Unhurried Curry

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As a cook, I am happy to make pastes from scratch and do the three day marinating a thing in a marinade. But this was a Friday night, I got home late, I was oh so tired and therefore used some excellent shortcuts. However the one single thing you cannot skimp on when making a curry is cooking the onions, it takes so much longer than you think it will. But once the onions are done it’s a simple assembly job and the oven does all the work.

A lot of curries seem to have an ingredient list which is eleventy stupid items long. Don’t be misled by this relatively short list of ingredients it was really lovely, more fragrant than spicy. If you are sensitive to gluten please check your curry paste is gluten free.

Pre heat oven to 160ºc

1 large onion, sliced

dash of oil

2 large tbs of garlic and ginger paste from a jar

1/2 tsp hot chilli powder

1 tsp tumeric

1 tsp garam masala

5 cloves

8 cardamom pods

1 large (as big as you can get) cinnamon stick (if tiny, use two)

2 heaping tbs of Korma paste, any – I used Pataks

1 tin of coconut milk

50og  beef you get in the supermarket, ready diced

200g chestnut mushrooms cut into chunky slices

Fresh coriander – stalks removed and chopped, leaves set aside

Large bag of spinach

Heat the oil over a low heat in an oven proof casserole. Fry the onion until soft and bronzed – this should take at least 45 mins. Long and slow.

Add the next nine ingredients and bring to a simmer.

Tip in the beef, mushrooms and coriander stalks. Stir.

Bring back to the boil.

Cover and put in the oven for two hours.

After two hours someone NEEDED to watch the second half of a rugby match so I took the lid off the casserole and let it evaporate in the oven for another hour. You could just stick it on the top and bubble away until it is perfect for you. But in all honesty I think three hours in the oven worked so very well.

Tip in the big bag of spinach and keep poking and stirring until it is all in. I don’t think it needs to be cooked beyond the wilting stage but if you like your greens a little more cooked then carry on.

Serve with chopped fresh coriander leaves,  naan bread and rice (if liked) and a quick mango chutney – mix together finely diced slightly under ripe mango, salt, lime juice, pinch of ground cumin and a tsp of black onion seeds. Add a finely chopped chilli if you like a bit of heat.

Tumble

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I’m not a big fan of bread-based lunches, I can happily go without bread for days at a time. But it has to be said that if you are in a hurry or really can’t be bothered to make anything much then a sandwich is definitely up there as a speedy solution. As is this.

This was named when my children were small. Like any family we had a variety of uniquely named things: mashed parrot, wobbly cheese, biscetti, mangled eggs, rhino etc. This is a mixture of vegetables, eggs and cheese and can be whipped up in about 10 minutes. It is important to have more cheese than eggs, the eggs are there to loosely hold everything together rather than be the starring role. Think of it as a cross between a not very eggy omelette and bubble and squeak. If you aren’t watching your carbs, cold cooked new potatoes are an absolute winner here. One day I plan on writing the Bung-It Cookery Book™ and this is likely to be the signature dish.

Like many of my recipes this is a moveable feast but my favourite vegetables usually include courgette, sugar snaps, mushrooms and/or a handful or two of fresh spinach, just slice or chop into smallish pieces so that everything will cook quickly. As I said, cold leftover potatoes are perfect in this and I would add sprouts and spring cabbage to the list. If you don’t like chilli or any other suggestion, just leave it out and of course you can make this your own by adding anything you like – a few ground spices, coriander instead of parsley, flaked poached salmon and a little dill, tofu, chopped nuts and seeds for a bit of crunch or maybe there’s a slice of ham, a smoked mackerel fillet, a couple of cooked sausages or a bit of cold roast beef sitting in the fridge looking sad and lonely… I happen to like Sriracha sauce on mine. Whatever floats your goat.

Pretty much any cheese you like will work but good choices include Cheddar, Lancashire, Feta, Double or Single Gloucester.

Serves 1-2

a dash of oil

3 spring onions, sliced

1 green chilli, finely sliced (seeds removed for a milder result if preferred)

1 medium courgette, diced into small pieces

a few mushrooms, sliced

a handful of sugar snaps, sliced lengthways

Leftover new potatoes cut into wedges

Leftover sprouts, halved

3 medium sized eggs, whisked

150g cheese, cubed

Chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the raw vegetables. Stir and fry for a couple of minutes until they begin to soften then add any leftover vegetables and continue frying until everything is beginning to turn golden brown at the edges. Stir in any other additions – meat, fish etc.

Pour over the eggs and as soon as they begin to set stir and tumble everything in the pan for about 30 seconds and then stir through the cubed cheese and chopped parsley. Stop stirring and allow the cheese to soften for another 30 seconds. If some of it browns and crisps on the bottom of the pan, so much the better.

