Sunday, April 13

Courgette and Sundried Tomato Pasta

Remember when sundried tomatoes came out? Following Delia's lead we took the oily shrivelled prune-like fruit-come-vegetable to our collective hearts. Her 'Summer Collection', published in 1993 was stuffed with the Nineties revelation that was the sundried tomato. For a brief while the sundried tomato nearly did a Chicken Tikka Massala and became National Treasure; so cool, so sophisticated and yet usefully practical (holding their own in the oily jar for too long than I would care to admit in the fridge door).  But it wasn't to be, so what happened? Why their disappearence from the canape plate (in 1993 it was still permitted to serve canapes on a plate, slates still being associated with Victorian school rooms)? When Anti Pasti was still in its hey day, how did the once mighty sundried tomato fall from grace? Well, now I have the answer...
The sun blushed tomato. When this young upstart appeared on the scene the older sibling stood no chance. Why choose a greasy sodden sundried tomato when lined up against the sweet, dainty and colourful sunblushed? You wouldn't would you?
Except if you do internet shopping, and regularly get confused by the Gulliver sized images.  So when turning up in my internet shopping I could do little except indulge in some food nostalgia, berate myself for my slapdash clicking and tuck the little jar in the back of the cupboard exiled until further notice. You see I had wanted to believe the cost of sunblused tomatoes did not mean you need to apply for an overdraft (extension). It's not the case, you still do. And that's why you buy sundried tomatoes, as a mistake, but in hope.
As noted previously Delia's favourite tomatoes are practical, so when flying in the house at 5pm (toddlers and babies gradually melt down every minute past 5pm that they do not eat) I knew my internet mistake was now my saviour. Fate perhaps? After all the sunblushed variety can tolerate not being eaten for only 2 days. It would not have existed for this emergency. I had no dinner plans, no time and as stress fogged my mind limited ideas. As a parent I always feel there is a veg requirement and as a parent I always know that pasta is a safe bet. With these factors in mind here is my 5 minute emergency dinner:
Sundried Tomato and Courgette Pasta (serves 3)
1 courgette (diced)
10ish sundried tomatos (chop into small pieces)
225g pasta
1 tsp pesto

1. Cook pasta as per packet instruction
2. Meanwhile saute courgette in olive oil. Once softened add pieces of sundried tomato and let tomato and oil colour and flavour the courgette.
3. Drain pasta reserving small amount of cooking liquid.
4. Stir in courgette/ tomato mixture and add pesto. Stir through.
5. Serve with Parmesan

courgette and sundried tomato pasta
Courgette and sundried tomato pasta

Tuesday, April 8

Mushrooms on Toast

You can tell a town by its farmers market.
My previous experience has been wholly Home Counties. A gazebo covered town square stuffed with North Face gilets and black labradors. But in the last year we've moved, and this small shift away from the m25 has produced a subtle change in our sphere of influence. Commuter hinterland no longer, the browsers of Winslow Farmers Market are more Midsomer Murders than Morse. We, thrown off guard by the presence of actual farmers manning the stalls, threw caution to the wind at the bread stall and ended up with a Date and Walnut Loaf. Who said life in the provinces isn't exciting?
Cut to Monday lunchtime and I find myself in the enviable position of making lunch in a kitchen still home to the feel-good fare of the weekend past.  Not only the afforementioned Date and Walnut Loaf (slightly stale but not beyond toaster salvation) but Mary Berry's rather gluttonous Stilton Butter. Buoyed by recent reports that butter is not actually badness incarnate I set about making mushrooms on this rather luxurious toast. Finished off with this indulgent and apparently not-too-bad-for-you stilton butter it is rather delicious. And I highly recommend.

mushrooms on toast

Monday, January 7

Take one jar of mincemeat...

Without a walk-in wardrobe style pantry a la Nigella I need to burn through the leftover mincemeat. It was so good at the time: 3 hours of slow cooking treating us to a Christmas Cologne worthy of Jo Malone. Turns out a little mincemeat goes a long way, and at least 50 mince pies later I am left with multiple jars of the fruited sticky stuff.
Calling Brussels:  We have a mincemeat mountain.

The 'Dealing with the leftovers' chapter in recipe books is confined to the Christmas dinner itself. Curries, frittatas, bubble and squeak - all perfectly good solutions, but I am looking for the something a little more niche. How do you deal with 5 jars of spiced, sugared, brandied fruit and peel?

A cake? A tart? Baked with fruit?

Ideas please!

Tuesday, December 18

Nothing says PARTY like a cocktail sausage

Vol au vents, blinis, mini fish and chips, pah... I laugh in the face of these canapes. So seventies, so nineties, so noughties. And I give you THE COCKTAIL SAUSAGE. The humble miniature banger has weathered many a finger food fad, reinventing itself for the era and season.
What party could be complete without a last minute dash to buy the cocktail sticks that the cocktail sausage demands? Are they in the cling film aisle? Are they with the drinks? AARGHGHH people are arriving in FIFTEEN MINUTES and these sausages have no sticks.
So Merry Christmas one and all and let them eat sausages

Redcurrant jelly
Dark brown sugar
Soy sauce
Juice of one orange

Marinate for one hour/ one day/ one night (however long you have, or at the point you remember) and cook.
Serve with cocktail sticks and Now That's What I Call Xmas

Christmas sausages
Christmas sausages

Tuesday, November 27

I've never seen Dirty Dancing

"I've never seen Star Wars", so says the Radio 4 show. That's nothing... I've never seen Dirty Dancing, Top Gun, Pulp Fiction, The Lion King, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, Schindlers List, The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, Fight Club and the list goes on, and on.

