, place ingredients in a bowl, rub in the butter, add water and mix, then knead until you have a smooth, stretchy dough)

This is actually a very soft enriched dough which can feel quite messy to start with but be patient, it does come together.  If you're really unhappy about how soft and sticky it is, add a little more flour.  If it seems to be too firm and dry, add a little more water.

When finished, tip out onto a floured surface, knead briefly into a ball (it was so soft I used a dough scraper) and place in an oiled bowl.  Cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place until double the size.

Tip the dough out onto a floured (or oiled) surface and bash back - it handled better after the rising, I found.  Shape into a rectangle and roll it out, keeping rectangular proportions.  You want a length long enough to roll up like a swiss roll while the width will depend on how much flour, etc, you used.  I rolled it quite thin.

First, mix together in a bowl your mincemeat, chopped nuts, dried cranberries and maple syrup (and whatever else you fancy) and mix well.
Over the dough, sprinkle  some sugar (I used demerara), then spread over the mincemeat mix.  Not too thick but there should be a thin coating over the whole dough, some of which will be the liquid rather than dried fruit - no white spaces!  Onto that sprinkle some more sugar.

Starting at one end, carefully roll up the dough as you would roll a swiss roll, not too loose.  Then cut the resulting 'sausage' into slices, each around one inch thick, maybe a little less.  I got twelve, two of which were the ends.  I slid my sausage onto a chopping board and used a sharp cleaver.

(It did occur to me that I could prove and bake it in a sausage and I will try that at some point!)

Line a small roasting dish (one with sides) with parchment that you have scrunched up so it takes the shape of the dish.
Carefully place each  slice in the dish fairly close to each other (mine fitted 3x4).
Sprinkle more sugar over the top.  Cover with cling film and leave to prove.  When about doubled in size, place in a preheated oven, 170 C (fan) and bake for around half an hour.  Towards the end, cover the top with some foil.
Then lift the whole lot out of the roasting dish, paper and all, and place back in the oven for another five minutes (keep the foil on)  I did this to make sure the 'underneath' was properly baked in the middle after recalling Mr Hollywood's comments about raw dough on Bake Off.

Then place the scrolls (which should be joined together) upside down on a cooling rack and peel off the parchment.  The scrolls should be gooey and sticky and luscious.  Allow to cool somewhat before pulling off the first scroll and sampling it.  I tested the ends first and then - er - a few others!

They would be nice with icing drizzled over or - what I will do next time - dredge over some icing sugar!

After all that I did mean to take a photo but forgot so you will have to take my word for it that they are wonderful!

Monday, 30 November 2015

Good for a cold.

Jack Monroe recently posted a recipe for a comfort drink.  Mine's less sophisticated and less natural, but it has been lovely and helpful this weekend so I thought I would share.

You need:
2 dispersible aspirin tablets (I always get the cheapest generic tablets I can find - supermarket own brand or Aldi!) and as little cold water as you can get away with
a good squeeze of lemon juice (from a bottle)
two good tsps honey - I use the cheapest I can find for cooking, etc
some boiling water
a mug and a spoon

Dissolve the tablets in as little cold water as you can get away with.
While you're waiting, pop the lemon juice and honey in a mug, add boiling water (leave a little room for the aspirin-water) and stir well.  While waiting for the aspirin to dissolve completely, take some comforting sips!

(If you can't take aspirin for any reason, make it up without and use it to swallow what you can have.  It is lovely and comforting anyway.)

Pour the aspirin into the honey and lemon drink, sit down, wrap your fleece around yourself and continue to enjoy.  Much cheaper than 'cold cure' medications and just as helpful!  I wondered why honey is so soothing so Googled around and found this.
  • Honey contains antioxidant, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties that fight against the virus, bacteria, and fungus to treat the cold and its underlying symptoms.
  • It helps to soothe a sore or scratchy throat naturally and relieves irritation.
  • It boosts the immune system, which reduces the severity of cold and also prevents future colds and other viruses.
I have absolutely no idea if it is true but it sounds good, doesn't it?

You could add ginger or whatever else to the mix if you want, a la Jack!  You could use a fresh lemon and squeeze - I bet the zest would add a little zing too.  I didn't bother and I bet most folk wouldn't when they're feeling rough and just want some relief!!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Soup: Leek and potato

Ingredients to make at least enough for six
1 onion, peeled and chopped
some butter
a squeeze of garlic puree
1 leek with just the tip and the very outer layer removed if it looks 'manky'- the rest will give great flavour.  Chop and rinse carefully.
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
2 stockpots, vegetable or chicken
a good grating of nutmeg
salt (go easy because stock pots are salty.  You can add more at the end)
boiling water

To add at the end:
2 tbsp dried milk powder
instant mash if needed to thicken

The Thermione way:
put the onion and the butter in the bowl and saute at 100, speed 2 for 5 or 6 mins
Add the leek, the potato, the garlic, nutmeg, stockpots, salt and pepper and top up to the 2 litre mark with boiling water.
Cook at varoma, speed 2 or 3 for 15 mins until the vegetables are soft
Add the dried milk powder.
Zizz until lovely and smooth - it usually takes about a minute on 10
If texture is too thin, add some instant mash and give it another good zizz.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Serve with some grated cheese and a swirl of cream (not crucial but very nice!)

The normal way
Saute the onion in the butter, add ingredients as above, simmer, covered, for 15 mins or until veg is cooked.
Add dried milk powder
Blend until smooth.
Add mash if needed and blend again.
Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Serve as above.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Soup: Sweet potato and lentil soup

Ingredients: makes enough for five or six, depending on how hungry you are
one very large sweet potato or a medium and a small one, peeled and chopped
one onion, peeled and chopped
garlic puree - a squeeze
three tbsps red/orange lentils
a stock pot (I used vegetable)
black pepper
instant mash powder

Thermione way
saute the onion and butter at 100, speed 2/5 mins
Add the sweet potato, garlic puree, nutmeg, lentils. stock pot, pepper and enough boiling water to make 1.5 L.
Cook at varoma/speed 2/15 mins or until vegetables are cooked
Puree on 10 for 1 minute
Add mash and puree again for 30 seconds.
Taste and adjuct seasonings if necessary.  I added some salt.
Reheat to simmering and serve.

Normal way:
Saute the onion and butter for 5 mins or so
Add the sweet potato, garlic puree, nutmeg, lentils. stock pot, pepper and enough boiling water to make 1.5 L
Simmer, covered, for 15 mins or until sweet potato is cooked..
Puree using a stick blender or other blender
Add mash and puree again
Taste and adjuct seasonings if necessary.  I added some salt.
Reheat to simmering and serve.

Waste not, want not: crispy butternut squash skins

After roasting a butternut squash and scooping out the flesh, don't throw the skins away, do this while the oven is still on.

Spray oil over both sides of the skin.  Sprinkle with a little salt and maybe a spice too.
Place on a sheet of parchment in a roasting dish, spread out.

Bake in a medium oven until the skins are going crispy and starting to char.  Eat while still hot.  Mmmmmmm.

(Don't forget to wipe the skin well before you start roasting!)

Monday, 23 November 2015

Waste not, want not: spiced butternut squash seeds

Before roasting!

