Sunday, 29 June 2008
2 measures gin
1/2 measure grenadine syrup
juice of 1/4 lime
maraschino cherry and lime slice, for garnish
Pour the gin, grenadine and lime juice into a shaker and toss in one or two ice cubes. Shake it, baby! Strain into a cocktail glass and top up with soda water. Add the lime slice and - plink - the all-important maraschino.
Best enjoyed barefoot and in a swishy skirt - preferably while listening to some disco diva classics. Did you know I have a mirror ball in the dining room?
Yesterday, a friend and I took our children over to the Teifi Mania soft-play centre in Cardigan , for lunch and some seriously rambunctious playtime. This gave us a chance for coffee and a gossip while the children were burning off some of that excess weekend energy, knowing that they'd all be both starving for supper, and tired for bedtime when we got home.
On the way home in the car, I asked Chris what he fancied for supper. He immediately replied "pasta!" and then, thinking for a moment, added that he wanted it "with MILLIONS of cheese..."
I actually decided that, just maybe, four cheeses would be enough, so, taking inspiration from the flavours of a Quattro Formaggio pizza, I used it as a starting point for a pasta bake, which we ate with gusto, and some lettuce cut from the garden.
Four-Cheese Pasta Bake
These are the cheeses that I had, but you could easily substitute a different blue cheese and a different hard cheese, perhaps Cheddar, for the Double Gloucester.
500g dried pasta shapes
1 pint milk
75g Danish Blue cheese, diced
2 x balls mozzarella, diced
80g Double Gloucester, grated
50g Parmesan, grated
Put the pasta on to cook. Meanwhile, put the butter, cornflour and milk into a sucepan and brting to the boil, whisking continously, and simmer until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the blue cheese and 2 tablespoons of water from the pasta pan. Drain the pasta. Stir the blue cheese sauce and the mozzarella pieces through it, then transfer it to an ovenproof dish. Top with the grated Double Gloucester and Parmesan, then bake in a 180°c oven for 15 minutes or so, until the cheesy surface is melted and bubbling, but only just tinged with brown.
There was enough, with salad, for all four of us for a really filling and enjoyable dinner, and enough left over to reheat for the children's (and possibly my) lunch, later today.
Wednesday, 25 June 2008
I first came across the idea in my copy of Kitschy Canapés by Babs Harrison and recently rediscovered it while book-trawling retro catering ideas for my 30th birthday party later this year. As the vrai Lipton Recipe Secrets Onion Soup Mix is un available to us limeys, I substitute a sachet of Knorr French Onion Soup mix. Mixed with a 300ml carton of sour cream and chilled for an hour or so, it makes for something that is way more than the sum of its parts. Things become classics for a reason, don'cha know..?
Speaking of which, may I present my new best thing. After a Facebook-based conversation with an old (the friendship, not the friend) mate, I was introduced to this, and could hardly wait to cook it for dinner tonight to accompany some plain-cooked Lincolnshire bangers.
Daniel's Favourite Potatoes
Boil the potatoes until tender, then drain them and 'crush' lightly with a potato masher, to break them up but not too much. Mix in some mustard (I used wholegrain, but Daniel's original uses English mustard). Bung in a dish, top with cheese and melt it, in the oven or under the grill.
This is the sort of food you SCOFF!
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Spiced Chicken Liver Pilaf
Cartons of frozen chicken livers vary between 100g-200g, depending on your butcher or supermarket, but are usually the size of a standard tub of cottage cheese. Don't lose sleep over it...
2 x cartons frozen chicken livers, defrosted
2 tbsp flour
approx. 6 spring onions, chopped
500g brown basmati rice
1 litre HOT chicken stock
chopped fresh parsley
Drain the chicken livers of any liquid and toss them in the flour. Fry, in a large pan, over a very high heat, just until sealed, and set aside. Add some more butterto the pan, then soften the spring onions and add the rice with the spices, stirring until the grains are coated in fat. Return the livers to the pan, stir in the chopped nuts and pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, then cover the pan and turn the heat right down. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed, then fork through lots of chopped fresh parsley.
Sunday, 22 June 2008
So, tonight (Matthew) I'm drinking:
Frost the rim of a cocktail glass with salt. Add a shot of vodka and top up with chilled grapefruit juice. Sip, and sigh...the weekend's nearly over.
