Chicken & Chickpea Stew

Again, here I am wondering where the heck the time went, and why I can never remember to take pictures of the process when I’m inventing things in the kitchen (or just plain cooking up a storm). Two new cakes at the weekend, and a completely new Chicken Thing, and do I have any photographic evidence? I do not.

On the other hand, I’m not sure there’s any way to make the Chicken Thing look attractive, so perhaps that’s just as well.

Delicious though. Warming, tasty, filling, and (special bonus) incredibly easy. I’ve been seeing recipes for Chicken & Chickpea this and that go floating by, and decided just to make one up. Amusingly, I think I’ve reinvented the wheel – but no matter – dinner was needed, and this definitely hit the spot on a miserably rainy day.

Ingredients:
400g boneless chicken chunks
1 can chickpeas
1 can chopped tomatoes
3 cups (ish) soffrito (chopped carrots, celery, onion – I cheated and used a pre-prepared bag from Waitrose)
2 cloves garlic, crushed (or a tsp of garlic powder)
2 tsp Baharat spice*
salt & pepper
a splosh of cooking oil

Method:
* In a large pan, heat up the oil and fry the chicken chunks. Try to sear them golden on all sides, more or less. Take them out and set them aside.
* Add the soffrito to the chickeny oil and fry for a few minutes, til the veg starts to go soft and translucent
* Add the chicken back in, and the spices, and stir it all together
* Add the (drained) chickpeas and the can of tomatoes
* Fill the empty tomato can with water and pour that in too
* Stir well, bring to a low boil then turn the heat down and pop a lid on the pan
* simmer for as long as you can stand it. I let mine seethe away for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally. You could probably also do this in a low oven.

It doesn’t really need any accompaniment, to be honest – the dense chicken and the earthy chickpeas and the veggy background are sort of complete. Even the favoured Crusty Bread would be a bit redundant. But, as you please.

* Baharat is a middle eastern spice blend. You can probably find it in most large supermarkets (mine’s the Bart version) or fake it by using a mixture of cinnamon, cumin, coriander and paprika. It’s fantastically aromatic and a bit hot. The house smells amazing!

 

 

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Where does the time go….?As usual, I’m behind with my Nom Fu obligations. I plead the general contrariness of life. I haven’t stopped cooking – I just stopped remembering to blog about it!

Still, I remembered in time to grab my camera for a foray into the unknown today. The subject of today’s experiment was in fact, driven by necessity. I grew tomatoes this year. They entirely refused to ripen on the plant, and as the days drew in and the weather threatened frost I picked a huge number of green tomatoes and put them in a bowl on the windowsill in a hopeful sort of way. Then I forgot about them. And they ripened.

So I had a large number of ever-riper tomatoes. I am not really much of a tomato user, to be honest. Canned ones in chili and the like, yes. Tomato puree, sure. The odd tomato in a salad, why not. I gave at least half of them away. But over a kilo of super ripe tomatoes that needed to be used right now? Panic…. Then I thought – I know! I’ll make a lovely roast tomato thing out of them, and freeze it, and it will be yummy for soup or chili later in the year. Right? Right!

So with no further ado….

Simplez.

The ‘ingredients’? Just over a kilo of tomatoes. An onion. Some lovely big garlic cloves. Not worthy of a proper ingredients list as this could be more or less anything you fancy – the tomatoes, however, are the point.

I sliced them all in half, cut out that greeny pithy core bit, and popped them into a deep-ish pan. Peeled the garlic cloves and popped them on top. Sliced the onion likewise. Gave it all a sprinkle of salt and a good spray-drizzle of oil, and a few Herbes de Provence for good measure.

The pan then went into a 200C oven for 45 minutes. It came out looking like this:

I put a foil hat on the pan and left it for about half an hour, and then went back and slipped all the tomato skins off. You can just pinch them off at this point. Any that stick, just squeeze the pulp into the pan and discard the skin. Easy. Then decant the whole lot into the container of your choice and have at it with a stick blender. A lot.

Result:

It comes out thick and splodgy, very like a thick ketchup. The flavour, however, I found rather disappointing. Tomato-blah, with an edge of charred onion that should have been rustic and delicious, and sort of wasn’t.