I roasted a butternut squash to make soup.  I didn't feel like throwing the seeds away so this is what I did with them.

butternut squash seeds, washed and with the stringy yellow threads removed, then patted dry on a towel.
A little oil
a pinch of salt
a pinch of garam masala

When you already have the oven on . . .
Pop the cleaned and dried seeds in a small bowl.  Add the oil, salt and spice and mix it well.
Lay some parchment on an oven tray.  Spread the oiled and seasoned seeds on the tray, separating them so that they are not all clumped together.
Roast in an oven at around 200C (Fan 180) for around 20 mins or until browning and 'crunchy'.

Allow to cool a bit before indulging in these flavoursome, crunchy, delicious snacky things that would have otherwise been thrown away.

I wonder if one can do the same with melon seeds.  Must Google!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Waste not, want not: tomato and mascarpone soup

Nice and creamy.  Very tomatoey.  Uses up leftover bits that would be thrown away otherwise.  And - you know - tomato soup.  Scrummy.

What's not to like?

I had:

  • three bought tomatoes that were definitely too squidgy to eat raw.
    Not at all like these!
  • several home grown tomatoes, tiny little ones, that have been ripening on the window ledge and were ditto. The last of the crop, in fact.  I guess it must have amounted to seven or eight normal sized tomatoes.  Alternatively you could use a can of chopped tomatoes but then it wouldn't be using leftovers quite so much.
  • about a third of a little jar of tomato and marscapone stir in pasta sauce (great value from Aldi).

They went together so this is what I did in my conventional 'let's make soup' way.

Ingredients to make two big bowlfuls or three smaller bowlfuls
one onion, peeled and chopped
a bit of butter
Squidge of garlic
the tomatoes, chopped
the last third of a jar of tomato and masarpone sauce
a vegetable stock pot
some pepper
a pinch of sugar
boiling water
salt if needed

The Thermione way
Saute the onion in the butter for 5 mins/ speed 1 or 2
Add the remaining ingredients apart from the salt.  Take the water up to the 1 litre mark
Cook at Varoma, speed 2, 15 minutes.
Zizz at 10 for 1 minute
Check seasonings and add salt if necessary.  I added just a pinch.
Bring back to boiling and serve.

The normal way
Saute the onion in the butter for 5 mins in a saucepan
Add the remaining ingredients apart from the salt.  Add enough water so that there's about a litre altogether.
Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 15 mins.
Blend well with a stick blender or in a blender
Check seasonings and add salt if necessary.  I added just a pinch.
Bring back to boiling and serve.

You could add favourite herbs.  Basil is supposed to go well but I'm not terribly fond of basil.
If it's a bit 'thin', add some instant mash.
It could be served with a dollop of cream or creme fraiche and you could add a bit more mascarpone, if you had some.
This freezes well.

Soup: cream of parsnip soup

I had some leftover cream, hence the addition.  Milk would also impart a creaminess to the soup.

one medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
a bit of butter
three good sized parsnips, peeled and chopped
a squeeze of garlic
a vegetable stock pot (a good chicken stock would be better but I don't have that to hand)
a grating of nutmeg (and/or any other spices you fancy - I used nutmeg!)
some black pepper
boiling water
2 or 3 tbsp instant mash

The Thermione way
Place the butter and onion in the bowl and saute at 100, speed 2 for 5 mins.
Add the chopped parsnips and the garlic and ditto for two minutes.
Add thr stock pot, the nutmeg or other spices and black pepper and enough boiling water to make 1.5 litre
Cook on 100, speed 2 for 15 mins or until the parsnips are soft.
Zizz for 1 minute, speed 10 until the soup is very smooth.
Add the mash and zizz again.  Check seasoning and add salt if necessary - I did.

Before eating, reheat to 100, speed 2, then add the cream and briefly zizz before serving.

The normal way
Saute the onion in the butter until soft.  Add the parsnips and garlic and contiue for another couple of minutes.
Add the boiling water, stock pot, nutmeg and black pepper (and any other spices you fancy).
Simmer, covered until the vegetables are soft.
Zizz well.  Add mash and zizz again, check seasonings and adjust if necessary.  I needed to add some salt
Reheat and add cream.  Stir and serve.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Soup: roasted butternut squash soup

This recipe makes a very flavoursome soup that is smooth, velvety and 'elegant'.  Silly word, I know, but it is.  It comes out not too thick although if you prefer a thicker soup, just use less water.  As with all the soups I have made recently, it is frugal.  This one comes out at around 25p per substantial serving (without the additions).  When I start breadline again after Christmas, soup is definitely going to be the go for lunch on most days.

It is a slightly longer process than recent soup entries but it is worth taking the time to roast it it for the deeper, richer flavour.

Ingredients:  to make four substantial portions or five to six smaller portions for a starter
One medium butternut squash, well wiped over, halved (or, in my case, thirded because the knife didn't go where it was supposed to go) and deseeded (don't throw away the seeds)
some oil
some butter
one medium onion, peeled and chopped
a bit of garlic
a good pinch of garam masala
a veg stock pot or other stock
some black pepper
two or three tbsp instant mash
Salt, if needed

Thermo way
Brush oil over the exposed flesh of the squash, pop in a roasting dish and roast in an over at 180C fan (200 normal) until soft and just starting to char.
Put some butter and the onion into the bowl and saute at 100, speed 2 for five minutes.
While that's going on, scoop out the flesh (don't throw the skins away).  It really doesn't matter if a bit of skin gets in too.

Add the squash flesh, the stock pot, some garlic, some black pepper and garam masala and top it up to 1.5 litres with water.
Boil at 100, speed 2 for ten to fifteen minutes until onion is really soft.

Zizz at 10 for 1 minute.  Add two or three tbsp instant mash, depending on how thin the soup is and give it another good zizz.  Check seasonings and adjust, if necessary.
Reheat to boiling and serve with creme fraiche and crusty bread.

Normal way
Roast the squash as above.
Saute the onion in butter in a saucepan.  Add the remaining ingredients apart from the salt and the mash.  Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the onion is soft.
Zizz well in a blender or in the pan with a stick blender.
Add the mash and re-zizz.
Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Bring back to boiling and serve with creme fraiche and crusty bread.

Why did I keep the seeds and the skin?  Ah, that's another story!  Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Chicken pasta

Very simple, very easy, very adaptable.  Amounts are variable to own requirements.

Ingredients:  Makes enough for three
Pasta.  I used penne
One onion, peeled, halved and sliced
Some mushrooms, sliced
Half(ish) a small can of sweetcorn
Two chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, sliced into smallish pieces
A good splash of dry white wine
A squidge of garlic puree
Half a tub of soft cheese (like Philly - I used some from Aldi)
Salt, pepper, dried mixed herbs

Cook the pasta

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter and saute the onion until soft and changing colour.  Add the mushroom and continue cooking for another minute or so.
Set the vegetables aside, add a very little more butter and fry the chicken until it is coloured all over.
Return the vegetables to the pan and add the garlic.
Add a good splash of dry white wine and bring to a simmer, stirring well.  Add the corn.  stir again and allow to bubble very gently until the chicken is cooked through.  It doesn't take very long.
Spoon in the soft cheese and stir while it melts into the liquid, creating a creamy sauce.  Add some salt, pepper and dried herbs to taste and gently simmer it, covered, for a few minutes.

Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the pan.  Mix it all in well and serve.

It is very adaptable.  Different veg, different seasonings, different pasta.  I meant to fry some bacon with the onion but forgot!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Winter warmer: sweet potato and lentil soup

Gorgeous.  Just gorgeous.  And simple.
Made in Thermione, other method given too.

