Saturday, November 24, 2007

November 24th, 2007

I have been rather busy this past month but not too busy to cook. On the way home from work one day, I stopped by the farm shop and picked up some Cod from the fishmonger. I was looking for some halibut, but he said the awful storms we had a few weeks back had affected the fishing. But he should be back in a weeks time and should have some then.

I had been perusing my cooking magazines and I came across a recipe for Savoy cabbage with bacon and cod, they microwaved theirs, I rather fancied mine in the oven. I started off by frying the bacon till crispy and then just barely stir fried the cabbage and onions ( I snuck in some thinly sliced brussel sprouts, don't tell Brian). And then placed in a glass baking dish. Put the cod on top and sprinkled some black pepper and a bit of thyme on top. I forgot to add some chicken stock that they recommended, but instead I added a bit of white wine and some lemon juice.Then I popped the lid on and into the oven for about 20 minutes at 180 c. I also made my Butter bean mash to go with the fish dish and a lovely fresh salad.

Butter bean mash is easy, make potatoes as normal for mash and before adding to the bowl take a can of drained and rinsed butter beans and squish them with your fingers. Then add the mash and proceed as normal. The beans add a nice flavour and texture to the mash. I added my cloves of garlic to the potatoes while they were boiling so it wasn't too overpowering. Then put potatoes and garlic through the ricer. Add a bit of milk and butter and season with salt and pepper. Top with some grated cheddar cheese and just brown in the oven. I made the mash first and put it in with the fish in the oven.

A Trip to London
Almost no trip would be complete for us without seeing St. Paul's Cathedral. We always ride past it on a bus either going in or coming home. On the day this photo was taken it was a lovely Autumnal day and sorry for the specks of dirt and the glare, I took the photo from the top of a double decker bus.

We had two missions that day, actually three.... 1. To have lunch at our fav Italian restaurant Anacapri ..... 2. To check on Hamish's flat. They are off to Peru for two weeks and let us use the flat when they are away. Only thing is Brian doesn't like leaving the cats so we only stop for a rest and make sure things are okay. ......3. To see if I could find some Orzo. Well we managed two of the three. The ever elusive Orzo will have to be ordered off the internet I guess.

When you walk through this door you are greeted as long lost family. The head of the restaurant is so friendly and welcoming. Immediately upon sitting at a table you are looked after like no other place I know. They start bringing out the food even before you are presented with menus. There are fresh celery and carrot sticks with a lovely vinaigrette dressing. Olives, bread and butter and bread sticks are there to nibble while reading the vast menu of delicious options.

We both decided on the Mozzarella and tomato salad. I know it isn't very adventurous but it is really lovely!!! And the starters are as big as the mains!!!

Sorry for the olive pips. I just love black olives. We chose a nice Frascati wine to go with our meal.

I just love their Veal Milanese it melts in your mouth like butter and the spaghetti though it may look plain is so packed full of flavour. I wish I could make a plain tomato sauce that good. I would be a very happy woman if I could.

And Brian's main was veal medallions in a creamy mushroom sauce. I have had veal once in France that was so tough to chew that I sent it back and was really cross with them. Thinking that a French restaurant would know better!!! You only cook for just a bare minimum. And the chefs at Anacapri have it to perfection. They have some lovely pasta dishes that we have had before and loads more on their menu for all tastes. Hamish and Yuk-kin first introduced us to this lovely find....... The lucky sods only live a block away!!!!! I guess it is lucky we don't live so close, as we would probably be there every week and then it wouldn't be so special when we did go. Oh and if the starters and mains weren't enough you really should see the desserts!!!! They make a big presentation of the desserts. And you will usually have about 5 different ones brought to your table to tempt you. We opted for Cream Caramel (mine) and Cheese cake (Brian).

You will not need to lift the wine bottle to fill your glass and you won't go away hungry. The restaurant it's self is rather small, but the food and service sure aren't. So if you should find yourself in the Marleybone area of London around lunch or dinner time..... You would be hard pressed to find a much nicer restaurant than this one. I highly recommend it.

Comfort food
Okay you have been working away all day and it is cold outside and sleeting down with rain and you don't really feel much like cooking tonight.... well here you go.... Couldn't be any simpler than a good ole Sausage Hot Pot!!!

