There will always be . . ICE CREAM!

One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream Recipe - NYT Cooking

Just realised it’s over 2 weeks since I last posted!  I’d like to say I’d been away somewhere exotic (or even non-exotic!) but, of course, I haven’t! The weather has been wonderful and the garden calls every day so I have been busy doing houseworky things in the morning to get out in it as soon as possible.  Also, shopping now takes forever with having to queue outside (not that I mind too much – I just take a book or talk (shout?) to the person in front of me).  I probably shouldn’t say this but I’m actually not minding lock down too much (apart from seeing and being with my family) because everyone seems much kinder and happy to talk and help out.  Silver linings and all that!

We’ve been doing a few BBQs recently as the sun has been so kind – which, obviously, means The Husband has been in charge.  Teamwork – I do the prep and the salads and he cooks – leaving me time in the kitchen to make my summer comfort food – ice cream (actually, scratch that – ice cream is not just for summer, is it?).  With shopping taking time and it takes longer to get through the checkout, you may be thinking ice cream would be melted by the time you get it home – and ice cream vans haven’t been seen for ages – I thought we should make our own.  Not every one will have an ice cream maker so these recipes can also be made without.

All you need for this ultimate vanilla ice-cream recipe is five easy-to-find ingredients. If you have an ice-cream maker, you can churn the mixture in there until frozen, but if not this vanilla ice-cream recipe is easy to make by hand.

Simply put the mixture in a freezer-proof container and freeze for 2 hours. Turn into a bowl and beat with an electric whisk; return to the freezer. Repeat every 2 hours until the ice cream is completely frozen. Add any extra solid ingredients after the last beating.

NOTE THIS RECIPE MAKES 1.3 LITRES OF ICE CREAM

VANILLA ICE-CREAM
  • vanilla pod or 2tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 400 ml double cream
  • 400 ml whole milk
  • large egg yolks
  • 125 g caster sugar

Halve vanilla pod lengthways (if using) and scrape out seeds. Add seeds and pod to a large, heavy-based pan with cream and milk (or add vanilla bean paste instead). Heat gently until bubbles appear around the edge. Remove pod (if used). Meanwhile, beat yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale. Gradually mix in the hot cream mixture. Return to pan. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring, until custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (do not overheat or it will scramble). Pour through a sieve into a bowl, cover with clingfilm; cool.

Churn the mixture in an ice-cream machine until frozen or by hand using the method above. Empty into a freezer-proof container. Cover; freeze until solid.

TO MAKE STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM

Follow steps 1-3 of the Vanilla recipe (above). Cook 600g chopped strawberries with 2tbsp strawberry jam in a pan over medium heat until mushy. Blitz in a food processor until smooth; cool. Stir into cooled custard, strain custard through a fine sieve and discard strawberry seeds. Churn mixture in an ice-cream machine until frozen or by hand using method above. Empty into a freezer-proof container. Cover; freeze until solid.

TO MAKE SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM

Follow steps 1-3 of the Ultimate Vanilla recipe (above), using 200ml double cream and 600ml whole milk. Heat 50g unsalted butter in a pan (swirling pan frequently) until butter darkens to amber. Remove from heat; mix in 200g Carnation Caramel and 2tsp sea salt flakes. Mix 3⁄4 of this into custard (reserve the rest). Cover bowl; cool. Churn custard mixture in an ice-cream machine until frozen or by hand using method above. Empty into a freezer-proof container; marble through reserved caramel. Cover; freeze until solid.

You can also use the above basic to make Chocolate Ice cream thus – increase sugar to 175g and add 1tbsp cornflour to egg yolks. Mix 200g finely chopped dark chocolate into hot custard, stirring to melt. Cover with cling film; cool. Churn mixture in an ice-cream machine until frozen or by hand using method above. Empty into a freezer-proof container; mix through 100g chopped dark chocolate. Cover; freeze until solid.

However, I will always prefer this recipe (I’ve given it before but here it is to save you scrolling back)

FRENCH CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM
  • 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!

Sun’s out; sunglasses on; book. Kick back and enjoy a taste of summer.

book-sunglasses-beach_h5281 – Allendale Woman's Club

Slangevar! (That’s Good Health to the Sassanachs!)

