Wednesday, 31 October 2007


To be honest, this is all about me indulging my inner child, though I hardly need to point out thatit's not so much an inner child as a loony, unrestrained outer child at times like these. I'd like to be able to say that it's all for the children, but that wouldn't be true. Even though neither of them really have any concept of what Hallowe'en is all about (or rather what it's become), I have jack o' lantern candles on the mantelpiece and couldn't resist doing something fun for supper tonight.

Hubble Bubble Soup for Hallowe'en

garlic-infused olive oil
1/2 an onion, chopped finely
3 handfuls frozen peas
500ml vegetable stock
30g grated cheddar cheese

toast, to serve (and see below)

Heat the oil and fry the onion until soft. Add the stock to the pan with two handfuls of the frozen peas. Cook until the peas are nice and tender, then purée. Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining peas and the grated cheese. Stir well and simmer until thesecond batch of peas are cooked through.

I served this with some toast cut out with some spooky-shaped biscuit cutters; bat, pumpkin, ghost, that kind of thing. The boys both wolfed it down and Christopher was very taken with his bat toast, even if he doesn't really get it just yet. Wait until next year, there'll be no stopping us!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007


I was so pleased with the boys and my lunch today. We often have a bowl of soup for lunch, either freshly made or defrosted, but today's batch really was in a league of its own.

There were quite a lot of potatoes and chunks of butternut squash left over after dinner last night, so I'd stashed them in a plastic box and put them in the fridge. This morning, unable to bear the thought of wasting them, I decided to do my usual thing of turning any cooked vegetables that are languishing in the fridge into a lunchtime soup. The habit is inspired by my Mum's brilliant roast dinner soups, made with the leftovers and stock from the bones. They're really good and for years were the only soups I'd eat.

I simmered the potatoes and squash pieces in some vegetable stock until they were really soft and collapsing, then puréed it all using my hand-held stick blender. A splash of milk to let the soup down to the consistency I wanted, a quick reheat and lunch was ready. You can clearly adapt this to anything you want to use, or use up. Leftover roast 'Mediterranean'-type vegetables make a good soup, as does (to my mind) any cheesy mashed potato that wasn't gobbled up the first time around.

With some bread rolls and a couple of cheeses to pick at, it was a lunch I'd happily have again and again. I'd even consider strategically planning the same dinner for the night before we have guests for lunch so that I could make it for them.

In other news, I made my Christmas cake today. I've already published the recipe for my Celebration Fruit Cake, which I make every year for Christmas and occasionally for other reasons. I've double-wrapped it in greaseproof paper and foil and tucked it away in a tin to be decorated the week before the big day.

Monday, 29 October 2007

And it's only October!

Some things you just have to make in advance. The essential Christmas ‘big three’ are among them and I like to get these done and dusted as soon as possible. Today I tackled the mincemeat - just the cake and the Christmas pudding left to do.  I'm taking the boys to visit their Godmother at the weekend. It's James' first birthday on Friday, so I sense a big baking bonanza coming on!


Seriously easy, and the homemade stuff is usually miles better than anything you can buy. This recipe makes three 450g jars to keep for Christmas and three little 200g jars which are useful for presents. I sterilise the jars, and their lids, in diluted sterilising liquid (from the chemists) for 30 minutes, then rinse everything with freshly-boiled water and dry them with a clean linen ‘glass cloth’.

3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
650g mixed dried fruit and peel
175g shredded suet
175g light muscovado sugar
¼ tsp each of ground cinnamon, ground mixed spice and ground ginger
about ¼ tsp-worth of freshly grated nutmeg
zest and juice of 1 orange
100ml brandy

Put all the ingredients into a really big bowl, then mix everything together really well. Pour over the orange juice and the brandy and mix again. Spoon the mincemeat into cooled sterilised jars and store in a cool dark place until Christmas.

For dinner tonight I made Julia's fab butternut squash, potato and cheesy pork chop thing from A Slice of Cherry Pie. I used Y Fenni cheese this time, which was a great variation.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Feeding Friends

It's been over a week since my last post, but things just don't stop for us (for which read me) at the moment. The boys and I had a fabulous week staying with my folks and were thoroughly spoiled - just what you need from your Mum and Dad, or Granny and Grandpa.

