Thought I’d share with you all what I consider to be an essential piece of Vicarage equipment: my sugar shaker. I know that it’s another year until you can add this to your Christmas list again, but at £3.05, I reckon you could sneak this in with a cup of coffee and an almond croissant at the Ikea cafe and not notice the strain on your purse.
This great piece of kit allows me to serve endless cups of tea and coffee for Vicarage callers without the added faff of pouring sugar into a bowl. And without people putting their wet stirring spoons back into the sugar and making coffee sugar clumps (yuck). Each shake delivers a teaspoonful of sugar – easy peasy.
What will you be serving at your festive services this Christmas? I have just taken delivery of a bulk purchase for our church – ten 2 litre vacuum jugs. This is so we can serve Spiced Cranapple, a non-boozy mulled wine, after our carol service and after the Christmas Cracker service on Christmas Eve. With the jugs I’ll be able to mull the spices into the drink at home first and then take the hot beverage over to the church next door. We will also be providing mince pies, of course. And tea and coffee and biscuits too, for those not so keen on the festive delights. For the school carol service this morning I have two large choccie cakes with star sprinkles and some festive iced biscuits made with mixed spice.
What about you. Do you serve alcohol or not? With alcoholism and its attendant evils an ever-present problem in our parish, serving alcohol in church is something we tend to avoid. Do you mass cater with Asda mince pies or ask folk to bring their own, whether homemade or not? Time for a bit of sharing. I’ll close this poll at the weekend – I think we should all have our catering plans fixed by then.
Last night we ate one of our favourite Malaysian dishes for tea at the Vicarage. I love to cook this reminder of our 51/2 years in South-East Asia. And to provide ginger warmth in a chilly kitchen. It’s easy, delicious and only uses a single dish (tho’ you might want to use a wok for some greens on the side aswell). It’s expandable for lots of people and is not too foreign for most visitors. Anyone who occasionally eats takeaway Chinese will love this.
Claypot chicken rice and bok choi
Chicken pieces (preferably skinned dark meat on the bone, chopped into bite size pieces by your local Indian butcher – but otherwise skinned thigh pieces are probably easiest or thigh fillets if you have bone-haters dining) – 1 to 2 thigh or drumstick pieces per person
Rice (we love Thai fragrant jasmine, but any will do) – about 120ml per adult and 60ml per child (dry measure)
Big chunk of fresh ginger (2-3″ here)
Soy sauces, light and dark (1-2 tbspns of each)
Oyster sauce (1-2 tbspns)
Sugar (1 tbspn)
Oil – sesame (1 tbpn if you have it) and vegetable (2 tbspns)
Extra treat for authenticity – pickled green chillis (chopped) on the side, marinaded in soy sauce
Ready to serve
You need about an hour from preparation to serving for this dish. But there’s time to supervise piano practice and maybe do some laundry in that hour. Or even drink a cup of tea. Or blog a recipe. You don’t need a clay pot to cook it either – I use a casserole dish. Mine has a glass lid which makes it easier to tell if stuff is cooked, but a cast iron casserole or a good sized saucepan would be fine. It’s rather easier with a non-stick pan because of the crunchy ricey bits (see below).
First pop the rice on. I have a rice cooker which has a cup sized at 160ml. For three adults and three fairly hungry children I used 4 cups. I cheated and used the rice cooker to measure the water to the right level, but the Malaysian way, which works just fine, is to put water in so that your forefinger, laid flat on the top of the (pre-rinsed) rice, is covered by the water. Put the cover on the pan and cook the rice until all the water is absorbed. This should take about 15 minutes.
Whilst the rice is cooking prepare the chicken and let it marinate in its sauce. You can quickly drizzle on the soy sauces, the oyster sauce, the sesame oil and add the sugar before mixing the pieces about to ensure that the marinade is coated over the chicken. Then you want to get the ginger’s juice without the pulp. The best way to do this is to first peel your piece of ginger and then grate or blend it. Pop the chewed up ginger pieces in a sieve and press down with a spoon to get the ginger juice out over your chicken portions. I used my chopper attachment from my stick blender to whizz the ginger first and a small plastic sieve.