Cocktails, of course, mean canapés. Sometimes I really go to town on these, even just for myself; they're so much fun - but tonight I really can't be bothered, so I've cracked open a can of olives. Simple is as simple does.
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Slice the potatoes (I can never be bothered to peel them for this) and put them in cold water. Bring them to the boil, then drain. While that's going on, fry the onion, in a little oil, and brown the sausages. Tip in the tomatoes, and one can of water, and bring to the boil. Top with the drained sliced potatoes, cover the pan and bake in the oven at 180°c for half an hour. Go and see what the kids are doing. Watch 'Superted' on YouTube (Christopher's new black) with them. When time is up, remove the pan's lid, dot the potatoes with a little butter and return to the oven (still uncovered) for a further 30 minutes. Set the table, referee a fight over a half-deflated balloon, trip over the cat (again) and get drinks for everyone. Serve the casserole straight from the pan at the table, with some green veg on the side - frozen peas, for sanity's sake.
Sunday, 15 June 2008
So this afternoon I set to the plant and harvested what meagre crop I could, enough to make this cake at least. The mixture itself is made like muffin batter, but I much prefer this in a single cut-and-come-again slab. I grind the hazelnuts myself at home, using the mini-blender - you can substitute bought ground almonds if you'd rather.
Rhubarb & Ginger Cake
340g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
100g ground hazelnuts (and see above)
Stir all these 'dry' ingredients together in a capacious bowl.
250g light muscovado sugar
1/4 pint sunflower oil
2 large eggs
1/4 pint milk
Combine all these 'wet' ingredients in a jug, then stir into the dry bowl.
300g rhubarb, diced very small
2 tbsp demerara sugar
Stir the rhubarb into the batter. Scrape into a greased rectangular tin - about 30x20cm I suppose - and sprinkle the surface of the cake with demerara sugar. Bake at 180°c for 45-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Cover the surface of the cake after 15-20 minutes to stop it from browning too much. Cool on a wire rack.
Friends of ours got married yesterday, on a truly
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Minestrone 'Molto Pronto'
500ml vegetable stock (or chicken, if you prefer)
300g 'special mixed' frozen vegetables
400g can chopped tomatoes
400g can pasta in tomato sauce
Bring the stock to the boil and tip in the still-frozen vegetables. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the contents of both the cans, stirring well. Season with plenty of black pepper (I don't bother with salt; those cans of pasta-in-sauce are quite salty enough). Leave to heat through thoroughly on a medium setting.
If you always have the wherewithal to cook a panful of this in the house, you'll never struggle for dinner, and it's one that will delight children and adults alike. So cheap, too (ignoring the approximate ton of cheese we always put away when I make this for supper) - I used bargain basics tomatoes and spaghetti in tomato sauce tonight; it tasted no different to when I've made it with the fancier equivalents. You can ring the changes for those fickle enfants terribles by using different types of character pasta-in-sauce too - Spiderman has been particularly popular in our house - and I love making it with Alphabetti ! I'm easily pleased, I know, but the little letters (and you can now get Numberetti) always make me smile.
Sunday, 8 June 2008
The only other 'non-essential' thing I went inside for was to keep topping up the lemonade jug. This lemonade base is a fantastic way of having fresh lemonade all weekend, with very little work - and it makes a fab mixer too.
2 lemons, roughly chunked up
5 tbsp sugar (or to taste, we like it quite sharp)
Whizz these in the blender with 250ml water. Stir in a further 250ml water and chill the mixture in the fridge.
When you want some lemonade to take outside, strain the liquid from the pulp into a serving jug and top it up with 500-750ml more water.
This is the good bit; return the strained pulp to its container and stir in 500ml water. When you're ready for another jugful, proceed as before with the straining and topping up . Chill it, and let's go round again...You may find, after a few goes, that you need to add another tablespoonful of sugar with the water. I've been regenerating our batch of base all weekend, and little James has a new favourite - fresh, homemade lemonade.
Friday, 6 June 2008
When you're ready to cook it, find some bits for a filling - tonight I fried some bacon bits and cut up half a camembert (which had been rather disappointing on the cheeseboard, but worked fine in this) - then beat 3 eggs and a 200g tub of crème fraîche together and pour into the pastry case, covering the filling. Bake at 200°c for 30 minutes, then leave to cool slightly before sliding it out of the tin and onto a serving plate.
