Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Apple Diaries 2017 - Au Pair's Cake

A recipe from my friend Barbara.  She produced this cake when I last popped round and I devoured a slice warm from the pan, topped with full fat creme fraiche!  She very kindly sent me home with another chunk for Rob and I to share for supper which we ate with Greek yoghurt.

It's more a pudding than a cake, with a batter-like liquid holding the apples together.  Totally moreish!


Giant Couscous with Preserved Lemon, Chargrilled Onion, Halloumi and Herb Dressing

Despite the long title, this is a really simple and delicious vegetarian supper dish.  It's full of punchy flavours and I've also found it pretty adaptable.  It's another great recipe from Waitrose, this time from their weekly free newspaper.  About once a year I make a jar of preserved lemons, so it's nice to find another way to use them, aside from the predictable tagine.

Giant Couscous with Preserved Lemon, Chargrilled Onion, Halloumi and Herb Dressing

150g giant wholewheat couscous
1 tsp cumin seeds (I omit these as I don't like cumin)
1/2 Preserved Lemon, skin only, shredded
1 clove garlic, crushed
50g pistachios, roughly chopped (I've also tried cashews when I'd run out of pistachios - worked fine, it's the texture you're after)
20g pack dill, leaves roughly chopped
25g pack flat leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped
(NB I've subbed basil and coriander for the above herbs, was delicious)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon, plus extra to taste
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 bunch salad onions, trimmed
1 green chilli
250g Halloumi
2 tbsp pomegranate seeds (never bothered with these, they're just a garnish)
½ tsp sumac (likewise - optional)

1. Rinse the couscous in a sieve under cold running water and tip into a medium saucepan. Cover with fresh water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Simmer for 7-8 minutes or until tender. Drain, refresh under cold water and leave to drain well. Place into
a large mixing bowl.

2. Add the cumin seeds (if using) to a dry pan and toast over a medium heat for 1 minute, until browned and aromatic. Remove and grind to a powder using a pestle and mortar then tip into the couscous bowl with the preserved lemon, garlic, pistachios, dill, parsley, all but 2 tsp olive oil, the lemon juice and pomegranate molasses to the bowl. Mix to combine.

3. Warm a frying pan over a medium heat until smoking hot. Coat the salad onions with the remaining oil and cook along with the whole chilli for 4-5 minutes until charred. Cut the salad onions into thirds and the chilli in half, discarding the seeds. Chop the chilli and add to the couscous.

4. Cut the halloumi into thick slices, brush with oil and cook on the hot griddle for 2-3 minutes until golden on both sides. Cut into bitesize pieces and place on top of the couscous. Season and add more lemon juice if needed. Spoon into a serving dish and scatter with pomegranate seeds and sumac just before serving.


Chicken Simla

An old family favourite - but we have no idea where it came from!  The name suggests it might be slightly Indian, but this isn't the case.  We suspect it came from a magazine, probably in the 1960s or 70s.

Anyway, wherever it's from it's a lovely tasty meal, quick to make but also smart enough to serve guests.

Chicken Simla

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts
Heaped tsp cornflour, seasoned
oil
2oz butter
1 chicken stock cube
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp Worcester Sauce
1/4 pint double cream
1/2 pint hot water
Handful of sliced almonds, toasted (optional but nice!)

Coat chicken breasts in seasoned cornflour then shallow-fry in oil and butter in a cast-iron (Le Creuset-style) pan until browned. 

In a jug mix the stock cube, hot water, dijon mustard and Worcester Sauce.  Add to the chicken, and simmer for an hour. 

Before serving stir in the cream.

Top with toasted sliced almonds if desired.

We usually serve this with rice and a steamed green veg.  The rice is useful for soaking up all that delicious sauce!

Brown Rice with Chorizo and Egg

I don't tend to buy many food magazines, but somehow I seem to accumulate piles of cut out recipes.  We pick up the free Waitrose magazine every month which always seems to have lots of lovely things to cook, and this, coupled with recipes I snip out of newspapers, or photograph from friends' cookbooks means I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle to keep them organised. 

So I've decided to use this blog to keep a record of the ones we've cooked, enjoyed, and would like to make again.  This should mean I don't need to keep so many bits of paper around the kitchen...  we will see how that goes!  Some blog posts might have photos to accompany them, but many won't.

