Dinner for one . . or two. . or four

How to Set the Table for Any Occasion

Week two of lock down and I appreciate most of us are feeling fed up with not meeting up with friends or family.  So I’ve had this cunning plan . . .

For those of you with internet access (and knowledge) make a date and time to meet up with loved ones online.  Send this dinner recipe.  Make it yourself and set it up in front of your computer, pour yourself a glass of wine and switch on – a virtual dinner with friends (you can even point out where they might have gone wrong with the recipe!) For those without, why don’t you make double the recipe and leave half on your neighbour’s doorstep.  If you are next door, with these lighter and milder nights you could both eat outside and shout over the fence.  And, if you can’t do any of this, set the table with your best china and flowers and eat well, thinking of the time when the people you love are sitting around the table with you.

Both these dishes serve two – so either half, do as or double and serve up a few neighbours!  It looks like a lot of ingredients but you can use up a lot of bits and pieces of veg (or substitute for frozen – or experiment with your own choice) – and gives a new life to stale bread and that odd piece of fruit lying in the bottom of the bowl!

SPRING PASTA

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves (finely sliced)
  • 1 small onion (finely diced)
  • 100ml white wine
  • 800ml vegetable stock (from a cube)
  • 250gr pasta
  • 80 gr peas
  • 40gr green beans (topped and tailed, if fresh)
  • ½ courgettes, (diced)
  • 3 spring onion (finely sliced)
  • 75 gr tenderstem broccoli, sliced in 2 – 3 cm
  • 80 gr broad beans
  • 1 lemon (zest and juiced)
  • 5 mint leaves, torn
  • 8 basil leaves, torn
  • 20gr butter
  • 2 heaped tablesp grated parmesan plus extra to serve

Heat a deep, large pan. Add olive oil, garlic and onion and sweat them on a low heat without adding colour. Add the wine and leave to reduce for 2-3 minutes. Add pasta, the vegetable stock, the remaining vegetables and lemon zest to the mix. Leave to simmer for 7-8 minutes on a low heat and stir occasionally. Add the rest of the  ingredients, season to taste, leave to rest for 2 minutes.
Serve with extra parmesan over the top.
APPLE BREAD PUDDING

  • 50g raisins
  • 50ml cold tea
  • 1 – 2apples or pears or a mixture of both
  • squeeze lemon juice
  • 200ml milk
  • 60g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 – 4 slices of bread can be a bit stale (or brioche)
  • 1 dessertsp demerara sugar
  • ice cream, custard or soured cream, to serve

Put the raisins in a bowl, add the cold tea and leave them to soak. Peel, core and slice the apples and pears and keep them fresh in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice. Grease a baking dish and preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 4. Gently warm the milk in a saucepan, then add the butter and allow it to melt. Set the milk and butter aside to cool to lukewarm. Put the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla in a bowl and beat with an electric hand whisk until well combined. Whisk in the buttery milk. Tear the bread into pieces, keeping the crusts on or off depending on how posh you are, and layer them in the greased baking dish. Strain the raisins, discarding the tea, and scatter them over the bread, then top with the sliced fruit. Pour in the batter and sprinkle on brown sugar crystals. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pudding has set and has a golden crust on top. Serve with ice cream or custard, or try some soured cream for a change

Apple bread pudding

 

We’ll Always have . . . Chocolate

The Husband and I are so lucky to have a big garden to go out in and, for the time being, lots of things to do in the house and outside.  The weather has been amazing and I’ve got lots of seedlings planted out – spinach, carrots, parsnips, beetroots and carvelo negro (a sort of long leaved Kale) and more still growing in the potting shed.  The fruit patch has been all tidied up and I’ve laid some black plastic around the bushes to try to discourage weeds as it’s so hard to get rid of them once they are laden with fruit. Rhubarb is amazing and wonderful lightly stewed with the juice of an orange, with my porridge for breakfast.

g1  g2

Self Isolation goes on and we are seeing few cars on the road – and even fewer walkers seem to be pass by our door. It’s as if the whole world is shutting down.  The internet and (positive) social media has really come into its own this week.  I have a few whatsapp groups going on and make a point of calling someone I haven’t spoken to in a while each day. I was thinking, however, that whilst the post office is still open (thank you!) perhaps a letter might be really appreciated. especially to someone on their own or not as knowledeable with technology as yourselves?  Choose some nice stationery, send a photograph or pressed flower or a drawing – sometimes simple things are all it takes for someone to feel cared for.

