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Saturday, 30 May 2015

Harissa paste

This makes a lot of harissa paste, so be prepared to freeze it, give it away or put it in everything you cook. So far we've had it in couscous salad and used it to flavour some chicken (would be good used as a marinade for lamb or chicken).

It's pretty easy to do if you have a food processor/blender, and this version involves no cooking.

I bought a big bag of garlic a couple of months ago as it was very economical. However, I noticed the remaining ones were starting to go a bit 'funny', so I thought I'd make something with them rather than compost them.

I used fennel fronds rather than seeds as the stuff grows like a weed at the allotment (I've got 2 baby plants if anyone wants one!). Replace the fronds with fennel seeds or caraway seeds.

We've also got some leeks at the moment so I used that rather than onion, but onion would work just as well. I reckon the amount of leek I used is the same as 2 onions.

Lurking in the fridge I had a jar of very lazy red chilies which I used up, and added to the soaked dried flaked chillies.

44 garlic cloves
4cm fresh ginger
20 red chilies (or 20 tsp flaked red chilies)
2 red peppers, deseeded
2tbsp chopped fennel fronds (or seeds)
130g sliced leek (or onion)
*3tbsp ras el hanout spice blend 
*5tbsp harissa style seasoning
3tbsp ground cumin
2tbsp coriander seeds
1tbsp ground coriander
1tbsp ground cinnamon
200ml oil

Makes about 4 large jars. Easily halved.

If using dried chilies, soak in boiling water for a good 20 minutes.

Toast the coriander seeds until fragrant, then grind to a powder, either with pestle and mortar or in a spice mill.

Peel and chop the fresh ginger and slice the leeks.

Peel the garlic.

Drain the chillies.

Bung all the Ingredients into the food processor and blitz until smooth.

Store in sterilised glass jars topped up with a bit of oil to cover the paste and help it last longer.

Will last about 4 weeks if kept in the fridge. Can be frozen.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Carrot and broccoli falafels

This is quick to make, as I made them and cooked them before the (packet) fish fingers for the boys, and (homemade) chips were cooked.
I wanted to try an online recipe of Jack Munroe's for falafels that's slightly different to the one in her book that I tried. I changed the ingredients slightly - reduce or leave out the dried chilli flakes if you don't like them - and barely modified the method she used. Although I really enjoyed them as I made them, less chilli would let the herbs come through. When my coriander decides to grow I'll make it again with coriander! I used chilli oil because I have it in, but sunflower oil would do the job fine.
I put broccoli in because I didn't have quite enough carrot and have a handy bag of broccoli in the freezer. I will definitely do that again, it was really good. Spinach and broccoli might work as long as the spinach isn't too watery.
70g sliced carrots
5 frozen broccoli florets
400g canned chickpeas
1 tbsp of cumin
Handful of marjoram
1tsp of oregano
1tsp chilli flakes
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp water
1tbsp chilli oil
(Makes 14)
Bring the chickpeas, sliced carrots and broccoli to the boil in a saucepan of water, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes until very soft.
Strip the oregano off the stalks, and remove the marjoram from the bigger stalks. Chop finely and add to a cup along with the cumin and chilli.
When the chickpeas and carrots are very soft, remove from the heat. Add 2tbsp of the cooking water to the spice mix, then drain the chickpeas and tip into the mixing bowl. Mash well with a masher until a soft pulpy mixture is formed.
Add the flour, and shape into balls using 2 dessert spoons (didn't fancy touching the hot mixture).
Add the oil to a large non stick frying pan, and pop the falafels in on a medium heat.
As with the pancake recipe, add them in a clockwise direction. Then, when the first one looks golden brown underneath you know to start turning them over (in order).
Remove from the heat and serve, covering leftovers and storing in the fridge to have another day.
Serve with natural yoghurt* to dip in as a snack, pop any extras into the fridge for snacking on, pop into a pitta bread with salad leaves and natural yoghurt or chutney for a portable, delicious lunch.
Would be very good with roasted carrot hummus too! 
*or baked beans and chips.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Tiger Bread

Or should that be Giraffe Bread? !

I used a recipe from 'timetocookonline', and made slight variations.

