All posts by reactivecook

chicken wings

chicken wings

I nipped (or popped) up to Iceland for some porridge oats. I know, I know, they’re much more expensive, but they are on the doorstep, and time is money and all that.

I also came home with two packs of 2 x pasties for £2,  two packs of sliced cheese (I like this for portion control) for £2, two packs of cold meat for £3, the aforementioned porridge, some milk, and a pack of chicken wings for £1.89.

We finished the last of a two week pot of lentil soup yesterday, so I thought the wings would be useful for stock. I roasted them off, just sprayed with a little olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, and I was expecting to treat the cats; and then I read that they shouldn’t have cooked chicken bones, because they could splinter (the bones, not the cats. I think).  When they were cooked, I offered Bill one, while I watched carefully, but she was extremely prissy and I had to take the meat off the bones for her.

Three more have gone into the fridge for Pete to eat for lunch, and the rest are now in the slow cooker, being turned into chicken stock. I shall chop up swede, leek and carrots later, and those and some barley will make another soup. I might give the Tribe some of the slow-cooked chicken, but only if they’re nice to me. Fat chance.

Honestly, I used to think I couldn’t make soup, and bought books on how to do it, but it’s like most other cooking – just use what you have.

my Magimix

Magimix

I’ve had my Magimix for years – I bought it, and a whole batch of blades, many years ago, when I was much better off than I am now 🙂 It’s always sat there on the worktop, but I don’t actually use it all that much – veg for soup, whipping up the odd cake when I can’t be bothered to get the mixer out, etc.

I was having a “cook a nice dinner” day yesterday, something I love doing on an autumn/winter Sunday afternoon. I nipped (or popped) up to Iceland for one of their chateaubriands, but horror – they’d run out! So I bought a couple of duck breasts, a bag of spuds, and two cartons of cream. Pete had picked up a punnet of red plums for £0.45 in Aldi earlier in the week, so that needed factoring in too.

I started with grating the last of the Gruyére. Readers, I hate grating cheese – I usually get nail, or finger, or both in the grated stuff, so Pete always does it, but he was out. So I put the small bowl on the Magimix, and the grating blade, and it worked a treat!

Then came red cabbage (already in the fridge) – chopped it in plunger-size wedges and sliced it with a slicing blade. Then, I chopped an apple. And then a red onion. And then some garlic. I was on a roll by this point, as you might be able to tell. This all went in my ancient and venerable oval black Le Creuset casserole, with salt, pepper, a knob of butter, a good dollop of red wine vinegar, plus nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.

I washed up the bowls, then put the thin slicing blade on, and sliced up a load of spuds very thinly for what might be pommes dauphinoise (it’s what we call them, anyway); again, Pete would normally do this on our mandolin, which absolutely terrifies me, so I thought I’d try the Magimix. It was great, sliced them up very thinly. I layered half in a heatproof dish, sprinkled half the gruyere, salt, pepper and garlic power, and quite a lot of cream, then repeated the two laters. Stuck it in the oven for about 1hr 20m, with a foil hat for the first 40 minutes. Gorgeous.

Next up: plums. We decided on a plum upsidedown cake. Despite being cheap, the 45p plums were still quite hard, so I cut them in half, and cooked them off for ten minutes, cut side down, in a little water with five spice powder. I always do an upsidedown cake in my tarte tatin dish, which is like this:
I think I bought it from Lakeland, but they don’t seem to do it any more – Amazon do, though. I put some butter and some brown sugar in it, and melted it on the hob (sorry, not very good at measuring things like that), then arranged the plums, cut side down again, on top of the melted mix.

I made my standard cake mix with three eggs:

Weigh the eggs in their shell, then take the same weight of self-raising flour, butter and caster sugar. Beat the lot together. You can add gin to this, vanilla essence, chocolate drops, sultanas, pretty much anything. Bake for about 45 minutes at 180C.

Pour the cake mix onto the plums, smooth off, bake as above. Delicious. Oh, and of course, I mixed the batter in the Magimix!

It had a hard day, but it saved me hours, and that’s well worth it when you have arthritic paws like me.

salad, salad, salad

grated carrot courtesy of http://ftnondofra.com/en/carrot-cutting-machine

We’re not huge fans of salad, or at least of the lettuce-ish variety; however, recently I’ve been making us a raw vegetable based luncheon a few days a week, on the basis that I eat too many carbs, and we could both do with more fresh veg.

Mostly, it is some combination of cucumber, spring onions, celery, radishes, with the addition of some beans, or tuna, or whatever, and a dollop of one of Aldi’s excellent bottled salad dressings (£0.99 a bottle, from memory), I generally keep a few of them in the fridge.

