Tag Archives: quick supper

Autumn days

22 Oct

Yesterday was a beautiful autumnal day today. The sun shone all day long, and my wee chickens scrubbled about out in their yard chuntering away to one another. I discovered that my few remaining plants in the greenhouse were all beginning to get covered and smothered in greenfly, so I took a couple of pots of greenfly-ridden chilli plants out to the chooks for them to nibble at. Minutes later the leaves were stripped off and gobbled up by my happy girls.

So, with chooks happy in the garden, it seemed like a good day to spend in the kitchen, preparing this and that to make the meals easier through the week when I get home from work each night.

So meatballs are cooked and in the freezer, with a tomatoey sauce in a separate pot.

making meatballs

shaping meatballs

There’s a big old pot of lentil soup for lunches, made with a smoked ham hock and a wee smidgin of curry spices.

There is of course a lovely sourdough loaf (wholemeal) and the bread machine also made a half and half (granary/white) loaf. The meat from the ham hock has been cut up into wee cubes to be added to a frittata or omelette later in the week.

I made a big tub of granola with nuts and oats and fruit – mixed with apple juice, a wee bit of syrup and some ginger and cinnamon.

In between times I made some delicious cinnamon squirlies. I blame delicious magazine – they featured them on their facebook page and I just caved and had to make them. They were totally worth it, really easy to make and absolutely scrumptious, especially warm with icecream.

cinnamon squirlie dough

cinnamon squirlies – just pull apart and eat

And as if that wasn’t enough, I had already decided that for supper we were having roast pork with all the trimmings. The trimmings on this occasion included roasted apples, curly kale, a beetroot and potato gratin and roasted beetroots and caramelised onions, all brought together with a jus made with juices from the roast pork dish and apple juice reduced down till it was concentrated flavoursome perfection.

Autumnal roast pork

I don’t cook roasts too often, but after this success I may do it more often. And there were delicious leftovers for through the week: we’ll have sliced pork and chutney sandwiches for lunch and this evening we had the rest of the beetroot and potato gratin, served with spicy roast butternut squash and chicken wrapped in smoky bacon.

I think my focus in the next few weeks will be on how to make really good meals quickly on weekday evenings – some will be from scratch, others will involve some prep the weekend before. Watch this space.

Vegetable broth (and croutons if you want them)

21 Sep

It’s clearly the beginning of the soup season. The days are cooler, and the evenings are outright cold. Yesterday it rained and rained and rained all day. Today it’s still cold, but it’s gloriously sunny and I’ve already got two loads of laundry merrily blowing on the whirligig line.

It’s not just nature that is going through a period of change. My life is also changing. Quite dramatically really.

A couple of weeks ago I moved house. I had been living in two places: a lovely wee colonies flat in Leith, in Edinburgh, through the week and in the Clyde Valley with my boyfriend, the Captain, at weekends. Each Friday after work I would travel west to the Valley and the each Monday morning I would travel back east to the Capital. At one level I had the best of both worlds: the city life (and all the benefits of living in a truly wonderful capital city) through the week and then the joy of having a relatively big garden and being surrounded by fields at the weekend.

But in all honesty it was no longer my dream. My dream was to live in one place, and to know that I would have the right accessories to go with whatever clothes I put on in the morning. All too often that perfect necklace was in the other house.

So just after this year’s festival was over I packed all my worldly belongings into boxes and moved out west. And here I am. Sitting in the garden room, looking out onto the garden and across the Clyde Valley. The clouds are just beginning to blow in, and the trees are starting to lose their lush green. Autumn is definitely in the air. So it’s most definitely the season for warming soups.

After yesterday’s smooth carrot soup, I wanted something chunkier today. And I had a hankering for pearl barley. This the perfect soup for using up whatever veg need to be used. Today it was turnip, carrot, potato and leeks. Oh and savoy cabbage, which didn’t really NEED to be used, but I wanted it.

Anyways, here goes, another simple recipe to see you through the Autumn and Winter.

