Tuesday, 24 November 2009


This is one of our real family favourite that, while it bears a slight resemblance to, and carries the name of, a classic dish, probably bears no real resemblance to the same.  I have never been to Italy, and I have no formal cookery training so attaching an Italian name to this dish is rather cheeky, to say the very least.  A slightly easier undertaking for a weeknight than lasagna al forno, but just as satisfying to serve and eat


One quantity of meat sauce
couple of handfuls dried macaroni, cooked

When the meat sauce and the macaroni are cooked, mx them together and put into the bottom of a large ovenproof dish.  Set aside while you make a white sauce with;

1 pint milk
40g plain flour

40g butter, cubed
freshly grated nutmeg (we like LOTS)
ground white pepper, to taste

Put the milk, flour, butter and pepper into a saucepan and bring to the boil, whisking all the time. When it boils add the nutmeg, turn the heat down and simmer, still whisking, for a couple of minutes more.

Por this sauce on top of thre meat-and-macaroni mixture, then scatter over a topping of mixed breadcrumbs and grated cheese.  Pop the dish in the oven and bake for 30 mninutes at 180°c unmtil golden browen on top and really sizzling.  Leave the dish to sit and rest for a few moments before you serve.

This is one of those suppers that (all) my boys would eat and eat (and eat and eat!).  Leftovers are lovely reheated the next day for lunch, on the rare occasions that I manage to claw some back for that purpose...

Cath xx

Monday, 23 November 2009

Scratchy Scratchy

The only (slight) problem with cooking joints of meat in the slow-cooker is the lack of crisp, crunchy bits.  For a piece of pork this presents a real problem, as the crackling is (in most households, anyway), awaited as eagerly as the meat itself.  Happily though, this problem is not insoluble; if you take the fatty rind off your joint before popping it in the cooker, you can have your meat cooked beautifully while you do whatever you like and then, when you feel inclined, follow the recipe below for a fab pre-dinner snack.  Scratchings are a great favourite of my beloved; not to say that the rest of us don't like them too, just that his passion for them by far eclipses any interest we might have.  I admit that these are barely dietetic, and certainly an insalubrious pleasure, but every once in a while they are a real treat...

Really Scratchy Scratchings

Pork Rind
2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp English mustard powder
several good grindings of fresh black pepper

Cut the pork rind (sharp kitchen scissors are easiest) into pieces about 2 x 1cm.  Mix the salt, mustard and pepper together in a plastic bag, then pop in the rinds and toss to coat.  Tip the rinds onto a baking sheet and cook for 20-30 minutes at 200°c until brown, crisp and sizzling.  Drain the scratchings on kitchen paper and tip the fat remaining on the tray into your dripping pot.  Serve the scratchings (with a pre-prandial G&T for preference) while they are still just barely warm.
Cath xx

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Stir-Up Saturday

I know it's not Stir-Up Sunday yet, but I did our Christmas pudding today. The collect Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord is, anyway, a spiritual entreaty rather than a culinary one, but I like the tradition, all the sameWith the weather as manky as it has been, however, it wasn't as though we were likely to leave the house, so I made my decision and got it ready first thing, then left it in the slow-cooker all day. The first time I made a Christmas pudding I had only an ordinary pan to cook it and filled the kitchen with sticky brown steam in the process, my poor Hubby was horrified! For a few years after that, the pressure cooker proved a much better option, but this year I decided to try using the slow-cooker.  I'm aware that my alcohol 'selection' may look bizarre, but it’s because one year when I made my pudding I didn’t have enough brandy, so I made up this mixture. Result? Best pudding ever, so I stuck with it. Use all brandy if you prefer, though – or all rum is good too.  Don't forget to have everyone in the house stir the pudding and make a wish!

Christmas Pudding

Butter, to grease the bowl
350g mixed dried fruit
100ml brandy
100ml amaretto
100ml dark rum
150g wholemeal breadcrumbs
150g shredded suet
50g self-raising flour
200g dark muscovado sugar
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 large egg, beaten

Butter a 1.2 litre pudding basin and line the base with a cut-out circle of greaseproof paper. Mix all the ingredients together (and see my notes above) and pack tightly into the bowl. Cover with a sheet each of greaseproof and foil, laid together and pleated in the centre. Tie tightly with string and cook, either all day on HIGH in an electric slow-cooker, in a pressure cooker (with boiling water) for 3 hours, or steam in boiling water for 6 hours. Carefully remove from the pan and leave the bowl to cool overnight. Take off the top wrapping and replace with a double layer of clingfilm. Store until Christmas in a cool, dark place.

Cath xx

Friday, 20 November 2009

I Feel Like I'm Cheating!

The nights are drawing in and the weather is COLD.  So the time is right to remind myself, and anyone else I can reach out there just how wonderful are these machines, and how much easier they make one's daily life.  If you have yet to discover the delights of the electric slow cooker, may I beg you to please consider it.  Tonight's dinner was prepared this morning while the kids were eating breakfast; all of three minutes' work!

Cheaty Chicken Curry

1 onion, diced
6 chicken thigh fillets, halved
1/3 jar curry paste (I like Patak's Tikka paste)
400g can chopped tomatoes

At breakfast time, bung everything in the slow cooker.  Add 100ml water from the kettle (which you've anyway just boiled to make your cup of tea!), put on the lid and cook on LOW until suppertime.  How easy?

For accompaniments, cooking some rice is hardly taxing, and while I occasionally swirl some yoghurt through the curry just before serving, more often than not I make this lazy raita-style sauce to go with.  It also goes rather well with poppadoms and mango chutney for an almost-instant but still decadent late-night snack...

A Relaxed Raita

200g pot natural yoghurt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tsp mint sauce (from a jar!)

Mix together.  Chill until needed (you, and the sauce!)

Cath xx


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