Autumn is coming, however. And the only salady veg in the fridge today were spronions, cucumber and celery. I chopped some up, but the bowl looked a bit … meagre. I grabbed a Very Large Carrot from the veg drawer, fitted the appropriate blade to the Magimix (I find grating by hand very difficult because of my paws), and grated it up, then added it to the bowl.

It still looked a bit dull, so in went about half a can of white beans, and then I wondered if there was any feta. There wasn’t, but there was half a pack of halloumi! I diced it up, and fried it up quickly until it was crispy, then in it went, with some honey and mustard dressing.

It was all absolutely delicious, and really healthy. We’ll be doing that again. And of course, there will be coleslaws in our near future too.

Please note that the above image of grated carrots comes from http://ftnondofra.com/en/carrot-cutting-machine

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a real treat

Iceland ChateaubriandWe had planned a day out on Sunday, to do some City of Culture stuff, watch them take Blade out of Queen Victoria Square, have lunch. But it was raining, and we had work to do, so we didn’t. That’s the joy of self-employment, it’s either famine or feast.

We have an Iceland pretty much at the top of our street, and I use it a lot; I find the quality very good. Curiously, on Saturday, a Facebook friend sang the praises of their Chateaubriand with Red Wine Sauce. For a tenner, if you please. So I trudged through the rain to buy one (and a teeny tiny fillet steak that will make a Stroganoff later), really to make up for not having lunch out, and also because I really, really,  fancied red meat (we don’t eat it very often).

After I’d thawed the meat  (in several changes of water), I dried it off, then coated it in garlic powder, sea salt and black pepper. Have I told you about garlic powder? – such a useful thing to keep in! Then I seared it in hot oil, and popped it into a pre-heated cast iron dish for about thirteen minutes. Then it had a rest for five minutes or so, wearing a tin foil hat (the beef, not me).

My friend had said the red wine sauce wasn’t great, so I jazzed it up with more wine, some gravy granules, some thyme, and a good dollop of dijon mustard.

We ate it with braised red cabbage from the freezer, a head of broccoli, and potatoes roasted in olive oil. To be honest, we weren’t expecting it to be spectacular because, you know, a tenner.

Readers – it was gorgeous.

Beautifully tender meat, and really flavoursome. We’ll be having it again (and again, I should think).

 

potatoes dauphinoise with embedded ham

potatoes dauphinoise
This is not my dish, but it looked just like this.

I bought a gammon from Iceland for the Christmas festivities – it was … OK, but not great, and very salty, so it languished in the fridge. There was also half a chunk of Gruyere, as I had done dauphinoise potatoes with the Christmas lunch, and some cream.

So last night, Pete sliced potatoes very thinly on the mandolin (which terrifies me, so I make him do it), while I chopped red onion, tackled the Gruyere with a potato peeler (easier than grating for this sort of thing), and diced up leftover gammon.

Into a nice cast iron dish went a layer of spud, then onion, gammon, garlic powder, black pepper, Gruyere and some cream. We added another layer of spud, more cheese (always moar! cheese!), more cream, and a sprinkling of rosemary. Bunged in the oven for an hour, and readers – it was gorgeous. And there was enough left for lunch today, accompanied by home made lentil/veg soup.

We had it with brussels sprouts (don’t care – we love ’em), mixed with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper, and roasted in the oven. De-li-cious.

pie!

pie!
This is not *the* pie, but it is a similar pie that we made.

We had a slow cooked joint of beef for our Christmas lunch this year, and while it was very nice, we’d had a couple of cold meals from it, and were a bit bored with it. So we made A Pie.

I sautéd diced carrot, onion and courgette, and then added some mushrooms and cooked it all down. Then a splash of red wine, some garlic powder, some Bisto granules (or Aldi equivalent), and some mixed herbs. Diced up the beef, bunged it in the pan, and let it all simmer for about half an hour.

We used ready made puff pastry (I know, I know), which Pete rolled out because I’m useless at it, no idea why.  It was very nice, and did us for a couple of days’ worth of meals. Never underestimate pie!

rhubarb ginger sponge pudding

rhubarb ginger pudding

We were invited to Sunday lunch with some friends at the weekend, as Piers had a new toy to play with, and he wished to mandolin lots of potatoes to make a dauphinoise. It would have been churlish not to pop over and help them out with the consumption of same. So we did. As an aside, Piers is a damn good baker, and I hope his plans to start doing it commercially start to come together soon, once he can beat the beasts of bureaucracy into submission.

