Lights and Tunnels

Tonight at 2.00am in the UK, British Summertime begins and in two days time on the 29th in England, groups of 6 can once more meet outdoors for the first time in FOREVER! Vaccinations are steaming ahead and levels of new infections of Covid are going down. Spring is springing as I write and a mini heatwave expected next weekend for Easter. Truly, lights at the end of a long winter’s tunnel! As the weeks go by, we will be able to meet up with friends, go to a pub, go out to dinner (even though if you’ve been following these blogs I know you will have been eating well!), and enjoy the beginnings of normality.

The Husband and I have been on a bit of a health kick recently and it’s been a challenge to cook low fat/low calorie meals which satisfy but still deliver flavoursome kicks. The one below is probably one of our favourites – and I’ve even managed to make a chocolate mousse with no (added) sugar or cream!

CHINESE PORK PATTIES – this makes enough for patties for 2 (or one hungry person!) Either have some more tomorrow as they are really delicious or freeze any remaining.

  • 1/2 225g tinned whole water chestnuts in water, drained
  • 2500g lean pork mince (5% fat)
  • 6 spring onions, 2 finely diced and 4 thickly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp grated root ginger
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese 5 spice
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 60g mushrooms, halved
  • 100g pak choi, chopped
  • 1/2 red chilli, finely diced (deseeded if you prefer)
  • 200g fresh egg noodles
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
  1. Finely chop half the water chestnuts; put them in a bowl with the mince, diced spring onions, ginger and Chinese 5 spice. Season; combine with your fingers. Divide into 12 portions; form each into a patty.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a nonstick frying pan over a medium heat. Add half the patties, cook for 4 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove, cover and keep warm while you cook the rest in another teaspoon of oil.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a wok. Add the mushrooms; fry for a few minutes. Add the pak choi, sliced spring onions and chilli and stir-fry over a high heat for 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add the noodles and the rest of the water chestnuts, sliced horizontally; toss for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the sauces; toss. Pile on to a plate and top with the pork patties.
Recipe: Chinese pork patties with noodles

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

60g dark chocolate 2 eggs

Melt the chocolate. Separate the eggs. Whisk the whites till firm. Whisk the yolks into the chocolate. Add a spoonful of whipped egg white to the mix to loosen the mixture before folding in the rest, being careful not to mix too long and lose the air. Pop in the fridge till wanted.

This is enough for two – as you can see it would be easy to halve (30g chocolate and 1 egg) but why would you want to?

Marching 0n . . . .

Marching on . . if only! The Husband has broken his ankle and hobbling along like Long John Silver with a boot and crutches. How did he do it? A gym injury. How many times have I tried to avoid all questions of getting me into one (when there are still so many books to read?) – and now I feel fully vindicated to have done so! One of us has to be 2 footed enough to drive, to fetch and carry – and continue to stand in the kitchen, cooking! With the end of lockdown in sight (and both of us vaccinated), we thought we were on the home straight to freedom, particularly as it is looking as if Spring is springing. It will, hopefully, only be a couple of weeks more of limping, but being confined to barracks does not sit well with The Husband so I decided to make him one of my ultimate comfort foods –

BEEF SHORT RIBS WITH STAR ANISEthis is enough for 2 so either you take a meal around to a neighbour – or look forward to having it again (probably even the next night as it is so good!)

  • 2 beef short ribs
  • 1/2 tablesp  flour                               
  • 2 tablesps vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped                        
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 20g fresh ginger, grated             
  • 2 star anise
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander               
  • 1/2 teasp Chinese 5 spice
  • 1 tablesps soy sauce                   
  • 1 1/2 tablesps Chinese rice wine (use sherry if you haven’t any – or just water)
  • 3 tablesp white wine vinegar (I had run out so used cider vinegar)
  • 1 beef stock cube dissolved in 125ml water

Preheat oven to 150oC. Season and toss the ribs in flour.  Heat 1 tablesp oil in flameproof dish and sear.  Take out.  Add remaining oil and add onion and saute for few mins.  Add garlic and ginger for 2 mins then add spices.  Pour in stock and use spoon to deglaze the dish. Add soy, rice wine, vinegar.  Stir well and put ribs back in. Cover and cook in oven for about 3 ½ hours. Scatter over fresh mint and coriander leaves and serve with rice and griddled pak choi.

