Merry Christmas!

Christmas – one of my favourite times of the year! I love the decorating and planning of it, choosing gifts and wrapping, having a houseful of family and friends. 

It can, however, be a sad time with a loved one no longer here – or it seems as if the whole world has got someone to share it with and you are on your own.

Thus, this month, I am not giving you recipes for traditional big meals, but for sweet treats you can make and give as gifts to friends and neighbours – or equally enjoy on your own, being good to yourself. Collect tins or jars from the charity shop (making them winners too!) and decorate them with pretty ribbons and paper.  Christmas is not the time to hold back on the bling!

NB before anyone comments on the amount of sugar in the next 3 recipes, I know it looks a lot but don’t forget these are sweet treats and only eaten occasionally!

GRANNY’S LEMON CURD

  • 225 grams sugar
  • 50 grams butter
  • juice and zest of a lemon
  • 2 well beaten eggs

Half fill a pan with water and put on to heat.  Put all the ingredients in a bowl, big enough to put into the pan without the water bubbling over.  Keep on a low heat until everything melts, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking until a spoonful on a cold plate wrinkles when pushed.  Pour into small jars, cool and keep in the fridge.  Its lovely on hot buttered toast and also as a pudding by swirling it into natural yogurt.

GRANNY’S TREACLE TOFFEE

  • 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) Incredibly easy and even a non-Scot can make it! This recipe was given to me by my friend, Sandra. We started nursing together 50 years ago last August and been close ever since. We don’t see each other as often as we would like – but when we do it’s as if there has never been a space.

  • 150ml evaporated milk
  • 150ml water
  • 75g butter
  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon 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 and here are a couple of festive additions. Why not make a batch, keep (a lot) for yourself and leave a warming flask full on your neighbour’s doorstep as a surprise?

MULLED WINE HOT CHOCOLATE

  • 300ml red wine
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
  • 500mls milk
  • 150g dark chocolate

Heat gently and simmer for 10 minutes. 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!

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 litre milk
  • 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
  • 100g chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 100 ml single cream

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 marshmallows /fudge chunks

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Ailsa, The Husband, Catkin, the cat, and The Four Hens!

lupin1

REvamps

I didn’t mean it to happen just before Christmas – but it is! Revamping the kitchen by having the kitchen cabinet doors and housing resprayed – which, of course, meant the walls had to be repainted; new blinds, new cushions and throw for the sofa. And all the cupboards had to be gone through and cleaned and tidied as they will be on display for the week that they have gone off to be painted! Half way through and it’s looking great.

With all this going on, though, there has been little time for cooking – and it was easier to do first thing to be out of the way for the day. Never interrupt a girl with a paintbrush in her hand! So thinking ahead, I pulled out some old recipes I hadn’t made for a while that I could start off whilst having breakfast and then leave until the evening to finish. It struck me, then, that these were actually good recipes for this time of year when everyone is busy, busy!

Heavenly Spare Ribs

  • 1/2 dozen pork spare ribs (or however many you are hungry for!)
  • 250ml water + beef stock cube
  • chopped onion
  • 60ml soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons five spice powder
  • 60ml dry sherry (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons honey or sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar

Put stock in a saucepan with all of the following ingredients and bring to the boil. Add the ribs and turn to simmer for about 45 minutes until tender with lid on. (at this point you can leave till later). Remove the lid and bring to boil until sauce thickens to a rich, sticky sauce. Serve with rice and pak choi and garnish with sliced spring onions, chilli and chopped coriander..

Coconut Basil Rice – this wonderfully fragrant, slightly sticky rice is perfect for mopping up the above. Black mustard seed add texture and a nutty flavour without being too hot.

  • 175g basmati or Thai rice
  • 6 thai basil leaves
  • 25 ml sunflower oil
  • 3 dessertspoons black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 can coconut milk (use the remainder to make a delicious rice pudding another day!)

