Tuesday, 20 May 2008
After lunch, we listened to a talk from the author and inventor of StorySacks, Neil Griffiths. The only word is WOW - that guy can sure tell a good tale! Such a simple thing, and he makes it look so easy to do it really well - but did you know that 1 in 9 children have never been read to at home? Or that in some ares of the U.K. that figure increases to 1 in 2? That's right, HALF. I bought a couple of books while we were there, picking up Neil Griffiths' Itchy Bear and a (bilingual) Welsh book, Tynnu llun gyda sialc from a local company @ebol.
When we'd finished for the day, and picked Christopher up from nursery school, we pootled home. I started dinner faily swiftly when it became clear that I had two hungry, over-tired boys on my hands. Why is it that the more tired children get, the more active and obstreperous they become? So I was really glad that, not only was I feeding the children and we adults separately tonight, but that theirs was to be a simple and quick pasta dish.
Spicy Sausage Pasta
I defrosted a package of my homemade tomato sauce, but use a favourite bought one if you'd rather. Equally, replace the saucisson with any other 'slicing' sausage or salami.
100g pasta shapes
200g tomato sauce (and see above)
40g saucisson sec
4-6 pitted black olives
scant pinch chilli flakes
chopped fresh parsley
Put the pasta on to cook in lots of boiling water. Meanwhile, chop the sausage and olives roughly and put them into a pan with the tomato sauce. Reheat slowly, stirring in the chilli flakes and parsley. Drain the cooked pasta and toss with the sauce, topping it with parmesan to serve.
Monday, 19 May 2008
Take today for instance. Because we had roast chicken last night, I got up a little earlier this morning to put some chicken stock on, preparing for a batch of what we now call Mexican Chicken Soup. Maybe it was the fact of making that small effort, maybe it was just how much I like the taste, but all day long I was thinking about that meal; even finding reasons to mention it in conversation so that I could dwell on it just a little longer.
I didn't disappoint, I'm happy - and a trifle relieved -to say. I really enjoyed my (first and second) helping, even managing to save some leftovers, ready for portioning out into boxes for the freezer.
As a footnote I did, this time, decide to use my posited shortcut idea of substituting shop-bought tortilla chips for the deep-fried tortilla strips. Just as enjoyable, in a different way, but massively less effort.
Sunday, 18 May 2008
However, this morning we awoke to sunshine and decided to make the most of it. Feeling part full of sunny goodwill and part (OK, mainly) hopelessly envious of my brother's recent acquisition of a very fancy juicer, I dug out the electric citrus press (a free gift my Nan got from Damart donkeys ago) and squeezed fresh orange juice for breakfast. The children were astoundingly keen on it - even for kids that adore fruit I couldn't keep it coming fast enough and eventually had juiced every orange that we had in the house. Oh well, it's all good stuff...
We had a roast chicken for supper - mainly because that ensures a decent amount of leftovers that can form the basis o0f several meals this week. I was loathe to do too much food shopping this week because, as next week is half term, we'll all four be decamping to my parent's house for a break. Just who it's a break for, I'm not certain, but we're guaranteed to have a fabulous time - and lots of juice when we go to Grae's, I believe!
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Friday, 9 May 2008
To start tonight's meal, I adapted one of my favourite party snacks. I know, I know, "life's too short to stuff a mushroom" and believe me I agree with you, but this way makes it quicker, honestly. I make no apologies for using 'Bacos' rather than actual bacon - I know they're as proceesed as you can get, but I do have rather a soft spot for them (and see here for more on this subject). No matter, though, here we go.
Cheese & Bacon Mushrooms
'Bacos' (or cooked bacon, if you'd rather)
'Pull the stalks out of the mushrooms and put them, cup-side up in an ovenproof dish. Don't throw the stalks away, will you - there's always 'shrooms on toast or an omelette to be had with the leftovers! Sprinkle 'Bacos' into each hole and cover with chopped parsley. Blanket the whole lot with grated cheese, grind over some pepper and bake at 200°c for 20 minutes. Serve with salad leaves.
Thursday, 8 May 2008
I can hardly stop wiggling my toes around because it's so great. Doesn't it make you want to click those heels together? Or is that only me? I think this might just be the best nail polish ever!
Wednesday, 7 May 2008
Never mind, at least we did get supper outside tonight. We've had lunch outside for the last few days, but I hadn't been quite brave enough to go the whole hog until this evening. It was a lovely supper, though; just right for a warm evening and not too many pots to wash up afterwards. We started with chickpea patties and tzatziki. I used to make the patties for the children, when they were babies, as early finger food and I suddenly thought how easy it would be to make them again; to use for ambulant snacks or as part of a first course.
Cheesy Chickpea Patties
Strong Cheddar or Parmesan are my choices for the cheese, however any hard cheese would suffice.
2 x 410g cans chickpeas, drined and rinsed
60g cheese, grated (and see above)
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp tahini paste (if you have it)
2 tbsp olive oil
Bung everything in the processor and whizz to form a nubbly purée. Scoop out spoonfuls of the mixture onto baking sheets, then bake for 30 minutes at 160°c until just tinged with brown. Cool on a rack, then store in an airtight box until needed.
To go with, I made tzatziki. For me, it is the apotheosis of hot-weather food and during the summer I make it once a week or thereabouts, as inevitable as the rain which follows the heat. I should own up, here, that I have never been to Greece, but I did know a lot of Greek students at university and something rubbed off, I guess. This is so easy and way better than the dismal stuff you can buy in a tub.