Very similar to Lancashire hot pot except it doesn't have lamb and you use baked beans and don't use mushrooms okay so maybe it is way different....
Start by browning some sausages in a frying pan, this will depend on how many you are cooking for. I usually go with the whole pack as I eat leftovers for lunches. You don't need to cook them fully, just brown well. And while those are browning throw in some chopped onion to slightly soften too. Place into a large ovenproof casserole dish. In the same frying pan saute some slices of carrot, celery and peeled pumpkin. Again giving them just a bit of colour, and just part cooking. Again put into the casserole dish. Now according to how many you are feeding, you can use one or two cans of baked beans. Mix these in and give a good stir. Now take about 4 peeled potatoes and slice really thin. I use my special gadget for this. Layer over the sausage mixture. Bake at 180 c for about 30 minutes covered. Next uncover and sprinkle some grated cheddar cheese over the top and back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Serve with a nice side salad. And this is as nice as a big fluffy blanket on a cold winters eve.

Even though I have lived here for 11 years we still celebrate Thanksgiving, but a scaled down version. We have a roast Chicken instead of a turkey. I do wish I could figure out how they have those gorgeous birds with the legs still attached and all golden brown. Then again those may be really dry, mine are never dry and are always falling off the bone.

And my pumpkin pies I have to make from scratch by roasting my pumpkin and then blending the flesh with two eggs, a bit of milk, some brown sugar and spices.

I even make my own pie crust from scratch, although I could buy this premade.

And then it is roasted potatoes and Stuffing balls rather than the traditional dressing I used to make.

And they do have cranberries here in the grocery, you can get fresh ones or already prepared cranberry jelly in a jar. Oh and instead of gravy I make bread sauce from a packet that is just gorgeous with chicken and roasted potatoes.

Ohhhhhh gotta save room for some pie!!!! Happy holidays everyone!!!!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

November 7th, 2007

Sorry for not updating the blog sooner.... Been a bit busy. Lots of cooking going on though....

Over halfterm a few weeks back my friend Linda and her two kids came by for a crafting day. We get out loads of crafting stuff and make some greeting cards. Mostly we chat, laugh and eat. The kids really enjoy coming by and I usually try to make them something to eat that they haven't had before or that is a classic American type of dish. So Naomi requested meatloaf this time. Okay.... I thought and thought and thought about it and came up with a meatloaf tasting party. We had three different meatloaves to try. Of course I had to make my traditional American version and then there was the German recipe I translated that has become my favourite lately and a new Chicken version.

And what goes with Meatloaf but Mashed potatoes, gravy and sweet corn.

The German recipe won hands down. And then the American version came in second. And the Chicken one... well lets just say I won't be doing that one again.... Although it was Elliots favourite.

And what else goes with meatloaf, but lots and lots of good ole ketchup!!!

This is roughly how I make American meatloaf (I think each family has their own recipes)
Take one pack of mince/hamburger and place the meat into a large bowl.
I add 1/2 finely chopped onion that has been sauteed in a little olive oil.
1/2 red bell pepper/capsium chopped fine and sauteed with the onion.
Add to the meat along with a good hand full of fresh bread crumbs (may need more if the mixture is too wet), a raw egg and about 1/3 cup of ketchup. Salt and pepper to taste and you can add different herbs as you like. Sometimes it is parsley and sometimes oregano or thyme. Get your hands in there and mix well. Adding more crumbs if needed. You don't want it really wet but you don't want it over dry either.
Now shape into a loaf type of shape on a baking tin and cover over the top more ketchup. Bake in a preheated 180 C and about 350 F oven for about 30 to 40 minutes. That is about it. Serve with a brown beef gravy, mashed potatoes and sweet corn. And lots of ketchup. If you have left overs, slice sort of thick and make cold meatloaf sandwiches with more ketchup the next day.

The German translated version
about 20 g bread crumbs
1 kg mince
2 eggs
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper
2 large red peppers, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
150g. feta cheese(although I think the recipe calls for a fresh cheese with herbs)
Take 10 g of the bread crumbs and mix with the mince, one egg, and the mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Mix in 1/2 of the onion, pepper and parsley. Mix well and then spread out on a sheet of foil, so you have a bit of a rectangle about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.
Take the feta cheese and crumble into a small bowl. Add the remaining 10 g of bread crumbs, egg, parsley, onion and pepper. Mix well. spread ontop of the meat mixture and then roll up jelly roll fashion. Bake at 180 C for about 30-40 minutes. You can leave the foil on and then remove the last 15 minutes of baking. You can try different cheeses in this recipe as I am sure others would work as well as feta or cream cheese.

