Saturday, 31 July 2010

Homemade Pâté Heaven - It's Easy, I Promise!

Pâté is one of those things that, if you love it, you really love it.  I really like making my own, homemade, pâté, it can be just what I want it to be. That being said, however, I am quite 'conservative' about how my pâté should taste; I like a good livery flavour and not too many extra (for which read extraneous) flavours.  I would much rather eat a small portion of a good, simple pâté like this one than have twice the amount of strange, ersatz pâté, with odd things added to it.  This seems especially to be a problem in the run-up to Christmas, but the supermarkets especially (though independent butchers are not totally immune; I have seen some very odd things in my time) do seem keen to push pâté on us as a 'luxury' food, studded with all manner of fruits and striated with bizarre, and jarring, vegetable purées.  No matter, though, once you taste this you will always want the good stuff...

Really Easy Chicken Liver Pâté

I use GIA's Garlic Purée in my pâté, because I like it to be as smooth as possible.  You can, of course, substitute a minced clove of fresh garlic.

2 x 227g cartons of frozen chicken livers, defrosted and drained

200g butter
2 tbsp double cream
2 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp garlic purée (and see above)

Heat a frying pan and melt the butter.  Fry the chicken livers until well browned, the put everything from the pan into the food processor, with all the other ingredients.  Whizz to form a smooth purée, then pour and scrape into ramekins or one larger serving dish.  Chill the pâté until set, and until needed.  Serve with hot toast, warm rolls and, for my preference, a dish of cocktail gherkins (or cornichons, if you must) to provide tang and crunch.
Cath xx

Friday, 30 July 2010

Choccy Roccy

Generally speaking, I have much more of a 'savoury' tooth than a 'sweet' one.  I will always reach for celery, olives, cheese or nuts without even considering chocolates; I eschew the biscuit tin for a handful of my best-beloved Bombay Mix.  That being said, Rocky Road' is one of the few sweet treats that I really can't resist... So easy to make, and great for the children to help with too, my version gets a nice little kick from the ginger and is just how I like it; more 'rock' than 'choc'.  OK, it's very far from being a health food, but it's a lovely treat.  Cut into slices to serve with cups of tea or as a quick, no-effort pud, chop it up roughly to scatter over ice-cream or just break off a chunk for an instant sugar-fix...

Rocky Road

200g milk chocolate
200g plain chocolate
knob of butter
8 'pink wafer' biscuits, roughly broken up
12 glacé cherries, halved
12 marshmallows, quartered
2 tbsp glacé ginger, finely chopped
100g pistachio nuts, shelled
*hundreds and thousands, to decorate*

Melt both types of chocolate together with the butter.  Stir in all the other ingredients and mix really well to coat everything in chocolate.  Pour and scrape into a lightly oiled baking tin (whether you use a small one, for 'deep', or a larger one for 'shallow' Rocky, is up to you.  Scatter over some hundreds-and-thousands 'for pretty', if you like, then pop the whole assembly into the 'fridge.  Chill it until set, then cut, or break, it up as you like.  Enjoy!
Cath xx

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Get a Bead on This..!

Not a great deal to tell you today, but look!  Look! Look at what I made!!  I went to an informal jewellery workshop this morning and in less than 2 hours, turned out this little beauty; the ideal bracelet for so many of my favourite outfits.  I find myself wearing a lot of green lately, so this will happily not be one of those items that is just perfect with one outfit but, unfortunately, only the one, i.e. it doesn't really go with anything else.  Such items are rarely good buys, and just make me feel (a) cross with myself for not wearing them more often and (b) bitter that I *wasted* money when I could have had something more versatile.  Not this baby,  I suspect that this will barely be off my arm for a looooooong time...
Cath  xx

Monday, 26 July 2010

Comforting Food. Again.