I had intended to serve the tart with steamed potatoes and a green salad, but found that we'd actually run out of potatoes. Grr! This rice salad made a more than acceptable substitute, however, and reminded me how much I love rice salads (unlike pasta salads which, with limited exceptions, are pretty foul).
Colourful Rice Salad
I use Morrisons' Frozen Special Mixed Vegetables, defrosted, for this. There's not really anything that 'special' about them, but it's the sort of mix; peas, corn, carrots, broccoli and peppers - rather than those packs of diced mixed veg for stews - that you're looking for here.
300g brown rice
350g vegetables (and see above)
garlic & herb dressing (recipe follows)
Cook the rice. Chop the vegetables up, if necessary, for a nice finish to the completed salad and combine with the cooked rice. Stir in the raisins, then pour over as much dressing as you need to evenly coati, but not swamp, the salad. Chill until needed.
Garlic & Herb Dressing
5 fl.oz olive oil
2 tbsp garlic vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
handful fresh herbs - your choice - chopped finely
Whisk it all together, or whizz in a blender. You'll need only 1/3 to 1/2 this quantity for the rice salad, but thisis one of my absolute favourite salad dressings, so keep it in the fridge and use it whenever you might otherwise use a vinaigrette.
Thursday, 5 June 2008
I'm sure I'm not alone. I thought that vegetable gardening would be difficult, time-consuming and that you were either born with green fingers or you weren't. Sorry to all those gardening buffs who ply a trade full of seeding, weeding and feeding, but it's actually not that hard. To paraphrase Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (or 'Hairy Knitting-Wool' as he's affectionately known chez Homer), plants want to grow, leave them to it.
So that's what I did. I bought some plug plants from the local garden centre (£1.50 for 6 plants, not bad), stuck them in a patch of earth that I'd rather half-heartedly dug over and watered them occasionally when I remembered. I did a bit of weeding last week, but only because we'd been away and the lawn had begun to encroach rather badly on my self-styled 'allotment' .
I would feel quite smug, if I didn't know how little I'd actually done in the way of work (let alone back-breaking labour and - eek! - actual digging). Roll on the crop of 'lazy' broad beans - I can hardly wait!
Monday, 2 June 2008
I keep fiddling with dishes along these lines, but none of them have yet reached stellar heights of other family favourites like Savoury Mince Crumble, Sausage Plait or Kedgeree.
I think we all get a few comfortable dishes that we return to again and again, the 'same old thing', but meals which everyone is always pleased to see. I like this; I certainly don't hark for the rigid ideal of "roast-on-Sunday. pie-on-Monday", with Friday being "pork chop night", but I do like to put a much-loved dinner on the table, rather like welcoming back an old friend. So many of these dishes have their own little stories attached, like the fact that Savoury Mince Crumble was the first dinner I ever cooked for my parents and brother (you know, the night when you're grown-up enough to be alllowed the run of the kitchen?), or that Sausage Plait was a school-dinner favourite of mine at age eight. So many memories, and so much of our personal and family histories seem to revolve around food and mealtimes.
What are your family's favourite dishes? What are their stories? I'd love to hear from you...
Sunday, 1 June 2008
Stock is easy. Believe me, it is. I save all the bones from roasts that we have and keep a bag (one for each type of meat) in the freezer, adding to it as I go along. I even keep bones from things like chicken leg portions and lamb or pork chops, after all they go in the same pan in the end and it boosts the quantity faster.
When I have a decent amount of bones, I bung them in a large pan, cover them with water from the tap and bring it to the boil. Simmer on a very low heat for at least a couple of hours (and we nipped out and did some shopping while the beef stock was on the stove). Sieve out the bones and bits, throw them away and pour the stock into freezer containers of some kind.
You can, I know, add all sorts of other things to the pan (vegetables, herbs and the like), but I never do, reasoning that the "something for nothing" pleasure of stock is more that slightly diminished if you chuck loads of fresh vegetables in as well. I eventually made chicken stock, beef stock and lamb stock today, all by the same method that I give you above. I didn't bother to wash out the pans and things in between, either, lazy cow. I now have a freezer's-worth of homemade stock and would seem positively holy, I know, to anyone who didn't know how easy it was. Until I tell them, which I always do, because I want them, and you, to feel as good as I do this evening (albeit illogically and unjustifiably so).
Go on, I dare you...