Place the rice in a sieve and wash under cold running water. Drain well. Tear leaves into small pieces. Heat oil and add mustard seed until they start popping. Stir in the rice until well coated with il. Add the coconut milk and 125 ml water. Bring to the boil, stir and simmer uncovered for 10 – 15 minutes. Stir in the leaves, cover tightly and eave to steam for 10 minutes. Fluff up with a fork and serve immediately.

Thai Style Baby Back Ribs - Oliver's Markets

After all this, I still need something sweet (just think of all the calories I must be using running up and down ladders!). So this is my cheat’s pudding – very quick and easy but you can also make it look good enough to serve at the dinner party you are going to have to show off the new kitchen!

Yogurt Panna Cotta

  • one and 1/4 sheet leaf gelatine (just snap off with scissors)
  • 50ml milk
  • 225 Greek yogurt (half a large tub) – any flavour you like! We love coconut and/or mango

Soak the gelatine in cold water. Heat milk up – not boiling. Squeeze out the water from gelatine and add to hot milk. Stir to completely dissolve. Add to yogurt. Put into 2 ramekins and put in fridge to set. You can eat straight from dish but if you want to show off, run a knife around the edges and turn out.

Fun part:

You can add jam/compote/ fruit to bottom of dish before adding yogurt. Top with any fruit, grated chocolate, grated coconut, crushed amaretti biscuits, a shortbread biscuit on the side. ANYTHING really – experiment! – that will look as if you have spent ages making (when you haven’t!)

Yogurt Panna Cotta with Raspberry Compote Recipe | MyRecipes

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (or anywhere else you want to eat it)

The beautiful colours and light of Autumn herald nights drawing in and darker nights. The Husband hates the switching of the hour but I really embrace the changing of the seasons. Whilst, obviously, I love hot summer days and long summer nights, Autumn and Winter bring their own delights. Crisp, frosty mornings, firelight and drawing the curtains to snuggle down with The Cat and a good book (and not feeling guilty that I should be working in the garden!).

It’s a change of eating/cooking habits, too. Salads and barbeques (although The Husband has been known to be out on ours in snow and ice cooking the excellent flatiron steaks he does!) make way for stews and soups and comfort puddings. It’s also very easy to start piling on a few pounds, too, so I think the best way to avoid that is to start the day well with a good breakfast. Personally, I sit down to fresh fruit, porridge (jumbo oats, milk, a little brown sugar (and a tiny shake of salt), 1 slice of sourdough toast and honey and a large cup of strong coffee. I know breakfasts aren’t for everyone, so I thought I would just give a few suggestions to get you going. They don’t have to be eaten first thing – call them brunch if it makes you feel easier – but they will fill you up, giving you energy for the day and kick start your metabolism.

BREAKFAST SMOOTHIES – Smoothies are a great introduction to breakfast if you don’t normally have much of an appetite first thing. They are also a good portable option if you are off out. Compared with some hardcore recipes, this green smoothie is quite sweet and fruity whilst still giving a healthy serving of greens.

Green and Fruity smoothie

  • 40g tinned peach slices (discard liquid)/fresh or frozen fruit
  • 40g frozen spinach
  • 1 medium banana
  • 200ml water (or as required)

Blend all the ingredients together until smooth. Add more water to achieve the desired consistency.

Banana and oats smoothie:  transform your speckled bananas into an energy-boosting liquid breakfast. Blend 1 ripe banana with 2 tablespoons of oats and 100ml of semi-skimmed milk until smooth. This can also be made using a soya drink.

Very berry smoothie:  take 1 banana, 140g of frozen summer berries or forest fruits, 40g of low-fat natural yoghurt and about 100ml of apple juice. Blend the banana and berries until smooth. With the blades whirring, pour in apple juice to achieve the consistency you like. 

BREAKFAST PANCAKES – this makes quite a few pancakes, depending on size. However, they freeze beautifully and are also delicious toasted the next day!

