Category Archives: recipes

How to make lemoncurd

There’s just something so comforting about lemoncurd. Creamy yet sharp it cheers up even the most basic toasted cheap bread. I have quite clear early- childhood memories of my mum whipping up a batch at weekends for Sunday teas in the winter. Lemon curd on crumpets in front of the Muppets. Bliss.

I’ve always thought it might be a bit hard. Because of the egg curdling possibilities but with the aid of my beautiful shiny new double boiler my dad bought me it is easy. Even easy peasy.

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You’ll need;

Zest and juice of 4 un-waxed lemons

200g sugar

100g cubed butter

3 eggs and one egg yolk

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Put lemon juice, zest, sugar and butter into a double boiler and stir with a whisk from time to time until the butter has melted.

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Stir the eggs together with a fork and add to the pan cautiously. Whisk regularly over medium heat for about ten minutes until the mixture is thick and custardy.

Remove from the heat and whisk a little every now and again as it cools. Spoon while still warm into sterilized jars.

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It will keep a couple of weeks in the fridge. Although chance would be a fine thing around here…

It tastes amazing on anything toasted. Also stirred into whipped cream and sprinkled with crushed meringue (perfect to use up those extra whites) for a citrusy Eton mess. Or if you mix that up then freeze for a parfait. We like it a lot in little pastry cases as lemon curd tarts. Or as a filling in a split lemon cake with mascarpone instead of cream.

The very, very best way is on a teaspoon straight from the jar, hidden behind the fridge door at fraught moments.

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Making easy Baklava with children (helping, not IN them)

I loved this post from Round the World in Eighty Bakes and am still in awe at Lauren for making filo pastry from SCRATCH.  We’ve made this cheatin’baklava before and it’s the closest to actual mud pie cooking with kids I’ve come across.

There were a few barriers to the smooth running I was hoping for but we soldiered on, dripping in butter, stuck up with syrup, pistachios adorning our eyebrows.

I could have sworn I had a bag of shelled pistachio nuts… well I didn’t so Zeph kindly set to shelling. My poor old (about 15 yrs) food processor choked at the grinding. A bit of experimentation showed it could manage about 10 nuts a time…so some of the prep took slightly longer than I expected.

We took about 400 g of nuts. We chose walnuts, almonds and pistachios. We left some out, whole and some chopped for decoration and to vary the texture.  

75g of sugar

25g butter

couple of cardamom seeds, crushed.

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

I usually put half the nuts and all the rest and whizz until it’s really really fine then add the rest of the nuts and grind until they’re rubble. This is much easier when your processor works. We also did just the walnuts and almonds first and made the flat baklava then did the pistachios after and added them to the rest of the mix so we could get different tastes. This is the mud pie element as you can mix it up and experiment to your heart content. I usually put out the big bowl of nut mix then some smaller plastic bowls for the addition of; rose syrup, orange oil, citrus zest dried cranberries, whole nuts, vanilla extract, stem ginger, ginger wine,rum – the moon’s your limit…

 We used two packets of ready rolled filo pastry with six sheets in each packet. The first packet got entirely used up in the flat cakes. I simply cut the six sheets in half which fitted my square tin and put six layers on the bottom – all liberally daubed with a mixture of melted butter and sunflower oil by my willing helper, I did put a square of substantial parchment paper on the bottom, mainly to aid with extraction

 

Then we pressed a generous layer of the walnut and almond mixture all over it and topped with another six layers of filo.  I carefully cut into squares before popping into a medium oven for  30/40 minutes. (Until golden brown)

 Secure in the knowledge that there was a tray of delicious cakes already cooking the next pastry packet was given over to experimentation. Much butter was spread, drops added, shapes rolled, pinched and packaged then sliced and adorned with nuts and fruit. Some methods work better than others – the very best I think was the cylinder/sausage roll approach but everything was ultimately edible… 

 

When this tray went into the oven I put the syrup on to cook. To make the dark syrup that looks best you need to caramelise some sugar first. For my own peace of mind this bit is utterly child free. Hot sugar is  a fearsome thing but not particularly difficult.

