Sunday, 23 May 2010

Old Favourites

With a lovely weekend like this one has been and the children content to play for hours in the sunshine,I've done very little but sit in the garden, listening to the radio, leafing through magazines and, as the evening draws closer, drinking those stubby little bottles of French lager that just say 'summer' to me.  Last night, we barbecued some quickly home-made burgers with some sausages and revisited our old faithful barbecue side dishes of barbecued garlic mushrooms and brown rice salad.  The smell from the grill was fantastic, and sitting in the garden, just chatting, is a really terrific way to spend a warm Saturday evening (even if it did have to be cut short, all too abruptly, by the children rushing indoors for their weekly Doctor Who fix).

Tonight, I'm continuing the weekend's classic favourites theme by serving up my cheeky, cheaty pasta bake with a simple lettuce salad and no fuss whatsoever.  Then back into the garden...
Cath xx 

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Milky Milky

This is a really nice treat for the children, full of goodness and, even better, they can get really involved with the preparation.  We make almond milk quite often and this milkshake is one of my boys' favourite things to do with it.  Admittedly you don't have to make the almond milk yourself (you can buy a version in most health-food-type stores and some supermarkets but, as you will see, it takes very little effort and is actually rather fun (for the children, too).  It has several uses; my children love it on cereal and I've made a very successful almond custard using almond milk.  I've yet to try it for making ice-cream, but the time is undoubtedly drawing near when I shall, I'm sure... possibly an almond latte would be nice too!

Almond Milk

400g whole, shelled almonds (with the skin still on)

Blanch the almonds.  Do this by putting them in a pan of cold water and bringing them to the boil.  Drain and leave to cool, then slip off the skins by squeezing them at the pointed end with your thumb and forefinger.  Children really seem to like doing this. 

Put the blanched almonds in a large bowl and cover with 1 litre of fresh water.  Leave to soak for 24 hours or so,giving it a stir whenever you think about it.  The next day, whizz the water and the nuts in the blender until finely chopped (I need to do this in two batches). Strain through a muslin-lined sieve, pressing the solids down hard to extract as much liquid as possible.  Store in a covered jug in the fridge. You can stir in a couple of drops vanilla extract at this point if you like (or some amaretto, which is lovely for an almond custard but maybe not such a good idea on your breakfast cereal, eh?)

Now to that all-important milkshake...

Bakewell Pudding Milkshake

500ml almond milk
100g raspberries (frozen ones are fine)
1 tbsp Demerara sugar

Blend. Hand to excited, pleading offspring. Relax in glow of perfect motherhood for all of ten seconds.
Cath xx

Monday, 17 May 2010

Simply Sinful

These cheesy scones go really well with LOADS of different meals, or stand alone as a super snack,.  They are easy enough to make, provided you don't get too bothered by the (very tasty but, OK, admittedly unhealthy) butter and cheese factor.  Tonight they sat beside a mixed bean chilli that I put in the slow-cooker this morning, but we also eat them with soups, stews, and breakfasts.  They are extremely good cold too, so don't fret about having any left over (as if!).

Cheesy Scones

If you fancy, you can add 100g sweetcorn kernels to the scone mix before stirring in the milk.  This is particularly nice to add texture if you want to eat them with something like scrambled eggs and bacon.

350g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp mixed dried herbs
4 tsp baking powder
200g butter, diced
200ml milk + 1 tsp
175g grated Cheddar cheese

Put the flour, salt, mustard and baking powder into a bowl.  Rub in 150g butter, then stir in the milk and mix to make a soft dough.  Roll out to about 1cm thick and cut rounds with a 5cm cutter.  Re-roll and keep cutting to use up all the dough.  Placethe scone rounds in a greased roasting tin.  Melt the remaining butter, the cheese and 1 tsp milk together in a pan and pour this over the scones, getting a little mixture over each piece.  Bake at 200c for 15 minutes until golden and crisp on the top.  Remove them from the tin CAREFULLY, with the aid of a spatula and/or palette knife.  Serve while still warm and pull the scones apart at the table.  It doesn't take much...