I even managed to fit in a couple of solo days out while my Mum looked after the children, which was bliss. I love them to bits, but sometimes it's nice to walk at your own pace and just poke around in shops for a bit of retail therapy. Souring the treat was my fruitless search for some attractive daytime shoes in a size 9, even after visiting a major shopping centre and (I think) every shoe shop in Bath! I bumped into more than one person on an identical mission while I was out, and nearly all the shop assistants admitted that mine is now a common problem - so WHY aren't the suppliers meeting the demand? Yes I'm tall, but I still want to be able to buy glamorous shoes with a decent heel, not ugly pumps and things that look like orthopaedic school shoes. Sorry, rant over.

When we got home on Friday night, it was a quick turnaround before some friends arrived to stay on Saturday. The boys stayed up a bit late for dinner and I cooked chili con carne with all the trimmings, followed by a Baked Alaska.

My Big Fat Chilli con Carne

1 onion, sliced
1 tbsp mild chilli powder
1 tsp each of ground cumin and dried oregano

1 beef stock cube
500g beef mince
400g can chopped tomatoes
400g can red kidney beans, drained

200g can sweetcorn, drained (or equivalent amount of frozen sweetcorn)
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped

Heat some garlic-infused olive oil in a large ovenproof pan with a lid and fry the onion with the spices and herbs until soft. Add the mince and brown it really well, then tip in the tomatoes, the crumbled stock cube and half a can of water. Bring to the boil then put the lid on the pan and transfer it to a 150°c oven for 30 minutes. Stir in the drained kidney beans, the corn and the red pepper, then return the covered pan to the oven for another half an hour or so.

For a family meal I usually serve this with baked potatoes or rice, some salad and a bowl of grated cheddar cheese but, for something a little bit special I like to have all the trimmings; rice, tortilla chips, guacamole, soured cream and grated cheese. Even after all that we had room for a bit of pudding , so another retro favourite was delivered with a flourish...I used a bought sponge flan case for the base, topped with some caramel dulce de leche, but you can equally use some good jam or fresh fruit, puréed or not and even - gasp - make your own cake base if you like.

Baked Alaska

small bought sponge flan case
Dulche de Leche, jam, fruit or similar to cover the sponge base
ice cream, preferably not 'soft scoop'

For the meringue:

3 egg whites
150g caster sugar

Put the sponge on an ovenproof plate and top it with the caramel or whatever. Preheat the oven to 210°c. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then whisk in the sugar to make a thick and glossy meringue. You can have this done before dinner and just finish things off at the last minute. When you're ready for pudding, pile the ice cream onto the prepared base, then thickly, and completely, cover it with the meringue. nPop it in the hot oven for about 5 minutes until the meringue is crisp and golden on the outside. Serve immediately, it doesn't keep well as you can imagine!

After the children were in bed, we shared drinks and some cheese while we played Scrabble, before moving on to Pass the Pigs and 'Simpsons' Monopoly.

For lunch today I whipped up a batch of my Split Pea Soup with Prosciutto, which went down very well.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Use Your Loaf!

I'm taking the boys to my parents' house for a week tomorrow, so most of today has been spent preparing for that, either packing bags or stocking up the cupboards with user-friendly food for Karl who - shock horror - has to cope on his own for a bit.

Tonight I made a sausage loaf for our dinner. It's another one that takes a while in the oven but isn't much work to put it together. The original plan was to save the leftovers for a mid-journey picnic tomorrow but, as there were no leftovers, I shall have to rethink that one...You can use whatever herbs you like; whatever will complement the sausages you've chosen. I had some good old-fashioned butcher's pork sausages, so I chopped some sage and thyme together.

Sausage Loaf

8 good-quality thick sausages
1 onion, diced
fresh herbs (see above)
4 tbsp fine semolina
1 large egg
8 rashers streaky bacon

Line a 900g/2lb loaf tin with 7 of the bacon rashers, reserving one for later. Fry the onion in a knob of butter until soft and golden brown, then whizz the fried onions to a purée in the blender (stay with me here). Split the sausage skins and squeeze out the meat into a bowl. Add the herbs, semolina and the beaten egg, then scrape the onion purée into the bowl and mix everything together really well.. Spoon the sausage mixture into the bacon-lined tin and spread out evening, smoothing the top. Lay the reserved piece of bacon centrally along the top of the loaf, then fold the edges of the other bacon rashers inwards to completely cover the surface. Bake at 200°c for 50 minutes until the loaf is cooked right through to the centre. Turn out onto a plate and garnish with a fresh herb sprig to serve.