Vegetable broth with croutons

Vegetable broth

  • A splash of oil, or a smudge of butter
  • A couple of leeks, washed of dirt, then sliced finely
  • A carrot, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • A medium potato, peeled and cut into the same size(ish) chunks
  • Turnip, peeled and cut into the same size chunks – I used a piece about the same size as the potato, maybe slightly larger
  • A handful of pearl barley
  • 1 1/2 stock cubes (veg, lamb or beef work well)
  • A few big outside leaves of savoy cabbage, the central spine removed and sliced finely
  • Parsley
  1. Put the oil/butter in the bottom of a large heavy based pan over a medium/low heat
  2. Put a kettle of water on to boil at this stage
  3. Add the leeks, the carrot, the potato, the turnip. Just add them as you chop them up, they don’t all need to go in at once
  4. Sweat the veg for a few minutes, stirring to stop them from sticking/burning
  5. Add the pearl barley and stir
  6. Add a good few grinds of black pepper and the stock cubes and a wee bit of water, just to wet the pan, and cook for a further minute or two
  7. Add the kettleful of water, stir, and bring back to the boil
  8. Simmer for about an hour, till the whole thing is looking thick and gloopy and the barley is soft
  9. Add the savoy cabbage and cook for a further 5 minutes or so
  10. Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley. It doesn’t need croutons, but I couldn’t resist them.

If you have any bay leaves throw one or two in while it’s simmering, and if you have celery in the fridge, then cut some up and add it all in with the other veg. Somehow, I never seem to have any celery around though.

Croutons

  • Whatever’s left of an old loaf of bread
  • Olive oil
  • Celery salt
  • Black pepper
  • Herbs and Spices (I have a harissa style spice mix, with chilli, garlic, coriander and who knows what else)
  1. Cut the bread into thick slices. Then cut each slice into long batons. Then cut each baton into chunks. They don’t need to be precisely the same size, but it’s best if they are similar sized chunks
  2. In a big bowl, pour some oil around the sides of the bowl so it dribbles down into the bottom of the bowl. You don’t need a lot, but enough that the inside of the bowl is coated in a thin film of oil
  3. Now sprinkle in your chosen flavours – I grind lots of black pepper, then a sprinkle or two of celery salt, followed by a good skoosh or the harissa spice mix
  4. Now through in the bread chunks and gently mix it all around. A
    good squidgy spatula is the best implement for this. What you’re trying to do is to give all the bits of bread a chance of absorbing a wee bit of the flavoured oil. The chunks should not all look soaked in oil, although some of them might. But really, you’re trying to make this with as little oil as you need
  5. Pour the coated bread into a baking tray and pop in a very low oven
  6. I leave it for about 45 mins in an oven at gas mark 2. But this is not a precise recipe – check on the croutons and take them out when they are ready – they will have taken on a slightly golden colour and will be slightly crispy (they crisp up a bit more as they cool down).
  7. Sprinkle in your bowl of soup, or serve them in a pretty bowl so people can help themselves. If you have any left keep them in an airtight tub for a few days.

Please don’t use good fresh bread for these – the bread will be much nicer just served in chunks with the soup. But if you have the heel of a loaf left, just take 5 minutes to make these and then you’ll have them ready for next time you have soup (which surely won’t be long away).

Carrot soup

20 Sep

I say ‘carrot soup’ but really this could be any root veg soup. But seriously this is the easiest thing in the world to make. If you can cut with a knife you can make this soup.

Pimped up carrot soup

Before you start I should fess up. It’s not strictly a carrot soup, as I add some lentils to it – to give it a bit of body and also add some protein. If you want to omit the lentils do, and it will be ready much quicker too. But I’d be tempted to throw in a wee sprinkle of flour and mix it in before adding the water, to thicken it slightly.

