Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Stuffed aubergines

Aubergines have a bit of magic about them, not only are they beautiful and curved, with a stunning purple thin skin. The flesh becomes silky smooth when cooked. This recipe mixes the velvety flesh with mushrooms, spinach and cream with a twist of lemon and a crunch of pine nuts.

I made this as a veggie alternative to Sunday's roast chicken.

2 medium aubergines
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves
225g mushrooms
5 large pellets of frozen chopped spinach or 350g of fresh spinach
50g parmesan, grated
6 tbsp cream
3tbsp breadcrumbs
1 lemon
25g pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp fresh parsley
Pepper and salt


Heat oven to 200C/180C/gas 6
  • Bring a large pan of water to the boil
  • Cut aubergines in half lengthwise through the stems
  • Put aubergine halves into the boiling water, and cook for 4-5 mins then drain well on kitchen paper
  • Brush aubergines all over with olive oil, place on baking tray and cook for 20-25 mins, until tender and golden
  • While aubergine bakes:
  • Wash fresh spinach if using, if frozen set it to thaw
  • Toast pine nuts gently in dry pan over low heat – make sure they don’t burn, keep shaking the pan, until they are golden, and set aside
  • Finely chop the onion and garlic, put remaining oil in the pan and fry on a medium heat, until transparent and softened
  • Prepare fresh breadcrumbs 
  • Chop parsley
  • Grate zest from one washed lemon
  • Mix together topping of pine nuts, breadcrumbs, parsley and lemon zest
  • Once the aubergines are cooked, scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1cm on the skin, setting them aside
  • Chop the flesh and add to fry with onions and garlic, for a few minutes
  • Slice mushrooms and add to onion and aubergine mixture, cook for around 5 minutes stirring all the time 
  • Add  spinach to fry with the mixture, until cooked – there shouldn’t be much liquid, add a squeeze of lemon juice (but no pips) and stir it in
  • Add cream, taste and season
  • Spoon mixture into aubergine halves
  • Sprinkle topping over mixture
  • Return to oven to cook for 10-15 minutes, until topping is golden and serve
You can prepare everything in advance and cook the stuffed aubergines from chilled, in which case check the heat make sure everything is piping hot before serving. 

Monday, 29 November 2010

almond biscuit kisses

Using Kitty's formula for shortbread, but changing the proportions (and ingredients) resulted in a gluten free biscuit that is beautifully white, light and buttery.

75g almond flour
75g gluten free flour
50g caster sugar
100g butter

  • beat butter and sugar together until creamy
  • beat in the flours until you have a thick paste: you won't need any liquid
  • allow to sit for 10m or longer
  • pinch off small bits of dough and roll between your palms to make a ball
  • place balls on baking parchment lined or greased and floured baking sheet, squashing each with a fork
  • cook for 10m at Gas Mark 6 and resist the temptation to leave them in longer, if they go golden there is less flavour
  • leave to cool on the tray, because if you try and remove them before they will crumble between your fingers
delicious with rich dark coffee

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Simple curried parsnip soup

Parsnips are a bit weird, they’re the paler, more floury and less attractive relative of carrots. They are nice roasted and in soups, that’s what I like them in, anyway. This is a simple parsnip soup, in my case made from a leftover parsnip.

1 parsnip
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1 mug water
1 mug stock
1 tsp curry paste
1 slug of cream
1 squeeze lemon

§    peel parsnip and cut into chunks
§    peel onion and cut into chunks
§    peel garlic clove
§    put chopped parsnip, onion and garlic clove into pan with water and stock
§    boil together for 10 minutes
§    add curry paste
§    cook for a minute
§    blend with hand blender to a smooth consistency
§    add a slug of cream and squeeze of lemon juice

makes 3 mugfuls or two bowlfuls

if you haven’t got a hand blender cut the veg up small or crush using a masher

If you’re like me you risk burning your mouth

Slow cooked lamb shanks – cooked with red wine and a slug of balsamic

I like my onions sliced like this
This is a simple way to make the most of lamb shanks. If you don’t want a large meal, use smaller ones! Basically this is a stew, with meat on the bone and gravy with a lot of wallop and a very light tang. The carrots and onions become melt-in-the-mouth tender.

I know, there’s no picture of the finished dish. I’m going to have to cook it again soon, and will add the photos then. We were just too busy eating it to take photos!

