Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Wednesday 27th of March 2013

Tonight, I tried a recipe from a cookery magazine.  BBC Good Food carried this recipe for Roast Carrot Soup with Pancetta Croutons ages ago and, as is my way, I ripped it out, stashed it in a drawer and promptly forgot all about it.  Until tonight that is, when it was just too cold for anything other than a massive pan of soup. I'd already found a huge bag of carrots lingering in the cupboard; luckily I had some sliced pancetta in the 'fridge and had just baked a loaf of lovely granary bread.  Job done! The recipe is highly recommended by the way...

Cath xx

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Tuesday 26th of March 2013

A favourite recipe tonight, or a riff on it at least, adapting it for the slow-cooker... This is based on Mary Berry's 'Chardonnay Chicken with Artichoke Hearts' from Cook Now, Eat Later, but is very much my lazy-arse 'distracted' version.  Somehow all my regular 'book recipes' suffer this fate eventually, with the exception of those written by my kitchen God, the sainted Mr Simon Hopkinson (or Si-Ho, as he is very affectionately know at Distracted Towers).  I simply do not muck about with his recipes; he wrote them that way for a reason and I love every single one of them just the way it is, whether for late-night, drool-inducing bedtime reading or for spattering with butter, flecks of chopped herbs and roasting juices while I cook yet-another much loved favourite.

200g slow-cooked onions or 1 can EAZY fried onions
250g small chestnut mushrooms
8 chicken thighs, bones left in but skin pulled off
2 x 280g jars of chargrilled artichoke hearts in oil
200ml dry white wine 
1 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp crème fraîche

Put the onions and the mushrooms in the bottom of the slow-cooker pot.  Add the chicken thighs in as close to a single layer as you can manage, then add the drained artichoke hearts (I recommend saving the oil to use in salad dressings).  Whisk the wine, cornflour and crème fraîche together, adding a twist or three of pepper, then pour this into the pot.  Cook on LOW all day.

I served this with couscous and a big green salad, but a bowl of rice or some crusty bread, along with a green vegetable of some sort, would be an equally good option.

Cath xx

Monday, 25 March 2013

Monday 25th of March 2013

Well, what a hectic (and BLOOMING FREEZING COLD) few days we've had at Distracted Towers.  The weekend consisted, mainly, of trying to keep the children occupied indoors when the weather was so dismal, which usually, for me at least, means roping them into some kitchen activities.  We cooked a huge batch of my slow-cooked onions.  We did them, this time, with red onions, as I especially love their sweet flavour, combined with stickiness when cooked this way.  A large portion of the onions went into the base of an ovenproof dish and was topped with chicken thighs with some soft goat's cheese pushed under the skin.  This was roasted for 45 mins at 180ºc and served with a basket of baguette chunks and some salad leaves for a surprisingly warming and really very satisfying meal.

Of course, we needed something sweet as well, and that came (as it so often does) in the form of my Fabulous Chocolate Brownies.  I had prepared some Jam Ice-Cream (strawberry as usual, but with a hint of amaretto for a change) with this weekend in mind, but what with the weather and all, serving ice-cream would just feel downright silly!

Tonight is, of course, a Monday so, armed with a batch of My Big Fat Chilli con Carne from the slow-cooker, I laid on a mini Tex-Mex fiesta with taco shells (bought-in!), grated cheddar, salad leaves, sliced avocado and soured cream.  Plates all clean, and out of the door on time...  Result!

Cath xx

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Wednesday 20th of March 2013

Tonight was, most definitely, a risotto night. Comfort food at its finest.

That is all....

Cath xx

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Tuesday 19th of March 2013

I tried out another new meal idea in the slow-cooker tonight.  I've seen the idea of a crock-pot lasagne on Pinterest, not to mention on various other websites and blogs I dip in and out of.  I rather fancied the idea.  So, I got to concocting my own version.

All in all, I considered tonight to be a successful first attempt; the flavours were good, if a little under-seasoned.  What let the dish down, rather, was the rather 'solid' texture.  Not dry, exactly, but I prefer my lasagne to be rather sloppier; oozing across your plate and into the salad.  I also must confess that wiping juicy sauces up with my garlic bread (shop-bought, tonight, for speed) is, to my mind, one of the very greatest pleasures of a pasta supper.