OK, Back to it.  This is what I cooked tonight, making use of the contents of the 'fridge... After using it as an accompaniment for my Fruity Spiced Chicken last night, I had loads of leftover brown rice sitting in a box, waiting to be used, so that had to go somewhere.  Rootling around in the depths of my brain, I decided that it would be just the ticket for a vegetarian 'baked rice' recipe.  So I dug some garlic butter out of the freezer (I always make masses at a time and freeze it in portions to use, not only for more garlic bread, but also in more general cooking),  and got to thinking about mushrooms and what sort of binding sauce would be good.  Obviously, you can just use regular butter and add in a few cloves of minced garlic when you fry the 'shrooms, then add some chopped herbs to the dish later, but the ready-homemade-and-frozen garlic butter plan is, I beseech you, truly the way forward.

Cheesy Mushroom Rice

700g cooked brown rice
50g garlic butter (with herbs, if possible)
400g mushrooms
40g butter
40g plain flour
1 tsp English mustard powder
500ml milk
200g Cheddar cheese

Melt the garlic butter in a large frying pan and cook the mushrooms until very brown and what I call 'squeaky'; there should be no liquid left in the pan at all and you will know just what I mean when the mushrooms, almost, seem to squeak  Meanwhile, make an all-in-one white sauce by putting the butter, flour, mustard powder and milk into a saucepan and, whisking continuously, bring it all to the boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer briefly, then remove from the heat.  Add half the grated cheese and stir well until it has melted into the sauce completely.  Put the cooked rice into an oven dish, add the mushrooms and mix the cheese sauce in thoroughly.  Top with the remaining cheese and bake at 200°c for 30 minutes or so, until the top is somewhat crisp.

It was really, really nice - I cannot sufficiently explain how much I wanted to eat, well, ALL OF IT.  This one is definitely a keeper...
Cath xx

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Trying Things Out

I haven't felt very inspired, blog-wise, recently.  I'm still cooking, of course, and have tried out a few new things.  Some of them worked (peanut-butter fairy cakes, courgette pizza, adding some of my green sauce to a béchamel) and some of them need more work (soca, homemade wasabi peas, risotto in the slow-cooker).  I still take my photos, and I do plan to write about them but, somehow, I just don't 'get around to it'.  I want to do this, I really do, I just don't seem to have the motivation at the moment, or know where to go with the blog to make it more appealing to you; frankly I don't even know if there even is a 'you' or if I'm just typing to myself, which is a worry.  Is anyone out there? Please drop me a comment and tell me what you think, I feel a bit lost for words (and that is very unlike me)
Cath xx

Monday, 19 July 2010

Pin It!

I have recently discovered a new favourite thing; Pinterest!  This funky site allows you to collect together all the inspirational and wantable bits and bobs from all over your web-i-verse and 'pin' them onto a virtual m oodboard of your own making.  A great way to avoid the long lists of 'favourite' pages, bookmarked only because you like one or two of the pictures.

My pinboard is full of beautiful things; tasty things; witty things and a lot of typographic art that makes me smile... I can also view other ;inboards for a jolt of colour and whimsy when I feel like some surfing-time... Roll on over and see for yourselves.  What will you pin?
Cath xx

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Going Green

This is a lovely little thing I came up with during one of my 'kitchen pootling' sessions, just playing about with things from the 'fridge and the cupboards, seeing what happens... Hugely successful in this case, this green sauce is divine with plain steamed vegetables; with new potatoes; with grilled meats (especially lamb, my goodness!) and, as we had it tonight, with fish (mackerel, filleted and fried in a knob of butter).  It has quite a summery feeling to it, but is thankfully not inherently reliant on good weather, as so many 'BBQ' favourites can be. While this is what we call it at home, I'm aware that it (maybe) doesn't sound terribly appetising, so I've tried very hard to think of a more poetic-sounding name, but I can't, so as 'green sauce' it must stay.  You do need a blender or a food processor for this recipe.

Green Sauce

I use a  vegetable peeler to peel away the strings from the celery, then cut it into chunks.

1 stick celery (and see above)
handful parsley
handful mint
1 tsp capers, rinsed
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
60ml olive oil
60ml rapeseed or sunflower oil
1 egg yolk

Put everything, bar the egg yolk, in the blender.  Whizz until a slightly creamy, smooth-looking sauce is formed, then add the egg yolk and blend again. Season with salt and pepper to taste, pour into a bowl and chill until needed.  Stir before serving, as the oil will separate slightly on keeping.