Cath xx

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Slow and Spicy

Anyone who might be reading my blog with anything approaching interest and/or regularity will have realised by now that I love and rely quite heavily on my slow-cooker and have done for a long time.  It never ceases to surprise me with some of the lovely things that can so easily be made and I never seem to stop recommending to people that they should get themselves a slow-cooker, pronto!

This morning I threw this little number together.  The really great thing about using a slow-cooker (apart from the food, natch) is that nearly all of it is that lovely throw-it-together sort of cooking; no stress, no fuss. A 'proper' recipe is a bit difficult to give (hence why I haven't written about it before), because every time I make this sort of curry in the sainted machine I use just what we have in the house, vegetable-wise.  In other words I don't shop specifically for it.  So I've finally decided just to give you tonight's interpretation; what follows is just one version of an ever-changing favourite.

Slow Vegetable Curry

I should probably note here that I used frozen cauliflower today. I usually put some frozen veg in these curries, but no more than one sort, generally.

1 tbsp fat (oil, butter, ghee, whatevs)
2 onions, halved and sliced
3 tbsp curry powder, or to taste (I used Steenberg's Tikka Masala, choose your favorite)
2 carrots, chopped 
2 sticks celery, chopped
150g-ish mushrooms, quartered
200g-ish cauliflower, in small florets
 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
 can chopped tomatoes
80g creamed coconut, chopped and dissolved in 200ml boiling water

Soften the onion in the fat.  I have to say that I always pre-soften onions for slow-cooker dishes in the popty ping (Welsh slang for microwave),  which is actually one of the very few times I use it.  Stir the curry powder into the onions.  Put these, and all the other prepared vegetables, into the slow cooker.  Mix really well, then pour over the creamed coconut liquid and pop the lid on the cooker.  Cook on LOW all day, or HIGH if you start it at lunchtime.  Serve with rice or bread if you like (my hubby and children do), or just eat a bowl of it on its own, which is what I do.

Cath xx

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Tikka Time

Saturday evenings for us, these days, are increasingly ruled by my sons' growing obsession with Doctor Who.  Not terrible, because Hubby and I enjoy watching it with them (even if we do have to tolerate a running commentary on what's happening in the program we. are. watching. too.).  Early evening television means an earlier supper than we might otherwise have and this spicy dish is perfect for a Saturday night, eaten from sticky fingers, noshed without ceremony but with huge enjoyment, before they rush to the sofa for their weekly 'fix'.  Tonight I prepared a bowl of my ever-popular Spiced Potatoes with Spinach, but these wings are just as good with a bowl of rice or a nice green salad.   Cross-culturally, I rather love them with Tzatziki, too, especially leftovers eaten cold for a sneaky snack or a light lunch.

Tikka-Style Wings

I have a Typhoon CrushGrind, (highly recommended) so I grind *these* spices in that before adding them to the whizzer.  Alternatively, crush in a pestle-and-mortar or even substitute 1/2 tsp each of the bought ready-ground spices

12 chicken wings
6 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp tomato purée 
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 inch piece ginger root, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
6 cloves*, ground (and see above)
seeds from 8 cardamom pods*, ground (and see above)
tbsp black peppercorns*, ground (and see above)

Put the chicken wings in a large bowl and everything else into a blender or food processor.  Whizz to a fragrant, nubbly paste.  Pour and scrape this over the chicken wings, then turn them really well to coat them completely in the spicy paste-marinade.  You can either cling-film the bowl as it is or, to save space (always important in a family 'fridge), I transfer the whole shebang to a lidded plastic box.  Either way, chill for at least 6 hours or overnight. 

Cook the chicken wings, still coated in the flavour-paste, in a 200°c oven for 40 minutes.  I usually line a roasting pan with foil because any burnt-on paste is a nightmare to wash up!  Serve on a large platter and make sure to provide plenty of kitchen paper and a poubelle de table (aka 'table dustbin') for the discarded bones. Slurp!
Cath xx


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