Serve with a green salad and steamed potatoes.

a flour drenched lamb shank
4 large lamb shanks
plain flour
olive oil
onions , thinly sliced
garlic cloves , crushed
4 large carrots
100ml balsamic vinegar
500ml red wine, full bodied
2 tbsp tomato purée
½ tsp dried mixed herbs
generous grindings of black pepper
three large pinches of salt

Heat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6

I like my carrot slices assymetrical
  • Mix flour, pepper and salt, and drench the lamb shanks with the mixture
  • Heat a thick bottomed casserole over a medium heat and add a knob of butter and olive oil
  • Add the onions and cook until soft, then scoop out
  • Put in the lamb shanks and brown all over
  • Put the onions back in the casserole with the garlic, balsamic, wine, tomato purée, herbs and season

ground pepper and salt in a shiny bowl
Cover, put in the oven and cook for 1 hour at Gas Mark 6, then reduce and cook for two hours at 300F/150C/Gas Mark 2, until the meat is almost falling off the bone
If the sauce seems too thin, remove the lamb from the casserole and keep warm and boil down the juices to thicken them
If you have fresh herbs use a sprig each of rosemary and thyme together with a bayleaf.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Kitty's hot fudge sundae

Yesterday Kitty decided to make hot fudge sundaes. She baked brownies, bought vanilla ice cream and wafers and ate Sunday lunch before starting on the hot fudge sauce.

I was so impressed at all the planning and really looking forward to being overfed. She didn't have a recipe, so I sent her to a favourite cook book and she was off. No butter, never mind, margarine went into the pan followed by sugar. Then milk – she seemed to think you were meant to guess the measurement and was thrilled when I passed her a measuring jug with index of measure on the outside. I don’t think she’s ever used liquids in cooking before. Then her pal spotted that she was meant to use evaporated milk – Kit said, "no problem, I’ll just boil this down a bit".

Be still my beating heart: she is my daughter. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time, faith or the will to let her attempt this miracle. Evaporated milk is very thick and I seem to remember rather delicious. In Normandy they make the only rice pudding I’ve every enjoyed, by boiling down delicious milk with rice, so that the grains of rice almost disappear. Hmm. I’ll be trying that out sometime. Back to fudge sauce.

We improvised using more cornflour in the ordinary milk, adding a spoonful of golden syrup to the sugar/butter mixture, bubbled it all up for a bit (rolling boil to those in the know). Then we added the cornflour/milk mixture bit by bit, enjoyed the volcanic style frothing, kept stirring... and it turned out lovely. There isn’t any left to photograph anyway. Everyone ate far too much.

Brownie recipe elsewhere in this blog.

Oh, it was delicious, thanks Kit. 

evaporated milk isn't a miracle - it just takes about two hours and a lot of patience to make it

Monday, 1 November 2010

Best Roast Chicken

Sunday lunch is chicken. Always if my children have any say. Roast chicken, potatoes, gravy. No pudding, but maybe fruit.

Yesterday: potatoes were great, chicken, cooked by steam for a change, not up to scratch. My usual method of very fast roasting gets out all the fat. So the breast meat was moist, but the darker meat was a bit too fatty. Kind of flobby.

Best Roast Chicken

1 chicken - not a pappy one, a free range one
olive oil
pepper and salt

Preheat oven for 20m, at Gas Mark 9 or equivalent (475F/240C), and make it very hot.
Allow 15 minutes per 500g/1lb and add 15 minutes. So a 2kg/4lb bird will take an hour and a quarter.

o    Rinse chicken inside and out and dry the outside with kitchen towels.
o    Pop several cloves of garlic into the cavity of the chicken.
o    Trickle a good slug of olive oil onto the bottom of a roomy roasting tin.
o    Put chicken into the oiled roasting tin and pour some more olive oil over the bird, followed by
o    sprinkling on several good pinches of salt and generous grindings of pepper.
o    Put the chicken into the preheated oven for 15m.
o    After 15m take the bird out and baste it with the juices and sit it on one side.
o    turn the oven down to Gas Mark 7/475F/220C and cook for 15m per pound, basting and turning every 15m.
o    When the cooking time is complete you can test the bird by prodding with something sharp between the leg and the body - if the juice that comes out is red, cook a little bit more. When the juice is clear, the bird is cooked.
o    Let the cooked chicken rest for a few minutes under a covering of foil or baking parchment. This lets the meat relax and stops the delicious juices evaporating.

Carve as you like and eat with whatever you fancy. Not cake.  Yum

A friend’s mum used to like to cook her chicken standing up ‘because it looks more natural’ apparently. She must have had a large oven and not been that bothered about spatters. She propped her chicken on an improvised trivet thing. I imagine it looked like it was begging. Since then I’ve seen lots of different recipes that plonk the chicken like this, some involving cola cans. The good thing about cooking a bird in this position is that the meat will cook more evenly – inserting a can into the cavity will help it cook from the inside out as well. If you’re trying this, please open the can and wrap it carefully in foil – who knows what is used to print onto it. I’ll post a recipe once I’ve tried it out.

Maybe you like stuffing with your roast chicken. If you put it into the bird before roasting you’ll need to cook the chicken much longer, because it increases density and that means the heat takes longer to cook everything. This usually makes the meat much drier, especially the ever popular breast. That’s why people slather it in bacon, or put fat under the skin. That’s why I cook stuffing separately if I cook it, which mostly I don’t unless I am feeding the 5,000 (or Christmas).

Other chicken recipes: marinated chicken strips chicken on forty cloves of garlic flattened chicken