Serve with steamed potatoes or mash and a green vegetable. Tonight I cooked some of my Savoy Cabbage Braised in Chicken Stock, which we really enjoy with this, but a mixture of peas and sweetcorn goes down well too.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007


We're all down with colds in varying degrees, plus the boys and I got caught in the rain when we went shopping to buy Christopher a replacement flask earlier. He broke the lid on his yesterday, typically just days before we go on a long car journey and he'll need it! We managed to get an identical one, which pleased him, though neither of us enjoyed the weather. Luckily we all had woolly hats with us. So tonight, just in case, I thought I'd better administer a super-sized dose of vegetables at dinner time. This variation of a good old cottage pie is, I think, even better than the usual 'standard' one I make, and I'm sure I'll make it again before too long.

Mega-Veg Cottage Pie

2 large parsnips
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1-2 sticks of celery
250g lean beef mince
4 tbsp split red lentils
knob of butter, melted
25g grated parmesan

Peel the parsnips and cut into large chunks. Cook until tender, either in boiling water or in a steamer, for about 10-15 minutes. When cooked, put them through a potato ricer or coarsely mash them. Don't bother to stir it together if you rice it, it gives a really nice texture to the top of the pie.

Meanwhile, heat some olive oil (garlic-infused, if you've got some) and fry the finely chopped onion, carrot and celery until soft. Set aside in a bowl, then brown the mince thoroughly. Add the lentils and 250ml water, then return the vegetables to the pan and simmer until the lentils are cooked through. They will absorb a lot of the liquid, so add a splash more water if it gets a bit too dry.

Tip the meat mixture into an ovenproof dish, then top with the parsnip. Brush with a little melted butter and sprinkle over the parmesan. Pop it in the oven and bake at 180°c for 20 minutes or so, until the top is crisp and tinged with brown.

I don't think that this pie really needs anything to go with it, although Karl loves a good sploosh of Henderson's Relish on anything like this. Chris is really keen on the stuff too, the Sheffield genes are obviously strong!

Monday, 15 October 2007

Easy Peasy (Nice and Cheesy)

This is something I occasionally make as a lunch for me and the boys; tonight, with the addition of some prosciutto that needed using up, it made a good evening meal for the four of us. It is essentially a rip-off of spaghetti alla carbonara, but I find it to be a little more child-friendly with the short pasta and the peas (always a favourite, I find). You could, of course, substitute chopped ham or cooked bacon for the prosciutto, or leave the meat out altogether (which is how I cook it as a lunch dish anyway).

Cheesy Peasy Pasta

200g penne
60g frozen peas
knob of butter
100g prosciutto, chopped
2 large eggs
60ml milk
60g grated cheddar cheese
Boil the pasta, adding the peas for the last couple of minutes of cooking time. Drain, reserving a cupful of the cooking water, then return the pasta and peas to the pan with a knob of butter. Stir the shreds of prosciutto through the pasta, then beat the eggs, milk and cheese together and add to the pan. Stir well, adding a splash of the reserved cooking water to bring the sauce together if necessary. Season with black pepper and serve immediately.
I like to have, quite simply, a good-sized portion of green salad to go with; though Karl and the boys had garlic bread too, I find this meal filling enough without any extra carbs.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy!

We've had an incredibly busy week with one thing and another, and it shows no sign of letting up over the weekend or beyond. I'm taking the boys to see my parents next Friday, so I'm definitely hoping for a bit of a rest! It's times like these when I'm really glad to have a pretty extensive back catalogue of basic, no-fuss meals, because sometimes, as Nigella Lawson once wrote you really do "have to hit the kitchen running".

On Wednesday night, a friend who I hadn't seen since before I was married (over six years ago - eek!) came to supper. We only recently found out that we both live in the area (!). Hubby was at work, so we had dinner with Christopher and James; I cooked a big dish of my Vaguely Middle-Eastern Couscous, accompanied by pitta bread, yoghurt and a minted tomato and cucumber salad I followed this with a plate of Fabulous Chocolate Brownies. After the boys were safely tucked up, we settled down to a great evening of gossiping and poring over photographs. It's been so long since I had a girly night in with a friend!

I needed more brownies for Thursday, when thay were my contribution to a serious play-fest with the children at another friend's house, followed by lots of errand-running all over town on my part. For dinner I cobbled together a Potato and Bacon Layer, always popular and very straightforward, thank goodness.