Serve immediately.

Easy as…

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I was having a conversation on Facebook this morning about things we used to eat on holidays in the caravan. Those holidays were taken off and on throughout the year for about 20 years and the foods we ate, especially in the early days, are now a thing of legend. The first caravan we used didn’t have a fridge so tinned things, long life things and dehydrated things featured heavily. Instant mash, dehydrated peas, dehydrated orange juice and Vesta meals were mentioned but then I remembered Fray Bentos tinned pies. Anyone who knows how my mind works is probably way ahead of me here but I decided I needed to make a pie like that. I know you can still buy tinned pies but where’s the fun in that??!?

This is possibly the easiest pie you will ever make. I’ve made it in a frying pan because I hate washing up but of course you can tip the filling into a pie dish if you prefer. Also if  you don’t want to use cream (because?) then you can use an undiluted tin of Campbell’s condensed soup or a tub of fresh four cheese pasta sauce. The quantities are deliberately vague, it will work perfectly well if you use one leek instead of two or a bit more or a bit less cheese. Or indeed no cheese at all if you don’t like it. Equally you can add mushrooms or asparagus or anything you fancy really.

 

 

Frying Pan Pie

2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and finely sliced

125ml white wine

1/2 chicken stock cube

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 hot rotisserie chicken, meat removed and torn into chunks

1 pack of ham – the one I used had 4 large slices – chopped

1 piece of Stilton – usually about 100g

1 small carton of double cream

1 pack of ready-rolled puff pastry

pre-heat oven to 200ºc

 

Start by frying the leeks in a little oil until soft in a large frying pan then add the wine, crumble in the stock cube, add the dried thyme and bring up to the boil. Bubble away until most of the liquid has reduced and is looking a bit syrupy. Turn off the heat under the pan.

Stir in the cream, crumble in the cheese and allow to melt for a minute or two, then stir in the chicken and ham.

Unroll the pastry and drape it over the frying pan. Trim to fit with a sharp knife. Depending on the size of your pan there might be a small gap top and bottom but you can patch any gaps with the trimmings if you like. Brush the pastry with a little milk and then place the pan in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is risen and golden and the filling is bubbling.

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Lady Edith’s Favourite Thing

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Pancakes have a reputation for being a bit tricky. The French make a thin as thin pancake and then fold it delicately over something like cheese or ham. Just delicious.

The British make something slightly thicker and more robust and then hurl it into the air whilst running through a village street. And eat the result with lemon and sugar (ignore all calls for chocolate spread or similar. Just nonsense. Nope.)

American pancakes are pluffy and a bit cakey and absolutely at their best if served warm with a lot of butter.

No prizes for guessing where we are going then.

Here are two versions to try: almond pancakes are lower in carbs and gluten free, sweetcorn pancakes contain flour but could also be gluten free if you use a flour which doesn’t contain gluten – either a commercial blend, rice flour, fine cornmeal, potato flour or gram flour would all work perfectly well. Both versions are very quick and easy to make and both work as a snack or as part of any meal. Both freeze perfectly well and this means you can have a pancake-y goodness in approximately 30 seconds if you have a microwave.

Remember… Pancakes are for life, not just for breakfast.

Almond Pancakes

(makes 10 – 12)

250g ground almonds

pinch of salt

3 eggs

a dash of double cream

Put the almonds and salt in a roomy bowl. Beat in the eggs and enough double cream to make a thick dropping batter – the consistency you are looking for is similar to porridge. It should plop off the spoon and slowly start to spread out a little.

Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan and using a large spoon drop in 4 or 5 spoonfuls of batter. I can usually get 5 in a large pan, four round the edge and one in the middle.

Start to check the underneath after about a minute and when deep golden brown use a spatula to turn the pancakes over and cook the other side.

Sweetcorn Pancakes (Lady Edith’s “very best favourite thing”)

I use ready made fresh mashed potato from the supermarket if there isn’t any leftover from another meal. But instant mash works equally well if you don’t have either to hand.

(makes approximately 20 – recipe easily halved, use a smaller tin of corn and half the amount of everything else)

400g tin creamed corn

400g mashed potato

4 eggs

pinch of salt

flour

Put the creamed corn and mashed potato in a roomy bowl and beat together until combined. Beat in the eggs and salt then mix in a couple of tablespoons of flour at a time until you have a thick dropping batter – the consistency you are looking for is similar to porridge. It should plop off the spoon and slowly start to spread out a little.

Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan and using a large spoon drop in 4 or 5 spoonfuls of batter. I can usually get 5 in a large pan, four round the edge and one in the middle.

