Tag Archives: dinner

Janssen’s Temptation

5 Jan

You’ll have heard of this recipe before, you may even have eaten it, and made it.

For me, it’s one of those go-to recipes when I’ve bought cream for something and then either forgotten what it was I bought it for, or just have loads left over. Or changed my mind. After all, what would be nicer than fillet steak with creamy potatoes? And brussels sprouts? OK, you might not all agree with the addition of the brussels as a side dish, but I’ve learned to love the wee critters. My spiced pickled red cabbage on the side would have created perfection on a plate, but I forgot it when I was serving up. I forgot to turn the oven off too.  So, it could have been the second time in 24 hours the house nearly burned down.

Yes, it’s been an eventful time.

We were relaxing in front of the fire (with a cheese board and some vintage port) when we noticed a car drawing up outside (we live far from anywhere, but beside a road, so notice these things on the rare occasions they happen). Then there was a knock at the gable window, beside where I was sitting. I couldn’t see who it was in the dark blackness outside. The Captain went out to investigate and asked if I was cooking anything when he went through the kitchen… but no, I wasn’t. And then we discovered that the kind stranger had stopped to inform us our wheelie bin (right beside our boiler and the side of the house) was on fire. It was seriously on fire, with flames shooting out of it and 3/4 of the bin now melted away. It was cold and dark and windy, with a drizzly rain spattering down on us. The boys pulled out the hose (not melted by the heat of the fire) and we spent the next half hour making sure the bin had no chance of bursting into flame again.

We’ll never know for sure what caused the fire, but suspect it may have been our house guest who had lit a fire earlier in the evening and burned lots and lots and lots of paper. The next morning she asked if it had been because she’d put hot ash in the bin. As I say, we’ll never know for sure.

Anyway… the next evening I attempted (yet again) to use up some more of the ingredients I’d bought in for the Christmas season, and it was time to finish that enormous pot of cream. I much prefer savoury to sweet (despite the huge number of recipes for sweet homebaked goods on this site) so decided on Janssen’s Temptation, that delicious potato gratin dish, baked in the oven till it’s all oozingly unctuous.

Janssen’s Temptation

  • A large pot of double cream
  • About the same amount of milk
  • A few large potatoes
  • An onion (or several if you are feeding the five thousand)
  • Anchovy fillets (although I’m reliably informed that this is WRONG and that it should be sprats, it’s just that we are a bit rubbish at translating Swedish and have translated ‘ansjovis’ which means sprats into anchovies… well, you would wouldn’t you?)
  • Some veg stock (or a cube, crumbled)
  • Seasoning
  • Some butter

I know, I know, I’ve not been too precise on the quantities here, but since I only ever make it when I’m using up what’s left int he fridge, how would I really know?

Preheat oven to 220C/400F/GM6

  1. Slice your onion (I always slice it in half long ways, and then put it on it’s flat side and slice it into thin crescent slices)
  2. Pop a dod of butter into a large heavy based frying pan and gently fry the onion over a low heat, till they are sort of soft-ish
  3. Butter a gratin dish. You choose the size, depending on the number you intend to feed and how many potatoes/onions you have
  4. If you’ve got a mandolin, slice your potatoes nice a thin. If you haven’t then you’ll take a bit longer over this bit, doing it with a sharp knife. If you don’t have a sharp knife or a mandolin then don’t even think about trying this recipe.  Go and buy a decent knife and a knife sharpener and then come back and get started
  5. Chop up some anchovy fillets. A whole tin if you’ve got it, or if you’ve got them in a big jar in the fridge, then chop as many as you fancy – you’ll need to add a few to each layer (see below)
  6. Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom of your gratin dish
  7. Add a think layer of onions
  8. And some anchovies and freshly ground black pepper
  9. Repeat this layering another one or two times, ending with a layer of potatoes
  10. Mix your cream with milk, roughly half and half. Add some veg stock if you have it, otherwise crumble in a veg cube
  11. Pour most of this over your potato layers, so it’s roughly half way up the side…
  12. Pop it in the oven and leave it for a good 20-30 minutes. Pour yourself a cocktail. You probably deserve it.
  13. Take it out of the oven and wonder ta how tasty it smells and looks. Pour the rest of the cream mixture over it. And pour yourself another cocktail.
  14. Leave it in the oven for another 20-30 minutes, till it is soft all the way through when you poke it with a knife. You may need to turn the oven down a bit and leave it longer if you’re enjoying the cocktails too much and haven’t put your steak on yet. Or if you were sensible you would have made a stew the day before which just needs re-heating and no further cooking would be required.