I put 100g of white sugar and 50ml of water in my very best thick bottomed pan and put it on high heat. DO NOT STIR (I have no reason for this but my granny’s advice…I think it makes it grainy) Do not do anything else, surrender a few minutes for this, it doesn’t take long but does need your attention. It will boil ferociously, wait for it to turn a gorgeous reddish brown and to smell of fairgrounds then add CAREFULLY 300ml of cold water (make some of the 300ml up with some lemon juice for a citrusy twist) and another 100 ml of sugar and a generous swirl of honey. Again do NOT stir and wait for the lump of caramel to dissolve into the boiling mass.

As the pastries come out of the oven spoon the hot syrup over and leave to soak up.

Serve with strong coffee and an insulin producing pancreas.

We Can Cook! Tomato & Cheese Pinwheels

Katy is a BIG hit in this house. I’m actually quite fond of this particular kids programme, for a start they actually cook real food rather than a series of ever odder food art/sculpture and I’ve also really seen the benefits of the way they help the children perform tasks by describing the kind of movement they need to do. Parroty pinchy fingers and grr-y claw hands have helped with the frustrating preschool tasks of button doing up, green pepper ripping and egg cracking in this house.

Anyway these were inspired by a recent episode.

Tomato and Cheese Spirally Pinwheels

We started with a packet of ready-made puff pastry. You may make your own pastry if you wish – this VERY simple recipe already took about 3 hours to do because everything takes a long time when you’re three so it’s packet all the way for me…

We also assembled; flour for dusting, tomato purée, cheese, basil and black pepper. We added to the basic recipe; olive oil, paprika, fruit vinegar and the scrapings of old tapenade in the bottom of the jar.

First we rolled out a rectangle of pastry. More challenging than it sounds. Especially when one of us is dead set on eating most of the pastry raw…

Then squeeze tomato purée onto the surface – making a smily face with it is purely optional. Then I swerved from the recipe adding some paprika, a dash of sweet vinegar (I use one from a local shop which is vinegar mixed with fig must but any will do including balsamic) and a drop of olive oil and  a smear of tapenade. (None of this is essential..) Then mix it all together with the back of a spoon and spread it out over the pastry.

A bit of pepper – and what kind of face? She’s having a lovely time people, really.

Then grate a light snow of cheese over the top. (All over the surrounding floor and table is entirely optional)

This is a good bit.. pick and rip basil leaves, strewing them artistically over your rectangle. The basil is sadly not homegrown, I just can’t keep them going over the winter. My mum manages it on her windowsills but she has virulently green thumbs and house that doesn’t reach my dank and mould levels. It’s 60p supermarket pot of basil which did the job admirably then ended its short stalky life enlivening a pot of soup.

Now for the tricky bit, rolling it up. Not the easiest tasks for small hands but she managed it. The idea of doing the same thing side by side is I will resist the temptation to lean over and do harder bits for her and she can watch my hands and copy. It’s a technique that works well in coaching with children and I’d recommend it. This was the hardest bit to keep my hands to myself in though.     

Or maybe this bit, the chopping up…  Still the roll is quite robust though they benefit from a small reshaping squeeze as you place them, spiral up, on a baking sheet. Ida managed perfectly well with her small knife and we talked about the saw-saw-saw movement she needed to use and why she needed to be careful with her fingers.

Then into the oven for about 15 minutes baking and…   Ta Daaaa!!!

They taste great and have worked brilliantly kept in a airtight box and reheating a couple at a time for snacks. Zeph’s had them in his sandwich box as well.

The more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed the bowl of eggwash on the table. It didn’t get used in these but in the sausage rolls we made next and to paint what felt like the entire room which I mentioned before…

I’m not going to bore you with the sausage rolls but we grated two apples in with the sausagemeat which was a resounding, scrumptious success. I’m always going to do it from now on.

And on that bombshell revelation I shall leave you, wiser in the wisdom of leaving small people alone with beaten egg and with a small daughter who has expanded her knife skill repertoire.

A good afternoons work.

