Easter Treats

If you didn’t already know, you may have noticed from the constant instagram shots of cadburys creme eggs and bunny-based humour all over the internet today that it’s Easter Sunday. By law, we are required to eat our bodyweight in chocolate, and in my family, traditionally throw brightly coloured hard boiled eggs down a hill until they smash. But that’s a short story for another day…

In celebration of the resurrection of our lord and saviour The Easter Bunny, I invited an assortment of my closest lady-bros over to make hot cross buns. The last time I made these was aged about 8 with my Grandma, where “helping” consisted of eating all the mixed peel and smearing my dough-covered mitts on the furniture, walls and dog. At my mother’s recommendation I went for a classic Delia Smith recipe, probably the exact same one Grandma used, and for a first attempt I’m pretty pleased with the results!

Easter treats - Delia's hot cross buns

My only fault was not letting the dough rise enough to start with, which meant they were slightly denser than they should be, but flavour-wise they are spot on! If I’d been a little less impatient/lazy I could have added sweet shortcrust pastry crosses to the tops, rather than just scoring them, but I didn’t feel they needed them. I do tend to freeze the small balls of leftover dough from my pastry making though, so if the timing were right I might have just been able to whip out some pre-prepared. Ah well, another year perhaps!

My other Easter treat is my variation on a fantastic lunch I had a few years ago at the Riverford Field Kitchen. Hearty food served to long communal tables is the main attraction of this place, and I’ve been several times since, but the standout dish from my first visit was roast spring lamb served with a fresh and herby salsa verde. The tangy salsa cuts through the fattiness of the meat perfectly, making a refreshing change from the traditional mint sauce, so I thought I’d create my own version at home.

In further celebration of all things seasonal, all the herbs involved were plucked from our garden, with the addition of fresh wild garlic from the woods across the road. I covered the boneless lamb leg with a puree made from a handful of wild garlic and fresh rosemary leaves, mixed with salt, which cooks to form a soft crust. All of this was served up with roast potatoes, carrots and peas, and steamed purple sprouting broccoli from the garden. Bloody marvellous. I’m now sat back drinking prosecco and feeling rather pleased with myself.

salsa verde recipe

 

Salsa Verde

A handful of fresh mint

A handful of fresh parsley

(optional) 5 large leaves  wild garlic

1 clove garlic

1/2 a lemon

2 anchovies

1 heaped tbsp capers

A generous glug of olive oil

Black pepper to season

Finely chop all the ingredients except the olive oil and lemon, and mix together in a bowl. At this stage I stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and leave it to sit for a while, as the lemon juice helps take the harshness out of the raw garlic. After about 20 mins, mix in the olive oil (enough loosen it up into a thick sauce), taste and add more lemon juice if you would like it sharper.

 

it's not the most appetising picture but it sure was delicious!

it’s not the most appetising picture but it sure was delicious!

 

While my salsa verde went with roast lamb, it would also be great on a steak, or with any barbequed meat once the weather improves!

Advertisements

Meatless Mondays – Vegetable Jambalaya


Like many people these days I’m trying my best not to rely too heavily on meat in my diet. It’s an easy route to take as a meal option, but it’s an expensive habit and an environmentally unsustainable one at that, so I’m trying to get a bit of variety into my diet. The internet is full of people attempting “Meatless Mondays”, which I think is a fantastic idea, so I’m going to be blogging my efforts in the hope that some of my experiments will become favourites for any day of the week.

I’m starting off with jambalaya, a dish I usually make with chicken, but that contains so much flavour it’s still a fantastic meal without it. This recipe is vegan but you’d be hard-pressed to find a carnivore that would complain, so it’s great for entertaining if you’ve got guests with different dietary requirements.

Jambalaya is a traditional Creole dish from Louisiana, where French and Spanish influences and local ingredients have fused to create something closely related to paella and risotto. I’m a sucker for proper American cooking, a result of too many hours spent watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and jambalaya was a staple meal of my uni years. The process was usually accompanied by shouts of “JAM-BALAYA” from my housemates, which started out as a Scrubs reference but has long since lost all meaning.

