Tuesday, September 29, 2009

grown-up baked beans

Here's a side dish from The Kitchen Revolution that I made to go with Bacon and Spinach Pancakes. The baked beans were easy--I just let them simmer away while I was preparing the more complicated parts of the meal.
Grown-Up Baked Beans
side dish for four people

3 T olive oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves
pinch of dried herbes de Provence
pinch of paprika
1 c white wine
1.5 x 400 g cans borlotti beans
1 x 400 g chopped tomatoes
1 t light brown sugar

Heat the oil and sweat the onion. Add the garlic, herbes de Provence, and paprika. Cook over a medium high heat for 5 minutes, then turn the heat up and add the wine. Bring to the boil and add the borlotti beans, tomatoes, and sugar.
Allow to boil then reduce the heat and simmer for half an hour or more.

I have been doing quite a few recipes from The Kitchen Revolution, but it is only a library book. So I am trying to keep it clean, especially while cooking spattering things like tomatoey beans.

Monday, September 28, 2009

bacon and spinach pancakes

I have been working my way through vast quantities of chard recently, which arrives semi-regularly in our veg box. This recipe called for spinach, but it was easy to substitute chard by very quickly boiling it before adding it to the recipe. This recipe is another "Two for One", where half the food is frozen for another day. I made a half recipe so that we had four pancakes to eat and four to freeze, rather than double this. (The original, larger, recipe is below.)

The filling is a mixture of cooked greens, bacon, cream cheese and cottage cheese, seasoned well.

Making the pancakes was quite fun. I added some whole wheat flour to them. The first one was rubbish, but the cookbook had this reassuring statement: "The first one is always the most tricky and you may find you have to give that one up to trial and error." That was certainly the case, but then I was short on batter. The last two pancakes were a lot smaller.

Bacon and Spinach Pancakes
two meals for four people

2 c flour
3 large eggss
1 2/3 c milk
3/4 c water

mild oil
400 g bacon, about 12 rashers, snipped into small pieces
2 bunches of spring onions
500 g spinach (or greens)
40 g Parmesan
300 g garlic and her cream cheese
300 g cottage cheese
4 t butter

Make the pancake batter by mixing the flour and some salt, then add the eggs, milk, and water. Stir well to make a smooth batter.
Heat a little oil in a large pan with a lid. Add the bacon, cook for a few minutes, then add the spring onions. Cover and leave for a couple of minutes.
Add the spinach, and when it starts to wilt, raise the heat to reduce the liquid in the pan and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, mix all but 1 T Parmesan with the cream cheese and cottage cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F.
Make the pancakes by heating a heavy pan with some oil. Pour in just enough batter to cover the base. when the pancake can be lifted, loosen it around the edges and flip it over. Cook both sides to that the pancake is golden. Make eight pancakes, using half the batter.

Once the spinach mixture has cooled slightly, mix with the cheeses. Use half the spinach mixture, divided between the eight pancakes, to make filled pancakes, rolled up.
Put the pancakes into the oven in a buttered pan, with the remaining Parmesan scattered on top, for 15-20 minutes.
While these are baking, make the other eight pancakes and fill them using the remaining filling. Wrap these in foil and freeze for another day.

On the day of reheating, defrost the pancakes thoroughly and bake as above.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

almond and apricot cake

"Yes, dear, looks yummy," was what I said when Ant passed me a recipe for Almond, Amaretto, and Apricot Cake. Ant tasted it at work when a colleague's wife cooked it for the team and Ant asked for the recipe. Not to cook it himself, oh, no, but for me to bake for him.

After assembling a fair few speciality ingredients, I had a try. The preamble of the recipe (from Waitrose) says it has an intense apricot flavour, but I found that the almond flavour was more prevalent. Almond ingredients are certainly more plentiful, with amaretto, marzipan, ground almonds, and flaked almonds all included.

In the end I took the cake to work for my colleagues! Ant had a slice the night before, though. I took in the topping in a little plastic box: a delicious mix of Greek yogurt, cream, and apricots.

Inevitably, I now have a problem of sorts: what to do with all the leftover speciality ingredients. I have this block of marzipan, for example. I have never cooked with marzipan before, and we don't really like it as a cake topping either.... Hmmm. I suspect that using the amaretto won't be as troublesome.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Caribbean macaroni cheese

Here's a nice weeknight comfort food--a lovely twist on Mac'n'Cheese. I used another "Two for One" recipe from The Kitchen Revolution--it's designed for eating half now and freezing half for later. The Two for One recipe is for two meals for four people, so I halved it and made two meals for two people--except there were three of us. So we ended up eating almost all of it and saved one lunch box for Ant the next day.