And to cleanse the palate after all that lovely saltiness – PINEAPPLE SORBET which will keep in the freezer for whenever you want some zinging freshness.

Put the pineapple into a blender or food processor and blitz to a purée. To make the stock syrup, put all the ingredients in a large pot with 500ml water, slowly bring to the boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat. Tip the pineapple purée and the lime juice into the syrup and stir well. Leave to cool, then strain and place in a container and freeze. Alternatively, tip the syrup into a large tray and freeze until it starts to set, then every hour or so break up the ice with a fork. Serve the sorbet scooped into dessert glasses with a few slices of mango.

Pineapple sorbet with fresh mango

I’m Late . . I’m Late for a very important date!

Image result for white rabbit

I know, I’m sorry, I’m really late for the date of Shrove Tuesday! I had it all set up to do – and then decided to paint our bedroom! And then . . . well, you know how it is – you do one thing and it leads to another. Lovely, freshly painted walls showed up the winter’s dust and cobwebs . . . . the bed obviously had to be changed . . . new cushion covers for the bed and chair!

I was going to abandon the idea of pancakes altogether but, on the basis that Tuesday is a week day (work and home schooling – however do you manage?) you might have more time at the weekend to try out a different pancake recipe.

A Japanese soufflé pancake is a pancake made using soufflé techniques and are incredibly popular there. Egg whites are whipped up with sugar into a glossy thick meringue then mixed with a batter made with the yolks. Soufflé pancakes are fluffy, jiggly, sweet, soft, and so, so delicious. They taste like you are eating a sweet pancake cloud, with butter and syrup!

JAPANESE PANCAKES – this could be more than enough for one (or not, depending on how hungry you are!)

  • 2 large eggs                                                         
  • 2¼ tsp baking powder
  • 150g plain flour                                                  
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 180ml full fat milk                                             
  • Zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • For the lemon syrup
  • Juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 100g icing sugar
  • To serve
  • 25g Greek yoghurt                                             
  • 75g mascarpone 
  • ½ tsp icing sugar
  • Blackberries or raspberries / handful of pistachio nuts

Split the eggs and whisk the whites firmly. Put the yolks to one side. Sift the baking powder into the flour, then sift again before adding the sugar. Mix well. In the middle, create a well and add the egg yolks and oil. Mix, then add the milk and mix again. Blend the batter on high power or at speed if using a whisk. Mix in half of the lemon zest. Fold in the whisked egg whites with a metal spoon, being careful not to knock the air out of the mixture. Warm a frying pan on the lowest heat and wait until the bottom is fully and equally heated. Grease the pan lightly with oil.  Pour batter into a muffin ring or poached egg ring placed in the centre of your pan and fill until two-thirds full. Add a few drops of water into the pan before putting the lid on. Stand back and let the heat and steam do the work. Check after about 8 min. If they are wobbly yet firm, very gently turn them over using a fish slice. Put the lid back on and cook for another few minutes. Meanwhile, make your lemon syrup. Bring the lemon juice with icing sugar to the boil. Boil for 2 min, let simmer at medium heat. Put in a small bowl. In another bowl, mix the yoghurt, mascarpone, ½ teaspoon icing sugar and the remainder of the lemon zest. As soon as the pancakes are done, bring your toppings to the table and tuck in.

Jennifer (daughter) – this one is for you!

新年快乐 / 新年快樂 (xīn nián kuài lè) “Happy New Year!”

We’re Entering the Year of the Ox. Here’s What It Means

Feeling like 2021 could already use a re-do? Well, you’re in luck! This Friday—February 12, 2021—is the Chinese New Year. Celebrated at the second new moon following the Winter Solstice, Chinese New Year is also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. This is because according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, this festival marks the end of winter and the beginning of a long-awaited spring! Using the Chinese Zodiac, 2021 is the Year of the Ox. So what does this Year of the Ox have in store for us? And will it be better than 2020?

The Year of the Ox will be a year of endurance. It’s no longer just about survival but about anchoring ourselves and making our dreams come true. The Ox is associated with Yin (feminine, receptive) energy. Our responsibilities will feel especially heavy this year. Things that were once easy will require more effort in the Year of the Ox. Our strength is undeniable, but we still have to choose our battles wisely. We can do it, though!  Having come so far along with this pandemic, there is light ahead and looking after each other is surely the way.

