Friday, 29 February 2008

Chickety-China, Chinese Chicken

Not really Chinese, actually but more precisely Wickety-Wales, imitation-Chinese chicken. The children have both been ravenously hungry all week , so I took the opportunity tonight and tried out some new, unfamiliar ingredients on them. Thankfully it was a successful experiment; after some suspicious poking around, both of them chowed down in a BIG way, as did Hubby and I.

Chinese Chicken

1 egg white
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp salt
700g chicken meat, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
225g can sliced bamboo shoots
225g can water chestnuts, sliced or quartered
200g beansprouts
2 tbsp dry sherry
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
spring onions, to serve (see picture and below)
Whisk the egg white, cornflour and salt together in a large bowl, then add the chicken and mix to coat it thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes. Mix the sherry, soy, sugar and 3 tbsp water together in a measuring jug (or something) and set aside for now.
Heat some oil in a large frying pan (or a wok, if you have one; I don't) and cook the garlic and ginger briefly, then add the chicken and fry until cooked through. Throw in the vegetables, then pour over the sherry-soy mixture. Cover the pan to allow the vegetables to steam partially, but still retain some crunch. Take the lid off the pan, add the parsley, mix thoroughly and serve, garnished with sliced or shredded spring onions, if you like (I do).

Plainly cooked basmati rice 'á la rice machine' was a fab side dish for this, as there are plenty of deeply savoury juices to moisten it. Anyway, leftover rice is always a bonus as I LOVE plain rice eaten with steamed greens, all liberally doused with soy sauce, but then I don't eat a lot of weird processed food, so I feel confident enough to allow an occasional middle-finger to the health police. And so should we all.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008


Tonight I cooked a Sausage Plait and, by special request (from Christopher), broke my usual "no-potatoes-with-pastry" dictum to provide a bowl of Herby Wedges alongside. As Karl worked an early shift today I had plenty of time to potter in the kitchen, making pastry and the like, without having to constantly trot back and forth to check on the children and referee a variety of disagreements.

Just as we were sitting down to eat, it occurred to me to try some of my Onion Marmalade with the plait. It thought the sweet onions might be tasty with the sausage filling. I was not wrong; I anticipate that a whole new world of uses are opening up for this little relish. I make it often, mainly to eat as an accompaniment to cheeses or in assembling Goat's Cheese Toasts for salads and snacks. It can cost a fortune to buy this sort of relish in the shops, bearing in mind how cheap most of the ingredients are, so it's very worthwhile spending a couple of hours - and you only have to do about 5 minutes' work, plus occasional pan-checking.

Onion Marmalade

You can, if you like, attempt to fish out the cloves from the finished chutney along with the cinnamon stick. I can't be bothered with that sort of faffing about, so I just try to alert people to their presence. I know cloves are said to be good for toothache, but they're hellish annoying if one gets wedged in your molars!

6 onions, quartered and sliced
75ml cider vinegar
75ml balsamic vinegar
600g soft brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

few whole cloves

Put everything into a big pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for about two hours until the relish is thick and syrupy. Remove the cinnamon stick (and see above), then transfer to hot, sterilised jars and seal.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Spaghetti & Chocolate

Tonight I asked a friend over for an impromptu spag bol dinner and a none-too-serious Wii tournament. I say impromptu because it really was a last-minute thing; I sent her a text at lunchtime to ask if she fancied it and away we went. Everyone has their own way of cooking a bolognese sauce (and mine is here), people bang on about how it's not 'authentic' Italian really, but who cares when it tastes so good. You do need a bit of time to leave it on the stove, which you can profitably use to make some Garlic Bread. If time is short I'd suggest doing another pasta dish instead, less rush and stress all round. There are a few ideas if you follow the pasta link below this post...

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Sunday, 24 February 2008


Our day today was full of friends and fun, which cheered up a miserable rainy day no end. It did, however, mean that I was cooking dinner on the hop, rather than enjoying a leisurely, drawn-out preparation sesh, which is more usual when the lovely Karl is at home to help out with child-wrangling (hurrah).

With a microwave and an electric rice cooker, though, I can knock a pretty mean kedgeree in very little time and with next to no effort. This is great, seeing as kedgeree is one of my most bestest, favouritest things to eat ever. In fact, the amount of kedgeree I can put away is phenomenal (in really quite a scary way!). You know the saying "enough is as good as a feast? With kedgeree, for me at least, a feast is never enough. Oh well, maybe I can work it off sometime.

Incidentally, for my recipe, and further adumbration on the subject of kedgeree, see my June 2007 post, Comfort Food #1. That photo's making me hungry again; "My name's Cath and I'm a kedge-aholic..."

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Tortilla Filla

After all the drama of my car accident the week before, last week I was nursing a very poorly Christopher who was off school with a terribly upset stomach. Not much time for anything except cuddles and lots of laundry, though I did manage to keep a lunch date with friends to celebrate of of their birthdays. Cooking was limited by the facts of Karl's shifts and Christopher's inability to eat anything, so I used what little evening time I had for rest and relaxation as far as possible. However, I'm now back, as it were, and this week I will try again to get things back to normal again (famous last words...) and for us that started with a family meal. Tonight I cobbled together lots of bits and pieces and made a really good dinner which was so popular I just know I'll repeat it again and again. It started as a way to use up a pack of wholemeal tortillas that Hubby brought home (as they were reduced to the bargain price of ninepence), which had been sitting in the freezer for a while.

Mustering the minute sum of my Mexican cooking knowledge, I came up with this little wonder, which is basically my riff on enchiladas. I made the filling and sauce together, scooping the 'bits' out to fill the tortilla rolls, then used the sauce to moisten the dish before topping it all off with cheese.