Anyway. I’m not great at puddings, and my repertoire is small (ooh er, missus), but I nipped or popped into the greengrocer on Friday to see if anything inspired. And there was Yorkshire rhubarb, so I bore it home. We almost always make a crumble with rhubarb, but I wanted to do something different, so here’s what I did.

450g forced rhubarb, cut into 1in/2.5cm lengths
110g soft brown sugar
110g butter
2 tsp freshly grated ginger (or more, if you like things gingery)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
70g ground almonds
2 eggs
50g self-raising flour (or plain, and ½ teaspoon of baking powder)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

Spread the rhubarb out in an ovenproof dish (one about 6x8in/15x20cm). Now, I never add sugar to rhubarb, but if your tooth is sweeter than mine, scatter some brown sugar over the fruit.

Cream the butter and the rest of the sugar until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the spices, almonds and then eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour (if you are making this in a food processor then just pulse in the flour, stopping as soon as it is amalgamated).

Spoon the mixture on top of the rhubarb, spreading it out lightly. I scattered some flaked almonds over the top too, as an afterthought.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until golden brown and more or less cooked through. It will still be a bit gooey in the middle, which just makes it better. If you let it sit for an hour (just about the time to drive from Hull to Doncaster, as it happens), it’ll firm up a bit more.

We warmed it through again when we got there, and ate it – all of it, I’m ashamed to say – with double cream.

Which after roast beef, pommes dauphinoise, cabbage and peas and beans was quite piggish. Particularly as we followed it with two sorts of cheese, two sorts of crackers, and some grapes. But, in our defence, Pete and I didn’t eat again until Monday lunchtime …

chocolate aubergine cake

chocolate aubergine cake

This recipe comes from Harry Eastwood’s book Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache, and is entitled by her Chocolate Heartache Cake. There are some cracking recipes in there, but the style of writing makes me clench my teeth, so I prefer to write up my own version without the schmaltz!

roughly 400g of aubergine
300g best dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into squares
50g good quality cocoa powder
60g ground almonds
3 medium eggs
200g clear honey
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 180 degree C. Line a 9″/23cm loose bottomed tin with baking parchment and lightly brush the base and sides with a little oil.

Cook the aubergines by puncturing the skins a few to,es with a skewer, then placing them in a bowl covered in cling film. Microwave on high for 8 minutes until they are cooked and soft. Discard any water at the bottom, and leave the aubergines to stand in the bowl until they are cool enough to handle. I used my nice red Lakeland microwave steamer to do the business.

Next, skin the aubergines, then puree them; blender if you have it, or a tedious time with a sieve. It’s easier to peel them before microwaving, so I hope you’re reading this recipe before you start!

Once the warm aubergine is pureed and smooth, add the chocolate, which will mingle and melt slowly. Set aside, covered once again in cling film, until all the chocolate has melted.

In a large bowl, whisk up all the other ingredients for a minute until well introduced to each other and slightly bubbly. Fold the melted chocolate and aubergine mixture into the bowl with all the other ingredients. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place it in the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in its tin for 15 minutes before turning it out on to a wire rack and peeling off the parchment, then turn it onto a plate (the right way up). I covered mine with a combo of cocoa powder and icing sugar, but I might try ground hazelnuts next time.

This cake keeps really well, is very rich, and freezes beautifully (just as well if there’s only two of you, or you’ll go into a diabetic coma before you can see it all off); I wrapped it in two layers of tin foil, and then put it in an airtight plastic box. We ate it with local strawberries and good vanilla ice cream.

a squeaky breakfast

halloumi breakfast

Our local cafe, run by an affable Romanian named  Ricardo, does a splendid breakfast of halloumi, roasted veg, hash brown, a sausage patty, tomato (for those that want it – I certainly don’t!) and toast, for £4.99.  It’s delicious, but by the time you’ve bought coffee, you’re up to thirteen quid or so for two, so I decided to have a go at home.

  • two chipolatas from the local butcher, baked in the oven
  • One red and one green pepper sliced, four cloves of garlic, one sliced onion, a handful of mushrooms, cooked down slowly in some olive oil on the hob {1}
  • half a block of halloumi, sliced and dry fried
  • some left over cooked spuds, sautéd in some olive oil

Readers, it was delicious, and we shall do it again. And probably again. And there is enough vegetable left to do for tomorrow’s lunch – I shall sling in a can of chickpeas to boost it up

{1} The pepper mix was very liquid. I might actually roast the veg next time, but we live and learn.