Anyway, when times are hard (and they are!) the other easy thing to comfort is CHOCOLATE.  Milk or plain, with nuts or raisins or with fillings of caramel or fruit, a little bit of a sweet treat can go a long way. All of these recipes are for more than one – do make them as they are (or even double up) and put them on someone’s doorstep as a surprise!

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 a your book, take a teaspoon and enjoy.

TIFFIN BARS

  • 100 g Butter
  • 25 g Caster Sugar
  • 3 tbsp Cocoa Powder
  • 4 tbsp Golden Syrup
  • 225 g digestive biscuits approx. 15 (or Rich Tea or Ginger snaps or any of the broken biscuits lying at the bottom of your biscuit barrel)
  • 100 g Raisins
  • 230 g Milk or Dark Chocolate

Line your tray-bake tin with greaseproof paper Set aside. Crush your biscuits. You want most of it to be quite fine but leave some bits in bigger chunks to give your Tiffin a bit of texture. Add the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, golden syrup and 30g of milk chocolate to a large bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, stirring often. Stir in the biscuits and raisins and mix well. Press the mixture into your pre-lined tin. Melt the remaining chocolate in another bowl over water, stirring often. Pour over the biscuit mixture and smooth over evenly. Leave to set in the fridge for at least 2 hours but ideally over night before cutting into individual portions. You could also add chopped marshmallows/cherries/dried apricots/maltesers – whatever takes your fancy!

 

FRENCH CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM (and before you say, perhaps not leave this on the doorstep before knocking on the door!)
  • 2 oz caster sugar            4 tablespoons water         6 oz plain chocolate
  • 3 egg yolks (freeze the egg whites individually for later or make some meringues)
  •  1/2 pint double cream

Melt the sugar and water together till a light syrup.  Break up the chocolate into a bowl and pour the hot syrup over.  Mix to smooth and add yolks.  Whip the cream until stiff, fold in the chocolate and freeze.  Simples!

Tiffin - Chocolate, Date and Stem Ginger - That Old Chestnut

 

Wild about garlic

After all the floods and rain over the past few months, the weather has finely been kind to us (something has to!) and we have been having the most beautiful Spring weather.  Everything is starting to bloom and hazes of green cover the trees and hedges. We have all been encouraged (with social distancing) to go for a walk for fresh air and our physical and mental health.  The Husband and I did this yesterday, alongside a riverbank where we spotted the first of the year’s green treasures – wild garlic.  It looks like this:

Image result for wild garlic

A fairly low growing plant, smelling slightly of garlic/onion and the most beautiful vibrant green. Pick it when you find it and you can make wonderful soup, dips and oil.

This recipe is enough for 4 but freezes beautifully (or you can give it out to neighbours?) Not only is it delicious but also helps lower cholesterol and high blood pressure!

Wild Garlic Soup

  • 1 onion sliced
  • 2 – 3 potatoes (these are for thickening the soup so depends on size)
  •  500 ml water
  • stock cube (I use a vegetable one)
  • milk/crème fraiche/cream

Saute the onion in a little butter in a large saucepan.  Add chopped potato, stock cube, and water and bring to the boil.  Cook until the potato is soft.  Lay 3 – 4 handfuls of the garlic leaves on the top and allow to wilt and cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Cool slightly and, using a hand blender, puree.  Put back into the saucepan and add milk or cream or creme fraiche to taste along with plenty of pepper.  It never lasts long in our house but will keep in the fridge for 2 – 3 days – or ladle into bags to freeze.  Serve with crusty bread and a dollop of creme fraiche.

You might like to try this, too, to add to any other flavoured oils you may have

Wild Garlic Oil – blanch several handfuls of leaves in boiling water for 5 – 10 seconds then immediately drain and toss into iced water (this keeps the colour). Drain again and wrap in an old tea towel and squeeze all the liquid out. Chop up into small pieces and put in a jam jar or bottle and top up with 150 ml of olive oil.

Garlicky green Goddess dressing

Put about 30 washed and dried garlic leaves into a food processor or blender with 300ml sour cream (if you haven’t got this creme fraiche will do or make your own by adding some lemon juice to fresh cream – leave aside for a minute or two whilst it goes thick) , the juice of half a lemon and salt and pepper.  Blitz till smooth and serve over a green s salad or use a dipping sauce for bread or crisps.

