Friday, 30 April 2010

Pish Pie

Known forever as 'pish' pie due to the  semi-Spooneristic tendencies of a friend when I introduced her to this idea, this has, for a long time, been my way of getting a fish pie (lush comfort food, filling, child-friendly, etc, etc) on the table at suppertime without too much fuss or washing-up.  The portions of fish in butter sauce may initially seem a little spooky in their plastic carapaces but, once combined with the other ingredients and blanketed with mash, they are very delicious, believe me.

Quick Fish Pie

4 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
2x 300g packs frozen 'fish portions in butter sauce'
326g can sweetcorn, drained
3 hard-boiled eggs,  roughly chopped
handful parsley, chopped
milk and/or butter for mashing potatoes

Boil the potatoes until soft.  Meanwhile, cook the fish portions as directed, but for only half the time stated.  Mix the sweetcorn and parsley together in an ovenproof dish, then squeeze the fish & sauce out of the packages and stir through the sweetcorn with the chopped egg.  Drain the potatoes and mash, as you like, with milk and/or butter.  Dollop the mash over the top of the pie, scratch the top with a fork and bake at 200 for 15-20 minutes until slightly browned.

Have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend and try not to mind the rain too much, eh?
Cath xx

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Oo-er, Saucy..!

Frozen chicken livers.  Not a phrase that immediately suggests anything terribly exciting but, man, I love these babies.  I keep a couple of cartons in the freezer most of the time; quick pâtes, warm salads and this delicious, hearty pasta dish need be barely more than a defrost away.  Satisfyingly, everything else for this recipe is readily available from the storecupboard and the garden so, as long as I remember to take the livers out of the freezer in the morning, supper can be a pretty fast construction, which is always good on a school night, isn't it? As a (slightly defensive) aside, yes, I know that a whole 500g pack of spaghetti is a trifle excessive for two adults and two children but it's lush and we're greedy.  In any case, my hubby can always be relied upon to relish any leftovers for his midnight 'lunch'.  Odd, yes, but this is the life of a night-worker...

Spaghetti with Saucy Chicken Livers

500g spaghetti
20g butter
1 tbsp oil
1 onion, peeled, quartered and sliced
large sprig rosemary, needles chopped
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2x 227g cartons frozen chicken livers, defrosted
50ml dry sherry
150ml milk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
handful fresh parsley, chopped

Cook the spaghetti in a pan of salted boiling water.  Meanwhile, melt the butter and oil together in a large pan and fry the onion with the rosemary until the onion is softened.  Toss the livers in the seasoned flour and add all this to the pan.  Fry until the livers are browned, then pour in the sherry.  Sizzle, sizzle, then pour in the milk and stir well to scrape up all the floury bits.  Mix in the mustard and bubble while the sauce thickens.  Stir in the parsley.  Drain the pasta, saving about 100ml of the water.  Toss the sauce through the drained pasta, then deglaze the liver cooking pan with the reserved pasta water and stir this through also.  Serve, without the addition of cheese, I feel.

Now to plan for the May Day bank holiday weekend...  I feel a bit of a kitchen frenzy coming on, hooray!
Cath xx

Monday, 26 April 2010

Forgetful, moi?

OK, so this is basically supper made with what I had in the fridge.  I had planned to make a risotto tonight; we had a roast chicken yesterday and I used the slow cooker to make some stock last night, while we slept.  Mid-afternoon, though, I had a mini-panic attack when I realised that I had completely neglected to take any bacon or similar out of the freezer to use in the risotto and that, having all had chicken rolls at lunch, it was unlikely in the extreme that the cold, cooked chicken would cut it .  On its own, in any case...  

Necessity being the mother of all invention, come suppertime, I opened the fridge and began unloading 'possibles' onto the counter.  Decision: chorizo would boost the bit of chicken we did had and spinach is always a winner in this household.  Result: possibly the best risotto I have ever made.  Very inauthentic, very unItalian, but very delicious nonetheless.