From Google images, thank you.
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
A gloop of butter (that's for Diane!)
About 1/2 tsp crushed garlic from a jar
1 decent sized sweet potato, peeled and chopped roughly.
Three heaped tbst red/orange lentils
A vegetable stock pot (because a vegetarian was going to partake, otherwise I'd have used a chicken stock pot)
A good grating nutmeg (of course)
Some black pepper
Boiling water.

Any other seasonings you fancy - be brave!

Put the butter and the onion in the bowl and saute on 100, speed 2 for 5 mins
Add the remaining ingredients to the pan with enough boiling water to cover and a bit more (comes to about 1.5l in total).
Cook on 100 for 20 mins on 2
Zizz at speed 10 for a minute or lontger until silky smooth
Check seasonings and adjust.  I didn't add any other seasonings or salt.  The stock pot was salty enough.
Reheat to simmering and serve with crusty bread or croutons and maybe some grated cheese.

The normal way.
Saute the onion in butter until soft.
Add the remaining ingredients with enough boiling water to cover and a bit more.
Bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for about 20 mins or until the potato is cooked and the lentils are mushy,
Zizz in a blender or with a hand stick until smooth and velvety.  Check and adjust seasonings
Reheat to simmering point, serve with crusty fresh bread or croutons and maybe some grated cheese.

You could make it thicker by adding more lentils or more sweet potato.  You could add some cream at the end.  I did neither because it was absolutely delicious just the way it was.  It fed three of us, all having seconds.  It would do four fine.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Soup: Corn chowder

Thank you, Google Images.
I made this a few weeks ago and froze most of it in single portions and I can't believe I didn't blog about it at the time.  I've looked back and it seems to have slipped through the net.

I took this to school today and while it was reheating in the microwave in the staffroom two people came up, separately, to say how delicious it smelled.  I have to say it really did.  It's one of those soups that, when it has been frozen and thawed, looks a bit unpromising, almost 'leathery' but which regains its 'creaminess' as it heats up.
It was dead easy, minimal ingredients, a prime example of the sum total being much greater than the individual parts.  Definitely another on my ever increasing list of Things To Make Again - and it's dead easy!

Corn chowder

1 onion diced
2 corn on the cobs or equivalent frozen or tinned corn (guess or use your common sense)
a hand full of finely diced potatoes skin on or off as you wish (I took it off)
a stock cubes (I used vegetable stockpots)

First fry the onion in fat of your choice (I used rapeseed oil but butter would be nice), then strip the corn from the cob with a sharp knife (or open a small can of corn which is what I did!) and dice an equal quantity of potatoes and add them to the pot with a litre or so of water and, if you are using 'raw' corn, boil for 5 minutes before you add the stock cubes as salt would make the corn tough. It is not a problem if you use tinned or frozen corn.  Obviously if you have some decent stock that would be better - a real chicken stock would be lovely.   Once cooked, give it a bit of a blast with a stick blender until it is the texture you desire.  I zizzed it quite smooth and them , to be sure, pushed it through a sieve because I love smooth creamy soups.  Alternatively take out a third of the veg and blitz the rest in a blender.  You can make it more interesting by crumbling some crispy bacon on top or even some well fried onions. Like most soups it freezes really well.  

If you are blessed with a Thermomix, saute the chopped onion is a little oil for 5 mins, 100, speed 2.  Then bung in the corn and the water (and stock if using frozen or tinner corn) and the potato.

Boil on 100, speed 2, until the vegetables are soft, then zizz on 10 for a minute or until the texture you want.  Check seasoning, adjust, re-heat if necessary and serve.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Waste not, want not: carrot soup

Because I've been working full time on supply cover and haven't had time or energy to cook from scratch, I've ended up with a fridge drawer of going off veg.  Not good.

I had a bag of carrots.  Quite a big bag too.  Every carrot was going manky with black bits over.  Uh-oh, bin ahoy, thought I but I checked one to see.  Underneath the mank there was perfectly good carrot.  I peeled and cut out bits, rinsed very well and ended up with about three quarters of carrot that was perfectly usable.

Most has now been blanched and open frozen with Christmas roasted veg in mind.  The rest made soup, just like the broccoli soup from the other day - more or less the same ingredients, just different main veg, very different flavour.  Really delicious, in fact, and I'm not a fan of fancy carrot soups

Ingredients to make two or three servings depending on how hungry you are.  It made three for me.
All ingredients are flexible in quantity.  I find if I add enough water to cover however much veg I use in the saucepan, it makes a soup that can be thickened with a bit of instant mash perfectly
1 smallish onion, peeled and roughly chopped
A sploosh of oil
a squish of garlic puree
a grating of nutmeg (nutmeg improves just about every soup)
A grating of black pepper (not too much)
A medium pinch of garam masala
Some chopped carrots
A chicken stock pot
Boiling water
Instant mash

Thermo way
Put the oil and onion in the bowl and saute on 100, speed 2 for 5 mins
Add the garlic, nutmeg, carrot, garam masala, stock pot, pepper and enough water to cover (it came to just over the 1 litre mark)
Cook on 100, speed 2 for 15 mins by which time the carrots should be soft.
Zizz on 10 for 1 min until it is lovely and smooth.
Add one and a half  heaped tbsp instant mash and briefly pulse.  Taste, re-season if needed.  I added a pinch of salt.
Serve piping hot with some crusty bread and maybe a dollop of creme fraiche or yogurt on the top.

The hob way
Soften the onion in a little oil.  Add the garlic, nutmeg, garam masala, carrots, pepper, stock pot and boiling water to total around 1 litre altogether.
Bring to a boil, covered, and simmer until the carrots are soft.
Zizz in a blender or with a stick blender until smooth.
Add one and a half  heaped tbsp instant mash and mix in well.  Taste and adjust seasoning if required.
Serve piping hot with some crusty bread and maybe a dollop of creme fraiche or yogurt on the top.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Waste not, want not: Broccoli soup

Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone who is sticking with me and checking this blog, even though I haven't posted for a while.  Readers of my other blog will know that I have taken on some slightly longer term supply work which is taking all my time and stopping me from experimenting.

Having caught up with Hugh F-W's second programme on food waste and got all fired up, I checked the fridge to find a head of broccoli that was definitely past being boiled.  I know some would recommend the compost heap but, after signing his 'pledge', I didn't feel I could do that as it was just really 'old', not slimy or pongy, so I made a broccoli soup and it tasted really good.  Despite no milk or cream, the texture and flavour were both 'creamy' and it was filling and satisfying.

I used Thermione as I usually do for soups now, but it can also be made the usual way.  I have included both methods.

Ingredients:  to make from 4 to 6 servings depending on how big your servings are and whether it is a snack or a meal.
one medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
a good glug of oil
a head of broccoli, chopped.  I just cut the very bottom bit off the stalk that had dried out but used the rest, lower stalk and all
a squidge of garlic puree
a chicken stock pot (the Aldi version, so molto cheapo)
some black pepper
a good grating of nutmeg
half tsp roasted garam masala (because I have some - ordinary would be fine or any other herb or spice you fancy using)
enough boiling water to take it to just under the 1.5litre mark
three heaped tbsps of instant mash (value mash is fine or you could cook a 'real' spud with the broccoli)

The Thermione way.
Into the bowl place the onion and oil and saute at 100 for 5 mins on 2
Then add the chopped broccoli, the garlic puree and the boiling water, the nutmeg and garam masala

Boil on 100, speed 2 for about 20 mins

Allow to cool a little, then zizz at highest speed for around 30 seconds until it is smooth.

