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Sunday, 21 June 2015

Chicken and aubergine jalfrezi

I love a good curry. I'd made a version of Jamie Oliver's jalfrezi paste, subbing some spices I didn't have, and had a nice piece of cooked chicken leftover from the Simple Chicken Bake so I made this simple supper. Not very authentic, but delicious!

250g cooked chicken
1 aubergine, diced
2tbsp jalfrezi paste
1 tin tomato
200ml water

Gently heat the curry paste and loosen with a splash of water or oil.
Stir the aubergine through the sauce and cook until softened.
Add the tin of tomatoes and increase the heat if you need to so the mixture is bubbling nicely.
Once the sauce has reduced, add the cooked chicken and stir.
Add the water and stir. Leave to gently bubble away for a few minutes whilst you get any accompaniments ready!

We ate this between the two of us but I only served it with bread. If you served it alongside more substantial side dishes it would go further.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Poached eggs and ham

I thought it was about time to stop being so stubborn (so unusual for me I know), and start thinking about Slimming World again as it's always worked for me in the past and I woke up feeling fat this morning. I quite liked their new plan as it has an emphasis on lean protein and vegetables which sounds pretty balanced. I'm going to try not to get used to huge portions though as that's half my problem!

I am useless at poaching eggs, and have never quite mastered the baked-eggs-in-ham thing: the ham ends up very crispy! So, I got 2 mini pudding basins out of the cupboard and lined each with a slice of ham and cracked an egg into each one. I sprinkled some chilli flakes onto the top of each egg to child proof it, mainly (he LOVES eggs and 'am), and put them into a saucepan with about an inch or so of boiling water in. The basins sat flat on the bottom of the pan and I put the lid on the saucepan. I left to simmer until the eggs were set.

Do not add salt, as the salt from the ham will make it salty enough. Whilst the eggs are cooking make a salad (or pick the lettuce from the window box on the front step), or wilt some spinach to serve.

If I can hide the ham from Wonder Boy I'll definitely make it again it was delicious and the texture just right. I might cook it for a little less (get less distracted so I keep an eye on it) next time as I like the yolk runnier, but it was still YUM!


**This is not official Slimming World advice**

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Custard Danish (and other pastries)

After making Glorious Custard the other day, having used it for two Rhubarb and Custard cakes and also successfully hiding it from my husband (he loves custard), I had a little bit of custard left over. It still tasted good, but it had been hanging around in the fridge for several days and it really needed using up.

I absolutely love Custard Danishes, so I thought I'd have a go at the BBC Good Food recipe, which I've only very slightly amended.

After following the instructions to make the Custard Danishes, I didn't quite have enough custard to make 18 so I thought I'd make use of the leftover chocolate and try using the pastry to make a version of Pain au Chocolat (yes, there is such a thing as leftover chocolate, I'd hidden an Easter Egg very well it seems!)

I guess this blog counts as a way to use up leftovers? I did end up using leftover chocolate too! I always try to cook with what I have in (unless it's a special occasion), or use ingredients that have multiple uses rather than buying something special then using it once and throwing it out.

I've sightly adapted the method to this recipe but kept the pastry ingredients the same. I didn't weigh the leftover custard before I started out, I just used it until there was none left, and I couldn't face spending over a quid for a tin of apricot halves so I went for the 40p a tin peach slices.

250g plain flour plus extra for kneading/dusting
250g strong white flour
7g fast action yeast
50g sugar
150ml milk
1 beaten egg plus extra to glaze (or try milk)
250g butter not fridge cold but not soft, cut into 8 even slices.