Carrot soup

  • 1 large onion, chopped as best you can
  • about 6 medium/large carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • a dash of oil
  • 1tsp or so ground coriander
  • about 1/3 cup red lentils
  • 1 Knorr chicken stock cube
  1. Using a heavy bottomed pan, splash the oil into the bottom of the pan and ‘sweat’ the onion and carrots over a gentle heat.
  2. At this point you should put a kettle full of water on to boil
  3. Add the coriander, the lentils and the stock cube and continue to cook for a few minutes, stirring well to prevent it burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan
  4. Pour the kettleful of water into the pan, and bring to a simmering boil
  5. Simmer for about 45 minutes
  6. Pour into a liquidiser and zizz it up till it’s beautifully smooth
  7. Serve – feel free to glamorise it with some yoghurt and/or a sprinkle of parsley. Or croutons. I’ll tell you about my croutons another day.

There are lots of ways to play about with the recipe – grate some orange zest and squeeze some orange juice into it; add some harissa paste; add other root veg – parsnips and turnip would work well.

And of course you can use this same basic principle, of sweating veg then adding liquid to make all manner of other soups – swap out the onion and carrot for leeks and potatoes, or keep the onions and use butternut squash instead of carrots.

Beetroot and orange salad

10 Jul

I mentioned this treat the other day, in my post about my Scottish tapas style meal.

When I was wee the only beetroots I’d ever come across were in a jar, and covered in vinegar. Some were even crinkle cut (presumably to make sure they soaked up as much of that vinegar as possible). Now I’m sure there’s a place for pickled beetroot, but those overwhelmingly sharp wee purple nuggins gave me quite the wrong impression of what beetroot is all about.

And so I didn’t try beetroot again for years. In fact probably not until I was in my 40s, when I was tricked into buying some fresh beetroot by the sheer exuberance and joy in the bounty of a farm shop one day. Into the wicker basket went locally grown carrots, courgettes, tomatoes, strawberries and cauliflower. Pears were placed on top, so as not to bruise them. And a bunch of herbs (this was in the days when I didn’t have my own established herb patch). And then there they were – bunches of beetroot, grubby with soil and with their tops on, looking as though they had just been plucked from the garden minutes before (I now know that if you leave the tops on beetroots for any length of time, they start to suck out the nutrients from the roots, and while the tops are wilting, they are also depleting the goodness from the bulbs).

There are so many things to do with beetroot, from the frankly outrageously delicious chocolate beetroot cake (think pimped up carrot cake) to simply roasted with a blob of sour cream. Or make a quick tart with goats cheese and beetroot grated into a horseradish creme fraiche on whatever pastry you have to hand, filo, puff or shortcrust. The earthy flavour marries well with horseradish or with balsamic vinegar and beetroot is of course the ideal companion to game or smoked fish, It’s a strong vegetable and not just in colour.

But one of my simple beetroot salads just combines it with shallots, oranges, balsamic vinegar and dill. And lots of black pepper… but then I’m a bit of a pepper addict. The dark purple and bright orange of this salad will make you smile even before you’ve popped it in your mouth.

If you’re starting with raw fresh beetroot, this isn’t the salad to start making ten minutes before you sit down to lunch. However, for speed and convenience, you can make this with pre-cooked vacuum packed beetroot – get the stuff that doesn’t have any vinegar in it though. It won’t be quite as nice, but still pretty good.

