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The best mayonnaise (and tartare sauce) and it’s easy peasy too

21 Sep

There are far too many cookery programmes on TV these days.

This statement may surprise you, as I’m clearly somewhat obsessed with food and cooking. But cookery has become entertainment, and in my world it’s not the cooking itself that should be entertainment, but the resulting food. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the sociability and enjoyment of cooking alongside other people, but that isn’t what most of these programmes are about. There are too many competitive cookery programmes where the point of the programme is to see people mess up, to see a souffle flop; a bread become a brick; a sauce split.

But I do watch cookery programmes, usually ones I can learn from.

And I’ve been surprised this last week to find myself enjoying The Hairy Bikers Best of British. Yesterday afternoon I learned how to make a Pease Pudding, something I’d never really thought of as a real food before, just a line in a song. So sometime in the future I’ll be making Gammon with Pease Pudding and Mustard Sauce – warming food for the winter months.

This weekend I made scampi, with tartare sauce. And ate it in front of the TV, in homage to the 70s. It was divine. The tartare sauce was particularly lush, and I share it here.

Luscious mayonnaise

Luscious mayonnaise

 

Start off by making your own mayonnaise. If you’ve not made mayonnaise before then you might have an idea that it’s incredibly tricky. It’s not. And it doesn’t take long either, so long as you have a hand held beater, or muscles like Pop-Eye and a balloon whisk.

 

Mayonnaise

  • 2 free range egg yolks
  • 1 TBsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard (smooth would be best, but my cupboards dictated I had 1 tsp smooth, 1 crunchy and it was fine)
  • 1/4 tsp caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 50ml olive oil
  1. Place the egg yolks, vinegar, mustard, sugar and salt in a bowl and start whisking. I recommend you use an electric beater. Keep whisking till the mixture is smooth
  2. Keep whisking
  3. Add the oil drop by single drop
  4. Keep whisking
  5. The oil will emulsify with the yolkie mixture, and after a wee while you can start adding the oil in a slow trickle
  6. Keep whisking
  7. If you’re feeling brave, start pouring the oil in (still relatively slowly, but steadily)
  8. Keep whisking
  9. Once all the oil is added, you should have some thick, smooth and luscious mayonnaise.
Making mayo

Making mayo

 

Put half the mayonnaise in a jar in the fridge and use within the next week. It is amazing on a wholemeal roll with smoked ham. Or with warm boiled new potatoes folded into it. Or on a white bread fish finger sandwich,

But you’re going to make tartare sauce with the other half that is still in the bowl.

Making tartare sauce

Making tartare sauce

 

Tartare Sauce

  • Half quantity of the mayonnaise you have just made
  • 2 TBsp capers, dried on kitchen roll and then roughly chopped
  • 4 cornichons, dried and cut in half lengthwise and then sliced finely
  • 1 large TBsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 small TBsp chopped fresh tarragon
  1. Gently stir all the ingredients together
  2. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste

Eat with scampi. Or fish goujons. Or go and buy a fish supper and eat it with your own fresh tartare sauce, and feel proud.

A bowl of perfect tartare saue

A bowl of perfect tartare saue

 

 

 

 

I hate marmalade

10 Feb

I don’t like marmalade.

I’ve never liked marmalade.

I went through these two statements in my head the other day, and then I thought to myself, ‘But perhaps I do’. You see, because I have known all my life that I don’t like marmalade, I’ve never tried it again since I was about 7 years old.

So then I started thinking about children not liking food, and how you should get the kids involved in cooking using the ingredients they think they don’t like. And then voila! They will at least try them. And quite possibly like them, as they are so proud of what they have made.

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? The farm shop had lovely looking seville oranges, and I decided to test my hatred of marmalade, by making a big vat of the stuff.

