Tag Archives: quick supper

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.

Spicy turmeric chicken

2 May

I love recipe books, and have a relatively large collection. One I’ve owned for a while, but have cooked little from is Leon’s Naturally Fast Food. It’s a beautiful thing, lovely design (although will it seem very dated when I look back at it in 10 years time?) and some great recipes for making fast, fresh food.

This morning before I left for work I had a quick flick through the recipes and decided to make their South Indian Pepper Chicken. It’s a beautifully simple recipe, and pretty low fat, so it’s my kinda healthy too.

South Indian Pepper Chicken

  • A drizzle of olive oil (use the stuff from the spray bottle if you care, otherwise use about a teaspoonful)
  • About 500g skinless, boneless chicken thighs, diced
  • Maldon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • about 1″ root ginger, chopped fine
  • 1 large onion, cut in half, then sliced finely to give thin crescent shapes
  • a heaped tsp turmeric
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly diced
  1. Heat the oil in large frying pan, add the chicken pieces, then sprinkle on a good pinch of sea salt and LOTS of black pepper. Stir it about then add some more black pepper
  2. Cook for a few minutes, till the chicken browns. Then tip it out of the pan into a bowl and set aside
  3. Add the garlic, onion, ginger and turmeric to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes
  4. Add the tomatoes and a good glug of water and stir together
  5. Add the chicken back into the pan and cook with a lid on for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. Take the lid off and reduce the sauce down a little if it’s all too wet still.
Serve with rice and kale. I had no rice in the flat, so had it with noodles instead and it was bloody lovely. This is enough to serve 2 or 3, depending how hungry you are, and what you’re serving it with.

Gumbo party

14 Mar

Is it a soup?

Is it a stew?

It’s a gumbo!

One of my colleagues is in his early 20s and is really just learning about cooking properly. A few weeks ago he was very proud of the chicken gumbo he had made. He was surprised how easy it was to make something so tasty.

Fast forward to this Monday, and I was at a bit of a loss as to what to cook for supper. All I knew I had in the fridge was a chorizo sausage. So, my colleague suggested chicken gumbo. Perfect!

The basic recipe which inspired this is on the bbc good food website here. If you haven’t checked out the recipes on bbc good food, you’ve missed out.  Go on, have a browse – they have more pics than I usually do.

A top tip here: chop up everything else and put them in bowls (doubling things up that are being thrown in the pan together) before you cut up your chicken. That way, you just need to clean the knife and the board at the end.

Chicken Gumbo

  • 4 – 5 chicken thighs, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smooshed up
  • 1 green chilli, sliced finely
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped finely
  • 1 TBsp plain flour
  • 1 large tin/carton chopped tomatoes
  • a chicken stock cube
  • a mug of boiling water
  • 1 courgette, cut into chunks
  • 2 red peppers, cut into chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a couple of stalks of fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • about 100g chorizo, chopped into chunks
  • a couple of new potatoes, cut into small chunks
  • a few handfuls of spinach
  1. Using a wee bit of oil, fry off the chicken in a large heavy bottomed frying pan
  2. Remove the chicken, and let it rest in a bowl till you’re ready for it again
  3. Add the celery and onion to the pan, and cook over a gentle heat till the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another couple of minutes
  4. Add the flour to the veg, stir and cook for a minute or so.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, chicken stock cube and boiling water and stir together
  6. Put the chicken back in the pan, followed by all other ingredients, except for the spinach, and simmer with a lid on for about 20 minutes
  7. Add the spinach and stir through – it won’t really need further cooking as the spinach will just wilt into the gumbo
  8. EAT!
This is great the next day once the flavours have melded together. I had it on its own as there is plenty veg in there with the meat. However, if you want more carbs, it would be lovely with noodles or rice.
It’s a pretty flexible recipe – add peas, sweetcorn, even prawns or fish. And make it as spicy or plain as you want. But you knew that already.
Next year it’s Gumbo instead of pancakes for Shrove Tuesday!

A midweek tart

9 Feb

If you have a notion to make a tart mid-week, and you don’t get home till about 7pm then you really need to use bought pastry.

And if your rolling pin is in the country and you are in the city, then you need to use pre-rolled bought pastry.