Beetroot and orange salad

  • a bunch of fresh beetroot bulbs – their size is immaterial, and you can just vary the quantity of everything else to match how much beetroot you have
  • shallots – probably one medium shallot for every 2 medium beetroot
  • oranges – one whole large orange for every 2 medium beetroot
  • fresh dill – about 1TBsp of chopped up dill for every medium beetroot
  • balsamic vinegar – a good old glug of it
  • olive oil – not much, in fact it doesn’t really need it at all
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Maldon sea salt
  1. Cook your beetroot. You might already have a preferred method, but if you don’t then I would recommend you cut off the leafy tops about 0.5cm above the root, then wrap the roots all together in kitchen foil and pop them in a medium oven until they are done. If they are small and you don’t have many of them they’ll take less than an hour, but if you have anything bigger then teeny weeny roots then you’re looking at a couple of hours in the oven to ensure they are cooked. To check they are cooked, unwrap them (carefully) and insert the tip of a sharp knife into the largest one – if it meets no resistance it is cooked. The alternative is to boil them in a big pan of water.
  2. Once the beetroot is cooked let it cool for a while so they are cool enough to handle. With a wee bit of pressure, the skin will slough off and you are left with wee naked purple balls of beetrooty tastiness. 
  3. Chop the beetroot into wee cubes and put in a bowl
  4. Add segments of orange – you don’t want any pith or skin on the segments so take a large orange and a very sharp wee knife and slice off the top and the bottom of the orange. Sit the orange on its bottom, and slice off the pith and skin in big slices all the way round the orange, cutting sections off at a time, from top to bottom – you’ll get the hang of it. Once you have a wee naked orange, hold it over the bowl with the beetroot, so you catch the juicy drips. Using the knife, cut out a segment – you need to cut alongside the natural segment ‘skin’ so you get perfect wee skin free segments of orange. Again, you’ll get the hang of it, but perhaps not on the first orange. Once you’ve released all the segments into the bowl, squeeze the remainders of the orange to capture all the juice in the bowl. 
  5. Now finely chop your shallot and add it to the bowl
  6. And finely chop the dill and mix it in too
  7. Glug in some balsamic vinegar, and wee splash of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper
  8. Taste to see if it needs more balsamic or pepper
Serve, preferably with some sourdough bread, to mop up those juices and smoked trout. And lots of other wee bowls of tasty things to pick and choose from.

Scottish Tapas

8 Jul

My favourite sort of lunch at home is what my Mum would call ‘little bowls of this and that’. The rest of us call it a Wolffe Lunch. The table groans with plates of this and bowls of that, with things to nibble and with salads you want to pile onto your plate. The worry is always that the thing you’ve got your eye on will be passed round the table the OTHER WAY and there will be hardly any left by the time it gets to you. No need to worry though, there is always plenty.

I’ve adapted the Wolffe Lunch, of course. And this weekend it has included homemade baps, beetroot and orange salad, warm chilli sweetcorn fritters, prawns in chilli lime dressing, tabbouleh (with fresh herbs from the garden), a cheese board, dressed crab, homemade mayonnaise, salad leaves from the garden, and cucumber from the greenhouse. I never knew that cucumbers tasted like that, always thought they were like watered down versions of a flavour – but this was sweet and aromatic in a most surprising way.

So, what do you want first? The fritters? OK then, here we go.

The chilli sweetcorn fritters were entirely inspired by finding a half can of sweetcorn in the fridge. And the purchase of this month’s Olive magazine.

Chilli sweetcorn fritters with prawns

  • 100g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 duck egg or 1 egg, plus a yolk
  • 80ml milk
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped nice and fine
  • 100g or so of sweetcorn (about half a small tin)
  • sunflower or rapeseed oil for frying
  • 200g prawns
  • 1 red chilli, sliced fine
  • spring onions, sliced fine
  • juice of 1 lime and lime wedges to serve
  1. Put the prawns in a bowl, and sprinkle over the chilli, the spring onion slices and the lime juice. Set aside while you make the fritters
  2. Sift the flour, soda and a pinch of salt into a big bowl
  3. Make a well in the centre and add the egg, yolk and milk
  4. Beat with a wooden spoon, or balloon whisk till you have a smooth and thick batter
  5. Add the sweetcorn and chilli
  6. Heat oil in a frying pan on a medium heat
  7. Spoon tablespoons of batter into the pan and fry for a minute or so till you see bubbles on the surface. Turn over and cook for another minute or so, till golden, puffed and cooked through
  8. Drain on kitchen paper.
You’ll probably want to serve these while they’re still warm, so think about that before you get started… just make sure everything else is ready to go before you start frying. The batter can be made and left for a wee bit before you fry.
They’d probably be tasty with a choice of dips – salsa, hummus, cream cheese and chives. I’d also like it with mango salsa I was introduced to by the inimitable John Murphy. John is someone very special – he’s a philosopher, a therapist, an alcoholic and a cattle rustler (ex). And so much more.
That Mango Salsa
Cut up a mango into chunks. Add a clove of garlic, chopped up fine (or smooshed if you prefer it that way), a sliced up red or green chilli and the juice of 1 lime.
Eat immediately if you want, but it’ll be much nicer if you can bear to leave it for 24hours. The other things in your fridge might not thank you though.
Oh, and don’t even think about making these fritters if you’re on a diet. Unless of course you think you can limit yourself to just the one. Which you can’t. Trust me.

