Sunday, 19 October 2008

Nursery Rhyme Cookery

This, for me, encompasses anything you cook because your children (or you) like the idea of it from a familiar story or nursery rhyme. It started for me in childhood with the recreation of the Lid Potatoes made, by Muvver, for Milly Molly Mandy and Little-Friend-Susan.

Now Jam Tarts are an obvious choice for this category, as are bread and honey, plum pie and good old Three Bears' porridge. Our favourite at the moment has to be the currant bun though...

Ten currant buns in the baker's shop,
Round and fat with sugar on the top
Along came Chris with a penny one day
Bought a currant bun and took it away.

Yes, letting the children loose with dough is messy, but great fun for all concerned and at least you can look forward to a toasted currant bun for tea. Cleaning the kitchen appeals more than sorting out arguments and picking up a sea of garish plastic, anyhow.

Currant Buns (makes ten, natch)

450g bread flour
1 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
1 tsp salt
40g sugar

Mix these together in a large bowl.

40g butter
50ml milk
100g currants
milk & sugar (preferably demerara), to glaze

Melt the butter in 230ml boiling water, then pour in the milk. Add to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix to form a dough. Knead in the currants and continue to knead until the dough is soft and springy. Leave in a warm place until doubled in size, the knock back and divide into ten buns. Prove for 45 minutes, then brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes at 200°c until golden brown.

Thursday, 16 October 2008


This is a really useful base for building meals on - so many things seem to start with cooking onions down until soft and flavoursome. More often then not, that's the pain with cooking meals; the time-consuming and tedious bits that seem to get in the way of the enjoyable main event (and I do mean the cooking and not just the eating, honestly). Try this, then. These slow-cooked onions can be used as the foundation for several meals and even kept in the freezer. If you take the package out in the morning to defrost, you can then skip quite a few steps when it's time to prepare supper. Six onions is quite a nice quantity to do - it will easily provide for three or four meals and doesn't take much work from you.

Slow-Cooked Onions

6 onions, halved and thinly sliced
25g butter
200ml dry sherry

Melt the butter and turn the sliced onions in the fat. Bring to a sizzle, then stir well and pour in the sherry. Mix thoroughly and cover the pan. Turn down the heat and cook for an hour or so, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid, turn up the heat and bubble to reduce any excess liquid. Allow to cool, then divide into portions and chill or freeze.

Last night I used a good 400g of the onions to form the basis of a simple onion tart; a ravishing supper for a cold autumn evening. Put your slow-cooked onions into the bottom of an 8" pastry case, then pour over two eggs beaten with seasoning and a small carton of crème fraîche. Bake for 30 minutes at 200°c and serve warm.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

A Funkin Good Time

This weekend was a bit of a big one; I went out with a couple of girlfriends to celebrate one of their birthdays and my Mum came to visit - ostensibly to babysit (aren't Mums great) - but I had a lovely time with her on Sunday and Monday too.

On Saturday night, before going out, my friend Sharna and I tried out these new Funkin Cocktail Pouches. I was sent samples from this brand new range of clever cocktail mixers to try out. It's a great idea, I have to say - perfect cocktails in just minutes. You just have to add you r spirit and ice to a glass and top up with the single serve cocktail pouch, though I must admit that for testing purposes we opted to make two small drinks (i.e. one for each of us) with each pouch!

Of the three we tried, we were a little disappointed with the Mojito mixer - bags of lime flavour, but little in the way of mint - if you had access to some fresh mint it'd still be a goer though. It also occurred to us that it would be gorgeous with a shot of tequila instead of the rum.

The other two pouches were better - the raspberry mojito still suffered from the lack of mint but the fresh, fruity flavour made up for thatt. The Cosmo - easily among my favourite cocktails anyway - was really good, and it really took no longer to make this than it would to throw together a vodka and orange. Way more stylish, though!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Don't Be Blue...

Any regular readers with be familiar with my love of bright colours and it should, perhaps, come as no surprise that my children have inherited this from me.