I really identified with the author's approach to bread making: I mostly make bread dough in the breadmaker leaving it to prove (rise) and shape it afterwards.

I would have made it with half wholemeal bread flour but we didn't have any! You could of course make this by hand - it's really not hard - some good basic instructions are found here. Just substitute these ingredients for Mr Hollywood's and you'll be fine!

Basic White Bread Dough
625g strong white bread flour
10g easy blend yeast  (I use this)
1tsp sugar
1tsp salt
2tbs oil
400ml water

Put the ingredients into your bread-machine in whatever order is specified for your machine.

Set it to ‘dough’ (mine says ‘pizza’) and press start. When finished, place dough in a large oiled bowl. 

As soon as the machine starts, mix the topping.

Tiger Bread Paste
210ml warm water
180g rice flour
1 sachet easy blend yeast
2tbs toasted sesame oil (I happened to have this and it does add a nice flavour but it wouldn't hurt to use bog standard oil)
2tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Cover and leave to rise. The original recipe said the eventual consistency should be of double cream, and to get this I definitely needed the extra water.

Shaping the rolls
Now unless my family is not very greedy (unlikely), shaping this dough into just 8 rolls would result in MASSIVE rolls. Ok for burgers maybe? I would suggest splitting the dough in two, then shaping one half into a loaf and the other into 8 rolls. You could of course do all rolls. I tried a loaf and 6 rolls and possibly the rolls were a bit big (hubby doen't think so).

Split the dough into two.

Using a floured surface (chopping board), shape one half into a sausage shape and place in the middle of a greased baking tray (or use the baking tray liner things from Lakeland - they're failsafe and reusable).

With the other half of the dough, gently roll it out into a sausage shape and cut into 8 roughly even pieces. Shape each one into a ball and leave more space than you think between each one on the baking sheet. Use your largest baking sheet!

Leave the dough to prove for about 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, give the paste a good stir and GENTLY paint it into the bread/rolls. I used a silicone brush as suggested, a cleaner way than a traditional pastry brush.

Turn the oven on to preheat it: 200°C (180°C Fan)

Leave the rolls to prove for another 15 minutes whilst the oven is heating up.

Place in the oven for 20 minutes, turning the sheets around halfway through cooking time. You might find they need an extra 5 minutes to go brown enough.

(The original recipe suggested 15 minutes total cooking time, turning baking sheets around after 10 minutes. However, I found this to be nowhere near long enough.)

Turn out onto a wire rack and leave until cool enough to handle.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Saag aloo

It's just that time of year where I'm beginning to bring actual food back from the allotment, not just dirt. Thanks to a BBC Good Food article I read last year, I realised that radish leaves are edible. The smaller ones are good in salads but the larger ones benefit from a little cooking.

This recipe would work well with spinach, and if you prefer it less spicy you could use garam masala or ground cumin in place of the chilli. You don't need to be too worried about exact quantities either. I've included substitution ideas in the ingredients list as it's good to cook with what you have in, I think, rather than going out specially to buy stuff all the time!

This is a cheap recipe to make, especially if you grow your own vegetables. Check out Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All for other budget recipes as part of the Credit Crunch Munch challenge, and this month's host for the challenge: Jen's Food.

135g radish leaves OR any leafy greens
300g potato (diced into 2cm cubes) OR tin of value new potatoes, thoroughly rinsed
1 small green pepper (diced) OR a couple of florets of broccoli
1 onion (sliced) OR half a leek
1tbsp sunflower oil
2 fat garlic cloves (finely diced)
2cm root ginger (finely diced) OR 1 tbsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp each of tumeric and chilli powder, salt and mustard seeds