Chicken chasseur

12 Jun

So, I’m trying to be really organised, planning meals in advance and doing a big shop once a week in Edinburgh. And this week I’ve got some of it right. I did the big shop (online, delivered yesterday evening) and then started the planning once I had the food in my cupboards and the fridge. Clearly that’s the wrong way around, but it’s ok.. it’s coming together. And next week I’ll be better and plan first, shop second.

The other problem with my shop is that I hadn’t been home in my flat for ten days, so the shopping was sort of done from memory. As a result I’ve got LOTS of flour, and am running out of washing up liquid. Ah well, first world problems!

Anyway, this evening my plan told me that supper would be made from chicken, mushrooms, potato. And perhaps carrot and courgette. This was all pointing towards a chicken chasseur. Chasseur recipes are meals that hunters might eat (I think) … although I suspect that no self-respecting hunter would eat the chicken I was going to cook. But I think it is the mushrooms that all chasseurs traditionally have. Or am I entirely wrong and that’s a chicken forestiere? Oh, I really must do some research before I start trying to write about things I think I know more about than I really do.

But this is my version of what I am going to call chicken chasseur. It’s relatively cheap, easy to adapt, and pretty healthy. I’m trying to lose weight at the moment. Trying? I’m succeeding! I’m on weightwatchers, and it’s working really well for me, losing between 1 and 2lbs a week. And this recipe works well on the weightwatchers system. So I’ll be having leftovers for lunch tomorrow with some bulgur wheat!

Chicken Chasseur

  • 600g chicken thighs (between 6 and 8 thighs probably). Either leave them whole, or cut them into chunks… cut off any fat, to keep it healthy
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half then sliced thinly, in half moon shapes
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped into wee chunks
  • 1 red pepper, cut into chunks
  • about 300g chestnut mushrooms, cut in half
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • thyme – either dried or fresh, or parsley
  1. Brown the chicken thighs in a large frying pan. If you have an oil sprayer, then use that, if you don’t then use a minimum amount of oil so the thighs don’t stick
  2. Remove the chicken from the pan and put to one side
  3. Lightly fry the onion in the pan for 3-4 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients, and add the chicken back into the pan
  4. Add a half a pint or so of water. Ideally everything should be in the sauce, although it doesn’t need to be entirely submerged.
  5. Stir it gently, then cover the pan and let it bubble away for about 30 minutes. Less time if you cut those thighs into bits before you started.
And that’s it. Serve it with bulgur wheat. Or a baked potato. Or potato wedges, done in the oven with other roasted veg such as courgettes, and onions. That’s what I had this evening and it was super tasty.
And now I’m going to be really geeky and make a list of the foods I have in my cupboard, so I can tick things off when I need them and be more organised with my shopping, and eating. Yeah, go me, I’m so rock n roll!

Quick and tasty soda bread

10 Jun

Yesterday we went to Galloway, to Mum and Dad’s. We had a lovely lunch (as ever) and pootled about a bit in the garden, had a cup of tea and then came back again, via Kilnford Farm Shop just outside Dumfries which I’ve been meaning to visit for ages.  It’s a lovely shop, with a large range of interesting local products a nice deli counter and the most superb butchers, with a great selection of meats with the lowest carbon footprint you can imagine. And, it’s not just nostalgia, but I do love Galloway Beef. And I liked that fact that there was a blackboard at the front door telling us that there was a Beltie Galloway calf in the field next door if we wanted to go see what our meat used to be. It didn’t say the bit about the meat, but the message is pretty clear to me, and I like that.