Add the instant mash and zizz again.  Taste and add salt if needed.  Stock pots can be salty so I never add more salt until the end.  Adding the mash meant that a bit more salt was needed.

Re-heat to piping hot and serve.  You could add a bit of cream or creme fraiche or crumble over some stilton if you want.  I didn't.

On the hob method:
In a saucepan, soften the onion with the oil.
Add the broccoli, water to cover, garlic puree, nutmeg and garam masala.  Cover, bring to a boil and simmer until the broccoli is cooked.

Zizz to a smooth texture either in a blender or using a hand blender.  Yopu might want to add some more water if it is very thick as the mash thickens it.  Add the mash and mix again, then check seasoning and add salt if necessary.  Re-heat to piping hot and serve.

Make it vegetarian friendly by using a vegetable stock pot or some marigold bouillon powder instead.

This is certainly not an expensive soup and it used something that could otherwise have been used in a different way (composted) but one could make it by saving the broccoli stalks that one cuts off, freezing them in a poly bag and using them when one has enough.

Sunday, 1 November 2015


I found a slow cooker recipe for pineapple chutney that sounds rather good.  Pineapples tend to be rather expensive so I thought I would use some cans of Savers pineapple (Morrisons).  However, when I went to look there were no tins and not even a label on the shelf.  I checked in My Supermarket and there was nothing there either.  After whinging about it on Facebook, some people said their store still had it and some said not.  I have read and also seen for myself how shops are now cutting down on their value/savers/basics range of food and it upsets me because now more people are going to need them more than ever as the government cuts back increasingly on the incomes of a whole lot of people.  A friend who helps in a food bank told me that the other day desperate people were queueing out of the door and beyond.  Food banks are going to feel the pinch too, if value ranges are cut.


However, for me, a happier ending.  I found Pineapples at 69p in Aldi and they are now on the side, ripening a bit more before I set to and make my chutney.  It will be Christmas pressies and very nice too.

But I worry . . .

Walnut bread

I looked for a recipe after having some very tasty walnut bread with my soup at Hyde Hall, made this and think it delicious, so I am sharing.  I've just had a couple of slices with butter for breakfast and mmmmmmmmmmmm . . .
The walnuts are not just a token offering, as the saying goes, they really do flavour the bread.
Walnut bread
Photo taken from the site below
I found the recipe I used at http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/148482/Chunky-walnut-bread
I adapted it very slightly and made it in Thermione so, if you want to make it the normal way or in a bread maker, please follow the link.  I used the bread maker quantities as I am wary about over loading Thermione.
The only difference was that I added the nuts after the ten minutes kneading, not before   I thought it would be uncomfortable kneading a dough with hard lumps in it!
Oh - and I made it into two loaves, one for now and one for the Christmas freezer store.  I think it will go down a real treat with the family!

So here's what I did.

Walnut bread the Thermione way.

350g strong wholemeal bread flour
150g strong white bread flour
1 tsp easy bake yeast - the kind for bread makers
1.5 tbsp soft brown sugar (the recipe asked for light muscavado but I didn't have any in)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil (I used olive oil, topped up with veg oil because I ran out of the former.  The recipe suggests walnut oil as an option)
350mls warm water
80g walnut pieces, chopped and toasted (I popped them in a a frying pan and toasted them over a medium heat, tossing them every now and again.  Dead easy.  Then I just cut up any whole nuts.  The chunks don't have to be tiny; in fact it is better to have good sized bits!)

In the Thermo bowl place the flours, the yeast, sugar, salt (other side to the yeast) and oil.  Add the water.

Mix briefly, then knead for 10 mins.

Tip out onto a floured surface, flatten out, sprinkle over the chopped walnuts, roll up the dough and then just gently knead to distribute the nuts evenly through the dough.

Shape into a ball, pop into a greased bowl, smear a little oil over the top of the dough, cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise.

Once risen to twice the size, knock back the dough and split it into two equal amounts.  Shape into an oval loaf (I flatten and roll up from each end, then turn it a quarter turn and repeat until I am happy with the shape and 'feel') and place them on a prepared baking tray - I use a Teflon liner.  Smear over the loaves with a little oil - I rub it on my hands and use them as it is gentler than using a brush.
Slash three diagonal lines on top using a very sharp knife.
Cover each loaf lightly with cling film and leave to prove.  It took about three quarters of an hour.

Preheat the oven to 220C.
Remove the cling film, reduce the oven heat to 180C (fan) or 200C if it's not fan and pop in the loaves.

Bake them for 35 mins.  Take out, check they are done (tap on the bottom - it should sound hollow) and cool on a wire rack.

Do have a go - it is really delicious!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Waste not, want not: chicken risotto the thermomix way

The background to this is that the other day I was meandering around Morrisons when I saw that they had reduced some cooked chicken portions so I bought a bag with two for just over £3.00.
There was more meat on them than I expected so I had some that day and reserved the rest.  I also kept the bones and the skin.

Yesterday I boiled up the bones and skin and got quite a nice basic stock.  I also had a splash of dry white wine which I added.  It came to 400mls altogether - 300 of stock and 100 of white wine.

This is what I did with it.  Nothing original but it is nice and I am sharing.

Chicken risotto
a dollop of butter
one small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
some celery, cleaned and thinly sliced
a squeeze of garlic puree
130g risotto rice
400mls stock and wine
3 chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
salt and pepper
some cooked chicken, cut into bite sized bits
some hard Italian cheese, finely grated.

I also had some very hot water ready in the kettle, but it wasn't needed.

Melt the butter in the bowl for 1 minute at 100, speed 2
Add the onion and the celery and saute on 100, reverse speed 2 for 5 minutes or so, until it is softened.  Add the garlic puree and cook for another minute on the same.

Add the rice and saute on 100, reverse 2 for 2 minutes.

Through the top, add all the stock/wine, some ground black pepper and some salt.  If your stock is salty, don't add the salt until you can check the seasoning at the end.
Cook the rice on 100, reverse spoon for 15 mins, checking after about 12 to see if you need any more liquid.  No measuring cup!
After ten minutes, add the mushrooms.

Check that the rice is cooked and if not, cook for another couple of minutes until it is al dente/soft.
Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Add the chicken and gently stir it in - reverse speed 1
Then add the grated cheese and cook at 100 for 1 minute/reverse spoon.

That's it.
This made enough for dinner yesterday and lunch at school today.  I will heat it up in the microwave and grate over some nutmeg before serving.
The house smells rather good now!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Just a loaf of bread: part 4 - my basic recipe

(Looking for pictures and can't find any so I will take some later, when I can, and try to remember to post them in here)

So here we are at the nitty gritty.  My basic recipe.  It looks awfully long, doesn't it, and therefore complicated?  It isn't.  It is one of the simplest processes ever but easier to show than explain.  Explaining can take so many words.

Ingredients to make one loaf to bake in a llb loaf tin
200g strong flour
half tsp easy bake yeast - the kind for bread makers
half tsp salt
half tsp sugar
half tbsp heaped dried milk powder
a sploosh of oil or a dollop of butter
water as below but go with how your dough feels.  If it feels too dry, add a bit more.  Too wet isn't a problem as it all sorts out in the kneading and, as Diane said in a comment, wetter is better!  I find the amounts below are just right for the flour I use.