Alongside the creole “holy trinity” of onion, pepper and celery, my vegetable version includes courgette. It isn’t an authentic ingredient but I think it works well with the other flavours, and it’s a nod to the french influence so I think I can forgive myself! You can also whack in a handful of frozen peas when you add the tomatoes for an extra bit of colour.

veggie jambalaya

Serves 4

1 large onion

2 sticks of celery

1 red pepper

1/2 an orange or yellow pepper

1 small courgette

1 clove of garlic

1 can of chopped tomatoes

280g basmati rice

1 heaped tbsp vegetable bouillon powder

1 heaped tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 bay leaf

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

 

Roughly chop the onion, celery and red pepper and fry in olive oil in a casserole or large , deep frying pan over a medium heat. As they begin to soften, chop the courgette into small semi-circular slices, mince the garlic and chuck them into the pan as well. Once the courgette starts to get a bit of colour to it, stir in the paprika and cayenne and let it sweat for a few more minutes before mixing in the rice. Boil a kettle and pour in enough water to cover the rice by about half an inch, and add the bouillon powder and bay leaf. Bring it all up to the boil and stir occasionally as the water reduces (you may find you need to add more water as you go, but do it in small quantities, you don’t wanna drown it!). As the rice gets close to being fully cooked and the water has mostly been absorbed, stir in the tin of tomatoes and the lemon juice. You may wish to add more paprika/cayenne at this stage as well, depending on how spicy you like things! Reduce everything down for about 5 more minutes, until the liquid has gone, remove the bay leaf (if you can find it!) and serve straight away.

 

So there you have it, my first Meatless Monday! Let me know if you’re trying it too, or even if you have a favourite veggie meal idea you want to share, I’m always looking for inspiration!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first rule of Nom Nom Club is…

So my friends from home and I do this thing. It started as a conversation between three of us at the pub, as all good ideas should, and became an (almost) monthly occurrence. We’re all quite seriously food obsessed, and we wanted an excuse to try out new dishes from around the world, and so Nom Nom Club was born…

For anyone who loves the social side of cooking, a dining club is the perfect evening. We pick a date, a theme and a host, and attempt to divvy up the food options a few weeks in advance, so everyone does their bit and we don’t get duplications. We often have the issue of just too much food, but we’re slowly getting the hang of portioning things out correctly.

Our most recent culinary adventures had a Caribbean theme, possibly reflecting our hankering for warmer weather. Jerk chicken is high on my list of all-time favourite foods, despite being a total wuss with spicy things, so I was definitely up for this one!

It was also the perfect excuse to visit my local world food supermarket and buy the Caribbean spices I’d been contemplating for weeks. A slight cheat must be confessed,that in making my jerk chicken I opted for the Dunn’s River Jerk Seasoning spice blend, rather than creating my own. Dunn’s River is a well established Caribbean brand so I thought it would be the safest way of replicating an authentic flavour. I’m sure that, come summertime I’ll be working on my own jerk spice rub, so I’ll pop that up on here when I have some success!

caribbean spices

One of the triumphs of the meal for me was an entirely improvised mango and avocado salsa made by my friend Kat, which provided much needed cooling contrast to the fiery jerk and the rich curry goat. Rough estimate of the recipe is below.

mango salsa

(serves 8 – perfect for a summer barbeque)

2 large mangoes – only just ripe so they are still firm

2 ripe avocados

4 tomatoes

4 spring onions

2 limes

A handful of fresh coriander

Chop all the ingredients except the limes to your desired size. We opted for quite a chunky salsa, but you may prefer a finer texture. Juice the limes over the top to taste, and toss together. Whack it on the table with some rice and peas and you’ve got the perfect sides to some spicy Caribbean cuisine!

 

IMG_1412edit

 

We ate: Jerk Chicken, Curry Goat (made with beef as the cotswolds are low on goat stockists…) and Curry Prawns. On the side we had Kat’s mango salsa, baked sweet potato, Millie’s excellent caribbean slaw and rice and peas. Nicole’s Coconut Pineapple Upside-down Cake went down a treat for dessert (I’m DYING for the recipe for this one btw Nicole!)