I LOVE making preserves, and have several cookbooks devoted just to that, in addition to various back to basics cookbooks and family cookbooks which I was certain would have good recipes. I consulted my go-to website for finding recipes eatyourbooks. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but if you haven’t read that post, then I’ll tell you about it again – if, like me, you have many cookbooks and no longer have an encyclopaedic knowledgeable of exactly what recipes are in which. Register them on the website, and you’ll be able to search for recipes, or on particular ingredients, and it will tell you which books or magazines will have the recipes you are seeking.

So, I narrowed my choice down to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, or Thane Prince.  And Thane won (and not only because I follow her on twitter, but because I love her no-nonsense recipes with her explanations of WHY you do certain things).

But of course, being me, I didn’t exactly follow the recipe word for word – I didn’t have enough granulated sugar in the cupboard and was determined not to go back out to the shops again, so I substituted with a mix of caster and dark brown muscovado sugar.

Orange and ginger marmalade

From Jams and Chutneys by Thane Prince. If you are even vaguely interested in preserving, buy this book – it covers the basic techniques and then delicious recipes for everything from an every day raspberry jam, through frozen cranberry vodka to smoky barbecue sauce.

  • 1.25kg Seville oranges, scrubbed in warm water
  • 115g fresh ginger, cut into 1″ nubs and then crushed
  • 1.5kg unrefined sugar (I used 3/4 caster sugar; 1/4 muscovado)
  • 200g jar stem ginger preserved in syrup, drained and chopped into slivers (keep the syrup – you’ll need it later)

You will also need a large muslin square, a big heavy based pan and preferably a jam thermometer (although this is not necessary)

  1. After scrubbing the oranges pop them whole into a large heavy-based pan, with the smashed lumps of ginger and 8 cups of water
  2. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer for about 45mins till the fruit is soft and squishy
  3. Using a holey willie (this is what we call a slotted spoon in my family!) remove the ginger and the fruit from the pan – put it in a big bowl
  4. Pour the liquid into a jug to see how much you have – if you need to, add more water to make up to 6 cups and put it back in the pot.
  5. Add the sugar to the pot, and let it start to dissolve (off the heat) while you are processing the oranges
  6. Before you do anything else, pop a side plate into the freezer, or the icebox of your fridge (this will make sense later)
  7. Now, sit yourself down, put on the radio and get to work on the oranges. You’ll need a bowl lined with the muslin square, a wee sharp knife, a soup spoon, a chopping board and the bowl of oranges
  8. Cut the oranges in half, and scoop out all the pith and the seeds and the orangey goodness into the muslin lined bowl. Once all the oranginess is in the muslin square, tie it up securely and pop it in the pot of water
  9. Thinly slice the peel. This will take a bit of time to do properly, so relax and enjoy, it’s a lovely mindless task, almost meditative once you get going
  10. Add all the sliced peel to the pot. Pop your sugar thermometer into the pot if you have one, if not, don’t worry – you’ll still get good marmalade
  11. Bring the mixture up to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes
  12. Add the ginger syrup and the slivers of preserved ginger
  13. Cook on a fairly quick boil for a further 30 minutes, or until the marmalade has reached setting point. I didn’t boil it hard enough so it took FAR longer than 30 mins. If you’re using the thermometer, just keep boiling till it reaches ‘jam’ but do the cold plate test to make sure it will set.
  14. The cold plate test – take the plate out of the freezer and drip a blob of marmalade onto it. Leave a few seconds till it’s properly cold and then push it with your finger. If it’s runny, keep boiling. If it sort of wrinkles at the edges, it’s ready. Voila!
  15. Remove and discard the bag of oranginess.
  16. Ladle into sterilised jars, seal and label

 

A note about sterilising jars. You must do this! If you don’t your marmalade could go nasty really quite soon after putting it in the jars. And what would be the point of that?

You can sterilise them by running them through the dishwasher and using them immediately (without putting your icky fingers inside the jar before filling them). Or wash them in hot soapy water, and place them upright in a baking tray, and pop them in the oven for 20 minutes or so. Again, fill them with marmalade before you fill them with ickiness from your fingers.