And that’s it. Tastiness on a plate. You’d have photos if I hadn’t had cocktails.

I could give you a photo of the melted wheelie bin, but really, it would put you off all your meals in 2014.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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.

The cat’s whiskers

17 Jun

Not really, it’s cat’s tongues. Or Langues de Chat biscuits. But I’ll come to them in a minute.

We had some friends over for supper yesterday. We were going to barbecue, which is lovely and simple and just involves prepping a variety of things and then bringing it all together in a communal cook-a-thon on our most excellent portable barbecue (an upcycled old wheelbarrow).

But it’s Scotland in mid-June so the skies opened and it didn’t stop raining all day long. Add that to a cold wind and it was clearly no evening for a barbecue.

Plan B was homemade burgers. So we had a totally retro meal with prawn cocktail to start (with bought-in iceberg lettuce, because when I went to pick lettuce from the garden I discovered the rabbit had been there before me. Grrrr), and strawberry ripple ice-cream for afters, with langues de chat biscuits.

I could get seriously addicted to these biscuits, so it’s just as well that they are ridiculously easy to make. As far as a biscuit goes, I think these deliver the max on Ease of Making vs Tasty Loveliness. And if you’re careful you can make them look utterly professional in a uniform sort of a way.

Langues de Chat

Preheat oven to 200C / GM6. Lining a baking sheet (or two) with greaseproof paper. Find your piping bag, and fit it with a plain nozzle.

  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • 100g softened, unsalted butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 120g plain flour, sifted
  1. Beat together the icing sugar and butter, till it is soft and fluffy
  2. Add the vanilla and then the egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition
  3. Fold in the plain flour
  4. Dollop it all into your piping bag (you know that the easiest way to do this is to put the whole bag into a tall container, folding the bag over the edges, a bit like how you’d line a bin with a bin liner)
  5. Squeeze the mixture onto your baking sheets (if you’re a true professional, you might have drawn lines on your paper, so all the biscuits are the same length. I’m not).. you are probably looking for 2″ long squeezes. They expand a bit on cooking so leave enough room for them to spread out.
  6. Bake for about 8 minutes, until the biscuits are lightly golden and going nicely brown at the edges.
  7. Leave for a minute or two on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

These are perfect with ice cream. Or a cup of coffee. Or a bowl of strawberries. Or made into sandwiches with jam, or lemon curd, or chocolate ganache (but do this just before you serve them as they’ll go soft after a wee while).

As an aside, the ice cream I made didn’t work. It turns out that if you don’t put enough sweet stuff in with the cream it stays too hard and feels like solid cream with ice crystals in it. Bah. And in the past I’ve made such nommy ice cream. Never mind. The biscuits were great. So was the company.

Note to self These biscuits only help weight loss if you don’t eat them, or any of the raw mixture. Or perhaps if you limit yourself to only one or two. And I mean only one or two in total, not just one or two at a time. They are seriously more-ish!  But seriously, they come out as such teeny wee light wee biscuits that they might be good for some people on a diet – one or two biscuits might give you enough of a wee sugary hit, without breaking the calorie bank.

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!

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!

Bringing home the bacon

16 Feb

Well, the plan is I won’t need to bring it home for much longer, as I’ll be curing my own!

I started my first cure this evening. Verdict in about a weeks’ time.

Dry sweetcure

Pork belly in a bag with sweetcure mix

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.

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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