Now that Christopher has reached the milestone of a - drum roll please - china plate at dinnertime, rather than his plastic ones, I wanted to cook him a favourite meal to celebrate, and to relax after the hectic last few days. He's always loved sausages (as, I think, do all children) and these Sweetcorn Pancakes go very nicely alongside some oven-cooked bangers. Liberally lubricated with ketchup (for Christopher), with fruit to follow, they made for a balanced meal that the boys could both eat without any assistance. After I get them off to bed tonight, I'm going to collapse with my knitting and enjoy some time off my feet before it all starts again tomorrow. Still, can't complain - I'd much rather be busy than bored, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Long, Slow and Comforting

This is another of my childhood favourites and just wonderful for a cold autumn evening. We've had the fire lit for the first time and, now that the nights are really drawing in early, our thoughts turn to hearty stews, braises and casseroles. Karl's thoughts are mainly of pie, but that's not a seasonal thing, just a Karl thing! It does take a long time to cook, but there's very little preparation involved, so you can get on with whatever while it does its thang in the oven.

Try to get thinly-sliced 'sandwich'-type steaks, as you need to beat them out very flat. I have managed to do this with braising steak, by slicing it horizontally myself before proceeding with the usual method, but it's a bit of a faff, to be honest. You can also use half-and-half beef stock and red wine as the liquid (which is how my Mum does it), but I did it this way when I had no beef stock available, and we decided that we preferred it this way. You need some fairly plain starch to soak up the delicious gravy - I prefer baked potatoes as they cook, without intervention, alongside the casserole in the oven. I also need, need to have a substantial helping of green vegetables with this dish; broccoli tonight, but Savoy cabbage is also excellent.

Paupiettes of Beef

4 thin steaks (see above)
4 rashers unsmoked back bacon
mixed dried herbs
1 large onion, sliced
1 tbsp flour
300ml red wine

Beat the steaks out thinly. Lay one rasher of bacon on top of each steak and season with pepper. Sprinkle mixed dried herbs over each, then roll up tightly and secure with cocktail sticks. Heat some oil in a large casserole and fry the steak rolls until browned. Set aside, then gently fry the onion until soft. Add the flour and cook for a minute or so, stirring well. Pour in the wine and bring to the boil, scraping up any nice crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the steak rolls to he pan, cover and cook in the oven at 160°c for 1 1/2 hours.

Best served with another glass of red wine and a comfortable chair to collapse into afterwards!

Monday, 8 October 2007

The Good Things in Life

You know the saying, "you don't know what you're missing..."? Tonight's dinner pretty well sums that up for me. Because neither of my parents can stand them, we never had parsnips in the house and I didn't so much as taste one until I was 20. Once I did, though, I was hooked. This soup recipe comes from the peerless Jane Grigson's wonderful book Good Things and is quite simply perfect in its simplicity. I adore this book and, if you don't already have a copy I heartily recommend it. It has recently been republished in hardback by Grub Street. The recipe itself calls for beef stock but, as I didn't have any in the freezer this time, I substituted duck stock, which I did have. It worked very well, too - though I wouldn't want to cook it with anything other than a strong, richly-flavoured homemade stock. As the book was first published in 1971, the recipe uses imperial measurements and I have left it alone. I can't compete with Mrs Grigson; these words are hers.

Curried Parsnip Soup

3oz butter
large parsnip
4oz chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
tablespoon flour
rounded teaspoon curry powder
2 pints hot beef stock (and see above)
1/4 pint cream

Peel and slice the parsnip. Put the onion, parsnip and garlic into a heavy pan with the butter and cook for 10 minutes slowly with the lid on the pan. The vegetables must not brown, but gently absorb the butter. Add flour and curry powder to take up the fat, and gradually incorporate the hot beef stock. Simmer until the parsnip is cooked. Liquidize or push through the mouli-légumes. Return to the pan, correct seasoning with salt, pepper and a little more curry powder if liked (but be cautious: keep the flavour mild). Add the cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives. Serve with croûtons of bread fried in butter and oil.

Note: liquidized soup may need the further dilution of some extra stock, or some creamy milk.

I feel I must confess that we didn't eat the soup with croûtons, but with homemade bread and some chorizo sausage. The spicy paprika flavour is brilliant with this subtly-flavoured, velvety potage.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Bite this Chump!