  1. Thoroughly wash the leaves and prepare the vegetables and put to one side ready to use.
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the mustard seeds. When they start popping, add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry on a low heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes, chilli powder, salt and 100ml water and stir. Put a sieve or colander on the top of the pan and add the radish leaves. Cover with a large saucepan lid and simmer for about 8 minutes.
  4. Add the leaves to the pan (I had to snip them with scissors once they were in the pan as they looked a bit clumpy). Stir well and cover the pan with the lid. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Add a splash of water if it looks a bit dry.
  5. Serve alongside a yummy curry like Jack Munroe's Peach and Chickpea Curry. Serves 2 as a side dish. 
**Leftover idea** Anytime pizza is a current favourite in our house, and I often have individual pizza bases in the freezer ready to go. The other night I was just cooking for Wonder Boy and myself, and made him the traditional margarita pizza but for myself I used leftover Saag Aloo as a pizza topping sprinkled with grated cheddar. Carb overload but it was really nice! I put chilli jelly on my pizza base in place of a tomato based sauce. #NoFoodWaste

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Anytime pizza

I've done enough cooking to know which instructions to treat as a vague guideline and which ones to actually follow. I really like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's 'Magic bread dough' recipe because it's cheap and it works. It's in his Veg Everyday book, which I bought ages ago for a fiver, so shop around.

This is my version:

As long as the flour quantity adds up to 500g you should be okay, and use at least 50% strong flour as I think it makes a difference to the rise if you use it for bread.

250g wholemeal strong flour
150g self raising flour  (normally would use plain - this is the end of Leaky Bag)
100g strong white flour
1tsp table salt
1.5tsp easy-blend (active) dried yeast
1tbsp vegetable oil
325ml water

This is for my Panasonic breadmaker, brands differ on how you should add ingredients. I bought it 2nd hand on ebay well over 6 years ago and it's had almost daily use.

Add yeast to breadmaker pan followed by the flours, salt, oil and water. Set machine to pizza setting - mine takes 45min.

When the dough is ready, tip out into a large oiled bowl. This makes the dough easier to remove later.

Leave for an hour or two then shape as you wish. I split the dough in two and put one lot in an oiled loaf tin, and shaped the rest into 3 pizza bases and 4 small rolls. Once shaped, the loaf and the rolls need to be left for a good half hour to rise again (proving time).

Shape the pizza dough. I basically flattened it with my fingers onto some reusable baking sheet liners I bought from Lakeland.

Spread your chosen pizza topping on the dough. I used Jack Munroe's lentil bolognese that I'd made with yellow split peas/chana dhal. I'd had to puree it to hide the big fat yellow lentils from Wonder Boy so it's gone from poisonous to delicious apparently.

I got the grated mozzarella out of the fridge (I find the value range ones pretty good value), and discovered hubby had eaten half of it, so grated the same amount of cheddar and mixed it up. I topped each pizza with the cheese then put it in a preheated oven for 20mins (take it out after 10 if you want to freeze it for later).

During the making process, Wonder Boy announced he wanted pizza for breakfast.   Thinking 'pick your battles', 'it's too early for an argument' and 'it's homemade and pretty healthy anyway', I complied like a good/caffeine deprived mummy.

It would be better to double the recipe next time and use half for a loaf as the one I've made looks pretty flat and pathetic and the rolls are tiny.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Roasted carrot hummus

I was rereading the 5:2 recipe book by Kate Harrison for some inspiration on lower calorie meals and warmer weather friendly lunches. I can't quite face doing 5:2 again at the moment - did I mention the chronic lack of sleep issue? - but thought I'd go back to boring old calorie counting. It does work, I just get bored. In it there's a recipe for roasted squash hummus with some good strong flavours to keep you interested in your good-for-you food.

I know I've already said I'm inspired by Jack Munroe's approach to cooking, and that I'm loving her recipe books. In one of them she has a cheap recipe for hummus which is great, and a search on her blog reveals some good replacements for 'fancy pants ingredients' that you don't really need. I'm a sucker for them, but completely resent spending upwards of £2 for a jar of tahini paste just for the odd bit of homemade hummus when I can be bothered to make it. I have got a jar of sumac which I've used once so I've put it in the hummus too, to justify having it! I have a large collection of spices and do use most of them, honest!

I had a big bag of carrots in the fridge so replaced the squash with the carrots, and the tahini with peanut butter. My peanut butter is homemade (see here for recipe). I'm not sure mine came out as it was supposed to but I'm the only one in the house who eats it so I don't care!

I parboiled 600g of carrot wedges and roasted them in 1tbsp hot oil until they were soft. We ate 1/3 of them with dinner last night and I had to hide the rest of them from Wonder Boy so he didn't eat them all. What kind of parent hides vegetables from children?!

