Month: March 2009

a weekend's cooking

We had already set aside Saturday evening to make a batch of Pete’s Wondrous Chilli – the beans were boiled and slow-cookered on Friday night, and we set to and made it yesterday afternoon.  4lbs of lovely Dexter stewing beef was turned into 10 really rather generous portions; we shall have  some for supper tonight, and four tubs have gone in the freezer.  We cooked it overnight in the slow cooker, and the smell drove us quite demented.

Yesterday, Pete sallied forth with his bicycle and trailer to do the shopping, and returned bearing (amongst lots of other things) two huge bunches of herbs; one of coriander, and one of fenugreek, which I’ve never seen before in its fresh form.

The coriander was easy – we found four chicken breasts in the freezer (we are really getting it under control now!) and a batch of lemony coriander chicken is in the slow cooker now.

I’ve never cooked with fenugreek before, but we put some leaves in the chilli (well, why not?!).  I also minced up the last of the breast of lamb we had last week, grated up carrot, celery and onion, chopped garlic and fried it up with the lamb. Added my version of the Ras El Hanout spices I love so much*, and bunged in about a cup full of lentils. And more fenugreek. That’s currently cooking slowly downstairs on a diffuser, for a moussaka in the week.

I’ve had enough now, although I might just whip up a pear and chocolate crumble, as there are pears that need eating. (Pete has just said “ohmigod”).

* I should have made a note, but I used lavender, rose petals, paprika, cloves, cinnamon, ground ginger, galangal, coriander seeds, cardamon seeds, peppercorns, mace.  It might not be authentic, but it smells nice.

slow cooked breast of lamb

slow cooked breast of lamb

Still on the freezer clearout, we liberated a rolled breast of salt marsh lamb, and a cooked chicken breast.  This is what I did with the lamb.

Put some haricot beans to soak overnight, then simmered them for 30 minutes.

Browned the lamb in some groundnut oil.

Into the slow cooker went: lamb, beans, one courgette, two carrots, two leeks (all diced), about six cloves of garlic, crushed, about 3/4 pint apple juice, some woody herbs (rosemary, etc).  I drizzled a little honey on top of the lamb too. It smelled lovely, but something seemed to be missing, and after some consideration, I added a couple of generous teaspoons of harissa.

Left it on low for about 9 hours, topping up with a little boiling water part way through the afternoon.

Served with boiled potatoes and steamed broccoli.

The rest of the beany vegetable stock will go for soup, and I might well mince up the remainder of the lamb for a shepherd’s pie – I can always boost it up with lentils if need be.

steak pudding

I would have preferred it to be steak and kidney pudding, but ‘im indoors won’t eat offal, so steak and mushroom it was.  I made a batch of steak and mushroom pie filling a while back, and put half in the freezer, where it languished until Friday night.

The potential problem with a snake and pigmeat pudding is the timing – if you eat around 7 p.m, as we try to do, you need to put it on about 3 o’clock, and then you’re fairly tied to the house – making sure it doesn’t boil over, and topping it up with boiling water, and having a kitchen full of steam.  So I wanted to try out the slow cooker for this.

Whipped up some suet crust pastry – 6 oz plain flour, 1 tsp of baking powder (you could use self raising flour and leave out the baking powder, but I rarely have SR flour in the house these days), 3 oz suet.  Mix together with half a teaspoon of salt, and I added a little dried rosemary.

Then carefully add water, a little at a time, so you get a nice doughy texture – don’t make it too wet.  Roll the dough into a circle, and cut out about a quarter, which you will use for the lid.  Then grease a pudding basin (I think mine was a 2 pinter), and carefully place the dough in it; the cut out portion actually makes it a bit easier to manoeuver.   Make sure there’s no gaps in the pastry.

Then in went the pie filling,  I rolled out the lid dough and placed it on top, pinching the edges together, and put a tin foil hat on it, secured with a rubber band.

I put a small trivet in the bottom of the slow cooker, put the pudding basin on top of that, and filling it with boiling water – a full kettle’s worth.  Set the slow cooker on high, and crossed my fingers.  We ate it 4.5 hours later, and it was really lovely – the pastry was very light.  If the pie filling weren’t cooked, I suspect it would need closer to eight hours, but I will investigate in due course.

tortilla-ish sort of thing

As our regular reader will know, we are desperate to reclaim some freezer space.  So, on Friday evening, I removed two tubs – one labelled “black bean tortilla mix” and one bearing the legend “beef and mushroom pie filling”.  And yesterday morning I fished out the packet of organic wheaten wraps that had been languishing in there for a while.

But when I opened the black bean mix, we realised that it must have been planned for a swift lunch – there really wasn’t enough in there to do supper.  As far as we could tell, it was black beans, onions, garlic, tomato.

So I boiled up some potatoes (including, in an opportunistic sort of manner, enough to put towards a nice Sunday brunch), then fried them off in olive oil with some pancetta cubes, thus padding out the bean mix quite nicely.  This was divided between four wraps (a big mistake – it was far too much and we ate it all [groan]), skewered with cocktail sticks.