I've come out; I am officially film-ignorant.

But what of food? 
I've never eaten frogs legs, a doner kebab, pie and mash (the proper kind with liquor), all kinds of offal, and macaroni cheese.

Macaroni cheese: the Dirty Dancing of the culinary world. Americanesque, comforting, homely and to me ... a mystery.

After consulting a few books to understand how this food slanket works, I have the concept and an idea of how to create my own.
Let's Eat: Tom Parker Bowles - ingredients list demands a trip to La Fromagerie or Waitrose cheese counter for everyone else.
Delia Smith Cookery Course Part 2 - o so fiddly. This is part pasta bake part souffle... not really necessary. Like going on Mastermind with a special subject of Allo Allo.
Jamie Oliver - The yin to Delia's yang... if its not in his 15 minute meals it should be. Where Delia has you whisking egg whites to stiff peaks Jamie reckons a white sauce is a step too far in the effort stakes.

Here's my version:

Macaroni (cooked as per instruction)
Cheese Sauce
Gratin Top

Cheese Sauce.
Make a quick roux, flour and butter. Add milk while on heat and whisk whisk whisk to thicken. Once thickened take off heat and add cheese. I used cheddar, gruyere and comte. It is a good opportunity to use up any hardened ends of past its prime cheese that you may have in your fridge.
I added black pepper and nutmeg. I feared it could be a little bland without the latter.

Gratin Top
Whizzed up a slice of bread and some parmesan.

Mix in the cooked macaroni with the cheese sauce. Sprinkle over the topping and there you have a quattro formaggi macaroni. Bake until bubbling, approx 25 minutes.
Next stop Dirty Dancing, am I the only one who has never seen it?!

Tuesday, November 20

Chicken tonight. And tomorrow. And the next night.

Forgive me if I am coming over a little Mrs Beeton, but tonight's installment embraces George Osborne's Age of Austerity and serves it up for dinner x3.

First dinner first. When one is coming over all thrift in the kitchen it is generally advised to start with a roast. But you and I know roasts aren't always convenient. Sunday Morning and pre-roast: before you know it The Archers Omnibus is done and dusted, you're half way through Desert Island Discs (The Reunion if you're unlucky) and you realise this roasting marathon is only half run. I propose the roast for the time-pressed is the Pot Roast and in my case, the rather bizarre sounding Chicken in Milk.
This a Jamie Oliver special, in fact this is retro Jamie Oliver when he was still known as the Naked Chef, hadn't come over all political and Sainsburys was just a twinkle in his eye.
So I can't spoil the recipe for you, but you can find it here: Chicken in Milk
Suffice to say it involved a Chicken, a pot, milk, lemon, cinammon and sage. And don't let the "ready steady cook" nature of that random basket put you off it was one the most delicious meals I've had in a long time.
chicken in milk, pot roast
Chicken In Milk, roasting pot-style

Serve with a Semi Lux Potato Cake

potato gratin with parmesan
potato gratin with parmesan

Meal two. And now we get to the frugal food. The bit where your (pot) roast really comes good. Monday night and you have ready-to-go-roasted-to-perfection chicken with which to construct your supper. Cliches are cliches are so for good reason. They are truths or well tested success stories. So what better for day 1 of leftovers than the cliche of curry.
There is a baby in our household so curries have to fragrant and sutble, rather than punchy and cough-inducing.
Here's my recipe:
 Leftover chicken
Ground Cumin 1 tsp
Ground Coriander 1.5tsp
Turmeric 1tsp
Cardamom seeds of 6 pods
Tomato x 2
Lime (zest and juice)
Coconut milk (1 tin)
Fresh coriander (if you have any, am trying to keep it store cupboard)

Fry the onion, garlic and ginger until soft. Add all of the spices and continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken and try and coat the chicken with the spicy mix. Don't worry if it doesn't quite coat as the mix will be quite dry.
Once everything is mixed and sizzling pour in the coconut milk. Chop the tomato and tip into the mix. Bubble away for as long as you wish the flavours to mature (afterall the chicken is cooked). Add the lime zest, juice and coriander at the end.
fragrant gentle curry cooking
Curry cooking
fragrant gentle curry
Curry serving
And lastly the modern day Quiche, updated for the 21st century by being renamed on the gastropub menu as The Tart. Chicken of course, with the addition of leeks and cheddar.

Despite the Beeton reference at the top of the page, this is 2012 and if you're making a Quart (quiche/tart...just can't decide) from scratch then your local supermarket will helpfully sell you a ready-made shortcrust base. Make do and...make life easier is my motto for thrift food.
Sweat the leeks (I used two) in butter/oil (oil for austerity, butter for taste) for approx 10 minutes. Meanwhile beat two eggs, and add whatever cream or milk (preferably whole) you have in your fridge. I used a small carton of double cream, seasoned with black pepper and grated in a small lump of mature cheddar.
 Tip your buttery leeks over your pastry base, top with shredded roast chicken and pour over you dairy mixture. Bake for approx 40 minutes at 170 until the custard has set and is golden brown.

Tart in the ovenChicken and Leek quiche

Thursday, November 15

1 of your 5 day in cake form

Overbought bananas?
What are your options?

1. ripen all your green tomatoes from this years non-harvest
2. old skool classic banana bread
3. banana and chocolate muffins

No recipe... just some nice photos and link to this most lovely book

banana and chocolate muffins
banana and chocolate muffins

banana and chocolate muffins cooling in tin