Pastry crocodiles on pumpkin pie

Recently Ida and I made an apple pie…actually it’s something we’ve cooked quite often, after all it is apple season and we are rich in windfalls. We did a post about one with pictures along the way. During the process pastry crocodiles were made and devoured before I could record them for posterity. Which is a shame…because they were rather scrumptious…

Some lovely fellow bloggers, Rachel from Growing Things and Making Things and Sharyn from The Kale Chronicles mentioned it was a shame not to see them and since then I’ve been thinking of making a pumpkin pie topped with some.

I’m not sure why exactly – they just seemed to go together….

Well yesterday we finally got around to it and I remembered the camera at crucial points. Most of the pictures look very familiar as most as the process was the same as the applepie but I was particularly charmed by Ida’s firm grasp on the process. She actually remembered independently most of the stages which leads me to dream about sending her into the kitchen to whip up a pie while I have a little lie down and read or something else equally indulgent. (Exploitation? How dare you…)

We also wilfully ignored any other recipe and it turned out exactly as I hoped, deliciously spicy and toffeeish so I’m going to give you the recipe (ha! there’s no measurements so I suppose method would be less misleading…)

First off, it was a butternut squash, not a pumpkin. Ho hum. I was going to steam it but I wanted that slight caramel flavour you get at the edges of roasted veg so diced and slung in the oven.

I then pureed the bits with one of those hand-held blenders. It did make a very smooth purée but next time I may try just mashing them with a fork. 

We added, I think amounts really depend on the amount of purée you have, so add to taste;

ground ginger.

cinnamon.

ground mixed spice.

nutmeg.

sugar, I used molasses sugar which really added to the lovely toffeeish flavour.

a splash of  double cream.

We used my old shallow enamel dish so it was a shallow pie. Ida set to work buttering it.

We used short crust pastry and rolled out a disc for the bottom and smoothed it in.

Then filled it with the squash purée.

Then there was a lot of pleasurable flouring, rolling and crocodile cutting and shaping. This bit went on for a while…

and here they are

Ta da!

Then liberally brush with beaten egg,

 and finally and triumphantly –

Once again I meant to take a picture of a slice but we were all too busy eating and elbowing each other out of the way for seconds. Perfect autumn comfort eating.

Ta da! Chicken…

Well sorry about that hiatus. The computer monitor blew up. Literally. Sparks and all.

 At first I felt really devastated at ruining my new years resolution but it soon passed – ha! Luckily I’m not the kind of person who can’t flex with circumstances, in fact that’s pretty much my life plan so I’m posting twice tonight which makes everything straight in my mind. Phew.

So here’s the Jerk chicken:

You’ll note the fridge shot is close enough that you can’t see how badly my fridge needs cleaning. Ahem.

This is heart pleasingly easy. The night before take some chicken portions. I use a mix of thighs and drumsticks but use whatever you like, it works with skinless as well. Hurl into freezer bag, squeeze in half a lemon, jig about. Slop in half a big pot of natural yoghurt and 1 – 3 teaspoons of jerk mix from a jar. It depends how hot you like it and which type you prefer. I use Walkerwood from preference but most are yummy. Squish around chicken until all lovely and mixed up then sling into fridge overnight.

When you’re ready to cook, fish out each bit and put into roasting tray. Keep the bag of marinade.  I add a couple of chillies and some fresh thyme. Then cook at a medium heat. At about 20 minutes in  I turn the chicken pieces over and pour a spoonful of marinade on to the top of each piece. Ten minutes before the end I pour the rest of the marinade in and add some chopped coriander.

Mmmm – I’m hungry again… so last but definitely not least; Festivals…

On a good day I’ll often do festivals with them which are LOVELY. I make them like this ( I suspect it’s not “proper”)

  • 125g plain flour
  • 125g cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Mix all the dry together, add cold water to make a dough. With floured hands pinch out a spoonful roll into a cigar shape. Shallow fry in sunflower oil turning until puffed and golden. Drain on paper – serve. A luxury addition but mmmmmmm. Like little quick cornbreads.

