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
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!