Cath xx

UPDATE: Just the other night I made a simple béchamel sauce for a pasta bake with salami and courgettes and, finding I hadn't made quite enough sauce, whisked in the remaining green sauce to increase the volume a little. Result? Totally divine  In fact, this may now be one of the bet uses for my little green goddess! x

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


This is rather more fiddly than a lot of my midweek suppers, I'll grant you, but cannelloni al forno is lovely and I'm so won over to using these supermarket packets of 'fresh' lasagne sheets; it really is tiresome making one's own pasta whenever one wants to make cannelloni and the dried tubes you sometimes see for sale are, nine times out of ten, irreparably damaged by the time you get them home from the shop.  It's also, actually, quite nice sometimes to feel that you are doing a bit of 'real' cooking in the middle of the boring, workaday week; it seems to bring that expansive, weekend feeling even to a drizzly Tuesday evening.

Cannelloni al Forno with Tuna

1 onion, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
400g can tuna, drained
300g spinach, wilted and chopped
pack of 10 'fresh' lasagne sheets
500g carton passata
100g mozzarella, grated
 50g parmesan, grated

Heat some oil in a frying pan and soften the onion and celery together.  Stir in the tuna and the spinach and heat through.  Remove from the heat.  Put spoonfuls of the mixture onto each of the lasagne sheets and roll up from the longer side, making a 'tube', filled with the tuna mixture.  Place these 'tubes', in turn, in an ovenproof dish then, when all 10 are done, pour over the passata and scatter over the cheeses.  Bake for about half an hour in a 180°c oven.  Let it cool in the dish a littlew before you serve it, otherwise you'll be faced with tuna alla napalm!  Enjoy with salad, you could even add some garlic bread if you want a little more kitchen pootling to do...

Cath xx

Monday, 12 July 2010

Summer Lovin'

I just adore this sort of meal in the summer months; simple to throw together in the suicide hour, but not sacrificing anything for that.  It's really tasty, full of flavours that suggest the season, without being too obviously contrived.  I also love this for using only things that anyone might have in store at any time; the only thing might be the fresh basil, for which you could easily substitute a tablespoonful of pesto, let down with a little extra olive oil, stirred in at the same point in the recipe.  Similarly I use chipolatas, because my butcher sells beautiful ones, but you can (obviously) use whatever you prefer; just please bear in mind the meat content of sausages and look out for ones with a high percentage - some can be terrifying low in meat content, once you look at the label.

Summery Sausage Traybake

4-6 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, halved and sliced thickly
10 chipolatas
8 new potatoes, quartered
4 tomatoes, quartered
handful fresh basil, torn (and see above)

Pour the olive oil into a roasting tin and add the onions, sausages and potatoes, mixing well to coat everything.  Cook in a 180°c oven for 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes to the tin, toss well and return to the oven to cook for a further 30 minutes.  Stir in the torn basil (or the oil-and-pesto substitute mentioned above) and cook just 5 minutes more.  Serve straight from the tin at table, you need nothing else at all (though a glass of red does go down beautifully with it, if you insist).

Cath xx

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Viva los Nachos!

Did you know that Nachos have been around since 1943? Or that October 21 is the International Day of the Nacho? Or, even, that they were first created for a group of U.S. Army wives who turned up at a restaurant in Mexico just after closing time?  Well, just maybe those hungry ladies should be considered the patron saints of unexpected guests, because the Nachos Especiales (Nacho’s special dish) that Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya hurriedly created for them that day started a huge culinary wave that continues across the world today.  Anaya’s Mexican original was a simple dish of tortillas with pickled jalapeños and shredded cheese, but thanks to U.S. appetites, we have since become more accustomed to the delights of 'Loaded Nachos', with a multitude of delicious things piled onto the humble tortilla chips that lie beneath. 

You can, of course, use a bag of bought tortilla chips to make Nacho dishes, but I quite like to make this easy version in the oven to cut down on the fat and salt inherent in the dish.  Just take some corn tortillas (they are usually sold in packs of 8), cut into wedges and spread out on lightly oiled baking sheets.  Bake at 200°c for 5 minutes, then turn them and return to the oven for another five minutes.  You can make these in advance and keep them in a tin if you like; I normally do them during the day, at some point, for supper in the evening.