  1. Pulse together the dry ingredients plus 2 tsp salt in a processor, then pulse in the milk and egg until you have a smooth, slightly sticky dough. I had to add a generous dash of milk at this point to get the right consistency. Knead for 1 min, using a little flour, until just smooth and no longer sticky. Put into an oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hr until doubled in size.
  2. Flour your surface, then pat the dough out to a rectangle, 1cm thick. Lay the butter slices out over the middle of the dough, in a rectangle. Fold the pastry over the top, bottom and then sides until the butter is completely hidden. Press the edges down. Read this step properly and you'll have less problems with butter oozing out of the sides later on (like I did!).
  3. Roll the dough out to a 50 x 30cm rectangle, first tapping out the dough with the rolling pin in gentle ridges, so that you can tell the butter is being squashed out evenly inside the pastry, before rolling properly. Turn dough 90 degrees, then fold the right third over and the left third over that. Do this three times, chilling for 15 mins after each roll. The chilling is essential
  4. Cut the dough in half, into 2 squares. Roll one piece of dough to 35 x 35cm. Cut each half into 9 squares.
For the custard danishes, put 1tsp custard towards each corner, sit a peach slice on each dollop of custard, then pull 2 corners over and pinch to seal.

For pain au chocolat:
When you run out of pastry squares (I made 10 custard danishes), find the leftover chocolate you hid from your child at Easter your child hasn't eaten because they prefer carrot sticks. 

Melt the chocolate and cool until semi solid.

Cut 2 strips of chocolate to roughly the width of the pastry square.

Place chocolate near the edge of each side of the square. Roll pastry edges over the chocolate so the pastry meets in the middle. Turn over so the top is smooth. Chill for at least 15min. (I made 4.)

Cut each pain au chocolat in half and place on a baking sheet with space between them.

Freeze or refrigerate leftover pastry squares.

For all pastries, leave to prove for at least 30min before baking or you will end up with a chewy pastry (I tried). Brush with beaten egg (and pinch the corners together again in the custard danishes) before baking at 180°C/160°C fan. Bake for 15min until golden and risen.

This blog is part of #thepastrychallenge (see Jen's food and United Cakedom (June host) for current and past entries), and is also part of The Breakfast Club challenge.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Simple Chicken Bake

We have a fabulous farmers' market about a 5 minute walk away from our house twice a month, where amongst other goodies I buy free range chickens. I keep thinking I'll buy the chicken breasts as they're more convenient but I can't quite bring myself to part with the cash as the price of the whole birds are so good if you buy a few (3 for £12).

Come Monday, I had three whole chickens in the fridge, and was wanting something very easy for dinner - I had a child who absolutely HAD to go to the park and I knew we needed to eat by 6pm if I had a hope of going to choir on time.

One bird was frozen, and I took the legs, wings and skin off the other two (freezing the wings for another time). After taking the legs off, I separated them into drumsticks and thighs. I layered the chicken drumsticks and thighs, tomatoes, herbs, potatoes, carrots, then aubergine in my cheap-as-chips bought-from-a-carboot-sale slow cooker pot. (Use a large roasting tin and lots of foil to cover it fully if you don't have a pot roasting dish.) I just about managed to squeeze in the rest of the bird (including the big chicken breasts) on top, knowing that the juices from the birds would make the sauce extra tasty - a bit like adding natural chicken stock. The lid stopped the meat from drying out and the breasts effectively steamed, being very juicy and not dry at all. 

This is an economical way to cook chicken, as you can use the lovely cooked chicken breast on any number of other recipes. I reckon I will get at least 8 meals out of these chickens, plus a couple of chicken for sandwiches.

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.

4 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
4 chicken thighs, skin removed
[2 x chicken carcasses with breasts attached - optional]
1 tin chopped tomatoes (although 400g fresh tomatoes would probably work better)
4tsp tomato puree
1 tin value new potatoes (or about 250g cooked new potatoes)
4 fat garlic cloves, sliced
2 tsp mixed herbs
4 carrots, sliced lengthways
1 aubergine, sliced into rounds

  1. Prepare all the vegetables and set to one side - I use a pasta bowl.
  2. Prepare the chicken*. 
  3. Place chicken drumsticks and thighs in the base of the dish.
  4. Drain and thoroughly rinse the tinned potatoes.
  5. Cover with tomatoes and potatoes, then add the herbs.
  6. Add the carrots in a layer and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the slices of aubergine and season.
  8. Add the 2 chicken carcasses and sprinkle with a few extra herbs. 
  9. Cook in a hot oven (180°C) for an hour and a half.
  10. Place the carcasses & breasts to one side to cool and refridgerate.
  11. Serve up your chicken bake, keeping any leftover sauce and veggies to whiz up into a pasta sauce.