Lamb for dinner tonight - some big, fat chump chops from the butcher in the next village. I much prefer chump chops to the ubiquitous cutlet chops - more meat, more crisp fat and, ultimately, more flavour. I roasted them, on a rack, over some big sprigs of rosemary and squashed cloves of garlic for 20 minutes at 200°c, then served them up with mashed potatoes, broccoli, cabbage and a rosemary and redcurrant sauce. This easy sauce dresses up a meal like tonight's no end, and makes the most of well-flavoured, good-quality lamb without overpowering it.

Rosemary & Redcurrant Sauce

100g redcurrant jelly
200ml lamb stock
large sprig fresh rosemary

Melt the redcurrant jelly in a small pan and pour in the lamb stock. Add the sprig of rosemary, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Cover the pan if the sauce reduces too much; it should be slightly syrupy, but still liquid. Leave the sauce to cool, then strain out the rosemary and reheat gently. Season to taste and transfer to a sauce boat.

To follow a simple Sunday dinner, what could be better than cake? Chocolate cake at that. I did the chocolate version of my usual Victoria sponge and filled it with a vanilla-laced buttercream. Don't worry, we didn't eat the whole thing - there's plenty left for tomorrow!

Chocolate Sponge

200g soft butter
200g vanilla sugar
4 large eggs
160g self-raising flour
40g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the beaten eggs, one at a time, interspresing them with spoonfuls of flour. Sift in the rest of the flour, the cocoa and baking powder, then beat well until you have smooth batter. Divide the mixture equally between two greased and base-lined 20cm sandwich tins, smooth the surface and bake at 180°c for 20 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool on a rack before removing the base paper.

Vanilla Buttercream

75g soft butter
100g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat everything together, adding a splash of milk as needed to get a soft, 'dropping' consistency. Select the cake layer for the base and place it, upturned, on a serving plate. Spread over the buttercream over the surface of the upturned cake, top with the remaining cake layer and dust with icing sugar to serve.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Under Pressure

I am so loving the new soup pots! Having something so gorgeous makes me want to use them all the time, so I made soup again for dinner tonight. The other plus with this was that I got the pressure cooker out again. I really want to use it more often - it's so quick, but when I was first given it (it originally belonged to my late Nan), I hardly used it. Pressure cookers do seem rather to have gone out of fashion, but they are so quick and so good. I use it most for puddings, steak and kidney mainly (my number-one favourite), but also for steamed sponge puds and of course the Christmas pudding. It proves to be fabulous with soups like this one, but if you don't have a pressure cooker, you can simmer the soup for between one and one-and-a-half hours until the splits peas are collapsing. Seeing as in the pressure cooker it only needs 15 minutes, you'll understand the appeal, I'm sure. I had some prosciutto that we got cheap and stored in the freezer for cooking with, but any cured ham, pancetta or smoked streaky bacon would be a fine substitute. For that matter, you could leave it out entirely if you want a vegetarian option; the soup will still have plenty of flavour, though I would posit that you might need rather more seasoning in that case.

Split Pea Soup with Prosciutto

1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 tsp very finely chopped fresh rosemary
100g prosciutto, chopped (see above)
200g yellow split peas
1.2 litres vegetable stock, hot
fresh parsley (optional)

Heat some olive oil in the pressure cooker (or a large pan). Fry the onion, carrot and celery with the rosemary until just soft. Stir in the bits of prosciutto, then add the split peas. Pour in the hot vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Either put the lid on the pressure cooker and cook for 15 minutes, or simmer for 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Purée, preferably with a hand-held stick blender to save on washing up, then reheat the oup and season to taste. I like to garnish the soup with a scattering of roughly chopped parsley, but it's not obligatory, just aesthetic really.

Serve with some good bread and, for our taste, a couple of types of cheese. Tonight we had some really good, local Caerphilly and a piece of sharp, crumbly Lancashire.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Good Old Pasta Bake

I love a pasta bake, I do. They're so simple to throw together, satisfying to eat and genuinely comforting. The versatility of this kind of dish, adaptable to suit what's in the cupboards and fridge, is what makes it so hard to imagine cooking for the family without it, at least once in a while. You really only need a green salad to accompany a pasta bake like this, though I often gild the lily by making garlic bread as well. You can use whatever tomato sauce you like, either homemade or your favourite ready-made variety. Just get 500g or 500ml in total, however you measure it. A little fun at dinner is always welcomed by the children so, given the ingredients; frankfurters and sweetcorn, I couldn't resist this -may I introduce my friends Frank and Maisy?