 

The Husband and I were driving the NC500 which is a 500 mile circular trip from Inverness to Inverness, west, top and east of Scotland, this time last year.  With some additional visits to Wales, my brother in Ayrshire, meeting up with a friend on the Crinan Canal, a visit to Skye and a stay on the Lake of Menteith in the Trossachs plus getting there from home and back, the speedometer clicked on to 2001 miles as we turned into our drive, 2 weeks later! With Lockdown, of course, we can’t even drive in our own country so I’m adding this to the places and food we would have eaten and seen had we been on our road trip. Also, as even visits for shopping aren’t as numerous as usual, the recipes here are using up foodstuffs you might have in the fridge.

STOVIESThe word Stovies means “bits from the stove,” so it is a recipe using whatever you happen to have to hand on a Monday, after your Sunday roast. Think of all those leftovers, with the main constituent being the bits of meat from the roast the day before (although, I don’t know about you, as I never know what day it is just now a roast doesn’t necessarily happen on a Sunday – more probably the day when I’ve been shopping!).

This serves 2 -3

  • 1 dessertspoon lard (or beef dripping or oil)
  • 1 onion, skinned and roughly diced
  • Optional: 4 tablespoons dark beer (or stout)
  • 2 ounces roast beef (or lamb, cold and diced)
  • 3/4 lb potatoes (washed, peeled, and cut into quarters)
  • 6 fluid ounces beef stock (or lamb stock or leftover gravy)
  • Vegetables (any that you have leftover from the day before)
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas 5. Place a Dutch oven, or casserole dish, on the stove over medium heat. Add the lard or dripping, and melt. Add the onions and cook until soft, but not browned – about 5 to 8 minutes. Take care not to burn the onions. If using, add the beer or stout and turn the heat up and allow to boil for 2 minutes to burn the alcohol away. Add the meat and stir well. Add the potatoes in layers, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper as you go, before adding the next layer. Pour over the stock or gravy (or both). Cover with a lid and cook in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, checking from time to time to make sure the stock is not boiling dry. If it is, add a little extra stock. Ten minutes before the end of cooking, add any leftover vegetables to suit, stir well, and check the seasoning. Cover with the lid and cook for a further 10 minutes. The meat and vegetables will break up to create a thick, hearty stew-like consistency. Be careful not to over boil, as you need to retain chunks of meat and vegetables. Serve the stovies in a deep dish or bowl with rough oatcakes and brown sauce, if you like it.

Variations

Don’t feel that you have to be restricted to the pickings from your Sunday lunch. Stovies can also be made using a tin of corned beef, some cooked minced beef, or sausages:

  • Corned Beef: Crumble the corned beef and stir through your potatoes 20 minutes before the end of cooking.
  • Cooked Minced Beef: Stir through the potatoes 20 minutes before the end of cooking.
  • Sausages: Cook the onions as above. Using 1 pound of sausage, slice thickly then put one layer on the onions, followed by a layer of potatoes. Continue until all used up. Cook as above.

Scottish Stovies Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

Hola!

Alcudia Holidays 2020/2021 | Cheap Holidays to Alcudia | On the Beach

Above is the beach at Alcudia, Mallorca. It’s usually full of people during the hot summer days and I have often swum from one side to the other.  I am very lucky in the fact that I have a lovely brother-in-law who has a house nearby and where we go once a year for a week with he and his girl friend and 2 other old friends.  We have a great time in the pool or the sea and just lazing, playing word games and reading. In the evening, we eat out one night and cook the other, the couples splitting up into new ones to form a cooking team – very competitive!  It’s also a place we have gone with our own families and thus a special place we are missing.

It’s not the only part of Spain we know, though, as The Husband and I have had a couple of road trips on the mainland – one as part of a big circle, through France and over and through the Pyrenees to Bilbao and home; another was from the ferry in Santander, through to the middle and turn right to Porto and back up the Spanish northern coast. Thus we have sampled many Spanish dishes from lamb to meatballs to octopus to churros! And that’s what we are cooking today for Lockdown Travel Cooking (for one / two / or four!)