In addition to the animals, the Chinese Zodiac also cycles through five elemental types. So this is not only the Year of the Ox, it is the year of the Metal Ox. Metal years bring out our most dedicated and persistent qualities and this being our second Metal Year in a row makes grittiness a priority. Overall, this is a year for recovering, making long-term investments or building a family, whether literally or with friends. 

ASIAN STYLE LAMB The recipe is for one but, as you can see, its all in teaspoons and mls so really easy to double up or quadruple up if you are cooking for others.

  • 40ml) kecap manis  (this is so delicious – like a thick spicy soy sauce – find it in the aisle of your supermarket for world food)       
  • 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped    
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • Lamb steak, cut into slices (or butcher gives us lamb saddles which are really thick so if you can’t get them, make sure it is the thickest you can find)
  • 1 tablespoons sesame oil                
  • 1/2 red onion, cut into thin wedges
  • leftover cooked rice – amount to suit you!
  • pak choi, chopped
  • 2-3 spring onions, thinly sliced on an angle

Combine kecap, five spice, half the garlic and 1 teaspoon ginger in a shallow dish. Add lamb, toss to coat, then marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Remove lamb from bowl, reserving marinade. Cook lamb for 3 minutes each side for medium-rare, or until done to your liking. Remove to a plate, cover with foil and rest while you make the fried rice. Add remaining oil to same pan. Cook onion with remaining garlic and ginger, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until onion colours slightly. Add marinade and allow to bubble for 1-2 minutes, then add rice and heat through for 2-3 minutes, stirring. Toss through pak choi and sesame. Slice lamb thickly, then serve in bowls on rice. Top with spring onion.

BANANA ICE CREAM

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Peel and slice the bananas into 1cm/½in pieces. Place in a single layer on the tray and freeze for 4–6 hours until solid, or overnight. (If not using immediately, transfer to a lidded container and return to the freezer for up to a month before using.)

To make the ice cream, tip the frozen bananas into a sturdy food processor. Blend on the pulse setting until the bananas become finely chopped, then whizz into a very thick, creamy purée. The ice cream should form a soft ball. Spoon into dessert dishes and eat just as it is, or top with berries, chocolate drops or anything you fancy, such as the chocolate sauce in the tips. If not serving all the ice cream at once, transfer the leftover ice cream as quickly as possible into a lidded container and freeze for up to 2 weeks. When frozen like this you can use an icecream scoop to spoon into bowls.

Hot chocolate sauce topping, very gently melt 50g/1¾oz roughly chopped chocolate with 100ml/3½fl oz double cream in a small pan, stirring regularly. Keep warm while the ice cream is made and served. Drizzle the chocolate over the ice cream and eat immediately. Crushed berries topping, put hulled and halved strawberries and raspberries in a small bowl and crush lightly with a fork. Add a few fresh blueberries and toss lightly. Stir in 1 tablespoon caster sugar and leave to stand while the ice cream is made and served. Banoffee topping, crumble digestive biscuits into four dessert dishes, top with spoonfuls of banana ice cream, drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle with grated chocolate or roughly broken flaked chocolate.

Asian-style lamb on sesame fried rice

Sending a Hug

Hug Line Drawing Print, Friendship Print, Female Friends Hugging, Line  Drawn Art, Black White Minimalist Wall Art, Girls Friendship Line Art in  2020 | Drawings of friends, Friends illustration, Line art drawings

It’s raining. It’s grey. It’s miserable. We are in a third lockdown. Haven’t seen family for ages. Haven’t seen anyone for ages, let alone a hug. So I’m sending you a virtual one, in the hope an end is in sight and the sky will be blue again, sun will shine and a summer of parties to plan.

In the meantime, we are all in need of a pick up, I think, and for me, it will be going into the kitchen and cooking. I know I am lucky to have The Husband to cook for and many of you are on your own but that doesn’t mean you can’t be kind to yourself and have a lovely dinner to look forward to. You can even be kind to your neighbour down the road, cook for two and leave on their doorstep – you will be helping them and yourself . Comfort food can be healthy too as I hope you will find the following so not only are you being kind to your mind and your neighbour but also your body – who told you couldn’t multi-task?! Shake out your aprons, put some bright lipstick on (works for me!) and smile – you’ll find it will get easier as the day goes on.

CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP – the most classic of comfort food. This serves 2 – so your neighbour is in luck!

Pour the stock into a pan and add the chicken breast, ginger and garlic. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, partly cover and simmer for 20 mins, until the chicken is tender. Put the chicken on a board and shred into bite-size pieces using a couple of forks. Return the chicken to the stock with the noodles, sweetcorn, mushrooms, spring onion and soy sauce. Simmer for 3-4 mins until the noodles are tender. Ladle into two bowls and scatter over the remaining spring onion, mint or basil leaves and chilli, if using. Serve with extra soy sauce.

SAUCY BEAN BAKED EGGS – I do understand not everyone feels like cooking but everyone does have to eat so make these five-ingredient baked eggs with tomatoes and beans using storecupboard staples. It’s a quick, easy, tasty and healthy dish for one.

Tip the tomatoes and bean salad into an ovenproof frying pan or shallow flameproof casserole dish. Simmer for 10 mins, or until reduced. Stir in the spinach and cook for 5 mins more until wilted. Heat the grill to medium. Make two indentations in the mixture using the back of a spoon, then crack one egg in each. Nestle the ham in the mixture, then grill for 4-5 mins, or until the whites are set and the yolks runny. Serve with crusty bread, if you like.

Saucy bean baked eggs in a pan

Where would we be with out Chocolate – the ultimate feel good food? Here is a really easy pudding – up to you if you want to share!

CHOCOLATE DELICE

  • 200g dark chocolate (cooking or posh) 
  • 1/pt single cream (if you only have double use that with half milk)
  • 1 egg

Break up the chocolate in a bowl.  Bring the cream to a boil and pour over.  Whizz till all melted and add the egg to blend.  Pour into individual dishes and put in fridge till ready. Find a quiet corner with your book, take a teaspoon and enjoy.

I usually post a little video of a song for the month- but changing it all today as this is my very favourite Happy Song – definitely one to dance around the kitchen to – or to do the exercise you know you should do!

Pharrell – Happy – Worldwide Compilation #HappyDay – YouTube

Chicken noodle soup in bowls with spoons

Sweet treats . . . .

Christmas just isn’t going to be the same for so many of us this year. It isn’t Christmas, per se, but the meeting up of family, being with the people you love and the ones who love you most.  It has been such a difficult time  – I, personally, have see my children and grand children only a tiny amount of what I would normally – and we were all looking forward to finally being together. Let us try to be the best we can with whoever we can – and to look out for those that will find it even harder than we do.

Recipes for today are for treats – yourself, friends, neighbours – to share as you will.  Being Christmas (and particularly now) they are obviously completely calorie free!

GRANNY’S TREACLE TOFFEE – this was made when one of us had a sore throat to suck – so completely medicinal! Take care to suck, though, as the Husband broke a crown on it chewing!

  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 100 grams butter
  • 3 tablespoons treacle
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar

Put everything into a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Keep on a rolling boil (I keep a wooden spoon in it so it doesn’t over boil).  It is ready when a small spoonful goes hard when dropped into a bowl of cold water.  Pour into a greased baking tin (BE CAREFUL AS ITS VERY HOT AND WILL BURN YOUR SKIN).  Allow to harden, turn tin over and tap till it drops out.  Keep in a airproof tin or tupperware.

SCOTTISH TABLET (English fudge) My best (oldest (in years of knowing!) friend, Sandra, gave me this recipe – its incredibly easy and even a non-Scot can make it!

  • 150ml evaporated milk
  • 150ml water
  • 75g butter
  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teasp vanilla essence
  • Butter a 7 inch shallow tin. Put milk, water, sugar and butter in a saucepan and heat through slowly until the sugar has dissolved. The boil steadily for about 10 k- 15 minutes stirring constantly. Test by dropping into a cold glass of water and is ready when you can roll it between your fingers. Take off the heat and add vanilla essence. Cool slightly then beat until the mixture starts to thicken and crystalise. Pour into tin and leave to set. Mark into squares and keep in an airtight tin (it won’t be there for long!)

For the ultimate comfort drink, there will always be HOT CHOCOLATE – here are a couple of festive additions – obviously for more than one but why not make a batch, keep (a lot) for yourself and leave a warming cup on your neighbour’s doorstep?