Lifted this from my post about chilli… but here’s a picture of the dough. (I know, swoon..)

This meal makes me feel summery – The chicken is pretty hot but the mealiness of the plaintain and the sweet festivals and fresh salsa balance it all out. I can’t make small quantities of it so it’s always a packed table and feels festive. What more can you ask of food?

Jerk Chicken and mango salsa

We’re cooking Zeph’s homework for tea. I’ve not cracked, I mean we’re cooking the Jamaican Feast he lovingly described and wrote out recipes for. We have to listen to the reggae music he’s picked out while we eat. I’m either raising a natural futurist chef or a party planner. I’m not sure which worries me more. So as I’m tired of the sound of my whining on recent posts I thought I’d do the recipes. Well, what passes for recipes here…

First off the block; Plantains.

The one at the front is a banana, the ones behind are plantains. They are ripe when the skin is completely black and looks as though it’s about to rot.

You can cook and eat them unripe though. Always cook plantain. As my mate Des’s Nan used to say, “if you bite into it it’ll hurt your teeth then your bum.” ie It’s like biting into the greenest banana you can imagine.

and if you do manage to swallow it you’ll have the worst upset stomach ever. I’m willing to accept this wisdom although not the thing about polyester being the king of fabrics. This is how Bella taught me to do plantains. I realise it may seem a little patronising detailing how to peel them. You may all know, I didn’t though and would have appreciated a heads up. You don’t peel

them like bananas. I top and tail them then score them three times and peel off the skin, side-to-side not top-to-bottom. Then cut them on the diagonal. Fry until golden and speckled with brown and drain on kitchen paper.

Serve as the carb element of your meal. They’re lovely. You can steam, roast, bake and mash them. Just make sure you cook them.

Now – the mango salsa, I’m going to make the pics smaller or you’ll get scrollers cramp in your finger… 

Basically, chop and mix; red onion, mango, tomatoes, clove of garlic, chopped coriander. Add a pinch of salt, pinch of sugar, dash of olive oil and vinegar and a squeeze of lime if you have it.  

Using the time-honoured “hedgehog” mango handling system here.  

Ta da!!! Mango Salsa. Very yummy it was too. Sadly my camera is out of batteries and the Jerk Chicken pictures are in it.

Eating the feast and then hurriedly icing a million last-minute  cupcakes for tomorrows (forgotten) cake sale has eaten into both the evening and my meagre stock of will.

I also have to finish sewing three alien tentacles to  a t-shirt before bed.

My life is so glamorous I’m sure you’ll agree.

I’ll be back with some chicken very soon…

Chilli

I’ve been meaning to write out this recipe for ages. Everyone has their own way of doing chilli and this is mine. I do realise bits of it sound weird but the kids and most people love it. I haven’t got photos to go with it but, as you may guess, I’m cheating my (unspoken, shhh) resolution to post everyday by scheduling some for when we’re away…. sorry if it’s a bit boring. It tastes great.

I did once dedicate a whole weekend to making a proper mole and it was amazing – but this is pretty good too with much less work. Which, obviously- being lazy and greedy, I like!

  • Beef mince or stewing beef or a mix of both.
  • Bacon lardons or chopped cooking chorizo.
  • 1 large onion.
  • 1 carrot.
  • Few stalks of celery.
  • Some (to your taste) cloves of garlic, crushed then chopped.
  • Chopped fresh chilli.
  • Chopped whatever veg you have or prefer; peppers, mushrooms, courgettes.
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes.
  • Tin of kidney beans (sometimes I use black eyed or aduki beans)
  • Squeeze of tomato puree.
  • A tsp of these spices; paprika (smoked if possible) ground cumin and a tsp of dried oregano.
  • A pinch of; cinnamon (sometimes I’d use a stick here instead) fennel seeds, two cloves, dried chilli flakes (if you like it hot or you didn’t have any fresh) and ground ginger. oh and salt and pepper.
  • Some dark cooking chocolate, a few chunks, if I don’t have any I use a couple of tsp of coca and a tsp of sugar
  • Then (here it gets odd) tsp instant coffee granules, or a splash of good espresso or freshly ground.
  • a big dollop of peanut butter ( I use crunchy whole nut stuff)

So, fry off the bacon/chorizo then add mince/beef and brown.