400g carrots (raw)
2tsp oil
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2tsp peanut butter
1tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed with a large knife and a bit of salt
1 roasted red pepper (I still have that jar knocking about the fridge)
Concentrated lemon juice to taste (you could use juice of half a lemon I just don't have any at the moment)

Chuck it all in the food processor and press go! You could use a stick blender or a potato masher/ricer, just make sure you chop the garlic very finely.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Scrambled eggs and fish

I was all set for being smug and reheating the homemade, cheap as chips (cheaper? ) tomato and haricot bean soup by Jack Munroe. Check out her blog and cookery books they are ace.

However, we obviously ate it last week. Oh.

We have what feels like a freezer full of kippers as hubby got a little over excited in Tesco last week and bought loads of them 'on cheap'. He loves them for breakfast but the thought doesn't do it for me anymore, so my cooked kipper has been waiting for me in the fridge since Saturday morning. It's been in the fridge for 2 days, smelt and tasted fine so I'm assuming it won't kill me. Tune in later in the week to find out! You could use any fish - packets of cooked smoked mackerel are basically the same thing and are pretty cheap - different fish would be a different flavour obviously.

We also have an allotment down the road, with a few perpetual spinach plants doing rather well, and quite a few spinach leaves in the fridge looking a bit dodgy from when I picked them last week. I fancy perpetual spinach needs a bit more cooking than the normal spinach you get in bags from the shop. It's got the flavour of spinach but needs cooking like kale, only you can eat the stalks. With the normal stuff you could probably add it at the same time as the eggs.

I could have added onion, chilli and garlic or even stirred through some cooked rice which probably would have looked disgusting but tasted like kedgeree. But I didn't because I wanted something quick and that allotment won't weed itself.

Melt the butter on a gentle heat, cut up the spinach into small pieces and stir until they go dark green and are coated in butter.

Add the eggs and stir to make sure everything is evenly mixed, then add the fish and stir again.

Take off the heat before it's fully cooked unless you enjoy rubbery scrambled eggs.
Serve in a bowl with a fork and eat it before you remember to take a photo, or serve on toast (I must not eat all the bread, I must not eat all the bread, I must not eat all the bread).

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Pancakes to save the world

It turns out that chronic sleep deprivation affects one's ability to remember a previously memorised pancake recipe. It also transpires that Pintrest was not my friend on this occasion as the link I'd saved is so old it didn't work.

Family emergency!

The day was saved by hubby remembering I'd posted the recipe on Facebook in response to his thoughtful 'Dearest, you need to give me your pancake recipe because if you're hit by a bus it'll all be over'.

Why thank you darling. So romantic.

I don't even like pancakes that much, but hubby and Wonder Boy love them!

I used 130g of self raising flour today, for no other reason than the packet has a hole in and is leaking all over my cupboard (I know I could fix the bag that's too easy) and my hand slipped. Yes I was too lazy to take 5g flour out.

If you use self raising flour you don't really need the baking powder but I used it anyway because I knew it would make them super fluffy, and that I'd be using the whole mix at once. If I'd kept it in the fridge it would've looked like it was alive, producing bubbles at the top of the mix and seemingly thickening. That's fine, you just to give it a good stir and might need a splash of milk to give it the right consistency before you cook it.

1 egg
200ml milk
125g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
Splash of oil for the pan

Makes 10 (it did today anyway)

Heat the oil in a large frying pan to a medium heat.

Beat the egg and milk together.

Mix the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl (I used a mug).

Gradually add the flour mixture to the liquid, whisking well as you add each spoonful.

Add a dessert spoonful of the mixture to the pan leaving a bit of space between each dollop. It sounds silly but add the mix in order (I do clockwise), so that you know which dollop has been cooking the longest.

Once you can see a good few ml of the pancake cooking (bubbles might also burst on the surface), turn them over if you can remove them from the pan easily.
Give them a few minutes, then move to the edge of the pan and add the rest of the mix (or just cook two batches).