So it's back to the drawing board, not for an entirely new sheet of (metaphorical) paper, but perhaps a little fine-tuning and redrawing of lines.  I'll keep you posted...

Cath xx

Monday, 18 March 2013

Monday 18th of March 2013

Another slow-cooker meal tonight and, feeling a little stuck in a recipe rut, I've decided to try out a couple of new ideas this week.  Tonight's meal, luckily, turned out well; a layered concoction of chicken, ham and cheese topped with a crust made using shop-bought stuffing.  I used one with lemon and garlic, but choose whichever you fancy, natch...

295g can condensed cream of chicken soup
125ml milk
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped
5 thickish slices of ham, cut up roughly
200g Gruyère,thinly sliced
130g pack stuffing mix (and see above)
30g butter, melted

Mix together the condensed soup and the milk.  I think I might try using white wine instead of milk the next time I cook this.  Smooth a thin layer of this mixture into the bottom of your slow-cooker pot, then add the chicken, in as much of a single layer as you can manage.  Next, a similar layer of ham, and finally a layer of cheese.  Pour over the remaining 'sauce' and smooth the top.  Scatter the dry stuffing mix over the surface, then drizzle with the melted butter to help it crisp up a little (as always, you can 'fridge it all night at this point).  Cook on LOW all day.

I served this with (yet) another batch of the herb butter-tossed potatoes that I mentioned last Wednesday and a bowl of peas.  Delicious...
Cath xx

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Sunday 17th of March 2013

I find it hard to believe that I've never posted a recipe for good old macaroni cheese but, probably assuming that it isn't beyond the reach of anyone over the age of about 10, I just appear not to have bothered.  In any case, that is what we had for lunch today, accompanied by a very simple tomato salad.  I cannot urge you enough to consider mint as well as basil, in your tomato salad, these two herbs in combination, along with a smattering of flaky sea salt, make for a truly superlative salad (even if the tomatoes you have are slightly less than desirable perfection...)

Macaroni Cheese (just in case...)

250g macaroni
40g butter
30g flour
2 tsp mustard powder
500ml milk
100g grated strong cheddar
50g grated parmesan

Cook the macaroni in plenty of salted, boiling water.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large-ish saucepan and stir in the flour and mustard powder to make a roux.  Pour in the milk, still stirring, and bring the sauce to the boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer the sauce until it thickens.  Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheddar.  Drain the pasta and tip it into an ovenproof dish.  Pour over the cheese sauce and mix thoroughly to coat the pasta completely.  Top with the grated parmesan and bake at 190ºc for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is crisp and golden.  I like it to be slightly scorched in places, too... Leave the dish, out of the oven, to rest for five minutes.  This will improve the flavour, as it won't be napalm-hot when served.

Cath xx

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Saturday 16th of March 2013

Today's lunch was planned to be a nice and easy affair; I cooked the Tuna & Pea Kedgeree that I've written about before, which has become a staple favourite at Distracted Towers, not only of ours, but of more than one friend to whom I've introduced the recipe,  It would have been a lot more straightforward had I not, in some kind of completely demented fit, decided to make a garnish of deep-fried, shredded leeks.  The leeks were a lovely addition (yay!I was right!), but the only problem now is that I suspect that they will now be *necessary* at every serving.  Rod for my back, or what!

The afternoon passed in a haze of homework and assorted nonsensical whining, before the rugby kicked off at 5.  This was the big part of my day, and I had cunning;ly provisioned a supply of supermarket chill-cabinet stuffed-crust pizze to, effortlessly, keep the troops quiet while I watched y bechgyn (the boys) win so convincingly.  Wales 30 - England 3!.  That is all...
Cath xx

Friday, 15 March 2013

Friday 15th of March 2013

Happy Red Nose Day, everyone.  This recipe for gingerbread men has served me very well over the years and today proved popular at the children's school's 'Bake-Off' for Comic Relief.  These little guys have occupied a lot of brain-space, if not time, over the last few days, so I was actually quite glad to see the gingery little backs of them... They do taste good, though.

