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This is a fabulously fresh, easy and tasty recipe. It uses ingredients I nearly always have in, so is great if extra mouths need feeding, or if I’m not feeling up to fancy cuisine. A perennial Vicarage favourite, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Ingredients

  • Potatoes – 2-3 medium per fairly hungry person, peeled (if not new) and chopped into large chunks
  • Greens – cabbage (white, sweetheart or Savoy) or Spring greens are fine – finely sliced – a good handful per person
  • Bacon (2-3 rashers per person – I normally use smoked streaky), or leftover gammon, chopped
  • 1 lemon (for up to 4 people)
  • Olive oil

Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes, then add the shredded greens for 3-4 minutes in with the potatoes. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, fry your bacon in its own fat or gammon in some olive oil.

Once the potatoes and cabbage are cooked, drain & place in a serving dish and pour over bacon or gammon in its oil. Add the finely grated rind & juice of your lemon and perhaps some extra-virgin olive oil, and lots of black pepper. Serve immediately. Help yourself to seconds.

Lemony Greens

 

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This is a Vicarage favourite (apart from with the Engineer, who has a Thing about fish). Very simple and quick to make, and great with rice or noodles and stir fried veg. It’s loosely based on a recipe from a great little series of recipe books (Periplus mini) I bought in Singapore, but alas unavailable in the UK.

Ingredients

These are per person – and are very flexible. I just tend to slosh the soy about and add a bit less juice, then scatter sugar/honey and ginger over.

  • a salmon steak (smaller or larger, depending on budget and fish consumption preferences)
  • 2 tbspns light soy sauce
  • 1 tbspn lime or lemon juice
  • 1 tbspn runny honey or brown sugar
  • 1 tspn grated fresh ginger

Pop your salmon steaks in an oven proof dish (ceramic or pyrex, not metal) and pour over the sauce ingredients above. Leave to marinade if you have a few minutes, otherwise pop straight under a hot grill for 8-10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and a little blackened on top.

We ate it with steamed rice and some cabbage stir fried with garlic, soy and a little sugar.

IMG-20140107-00298

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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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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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Last night we had a great time at Messy Church – the next one in our series on the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus. This time we were looking at ‘I am the True Vine’ and the craft team decided that they’d like one activity to be making playdough grapes to place on a vine drawn on a paper plate. The Vicar then volunteered me to make the playdough, knowing that I had a recipe up my sleeve.

Every playgroup leader has a  recipe for playdough – that ubiquitous soft dough which mums hate to find in carpets. But many folk I’ve spoken to have found their homemade dough to be too sticky or oily. This recipe always seems to come out well, though, as long as you don’t mind your fingers getting a bit stained with food colouring. It lasts a few weeks if kept in an airtight box in the fridge.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250ml) plain flour
  • 1 cup (250ml) water
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • Few drops food colouring

All you do is pop all the ingredients together in a pan (preferably non-stick) and heat it up, stirring, until the dough magically forms. You can also do it by heating it in a covered dish in the microwave for 1-2 minutes but it’s so fast on the stove top I use that method. Also, the food colouring can make the inside of a microwave dish look rather interesting.

I know these were meant to be grape coloured, but the local shop only sells colouring for pilau rice and Indian sweets, so the colours are a little lurid and approximate. For Messy Church I made a quadruple batch, which was ample. It’s great fun to hold and knead – we gave a couple of handfuls away to some of the teenage tearaways who were lurking in the church yard. One came in especially as he reckoned it would help him to deal with stress.

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This week we had a quiet Sunday lunch at the Vicarage – it was just our family: Rocky had an invitation to lunch out and I’d been disorganised about having folk over. So for pudding I decided to trial a recipe I saw on 22 Words a while back. It’s a chocolate sponge speedily cooked in a  microwave in a mug.

It was a great success with the Vicarage crowd, and two portions served four of us generously (the Engineer was not in a puddingy mood). It would be lovely served with vanilla ice-cream, which was lacking in our freezer so we ate it with lashings of double cream (a half pint between us – eek!).

The recipe was originally titled ‘3 minute brownies’ but what you get is more like a hot sponge pudding. Although it takes about 3 minutes in the microwave, total production time was rather longer – a whopping ten minutes for two of them, I reckon. A perfect pause time between courses, actually.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons self-raising flour
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons oil

First, mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa) in your mug. My mug (more an enormous cup, actually) had a capacity of 300ml, and I think this is about the minimum you need. Then break in the egg and add the oil and milk. Mix all together until you have a smooth batter.

Pop it in the microwave on high heat for 3-4 minutes. Mine took 3 1/2 minutes in our 800W basic Matsui machine. The sponge feels pretty wet, but is firm to the touch when cooked. Spoon into a bowl and enjoy with cream or ice-cream.

Next time I might mix up the batter in a jug for ease of stirring (although this would add to the washing up, always an important consideration I feel). And I’d quite like to try experimenting with making a lemon version. I’ll report back on that one. In the meantime, why not try it for pudding this evening?

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