Image result for wild garlic soup

 

Time to stay at Home . . .

As we all know by now, Britain, like many other countries, has been asked to stay at home except for essential food shopping, medical matters or a walk (with distancing) to keep our fitness up.   I’d like to thank here, on behalf of all the blog readers, for our amazing NHS – and also the shopworkers, postman, binmen, lorry drivers, police and charity workers – for all your hard work – and also to you Joe Public for the wonderful acts of kindness I hear about. I know we can and will work through all this together as a Nation.  It’s going to be hard for many, particularly our older people, those without access to a garden or somewhere to walk and people on their own for whatever reason.

Today’s recipe is just for you, the latter, on your own thinking, no one cares. We do; Mrs Bloggs down the road does, Mr Someone across the road does and Mr and Mrs Neighbour round the corner does – sometimes, you only have to ask.

Baked fish with sizzling spinach, ginger and chilli (using the store cupboard items I listed a couple of blogs ago)

  • 1 piece of white fish (fresh or frozen, whatever cut you have)
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine (or sherry or white wine)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed ) don’t forget you can buy these fresh or frozen or buy
  • 5g grated ginger           ) fresh and freeze yourself (grate them or chop first)
  • 1 small red chilli           )
  • 150g spinach, fresh or frozen
  • salad onions
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • cooked noodles or rice

Preheat the oven to 200oC.  Place a sheet of foil on a baking tray and sit fish on top.  Drizzle over the rice wine, 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce and crushed garlic.  Massage into the fish and lightly seal the parcel.  Bake for about 12 minutes. Cook the spinach if fresh, defrost if frozen and squeeze dry. Cut the salad onions into 4cm lengths and then into slivers.  Dilute the remaining soy with 1 tablespoon boiling water.  Arrange the noodles or rice on a plate, top with the spinach and then fish with any cooking juices. Pile the onion, ginger and chilli on top.  Heat the oil until smoking and pour over the fish so it sizzles! Top with the diluted soy – and eat immediately.

NB this is an an incredibly easy recipe to double/ quadruple up just multiply everything by number of people you are cooking for.  You could also add mushrooms/ bean sprouts, sweetcorn, anything you fancy to bulk it out.

henssun

My “girls” – sunbathing in the glorious sunshine – just to show you life carries on! They’ll be wanting sunglasses next!

The LockDown Optimist

Image result for ribollita

So, finally, we are all on lock down, apart from services, food shops, fuel stations and, of course, our wonderful NHS.  For most of us (and I include my followers in the USA, Australia, Spain, Germany, India (and anywhere else who reads this) this will be affecting everyone.  It’s all very limiting and worrying (I worry about my children in London and missing my son, daughter-in-law and grand daughters) just when hugs were never more needed.  The Husband and I are very lucky in that we have enough space in the house to get away from each other (if we need to) and a lovely big garden both to work and relax in.  It’s a time when it’s all about to explode in colour – and I actually  have time to enjoy it.  There’s a whole host of planting to be done and, if it rains, a couple of rooms need painting, a quilt to finish and lots of books to catch up on.  I realise it is not the same for everyone but do stress that fresh air (a friend has started a walking group in the park where 8 of them go out with the stipulated distance between and walk, shout and laugh their way around it). If you haven’t got a garden, open all the windows and let the wind blow through and there are lots of online little gym programmes to follow.

Good comfort food is needed more than ever and today’s recipe is Ribollita, using some tinned and some fresh ingredients.  Make a load and take some to your elderly neighbours – just knock on the door and leave on the step if you are worried.  You’ll feel good, too, for helping someone.

  • 1 large onion
  • 2 celery sticks (celery wrapped in tin foil and kept in the fridge will keep for a while)
  • 1 leek
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 750ml vegetable stock (from a cube will do)
  • salt and pepper
  • 400g tin cannellini beans
  • 2 thick slices of (older) bread, torn (sourdough is best but not necessary)
  • 200g of cabbage or spinach or cavolo nero
  • grated parmesan cheese

Chop the onion, celery, leek and carrots into dice and tip into a large saucepan.  Add the olive oil and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic and tomato puree, mix well.  Pour the tinned tomatoes into the pan, add 500 ml stock, season and bring to a gentle simmer, Half cover with a lid and cook for 30 minutes to soften the vegetables.  Add the beans and cook for a further 20 minutes. Add the remaining stock and bread and cook for about 10 minutes until the bread is broken down and thickened the soup.  Add the green veg and cook till wilted.  Serve in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated parmesan on top.