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 25g melted butter, plus extra for cooking
  • 200ml milk
  • vegetable oil, for cooking
  • maple syrup
  • toppings of your choice, such as cooked bacon, chocolate chips, blueberries or peanut butter and jam

Mix 200g self-raising flour, 1 ½ tsp baking powder, 1 tbsp golden caster sugar and a pinch of salt together in a large bowl. Create a well in the centre with the back of your spoon then add 3 large eggs, 25g melted butter and 200ml milk. Whisk together either with a balloon whisk or electric hand beaters until smooth then pour into a jug. Heat a small knob of butter and 1 tsp of oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. When the butter looks frothy, pour in rounds of the batter, approximately 8cm wide. Make sure you don’t put the pancakes too close together as they will spread during cooking. Cook the pancakes on one side for about 1-2 mins or until lots of tiny bubbles start to appear and pop on the surface. Flip the pancakes over and cook for a further minute on the other side. Repeat until all the batter is used up. Serve your pancakes stacked up on a plate with a drizzle of maple syrup and any of your favourite toppings.

CHEESY FRENCH TOAST

  • 2 eggs , beaten
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 35g gruyère , grated
  • 1 teasp chopped chives
  • knob of butter
  • thick slices of baguette loaf
  • 60g cherry tomatoes on the vine
  • olive oil , for grilling
  • sliced ham – serrano is delicious!
  • watercress , to serve

Heat the grill to high. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cheese and chives. Melt the butter in a large non-stick pan over a medium heat. Dip slices of bread into the egg mixture, then place them in the pan. Cook for 3-5 mins on each side, or until golden and crisp, then keep warm in a low oven if you need to. Place the vine tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with a little oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until they start to soften and blister. On a large platter, pile up the cheesy French bread, grilled tomatoes, sliced ham and a pile of watercress, and dig in!

Cheesy French toast with ham & grilled vine tomatoes

Eggstra! Eggstra! Read all about it!

I’ve just got some new hens – and they are absolutely loving scratching and running around our old orchard area. Its lovely to see them – even though they also think they should be scratching up the actual garden and creating great puddles of dry leaves on the paths. In return for our care they are laying really well so, naturally, I have started looking at what to do with the eggs!

Eggs are amazing – each a little powerhouse of food just waiting to be used! You can boil, fry, poach, and scramble them; make an omelette and French toast – and nearly every baking recipe uses them!

As eggs are so basic, I’m obviously not going to be just giving you any recipes you already know – so here are just a few “out of your comfort zone” ones. I do hope you will give one a try!

Green Shakshuka – from the Middle East

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 leek
  • 1/2 bag of spinach
  • 125g frozen peas
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 pack of parsley
  • 1/2 pack coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 pack of mint, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 dessertspoon harissa paste – or to taste 
  • natural yogurt
  • pitta bread to serve

Heat the oil in a wide, shallow frying pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks with a pinch of salt and cook for 4 mins until softened. Add handfuls of spinach to the pan, stirring until wilted. Stir in the peas, garlic, cumin, herbs and some seasoning. Cook for a few mins until it smells fragrant, then create 2 gaps and crack an egg into each. Cover and cook for 10 mins or until the whites are set but the yolks are runny – they will carry on cooking slightly as you take them to the table. Season the eggs with flaky sea salt, dollop spoonfuls of the yogurt interspersed with the harissa, and scatter over a few mint leaves.