  • if the loaf is all white flour, add 125mls
  • if the loaf is all wholemeal, add 140mls
  • if the loaf is half and half, add 135mls

Mixing the ingredients
In a bowl place the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and milk powder, keeping the yeast and the salt separate at first.  Add the oil (if using butter, rub it in).
Add the water and start mixing with your hands or a spoon until it all starts coming together.  Then tip it out onto a floured or oiled surface and start to knead it.
Everyone has their own kneading technique and rhythm but basically it is stretch and fold, stretch and fold, over and over again, until the dough is elastic and very pliable.
This video clip on youtube is more or less what I do.
I knead for between eight to ten minutes and you can be very energetic about it if you want.  Work out frustrations and angers - the bread won't mind!

Thermomix method:
Measure in the flour and then the other ingredients, keeping the yeast and the salt separate at first and finishing with the water.
Briefly mix on 4 to 5 for a few seconds to bring it all together.
Using the knead function, knead for around ten minutes.  It can be a bit rocky so take care that it doesn't move to the edge of your working surface.  I sometimes wedge some towels round to absorb the movement.
When finished, tip out onto a floured or oiled surface.

Then, for both methods:
Shape the dough into a round by pulling up the sides into the middle and turning several times, turning over and 'rolling' around the side with your hands.
Place the dough in a bowl that has room for at least twice the amount (because it will rise), smear over a bit of oil, cover the bowl with oiled cling film* and leave it to rise.  If you have a warm place and are going to be around, fine, but you can slow down the rise by placing the bowl somewhere cooler.
Don't hang around waiting, it will take its own time.  Go and do something else.  Watched dough just laughs at you!

*  I drop a little bit of oil on the cling film and spread it over with my hands.  It stops the dough sticking to the cling film but it also makes my hands feel great after working with the dough which can draw moisture out of your hands.

Knocking back and shaping
When the dough is roughly twice the size it's time for the next stage.
Prepare your loaf tin - I use greaseproof liners after several tragedies when I had to bash the loaf to pieces to get it out of the tin (OK, maybe slight exaggeration here).  You can get them from Lakeland, Amazon and in a local pound shop (I can anyway)
Tip the dough back onto the oiled or floured surface, reserving your cling film, and knock it back - literally knock it back.  It will deflate immediately - that's what you want to happen!
Then start shaping.  Basically, you are creating the shape you want by flattening and folding but not kneading.  I flatten with the heel of my hand or my knuckles into a rectangle, then roll both ends into the middle.  Turn and repeat, then pinch the dough together where it meets in the middle.  That is the underneath of the loaf.  Sometimes I shape several times before it feels 'right'.
Turn it over and place it in your prepared loaf tin.
If you are free forming, make the shape you want by folding over again and again to create a 'tension' on the surface and place on your prepared baking tray.
Sprinkle a little flour over the loaf and cover it gently (not tightly) with the oiled cling film (oily side down, of course).
Then leave it to prove - in other words, to prove to you that the yeast is still working.  I let it rise to nearly twice the size.
Again, don't watch - go and do something else -  ironing, read a book, whatever.
About half an hour in I turn on the oven to as high as it will go.

Last stage!  Place the loaf in the middle of the oven, immediately turn the oven down to 200 (180 fan) and bake the loaf for half an hour-ish.
Take it out of the tin, using a tea towel or oven glove and tap the bottom.  It should sound hollow.  If it doesn't, pop it back into the oven (straight on the shelf will be fine) and bake it for another five minutes before checking again.
(I turn the oven off and let it bake for longer in the residual heat).

It is terribly tempting to hack into the loaf at that moment - -it looks wonderful, the house smells fantastic, you NEED some NOW!!
Don't.  Just don't.  It needs time to cool and 'settle'.  If you hack into it straight away, it won't slice properly and the crumb won't be right either.  Give it about half an hour on a cooling tray and then you can slice it, slather on butter and revel in it!  It is worth the wait, believe me.
The loaf can be kept fresh in a poly bag but wait until it is completely cool or the condensation will spoil the crust by making it go soggy.

That's it.  How I make my bread.
I do use other recipes at times but the one I have described is the one I know off by heart, the one that always works for me, the one that everyone likes.
When I was working I would make several loaves on Saturday or Sunday morning.  Now I am making bread for a few people I bake their bread on Monday mornings to take to them early afternoon, as soon as the loaves are cold and can be bagged.  As I do so, I also do other housework because I am there, have to be around so it gets done.  Another bonus for me!

If you try this, do reply and let me know how it all goes.  I'm not an expert, I've just shared what I do because the results are worth sharing.  Go on - have a go!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Just a loaf of bread: part 3 - equipment

Borrowed from Google
There's no doubt that you can spend an absolute fortune on bread making equipment.  Breadmakers, bannetons, speciality tins, kneading machines . . . the list is endless.

Bread makers are popular nowadays and there is no doubt they make the whole process dead easy.  Load it up, set the timer, go to bed and wake up to the most gorgeous aroma of freshly baked bread.  Wonderful!
I have a bread maker but haven't used it for the longest time because I've discovered that I rather enjoy the process of making bread by hand (with one exception, see below).  Also, even inexpert, fumbling me realised very quickly that you cannot hurry a good loaf - well, you can but it's not usually necessary.  While things like kneading or the actual baking can and should be timed, the rest of it is a case of working with the dough.  Sometimes it rises quickly and sometimes it rises slowly depending on all sorts of things like the yeast, the temperature or the air pressure/humidity .  You simply have to wait for it.  I haven't had many failures but those I have were caused by me telling the dough it had had its hour to rise so it was time to move on to the next bit when the dough disagreed!
Bread makers do that.  They determine the timing (obviously); they dictate to the dough.  Mostly it is OK and, for sure, a bread maker loaf is much more tasty than most supermarket bought loaves and a whole lot better value than one bought in a baker's shop, but the old fashioned way is best for me (sort of).
I'm lucky - I have the time or can make the time.  If you don't, breadmakers are certainly a good way to go and they are wonderful inventions!

There are so many different tins, etc, to bake your bread.  For me, the essentials are
a baking sheet for free form loaves
several 1 lb loaf tins (because that's the size I bake) and liners to fit
a few loaf tins in other sizes

I also have
a loaf tin with a lid to make square loaves which are great for sarnies
and - my current pride and joy - my baguette tin/sheet

I have some pyrex bowls of different sizes that I use for all sorts of kitchen stuff, not just for baking

I have a dough cutter, just because I do.  It's not essential but it does make cutting the dough easy.

I use my kitchen scales for weighing the dough when I'm making several loaves, just so I get the loaves the same size, as well as for measuring out the ingredients.

Finally - and big confession time - I have a Thermomix (regular readers may just possibly have gathered this from other entries!).  I didn't get her for making bread, I got her because she is the most brilliant bit of all-round kitchen equipment ever.  If you watch things like Great British Menu, Masterchef, etc, you will have seen it being used without necessarily realising.
One thing (among many) that I use Thermione for is kneading mydough.  You see, I HATE the feel of the wet ingredients before they have come together to create that pliable, soft thing we call dough so Thermione does it for me using the knead function.  Cheat? - yes, probably, but I do finish it off my hand and I do check the feel of the dough.

