Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Simple suppers

Just a couple of aides memoires for me really.

These are two suppers from the past week which got the thumbs up from the family.

The first was a Pork Pastry Plait.

250 g minced pork

Place in a bowl and add all/most/some of:

Chopped spring onions
Grated apple
Generous handful of chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary)
Salt and pepper
Worcestershire sauce
Soy sauce (actually tamari)
Two to three cream crackers whizzed to crumbs in the processor (or breadcrumbs or porridge oats)

Mix together and shape into a stubby, fat sausage.

Unroll a sheet of puff pastry and roll it out a little thinner. Place the pork on top and cut horizontal slashes in the pastry. Bring the ends up and then lattice the pastry strips across the meat, crossing them over and tucking the ends in as you go.

Place on a baking tray, brush all over with beaten egg and bake at Gas Mark 5 for about half an hour, until it is golden brown and cooked through.

I served this with some courgettes, fresh from the garden, which I cubed and then cooked quickly in about a teaspoonful of butter in a pan.

The second is Creamy Store Cupboard Pasta

This is a really fast tea and is perfect for one of those happy moments when you find the tail end of a tub of creme fraiche in the fridge, along with odds and sods of other tasty little treats.

Boil a handful or two of pasta per person in a big pot of salted water for 10 minutes, until al dente.

Raid the fridge for: Mushrooms, ham, cheese (soft or semi-soft, preferably blue), leftover olives anything really that goes with all of the above. Chop them up a bit. Toss the mushrooms into a pan with a little butter and some garlic, if you've got some (and you're not going to the dentist tomorrow. Although last time I went to the dentist she had definitely been eating garlic!)

When the pasta is cooked scoop out a cupful of the cooking water, drain the pasta and put it back into the hot pan. Add the creme fraiche and the mushrooms and all the other yummy bits you could find, stir around so that everything gets hot. If the sauce is a bit thick, add some of the water you reserved (which also helps the sauce to meld with the pasta).

Add some lovely fresh chopped herbs too, a good handful and some pepper and a swipe or two of nutmeg on the grater.

Pile into bowls and top with freshly grated parmesan and lashings of ground black pepper. This is never the same twice (it varies from fridge to fridge!) but it's always delicious!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Sunday pancakes

Sunday is always pancakes day. We don't rush out of bed, so it's usually at least 8am by the time I'm digging the blender out of the cupboard. The coffee maker goes on and bubbles away to Aled Jones on Radio Two's Good Morning Sunday while I make the batter. Steve Wright's Sunday Love Songs generally accompanies the actual cooking part. It all makes for a mellow, relaxed Sunday morning, before I charge off on a long run. Today it's an eight miler, so I feel quite at liberty to smother at least four of these pancakes in maple syrup or Nutella.

These are based on Nigella Lawson's banana buttermilk pancakes from 'Feast', but as ever I have tweaked things to suit the way I like to cook them.

RECIPE: Banananilla Sunday Pancakes

Place the following into a blender and whiz:

Two (or three) VERY ripe bananas, the sort that are so black they're falling out of their skins in a banana-type strip tease. Less ripe ones work too, but are less bananary. Green ones are foul. Just don't.

1 egg. Or two, if you've got hens and they're showing off. I have been known to add up to four eggs to this.

250 ml plain yoghurt. (The original recipe specifies buttermilk, if you've got a pot of that, use it. I've always got yoghurt and rarely got buttermilk. If you've got neither use milk, perhaps a little less to begin with, you can always add more. Acidify the milk with a little lemon juice - the acid reacts with the raising agents and makes the pancakes fluffy.)

150g plain flour

1tsp baking powder

half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

(Last Sunday I forgot to add the baking powder and the bicarb. The pancakes were still edible, but they tasted slightly sour - no alkaline agents for the acids in the yoghurt to react with and make carbon dioxide bubble to make the pancakes fluffy. Not just a recipe - a science lesson too!)

30g (about a tablespoonful - life's too short to measure this!) melted butter.

A good slug of vanilla extract.

Whiz together until nicely blended, then dollop spoonfuls (about one and a half tablespoonfuls per pancake) onto a hot griddle. Wait until bubbles appear...

...then flip over to cook the other side.

Pile onto a plate and serve.

Serve with maple syrup, golden syrup, Nutella, strawberry jam, peanut butter, chocolate sauce, toffee sauce, honey, etc!


Add: More bananas, less bananas, very ripe pear, tablespoonful of peanut butter, blueberries (drop onto the surface of the pancakes before flipping), wholemeal flour, handful of porridge oats, chopped plain chocolate (choconananilla pancakes), the sky's the limit, play!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Simple autumnal supper

Has anyone else been enjoying Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers? It's on BBC1 in the early evening on a Wednesday, I think, but I've been missing it and catching up on iPlayer.

I love Nigel Slater. Not least because he's a good cook, not least because he's from the same neck of the woods as me and used to pass my childhood home on his school bus every day (according to his autobiography, Toast), but mainly because he cooks like I do and now he's got a programme all to his lovely self passing on all his brilliant tips.

He's not a slavishly follow a recipe man, just as I'm not that sort of woman. Who ever has all the ingredients to exactly follow a recipe? I don't and I'm sure most other people don't either. He cooks instinctively: What's in the garden? What's in the fridge? What's about to go off? What's just perfect for now? And then he wings it.

Tonight I wung it as usual. I was faced with a hungry man who wanted 'chicken, but tender' on a plate, and two equally hungry children, one of which has been clamouring for mashed potato for weeks. I ignored the latter (she hadn't been digging new steps in the garden) and I made up a chicken thing using a punnet of chicken thighs from (dratted) Tesco, the tail end of a chorizo from Narberth's glorious Spanish deli Ultracomeda, a couple of fabulous onions (proper boo-hooers these) and some nice maincrop spuds. Into the mix went some black olives and a jolly good glug of Taffy Apples cider, made in Wales and absolutely delicious (though it pains me to admit liking Welsh cider, being a Worcesetershire girl.) I remembered the lovely Nige and headed out into the garden for its contribution: A big handful of broadleaved thyme seemed to fit the bill.

I sizzled the chorizo, then added the chopped onions and cubed spuds. The thighs were already skinless and boneless so I snipped those into cubes with a pair of kitchen scissors (I find that much easier than using a knife) and added those to the pan. I then shared the Taffy Apples between the pan, the hungry husband and me (it was a 500 ml bottle), popped in the olives and the thyme and slapped on a lid. It was done, I decided, when the chicken was tender and the potatoes had gone soft and thickened the sauce a bit. I peppered it, but not salt as the chorizo is quite salty already.

While the chicken thing simmered I tackled a bowlful of mixed plums (Victoria, greengage, damson) that was slowly turning to honeyed mush. These I halved and tossed in a pan for a while with a tablespoon of butter and two of caster sugar. Result: thick, sweet, chunky plum sauce the colour of unicorns' eyes (which is a deep ruby red, by the way).

The chicken thing was lovely in bowls with steamed broccoli, the plums were beautiful as well as delicious with vanilla ice cream.

It was a simple, cheap, autumnal supper. I think the lovely Nigel would have been proud of me!