MULLED WINE HOT CHOCOLATE

  • red wine 300ml
  • cinnamon stick 1
  • star anise 2
  • cloves 4
  • allspice berries 6
  • demerara sugar 2 tbsp
  • whole milk 500ml
  • dark chocolate chips or dark chocolate 150g
  • Pour the red wine into a pan and add the cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, allspice berries and demerara sugar. Heat gently and simmer for 10 minute. In a separate pan, heat the milk, then gradually whisk in the dark chocolate. Strain the red wine into the chocolate pan and stir. Serve in small glasses or cups with extra cinnamon stick stirrers.

LUXURY HOT CHOCOLATE – with lots of topping suggestions!

  • cocoa powder 3 tbsp
  • whole milk 1.5 litres
  • demerara sugar 3 tbsp, plus extra to taste
  • dark chocolate 100g, chopped
  • vanilla extract 1 tsp
  • single cream 150ml
  • Put the cocoa in a large bowl or jug and mix in enough cold milk to make a smooth paste. Put the rest of the milk in a pan and bring to a simmer. Whisk the milk into the cocoa paste until everything is incorporated then pour back into the pan. Add the sugar, chopped chocolate, vanilla and cream, and heat gently, stirring until everything is combined. Sweeten with extra demerara sugar to your liking.
  • TOPPINGS – dark rum, whisky, brandy, Disaronno or Baileys / squirty cream / Cadbury flake /cinnamon sticks/ ground cinnamon / chocolate chips / mini marshmallo /fudge chunks
Red Wine Hot Chocolate Recipe

Music from the Master – never has the words seemed so true!

Have yourself a merry little Christmas – Frank Sinatra – YouTube

Wishing you all the best Christmas you can – and looking forward to Happy New Year!

A little extra . . .

Here, in England, we all thought come 2 December we would be out of our lockdown and at least be able to mix with a few friends in our homes.  However, it is not to be and time crawls on towards a vaccine and freedom!

So I just thought I would post a little extra to this week’s blog and give you a very quick and easy recipe my lovely son-in-law, Ben, sent me.  It’s a little bit of frivolous nothing – but what’s wrong with that today?  

Big Ben’s Ice Cream (it’s in measures so you can make as much or little as you like, just keep in proportion)

  • A measure of mascarpone
  • A measure of yogurt
  • a big squeeze of golden syrup
  • a big squeeze of honey
  • a little sprinkling of salt

Mix it all up together in an ice cream maker or freeze, churning every half hour till soft.

He says it’s brilliant with fruit salad, chopped pistachios and fresh mint. Best thing is that it doesn’t last well in the freezer – so just make and eat it ALL. Sharing is not obligatory!

Vanilla ice-cream with fruit salad dressing recipe Recipe | Good Food

A little bit on the Side

I’m ready come the Revolution and we can all break out of Lockdown 2!  Up early one morning and wanting a job where I wouldn’t wake anyone else up, I cleaned out all the kitchen drawers, throwing out anything not used this year.  I then moved on to the fridge and  pantry – and later my wardrobe.  All very cathartic (if a little sad?) but so much easier to find anything – spatulas / a tin of sweetcorn / half eaten lemon icecream / pair of knickers – all immediately to hand meaning I’ll be out the door as soon as 2 December (England lockdown) ends. I miss my friends and my family; people to stay; lunches and suppers shared and all the little shops open in my nearby town.  When I started this blog it was to help those who suddenly found themselves on their own for whatever reason and had lost the joy of cooking as only for one.  Now, it seems, that many more of us are thus – definitely cooking for fewer people as a whole.  Remember, though, neighbours and less able people who may live nearby – cooking for one may not necessarily be so if you double up and leave/give a little something on a doorstep for them.

Last blog was about cooking simple but adding a sauce to spark up the everyday – this time I’m looking at side dishes – so you can still cook plain (sausages, chops, piece of fish etc) but adding something more adventurous on the side.

Apple, walnut and potato gratin

  • 125 ml milk
  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 lb potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced 
  • 1 golden delicious apples, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 30g gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 60g grated cheddar
  • few walnuts, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan-forced. Grease a 5cm-deep, 15cm x 26cm (6-cup capacity) ovenproof dish. Heat milk and garlic in a small saucepan until mixture just comes to a simmer (do not boil). Remove from heat. Arrange potato and apple slices, alternating, in rows in prepared dish. Push blue cheese in between slices. Strain milk mixture over potato mixture. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour. Remove foil. Sprinkle with cheddar and walnuts. Bake for 30 minutes or until potato and apple are tender and cheese is melted and golden. Stand for 5 minutes. Serve.
 
