Sunday, 16 November 2014

The middle bit before the storm

I've not blogged much after a few weeks of social busyness.

I had my lovely friend Alan to stay, and cooked him shredded lamb shoulder in redcurrant and mint jus.  Normally it's a dish I do with lamb shanks but since they've become fashionable they're really expensive, with two coming in at over £10.  Shoulder is a much cheaper option (a less than £8 joint easily feeding 5) and works extremely well cooked over shallots, carrots in a very low oven or slow cooker.  We're talking about 6 hours here, until it falls apart when you stick a fork in it.

The added benefit of this is once the meat is stripped from the bones, you can reduce the cooking sauces (containing mint sauce and redcurrant jelly) and have a delicious jus, which you can put the meat back into.  At this point it can happily sit in the fridge and just needs warming through when you need it.  It also freezes well (I had some this evening with rapid roastini and cauliflower).

We had some lovely drives out, including discovering a lovely beach in Shoeburyness where people were walking their dogs.

The halloween party was good, though exhausting.  I was pleased with how it turned out and I made meatball eyeballs (went down very well), pumpkin cheese scones, cocktail sausages with a honey mustard dip, coffin chocolate cake, cheesecake dip with bagel chips, brazillian cheese balls, M&S party snack skewery things and nuts and crisps.  There was some left over which meant that I didn't have to cook for a few days and I was very grateful for that.

Yesterday we took a trip out to Polhill Garden Centre at Badgers Mount.  I was pleased to see they'd got some gluten free snacks this time in the cafe, last time they had nothing suitable.  Lovely christmas displays finished off with a Toby Carvery with parsnips!  Wahey!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Busy busy busy! Oh and universe, you're not funny right?

I'm having one of those - getting some nasty outstanding jobs done - sessions.  Things that you've looked at a hundred times and thought, I must find/clean/fix/chuck that.

Finally bought a new cleaning disk for the Tassimo machine, which has been sitting unused on my work surface for probably about a year after conceding defeat in looking for mine.  Which I put somewhere sensible.  I remember doing it.  Where that sensible place is eludes me though.  It's now cleaned out, wiped, dried and fully functioning and I've just had a latte.

Provocraft kindly provided me, for free, with a replacement power cable for my Cricut.  Which again hasn't been used in a long, long, long time.  Two days later, I found the original.  It was in amongst other cables that I'd looked at and somehow missed.  Then, after much digging, I found the data cable for it.  Then Sure Cuts a Lot sent me my serial number for the software again.  Something else I'm sure I stored somewhere safe.  This time I'm sticking the serial on a label on the Cricut itself.  I'm now almost ready to cut halloweeny things for the bunting I'm making.  It feels like it's been a real marathon to get to this point.

Sold my other Christmas tree - it was lovely but so huge it was too big for my house, and sorted a couple more boxes of stuff from the garage after the lovely Phil did some sorting and spider wrangling for me.

Made some choc chip almond and oatmeal cookies based on this recipe substituting almond butter instead of peanut and throwing in a handful of oatmeal and chocolate chips.  I guess that makes it a completely different recipe now?

And joy of joys, my new Chest Freezer was delivered on Sunday morning, installed and working and now holding some of my second tier food.  That's the stuff that is either not every day food (joints of meat for example), and stock items, like packets of frozen mince bought on offer.  I keep one of those in my kitchen freezer.  Left over mash became tattie scones.  Please excuse the yellowness in the picture, they're not that colour in real life but they are delish!

Will write up a review of Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium visit soon.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Mint sugar

I do like making foodie gifts for people at Christmas and this year, as well as Nigella's Chocolate Pistachio Fudge I'll be doing The Pioneer Woman's Mint Truffles.  I love mint chocolates but there's always a few types in a mixed box I'm not keen on.  And usually mint choc is dark chocolate, not my favourite.  So making my own is the perfect solution.

In her recipe, Ree tops them off with green sugar for crunch and aesthetics, so I decided to make my own and make it mint flavoured.

The process of making coloured and or flavoured sugar couldn't be easier.  Take your sugar, in this instance I used granulated but if you want a bigger crystal, demerera is good.  Put it in a bag, add a few drops of colour or essence, close the bag and squish and knead it through.  Keep adding the colour or flavour until you get the result you want and allow it to dry.

It's great for topping your baking, but this mint version is nice in hot chocolate too.  You could do lemon to add to tea or decorate a lemon drizzle cake.  Or vanilla for, well, anything!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The productive chicken

On Monday I roasted a whole chicken.  Whole chicken is by far the cheapest way to buy chicken meat and gives you all sorts of options and variety of things to do with it.

So Monday night I had warm chicken and bacon salad.
Tuesday was cold chicken with rapid roastini, spinach and pine nuts
Wednesday was chicken and mushrooms in a cream sauce with gnocchi
And tonight, the final outing was another salad this time with mango and chilli and it was lush.