PS There is a suggestion that chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, is effective in treating the Virus.  Since tonic water contains quinine, we should all self prescribe regular doses of G & T (or vodka).  The lemon/lime slices should protect against scurvy, too.

Image result for gin and tonic  Keep safe!  xxxx

Stockcupboard 1

Today, on the back of yesterday’s suggested stock cupboard basics, I thought we could look at how to transform a tin. Which tin has been sitting in the back of your cupboard and needs using up? Perhaps a pulse which could be rinsed and used in a salad? Or charred in a hot pan as a basis for a smoky taco? Perhaps it suits to be cooked slowly with herbs and wine to become a warm, comforting supper? Think how a few fresh ingredients could enhance and contrast with your chosen tin? A handful of toasted nuts, seeds and spices could help lift softer tins.

This recipe is using a tin of green lentils – but you could easily substitute these for cooked pearl barley, spelt or cooked rice.

Garlic Mushroom Lentil and fried eggs (this serves two so plate one up and take round to someone on their own and can’t go out)

  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 200 grams mushrooms, sliced (you could use frozen or tinned as long as they are dried off)
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary chopped (or sage, tarragon or thyme)
  • 1 x 390 gram tin of green lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 100g spinach, washed and drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons grated parmesan (you could also use mature cheddar or goats’ cheese)

Fry the garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil, taking care not to burn it. Take out and set aside. Increase the heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil, add the mushrooms and cook for about 4 – 5 minutes. Stir in whatever herb you are using and add the lentils, lemon juice and spinach until wilted (add a little water if the pan looks dry).  Add the remaining oil to another pan, crack the eggs and fry to your liking.  To serve: pile the mushrooms on two plates, add the egg, the crispy garlic, grated parmesan and lemon zest. Toasted sourdough an excellent partner to mop up the juices!

image

It’s a miserable day, here in the UK – you really do need this comfort food – and possibly open a nice bottle of wine to go with it?

 

Isolation Living

The time has come to admit that the Virus is going to be about for quite a few weeks, if not months and it needs ALL of us to think of ourselves and others to protect the most vulnerable.

If coronavirus forces you to self-isolate, you’ll need to make the most of what you already have in your kitchen – and whilst I am not advocating stockpiling IN ANY WAY – the following is a checklist that, if you have in your cupboards, we can definitely use to cook with if you are stuck at home.

Whole plum tomatoes

  • Essential for sauces, soups, stews, casseroles – a true all-rounder!

Pulses and beans (chickpeas, cannellini, kidney, and lentils)

  • Great fillers and bulkers, full of protein and fibre.

Light coconut milk

  • Add to soups and curries for a mellow, creamy flavour.

Good-quality tinned tuna, salmon, or sardines

  • Great for simple pasta dishes and fishcakes.

Good-quality anchovies

  • The perfect salty seasoning for sauces and stews.

RICE

DRIED PASTA

  • Perfect for pasta bakes or straight-up stovetop wonders – make sure you hang on to any leftover bits to stir into soups and stews.

DRIED NOODLES

  • Great for stir-fries, soups and curries.

COUSCOUS

  • Full of protein and made from semolina, couscous is a beautiful accompaniment to a tagine or stew, and makes the perfect base for a salad. Add chopped dried cranberries or apricots to really jazz it up.

GRAINS (bulgur, pearl barley, farro)

  • Also great and relatively cheap bulkers for stews and soups. Cook a larger batch than you need and turn into delicious salads, warm or cooled.

HONEY 

  • Add a touch of sweetness to sauces and marinades. At breakfast and in baking, you only need a little drizzle!

MUSTARDS

    • Add a bit of a kick to stews, sauces and marinades, or use as a condiment.
    • Tip: a tablespoon of grainy mustard and a tablespoon of honey make a great coating when roasting sausages.

OLIVE OIL

Groundnut or vegetable oil

  • Good flavourless oil for everyday cooking.

SOY SAUCE

  • Seasoning for Asian dishes, marinades and sauces.

CHILLI SAUCES 

VINEGARS (red wine, cider, balsamic)  

  • Lots of dishes benefit from a little vinegar – think dressings, marinades, sauces and stews.