300g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
100g soft-ish butter, diced
150g light muscovado sugar
4 tbsp agave nectar (or honey, or golden syrup)
1 large egg
currants and icing, to decorate

Mix the flour, bicarb, and spices together and rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar, then mix the  beaten egg with the agave nectar and mix to a workable dough.  Leave to rest briefly, then roll out to half-a-centimetre thick.  Cut out whatever shapes you like, re-rolling the scraps.  Decorate, as you see fit, with currants.  Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 180°c for 15 minutes or until the biscuits are a pale golden brown.  Cool on a rack, waiting until the biscuits are completely cold before you even think about icing them.

Tonight, just because it's Friday, we had steak with onion rings, salad and garlic mushrooms (prepared as for my Barbecued Garlic Mushrooms and cooked in a hot oven for 15 minutes).  I opened a bottle of good red and sank into the pleasure of the weekend...
Cath xx

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Thursday 14th of March 2013

Tonight, largely owing to the exhaustion brought on by a marathon baking session to provide dozens and dozens of gingerbread men for the children's school tomorrow, I decided that a simple and homely supper was on the cards.  My recipe for  Toad in the Hole is a great favourite with the whole family, and it is a suppertime stalwart that I return to often.  It is especially good with a good slosh of onion gravy; you can make a quick(ish) one by gently frying a halved and sliced onion in 40g butter until very soft, stirring in 1 tbsp flour to make a sort-of roux, and then, still stirring, adding a pint or so of stock (I used pork stock because,happily, I had some in the 'fridge, but use what you like).  Bring to the boil and then cook on the lowest heat possible until you are ready to eat.  Toad in the Hole, by Husband's decree, must be served with sweetcorn.  Sometimes I sneak in a dish of steamed cabbage too, but tonight I was, frankly, too lazy.  The serried ranks of the gingerbread army have defeated me...

Cath xx

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Wednesday 13th of March 2013

Owing to a marathon baking session inspired by the children's school's 'red nose day' request, which saw us making 40 (!) gingerbread men to ice, with red noses,. tomorrow, tonight's dinner needed to be a quick, and relatively effortless production tonight. A bag of chicken thighs sitting in the 'fridge, plus a couple of lemons and some soy sauce from the storecupboard easily made this Soy-and-Lemon Glazed Baked Chicken, then all I had to think about was the side dishes.

8 chicken thighs (though I think you could use up to 12 with this amount of glaze)
juice of 2 lemons
120ml soy sauce

Put the chicken pieces in an ovenproof dish.  Pour over the lemon juice and soy sauce.  Bake at 180°c for 45 minutes, basting often.  Lift out of the liquid to serve.

I served this with steamed broccoli and some steamed new potatoes, which I had tossed in melted (salted) butter that I mixed with lots of very finely chopped herbs; I vary these according to what I have on the kitchen windowsill, but tonight it was lots of parsley , chopped with a smaller amount each of fresh basil, mint, dill and thyme.  This is my favourite way to eat potatoes at the moment...

Cath xx

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Tuesday 12th of March 2013

We had another really good meal from the slow cooker tonight.  I'm particularly proud of this one, because it ticks lots of boxes for me; it's done in the slow-cooker, it uses mainly storecupboard ingredients and it is a meat-free meal, thus providing both variety and economy.  You can use a bought curry paste with no problems (and I do on occasion), but I really like   Jamie Oliver's recipes for homemade curry pastes, which I find can be frozen very successfully 'for a rainy day', as it were.  I tend to use the tikka masala variety, though I do reduce the amount of chilli by half and eliminate the coriander leaves.  The former, for the sake of the children's taste buds, the latter because of my personal aversion to coriander leaves.  Love the seeds, but I find myself nauseated by the leaves.  Apart from chips and tinned baked beans, it is my only real food aversion.  My Dad would certainly mention andouillette at this point, but since I was tricked into eating some (on a mere technicality, I might add) as a child I, still shuddering, will never, ever touch it again.  Anyway, moving swiftly on...

Chickpea & Spinach Coconut Curry

I like to serve this with my Relaxed Raita and a basket of warmed chapatis, all the better to scoop up the curry and transfer it, slurpily, to waiting mouths...

250g slow-cooked onions or 1 can EAZY fried onions
150g curry paste (and see above)
2 x 420g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 400ml can coconut milk (use 'light' if you prefer)
1 160g bag baby spinach leaves, washed

Now, this really is the easy bit.  Put the onions in the slow-cooker pot and mix with the curry paste.  Add the chickpeas, stirring well to coat them in the oniony, spicy, oily juices.  Tip in the coconut milk and mix well.  Refrigerate overnight at this point, if you like.  Cook on LOW all day.  Ten minutes or so before you want to eat, fold the spinach leaves through the curry in the pot, then replace the lid until time to serve.