I could add a bit of sugar and vinegar, but then it would be rather ill-suited for use as an ingredient in other things. Still trying to decide what to do with it – I’ll probably bung it in the freezer anyway, simply because it’s a Home Grown Home Made Thing and I can’t quite bear to chuck it away; I expect I’ll ensoupify it later in the year. With the addition of more tasty ingredients, it would make an okay base.

Pork & Apple Pie

Chilly grey weather means PIE!

Actually, what happened was that I had pork shoulder in the fridge, and no desire to make chili. (Makes a change!) So I improvised, rummaged in the fridge, found some things, and made up a pie.

Ingredients:
500g diced pork shoulder
2 large carrots
1 large onion
1 medium Bramley apple
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 pint ham stock (I used a cube -feel free to use homemade pork stock if you have it!)
couple tbls flour
salt & pepper
1 package pastry for pie crust (or make your own, if so inclined). I used shortcrust but puff would be good too.

Method:
* Peel and chop carrots into large chunks
* Peel, core and chop apple into small dice

* Peel and chop onion
* Sort diced pork and cut into same-sized chunks
* Pop the flour, salt and pepper into a big ziploc bag (or similar). Add the pork and shake it all about to coat the pork thoroughly.

* In a large saucepan with a fitting lid, heat a little oil and fry the pork – in batches if necessary – until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.

* Add a little more oil to the pan if required and fry the onion til translucent.
* Add the apple and carrots and fry a couple more minutes
* Add in the pork and stock and stir well.

* Lay the herb sprigs on the top, put the lid on the saucepan and turn down the heat.
* Let simmer for half an hour, then take out the herbs and stir well.
* Continue to simmer for another 1.5 hours or so, stirring every so often to make sure nothing burns.
* At this point you can a) nom this as a stew, b) let cool and freeze portions, c) make a PIE!

To pie-ficate:
* Put the nommy meat mixture in a pie dish
* Cover with a pastry lid
* Cook accordingly (usually about 25 mins at 190C or so)

Pie, but not as we know it.

OK so it looks like hell, but you know what? It was delicious.

I also had pastry left over, so I made a couple of little ham and gruyere pockets. Perfect.


Nom.

Spinach, Bacon and Cheese Frittata

(Oops.. this should have been my June post. Um.)

In keeping with my no-junk week, I wanted something proteiny I could have in the fridge, cut chunks of, and eat hot or cold. I’m also obsessed with spinach at the moment for some reason. So this fit the bill. I made up the recipe to fit what I had on hand, but it’s not greatly different from many out there, I think. I don’t really measure when I’m making things up, unfortunately, so the amounts are estimates.

One other thing – it’s not truly a frittata, as I don’t have a pan that will go from hob to oven. So I cooked the things that needed cooking first, then put the whole lot in a baking tin.

Ingredients
6 eggs
1 cup grated cheddar
1/3 cup milk
2 cups spinach, cooked and drained
1 small onion (I used a fat shallot I had lurking in the fridge)
4 rashers smoked streaky bacon
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence
Good grind of black pepper

Method
1. Chop the bacon and onion small and fry together until onion is translucent and bacon is cooked through.
2. Add the garlic and spinach and stir well together. Set aside.
3. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the milk.
4. Beat in the herbs and pepper, then stir the cheese in thoroughly.
5. Tip the spinach mixture into a baking receptacle (I used a tall round 8″ cake tin, but anything will do, really. Not too big, this should be quite thick).
6. Carefully pour the egg mixture over it and stir gently to distribute the spinach and cheese
7. Bake at 160C (fan – adjust as required) for about 40 minutes. It should be golden brown on top and set, cooked all the way through.
8. Remove from oven and let it settle. Slice and serve!

This thing is an Atkins delight, and very concentrated. Start with a small slice! When cool, it will hold together beautifully and should keep for two or three days in the fridge. I plan to have a chunk of it for breakfast tomorrow!

Green Lentils with Bacon

For some inexplicable reason, my system has decided it wants aggressively healthy food this week. Possibly in self defence, shoring up its stocks of vitamins in preparation for what is likely to be a weekend of cake, but who knows. In any case – I have avoided carbs of all sorts, and ventured into unfamiliar territory.