Herbs & spices

Oregano

  • Mediterranean vibes. Also an essential flavour in Italian-American cuisine.

Smoked paprika

  • Punchy, smoky goodness, from Spain to the American Deep South.

Chilli

  • Flakes, powder, mild or  hot…we all need a bit of spice!

Cinnamon

  • A warming and comforting flavour. Bakes and sauces – both sweet and savoury – love a little sprinkling.

Cumin

  • Robust and earthy, and integral to Indian and Mexican cooking. Buy the seeds and toast in a dry pan to release another level of flavour.

Coriander

  • Lemony and fragrant.

Curry powder

  • A classic blend for basic sauces and curries

Five-spice

  • A fabulous blend for marinades, rubs, and noodles

Sea salt

  • Sea salt flakes will last you longer than table salt, and encourage you to use less salt in your cooking.

Black peppercorns

  • Buy whole peppercorns and grind them when you need them in a pepper mill or pestle and mortar. It tastes a hundred times better than stale, pre-ground pepper.

Miscellaneous

STOCK CUBES

  • An excellent way to add flavour and seasoning to loads of different dishes. Try the low-salt versions – they’re often just as good.

PORRIDGE OATS

  • perfect for a filling breakfast, even in warmer months. For a change from porridge, try making muesli – it’ll keep in the fridge for a few days. Oats are also super useful in baking, from biscuits to crumble toppings

Plain flour, self-raising flour (wholemeal or white)

  • For thickening sauces, coating meat, fish and veggies for frying, and baking.

Nuts and seeds

  • Have a couple of packets of your favourites for toasting and sprinkling over salads, soups and stews, or onto yoghurt.

Good-to-haves (extras but not essentials)

  • Olives
  • Capers
  • Tomato purée (add a flavour punch to lots of different dishes)
  • Bread flour
  • Dried yeast
  • Dried fruit
  • Cocoa powder
  • Sugar (white and brown)
  • Toasted sesame oil (a flavoursome oil used often in South-east Asian cuisine)
  • Baking powder
  • Turmeric (beautifully yellow, and a secret weapon in lots of Indian recipes)
  • Garam masala
  • Ground ginger
  • Fennel seeds
  • Your favourite condiments (ketchup, brown sauce, mayonnaise, Tabasco – you never know when you’ll need ‘em)

FREEZER

vegetables, meat and fish.  Butter and milk will both freeze happily. Bread. You can either buy frozen herbs or freeze your own. 

FRIDGE – garlic (lots of!) and fresh chillies / fresh veg / bacon / pickles / butter /milk/yogurt

Now is the time to put your cooking skills to good use.  When I started this blog Cooking for One it was to encourage those on their own to get back into the enjoyment of shopping, preparing, cooking good food – and I did not want to encourage you to batch cook.  Times have now changed and if you can help someone in any way by offering a meal to those in self isolation, particularly older people or on their own, now is the time to do it.

As I am myself trying to stay at home, I shall post recipes more often particularly using the above ingredients, and also telling you how you can cook the same dish for more.  In the meantime, be kind to yourself and others, stay safe and, please DON’T BULKBUY OR STOCKPILE so we can all have what we need.

pooksLove from Pookie

ps If anyone wants to email me listing what they have in their cupboards, I may be able to whip up a recipe just for you! xx

 

Surprise Parcels

 

hens

After Brexit, flooding and now Coronavirus, the weather was suddenly kind to us this week and the sun shone, buds burst out, primroses and crocuses bloomed – and even the hens took to sunbathing! Hope restored, and looking forward to Spring, I visited the local garden centre and bought new plants and seeds to start off in my potting shed. (With the help of the hens), I planted about 150 snowdrops and crocus, cleared some new areas, moved some old plants about and started planning this year’s crops.  The last thing I was thinking of was some complicated cooking to take up my time from outside so looking at ease, quickness and time, this week we are cooking en papillote (using baking parchment, found with the foil and greaseproof paper section of wherever you shop) – all the ingredients thrown into little parcels and popped in the oven – you can even save time on washing up if you eat straight from the packet! 3 versions – fish, chicken and a vegetarian one – should cover all bases – and, if gardening is not your thing, just pour yourself a glass of something nice and sit in the sunshine with a good book, knowing you are not going to be pulled away from its pages any time soon.