The easiest way to dry the rinsed cucumber is to put it on a clean teatowel, gather up the corners and squeeze!
500g tub Greek yoghurt
2 tsp 'Lazy Garlic'
1 tsp lemon juice
Quarter the cucumber lengthways and scoop the 'seedy' bit out of the centre with a spoon. Chop the cuke and plce in a colander. Sprinkle with salt, mix well then put a plate on top and set aside for 20 minutes or so to draw out excess water. Rinse and dry (see above). Mix the dégorged (for that is what you have done) cucumber with the other ingredients in a large bowl. Serve with, well, anything you like really.
The main course that followed is really simple and well received by all (maybe not veggies). You can, once assembled, freeze this in the dish, if it's freezerproof, then cook it (once defrosted) for 20 minutes at the same temperature given in the recipe. If you aren't prepared to 'lose' your oven dish to the freezer, line it with a big sheet of foil before you assemble the melt. You then freeze it like this and, once solid, simply 'pop' out the foil-bottomed block, wrap it over and return to the freezer. Bingo! I made one of these towards the end of both my pregnancies, to provide sustenance after each of our babies were born.
25g butter, melted
1 small onion, finely diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
2 x 160g cans tuna in spring water, drained
4 tbsp mayonnaise
150g Cheddar cheese, grated
Peel and grate the potatoes. Line the bottom of an ovenproof dish with the grated potato, press down and brush with the melted butter. Bake at 180°c for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the other ingredients (bar the cheese) together. When the potato-lined dish is ready, spread the tuna mix over the base and top with the grated cheese (this is the point at which to cool and freeze it). Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes.
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
The garden is finally ready for summer, just in time for meals outside to become a very real possibility (suddenly, but long may it continue). The other huge plus is that Hubby has finally gotten around to sorting out his shed; the same shed that has contained precisely a mountain of junk ever since we took delivery a year ago. This is in spite of our 'agreement' that if we upgraded to a new, larger shed, it would be organised and tidy from day one. Ha! He saw me coming, didn't he... No matter, I could now dance a jig in there, should the mood take me. I assure you that this is unlikely, however. Wii Sports is my exercise limit.
Tonight's dinner was, in a word, fabulous. I have long been thinking of a way to adapt my chili recipe for a veggie meal, as I do like us to eat the occasional meat-free meal (in fact I've been trying for once or twice a week lately). Feeling that I should perhaps reward Hubs for a job well done, I turned this half-baked idea into a pie extravaganza and, my goodness, was I impressed with the results. I had to really stop myself from eating the leftover third (so that's lunch tomorrow sorted).
Vegetable & Mixed Bean Chili Pie
The spices are so many and varied because I discovered, too late, that I'd run out of chili powder. Replace the cocktail itemised below, if you like, with 2 tablespoons of MILD chili powder.
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground chiles (I use de arbol)
2 x 400g cans mixed beans, drained and rinsed
400g can chopped tomatoes
100g frozen sweetcorn
2 courgettes, halved and thickly sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
270g pack filo pastry, defrosted if frozen
Heat a little oil in a large pan and fry the onion until soft. Mix in the spices, then add the beans and tomatoes with 1/2 a can of water. Bring to the boil, then tip in the sweetcorn and the chopped veg. Return to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Tip into a large, ovenproof dish. Brush each individual sheet of filo with melted butter and scrunch onto the surface of the chili, to completely cover it. Bake at 180°c for 15 minutes until crisp and golden.
There - if that's not a huuuge help towards our five-a-day, I truly despair!
Thursday, 1 May 2008
We've had, for the most part, a truly gorgeous afternoon. I took the opportunity to do a bit of pootling about in the garden, putting a trellis on the side of the shed for my sweet peas, weeding the patio pots and cutting dandelions from the lawn to bring indoors. Why is that that so many people seem to think of dandelions as a weed? They're one of my favourite garden flowers and look just like their name; a 'dandy' lion. If a flower could be a diva, this one would...a flashy, brassy cabaret of a flower. They are now sitting in an old Shippams fish-paste jar that we dug up when we moved in and started clearing the garden.
Tonight's dinner had a vaguely Oriental feel to it, but as usual it was inauthentically so. The first course is inspired by those lovely steamed dumplings, stuffed with char siu, that you get with dim sum.
Hoisin Pork Rolls
250g pork mince
6 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp tomato pureé
Fry the mince until browned, then stir in the hoisin sauce and tomato pureé. Leave the filling to cool while you make the bread dough.
3/4 tsp active dry yeast
400g strong white (bread) flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
300ml warm water
Mix together and knead to make a soft dough. Leave to rise until doubled, then knock back and divide into 12. Flatten the pieces into discs and place a blob of filling in the centre, then pull the edges up to cover it completely. Place the rolls on an oiled baking sheet, dust with flour and leave to rise again for half an hour or so. Bake at 200°c for 15-20 minutes until puffy and tinged with brown.
The main course was these chicken pieces, doused in a marinade and left in the fridge earlier today, before being blasted in the oven tonight, accompanied by rice and a cucumber salad.
10-12 chicken thighs or drumsticks (or both!)
4 tbsp sunflower oil
4 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
2 tbsp garlic vinegar
1 tsp ground ginger
Whisk all the marinade ingredients together, then turn the chicken pieces in the mixture and leave them to soak up the flavours for a few hours. When dinner time is looming, lift the pieces out and place them on a rack over a baking tray, then cook at 200°c for 30-40 minutes, until cooked through, crisp and burnished.