Serve with fresh fruit, unless you live in my house then serve with lashings of golden syrup.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Rhubarb vodka

When you're woken up too early (again), just make rhubarb vodka!

Find a container big enough, weigh out the ingredients, chop the rhubarb and bung it all in the container. Give it a good shake every few days or when you remember.

Leave for about 3 months then keep it all for yourself, it's lush (and I say that as a committed gin drinker! Click the link to read a brilliant mummy blog.).

700g rhubarb

350g granulated sugar

1 litre vodka

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Mandarin marmalade

I had some rather suspect mandarins languishing at the bottom of the fridge. Nothing a lemon, sugar and a food processor can't sort out!

I used this recipe as a guide, but adapted it to suit my taste and the fact I wasn't fully awake, and feeling very lazy.

I left the pith as I couldn't be bothered with the faff and don't like it too sweet - the pith also helps the marmalade to set. It's a really nice summery flavour and I might well be baking a marmalade cake with it shortly!

Weigh your mandarins and lemon (I had a bag of mandarins and a dodgy looking lemon making up 700g).

Place a small plate in the freezer to test for a set later.

Process in the food processor. I wanted it quite fine in texture so left it a while. The ropey lemon needed a bit of hand chopping to encourage it to be obliterated!

Add the fruit mix to a large saucepan with granulated sugar (whatever half the weight of the fruit is - 350g in my case).

Add the juice of one lemon and slowly bring to the boil stirring now and again to prevent it sticking and burning to the bottom of the pan.

After 20 minutes take the pan off the heat and test to see if the marmalade has set. Do this by putting a teaspoon of the marmalade on the plate from the freezer and checking it's the consistency you like. I was impressed with the lovely bright orange colour  (I told Wonder Boy it was Paddington Bear's special marmalade.)

Portuguese Beans

I've been cooking a lot from Jack Munroe's first book and blog recently. Her cooking philosophy is very similar to mine, and whilst I haven't had the same experience of having to cook to a very tight budget or live below the line, I too cannot stand wasting food!

This might sound ridiculous, but one of her suggestions was a complete revelation to me. As a budget way of buying haricot or similar white beans, she suggests buying your supermarket basics brand and rinsing the sauce off. I like to think I cook reasonably economically but I would never have thought of this.

I fancied beans on toast for breakfast this morning, so duly retrieved the baked bean tin from the cupboard. However I found the calorie count, likely from the sugary sauce, pretty off putting. I had a vague recollection of reading about a home made baked beans recipe on Ms Munroe's Facebook page but it turns out it was just a suggestion. Sorry Jack, I pinched your recipe name (and your recipe is probably better anyway).

From start to finish - to plate - it took around twenty minutes. I added the sugar because I could taste a slight vinegariness probably from the roasted pepper from a jar. It might well be a richer finish with a teaspoon of oil to fry the bacon and onions in; and of course if you want a veggie version just leave the bacon out. This would be pretty good made with some diced chorizo or leftover sausage too. Next time I would probably dice some carrot to fry with the onion and I'll probably use a smidge of oil - half a tbsp. All ingredients were found lurking in my fridge or spice cupboard!

2 rashers lean bacon, diced
1 garlic clove finely chopped
Tin of baked beans, rinsed
Half tsp spicy paprika
Half tsp sugar
Half courgette, diced
1 drained roasted pepper, diced
2tbsp tomato puree
Some water to loosen near the end of cooking

Serves 3

Dry fry your bacon and onion together in a good non stick frying pan. (Or if you are lazy like me and use the milk pan that's already out, cook on a high heat in a bit of water to soften the onion.)

Rinse ALL the sauce off your baked beans to reveal the white haricot beans.

Add the courgette and paprika and lower the heat. I like it spicy but if you don't, just add regular paprika.

Add the tomato puree and stir. Add the beans and a little water if you need to.

Add the pepper, stir and taste. At this point I added the sugar to balance the flavour, and I don't have a sweet tooth.

Stir and serve!

This stores perfectly well in the fridge for a few days or can be frozen. It's also surprisingly filling - I might have it with egg instead of toast tomorrow morning, or it would be nice for lunch on a baked potato with grated cheese (or in a tortilla wrap, pitta bread, with nachos).