Cath xx

Monday, 11 March 2013

Monday 11th of March 2013

Another week begins, meaning Beavers, Cubs and more slow-cooker meals to arrange.  Today, while Husband slept (he works nights!), the children were educated and I worked, the glorious machine pottered along with Teriyaki beef for our supper.  This is so easy to put together; you need to nothing more than cut up the beef and stir the sauce together. I do it all the night before, stick it in the 'fridge and then just transfer it to the cooker in the morning, switching it on just before we leave the house.  I sometimes do this dish using chopped up chicken thighs instead of the beef, which is also very tasty.

4 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp sake, Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tbsp mirin
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp grated ginger root
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 50ml water

Mix everything together in the slow-cooker pot.

350g braising steak (I like beef skirt for this recipe)

Cube the beef and add to the pot, mixing well to coat it in the sauce.  You can refrigerate it overnight at this point.  Cook on LOW all day.  Scatter with shredded spring onions just before serving, if you like, then serve with rice and greens.

Cath xx

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Sunday 10th of March 2013

Mothering Sunday started beautifully at Distracted Towers.  Sunshine was streaming through the bedroom window as Husband and my gorgeous children brought me breakfast in bed and a lovely potted orchid.  After I'd placed it on the windowsill in our newly decorated bathroom,  I came downstairs for a morning of being brought cups of tea while I lounged, sybaritically, on the sofa. 

For lunch I cooked one of my favourites;  Crôque Monsieur Maison.  I got ahead by making the béchamel yesterday,  so that it would be cold and spreadable when it was needed.  This is not altogether necessary,  but it's how I prefer to do it.  The quantities I give are for four crôques.

30g butter
30g flour
250ml milk
pepper (white for preference)

Make a thick béchamel by melting the butter in a smallish saucepan,  then stirring in the flour to make a roux.  Cook,  stirring constantly for a minute or two until the roux colours only slightly,  then pour in the milk.  Keep stirring (I use a whisk) while the sauce thickens.  Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Trust me on the nutmeg,  it's what makes this taste right.

When you're ready to make the crôques...

8 slices of bread
40g butter,  melted
4 slices of ham
100g gruyère, grated

Brush the bread with the melted butter,  then spread each slice thinly with a little of the béchamel.   Use these to make four ham-and béchamel sandwiches,  then spread the top of each with a rather thicker layer of béchamel.   Sprinkle with the gruyère.

Bake, on a buttered oven tray,  for 10-12 minutes at 200ºc.  Serve cut in half, with a bit of a side salad.  If you fancy a Crôque Madame instead, fry some eggs while the sandwiches are in the oven and top each with a freshly fried, runny-yolked egg to serve.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mummies out there!
Cath xx

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Saturday 9th of March 2013

Weekends, by my choice, invariably find me in the kitchen.  This morning, after my breakfast of muesli, toast and coffee,  I sorted out the chicken stock which had been cooking overnight in the slow-cooker.  I find this the easiest way to make stock these days; putting the bones in the pot which a halved shallot or two (leaving the skin on to colour the stock a rich brown colour), covering them with water and leaving them to blip on LOW while we sleep.  Then, in the morning, all I need to do is strain the stock into a pan and boil it to reduce to a litre or so.  I usually make chicken stock once a week, and this method allows me to do it even when we are really busy, which is pretty much all the time.  I also took the opportunity to make a bara brith this morning, as I had the oven on anyway, baking bread rolls for lunch.

We usually eat our main meal of the day at lunchtimes on the weekend. Today for lunch we enjoyed a meal of Simple Tomato Soup and a basket of cheese-topped Fast & Furious Rolls , which I topped with some grated parmesan after brushing on the melted butter.  I served it with the remaining Herby Cheese from Thursday's dinner and a bowl of pea shoots.