  • 1 boneless salmon fillet
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 dessertspoon dill (roughly chopped)
  • 6 – 8 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 6 medium white button mushrooms (thinly sliced)
  • 4 – 6 thick asparagus spears (if in season – otherwise use tenderstem broccoli)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon capers (optional

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Season salmon fillet with salt and pepper and set aside. Use two pieces of parchment paper big enough to fold in half once all the ingredients have been added. Evenly distribute minced garlic and asparagus in the centre of each of the pieces of paper and top with salmon fillet. Add cherry tomatoes and mushrooms around the salmon and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle dill and capers on top of fish and vegetables and drizzle extra virgin oil. Squeeze a little lemon juice and close the paper by folding the edges over several times, until it is completely sealed. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until salmon is almost fully cooked and flaky. Serve with rice, new potatoes or noodles – or just some crusty bread.

Salmon En Papillote - A delicious and easy to make Salmon En Papillote Recipe that looks refined, but is so simple you can get it on your family’s dinner table in 30 minutes! Recipe, Easy, Healthy, Gluten-Free, Seafood, Baking | pickledplum.com

Mediterranean Chicken

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast  
  • 1 grated garlic clove
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 artichoke hearts (from a 14-ounce can), quartered
  • 6 Kalamata olives, halved and pitted
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • crumbled feta  
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano (optional)
  • 1/2tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a 12-inch squares of parchment paper on a work surface. Place chicken breast on one half of each square, leaving a 2-inch border; season with salt and pepper. Dividing evenly, top chicken with garlic, tomatoes, artichokes, olives, capers, and feta. Sprinkle with oregano and oil. Fold parchment over ingredients, and crimp edges to seal. Place packet on baking sheet. Bake until chicken is opaque throughout, 20 to 22 minutes and serve, as above with new potatoes, rice or noodles.

Shiitake Mushrooms and Brown Rice

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  •  olive oil to drizzle
  • fresh greens
  •  Lemon wedges

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut a piece of parchment paper, 12in square. Lay in rice and top with mushrooms and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Bake on a baking sheet until packet is puffed and mushrooms are cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with greens divided among plates and squeezed with lemon wedges.

 

Image result for mushrooms en papillote

Bits and Bobs

Yesterday was the 29th February – an extra day to the year when I hope you did something special. A whole 24 hours that you didn’t have last year and won’t the next. And to celebrate ours – the SUN shone and I (with the help of the hens) planted over 100 snowdrops in the garden.  My mum gave birth to me in a nursing home rather than a hospital, in a ground floor birthing room and she said that once I was with her, she looked out of the window to the garden, the lawn of which was covered in snowdrops.  Thus she always thought of me when she saw them – and I always think of her. I am hoping for a carpet of them next year – if they are not washed away in the floods!

Looking back over the recipes you and I have done together over the many weeks, it occurred to me that there are probably little jars/packets/leftover veg and fruit lurking about in the back of a cupboard and fridge, so today I’m going to give you some little ideas about what to do with them in this age of cutting down waste.

In no particular order (other than popping into my mind!) . . . .

Salad onions: Blanch whole for 2 minutes and drain. Heat a griddle pan and chargrill for a few minutes each side and serve with a honey and lemon dressing as a side dish

Kale: Make Kale crisps by preheating the oven to 150oC, Toss Torn Kale with a little oil and season and roast in a single layer for about 20 minutes until crisp

Most vegetables can be roasted so just toss any sad looking potatoes/parsnips/carrots/sprouts/whatever in a little olive oil and put in the oven at 180oC till crisp

Herbs: (of course, you can also freeze herbs but they want to be at their best for this and here we are using up the little bits found at the back of the fridge!)

  • Shallow fry whole sage leaves for 2 – 3 minutes till crisp.  Drain on kitchen paper, toss with sea salt and pepper and scatter over soups and pasta dishes.
  • Fry as above, cool, finely chop and beat into softened butter with a little sea salt. Wrap in cling film and chill and use slices to stuff fish, top chicken or melt over filled pasta
  • Roughly chop sage, mix with breadcrumbs then fry in butter until golden. Season and scatter over cauliflower cheese or steamed green veg,
  • Finely chop some capers and mix with chopped coriander, parsley and mint (there are always some of these hiding in my fridge drawer),olive oil, lemon zest and chilli flakes. Serve with grilled meat and fish or roast vegetables.
  • Crush cooked peas with a little butter, lemon juice and chopped mint.  Season and spoon over toast and top with crumbled feta