Lentils, of course, the small red variety, are a staple in my kitchen but generally turn up in soup. Split peas likewise. I have really never had much to do with green lentils; never knowingly encountered them, and certainly never cooked anything involving them. So my sudden desire for chicken, spinach, and green lentils with bacon came completely out of nowhere. It hit so fast that I didn’t even think to take pictures until it was all done – and to be fair, it doesn’t take a lot of doing. No fancy stages, no lengthy prep or cooking – at least not the way I did it – just a delicious side dinner.

Ingredients
1 can green lentils (or prepare them yourself, I guess – about a cup?)
4 rashers streaky smoked bacon
1 stick celery
1 clove garlic
a dash of oil
1 tsp bouillon powder (I used Maggi)
sprinkle of Herbes de Provence

Method
1. Dice the onion, celery and bacon small. Fry up the bacon until fat starts to come out of it; if very dry, add a dash of oil and then add the onions and celery.
2. Fry together until the onion goes translucent
3. Drain and add the lentils and give it a good stir around
4. Add the bouillon powder, herbs and a healthy dash of water to moisten
5. Cook for about another 5 mins til all heated through and flavours melded

Not pretty*, but so tasty! I had this as a dual protein with a pounded, lemon/garlic chicken breast, and a pile of spinach. Fantastic – enough to make me think adding spinach to the lentil/bacon mix would be a winner in itself. It’s even better reheated the next day.

(*I do have a picture. I’m debating adding it! Maybe later….)

Not pretty. But oh so tasty.

No Pastry Pear Tartlets

What can I say – these sounded delicious, and I haven’t made tartlets of any sort before. Simple, quick, and best of all – no pastry to worry over. They also use icing sugar in place of regular, which I haven’t seen before. I had all the ingredients on hand, so I thought I’d try them.

I only have 4 tartlet pans, so I adjusted the amounts.

Ingredients:
120g butter
45g plain flour
120g icing sugar
65g ground almonds
2 large eggs, beaten
2 small pears, thinly sliced

Method:
Preheat oven to 200C, and butter the tartlet tins.
Melt the butter.
Sift flour and sugar together, then stir in the ground almonds. (I actually didn’t sift anything – it all turned out fine).
Mix in the butter and eggs.
Divide between the tins and place pear slices on top. (I only used one pear, and put a sliced quarter on each tin.)
Bake 10 mins.
Turn the oven down to 170C and back a further 5 mins, or until evenly golden brown.

Yummy.

These were indeed delicious; I was a little surprised that there was no spice, no vanilla, just that very short ingredient list, but they’re perfect. Buttery, crisp at the edges, dense and cakey, they would work equally well with other fruit I think – maybe plums or raspberries, anything sweet and juicy like that. Sadly the pear I used wasn’t nearly as ripe as I thought, so that aspect was a bit disappointing. I shall try again with a much riper one!

Also point to note – even cut down, this made more mixture than would fit comfortably in the tins. I took the precaution of setting the little tins in a bigger roasting pan and it’s just as well; the one in the photo was the only one that didn’t overflow, volcano-like.

Turkey Meatloaf

Meatloaf really hasn’t been a feature in my life. My vague impressions of it have been less than favourable and there’s no family tradition for a “good one”. So I have a sort of distant curiosity about why it’s so massively popular, and of course I’m interested in the million variations that turn up again and again on the web.

Then I saw a recipe for turkey meatloaf that rang a few of my bells. Lots of fresh veggies. Turkey, not a heavy mass of beef, or the abominable pork/beef mixture. Mozzarella on the top! Garlic and courgette and onions and oregano.. okay, time for an experiment.

Of course, I am incapable of following a recipe perfectly. I nearly sprain something when I try – which I will do, if it’s cakes or some other incomprehensible wizardry – but savoury? Meat? Hah! I rolled up my sleeves and made it up as I went along, using this recipe as a general inspiration more than an exact guide.

Most of the ingredients!