Loaded Nachos with Beef and Beans 

I have recently found some fab mixed beans for this, labelled 'Mexican Bean Salad', which are a mix of pinto, haricot, red kidney and black turtle beans, but any can of beans will do.

350g Tortilla chips (and see above)
1red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp mild chili powder
250g beef mince
400g can mixed beans (and see above) 
fresh parsley, chopped
2 or 3 tomatoes, de-seeded and diced
150g Edam, grated

Heat a little oil in a large pan and fry the onion until soft. Add the garlic and spice, stir well, then add the beef to the pan, Brown it really well until it is completely cooked, then mix in the bean salad and heat through. Stir in the chopped parsley.

Spread the tortilla chips out across a very large plate, then top with the beef-and-bean mixture.  Scatter the tomato dice over, then cover it all with grated cheese.  I find Edam best for Nachos, really, because it melts in a way I like without too much oiliness.  The cheese flavour is prominent, without becoming overpowering,  but feel free to substitute Cheddar, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack or whatever you fancy. Nachos are such a moveable feast!  Flash the plates under the grill to melt the cheese and serve with sour cream or natural yoghurt.  I like to serve  pickled jalapeños, though I leave them on the side as I'm the only one who goes there.  Similarly, you could add other side dishes; some salsa; even a dish of guacamole, or some of my avocado dip if you really want to push the boat out....
Cath xx

Friday, 9 July 2010

For Goodness Sake...

Making this for supper always reminds me of that old advert for British Lion eggs, where the guy is listening to his flatmates debate what they could make for supper with the paltry contents of their fridge and he exclaims, in a really broad west of Scotland accent, "for goodness sake, you could have a courgette frittata".  Don't mind if I do, actually...

I've mentioned my other half's liking for attempting to 'do' accents before.  He found (and still finds) it hilarious the way the chap says "for goodness sake", and apes him, even now, at every opportunity which presents itself. He is also currently rather keen on the accents of the Big Brother narrator and the guy from the Co-Operative adverts who says "Haalf- Priiiice".  So this, dear readers, is the soundtrack of my life...

Potato and Courgette Frittata

You need, really, to use a frying pan with a heat-proof handle for this recipe so that you can put it under the grill safely.

olive oil
2 large courgettes, sliced
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
about 300g leftover cooked potatoes, sliced
8 eggs

Lay the sliced courgettes on a baking tray with just a spritz of oil.  Roast for 15 minutes, turning the slices over once.  Meanwhile, soften the oil in a good slick of olive oil, adding the mustard seeds and garlic.  When the onion is soft, add the potatoes to the pan, followed by the courgettes.  Beat the eggs with some ground pepper, then pour the eggs into the pan.  Preheat the grill to a medium heat and let the frittata sit, without stirring or fiddling with it, on a medium hob for 10 minutes. Turn the pan occasionally if, like mine, your hob has some spots hotter than others.  When the frittata is set around the edges and almost on top, stick the pan under the grill to cook the top.  This will take barely a couple of minutes.  You could, I suppose, turn it out onto a plate or a board to serve it, but that strikes me as too much hassle, having the potential for disaster as it does, so I just leave it in the pan.  In any case, let it cool slightly before slicing or serving it as this does improve it.   Cut into wedges and serve with a leafy salad.

Cath xx

Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep

We are redecorating and reorganising the children's shared bedroom at the moment, with an eye to having "a place for everything, and everything in its place" sometime in the not too distant future, not to mention somewhere for homework as they get older (which they are, rather rudely, continuing to do all the time!).  That said, however, Hubs and I were distracted from the more practical side of the shopping when beautiful frivolity by KICO popped up on the radar .
How could we resist this BIRDEY light? It's somehow Pixar-esque.  In fact, we kept having to open the box regularly, to peep at it and get a giggle-fix, until it went up onto the ceiling.  The children love it, we love it and the light is amazingly bright, as are our smiles every time we see it.  Now we just have to resist getting the matching wall lights too!
Cath xx

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Puff the Magic Dinner

Much as I love making pizza, it can be a step too far on a weeknight to start mixing, kneading, resting and rolling out the dough base.  While I sometimes have the organisational capacity to make the dough during the day, or even the night before, the suicide hour usually calls for a meal that can be quickly banged together and plonked on the table, with the confidence that it will taste great and keep everyone happy (for now, at least...).  This is, I suppose, a kind of midweek variation on a Roasted Vegetable Tart which I used to make all the time.  In fact, as I've remembered about it now, I'll have to make it again very soon!