We drank: Rum, in all its forms, but largely in a tropical punch with mango puree, or a dark and stormy with ginger beer. Also Red Stripe, because yeah. (Millie’s rum punch recipe can be found over at her blog, The Kidson Report)

We listened to: Reggae, obviously. Actually it might’ve been Arcade Fire but let’s pretend it was reggae.

We played: Articulate, when we’d all had far too much rum to articulate anything, and that old favourite, Cards Against Humanity

New year, new foodz, new blogz

So, another year has begun, and this for me means more chances to eat more wonderful things,and subsequently blog about them. I know its a few days into 2012 now, so you’re probably bored of it all and wondering why I’m doing a new year’s post at this late date.

Well, y’know, I’ve been…busy.

Mainly drinking.

And recovering from drinking.

AND SO SHOULD YOU HAVE BEEN!

I’ve eaten so much over the last week or so that there’s no way I could blog it all, and I’m not going to try. Suffice to say I could happily go another year without seeing a turkey, let alone eating one.

Instead I’m going to talk about delicious wintery treats, as heaven knows we’ll need them to get through January! Today was a baking day with my lovely pals over at Whimsy and Mustard and Gangsta, Dahling, where Mustard had found an awesome muffin recipe we HAD to try. If a recipe instructs you to dip baked goods in melted butter and cover them in cinnamon sugar, we’re pretty much on board. Seriously, try it and be happy you did. Also, the blog it came from is adorable.

But I couldn’t help thinking it would go sooooo well with a ridiculously calorific, so-rich-there’s-no-way-it-can-be-good-for-you mug of hot chocolate. I mean, if you’re gonna dip muffins in butter and sugar you’re clearly not doing weight watchers, so why not go all out?

And so, to that end, here is my recipe for Proper Hot Chocolate:

For 4 people (or 2 very greedy people)

you will need:

200g of decent dark chocolate (The more cocoa solids it has, the better)

4 mugs of milk – use the mugs you’re serving it in to get the measurements, or be french/greedy and use 2 cereal bowls instead

100ml double cream

Sugar to taste

Method:

Put the bar of chocolate in a plastic sandwich bag, or between 2 tea towels, and beat the bejeezus out of it with a rolling pin until it has all broken up into small pieces. Aside from anything its a great stress reliever, and quite good fun! Gently heat up the milk in a saucepan, and add the bashed up chocolate, stirring as you go (preferably with a whisk, its easiest!). It doesn’t matter if it boils a bit but be careful not to let it boil over. Makes a terrible mess y’know. Once all the chocolate has melted and the milk is simmering hot, take it off the heat and pour in the double cream, stirring as you go. You don’t have to use all 100ml, in fact you don’t actually need it at all but it makes it that bit more special, so add it depending on your taste really. Pour into the mugs (carefully, this can also be pretty messy! Well..if you’re me it can..) and let people add sugar if they want. Personally I like the bitterness, as it’s quite rich anyway, but if you have a sweeter tooth than me then go for it!

There!

The perfect accompaniment to all this sugar coated nonsense!

Happy new year everyone!

Leftover Chicken Recipe 2 – Chicken Risotto

Risotto is one of my favourite comfort foods, so it’s a no brainer that some of my leftover chicken should go into making it The night after the roast I made huge quantities of this, but I’m scaling down the recipe for a more normal sized meal, as I doubt many other people will have 4 chickens to use up…

Risotto for eight people needs two pans!

To serve 4

you will need:

– The bits of chicken you salvaged before making stock (depends how much meat was left on there, but you should have a decent handful at least)

– 1 large onion

– 6 rashers of bacon

– 6 large closed cup mushrooms (or an equal amount of whatever mushrooms you have.)