Serves 4 (or 3 if you live in our house - Wonder Boy ate more chicken than us!)

*If jointing a whole bird, take the wings off first, then pull the legs away from the bird so you can cut through the joint at the top of the leg bone. Then, you can remove the skin and bend the leg against the joint so you can then separate the drumstick and thigh. 

**Leftover idea**
Keep the cooked chicken for a chicken curry and to add to pasta sauce.


Sunday, 7 June 2015

(not very) Venetian Rolled Pizza

This is my second recipe for bread challenge hosted alternately by Jen's Food and Utterly Scrummy Food for Families - this month by Jen.

I got all excited about our forthcoming escape - I mean holiday - to Venice and found a rather interesting take on pizza here.
This is my version.

Half quantity of aubergine focaccia dough.
100g feta
1 aubergine
4 tomatoes
2 chicken thighs and several dollops of harissa paste

Roll out the half of the aubergine focaccia dough into a circle. Make it about 1.5cm thick - not too thin.
Spread over the roasted vegetables (I had some chicken cooked in harissa paste too which added lovely spice) and feta.
Attempt to roll it up without splitting the dough, but try to do this right on the baking sheet you're going to cook it on as it will be very difficult to move.
Once it's rolled up, tuck the ends in so you have no filling showing.
Cook in a hot oven at 180°C for 20-30minutes, checking after 20 to make sure it's not over cooking.

Aubergine focaccia

I had a courgette bread recipe I wanted to try out, but the courgettes were so ridiculously expensive I decided to adapt the recipe and use aubergines! Having changed the original courgette recipe so much that I made it my own, I thought it would be a good opportunity to have a go at joining the bread challenge hosted alternately by Jen's Food and Utterly Scrummy Food for Families - this month by Jen.

Focaccia dough
Add the following ingredients to your breadmaker in the order that works for your machine - my Panasonic says add the yeast first, then flours, dry ingredients and finally the water. Set it to the quickest dough setting - mine is pizza.

You don't need to use a breadmaker of course, I just find it very convenient!

350g wholemeal strong flour
250g plain flour
1tsp salt
1.5tsp easy-blend (active) dried yeast
1 aubergine, grated
1tbsp vegetable oil
160ml water
*1tbsp sumac
*1tsp paprika
*100g feta, crumbled

When the dough has finished, turn out into a large oiled bowl and leave to prove (rise) for about an hour.

Split the dough in half, and put one half back in the bowl and cover ready to use in the rolled pizza recipe.

*Next time, I will sprinkle the spices and feta on top of the dough after mixing as I didn't find the flavours really stood out when they were mixed in with the dough.

Individual Focaccia Breads

Knead the dough on a well floured surface until smooth.
Split the dough into 4 pieces and roll out into an oblong.
Slice a tomato and place on the top of the raw dough.
Drizzle with chilli oil.

Cook in a hot oven - about 180*C - for 15 minutes until golden brown.
This will freeze well.

Tiger cake!

Now this isn't exactly an economical family meal idea but nevermind! I volunteer for Free Cakes for Kids, Reading. Volunteering for them really suits me as I can do it as and when it fits in with my week - you can bake one cake a week, month or year whatever works for you.

Free Cakes for Kids Reading connects families who find it difficult to provide a birthday cakes for their child with local bakers who enjoy making and decorating cakes. The reason a family might want a cake from us could be because of financial or health issues, or due to other difficult circumstances.

There is a national Free Cakes for Kids charity so find one near you!

This time a request was made to bake a cake with a jungle theme for an event that Home-start Reading are participating in this week: National Bookstart Week.

Somehow, I came up with the idea for a Tiger Cake. I found an achievable idea for the decoration here, and made one weeny addition to the Jenny White's zebra cake recipe: orange food colouring!

So I've made a tiger cake which is decorated as a tiger. I hope it tastes good and keeps its looks for tomorrow! I decorated it very quickly as I wasn't sure when Wonder Boy would be back from his playdate. It isn't perfect looking but hopefully it'll be viewed from its best side tomorrow! I think it's for a 'guess the name of the cake' game!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Rhubarb and custard roulade

Mmm I love a meringue dessert, and I love making food that can freeze well. This roulade will most probably be our contribution to the first bbq of the year when we invite ourselves over to my Dad and step mum's place to make use of their garden.