And another note for you – about soft peel. That’s what marmalade is all about, yeah? How would I know, I never liked the stuff! Anyway, if you want your peel super soft and lovely, then you have to go through the process of cooking the oranges in water BEFORE you add the sugar. If you add the sugar before the skin has softened it will just go tough and your marmalade won’t be so unctuous and delicious.

So, I guess you want to know if it worked, if I now like marmalade? Well what do you think? Would I be able to resist this unctuous bittersweetness in a jar? It’s DELICIOUS! I still don’t know if I like ALL marmalade, but I certainly love this one.

And you do want the recipe for marmalade and apricot muffins don’t you?

Next time, next time. I’m too busy on my Easy Peasy Cheese Scones right now. And must make some lemon curd, to use up some of those eggs (and those lemons looking a wee bit sad in the fruit bowl).

 

 

Poached eggs

9 Feb

Ages ago I promised to tell you how to make the perfect poached egg.

Well, it looks like I’ll be having a few more poached eggs soon, as we have just got another two chickens. I thought they might be called Charles Darwin and Jane Austen (after significant authors in our collections at the National Library of Scotland where I work)… but now that they’re home, I’m not so sure. Pictures will of course follow but it’s such a dreich dull day that I can’t bear to take pics yet. They are both Wyandottes: one white and the other blue. The white girl is big and bumptious, and blue is petite and very shy. And neither can be seduced by food – I gave them a scattering of warm sweetcorn, which my other girls would hoover up in the space of seconds.. and the new girls weren’t really interested.

Anyway, there will no doubt be further news of my family of chooks, but for now, let me tell you how I make the perfect poached egg.

Poached egg

Get the freshest eggs you can get.

You do know how to tell if they are fresh or not? You pop them in water and see if they float or not. If they sink to the bottom then they are oh so fresh; if they float to the top I’m not sure I’d eat them. Somewhere in the middle is probably ok.

And the reason this happens is that there is a membrane inside the egg, and over time the gap between the membrane and the eggshell fills with air to make a wee air pocket, hence the egg floats.

OK, so now you’ve got your eggs, you’re ready to make the poached eggs.

  • Boil a kettle full of water
  • Pour the hot water into a wide pan (possibly a deep sided frying pan type thing)
  • Add a pinch of salt and about 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar (don’t add more, you don’t want your eggs to taste of the vinegar – it’s just added to help the egg whites stay together and not stray all over the pan)
  • Put the pan on a REALLY low heat – you hardly want the water to bubble at all
  • Break your egg into a tea cup
  • Lower the tea cup with the egg in it towards the water, at a 45 degree angle, then slowly and gently tip the tea cup and slip the egg into the water
  • Repeat for as many eggs as you have (but don’t overcrowd the pan)
  • Now, let them just sit there in the almost boiling water for about 3-5 minutes, depending how fresh the eggs were and how soft you like them
  • Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon (which was always called a holey willie when I was a child and I still find it hard to resist calling it that!)

Serve on fresh buttered toast. Of course. Preferably with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.

Other things to have with a poached egg on toast

  • Black pudding – classic and delicious, needs nothing else
  • But if you’re being fancy, add some scallops (and perhaps swap the toast for some spinach)
  • Bacon
  • Ham with or without hollandaise sauce
  • Marmite – trust me, it works
  • Smoked salmon

 

 

Spiced cake (with added parsnips!)

5 Jan

I got it into my head that I wanted to make a parsnip cake.

I could blame that cute James on the Great British Bake Off which is re-running daytimes this week, and I might just have caught some of it yesterday. And the day before.

Or I could blame the Captain for declaring it his favourite vegetable.

But actually, when I’m making something as tasty as a spicy parsnip cake, why am I looking to blame anyone at all? The combination of warming winter spices with the sweet moistness of the parsnip is an absolute winner. Or it would be if I hadn’t thrown in too many parsnips in a moment of madness, ensuring that the resulting cake would be on the heavy side, instead of light and moist. Ah well, I’ll know for next time. And I’ve done it, so you don’t have to.