So, I swallowed my pride and bought pre-rolled shortcrust pastry tonight. I think it may be a first. And now that my pride is well and truly swallowed, I can admit that it probably won’t be the last!

My notion was to make a rich chocolate tart. I’d been thinking of rich chocolate tart since before breakfast (I know, I know, this isn’t healthy behaviour) and then I went out to lunch with the lovely PAtothecity and she told me all about her fabulous Hotel Chocolat experience yesterday evening, including chilli hot chocolate. She asked how to make chilli hot choc, and I have a sneaky feeling I read a recipe for it just the other day, but have NO IDEA where, probably somewhere on this world wide web. Anyway, I suggested she split a chilli in half longways, de-seeded it and then popped the chilli in a pan with the milk. Warm it up and steep the chilli milk for a few minutes (depending on desired heat). Then remove the chillis, and add the chocolate, and warm to the right temperature for your hot choc.

With this in mind, I decided my chocolate tart would be a chilli chocolate tart. A RICH chilli chocolate tart. A rich chilli chocolate tart with sea salt flakes.

Rich chilli chocolate tart with sea salt flakes

Rich chilli chocolate tart with sea salt flakes

Preheat oven to 180C or Gas Mark 4. Grease a 23cm/9″ tart tin.

  • A packet of ready rolled short crust pastry, or if you have time, make your own pastry
  • 300ml double cream
  • a couple of fresh red chillis
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • a big glug of full fat milk
  • some maldon sea salt
  1. Line the prepared tin with your rolled out pastry. Cover the pastry with a large piece of baking paper and fill the paper with dry chick peas, or baking beans* or rice, or whatever you can find in a packet or jar to weigh down the pastry.
  2. Bake for 10-15 minutes
  3. Take the pastry out of the oven and remove the paper and the baking beans
  4. Return the pastry to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes, till golden brown
  5. While it’s in the oven you can get going on the rich chocolatey-ness
  6. Cut the chillis in half longways, and de-seed. Put them in a saucepan with  the cream and warm up to not-quite-boiling
  7. Leave to steep for a wee minute or two, and then remove the chillies (and throw them away)
  8. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt to the cream and heat back up till it boils. Remove from the heat immediately, and add the butter and chocolate (broken into chunks) to the pan
  9. Beat with a wooden spoon till all melted and glossy and nummy
  10. Put aside for a wee minute or ten (depending on how cold your kitchen is – mine is freezing, so I just left it for a couple of minutes and it had cooled down quite a bit) and then add a glug or two of milk (about what you’d add to a mug of coffee.
  11. Keep beating till it comes all glossy again
  12. Now, if your pastry shell has just come out of the oven you’ll need it to cool a wee bit before you go any further
  13. Once both shell and chocolatey goodness are cool-ish pour the choc mixture into the shell.  Cool at room temperature, and then sprinkle with sea salt flakes
* Please do NOT use baked beans. It will get messy and will taste disgusting

If you have a hot kitchen, or if you like really cold things, cool it further down in the fridge. But personally, I’d serve it at room temperature, with a scoop of creme fraiche.

Now, all I have to do is work out how to get it to the office tomorrow morning.

And, given that St Valentine’s Day is next week, this might be an appropriate recipe for wooing your loved one. It would certainly work for me, but then I’m particularly susceptible to that chocolatey, salty, hot chilli combo of flavours. And not too sweet.  All I need to know now is what wine to serve with it, as I suspect that it won’t work with fizz. Better ask Convivium Wine.

Fishy fishy

8 Jan

I did a REALLY stupid thing yesterday.

After a rare shopping expedition to Sainsburys, instead of my usual, closer Tesco, I left my hand bag hanging on the trolley when I left it at the trolley park.  I’d been home an hour, and had unpacked all the shopping before I realised what a muppet I’d been.

I phoned the store straight away and the bag had been handed in and was waiting for me at customer service, so I went back to retrieve it.  I was amazed that everything was still in it, from my cuter-than-a-button lego notebook (seriously it is like a great big piece of your favourite lego and you can write in it) to my mobile phone (OK, it’s just confirmation that my phone is a piece of shit) and my purse with all its cards in it.  Thanks Sainsburys customer, I think I love you.  And I will forward the good karma to someone else.