Anyway, here is a lovely 'midweek' recipe that I found in the Waitrose magazine last month.  It's really versatile because you can add in any ingredients that need using up (at this time of year I like/need to throw in a chopped courgette to pretty much anything that I make!).

Brown Rice with Chorizo and Egg

Serves 2

125g chorizo (about half a Lidl chorizo), chopped
8 (or more) cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp hot smoked paprika, plus extra to serve
2 garlic cloves, crushed
250g cooked brown rice (the recipe says to use a packet of ready cooked, I cook my own)
100g green beans, chopped (or any other green veg - courgette especially)
2 tbsp chopped dill (I subbed this with basil)
2 eggs (recipe says soft-boiled and halved, I found it quicker/easier to fry them)
2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced

In a large frying pan, cook the chorizo for 5 minutes, or until golden brown - it releases plenty of oil so you don't need to add any.

Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Stir in the paprika and garlic and cook for another minute or so, until fragrant.

Tip in the rice and beans, season with a little salt and add a splash of water.  Cover with a lid, turn to the lowest heat and cook for 5 minutes until the beans are tender.

Fold in the dill (or other herb), top with the egg (softboiled or fried - poached would work too), and scatter over the spring onions with extra paprika if wanted.

My husband likes this served with extra chilli sauce.



Thursday, 26 January 2017

A John Deere Birthday Party

My tractor-mad boy had his 4th birthday 7 months ago now, but I have had it in mind to blog about his party for ages.  He insisted that he wanted a John Deere theme...  'No problem' I thought and started scouring Pinterest for ideas.  There *were* lots of ideas, but I found myself searching through countless blogs and websites to collate them all, so I thought it could be useful to write a blogpost with them all in one place.  So if you're planning a tractor or farm-themed party, I hope you find this useful.

Firstly, I think a themed table-setting really gets you off to a flying start.  I browsed Amazon and found this brilliant 'grass' tablecloth for less than 3 pounds, bargain!  It'll definitely be usable again for future parties.  The tractor napkins were also from Amazon, as were the plain yellow paper plates.  Cheap and simple.  The spotty cups and plain blue paper plates on which I served some of the food were from Tesco.  I dotted the table with various toy tractors and farm animals.



I decided to make all of the food fit in with the theme, but wanted to keep this as simple as possible as well as making foods that your average child will actually eat!


Well, OK, the kids mostly ignore the crudites!  But it makes me feel better to put some out.  😉


Just breadsticks.



Tesco own-brand crisps.  I love those bacon ones, and enjoyed the humour of displaying them next to the toy pig!




Obviously you could make your own of all the above hot foods, and if I'd been in a 'Supermum' kind of mood I definitely would have done so.  However, my husband was away and my son and I were going out on the morning of the party (in a fabulous co-incidence, it was 'Open Farm Sunday' so we popped over to the local dairy farm to ogle at the awesome machinery!) so I just bought everything from the supermarket.  

I did however make some 'Cheesy Chicks', just cheese biscuits using Nigella's 'Cheesy Feet' recipe:



And now the puddings:


I had these cute little foil cases in the cupboard which I'd bought *years* ago from the Dollarstore when we lived in Canada!  Great to find a use for them.  This was just green jelly with green grapes cut up in it.  If I was catering for more children I'd have done some yellow ones too.


I was quite proud of these as I made up the 'recipe' and my son really enjoyed helping me make them.  I simply melted a mixture of milk and dark chocolate and threw in raisins and chopped nuts (none of the guests have allergies), then plopped it onto a lined baking tray in suitable 'dollops'.



A genius idea from Pinterest was making rice-crispie cakes into hay bales.  I displayed these in a trailer.


Lastly, my son's favourite popcorn (Coconut and Vanilla 'Propercorn').

I may not have made all the food myself, but I did manage to create the cake!  I had seen some amazing John Deere cakes on Pinterest, but this was one I designed myself; extremely simple but I thought it was effective and Ted loved it.


Judging from the carnage left after the tea, all the guests enjoyed the meal.  I did too (thankfully the mums of Ted's friends are a brilliant bunch) - but obviously I collapsed in a state of exhaustion, glass of wine in hand, as soon as everyone had left!