Baked Onions with Cheese
  • 2 – 3 onions trimmed at the root and peeled of skin and first layer
  • chicken stock 125ml
  • thyme a few sprigs
  • 25g soft white breadcrumbs (I keep a bag in the freezer, adding it to whenever I get to the end of a loaf that is not quite so fresh)
  • 1 dessertspoon olive oil 
  • 25g mature cheddar, grated
  • 40 mls double cream 
  • 1/2 teasp English mustard (optional)

Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Put the onions into a deep baking dish, season well and pour in the stock. Add the thyme sprigs then cover tightly with a double layer of foil. Put into the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes until the onions are really soft but still holding their shape Mix the breadcrumbs with the oil until fully coated, then mix in the cheddar, Remove the foil and heat the grill to high. Whisk together the cream and mustard, then pour into the onion dish. Put a pile of the cheesy breadcrumbs on top of each onion, then grill for 5 minutes or until the cheese and breadcrumbs are browned, and the sauce is bubbling.

Radish Salad

  • 100g radishes, ½ wedged, ½ sliced
  • 1 dessertspoon capers 
  • 1/2 small head of radicchio torn into pieces
  • 1/2 small head frisee, (frilly lettuce) cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 white chicory, halved and root removed
  • 1/2 red chicory, halved and root removed
  • a handful of rocket
  • Dressing: garlic 1 small clove / anchovy fillets 30g (3 – 4 fillets), finely chopped / 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar / 3 dessertspoons olive oil

Put the radishes into a bowl of ice-cold water and soak for 15 minutes, then drain really well and pat dry. Grate the garlic, then tip into a bowl with the anchovies, red wine vinegar, olive oil and some seasoning, and whisk. Tip the radishes into a bowl with the capers and dressing, toss, then add the salad leaves and gently mix to coat. Tip into a large salad bowl and serve.

Roasted Cauliflower Florets

  • 3 dessertspoon olive oil 
  • 3 dessertspoon chipotle paste (to taste; find it in the supermarket isle with all other spices)
  • 1 crushed garlic
  • cauliflower florets, plus any small, tender leaves
  • 70 g soured cream 
  • mix of ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp mild chilli powder and the zest of ½ lime

Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Pour the olive oil, 2 tbsp of the chipotle paste and the garlic  into a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and mix well. Add the cauliflower florets and toss together. Tip into a roasting dish with any leaves and mix well. Roast for 35-40 minutes or until charred and smoky. Mix together the remaining chipotle paste and soured cream in a serving bowl. To serve, tip the cauliflower florets onto a serving plate and drizzle over the remaining oil. Scatter over the chilli and lime mix and serve with the chipotle soured cream for dunking.

A silver tray topped with orange roasted cauliflower with a pot of white sauce in the corner

November Boogie – YouTube   

Saucy!

Easy Homemade Brown Gravy (no drippings) | Sprinkles and Sprouts

What topsy turvy times we are in! I have family in Scotland, family in London, family nearby and friends in Wales and each of these groups are in different tiers of quarantine/covid rules! Its really difficult keeping up with who you can see and how many! This weekend I should have been in London with my two daughters – 2 art gallery/museums visits planned, a dinner and lunch with friends – all cancelled and with no idea when it can be put back together again! Sometimes, one wishes for nothing more than simple times – a picnic, Sunday lunch or just a walk with the family (mine would be always over 6 which is against advice here).

This got me thinking of how nice it is to just cook simple – sausages, a piece of chicken, pasta or a lamb chop – and fine as it is to just eat them as is, how even better to pep up with a sauce. So today’s blog is just about that – sauces to bring the simple to life!

All of these sauces can be served with grilled chicken, lamb or pork chops, fish, sausages or even pasta. Freeze any left over – if it’s just for you, you can use the ice cube dish.

Mushroom sauce

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and add the onion. Cook the onion until softened but not coloured. Add the garlic and the mushrooms and cook for 3–4 minutes until the mushrooms are soft but have not released their juices. Add the wine and reduce the volume of liquid by half. Stir in the crème fraîche and parsley and heat through. Season to taste and serve.