I also made a really nice dessert, but can't find the magazine that I got the recipe from. But it is farely simple to make. It was called Flapjack Trifle. Take about 1 cup of porridge oats and toast in a non stick frying pan with about 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 to 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar. You can add mixed spice or cinnamon too. I did the mixed spice, but next time will try cinnamon. Toast this over a slow heat for about 5 - 10 minutes stirring all the time, then transfer to a bowl to cool. This will get crunchy once it cools.
Next peel and core about 9 small cox's apples, in the US I would use winesaps or granny smiths. Fry in a little butter for about 10 minutes adding a few spoonfulls of brown sugar and some more mixed spice or cinnamon. Let these cool.
Layer 1/2 the apples into a pretty glass bowl, then top with some of the oats, another layer of apples and then oats, saving back some oats for the very top.
Then the recipe called for some black currant colis. Okay couldn't find that..... so substituted one of those tall skinny jars of black currant only/all fruit preserves. Spread this over next. Then top with some fresh custard (I used a packet of Birds Instant custard that I made up with boiling water) in the US you could substitute some instant vanilla pudding and possibly some rasbperry or black berry jam for the black currant.
Next top with stiffly whipped double cream which I whipped with a little caster sugar(extra fine sugar) and topped with the remaining oats. (Americans can use CoolWhip instead)
This was really lovely!!!!! And I will definately be making this again and again. Although it didn't have the traditional trifle ingredients of sponge cake, sherry, and jelly, it was my very first trifle I have made.

Disaster strikes!!! Okay it just happens to the best of us. I have been wanting to try for ages and ages to make Gnocchi from scratch. I have read I don't know how many recipes about how to go about doing it. And since I had some leftover mashed potatoes from the Meatloaf tasting, I thought I would give it a try. I did good mixing in flour and salt and pepper and creating a dough that held it's shape. I made the little sausage rolls like it said... And I then cut into little bite size pieces and even rolled them with a fork just like it showed in the photos. Put onto a floured cloth covered dish while I finished the rest. Got my water boiling hot... Put them in and then fished them out when they floated on the surface. I should have stopped there.... and just served with a tomato sauce and I think I would have been happy. But NO..... I had to get creative, didn't I...... I remebered in Austria that in one of the restuarants we had something very similar and they had fried theirs in a bit of butter to brown. I thought hmmm that sounds yummy..... Don't do it.... Just don't..... I had this gloopy glutinous mess that took forever to brown. It did however taste nice.... but it didn't resemble the slightest bit of a recognizable Gnocchi.... Oh well.... Here they are before I ruined them.
Herman is still going strong....
I have been using him at least once a week and sometimes twice to make rolls or bread....
To make a loaf of sourdough bread I took 1 cup of herman and added him to the bread machine pan....making sure to feed the remaining herman.(1 cup warm water and 1 cup strong bread flour). Add to the bread pan 240ml warm water,1 tsp salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 3 -3 1/2 cups bread flour and a pkt of yeast. Put on the dough setting and let go until ready to shape and bake.
Turn out onto a floured board and shape into a loaf shape. Put onto a cornmeal/polenta sprinkled baking tray. Cover and let rise till doubled about 1/2 hour or so.
Preheat oven to 200C/400F and place a pan of boiling water on the bottom shelf.
Bake for 10 minutes then brush with a mixture of boiled 1 tsp cornstarch and 120ml water. Continute baking another 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

I think I may add a bit of spelt flour next time as it adds a lovely flavour to the bread.
Here I have sliced some of the bread and then toasted under the grill/broiler with a little olive oil brushed on the slices and just a slight spread of butter. Once out of the oven rub with a peeled garlic clove. I slice off one end of the garlic clove and then make a few crosswise cuts to help the juice flow.
Served here with a nice autumnal supper of baked chicken breasts in a mushroom, bacon onion sauce, baked potato and mixed microwaved veg.
Our Anniversary was the end of last week. 11 years now. And for a treat Brian took me to Borough Market in London. We had lunch at the restaurant Fish. It was warm enough to even sit outside!!!
We enjoy people watching so enjoyed sitting outside, it will probably be the last time till the next warm spring day. We were informed if you want to eat lunch there on a Friday you really should book as they were booked solid for indoor dining.