Doing it all by hand is fine.  You don't need what the great Jack Monroe calls a fancy-pants bit of equipment.  But if you are lucky enough to own one (like a Kitchen Aid, for instance), there is no doubt it makes the job a whole lot easier.

I also use bog-standard kitchen stuff like cling film, cooling racks, etc

The essentials are:
scales and measuring spoons
a bowl
a baking tin or baking sheet
a cooling rack

The rest is helpful but extra!

Part 1: introduction
Part 2: ingredients
Part 4: my recipe

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Just a loaf of bread: part 2 - ingredients

Next, a few (few???) comments on ingredients:
Borrowed from Google Images

You can use any kind of flour with gluten for my recipe.  Strong white, strong wholemeal, granary, other grain mixes, even ordinary not-strong flour although the texture will be different.  You can get bread flour in just about any supermarket or you can buy it online from specialist suppliers (at a premium price, unfortunately).  If you have a working mill near you, you're lucky!  I haven't tried using any Rye flour but a little bit might be OK.  I must try it sometime.
I mix my flours.  The dough that is currently proving as I type is a mix of a grain flour, wholemeal and white.  As long as the total weight is right, it doesn't matter.  What changes is the amount of water you use (see below).
When I did Live Below The Line I used value plain white flour and you know what?  The loaf it produced was very acceptable although I kneaded it for longer to give the gluten a chance to develop..  Rather a soft crumb, especially first day, but it toasted well, made perfectly good sarnies and was dead cheap as well as tasty!  Oh, and it  froze well.  Well under 10p for a 1lb loaf.  That's frugal!!!

Well, what can I say?  Bakers argue over yeast.  There are three main kinds unless you venture into the realms of sourdough.  There's fresh yeast, there's dried active yeast and there's easy bake yeast.  Fresh yeast is lovely but not always that easy to get hold of and to keep and I don't use it that much.  Dried active yeast works well but needs to be 'started off' with warm water and sugar.  Easy bake yeast is the sort that you need for breadmakers and it's so easy to use.  I have both kinds of dried yeast in my fridge but tend to use the easy bake although I LOVE to see the other activating and frothing up.  It is magic!

I use what comes to hand.  Veg oil is cheaper.  Olive oil imparts a lovely flavour and if you're making a flavoured bread it is great.  Sometimes I use a dollop of butter instead.  I suppose about a tbsp per loaf is about right but I rarely measure.

Salt and sugar:
Whatever.  No need to go fancy unless you want to!  My recipe uses ordinary salt and granulated sugar.

Ah - water.  An important one.  No, not because I am advocating fancy bottled water* or sparkling water.  It's not what, it is how much.  You see, what flour you use determines how much water you use.  It is all based on percentage and is a lot simpler than you would think so please, bear with me.
(* however, if you have very strongly chlorinated water, you might want to consider bottled water - at 18p a bottle from Morrison's, it's not going to break the bank)

An all white loaf needs 63% water to flour
An all wholemeal needs 70% water to flour
Mixes are somewhere in between - I tend to work on around 67%
I round all amounts to the nearest 5g

Each time I make bread I work it out and this is what I do.
I keep a little 75p (from Morrisons) calculator in the kitchen.  I input the weight of flour, divide it by 100 (to get 1%) and then multiply it by the percentage of water.
So -
Water for a single 1lb white loaf would be 200 (the weight of the flour) divided by 100 (to get 1%), multiplied by 63 which comes to 126 so I add 125g (or mls - same thing) of water
Water for a single 1lb wholemeal loaf is 200 divided by 100 multiply by 70 which is 140 so I add 140g (or mls) of water.
And so on . . .

The other question is temperature.  If I'm in a hurry I use warm water.  If I'm not I use cold.  The latter creates a slower rise but slower is better in taste terms.

Part 1: introduction
Part 3: equipment
Part 4: my recipe

Monday, 19 October 2015

Just a loaf of bread: part 1 - intro

Borrowed from Google Images.
They call it the staff of life and there's no doubt that for most of us bread is a staple in our diet. It may take some time to make from beginning to end but it is a doddle, there's no mystique about it at all, it's a very forgiving and friendly process.  The result of your baking is delicious, filling and adaptable and it can be used in so many different ways. There are recipes galore out there.

What's not to like, eh?

As regular readers know, I make my own bread and over time have developed my own recipe system which I'd like to share with you.
 I make my bread in small, 1 lb loaf tins because there's just one person in this house - me.  Bigger loaves go stale before I can finish them.  Therefore I think in units - one unit is one loaf.  I rarely make just one loaf: for a start turning on the oven for one loaf is a bit wasteful although I could use my halogen oven, I suppose.
Generally, I make three or four loaf batches, depending on circumstances.

All you need to make a loaf is flour, yeast, salt and water.  On their own, they make a perfectly decent offering.  I add a few other bits and pieces - sugar, milk powder and oil - because I like the loaf they produce but they are not strictly speaking necessary.  Sugar adds a bit to the flavour and helps the yeast, oil makes for a more pliable dough and adds to the keeping properties of the loaf and dried milk powder makes for a nice soft crumb.

So - the next three or four entries are about me and my bread.  It was going to be just one entry but it ended up so long that I have split it!  I hope it is helpful.

Part 2: ingredients
Part 3: equipment
Part 4: my recipe

Potato, onion and cheese soup

I made this yesterday for a quick early lunch and it was really good.  Using the tin of spuds made it easy and quick as they were already cooked.
It is frugal (made four portions) and vegetarian.
I used Thermione but have shown the usual method as well.

a good knob of butter
one smallish carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
a few bits of celery, chopped and de-stringed, if necessary
two white onions, peeled and chopped
a can of value potatoes, I used Morrisons Savers, 540g, drained.
some vegetable stock (I used about 10 mls marigold bouillon powder)
a squeeze of garlic puree
a good grating of nutmeg
a pinch of mustard powder (not too much)
a good pinch mixed herbs
some black pepper
some good flavoured cheese, finely grated, plus more for serving.

Melt the butter in a pan, add the carrot, celery and onion and saute very gently for about ten minutes, ensuring they don't catch.
Add the potatoes, stock powder, garlic puree, nutmeg, herbs, mustard powder and black pepper and enough boiling water to make a litre in total.
Bring to a boil and simmer for ten minutes or so until everything is soft.

Zizz to a smooth and thick paste, then add milk to slacken to desired consistency.

Add some flavoursome grated cheese - a strong cheddar maybe, or some hard Italian cheese (ensure it is vegetarian-friendly).  Stir well.  Check seasonings and adjust if necessary.  I didn't add salt as the stock powder and the cheese are both salty.

Serve with more grated cheese, some croutons, maybe a dollop of cream, creme fraiche or yogurt and another grating of nutmeg, as preferred.  I left the croutons and had a bread roll for dunking.

And in the Thermomix
Place the prepared carrot, celery and onion in ther bowl and pulse briefly.  Add the butter and pulse again.  Saute on 100m speed 2 for 10 mins
Add the potatoes and all the seasoningds as above with enough boiling water to reach the 1 litre mark.

Cook on 100, reverse speed 3 for ten minutes.

Pulse briefly until it reaches the consistency you want.  It is quite thick at this point.  It didn't take long as I wanted a little bit of 'texture' rather than a completely smooth soup.