Tea-time!

Tea-time!

Spiced parsnip cake

Preheat oven to 180C /350F / GM4

Grease and line 2 sandwich cake tins

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup muscovado sugar
  • 1 TBsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 balls of ginger from a jar of stem ginger in syrup – chopped up small
  • 2 cups grated parsnips (about 2 large)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 2 TBsp butter, softened
  • 2 TBsp syrup from jar of stem ginger in syrup
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  1. Mix together flour, sugar, spices, baking powder and salt in a large bowl – I use a whisk to combine them all instead of bothering to sift them in.  However – this means you may end up with pockets of sugariness in the finished cake, as it’s tricky to break down all the muscovado if you don’t sift it. And this bowl is going to have EVERYTHING in it soon, so make sure it’s big enough
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla extract
  3. Pour the eggy mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until combined
  4. Add the stem ginger, parsnips and chopped walnuts and mix together
  5. Transfer to cake tins
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean – but watch, it might be quicker in your oven
  7. Cook cakes on a wire rack
  8. For the icing, beat together the cheese and butter, with the syrup, till smooth. Add the grated ginger and the icing sugar  (you should sift the icing sugar on this occasion, or you’ll get lumpy icing, which is a beast to make smooth). Beat till smooth.
  9. Sandwich the cakes together and spread the goopy icing all over the top too
Cooling the cakes on a wire rack

Cooling the cakes on a wire rack

This cake is utterly perfect with a cup of Earl Grey tea. It also makes a pretty marvellous pudding, especially if you’ve had something quite light like soup for your main course. Because of the rich icing, it needs no ice cream or anything with it, but if it were made as a single large cake (perhaps in a loaf tin?) with no icing, it would be lovely with a vanilla ice cream, or a scoop of creme fraiche for pudding.

Christmas leftovers (but no turkey)

2 Jan

It’s that time of year when you’re probably still living out of the fridge and store cupboard, still eating up bits of food you bought thinking you’d need it over the festive period. Or perhaps you haven’t over-shopped this year and you are now eating delicious meals started from scratch, made with fresh vegetables and real meat (ie not leftover roast turkey, or cold ham). If so, well done.

But have you still got things lurking in the fridge which you’ve had enough of? Maybe you’ve had enough of Stilton? Or brussels sprouts? If so, I have a couple of recipes for you which might help: Stilton Nibbly Biscuits (gluten free!) and creamy sprouts.

Let me explain first of all about the sprouts. I never thought I would grow to enjoy a sprout, but they are the Captain’s second favourite vegetable! Yes, seriously, they are. His favourite is parsnips, and I think this afternoon I’m going to find a recipe for a parsnip cake just to use up the last of the bag of parsnips I have in the fridge. But, back to the sprouts. I’ve done all manner of things with sprouts to try to enjoy them: added juniper berries, lardons, chestnuts, lots of butter… but all to no avail. Until now. I used what I had in the fridge (as you do at this time of year) and found my perfect Brussels Sprouts recipe. It’s not for the faint hearted, and should be eaten BEFORE you start your diet. But it is delicious with roast pork, or a pork chop, or I can imagine it working really well with sausages and black pudding and some creamy mash.

And then I mentioned Stilton didn’t I? One of my favourite cookbooks over the last year or so is by Thane Prince: Ham, Pickles and Jam. It consistently gives me interesting and useful recipes. One that I keep returning to is for cheesy nibbly biscuits. All you need is about 30 minutes, and food processor and some leftover cheese. OK, and some butter and flour too (preferably gluten free).  I originally wrote about this recipe here, back in 2011.

Over the months I’ve modified the recipe – these days I generally make it with stilton and pretty much always omit the parmesan. Also, when the dough is made I roll it into a great big sausage, and then just slice off pieces to bake them, instead of all that faff with making cherry size pieces and then squishing them flat before rolling them in sesame seeds. The sesame seeds are important though – they add an extra nutty flavour to the biscuit. And I’ve only ever made them with gluten free flour – I love the light crispness you get with this mix.