Then we made a swift sauce from onion and garlic fried off in olive oil, a diced yellow pepper and a finely chopped red chilli, carton of chopped tomatoes (and pinch of sugar).  Poured it over the wraps, scattered with chopped fresh coriander and half a package of feta.  Baked in the oven for 25 minutes.


beef fried rice

using up: the last of the beef rib, a couple of very dried up flat mushrooms

We love egg fried rice, but are rarely organised enough to have cold cooked rice available. However, last night we did a double lot to accompany our south indian cabbage (a meal we love), so we were poised!

Pete slivered some fresh garlic, and finely chopped some garlic.  I chopped a shallot, some spring onions, a yellow pepper.  I put the mushrooms in some boiling water to revive them, then they got chopped as well, and the cooked beef was cut into strips.

Stirfried all the veg in some groundnut oil in the wok, added the beef and a good glug of shoyu, tipped in the rice.  Stirred it all around till the rice was hot, and served.

We’d eaten about three quarters of it before we remembered that it was supposed to have *egg* in it … but it was delicious nonetheless!

four meat soup

This week’s soup is a real amalgam.

I marmalised  in the food processor: one leek, one parsnip, two sticks of celery, two carrots.  Into the slow cooker they went.

In the freezer were two bags of chicken and peapod stock, to make ris e bisi, but we decided to sacrifice them to the soup.  So into the slow cooker that went.  And two ladle’s worth of stock from the fruit gammon I cooked at the weekend (it was salty and very spicy, so any more would probably have been not very good).

Pete was getting some cold beef from the weekend’s pot roast ready for supper, so we hurled in the bones too. And finally, about a pint of last week’s soup, which had the lamb massaman bones in it.

Left it cooking overnight, and it smells rather good.

slow cooked beef rib

I usually do this in the oven, but being in slow cooker experimentation mode, I decided to try it in there.

One rib of beef – not very big, probably only a couple of pounds.  Ours was a slab of Dexter, bought from the wonderful Mr Rawlings. I browned it in some groundnut oil, and put it in the slow cooker pot.

Then I cooked up some carrot batons and about a dozen shallots (always wise to put shallots in boiling water for about five minutes – makes them much easier to peel, and then you get nice oniony water for stock).  I added a bit of maple syrup to the pan at this point, to start the vegetables caramelising.

In went a tablespoon of flour and a heaped teaspoon of grain mustard, stirred round, then I started experimenting.  Half a glass of red wine, a slosh of teriyaki, two heaped teaspoons of marmalade – (the redcurrant jelly had gone mouldy :(.  Some ground peppercorns and juniper berries, the onion water, some sea salt.  Reduced the liquor a bit, then put it in the pot with the beef.

Cooked on auto for 3 hours, then low for another, while we did roast potatoes and cauliflower and yorkies (can’t remember the last time we had yorkies).

I’ll be doing that again – the meat was just beautifully tender.

fruity gammon

using up: half a gammon, some manky apples

Continuing in the mission to make space in the freezers, Pete found a small rib of beef, and half a large gammon in the outside one yesterday.  The rib is for today’s dinner (yum), and I did this with the gammon:

Put it in the slow cooker skin side down, discovering – with some amazement – that the lid would actually go on. Cut a jaffa orange into quarters, squeezed the juice over the exposed meat, and put the squished segments in the pot.  Cut up a wizened apple similarly, and hurled it in.  Added half a cinnamon stick, three star anise, and three slices of fresh ginger.

Cooked it on low for about nine hours, I guess, then left it in the water overnight.  Will shortly skin it and paint it with a glaze of mustard and maple syrup, then roast it off in the oven (which currently contains a reactive fruit cake, using up some fresh cranberries and dried prunes).

Rib roast experiment details to follow.

gingery chickpeas

More experimentation with the slow cooker, this. I started on Wednesday evening (i.e. 2 days before we ate this!), by putting some chickpeas (probably about 2.5 mugs full) to soak in cold water overnight. We do always have tins in the larder, but I like to used dried where possible, as they are so much cheaper.

On Thursday morning, I rinsed them and put them in the slow cooker for about 9 hours on low, then turned it off, then on Friday morning I took them out, rinsed and drained them and put them back in.

Then I chopped a large onion, and cooked it in some groundnut oil until it was just starting to brown. While they were cooking, I whizzed up garlic, fresh ginger, coriander seeds and a little bit of water into a paste. Added a couple of teaspoons of cumin seeds to the onion and cooked for a minute or two, then added the gingery paste and fried it all off for a couple of minutes.

Then in went a tin of tomatoes and a slug of balsamic vinegar (I was sort of following a recipe, vaguely, from my new veggie slow cooker book). Brought it all to the boil and put it in the slow cooker with the chickpeas.

It didn’t smell quite right – the balsamic was too … sweet, possibly, so I chucked in the juice of a lemon and hoped for the best. They had about 9 hours again, and we consumed them as an accompaniment to a tub of chicken dansak from the freezer, and some basmati rice. And the balsamic taste was all gone by then!

This also provided three tubs for the freezer, which would do nicely with some pitta bread for lunch, or as accompaniment for further Indian feasts. We cook/eat a lot of Indian food here, as you may gather.