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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

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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This recipe is the favourite of Surfer, who is Godfather to the Joker. I used to make it when he came to pray with the Vicar back in the relaxed days of theological college. It’s loosely based on minestrone, but without the pasta. Pasta is a pain in soup cos it goes revoltingly soggy if you have leftovers, or want to freeze it. So this has beans instead and is easily made from things I normally have in the fridge and pantry.

Ingredients

  • 4 rashers bacon, finely chopped, or small pack lardons
  • Medium onion, diced
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 leek, quartered lengthwise and then finely sliced
  • Tin of beans – haricot, borlotti or canellini
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes or jar/tetrapak of passata (sieved tomatoes)
  • Olive (or other) oil, mixed herbs

Fry your onion in a little olive oil and then add the bacon and cook until the fat begins to crisp. Then add other veggies, fry a little and add tomatoes and tinful of water or more to dilute to a soupy consistency.

Bring it to the boil and simmer for 10-15mins until the vegetables are tender. Rinse the beans and add to the soup, along with a smattering of mixed herbs or just oregano. Heat through and serve with crusty bread. This is good for May lunches, given the temperatures this year!

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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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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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