I also like a meringue roulade as it can be cut easily whilst frozen - ideal if you're feeding a small number of people as you don't have to eat it all at once.

I used the roulade recipe from the BBC Good Food site. I'm not sure what the purposes of the lemon juice and pinch of salt are, but included them anyway and have ended up with a lovely marshmallowy meringue with a crispy crust. 

Use an electric hand whisk or food mixer for this.


4 egg whites
200g sugar
1tsp lemon juice (bottled stuff)
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.

Whilst whisking, add lemon juice and pinch of salt.

Once the egg whites are stiff, add the sugar a spoonful at a time whilst whisking.

Ensure all sugar is mixed in. The meringue mixture should look glossy.

Spread the meringue onto a rectangular baking sheet.
**You must make sure you have lined the baking sheet with greaseproof paper and greased it, or use the reusable liners from Lakeland.**

Bake for 15 min until golden brown. Cool completely.

I thought about making the filling pure custard but thought it could split in the freezer. Whipped cream would make it more stable frozen and besides, cream is yummy with meringue. You could probably use less cream as it made a little too much for the roulade. It will be eaten soon enough though!

300ml double cream
About half quantity of glorious custard, or just add ready made. I'd estimate about 300ml custard.

Whip 300ml double cream.
Add custard to taste. I added a spoonful at a time, whisking between each addition as the custard is like jelly when cool.

Assembly instructions
Lay a large sheet of foil over the top of the meringue, making sure it's larger than the meringue.

Carefully turn it over and peel off the greaseproof paper. This means you'll get the attractive golden brown crust on the outside of the roulade.

Spread the custard mixture over the meringue going almost to the edges but not quite.

Refrigerate any leftovers of the creamy custard. (Yes it will keep for a few days or even freeze. No you do not need to eat the leftovers right now before they go off.)

Evenly add small slices of roasted rhubarb to the top of the creamy custard. I didn't weigh it, just add how much you want to! Just be aware if you over fill it, it will be (even) more difficult to roll.

Put your concentrating face on, sticking your tongue out if necessary.

Tightly roll the meringue from the long side of the rectangle until you get a loose looking tube of foil.

Wrap in another layer of foil which and secure the ends tightly. Place in the freezer and wait for an invitation to a bbq or summer party.

Unwrap and put on a serving plate whilst still fully frozen or it will fall apart and you'll end up with Eton Mess!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Rhubarb and almond muffins

Having made roasted rhubarb yesterday and custard this morning, I had 8 egg whites and an idea to use some of the rhubarb.

Raspberries other tart fruits like currants would work well in place of the roasted rhubarb.

These taste delicious but are not quite picture perfect: however I'm not about to start remaking them, I'll just remember what to change for next time!

I used my bun tin rather than muffin tin, and next time I'd definitely use the muffin tin as there was a lot of mixture and the muffin tin would give a better shape. I also used my Kenwood, but you could equally make it by hand.

140g butter
Some roasted rhubarb (add to taste, about 150g cut into chunks)
200g sugar
4 egg whites
50g plain flour
100g ground almonds

Makes 12 muffins

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160° for fan).

Grease a muffin tin.

Mix together the flour, ground almonds and sugar.

Whisk egg whites until white and foamy.

Gradually add the dry mix a spoonful at a time.

By hand, gently stir through the rhubarb* then fill the muffin tin.

Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown.

*(I added the rhubarb to the to the tin and put the cake mix on top, which resulted in the rhubarb falling out! It also wasn't enough rhubarb for my taste.)

Glorious custard

I love this recipe because it's delicious, cheap and pretty reliable.
You do not need cream to make yummy homemade custard!
The flour reduces your chance of ending up with sweet scrambled eggs and makes it more stable and less likely to curdle. I've made very slight changes to John Torode's recipe because I'm way too tight to buy vanilla sugar, or the pods to make it with. Granulated gets used for nearly everything in this house, and the extract is from a big bottle of pretty decent stuff I got from Costco ages ago.  I also reduced the amount of sugar a little as I want to use some custard in other puddings and cakes, and don't want it to be too cloyingly sweet. 
Some of this will land up in Rhubarb and custard cake later, that the roasted rhubarb was made for the other day.

