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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Fridge cake aka tiffin is a very useful no-bake Vicarage staple. It uses store cupboard ingredients and can be made quickly, although it needs a few hours to set in your fridge – if you’re overeager to consume it, it can be rather too crumbly and sticky.

Ingredients

  • 400g digestive biscuits (I use the cheapo range), broken into crumbs – in a plastic bag using a rolling pin, or in a food processor
  • 200g butter (hard marg would work too but not soft)
  • 4 heaped tbspns cocoa powder
  • 3 tbspns golden syrup
  • 3 tbspns brown sugar
  • 4 handfuls sultanas/raisins/cranberries or other dried fruit as you like (approx 100-150g in total weight)
  • 200-400g white chocolate, melted

Place the butter, cocoa powder, golden syrup, sugar and dried fruit in a large microwaveable bowl with lid and heat on full power for 2-3 minutes. If you don’t have a microwave, you can do this over a low heat in a saucepan. Once the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved, add the crushed biscuits and mix thoroughly.

Place the mixture in a small roasting tin (about 20cmx30cm) that has been lined with cling film and level it out into the corners. Cling film is the best way to avoid sticking AND excessive washing up. Place the tin in the fridge whilst you melt the chocolate topping.

I usually use 200g white chocolate for the topping for this, but it is a little skimpy – 400g would give you a really good layer on top. I melt the chocolate in a jug on defrost in the microwave, but also sometimes use the old method of a bowl on top of a pan of boiling water. Usually when the last lot of chocolate was burnt in the microwave, alas. Using a knife, spread the chocolate over the now slightly cooled base and then refrigerate the lot for a couple of hours – preferably overnight. Use a sharp knife to cut it into pieces to serve with strong coffee.

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I have a few favourite gadgets in the Vicarage kitchen. Today I’d like to introduce you to my best pastry-making tool: a paint scraper.

I used to make most of my pastry in my food processor, but I found that it was too easy to blitz it and end up with the fat chopped too small and the pastry too tough. Since I started using the paint scraper (NB I’ve never scraped paint with this one) I’ve been able to ensure that plenty of gravel-sized pieces of butter/lard/hard marg remain. This gives me a lovely flakey shortcrust pastry that seems to go down very well with consumers.

It’s therapeutic to chop the fat into the flour, too – sometimes I imagine that I am chopping junk mail into tiny pieces. And no fat in the fingernails either – my pet hate with pastry-making. So there you are – a cheap and useful gadget that can also be used to remove welded Weetabix from the kitchen table. Every kitchen should have one.

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This recipe is a Vicarage favourite that crosses the seasons – it’s hearty enough for winter, but the light sauce means that it suits a chilly day in June aswell. It’s also speedy, cooking in about 20 minutes. So if you can pre-prepare most of the veg, you can get it on the table within half an hour of getting in from work, or the swimming lesson or whatever. It was swimming for us yesterday – and the Queen and the Joker had to get to Kids Club, fed, in less than an hour after our return.

Ingredients

  • Pork steaks (I chopped the ones I had in half and so fed six of us, with seconds, from a pack of four) or chops
  • Bacon, about 4 rashers, chopped
  • Large onion, roughly chopped
  • Potatoes and vegetables – select from carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, leeks – all chunked. I use a smallish potato per person plus a couple of each of about 4 other vegetables to feed six of us.
  • Cabbage, sliced – I used about half a Savoy
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 tbspn vegetable (or chicken) bouillion powder or a stock cube
  • 200ml cider

Using a large pan or cast iron casserole dish, fry the pork in butter to brown and then set aside. Then add the bacon and fry until a little crispy. Then fry the onion until soft and add the vegetables and fry them a little too. Then add cider and enough water to almost cover the veg. Add your bouillion powder and bay leaves and bring the liquid to the boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Pop the pork steaks back on top, cover the pan and set your pinger to 15 mins. After 15 minutes, pop in the shredded cabbage and leave for another 5 minutes or so, until the vegetables are all tender. Serve in soup plates if you can, with spoons handy to slurp up the lovely broth or chunky bread to mop it up if you’re very hungry.

If you’re lucky, there may be some leftover veg to have with hunks of bread for lunch tomorrow…

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Here’s my take on Anzac biscuits – a fast and fabulous recipe which produces a great mound of tasty coconut and oat treats. I can produce about 40 in a single batch and they are extremely popular with all ages. They are also egg-free, so good for vegans or Asian vegetarians.