Add chopped onion, carrot, celery and crushed garlic and chilli. Gently fry for about five mins.

Add your other choices of veg.

Fry a bit more…

Add tomatoes,puree then beans. I always swill the tomato tin out with water, adding another full tins worth of liquid. A splash of red wine never hurt anyone. Or indeed  a splash of bourbon.

Add the spices and as many of the odd amendments as you like.

Leave on a slow simmer for as long as possible. Adjusting liquid as necessary. I just top up from the kettle as I pass.

Honestly it’s lovely. We usually do the first day with rice and various salad stuffs. Avocados and sour cream or yoghurt. Then the next day with jacket potatoes or as wraps. Or wedges… sweet potatoes are good. As you see it’s chillyfest versatile. On a good day I’ll often do festivals with them which are LOVELY. I make them like this ( I suspect it’s not “proper”)

  • 125g plain flour
  • 125g cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Mix all the dry together, add cold water to make a dough. With floured hands pinch out a spoonful roll into a cigar shape. Shallow fry in sunflower oil turning until puffed and golden. Drain on paper – serve. A luxury addition but mmmmmmm. Like little quick cornbreads.

Might have to go make some toast now. Oh and Happy Birthday Steve – mwahx

Party loot and careful packing.

Forgot to mention that I came away with this lovely table centrepiece from last nights party, sparkly heart and all. Ida is enormously pleased, as am I. We admire it together as I sit one side of the table sewing some embellishments onto her new purple hoodie my Mum gave us. Ida is busy drawing ducks with an illicit felt-tip. I can’t blame her, I’d much rather draw with a felt tip than a wax crayon too.

We’re combining a lazy day with packing and planning for a couple of days doing London stuff. I wonder where the line is between being really good at packing light and being slovenly. As we’ll be carrying bags around with us I’m adamant it’s just PJ’s, spare pants and socks and a grudging emergency change for Ida. ..and toothbrushes. Steve veto’s us all sharing one brush. His line is obviously in a different place to mine. Zeph wonders what happens if he spills food or something. “Don’t”  I say humourlessly. “Or we could turn your top inside out..” Turns out his line is nearer  Steves than mine. They both look at me as though I’m Worzel Gummidge.

 I’m the one who’ll be bloody carrying it you know, while they pore over rocks in the museum. Also the only way I can cope with a toddler and push chair on the tube is to have as little baggage as possible. I prefer to think of myself as a spy/assassin who can can store all they need for a weekend in their pockets as opposed to a tramp. I get identical sceptical eyebrows when I put this to the men in my life. Gah.

Anyway – here’s the recipe for yesterdays Lemon cakes

Ingredients

  • Cakes
  • 125g butter/marg (whichever you prefer..)
  • 125g sugar
  • 2 eggs (I use medium)
  • 125g  SR flour
  • Zest and juice of two lemons
  • tbsp milk
  • tsp baking powder
  • Icing
  • mascapone cheese
  • lemon curd
  • icing sugar
  • something pretty

Method

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat. Zest the lemons over the bowl and add the juice of one. Add flour (I don’t sift but feel free, sometimes I replace 25g of the flour with cornflour as it makes a nicer cake texture but this is very far from vital. I also add baking powder here if I’m planning butterfly cakes as the domed top is easier to cut. If they’re cupcakes I leave out for a flatter top) Mix. Slacken the mix with the other lemons juice and if necessary after I’ve mixed and it’s still stiff, a slosh of milk. Spoon into cakes and bake. (umm – until done.. about 15mins at 180 ish or equiv, but my oven is a law unto itself)

This is the good bit.. icing. Mix the mascapone with a little (tbsp ish) icing sugar and a good couple of tbsp (to your taste basically) of lemon curd. If you’ve got another lemon you could add a bit of zest and juice as well.