Start to check the underneath after about a minute and when deep golden brown use a spatula to turn the pancakes over and cook the other side.

Fragrant Lamb with Cashew Nuts

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This is one of those chuck it all together and forget about it dishes. It works particularly well in a slow cooker but you can also do it in the oven on a low heat. I used leg steaks here (because they were on offer) but I would normally use diced shoulder. Beef shin also works well but obviously substitute beef stock instead of lamb. Using a whole fresh chilli in this way adds a nice gentle buzz of heat but is not in any way overpowering.

Tonight I served this with courgettes and a mix of grains and beans, mostly to get my daughter to eat more variety than she would if left to her own devices. Naturally you can use anything you like here – rice, quinoa, cous cous, pearl barley, noodles… maybe even mashed potato. Low-Carb and gluten-free options include cauliflower rice, courgette or squash ‘noodles’.

Vegetable-wise you can add things to the pot, whatever you prefer and in any combination: spinach, other types of squash, green beans, mushrooms. The list is pretty much endless. For speed you can use a few tablespoons of ginger and garlic paste instead of fresh but it’s hardly a taxing amount of preparation and grating garlic and ginger on a Microplane takes only seconds to do.

Because we felt like a big bowl of comfort this evening I left the sauce quite thin and soupy so that it could be spooned up but the recipe gives instructions for a thicker result.

dash of oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

500g diced lamb shoulder

4 cloves of garlic, grated

1 inch of fresh ginger, grated

6 cardamom pods

4 cloves

4 bay leaves

1 large cinnamon stick

100g cashew nuts

1 fresh chilli – red or green

250ml lamb or vegetable stock

1 small tin of coconut cream

Fresh coriander or fresh mint

Lightly fried sliced courgettes

 

Heat the oil in a wide shallow pan and fry the onion. Just before it turns a deep golden brown add the garlic and ginger and stir and fry for the last few seconds then remove with a slotted spoon and add to either a slow cooker or an ovenproof casserole dish with a lid.

In the same pan fry off the meat until brown on all sides. Add to the onions.

Again in the same pan add the whole spices and the cashew nuts and fry briefly until fragrant then add to the lamb and onions.

Cut a long slit in the side of the chill and add it to the pot, then add the stock. It should barely cover the meat. Cover the dish and either cook on low in a slow cooker for 6-7 hours or in the oven at 160ºC for 3-4 hours. The meat should break apart when pressed with a fork. If it doesn’t give it a bit longer.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a plate, discard the chilli and the whole spices then cover the meat with foil and keep warm. Pour the stock into a wide shallow pan and boil rapidly until reduced to a few tablespoons then stir in the coconut cream. Turn down the heat, return the meat to the pan, heat through and serve with a little shredded fresh coriander and/or shredded fresh mint leaves and some lightly fried courgettes.

 

 

Cauliflower Tartiflette


At the till in the supermarket:

‘Oooh is it cauliflower cheese for tea then ?’

‘Umm it’s Tartiflette’

‘What’s that then?’

‘Well normally it’s made with potatoes but I’m using cauliflower. You use a lovely French cheese and make a creamy sauce….’

.

.

.

‘Yeah. It’s cauliflower cheese.’

 
This is a lower carb version of the usual Tartiflette. I would normally use celeriac but there wasn’t one to be found in three different supermarkets so I gave up and thought this might work instead. It isn’t complicated to make and is really tasty.

This should feed four people. I serve it with a green salad in a fairly sharp mustardy dressing.

You will need:

2 medium cauliflowers, leaves removed and the heads chopped into small pieces

Dash of oil

Knob if butter

300g smoked streaky bacon – the one I used had 16 thin cut slices – chopped into pieces

2 banana shallots, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

200ml dry white wine

300 ml creme fraiche

Fresh thyme

1 large Reblechon or two small, split in two to give 2 (or 4) discs.

Heat the oil and butter and fry the cauliflower pieces in batches until it is all golden brown and almost tender. As each batch is done, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen paper.

In the same pan add the chopped bacon and stir and fry until golden and crisp. Then add the shallot and garlic and about a tablespoon of the fresh thyme leaves and continue frying for a few minutes until the shallot has softened.

Add the white wine and allow it to bubble fiercely until it has reduced and is a bit syrupy. Add the creme fraiche, turn off the heat and add the cauliflower back into the pan.

Stir everything together thoroughly then tip into a shallow casserole dish, level with the back of a spoon and place the discs of cheese rind side up on the top. Decorate with a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

Bake at 180c until the cheese has slumped and the top is crispy – about 20 minutes.

Allow to stand for 10 minutes then serve with a crisp green salad.