We started lunch with some Thai Crab cakes. Watch that sauce as it was a bit hot. But lovely!!!
And for our main (I must appologise I forgot to take a photo before diving in that is why the batter is a little broken) the absolute best fish and chips and mushy peas I have ever eaten. The fish is so melt in your mouth lovely. The batter on the outside is so crispy and delicous. The chips are proper chips and the mushy peas just bring it all together nicely. I did however find the tartare sauce lacking something this time. Maybe a few more gherkins or capers would have made it a bit better. But overall it was delicious!!!
We opted for another lovely glass of Sauvignon Blanc rather than desert.
While eating our meal we were entertained by the customers to the raclette stall. It looked really yummy, but ooooooooh so bad for you. All that melted gooey cheese..... YUM!!!
Then off for a bit of a shop.... Lovely produce displayed with pride was such a refreshing sight to see...
And the variety!!!! See that big thing that looks like a bolder...... well that is a giant puffball mushroom!!! And yes, I had to try it. So along with a slab of puffball mushroom, I bought some ceps, a couple of yellow and tiger striped tomatoes.

A giant daikon radish. 4 quinces and a big slab of Comte Cheese. Brian really isn't one much for shopping. I think that was about all.... I did look all over the place for some orzo pasta and no luck. I guess I will have to resort to ordering it off the internet.
Back home and the next day I decided to start cooking our goodies.... So Saturday I made a steak and mushroom and guiness pie using the puffball and some chestnut mushrooms I had in the fridge. I can honestly say I wasn't overly keen on the puffball. So don't think I will bother with it again. Maybe I should have cooked it a bit differently I don't know. The Pie was lovely however.

Sorry but I forgot to take a photo of the puffball before I chopped it up. It looked a bit like a Marshmallow steak.
To me the puffball seemed a bit rubbery and had a bit of a metal taste. Not sure if that is a good thing or not. Anyway, I can say I tried it.
Fiona over at The Cottage Smallholder had a recipe for using quinces. She wrote about this lovely creation called Membrillo that she served with cheese. And also has a recipe for making quince jelly. So this is why I bought the quinces. I just had to try both recipes.... So I spent the day making quince jelly and then taking the pulp that was left over and made the membrillo (which I haven't tried yet with cheese. Saving that for tonight I think.)

As always I sort of followed the recipe. I only used two of my quinces, since I could only find a few empty jars. I really must get some jars in and not let Brian put them in the recycle bin. First I noticed that quinces are really tough to cut into. They look to be a cross between an apple and a pear. And you know that really pithy bitter taste that sometimes apples and some pears have, that is what a raw quince tastes like. The aftertaste is a bit fruity though. So busy with making the jelly....
I boiled the chunks of pulp like Fiona's recipe and then boiled the strained juice and added lemon juice and sugar and here is what I ended up with....
Beautiful and really tasty too!!!! Especially served with some fresh baked Herman rolls!!!

To make the membrillo I took the leftover pulp from making the jelly and pressed it through a sieve adding a touch of hot water that I boiled in the kettle to help the process a little. Added sugar and lemon juice as per Fiona's recipe and boiled the pulp down till it turned a darker colour and became quite thick. Being careful not to let it burn.
I will let you know how it is with some Comte cheese. I just love this cheese. It is a bit of a cross between a nice cheddar and a parmesan. Really lovely flavour and a hard cheese. Great for melting too!!
And for supper that night.. I sliced up the ceps and fried them in a bit of butter with some sliced onions.... a bit of leftover sliced ham and a dash of cream and sherry, chopped clove of garlic, served over some grilled split herman rolls which I rubbed with garlic after coming out of the oven. Topped the rolls with the mushroom mixture... grated on some comte cheese and back under the grill for a little browning. Sprinkle of chopped fresh chives and wow!!!!!!

Quick and yummy!!!
And since I found out how easy Trifles were to make..... I thought I would try a traditional one with the sherry, sponge, and jelly!!!
Yes it was nice..... And I have the ingredients to make another..... Hmmmmmm off now to do a bit of cooking....