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It’s turned rather chilly this week. We’ve started lighting the wood burning stove in the evenings, but during the day the Vicarage can be a bit nippy. My usual lunch solution in cold weather is a bowl of soup. But recently I have been branching out into hot salads. I’m not sure if that’s the correct technical term, but I’ve been frying and roasting veg in various combinations, to warm firstly the kitchen, and secondly the Vicar and me. This recipe is easily constructed from ingredients I almost always have in the fridge and pantry.

Today’s combination was a fried option because we only had half an hour to spare before the Vicar had a meeting scheduled. It was prepared and cooked in fewer than 15 minutes, and consumed in even less time than that.

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Ingredients (serves 2)

1 red onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2/3 rashers bacon, sliced into strips

a handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped in half

1 tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2/3 tbspn cream or creme fraiche

Fry the onion and garlic gently in olive oil until softened. Then add the bacon and cook, then the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are soft and juicy add the beans and the cream and grind some pepper over. Heat through and serve, with crusty bread if you’re really hungry, but this is very filling without.

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This is a brilliant recipe that I mean to post every Christmas but then decide I can’t because I don’t have a photo. Anyway this year I still don’t have a picture of the salad, but here’s the recipe anyway. It is perfect for Boxing Day with cold turkey and ham, and a great way of using up the end of a jar of cranberry sauce or some extra sprouts.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

1/4 red cabbage
1 celery stick (with leaves)
6-8 Brussel sprouts
1 small eating apple
1 carrot
75g/3 oz mixed nuts or walnuts/pecans
Stilton (optional – for a full meal of a salad)

Dressing: Mix together 3 tbspn vegetable oil, 2 tbspn cranberry sauce & 3 tbspn orange juice

Shred cabbage, apple, celery & sprouts in food processor or finely slice, grate the carrot (I use my processor for this too). Roughly chop the nuts by hand – the processor blitzes them too fine I find. Mix with the dressing and crumble stilton on top, if using. Feel vaguely healthy and like you’ve neutralised some of the Christmas cake and sherry.

No salad picture, so here’s some festive fairylights instead

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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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When the Vicar and I lived in Singapore, we had a lovely neighbour who was from Mumbai/Bombay. We celebrated the Millenium on her roof and shared recipes. And the Vicarage cat came to us through her feline loving contacts. Nomi also taught me to cook dhal. Spiced lentils is a staple of Indian cuisine, and there are heaps of different recipes. When I cooked this recipe for our Tamil church friends, though, they pleasingly said that it was ‘restauarant dhal’.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of toor lentils (not the oily ones) – these are yellow pigeon peas and can usually be found in specialist Asian grocers (or Tescos in our tow-un). If you can’t find them yellow split peas or red lentils would work as well.
  • pinch asafoetida (if you can find it, otherwise not a biggy – it’s meant to decrease the wind quotient of the lentils, but doesn’t really affect the taste)
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 tbspn black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tbspn cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup of curry leaves – dried or fresh if you can find them
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1-2 green chillies, chopped fine OR 1 tspn chilli powder OR 1 tspn crushed dried red chillies (use a smaller amount the first time you make this & increase next time if you’d like your dhal spicier)
  • 1 tspn turmeric powder

Cook your lentils in water according to instructions. I use a pressure cooker so I can cook them in about 15 minutes (plus all the time taken for the pressure cooker to calm down so I can open it without scalding my nose). When the lentils are cooked, you can add your asafoetida to make them less fartful. Then heat a good slosh of oil in the bottom of a frying pan. This oil will be flavoured and added to your lentils, so don’t skimp or you won’t be able to distribute the spiciness too well. I cover the bottom of my pan in oil – about 4-5 tbspns I guess. Heat the oil and then pop in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves. Once the leaves start to discolour and the mustard seeds start to get lively, add the garlic, chillies and turmeric. Once the garlic has cooked and taken on some colour, add the spiced oil to the lentils. And stir and serve. This is brilliant with rice, naan, chappatis or pitta. And freezes really well. Great for lunch or supper with another curry.

The spiced oil

The spiced oil

A pot of dhal

And a pot of dhal

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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.

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It’s not all cake in the Vicarage. There’s bread too. Last week I made my first couple of loaves of sourdough.

I’ve been making my own bread on and off ever since we lived in Singapore and the only bread to buy was either ridiculously sweet chewy sliced rubber stuff or tastier but eyewateringly expensive. I started with a bread machine that broke from overuse and since then I’ve generally used my Kenwood mixer to make the dough. I very often make dough for pizza at home or for breadsticks for our weekly Cake and Chat community coffee morning. Although, after watching The Great British Bakeoff the other week, I think I may be making the sticks all wrong – they’re doughy rather than snappy. Still tasty though. I hardly ever make a proper loaf.

I’ve been thinking about sourdough for a while. It’s the bread of geeks, as you’ll see if you google it, made without any added yeast but a starter made from flour and water which is left to brew its natural yeasts. And then I was reading the side of my flour bag (I suffer from acute narrative hunger and need to read everything – one reason why the internet is so bad for me) and there it was – a sourdough starter recipe. So I consulted Annalise Barbieri’s lovely blog because I knew she made sourdough and also some recipes I found online. And then I gave it a go.

The flour and water concoction magically became my starter over the course of a week and a very sticky dough became my first loaf.  Although it spread out rather alarmingly, it came out of the oven with a lovely crust and proper airy texture. The second loaf was less airy but less spread too. I’m finding it a fun way to make bread, especially since the recipe I’m using doesn’t involve much kneading, just a brief punch a few times over the course of a morning. It also keeps really well, although there’s not much been kept. Sourdough has a low GI and is easier to digest than bread made with added yeast. And a loaf cost less than 50p to make. Brilliant.

A couple of days after starting my starter, I discovered that it’s Sourdough September. So I seem to have timed it quite well. Anyway, I’ve just pulled a new loaf out of the oven and I’m going to call a friend now and invite her over for coffee and a slice of bread.

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This summer I was sent a review copy of Emma Scrivener’s book ‘A New Name’. Emma writes a fantastic blog on identity, body image and faith. You should read her blog and her book, whether these particular things are issues for you or not. In them both, she deals with the heart of what it means to be human and where we can find satisfaction for the hunger we all feel deep inside.

The book is the story of her own battle with anorexia as a teenager, and as a grown-up married ministry wife and seemingly sorted Christian. She describes the addictive nature of controlling your eating and how, despite seeming to be outwardly ‘cured’, she was still a captive of fear, pride and self-will. And she describes how Christ met her with grace in her brokenness and showed her that he could satisfy all of her longings and all of her hungers.

Once I picked this book up I couldn’t put it down. Emma’s writing is witty, lyrical and provocative. She doesn’t pull her punches when she describes the ugliness of anorexia, but the book is full of humour and hope. Once I’d finished reading, the Vicar devoured it in a couple of days and was similarly challenged and inspired by hearing how God met with Emma in the depths and brought her healing.

If you long for anything, this book is for you – it’s a must-read.

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