Frank & Maisy Pasta Bake

200g dried pasta
550g jar frankfurters, drained
340g can sweetcorn, drained
500g tomato sauce (see above)
grated cheddar cheese

Cook the pasta. Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce and stir in the sweetcorn. Slice the frankfurters into roughly 2cm lengths. When the pasta is al dente, drain and mix with the tomato and sweetcorn sauce. Tip it into an ovenproof dish and add the frankfurters, poking them in and amongst the pasta. Scatter over a handful of grated cheese and bake at 200°c for 15-20 minutes.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

(Not Very) Fancy Feast

I love getting parcels in the post, don't you? Even when I know it's coming because I ordered it, it's still exciting. Today my new Le Creuset bean pots arrived from Pots and Pans, so I had to make some soup to serve in them at dinnertime. We quite often make an evening meal of soup with bread and cheese, but these pots will make a basic supper seem sooo much more glam, I hope. This is the soup I decided to make, which you could just as easily have for lunch or dress it up with a swirl of cream for an elegant first course.

Carrot & Coriander Soup

olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 tsp ground coriander
6-8 carrots, peeled and sliced
600ml vegetable stock
fresh parsley

Heat a little oil in a large pan and fry the onion gently until soft. Stir in the ground coriander, then add the carrots and pur in the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for half an hour or so until the carrots are really soft. Purée the soup, then reheat gently, adding milk to bring it to the consistency you want. Stir in some chopped parsley just before serving.

To go with the soup, I made some soda bread, which we had with some local Gorwydd  Caerphilly cheese. Soda bread is particularly useful if you want a homemade loaf but are short of time as it's relatively quick to make and bake. It's very good with soup; with a toothsome crust and a good dense crumb, it's brilliant for dipping.

Soda Bread

125g wholemeal bread flour
125g white bread flour
2 tbsp porridge oats
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200ml milk, mixed with 1 tsp lemon juice

Mix the flours, oats, salt and bicarb. together, then slowly stir in the milk to make a sticky dough. It is very sticky, but try to resist the tempotation to add more flour. Just form it into some semblance of a ball, slap it down onto a lightly oiled baking sheet and cook at 220°c for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°c and cook for 20 minutes more. Leave the loaf to stand on a rack for 15 minutes, then serve warm.

Because soup, bread and cheese is quite light for the main meal of the day, I like to make it into a real feast by following the main course with a hearty pudding, something like a crumble or steamed sponge. Today I got out the pressure cooker and made a Spotted Dick, studded with juicy sultanas. If you don't have a pressure cooker, steam the pudding for 2 hours in a pan filled with boiling water to halfway up the side of the basin.

Spotted Dick
225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
125g suet
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
175g sultanas
2 large eggs
about 100ml milk

Grease a 750ml pudding basin. Mix the flour, salt, sugar and suet together, then stir in the sultanas. Beat the eggs and milk together, then add to the flour mixture. Combine all the ingredients thoroughly, adding a little more milk if you need it, to give a soft 'dropping' consistency. Cover the basin with a greased, pleated piece of foil, tie with string, then place in a pressure cooker with 750ml boiling water. Steam for 15 minutes, then cook at pressure for 30 minutes. Turn the pudding out onto a plate and serve, with custard of course.

Monday, 1 October 2007

A Greener Shade of Kale

This week there was a bag of luscious deep green kale in our organic veg box. It came from Blaencamel Farm, just a few miles up the road in Cilcennin. I love this kind of green vegetable; iron-rich and deeply flavoured, man enough to stand up to any number of strong tastes.

Dinner tonight was courtesy of Queen Nigella; her Chicken with Chorizo & Cannellini Beans from Nigella Bites. I did make one alteration to her method; I cooked the chicken breasts in the oven (15-20 minutes at 200°c) rather than poaching them in stock. I also increased the quantities to serve all of us.

While the chicken is cooking, plunge 150g roughly torn-up kale into boiling water and cook for 5 minutes or so until tender. Heat a little olive oil in a deep frying pan and add 200g chorizo sausage, peeled of its papery 'wrapper' and cut into chunks. Sizzle this for a couple of minutes then add three 300g tins of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed. I added a little bit of the vegetable cooking water to lubricate it, then put the lid on the pan and let it bubble until the chicken and kale were ready. Pile the chorizo and bean mixture into a shallow dish, then top with some kale. Perch the chicken on top and sprinkle over some smoked paprika.


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