Baked Eggs with potatoes, mushrooms and cheese

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Put the potatoes in a pan of water, bring to the boil, cook for 5 mins, then drain. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Cook the potatoes, mushrooms and garlic for 5-8 mins to soften the mushrooms and brown the edges of the potatoes. Stir in half the thyme and cook for 1 min more.Spoon the potato mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle with the cheese and the remaining thyme. Make holes in the mixture and break in 4 eggs. Bake in the oven for 12-15 mins until the eggs are set and the cheese has melted

Thai Eggs

Put the eggs into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Time 8 mins from boiling. Cool under running water, then peel. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, fish sauce and tamarind in a pan. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, skimming the top if you need to. Check the taste, it should be sweet and sour. Adjust with sugar, fish sauce or tamarind if you need to. Meanwhile, heat a 5cm depth of oil in a wok or large frying pan. Once shimmering, add the shallots, garlic and chillies. Fry for 1 min or until golden and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Can be done a few hrs ahead. Fry the eggs for 3-4 mins or until the outsides take on tinges of golden brown. Remove from oil and drain. To serve, quarter the eggs and place in a serving dish. In a separate bowl, combine the coriander with the crisp chilli, garlic and shallots. Mix well. Pour the sauce and coriander mix over the eggs and serve.

You might like to know that the real name for this dish is Son-in-Law eggs. The story goes the Thai street food staple was cooked by a mother who was less than happy with how her daughter was being treated by her son-in-law. So, she serves him the deep-fried eggs to let him know that if he’s not careful, his jewels are next in the frying line!

You say Tom-May-Toe, I say Tom-Mah-Toe 2

It’s just been pointed out to me I had a massive Senior Moment in last post! Whilst typing this up, I was thinking of making something else – and added to the recipe below! Please note: No yogurt No Basil No Spring Onions. Now corrected on main post.

Sorry!

Garlic mayonnaise

2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 egg yolks
a clove of garlic
100mls sunflower oil
4 tablespoons olive oil

Whisk together the yogurt and the olive oil. Add the shredded basil, then finely chopped the spring onions and add them. Set aside for half an hour or so for the flavours to marry.

Just this :

Put the lemon juice, the mustard and the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and stir to mix with a small whisk. Peel and crush the garlic, stir into the egg yolks then season lightly with salt and little fine black pepper. Slowly add the sunflower oil, beating continuously. Lastly beat in the olive oil.

You say Tom-May-Toe, I say Tom-Mah-Toe

You are probably, like me, in the middle of a tomato glut. Why do tomatoes all become ripe at the same time? And, also, what about the ones which never turn red?  All the hard work of growing, looking after and nurturing them to end up with almost too many of the little red bombs!  What can you do with them once you’ve made gallons of soup and tomato sauce for the freezer, eaten them fresh, fried and baked and given away pounds (very useful for bartering, though, for things you might not have grown)?

The flavour depends largely upon the variety and how the fruit has been grown and ripened: some cheap imported tomatoes are grown under polytunnels, picked under-ripe, then artificially ripened with ethylene gas, a plant hormone. Sun-warmed tomatoes picked straight from the vine are arguably the ideal way to enjoy tomatoes.

When choosing tomatoes, pick them up, feel them and smell them. Choose tomatoes that feel heavy for their size; they are more likely to be bursting with juices. Tomatoes with no smell will probably have no flavour, so opt for those with a pleasant aroma (although the aroma released by tomatoes on the vine are usually due more to the vine than the tomatoes themselves).

My husband makes a spicy special salsa with tomatoes and a secret ingredient he keeps very close to his heart so I’m afraid I can’t give you that recipe but I hope you will try below for something a little different – and one for all those toms who simply refuse to turn colour!

Tomato and plum might sound like a questionable salad combination to some, but just give this recipe a try and I think you’ll be convinced. Totally tasty and perfect – and possibly also using up the other glut of the month – plums!

Tomato and Plum Salad

  • 400g tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 red plums cut into wedges
  • Finely grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp sumac (a citrusy Middle Eastern Spice)
  • 1/4 bunch tarragon, leaves picked, torn

Combine tomatoes, plums, lemon zest and salt flakes to taste in a bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to marinate. Add vinegar, oil, sumac and three-quarters tarragon. Toss until well combined. Spread salad across a serving platter, scatter with remaining tarragon and serve immediately.

This sweet Tomato Jam is given a nice kick by the addition of ginger.