When we went to the shop the other day, Christopher rushed up to me, bearing this really rather fabulous heliotrope-coloured Graffiti Cauliflower as though it was the find of his life. So what choice did I have?

You probably won't be astonished when I write that it tastes like, er, cauliflower. But it loses its pinkness with cooking and turns a somewhat gothic shade of inky blue, which fascinated the boys. As a novelty item it was a pretty good buy - the kids ate their vegetables and were so pleased with it in the shop that they forgot all about nagging me for sweeties. Bonus.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Lightening the Load

Anything that makes dinner (and, more importantly, the clearing up) a little easier to manage is always welcome, am I right? One of our family's regular favourites is a Roast Chicken with Succotash and tonight I tried a new method; cooking it in one dish to save on washing-up and to make the workload lighter, as anything which is doing it's thing in the oven, as opposed to on the hob needing any kind of attention (and I include just seeing it there in that) , is by far the preferred option as far as I'm concerned.

All-in-One Succotash Chicken

2 x 400g cans butter beans
340g can sweetcorn
170g pack bacon lardons
142ml carton double cream
250ml chicken stock
1 tsp mixed dried herbs
4 chicken leg portions

Drain and rinse the butter beans and sweetcorn. Mix them together with the bacon bits and put this into an ovenproof dish. Stir the cream, stock and herbs together in a jug, then pour oover the beans and stir. Lay the chicken legs on top of the succotash mixture, then cook at 200°c for 40 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Serve straight from the dish.

There was not a scrap left (which is always a good sign) and we all declared this to be a successful experiment.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Pre-prandials: Tongue in Cheek

I have to say that, in general, I'm deeply suspicious of all the 'health food' stories you read in the media and the whole 'superfood' phenomenon is no exception to that. But no matter, some of the foods the mysterious 'they' like to recommend happen to be really tasty, so I go on eating them fopr that (and only that) reason. As for goji berries or linseeds, forget it! I tried having linseeds on top of my cereal for a while when I was pregnant with James but - ugh - never again.

With that in mind, then, here is tonight's cocktail. Named (albeit sarcastically) to reflect the alleged superpowers of the fruits included, this cocktail should only be drunk for pure pleasure. Although the possibility of negating the alcohol, by the inclusion of the supposedly all-powerful pomegranate and blueberries would be a nice thought...


1 part gin
2 parts pomegranate juice
2 parts blueberry juice
squeeze of lime

Shake everything together, over ice, and then strain into a glass. Drink, humming the 'Wonder Woman' theme tune.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Vegging Out

Earlier this year I set myself an informal challenge; to cook and serve a completely vegetarian meal at least once a week. Not from an ethical viewpoint (I remain a committed multivore), I should add, but rather one of wanting my children to grow up enjoying vegetables for the wonderful foods that they are, rather than as a mere garnish to a slab of meat.

Things have been going well, so recently our veggie nights have upped to twice a week. Tonight was one of those nights, with that in mind I cooked this lovely mushroom dish, ever mindful of keeping to my 2008 resolution, to learn to cook Indian meals properly, rather than relying on jars and packets of sauce, paste and mixes. I understand from Schott's that Karahi is used to refer to dishes that are "dry...with onion, and tomatoes".

Mushroom Karahi

If you want to add another dimension to this dish, then stir in a drained can of chickpeas with the tomatoes, or wilt a handful of spinach in the karahi just prior to serving.

1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
450g mushrooms, sliced
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes

Heat some oil in a large pan and fry the onion and garlic together until softened. Tip in the spices and cook for a further minute or two, mixing well. Add the mushrooms to the pan, fry for a few moments, stirring well, then tip in the tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Serve with rice and naan bread, with yoghurt to dollop on top if you like. Our family is divided equally into the enthusiastic yoghurt-dollopers (me and James) and the vociferous anti-yoghurt faction (Karl and Chris). There's just no accounting for taste, is there?


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