I like the addition of sweet potato--low GI and very tasty. I boiled the pasta and sweet potato together, which was my only adaption of this easy recipe.

The sauce has some tomatoes and spring onions to give a nice combination of orange, red and green in the finished dish. It feels like autumn to me, with the colours of leaves and the warm hearty texture.

This was the amount of two meals for two--so I don't think I even have oven space to bake two meals for four at the same time.
Caribbean Macaroni Cheese
serves 2x 4 people

500 g macaroni
250 g sweet potatoes, cut into 1-2 cm chunks
3 free range eggs
2 c milk
3 T HP Sauce
2 to 3 t sweet chilli sauce
5-10 drops chillis sauce (for example, Tasbasco)
2 x 400 g cans of chopped tomatoes
2 bunches spring onions, sliced
300 g mature cheddar, grated
40 g (approx.) butter
2 slices of bread for breadcrumbs (optional)
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

Peheat the oven to 200 C/400 F.
Cook the pasta according to packet directions, drain and set aside.
Bring the sweet potatoes to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcookt hem of they will turn to mush. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Break the eggs into a bowl, add the milk, HP Sauce, sweet chilli sauce, chilli sauce, tomatoes, spring onion, and half of the cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the pasta and sweet potatoes and mix well. Pour into two ovenproof dishes.
If using, add the breadcrumbs on top and sprinkle with the rest of the cheddar cheese. Dot with butter and the parsley.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are brown and the pasta mixture has set.
Put one dish aside to cool and freeze.

On the day of reheating, defrost the macaroni cheese thoroughly. Cover with foil and bake at 180 C/350 F for 30 t0 45 minutes. Uncover for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

spaghetti with velvety green sauce and bacon

I was inspired this week by Ele's post about pureed broccoli pasta sauce. Like Ele, I have made the delicious Kitchn recipe Velvety Broccoli and Feta Pasta. Pureeing the broccoli was so delicious and now the idea has cropped up again: first on 101 Cookbooks and then on The Kitchenist. And with broccoli firmly established as Ant's favourite vegetable.... Well, the time had come for a pureed recipe of my own.

We had a lovely broccoli from last week's veg box. But we also had one of Ant's least liked veggies: green beans. He always complains that they squeak when he eats them. He hates all things that squeak, especially food. So I was determined to use up some of the green beans without any dreaded squeaking. All that was needed to complete my inspiration was a basic spaghetti with zucchini and eggs recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

Spaghetti with Velvety Green Sauce and Bacon
serves 2

Boil a large pot of water and cook 250 g spaghetti according to the packet instructions.
In another pot of boiling, salted water cook a large handful of green beans for two minutes. Add chopped florets of broccoli and boil for a further three minutes or until desired tenderness (or longer to avoid squeakiness!). Remove from heat and drain the veggies.
Meanwhile, gently fry a chopped onion, then remove the onion from the pan into a bowl and fry a few snipped rashers of bacon.
In the bowl, add to the onion the cooked veggies, 2 eggs, and a generous handful of grated Parmesan cheese. Puree using a handheld blender (or in a food processor).
Serve the spaghetti topped with broccoli sauce, bacon, cracked black pepper, and more Parmesan cheese.

The deliciousness of this meal was well worth the vast quantities of washing up it generated! The grateful eaters were very willing to help.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

snacks for work

Arguably the biggest food challenge I face every day is what to eat at work when my mind and body are both tired, and yet I must keep working. This happens every day at 3:30 pm. Here are my recent items that I have taken as snacks to pep me up and get me over this most difficult time of day.
cottage cheese
handful of nuts
cut-up veggies
in fact, lots of other portable fruit
a little piece of cheese
an extra sandwich! (That was a busy day!)
What do you eat for snacks? I was reading an article earlier today that said the best way to eat healthy snacks is always to make your own and never eat any snacks that you buy packaged. Good advice!

Monday, September 14, 2009

for freezing: fish with cheesy topping

I am trying a few recipes from the book I borrowed from the library: The Kitchen Revolution. I expect to review this cookbook for you in a while, after I have tried out a few more of the 400+ recipes. The title of the first recipe I tried is Fish Rarebit. It's based on Welsh Rarebit, a fancy cheese-on-toast. Here, the toast is replaced with white fish. The idea of this "Two for One" meal is to make double proportions and then freeze half for a later meal.