There are some bits left over and the cats are getting those as a treat.  The intial bird cost £2.50 from Ocado and has given four main meals and extra bits.  Not bad!  So next time you singletons are out and about doing the weekly shop, and pass up the humble chicky as being a 'family' thing, consider all the lovely meals you can make with that one bird, and how different they can be.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Great gnocchi

I've only (before today) tried gnocchi once.  I ordered it in a restaurant in Paris whilst living there as part of my degree course because I was feeling adventurous.  I'd expected a pasta, not really understanding that gnocchi is a pasta, but it's predominantly potato based.  Safe to say I wasn't very impressed and have avoided them ever since.

Nigella, my BFF (apart from the fact we've never met, she doesn't know who I am and I'm even too lazy to stalk her in RL, I just netstalk), does what she called a Rapid Roastini.  She described them as being like mini roast potatoes in minutes.  Now that's a description that works for me.

Ocado recently sent me a voucher for 20% off a shop with them, and they sell a couple of different brands of GF gnocchi as, though potato makes up a significant portion of the ingredients there's normally also wheat flour in them.  I digress.  Bionita make three flavours, plain, spinach and tomato and come in at about £1.50 a pack.  Positively cheap by GF standards.  So I added a couple of packs of plain and a spinach one to the shop.

If you've not tried gnocchi like this, do.  Do it now.  Run out and buy yourself packs of this stuff, and fry them gently in a pan - 4 mins per side as per her royal hotness, Lady Nige's recipe. They're lovely, crispy, slightly resistent centres totally unlike fake mash potato patties you get in every supermarkets freezer section which never come out as crispy as I want.  I served mine with spinach and pine nuts and leftover roast chicken from yesterday.  Sorry I didn't take a pic of my dinner, it kinda vanished.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Entertaining the Bro

I'm having my Brother and Sister in Law over for lunch on Saturday, he's recently received his Civil Engineering Degree after years of working on it part time whilst still working.  I'm so very proud!  It's an amazing achievement.  It now means of course he's got more free time too so all in all it's a good time to celebrate.  Without actually mentioning it of course, he's not exactly what you'd called effusive and demonstrative is my little brother.

He loves lasagne and a roast, both of which I've made recently.  Watching the Pioneer Woman today she did a recipe for pulled pork.  I LOVE pulled pork, but I've struggled to get it right - it's been tough and difficult to pull apart.  Hardly the fork tender deliciousness I was trying to achieve.  Long, slow cooking seems to be the answer, and given that I'm doing this for other people I'm going to have a go at it today - it'll give me time to come up with an alternative if needs be.  Of course I'm not going to follow the recipe exactly - there's a huge shock huh?  Firstly, I want mine to be finished off in bbq sauce.  Secondly, where the hell do you find canned chipotle peppers in the UK short of amazon (Morrisons just made me a liar, they have chipotle paste)?

So, there's a pork shoulder in the slow cooker, with some chilli powder, a quartered onion, some maple syrup and coke.  Check back for the results!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Boeuf Bourginon - kinda

As the weather turns chilly my mind wanders to big old posts of comfort food.  So when I did the shopping earlier this week I picked up some cubed beef to make a warming casserole of some description.  Then the temperature rose to the high 20's.  Typical.

It's cooled down today, after some absolutely fantastic storms the last few days.  The kind that wake you up, light up the sky for seconds and then the subsequent thunder that you can 'feel'.  And apocalyptic rain.  This means some time in the kitchen making a Beef Bourginon.  Ok well my version it.  Alright.  It's a beef stew with wine.

Starting off I browned a red onion (brown, red, oh you know what I mean) and a load of quartered mushrooms.  But I've gotten ahead of myself.  I really started last night by marinating the beef cubes with two whole cloves of garlic that I'd leaned on and a couple of bay leaves, covering the lot with red wine and leaving overnight in the fridge.

Once the onions are sweet and translucent, and the mushrooms have given up some of their water, I tipped them into my slow cooker set on low.  I then browned the meat cubes in some oil and butter after draining them, retaining the wine.

Once the cubes are browned, I tossed in another knob of butter and returned the wine to the pan making sure to scrape up all the nice bits on the bottom from the meat juices and onion sugars.  That goes into the pot with 5 carrots cut into chunks.  I've tried to keep the mushrooms and carrots a similar size to the beef cubes for aesthetics.

A teaspoon full of dried thyme, a new bay leaf and a sprig of fresh rosemary and it gets left to cook for about 4 hours.  This type of food though is incredibly tolerant though.  I'm making it for tomorrow for a relaxed chill out with the girls.  When it was ready, I added a couple of handfulls of frozen silverskin onions and a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly.  Casseroles and stews are always better the day after (as long as you store them appropriately of course).  The flavours of the ingredients meld together making the whole greater than the sum of it's parts.

Sunday I put the casserole back in the slow cooker, brought it up to a simmer and stirred in a little Bisto Best beef gravy granules to thicken the sauce.  I could have used a roux but I hadn't added stock so this gave the dish a bit more of a beefy kick.

It was delicious, served with extra crispy roast potatoes.