SPANISH MEATBALLS (ALBONDIGAS) This does make a lot – but freezes very well and/or a good dish to share with the neighbours

  • white bread 2 crustless slices, torn into small pieces
  • milk 3 tbsp
  • beef mince 200g
  • pork mince 200g
  • garlic 1 clove, crushed
  • parsley a small bunch, chopped
  • egg 1 small
  • smoked paprika 1/4 tsp
  • olive oil
  • garlic 1 cloves, sliced
  • red wine 100ml (you know the rules – one glass for yourself!)
  • chopped tomatoes 1 x 400g tin
  • smoked paprika a good pinch

Put the bread in a large bowl, tip over the milk and toss until it has all soaked in. Add the mince, garlic, parsley, egg (you might not need all the egg so add at the end, gradually) smoked paprika and lots of seasoning. Mix together really well using clean hands and roll into small meatballs. Heat a little olive oil in a wide, shallow pan and brown the meatballs all over in batches. Scoop out once they’re browned. Add a little more oil to the pan then add the sliced garlic and sizzle for a couple of minutes. Tip in the wine and boil until it is almost reduced to nothing. Add the tomatoes and smoked paprika, season and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, add back the meatballs then simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce is thickened and the meatballs are cooked through.

Smoky Albondigas Spanish Meatballs Recipe

CHURRO BANANA BITES
  • 2 bananas, sliced into 1/2″ coins
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • melted chocolate

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon and whisk together until evenly combined. In a large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add the bananas and cook until starting to caramelize, about 1 minute. Sprinkle about half of the cinnamon-sugar over the banana rounds. Flip the rounds, sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar, and cook about 1 minutes more. Serve with toothpicks to dunk the churro bites in melted chocolate.

PS This is turning into Travels with the Husband – if you are getting bored with the series, do let me know!

Yasou – (Good Health!)

11-NIGHT GREECE INTENSIVE VOYAGE - 07-Jul-20

If you are still with me (where else would you be in lock down?), I’m trying to take you to all the places we would/could be visiting if not stuck at home (nice as it is).  At least the weather is being kind and if you can get out on a chair in the sunshine you could close your eyes and imagine . . .

The first proper holiday The Husband and I took together was to Crete – and it really did look like above. It was where I learnt to snorkel, first ate octopus (and loved it) and realised that trips on our own with a car are the way we like best.  We hired an open top jeep and took off up into the mountains, had thick strong coffee with the locals and followed a track up and over where it finally morphed into a goat track to nothing.  We climbed down to the beach, completely on our own, swam and sunbathed till the sun started to set before wending our way back. Those were the days, my friends, we thought they would never end . . . . . 

I always think of Greek food as full of sunshine – all the wonderful colours of aubergine, peppers, tomatoes and courgettes. This recipe has it all – with little suns of apricots to follow.

GREEK LAMB CHOPS – serves 1 / 2 / 4 (if you are still feeding friends)

Preheat the oven to 180C/355F/Gas 4. Using a pestle and mortar or food processor, blend together the mint, rosemary and the garlic, then add one tablespoon of the olive oil. Smear the herb mixture over the lamb chops. Place the aubergine, courgette and peppers on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and place the lamb chops on top. Place into the oven to roast for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and top the chops with the feta and add the cherry tomatoes to the tray. Return to the oven for a further 10 minutes until the cheese just starts to brown and the lamb chops are just cooked through. Serve the chops with the roasted vegetables and mixed leaf salad.

GREEK APRICOTS – serves 2 (or one for dinner and one for breakfast!)

Put the water, sugar, cinnamon stick, saffron and honey into a pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer gently for five minutes before adding the apricots. Simmer for a further five minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick. Serve the apricots warm on a bed of yogurt, and drizzle over the syrup.

Greek apricots

Buongiorno!

A long, long time ago, I can still remember (cue for a song?) the Husband and I would go on road trips. Once over the Channel and off the ferry we would literally toss a coin and decide to go right or left. Thus we have discovered the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Spain, Portugal, and ITALY, the country of choice for today’s cooking.

It was nearing the end of a particular trip and also the end of the summer when we landed in a tiny village, on the coast of Northern Italy, just before crossing over into France.  We had almost despaired of finding anywhere to stay as everywhere was closing down, when we found a trattoria with rooms.  Very basic but clean and somewhere to put our heads at night.  We were the only people staying and the only people in the restaurant when we went down to dinner.  The room was lit by overhead florescent lights, not exactly conducive to romance so I asked the waiter if he could turn them down a little – and perhaps a candle?  He disappeared and returned with a half a dozen birthday candles and a couple of nightlights and turned off the overheads.  Such is the love of amore in the Italians! (And the best seafood stew was served – ever!)

To my mind one of the most ideal comfort food, both making it and eating it, is risotto. You must, like the stock that requires constant topping up, be completely absorbed by it: one moment of distraction and it can go from silky perfection to stodgy pudding. There’s a meditative quality to the process — chopping, stirring, keeping the risotto glossy and full, maintaining the balance between stock and rice. It’s like a slow dance. This recipe is a slightly different take – a Venetian recipe – a looser, soupier version –   with one of my favourite desserts to follow (easy recipe!)