Ingredients:
The meatloaf:
500g ground turkey
Half a midsize courgette, grated
Half a midsize red pepper, diced small
1 celery stalk, diced small
Half a medium onion, diced small
1 slice bread, torn into crumbs
Large handful of flat parsley (leaves only), chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large egg
2 tbl milk
1 tbl oil
Generous shake of oregano
Generous grind of black pepper

The topping:
1 tub pasta sauce, I used a Mediterranean Vegetable one.
a generous handful of grated mozzarella

Pre topping. I put the whole tub on.

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Beat together the egg, milk and oil.
Mix all the meatloaf ingredients in a large bowl, not too hard. I used a fork and a fairly light touch. You don’t want to make a great heavy mass, just get everything combined.
Tip into a loaf pan (I did give mine a spray with oil) and spread it out evenly. I used a 2lb pan so it only came up about half way. Don’t press it down too hard.
Top with the pasta sauce.
Pop into the oven and bake for 40 mins.
Take it out, sprinkle the mozzarella over the top and return to oven for 10 mins.

Not sure how you take appetising pictures of meatloaf…. maybe I should have slathered extra sauce over it!

Verdict: tasty but a slightly odd grainy texture – from the courgette, I think. Falls apart fairly easily, which is a good thing (not too dense) as well as a less good one (not sure how well it will slice cold). The sauce makes it; next time I’ll definitely reserve some extra for serving. I understand meatloaf is traditionally served with mashed potatoes, and that would be awesome. 🙂

Mocha Orange Brownies

Here we are again, right up at the end of the month and no recipe posted! Panic! Then these brownies caught my eye; mm chocolate and orange, and with the added attraction of not requiring a shopping trip for ingredients.

Normally I’m happy with my regular brownies, recipe refined over the years, but these sounded so yummy (and easy! One pan – win!) that I had to give them a try. They’re also completely different to my usual sort, using cocoa/coffee instead of melted choc.

As usual, I’ve converted the amounts and/or fiddled the ingredients to be UK-friendly.

Ingredients:
150g butter
65g cocoa
1 tsp instant coffee granules
200g sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
110g flour
100g dark choc chips
1 tsp orange zest*

(* My oranges refused to cooperate so I substituted a tsp of orange extract.)

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease/flour a brownie pan.
2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat.
3. Stir in the coffee and cocoa and mix well to dissolve. Take a moment to inhale in bliss.
4. Stir in the sugar, then the eggs one at a time. Be prepared to stir hard; the mixture will seize in a worrying way. I added a half-handful of the flour between eggs to prevent what I feared might be scrambling.
5. Stir in vanilla and give it a good mix.
6. Stir in the flour, chocolate chips and orange. Take another moment to stand and sniff. Yum.
7. Spread the gloriously dark, gooey batter in the prepared pan and bake for ~30 mins. (25 in a fan oven did the job nicely).
8. Let cool in the pan. (Hah!) Sift a little icing sugar over the top to serve.

Batter in the panI used an 8×8 pan and worried that it might be overfull, but it turned out fine, it’s not a big riser.

Brownie on a plate

Verdict:
Fudgy and squishy and very rich. Definitely a keeper, well suited for serving with ice cream as a last-minute omg-I-forgot dessert. Extra bonus points for ease of assembly and using ingredients you likely have on hand.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Wattleseed Buttercream Filling

I’ve wanted to make whoopie pies for ages; so cute! And like little, flat, filled cupcakes, you can make them in almost any flavour combination. I’ve also been wondering about using wattleseed in a frosting. As usual with me, I went and found half a dozen recipes and picked one that looked good (Buns In My Oven) and then hacked it.