Add milk to slacken.  Add some grated cheese as above.  Mix and reheat to 100/ speed 2.  Check seasonings and adjust if necessary.  Serve as above.

Really filling, warming and tasty.

It would be nice with some bacon or made with a good chicken stock and shreds of left over ham or chicken added, but it wouldn't then be vegetarian, obviously!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Chicken with cashew nuts

This is another slow cooker recipe which was posted on a slow cooker group page on Facebook.  Thank you to Heather Lindon for sharing it.  I slightly adapted it by using more liquid in the sauce (wine and flat cola).

It was dead easy.  I bunged all the ingredients in apart from the mushroom, peppers and cashews, turned the slow cooker onto auto and went to the allotment.  When I got home all weary and aching it was fragrant!  What with cooking the rice in Thermione, it was the easiest dinner ever!

Ingredients to serve 2
300g chicken, diced (I used boneless and skinless thighs - great flavour)
2 tbsp flour
mushrooms (I used four chestnut mushrooms)
peppers (I used one and a half yellow peppers because that's what I had)
45g cashew nuts

For the sauce:
some white wine (more than a drizzle, less than a glassful)
some flat cola (ditto)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp malt vinegar
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic
half tsp fresh ginger, grated

Coat the chicken in flour by putting the chicken in a poly bag, adding the flour and shaking it all well.  Pop the floured chicken into the slow cooker.
Mix together the sauce ingredients and pour over the chicken
Stir well.
Cook on low or auto for 4-5 hours
One hour before end add the chopped peppers and mushrooms and the cashew nuts and stir again.
Cook 1 more hour.
 Serve with rice.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Red onion and apple chutney

This one came from Facebook, from a frugal group (I think, can't totally remember now).  It was a thread about making Christmas hampers.
I used it as a basic idea and added a few extra bits and bobs including the apple because I didn't have quite enough onions.  This is the result.

Red onion and apple chutney
6 red onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 cooking apples, peeled and finely chopped
2 bay leaves
25mls olive oil
200g soft brown sugar
150mls balsamic vinegar
150 mls red wine vinegar
half tsp ground ginger
half tsp ground cinnamon
half tsp salt
some pepper
a squeeze of garlic puree
a squeeze of chilli puree

Into the slow cooker, place the vinegars and the sugar and stir a bit.  Then add all the other ingredients and stir again.  Cover.
Cook on high all day (8 hours or more) until the mixture is dark and sticky.

Decant into warm and sterilised jars, label and leave to mature for two months or so.

It came out really well.  I did leave it in the slow cooker with the lid off for an hour to evaporate some liquid but apart from that it was all plain sailing.  It was in for about ten hours altogether and yes, it could be done on the hob but I'd have to stand and stir it to prevent sticking and burning.

It's lovely and will be even better after maturing for a couple of months
I might try chutneys in the slow cooker again.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Steak in a creamy mushroom and mustard sauce

I wasn't going to post this because it's not original but then thought 'why not - after all, most of the recipes in this blog are not really original?'.
So here it is.

I used bullet steak after hearing about it on Eat Well for Less and then seeing some in Morrisons.  Half the price (ish) of the usual; steak and supposed to be just a good.  Worth a try, thought I.

Ingredients for one.
one bullet steak of a size you want!  Mine was small-ish
some oil that will stand a very hot pan
a splash of white wine (or cider, or even red, although red changed the flavour considerably)
a dollop of butter
a couple of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
some creme fraiche (I used about 2 heaped tbsps)
some dijon mustard (to own taste)
salt and pepper

Take the steak out of the fridge half an hour before so that it is at room temperature.
Get everything else ready, as this is a cook-and-serve recipe, and keep it hot.  Have two plates warming too, one for serving and one for resting the steak.

Rub oil on the steak, both sides.
Heat a frying pan to as high a temperature as you can.  Pop in the steak and f ry quickly until rare to medium rare.  Then  take out and reserve on warmed plate to rest.
In the pan put some wine and some butter (you don't need a lot).  Stir it round to deglaze the pan.  When it reaches boiling , which doesn't take long, pop in the mushrooms and cook, stirring for about 30 seconds.  Then add the creme fraiche and the mustard, salt and pepper and stir well,  If it gets too thick, add a splash of water.  Check seasonings and adjust, if necessary.
Quickly slice the steak across the grain and put it back in the pan with any juices that have gathered on the plate.  Heat to a simmer again and serve immediately.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Smoked salmon sarnies

This isn't a recipe, more a serving suggestion.  It's far from original.  It's not extremely frugal but, compared with buying something roughly the equivalent in the shop, it is much better value.  And it's nice.

Slices of home made bread (OK, other breads/rolls will do too but this is what I did!)
a scrape of butter
Some value soft cheese
half a pack of smoked salmon trimmings (the savers/value kind if possible)
some lemon juice (from a bottle)
a little bit of salt and ground black pepper

Scrape just a little bit of butter onto the bread.  Then spread some soft cheese onto the slices.  Not loads but more than the butter.  The idea is to cover the bread so that the lemon juice doesn't sink in and make the bread soggy.
Break up the smoked salmon trimmings and place/spread them on one half of the bread.  Sprinkle over some lemon juice, some black pepper and a very little salt (or leave off the salt as there's plenty in the salmon).  Put the other half of the bread, butter and soft cheese on top and cut into appropriately sized pieces.

If you have lettuce, cucumber, baby spinach or similar, that would be nice in the sandwiches too.  If it's supposed to be posh, garnish with a bit of watercress and a wedge of lemon.

I'm just eating mine and mmmmmm.  I arranged it nicely on a plate to take a photo and then remembered that I've lent my camera to someone.  Sorry!

Chicken Normandy (or Normandy Chicken!)

This originated as a Mary Berry recipe.  For me, Mary stands up there with Delia, for creating recipes that are totally reliable and sensible.  They always work.

I have adapted it to suit what I had in.  I had to get cider (oh, dear, what a hardship), cooking bacon and some creme fraiche although I think one could do without the latter as the liquid that you get is really delicious anyway.

It is also one that could be made in a slow cooker or, I am sure, fast cooked in a pressure cooker.

This is what I did.

Ingredients to make four ample portions for hungry people
1 leek (two would be better but I didn't have two), trimmed and sliced.  I used as much as I could, white and green.
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
some cooking bacon which I went through, cutting out any big fatty bits.  Morrisons cooking bacon can be variable - choose your pack carefully and it is great value.  I guess I used about a quarter of the pack and have plans for the rest!
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
8 smallish new potatoes, cut into quarters.  I didn't peel them.
1 rib of celery, strings peeled off, sliced
400 mls (roughly) dry cider or you could use wine or chicken stock.  I chose cider as I love chicken cooked in cider
half a tsp dried mixed herbs
8 chicken thighs, skinned.  My thighs had been boned as well (because that's what I had in the freezer) but, for choice, I would keep the bone in as you get so much flavour from the bone.
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a chicken stock cube, crushed into powder
(I have underlined the ingredients to make them easier to see amidst all my waffle)

Some creme fraiche (I only used it on one portion and it was about 2 dsps) or you could use cream or soured cream.  Alternatively, you could thicken the liquid with thickening granules to make a dish that is still very delicious but much less calorific.