  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 firmly packed (100g) brown sugar
  • 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
  • 450g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and onion, and cook for 2-3 minutes until the onion is soft. Add the vinegar, brown sugar and chilli, and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until sugar dissolves. Stir in the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30-35 minutes until thick. Stir in the honey and cool to room temperature.

This last recipe is for the ubiquitous green tomatoes – but is so good that if I were you I wouldn’t wait for the end of the season but just use them when you have them, even if early on! Slice them thickly, dip into beaten egg, fine polenta and fry in rapeseed oil till crisp. The insides soften and have a delicious stab of sharpness to them and benefit further from a bowl of garlicky mayonnaise on the side. If you haven’t got polenta, you can use flour, breadcrumbs or a thin tempura like batter instead.

Fried green tomatoes with garlic mayonnaise

There is something quite perfect about the green-apple tang of an unripe tomato with the warm, mealy notes of crisp polenta. This recipe is good with any under-ripe tomatoes. Just squirt a little lemon juice on each one as you slice. Serves two.

4 medium to large green tomatoes
2 eggs
a little milk
90g plain flour
3 tablespoons fine ground polenta (cornmeal)
2 sprigs thyme
oil for frying

Slice the tomatoes thickly, about three or four from each fruit. Break the eggs into a small, shallow bowl and beat them lightly. Stir in a tablespoon or two of milk. Mix the flour and ground polenta, season with salt and black pepper and the leaves pulled from the thyme branches. Tip onto a large shallow plate. Press a slice of tomato into the flour and polenta mixture then into the beaten egg then back into the polenta again. Shake off any excess. Don’t worry if bits of tomato show through here and there, you want a light, crisp coat, not armour-plating. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes. Warm the oil in a frying pan. Lower some the tomatoes into the pan, one at a time – otherwise they will stick together- then let them colour lightly on both sides. I turn mine after a minute or two. Cornmeal burns quickly, so I keep a watchful eye on the tomatoes as they cook. They should be ready in four or five minutes.

Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. Serve with garlic mayonnaise.

Garlic mayonnaise

2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 egg yolks
a clove of garlic
100mls sunflower oil
4 tablespoons olive oil

Put the lemon juice, the mustard and the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and stir to mix with a small whisk. Peel and crush the garlic, stir into the egg yolks then season lightly with salt and little fine black pepper. Slowly add the sunflower oil, beating continuously. Lastly beat in the olive oil.

Strawberry Fields . . . .

When did strawberries become synonymous with June?  Was it Wimbledon with its strawberry and cream dishes – or did Wimbledon decide to start itself in June to enjoy the strawberries!? Whichever way, June heralds British strawberries – full of taste and British sunshine (yes, we do get some – and all the more appreciated when we do!) – unlike their foreign counterparts – big but with little flavour.  I am so lucky living where I do, surrounded with farms and their shops, markets and local greengrocers. Eat locally and you will eat well and that carbon footprint of yours has merely made a few steps.

Packed with vitamins, fibre, and particularly high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols, strawberries are a sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie food. They are among the top 20 fruits in antioxidant capacity and are a good source of manganese and potassium. What’s not to love?! And we all do – from simple strawberries and cream, ice cream, jam and strawberry teas.  I thought this week you might like to try something slightly different with them – starting with JAM.

Everyone knows how to make Jam – but this is a slightly different way – and healthier as it uses half the amount of sugar.  It is called Fridge Jam – because that’s where you keep it when made but it will last a while there (if you don’t let on how much you have made!)

Weigh the fruit and sugar which will be exactly HALF that of the fruit weight.  Put the fruit into a pan and mash to break up.  Add the sugar and the juice of half a lemon and leave for an hour or so. Bring to the boil and boil for EXACTLY 5 MINUTES.  Leave to cool slightly before putting in clean jars and store in fridge when cold.

How do you feel about warm strawberries?  Ever thought of it?  It brings out the juices and the smell is gorgeous – intensely fruity and lightly spicy!