Monday, 26 October 2015

The Apple Diaries 2015 - Bramley Lemon Curd

Apologies for not adding to this blog for ages; I have been doing a bit more apple cooking, but I'm now totally out of jars so can't manage any more preserving for now, and we are feeling rather puddinged-out, so no more appley puds...  for a little while anyway!  Both of Delia's Pork and Apple dishes (blogged about earlier this Autumn) have made a reappearance recently, and I have stewed pans full of apples, nothing added, simply to use as apple sauce with roast pork meals in the coming months.  These are frozen, awaiting a time when we can no longer simply pop outside to grab an apple or two from the tree.  I also keep a bowl of unsweetened stewed apple in the fridge which I am eating for breakfast with granola and Greek Yoghurt.

Having said that I have now run out of jars, I used my final few for a slightly unusual preserve that I have been dying to try ever since I saw it in one of my favourite books ,the wonderful 'Preserves'  by Pam Corbin (a River Cottage Handbook):  Bramley Lemon Curd.  You might think nothing could beat a traditional lemon curd, but I agree with Pam Corbin that this is actually even nicer - she describes it as 'like eating apples and custard: softly sweet, tangy and quite, quite delicious'.  Irresistable.


Bramley Lemon Curd

450g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons (you need 100ml juice)
125g unsalted butter
450g granulated sugar
4-5 large eggs (you need 200ml beaten egg)

Put the chopped apple into a  pan with 100ml water and the lemon zest.  Cook gently  until soft and fluffy, then either beat to a smooth puree with a wooden spoon or rub through a nylon sieve (I went with the beating option, and didn't worry that it wasn't perfectly smooth).

Put the butter, sugar, lemon juice and apple puree into a double boiler or heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water (I like to live dangerously so just threw them all into a saucepan over a low heat and made sure to stir constantly!).

As soon as the butter is melted and the mixture is hot and glossy, pour in the eggs through a sieve (or don't bother with sieving them; I don't) and whisk with a balloon whisk.  If the fruit puree is too hot when the beaten eggs is added the egg will 'split'.   If you want to guard against this you can use a sugar thermometer - the mix should be no hotter than 55-60C when the egg is added.  If the curd does split, take the pan off the heat and whisk  vigorously until smooth.

Stir the mixture over a gentle heat, scraping down the sides of the bowl every few minutes, until thick and creamy.  This will take 9-10 minutes (in my experience this is a conservative estimate, mine takes at least 15, so don't panic!); the temperature should reach 82-84C on a sugar thermometer.  Immediately pour into warm sterilised jars and seal.  Use within 4 weeks (again, a conservative figure, I think it's OK for a  bit longer than this, but your call); once opened, keep in the fridge.

The recipe says this makes  5 225g jars, but I used jars of a variety of sizes and got 3 jars of the size pictured below (a Bonne Maman jar) and 1 slightly smaller one.  2 have been given as gifts and the other 2 are mine, all mine!


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Apple Diaries 2015 - Quantock Pudding

Yet another pud from this amazing book:

Photo courtesy of this blogger - who also adores this book!
This is another recipe that hails from the West Country, that great apple-producing area of the UK.  It's a batter pudding similar to the French Clafoutis, which is I believe usually made with cherries.  This Quantock or Somerset version actually uses blackberries, but the recipe states that any soft fruit is suitable, as well as apples, pears, rhubarb, apricots and goodberries.  So apples it was!

Quantock Pudding

50g butter
55g plain flour
4 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
150ml whipping cream
150ml full cream milk
450g fruit (I used peeled, cored and chopped apple)
(Optional) 1 tsp cinnamon (if using apples)
Icing sugar to dust

Preheat the oven to 200C/44F/gas 6.
Using half the butter liberally grease a shallow gratin, ovenproof baking dish with a 1.2l (2 pint) capacity.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, eggs, sugar, cinammon if using, and vanilla, then stir in the cream and milk. 
Place the fruit into the dish then pour over the batter.  Dot the remaining batter over the surface, then bake for 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown (test by inserting a skewer and seeing if it comes out clean).

Leave for at least 20 minutes before serving warm and dusted with icing sugar.  Eat with cream.