Then, after I took the children to the village playground to run off some energy in the sunshine, we returned home for a lovely, relaxing afternoon.  I love just 'being' with my boys, while they  do their own things; pottering around playing, reading, drawing or watching a film together. It's sometimes the smallest moments that matter the most...
Cath xx

Friday, 8 March 2013

Friday 8th of March 2013

Hooray, it's Friday!  Our supper tonight was one of those dishes that I first started cooking to use up leftover meat from a roast chicken, but, in common with quite a few of our favourite 'leftovers' meals, has become so popular in its own right that I now have to contrive the necessary leftovers (i.e. cook them specially the night before).  Having said that, I did take the 'Distracted' option this week and buy a ready-roasted chicken from a local shop.  The other advantage of this being that the carcass of a 'rotisserie' chicken does make really wonderful stock, so that'll help with another supper later this week.  Sometimes, there seem to be so many different containers of homemade stock in our 'fridge that there's hardly enough room for any other food!  I can always find space for some cheese, though, funnily enough. 

You need ready made tortillas, or 'wraps' for this recipe.  These are easy enough to find; even our village shop carries them now.  I prefer to get mini-sized ones if I can (and the Co-op stocks good ones), just for ease of serving, but the more usual, larger ones can easily be used.  It's a long list of ingredients for me, but as it's only a stir-together job, I don't mind.  Anyway...

200g cream cheese
150g bought 'salsa' dip 
squeeze of lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
3 spring onions, shredded

60g parmesan,grated
200-300g cold cooked chicken, shredded
chopped parsley

Combine all these ingredients in a large bowl.

!6 'mini', or 10 'standard' tortilla 'wraps'

Dollop filling onto the bottom edge of each tortilla (warm them briefly in the microwave, a few at a time, to make rolling them up easier).  I reckon on about 2 tbsp for a 'mini' tortilla and about 4 tbsp for a standard one.  Roll up as tightly as you can, then place on a lined baking sheet.  When all the tortillas are filled and rolled, brush with oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake the filled tortilla rolls at 180°c for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are crisp and tinged with brown at the edges.   Incidentally, if you like, you can make up a batch of these and freeze them, unbaked (but still brushed with oil and sprinkled with salt).  Cook from frozen, at the same temperature, for 25-30 minutes. We like to eat these with a green salad and bowls of soured cream and guacamole.  They go down very well, so don't be shy! Happy Friday, everyone!

Cath xx

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Thursday 7th of March 2013

The weather dropped much colder again today, so we were all in need of something warm and soothing for supper tonight.  This lamb and barley soup is one of those nourishing bowlfuls that are not-quite-a-broth, but not-quite-a-stew either.  The soup is straightforward,  but it does take a little while to make.  Nothing taxing, though...

1 onion,  chopped
4 carrots, halved lengthways and sliced
2 sticks of celery,  sliced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1.5 litres lamb stock
350g diced stewing lamb
75g pearl barley, rinsed and drained

Put the chunks of lamb in a small roasting tin and pour over about 100ml of the lamb stock.  Place in a hot oven for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, fry the onion in a little fat until soft,  then add the carrots and celery to the pan. Sprinkle over the dried thyme,  then add the remaining lamb stock and bring to the boil.  Reduce to a simmer, then tip in the lamb from the roasting tin, along with the stock.  Add the pearl barley and cook for at least half an hour or until the barley and lamb are tender and cooked through.

This herby cheese that I like to serve with this soup, among others, can be scattered over the top or stirred through as those at the table see fit, is one of those last-preparations that takes hardly any effort yet lifts the meal to a different level, somehow. I like a  big handful of herbs, and a really good mixture; tonight I used lots of mint and parsley and just a few leaves of basil and thyme

200g block feta cheese
chopped fresh herbs (and see above)

Crumble the feta into a nice bowl and stir in the herbs.   Set aside until you're ready to serve it. Yes, that's it; the trick is finding the best combination of herbs for you and your family.  Try it, too, with lamb steaks still sizzling from the grill, or my Lamb Stew with Summer Flavours.
Cath xx

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Wednesday 6th of March 2013

Always reliable in this house, risotto... I won't lie and say that it's not one of my most regular go-tos for dinner.  Over the years,  I've mentioned risotto numerous times on the blog, but tonight's was a goodie.   I try, every week, to cook at least one meat-free meal (though this one ultimately failed when I used some homemade chicken stock that I had in the 'fridge, oops) and it seems to have paid off because my boys are huge fans of vegetables (although, as I've written before, they fall on most foods as though ravening beasts,  so they're possibly not the best examples to give).