Risotto with Chicken, Chorizo & Spinach

25g butter and a drizzle of olive oil
1 onion, diced
200g risotto rice
50ml dry vermouth
800ml hot chicken stock
800g chorizo sausage, diced
100g cold, cooked chicken
couple of handfuls spinach leaves
25g fresh parmesan, grated

Melt 15g of butter with a drizzle of olive oil in a deep, heavy frying pan. Soften the onion, then tip in the rice, stirring to coat all the grains with the fat. Pour in the vermouth and cook for a minute or so to evaporate the alcohol. Then, still stirring all then time, add a ladleful of chicken stock at a time and allow it to be absorbed by the rice each time before adding the next. After you've put in all but 2-3 ladlefuls, add the chorizo and chicken and continue cooking in the same way. . When the last of the stock is absorbed, fold in the spinach, then add the parmesan and the last 10g of butter, cut into pieces. Give it all a good stir, then take the pan off the heat, cover it and leave it for a couple of minutes.  Throw a green salad together, set the table, pour a drink and serve, smugly...
Cath xx

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Love Match Wales

Another lovely day, more time out in the sun.  After a relaxed morning poking around in fields, we stopped for a picnic at Bwlch Nant-yr-Arian, the Welsh Assembly Government's Forestry centre near Ponterwyd.  While eating, in the picnic area, gazing at the beautiful view from our hillside seat, we realised (yet again) just how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful part of the world.  Wales is, of course, more beautiful when the sun shines, but where isn't?  And really, what clould be nicer than snuggling up in front of a roaring fire, blanket on lap, while the rain thyunders down outside as you sit in a warm Welsh stone cottage?  Look beyond, though, at hills and mountains, polka-dotted with sheep, or covered by Wagnerian pine forests; rivers laid like silver ribbons along the valleys; only farms and dwti cottages  occasionally puncturing nature's canvas (and the A44, of course, but we couldn't see that from where we were, only hear the odd motorbike here and there). 

Therein, of course lies a problem inherent with life here, now at least.  You want to go to fabulous places for picnics and you want to enjoy your picnic.  What could be nicer with a picnic than a cold beer? But drinking and driving? No, no, no, no, NO!  Thankfully, we are able to take icy bottles of Cobra Zero with us, all the taste and 0%!  Alcohol-free beers (known as 'non-stick' beers in my family) are truly the way forward for picnickers, I feel... and I also heartily recommend the alcohol-free Becks 'Blue'.

Here ends my 'I love Wales' rant, for the time being at least...
Hwyl fawr, Cath xx

Friday, 23 April 2010

Bunking Off in the Garden

Lovely, isn't it? To see the signs of Spring appearing everywhere, to feel warmth from the sun on your bare arms, to hang your laundry out in the breeze and even to be brave enough to eat supper out on the patio... I have been outside for so much of the last couple of weeks, often just sitting and breathing in the glory of nature (hence no posts - sorry about that, I do feel sort of bad). I have attempted to get our little garden in some sort of order and made plans for summer bunting and outdoor picnics (rather than the carpet picnics we have been restricted to for what feels like years, rather than months!).

Tonight's supper was a slightly spicy little number. We ate my version of Keema, a simple spiced meat dish, accompanied by the Spiced Potatoes with Spinach which my boys love so much. It somehow felt so right to be eating it outside.

Spiced Potatoes with Spinach

This, I suppose, is my approximation of the Indian restaurant classic Saag Aloo, which I love, love, LOVE!  Anything with spinach is A-OK with me, especially if the children love it too!

2 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 bay leaf
1 onion, halved and sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
2cm piece ginger root, minced
 400g potatoes, cut into 2cm-ish cubes
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp kalonji (AKA black cumin or nigella seeds)
140g bag baby spinach leaves

Heat the oil in a large pan (it needs to be one with a lid).  Frizzle the bay leaf and mustard seeds briefly, then add the onion to the pan and fry until soft.  Stir in the garlic and ginger and fry for a moment more before adding the spices.  Stir well, add the potatoes and then pour in 150ml water and clamp on the lid.  Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes, then stir the spinach through the potatoes as best you can.  Lid back on, heat back up and cook for 3 minutes or so until the spinach has wilted down.  Try not to eat it all straight out of the pan before serving it (though this is the hardest part of the recipe for me).

Divine with a dollop of raita; my lazy version is here.  Enjoy!
Cath xx

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Tap..tap..tap... It's Spring!

Spring has, most definitely, sprung this week and most of our time has been spent in the garden. It's lively to be outside in the fresh air, to dry laundry in the breeze and dream about lazy days to come...I hope!

Eating al fresco seems, somehow, to demand 'picky' bits of food; things to leave on the table and graze at until the sun goes down.  This is one of those wonderful things that is impressively easy to make, but which feels like a real treat.  The facts that all the ingredients are readily available in my storecupboard and that the finished product freezes beautifully only adds to its appeal; I need never be far from a helping of this!  This is also popular with children, probably because of its natural sweetness; but then saying that, as my children fall on most foods as though ravening beasts, they may not be the best example to present here...