1l milk
8 egg yolks
120g sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
3tbsp cornflour
3tbsp plain flour (to make it gf just replace this with cornflour)

Heat the milk in a saucepan until it is just boiling, then remove from heat.
Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla extract and flours and beat well.
Add a ladle of the milk to the yolk mixture and beat really well (I used a fork).
Add another ladle and beat well until thoroughly mixed.
Pour the yolk mixture into the hot milk (that's off the heat) and whisk using a regular balloon whisk (hand whisk).
Gently heat the mixture for about 8 minutes whisking all the time.
Serve immediately over a delicious pudding or eat some on its own as I did for quality control purposes only, of course.
Leave the rest to cool stirring occasionally to prevent skin forming.
Remind yourself that you need the custard for other recipes and you must not just stand over the pan with a spoon.
Refrigerate when cold - it will thicken a little as it cools.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Roasted Rhubarb

We have a fair bit of rhubarb down the allotment at the moment. I've made sorbet, syrup, compote and picnic cake already this year. What to do with the past-its-best rhubarb that's hanging around the kitchen?

I spotted the BBC Good Food recipe for
Rhubarb and custard cake and thought that would work well (my turn to bake a cake for the church cafe next week). I tried the roasted rhubarb recipe linked to it as it was so simple and needed so few ingredients! I also prefer roasting rhubarb to stewng it as it keeps its shape and doesn't go mushy.

Several other recipes call for orange zest or juice, and some for fresh ginger; all of which work well and none of which I have available at 6.30am in the morning! This one is just rhubarb and sugar, and I guess any flavour can be added later in cakes or when stirred into yoghurt or porridge.

1200g rhubarb, washed and cut into chunks
150g sugar

Combine the rhubarb and sugar in a roasting tin, and give it a shake to spread the sugar out.

Cover in foil.

Roast in a hot oven (200°C) for 25 minutes or so until soft.

Leave in tin to cool.

I'll use a third of the recipe for the Rhubarb and custard cake and keep the rest in the fridge. If it's too tart for your taste just add more sugar or honey!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Picnic cake

With a reasonably warm half term ahead, I decided to bake a picnic cake to avoid buying over priced teeny tiny children's lacked lunches that Wonder Boy would inhale in 30 seconds. This summer, I will save money by making picnics instead of buying so many lunches out. 

I've made two versions of this cake: one is more biscuity (hubby and his Dad prefer this one), the other more cakey (Wonder Boy and I like this one). For the biscuity version: leave out the milk and you can use plain flour with no baking powder if you don't have it. It didn't last long hence making the second version! The pictures show both types - the flatter one is more biscuity.

You don't need a food mixer to make this, but if you are lucky and have one, use it as it's a lot quicker.

Next time I'll use some mandarin marmalade and replace the almond extract and cinnamon with orange or lemon zest.

420g Self raising flour (or plain flour plus 4 tsp baking powder)
240g granulated sugar
240g butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
100ml milk
1 tsp almond extract
240g Jam (I used rhubarb compote leftover from making rhubarb syrup)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

23cm square cake tin

Makes about 24 small cake bars.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease the tin.

Rub in the butter to the flour.

Stir in the sugar.

Combine mixture with the beaten egg.

Set aside 240g of the wet crumble mix.

Add the milk and almond extract. Mix until smooth.

Put mixture in the tin. Smooth the top. (If you're making the biscuity version you'll need to press it down with your fingers as it'll still be crumbly.)

Spread the rhubarb compote/jam onto the cake mix.

Stir the cinnamon into the crumble mix and sprinkle evenly onto the top of the cake.

Cook for about 30 minutes, turning around after 15-20 mins and checking to see if it's cooked after 25mins.

Cool, cut and freeze (or eat). The cake is still nice when zapped from frozen in the microwave for a minute or two.