Anyway,  here's a good recipe for a vegetarian risotto (if you use vegetable stock). Saying that though,  frankly,  water spiked with a bit more of the same white wine would serve admirably...

large lump of butter
4 leeks, halved and sliced
200g chestnut mushrooms,  quartered
2 cloves garlic,  minced
300g arborio rice
glass of white wine
1 litre hot stock
chopped parsley
grated parmesan

Melt most of the butter in a large,  heavy pan.  Fry the leeks and mushrooms until soft. Add the garlic and then the rice,  stirring well.   Pour in the wine and stir well until absorbed. Add the stock a cupful at a time,  stirring often and waiting until each batch of stock is absorbed before adding the next.   When the rice is tender,  stir in the remaining butter,  diced,  along with the chopped parsley and the parmesan. Stir vigorously and then leave the pan, covered and off the heat, for five minutes or so.  

Serve with crisp green salad leaves.

Cath xx

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Tuesday 5th of March 2013

Tuesday is,  as I mentioned yesterday,  my other, regular, slow-cooker night.  Tonight we ate another of our favourites,  which is so easy to throw together that, to be honest, it barely even qualifies as a recipe.  It is so useful, however, that I really must share it with you...

I vary the meat I use (to date, I've used chunked-up chicken thighs, strips of braising steak and pork steaks), but tonight we had pork.  Whatever meat I use, the dish always remains known as Hawaiian BBQ *whatever*.  

All you need to do is pop some prepared onions in your slow-cooker pot (and see yesterday's post for further adumbration of this), along with the contents of a bottle of Reggae Reggae sauce (or whichever brand you prefer, but I can only vouch for the success of this particular one) and the contents of a can of pineapple chunks in juice.  Cook on LOW all day, then stir through a tablespoonful of cornflour mixed with two tablespoons of water.  Sprinkle with some chopped parsley or, if you've got some handy,  fresh thyme is really lovely here.  Don't make a shopping trip out of it though...

I have been known to serve this dish with rice but, more often than not (and in the interests of speedy suppers) I serve it with a bowl of couscous.
Cath xx

Monday, 4 March 2013

Monday 4th of March 2013

Mondays and Tuesdays present a small problem for me each week. School is in Aberystwyth, Beavers and Cubs are in Aberystwyth and we live 10 miles outside Aberystwyth.  How to get the children home, get a (good!) meal inside them and get the relevant child back to town for their activity? Answer? The slow-cooker!

On Sunday and Monday evenings my 'homework' is to get a meal prepped and ready in the slow-cooker pot and to pop it in the 'fridge, ready to be transferred to the cooker just before we leave the house on Monday and Tuesday mornings.  It can then putter away quite happily until we get home after school, when all that is left for me to do is knock together a quick side dish, if necessary, and set the table for supper.  I have, by now, quite a collection of slow-cooker favourites but, being me I do often try out something new (and regularly give thanks for the wondrous creation called Pinterest).

Probably the best-received of all the meals that emerge from my slow-cooker is my big fat chilli con carne and that is what I served up for tonight's supper.  The ingredients remain the same as in the 'proper' recipe, and are all piled into the slow-cooker pot together, but I do leave out the half-can of water (which is unnecessary in the slow-cooker) and replace the raw sliced onion with some of my slow-cooked onions from the freezer (or, even more easily with a can of EAZY fried onions from the supermarket; another wonderful thing well worth having in the cupboard).  I never feel that onion cooks properly in a slow-cooker and this is the one allowance I make towards cooking things before they go into the sainted machine.

Tonight I served the chilli with rice, soured cream and some grated cheddar; all that we wanted for a basic, no-frills chilli supper.  Then, once again, it was a whirl of neckerchiefs and woggles before dashing out of the door, heading for the scout hut...
Cath xx

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Sunday 3rd of March 2013

Another glorious spring day today.  We had a late breakfast of toast with the last of the homemade blackberry jam,   then spent some time in the garden; quite a large portion of which was spent coaxing the rabbit out from behind the shed, where he'd escaped to when he was let out for his regular constitutional.

Needless to say,  I was soon back in the kitchen... 
An early dinner of roast pork was on the cards, so I parboiled the potatoes for my roasties so that they could be steam-dried and cool when I later tipped them into searing-hot fat (beef dripping, as usual). I also smeared our lovely piece of pork shoulder with cold-pressed rapeseed oil into which I'd stirred crumbled bay leaves (from the garden,  dried in the microwave) and garlic.  This was put in a roasting tin, atop a base layer of sliced onions (skins left on),  squashed garlic cloves and more bay leaves.