Tortilla Bake

If you prefer, use strips of beef or pork instead of chicken. The Mexican Pepper Recaudo is available online from Mexgrocer as Mexican Marinade & Grill Sauce, or you could subsitute the equivalent quantity of some other Mexican-style cooking sauce)

4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 onion, sliced
500g chicken, cut into strips
2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 311g bottle Mexican Pepper Recaudo (and see above)
6 flour tortillas (mine were wholemeal but - meh!)
grated cheese (strong cheddar for preference)

Heat some oil in a big pan and, when hot, fry the garlic cloves until they begin to colour. Scoop them out of the oil and discard them. Drop in the sliced onion and cook briefly to soften, then add the chicken strips and peppers and fry until the chicken is cooked through. Tip in the tomatoes and the Recaudo, then bring the sauce to the boil. Scoop out the chunky chicken and vegetables with a slotted spoon and use to fill each of the 6 tortillas, rolling them up and laying them side-by-side in an ovenproof dish. Pour the sauce over and around the tortilla rolls, then top with plenty of cheese. Bake at 200 for 25 minutes until browned on top, then serve.

We ate ours with a simple green salad; all it needed, really.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Brolli Bake

Today started badly, but ended well. James has really got one on over the last few days; whinging, shrieking, clinging to me, you name it. I was at my wits' end by lunchtime, but was thankfully saved by a text message from a girlfriend inviting us all to join a group going to the park for the afternoon. I took a cake along with us, a(nother) variation on my standard Tea Loaf recipe, this time a Date & Walnut version which I'm very pleased with. It's so nice to be able to experiment on one's friends, but they're used to it, and cake never goes amiss, I find!

Date & Walnut Tea Loaf

I cannot urge you strongly enough to start making these. They are incredibly simple, have so many possible variations and it's so nice always to have a homemade cake knocking around somewhere. They pack up well for a picnic or a moveable feast with children - remember to take a knife to slice it!

300ml strong tea
250g pack chopped dried dates, 'slab' broken up
1 large egg, beaten
250g self-raising flour
125g caster sugar
80g walnuts, chopped
demerara sugar, for sprinkling

Soak the dates in the tea overnight. Stir the beaten egg into the fruit-and-tea mixture, then beat in the flour and sugar. Fold in the walnut pieces, then turn the batter uinto a greased and floured 1lb loaf tin. Sprinkle a little demerara sugar over the top. Bake at 160°c for 1 hour 15 minutes, covering the cake with foil after 40 minutes to stop the top from over-browning. Cool the cake in the tin. For the very best result, wrap the cooled cake in foil and leave it to mature in an airtight tin for a couple of days before eating it.

Dinner tonight was a pasta bake - yay! We got a small cauliflower and a small head of broccoli in last week's vegetable box, so I combined them with some pasta and cheese sauce for a delicious twist on good old cauliflower cheese (which I anyway prefer with a mixture of cauli and broc).

Brolli-flower Cheese Pasta Bake

Yes, I know you're not supposed to mix metric and imperial measurements, but I do it all the time and no bad comes of it really. Our milk comes in pint bottles, after all!

150g dried penne pasta
small head of cauliflower
small head of broccoli
50g butter
40g plain flour
1 tsp English mustard powder
1 pint milk
Cheddar cheese, grated
Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water. Add the cauliflower and broccoli florets for the last 5 minutes. Drain and tip the mixture into a large ovenproof dish.

Meanwhile, put the butter, flour and mustard powder into a large saucepan. Add the milk then bring to the boil, whisking constantly. When the sauce thickens, remove from the heat and whisk in a handful of grated Cheddar. Pour the sauce over the pasta and vegetables in the dish, then scatter over another handful of Cheddar and a couple of tablespoons of Parmesan. Pop the dish into a 200°c oven for 10-15 minutes to brown the top. Lovely!

Monday, 11 February 2008

RIP Picasso

Last week was one of those weeks when I should never have gotten out of bed. After crashing the car (rather spectacularly, it must be noted) on Monday last, the rest of the week passed in a bit of a daze. I'm still here, unharmed, though - and so is James, who was in the car with me. As everyone has been reminding me, that's what matters. The battered Citroen was insured and can be replaced. With transport options halved though, we've been relying on the freezer for most of our food, and thanking God, Kev the milkman and the Treehouse for doorstep milk and organic veg box delivery.

This week I'd love to get things back to normal, but it's half term and normal is up the spout. On that note, I took the boys out to play at the park this afternoon, then came home and made a big pan of Leek and Potato Soup for supper, which we ate with some bread, lovingly baked by the bread machine while we were out.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Food for the Cold

What could be better on a cold, rainy Sunday evening than a baked potato? That crisp, crackly skin without and soft, steamy flesh within? It's no work at all to bung a few scrubbed potatoes into the oven, even less to leave them there for an hour or so. Then a quick bustle to prepare some toppings and supper is ready.

My personal favourite (for the moment,at least) is a dollop of coleslaw and some grated strong cheddar. Karl and the boys prefer the (I dare say more manly) combination of cheese and baked beans. We all like to have a plate of crudités on the table, scooping up potato flesh and ribbons of melty cheese as we chat. If any of the crunchy skins get pushed to the side of a plate I hover, ready to snatch up the leavings to wipe up the last of my coleslaw. Atkins who?

For pudding tonight we cut into a Tea Loaf that had been maturing in one of the tins for a few days. I made this one with fat Chilean Flame raisins and some dried cranberries left over from Christmas and it was heavenly; dense, moist and rich with plump fruit. The crust had taken on a pinkish hue from the cranberries, even better. In fact I think another slice, with a cup of tea in front of the fire, might be in order later this evening.


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