Sweated leeks are added to lots of cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs, some ale (or water), mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Then this is layered on the fish and grilled for a few minutes, then baked to finish. The recipe in the book makes two meals for four people, so I made half this, serving Ant and I one fresh meal and one frozen for a later date when things get hectic and we are both thinking of take-away. The original recipe is below.

Fish Rarebit
two meals for four people

3 leeks, approximately 500 g, finely sliced
2 T butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 T mustard powder
1/2 t ground cayenne pepper
350 g cheddar cheese, grated
2 t Worcestershire sauce
75 ml bitter or ale (or water)
100 g breadcrumbs (made from 4 slices of bread)
8 portion sized white fish pieces (haddock, pollock, cod, or coley, for example)

Melt the butter in a pan and add the leeks. Cover and sweat gently for 5-7 minutes.
In a bowl, combine eggs, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, cheese, Worcestershire sauce, beer or water, and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove the lid from the leeks and cook until the liquid evaporates. Season the leeks, remove from heat and allow them to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F and heat the grill to its highest temperature.
Oil an ovenproof dish large enough to hold four fish pieces. Place four fish pieces in the pan and use half the topping to cover the fish. Place under the grill for 3-5 minutes, or until topping is brown and set. Then bake in the oven for a further 7-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, top the remaining four fish pieces with the remaining topping. Place them in a suitable container (plastic, foil, or ovenproof dish). Cover and freeze well.
To cook the frozen meal at a later time, defrost the fish completely. Cook as above.
Serve with new potatoes, watercress salad, or veggies of your choosing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

honey whole wheat bread

I may have mentioned before that I find yeast breads a bit stressful. My mother says this is a bit ridiculous. She loves to bake bread and makes it look like an easy, enjoyable hobby that always provides her family with fresh, healthy, tasty bread, and the house with that wonderful baking smell. She has urged me on several occasions to get over my fear and just try it out.

I have made many quick breads before, including most recently an Irish soda bread that was delicious and easy. But yeast breads scare me because the yeast can be so unpredictable, or so I thought. My mother says the opposite is true. She says you can ignore the fiddly proofing (mixing it with warm water at the start of the process), just use room temperature yeast and mix it well with the flour. And she said you never need to knead for as long as recipes say. Just do it! she keeps saying.

So I finally did. A couple of weeks ago I tried out some whole wheat rolls that were a disaster--but looking back I see that the yeast was a bit cold (I keep it in the fridge) and I burned the milk I was meant to scald. So for my second attempt I switched to a recipe from my well-loved More-With-Less cookbook, utterly reliable when it comes to healthy, sensible breads and meals. I followed the recipe exactly this time (and it doesn't even call for proofing!). This time the results were better! The bread was a great success! We ate one of my little loaves over the next few days and I sliced and froze the other to take to work this week.

I only have one loaf pan, so I made a half recipe (but it still made these two little loaves!). Here is the full recipe.
Honey Whole Wheat Bread
makes 2 [larger] loaves

Combine in mixer bowl:
3 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c nonfat dry milk
1 T salt
2 T dry yeast

Heat in saucepan [or microwave] until warm:
3 c water or potato water
1/2 c honey
2 T oil

Pour warm (not hot) liquid over flour mixture. Beat with electric mixer for 3 minutes.
Stir in:
1 c additional whole wheat flour
4 to 4 1/2 c white flour

Knead for 5 minutes, usnig additinal white flour if necessary. Place in greased bowl, turn, let rise until double in bulk.
Punch down, divide dough in half, and shape into loaves. Place in greased 9x5" bread pans.
Cover and let rise 40 to 45 minutes.
Bake at 375 F/190 C for 40 to 45 minutes.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

weekends sorted!

Well, a little internet reading shows that my next several weekends' outings are decided! The Southbank Centre is hosting a series of Slow Food markets. The Centre is a convenient journey for me, up towards the city. The markets are all free entry and incorporate three things I love: London, food, and a respect for nature. It sounds like a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon, wandering among the stalls and picking up some ideas and bargains (hopefully!).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


When I got engaged my family church hosted a bridal shower for me. But since I was moving straight to the UK after our wedding, I asked all the ladies in the church to give me their favourite recipes instead of gifts. One of these was for spinach quiche. I made it recently and realised why it was a much used recipe in the home of the lady who gave it to me: it relies mostly on pantry staples, is filling, and easy. Two amazingly easy features: the crust does not require rolling out, nor does the crust need to be baked before adding the filling.
Spinach Quiche