– 2 cloves of garlic

– 1.5 litres of homemade chicken stock

– 380g arborio risotto rice

– Splash of white wine (optional)

– Olive oil and butter for frying

– Grated parmesan

Method:

Finely chop the onion and garlic, and fry on a low heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan or casserole. Once they begin to soften, chop the bacon and mushrooms into small bits and add to the pan. Once the bacon looks cooked, add the leftover chicken and fry for a few minutes. Meanwhile, put the chicken stock on the stove in a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Add a small amount more oil or butter to the bacony, chickeny, oniony tastiness, and then chuck in the rice, frying it for a few minutes until the grains are well coated in oil, then pour in the white wine if using. I say a splash here, its really up to you how much you want to use, but I can quite easily use about a third of a bottle when making for 4, so its just a matter of tasting it as you go and adding it bit by bit. Pour in the hot stock, and stir regularly for about 30 mins. If it soaks up all the stock too fast, you can add more, either home-made if you have it or a stock cube diluted to the packet’s instructions, and just add small amounts as needed. The risotto is done when the rice is soft, and the liquid has burned off to leave the whole thing kinda gloopy. At this point, add a LOT of Parmesan. You can also use cheddar, its tasty but gives a much stronger flavour, so make sure you don’t overdo it!

And there you have it, the second thing to do with leftover chicken! This still isn’t the end though, next stop: SOUP!

Leftovers is what I want…

So after all that food, we have the problem of 4 chicken carcasses and what to do with them.

I HATE to see food go to waste, particularly meat, and I do try my damnedest to make every last bit count, so I jumped at the task of making these 4 chickens go as far as they could.

Leftover Chicken recipe 1 – Chicken Stock

After stripping pretty much every last bit of meat from the bones and putting it to one side for other recipes, I went for the simplest and most obvious use of a chicken carcass; chicken stock. I have been teased for my insistence on making my own stock after a roast, but its so easy to do, and its on another level to anything a stock cube has to offer.

The basic method is this:

you will need:

– your chicken carcass

– 2 large carrots, chopped into thirds

– 1 large onion, peeled and cut into quarters

– 2 sticks of celery, broken in half

– 2 bay leaves, plus any other herbs you like – rosemary and thyme are always winners.

– 2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed with the back of a knife

– a generous helping of freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Put all the ingredients in a large pan, and cover with about 1.5 litres of water. Bring to the boil and cook for about 2 hours, then strain off into a bowl and leave to cool. Use immediately in soups, stocks and gravy or pour into plastic bags and freeze.

Epic Roast – Christmas Edition

As it’s my final Christmas as a student, our annual Uni Christmas Meal had to be something special. It was the second time I’d attempted an epic roast using our ovens and those of our next door neighbours, but this time I upped the stakes by using FOUR CHICKENS. yes, you heard me. Four. Such extravagance…

I’d been shopping in Co-op a few days before and discovered a large number of reduced chickens. So, naturally, I bought them all. There were six in total but it would have meant it was one between two and that’s a little excessive, even for me. These tasty blighters formed the backbone to the meal, but there was so much more to be made. We had all the trimmings you would expect, from roast potatoes and veg to cabbage fried with bacon and onion. I even made my own bread sauce, a skill I haven’t completely mastered yet…

Props to Olly for providing the cauliflower cheese and roasted vegetables, and Mahoney and Sherwood for a beautifully finished lemon meringue pie, despite the initial setbacks!

Here’s a picture of my schedule for the ovens:

As you can see, there was a lot on the menu. But as everyone knows, Christmas calories don’t count.

In the spirit of festive decadence we had two types of stuffing, good old fashioned Paxo, and my mum’s special recipe sausage meat one, which is my favourite stuffing possibly ever.

Lots of our guests subsequently asked for the recipe, so here it be:

Mama Jane’s Epic Stuffing 

N.B. This is just a single quantity, will serve 6 – 8 quite comfortably

You will need:

– 700g  pack Waitrose Essential Sausagemeat

– 200g Dried Apricots

– 6 rashers streaky bacon

– One large onion

– Black pepper

– Olive oil and butter for frying

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°/gas mark 5. Finely chop the onion and streaky bacon, and fry in oil and butter until the onions are soft and the bacon is beginning to crisp. Leave to one side to cool, and finely chop the apricots. When the onions and bacon are cool, mix them in with the apricots and sausage meat in a mixing bowl, sprinkle on some pepper and put into a heatproof ceramic dish. Bake in the oven for about 45 mins or until the top is brown. If you want to double the quantities (as I did for the epic roast) I would advise giving it at least an hour, and if you’re not sure cutting it open to check if the colour is uniform all the way through.

If you make it, let me know how it goes!