Warm Strawberries with Ricotta Serves 2 (obviously your tennis partner!)

  • 200g strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ½ rounded dessertspoon icing sugar
  • 125g ricotta
  • 1 dessertspoon runny honey
  • Leaves from a sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosewater (optional)

Put the strawberries in a pan over a low heat with the lemon juice and icing sugar.  As they warm up the juice will be released so that they are gently poaching in it.  Once the juice is flowing, bring to a gentle simmer for 1 -2 minutes, stirring, then remove from the heat.  In a bowl ,mix the ricotta with the honey, thyme and rosewater. Divide between 4 bowls and spoon over the warm strawberries.

And, finally, with a nod to my Scottish heritage –

SCOTTISH BERRY BRULEE -SERVES 2 -3 (or one?)

  • 250g strawberries
  • 120g raspberries
  • 60g blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • ½ orange juice and zest
  • 120g Greek yogurt
  • 85g creme fraiche
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
  • ground cinnamon to dust (optional)

Place all berries in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle over 1/2 tbsp caster sugar and the zest and juice of the orange. Mix together the yoghurt, creme fraiche and remaining caster sugar and spread over the fruit and leave in fridge for 2 hours.  Sprinkle the soft brown sugar over the top and dust with the cinnamon, place under a hot grill until the sugar melts. Serve immediately.

And how could I not finish with listening to the original and best (?) version of Summertime? Enjoy the Sunshine – you’ve earned it after our Winter of Non-Content!

(204) Ella Fitzgerald – Summertime – YouTube

Summer Time?

I should be writing this in warm sunshine or, at worst, soft summer rain – but, instead, it’s gale force winds and biblical rainstorms! Just as we are getting back to normal, the weather decides to be abnormal! It’s very fortunate that we can now meet up with friends inside or we would all be drookit (as we say in Scotland)!

There are usually some silver linings to be found somewhere, though, and mine are the arrival of British asparagus and Jersey Royal potatoes. The potatoes have been grown on the island for 140 years and today there are approximately 20 island farmers who grow them (and often no other crops) on approximately 7,300 acres and can only be grown on Jersey to have the name. As for the asparagus, I am very lucky to live in the Valley of Evesham, one of the homes of British asparagus. I know you can buy this most of the year from abroad – but The Husband and I try to eat seasonally and locally and I urge you to do the same both for flavour and to support your next-door farmers. My two recipes below are thus using 2 British stalwarts – but with a twist!

Coconut Potato Bowl with Lime and Ginger

  • 100g (or as much as you like) Jersey Royal potatoes, roughly chopped
  •  75g cauliflower florets
  •  1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  •  Sea salt and pepper
  •  50g (or as much as you like) asparagus
  •  ½ tsp olive oil
  •  6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  •  1 spring onion, sliced
  •  500g superfood salad
  •  15g coconut flakes, toasted , to garnish

Dressing;    1 tbsp olive oil      finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 lime             1 cm grated ginger

Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas mark 6. Place the potatoes and cauliflower florets in a roasting tray, drizzle over the coconut oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes until tender and beginning to brown. In the meantime, prepare everything else; brush the asparagus with ½ tsp olive oil, heat a griddle pan until hot and cook the stems until charred and tender. Set aside. For the dressing, whisk together the olive oil and lime juice, then stir in the zest and ginger and season with some salt and pepper. To assemble, arrange the potatoes and cauliflower to one side and place the other ingredients round the bowl (or how you prefer), drizzle with the dressing and scatter over the coconut flakes, or serve on the side.