Risi e bisi (rice and peas) Serves 2 (your neighbours really are going to love you after all these offerings left on doorsteps)
  • 1 litre chicken stock (cube will do)
  • 150g pancetta (or streaky bacon)  cut into small cubes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 160g carnaroli rice (arborio rice will do but it won’t be as loose)
  • A small glass of dry white wine (one for yourself)
  • 400g frozen peas
  • A small handful of mint leaves, shredded
  • 40g butter
  • 75g parmesan, grated

Heat the stock in a large pan and leave it to simmer gently. Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add the pancetta. You do not need oil — the pancetta will release its own and happily cook in that for 3-4 minutes to take on a golden, crispy appearance. Remove from the heat and set aside. Heat a few glugs of olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and gently sauté the onion with a good pinch of salt. Stir, and after a few minutes, when the onions are turning glossy and translucent, add the rice. Make sure each grain is coated with oil, that the rice is starting to toast and is incorporated with the onions, then add the vermouth, stirring as it evaporates. Without allowing the rice to dry out, add a ladleful of warm stock. Continue to cook gently, adding more stock as it is absorbed into the rice for the next 12-15 minutes. Add the peas, most of the mint and the pancetta with another good ladleful of stock. Carry on stirring gently and adding more stock for 8 minutes, never letting the rice dry out but not flooding it either. Test a grain of rice between your teeth — it should have a soft resistance to your bite — and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add a final half-ladle of stock and stir. Risi e bisi should be looser and wetter than a regular risotto. Stir in the butter until it has melted, then fold through most of the parmesan. Serve in large shallow bowls, with a scattering of the remaining parmesan and mint, and a scant twist of black pepper.

Tiramisu serves 2

  • 300ml pot double cream
  • 125g tub mascarpone
  • 40ml marsala (tia maria or brandy will also do)
  • 4 dessertspoons golden caster sugar
  • 150ml strong coffee, made with 2 tbsp coffee granules and 300ml boiling water
  • 1/2 pack pack sponge finger
  • 15g chunk dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder

Put a 568ml pot double cream, 250g tub mascarpone, 75ml marsala and 5 tbsp golden caster sugar in a large bowl. Whisk until the cream and mascarpone have completely combined and have the consistency of thickly whipped cream. Pour 300ml strong coffee (made with 2 tbsp coffee granules and 300ml boiling water) into a shallow dish. Dip in a few of the sponge fingers at a time, turning for a few secs until they are nicely soaked, but not soggy. Layer these into your dish until you have used half the sponge fingers, then spread over half of the creamy mixture. Using the coarse side of the grater, grate over most of the dark chocolate. Then repeat the layers (you should use up all the coffee), finishing with the creamy layer. Cover and chill for a few hours or overnight.To serve, dust with 2 tsp cocoa powder and grate over the remainder of the chocolate.

This can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days before the dusting – so you either continue to be generous to your neighbour – or eat it all yourself!

 

Red Lips Kiss (Set of 2) – Tattoo IconCiao Baby! Don’t forget the candles . . . 

Ooh La! La!

The Husband and I are supposed to be in France, eating oysters and cheese and chocolate eclairs and sitting on a pavement somewhere drinking espressos and watching the world go by. I expect a lot of you had also thought you would be somewhere else as you planned your holidays on January 1st. Italy, Majorca, Spain, France – or even further afield like South Africa or Mexico.  Such is fate that we are all still at home (whichever country you are reading this in) and whilst the weather has been wonderful, the excitement of exploring a new country – it’s scenery, culture and food – is temporarily lost. So how about I  bring the country to you with dishes to share with your neighbour – both dishes are transportable to leave on a doorstep. Or just set the patio table for one, pour a glass of wine and close your eyes to imagine . . .

As we are meant to be in France, this will thus be the first – dinner for one/two/or four – Ooh La! La!