To help the gravy along, I also put  both halves of a split pig's trotter in the tin under the joint.  I use trotters quite often like this with a pork joint,  their lovely sticky juices, enhanced while cooking with just a splash of white wine at first and, later on, with some water, make for a superlative gravy.  The roasted trotter(s) can also be boiled up again to make a useful stock. Pork-bone stock is, I often feel,  underrated. It's almost as flexible in use as chicken stock and makes a particularly fine noodle soup.

To serve with the pork and potatoes, I roasted a dish of carrot chunks,  tossed with a very little oil,  some dried herbs and a bit of cumin,  which goes so well with carrots.  The other vegetable dish was a mix of peas and sweetcorn (both cooked 'fresh from the freezer'). 

So, another weekend is over. Tomorrow brings work for Husband and me and school for the children (although actually JD has a gymnastics competition for most of the day).  Monday night means Beaver Scouts for JD,  and supper from the slow-cooker for us all.  Hope you've all had a really lovely weekend too...
Cath xx

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Saturday 2nd of March 2013

The weekend started well when we woke up to sunshine and a beautiful blue sky. After bacon butties and coffee (yum), we got on with our latest project,  which has been laying new flooring in our bathroom (rock 'n' roll, eh?!).

We stopped for a lunch of bruschette with pesto and tomatoes, topped with parmesan. I scattered some lightly toasted pine nuts over them and served them on a pile of pea shoots, my boys' latest food craze...

The afternoon saw me take my JD for a walk along the pebbly beach in our village.  I feel very lucky to have the beach so close, anyway, but as we passed sun-dappled clusters of daffodils in the lane that leads to the beach, clear blue sky overhead, we realised that Spring may just have sprung (at last).

Supper tonight was a simple affair;  grilled lamb chops, boiled potatoes (an eleventh-hour request from Husband), a dish of bulghar wheat salad and a bowl of mixed leaves.

I soak the bulghar wheat for the salad, rather than cooking it.  I do this by putting it in a large bowl and covering it with water.  When it has absorbed all the water, taste a grain and repeat the process if it hasn't softened enough for your liking.  Drain the bulghar when you like the texture.   I do this in a muslin, squeezing out as much water as possible,  but you can easily use a fine sieve. Fork through chunks of (both peeled and deseeded) cucumber and tomatoes, finely chopped spring onions, pomegranate seeds and masses of herbs. I usually use parsley and mint, though today I only had parsley,  so I used that and added a good squidge of squeezy mint sauce (one of my favourite 'secret ingredient' kitchen helpers).  I also chucked in some more, scissored-up, pea shoots tonight

This salad also makes a lovely, sunny-day lunch (do I dare to hope in the garden?) if you also fork through some crumbled feta or some leftover roast lamb, if you are lucky enough to have some.  I particularly love roast lamb (hot or cold) lately, and am always thinking of things I need (want) to do with it.  This is how my mind works...

Cath xx

Friday, 1 March 2013

Friday 1st of March 2013

Tonight,  I cooked chicken fried rice with leftover roast chicken from Wednesday and some rice that I cooked last night and left to go cold. Fried rice always tastes better and has a nicer texture when you start it with COLD rice,  rather than still-warm rice that you've only just cooked.

I heated some groundnut oil in my largest le Creuset,  then quickly fried a few chopped spring onions with a little garlic and ginger. I threw in a couple of handfuls of shredded, cold, cooked chicken and stir-fried it briefly. The rice went in next and was stirred around with my wooden fork.
When the rice is coated in the oily juices from the pan, push the rice to one side and slowly pour in, bit by bit,  2 eggs that you have beaten with a splash of light soy sauce.   Scramble the eggs around, flicking them through the rice as best you can. Stir through a couple of handfuls of defrosted frozen peas with another little splash of light soy and a good drizzle of sesame oil.   I'm sure that it's this last touch of sesame oil that gives this rice such an authentic 'carry-out' flavour.
Serve with some bought-in prawn crackers and have dark soy on the table for those who want more of its savoury saltiness.
                                              Cath xx


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