Anyway, I managed to come away having purchased only sensible things: some new potatoes, a couple of plain beefburgers, a couple of tomato and olive beefburgers and a peri peri chicken breast fillet. Oh, and some olives. And now, 30 hours later, we’ve eaten the lot. Nom nom nom.

However, all of this is just a digression. The main reason for mentioning I was at home in Galloway at all is to say that my brother was there, and he’d contributed his homemade spelt bread to the lunch. So, we got talking about making bread: bread machine bread, hand-made bread, sourdough bread and SODA BREAD. Mum has a great soda bread recipe from her big sister who lives in Ireland. It involves measuring things in saucers.

But I didn’t get her recipe from Mum yesterday. I just forgot really.

But when I got home I had an urge to make soda bread. So this morning I looked up Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills cookery book (oh, it’s just one of the most glorious cook books, ever… and I have a large collection of cookbooks, so this is praise indeed). She, of course, has many soda bread recipes, and I settled for her Beginner’s Brown Soda Bread. It’s scrumptious and quite the easiest thing in the world. Go make some, you’ll be eating it in no time. And then making a second batch to share with friends.

I slightly adapted the recipe, as I didn’t have quite enough buttermilk, so I made up the remaining volume with a mixture of plain yoghurt, milk and lemon juice. I also used slightly more white flour, and less brown.

Beginner’s Brown Soda Bread

  • 14oz stone ground wholemeal flour
  • 3oz plain white flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBsp sunflower oil (I used rapeseed)
  • 1 tsp honey, or treacle, or soft brown sugar (I used heather honey)
  • 3/4 pint buttermilk, or soured milk
  • sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)

Prepare a loaf tin 9″ x 5″ x 2″ and preheat oven to 200C / 400F / GM6.

  1. Put all ingredients into a large bowl, and mix well.
  2. Whisk the egg, adding to it the oil, honey and buttermilk.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid.
  4. Mix well, adding more buttermilk if necessary – the mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy.
  5. Pour into the prepared tin, and sprinkle with sunflower seeds if you’re in the mood for them.
  6. Bake for about an hour or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped on its bottom.
  7. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

This basic brown bread can be pimped up with the addition of a mixture of seeds, such as: 1TBsp each of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and kibbled wheat. Just add these to the dry ingredients, and a similar mixture should be sprinkled over the top before baking.

So, there you have it. The easiest bread in the world.

But of course now I want to try her White Soda Bread recipe.

White Soda Bread

  • 1lb white flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 12 – 14fl oz sour milk or buttermilk

Preheat oven to 230C / 450F / GM8

  1. Sift the dry ingredients into a large wide bowl
  2. Make a well in the centre
  3. Pour most of the buttermilk in at once and use your hand to mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary
  4. The dough should be softish and not too wet and sticky
  5. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured work surface
  6. Wash and dry your hands so the dough is easier to handle – while you’re at it, put water in the bowl so it’s easier to wash later
  7. Tidy up the dough and flip it over gently, then pat it into a round about 1″ deep
  8. Cut a deep cross in it and then prick it slightly with the tip of a knife in each of the quadrants (according to Irish folklore this lets the fairies out, but it also enables it to cook all the way through better).
  9. Bake for 15 mins then turn the oven down to 200C / 400F / GM6 for 30 minutes or until cooked.

This same mixture can be cut into scones and cooked for 20 mins. Dip the tops in sesame seeds or cheese before you cook them, or a mixture of seeds and grains.

Or pimp up the original bread recipe by adding chopped herbs, or olives, or sundried tomatoes – about 2 TBsps would be about right. Or 3oz raisins, or 1-2 tsp curry powder, or a couple of TBsps of caraways seeds, or fennel, or really whatever you’re in the mood for. Or have in your cupboard.

So, off you go, and make some bread now, you really have no excuse.

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