I was determined to stick to my shopping list yesterday. I have a habit of going off-piste in a supermarket, but one of my aims for this year is to get better at planning and sticking to those plans, and not just in relation to supermarket shopping.

But I like seeing what is fresh, and seasonal when I shop.  And I can easily be seduced by a bargain, especially if it’s in the ballpark of the list. So, fish was on the list. I want to eat more fish this year (see, I should just write a proper list shouldn’t I of all the things I want to achieve this year?).

And the fish pie mix was on special – half price, so I bought 300g of fish pie mix.  And a bag of mussels.  Mussels will be eaten today. They weren’t on the list, but trying new recipes is, so that’s ok!  The fish was yesterday’s supper – not a fish pie as such though, because the potatoes I’ve got don’t mash well. I know, why do I have a bag of new potatoes at this time of year?  But I do, and they are lovely just boiled, but not so good any other way.

Anyway, this is what I did.

Fish Gratin

300g mixed fish, cut into large cubes

2 leeks

knobs of butter

a TBsp or so of flour

about 1/2 pint of milk

about 4 TBsp double cream (optional – only used as there was some in the fridge which needed to be used)

a fish stock cube (or a veg one, or just use salt and pepper to taste)

a tsp dijon mustard

a few threads of saffron (again, optional, but I had some in the cupboard)

1/2 cup of fresh breadcrumbs

about 2 TBsp grated strong cheddar or other strong-flavoured hard cheese

Gas Mark 7 or 8

If you’re having potatoes with this, prepare them first, and put them in a pan of water.  If you’re a quick cook then start boiling them now, before you start the fish gratin, otherwise put them on to boil once you are half way through.

  1. Melt a knob of butter in a pan over a medium-low heat
  2. Slice the leeks down their length and then cut them into half moon slices and gently cook them in the butter till they are soft, but not browned
  3. Tip the leeks into a gratin dish and spread over the base
  4. Put the saffron fronds into a wee cup or dish and cover with a wee bit of hot water, from the tap is fine
  5. Add another knob of butter to the pan the leeks were in and melt it
  6. Stir in some flour to make a roux
  7. Add the milk, bit by bit, stirring all the while so it doesn’t go lumpy.  I added some hot water from the potato pot at this point.  You’re looking for a sauce that easily coats the back of the wooden spoon – but if it’s too thick, just add more water/milk.
  8. Stir in the fish stock cube, the mustard and the saffron water. Stir to make sure the fish stock cube is melted in properly and then add the cream
  9. Add the fish to the sauce and gently stir together
  10. Pour the fish mix on top of the leeks
  11. Sprinkle breadcrumbs and cheese on top and put in a hot oven
  12. Cook till it’s bubbling and the top is crispy crunchy and a caramel brown colour.  Mine was in for about 15 mins, but it could be in longer at a lower temp if it suited your plans better.

This was served with boiled potatoes and brussels sprouts.  Now, I never used to be a fan of brussels sprouts, but the man is and so I’ve discovered various ways to make them scrumptious and my vegetable of choice!  Oh yes, not just leftovers, I choose to buy and cook them!

Brussels sprouts with chestnuts

About 7 brussels sprouts per person

a knob of butter

A few roasted chestnuts

  1. Prepare the sprouts by chopping off their ends and the very outer leaves.  You don’t need to do anything else, no crosses in their bottoms are necessary, but if this is your traditional way of doing them, feel free to indulge
  2. Put them in a pan so they form a single layer on the bottom of the pan and add about 1/4 cup of water (this was for two people, you’ll need more if there are more sprouts in a bigger pan I suppose).  I use enough that I think will have all but disappeared in about 8 minutes of boiling (this recipe is an art, not a science.. or it is the way I’m writing it.  I guess I could be more scientific about it if I really tried but for now this is all you’re getting I’m afraid)
  3. Put the lid on the pan and bring to the boil. Once it’s boiling, sit the lid on the edge of the pan, so it’s covering the pan but let’s a little steam out. Jiggle them around from time to time. If you run out of water, add some more hot from a kettle
  4. Once they look cooked (about 7-8 minutes I think) and there’s not much water left at all, add a knob of butter to the pan and jiggle them around again.
  5. Then crumble in the roasted chestnuts, and jiggle around some more over the heat
  6. Done!

