Saturday, 13 October 2012

Molto Veloce!

My children love their Saturday suppers.  Because we eat our main meal of the day at lunchtime on the weekend, this means that the order of the evening will generally be something-on-toast, a bowl of soup or a quick pizza. These pizze* are easy enough for the boys to assemble by themselves, only needing my help to slide it into the searingly hot oven and to remove it a few minutes later.  They take hardly any time to make and therefore can easily be provided for a crowd; their being so thin means that you can squeeze quite a few shelves into the oven at once to hold them!  The pizza sauce, I've written about before and always keep a batch handily stashed in the freezer, in a flattened ziplock bag so that I can break off a bit when I need some.  Being so thin, it defrosts quickly, meaning that I can reasonably consider this an almost-instant supper...

A Very Fast Pizza

One large flour tortilla
1 tbsp love-it-and-leave-it pizza sauce
your choice of favourite toppings: sliced olives, torn-up salami or ham, chopped mushrooms, roasted peppers or aubergines (from a jar!), anchovies, etc.
handful grated Mozzarella or (my boys' preferred option) Edam 
sprinkling of mixed dried herbs

Put the tortilla on a baking sheet and spread it with the sauce.  Arrange your chosen extras on top and cover with a good layer of cheese.  Scatter a pinch of herbs over the top and transfer to the oven.  Four to five minutes should be plenty, then slide the tortilla off the baking sheet and directly on to the oven shelf for a minute longer, just to crisp up the underside.  Remove to a board, slice and serve!

Cath xx

*Yes, I know I'm a terrible old pedant, but it is the correct plural for pizza.  Seeing signs advertising "pizzas" or, even worse, "pizza's", drives me, possibly unreasonably, mad with irritation...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Honey-Mustard Chicken

When you look at this in the clear light of day, it is actually, rather disturbingly in some ways, pretty close to being 'chicken pieces baked in salad dressing'.  Mmmm, sounds nommy...  However, I would add, somewhat pleadingly, that it is simply not done justice by that description.  For a dinner that takes mere minutes to get ready to cook, and under half an hour in the oven, it is a very tasty treat and tarts up cheap chicken thighs a treat.

I'm trying not to be too prescriptive about the ingredients, because I know from reading certain writers' recipe books, among my hundreds, how irritating it is to be told that you need the best of everything in your kitchen at all times.  Most of my kitchen substitutions are borne of empty-jar-necessity, so as far as I'm concerned, the type of oil and the type of mustard you decide to use are fairly irrelevant.  Certainly the meal will be different, but that scarcely need suggest worse, or better, for that matter.  I use Dijon and wholegrain mustards with equal regularity in this dish and have made it occasionally with English mustard, though I would say halve the quantity specified unless, like some, you like it hot!   Likewise the oil, I am keen on rapeseed oil, especially the cold-pressed variety, but if you prefer olive, sunflower or vegetable oil, I can't see that it would make a huge difference.  I fact, it occurs to me now, as I type this, that you might possibly skip the fresh garlic altogether and use garlic oil instead...

Honey-Mustard Chicken

The number of thighs you use is dependent on your family's needs and appetite; I find one each for children, with two each for teenagers or adults is plenty.  This amount of sauce will easily do six, eight or ten thighs, the only difference will be the size of tin you need and how much juice will be left at the bottom of the dish to pour over your vegetables...

6-10 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
2 tbsp oil 
juice of 2 lemons
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp mustard 
leaves stripped from a few sprigs of thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
good grinding of white pepper and fat pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180ºc.  Mix all the ingredients, bar the chicken pieces, together in a large bowl.  I prefer a whisk for this, but use a spoon or a fork if you prefer.  Turn the chicken pieces in the sauce, then put them skin-side up in a roasting tin or oven dish that takes them snugly.  Pour over the rest of the sauce and bake for 25 minutes.  If you've cooked some sort of (especially green) vegetables or prepared a salad to go with the chicken, I can't begin to explain how lovely it is if you spoon some of the still-warm juices left in the pan over the top...
Cath xx

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Pudding Emergency!

Required at short notice to provide a pudding for today's lunch, I fell back on a favourite which can be conjured up pretty quickly from mainly storecupboard ingredients.  This is, I suspect hardly the 'proper' way to make frangipane, but hell, it works for me.  If it's easy and it tastes good, I'm one very happy Distracted Housewife!  The shop-bought sweet pastry cases are a storecupboard staple (actually, they live in the bread bin) and I cannot see that there is any point in being snobbish about them; while I never buy shortcrust pastry in the supermarket because I find it easy to make, I always buy puff and filo because, you know, eek!  Sweet pastry also gives me the heebie-jeebies, I have never managed to get the desirable shortbread texture without everything disintegrating into infinitesimal crumbs like, well, shortbread...

Tinned pears (in juice, never syrup for my tastes) happen to be a fruit that I keep in the cupboard habitually as I love their grainy texture.  They are wonderful with whipped cream or ice-cream and a quick, hot, chocolate sauce as a very basic Poires Belle Helene (which, after holidaying in the Loire Valley as a youngster, remains for me the most respectable way to fill a crêpe).  Pears and chocolate is a classic combination for me; hence the chocolate included here (although you can happily leave it out if the idea doesn't fill you with the greedy excitement that it does me!).  I would have rather like to have a scoop of ice-cream with this pudding today, rich yellow in colour and flecked with vanilla seeds, but sadly no amount of praying to the freezer could force some into existence so we 'forced it down' without...

Pear and Almond Tart with Chocolate

1 ready-made sweet pasty case from the baking aisle at the supermarket
50g dark chocolate, grated or very finely chopped (I used the processor)
1 tin of pear halves in juice, drained
2 eggs, beaten
80g each butter, ground almonds and caster sugar

Heat the oven to 180ºc.  Put your unwrapped pastry case onto a baking sheet.  Scatter the chocolate over the bottom of the pastry case.  Thickly slice each pear half widthways, but keep it 'together', as it were, and arrange them on top of the chocolate.  Melt the butter and stir in the ground almonds and sugar. Mix in the eggs, forming a nubbly paste with the consistency of double cream.  Gently (although this is a counsel of perfection for me, being both clumsy and impatient) spoon and spread this over the pear-and-chocolate filled pastry case and pop it in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  Take it out and leave it to rest for a few minutes as this is SO much better warm than hot.  Any leftover slices (ha!) are perfect with a cup of tea later, but don't put them in the 'fridge, something awful seems to happen to them if you do!
Cath xx


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