Cheese: (again, big lumps can be grated and frozen)

  • Finely grate and add to shortcrust pastry with a pinch of smoked paprika and use to make a tart case for a savoury quiche
  • stir fry left over brussels sprouts with pancetta or chopped bacon and scatter with grated cheese to serve
  • Finely slice and toss into a leafy salad with slices of crisp green apple and add a mustardy vinaigrette

Coconut milk:

  • Blend a 1/4 can with half a banana, a dollop of yogurt and some berries for a quick smoothie
  • Try a new gravy: stir a few spoonfuls into roast chicken cooking juices along with a chopped chilli, a squeeze of lime juice and some coriander
  • Use instead of an oil in a marinade

Black Pudding (yes, Alice, some people do like it!)

  • Add va va voom to eggs on toast by sprinkling over fried and crumbled black pudding
  • Toss slices through cubed roast potatoes for the final 5 minute cooking time. Serve with white fish, wilted spinach and aioli
  • Mix with caramelised onions and sage to stuff chicken or serve with firm fish such as monkfish

Any fruits can be poached and whizzed up with leftover yogurt/cream/custard (is there ever such a thing as leftover custard!?) to make fool – and to give a nice contrasting crisp topping crush the broken bits of biscuits at the bottom of the box.

Oranges, limes and lemons can be zested (and frozen) and either sliced and frozen for drink additions or squeezed and the juice saved in ice cube trays.

Image result for snowdropsTHINK SPRING!

ps if any of you have any left over tips you want to pass on, leave a comment on the website and I’ll pass them on to everyone else.  Equally, if you want to know what to do with something you have, leave me a note and I’ll send some suggestions.

 

Flippin’ Good!

This was the week after 2 weekends of storms and MANY days of rain, parts of the garden were submerged (we went for a row around the flood waters!) but finished up in

Image may contain: sky, tree, cloud, outdoor, nature and water

Aberystwyth, with friends, watching countless murmurations of starlings fly under the pier in winds we could hardly stand up!

Image result for starling murmuration aberystwyth big waves

Hopefully, we can now look forward to some better weather and beginning to think of what vegetables to plant this year and some new bushes/flowers to put in.  The wind took away one of my favourite trees – but has opened up a whole new area – out of every cloud, a silver lining!

Also, coming up this week is Shrove Tuesday, pancake day – perfect vehicles for Cooking for one as you can make a batch, divide individually with greaseproof paper and freeze. There are many varieties of pancakes and each part of the world has its own variety from French Crepes to Russian blinis to Jewish latke to American buttermilk – and all can be sweet or savoury.  I (of course!) make Scotch pancakes (drop scones for the Sassenachs of you) – and I love the thought that my mum made them for me ; I made them for my children and my son, Jamie, makes them for his children. (If you can be bothered to scroll through 105 posts, my third ever post of 2 years ago gives you the recipe). Today, though, I am going to give you a new one – Dutch Baby Pancakes.This large, lovely pancake I think of as a cross between a crepe and a Yorkshire pudding. An unleavened, thin batter is poured into a piping hot, generously oiled pan and then placed into the oven instead of being cooked on the stove. The edges of the batter puff up, becoming crispy and golden while the middle remains paler and slightly chewy.

  • 3 eggs
  • 220ml milk
  • 2 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (if making sweet)
  • 90g of plain flour
  • 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
Heat oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Place a 30cm cast iron or heavy, oven-proof frying pan into the oven to heat. In a jug, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla. Add the flour and whisk again until quite smooth (some lumps may still remain)
Put the oil into the hot frying pan, tilting and swirling so that the whole base and edges of the pan are coated. Pour the batter into the frying pan and immediately place into the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, when the edges should be puffed and golden.
It’s easy to load the toppings on here – if you’re stuck for ideas just think of your usual crepe fillings : jams, nut butter, chocolate chips, lemon and sugar, maple syrup of fresh fruit. I personally like to shower the pancake in icing sugar, squeeze ion some lemon juice and cut into wedges to serve.
Of for a savoury version – sprinkle some Parmesan over the pancake before serving with crème fraiche, smoked salmon, baby greens and lemon wedges.
The batter can be made 2 days ahead. Put into a jar and chill – shake before cooking. So you CAN have it all – sweet one day, savoury another!
Image result for dutch baby pancake