Sunday, 24 June 2012

Sunday Lunch on Two Rings

Or, frankly, just the one ring if you lose the peas and serve it with a salad... The worst things about Sunday lunch (for me, anyway) are, one - the amount of time it takes to organise (this takes under an hour, and most of that you can spend playing Ravin' Rabbids on the Wii with the children!) and two - the mountain of pots to wash afterwards (two pans at most, plus a chopping board, a peeler, a knife, a skewer and your tableware).  Not such a big thing if you have a washing-up machine, I appreciate; we don't have one, so it remains a consideration if I'd like any sort of Sunday afternoon sit down...

Easy Sunday 'Not-Roast' Duck

4 duck legs
3 medium potatoes, cut into quarters
8 small parsnips, peeled, trimmed and halved
3 mugfuls of frozen peas

Stab the duck legs all over with a skewer, making sure to prick every lumpy pocket of fat.  Fry, on both sides, over a medium heat. to release the fat, don't try to turn the pieces until they release easily from the pan, or the skin will tear.  When the legs are brown and crisp, there will be a nice pool of fat in the pan.  Remove the legs and pop them on a plate for a moment, then add the prepared potatoes and parsnips to the pan.  Stir well to coat everything in the yummy duck fat, the pop the legs on top of the veg and pop the lid on the pan.  Leave it for half an hour, shaking the pan occasionally when you remember.  Don't remove the lid. Don't.  No, not even for a little peek, trust me!

When your bleeper goes off, remove the lid, add some seasoning, turn up the heat and cook for a further 10 minutes to reduce the liquid.  Cook the frozen peas in a different pan (ooh, how I love duck with peas).  Run a sinkful of hot, soapy water to sling all your cooking utensils into  Dump the food in a serving dish and the pans into the aforementioned sink, to make washing-up a breeze later.  Take lunch to the table, feeling smugly efficient...
Cath xx

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A Perky 'Paella'

I, uncharacteristically, wasn't quite sure what to cook when I got home this evening...  I picked up some irresistibly plump chicken breast fillets in the butcher's earlier, which was worthy of comment because I (almost) unfailingly choose thighs, legs or wings if I'm not buying a whole bird.  A quick forage in the 'fridge on return to Distracted Towers revealed a vac-pack of 'cooking' chorizo and a few pieces of black pudding which I had intended to cook for breakfast over the weekend until life got in the way.  With a few store-cupboard bits and some chicken stock from the freezer, I was away!

Chicken, Chorizo & Black Pudding Sort of 'Paella'

170g cooking chorizo, cut into chunks
400g chicken breast fillet, sliced
1 onion, sliced
splash white wine or dry sherry
150g paella rice
350ml hot chicken stock
170g black pudding, cut into chunks
chopped parsley
lemon wedges, to finish

Put the pieces of chorizo in a wide, deepish pan and slowly heat it, from cold, so that the vividly orange oils begin to run out.  Remove the chorizo pieces with a slotted spoon and chuck in the chicken slices, allowing them to brown and crisp on the underside before turning them.  Set these aside, also.   Fry the onion until soft, golden and tangly, then pour in some wine or sherry.  Mind the steam!  Tip in the paella rice (which, if I can get it in deepest, darkest Mid-Wales, should present no problem to anyone) and stir very briefly; we are not making a risotto here.  Add the chicken stock and then lay the chorizo, chicken and the piece of black pudding on top of the rice.  Turn the heat right down and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove the lid and continue to cook until all the liquid has been soaked up and the rice is tender.  Quickly, though gently, stir in the parsley and surround the rice with wedges of lemon for squeezing over as you eat.