This is where it gets so easy.
In a hobproof and ovenproof dish, put the onion, leek, bacon, potatoes, celery and garlic and mix well (I just used my hands).  Add the herbs and the cider.
Place the chicken thighs over the top, then sprinkle over the salt (not too much as the bacon and the stock are both salty), pepper and crushed stock cube.
Cover and bake in a moderate oven for as long as it takes.  I started it at about 160 (fan oven) and then left it in at about 150 while I went out and when I came home the house smelt wonderful and it was beautifully cooked.  Take off the cover and give it another half an hour so that the liquid reduces slightly.

At this point, if you wish, it can be cooled and then frozen.  To use, thaw completely, reheat to boiling, remove from heat, stir in the creme fraiche and reheat to a simmer.

If eating straight away, place the dish on the hob, stir in the creme fraiche and reheat to simmering.  Serve immediately with some green veg in a hot bowl or plate.

It is comforting, warming and packed with flavour.

Apart from the different ways of finishing off the sauce, you could use different veg.  I almost added some sweet potato, different seasonings (smoked paprika would be scrummy) or different liquid (white wine, anyone?).  In other words it is a very adaptable process so you can use whatever you happen to have in.  Thank you, Diane, for pointing the way.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Retarding bread

That. it seems, is one of the 'official' terms for holding back the rising of dough.   Sometimes one doesn't want to be doing home stuff while the dough takes its own time to rise, prove, etc, so what can one do?

As some of my readers know, I have started making a bit of bread for other people.  I get it to them on Monday.  This last weekend I made the bread on Sunday and wrapped it.  I am sure it was perfectly OK but I was a little uncomfortable with the fact that neither of them would be able to get one of the loaves into the freezer or, indeed, cut the first loaf until it was a day old.  I know my day old bread is still perfectly soft and delicious but even so . . .

Ideally I will make the bread on the day I get it to them.  It all works in very nicely with my schedule nowadays.  However, occasionally (and this week coming is an 'occasionally') it is not possible to bake on Monday.

So I thought I would try making half the loaf on Sunday evening, retarding it in the fridge overnight and then knocking back, shaping, proving and baking on Monday morning.  It would still take time but less time and I need to know how much time.

So today I have made a small amount of dough and, after kneading, I have placed it in an oiled bowl, covered with cling film, in the fridge.  I shall leave it for eight hours and then see what happens.  It won't be wasted, it will bake into a loaf, but I need to know how long it takes to warm up and prove.  I know baking and cooling times, of course.

Tomorrow I will do the same but retard it at the proving stage when it is in the loaf tin..

I don't know whether either will work with my schedule or not - I just don't know but I am interested in finding out.

Any comments or advice?


Yesterday on my 'other' blog I was umming and ahing about which biscuits to make when friends came to lunch.  Rachel, a bloggy friend, came to my rescue with a brilliant, yet simple, recipe for gingernuts.  I made them and - wow!  They are crunchy, light, firm but won't break your fillings and, unfortunately, diet breakers!

Before I get going with the recipe, please, do take a peek at Rachel's blog.  It's brilliant and here's the link  http://eternally28.blogspot.co.uk/

Thanks so very much, Rachel, both for the recipe and for the permission to post it here.

 The recipe . . .

6 oz SR flour
4oz marg
3oz sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp ground ginger
half tsp bicarb

Preheat oven to 180
Melt the syrup and marg together.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir before going in with your hands.  It makes a soft and rather oily dough which is easy to handle.
Roll into little balls and place on a non stick surface on a baking sheet.  Flatten them slightly with the back of a fork.
Bake for 10 to 12 mins.

They flatten a bit and they crack.  They look and taste fab.  Go on - what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Ten ways to use up stale bread.

I wrote this yesterday and was intending to post it next week but today I saw this
so thought now would be a better time!

Ten ways to use up stale bread

We all end up with stale bread from time to time, don't we?  The more frugal among us make sure it doesn't happen too often but from time to time we are faced with the heel of a loaf or some odd crusts that really are past it.  Don't ever eat mould though - cut it off and ditch it!

Here's some things you could do.

1.  The obvious one is to zizz into breadcrumbs and then freeze to use as and when you need breadcrumbs, such as coating fish or making burgers.  Bread crumbs also make a nice topping for a fish pie or a macaroni cheese.  Just melt some butter, mix in the breadcrumbs, spread them over the dish and bake in  the oven until crunchy golden brown.  Mix in a little finely grated hard cheese, some mustard powder and/or some dried herbs too for extra flavour.
If you can't be bothered to do that, throw the stale bread into a poly bag and freeze it until you want to use it.
This is Rick Stein's fish pie recipe, found at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/recipes/11037359/Rick-Steins-fish-pie-recipe.html
Bread and butter pudding.  There are recipes out there, just Google.  It's delicious, dead easy and real comfort food for those cold, wet days.  Good for stale hot cross buns or fruit loaf too.
What do you mean, what are stale hot cross buns?

3.  Stale bread makes amazing croutons for soups.  Cut your stale slices into cubes, toss in oil (or spray some oil over) and toast or bake until golden and crunchy.  Use garlic infused oil for extra ooomph.
http://adrianawright.com/recipes/kickin-homemade-croutons/  Not made with stale bread but lovely picture!!!

4.  Eggy bread/french toast.  There's loads of recipes out there but basically you whisk up an egg (add a bit of milk if you like), season it, dip in your stale slices (both sides) and fry in a little oil.  You can sweeten, add cinnamon, garlic, whatever . . . take a look via Google and find one that suits you!

5.  Panade.  No, I've never heard of it before either but, while it takes some time, it looks super-simple and very delicious.  Great for left over veg too.  http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-a-panade-114846
Borrowed from Google

6.   Pizza toast.  Toast one side of the stale bread (it is very quick so take care not to burn it.  Chop some ripe tomatoes small and mix with a little tomato puree and some salt and pepper.  Spread over the not toasted side.  Add some shreds of leftover meat if you have any, then top with some dried herbs and finely grated cheese.  Toast until the cheese is bubbling.  Eat immediately.  There's loads of variations, so have fun.

7.  Melba toast.  It really is easy as shown by this jolly little video clip and it's so, so much nicer that the stuff you buy.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hJLWZpTB5Y  A delicious lunch, party snack or starter.
Borrowed from Google.

8.  Garlic toast.  Make some garlic butter by mixing some garlic puree with some butter.  Spread over both sides of the stale bread.  Pop into a moderate oven on a non stick surface - when one side is golden and crunchy, turn the slices over to brown the other side.  Eat straight away - lovely with spag bol, etc.

9.  Sweet spiced bread sticks.  Mix together some sugar. cinnamon, ginger and cloves (all ground) and a pinch of salt.  Cut the stale bread into fingers.  Melt some butter and toss with the bread fingers, then add the spiced sugar and coat the bread fingers.  Place on a non stick surface and bake in the oven at 160C for about half an hour until the sugar is caramelised.  Cool slightly and serve with ice cream, chocolate sauce or just by themselves.  Naughty but very nice.

10.  And finally, just to be REALLY naughty - Chocolate bread pudding.  Apologies for the American measures and no, I've not made it, but it looks delicious.  If you make it, do let me know how it goes, please.  http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/chocolate-bread-pudding

Edited . . . 
11: Finally, finally, thank you, Diane, for pointing out an old favourite, queen of puddings.  Here's a link to a Mary Berry recipe.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/queen_of_puddings_79904