Once all the water is absorbed into the rice, pop the chicken pieces and the marinade on top, together with the vegetable oil. Cover the pot again and leave it to cook on a low heat for 20 minutes. Don’t open the lid, as this will prevent the chicken from cooking thoroughly, as it steams on top of the rice.
After 20 minutes, open the lid and get a spoon and mix the chicken into the rice. You should find that some of the rice at the bottom of the pan has gone all crispy. Mmmm. Replace the lid and cook for a further 15 minutes on a low heat. Whilst this is going on, you might want to cook some veg. It was Bok choi (with garlic, soy sauce and a little sugar) for us last night.
At the end of the 15 minutes, mix the rice and chicken up again to extract some more lovely crunchy ricey bits and serve with the veg and a side of chopped pickled green chillis in soy sauce for added zing. Warming, filling and family friendly.
Pickled chillis - ingredients and finished condiment
This week I’ve not got a baking recipe for you. Instead I thought I’d share a Vicarage supper recipe. For Sunday lunch this week I cooked a gammon joint (I really must blog that recipe sometime soon aswell). The Vicar had bought the gammon, and it was on offer. Being a Scotsman, therefore, he arrived with a joint that was larger than usual. We love gammon and very much enjoyed our lunch, but there were lots of leftovers.
Normally, I’ll use leftover gammon for sandwiches and a pasta bake with cheese sauce. But I didn’t feel like a pasta bake and there was far too much left for sandwiches. So I did what all social media junkies do: I tweeted my request for recipes for leftover gammon. And bingo! Spanish hotpot, rissoles and many other great suggestions. One of the dishes I was reminded that I could make was a spaghetti carbonara. I often find recipes a bit of a pain when they are for four, as we almost never have an easy number eating. So I’ve organised this carbonara recipe per person:
Per adult, you will need (I used 5 times this recipe for 3 adults and 3 kids):
1 egg yolk (look at it as an opportunity to make meringues)
2tbspns double cream and 2 tbspns creme fraiche (or other proportion to make a total of 60ml if you’ve not got those in the right quantities)
1tbspn dry vermouth (or white wine, or leave it out altogether)
chopped parsley, black pepper to garnish
First put the spaghetti on to cook.
Then mix the cream and creme fraiche with the egg yolk and cheese. I mix it in a jug so it’s ready to pour out when the spaghetti is cooked.
Then fry the bacon/gammon until sizzling and crispy. Add the vermouth to the bacon and wait until the liquid has reduced and you have a good saucey consistency.
Then all you do is wait for the spaghetti to be cooked. Drain the cooked pasta and return it to the saucepan. Add the bacon with its sauce and the butter. Put it on a low heat and add the egg mixture. Gently stir until the sauce has warmed up. Serve with parsley and black pepper (or not, if your kids are fussy or you’ve run out).
Enjoy with a glass of wine. Or you might have to wait until after the trek down the M5 to piano lessons.
I love the strong, sweet and spiced Indian drink known as masala chai – spiced tea. Usually I go round to my friend Starstudent’s. She makes great masala chai. I normally visit her and have two mugfuls of the delicious drink. I always visit in the morning.
Delicious but not for insomniacs
You make masala chai by boiling your water in a pan with the teabags and some spices – cardamom, cinnamon and others according to your family tradition eg fennel, ginger, cloves. You boil it for a good while and then add a good helping of milk, sugar to taste and boil for a little longer. Then you strain and serve.
When we visited our friends the Kanns last night I drank two mugfuls, just as usual. Very tasty. But also very high in caffeine (because the teabags are so well boiled I guess).
So I was watching the ceiling at 2.30am. Grrr.
What was really annoying was that I’d done this before. When we lived in Singapore, the church we attended was a Tamil congregation and they served masala chai after the evening service. I had to limit myself to a single cup and couldn’t drink the coffee at all, or I couldn’t sleep. Wish I’d remembered that before I tanked myself up on the caffeine last night.