CHICKEN WITH PEAS AND LETTUCE

  • 2/4/6rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped
  • 2/4/8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 – 2  garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 – 1  bunch spring onions, roughly chopped
  • 100/200/300ml hot chicken stock
  • 60/120/240 frozen peas
  • 1/2 – 1 Little Gem lettuce, roughly shredded
  • 1/2/4 dessertspoon crème fraîche

In a large frying pan, dry-fry the bacon over a medium heat for 3 mins until the fat is released and the bacon is golden. Transfer the bacon to a small bowl, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the chicken and brown for 4 mins each side. Push the chicken to one side of the pan and tip in the garlic and spring onions, cooking for about 30 secs, just until the spring onion stalks are bright green. Pour in the chicken stock, return the bacon to the pan, cover and simmer for 15 mins. Increase heat under the pan. Tip the peas and lettuce into the sauce and cook for 4 mins, covered, until the peas are tender and the lettuce has just wilted. Check chicken is cooked through. Stir in the crème fraîche just before serving.

French-style chicken with peas & bacon

CHOCOLATE FONDANTS serve 2 or 4 (if you are on your own, trust me you will still want to make 2!)

50g/100g butter
50g/100g chocolate, chopped
65g/130g sugar
25g/50g  plain flour
1 or 2 large eggs
Pinch salt.

Set the oven to 180C (350F) and butter 2/4 ramekins (not sure what size mine are but they hold 130ml water when filled to the top). Gently melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl, either over a saucepan of boiling water or in the microwave. Stir together, then whisk in the sugar, flour, eggs and salt (either with an electric whisk or just vigorously by hand). Fill the ramekins until ¾ full and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the tops are squishy but set (like an undercooked cake). You can pop them in the fridge and cook later (about 14-16 minutes in the oven if they are cold). Serve with vanilla ice cream if you have it!

Next time – grab your sunglasses, put some Andrea Bocelli on your music player – we’re off to Italy!

 

Love from Pookie

The Humans have gone out for a walk – so I thought I’d take a turn as “guest contributor”.  The Wife has lots to do – but I can tell the Husband is getting a bit bored with lock down and words have been spoken about not going out.  I’m loving it – it’s great having someone here all the time to attend to my every need – food, water, cuddles and combing my fur which has got a little bit messy over winter (I am nearly 20 years old and things aren’t as easy as they were).  The Humans are doing their best and I can’t really complain. I can see, though, we are all in need of a bit of comfort – and by that I mean comfort food – and my absolute favourite (possibly because I am sometimes given a portion to myself if any left over) is Fish Pie. So that’s what I am giving you today. You can use any fish you may have – probably frozen just now – but you could use tinned mackerel, kipper fillets or tuna.  I’m not totally au fait with what the Wife has in her cupboards so I’ll just wing it with some suggestions.

POOKIE’S FISH PIE –  serves 2 Humans + 1 Neighbour (or one cat)

  • 1 leek, sliced and rinsed
  • butter 50g
  • plain flour 1 tbsp
  • white wine 125ml (or water)   ) or 225ml milk
  • double cream 75ml                    )
  • flat-leaf parsley ½ small bunch, chopped
  • firm white skinless fish such as cod or haddock 150g, chunked
  • skinless smoked haddock 150g, chunked
  • cooked peeled prawns 100g
  • 2 halved boiled eggs (optional)
  • Maris Piper potatoes 300g, peeled and chunked

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Gently cook the leeks in half the butter until really soft. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Gradually stir in the wine until you have a sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cream and bring gently to a simmer for a couple of minutes. Stir in the parsley, fish and prawns, then take off the heat. Tip into a baking dish. To make the mash, boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain, then tip back into the pan over a low heat to dry out slightly. Add the rest of the butter, a splash of milk and some seasoning. Mash really well. Spoon over the fish, then spread out using a fork so you end up with a rough surface. Dot or brush with more butter for a golden top. Bake the pie in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the top is crisp and golden, and the filling is bubbling.

Alternative toppings to the pie could be: Puff Pastry / crumpled sheets of Filo Pastry/  or Peel the potatoes then roughly grate on the coarsest side of a box grater. Melt the rest of the butter and pour over the grated potatoes. Season, then use 2 forks to toss the butter through the potatoes. Spoon the rösti mix on top of the fish as lightly as you can (don’t pack it down or it won’t crisp). Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until crisp and golden on top.

For something completely different, make Fish Pie Jackets : Bake 2 big potatoes – scoop out the potato, mash with butter and set aside.  Make the pie filling as normal and fill the potato skins. Top with mash and some grated cheese and put under the grill till browned.

pooks Humans are coming back so I better get back to my position on the sofa. It’s tiring, all this blogging . .. . Cat Paw Print Window Decal Sticker – catrescue

We’ll always have curry . . . .