Then carve out a hole in the top of one of your cooled cakes, dollop a generous helping of icing into said hole, cut your leftover cake bit in half and shove into icing like wings. Sprinkle with something pretty.

These are EXTRA yummy in the summer with a few raspberries crushed into the mascapone mix. Mmmmm – summer….

Right, off to see what else I can discard from the bag. Is it cheating to have scheduled some posts to cover the next three days? I have decided to think it isn’t. Am wondering if I’ll miss sitting and reflecting everyday. I’ll let you know on Thursday. (Blimey – bet you’re on the edge of your seat, self-absorbed eh?)

May your next three days be filled with BT’s.

Caldeirada

So to placate the portuguese detective I’m cooking Caldeirada for tea. My mum and dad always join us on Wednesdays so I do tend to use them as recipe guinea pigs. Zeph always likes Wednesdays as I usually make some kind of effort and on particularly frugal weeks it maybe the only meal that isn’t soup…

Recklessly during the weekends research I promised this and spent yesterday looking at a million various recipes. Essentially it’s a fish stew, but with regional variations and it would have been whatever the fisherman had left over and couldn’t sell from their days catch. I found several recipes that said it should have oily, firm and flaky fish plus shellfish and several that said adding shellfish was a cardinal sin. Some say saffron and others say saffron is the work of the Caldeirada hating devil. So I’ve just taken all the ingredients I like and have and am applying an amalgamation of all the various methods – voila :

4 onions (I used 3 white and one red), 2 red peppers , garlic,1 red chilli, coriander,parsley, 3 big tomatoes, about 5 potatoes (better if they’re waxy ones) Olive oil, white wine,

I chopped all this – the onions into half moons and the potatoes into thinnish rounds and layered all into my new, much appreciated Xmas present, super versatile, white enamel pot. Seasoned and added a healthy glug of oil and wine and a handful each of the herbs chopped and put the pot, without the lid, into a medium oven to roast/braise for about 1/2 an hour – until it smalls good and the potatoes are softish.

Many of the recipes put it all together but I don’t want to overcook the fish waiting for the potatoes to do. Also it strikes me you could do this bit ahead then add the fish and reheat at the same time in about 20 mins.

umm Fish! – we have cod (sharp in drawn breath…I am avoiding cod but my dad bought this hugely reduced from the whoops shelf at the supermarket, he says it’s a marvelous sign that they have to reduce it but couldn’t bear to see it going to waste so it’s been lurking in the freezer) and I bought (from same supermarket so boosting sales and demand for sustainable fish – defensive, me?) sardines and 4 small  squid. In my mind I had been thinking of these or cockles, mackerel or mussels which they didn’t have.  Several recipes I read have listed monkfish, tuna, halibut, swordfish, clams and octopus all in one dish as well as cupfuls of first pressed olive oil and handfuls of saffron. Peasant food my arse – Zeph is mightily cast down at my restrained version. I have told him when he has  all these fish left over from a fishing trip I’ll oblige him and until then…

I would be putting saffron in but can’t afford this AND the fish and have decided fish seems more vital.

I’m leaving the sardine fillets whole, cut the cod into chunks and the squid into rings.

I toyed with the idea of adding a tin of tomatoes to make more of a sauce but the sauce should be made just with the fish and veg juices topped up with wine and oil so have decided against it.

I put the sardines in first until they’re done a little (10 mins) I also added another  tomato, the rest of the herbs and a spur of the moment addition of a few  spring onions, all chopped. Then added the cod (another 10ish) then the squid rings on top – v quickly (1 or 2 mins) on high heat. Serve with bread and salad. Yum. It’s a lot like boulibasse. (A slightly contentious statement I realise) 

I think this is a fancy version and I’ll try a cheaper version with whole fish instead of fillets as the heads and stuff would give a better flavour. This version is definitely a for best version and I can see it would be cheaper and more flavoursome to do it the other way. I’d put it all in together then.

Was a great dish to put in the middle of the table and all dig into and Ida ate some even though she’s seriously off colour, winner all round. Zeph has high hopes of cooking something from each of his homework countries  – I have remained vague.