Sheets of frozen, ready-rolled puff pastry are often on special offer at the supermarket and I always take the opportunity to stock up, as they make all sorts of meals that feel 'special' with not too much actual work.  Even I am organised enough to transfer a rolled-up sheet of frozen pastry from the freezer to the 'fridge before going to bed, so that I can use it the next evening.  Make sure you take it out of the fridge for a bit before you try to unroll it though, as the pastry is apt to crack it's too cold when you handle it.

Pesto Chicken 'Pizza' Tart

You can, of course vary this by changing the chicken for something else, such as roughly chopped salami, shredded lamb (though I prefer to use red pesto with lamb) or some sliced mushrooms.  You could even just 'do' a tomato and cheese version, I suppose.

1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
2 tbsp pesto (from a jar)
3 tomatoes, sliced
200g cooked chicken, shredded
100g mozzarella, grated

Preheat the oven.  I admit that I don't bother for most recipes, but with some things it really does seem to make a difference to the end result.  Unroll the sheet of pastry and place it on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Gently score a narrow border about 2cm from the edge, and prick with a fork.  Spread the pesto across this centre area, then lay the sliced tomatoes, in a single layer, on the pesto-smeared base.  Top this with the chicken and the grated mozzarella and bake at 180°c for 15 minutes until the pastry is puffed up and golden, with a lovely, browned and bubbled cheesy surface blanketing the delicious filling below.  Allow to cool slightly, then cut into slices to serve.

I like to accompany this with salad or a green vegetable; tonight I served steamed broccoli. Another reason why I love the puff pastry is that my family are learning to adapt to my no-potatoes-with-pastry edict (though, of course, I break my own rules on occasion), so no peeling needed.

Cath xx

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Little Bits of Loveliness

Crôutons can really add an extra dimension to a main course salad.  If, and when, you have a moment and feel like doing a little extra cooking, you could do worse than making a batch of crôutons instead of buying little bags of tiny, over-priced and over-seasoned, rock-hard bullets. They are easy and the flavourings (if any) can be varied to suit your palate or the sort of salads you like to make.  If they are well dried out in the oven they will keep really well in an airtight container, ready for you to fling into salads, soups or even pasta dishes (!) whenever the fancy takes you. 


100g white bread, crust cut off and cubed
2 tbsp olive oil  
flavourings (and see below)

Dry the cubes of bread out, a little, in a very low oven (less than 100°c), but don't let them colour.  Cool.  Meanwhile, whisk the oil and flavourings together in a large bowl. Drop the bread cubes in (all in one go) and stir until they are evenly coated-ish. Tip onto a baking tray and return to the oven to bake, slowly, for another 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven. You will be able to tell, from the delicious smell, when they are ready.  Indeed, the smell will also tell you when they are burnt, so be alert.... Let them cool completely before using or storing, as this will retain the crunch.

As for flavourings, I mostly make my crôutons with smoked paprika, with cracked black pepper or with garlic and herbs. A pinch of salt helps bring the flavours together in every case except for my cheesy croutons (which are usually eaten with tomato soup), which I make using some grated parmesan mixed in after the oil and a little garlic.

Incidentally, one possible word of warning though.  I cannot, and will not, countenance the use of crôutons as a 'nibble' under any circumstances. I was shocked recently, to be offered a dish of mixed olives (fine, lovely), a single, whole, pickled artichoke heart (hmm...) and some clearly industrially-prepared-and-bagged crôutons masquerading as 'tapas' in a pretentious bar.  Okaaaay... rant over.

Cath xx


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