As I write this, the sun is streaming through the window, trees are budding and birds are singing – making it even more difficult to stay indoors.  For those of you haven’t, don’t ever think that I don’t appreciate how lucky we are to have a garden. I can still go out and potter in my shed, weed and plant, sit with Pookie and the hens sunbathing and smile in the fresh air. However, needs really must and I urge you to listen to advice, think of our amazing NHS and continue to only go out when necessary.

I’ll tell you a tale, that’s been recently written.
Of a powerful army, so Great it saved Britain.
They didn’t have bombs and they didn’t have planes.
They fought with their hearts and they fought with their brains.
They didn’t have bullets, armed just with a mask.
We sent them to war, with one simple task.
To show us the way, to lead and inspire us.
To protect us from harm and fight off the virus.
It couldn’t be stopped by our bullet proof vests.
An invisible enemy, invaded our chests.
So we called on our weapon, our soldiers in Blue.
“All Doctors, All Nurses, Your Country needs you”.
We clapped on our streets, hearts bursting with pride.
As they went off to war, while we stayed inside.
They struggled at first, as they searched for supplies.
But they stared down the virus, in the whites of its eyes.
They leaped from the trenches and didn’t think twice.
Some never came back, the ultimate price.
So tired, so weary, yet still they fought on.
As the virus was beaten and the battle was won.
The many of us, owe so much, to so few.
The brave and the bold, our heroes in Blue.
So let’s line the streets and remember our debt.
We love you, our heroes,
Lest we forget.

 

To cheer us up (I know, only a little) my kitchen is filled with the lovely warm smell of tarka dhal, cooking slowly away on the stove top.  I’m using lentils from the store cupboard and spices from my rack (Don’t forget, though, that you can also buy them frozen so that there is no wastage if you are only using a little).  You can eat it as is with rice and a flatbread as a vegetarian meal – or add some prawns – or serve as a side dish to roast chicken pieces or lamb chops  (you could even make a meat curry – but that’s another story!)

TARKA DHAL

This will make enough for  2 – 3 but it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and is lovely cold with hot pitta bread as a snack – or you could add some stock and whizz it up into a spicy lentil soup. Or you could share it with a neighbour, of course!

  • 75 grams lentils
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 -2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • small knob of fresh ginger, grated

Rinse the lentils well and put into 1/2 litre of water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, skimming off any scum. Add the turmeric, garlic and ginger and simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes with an occasional stir till the lentils are soft – you may have to add a little more water as you do.

Meanwhile . . . .

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable/rapeseed oil
  • 1 dessertspoon butter
  • 2 dried chillies
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 2 small tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala or to taste

Heat the oil and butter and add the chillies and cumin.  Once sizzling, add the onions  and cook till brown.  Add the tomatoes, masala and some salt and pepper and cook down till soft and mushy.

When the lentils are cooked, mash them a little and add to the onions, mix around to pick up all the spices and then combine them all together in one  dish.

To serve, I fry some more onions in oil and butter till crispy and tip over the dhal.

Mom's Yellow Tadka Dal

FLATBREADS – makes about 4 – 6 (you can freeze any left over)

  • 200g/7oz plain
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 100ml/3½fl oz warm water
  • 2 tbsp oil (olive, sunflower or vegetable), plus extra for cooking

Place the flour and salt in a large bowl and trickle on the water bit by bit. Mix the water and flour mixture together. Add the oil and knead the dough – you are aiming for a soft dough. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour or if it is too dry, add a splash of water.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes. You can cook the breads straight away or leave the dough to stand for about 30 minutes. Divide the dough into four balls (or six if you have a smaller frying pan). On a clean surface, roll each ball of dough one at a time using a rolling pin. If you pick up and move round the flatbread often you know it hasn’t stuck. (You may need to sprinkle a little flour on the surface but only use a little as too much will dry out the dough.) Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect circles! Heat a large frying pan. Take a sheet of kitchen paper and rub a little oil onto the surface of the pan. Cook each flatbread for about 2 minutes on one side – it should puff up a little. Flip the flatbread over using tongs and then cook for a couple of minutes on the other side. The flatbread should have turned lighter in colour and may have a few spots of brown. Keep the cooked flat breads warm, wrapped in foil or a clean tea towel, until the others are cooked. If you want crisp flat breads rub them with a little olive oil, chop into strips or triangles with scissors and fry them for 5–10 minutes, or until crisp.

 

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