Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Lazin' on a Sunday

With our little mini-summer (at last, is all have to say...) still going strong, today was a day for just chilling out. The children and I had a late breakfast of Eggy Bread ( the Girl Guide in me will never call it French Toast), followed by a lot of messing around in the garden, before I headed inside to get this little beauty into the oven for our supper. Days like today are just made for this sort of dinner; a little bit of none-too-taxing preparation and a long, slow cook which allows for knitting, reading and running round the garden with the kids, while they hold plastic swords aloft and scream "By the power of Grayskull!" at the tops of their voices. Blame my sainted brother's 1980's He-Man collection, or blame my recent LoveFilm rental of He-Man Vol. 1, but they are currently OBSESSED with everything Eternia...

Shin of Beef with Mushrooms & Chestnuts

Phenomenally long recipe, but very little actual work...

2 or 3 tbsp oil
800g shin of beef, cut up to your liking
2 tbsp plain flour

1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced thickly

2 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped

250g mushrooms, halved

240g can vacuum-packed chestnuts

a large glass of red wine

a little tomato purée

500ml beef stock

splash of Worcestershire sauce

few bay leaves

Put the flour and some seasoning into a large plastic bag. Add the beef and toss it around to coat it in the flour. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large casserole and brown the beef in a couple of batches (this keeps the heat up and ensures a good sizzle to really brown the meat). Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add another tbsp of oil if you think the pan need it, then chuck in the onions, celery and garlic. Fry these until soft. Add the rest of the seasoned flour from the bag and mix well. Throw in the mushrooms and chestnuts, then add the wine, stirring up any and all sticky bits from the bottom of the pan. Squidge in a little tomato purée and stir well to mix (this is not so much for flavour as to correct the purple colour brought by the wine). Pour in the stock and the Worcestershire sauce, bung in the bay leaves and bring to boiling point. Cover the casserole pan and transfer it to a 180°c oven for 1 hr 30 minutes. Check it at 1 hr 15 minutes; if it seems to 'wet' for your liking, cook it uncovered for the last quarter of an hour. If not, leave it be for the rest of the cooking time.

Serve from the pan with whatever vegetables you fancy. I personally think that the chestnuts make potatoes
de trop, but you may feel differently. Anyway, sweetcorn is such a favorite with the males of the house as to make it an unavoidable, inevitable inclusion, but I have to say that good old Savoy cabbage is always a favourite, and definitely my first choice here!
Cath xx

Friday, 11 September 2009

Back to the grindstone...

Now that school has started again, we are once more in the plod of normality. For all that people (particularly the mass media) talk about parents 'surviving' the holidays I, for one, love them. To have both my babies at home all day, every day, is heaven for me. To make our own rules and basically have fun for 6 weeks at a pop is even better than that.

Back to reality means back to the routines of old; planning our meals and shopping less often. It also means checking the school meals plan so as not to give Chris the same, or similar, meals twice in one day. I am very keen on the ethos os this, and sit down every week to plan our meals add make my shopping list. Some weeks have meals more elaborate than others, by reason of visitors or out-of-the-ordinary events. But the eve of the weekend, especially the end of the first full week back seemed to demand a fanfare of some sort. Friday night is, after all, always a special occasion, however small!

Fruity Spiced Chicken

6-8 chicken thighs
1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced
2 tsp Jamaican jerk seasoning
200ml pineapple juice
50g creamed coconut
1/2 tsp cornflour

Put the peppers in an ovenproof dish. Slash the chicken pieces a couple of times, then lay them on top of the peppers. Sprinkle the jerk seasoning over the chicken and pat it into the skin. Heat the pineapple juice to boiling point, then blend in the coconut and cornflour. Pour this over the chicken, letting it run into the dish, then bake at 180°c for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is well cooked.

This was lovely served with plain rice (courtesy, as always, of the sainted rice machine) to soak up the lovely juices but, as usual, I felt it necessary to gild the lily; my Black Bean and Sweetcorn Salad provided the extra note required. This is so easy, a quick assembly job in the morning that even I can cope with (having two children under 5 and a 10 mile drive to school of a morning).

I cook the black beans by soaking them in boiling water from the kettle for an hour, then bunging in the slow-cooker with more boiling water from the kettle and leaving them overnight, before draining them, rinsing them with cold water and continuing as below. I realise that not everyone has a slow-cooker to cook the beans this way, but no matter. Some supermarkets sell canned black beans (not ours yet, sadly) Happily, even if you do, like me, live deep in the heart of Banjo-land, Mexgrocer can provide you with canned black beans by mail-order. Hooray for the internet!

Black Bean and Sweetcorn Salad

This does make a lot, but it is lovely for lunch, especially in a tortilla 'wrap' with some sour cream or guacamole (or both for that matter).

140g dried black beans, soaked and cooked
250g sweetcorn, defrosted if frozen
4 spring onion, chopped finely
handful chopped parsley
juice of 1/2 lime
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chilli

Combine all the ingredients in a big bowl. Stir well, cover and refrigerate for a few hours, or all day. Try to avoid eating spoonfuls throughout the afternoon (though it must be said that, for me, this is a counsel of perfection!)


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