1 c flour
1/2 t salt
1/4 c oil
2 T milk

2 kg frozen or fresh spinach, greens, or chard
1 c yogurt
1 small onion, chopped
2 T oil
2 eggs
1/2 c dried milk powder
1/2 t salt
1/3 c grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Combine the flour and salt. Add oil and milk and mix with a fork. Spread in nine inch pie plate with your fingers.
Wash and cook the spinach lightly in only a little water, until just limp. Drain and chop well.
Heat oil in frying pan, add onion and spinach and cook for a few minutes, until onion is tender soft.
In a bowl, beat eggs and stir in yogurt, milk powder, and salt. Add spinach and onions. Stir together and pour into unbaked crust.
Sprinkle with cheese and bake at 375 F/190 C for 25 minutes, until firm and starting to brown.

The dried milk powder adds protein and calcium, but can be omitted.

Monday, September 7, 2009

weeknight eating

When I am not feeling up to a big production, I make a hearty salad for dinner. This involves getting together all the veg in the fridge, adding grains or beans, perhaps, and a protein item to balance on top. Recently my protein item of choice has been eggs, either hard boiled or poached. The salad above was the most recent, and Ant accepted this as his one vegetarian meal this fortnight. (Have I told you this? He has stated that he will accept one veggie meal per fortnight, with no rollover of unused meals into the next fortnight!) In the salad at the top of this post I used salad leaves; broccoli, carrots, and onions that I lightly fried together; red quinoa; and two eggs.

Sarah and I made this salad (above) while I was visiting her in Bath. It has quinoa; chard, courgette, and onions that we fried together; some sprouts; and a poached egg on top.

And finally, below is a larger shot of a salad that used to be in the header bar on this blog. There's no grain this time, so I served it with pumpernickel bread.

Most of these salads are very simply dressed with a vinaigrette: a bit more olive oil than vinegar, whisked together with pepper and herbs or spices. Warm salad feels like a good meal: I tend to cook some of the heavier vegetables (in the photo below it was chard, mushrooms, and garlic that were cooked) Quite often the grains or beans are warm and the eggs or chicken or ham on top are usually freshly cooked, or warmed up.

Making a salad like this is healthy, fresh, and easy. Sometimes I do it just to use up all the random things from the veg box that are cluttering up the fridge. There's no set plan to these meals, just toss together everything we have and enjoy!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

cookies with everything

After I posted the recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies with Everything last week, my dad decided to try them out. He also was kind enough to get Jeff to take a picture. He says that they turned out wonderfully. He used no coconut and substituted dried cranberries for the raisins. But that's the whole point of the Everything Cookie, you just throw in all the crunchy, squishy, textured items you have, along with a respectable amount of chocolate, and voila! (Even when I burnt them once we still ate them all because they are so tasty.) Thanks, Dad, for giving them the thumbs up.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

summer fruits

With the weekly fruit and veg box, I sometimes find that I have more of one type of produce than I would usually pick. This is a great problem to have, in general, because it causes me to be more creative. But sometimes I feel as though I am racing against the clock to use up all the wonderful fresh goodness before anything goes bad. It feels like a juggling act to use the fruits and veg in the right order, and also in coherent meals. Today I found myself with six plums that were starting to get a bit soft inside.

One perfect use for softer than average fruit is to stew it. Just put it in a pan with a bit of water and some honey or sugar (if you like) and cook gently for an hour. I have done this before in the slow cooker and cooked on low for two hours. Then use this as a topping for porridge, museli, or as a dessert with pouring cream, whipped cream or ice cream.

Another excellent use for soft fruit is to bake it into a cobbler, a crumble or a tart. I made a tart tonight with the plums. I made up a single pie crust (the quick and easy pie crust from The Joy of Cooking with a touch of sugar added) and then sliced the fruit inside. Then I just sprinkled with sugar and baked until the crust is cooked and the fruit was very soft.

This works well with so many fruits. I used plums tonight, but I think it would taste good with peaches, nectarines, apricots, red currents, black currents, rhubarb, apple, or any mixture of these. This could be a solution for the neglected fruit in your fruit bowl right now!

Quick and Easy Pie Crust

1 1/2 c flour
1 t salt or 1 T sugar
1/2 c shortening, at room temperature
3 T water

Mix flour and salt/sugar. Add the shortening and cut in with two knives or a pasty cutter. Use your fingers if necessary.
Add the water one tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together into a ball.
Roll out on a floured surface and press into the pie plate.

Fill with fruit and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake at 375 F/190 C for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden and the fruit is very soft.


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