Tapenade with Figs

250g dried figs
3 cloves garlic, peeled
250g pitted black olives in brine, drained
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
2 tsp anchovy paste 
2 tbsp olive oil

Put the figs and the garlic cloves in a small saucepan and just cover with water.  Bring to the boil and cook fro about 10 minutes, until the figs are really soft.  Drain, reserving the liquid.  Put the figs, garlic and all the other ingredients in the blender and pureé, adding some of the reserved cooking liquid to slacken the mixture as you need to.  Chill until needed, freeze in portions or just eat it straightaway!

While wonderful on its own on slices of crusty bread, whether toasted or not, this is completely divine with salty cheese or a plate of charcuterie.  Also consider adding it to a chicken sandwich (dee-lish).This forms a regular  part of my lunch in one way or another and I never get tired of it, I hope you don't either.
Cath xx

Saturday, 10 April 2010


There seem to be very few people (veggies excepted, ha-ha!) who really dislike kidneys.  My whole family ADORE them and we eat them quite often; mainly in Kidney Turbigo, but also occasionally in Kidney & Red Wine Pie, as made by my Mum and now by me.  This sort-of riff of the classic Devilled Kidneys is another favourite, with mushrooms added and a wee scoosh of sherry.  It's also very nice with just the mushrooms if you want a vegetarian dish, naturally swap the chicken stock for vegetable (or leave it out entirely, and see below). 

Sooooo... for coring the kidneys, you need a sharp knife and a pair of sharp scissors.  Cut the kidney in half lengthways.  As you will see, there is a distinct gristly white core.  Use your scissors to snip this away; don't worry if you lose a little meat as it comes away.  If (as usual) there are any little bits of the core left , snip these out separately.  Halve the kidneys again for this recipe, then I soak the kidney pieces in milk until I cook them.  This may well be nonsensical superstition, but it's what I do.

Sherried Kidneys & Mushrooms

This also makes a lovely first course, served on a crisp piece of toasted bread. The amount below serves 4 as a main course, so should easily provide for 6 to 8 people as a 'starter'. One proviso, though; omit the stock from the recipe in this case... We like quite a 'saucy' dish when we eat this as a main, not so good for a first course.

40g butter
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp English mustard powder
8 lambs’ kidneys, halved, cored and halved again
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
250g mushrooms, sliced
50ml dry sherry
100ml hot chicken stock
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Melt the butter in a large pan and soften the onion.  Meanwhile, add to the flour a little salt, some ground black pepper and the mustard powder.  Toss the kidney pieces in the seasoned flour, then  add it all to the pan and fry until the kidneys are brown.  Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are just tender.  Pour in the sherry, then add the stock and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened somewhat.   Throw a handful of chopped parsley over, and serve with rice.
Cath xx

Friday, 9 April 2010

Here comes the sun?

This is one of my little 'Ha! Summer's on the way' suppers that needs a little bit of easy kitchen action; just right to prepare, glass of wine in hand, with the back door open while the children play in the garden.  Turn the music up to drown out the sound of them arguing and pretend that la-la-la you can't hear them... Chin chin!

Cheesy Stuffed Aubergines

2 aubergines
250g minced lamb
50g couscous
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground  turmeric
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
150ml lamb (or vegetable) stock
50g Brazil nuts, chopped (optional,  v. yummy!)
50g Parmesan cheese, grated

Cut aubergines in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh, leaving about a half-centimetre's border around.  Dice the flesh and set aside.  Put the 'shells' in an ovenproof dish and season the inside surfaces with salt and pepper.

Fry the lamb and onion for five minutes, until the lamb is browned and the onion softened.  Turn the couscous in the pan to coat the grains in fat.  Mix in the diced aubergine and the remaining ingredients, bar the  cheese.  Use the mixture to fil the aubergine shells, then top with the cheese.  Cover the dish with foil and bake at 180c for 30 minutes; uncover and bake for a further 10 minutes.

This meal needs very little in the way of accompaniment, as it has a little of everything therein; some warm bread rolls are just right.  Happy weekend!
Cath xx

Sunday, 4 April 2010

A-Hunting We Will Go...

Thank you, sunshine, for making today a lovely day for an Easter egg hunt.  I hid pairs of little foil-wrapped eggs all over my parents' garden (then had to move some to new locations when I spotted my children 'cheating' through the French windows!).

Shoes on, they were handed tin buckets and we all counted 1-2-3-HUNT! Hiding the eggs in pairs implicitly seemed to encourage them to share, and to help one another out rather than simply piling all the eggs they could find into their proverbial 'one basket'.  I will DEFINITELY be doing that again next year.  Hope the good weather holds for the rest of the long weekend... Happy Easter, all of you!

Cath xx


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