As far as dinner on the fly goes, this was a definite success and something I have a feeling I'll be cooking again and again.  It's meaty and rich so, as well as the lemon to squeeze over, I felt it definitely needed a sharply dressed and crunchy salad to go with.  A glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Sacred Hill, if you're interested) accompanied it perfectly.
Cath xx

Thursday, 14 June 2012


This is a dish that I used to make loads and loads, then I somehow forgot about for a bit.  It came up in conversation with a friend a few days ago, and ever since then I've been positively craving it!  I've no idea, now, why I ever stopped doing it, because it's one of those dream recipes; really straightforward, very quick and proper impressive, like...

Fantastic Stuffed Chicken

If the cheese doesn't float your boat, these are also brills with pesto (red or green) in the middle

6 chicken thigh fillets
12 - 18 slices pancetta or thin-cut streaky bacon
garlic & herb soft cheese (like Boursin or le Roulé)

First, 'unfold' the thigh fillets and bash each one a bit, to flatten them to an even thickness.  You don't need a proper meat mallet, just a rolling pin, wrapped in foil or clingfilm to protect it from the raw meat (though, yes, you do still have to wash it!), will be fine.

Next, lay out strips of bacon on a board and top with a flattened thigh. Put a blob of the cheese in the centre of the chicken and roll the whole shebang up.  Place on a rack in a roasting in.  I usually bung it in the fridge for a bit to firm the cheese up, but don't worry... Pop it in the oven at 180 for 30-35 minutes until the chicken is cooked right through.

I like to serve these on a heap of buttery mashed potatoes, with some nice veggies on the side.  Easy as.

Cath xx

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Boing, Boing!

Just one more day of half-term for us today, thanks to an additional INSET day and for the first time in what feels like ages, the sun has been shining and not a single drop of rain has fallen 9crosses fingers, touches wood, etc.).  If you're in the UK and have seen any news in the last week, you'll know that this seems almost unprecedented for West Wales... Our house being up a hill, we've not had any trouble at home, but friends have seen the waters creeping worryingly up the garden and others have been stuck at home, or in cars, amidst rising flood water.  And this is JUNE, for goodness sake (shakes fist at sky).

Tonight's supper may seem more suited to winter weather, but as that's what we've been having, that is what I cooked... I did the wine reduction this morning, but you can do it a few days ahead, keeping the resulting brew in the fridge until you need it... this is very good to impress visiting in-laws, btw!

Beef Boing

This is my version of boeuf a la bourguinonne, affectionately known as 'boing' at Distracted Towers...

 For the cooking liquid:

75cl bottle red wine
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
garlic cloves, peeled and squashed a bit
pinch peppercorns
2 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried
few sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme

Bung everything in a large pan and bring to the boil.  Carefully ignite with a long match to burn off the alcohol.  Wait until the (rather exciting) flames die down, then simmer for 15  minutes or so to reduce the wine a bit.  Strain the bits out and keep until needed (and see above)

For the rest:

4 tbsp plain flour
1/2 tsp mustard powder
salt and pepper
600g shin of beef , cut into large-ish pieces
2 tbsp cooking oil
25g butter
1 pig's trotter, split by the butcher
2 tbsp bacon fat (optional)
1 large onion, sliced thinly
8 large, flat mushrooms, quartered

A few hours before you want to eat, toss the pieces of beef in the flour, which you have mixed wituh the mustard powder and some salt and pepper (I find it easiest to bung it all in a big placcy bag and shake it about a bit).  Heat the butter and oil in a large pan.  Brown the piece of beef, then set aside.  Brown the split trotter and set aside with the pieces of beef.  Put the sliced onion and mushroom bits in the pan and cook, stirring while they soften and absorb the juices.  I like to stir in a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat at this point, but I always melt it down and save it when I cook bacon (perhaps another post, another time), so I have a jar in the fridge to use for cooking..  Return the beef and the trotter to the pan and pour in the wine liquid.  Cook for 2 hours at 140c.

I know it sounds like a lot, but it's actually not much work and it tastes soooooooo good.  Serve with mashed potatoes, or baked spuds, if you're lazy like me.  I like a big dollop of horseradish cream, too Enjoy!

Cath xx


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