You may have noticed I don’t add salt to many things as I go along. I used to, but a few years ago tried to cut down on salt intake when my blood pressure was slightly higher than was desirable.  I stopped adding salt to pans of boiling water – pasta, potatoes, vegetables, rice… and I discovered that after the first few days none of them needed it, or not in the blanket coverage way I used to add salt.  I now occasionally add salt at the end, when I taste it and think it needs some, but more often than not I don’t.  I probably wouldn’t get anywhere on Masterchef but my blood pressure is fine.

Eat your greens… introducing the greenest soup ever

10 Dec

This morning I had the most delicious breakfast: buttery scrambled eggs and grilled rashers of smoked back bacon from our local butcher.  I really don’t miss my carbs at breakfast time!

My heliboy was out on a mission (fitting a friend’s dishwasher) so I was without a car and kicking around the house.  I could have gone out and put all the garden furniture back where it belonged, after Hurrican Bawbag did its worst on Thursday.  But my wellies were in the car, on the mission.

So, I knitted for a while (Christmas gifts to be made) and then poked around the fridge to see what soup I could make for lunch.  It wasn’t terribly inspiring I have to say, but there was a bag of spinach, and a leek and some onions and potatoes.  It was looking like spinach soup.

Spinach soup

A knob of butter

1 leek

1 onion

1 medium-large potato

1 bag of spinach

chicken stock cube

some grated nutmeg

  1. Finely chop the onion, peel and chop the potato into small chunks, and slice the leek.  I prefer to cut the leek lengthwise and then chop it, so all the slices are half moons.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan, and chuck the chopped veg in on top
  3. Sweat the veg, stirring regularly
  4. Grate in about 1/2 tsp nutmeg, adn throw in the chicken stock cube
  5. Pour in boiling water.  Oh, I don’t know how much, about 3/4 kettle full I think
  6. Stir, then leave to simmer for about 15-20 minutes (and I really don’t care if you leave the lid on or not while it’s simmering)
  7. Check the potato and onion are cooked, then add the whole bag of spinach to the soup
  8. The spinach will quickly wilt down – stir it through and let it simmer for another 3-4 minutes
  9. Zizz it up with a hand held zizzer.  Or do it in a liquidiser if you like washing up
  10. It won’t go completely smooth, but will be completely tasty
  11. Test for seasoning – add freshly ground black pepper and more nutmeg if needed
  12. It would look pretty with a swirl of cream, or a dod of creme fraiche.

This is a subtle, light soup and would make a lovely starter to a big rich meal.  Or even a not so big rich meal.  Enjoy.

Pork with apple and sage

8 Dec

Some things are just meant to go together: scallops and black pudding, hot buttered toast and marmite, candlelight and a jacuzzi bath. And pork and apples.  And sage.

So, this evening, while Hurricane Bawbag is was doing its worst out there I was cooking up a storm in my wee kitchen, creating another delicious low-carb supper: pork with apple and sage, with savoy cabbage.

Pork with apple and sage

a knob of butter

a glug of olive oil

2 pork loin steaks, about 1″ thick

1 apple (I used a British cox as I am a bit of a fascist about eating our homegrown orchard fruit in this country – and cox’s are so tasty)

about 100ml dry cider

2-3 TBsps creme fraiche

a few sage leaves finely chopped

  1. Melt the butter with the olive oil over a medium heat, till the butter is foaming, but not burning
  2. Place the pork in the pan, and season with salt and pepper
  3. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side
  4. While the pork is cooking, peel the apple and cut in half.  Remove the core, by cutting a V shape with a sharp knife
  5. Cut the apple halfs into slices about 1/4″ thick and add them to the pan, squidging them in between the pork loins
  6. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, turning the apples over once or twice, till they are soft, and slightly caramelised at the edges
  7. Now chuck in the cider, sage and the creme fraiche and stir it around
  8. Turn up the heat and let it bubble away
  9. Ideally you want the sauce to reduce a bit so you haven’t got too much of it, and it’s not too thin.. if it’s all too wet, you might want to remove the pork for a bit, so it doesn’t dry out too much, but you still get the sauce reduced

This was delicious served with lightly boiled savoy cabbage.  It could comfortably have garlic and onions added, but really it doesn’t need them – the sharp sweetness of the apple, combined with creaminess is a perfect accompaniment to the pork.