Unfortunately I was so mesmerised by the delicious pictures and so preoccupied with anxiety over the meringue buttercream, that I failed to absorb the level of faff factor involved. OMG. I had no buttermilk, so improvised. And then when it came to the frosting, my assumed two boxes of eggs turned out to be four eggs poorly distributed; so I went with no-meringue buttercream instead 🙂 So be warned. This recipe will use ALL THE BOWLS. And make sure you have everything you need, before you start 😉

Last note: the recipe calls the cake drops “cookies”. I maintain that like the proprietary brand with the smashing orangey bit, these are in fact cakes. Tasty, tasty cakes…

For the cake drops:
425g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
40g cocoa
1 cup strong brewed coffee
250g light brown sugar
3/4 cup oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking sheets with parchment. (Or just use nonstick, or silpat. If you use parchment you will need many sheets ready.)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.
In another large bowl or jug, whisk together the cocoa and hot coffee until completely combined and dissolved.
In a medium bowl (!), stir together the brown sugar and oil. Ick. Add this to the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined.
Add the egg, vanilla and milk and whisk again until well mixed and combined.
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and combine well. (The recipe says to fold gently, but I just used the same old whisk and gave it a good stir around. Did no harm..)
Now the tricky part. Drop dessert-spoonfulls of the mixture on to the prepared baking sheets, leaving some space for spreading. I found it nigh impossible to make them all the same size; a sized scoop might help. I also tried piping, but that turned out to be no better than just glooping it out with a spoon. The mixture is very runny and sticky as hell. Good luck.
Bake for 10 – 15 mins, until the cakelets bounce back and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. (Note: mine took exactly 9 minutes in a fan oven.)
Recipe says to let cool in tray. I have no idea what kind of huge-ass trays the lady has but there was no way that mix makes one batch. I let them cool a little, then spatula’ed them off to a cooling rack, de-crumbed the trays and reused until done. This amount of mixture made four batches of 12 cakelets. (48 cakes; 24 pies). If you are using parchment, be aware.
Note: try to keep them flat while cooling, as they will bend unnervingly. I had to pile mine; that also made the nice smooth tops all crumby 😦

For the filling: (the one I used)
5 oz softened butter
11 oz icing sugar, sifted
5 tsp wattleseed essence (made by brewing it strong through my Aeropress).

In a large bowl beat together the butter and half the sugar, gradually adding more sugar as it combines.
Add the wattleseed essence and beat in well; add more sugar if the frosting gets too soft.

To assemble the whoopie pies, first match up similar sized cakelets in pairs. Working pair by pair, butter the frosting on to one (flat face), then sandwich together with its buddy. You can pipe the buttercream, but it was a nice spreadable consistency, and the cakelets were sturdy enough to hold, so seemed far easier just to plaster it on. Be generous, the frosting makes more than enough 🙂

The dark, slightly bitter-chocolate of the cakes goes extremely well with the wattleseed buttercream, as I hoped. Yummo!

Lemon Poppy Seed Kugelhopf Cake

My sister gave me a copy of Sarah Raven’s Food For Friends And Family for my birthday. What a lovely book; wonderful pictures, and lots and lots of interesting recipes which my sister has assured me work very well, even if they sound a bit unusual.

So given that my sis was spending the day with me today, we decided to make something from the book. I only realised I could blog it when the batter was pretty much already made, so the pictures start half way. 🙂

Ingredients:
225g soft light brown sugar
225g softened butter
4 eggs, beaten
225g self-raising flour
grated zest of 2 lemons, juice of 1
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 tablespoons milk

For the syrup:
juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted

For the icing:
7 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
lemon strands, for sprinkling on the top

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Lightly grease and flour a kugelhopf cake tin or a 23cm springform tin.
Put the sugar and butter into a large mixing bowl and beat together until light and fluffy. Gradually stir in the beaten egg and flour (alternating the two).
Then stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, poppyseeds and milk.
Spoon into the prepared tin and smooth the mixture down with a rubber spatula or palette knife.

Smoothed

Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until firm. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the syrup by stirring together the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small bowl*.
Using a skewer, prick the top of the cake and pour over the syrup.

Glisteny!

Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin. When cool turn out on to a serving plate.
Next make the icing. Mix together the icing sugar, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of water and pour over the top of the cake, allowing the icing to trickle down and sides (if using a springform cake tin, do the same but smooth the icing over the top of the cake with a palette knight). Sprinkle the top with the lemon strands.

Makes enough for 8 – 10.

This is surprisingly light, and really yummy. Lemony and buttery, not overly sweet, very moreish. Yum!

 

(* Add the lemon juice just a little at a time, make a fondant and then dilute it, or it’ll go sort of blobby.)

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