So, that’s your stilton sorted. Now for the brussels sprouts.

Creamy Brussels Sprouts

Prepare your brussels sprouts by cutting off the wee end, and removing the outer leaf or two if necessary. Then slice the sprouts – you’ll get about 4 or 5 slices out of each sprout, depending on their size. You don’t need to be a perfectionist with this, all you’re doing is cutting down the size of each sprout so they cook through more quickly and evenly.

Put the sliced sprouts into a wide flat pan and throw in some stock (or if you’re me, some water and a stock cube). You don’t need much stock – the idea is that the sprouts will cook in it, but it will boil away. I use about 200ml when cooking enough sprouts for two people.

Now, put a lid on the pan and boil up the sprouts. Remove the lid and stir them around a bit, to make sure all the sprouts are in the water. Put the lid on again if you think you should, but if it’s a tight fitting lid, you might want to leave a slight gap to let some steam out.

Ideally, the sprouts should be just about cooked at the point when the water is just about boiled away.

Throw in about 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg and a good turn or two of black pepper. Stir. Add a seriously big glug or two of double cream and stir again.

Leave quietly bubbling away while you serve the rest of your food up, and by the time you’ve plated everything else up the sprouts will be ready.

Delicious with roast pork and all the other trimmings, or as I’ve just discovered with Lucas Hollweg’s Beef Casserole with Cinnamon and Prunes. Exquisite!

 

Perfect and easy cheese scones

2 Dec

You know how it is, you’ve got some nubs of cheese left in the fridge and you think they’d be better cooked than eaten on a cracker.

But you want your cheesy snack NOW.

Mimolette cheese scones

Mimolette cheese scones

Well, this is the recipe for you – from start to finish it probably only takes about half an hour.

Ready?

Off we go.

Spicy cheese scones

Preheat oven to 200C / GM6. Prepare a baking sheet

  • 200g SR flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • a good shake of celery salt
  • a good shake of cayenne pepper
  • a good shake of smoked paprika
  • about 40g unsalted butter, straight from the fridge, grated on a coarse grater
  • 100g mature cheddar-type cheese (I used mimolette) either grated or cut into wee chunks
  • 3tsp crunchy mustard
  • 100ml milk
  1. Sift all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl
  2. Stir in the butter and cheese
  3. Add milk and mix together with a fork
  4. Bring together with your hands and knead REALLY lightly on a floured board. If the dough is really solid, add more milk – it should come together, but feel quite light and spongey (not hard and solid)
  5. Pat down to about 2cm thickness
  6. Either use a cutter to make about 8-9 scones, or cut into rough scone shapes with a knife
  7. Bake for 12-15mins until golden brown

Grating the butter means you don’t need to do anything other than mix it in to the dry mixture – no working it till it turns into breadcrumbs. To be honest I didn’t weigh the butter, I just grated about 1/6 packet of butter (mark the pack of butter half way down, then divide the half into 3 .. don’t actually cut through it, just mark with a knife then grate to this point).

You could make these into wee baby scones and they’d be delish with a wee sherry at Christmas. Or Bonfire Night

The first sourdough loaf from my own starter

13 Oct

I did it!

I made a starter out of nothing but flour and water.

And I added some more flour and water and a wee sprinkling of salt.

Flour, water and salt

And I threw it about a bit (‘air-kneading’) for about 5 minutes.

And I left it a while.

sourdough resting

And I folded it.

And I left it a while (see pic above)

And I shaped it into two loaves.

sourdough loaves – one freeform, one in a tin

And I left it a while.

And then I popped it in a really hot oven.

And then we had bread!

sourdough loaf just out of the oven

No bought yeast, no bread machine, no sugar, no oil, no dried milk powder, just flour and water and a wee sprink of Maldon sea salt. Amazing!

freshly baked sourdough loaves – perfect with unsalted butter

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