Ingredients

  • 3oz/75g porridge oats
  • 3oz/75g desiccated coconut
  • 4oz/100g plain flour
  • 4oz/100g sugar
  • 40z/100g butter or marg (soft is fine)
  • 1tbspn golden syrup
  • 1tspn bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in 2 tbspn hot water

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Meanwhile, melt the marg and golden syrup in a jug in the microwave, or a pan on the stove if you prefer. Add the bicarb to the hot water in a small cup or dish and then stir the fizzy mix into the warm marg/syrup combo. Then add the warm wet ingredients to the dry ones and stir in carefully.

For smallish Hobnob size biscuits use teaspoons of mixture – I can fit 16 on a standard baking sheet (covered with silicone lining), leaving room for spreading. Bake at about 180ºC (Gas Mark 4) for 8-12 minutes until the biscuits are golden all over and most have flattened out after rising. Transfer to a rack for cooling after they’ve had a few minutes to firm up.

The gallery below shows some slightly larger ones made using dessertspoonfuls of the mixture which gives you about 24 biscuits from a single batch.

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Easy Chopstix

At Christmas, my sister bought some great easy-use chopsticks for the kids. They are joined together at the top so are a good way for kids to learn to eat Chinese food in a fun way and not starve. It’s an excellent way to learn not to drop food on yourself. And you can always use a spoon at the end!

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The Joker had his ninth birthday party a couple of weeks ago. He had an old-fashioned party games do in the church hall. Since the Joker and his brother are currently obsessed with Dr Who, the theme for the party was obvious. A bit of crowd-sourcing of games using Google and Twitter and we were sorted.

The Joker with his amazing cake. And an alien jelly.

The wonderful Bee, fiancee to Rocky and Vicar’s-Wife-In-Training, made a fabulous topper for the cake – Dr Who and Amy standing in front of the Tardis. Since my only cake decorating method is slathering butter icing and sweeties all over and sticking a few plastic toys on, this was a great improvement in looks and sophistication. The Joker placed his Christmas collection of Dr Who incarnations around the cake for the full effect you see above.

Our games were heavily Dr Who influenced – even playing musical chairs to the Dr Who theme tune. And as well as the cake, I produced alien jellies – with added sweetie snake lurking inside the lime jelly beneath the spray cream. We didn’t quite manage the games within a story party that one organised Twitter friend sent me, but we had lots of fun. And the tuna sandwiches were eaten up and not the jam ones. Kids and catering, eh? You never know what will be popular. Apart from cake and sweeties, obviously.

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One of the things I love about my Vicarage cooker (my treat when we moved here) is its small slow oven. The slow oven is a bit titchy – only big enough for one large pot or only a single baking sheet of meringues, but I am using it more and more for winter casseroles. Tonight I cooked sausage casserole – one of our top favourites which has a few variations but is always very popular with the kids (and grown ups too).

I make this using Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference chipolatas. I’d recommend using good quality ones as cheap ones can come out rather spongey. And you only need to use a single packet to feed a family and can get that for about £2 if there’s an offer on.

The Vicar's dinner

Ingredients

  • 1-2 onions, finely sliced
  • Pack of sausages
  • 2 cups (500ml) lentilles vertes or green lentils
  • Bay leaves, mixed herbs
  • Red wine (about a glassful) and stock
  • Optional – tin of tomatoes, chunked carrots

Brown the sausages in your casserole dish and then remove them to a plate or bowl whilst you pop in a little oil or butter and the onions. Leave the onions to get nice and soft then return the sausages, chopped up into bite sized chunks, to the pan. Tonight I chopped the sausages with a spatula before I removed them and fried the onions, otherwise you can slice them with a knife once removed – I recommend pinning them to the chopping board with a fork rather than fingers (I speak from experience of burnt fingers and escaping sausages).

To the onions and sausages add the lentils, bay leaves and herbs and wine and stock (I use hot water and vegetable stock powder). This evening’s casserole also included a tin of chopped tomatoes. The liquid needs to be added to a generous level above the lentils and sausages – say 5cm/2″ in your pan. This gives space for the lentils to swell and liquid to evaporate.

 Bring to the boil and then simmer for at least 1/2hr on the hob, or pop in a slow oven at about 140ºC (Gas Mark 1) for a couple of hours or more. The slow cooking method has the advantage of keeping the Vicarage kitchen warm, so this is obviously my preferred option.

I tend to check the casserole every hour or so if it’s in the oven, just to make sure that there is still enough liquid. If you’re adding carrots it’s best to do so about half an hour before the end of the cooking time, otherwise they can get a bit soggy. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving and add a little extra liquid if needed to ensure a bit of sauce to soak into the essential accompaniment of mash.

As you can see, I served the casserole with mashed sweet and normal potatoes, and some braised red cabbage. This is a great winter warmer and excellent value for money. We had leftovers that will do well with a bit of chunky bread for lunches whilst the kids are at shcool.

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