CRAB AND ASPARAGUS WITH THAI MAYONNAISE

  • 4 Asparagus spears ) this recipe is still for one but obviously you can increase
  • 125g crab meat        ) these amounts depending on how much you love them!
  • large slice of sourdough bread
  • olive oil
  • handful of rocket leaves (as you may know I eat spinach nearly every day so you could use this instead)
  • 2 tablespoons of good mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 – 1/2 red chilli
  • freshly grated zest of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (if this is the first time you have used it please don’t be put off by the smell – it tastes much better!)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander

Cook the asparagus in boiling water for 2 – 4 minutes, drain and refresh under cold running water. Stir the garlic, chilli, zest, fish sauce and coriander into the mayonnaise.  Season if necessary, fold in the crab meat and set aside.  Toast the bread, drizzle with olive oil and scatter over rocket or spinach leaves. Pile the crab mixture on top. Toss the cold asparagus spears in a little olive oil and arrange over the crab meat.

Alternatively, you could cook LOTS of  asparagus and serve, on the side,  hot with lashings butter – using any left over toast to soak up the juices.

potatoes
asparagus

Celebrate your Oneness

In England, we can now go out and meet up with friends (6) in outside venues, have your hair cut (unless, like me, you can’t even get through on the phone for an appointment!) and even stay away in a self catering UK villa. Whilst, of course, all this is great, there will be some of you who throughout various lockdowns may have had kind friends and neighbours leave a meal on the doorstep (or you may have done the same for someone else and cooked for more than yourself) or you will have enjoyed takeaways of some description as a treat. Now it is back to “normal” and you find yourself back to cooking for one – where, of course, all this blog started. So these 2 recipes are especially for you – 2 meals exactly for one but with a bit of zip in to get you back on the road! You are unique and deserve the best you can. You’re worth it!

Vietnamese-style Chicken Noodle Bowl

  • 30g coconut milk powder (no leftover coconut milk)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 chicken breast, sliced
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1/2 red chilli
  • 2 tablespoons Vietnamese curry paste (find it in the World food aisle in your supermarket)
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, bashed
  • 1 nest rice vermicelli noodles
  • 9g pack of baby pak choi
  • finely chopped coriander
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (tastes much nicer than it smells!)
  • 1/2 lime, juice

Dissolve the coconut powder in 225ml of cold water and set aside. Heat the oil in large pan, add chicken, shallots and the chilli and stir fry over a medium heat for 1 – 2 minutes. Add the curry paste and stir in the coconut milk. Add the lemongrass and bring to the boil; simmer for 2 – 3 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the noodles according to pack instructions. Add the pak choi to the pan and stir in coriander to taste. Cook over a gentle heat for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the noodles, stir and cook for 1 – 2 minutes until piping hot. Stir in the lime juice. Carefully remove the lemongrass, ladle into a wide bowl and eat immediately!

Vietnamese-style chicken noodle bowl

Chorizo, sweet potato and spinach oven hash

This throw-it-together dish is full of warming spices. The oven does most of the work and the combination of tender sweet potato, sticky red onion , chorizo and creamy aioli is lovely!

  • 1 sweet potato cut into cubes
  • 1 small red onion cut into wedges
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon aioli (you can buy some excellent ones in a jar now)
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and cut into wedges
  • 1 large egg
  • 80g spinach
  • 60g diced chorizo (some supermarkets sell ready diced frozen chorizo so even less waste!)

Preheat oven to 200oC Gas 6. In a roasting, toss the potato and onion with the oil, cumin, paprika and cinnamon and salt and pepper. Bake for 20m – 25 minutes, until tender. In a bowl, mix together the aioli, lemon zest and a squeeze of juice and set aside. Bring a small pan of water to simmer and boil the egg for 7 minutes. Lift out, cool, peel and cut in half. Put the spinach in a colander and pour over some boiling water from a kettle to wilt it. Rinse with cold and squeeze out the excess water. Scatter the chorizo into the tin with the potato and roast for 5 more minutes. Add the wilted spinach and toss through. Top with the boiled egg halves and serve with the aioli mix drizzled over and lemon wedges.

(87) John Travolta And Olivia Newton John – You’re The One That I Want (Lyrics) – YouTube

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?