Tomato Sauce

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds more. Add the tomatoes, herbs and sugar and cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Stir in a splash of water to loosen the sauce, if needed, and season to taste. You can vary this sauce so to suit your taste. For a spicy pasta sauce, add 1–2 pinches of dried chilli flakes with the tomatoes. For a creamy tomato sauce, stir in 2–3 tablespoons of single or double cream, crème fraîche, soft cheese or mascarpone at the end of the cooking time and heat through gently. For a meaty flavour, fry chopped bacon, chorizo, salami or ham when cooking the onion.

Cider, cream and apple sauce

  • 30 g butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 75 ml + 1 tbsp cider
  • 75 ml apple juice
  • 150 ml chicken stock
  • 100 ml double cream
  • 100 g apple, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour

Melt half of the butter in a small saucepan and fry the shallot without browning, for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add the chicken stock, 75 ml cider and the apple juice to the onion and boil until reduced by half. Strain the sauce and return to the pan, discard the onion. Stir in the double cream. Mix the cornflour with the remaining tablespoon of cider and stir into the sauce. Cook gently, stirring, for 1 minute. Melt the remaining butter in a small frying pan and fry the apple briskly until lightly brown. Add to the sauce and continue to cook for 2 -3 minutes.

And we could not possibly finish without something sweet – so a really easy Chocolate one!

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water until completely smooth. Heat all of the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan until evenly combined. Remove from the heat and stir through the melted chocolate. Serve warm over chocolate pudding, vanilla ice cream or both!

And to follow on – a simple song to cook along with . . . .

Comfort . . .

It’s been a very wet few days here in Worcestershire so much so that the need for some comfort meant the kitchen fire was lit for the first time this season and at least we had some cosiness to settle into. The back garden has flooded, too, so we’ve hurtled from our lovely Indian Summer straight into Autumn/Winter. Fires and drawn curtains, warm throws to snuggle on the sofa started me thinking of comfort foods and what I’d like to come home to if caught out in the cold, windy weather. Daughter No1 was here for the weekend and she mentioned macaroni cheese; The Husband likes oxtail stew (see below) after he’s had a day pike fishing and I love a fish pie.

What’s Yours?

The first recipe is a quick one – for those days you are caught in a sudden downpour, get cold home and wet and want a quick fix – and the second one is long and slow and full of anticipation for when you wake up to an already miserable day!

One-pan vegetable lasagne

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large courgette, chopped
  • 125g button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 100g baby leaf spinach
  • 200g fresh lasagne sheets, sliced into strips
  • Handful fresh basil leaves, torn
  • grated parmesan to taste
  • 1 x 125g mozzarella ball, sliced

Heat the oil in the pan. Add the onions and fry over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the courgette and mushrooms, increase the heat and fry for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and 400ml boiling water, then season. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes over a medium heat. Heat the grill to high. Stir the spinach and pasta into the pan in batches. Once the spinach has wilted, stir in the basil, most of the parmesan and half the mozzarella. Scatter over the rest of the cheese, then grill for 3-5 minutes until melty and bubbling. Leave for a few minutes before serving.

Oxtail Stew – I cook this in a pressure cooker so it’s another one-pot wonder! I hesitated putting this on the blog as I always think of a stew as a dish for many – but then realised that , of course, one buys oxtail by the number so a perfect way of cooking for one!

  • Oxtail pieces – your butcher sells these individually so pick what you want
  • carrots, onions, celery, chopped
  • swede/turnip (this gets a little confusing in UK. In Scotland where I am from a turnip is the yellow root vegetable – but in England this is the swede and the turnip is the little white one – so just go with whatever!) chopped.
  • Beef stock cube, gravy thickening and redcurrant jelly

Chop all the vegetables and put in the bottom of the cooker. Place the oxtail on top and add water, flavoured with beef stock cube to cover. Bring to pressure and cook for 40 minutes. Switch off and allow pressure to drop. Take all the vegetables and meat out and bring the liquid to the boil, add a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly and thickening till it’s a lovely rolling mix. Add the vegetables and meat back into the stew. Serve with mashed potato. If there is any left over, put in the fridge and add some extra stock the next day to have as a soup. The meat will just fall off the bones.

You could also cook this in a slow cooker, putting it on the morning low to eat at night – or even a low oven/ Aga.

Oxtail Stew Recipe | Food Network