If you want this to be more low fat, use half fat creme fraiche (and less of it), and don’t bother with the butter.  And remove all fat from the pork loin.  But really?  Why would you?  I lost 2lbs this week – from eating good filling protein rich meals, with lots of greens, but no carbs.  And believe me, this is much more fun than going low fat!

Slowly does it….

6 Dec

So, a few weeks ago I purchased a slow cooker. I’d never really thought of buying one before, and had no desire to own one.  But someone at work was talking about theirs and how brilliant it is to come home in the evening to a tasty stew or casserole, ready when you walk in the door.

So, I weighed it up:

Pros

  1. Delicious hot food ready when I get home from work
  2. I love stews and casseroles
  3. It fits in with low carb lifestyle – easy way to eat meat
  4. It will add variety to my current diet during the week, which currently relies on speedy meals when I get in
  5. I’ll be able to cook tasty meals with cheaper cuts of meat
  6. I can freeze what I don’t eat straight away (or chuck it in the fridge for the next day)
  7. It’s a new challenge
  8. It might encourage me to be more organised about meals, therefore less likely to impulse buy bad food

Cons

  1. Will I worry all day that I’ve left a hot plate on in the flat and it will burn down?
  2. What if I’ve set it on in the morning, but end up not getting home till really late?
  3. I’ll never have time in the morning to get it going
  4. If I do have time, I’ll end up oh so hungry before lunchtime
  5. I’ll never be organised enough to be in on consecutive nights, one to buy meat, the next to eat it
  6. I don’t have room for it in the teeny tiny kitchen

So.  The cons seemed to be mostly things I could overcome quite easily. So I bought one.  Cheap, on amazon. I won’t bother giving you a linky thing there – I’m sure you can find one there for yourself if you want it.

But anyway.. I’ve not used the slow cooker too often, mainly because the con number 5 is very real.  It’s relatively rare that I’m in my flat two nights in a row. And I’m never here at weekends. So, clearly I have to spend less time going out and more staying in and saving money eating tasty cheap stews and casseroles.

Yesterday evening I bought some stewing steak, from the local supermarket, ready diced.

And this morning I made a gingered beef stew in the slow cooker.  It probably took me about 15 minutes before I went to work. OK, maybe 20 minutes tops, but really no longer.  And I was still in work early.

Gingered beef stew

My slow cooker instructions tell me I need to turn the machine on to high for 20 minutes before I put the ingredients in.  So, before I went in for my shower, I turned the cooker on to high and took the beef out of the fridge.  I also assembled all the other ingredients. Then when I was dressed I chopped, stirred and threw the whole thing together.

olive oil

440g diced stewing steak

1 onion, cut in chunks

a knob of butter

about 1TBsp flour

a big squidge of tomato puree

balsamic vinegar – a big splash, maybe about 1-2 TBsps

1 large tsp muscovado sugar

about 1″ fresh ginger, chopped finely

2 bay leaves

tin of chopped tomatoes

beef stock cube

  1. Splash some olive oil into a big frying pan, and once it’s hot add the beef to brown it
  2. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside
  3. Put the butter in the pan, with the onion, cut into large chunks.  Reduce the heat to gently cook the onion (it should take 5-10 mins to get soft and translucent)
  4. Throw in the flour, and stir around, then add the all the other ingredients, except the tin of tomatoes.
  5. Add a good splash of water from the kettle, and stir well to create a thick sauce
  6. Now add the tin of tomatoes
  7. Now put the beef into the slow cooker, and then add the sauce on top
  8. Turn the heat down to slow, or whatever.

Go to work.  Come home and eat with savoy cabbage. Or cauliflower. Or broccoli. Or I guess you could have potatoes or linguine if you wanted the carbs.

The great thing about this is that it can be dressed up with more flavours – garlic, herbs, chilli pepper – if you have time.  But just as it is it’s a pretty tasty dish.

 

 

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